Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Trading One Dream for Another

So, some of you know that I used to body build. Not professionally, but more as a hobby. I LOVED it. Nothing quite feels like the lift and burn in your body after a date with the free weights. Go heavy or go home! LOL.

At any rate, I wanted to be a personal trainer back then. I was studying for my certification and everything. Alas, that was not my true calling. Writing was. But the way I found out that it wasn't my true calling was excruciating. I tore and herniated a disc in my back. Actually, I think I herniated two discs, but one was worse than the other. L5-S1-S2. Those are my troubled children in my lower back.

I was at the gym on a pleasant Sunday morning, back in the free weights where I lived, and I was doing weighted step-ups on a bench. It was leg day. Loved leg day. I performed a rep and felt a pinch and was all like, "Okay, hmm. Am I okay? Can I continue?" Everything felt okay, so I went for my next rep. That was it. I was done. I practically fell over from the pain. I couldn't stand. I couldn't walk. I couldn't do much of anything, really, except writhe in pain and try to to spew out a string of expletives on the Lord's day and all that.

Long story, short: Personal training was off my list. I suffered through near-shock-inducing decompression treatments that left me shivering in - yes - near shock, unable to move without feeling like someone was trying to rip my spine out. My teeth chattered, my hands curled into clawed fists, my body shriveled into the fetal position, and tears poured out of my eyes. I have never known pain like that, and I hope I never know it again. At one point, I almost wanted to be paralyzed from the waist down because at least then I wouldn't feel the pain, anymore, so yeah, it was bad.

This went on for about a month as I went through daily chiropractic care and consulted with an orthopedic surgeon. I had x-rays taken, an MRI, multiple exams, and finally got cortisone shots right into the nerves. Then I had a rhizotomy, where they actually severed the affected nerves. I had to take a massive dose of methyl prednisilone before the procedure, and for three months after, I went from being unable to stop eating, to not wanting to eat anything at all, but still packed on about 10 pounds from my reaction to the meds. I was so sick.

The worst thing: I had to stop body building.

So, turns out that I have a genetic back condition they call flat back, where my spinal curvatures are more flattened, thus more pressure is put on my lower back. My favorite gym moves - dead lift, squat, military press, and lunges - were HUGE no-nos being that I had this condition. So, oops! Now I know.  And, arching my back is a big no-no, too. With this condition, I need to keep my back firmly pressed into the bench during bench press and flyes, preferably with my feet on the bench, not the floor, which would cause the back to arch as I pushed through the press.

At any rate, I always wanted to be a writer, but I figured I could have personal training as my day job while I did my writing on the side. Now, it's writing or bust. LOL. And I'm fine with that.

As far as my back story goes, I did finally get my orthopedic surgeon to prescribe back therapy. My injury had been so severe that my back muscles completely clinched up. I've had to re-teach them how to move again, but for the first time since my injury, I've gone a whole six months without my back going out. Seriously, I have cried from just this tiny, simple thing, that I can walk normally again without a limp, that I can do dishes or laundry without fearing I would re-injure myself. I can stand for long periods now, sit without pain, and I'm finally riding my stationary bike again. And tonight I did 3 sets of bench press. :) So many take these things for granted, but as one who has had to learn to live without them, I can assure you, they are HUGE, BIG deals.

Live well, and live safe. Don't take anything for granted. Oh, and eat your fruits and vegetables.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Crabs In The Bucket

A single crab in a lidless bucket is bound to escape. Yet when more than one share a bucket, none can get out. If one crab elevates itself above all, the others will grab this crab and drag it back down to share the common fate of the rest. So it is with people. Some find themselves in a family or circle of friends that will pull them down if they strive to better themselves. Don't let crabs discourage you. Find people outside the bucket who will pull you up and out.

I heard that story many years ago, and it has stuck with me since. So many people, even if their intentions are well-meaning, pull us back down in the bucket of despair. They tell us we're not good enough, or that we shouldn't follow such "non-academic" pursuits as writing, art, or music. My own father, who I love dearly, and who I'm sure only had my best interests at heart, dissuaded me from following my true path when I was just a kid.

See, I was always a writer. I was always meant to write stories. I was more artistic and enjoyed classes that had to do with music, art, and writing. But my dad wanted me to be an academic. I was to be a chemist, or an engineer, or a scientist. So, I studied. And studied. And studied. I became what my school called a five-year math student, doubling up math classes in preparation for my inevitable trip to Purdue to study mechanical engineering. I took Physics, Calculus, Trigonometry, and Honors English. Physics was actually kind of fun. And one course of study in Trig was awesome. But it was Honors English that I really liked, even though back then I didn't fully realize it. However, I had to really WORK at these academic classes. I lugged home a mountain of textbooks and suffered through hours of homework every night. And I mean, SUFFERED. This stuff just didn't come easily to me.

Long story short: I suffered ulcers, depression (not clinical), severe tension, and by my sophomore year, I had burned out. All I wanted to do when I got home was turn on my radio, pull out my notebooks and pens, and write. Write, write, write. Story after story.

If my parents had been paying attention, they would have identified my future right away, but they weren't. My mom was too busy focusing on herself, and my dad didn't want me to waste my time on a dream. He wanted me to get a "real job." And a real job was one you hated but did, anyway. His idea of a real job was  one that paid really well. That was the only qualification.

The trouble with that is that I wasn't cut out for a "real job." I was so burned out by my senior year that my straight As had dropped to straight Cs and one D. Purdue didn't happen, either, but I had to drop Calculus only a few weeks into the term because I was failing. You can't be an engineer if you can't do Calculus (I later went on to ace Calculus in community college, but by then I had given up the idea of becoming an engineer).

The point is, watch out for the crabs in your bucket. Even ones with good intentions will pull you down. Break out of the bucket and find new crabs who will elevate you and support you to succeed. And, hey, we weren't all cut out for "real jobs." We can't all be academics and engineers. Some of us need to add beauty and entertainment to the world. That's what I was made to do with my writing. I know that now, and even though it took over a decade for me to finally pull myself out of my crab bucket, I did. You can, too.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Meet Traceon. Profession: enforcer at AKM (All the King's Men). Sign: He's not saying, but I'm guessing Scorpio because he is so potent, and he's loyal to a fault.

This is the image I use when I am writing Traceon's scenes. He is a bad-ass mixed-blood vampire with a shitload of special powers in his arsenal that go beyond anything the others on the AKM team have in their bag of tricks. His father was a vampire, and his mother was rumored to be a human Jamaican "witch," so that might explain it. Whatever the case, he is one male you don't want to mess with, and he is a severely troubled soul under his poised outer shell. I love him. My beta readers love him. I hope you will, too, once you meet him in Rise of the Fallen, which I am hoping for a release in mid- to late-March. Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

My own website? I'm SOMEBODY now!

I'm Somebody Now

Today, the website is kind of like the phone book used to be. You're not really somebody until you have your own website. And, yesterday, my website got up and running. Woo-hoo! http://www.donyalynne.com/ 

Now don't get all excited. It's nothing much at the moment. It's still under construction and will be for a while, but the point is, I have my own website. Yay! It's part of my overall business and marketing plan as an author, and I'm excited about all the neat things I will be incorporating into my website as it gets built. For example, my blog will be moving to my website, hopefully in the next couple of months, and a couple of my book characters have demanded they get their own emails, so . . . you figure that one out. *wink* 

Down the road, I hope to add a P.O. Box to my contact information, because who doesn't like to receive actual fan mail once in a while? Again, I have a feeling a couple of my characters would love to see what fans would like to send them. Vain vampires, aren't they? But they will have to wait a while. I don't see a P.O. Box happening for at least six months.

At any rate, seeing my fledgling website go live was way exciting for me. But enough celebrating. I have work to do, like finishing the final edits on book one and pre-edits on book two of the All the King's Men series. TTFN. *waves and runs back to Micah, Severin, and Arion.*

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Voices in My Head

Model, Andrei Andrei, is my muse for my character, Micah Black, the main character of my upcoming book, Rise of the Fallen (ROTF).  [Look at those affected eyes and that mysterious face - can you see why he's my muse?] Micah is such a powerful character and exudes such a strong presence that even as I write book two in the series, which is Severin's and Arion's story, when Micah comes on page, the story clearly bends to his will.  His buddy is Traceon, who both of my beta readers have said they have fallen in love with, and he is equally as powerful as Micah.  Putting them together, then, is damn near explosive.  Why?  Because despite Traceon's quiet outer demeanor, both he and Micah have powerful character voices that bring them to life to the point they are almost living, breathing beings.

Many writers say their characters speak to them. Mine don't just speak. They oftentimes argue, push, shove,  and otherwise show me every damn emotion they're feeling.  I joked on my Facebook page today that I actually went out for lunch, and that while I took that break from writing, my characters all took that as a sign that they could talk to me.  I had nine character voices pummeling me with information, arguing, scowling, moping, hem-hawing, and skulking.  I was a psychologist's wet dream for about a half-hour.

But the information my characters give me is VITAL to their stories.  I rely on them to talk to me, because when they're not talking, I'm not writing.  So even though today was exceptionally trying from my sanity's standpoint, from the author's standpoint that dwells within me, I was in Heaven!  I love my characters, and as long as they're talking to me, it means they love me as well as what I'm conveying on the printed page about them.  So, talk away, little voices.  I'm "hear" all day and all night.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Business of Writing - A Sign from God

Now that the Super Bowl is over, it's time to get back to the business of writing.

And that really is what writing has become to me now.  My business.  I am the Owner, President, CEO, Project Manager, Accountant, and my own personal assistant.  Oh, and don't forget the janitor.  I'm that, too.  Because as a writer, I pretty much have to do it all.

But you know what?  I LOVE IT!  There is no other job I would like to have than this one.  And here's the story about how I made the decision to take the risk of being a full-time writer:

About three weeks ago, I was close to reaching a major low.  I had been unemployed since July 2010, and had suffered through awful temp assignments, useless job searches, and even spent 4 1/2 months of 2011 taking classes to make myself more marketable to employers.  But without any experience in the field I was trying to enter, no one would look at me.  And I no longer wanted to work as an administrative assistant because the job simply wasn't challenging enough for me.  I was professionally lost, and the truth is, my heart was 100% pulling me toward writing.

So, three weeks ago, at my lowest of lows, I got a phone call from a company that wanted to slot me for a 15-minute screening interview.  I actually cried.  I didn't want that job.  The thought of enduring another interview that would likely end up with another reject letter to damage my already-fragile ego for a position I didn't even want depressed me beyond words.  On top of that, I was terrified I would fail as a full-time author.  So, I was at that proverbial crossroads:  do I take the interview or do I take the risk that my writing can support me?

That was on a Friday evening.  Monday, I went to Whole Foods at 8:00.  I only needed a few things and when I left, it was around 8:15.  I had obsessed over the decision of interview or writing all weekend and was crying.  Yes, you read right.  Crying.  I actually walked out of Whole Foods with tears in my eyes, and guess what I did?  I prayed.  Right there on the sidewalk and as I crossed into the parking lot.  Now, I'm not a religious person by any stretch of the word.  I'm spiritual and talk to God all the time, but very rarely do I pray.  Well, that Monday morning I did.  I said something to the effect of: "I need a sign, God.  And I need a big one.  A sign that will smack me so hard between the eyes that I can't miss that it was a sign.  A sign that will tell me what I'm supposed to do, because, God, I don't know what that is.  Am I supposed to take that interview, or am I supposed to write?  Give me a sign God, and I mean a huge sign. One that if I miss it, I'm blind.  I give this to you, God.  Please show me the way."

About two hours later, I opened my email.  Back in November, I had submitted a story to THE publisher all epub authors want to work with, Silver Publishing.  For weeks, I had waited for a reply to see if they had accepted my story.  I had begun to lose hope because so long had passed.  That morning, of all mornings, I got a reply.  They had accepted my story and wanted to publish it.  I got my contract soon thereafter.  Later, I just happened to check the reviews for an anthology one of my short stories had been published in late last summer.  I don't even know what made me check, being that I hadn't checked the reviews more than a couple of times in all the months since the anthology was released.  Guess what?  There was a new review.  Double guess what?  The reviewer absolutely loved my story, saying he/she couldn't wait to see more from me.  Later, on my Facebook author profile, I received an inbox from a large group who wanted to feature me as their author of the month in the next few months (I may be slotted for March or April, after my first self-published book gets released).  I had 3 more major signs that Monday, for a total of 6, along with a ton of smaller signs.  I don't think God could have answered my prayer any more loudly than that.

That Monday, I made the decision.  I was going to take the risk and make writing my full-time job.  Technically, I'm still unemployed because I'm not making an income, yet, but unofficially, I am just building my earning potential by treating my writing as I would any other job.  I get up by 6:00 most mornings (although I was up at 4:30 today), and I put in at least 8 hours a day (usually 12-14) in some publishing capacity, whether I'm writing, researching, marketing, networking, or investigating the world of self-publishing.

I have created a business plan, tools to track my progress, a schedule to keep me on track, and I minimize distractions by limiting how much time I am on Facebook or other Internet sites to less than two hours a day.  I figure if I was working in an office, I wouldn't be allowed to be on Facebook or playing games, why should I do that stuff just because I'm my own boss?

They say if you want to make it as a writer, you have to have a solid work ethic and treat it like a business - like it's your job.  Well, I'm doing that.  That decision three weeks ago changed me.  I have purpose now.  I have goals.  I have a freaking business plan!  LOL.  I can't remember the last time I was this happy with my job.  Well, I did have one job that I did thoroughly enjoy.  I'd work for that boss again any day, even if I am writing.  (Thanks JR).  But besides that job, this one is the best I've ever had.

Thank you, God.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Super Bowl Weekend In Indy

When my husband and I pulled out of the driveway to make the 25-minute trip to downtown Indianapolis, we knew we would see something we'd never seen before, but we didn't know we would see so many interesting characters, and we didn't know we were about to see Indianapolis so full of positive life.
We also knew traffic would be unforgiving.  While sitting in a temporarily gridlocked intersection, my husband started chuckling.  What? I asked.  This car coming up behind in the other lane, he said.  I turned and saw a Cadillac convertible circa 1970s with a giant pair of bull's horns as a hood ornament.  The Caddy was painted like a dairy cow - white with black spots - and a bike stuck up out of the back seat.  As he passed,  the sign securely taped to the trunk said, "Super Bowl or Bust - All the Way From Sanibel Island, FL."  He was quite the attraction as every person on the sidewalk gawked, pulled out cameras and phones, and started taking pics.  Some people talked to him.  One guy was so taken by his car he actually rain into it.  I don't know how he did that.  I didn't see it, but my husband did and started laughing at the guy.

Once we were out of the gridlock, we backtracked to a $20 parking garage, then hoofed it to the Circle in the heart of the city.  Generator exhaust assaulted us from a half-dozen food trucks setting up for the night, but onward through the gas smell we trekked until we came to the giant numerals on the south side of the circle.  They light up and two of them become odd-shaped TV screens at night, but it was too early for that.  Still, it was awesome to get pics of them and then stand within breathing distance of the Fox 59 Live at Five newscasters as they did a broadcast.

Watching the newscast was a woman who had stuffed what appeared to be giant balls or balloons in her shirt and had a sign on that read, "Big Things Happening in Indy at the XLVI Super Bowl."  She was a Patriots fan, so . . . next!  (We don't do Patriots fans well here in Indy - LOL)

We wandered down to Georgia Street, where Super Bowl Village was.  The city had brought in large outdoor heaters to keep the Village warm, but Mother Nature made sure to let us know that was a budgetary mistake by granting us with the best weather I think we've ever had in Indianapolis this time of year.  It was 60 degrees yesterday afternoon.  Um, sub-zero is the norm in February.

En Vogue was performing and the crowd was body-to-body all up and down Georgia Street.  We turned west and headed toward Capitol, where the famous zip line had been set up.  Apparently, no other hosting city has had a zip line and it was THE BIG attraction.  Four zip lines ran the length of the road for about three city blocks.  People flew down upside down, sideways, or just clinging in fear to the line, but it was fun to watch.  The zip lines didn't open until 3:00 p.m. but it's so popular, the line started forming at 7:00 a.m.  Wow.

Celebrities were everywhere, but we were downtown a bit too early to see them.  They were getting ready for their parties while we were sight-seeing, but on the news later, we heard reports of sightings of Will Smith, Ice Cube, Tebow, Patti Labelle, Alec Baldwin, and many more.  I certainly saw enough moneyed females in fur, gold, and model-worthy digs that I have a feeling I did see some celebrities, but just didn't recognize them.  I saw one girl who looked like J-Wow, but without an entourage around her, I doubt it was.  Still.  Just wow.  Oh, and I don't know what some of these girls are smoking to want to wear four-inch, bright turquoise platform heels to walk a few miles on hard concrete, but hey, to each their own.

Speaking of smoking: we walked through a cloud of obvious weed smoke at one point.  The guy next to us said, "Oh!  I smell weed.  That smells good."  LOL.  Personally, I hate the stuff, but I laughed at the guy, anyway.  The atmosphere was just too awesome to have a sour puss about anything.  What's funny is I HATE crowds!  I avoid them like the plague, but enduring this crowd was 100% - no, 150% - worth it!  I was uplifted, even when I was shoulder-to-shoulder with people as we did sardine action through a bottleneck in the crowd.

Hubs and I made our tour, smiling great big most of the time, because really, it was impossible not to smile.  I was (and am) proud of how Indianapolis is pulling off hosting their first Super Bowl.  I actually turned to my husband at one point and said, "I am so proud to be a Hoosier right now."  And then we strolled back to the north, toward the parking garage and out of the magical wonderland of Super Bowl 46.

Way to go, Indianapolis!  Oh, and GO GIANTS!

Friday, February 3, 2012

It's Super Bowl weekend here in Indianapolis, and the city is filled with excitement.  The hubs and I will be heading downtown to check out the Super Bowl festivities later, but until then I am busy setting up my author profiles and getting set to self-publish my first book in a couple of months.  Rise of the Fallen is a story that has excited me from day one, and I can't wait to finally share it with the world.  I also can't wait to see the cover Reese Dante puts together for me and whether or not she will be able to use the pic approved by a certain special model who for now shall remain unnamed.  *wink*  Once I have the final cover, I'll share who he is. 

Silver Publishing is also set to release my first novella, The Arms of Winter, on June 30.  This romance is more contemporary, and it's a story I am incredibly proud of. 

I will be sharing blurbs and excerpts in the coming weeks.  Look me up on Facebook, too: http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100002743629226  and on my fan page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Author-Donya-Lynne/264551610235097