A Challenge – The Push


What would happen if you pushed yourself to go that extra step or take that risk? What would happen if you encouraged someone else to do the same?

We all get comfortable where we are. Don’t get me wrong. That CAN work. But what more might be accomplished by taking that step away from our comfortable place, by taking that risk?

Before thinking about what you might push in your own life and as a gift for someone else, watch this video.


Wasn’t that amazing?

What can you do TODAY to push yourself or take a risk? And remember to give the gift of the push to someone else. Dream. Commit. Do.

If you decide to use this to move your writing forward, how might that look? Maybe you’ll decide to write every day. Maybe you will dig out that neglected manuscript and get working on your revision. Maybe you’ll take that finished manuscript or short story or article and submit it.

Go for your dream. It might be a baby step or a bigger one. DO it.

April is half over and I have not yet revised the opening of my novel-in-progress. I’ve been THINKING about it, and now is the time to DO. I want to begin posting it to my online writing group before the end of April. I need to push myself. Today, I will rework the beginning scenes of MURDER IN D MINOR.

Bump your life up to the next level and encourage at least one other person to do the same.

Challenge for today: Push yourself in some way and find a way to push another. Share, if you wish.

Best Wishes,


The Dreaded Doubt Demon


You are sitting on a hard, wooden chair with your hands on your computer keyboard. The light fades. It’s so dark you can’t see your hand in front of your face.

A rough voice whispers in your ear….

Your writing sucks.

You’re not good enough.

You know nothing about story structure, plotting, or making characters do things that make sense.

No one would ever publish your writing.

And if you did manage to find a publisher or self-publish, no one will buy your book.

And if someone does buy your book, they aren’t going to like it….and they WILL let you know.

And if someone does buy your book, they aren’t going to like it…and they will tell everyone they know, the news will travel around the world seven times, and all your future stories are doomed…

You should save yourself before you have to endure all this rejection and criticism. Better to just give up your writing….

This thinking is from the Dreaded Doubt Demon. All writers have them. Published. Unpublished. It doesn’t matter.

Instead of listening or taking ownership of what this Demon is telling you, turn it around – take power – and shift the statements.

Look that dreaded doubt demon in the eye and shift every thought he’s ever tried to make you believe. (If he tries to get too nasty, laugh in his face. Go ahead. You can do it!)

He might laugh, growl, drool, or otherwise try to distract you in some way. JUST. DON’T. LET. HIM.

Your writing improves all the time.

You are AWESOME!

You are learning everything you can about story structure, plotting, and creating a character who connects with the reader.

You will find a publisher your writing.

Readers will buy your book.

They will let you know what they like about it. (And with all things subjective, some will like it more than others. And you have the strength, wisdom, and insight to handle those who don’t like your work.)

The reader will tell others about your writing, and you will get additional sales and fans around the world.

You will NEVER give up your writing dream.

If you need some support in overcoming your dreaded doubt demons, you might try:

Your writing buddy

Your writing group

Friends and family

Anyone else who is positive and supportive.

And if you need some extra special support on top of this, you can always resort to whips, automatic weapons, and chocolate. *GRIN* (I admit it. I’ve probably been reading a LOT of urban fantasy.)

Challenge for today: What are some of you Dreaded Doubt Demon statements that get you down or make you think of giving up your writing dream? How might you SHIFT those thoughts? Feel free to share!

Best Wishes,


If Only . . .


Too many times writers use this phrase: If only . . .

This is a way that we doom ourselves. Excuses. We all use them. All the time. So when you catch yourself saying “If only. . .” take a step back and look at what impact this has on you and your writing dream.

What would happen if you would turn these around? Shift these “if only” statements?

OLD: If I only had the time to. . .

NEW: What could I accomplish if I wrote 2000 words a day? 1000 words a day? 500?

After 30 days you’d have 60,000 words written. (Or 30,000 or 15,000)

In two to three months you’d have a novel drafted.

You DO have time. We all do. You are the one who decides how to use it.

Maybe you could write five days a week or even two days that you don’t have to deal with a day job or other obligations.

Think about how many words your novel might be and create a plan, based on how many words you can write a day and how many days a week you are going to write. Think of this as your own personal NaNo (short for NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month). Same concept—just a different focus of days and word counts that suit you.

OLD: If I only didn’t have all these interruptions. . .

NEW: What might I get done if I found a different place to write?

Can’t write at home because of interruptions? Maybe your significant other has questions that must be answered right now. Your children need help with something or want to tell you what a friend just told them. Your dog wants to go out for a walk. Your favorite TV show is coming on in ten minutes and it’s the season opener, so you can’t miss it.

When you can’t avoid distractions of the home, take your writing elsewhere. (Or put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign and stick to it unless someone is bleeding to death or the house is on fire.)

Try working at the local coffee shop, library, or your favorite restaurant. What about a park or other outdoor area if the weather is good.

I know a writer who goes outside, starts her car, and writes from the driveway while her husband is inside with her small children.

OLD: If only I could finish. . .

NEW: I can finish this novel or short story if I make a plan or have goals.

Do you have a story you’ve been working on for years? What if you JUST FINISHED IT?

Instead of your friends and fellow writers asking you when you’re going to finish, their questions can move to ones like: Have you heard back from that agent or publisher? When did you say your story was going to appear in that magazine?

Don’t just have an ongoing story. FINISH. Finish one story. Begin another. Submit. Submit. Submit.

Make a workable plan that you know is doable for you.

OLD: If only I didn’t have all this other stuff. . .

NEW: I can decide what’s important to me and focus on that.

Make a list of the “stuff” in your life. What are you willing to shift around or give up in order to finish your story and move your writing dream to the forefront of your life?

Prioritize your list of “stuff.” If you put your writing at or near the top, what falls below your dream?

You’ll always have “stuff” in your life that you feel you must do. The question is: Is it more important than your story?

OLD: If only I could quit my day job. . .

NEW: When my writing is making me money, I’ll consider giving up my day job.

Some writers are more of a risk taker than I am. They take the plunge and go for their dream. I am proud when anyone has that kind of focus.

For many of us, quitting a day job would create more stress, more frustration, more distractions than keeping the job AND moving forward with our writing dream.

You CAN do both, if you choose. Remember that what you fill your day with is YOUR choice. I only ask you to choose wisely, in a way that you come to realize your dream.

OLD: If only I had a good idea for a story. . .

NEW: I’m a creative person who has many great story ideas.

Writers have ideas. Revisit your list of story ideas. Brainstorm new ones if none of those on you list speak to you. Ask yourself questions: What am I passionate about? If I could volunteer with an organization, what would that be? Why do I care about this <fill in the blank>?

There are a thousand ways to generate story ideas. If you are drawing a blank, consider this two-day experience: During this time, jot down your childhood memories as you think of them. Start with the earliest thing you can think of from your past. Use one or more experiences to create a story idea as a starting point.

Challenge for today: What is your “If only” excuse? How might you shift that around? Feel free to share your thoughts.

Best Wishes,


An Angel to Watch Over Me


A couple of months ago, a package arrived, and I couldn’t remember what I could have possibly ordered. Then I saw the label and torn into it. It was the angel that Joan said she would make and send me. She had previously asked me what my favorite color was – green. Yes! It was the angel that Joan created for me, all carefully wrapped and wearing green.

She was beautiful – both the angel and Joan, a special person, friend, and one of the wonderful people at ePress-Online.

Joan Pulver died in her sleep Monday night. I will miss her.

I am lucky and honored to have met her in person at the EPICon the year it was held in Virginia Beach. Even though she was on oxygen and often times not feeling well, she had more passion and energy than many of us. She was always thinking of others and dedicated to writing and writers.

My heart goes out to her family and friends. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Now, I have two angels watching over me.

Best Wishes,


Empowering Your Dream


The funny thing about goals is that you have to keep on top of them constantly. This requires energy. Many times goals make you look at your behavior. The other side of this is to also change your mental attitude in alignment with your new behavior.

Without both a behavioral and mental change, you might be setting yourself up for failure.

Your dream is powered by your entire being and realized through the goals you set for yourself. When you use your gifts, talents, and hard work you are on the journey to realizing your dream.

This power – your personal source of empowerment – is something everyone can access. Many people give it away or deny this in some way. Some might be afraid to make use of their own power.

When we see ourselves as powerless, we cannot journey toward our dream, In the absence of personal power, fear lives and grows. When you embrace your person power you:

Can achieve goals

Are enthusiastic

Are optimistic

Experience heightened energy levels (which is needed to achieve goals!)

Are confident

Experience positive self-esteem

Are able to achieve your dream

Brings happiness

Create the energy behind success.

Do you see a pattern here? Yes! All of these things involve POSITIVITY. (Some call this kind of power “synergic power.” The other kind of power – “Coercive power” – is out of negativity – fears, frustration, and leads to hate, violence, and more fear. This is the kind of power that robs others of their personal power. “Synergic power” is used WITH others. It is cumulative – it grows as it is used, embraced, and shared.)

When we walk in negativity, we create a reality of feeling powerless, helpless, and inertia.

“Weakness corrupts and absolute weakness corrupts absolutely.”

–Stewart Emery

People who take control and misuse power are not powerful, they are frustrated and impotent. They are using force, not power, and this is a form of aggression, not authority. People like this are enslaved by their own insecurity and are hurt by their own actions, in addition to the destruction they do around them.

Being human is all about making choices. We choose jobs, friends, where we live, what we eat, relationships… Of course, there are other things that we don’t have any say in, things that are controls by the decisions of others.

But we do have many choices, and those can and do alter our lives. When we make choices we are using our person power to, hopefully, enrich our lives and those around us. Helplessness is the opposite of power. (Hitler made choices. As did Gandhi.)

Your power is with you always, even if you deny or give it up. You might think and feel that it is gone, but that is far from the truth.

Power is like your soul, your mind, your heart. It is ATTACHED. You might not know or feel it, but it’s ever with you.

Power is giving in nature. It is woven into what makes you ALIVE, into the energy that makes you YOU.

Goals are temporary things that you use on your way-to-your-dream journey. Your personal power is part of your life force—that which energizes you on your journey to realize your dream.

The combination of working toward your goals and embracing your power creates the fuel that moves you toward your dream.

Are you ready to embrace your power?

Write a statement that summarizes your dream. Put this somewhere you see it several times a day. Take it or keep it with you. Read it often.

Share your dream with those who can and will support you.

When you are in touch with your power tell your mind to “record” what it feels like so you can come back and bring your power forth at any time. (Yes, it is ever with you, but we sometimes forget this, so this “recorded memory” is a trigger.)

Visualize yourself living your dream.

Take actions to move you along the path that leads to your dream.

Be grateful for your dream and your journey. Makes lists—often—of things you are grateful for.

Embrace your power. Learn to recognize it. Write and journal about it.

Share your gifts and talents with others. Do this out of your honest desires. This is fuel for your power and is a form of power recognition.

Remember always that your power and taking ownership of it and for it is part of LIFE, part of who you are. It’s the fuel to realizing your dream. Embrace it! Often! 

Challenge for today: What are ways that you can take ownership of your personal power?

Best Wishes,


Out of the Comfort Zone – Part 11: Goals versus Purpose

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Goals are like the center marks on a highway. They are visible and doable. They are the road we travel. They seem to be taking us on a journey, but to where?

I’ve been reviewing some of my short terms goals and it got me thinking. All of these goals should be pointing to something down the road. But to what? What is the larger picture of what I’m doing? What is my purpose? When I got to the word “purpose” I stopped. That’s what I was missing. I had not defined this. If I can’t verbalize the overall purpose for why these goals are the right ones for me, I’ll never get out of my comfort zone. Or not completely to a place where I can live the life I want for myself.

For my goals, whether I achieve them or not, should be leading me down a highway that I have defined. If not, then I’m probably going in circles. If I’m not going anywhere, it’s a big clue that I’m caught in my comfort zone and not really making the progress I thought I was.

Purpose is all about direction. It is defined by values and beliefs. It cannot come from outside of yourself. It cannot be defined by anyone but you.

While my goals are the road I’m traveling, I also need that map to make sure those goals support my overall purpose.

What is it I want to achieve with my life? Are my goals taking me there or leading me astray?

I know where I am and where I’ve been. Those are good starting points in making sure I know where I’m going. I’ve thought and thought about what my purpose is. I’ve done some journaling. It’s even crept into my dreams. (And yes, I wrote those down.)

Then I asked myself: Deep within my soul, what do I find satisfying?

I’ve always loved helping others. I’ve loved being able to help people find their way to what they want to do. That’s one of the reasons I became a writing coach. It was another way to achieve this. Along the way, I had to grow and change and expand so that I could do this. Out of this I found my purpose: I want to reach out to others and have a positive impact on them.

Part of having a purpose is: What do I get out of this?

Once I could write down my purpose, this part was easier. I am re-inspired and learn and grow when I help someone realize their own dream. (And no, this in no way means I have to give up anything to fulfill my purpose. Your purpose should enhance your life, not have the opposite effect. If that’s the case, you need to re-evaluate what your purpose is.)

How do you know if the purpose you discover is the RIGHT one? Maybe thinking in terms of right and wrong don’t make a lot of sense when defining your purpose. I know I’m on the right path, using the right map, when I wake up in the morning and I feel all light and excited to have another new day before me. It’s about how I FEEL and my INTUITION.

Always revisit your goals to make sure they are supporting your purpose. Ask yourself:

What am I achieving through this goal?

Why am I doing this?

My comfort zone CANNOT close me off to the world if I understand my purpose and have goals that will carry me in that direction.

Challenge for today: Take a look at where you’ve been and where you are now. Can you see and verbalize where you’re going? Are you on the a road that will get you to your purpose?

Best Wishes,


Storytelling – Have We Forgotten?


As a child, I remember asking my mom to read the same stories, mostly fairy tales, to me over and over. Why? Because these are STORIES. They have active characters, cool settings, events I could relate to, and meaning. I cheered, cried, worried and wondered as the stories were read. I was connected to the characters and the story events, the emotional journey.

These stories come in complete packages. This is storytelling. No wonder these tales are passed down, generation to generation after hundreds of years.

Where are those kinds of stories today? Have we forgotten what stories are? Forgotten that we are storytellers?

How many times have you seen a book, workshop, class, or article and thought: If I take this class or read this book, this will move me to a new level in my writing and take me to the place I need to be to get published? This is THE ANSWER.

Sound familiar? Afterwards, while we have learned and applied this new technique, there’s still something missing. We then repeat this process, moving on to the next “new” technique.

I’m not saying that improving our writing by reading or attending workshops, isn’t helpful. All of these are small pieces of a bigger picture. What we, as writers are missing is that BIG PICTURE.

Many times, when writers talk or write about “what makes a great story,” the discussion goes to the writing process, or that stories should be character driven, or show—don’t tell… And this list goes on and on. But these individual aspects of story don’t make a great story by themselves.

Being able to weave in all the various story craft elements, supported by story structure as the foundation, and meaning (theme) that encompasses our story at all points adds up to storytelling that readers can enjoy and gain satisfaction from over the generations. Everything has to work together at the deepest possible level.

The mind works as both a camera and a mirror. We take in experiences (the camera) and those are processed and reflected back (the mirror) as we change and grow as an individual. Storytelling works the same way. It is the camera through which the reader experiences the story world. Story also reflects back the soul of the character, through story meaning, and impacts the reader at the same level.

Does the reader marvel at the point of view choice of the writer? Character development? The growth of the protagonist? The development of the story as it moves to the black moment and into the climax?

No. Readers understand the story as a WHOLE experience. Not in pieces. We can’t let the pieces distract us from what story is about.

While writers need to understand all the pieces that go into the story, we can’t lose sight of the bigger picture of storytelling: It all has to WORK TOGETHER seamlessly.

Challenge for today: What is your favorite story and what makes that a story to remember?

Best Wishes,


Out of the Comfort Zone – Part 10: Awareness and Forgiveness


After stepping—yes, baby stepping—out of my personal comfort zone, I’m acutely aware of my fears, their voices, and their impact on me. Sometimes they are needed, such as we learn as young children when we’re told to look before crossing the street or don’t touch the stove. These are good fears, ones that are meant to help us.

But. Most of the time the fears suffocate instead of protecting, working against instead of for us, keep us from enjoying new experiences or living fully.

When I am AWARE of the fear and its motivation, I can decide if it’s a fear I should listen to or one that I need to shift from. I can decide. Me. I. Choose.

I choose the following:

When I’m aware of guilt, I will use this energy to change myself for the better.

When I’m hurt, I will remind myself what a caring person I am.

When I’m angry, I will take the energy of this emotion and become an agent of change.

When I’m discouraged, I will use this to shift it into finding the courage I need to move forward.

I will not let fears, after evaluating them, have power over me. I will listen to the voice of fear and become aware. I will see its true nature and shift it down a different path. I will shift it, mold it, and take it into me, to use, in a way that empowers me.

It will not keep me from living my dream, from taking the baby steps that I need to move outside my comfort zone.

Once I am aware of my fears and what appropriate actions I will take as a result, what’s next?


I forgive others, living inside their own fears, for helping me to stay inside my comfort zone.

I forgive my friends when they stood in my way, acting like enemies.

I forgive myself for treating my true friends, trying to support me, trying to draw me forth, as enemies.

I forgive myself. For everything.

I forgive.

If I cannot forgive, I am reinforcing the walls of the comfort zone.

Forgiveness is also about LETTING GO. If I expend energy in not forgiving—others and myself—that is energy removed from seeking to live my dream.

MOVE from letting go to loving.

Love everything. Everything in the universe: fear, anger, joy, courage, guilt, loving  … All of this: It is life. LOVE LIFE.

First there is awareness, the courage to forgive, and the ability to fully love.

This puts me on the road to living my dream.

Challenge for today: What have you discovered on your own journey about awareness and forgiveness? Share if you wish…

Best Wishes,


Creating Chaos


In my personal life I’m NOT a chaos maker. I love when the seas run smooth, when all is calm and quiet. As a writer one of my jobs is to create total chaos in the life of my protagonist. Does this seem like a contradiction? Impossible to embrace both of these?

If your protagonist isn’t a maker of chaos, you need someone or something in your story that plays this role. It might be another major character or the antagonist, or both. It could be an element of nature or some aspect of society.

Whether fiction or real life, people who are addicted to chaos don’t seem to function well unless there is something dramatic going on in their lives. Not only do they seek or create this in their lives, they also have a need to SHARE this drama with others, usually friends, but some will share with anyone including strangers.

Two things many chaos makers have in common are they tend to lose things (and this can be anything) and they have a tendency to run late. They are addicted to the rush they feel when chaos is going on all around them.

The chaos maker doesn’t want or seeks positive advice or support. No calm wanted here!

And details. Have I mentioned that? And no matter how small the matter – such as a paper cut – it’s escalated into a MAJOR LIFE EVENT. Let’s take that paper cut: It happened because the boss made the chaos maker do something totally outside of his or her job description. The next morning the finger was all red and swollen. By the third day, the finger is so “horribly swollen” that the chaos maker fears going to a doctor, so afraid that the now “super infection” has taken hold and the word “amputation” might come up.

This is the “happy” life of a chaos maker, drama queens and kings extraordinaire.

How might a writer make use of this “chaos making?” Without conflict and tension, stories fall flat. Chaos makers, whether another character, nature, society, evil incarnate, or something else, are an important element in good story writing. As a writer, embrace chaos, embrace the drama queens and kings. They help increase the tension and conflict if you let them loose in your story. Besides, isn’t a bit of chaos part of being creative?

When you’re thinking of all the things that could keep the protagonist from achieving his or her story goal, throw in some aspect of chaos making in your “what ifs.”

As for the guy with the infected finger, see what happens if your protagonist suddenly pulls out a knife and begins playing with it while the guy relates his story…

Go forth, writers, and create chaos. Lots of it. I give you my full, unconditional support in this task.

(And you do know I’m talking about your stories here, don’t you?)

Challenge for today: Look at a story you’re working on. What would happen if a “chaos maker” would show up? How might this deepen the tension or conflict? Share your thoughts!

Best Wishes,


Out of the Comfort Zone – Part 9: Visioning 2011


What a week! And it’s only the beginning of an exciting new year. After I looked back over 2010 and everything that I accomplished– and the things that will float over to 2011 – I decided to write my visioning of 2011. Here’s what my year looks like:

For the first time, I’ll be teaching a year-long novel writing class (and working on a proposal for a mentored class on writing young adult and middle grade fiction). My heart sings at all the new novels that will be completed during the coming year.

Another first for me: I’m working to transform some of the workshops I’ve taught over the past couple of years into ebooks. I should have the first ones ready by the end of March.

I plan on finalizing a novel and submitting it before the end of the year. In the mean time, I hope to write and sell a few short stories in advance of the novel. (Yes, they will be tie-in stories to the novel’s story world.)

Between teaching workshops and classes, I’ll continue my own education through the Writer’s Program at UCLA.

I plan on attending a couple of writing conferences and look forward to meeting writers in-the-flesh.


I’m also making a list of things to watch out for – the kind of things that come along and make me want to run for my comfort zone. Two of the biggest things I need to be aware of are the fear of change and of doing something new. Along with this list, I plan on journaling any reason(s) that the obstacle is trying to prevent me from doing what I WANT to do.

This is my plan for keeping focus and moving forward in 2011. (Just like what a writer does in creating a story – keep the focus and keep it moving forward: GOAL, CONFLICT, RESOLUTION!)

My new vision is not only focused outside but into the inner ME. Not only can I RE-VISION what I want this year, I can also RE-VISION ME.

My mantra for 2011: New adventures fulfill my heart, challenge my mind, and feed my soul.

This list should help me to continue to take baby steps in venturing out into the new world of 2011.

I’m sure I’ll have lots of manuscripts to review and edit during the coming year. Maybe one of those will be yours!

Challenge for today: What is your vision for 2011? Share yours here!

Best Wishes,


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