Friday, December 28, 2012

Indie Book Festival

Big Dragons Don't Cry is part of The Holiday Book Sale from Dec. 28 to Dec. 31.

Click here to check out the titles available. The Holiday Book Sale

Today's hottest fiction ebooks are on sale for .99 from Dec 28-Dec 31 only! Mystery, romance, fantasy, young adult - there's something for everyone ...

... including the chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy Holidays to All

I was thinking it's too early to make New Year's resolutions. The truth, however, is that it's never too early.

Another truth is that I haven't made any yet. However, I'm a member of a writers' group to which I've belonged for over 12 years, and one of our traditions is to make individual lists of resolutions and share them with the other members.

This is called keeping us honest.

It means that for the next few weeks, I'm going to be thinking about and writing down what I plan to accomplish for the coming year. I have two possible ways of looking at this project. One is to make goals I know I can achieve. The other is to dream big.

Dreaming big appeals to me. It calls forth the best in me, including resources I might otherwise allow to lie dormant. It has risks, though, as dreaming big always does.

The principal risk involves how I deal with what I could call failure, i.e., not achieving everything on my list. I can beat myself up for that, and I'm pretty good at it. I can also accept that not every dream gets fulfilled according to a timetable and believe that setting one in motion is its own reward.

I think I'll vote for Plan B.

To be continued.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

Whether or not you are eating turkey today, you might enjoy the following story:

"When Turkeys Give Thanks"

In no particular order of importance, I'm grateful for:

The turkeys, deer, rabbits, groundhogs, and other animals who visit my back yard

My family, whether biological or adopted, and especially to Joyce.

Long-time friends in my writing group, Artistic License: Marilyn, Faye, June, Julie, and Sharon. I just celebrated my 12th anniversary in this group.

Indie Writers Unite! This group has made all the difference in the world to me as a writer.

My readers. I may never meet you in person, but I so appreciate your support. You help me to fulfill my dream.

Special thanks to my imagination, without which life would be boring.

And thanks to you who are reading this blog. If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope your life is full of reasons for gratitude. And the same goes for those of you who don't.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Returning to BlogWorld

I wish I could say I took a long summer vacation. The truth is that I had dental surgery, I'm fine, and I'm not going to say one descriptive word about it. If you're at all like me, you may have an imagination that can supply painful details, and I wouldn't inflict that on anyone but myself.

Instead, I'm passing this message by George Carlin. It's been around the Internet a lot, but I think that in this election year, it's especially timely.

After the 2008 election, Irish standup comedian Dylan Moran, while doing a show in Australia, noted that after being elected, Obama spoke seriously about working together and being realistic about what could be accomplished, and people looked at him and said, "No, you do it."

The message below, by another comedian who knew how to be serious, reminds us that so many of the biggest issues today, not only in the U.S., but worldwide, will remain no matter who gets elected.

When I think of the vast amount of untapped creativity in this world, when I contemplate what a brilliant environment we can make for ourselves if we use the full resources of our hearts and minds, I know it's not up to whoever we elect anywhere. It's up to us.

A Message by George Carlin

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways ,but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete...

Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.

Remember, to say, 'I love you' to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.


Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

If you don't send this to at least 8 people....Who cares?

George Carlin

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Life is Fiction

Since way before the beginning of this blog, I have considered it important to make the point that everyone is creative. For those who doubt, just look at this major literary work called your life. When we realize we're the authors, it gets easier to write.

The article below, from The New Yorker magazine, transmits the message with far more elegance than I could.

Everything is Fiction

I hope you enjoy it and go on to write some scenes in which you, the hero/heroine, triumph.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Circles of Friends: Maeve Binchy

On July 30, 2012, Irish author Maeve Binchy died at the age of 72. Her books, translated into 37 languages, sold more than 40 million copies. More importantly, she was probably Ireland's best-loved author. She was certainly one of my best-loved authors.

Her first novel, Light a Penny Candle, was published in 1982, which happened to be the year of my first visit to Ireland. I bought that book in an Irish bookstore. I was discovering the thrill of buying books unavailable in the U.S., and this wasn't the first one I read. Only when I got home did I open it.

Though much of the novel takes place in England, it has plenty of Irish scenes, particularly set in the Dublin area. In my visit to Dublin, I had seen Dean Swift's church to the birthplaces of Yeats, Wilde, and countless settings for Ulysses. Dublin seems to live and breathe great literature.

In reading Binchy's novel, I discovered a different Dublin and a different Ireland, the home of people, who, while they had a lot of problems, cared about each other and came to solutions. In many ways, her novel Circle of Friends, which was made into a movie, was her breakthrough work. In a greater sense, though, all of her books are about circles of friends who help each other through the rough patches of life.

This quote from her describes her far better than I could:

"The happiest moments of my life are connected with family and friends. There is a great comfort about being with people who knew you way back when. There is a mental shorthand, an easy-going feeling that life doesn't have to be explained or defined; we are all in more or less the same boat. To have a community around you in a changing and unstable world is invaluable and nothing can beat the feeling that there will always be people out for our good."

Though I never personally met her, I will miss her greatly.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Don't Insist on Perfection

As I write this, I'm in the process of revising a novel I thought was finished. Recent events in my personal life caused me to take a new look at the psychological makeup of one of the main characters. I realized that her attitudes and behavior at a critical point in the story no longer worked for me. Instead, I saw them as rigid, blameful, and, for the purposes of the story, a real plot-killer.

This realization didn't discourage me. I'd known something wasn't gelling in the story, and I was delighted by this discovery. I've learned that unless I'm starting an entirely new project, creation doesn't occur without some destruction. I was eager to tear the story apart and reconstruct it.

I was somewhat less eager once I began. Destruction can be really messy, whether you're revising a manuscript, changing your immediate physical environment, or altering your life. It creates piles of debris. Things may look much worse before they begin to look better.

This has been happening to my story. Having decided that I needed to make certain changes, I discovered that these called for additional changes elsewhere in the manuscript. The process seemed to be spiraling out of control. My file for the book began to fill with notes like "HAVE TO CHANGE THIS" and "????" The novel that had once resembled a well-paved highway was turning into a cratered country road that wound and twisted through a wilderness.

It wasn't perfect, and this pained me. It was like being pained by the sight of boards, nails, and drop cloths in the once immaculate room you decide to renovate. It's like deciding you need to make some changes in a primary relationship, and the other person keeps on demanding, "Well, what DO you want?", and you don't know, because it's a process of reconstruction, and you're still tripping over the debris of what was.

There's only one way to make this chaos endurable, and that's to live with imperfection. And that isn't always easy.

Here's how I'm learning to do it.

1. I remind myself that just because the manuscript is imperfect, it doesn't mean that I share its flaws.

2. I tell myself that not getting it perfect in the first run doesn't mean I'm lazy or indifferent.

3. I say to myself that it's so exciting to watch the story transform, that this is a thrilling, organic process.

4. Apropos of point 3, I repeat that over-said but never outworn saying that the journey matters more than the destination.

5. I realize that the pursuit of perfection constricts (if it doesn't totally block) the flow of creativity.

6. I decide to choose excellence, a flexible word that allows much room for growth, instead.

Then I write, staying open to opportunity and inspiration, seeing the debris as part of the work in progress, each day finding creative solutions, moving towards excellence and leaving perfection far behind.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Another Creativity Killer: Don't Check the Expiration Date on What You Believe

When I was a child, my mother ordered me to never cross the street by myself. This led me to believe that it was unsafe to do so unless she was with me. It didn't take long, though, for this belief to pass its sell by date.

We discard the most obvious expired beliefs, but some of them are sneaky. Many people learned when they were young that you need to work hard in order to get by or that the doctor knows best when it comes to your health. These beliefs sound so reasonable that we may accept them as facts.

We all learned many beliefs masquerading as facts from childhood authorities: parents, teachers, and others. We absorbed them at a time when our ability to question what they told us was untried. A lot of what I picked up along the trail of growing u p still inhabits my being, rent-free. They block the path of original thinking and creativity.

My squatters tell me all kinds of lies that I believe to be true, like "You don't like to cook," "Housework is hell," and "You're not very good at technical or mechanical things."

Like most of the unexamined beliefs I hold in my head, I acquired these from a number of sources.

"You don't like to cook" comes from a period when my mother worked at night when I was in junior high and high school and had to cook dinner several nights at week." I hated cooking then, and now, though my circumstances are entirely different, my adolescent attitude carries over.

"Housework is hell" comes directly from my mother. She had four children, including two boys with the destructive capacity of puppies. Again, I have carried this attitude into adulthood.

"You're not very good at technical or mechanical things" has several roots. It stems in part from my believing I was no good at math. I clung to that belief, ignoring much evidence that I was good on computers and designed and constructed several web sites."

The mechanical part of this has more general roots. The other day I was wishing that, instead of taking home ec and learning how to make aprons and biscuits, I'd gotten a course in unblocking drains, simple carpentry, and elementary car repair. When I was growing up, girls were going to have husbands who would do all of that, and somewhere in my crowded mind lounges the belief that females aren't supposed to do such things.

The belief family most destructive to creativity usually begins, "You can't do that (whatever that is). You can't draw a straight line, carry a tune, express what you feel, ask for favors, or risk your security. You have a black thumb; you can't read a map; you can't eat strange food. Solution

1. Notice what beliefs are blocking your way. Sometimes they take this form: "I'd like to . . . but . . ."

2. Ask yourself, "Why is that true?"

3. Ask yourself, "How long has this been true?"

4. Ask yourself, "Who told me it's true?"

5. Decide it's not true. Replace that belief with one that serves your creative purposes.

Friday, June 15, 2012

How To Succeed: A Squirrel's-Eye View

As I write this, a squirrel is living in an outside wall of my house. When I discovered the hole in the wall, I tried a number of ways to cover. I will not detail these methods because none of them worked. They failed because my efforts, designed as temporary measures until I could call a carpenter, failed to take into account two primary aspects of a squirrel's nature. These are imagination and persistence.

Of these, persistence is probably more important. As anyone who has ever had a bird feeder knows, squirrels do not give up. Unlike humans, they don't say, "This problem has no solution," "I'm tired of trying," or "I quit."

They never (or rarely) quit, and because of their determination, they're able to explore many creative possibilities. Persistence fuels the expression of imagination.

I once saw a video that documented the impossibility of outwitting squirrels. One scene showed a squirrel who'd learned to trigger a candy machine in Times Square so that it ejected a candy bar. Amazing as that was, I was more impressed by its ability to navigate street traffic.

Several episodes documented the efforts of scientists to devise squirrel-proof bird feeders. The most elaborate of these was a twenty- or thirty-part section obstacle course that included chutes and ladders, doors that had to be sprung a certain way, seesaws, and various other ingenious obstacles. It took the inventors of this course a month to design it. It took a squirrel less than a day to outwit it.

Some humans have squirrel-like tenacity. When asked by a reporter if he felt like a failure for not having yet discovered how to make a light bulb that worked, Thomas Edison replied, "Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost within my grasp." After over 10,000 attempts, he succeeded.

You might not be up to 10,000 attempts. I'm not. My only goal is to make one more attempt before I give up. And then another. And another. And when I wonder if I'm wasting my time, I ask myself what else I was going to do with it.

Then I remind myself that if I quit now, I'll have a lot of time for regret.

And I'll have to live with the knowledge that when it comes to manifesting one's goals, a squirrel is smarter than I am.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Dreams and Inspirations

I’m so excited Connie has invited me to guest on her blog today. I thought I’d share with you all some of the ways I get my inspiration.

I started having what I call “character dreams” when I was in high school. These dreams were more like movies and I found my awareness would bounce from the mind of one player to another. I’d only remember little snippets of these dreams the next morning, but they would stick with me so strongly that I eventually found the only way to resolve them in my mind was to write them.

Witch Way Bends started as just such a dream. I recalled a field of bodies and a woman with a pistol in hand. There were several men standing around, also bearing weapons. One man in particular drew her attention and he was obviously in charge. She had something to prove. He felt something for her and fought to tamp it down.

Years later this little clip transformed into the opening chapter for my first novel.

While I was in the process of writing Witch Way Bends I had a particular scene wherein one of the characters was injured. My heroine needed to heal him but I was having a hard time coming up with the details. I wanted the use of her healing powers to be different, unique. While jogging through the nature trail near my house about that time, I ran into a spider web. I furiously swatted the sticky threads out of my face in frustration as I tried to resolve the quandary in my book.

Inspiration has to hit you right in the face sometimes, because that cob web sprang forth an idea. Spiders. My heroine would conjure spiders to magically heal her friend’s wounds.

Probably the biggest source of my inspiration is music. Loud music blaring through the speakers when I’m driving to work. Whether it’s Muse’s “Uprising” to plan a big fight scene or Missy Higgins’ “Drop the Mirror” to explore the desperate soul-searching of one of my characters, music is very important.

I maintain the mood of my stories with music. It helps me hold tight to the theme or the atmosphere I’m trying to evoke in the words.

So I guess inspiration can be found in almost anything that stirs the soul. So many times I’ve despaired when my “muse” goes missing. Yet somehow, it always finds me again be it in dreams, in nature, in song or some other unimagined place…

About the Author

Olivia Hardin realized early on how strange she was to have complete movie-like character dreams as a child. Eventually she began putting those vivid dreams to paper and was rarely without her spiral notebooks full of those mental ramblings. Her forgotten vision of becoming an author was realized when she connected with a group of amazingly talented and fabulous writers who gave her lots of direction and encouragement. With a little extra push from family and friends, she hunkered down to get lost in the words.

She's also an insatiable crafter who only completes about 1 out of 5 projects, a jogger who hates to run, and is sometimes accused of being artistic, though she's generally too much of a perfectionist to appreciate her own work.

A native Texas girl, Olivia lives in the beautiful Lone Star state with her husband and their puppy Bonnie.

Connect with her Online

My Blog:




Books by Olivia Hardin

Witch Way Bends (Book 1 of the Bend-Bite-Shift Trilogy)

Devan Stowe is a woman on a quest. She has only one thing on her mind when she teams up with Kent Crosby and his associates—putting an end to her father’s child trafficking business. Her determination takes her on a journey to discover her true strength and… the one man she was destined to love. In his arms, she’ll learn the meaning of trust, honor, and courage. Old friends and new will come together to help Devan unlock an amazing gift that will free her from her past and open up a future full of magic, faeries and more things than she ever imagined possible…

Available at Amazon

Bitten Shame (Book 2 of the Bend-Bite-Shift Trilogy)

Jill Prescott returned from self-imposed seclusion to help save her best friend Devan’s life. Throwing herself into Devan’s problems and bringing an evil organization to its knees might just be the distraction she needs to keep living without the only man she’s ever loved. Her life changed forever when she was hired to spend a week with Doc Massey. On the day she became a vampire her youthful innocence ended, but Doc’s love rescued her from being consumed by the darkness. The shadow of that former life continues to loom over her, keeping her from realizing her own self-worth. Running from her past only brings her closer to a destiny that is inextricably connected to what she is trying to escape… Every gift has both a reward and a price, because All of it fits…

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Cupid Painted Blind is a collection of six short stories. Featuring authors: Liz Schulte, Lisa Rayns, Olivia Hardin, C.G. Powell, Cait Lavender and Stephanie Nelson.

“Tell A Soul” – Short Story by Olivia Hardin

He’s the dependable one. The strong and steadfast one. Still, there’s one woman who has always turned his firm resolve on end. Langston is surprised beyond... Belief to find Kristana again, and this time without a husband. Has fate finally given them the chance to be together? Kristana can’t escape her intense attraction for the strange giant Langston, but the murmuring voices in her head are threatening to drive her mad. Can she find a way to trade one torment for another and thereby find true love?

Available at Amazon

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Let Go, and Enjoy the Ride

Neil Gaiman, multidimensional author, is a genius and a very funny one. While what he says in an address to college graduates applies specifically to those who want to make a living as artists, his advice can benefit all of us who want to live more creatively.

"If you don't know it's impossible it's easier to do. And because nobody's done it before, they haven't made up rules to stop anyone doing that again, yet."

"Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be – an author, primarily of fiction, making good books, making good comics and supporting myself through my words – was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal. And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right."

". . .it's true that nothing I did where the only reason for doing it was the money was ever worth it, except as bitter experience."

"The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you're walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That's the moment you may be starting to get it right."

Here's the link for the video of the address.

Neil Gaiman addresses the university of the arts class of 2012.

If you want to also/or read the address, here's the link.

Transcript of Neil Gaiman's address

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How to Crush Your Creativity: Be Rigid

This is one of the best ways to crush, squash, and generally straight-jacket your creativity. It's also one of the easiest methods to practice. All you have to do is tell yourself, "It has to be done this way."

You can find lots of ways to say this, such as:

"This is how my parents did it."

"This is how I've always done it."

"If it's a good idea, how come no one ever thought of it before?"

"If I don't follow the rules, I'll get into trouble."

"If I don't follow a strict routine, I won't accomplish anything."

We are usually well trained in following the rules and routines. I knew someone who in kindergarten tried to paint a green pumpkin. He got into a lot of trouble.

Another way to get your little creative hand smacked is to color outside the lines.

Underlying rigidity is usually fear. "They'll laugh at me, reject me, ignore me, lock me up."


Creativity lives outside the lines. If you really want to express yourself and be true to yourself, that has to be more important than what "they" might say or do.

I didn't name this blog "Dragonfire: The Creative Spark" by accident. The urge to create is a fire that burns away all considerations about what others might think.

To use a real-life and contemporary example: Many indie authors chose this route because they had a certain pattern of rejection from the established publishing world. They would get rejections that went like this, "I really like your book. It's original and imaginative, and you write very well. The problem is, I don't think I could sell it." Translation: this doesn't fit into any of the slots and categories that the big publishing houses believe can safely sell.

That's why you'll find some of the most creative writers around, those who are transcending traditional boundaries and exploring new worlds among the independent authors.

Rigidity isn't always a chronic condition. Sometimes it shows up in creative blockages where one finds oneself recycling the same old tired ideas.


Dare to think and do something new.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How to Crush Your Creativity: Get Discouraged

I'm not suggesting that you will never get discouraged. The key questions here are: How easily are you discouraged, and how long will you stay discouraged?

To take writing as an example, some people jump ship at the first sign of difficulty. The plot isn't gelling, the characters went AWOL, or you can't find the information you need for background research.

Others get through the writing part and give up either because some agents turn it down or because they can't figure out self-publishing details.

Whatever your source of discouragement, you will hear in the background the words, "It's just too hard." You may also hear, "It isn't fair," in which case, check out the post on resentment.

The more you repeat the unmagic phrase, "It's just too hard," the harder it will seem. Imagine that each repetition is like placing a rock in your way. Your goal is on the other side. If you say the phrase 10 times a day, that's 10 rocks. Uncontrolled repetition leads to building a wall.


Try to eliminate that phrase.

Replace it with others, such as "Maybe I can ask someone." "Maybe I can get a critique." "I might be able to find a helpful book or information online."

Remember the little train that could. Even if you're not sure you can, say, "I think I can."

Monday, April 16, 2012

How to Crush Your Creativity: Put Others First

However you express your creativity, you need undisturbed time for its expression. One of the best ways to crush your creativity is to avoid setting boundaries that others will respect.

Virgina Woolf wrote at length about the importance of having a room of one's own. With all respect, I'd take it further. You need a life of your own, one that isn't constantly interrupted by the child who can't find his shoes, the teenager who urgently needs a ride to the mall, and the mate who wants to know who used the last light bulb.

It seems to be a law that, whenever you go into that room of your own and close the door, everyone wants to open it. This, however, isn't a law of nature. Unlike the law of gravity, you can change it, but it's going to take moral fortitude, fueled by the conviction that a life of your own is important.


The key to upsetting the law of interruption is to closely examine the idea wanting time for yourself is selfish. My guide on this subject is Edward Bach, M.D., who also created the Bach Flower Remedies, designed to deal with emotional imbalances.

Many of us learned that to follow our deepest desires is to be selfish, despite Shakespeare's observation that we're true to ourselves we will be false to no one else. In Dr. Bach's view selfishness consists, not in honoring our own desires, but in interfering with the desires of others.

In other words, anyone who wants to interfere with the time you've set aside for yourself is saying, "Don't be selfish and do what you want. Be unselfish and do what I want (so I can be selfish)."

Your beloved family and friends don't think of themselves as interfering. They may be upset that something seems more important to you than them. They want reassurance. They want to know that they're LOVED.

And the truth may be that after the sixth interruption in as many minutes, you may not be overflowing with love. They're right to be worried.

Everyone's situation is unique, so you'll have to figure out the particulars of how to shift the dynamics in your relational world. You may find these general guidelines helpful.

1. Believe in yourself and in your creative urges. Honor them as if you needed them to survive and thrive. You do.

2. The more you respect yourself and your creativity, the more you will automatically draw respect from others.

3. The more you insist on fulfilling your needs, the more interest you'll have in helping others fulfill theirs.

4. To whatever extent possible, include others in your creative life. If you write paranormal fiction, ask "What's a good name for a vampire?" If you paint, ask others to be on the lookout for compelling views in nature. Do whatever works to make them feel included rather than excluded.

5. Finally, consider this analogy. If you were a car, you wouldn't say you're too busy taking people to where they need to go to stop in for a checkup/tuneup, because you know a car can't do what it has to do unless it gets serviced. Know this applies to your creative life, and communicate it to others.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

15 Attitudes You Can Live Without

From via Peaceful Daily Planet

1. Give up your need to always be right.
2. Give up your need for control.
3. Give up on blame.
4. Give up your self-defeating self-talk.
5. Give up your limiting beliefs
6. Give up complaining.
7. Give up the luxury of criticism.
8. Give up your need to impress others.
9. Give up your resistance to change.
10. Give up labels.
11. Give up on your fears.
12. Give up your excuses.
13. Give up the past.
14. Give up attachment.
15. Give up living your life to other people's expectations.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Creativity and the Dreaded “Mommy Guilt”

Connie has written some excellent blog posts in the past about how effective guilt is at stifling creativity; I know this firsthand.

Ever since I became a mother, almost a year ago now (although it doesn’t seem like that long ago!), I’ve been battling the dreaded “Mommy Guilt.” It doesn’t matter that I took a year off from my high-pressure position as an editor and inhouse author in trade publishing (and recently resigned from it) because I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, I still often feel guilty about the hours I spend each day on my keyboard, freelancing part-time as a “book doctor” and editor. Most of those hours occur when she is tucked away in bed for the night, slumbering sweetly, but some of them necessitate her going to nursery school two days a week.

However, as my girl grows and increases in independence by the day, I’m beginning to realize that—even if it means late nights and sacrificing some time with my child and a good deal of my social life—my work has benefits for her as well as for me (and for our household in general). For me, my work in the creative arts is not a luxury: it is a necessity. While I devote much of my time to freelance editing, and sometimes begrudge that it doesn’t allow me enough time to write, I am one of those lucky individuals who can say, for a fact, that I truly love what I do. It is my passion. I love taking a diamond in the rough and polishing it up to add more facets. I love helping other authors make their work the best it can be.

For my daughter, my passion for my work means that she not only gets to see firsthand the value of having a strong work ethic, but that she will also grow up appreciating that work should be a delight, something you actively look forward to doing. Already, I am seeing the shoots of her own burgeoning creativity as she indulges in her daily play. My love for the written word has also inspired in her a love of books. Even at just one year of age, she loves to carefully turn the pages (now recognising that pages are for turning and not for tearing) and to point to the bright pictures. Spending time reading to my darling is quality time, and although she is too small yet to fully understand the stories I write for her, I hope that one day they will number among her favourites.

When she was very small, my guilt at snatching short, private moments to write was overwhelming—and sometimes paralysing. But as she grows, I’m realizing that she, too, actively values time spent alone in creative play. She doesn’t always want an adult playing with her or hovering over her; sometimes she wants to explore objects in solitary (although supervised) reflection.

Interestingly, my book of short stories, “Cage Life,” although written some years ago before I became a mother, deals with themes relating to guilt and freedom in motherhood. In it, a young mother longs for the carefree life she once led, which leads to disastrous consequences. Now that I am a mother, it is probably not a story I could bear to write, but I still feel that it explores many of the wistful, private moments that mothers, particularly first-time moms, struggle with: the loss of a singular identity; the guilt; the longing for freedom, either creative or just a few hours to take a long bath or to go to the hairdresser. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mother. My child will always be my greatest work, and a work-in-progress for my entire life. But, as a creative, I also know that I have other children—children stuffed away in drawers and hastily scribbled upon in brief snatches.

My advice to all new mothers who write, and who are struggling to find the time to be creative while keeping up with diaper changing, feeding, playing with and consoling babies, is that we should try not to feel guilty about anything that rounds us out and makes us who we truly are. Our children need us to be ourselves, with all of our passion, creativity and individuality intact. It is how they learn the value of those elements to humanity. And if nothing else, writing provides an escape from the everyday that is empowering and fully imaginative. We may be covered in baby vomit, have been up since 5 am, and really, really need to mop the floor sometime today, but in our heads we can be dancing flamenco, solving murder mysteries, trying to eke out a living on an alien world, or any manner of other exciting possibilities. So guilt be damned! Tonight she is sound asleep and for those silent hours in between the little cries in the night, I’m not a just a mommy, I’m a writing mommy, and write I will!

Karin’s book of short stories Cage Life is available from Amazon US
Amazon UK
Her book of poetry, Growth is available from:
Amazon US

Amazon UK Growth
Barnes & Noble
Follow Karin’s blog at
Read more about Karin’s work
Follow Karin on twitter @Authorandeditor
Or Facebook

Sunday, March 25, 2012

How to Crush Your Creativity: Feel Guilty

Guilt sometimes involves self-criticism, which was described in an earlier post. However, the kind of self-criticism I described involved tearing your work apart, condemning yourself for even thinking talent lurks somewhere within you, and similar acts of self-sabotage.

Guilt as it relates to creativity, is less related to the actual creative project. It has much more to do with stepping beyond the limitations you may have learned as a child.

Here's an example from my childhood. My father had dreams of becoming a minister. However, he made what he thought was a more practical choice, graduating from college with an engineering degree. Because he made a choice that didn't come from his deepest desires, he went into his work life with an attitude of resentment that deepened into total dislike of his job, a dislike that he never hesitated to share with the family that depended on his income for survival.

Even though his career decision had been made before he got married and had children, in telling us how he'd had to give up his dreams, he made us the cause of his great life's disappointments. Illogical as this was, young children, who rely on their parents for their understanding of the world, are inclined to choose loyalty over logic.

It took me years to figure out how thoroughly I'd been programmed to believe that you weren't supposed to like your job. Whenever I had the opportunity to switch careers and choose one I would enjoy, I managed to talk myself out of doing so.

Finally I uncovered the truth: that I felt guilty about the idea that I could enjoy my work life much more than my father (who had allegedly sacrificed his happiness for his children) ever did. Once I managed to cut the unconscious ties of guilt, it was surprisingly easy to make creative choices and create a career that totally thrilled me.


Ask yourself if you're afraid of having too much fun in your career/work life and why this is so.

If you can relate this to dissatisfaction on the part of either of your parents in their jobs, explore this connection.

Ask yourself how your dissatisfaction can increase their happiness. You may find reasons: Your success could make them feel like failures. They could feel that you are disloyal to the family.

You can tease out answers by imagining telling your parents how happy you are in your career, how much you enjoy the money you make and the creative opportunities. Imagine their responses. (This works whether they are alive or not.)

Finally, make a choice. You can choose to be loyal to your family or you can take the risk of independence and happiness.

Friday, March 16, 2012

An Irish Blessing

Doolin, a village in County Clare, on the Atlantic coast.

I know a lot of Irish blessings and some curses, too. The one below is a favorite.

May your glass be ever full.

May the roof over your head be always strong.

And may you be in heaven

half an hour before the devil knows you're dead.

View from a cottage I rented in Kilfenora, the Burren, County Clare.

Monday, March 12, 2012

How to Crush Your Creativity: Shut Down

I could describe this with other words: apathy, indifference, or resignation. I used the phrase, "shut down" because it's an action that illustrates the above emotions. What you shut down are the sensory, emotional, and caring mechanisms.

No one likes your idea? Who cares?

You just got another rejection for a creative project? So what?
You haven't had an original idea in three months? Big deal.

You're starting to feel dull, slightly rancid, and claustrophobic? It's better than getting hurt or having your hopes raised, only to have them crash once more to the ground.

A brief interval of being shut down probably does no harm. When the heart aches beyond endurance and the nerve endings are beyond frayed, a period of retreat provides a vacation for the overwrought. "Brief," however, is the defining adjective.

Beneath the layer of anesthesia that numbs the pain, your imagination, hopes, and dreams still live. If you continually suppress them, you could end up feeling far unhappier than you did when you were suffering defeat. There's a good reason for this: the only one responsible for this pain is you, and you know it.


If you've reached the point where you can't conjure up any enthusiasm for either continuing a current project or starting a new one, allow yourself a vacation, but, if you can, skip the Novocaine.

Spend your checking-out time enjoying yourself. Be with friends. Express your creativity by enjoying that of others. Listen to music you love, read, watch movies. Be kind to yourself and look for ways to make yourself happy.

Get back to where you once belonged. Ask yourself why you express your creativity? Is it for the approval of others? Or is it because it gives you pleasure to do so? If you can remember that you do it for the love of it, you're on the road to reliving that feeling. Once the feeling is renewed, the creative spark that gives you life will re-ignite, and its fire will warm you once again.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How to Crush Your Creativity: Be Self-Critical

To get clear on this, we need to distinguish between "criticize" and "critique" and throw in the word "evaluate."

We need to evaluate the work we're doing. If I'm writing something (as I am now), I want to stop and see if the words make sense and if they will communicate what I mean.

However, even with the supposedly neutral process of evaluation, timing is everything. If I stop to check every word, my creative motion gets stalled. In the beginning stages of a creative process, it's often more effective to let it have its way and evaluate it once the burst of energy has slowed down or stopped.

Evaluation that says, "I think this word/idea would be better than the original" and goes on to make the replacement can enhance the creative process. Criticism is a different species.

Criticism says, "That's the stupidest idea I ever heard. I really have no talent. I should give up before it's too late." Too late, to use an architectural analogy, can mean that if you continue building your idea/project, it's going to crumble. It also means "Quit before someone else finds out how stupid you are and laughs at you or punishes you."

In psychological terms, criticism is the voice of a parent speaking to a child, a voice you've internalized. You learned to summon and hear its voice because you didn't want to get punished, whether that punishment was physical or humiliation. The critical voice punishes you in advance in order to save you from worse.


Self-criticism is deadly. Sometimes people stumble into the practice of criticizing themselves for being self-critical. Don't.

Here's another solution that won't work: Give up creative expression so that you won't hear the critical voice. That voice is on constant combat mode. If it can't criticize you for stupid thinking, it will criticize you for forgetting something or for how you tie your shoelaces. You need to face it.

Antidotes to the poison of self-criticism can include the following.

Tell yourself that it's okay if the first round (or the second or third) aren't perfect.

Even better, give up on the idea of perfection. Replace that notion with one of doing the absolute best you can.

Don't criticize. Evaluate. Instead of focusing on how bad something is, focus on what would improve it.

Don't pound away at it. Sometimes it's best to walk away and come back later.

If you feel really stuck, ask your inner wisdom, first trusting that you have it. You do; it's part of the software in the package that accompanied you into this world. Say, "I ask for an answer" or whatever wording works best for you.

Finally, as much as you may want to hate this voice, bear in mind that it originated in an attempt to save you pain. Sometimes the most useful act is to thank it for its efforts and tell it you don't need it any more.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

How To Crush Your Creativity: Envy

When you want to identify a negative emotion that's crushing creativity, it helps to be as specific as possible. That's why envy is on this list.

Envy bridges resentment and anger. Like resentment, it has a strong charge of "it isn't fair." It's more like anger in being active.
Here are some specific differences between envy, anger, and resentment.
If you and another person have both applied for a position in your company, and the other one gets it, you are more likely to be angry. You will tell people that you deserved it. Under very unfortunate circumstances, you may ever tell your boss.
If someone else gets a raise, and you didn't, you are more likely to envy them. You probably don't consider them undeserving of the raise (although sometimes envy can escalate to anger at the person who got what you didn't), but you wish you had gotten one, too. You may wish you were them. You may wish you were anyone but you.

If you think the other person didn't deserve the raise and you did, but you don't want to make a big deal out of it (except to all your friends), and you would never think of complaining about your boss, you will most likely feel resentful.

You don't need to know a person to envy them. Maybe you read about an author who sells several thousand books a month. Why doesn't that happen for you? This can apply to any area of creativity.
The basic error that leads to envy is the belief that there isn't enough to go around, i.e., a belief in scarcity. If someone else gets what you want, you won't.

Believing in scarcity is totally normal. This is probably the predominant belief in the world. That doesn't mean it's correct. If you consider it more deeply, you'll see that this belief tends to keep people at each other's throats.

Do we really know that scarcity is real? There used to be a belief in the publishing world that people would only buy so many books, and that number was dropping steadily. Then the ebook revolution was launched, and everything changed. Senior citizens who had been reading less found that they could increase the type size of their books on an ereading device. Books by independent authors sold at a lower price than traditional books.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door." The best way to free oneself of envy is to find a creative way to get your share of resources that are unlimited, once you find a way to attract them to your door.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Latest Book is Published

Gone to Flowers, available at

In Gone to Flowers, young people leave New York City in 1968 to live together on a rural commune.

Eli, hoping to conquer his fear of intimacy by moving in with seven other people, finds peace in the communal garden but can't make love blossom.

Mary casts off casual sex and avoids the potential prison of marriage and motherhood until her feelings for a bisexual man make vows of celibacy look like the worst idea since Selective Service.

Though Amethyst's parents tell her she can only be safe among Jewish people, she is determined to free herself of their fears. A master chef, she discovers some dangerous ingredients in her recipe for romance when her parents disown her.

Michael, a former junkie, envisions communal life as a permanent party with himself as host. He shakes his addiction to control others, but when he loses control of his libido, he risks his marriage.

Against the background of Vietnam, the Chicago Democratic Convention, Woodstock, My Lai, and Kent State, they pursue their visions. The snake in this fragile Eden, a seductive and disturbed teenager, brings their individual and collective vulnerabilities to the surface and thwarts their efforts to be true to themselves and each other.

Gone to Flowers will be free at Amazon on Wednesday, February 1.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

How to Crush Your Creativity: Anger

Anger is somewhat different from other emotions categorized as negative because sometimes the biggest problem we have with it is that we don't want to feel it. Many people have been raised to believe that anger is destructive, uncivilized, and overall, not very nice.

Attitudes are quite different in the world of animals. I have seen tiny kittens hiss and shriek with all their might when a big dog approaches them. Sometimes it's not the biggest but the loudest that wins or prevents a battle.

When we hold anger inside ourselves, we become candidates for high blood pressure, ulcers, and a number of other conditions. Anger, when used constructively, can relieve stress. When repressed, it creates stress.

Unexpressed anger also has a strong tendency to turn into the sour bile of resentment. (See previous post, no, not the cat. I understand he has no trouble expressing anger. It's the one before that.)

Give yourself an outlet for expressing your anger. For years I've recommended to my clients that they write down everything they'd like to say to someone with whom they're angry. Don't hold back. Say every terrible, vicious, and vindictive thing that you're feeling.

If you happen to be living with that person, put the file somewhere that it won't be found. Why not delete it? I would highly recommend and even urge that you do this eventually. However, I often find it helpful to cool down and read the letter a while after I've written it.

Once the heat has been dissipated, you may discover that some of the things you wrote range from ridiculous to hilarious. You may wonder why you were so upset about some of the subjects you covered.

These realizations help to train your awareness. The next time you feel anger coming on, you may have the mental acuteness to ask yourself if this is really such a big deal. That needn't stop you from writing about it. However, you might melt a few less keys as you do so.

Let me reemphasize: The release of anger is healthy, but the degree of healthiness depends on how it's released.

Oh, and don't forget to delete that document.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Hypnocat (Master of Melissa Smith) Speaks

Many writers have cat companions. Notable authors include T. S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, and Mark Twain, who wrote, "Of all God's creatures there is only one that cannot be made the slave of the lash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat."

Today, I speak with Sammie, aka Hypnocat, who shares his expertise in managing his writer companion, Melissa Smith.

Would you tell us something about your history and how you ended up with Melissa?

Well as a newborn kitten, my mother had died and as a result, I hadnt been weaned yet. I ended up in an animal shelter with five of my brothers and sistes where Melissa and her family found me.

(Melissa says: We found Sam when he was about 4 weeks old and brought him home.)

I'm going to assume you chose them, since that's what any self-respecting cat would do.

Of course I did. Inside the cage I was sharing, I jumped up to the top shelf and stuck my paw out, reaching for some attention. It was love at first sight

I imagine that you have special responsibilities, living with a writer. How do you encourage her to keep on writing, and what other disciplines do you find necessary?

Well, she has to take time for me of course. And when i want some love, I have to intervene. My favorite way to get her undivided attentions is to simply lay on her computer. And of course, she's taken pictures. you can find them on her FB thingie under mobile uploads

Does Melissa have cats as characters in her books? If not, do you have any plans to change this?

Well, naturally I managed to convince her I had to be in her last work. I even pawed at her until she used my real name and even some of the things I usually do to get attention. I like getting my way

Of course, you do, you're a cat. Would you describe Melissa's books from a cat's-eye point of view?

Well, since I cant really read, I just like the way the words move across the screen. I really like it when she bounces the the pointy thing across the bright window she's forever pawing at.

I have heard her talk about her book though, and I guess it sounds a human. But its about these things called gods and these other things called evils that these hulking men in her book have to capture.

Not quite as easy as catching a mouse. Do you think it benefits a writer to live with a cat? More importantly, does it benefit a cat to live with a writer?

Well, every writer needs a cat companion. We provide the necessary diversions they need when they start grumbling under their breaths about something not going to plan. I like being her diversion. I like being able to play for a bit then laying down to a nice long nap.

You may know that you have many fans on IWU (Indie Writers Unite!). Would you like to give a message to your devotees?


Wait! theres a bird at the window! BRB!

Thank you, Hypnocat. Would you like to add anything to conclude this interview, either about Melissa's books or about yourself?

My most favored human would love it if you checked out all of her books, but I would highly recommend Jealousy's Rage, since I'm in it of course.

I'll do that, Hypnocat. It's been a pleasure chatting with you.

Of course you liked chatting with me. Everyone does.

Learn more about Melissa Smith's books.

Melissa's Amazon Author's page.
The Sony store.
Barnes & Noble
FB Authors Page

How to Crush Your Creativity: Resentment

The first entry in this series, How to Crush Your Creativity: Worry, appeared on Nov. 17.

(Note: For purposes of clarity, I exaggerate. Many people have milder forms of resentment than what's described below. However, if any of the attitudes and actions ring even somewhat true, it's time to detox.)

People often lack clarity on the difference between resentment and anger. Anger, to be explored in a future post, has an active, expressive quality as well as a feeling of relief once it's been expressed. (Note: this relief may only last until the next occasion for anger.) Resentment is more like a smoldering fire that doesn't achieve release or relief.

It's been called the act of taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

Another aspect of resentment, worthy of highlighting, is that often people who don't want to feel anger believe that resentment, because it's less aggressively expressed, is an acceptable, even a polite, emotion.

To crush your creativity through resentment, do the following:

Notice with deepening misery how others succeed and you don't.

Frequently say, "It's not fair."

Look for examples of why it's not fair.

Get specific. Observe exactly why and how some people seem to have all the luck.

Believe that there's a small club of succeeders from which you've been excluded, probably deliberately.

Talk a lot to others about the various forms of unfairness you've noticed and experienced.

When you're not talking about it, brood about it.

Decide that you might as well give up.

Give up. Remind yourself often that if the world had been a more fair place, you might have succeeded.

Stop giving away your power. In the end (and also in the beginning) you're responsible for both your creativity and its results. That doesn't mean it's your fault. It means you have the ability to respond to circumstances, which means you can choose how to respond.

If other people aren't helping you, ask yourself if you're helping others. Develop the habit of helpfulness. At least once a day, find a way to help others on their creative journey. What goes around really does come around.

To take this a step further, believe in yourself. If you do, so will others.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Happy New Year

I didn't exactly make resolutions this year, although I have a multitude of goals. However, I received something wonderful in my email today, called 7 lovely logics. Here they are.

1. Make peace with your past so it doesn't spoil your present.
2. What others think of you is none of your business.
3. Time heals almost everything, give the time, some time.
4. No one is the reason of your happiness except YOU yourself.
5. Don't compare your life with others; you have no idea what their journey is all about.
6. Stop thinking too much; it's all right not to know all the answers.
7. Smile, you don't own all the problems in the world.

I plan to keep this on my desktop and read it regularly.

And speaking of regular, I will be posting more frequently, now that the holidays are over.

It's the Year of the Dragon!