Tag Archive for: goals

How to Meet Those Yearly Goals Everyone is Talking About

by Sparkle Abbey

We love the fresh start of a new year! With 2020 in the rear-view mirror, a fresh start has never felt more important than it does right now. We are strong believers that our present path doesn’t have to determine our final destination but can represent where we started. And we’re starting with a clear vision of what we want out of 2021.

For those of you who have followed us, you know we LOVE to set goals. Not just writing goals, but spiritual, health, personal, financial, and career goals, too. We’ve talked about the importance of setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) in the past, so this time we’d like to share some tips that help us keep on track with achieving our goals. Because honestly, setting the goal is the easy part. Following through is a challenge.

 1.       Write Them Down

We do mean, write. There’s something to be said
about handwriting your goals that helps you visualize what you want to accomplish.
And if you’re like us, without writing them down, you’re bound to forget by the
end of the month. When you see those goals in writing it helps you focus. There’s
a fascinating article about the
psychology of writing down goals
that explain the relationship between writing
down goals and achieving them better than we can. Take a quick minute and check
it out.

Tell Someone

It’s all about accountability. Share your goals with
someone. We all need a cheerleader in our corner to motivate us to keep going
when we’re tired or discouraged.

Do Something Every Day

You’ve heard the saying before, “How do you eat an
elephant? One bite at a time.” It’s similar to meeting your goal. You meet goals
by taking one step at a time. For a financial goal, that can be as simple as
putting $1 a day into an envelope, or instead of buying that latte, Venmo that money
to your savings account. If it’s a fitness goal, schedule a twenty-minute
meeting with yourself to take a walk. You get the idea.

Accept That You Will Have A Setback

Hey, life happens. All you have to do is remember 2020.
Enough said. When you have a setback, readjust and don’t feel guilty about it. The time you spend feeling guilty is time you could have spent towards reaching
your goal.


Remember when we said to tell someone? This is where you check-in
with that person or persons and hold yourself accountable. What did you do to
get yourself closer to your goal? What worked? What didn’t? Maybe they can
offer some advice if what you’re doing isn’t working the way you had

Celebrate Your Successes

When you reach that goal, make sure you take the time to
celebrate. Rewards, big or small, will help you stick to your goals. Pro tip:
don’t let the reward set you back from meeting other goals. If you’re trying to
improve your fitness and diet, don’t celebrate your new promotion or
outstanding book sales on a couple of margaritas. Maybe have a vodka with club
soda and a squeeze of lime. Just sayin’.

We hope these tips work for you. Now go forth and conquer 2021. We believe in you!

Sparkle Abbey is actually two people, Mary Lee Ashford and Anita Carter, who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series. They are friends as well as neighbors so they often get together and plot ways to commit murder. (But don’t tell the other neighbors.) 

They love to hear from readers and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, their favorite social media sites. Also, if you want to make sure you get updates, sign up for their newsletter via the SparkleAbbey.com website.

Follow Your Bliss

By Cathy Perkins 
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you
where there were only walls.” Joseph Campbell
been trying to finish an amateur sleuth mystery (the next Holly Price story) but another story keeps nagging at me. It’s one I’ve picked up and put
down about a dozen times; changed the focus; the motivation; everything except
the central characters and the theme.
not sure why that book keeps pulling me back. Maybe it comes from the idea that
each one of us has something special to contribute—maybe work we feel compelled
to do. By doing it, we feel fulfilled and enrich the world. Joseph Campbell
talks about finding your own path (“If you can see your path laid out in front
of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with
every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”). 

How do you find that path?
Some refer to it as following your bliss. Others say, find your heart’s

is that passion the broader goal or a kernel that embodies it?

many of us on this blog, our passion is writing. Taking intuitions, snippets,
dreams and moments of pure fantasy imagination. Adding overheard conversations,
glimpses of a vignette as we pass by. Grabbing that nebulous possibility, and
shaping and turning into a polished story. Is writing the passion we want to
share with the world? Or is it a particular theme or story that we feel we have
to tell to reach that bliss?

really have no idea, so I keep putting one foot in front of the other and
step-by-step find my path.
Right now, that path is
strolling along with a forensic accountant who’s trying to find her own path through life…
You might hear a bit more about her later. 
But as much fun as
the amateur sleuth story is to write, that other story is still there, a siren song.
Even if we take the steps
to become an author, maybe we chose a certain path because we fear the stories
we want to write won’t sell. We love chic lit or romantic mysteries or literary
stories where the characters rule and the words flow to a different rhythm, but
we read online, hear from editors, agents, creative writing texts that D, all
the above are passé. We’re tempted to follow trends rather than listen to the
story inside us. I think most of us have cleared that hurdle, but the doubt is
always there–should I have chosen a different path? 
Overall, I’m happy with my
path to “here.” Sure, there have been highs and lows, joys and
regrets. I’m happy our paths crossed, here on the blog, at various publishers, conferences, or any of the other places we’ve connected. I hope my passion for writing lives
on and that I can share my joy and make a small corner of the worlds a better

And in the meanwhile, I
think my other story is still growing—or growing up—quietly evolving in my
subconscious. I have many books still to write.
But I suspect “that story”
will one day be the one I have to tell.
What about you?
 “As you go the way of life,
You will see a great chasm.
It is not as wide as you
― Joseph

An award-winning author of financial mysteries, Cathy Perkins writes twisting dark suspense and light amateur sleuth stories.  When not writing, she battles with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.  Visit her at http://cperkinswrites.com or on Facebook 

Sign up for her new release announcement newsletter in either place.

She’s hard at work on sequel to The Body in the Beaver Pond, which was recently presented with the Claymore Award. 

New Year Promises

by Sparkle Abbey

Happy New Year from us to you! Since it’s the beginning of a new year everyone’s talking about resolutions. We’d have to say it appears that there’s a bit of a divide on whether they’re a good thing or not.

On the one hand the beginning of a new year seems like the perfect time to take stock and see how you’re doing. It’s a fresh start, a clean slate, and perhaps good time to set some goals.

But according to U.S. News and World Report 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by February. Wow. We’re optimists but even we realize those are really terrible odds. We can see why this January some are just saying “no” to resolutions.

Psychology Today recently published an article on the Four Common Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail. The article is a great read, so please check out the whole thing, but in short the main reason we fail is that our goals aren’t clear. That makes sense to us. The best type of goal is a very specific one. We’ve all heard of SMART goals, right? The letters stand for: Specific-Measurable-Achievable-Realistic-Timely.

Turns out the research mentioned in the article covers some of the other parts of the SMART acronym. Another piece of the puzzle is that change is hard and we don’t always take the time to figure out the best path. So maybe rather than just jumping in, we should figure out where we’re going and understand that slow and steady (and one track) can win the race.

Another point made in the article is that it’s easy to get discouraged and so we need to look at whether our goals are realistic. As we go forward we may need to make adjustments. We love this recent blog Practical Resolutions by Hank Phillippi Ryan at Career Authors. Hank’s advice involves Writing (a lot), reading (a lot), and also things like listening, respect, patience, perseverance, and getting better.

When it comes down to it, that last one is really what it’s all about, isn’t it? Getting better. So, whether your goals involve writing more, reading more, eating healthier, or getting more exercise, you can always get better. And you can start on January 1st or some random Tuesday in May. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you start!

We like to write our goals down as a reminder of what we’re focusing on. And we enjoy working with SMART goals, but like everything else you have to figure out what works for you. We’re all made differently and motivated differently. Some people, like our friend Holly Jacobs, picks a word for the year. We love that idea! Check out Holly’s Word for 2019.

What are your thoughts? Do you set goals at the beginning of a new year? Do you pick a word or a thought to focus on for the year? Or are you in the anti-resolution camp? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sparkle Abbey is actually two people, Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter, who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series set in Laguna Beach. Their series features  former Texas beauty queen cousins, Caro, a pet therapist and, Melinda, a pet boutique owner. The most recent installments (book nine) BARKING WITH THE STARS and  (book ten) THE DOGFATHER continue Caro and Mel’s murder-solving adventures.

But here’s some great news, if you’ve not yet started the series (or would like to share the series with a friend) the first book, DESPERATE HOUSEDOGS, is currently on sale for 99 cents in all ebook formats!

Find Your Purpose in Life

Do you have a sense of purpose?

A friend invited me to hear a presentation by
a local historian. At the end of their speech, she turned to me and said, “This
is their passion. I wish I knew what mine was.”

That comment stuck with me as I move into a
new stage of my life. What is my passion? Where do I find purpose in life? For
years, I’ve found purpose in my professional life and through the charitable
organizations I’ve supported with my time and money. Now, I’m reexamining these
activities, searching for that greater sense of purpose.

For decades, psychologists have studied how
long-term, meaningful goals develop over the span of our lives. The goals that
foster a sense of purpose are ones that can potentially change the lives of
other people, from launching an organization, researching disease, to teaching
kids to read.

A sense of purpose appears to have evolved in
humans so we can accomplish big things together—which may be why it’s linked to
better physical and mental health.
Purpose is adaptive, in an evolutionary sense. It helps both
individuals and the species survive.

Many seem to believe that purpose arises from
your special gifts and sets you apart from other people—but that’s only part of
the truth. It also grows from our connection to others, which is why a crisis
of purpose is often a symptom of isolation. Once you find your path, you’ll
almost certainly find others—a community—traveling along with you, hoping to
reach the same destination.

Here are six ways to overcome isolation and
discover your purpose in life.


Reading connects us to people we’ll never
know, across time and space—an experience that, research says, is linked to a
sense of meaning and purpose. (Note: “Meaning” and “purpose” are linked but
separate social-scientific constructs. Purpose is a part of meaning; meaning is
a much broader concept that usually also includes value, efficacy, and

“Reading fiction might allow adolescents to
reason about the whole lives of characters, giving them specific insight into
an entire lifespan without having to have fully lived most of their own lives,”
Raymond A. Mar suggests. By seeing purpose in the lives of other people, teens
are more likely to see it in their own lives. In this sense, purpose is an act
of the imagination.

Find books that matter to you—and they might
help you to see what matters in your own life.

Turn hurts into healing for others

Of course, finding purpose is not just an
intellectual pursuit; it’s something we need to feel. That’s why it can grow
out of suffering, both our own and others’.

Kezia Willingham was raised in poverty in
Corvallis, Oregon, her family riven by domestic violence. “No one at school
intervened or helped or supported my mother, myself, or my brother when I was
growing up poor, ashamed, and sure that my existence was a mistake,” she says.
“I was running the streets, skipping school, having sex with strangers, and
abusing every drug I could get my hands on.”
When she was 16, Kezia enrolled at an alternative
high school that “led me to believe I had options and a path out of poverty.”
She made her way to college and was especially “drawn to the kids with
‘issues’”—kids like the one she had once been. She says:

“I want the kids out there who grew up like me,
to know they have futures ahead of them. I want them to know they are smart,
even if they may not meet state academic standards. I want them to know that
they are just as good and valuable as any other human who happens to be born
into more privileged circumstances. Because they are. And there are so damn
many messages telling them otherwise.”

Cultivate awe, gratitude, and altruism

Certain emotions and behaviors that
promote health and well-being can also foster a sense of
purpose—specifically, awegratitude, and altruism.

Studies conducted
by the Greater Good Science Center have shown that the experience of awe makes
us feel connected to something larger than
ourselves—and so can provide the emotional foundation for
a sense of purpose. Of course, awe all by itself won’t give you a purpose in
life. It’s not enough to just feel like you’re a small part of something big;
you also need to feel driven to make a positive impact on the world. That’s
where gratitude and generosity come into play.

With gratitude, children and adults who are
able to count their blessings are much more likely to try to contribute to the
world beyond themselves. This is probably because, if we can see how others
make our world a better place, we’ll be more motivated to give something back.

Here we arrive at altruism. There’s little
question, that helping others is associated with
a meaningful, purposeful life. People who engage in altruistic behaviors, like
volunteering or donating money, tend to have a greater sense of purpose in
their lives.

Listen to what other people appreciate about you

Giving thanks can help you find your purpose.
But you can also find purpose in what people thank you for.

Like Kezia Willingham, Shawn Taylor had a tough childhood—and he was also
drawn to working with kids who had severe behavioral problems. Unlike her,
however, he often felt like the work was a dead-end. “I thought I sucked at my
chosen profession,” he says. Then, one day, a girl he’d worked with five years
before contacted him.

“She detailed how I helped to change her
life,” says Shawn—and she asked him to walk her down the aisle when she got
married. Shawn hadn’t even thought about her, in all that time. “Something
clicked and I knew this was my path. No specifics, but youth work was my purpose.”

Although there is no research that directly
explores how being thanked might fuel a sense of purpose, we do know that
gratitude strengthens relationships—and those are often the source of
our purpose.

Find and build community

We can often find our sense of purpose in the
people around us. In tandem with his reading, Art McGee found purpose—working
for social and racial justice—in “love and respect for my hardworking father,”
he says. “Working people like him deserved so much better.”

Environmental and social-justice organizer
Jodi Sugerman-Brozan feels driven to leave the world in a better place than she
found it. Becoming a mom “strengthened that purpose (it’s going to be their
world, and their kids’ world),” she says. It “definitely influences how I
parent (wanting to raise anti-racist, feminist, radical kids who will want to
continue the fight and be leaders).”

If you’re having trouble remembering your
purpose, take a look at the people around you. What do you have in common with
them? What are they trying to be? What impact do you see them having on the
world? Is that impact a positive one? Can you join with them in making that
impact? What do they need? Can you give it them?

If the answers to those questions don’t
inspire you, then you might need to find a new community—and with that, a new
purpose may come.

Tell your story

Purpose often arises from curiosity about your
own life. What obstacles have you encountered? What strengths helped you to
overcome them? How did other people help you? How did your strengths help make
life better for others? Reading can help you find your purpose—but so can
“We all have the ability to make a narrative out of our own lives,” says Emily Esfahani Smith, author of the 2017 book The Power of Meaning. “It gives us clarity on our
own lives, how to understand ourselves, and gives us a framework that goes
beyond the day-to-day and basically helps us make sense of our experiences.”

On a final note, I wish I
could take credit for this wonderful advice, but I can’t. This content was
curated by the folks at 
mindful.org. I suggest you click the link and head
to their site so you can read even more inspiring thoughts on this subject.

you found your passion? What inspires you?

An award-winning author of financial mysteries, Cathy Perkins writes twisting dark suspense and light amateur sleuth stories.  When not writing, she battles with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd. 

Visit her at http://cperkinswrites.com

She’s hard at work on the next book in the Holly Price series, In It For The Money.

What Can You Do to Help Out Your Favorite Authors?

by Sparkle Abbey
A portion of this blog was originally published in April of 2013. 

It’s the beginning of a new year, and most people are making resolutions or setting goals for 2017. We are definitely in the goal setting camp. Setting goals gives us a clearer picture of what we want for the year, or next 3 years. It drives us forward with focus and keeps us organized, and most importantly, keeps us accountable.

Something else we do each year is to make a concerted effort to support our fellow authors who have new releases. For us that means spreading the word about their awesome books on social media or posting a review. 

As we were discussing our goals for 2017, we thought this would be a great time to remind us all how we can actively support our favorite authors.

Let them know what you think. 

  • Write the author a quick email or letter telling them how much you liked their story. Writing fiction is itself is a solitary pursuit but ultimately we writers put ourselves and our work out there for the world to see. You can’t imagine how much someone taking the time to comment means to us. 

Share via bookstore sites.

Depending on where you buy your books, you can help readers find your favorite authors books by providing quick feedback.

There are a couple of things you can do for the paperback and/or Kindle versions.

    1. “Like” a good review that you agree with.
    2. If you read the book and enjoyed it, post a short (even 1 or 2 sentences) review on either the paperback or Kindle version about specifically what you liked about the book. (One review goes both places, unlike the tags and ‘like’).

There are a couple of things you can do for the paperback and/or Nook versions.

    1. Click that you found a good review “Helpful.”
    2. And again, if you read the book and liked it, post a short (even 1 or 2 sentences) review on either the paperback or Nook version about specifically what you liked about the book. 

If you’re a member of Indie Bound for independent book stores, add your favorite authors’ books to your “Wish List” or your book lists on the Indie Bound website at http://www.indiebound.org/ 

You can also link to your friends and tell your friends about the books. 

Spread the news via Social Media

Tell your friends about their book. 

  • Share with friends and family via Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, blogs or word-of-mouth.

A sample Tweet might be (This one is more than 140 characters, but Twitter will shorten the link for you): 

Great fun read: Raiders of the Lost Bark #book #mystery

or  www.amazon.com/Raiders-Lost-Bark-Pampered-Mysteries/dp/1611946778

If you’re currently reading the book, you can always tag it as a #FridayReads.
A sample Facebook post could be something as simple as: Check out my friend Sparkle Abbey’s book, Downton Tabby, at your favorite bookstore or visit their website at www.sparkleabbey.com

If you’re a member of Goodreads, check out your favorite author’s Author Profile and click on “Become a Fan.” For instance our Author Profile page looks like this: Sparkle Abbey: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5283557.Sparkle_Abbey 

If you’ve read the book, you can also rate the book and add a review. Much like Amazon, you can also “Like” positive reviews

Another great help is to visit review sites or book-related blogs and comment if you have the time. For instance, we’ve been featured on our very own Dru’s Musings, The Mystery Gazette, Cozy Chicks, and Seekerville.

Whether you do one thing or all of the above, showing your support and sharing your love of books with others truly makes a difference.

Are there are ways to support your favorite authors that we didn’t mention? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

Sparkle Abbey is the pseudonym of two mystery authors (Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter). They are friends and neighbors as well as co-writers of the Pampered Pets Mystery Series. The pen name was created by combining the names of their rescue pets–Sparkle (Mary Lee’s cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog). If you want to make sure you’re up on all the Sparkle Abbey news, stop by their website and sign up for updates at sparkleabbey.com.

Resolution as Metaphor

year, I made two New Year’s resolutions. The first was to carry only the
essentials in my purse.
a person who delights in handbags. In particular, I like to carry totes, which
accommodate lots of extra stuff. As a result, my shoulder and back are
constantly aching from the weight I carry.
this year, I determined to lighten my load.
second resolution was to drink more water. Perhaps part of this resolution came
from the fact that I had the flu the last week of the year, and discovered the
keys to getting better were taking the antibiotic, getting lots of rest, and
keeping hydrated.
are very comforting when your throat is sore and nothing tastes good. They’re
both filling and moisturizing, two very satisfying feelings associated with a
comfortable, healthy lifestyle.

some point during my recovery, I read in a writing craft book that characters
should be viewed as metaphors rather than people. Interesting concept. Rather
like the passion plays from the medieval times where audiences were encouraged
to associate characters with good or evil.
made me wonder if resolutions should be viewed as metaphors instead goals. Is a
resolution a plan for action or a reflection of what you think about yourself?
does it say about me that I want to carry less around and concentrate on
drinking enough fluids? Are those signals that I want to shed
unnecessary baggage and focus on keeping refreshed and vital?
do those resolutions relate to my writing?
you travel only with the essentials, you’re not overwhelmed with personal
objects. You can watch what’s around you and enjoy new experiences. And if you
keep hydrated, you have what’s essential to life. You are, in fact, embracing
what makes up most of a human body (50 to 75 percent) and of the environment
(about 71 percent of the earth’s surface and about a trace to 4 percent of the
and water are two ideas associated with movement and flow. They enable the
journey and keep the adventurer fueled to seek new possibilities.
far this year, I’ve been able to keep my resolutions. My shoulder and back
don’t ache, and I’m rarely thirsty.
know it’s hard to stick to resolutions. I’m sure the day’s coming when I slip
that extra book into my tote or stay at the computer too long without taking a
break to fill my glass.
maybe when I stray, remembering how much better I felt when I was following the
resolutions will bring me back to them again. Perhaps I’ll read over some of my
writing from a time I carried only a notebook and pen instead of my iPad or
laptop and wrote at a coffee shop drinking refreshing mint tea. Maybe I’ll
notice the easy movement of my prose when I was less encumbered and better lubricated.
Then, I can sit down at my computer with a full bottle of water, type from my
notes, and feel like I’m making progress.
isn’t that what resolutions are all about? Getting us started going forward
into the New Year?
you made any resolutions? If so, what do you think they say about you and your

New Years Resolutions – Or Not -Part II

Hi Gang,

It’s been twenty days since the New Year started.  Have you kept to your goals? Are they flexible enough to adjust when things go south? Or when your load gets heavier?

Last post, I talked about my health goals. I lose weight VERY slowly. So who knows where I am today. But even if I’ve fallen, I will get back up because I know I can lose weight with this same program. Eat more fruits and veggies, cut back on calories, and work out more.

Another set of goals I made was around taking more time for myself. I’m the queen of busy. If I can fit in one more blog, or one more chore, that’s one less that I have to do tomorrow. One more lap. Just a little faster. The problem is I can burn out easily if I forget to fill the well.

Around the holiday’s, I took some time off and spent it reading, watching movies, and spending time with my family.  During that respite, I decided one day a week I’d take time off for me. No word count, no editing pages, just re-creation time.

We’ll see how that works.

I’m hoping to carve out more time for baking, quilting, crochet, and, yes, of course, reading. During my vacation I read Doctor Sleep by Stephen King. Loved this character study in the life of an alcoholic. Well, an alcoholic with an ability to talk to spirits, and other cool psychic tools. Great book.

What would you do with a free day once a week? What’s stopping you?


The Mindboggling Goal of Perfect Timing

 By Laura Spinella
Are you a writer who sets goals?  I
know lots of writers do this: daily word count goals, drop-dead date goals,
NaNoWriMo inspirational goals. Right now, I’m more about the let-me-get-to-November-without-my-head-exploding
goal. I’m seven weeks out from pub date, and if you’re an author, I don’t need
to say any more. But in an effort to fill this box, allow me to elaborate.
            A year ago, I had a
workable mental plan for the weeks leading up to PERFECT TIMING’S pub date—NOVEMBER 5th. Okay, so maybe
it wasn’t a plan. Maybe it was more like…a vision. Yes, that’s what it was, a vision.
A place in my mind where book bloggers would seek me out and drive my Penguin
publicist nuts in anticipation of my sophomore novel, my inbox so filled with
pre-pub requests and kudos that I could barely keep up. Fine. So it wasn’t
exactly a vision either—it was, maybe, more like a fantasy. As the months have moved
forward, the fantasy has faded.  The
reality of having to haul ass myself to keep this book afloat has sunk in. Of
course, I knew this would be the case. I did as much for BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, and
while the book held its own, I wasn’t foolish enough to believe that Oprah or
even the local library would come a-callin’, not without some serious effort on
my part.
            As early as last spring,
I had this future requirement, this goal, fixed in my head. It was about that
time the novel I’d started writing late last summer took flight. You know how it
goes. You knead and knot words, vacillating between love and hate—scraping
dead-end ideas and pitching yourself fresh ones.  Brand new people arrive, like houseguests on an extended stay, people who, quite frankly, take over your life. Like real houseguests,
they also don’t cook or clean. Characters are dropped like confetti into a
whirlwind of circumstance, and as the days go by you fear any readable rational
outcome will require an MFA (which I don’t have), a hundred years (which I don’t
have), and a decoder ring to result in a narrative that resembles a novel. In
the meantime, a few million other authors, all of them your closet Facebook
friends, publish brilliant books, accepting a flood of adulation with poise and
Suffice it to say it was a long spring and an even
longer summer.
Then, around the first of August, I started to hear time
tick. That pub date was creeping closer. Yet I couldn’t fathom abandoning my
new novel—I love this story way too much.
So much so that I couldn’t stop to pay attention to what now seemed like the old novel. I’d go to my little critique
group, and they ask for PERFECT TIMING updates. I’d look at
them, squirrelly-eyed, and say, “Yeah, I know… that’s coming up soon, isn’t it?”
Then I’d hand them the next installment of my shiny new novel, anxious to hear feedback.
(Tell me this is not a drug) I wrote harder and raced faster, making August 31st
my drop-dead date. Come Hell or high water, on that date, I’d turn my new novel
over to my agent.
Well, wouldn’t you know, August 31st was a
Saturday. I mean, there’s no sense in emailing your agent on a Saturday.
Everybody knows that. So here we are on Friday the 13th—  September 13, which might be a fun, fate tempting,
sort of day to send a manuscript on its way. But everybody knows people in publishing
don’t work on Fridays. What would be the point in sending a manuscript on a
Friday?  On the other hand, I know none
of these excuses will prevent Monday from coming. And I swear, on Monday, it
will go. At least I think it will. As far as I know Monday isn’t a national or
religious holiday. Realistically, I suspect as soon as it’s gone… out of here…
on its way, things will smooth out and find a proper path. I know this
because the way I feel about the new book was exactly the way I once felt about
a story called PERFECT TIMING.         
Laura Spinella is the author of the award-winning novel, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER and the upcoming novel, PERFECT TIMING. Visit her at lauraspinella.net

The Different Meanings of Success

by Susan McBride

I had originally written a post about rejection that was set to go up today. But with all the disasters in the news of late, I decided that topic seemed too depressing! So I wanted to talk about something more positive, like how we define success. It’s very subjective, I know, and means different things to different people. So I’ll meander on about how the idea of “being successful” has changed for me through the years, and I’d love to hear what it means to you.

When I was growing up and moving about with my family, we always settled into a fixer-upper in an upper middle class neighborhood (my mom tried valiantly to place us in the best public school district available), where we’d rub shoulders with folks who often had a lot more than we did, materially anyway. I got a lot of insight into what it took to try to keep up with the Joneses, and for a time–probably through high school–I bought into the notion that having things with pricey labels proved to the outside world that you’d achieved something in life. Don’t get me wrong: I also realized being smart, making good grades, and having responsibility was important. But having a Polo man on your pocket (and your socks, too) seemed like a popular way of letting people know you were worthy.

By my freshman year in college, after being around plenty of sorority girls, frat boys, and debutantes whose behavior made me question if money = worth after all, I understood it was a bunch of hooey. Even without a trust fund, anyone with a credit card could buy expensive cars and clothes. Although it made for a prettier facade, it didn’t mean anything, not really. Some folks may define success as having more $$$–or at least borrowing more!–and showing it off, but I didn’t want my adulthood to be all about accumulating stuff. I wanted to write books, and I knew I wasn’t going to get rich off that (not anytime soon!). With that decision made, my idea of success changed. On the everyday front, it meant having a job that would allow me to write as much as possible and pay for postage to send off queries and manuscripts with SASEs. Being successful meant doing what I loved and being happy, regardless of how much (or how little) stuff I accumulated.

My goal initially was to be published by a traditional press–whether small or big, I didn’t care–and I did that eventually. At 34, I won a small press contest where the grand prize was publication. When AND THEN SHE WAS GONE came out, I was thrilled. And so was everyone who’d ever known me who realized how hard I’d worked for over a decade to reach that point. I sold something like 150 books at my first-ever signing, and, holy cow, I felt like a million bucks! Then I signed with an agent, got a deal with a big NY publisher, and my idea of success shifted again. Sure, I wanted to hit the New York Times list as much as anyone (seriously, what writer doesn’t?), but that wasn’t a deciding factor in whether or not my career was successful. I dreamed of being able to support myself writing, and by age 40, I was doing that as well.

I remember saying to a friend back then, “You know, I have everything I could possibly want. I’m passionate about what I do, I can’t wait to wake up every morning, I love my friends, I have a cozy condo, my car is paid off, what else could there be? I’m about as happy as they come!” I didn’t have a lot, but I had all I needed. That seemed like the penultimate success to me. And then I met Ed, and I realized, “Ah, this is like the cherry atop the icing atop a really amazing cake!”

Ed is someone who also appreciates simple things over material things. His definition of success is much like mine: being able to do what you love for a living and sharing your life with someone who understands and appreciates you. He reminds me everyday of what’s important, and I feel beyond fortunate to have him in my life.

When I was worrying about THE COUGAR CLUB and how it would do, since it was my debut in women’s fiction, and wondering if I would get another contract for more women’s fic books and what I would do if that didn’t happen (well, with the economy the way it is, money is tight and publishers are being extra-careful). I thought about it and I thought some more, and I finally said to Ed, “No matter what happens, I will always write. No one can stop me from doing that, ever. And I will always have you. With those two things in my life, how could I not feel successful?” Yeah, that sounds terribly corny, but it made me feel so much better and less frantic to realize it.

Which reminds me of a gift-type book I wrote eons ago that one of my sister’s long-gone artist boyfriends was going to illustrate. It was called YOU’RE NEVER A FAILURE IF YOUR SOCKS MATCH, and it listed a whole bunch of really simple things that make everyone “worthy:” You’re never a failure if your dog loves you, your cat loves you, you love yourself…and so on. I wish I could find that danged manuscript. It’s somewhere in a folder in a box in the basement. If I ever unearth it, I’ll share it in a post. But the gist of the book was that being happy with who you are, wherever you are in your life = success. Truly.

So what makes you feel successful in your everyday life? Is it seeing the smile on your child’s face? Watching the bulbs you planted last fall grow into gorgeous flowers? Is it volunteering? Completing a project at work? Inquiring minds want to know!