author interview, Behind the scenes, inspirational, relatable

Interview with Author Heather E. F. Carter

author-blog-with-c-dangelo-and-heather-e-f-carter

Remember in last month’s post how I said I had a blog announcement? Well, here it is! I will be interviewing authors from all genres in this monthly blog but also will sometimes still write my posts that you know and love. I will keep you on your toes month-to-month because there won’t be a set pattern. Are you as excited as me?

I am continuing to offer behind the scenes inspirational and relatable topics for both writers and non-writers via these interviews. A goal of my blog is always to include gifts to you as my reader, such as a new task to try or words that touch your heart and help you to heal, grow, or change in a positive way. The interviewees are broadening my insights already as I know they will do for you as well.

In my first author interview below, you will have the pleasure of reading debut author Heather E. F. Carter’s thoughts on lessons learned, self-care, and upcoming projects. I can’t wait for more from her because The Black Unicorn is a beautifully written, emotion evoking historical romance novel that sticks with you far after you finish the last words on the page. Enjoy!

What would you tell yourself 5 years ago about facing the challenge of publishing?

If I were able to send a message to myself five years ago regarding the challenge of publishing, I’d first of all tell myself that the book is good. I wrote The Black Unicorn ten years ago while I was in graduate school, and then I let it sit on a shelf. I honestly didn’t think I had anything in it. I forgot about it; or, if I did happen to think about it, I’d tell people that it was no good. I’ve been, on occasion, very insulting to my story of Ashby and Elina.  So if I had words for Heather of five years ago, it would be first of all that the story is good. Secondly, I’d tell myself not to waste any time looking for an agent. I spent about three years in the query trenches, and alas traditional publishing wasn’t meant to be my path. If I hadn’t wasted so much time looking for an agent, I’d probably be on my third book by now. And as for the challenge of publishing? I’d tell myself exactly what I tell myself when tackling any big problem: Bird by bird. This is, of course, in reference to Anne Lamott’s wonderful book. Just take each new challenge or problem one step at a time. Don’t get overwhelmed by the big picture.

What motivated you to keep going on the major project of writing your book(s)?

Once I had committed to Ashby and Elina’s story about three years ago, the one thing, or person I should say, that kept me going was my husband, Terry. He’s always been my #1 fan, and he’s always pushed me to publish my stories. He’s currently pushing me to publish my vampire story, and I’m afraid that I’m going to have to ignore him on that one, lol. But he’s always been very determined to see me in print.

What gives you energy and joy?

One thing, non-writing-related, that gives me energy and joy is music. I am a flautist; once upon a time, a very serious one.  And I do write to music, so I suppose that perhaps it’s writing-related after all. But it’s music for me. I married a professional musician, so music is a daily, sometimes hourly, part of my life. When I need inspiration for a scene, I’ll often choose a song and play it on a loop until I find what I need for that scene. All of my love scenes were written to music. That is significant, if you’ve read my story, because I’ve been known to write pretty decent love scenes.

Share one meaningful aspect of you that appears in your writing. This can be personality, physical attributes, or anything else.

There are a few meaningful aspects of me that have found their way in my work. For one, Elina is essentially me. Well, she is as far as personality goes. I am most certainly not a tall British redhead. But as far as her motivations go, that’s all me. Elina is also a flautist. That particular scene was cut in the final version, but Elina plays the flute very well. And the scenes involving dancing all come from my understanding of eighteenth-century music.

How do you reach your goals?

In the past, I have reached my goals by doing nothing else until that goal has been reached. I like to joke that I’m a terrible multi-tasker, which is totally true! I’m very good at focusing all my attention on one thing at a time, and then excelling at that one thing. That is how I wrote The Black Unicorn a decade ago. I took a year’s leave of absence from my doctoral program, and I wrote a book. Sadly, I cannot do that anymore. Adulting. And children. This isn’t really such a bad thing. So for my next project, The Golden Phoenix, I’ll write it by doing about two hours a day. But first I must research, because I honestly have no idea what happened in 1796! So I’ll research for about six to eight months, again by devoting about two hours a day to it. I go very deep with my research. It’s a holdover from my doctorial days when all my research would be subject to a peer review. I research like I’m writing a history book. Then it’s a question of finding the right balance, and not writing a history book. So I’m probably about two years out from the publication of The Black Unicorn’s sequel. But such is life when you write romantic historical fiction.  Diana Gabaldon takes four years to write her Outlander books, so I’ll take my two-year timeline and be happy about it. And The Golden Phoenix will be in many ways a very different story from The Black Unicorn. For one thing, Ashby and Elina are not in it. Many will find that disappointing, but never fear! Book three will be the continuation of their story. In The Golden Phoenix, I am rather continuing Tristan’s story line. Tristan deserves his happily ever after. Poor guy got a raw deal in The Black Unicorn. So you can expect to see that story come out in 2023… perhaps earlier, if I really get to work. In the meantime, I’ll be posting snippets of it, along with short stories from Ashby and Elina’s timeline, on Kindle Vella.

the-black-unicorn
Click on the picture to purchase

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Copyright © 2021 C. D’Angelo, Author All rights reserved.

Behind the scenes, Debut Author, stress management

Learning while Breathing

learning-while-breathing

You know the exploding head emoji? I think it was created for me to use these last few months for both the literal amount of info I’ve been stuffing into my noggin and the surreal feeling that my dream is finally becoming a reality (The Difference, my debut women’s fiction novel, is releasing July 29!). The truth is that I don’t know if I ever had to cram so much knowledge into my head in such a short amount of time in my life. Have you ever felt this way? Eek!

When I decided to change publishing paths and also to release my book 3 months from that decision, I knew it would be challenging but went full steam ahead from second one. I don’t regret it, but wow, there has a lot of long days, late nights, and sacrifices. Not only was I trying to stay afloat with getting the actual work done (aka the editing of each draft—and there have been 4 since that time), but I had to find the professionals I needed for each step, coordinate their schedules with mine and the other pros I wanted to hire, fill out their forms and such so they could do their jobs (this meant decisions and creating promo type stuff), make choices for where to publish as well as details like book size, and solidify my marketing plan quicker than intended. I won’t bore you with the million other details, but believe me they are numerous. And I also work a full-time job. Wow, huh? Publishing a book takes good time management, and thank God I excel in it.

What struck me multiple times was that I needed to know not only the obvious steps and make the known decisions, but that there were so many hidden tidbits of info that I either didn’t know I needed right away or that I wouldn’t have found without the help of my friends or the pros—and many of these bits led to hours of time. For example, when I put my book on Amazon next month, I need to include relevant categories so when people search, it may populate as a choice for them. I was lucky that a friend showed me how to choose the categories wisely as well as how to add more than first allowed. For a solid week I felt like so much info was coming at me everywhere I turned that I started making lists upon lists (a quirk of my main character in my book by chance, haha). I still have a list—down to one now—a mile long to work on every chance I get.

I’m sure you can relate to the rabbit hole of the internet. If I find one article on a publishing topic, there are usually links within it that take me to more articles with more links within. Aaaahhhhh! It’s welcomed and needed info, but can be a little overwhelming. At one point anxiety grew, leading to a racing heartbeat and shallow breathing. Along with the need to push myself to continue, I realized I also needed to breathe and take a break sometimes. This is difficult for a workaholic like me because my mind never turns off. Upon waking, my mind races before I even open my eyes. During this time period, I’ve been in overdrive, but I’ll burn out if don’t give myself a break. So how did I do that? Read on!

What I did to cope can be done by anyone at a stressful time, especially while in the process of learning (and before your head explodes). You may engage in some of these strategies already, but some may be new to you. I’m sure you have your own unique ways of self-soothing, so feel free to share them with me as well. The more minor and sillier the better!

  • 4-4-4 deep breathing- I love this one. I use it with clients as a therapist and it works for me as well. Breathe in through your nose for 4 counts/seconds. Then, hold for 4 counts. Finally, release through your mouth for 4 counts. I only do this 3 times, or I get light-headed, but you can do it as many times as needed. 😊
  • Get up and walk away- Sometimes I walk to another room and stare out the window. Sometimes I walk around the house for a minute.
  • Go outside- Even for 2 minutes, this helps me tremendously. I don’t know why but getting out of the walls of my home and seeing the sunshine on most Florida days refreshes me.
  • Change rooms- I am lucky that I have an office and an art room in my house, so I alternate between them to work. There is a desk in my office, but in the art room I have a table or a comfy chair to use.
  • Change sitting positions- Speaking of the comfy chair, sometimes I sit there, sometimes I sit at the table, and sometimes I sit on the floor on a pillow, using my ottoman as a table. I usually sit in strange positions, and it isn’t until later that my middle-aged legs ask me why.
  • View social media- I don’t allow myself to stay on longer than 5 minutes if in work mode, but the interactions with friends are inspiring, often a comedic break, and can be motivating.
  • Talking to others- I alwayyyys feel relief in talking about my stress. My husband knows this one well! So I may do just that or talk to a friend real quick via messaging on social media or texting. Again, they cheer me on and they give me the boost I need sometimes. Validating words go further than you would think.
  • Get a different drink- I often drink water while working, but sometimes mix it up with different drinks, which sounds ridiculous, I know. But somehow the change keeps me going. Sometimes a girl needs a sparkling water instead, you know?
  • Self-talk- Never discount the strength of what you tell yourself. Our thoughts are powerful and can influence our feelings, I believe. So, give yourself a pep talk or come up with a phrase that keeps you going. Last week, during my last ever edits of The Difference, I told myself, “This is the last time.” It helped.

The balance of meeting a goal and taking care of yourself can be hard, but it is needed. People, take care of yourselves because you are the only you that exists. Let’s do what we need to do, learn all we can, but remember to breathe while doing it.

and-breathe

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Copyright © 2021 C. D’Angelo, Author All rights reserved.

Behind the scenes, Debut Author, Women's Fiction Author

The Key to my Success

the-key-to-my-success

Sometimes what we think will never happen is exactly what happens. When I started my publishing journey in 2019, I would have never thought I would still be waiting for The Difference to be published in 2021 because I got my contract with a small press so fast. But, life happened and here I am on a whole new journey, one that has left me more knowledgeable for my future but most importantly happy and free. I believe I need to create my success, regardless of any barriers that arise.

If you have been following me on social media and are receiving my newsletter, you know I have decided to self-publish my debut book, as of last month. My heart can’t handle querying it again and waiting any longer, so it will be out this summer! I will never publicly explain the many reasons that led me to this difficult but needed decision because I will not be disrespectful to others. Yet, there are some insights I want to express through this blog post which I hope will help you out in your life, in both writing and non-writing adventures.

Let’s start with the picture below.

successful-people

Isn’t this true? From the outside, it seems like some people are successful overnight and that it is smooth and upward. I hate to break it to you, but this is hardly ever the case. If so, more power to you! I’ll cheer you on and hope it continues that way for you. But, as for us other folks, our path may resemble the right arrow a little more. But isn’t that what’s more fun anyway? Who wants a boring, old, easy success? *Raises hand, but accepts my reality

In the field of psychology, there is a concept called Grit, coined by Dr. Angela Duckworth. Her definition of the word is “passion and perseverance for long-term goals.” Basically, talent and luck contribute to success, but letting nothing stop you (grit) with your goal may matter just as much, as far as she has researched. With any setback or obstacle, if you want that goal, you keep going. That’s grit. And that’s me.

grit

Only those closest to me know how much I’ve worked on all of my writing, but especially The Difference since it’s been my longest project (since 2013!). The sacrifices I’ve made shows my grit, like my first marathon this month. No, not with actual running (I relate to that statement you’ll only see me running if someone is chasing me). My marathon involved editing my book so it would be ready for my editor, to  keep on target for my publishing schedule. I stayed up until 11:30 p.m. one night (way too late for me), didn’t even leave the house for a week, and barely spoke to loved ones because I had to get it done. They understood, thank God. Nothing ever has stopped me from progressing on getting my book published, especially not this new pivot with self-publishing. Learning how to be my own publisher makes me proud and having total control is exhilarating. It will completely be my vision, from cover to cover. Ahh, I can’t wait!

Now, having grit doesn’t mean I have to do everything on my own. I think it also means knowing when to ask for help in order to keep achieving the long-term goal. Without my writer friends’ knowledge (and support otherwise) and my non-writer friends for their endless emotional support, I could have never turned around my journey as fast as I did. Within days, I had all the professionals lined up for getting my book done. Hard work was and is ahead, but I’m all in (Gilmore girls reference, anyone?). I’m forever grateful to my support system. Don’t overlook how necessary one is on the mission in front of you.

The recent experience reminds me of a game I played when I led summer camp in the past. One person takes hold of a ball of yarn then throws it to another person in the circle. The intent may be to compliment the next person, for example. Then, they throw the yarn to someone else. Eventually, you have a web of connection by yarn and words. Everyone is weaved together in the game, but still freely independent from the web in front of them, reminding them of their connection to others if they choose it. The web is supported only when everyone helps one another, though. If one person lets their yarn drop, the whole web will collapse. It’s a true metaphor for this writing community. I think we need each other. I am both linked to the other writers and free. We can aid one another in our independent journeys. I know where to ask for help to reach my ultimate goal and they know where to find me.

I encourage you to think about your grit and goals. What’s the key to your success when you realize you are a gritty as me? I know you are! Only the grittiest of gritty people read these sorts of blogs. 😊

Dr. Duckhorn does have a grit quiz, if you search for her and want to take it, but I think you know if you have a gritty soul. By the way, I just want to keep saying grit because it’s fun.

Anyway, I suggest the following to help you gain clarity on your needs (taken from my own experiences):

  • Think about what your long-term goal is and what it means to you.
  • How much are you willing to sacrifice for this goal? Financial? Personal time? Changes in relationships?
  • Envision yourself meeting that goal. How do you feel? How is your life different? Let that feeling guide your decision making in the present.
  • Once you have decided you must meet your goal, write down your plan. Write this plan old-school style, not digitally. I’ve found in my therapist background that when people use their own handwriting, more commitment occurs, as well as more creativity in the plan. I won’t bore you with details, but it includes seeing your own processing on paper.
    1. In your plan, think about who you have as a support system. If you don’t feel you have a good one yet, create one. Join virtual groups and online communities. Join live activities as well. Do whatever you need to do achieve your dream.
    2. Set realistic, small steps to walk along the path to your goal. I want you to feel like you are making progress with all that is in your power.
    3. Determine what you will allow for a timeline, even for the steps. But this important— account for setbacks. This is life and two steps back will happen on your steps forward. It’s okay. You will rebound.
    4. And finally—begin today!

Take the energy you have right now and make your list. Just jot down some ideas. You can always add to it later. I wish you lots of luck and am here to chat anytime to brainstorm.

I want you to be as happy as I am for the new life changing decision I’ve made. It wasn’t easy, but as soon as it was done, it was clear it was the right one for this first book. I’m free. I’m at peace. Best of all, no matter what happens I’m the key to my success, grit and all.

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Copyright © 2021 C. D’Angelo, Author All rights reserved.

Behind the scenes, Debut Author, Women's Fiction Author

Just Say No to Comparison

Just-say-no-to-comparison

You are not meant for my journey and I am not meant for yours. That’s a dose of Captain Obvious, right? We usually know this statement to be true in our heads, but our hearts fall into webs of anxiety, disappointment, and helplessness because we compare ourselves to others at times. No matter the topic for comparison, it will always bring us a false sense of security or happiness… or dreaded sorrow. What a time waster! So let’s try to stop this behavior together.

You may not know unless you are in this book publishing world that it is the slowest business on the planet. That’s my perspective of course, but I view it as a beautiful shiny green turtle walking toward a lake. The sparkly blue destination will come in time but getting there takes forever and a day. The turtle crawls along the grass with a smile on its tiny face taking it one step at a time. He’s slow and steady, knowing he will get there at the perfect time for him.

I’m a person who works non-stop until my goal is reached, so on a long game like getting my book published, it’s challenging. I want to knock it out, like, yesterday. During the wait, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing myself to other authors’ experiences, based mostly on what they post on their social media. Ah, there are the key words. Social media. Cue the doomsday music.

Who looks on their social media and wonders about your own life based on what you see your friends doing? *Everyone raises their hand including me.* This doesn’t happen on my personal accounts, but lately has been happening a little on my author accounts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m beyond thrilled for others’ success, but when it’s taken this long to get my book published, it’s hard. I’m human. And I’m just being honest, as I always try to be with you. I still cheer for my fellow writers and support them all I can. I always will. And I always want them to shine and succeed. It’s just that moments happen where I have the feelings of wishing I could control my circumstances and get The Difference finished and out to you already (there have been publisher delays, which is common in the industry). I’m sure you can think of a time in your life, even now maybe, where you felt like you wanted to do something beyond your control and fall into the hole of comparison. Here’s my thoughts on the chain effects of social media comparison.

social-media-cycle

It’s a slippery slope, huh? Remember that I am a licensed psychotherapist as well as an author, so this is my personal perspective and not research based for this blog’s purposes. However, this graphic information comes from twenty years of psychological experience of comparison evils. Anyway, it is very real and can happen easily, I think. But let’s remember one key fact.

behind-the-scenes-reel

Brilliant (especially for my behind the scenes blog)! When we see what others post, we only see a snippet. Try to remember that. Who knows what happens behind the curtain? I know that I never post negativity or struggles on my own profiles because I don’t want to spread that energy. I want people to experience an escape and to feel joy when they see my content.

So how can we stop the comparison monster from feeding on our motivation and happiness? Below are a few my suggestions and those that I tell myself.

 Thoughts to play on repeat in your head:

  • You may be seeing the result of many more years of work by someone, when you are just starting.
  • You are shining in your own way that others may admire. The sun shines at a different time than the moon.
  • Apples and oranges are not comparable. Both are needed, beautiful, and desired.
  • Feelings and thoughts are fleeting. You will not always feel this way. It’s temporary.

Actions you can take:

  • Ask yourself what is in your control. What can you do to help you reach what you want when you look on social media? How can you work toward your goals?
  • Imagine a tiny person inside of you, called your inner critic. Give it a name, think of what it looks like, and think of what it says to you to de-motivate you and harass you. Now tell it to stop! Send it away by throwing it out the window. Do anything in your imagination to make it cease or leave. It does you no good.
  • Take a social media break. Don’t look online for a day or more. Everyone gets burned out and needs time away. It’s more than okay; it’s necessary sometimes.

Let’s make sure we stop comparing ourselves to others. Make it your mission this month. Know that I’m doing it with you. This way, you can feel even more joy for your fellow humans. Your turtle will make it to the lake, so enjoy the steps along the way. And when it reaches the warm, fresh water, drink it in and float in your success. We’ve got this.

(Just in case you need to talk to someone about your feelings of anxiety, depression, or anything else, make sure to reach out to loved ones in your life and/or make an appointment with a professional. Here’s a national hotline that can provide resources and help as well: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264). Be well, friends.)

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Copyright © 2021 C. D’Angelo, Author All rights reserved.

Behind the scenes, Debut Author, Writer

Lessons from a Beginner

beginner-excellent-quote

Who has been a beginner at something in their life? All of you can say “yes” to this question. I mean, who hasn’t had day one of learning at a new job, a first day of school, or the first time you attempted to learn a hobby. For this second career of mine with being a writer about to be published, I am constantly learning. Let me say that again. Folks, it’s constant. Just when I think I have something down, new challenges come my way. For a perfectionist spirit, that can be tough at times, but it’s fine. No seriously. I swear I mean it! It lets me continue to grow, which I know I need. We all need it, so I’m going to share a little bit of what’s been happening and give you some pointers to help you on your learning journey, no matter your beginner area.

The process of publication (specifically the very new area of marketing for me) and social media have been my latest topics of gaining knowledge. They are intertwined in many aspects, but first I’ll tell you about the publication for my debut novel, The Difference (date being released soon, yay!).

Oh, so many lessons have been learned over the last year or so while I wait for that book to be in both of our hands. For one, I have been lucky enough to be able to join groups online for debut authors. These groups have been a Godsend for me. The support and kindness of the other authors have warmed my heart every day. Nobody is in competition. Everybody is there to cheerlead, vent, learn, problem solve, and continue to get motivated for future greatness. I’ve met wonderful people and without them, I wouldn’t know half of what to expect in the months leading up to my release for marketing opportunities. Let me tell you how many mistakes I would have made as a novice! I believe my delay in publishing happened for a reason and part of it was that I had to be more prepared for what was coming my way, learning from their choices and advice. Sure, I’ll make mistakes on my own, but I know I have a group of people who will help me through them and won’t judge me.

Part of what I have learned from the other authors and with my own experiences is how to be in less control. Argh, the horror. Ugh, the beginner’s blindness to this not being reality. This independent, Type A, workaholic author loves a plan, loves to be excellent immediately, and loves to be in complete control. But guess what…it’s necessary to accept I am not in control. I chose to be traditionally published, so that gives up my total control from the start. I work with my publisher to have a schedule for editing, marketing, release, and promotion. Nothing is solely up to me (which brings me comfort to know I have an expert leading me, but still you may feel my pain). And my God, the beginner questions I have had to ask. It’s like a huge neon sign in Vegas pointing to me reading “newbie.” But yet, I force myself to ask and am better for having done so (and knowing the answer I needed).

So, back to social media. Has anyone figured out the algorithms yet? I know that’s a huge “no,” but a girl can still hope. If you ever do, tell me, okay? I am active daily on Instagram and Twitter and have been experimenting lately with when I post, the hashtags I use, how I write my narrative, and how I post in stories. I’ve even made a few videos, which is realllly outside of my comfort zone. Learning how to do something better is always an interest for me, but I do get frustrated at times. You know why? Because sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to posts that get more activity. If you read last month’s blog post (scroll down to read later) you know I am more interested in relationships than numbers, but I do want to keep growing of course. This means, I’ll continue to take webinars from trusted pros, put more of my face out there (so scary!), and keep on trying out new things. I won’t ever have a perfect account, but it will be a step closer to a personal excellence I can be satisfied with for putting in the effort. All I can do it try. That’s how learning happens sometimes.

Van Gogh is my favorite artist, but little did I know until recently he has many brilliant quotes as well as paintings and drawings. This quote below summarizes the needed attitude of being an author this day in age.

van-gogh-quote

It’s a must to learn much more than how to write a great book as an author these days. I didn’t expect I would learn Marketing 101 and more going into this field, but it’s been fun and fulfilling so far, even with being a beginner over and over. Here’s some major points I’ve learned and want to encourage you to think about in your life:

  • People are generally on your side- Others, especially in a community of your interest, want to help you. Also, I’m sure there is reciprocal inspiration and admiration, so put your stuff out there. I think most people are kind souls who want to see a person succeed when they notice hard work. At least I hope so. If not, they aren’t for you. Move on.
  • Force yourself to try new things (even things you thought you would never do)- You never know what positives will come from merely trying something new. If I didn’t start talking with people on social media platforms, I would not be anywhere near as knowledgeable or prepared for every step of my publication adventure. And making my videos recently? Deep breaths and my heart feeling like it stopped occurred when I pressed that share button, but I’m better for it. I faced my fear, no matter how small that seems. Who cares more than me anyway? It’s just a video. There are millions out there. Which leads me to…
  • Be more outgoing- Maybe you extroverts out there don’t need this one, but for this introvert, I have needed to take many steps that require getting past my shyness and gathering up my energy to be social, especially for my pitch party business. I have promoted my services with others live; the ultimate nerve-wracking activity for someone like me. But I push myself and do it! And I always will. I’m grateful for any opportunity. It matters more than fear. And speaking of…
  • Don’t be afraid to fail; it’s okay to make a mistake- Not every choice will lead to glory. Not every effort will pay off. What matters is that we keep trying, with knowing the risk of messing up is present and still rolling forward. It’s not life or death most of the time, so just do it! Maybe an unexpected positive will come from a perceived failure. You never know.

Even though none of us start off excellent in a new activity, we can get there with practice and determination. I’ve taught myself many art forms in my life (drawing, crochet, ukulele), but writing is the most complex, has social requirements, and has financial implications. I’m choosing to continue to practice my beginner status in any related writing activity until, well, until I’m a beginner in another writing related activity because I’m convinced they’re endless. 😊 That’s exciting in a way, to be the new kid on the block and learn from the best. I hope my perspective has helped you you’re your current situations and that you can feel my support from across the page. We can be beginners together!

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Copyright © 2021 C. D’Angelo, Author All rights reserved.

Author, Behind the scenes, writing

The Anniversary Challenge

the-anniversary-challenge

Well here we are, November 2020. This month makes one year since I started this behind the scenes blog! Cue the balloons and confetti. Play “Tony! Toni! Toné!’s “Anniversary” (remember that iconic song of the 90s?). Yeah, I often think in songs and TV or movie lines. 😊 Anyway, this anniversary creeped up on me. Much like other people feel in this strange year, I can’t believe it’s November already. So, I want to share my thoughts on taking chances and being open to opportunities as a way of leading to pleasant experiences.

If you have followed me from the start, you know I started this blog because I was asked to contribute to a friend’s blog. I hadn’t thought about writing a blog of my own, even when asked to submit to the other blog. Once I started writing, however, I felt that it may be something fun to do, especially to write in a different manner than my fictional books. Plus, blogs are a million times more instant than novels to get out to the you, the public. I can write and get it to you at the speed of a click, unlike my novels. The Difference is being published in 2021 and began the process last year, just to give you an idea.

Also, to write monthly for people who care about what I have to say, who want to know my experiences of being an author, and for those who love to read about behind the scenes of artistic endeavors (with a psychotherapist twist of course) started to become enticing once I shared my guest blog post and received a large positive response. But I still wasn’t a “blogger.” That title seemed to reserved for younger and cooler people. I have never been cool and I am a middle-aged woman, yet I thought “Why not? I’ll just try it.”

There have been other times in my life that I took a chance and it paid off. My first career job as a therapist was with the population of children. When I was in graduate school, I ruled them out as a desirable group to counsel. I just didn’t have an interest. I wanted to work with adults only. Well, life had different plans for me…for 13 years. I ended up LOVING child therapy. Now I do work with adults, but I wouldn’t give up that time with kids for anything. The experience I gained formed a solid basis for me to understand where adults begin their concerns. There’s more of course, but that’s for another day. Or another blog. Lol

So have you had an anniversary of something you never thought you would do in the first place? I think many of us do. All of these anniversaries would require taking a leap of faith to begin. Think about what times in your life include taking that chance. Go on. Think. I’ll wait.

Here are some questions that may help if you are struggling to remember:

  • What was something you REALLY did NOT want to do, but had to do? (Something you ended up liking and being happy you did)
  • What was something your heart said to do, even though your mind was yelling NOOOOO? (But you did it anyway and liked it)
  • Who did you give a chance to and they ended up being one of the closest people in your life, romantically or friendship wise? (Anyone you, dare I say, disliked at first)

It’s not only fun to think about these times in your life, these growth opportunities I would call them, but also to then notice the outcomes from your choices. Here comes another pop culture reference. Did you ever see the movie “Sliding Doors?” The idea is that one slight change can lead to a whole different life. One action or event can mean completely different outcomes, those of your choice or not. I often think about this idea when I am stopped a red light I was hoping not to encounter; “Oh, maybe I would have [insert horrible thing] happen if I caught the green one, so I’m glad I am staying here.” Yes, I know that is extreme, but that’s my thoughts sometimes. Think about the bigger picture, though. If you didn’t take the chance with the circumstance or person you thought about a paragraph ago, how different would your life be now?

It-is-well

If you haven’t thought of something yet, no worries. That just means you can make that choice in this present moment. In the next month, I anniversary challenge you to take a chance on something. And if you already have thought of something you did, why not do something else? I mean, I did add widget of a monthly blog catalog on the side of this page, taking a chance of messing up my website, just saying. It sounds silly, but every time I hit publish on here, I cringe then sigh from relief once all is well. See, it can even be something “small.”

Some mental health benefits can arise from challenging yourself. See if you notice these (or have noticed them when thinking about a past action):

  • Increased confidence
  • An improved self-image
  • Increased pride
  • A sense of accomplishment
  • Gratitude
  • A new quality/talent discovered
  • A new identity

Taking the minimal risk of attempting to blog monthly was scary for me, but I am glad I did it. I now have monthly interactions with beautiful people. I feel supported by you rooting me on in my author journey, I feel inspired by your comments and stories, and I adore when you get inspired for your own paths. And don’t forget my new computer skills (ahem, the widget).

I hope you are glad I jumped and began this blog. If you feel brave, share your anniversary challenge in the comments. Let’s cheer each other on to gain new positive experiences. I know you can do it.

go-get-em

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Copyright © 2020 C. D’Angelo, Author. All rights reserved.

Behind the scenes, Italian American Author, Women's Fiction Author

Routine and Self-Care Are Your Friends

Routine

Routine. Who responds with excitement and who has a negative reaction to this word? I’m sure there are both reactions out there, along with a variety of in between reactions. I personally love routine and thrive with it. I like to leave freedom in my activities within my routine, but generally, even for my artistic expressions (which may sound counterintuitive, but I’ll explain), I have a routine of some sort. I think it’s grounding. This year, more than ever, I know we can all use a sense of feeling stable with predictability, so let me help you to get there, with intentional self-care thrown in for good measure.

I’ve known about my proclivity for routine for a long time of course, but recently it hit me with how valuable it is for my writing career. I’ve been working on my second novel, which is set in contemporary New Orleans and about an Italian American woman’s journey with trust and allowance of help from her community. I started in July and now have a first draft. It only took three months! The Difference (coming in 2021) took five years. Yes, you read that right. Now let me tell you, it was due to a variety of factors, with the biggest being that writing was a fun hobby back then. I did it as my mood shifted toward that creative outlet. After signing with a publisher and getting into the author world more, writing has grown to be another career for me (I’m also a psychotherapist). I prioritize writing and working on my craft consistently. This blog is part of that consistency, by the way so thanks for being a reader/follower. 😊

During the unknowns in this wild year, I think my Sunday writing routine helped me to have a loved task to look forward to and one which I could depend on weekly. As you know, when you have a passion you will make sacrifices for it. Giving up other interests, needed tasks of the week, or even quality time with my husband on Sundays was what I chose to do so I could get that book out of me and into the world (well, at least in my world right now). It gave me a sense of control in my life when the events around me were yet to be determined. I knew when the quarantine happened that I wanted to make the most of my “down” time and this new book is a huge goal I can check off as accomplished.

With routine there is another necessary factor, I think. It’s almost the flip side in my mind. The way to keep a routine consistently is to keep yourself energized and ready to go. How does one do that? Well, I do it with self-care. That’s kind of a buzz word now, so it may have different meaning to different people. But self-care, to me, means doing activities that bring joy, relaxation, and comfort to you so that your mind and body can recharge for the next step/activity/day. Oh, I hope you know that included in self-care are basic human needs like healthy nutrition and enough sleep. I need to make sure to say that since they are extremely important but are often overlooked.

There are obviously different ways in which people can gain a sense of relief through self-care. I personally do not love to be physically active (but do it because I should for my health and blah, blah, blah), but can sit on my butt for hours reading, crocheting, drawing, and anything else artistic. I love vegging out with TV, movies, and social media too. But you may have different needs. View my list below for some ideas for your self-care.

Physically driven people (If you love moving/outwardly expressing to feel relief)

  • Walking or running
  • Bike riding
  • Swimming
  • Dancing
  • Singing
  • Playing instruments
  • Yoga
  • Talk to a friend

Mentally driven people (If you love staying in a resting position and reflecting internally to recharge)

  • Arts and crafts
  • Reading
  • Listening to audio books
  • Taking a bath
  • Movies and TV
  • Puzzles
  • Journaling

I can literally go on and on. But those are just a few ideas to get your wheels turning. What do you think? Any seem enticing?

So, let’s make sure you choose a time in your day to do a little something. Maybe just one tiny thing, even if it’s drinking a cup of tea or smelling a fragrant candle. Imagine when you can integrate this into your life. Right now. Go on, do it. Ok, continue reading. 😊

Set a routine for the self-care! Maybe it’s before you get out of bed, before you go to bed, at lunch time, or for 5-10 minutes in the morning or afternoon. Let’s make it happen. I know you can do it!

I hope that this blog post sparked some ideas for you to flourish even more in your life. I’m happy when others feel inspired and motivated by reading my blogs, newsletters, and social media posts. Of course, my books are the biggest tools for conveying these themes, so I can’t wait for you to read them as well.

Always feel free to share ideas this gave you, ask me for input, tell me how you worked routine and self-care into your life, or even how you plan to do so on the near future. I love hearing about your intent and success. Happy routine and self-caring!

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Copyright © 2020 C. D’Angelo, Author. All rights reserved.

Behind the scenes, Debut Author, Italian American Author, Women's Fiction Author

Dedicated to the One I Love

support-people-quote-misty-copeland

Did you know that an author needs more than good ideas, the ability to write well, and the hard (oh so hard!) work that it takes to make it in the publishing world? There is one other HUGE factor that sometimes is forgotten. We need the support of loved ones in our lives. For me, the biggest part of my support team is my husband, Jason. I also have friends and other family around me that continue to lift me up, keep me motivated, and help me out with advice. I know I couldn’t be where I am without any of these people, but this blog post is dedicated to my partner in life for almost 20 years. 😊

When I made the decision to write my first book, The Difference, I didn’t know it would affect my husband. Silly right? I have many artistic hobbies, so how is this one different? Oh yeah, because it involves not only creating and having fun, but building a business. Yes, authors, it’s true that our writing is a business once you share it with the world and intend on making money. Anyway, I didn’t want to or couldn’t think that far ahead because, quiet honestly, it would freak me out, which I have told you in past posts. I didn’t know what needed to occur to get my book published, but I knew I would get it done (and it’s coming soon! Eek, so excited).

You may be wondering how another person is affected by having an author in the same household. Let me count the ways. First of all, he experienced my hours upon hours of writing my book. As I got more serious about my craft, this took away precious weekend time. We both work full time, so weekends are the times we have all day together to relax, travel, see friends, and even run errands (which we think is fun to do together- yes we are weird). He always understood the need for me to spend the time working on my book, but sometimes it was hard to give up the “fun” time. Don’t worry, though, I gave myself breaks. 😉 Now he’s used to the time needed to write, especially since I’m in a routine of weekend writing. With the quarantine, we are working from home daily anyway, so we have plenty of time together. That’s something great to come from the world issue this year.

He’s also had to grow his patience with my social media needs. I’ve always been a photography lover. Wherever we go, especially in travels, I take about 5 million pictures a day. No joke, I have about 30 albums (yup, I’m old school like that). I LOVE to capture everything so I have lots of memories to look at and reminisce about, but now my habit has grown to also keeping an eye out for content to post in my feeds or stories. Since I post daily, I’m always on the lookout, even without being fully aware. My poor husband has had to wait so many times for me to get the perfect angle of something. He especially needs patience when I ask that he take a picture of me in a special location. My approval can take many photo attempts and I know it’s not easy for him (we are all our own worst critics, right?). Sometimes the writing of my post even takes away from what we are doing in the day, although briefly, but he understands it’s part of the gig.

Then there came the querying. This is when authors send their manuscripts and other content out to publishers and agents so they can get a publishing deal. My husband reaffirmed me every time I got a rejection. Every. Single. Time. He never gave up the hope with me that a deal would come. Some days the loss and need to try harder affected me more than others, of course, but he was strong for me, leading me to always be 100% sure someone believes in me and my work. I knew that already, but it’s comforting to hear in those moments. This graphic describes how I feel:

husband-qualities-happy-wines-club-book-quote

More sacrifices you ask? Well, this may be the biggest of all. As my business grows, I have added many responsibilities. There is this blog, my newsletter, marketing and promotion for my book, and writing my second book. Every step of the way, he has heard me talk about it nonstop. People, this is not an exaggeration. If you know me personally, you know when I have such a strong passion for something that it’s almost all I think about most of the time. It’s also a majority of my conversations with him lately. Whoopsie, I didn’t realize that until he pointed it out. And remember we are working from home daily together…all day long…every day…24-7? Oh yes, think about that one for a second. He hears me talk endlessly about every bit of my processes. Rarely does it bother him, so he’s basically a saint.

Along with all of the above, he has taken on many household chores that I usually did during our relationship. He gives me time to write by doing more than his share around the house, despite my rising guilt at times. I seriously couldn’t do it without him and I’m so lucky to be able to devote time needed to my writing. It’s because of him.

Do you have a major support person in your life? I sure hope so. Everyone needs a cheerleader. I know I’m privileged to be in this position. I also know the road ahead is still long, especially since I plan a prosperous and lengthy career of writing (I’m putting it out into the universe). My husband and I will remain a team for this goal of mine because it benefits us both. Have you ever heard “happy wife, happy life?” LOL, just kidding, but honestly, our individual goals become a couple goal all the time. I’ve supported him with his goals and will continue to do so, as will he for me. What more could an author ask for?

Venice-Italy-with-Husband
Jason and I- Venice, Italy

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Copyright © 2020 C. D’Angelo, Author. All rights reserved.

Author, Behind the scenes, writing

Living in Two Worlds

Two-worlds

Have you ever felt like you need to be in two worlds, two places, or to think about two concepts at the same time? In today’s world, I know a lot of us experience being torn between multiple responsibilities. Multi-tasking is a way of life for most of us. It’s difficult to be fully invested in anything if you don’t feel grounded in the task of the moment, though. Needing to shift between tasks can be challenging. Obviously, this applies to many roles in our lives (employee, wife, friend…), but specifically for artists I think it can be challenging to switch mindsets and heart. Oh yes, my heart and soul is part of everything I do as an artist/writer, as you probably know by reading my past blogs. I think most artists feel the same way.

Specifically for my writing (since this is a behind the scenes blog of my author life!), I’ve noticed I work best when totally ingrained in the world of my story. I need to be inside the minds of the characters I am writing. I need to be imaging myself in their shoes, walking around in their setting I created. I can feel them with the emotions of the narrative and scenes. This is simply how I work. I see the story and the characters in my mind’s eye, mostly from the main character’s perspective, but I also have to get into the supporting character’s minds when writing their dialogue of course.

When writing my first novel, The Difference, I had a different luxury than currently; I could focus on one story. Don’t get me wrong I’m ecstatic for the opportunity to be able to have a writing career, but it takes a mind shift for a writer who works from total emotional investment. See, now I also need to keep moving forward with other stories I want to tell you as my readers. So I need to go back and forth between my novel I’ve worked on for years (for editing) and a new novel I am writing. It’s an incredible blessing but can be challenging. I tried to wait until edits were completely finished for my first novel before starting this WIP (work in progress), but I couldn’t wait any longer. The story was nagging at me to be told. Writers, you feel me on this, right? So now I’m officially living in two imaginary worlds. This picture of me at the Prime Meridian line shows how I feel sometimes, with each foot in a world I created.

split-at-prime-meridian

When I sat down to write my new story for the first time, I almost felt like I was cheating on Rachel, my main character in The Difference. Speaking as Mary in my current WIP took a little getting used to. Although I had her mapped out as a character on paper, to speak like her in my writing required me to keep viewing all the details I set out for myself on paper. I heard Rachel’s voice popping through a few times, but kept redirecting my thoughts to Mary. I had to essentially keep repeating “I’m speaking as Mary now. Mary, Mary, Mary!” I know this may sound confusing (because it is), but this is how it went for me. And I’m only involved in two manuscripts! How some authors can work on more than that at a time is beyond me. But anyway, what happens to me when I write these novels is that I feel I get in a state of flow, and this is helping me to stay in the world I need to be in at the moment. Have you heard the term flow?

Flow state was developed by the positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and he described it as being “in the zone.” He said in a TED Talk that “There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity… [and] a sense of time disappears.” Friends, this is the magic part. This happens to me every time I’m writing fiction. I am a Type A person, but when in an artistic process, the rules and rigidity float away, and my concentration is at its height, yet is effortless. Before I know it, I have 1,000 words on the page. Flow state is where my best art comes from.

Now, I want to know if you have felt the flow state. I think it requires a few points to reach it, so if you haven’t felt it yet, maybe I can help with how I think it happens for me.

  • First, are you doing something you love? This is required, people, required. It has to be an activity that brings you joy, peace, and excitement. Remember, these thoughts are from my perspective so you may disagree.
  • Second, try to eliminate distracting noise. Can you have on music? Sure, if that is what you love to work with, but if you need silence, make that happen. I know it can be hard when you have others in your home, so it may take some negotiation or deal making for your needs.
  • Third, make sure you have a large chunk of time. I would say at least an hour, minimal. For me, it takes a little while to transition from the normal thinking to the creative thinking to the flow state. I view it as a meditative state in a way. So I need to allow time for the transition of total alertness to outside noise (typically beta state) down to more of an internally alert state (typically alpha state). Remember I am also a therapist, so I know this stuff, lol.
  • Fourth, go to it! Do your thing. Just let it…wait for it…flow. It will come if you are open to it. Just be. Be in the moment.

There you have it. Now we can all be in our own little worlds and never be present again. Um, just kidding. But we can be in our different creative zones and be in the flow state when we engage in our art. How exciting, right?

As I continue to work on my WIP, I have been leaving Rachel’s story in the back of my mind a little bit. I’m not releasing her or it, but just holding the story differently. Believe me, when I play writer games on Twitter (which is what we do in the #writingcommunity) and am asked to talk about my WIP, it’s the strangest feeling for me not to be talking about my first book. The moment I started referring to my new manuscript was jolting. Again, the cheating on Rachel! But I’ll be talking about The Difference the rest of my life, since that is what happens when you write and promote a book (especially so meaningful as my first published book). It’s okay that this new world of Mary’s is calling. And I have to tell you, being in the flow state again feels amazing. I haven’t experienced that in a while with writing because editing doesn’t allow that state for me (it uses more of my logical brain).

So, being in the two worlds is working out okay! Strange at first, but I am getting used to it. And as I dive into my different worlds of creation, I’m constantly thinking of more stories. One has been speaking a little more to me and may turn into a short story. I’ve never done that, and it may be fun to try. But, oh no, that’s a third split for me! I guess I’ll know I can handle it now. I look forward to the differences in character views, settings, and possibly the most enjoyable part…the flow. Immersing in multiple worlds isn’t so bad after all.

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Copyright © 2020 C. D’Angelo, Author. All rights reserved.

Author, Behind the scenes, Women's Fiction Author

The Art of Taking a Break

take-a-break

Does anyone find it ironic that nowadays we have to be conscious of taking a break? If you don’t, I admire you! I have to make sure to keep relaxation in mind so that I don’t overwork. See, I have a problem; I’m a workaholic when I’m passionate about something and my writing fits that category. My mind never stops running for ideas, things needed to be done, and planning for the future. “It’s a gift and curse,” as a favorite TV character says (anyone else love Monk?). This part of my personality allows for me to accomplish a large amount. It allows me to have success in my life, to never stop until I reach my goal…but it also tires me out at times. Finding a balance is important. I know this, but putting it into action can be challenging at times.

Recently I took my birthday week off because my husband and I planned to go on a vacation. Well, as you all know, that wasn’t a possibility this summer, so I decided to have a staycation. Although I have been working from home for my day job for the last 4 months, I knew it would feel different to actually be off the clock, even when in the same location. Somehow being home for work, where I don’t have to commute two hours a day, still doesn’t mean I can get everything done that is on my mental to-do list. Yeah, that’s because that list is endless and unrealistic. I know that yet still try time after time. Anyway, I told myself that week I would relax, breathe, chill out. Putting it into action was harder than I thought.

I did a good job overall with daily leisure. I saw a couple friends (safely of course), I drew and painted, cooked, read some books, played my ukulele, watched TV, and enjoyed swimming. But you know what’s coming…oh yes, I did a little author work as well. Of course I was interacting on my social media daily, but I don’t count that because it’s fun (and needed, yes). But, how could I have a week off and not do some of my author related tasks? That’s just ridiculous. I ended up starting my second novel. Yup, I spent a day getting my outline ready, formatting, and actually writing the first few pages. And you know what? It felt good! I had a weight lifted off of my mind by starting it and also had fun writing. That has to be acceptable, right?

I have to admit, though, I felt guilt either way, so I went ahead and was productive. At least that way I moved forward on my goals. Although I did all those fun and relaxing activities, I had that little voice in the back of my head telling me “Shouldn’t you be doing something writing related?” I had to keep reminding myself that it was vacation for me. I had to fight against my workaholic spirit to free myself to engage in the fun activities. And I did, except for that one day. Hey, I think that’s pretty good and will give myself a pat on the back, thank you very much.

Who else experiences this push and pull of the guilt? I think a lot of us feel it, especially in this unique year. So, does taking a break require a special skill set? Is there an actual art to it? I’m an artist so that should come easy to me. There is that word again, though; should. I try not to use it as much as possible because I’ve learned it creates more guilt. I help my therapy clients with avoiding that mindset as well, but it’s hard to apply to myself sometimes.

Back to the art of it, though. Maybe the art is simply having a balance. Maybe it’s just knowing when I am at risk of being drained. Burning out will be counterproductive in the end, so I don’t want to reach that place. Living where I can work and relax must be the way to go. Instead of push, push, push, maybe I need reminders to pause, pause, pause. Balance for the opposite ends of the spectrum is needed. I need to live in the gray and not the black or white, so to speak. That’s a fact. I know this, but sometimes my overachiever spirit tries to quiet the thought.

Okay, here’s the plan to lessen guilt by taking breaks routinely. I have a few realistic (key word for me) author tasks to complete each week, so this week I started to make a list of them. Checking them off as I finish them feels satisfying, which is a bonus to the completion of the actual task. I am making sure to also have a choice of 2-3 hobby related activities I can choose from each weeknight and on weekends. I work well with structure, but this is just enough to feel like I accomplish something and also hold myself accountable for down time. I’ve accepted that I require mental organization for even down time. I’m not a person who can “just relax.” My relaxing requires my mind to be as free as possible from the to-do activities, so having a plan is key. I work well with limits and rules., even when I make them for myself.

Look, there is always more to do. There is always a way to do better and be better in any area of life. That opportunity excites me, but I need to pace myself, my gosh. I do believe things come when the time is right, so it will just happen when meant to be anyway. What is in my control is taking care of myself, which means rest. That is how I will be my best for myself and everyone else.

Your art of taking a break may look different than mine, but that doesn’t mean either of us are wrong. I love learning from others, so always feel free to tell me how you do with the balance of work and play. Let’s all take care of ourselves during this year especially. It’s a great lesson to learn for the rest of our lives.

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Feel free to follow and share my blog. Also, join my VIP Newsletter for announcements, giveaways, and more!

Copyright © 2020 C. D’Angelo, Author. All rights reserved.