Emerge Unstoppable in 2011!

Emerge Unstoppable in 2011! That's my mission this year. Join me as I blog about life during divorce, raising a three year old, and the fight to live one's dream of being a writer, a graphic designer, a prayerfully a success at it all.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Truth or Fiction Thursday – The Cleaner

The first day on her new job, Sharon was joined by her officemate, Marisol. A Spanish beauty, Marisol swept into the office bringing with her the scent of warm, ripe cherries. She wore bright colors and hummed a tune, at least, until Sharon caught her eye.

“You’re new,” her voice a questionable lilt with a hint of accent.

“Sharon McMurtry,” she extended her hand shyly. “And yes, I am new.”

Marisol was gracious and took her hand. She seemed cautious, guarded. After a second rise and fall of their dainty hands, Marisol jerked her hand away from Sharon, “You’re not alone?”

Sharon shrugged her shoulders, looked around the room, and then looked back at Marisol, “Huh?”

Marisol retreated quickly, like if she remained close to Sharon much longer she might fade into the fluorescent light of their office never to be seen again.

“I’m sorry,” Sharon said, “did I say something wrong?”

Marisol didn’t say anything. She glanced over her shoulder at Sharon as she left what would be their office.

What the hell did I do? Sharon was upset by Marisol’s reaction. She had hoped more than anything to make fast friends and find some distraction from her current circumstances. Disappointed, she sat at her desk and started reading through the stack of orientation paperwork that had to be completed before she could officially begin work.

Sharon was lost in the red tape and didn’t bother to look up from her paperwork until she sensed someone walked into the office. Thinking it was Marisol, Sharon said in a flipant tone without looking up to verify, “So, I’m so bad I chased you right out of here?”

When there was no reply, she looked up and met eyes with a tall, thin, redhead. She would be beautiful if it weren’t for the stark contrast between her bright auburn hair and her pale, almost translucent skin. “Oh, I’m sorry,” Sharon smiled. “I thought you were Marisol. I’m Sharon.”

The young woman returned Sharon’s smile, “Candice. You’re new.”

“People keep pointing that out.”

Candice looked at her shoes, “It’s obvious, you know.”

“No. I guess I don’t,” she said trying to avert her attention back to the papers in front of her.

“Marisol is scared to come back in here.”

Disturbed by the notion that someone was afraid to be around her, Sharon couldn’t help but question, “Why? What the hell did I do to her?”

“Oh, please don’t misunderstand, Sharon. You’re new.”

“I know!” she barked. “And what exactly does that have to do with the price of tea in China?”

“You’re not clean,” Candice responded, the corner of her mouth turning up in a grin. “Yet.”

“Candice, I don’t mean to be rude, but what the exactly does that mean?”

“Marisol is a medium. The reason she won’t come back in here is because someone is attached to you. You’re not alone.”

“What?” Sharon couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Attached to me? Not alone? What is wrong with you people?”

Candice twitched at Sharon's latest insult, “Look Sharon, it’s not us with the problem. It’s not us who Marisol is afraid to be around. It’s you!”

“But why?” she said a little softer, frustrated tears welling up in her eyes.

“All she told me was that there is someone very dark attached to you and until he was gone she couldn’t be in the same space.”


“Yes, the presence is male.”

“Are you clairvoyant too?” Sharon couldn’t help but ask.

“I am.”

“And,” she hesitated, “why aren’t you afraid?”

“Because I’m the cleaner.”

Sharon took one step back and tripped on the caster foot of her tall, black office chair, forcing her to fall into the seat.

It’s your turn. Dare to finish the story. What are Sharon’s “circumstances”? What happened next? She’s having a bad enough first day, what could happen, right? Do she and Marisol end up sharing an office? Does she emerge clean? Who is the “he” attached to her?

Until tomorrow, I look forward to hearing your creative ideas and remain a medium, or not a medium (it’s truth or fiction day after all) and Unstoppable.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wisdom Wednesday – A Change of Pace and a Recipe

So, if you’ve been with me the last few weeks, since the re-launch of this blog, then you know that I firmly believe in harnessing your inner strength, being flexible, and being the person you are meant to be. Yep, that’ me in a nutshell.

It hit me this morning as I was lying in bed listening to the rain pelt the trampoline outside my open window, that you haven’t really, and I mean really, seen the other facets of my personality. Could I possibly preach all the time? That would be a resounding, “Hell NO!” I have many other beliefs, joys and passions, not the least of which is cooking. So today, I wanted to share a recipe from my first novel, the one that went nowhere but taught me so much I owe it homage (crying uncontrollably, writhing in pain over THAT birthing). The name of the project is Feel Better Butter and someday I will go back and revise it with all that I have learned and try again to find a home for it - other than the file box underneath my desk - but for today I will share with you a little piece of it – the recipe for Feel Better Butter and a feel good snack. Don’t laugh! This is for real. I promise. And, you won’t regret it if you make your way into the kitchen to prepare the recipe.

Many thanks to Tyler Florence for being the inspiration for my butter recipe that morphed into a novel. Buddy, I’ll cook for you next time you make it to Atlanta!

Now, before I dive right into the recipe you need to understand the healing powers of some of its ingredients. 1) Rosemary helps in depression, muscle-relaxation, anxiety and calmness. I’ll bet you’re feeling better already. And 2) Lavender is used in treating various emotional problems like body relaxation during pain by acting as a cooling herb. These two healing herbs work together with other yummy, comforting ingredients to make the recipe for Feel Better Butter absolutely magical (Sarah Addison Allen…keep out, or call me).

Feel Better Butter

1 qt. heavy cream
Zest of one orange
1 tsp. dried lavender (the culinary derivation)
1 tsp. dried rosemary
½ cup good honey
1 pinch salt

In a food processor bowl add all the ingredients and turn on high. The liquid will slosh, whip, then separate after about four minutes. When the mixture separates (these are the butter solids and buttermilk) stop processing and strain out the buttermilk (reserve the buttermilk for the fried chicken you will be making for dinner because you feel inspired to cook) – there should be just under a cup. Take out the butter and squeeze dry. Kneed the butter a bit to form a nice ball then refrigerate it until you are ready to use it. Easy enough, right? Thanks again, Tyler!

Butter is done; now let’s look at our pantry. Let me give you a little black bra insight – every time you go to the grocery you must purchase the following items: fabulous dark chocolate (not the cheap kind), a fresh toasty baguette, the best brie available, soft goat cheese, fresh fruit of your liking (I prefer pears and apples), and a bottle of your favorite wine. Hey, at least I didn’t tell you to buy snails. Any successful woman needs these staples in order to survive. Don’t believe me? Okay, next time you have a rough day toast up the following recipe, pour yourself a glass of wine, and snuggle up with a good book. You’ll see what I mean.

A Truly Feel Better Snack

Toasty baguette
Dark Chocolate
Feel Better Butter (from above)

Cut baguette into 4 inch sections (if you are making for more than one person, otherwise, slice 4 inches for yourself and reserve the rest for tomorrow because you will want this again). Slice baguette in half cross-wise like you are making a hoagie. Spread open-face baguette with a generous helping of Feel Better Butter, then lay down the lovely chocolate squares, enough but not too many because it gets all sorts of messy, and on top of the chocolate lay ½ inch brie slices enough to cover the bread. Place the open face baguette on a piece of tin foil and put it in a 350 degree oven for approximately ten minutes or until it looks just perfect (you’ll know). If you can’t wait ten minutes, use the broiler but the bread won’t be as crunchy. I’m just sayin’. After you have waited ten minutes, you must wait another ten for this yummy goodness to cool unless you want to drip brie and melted chocolate on everything. I personally don’t mind a little mess. Enjoy!

So there you have a little light-hearted wisdom this Wednesday and a new recipe for a day when you really need it, or you just want it. It’s what makes me Unstoppable. Give it a try. Until tomorrow, I remain grateful you are with me on my journey.

Monday, March 28, 2011

ABCs for New Writers – “D” is for Determine, Devise, Design

As a new writer there is nothing more important than getting started. Believe me, if you do nothing else today - get going. Two years ago when I left my career to be a full-time mom and writer I had to get started right away. So, I took a class at Emory and thought, Wow! Now I’ve got it! I’m ready! What was I ready for? Ha! I thought after that one class that I was ready to take the publishing world by storm. What I was really prepared for was…wait for it…getting started.

Let’s stop here at the first “D” word for today – Determine. Before I could take even the tiniest step into my journey as a writer I had to determine that writing was what I really, with all of my heart and soul, wanted to do. Yes, you really have to decide if this is it otherwise you’re going to go through the birthing process only to find you aren’t Dickens, Tolkien, or Ephron, face the rejection of a lifetime and quit or self publish and fail miserably. Did I just burst your bubble? Good! Somebody needed to. Writing is for everyone but becoming a published author takes guts, gumption, fearlessness, commitment. It is not easy nor is it without pain. Still want to proceed? I had a feeling you might. Let’s move on to our second “D” word for today – Devise.

So I put on my project management hat and had, in order to be successful, to devise a plan. My plan for 2011 is called: My Writing and Career Goals. It consists of weekly and monthly goals for this blog, my website, WIPs, the blog I am launching with critique partners Pam Asberry and Pamela Mason, working on my career plan and goals for 2012, and last but certainly not least a job I can actually bill hours for. Take something as simple as this blog (you only think it’s an information dump) - I have an editorial calendar mapped out through the end of the year with topics to write about three times each week, and so it goes for every one of my goals. But making a plan is only part of it because in all of this you must live. Which leads us to our final “D” word – Design.

No, I’m not talking about designing a platform, a website, or even a plot. I’m talking about designing your life. If you were sitting here at my desk right now looking up at My Writing and Career Goals you might find it easy to fold under the pressure. I often do. Some days I sit here paralyzed wishing that I didn’t put so much into achieving my dreams. Some days being immobile is the best thing for me. Some days I have to, as my friend Pam calls it, refill the well. But that’s the thing about designing your life. You must recharge your batteries every single day. You must eat, sleep, play and work. Not just WORK. Yes, work is a four letter word. W.O.R.K. See. Anyway, design time to not only grow yourself and your career, but to live. Go to the gym, take a walk, go to the nearest bouncy play place with your kids and jump like you're a five year old, read, journal, cook, paint – do what makes you happy. And when the responsibilities wear you down, well, forgiveness is another topic for another day (a couple of weeks from now) but be ready to love yourself for letting go of what you can. Do what’s important; forget and forgive the rest.

It’s officially time for you to join the conversation. I want to hear from someone who has been stalking this blog. I dare you to come out of the shadows and tell us about your plans as a new writer or even as a human. You could even win a t-shirt. All of today’s commentators will be entered to win the Unstoppable t-shirt.

Until Wisdom Wednesday, I remain Unstoppable.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sylvia’s Roses – The Reveal

Sylvia’s eyes filled with tears as she read the words printed in pencil on the tiny sliver of sack paper:

My sweet Sylvia,

As the sun sets on next summer’s long hours, I respectfully request that you consider becoming my bride. I promise to love you with all my heart, forever and ever. I already talked to your Daddy and he was pleased. Sylvia, won’t you be mine?

All my love,

My great aunt and uncle inspired this story with their sixty-plus year marriage. Not only were they the model of abiding love, they always seemed to like one another; they were friends. I can only hope one day to find a love so true and blessed.

Until Monday, I remain hopeful and Unstoppable.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Truth or Fiction Thursday - Sylvia's Roses

Sylvia stood at the intersection of her parent’s driveway and the dirt road that ran between her home and the expanse of field where her family raised vegetables in Laurens County, Georgia. The mid-summer view of the farm filled Sylvia with thoughts of busy farm hands and late afternoon jaunts out to offer up her mother’s lemonade for their hard work. It was her favorite part of every day because of one boy – Elmer.

Elmer was tall and thin, handsome with dark hair and striking green eyes. He had worked her parent’s farm since he was thirteen. At the beginning and end of each season and often in between, he brought Sylvia a rose.

Standing near the worn white mailbox at the road's edge, Sylvia could hear the roar of an engine coming closer to her. She took two steps back away from the road and waited for the vehicle to pass. It was a truck full of farm workers coming in from town and hanging off the back of the truck, making eyes at Sylvia, was Elmer. Like a typical seventeen year old boy he hooted and hollered his greeting to her. Then all at once he tossed a beautiful pink rose in her direction. It was no secret that the two teenagers were in love.

Sylvia waited a moment for the dust to settle before stepping out into the road to pick up the flower. She shook off the dirt that had come to rest on it then inhaled its fragrant scent. She loved roses, especially the wild ones that Elmer picked for her because they smelled the sweetest. On the beautiful wildflower Elmer had tied a small note with thin brown twine.

Now, it’s time for you to join the conversation. What do you think the note said? Did this really happen in 1920s Laurens County, Georgia or is it fiction?

I hope you enjoy today’s little romantic mystery. Until tomorrow’s reveal I remain Unstoppable.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wisdom (from chocolate) Wednesday - Celebrate Life!

Sometimes I feel like such a fraud sharing tidbits of wisdom with you, especially when it comes to things like celebrating your own life. But I realized this morning that in my attempt to reach you, I am really reaching out to me. Sounds crazy, yes, but does it make sense? How often have you offered advice knowing full well that you don’t practice what you preach (but you want to)?

Well, here I am on another Wednesday, my heart in my hand, telling you what I need to hear. Are you ready?

The more you praise and celebrate your life the more there is in life to celebrate. – Love, Dove

Yes, you read it right. Insight from a piece of chocolate. Dark chocolate with almonds in this case.
The marketers at Dove are pure genius just like the folks who decided to put stuffed animals on the lowest shelves in the store to attract little ones. Who wouldn’t keep buying bags of chocolates when shown the path to enlightenment, individuality, joy? I certainly do. Every time I visit the grocery store I shyly make my way to the candy isle knowing I can’t afford another calorie, but longing for a tiny bit of something to keep me inspired, moving through life with hope instead of desperation. Off soap box, back on ground.

Think about who you are, really. I publicize myself as a writer. Have I been published? Yes, in many ways, but I have yet to sell a novel. Does that stop me from reveling in the fact that I’m a writer? Heck no! It’s on my business cards. I’m a writer. A PRO. No longer a hobbyist in my field, but someone willing to go the extra distance it takes to finish, revise, develop a platform, build an audience, and market, market, market. I’m happy to celebrate that little piece of me and in doing so hope that one day I can celebrate publishing a novel. Put it out there so it comes back tenfold. That’s the message.

My good friend and critique partner, Pam Asberry shared a smart little video in her blog this week that made me realize how necessary it is to look at life differently (from the opposite). Little ways to get inspired and celebrate who we are and the lives we live.

Back on soap box…As humans I think it’s easy to forget how to celebrate, as Americans I believe we’re cursed with believing we’ll never achieve to our highest ability so there’s nothing to celebrate. The American Dream has morphed from a two bedroom one bath house, with a car in the driveway, two kids and a pet into McMansions, cars for each member of the family and sixteen hour workdays to support it all. With all of this, who has time to party? And, when did we lose sight of the little things that need celebrating?

My Aunt’s brother Don has been suffering the ills of cancer for what seems like forever and yesterday after a long wait he endured the surgery to replace all of his organs. Yep, you heard me right – ALL. Don’t you think when Don wakes up he’s going to rejoice in his life? Why should we wait for such dire circumstances when we have minutes and hours each day to revel in the little things?

So, here’s your challenge for today – be your curse heartache, a huge mortgage, illness, addiction, six kids in college, or a job that works your fingers to the bone – take the afternoon off from your brand of crazy and enjoy yourself! See things from another direction. Take in this gorgeous spring day! See what you can learn from the triumphs and the tragedies! Laugh with your kids and family! Celebrate you!

Diane Ackerman once said, “I don’t want to be a passenger in my own life.” I think, just for today, I will follow her lead and direct my head strong locomotive right where I want it to go, to a party just for me, just because.

Until tomorrow, I will party and work myself crazy in order to remain Unstoppable.

Monday, March 21, 2011

ABCs for New Writers - "C" is for Closed Mouth

In the beginning I did say that Malleable Monday is what you make it and these ABCs are for NEW writers, right? Well, some of us who have been at it for a while need this same gentle reminder: In order to learn about anything you must close your mouth and open your mind. In essence, no matter how good you think you are, you still have more to learn. We all do!

Seriously, don’t pay good money to attend a conference, class or workshop unless you are going to listen. Don’t monopolize a conversation with your tidbits of wisdom unless they are called for. Stop and think if what you want to contribute is truly relevant. I’m not preachin’ I’m just sayin’.

Look, I don’t share these things because I know best. I offer my tidbits to save you a little time, frustration and money. Be it a class that is boasted as one thing and turns out to be another, or a conference you have high expectations for only to be let down, a blog post or a conversation with a dear friend, there is always (ALWAYS) something to sink your teeth into – to learn.

Take today’s Petit Fours and Hot Tamales post by fellow writer, Sally Kilpatrick. She paid attention in church and found comparison between storytelling and accompaniment. She discussed how beautiful words can often mask a poor storyline and how instead the writing should be an accompanist, like a good organist, not to overshadow an intriguing plot. I was listening recently when fellow author C.L. Wilson spoke about the most touching review she ever received. Her tearful confession was one I needed to hear. She said that many people will read your works, some will be happy and some won’t, but those who you are privileged enough to touch are the ones that truly matter.

Writer or human, if you are going to be privy to impacting someone’s life, their soul or spirit, don’t you want to be as well informed as possible? Balanced? I’m not saying don’t contribute. And, if you know me, you know I’m not saying don’t stand up for what you believe. What I am trying to convey is the importance of paying attention, listening to what others and your surroundings have to offer, because ultimately, it will be what you share too. Everything comes and goes full circle. Gain wisdom that you’ll be proud to extend some day.

It’s time for you to join the conversation. Is there something you’ve picked up on recently in a place or situation that you weren’t otherwise happy with? Have you found yourself offering unwarranted advice to others instead of just listening to what they have to say? Leave a comment for your peers.

Until Wisdom Wednesday, I remain tight-lipped and Unstoppable.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thursday's Paranormal File - The End of the Story

I (aka Lucy) grew up in a subdivision that was constructed atop Healy Plantation just north of Macon, Georgia. Active during the Civil War, the remnants of the plantation offer plenty of history to inspire one's imagination. The subdivision is riddled with graves, both marked and unmarked, and is known to experience odd paranormal activity. The snake and the stallion, though strangely romantic, did appear to me in just this way. And the whisper, well, that is wholly true as well. Not scary, but very real.

I have always believed in life beyond what we know. Though I have a hard time wanting to believe it is something tortured or gruesome, I do feel that it exists. Owning this belief is what drives me to be a storyteller of the Southern derivation.

Tanya Michaels (Michna) challenged us in a workshop not too long ago to call out our "voice" in three words. When I think about those words, ghost stories come to mind. They are part of who I am and what I want to share. So, be it a romance or a mystery, somewhere there will always be entwined a ghoul or two.

Until Monday, I remain Unstoppable.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Truth or Fiction Thursday - A Paranormal File

Lucy crept up to the edge of the cemetery. She welcomed the quiet it offered away from her parents and the confusion that accompanied being thirteen. She was certain it seemed morbid to her friends that she would spend her afternoons among stone markers instead of them.

Sliding up to the ancient iron gate surrounding the family of a Civil War veteran, Lucy was overwhelmed by a cold breeze, yet the evidence of wind was absent. She felt unnerved; uncomfortable in the place she usually found solace. She heard a rustling in the brittle straw and leaves a few feet away. Following the noise she caught a glimpse of a long, thick black snake winding its long body around the base of a tall pine tree. She was captivated by the sight of it, but was paralyzed by her fear of anything scaly and reptilian.

The wind whipped harder, whistling in Lucy’s ears as if to warn her. “Danger! Danger! Danger!” it called out its warning. Lucy wanted to run, but her feet were planted firmly, stuck in a mire of panic.

The violent wind was joined by the pounding of heavy hooves and the sound of branches breaking. Startled, Lucy swung her head left to look toward the woods at the back of the graveyard. A large white stallion appeared through the tall stand of pines. Rearing up on its hind legs it seemed to push at Lucy wanting to free her from her fear. Captivated, Lucy couldn’t move.

“Danger! Danger! Danger!” the wind screamed at her again.

Lucy closed her eyes and shook her head hoping to shake off the chill and the voice calling out its caution. When she opened them the pristine white horse was gone. The woods were silent. Snapping her head right, she looked at the base of the tree where the snake had been. It too was gone. Taking a tentative first step, she moved toward the forest looking for any sign of the horse and the snake, but found none.

It’s your turn to join the conversation. Did this really happen to Lucy? Have you ever experienced anything paranormal? Do you believe in ghosts? Do they inspire you or instill fear?

Until tomorrow’s reveal, I remain Unstoppable.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wisdom Wednesday - Get Derailed, But Only For A Minute

There’s nothing like the pain and frustration that accompany getting derailed in life. Whether you are following your dream of becoming a writer, pursuing a new career path, or finding comfort in staying home to raise a child, when “life happens” and your speeding locomotive jumps the track, what do you do?

As someone who has experienced this phenomenon this week, I must say I’ve been given some of the best advice. One dear friend told me, “Wallow. Take the time you need to wallow today, but tomorrow, get your butt back to work, dig your toes in and be stubborn about it.”

So I did. But, instead of wallowing alone I invited friends to join me. I had lunch with a handful of wonderful people including a man I recently completed book edits for, followed by a visit from two besties. Once the visits were over and I had found some peace, I got some sleep. This morning brought a visit by my two critique partners, Pam Asberry and Pamela Mason, and some sense of digging my toes in. And this afternoon the fog cleared from my brain and I moved on a bit, my bitterness quelled by a nice dinner out with an old friend.

I guess the point is it doesn’t matter what comes out of life’s tunnels to throw you off track, take a break if you need to but get back on track as quickly as you can. Hold onto the dreams you have built for yourself. Don’t give in completely to the derailment. In the end you have only yourself to be accountable to. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to have to face disappointing myself.

Mary Tyler Moore once said, “You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.” So, take firm grasp of the bull in the middle of your life’s track, wrestle with it, and then move it out of your way. You have much more important things to focus on.

Until tomorrow’s Truth or Fiction, I remain Unstoppable.

Monday, March 14, 2011

ABCs for New Writers - "B" is for Building

As a new writer wrapped up in the idea of getting your very first work of brilliance published it is important to think about building. Within the craft of writing there are many ways to build – worlds, plots, scenes, dialog and dichotomy. To me, the most important construction project a new writer can take on has nothing to do with craft and everything to do with support. “B” is for Build your community.

Author C.L. Wilson reiterated this for me at the Southern Lights Conference in Jacksonville, Florida this weekend. She jokingly reminded me that if I would have created my writing world on a foundation of community instead of my very first WIP I would probably be in a much different place by now. But, like every new writer (and yes, I’m generalizing) I started out with the idea that I was the next Dickens and that the audience for my poignant work of modern-day fiction would be beating down the doors of B&N to purchase my genius. Boy was I clueless.

I wrote my first novel in five weeks time and, thinking (no joke) that it was shear perfection, sent it to every agent and editor I could get an e-mail address for. This was not a waste; it was something we will talk about in a later letter. The important point today is that I was rejected, over, and over (near about 247 overs) again.

I had no idea of community at that time. If I had, I would have called my closest writing friends and invited them over to celebrate my lack of success. No agent or editor would touch my project, but the advice they gave, one in particular, was what I needed to lay the first brick in my foundation. She asked if I was a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA).

It took another year for me to consider this advice seriously. At the Unicorn Press Writer’s Conference in Connecticut last March I heard that advice again but this time it was accompanied by, “Those folks down in Georgia throw one heck of a party.” My ears perked. “Moonlight and Magnolias!” I was so excited! The minute I got home I joined RWA and Georgia Romance Writers (GRW) and made plans to attend my first meeting (and P.S. couldn’t wait for Moonlight and Magnolias).

I walked away from my first GRW meeting with a renewed excitement about writing, not because I learned something new about craft (which I did) or got more information about the business of publishing (which I did) but because I now had a host of new friends following the same path. That meeting was less than a year ago and since then my community has grown one hundred fold. I am blessed to have both published and non-published writers to share in my journey. These are wonderful people I feel like I can call with questions, cry on their shoulders, or ask for help in a time of crisis. Two of these women, Pam Asberry and Pamela Mason became my critique partners. As a group we have celebrated and mourned both personally and professionally.

The point is, don’t waste time thinking you can do this on your own. Google the association most closely related to the work you do, find your local chapter and join both. Go to your first meeting. Make a new friend or two. Shore up your foundation early, build the community that will help you build your career.

Until Wisdom Wednesday, I remain Unstoppable.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Truth or Fiction - The Reveal

Well, if you thought the story was true, in one instance you were right. The meal was very real, and look what it inspired.

As a writer one of the most important things for me to remember is inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. This meal made my night some 16 years ago, and to this day I can still find a way to write about it.

Interesting thought, isn't it? What small thing can you recall from 16 years ago that might inspire you to write something today? Take a minute and let that thought bring out your inner-writer.

Until Malleable Monday and the letter "B" for new writers, I remain Unstoppable.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Truth or Fiction Thursday - The Foodie Ballerina

Emma was a spitfire. At twenty-three, she was the youngest Executive Coordinator ever hired at a Culinary School in the Southeast. She was the anomaly in a field otherwise dominated by older male chefs entrenched in the area’s restaurant scene. The lanky food-lover hurried to get to know every chef that opened a restaurant in her town inviting them to showcase their food in one of her many classes. She viewed her position as a stepping stone to her dream job – restaurant public relations and marketing.

Sitting at her linen-covered table, she shook her head, hoping with desperation she could let go of work for two days. She wanted forty-eight hours to enjoy the beach, but the food on the island called to her, leading her to a new restaurant famed for its play on Southern cuisine.

Her meal was exquisite - pecan-crusted salmon and Portobello cheese grits with wilted greens. She savored every delicate bite allowing the sweet, rich flavors to mingle and fill her palette and soul with the peace she desired.

Taking her last sip of tannin-rich Pinot Noir, she asked her waitress, “Could you please ask Chef to come to the table so I could pay him my compliments in person?”

“Absolutely!” the summer-bronzed woman replied, making haste to the kitchen.

Distracted, Emma’s eyes wandered around the restaurant spying lovers in dimly lit corners, and paintings with bright, contemporary colors. She was at home in her surroundings and filled with confidence.

Seconds later the chef stepped into the dining room. Dressed in crisp, formal whites, toque sitting atop his head, he appeared to be seven feet tall. Emma’s breath caught in her chest as the handsome, mysterious man approached the table, his self-assured stature enchanting.

She offered her hand and began to speak, but instead of shaking it in response, Chef pulled Emma to her feet, twirling her out into the middle of the room, her shapely, tan legs peeking out from under her short, flowing red dress. Captivated, Emma fell into the moment, letting Chef’s hand in the small of her back direct her every step.

With nary an introduction, they danced around the room to cascades of Sinatra’s snappy beat, swaying back and forth, the music guiding them closer and closer to one another. When the tune ended, Emma’s cheek was pressed against that of the chef’s, her right hand curled tightly in his left, her knees trembling, announcing her coolness had long since left her.

It’s your turn to join the conversation. Do you think this really happened? Does it sound eerily similar to something you’ve experienced? Comment and tell us what Unstoppable moments have occurred in your own life.

Until tomorrow’s reveal, I remain Unstoppable.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wisdom Wednesday - Is Self-Defeat Defeating You?

Some days I can’t turn my face away from the ground. Life’s drama – too much work, too little time, too many “mommy, mommy, MOMMYs!” and nary enough hands or brains – oftentimes has me so afraid of “what ifs” that I can’t comprehend how to even pick up and do thing number one. How frustrating it is to wake up and know immediately that the few blessed hours you get in a day have already been eaten up with time commitments. It’s debilitating.

Self-defeat can be the first obstacle some of us have to overcome each day. Don’t think you fall into this category? I didn’t either until a memo citing some traits of self-defeating behavior crossed my desk. In shock, I, the self-sufficient learner-by-osmosis read the statement, “I don’t need help, I’ll figure it out myself.” Now wait a minute! That sounded just like me. But how is that self-defeating behavior?

At that moment I realized that not asking for help to learn or accomplish what I need to grow and thrive in life holds me back. Look at the wealth of knowledge I can access just by messaging someone on Facebook or Twitter – moms, writers, family, sitters, and business people like myself – all right there for the asking.

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. – Helen Keller

In the face of unbelievable adversity, Helen Keller became the first deaf blind person to graduate from college. If she can experience such amazing achievement in her life, then what in the world could I have to worry about? It’s all relative. We all have our own personal hardships.

When I get out of sorts with misfortunes and the “to dos” of the day, I put on my project management cap and make a list. Though these lists are pretty darn long, at least the things that need accomplishing are on paper. It’s a start and something I have to do before I even know what I need help with.

Next, I prioritize. The key to getting things done in my life is knowing what to let go of. This all too critical stage of time structuring allows me the chance to take what I consider an emergency and imagine it being stricken with a sharp steel axe, chopped right out of my day. Okay, the visual is a little violent, but it works for me. The beautiful thing about the axe is that each day I must face a plethora of responsibilities: my day job, cleaning, laundry, cooking, WIP revisions, whatever “bad thing” must happen (this morning it was a coffee pot spewing coffee onto the counter vs. in the pot), and spending quality time with my little girl. The picture just became clearer to you, didn’t it? It’s impossible for me to imagine the dreaded axe chopping my daughter out of my day. To me, the image is grotesque, and like the reality, I could never allow it to happen.

Finally, I make the necessary cuts and ask for help where I need it. When faced with lengthy projects at work, a blog to write, and family in town yesterday I chopped out vacuuming the floors and running errands, and asked my mom to help by making dinner, so I could spend time with my little girl laughing, playing, and watching a movie. Not only did we get to bond, she got my full attention and lots of love and kisses and I got to see life through her eyes – much less serious and without drop-deadlines.

There may not have been a lot of sun in Atlanta today, but the sky was bright enough and we kept our heads up so the shadows remained out of sight. It made for another Unstoppable day.

Join the conversation. What are some difficulties you’ve faced lately? How do you prioritize? What are you willing to cut out of your day to make time for what’s important? What gives you strength and inspiration in the face of adversity? Do you ask for help when you need it?

I look forward to seeing you here tomorrow for Truth or Fiction Thursday. Until then, I remain Unstoppable.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Malleable Monday - "A" is for Abstract

Welcome to Malleable Monday and the first letter in the new writer’s alphabet. This is for those folks who desire nothing more than a cliff to take a leap of faith from. This is not a lesson in the business of publishing, nor is it necessarily about craft, but more the direction and motivation new writers need to put pen to paper and get writing.

“A” is for Abstract, as in “to think in the abstract.” It means without reference to specific circumstances or practical experience (Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition 2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009

Let’s start with the simple idea of letting go of what we know and experience everyday and delve into abstract thinking. I’m certain in each of you the same school of thought has been implanted – writers write what they know.

Is that true? It is entirely possible. The difference between a fantastic fiction writer and anyone else is their ability to take everyday experiences and spin them into the abstract. Say, for instance, you take a walk early one morning (a bit of my own advice for new writers) and on your walk the air is thick with moisture and carries with it the rich, hearty smell of bacon frying in the pan. It’s a lovely experience, no doubt, but if it inspires you to write something what will that be - I smelled bacon on my walk this morning. A good start, but go one conceptual step further.

Are you a Sci-Fi writer? Maybe the rich, hearty smell is the smell of the 900-foot tall spindle trees on your planet that reach into the atmosphere to feed off grease-filled troposphere. If you’re a romance writer, maybe that’s your overnight conquest in the kitchen courting you with his culinary prowess. Or, if you write suspense, that could be something other than bacon frying in the pan, if you know what I mean.

Point is James Cameron didn’t make Avatar a grand success by producing a story about a marine who was dispatched on a mission during wartime to find his loyalties lie with the people he is charged to eradicate. Though touching, we often experience war, growth, and relationships in person or on the evening news. No, James Cameron made Avatar a captivating story by creating a visually fantastic world we were unfamiliar with, and drawing us into stunning characters we could relate to like a paraplegic marine thrust into a computerized capsule in order to take on the identity of his enemy. Does your protagonist have to be blue in order to encourage emotion? Absolutely not, but your story has to be fresh, different, an original idea from your brain containing imaginative, thought-provoking content, characters and scenery.

Does the idea of abstract thinking test you? Good. Sometimes the best things in life come out of challenge. Try reinventing yourself at forty, or making a career change at fifty-five. Sure it’s difficult, but who said rewards come easy.

Now, it’s time for you to join the conversation. Whether you are a new writer or someone who has published thirty books, if you’re reading this take a minute to share one teensy-weensy abstract thought. Pick one of the following basic subjects: 1) Bright yellow daffodils lifting their heads to the noonday sun; 2) an azure sky filled with fire; or 3) the sound of silence from a snow-covered mountain top and write the abstract start it inspires in you. Go all out! Put your craziest, weirdest, most out-of-the-box thoughts into a sentence or two and comment. Let’s see what our peers have to say.

Until Wednesday, I remain Unstoppable

Saturday, March 5, 2011

This Week's Winners

Happy weekend everyone! I wanted to take a quick minute of your time to announce this week's follow and comment winners. They are:

Malleable Monday - Nicki S. for an Unstoppable T-shirt
Wisdom Wednesday - Pam A. for an Unstoppable Coffee Mug
Truth or Fiction Thursday - Robin K. for an Unstoppable Mousepad

(Winners were assigned numbers and chosen by Random.org)

Thanks to each of you for following along and commenting. Watch for future posts and contests at www.unstoppablestart.com or http://unstoppablestart.blogspot.com.

Have a great day!


Friday, March 4, 2011

Truth or Fiction - The End of the Story

You'll never believe it but the story of Sarah and Erica is true, true, true (names changed, of course, to protect identities). Wondering how it ended up?

Sarah couldn't believe that the well-marked receptacle in front of her wasn't her beloved herbie-curbie.

"Its okay honey," Erica told her, chuckling under her breath. "Just clean it up and take it back to it's owner."

"But Erica, its permanent marker!" Sarah growled.

"No problem," she smiled. "We have a fresh can of Goo-B-Gone in the garage."

"Whew!" Sarah relaxed for a moment, happy to know she could erase the hand-written address from the can. Then she recoiled, fear striking her like the lightning-fast firing of synapses erasing her memory. Eyes wide, she looked at Erica and said, "I forgot where I took it from."

That's the true story. To this day, the clean trash can still resides at Sarah and Erica's house waiting to be returned to its owner. Sarah drives up and down each of the surrounding streets at least once each day hoping to jog her memory, and Erica, well, Erica is still laughing.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Until Monday, I remain Unstoppable

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Truth or Fiction Thursday - Hey! That's Mine!

It's the inaugural installment of Truth or Fiction Thursday, so let's get right to it, shall we...

She was an immovable presence in her neighborhood, a woman not to be challenged. Sara gave her time and energy to her neighborhood association, PTA, and the one charity she held dear, H.E.R.O. for Children. But one day, someone did challenge Sara.

She arrived home at dusk one February evening to find her garbage sitting in white kitchen bags on the curb. That's odd, she thought pulling into the driveway of her West Atlanta home. I put herbie-curbie out this morning.

She stomped inside, upset over her missing $80 garbage can and asked her partner Erica what she did with it.

"I didn’t do anything but put it on the curb full of trash," Erica snapped back, still upset because she was the one who had to take out the garbage that morning. "Why don't you go ask the neighbors?"

Out the back door, Sara marched directly to the next door neighbors, the bee in her bonnet buzzing with fury. "Do you guys know what happened to my fifteen year old, very expensive trash can?" she demanded.

Every neighbor, three in each direction, responded, "No." Finally crossing the street, Sara discovered a witness. "Sure," her neighbor Tom sounded righteous. "I saw someone come through here earlier, empty the trash and pull it away like it was theirs."

With that, the bee stung Sara. She headed right off Tom's porch and paraded up and down the surrounding streets until she found her beloved trash can sitting by the garage of a neighbor's house two blocks over. She walked straight up to the house, emptied the dirty white bags from her can and wrapping her fist around the handle of herbie-curbie she began to walk away. But, the temptation to say something was too great. Sara stood in front of one of the large picture windows on the front of the Brady Bunch contemporary brick home challenging the owner to, "come out and take this trash can from me again!"

When no one accepted her challenge, Sara calmed down and started her walk home. She was proud of herself for locating her precious disposal bin and happy she took the steps to get it back. When she arrived home she wrote her street number in permanent marker on every side of the container, put her trash back inside, and left herbie-curbie on the curb for pickup the next day.

Early the next morning, with coffee in hand, Sara pleaded with Erica to come out and look at her prize. Upon seeing the familiar trash receptacle on the curb, Erica took a sip of coffee and laughing choked out, "Sweetie, that one isn't ours."

Become part of the discussion - Is this a true story, or is it fiction? C'mon, don't you want to know how it ends? Aren't you a little curious? Leave a comment before midnight (EST) March 4, 2011 and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win the Unstoppable Mouse pad. And, you'll get to hear the truth.

Until then, I remain the Unstoppable Ms. Start

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wisdom Wednesday - How Do You Relax?

Okay, here it is, the very first installment of Wisdom Wednesdays. I am so excited to be able to share these special posts with you, because, at my heart, I've learned a lot and want to impart that wisdom on everyone who will listen (in this case, read). Are you laughing? Don’t we all want an audience for our opinions, knowledge, wisdom?

The world today is wrought with time-sucks. You know what a time-suck is, right? It's anything you have to do to get where you want to go. Traffic, for instance, is a time-suck. Albeit enjoyable, catching up on Facebook updates and Tweets can be a time-suck. Wrestling with a three year old who refuses to get dressed for "school" is most certainly a time-suck. So, after a day filled with the crazy that accompanies life and takes away any chance you may have to do a teensy-weensy something for yourself, when and how do you relax?

For me, it's all about getting up early and staying up late. Doesn't sound very relaxing, does it? But, those two things are actually on my "goals" for this year along with a closing statement...Take Care of Myself!

When I get up early I use that time to enjoy my favorite coffee, watch the sun light up the houses across the street, I catch up on FB and Twitter without interruption. It's a wonderful time for me.

Staying up late often allows me to wear my stress-relieving mask (yes, the same goo-filled doohickey you've seen at the drugstore), watch grown-up television, and maybe even, God bless, paint my toenails.

Do you see a theme emerging? Taking care of myself is an important part of Emerging Unstoppable in 2011. They are little things that to anyone else may seem trivial, but to me these are major accomplishments, a part of my happiness that cannot be lived without.

When and how do you relax? Do you take good care of yourself? Share with the group the times and ways that help you stay Unstoppable and every person who comments between midnight March 2nd and midnight March 3rd will be entered into a drawing to win The Unstoppable Coffee Mug (or another available Unstoppable product of your choice).

Don't forget, if you're not already a follower, Follow me now. Just click on the Follow button on the top of the page and follow the instructions (I must find another way to word this).

Until tomorrow, I remain,