The Answer is Simple

#truth #life #direction #advice #amwriting

The buzz of the city amplifies your anxiety as you stare at the street signs. It’s a new place. You’ve never been here and perhaps you’re used to small town life. You want to ask someone for directions so you stand there-in the middle of the sidewalk-watching the faces as they move past you.

Their faces are cold and stoic. Each expression is carved in stone, immortalizing the “worker bee” hive mind. Finally, as if sent there just for you, an elderly woman shambles nearby. She’s bundled up in her wool coat and pink, knit hat, gazing into the windows displaying colorful clothes, flashy watches, maybe a best selling book. Her lips are softer than the chiseled-line mouths of the faces around her.

Yes, you think to yourself, this is the person I will ask for directions.

Rolling your shoulders back, you head her way, put on your best smile, and call out to her.

“Excuse me, ma’am. I’m sorry to bother you but I’m a little lost. Can you point me in the direction of the subway? I need to get uptown.”

The woman smiles and offers a small chuckle. Turning a half of an inch to her left. She raises her arm, extending her crooked finger, tipped with cotton candy nail polish, and points in the direction you came from.

“It’s over there stupid, can’t you read?”

And just like that, her smile goes from being sunny and warm, to sarcastic and full of ridicule.

The point of this little story is to point out how sometimes we let our own insecurities and fears keep us from seeing where we we need to go. We can’t see the clearly marked signs. We feel disoriented. We question our own judgement.

The direction is always easy.

Just go north.”

It’s right there in front of your face.”

However easy the direction seems, it doesn’t reflect how hard the path is to actually reaching your destination.

Focus on the direction, but work on the path.

It’s right in front of you . . . Dummy.

The De Sols: Backstory

I started writing about the De Sol family on, or around, the year 1996. It started with AOL RP rooms, and I brought out a table top character I put together once: Gabrielle De Sol. Originally, she started out as my dominatrix vampire. (Hey, I said it was for fun!) She evolved … I evolved … and the story of the De Sols came to fruition. A huge family tree blossomed, I recruited more people to play characters, and eventually … the “saga” was born.

The De Sols are a noble family. Mother De Sol was the goddess of the sun, and Father De Sol was Lord of Dragons and God of the moon. A star-crossed love brought them children, happiness, death, and destruction.

Before UNDERWORLD. Before GAME OF THRONES (TV). My love for dark fantasy took root in this simple concept: A family who was hunted by those who didn’t understand the love of two souls who were never meant to come together. It is a dark story, it is a story of Shakespearean tragedy. But overall? It’s the heart of who I am, and who I became, as a writer.

Some of the influences for Gabrielle were characters like “Razor” (comic book), and of course, there would be no roleplay without my love of D&D. Dragons, Drow, Trolls, Goblins … I love them all. Creatures with an epic story to pull you in, to lose yourself for a little while, and characters who become a part of you forever-those are the stories I love.

I write horror but I always mix an element of fantasy or science fiction to it. I feel it adds color and depth to the formula. With that in mind, I’ve decided to give you the De Sol Storyline, here. In the coming weeks, you’ll see it evolve, you’ll see the changes in real time. Hopefully, you feel a part of its process and growth. Feel free to comment and offer suggestions. Even if I don’t take the suggestions, it helps more than you know.

Until then … May the light fill the darkness and show you the way.

Artwork by Dorian Cleavenger

Conversations with Mentors: Daniel Chernault

I’ve interviewed several of the mentors who brought me to where I am today. In the upcoming weeks, you’ll see them posted here. Though none of them are in the publishing industry, the things I learned from their expertise still apply. I hope through this series, many of you will find something to take away from it, be inspired, and share so others can learn, too.

I met Dan when I was working for a car dealership a few years ago. I walked in with no prior experience in accounting and sat down with him and his assistant CFO for an interview. I was immediately drawn to Dan’s candor and sense of humor. There aren’t many people who can mix the two without one of two things happening.

A: No one takes you seriously because you’re trying to be a “comedian” or
B: No one likes you because you’re too honest and get labeled an “asshole”

The honesty was a breath of fresh air. In the course of two years, I grew to respect Dan more and more. One of the most intelligent people I had ever met, he was open to sharing his knowledge if “you weren’t an idiot”. (I may, or may not be quoting him. I plead the fifth.)

If you could handle the task, Dan gave it to you. And in the short time I worked for him, I learned an incredible amount of things. It showed me what my own potential was, it allowed me to never settle (once I learned one thing, he tossed me another), and it taught me to trust my gut. Even if I was wrong. And yes, I was wrong a lot. He never made me feel stupid when I was, but rather used it as a learning experience. See, it’s ok to be wrong if you are genuinely willing and capable of learning. Being open, and being vulnerable to being wrong is how you grow. In fact, it made me more confident. It taught me to ask questions, think critically, and never settle.

One of the things I learned from Dan which I apply to running Stitched Smile Publications is to ask: “Is this the best you can do?” If it isn’t the best work you can turn in, then don’t settle for “good enough”. (I really hate that term!)

If it’s your best, it’s your best. Own it. Learn from it. Get better.

Experiences make us who we are and if we constantly shy away from being uncomfortable or being vulnerable, if we never take a risk in life, we’re condemned to being a box of crayons: Individual colors neatly packed in cardboard. Same colors, same label, no matter how bright the outside is.


LV: Tell us a little about yourself. What your line of work is and area(s) of expertise

I’ve been in the automobile business forever.  43 years or so.  I worked as a Zone Manager for the Ford Motor Company, as a controller is some small dealerships after I left Ford, and as General Manager of a Chevy dealership.  I spent four years with the National Automobile Dealers Association as a consultant and financial management instructor.  I spent the last 24 years as Chief Financial Officer of the Russell & Smith Auto Group in Houston.  Much of what I’ve done has been accounting-related, with the rest being sales.  I’m currently Vice President of Sales for ProBilling and Funding, a company which offers receivables management products.

LV: What things motivated your “younger” self to succeed?

Probably the two summers I spent working as a construction laborer, or maybe it was my high school job at McDonalds…..  Seriously, I just never thought there was anything I couldn’t do.  I think that was our attitude when I was in college (late 60’s).  We just knew we would be successful.  It helped that big corporations were actively recruiting us, and it was not unusual for one of us to receive a number of employment offers prior to graduation.

LV: A lot of people struggle with feelings of failure. When we look at our mentors and leaders, we sometimes forget they are human and have gone through similar experiences. Can you recall a time when you felt your lowest? Tell us about it and how you got through.

Probably getting fired from what I thought was going to be my dream job in Atlanta.  I left that thinking, “I’m tired of the car business.  Maybe it’s time to find another line of work”.  I spent about a month doing nothing constructive, almost trying to avoid looking for another job.  I finally got off my ***, put my resume together, and, within a couple of months, had five job offers in hand.  It never really occurred to me, once I finally started looking,  that I might not find the type of job I was seeking, only that it might take some time.  The average time between jobs for my type of job was around four months, I think I solved it in three.  You just have to be like the “little engine that could”.

LV: You served in the military for many years and rose through the ranks through hard work. Did the military teach you that, or do you feel like people are born with a natural desire to be a leader?

 Hmmmmm…..    The military, or at least the Army, turns ordinary people into remarkable leaders, whether they want to or not.  I don’t believe you are born with the desire to be a leader, I think you become a leader when you need to be one, or when you are needed to be one.

LV: What are your biggest strengths, and weakness?

Biggest Strength:  I never give up or give in.

Biggest Weakness:  I never give up or give in.

LV: What do you do to keep yourself centered with everything you have going on in your life?

I asked my father a similar question; my step mother had a number of health issues, life wasn’t going well, and it had to be tough.  I asked him how managed everything, and he basically said “Put one foot in front of the other.  Repeat”.  The best way to remain centered is to keep doing what needs to be done.  The rest of it will take care of itself.

LV: What traits do you look for in a person prior to making the decision to invest time into teaching them? And once you’ve begun to mentor them, what are your expectations?

Not to disparage testing……but I think you just know who that person is. It’s not about education, or age, or anything actually measurable.   It doesn’t take long to figure out if a person wants to learn.  The results come fairly quickly.  My expectations are simple:  they learn what I’m teaching, show me that they’ve learned it, and then show that they’re able to go to the next learning level without being told what it is.  I value creativity, and the ability to think.

I’m often guilty of giving somewhat vague guidance.  That’s on purpose; let’s see what the person you’re mentoring can do with this.  That’s designed to drive the unwary completely crazy.    I had a Drill Sergeant in Basic Training who kept saying, “Got no time for slow learners”.  He was right, at least for what we’re discussing.

LV: I know you read a lot. What are some of your most recommended books?

This is the answer which gets rotten fruit thrown at me, but my favorite book is Atlas Shrugged.  I first read it when I was about 15, and I’ve worn out several copies.  If you have a few hours I’ll be glad to explain what it’s really about.

After that?  Anything by John LeCarre.  Anything by Charles Dickens.  The entire Inspector Morse series by Colin Dexter.  I’m kind of a nut for British murder mysteries, so you can toss in Agatha Christie, and P.D. James.

I like to read books about business.  Not business books.  One of my all-time favorite books about business was called, “From Those Wonderful People Who Gave You Pearl Harbor”.  It was written by a New York advertising executive, and chronicled his life in the ad business.  Really interesting insights, along with being absolutely hilarious.  I’m sure it’s long out of print.

For business books I highly recommend Peter Drucker’s “Management”.   Some things just don’t go out of style.  Actually, any of Drucker’s books are good.

LV: One of the things I admire about you is how you can take an idea and run with it using what you’ve learned from past experiences and then adding your own touch. What is your method for deciding if something is a worth pursuing, or if you should discard it?

First, did I even understand the idea?  The best ideas are the simple ones, and the ones that take too much explanation probably aren’t the right fit.  Warren Buffet said, “I don’t invest in things I don’t understand”.  I’m with him.

Second, does it sound like us?  Any idea, whether it comes from inside or outside, has to be something that fits with our culture.  If it doesn’t, it won’t work.

Third, is it actually legal? There are some great ideas which may be legal in one state, but not another.  One of my students at NADA heard about an idea to place used vehicle for sale ads in the newspaper without identifying the dealership, only putting the phone number in the ad.  Turns out that the person who had given him the idea was from state where that type of ad was legal but, unfortunately for my student, it wasn’t legal in his state.  The state DMV suspended the dealership sales license for two weeks.

Fourth, is it going to make our lives better?  The best idea I ever heard came from a meeting that Ford put on, and made us think about what was going on in the dealership.  One of the focus items was employee morale.  What came out of that meeting was that we were going to build a lunchroom in one of the buildings which had some unused space.  We built the room, put in vending machines, microwaves, tables and chairs, and the employees absolutely loved it.

Fifth, and the really important one, is whether we can actually implement the idea and keep it implemented.  I’ve seen a lot of great ideas and programs for which the dealerships have paid lots of money die within a few months of launch.  There are always excuses and reasons why the program failed, but the biggest one is that there was no buy-in and no plan to solve that.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told, “yeah, we used to do that, but I guess we stopped”.  And nobody noticed or cared.  On to the next magic solution.

LV: Sales is a hard business. Whenever you begin a business, sales and marketing are its bread and butter. Without it, your business starves. Are there certain tactics that work across the board, regardless of what kind of business it is? What are they, in your opinion?

You have to show that you are different and be able to rise above the clutter of other businesses in the same line of work. I was reading today about a number of companies which have tried to become the next Facebook.  I had never heard of any of them.  I wonder why they failed to gain any large number of users?  Apparently, even Google had one, with about 500,000 supposed subscribers.  They announced this week that they were ending the service….and nobody actually noticed.  It’s one thing to start a business.  It’s quite another to prove to your public that you have a product to which they need to give the time of day.  If your business plan is to just be like the other guys, you’ll fail.

Google gained prominence by simply being better than everybody else.  They’ve become so good they’re now a verb.  We don’t search the web; we Google it.

Gallery Furniture is a furniture store in Houston.  A furniture store in a world of furniture stores.  It is owned by a gentleman called “Mattress Mack”.  He does is own television commercials.  HORRIBLE commercials.  Stuff that no self-respecting ad agency would create.  And yet……he has a huge operation, everybody knows who he is and he probably makes a ton of money doing it.  He managed to rise above the clutter.  He also promises same day delivery.  “Gallery Furniture Delivers Today”.  He’s hit that line really hard, and has billboards all over Houston which simply have the word “TODAY” on them.  Powerful stuff.  He blows the rest of the competition away.

The internet has made the process much more difficult.  I just Googled “car dealer”.  It said there were 539,000,000 results.  Tough to get noticed in all of that clutter.

LV: You retired from the military, and not too long ago you retired from another longtime career only to begin a new journey. First of all, congratulations on both achievements-but I do question your definition of “retirement”! Secondly, do you find it to be a trait in successful people to never stop working? Or do you feel it is your Achilles heel?

I think successful people never stop working, or at least never stop thinking.  It may be everybody’s dream to spend their “golden” years sitting on the beach sipping a beer….but what do you do the second week?  If you can move from a sixty hour a week job to a twenty hour a week job which still gives you the opportunity to use your talents, why not?  I retired, in large part, because I was just tired of doing the same thing every day.  It didn’t mean I wanted to quit working – it meant that I wanted to quit that job.  I now have much better control of how I spend my time, which is currently half in Houston and half in Play del Carmen, Mexico.  Much better than having to be at my desk everyday…..

LV: What words of advice would you give to someone who has a dream of success but has no point of reference of where to begin?

Take risks.  Take the job nobody else wants – it might be the perfect place for you to learn.  Don’t be afraid to move on to the next job – and make sure it’s a better one than the one you’re leaving.

LV: And finally, who are the mentors and people you admire, and why?

Mentors, not so many.  At the time I started working, the idea of mentoring hadn’t made it into the business world.

People I admire?  The ones who stood up for what was right, no matter what the cost.  The ones who told the truth, however inconvenient.  We seem to have a shortage of them lately.

For Fun:

  • What’s your favorite quote?

“A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon we’re talking about real money”.  Everett Dirksen.  It’s believed that Dirksen didn’t actually say that, but he said it sounded so good that he never denied saying it.

  • Tell me about the closest person in your life who you’re comfortable talking about. What would they say if I asked them, ‘What is the one characteristic they totally dig about you?’

No comment.

  • Name a song/artist we can listen to, to get a good feel for who you are.

“Girl from Ipanema”.  Stan Getz/Astrid Gilberto/Joao Gilberto.  Written by Antonio Carlos Jobim.  Set me on the path to love jazz and Brazilian music.

A Little of This, A Little of That

Sometimes when I sit down to write a blog post, the idea is clear in my head. As soon as my fingers hit the keys, I let out a sigh and realize it is a chaotic mess. I attempt to get all the ideas down into one post and discover I need to break them up. This is my challenge. I know a good blog is one where updates are made regularly but my thoughts don’t work this way. Conversations with other authors give birth to new ideas and, like the change of the wind, they dissipate into another direction.

I decided when I sat down today, this post doesn’t have a main goal. This post would be a menagerie of thoughts poured out in its raw format. I suggest grabbing a nice cup of java and curling up. This might take awhile.

I started this year with a goal. My goal was to help Stitched Smile Publications grow while simultaneously helping my authors grow. It is a daunting task. Stitched Smile Publications, affectionately referred by me as “The House of Stitched”, has approximately twenty authors. On any given day, almost all of them are active. This is a fact, and I love it. Because most of them are brand new, or have less experience than your average published writer they are hungry for guidance, input, attention, and direction. You may think this sounds like a bad thing but it is not. It’s a good thing, trust me. I don’t mind the pressure. I don’t mind the hours I put into it. Believe me when I tell you they reward me in ways I cannot begin to list here.

It can be stressful, yes. Publishing life is not conventional by any means. You have a due date. The due date can change. Running a company in this industry is like creating a monster and having to care for it without knowing anything about the species. You run tests and experiment, you sit back and watch, you keep them on a leash, and then you let them off … hoping it doesn’t turn around and devour you.

It helps knowing I publish horror and dark fiction which makes sense since I give birth to a stable of monsters … and some awesome books from those monsters (wink, wink).

Daily life is never boring. It is never predictable. I never use pen unless I’m signing a contract. My calendar is a living breathing entity.

Starting the year, I planned on attending maybe 3 conventions. As of right now I have surpassed this number. Each one is both exhausting and exhilarating. You walk in looking like a tourist and walk out feeling like you’ve aged 10 years. No matter what, I wouldn’t change a thing. Like all life “on the road” I miss my family, long for my own bed, and wish I could shut my brain off, but while I’m there speaking to each one of you I am fulfilled. This was my calling all along. Having discovered it before it was too late is my blessing.

One of the things I put off this year was mentoring. I had way too much to do, those who were in my group had “real life” stuff taking priority and then I lost one of them. Their time in this world came too soon and it rocked me harder than I thought it would. I wasn’t sure how to proceed and figured it was best to take a moment to heal. The staff of House of Stitched was understanding. Their leader had taken a near fatal hit and not once did they ever waver in their commitment or loyalty. Aboard our vessel you are either all in, or you’re all out. There are no gray areas because each person is a vital organ to the entire whole. We are a family. No one gets left behind.

Reflecting back over almost four years, I have to smile because I never thought we’d be where we are right now. I knew we’d be successful. If you don’t believe something will succeed, there’s no sense diving in. What we exceeded in my expectations was the strength of our bond. I don’t often get emotional, or “sappy” but when I sit and think of everything we’ve been through to get to this exact moment … I’m overwhelmed. Listen, it’s a fact. Horror is a male dominated genre. It is what it is. It doesn’t mean I won’t-or haven’t-earned my place. It simply means I’ve had to fight a little harder. I’ve learned not everyone is reliable, loyalty is hard to find, and people will jump ship at the first signs of a leak. Not everyone who glitters is gold. Not everyone is your friend. I’m sure I can come up with a hundred more cliche’ things to toss out at you. As an adult you think you know them until you wake up and find you’ve missed the signs.

Oh, how many times I wanted to give up!

Each time I threw my hands up and said, “That’s it, I’m done!” another person would message me and say, “You have no idea how much you’ve helped me.”

How can I let them down? How can I let myself down? I can’t just quit. Who are “they” (those slithering naysayers) and what makes them so much better than me?

I keep telling my authors, “Don’t give up.” I’d be a hypocrite if I threw in the towel because things got tough. LIFE is tough. Finding a solution isn’t always easy. Leaders are who and what they are because they can sort through the debris to find the hidden clues. They have insight to carry the ship through the toughest storms. My staff, my authors believe this about me, and so I must believe it about myself. I sound like a self-help book, now. It’s dawned on me. I don’t need a self-help book or inspirational speaker to tell me I can do this. I need to hear myself say it.

I’m glad I fought to stay focused because I’ve met amazing people, and have pushed myself harder and further than I’ve ever pushed myself. I still make mistakes (man, I make mistakes!) but I own them and learn from them. I eat up experience like Wheaties and push to the next benchmark. So, too, must my authors and my staff.

Four years.

Four years and I have full-time, dedicated staff who have learned more with us than in their college classes. Four years and I have life long partners (next stop, SSP Island!). In four short years, I’ve moderated literary panels, been invited to conventions, produced over thirty books, signed over twenty authors, traveled to different states, sold more of my own books, grown as a person, an author, a leader, and as a friend. There is no price I can put on what I’ve attained because I gave myself a chance to follow my passion.

My final, stray thoughts as I close this post?

I think of my parents who didn’t give up when we were so poor we had to hunt through couch cushions to find change for pizza. Who stood by one another, supporting each other’s dreams no matter the sacrifice. Who worked from the ground up to build a business from their dreams and elevated their life due to hard work and sound business sense. Who taught us it was not only OK, but imperative to speak our minds and to let our voices be heard.

I miss my dad who would’ve loved to be here with me, going to these conventions and meeting people who shared his passion. This was the life he loved but he passed before I could share it with him. I know his influence is always there with me but it still replaces the emptiness with a longing.

Most of all, I think of my SSP family and how they made this monster a little more human.

Heartbreak Called Parenting

As a parent, there is nothing like the day you first meet your child.  Whether natural born, or adopted, there is nothing like it at all.  That ltitle person imprints their face on your heart and soul until the day you die.  The heartache comes when you face your failures.  

If you’ve never been a parent this is just one of those things you’ll have to empathize with.  There are no words in the human language that adequately describe the pain you go through when your child experiences pain or suffering of any kind.  It becomes, very literally, your own pain.  Even as much as your own scarlet letter of failure.  

You start to think…What did I do wrong?  What could I have done better?  Why didn’t I see?  And you begin questioning what kind of moron you were to think, at any time in that child’s life, you had this parenting thing pinned down. 

I have a good relationship with my children. We’re fairly honest with one another, even when the truth hurts. ..which it often does. 

But today, I lie here reflecting on all the hardships they are going through as they muddle through the path to adulthood.  I was fortunate enough that I could stay home with them until they went to school.  Unfortunate that most of that time was spent in a divorce and nasty child custody battle.  

I gained 50 lbs  (maybe more), developed severe anxiety, went through severe depression,  and then lost my grandmother,  father, and step father. All within 10 years.  I thought that at least being home giving up everything I had once longed and dreamed of was nothing because I was there 24/7 for my kids. 

But I was wrong.  

I was wrong because I taught them that I would always give up my hopes and dreams,  and that they should give up their hopes and dreams.  I was wrong because I didn’t have the extra income to put them sports, music classes, or other things to keep them away from idle hands and mischief.  I was wrong because in my depression they could see how “not to cope”. 

I didn’t think I did a horrible job.  I still don’t. The sacrifices weren’t in vain and we did have good times. I think I could have done better.  There’s no “do overs” with childhood. You have to face the next day, the next chapter, and keep it moving.  

You have to weather the blame for the shit you did wrong.  But you know what?  You cannot carry that forever. You have to live each day in the present.  The past isn’t coming back, and there’s no guarantee of tomorrow.  

What you do today is the foundation for any tomorrow you may be graced with. 

I remember these words when my child, who suffers from severe depression, says he wants to kill himself.  I remember them when another is so full of rage that he explodes until he thinks nothing matters anymore,  I remember them when another tries to make positive changes but can’t catch a break,  and I remember it when the youngest has to watch the older ones go through all these things and is afraid of making the same mistakes. 

Where is the light at the end if the tunnel?  A new generation is already here; grandkids.  They already say, “I’m going to be a better parent.” And I pray they are. I pray they can be, and have the strength it takes. I pray they can carry the guilt when they realize they did the best they could, and maybe it wasn’t good enough.  

The thing is…I wouldn’t trade it for anything. They’ve taught me more about myself than I could’ve learned alone. They’ve taught me that life is worth living when before it seemed numb and pointless. They’ve taught me that no matter how bad my memory gets, how many times I look for my glasses which are sitting on top of my head…I will never forget their smell, their smile, their hugs, and the way they felt inside my belly. 

Children are our immortality. They are the DNA that struggle to evolve. All we can do, as parents, is become the stars that look down on them and offer a little light and a dream or two. 

Roller Coaster Muse

I realized that it’s almost August and once more life caught up with me. Each time it does, I’m reminded of the Ferris Bueller quote, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Such is the life of an author turned publisher. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but that means sometimes my own projects take a back seat. If it weren’t so rewarding I would’ve thrown in the towel by now.

In the last six months, I’ve been involved with over 40 authors within my own company (Stitched Smile Publications, you can find the link here) and seen the growth of almost all of them since coming in contact with the company. It makes me feel proud. I’m doing something for other authors out there just trying to chase a dream that isn’t too far out of reach with a little guidance. We’re by no means making them millionaires, but we’re making them rich with experience and I’m OK with that.

As for me, I’m nearly finished with my next novel, “The Unfleshed”. I had hoped to have it out by the end of July but that crazy thing called “Life” is like a roller coaster with three wheels. It’s so close I can feel the pages in my hand. Thanks to Jeff Brown (A.K.A. A.J. Brown) pushing me, the story is even better than I originally thought it could be.

Other than that, I’ve dealt with my two younger siblings’ health issues. Both within a month of one another. Very scary, serious things that made me take a wider look at my life. I’m only 43. I have an entire life ahead of me if I take care of the one I have. I’ve always eaten right, usually pretty good about working out and staying active…but there are times when Life is just a hag and I can’t push through a day, a week, or even a month without some kind of thorn in my side.

I’m trying to juggle a few things, and while some people think I should not be doing that, those are the things that make me happy. I take care of everyone else, so it is my firm belief that there has to be things that make me happy, too.

I design book covers for Indie Authors while looking for that golden ticket to the big house names (of course, that’s where the real money is), I started my own publishing house and it’s growing by the day, I write, and sometimes I even sit around and do nothing just to clear the cache from my brain. It doesn’t leave much else after my daily duties are done but it’s my little slice of heaven.

You see, I do this because I Love it. Not for the money or the fame. If you’re doing anything for those reasons, you’ll find out on your own how empty that really is. I’m lucky that my personality is such that I’ll never do anything I don’t love whether it’s accounting, working out, filling out spreadsheets, meeting new authors, formatting books, orientations for new hires, etc. Everything I do, I have to love or I’ll move on. I won’t waste mine or anyone else’s time, and most people appreciate that. (Admittedly, there’s been some that would rather push me through things that I don’t enjoy. It never works out in the end.)

The point to all of this is, I suppose, is that I sit back and wonder where the heck all the time has gone. I wanted a relaxing summer by the pool, soaking up rays. I think I’ve gone a total of 4x since the end of May and it’s already August! The pools are starting to wind down and close for the winter (although, hello? I live in Texas! Why are they closed???)

It’s August. And I’m panicked.

Did I accomplish everything I wanted with my writing?
With my Pub House?
With my Family?
With my Book Design Goals?
With my Friends?
With my Personal Development?

Ugh. Someone stop this crazy ride. Just for a minute so I can throw up on the side of the car and get back on.

I keep taking a slow deep breath and whispering, “I can do this.” I know I can do this. I know it because I won’t allow myself to fail. I won’t allow anyone else who sits in the roller coaster with me to fail either.

So here I sit, staring at the horizon of this big, crazy world from the top of the ride. Around me is everything. I can see it. From here it’s small and attainable. Do you know what they call this in Physics? “Maximum Potential.” And every three months or so, I start back at this point. It doesn’t matter what you end the first ride at, the point is that you get back in line and you start here, at the Maximum Potential, again.

Then you ride that first loop! The thrill, the excitement, the confusion…all of it tossing you around as you watch the world whirl by you with your stomach in your throat and your hands in the air!

You take a deep breath, wipe away the tears of exhilaration and pass through the bottom of that loop: Maximum Kinetic energy. Kinetic Energy:  the energy that it possesses due to its motion.

Stop.
Re-Read that.

“The energy that is possesses due to it’s motion.”

Are you busy looking back? Shoulda’, woulda’, coulda’? Or are your eyes on the next turn and twist of the ride? Are you going to be taken off guard? Are your eyes closed? What’s coming next and are you ready for it?

Each loop of a roller coaster is slightly less exciting than those first two. Sure there are a few surprises, but as the car moves, it loses energy so that it can coming to a stopping point without catapulting you out into the stratosphere. A stopping point is a good thing. Because it let’s you catch your breath, re-assess, and redirect where necessary.

Like now. I’m reflecting on my year. What was great, and what was not-so-great, so that I can aim for the future…remember that first gaze at the world from the beginning of the roller coaster? What was it that caught your eye? Do you still want it?

You see that’s where most people get caught up. They see the shiny in the distance, they reach for it but there’s no plan for after they’ve either acquired it …or missed it. There’s no plan for whether it was really what they thought it was going to be upon closer inspection. The ride may have ended there for you and there is no desire to go for another round. You’ve lost steam and “energy” because you burned it off and there’s nothing left.

My life is definitely a roller coaster and I choose to change the ride, not the scenery. What does yours look like? Do you get back in line? What is it you see when you’re at the top, at the beginning, and reaching out?

I Need A Moment..

Skull_Bones_Coffee_Sugar_Snow_Violent_CubeMe2Sometimes when you’re in the eye of the storm you see things around you so much clearer. There’s chaos floating around, debris tumbling in the wind like leaves in winter, and noise. So much noise. It’s deafening like the roar of a lion and it makes you freeze right where you’re standing.

Once you’re in that center though, it is like reaching out with the hand of God and plucking unnecessary objects from the fray. You see everything pass by and it’s like going to a buffet. Each item is neatly placed, pleasing to the eye. They are tempting and scrumptious but in the back of your mind you argue, “This isn’t good for you. You’ll regret it if you indulge.”

This is the way life  has been for me. I was always a storm chaser. Now, I like being in the eye. I can follow the storm ..but I’m not part of the storm.

Removing drama, even if it’s not directly related to you, is sometimes a necessary evil. By its very nature, drama breeds drama and attracts it just the same. I like breathing room where I can step away from it and stay clean from its aftermath. Because believe me, there is always an aftermath. There is always a broken relationship, however big or small, that can never be quite the same.

This is what my kind of people call, “the art of detachment”. We simply turn and walk in the other direction. It’s an easy direction and some people get lost trying to follow it. It’s called, the future.

It’s easier to pull someone off the chair than for that person to help you up to where they are. When people take advantage, taint relationships, show no remorse, or gratitude and devalue your existence in their life — that is the time to release your hold. Believe me, for every hand you release, there’s another one to replace it. Save the ones that help you save them, and let go of the ones that want you to burn with them.