Staci Troilo

Suspense, Passion... Fiction That Flutters The Heart

Category: Motivation (page 2 of 3)

6 Life Lessons from Football (A Fan’s POV)

football playerI love football season. My son plays. My husband used to play. If it’s autumn, then Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, we’re in football mode.

My son’s high school team won its home opener this Friday. Penn State won Saturday. (Yes. I live a stone’s throw from the University of Arkansas, but I watched Penn State.) I couldn’t wait for Sunday, when the Steelers would play. That would be a two-fer for me. I’d get to see my favorite team and I’d get to see some Pittsburgh skyline shots. (Gee… do you think I might be homesick?)

Steeler Football

Their game started off great. The very first play (kick off) they were gifted with a safety because of the other team’s error. They didn’t even have to do anything, and they had two points on the board. It was a great way to start the game. Then they drove the ball down the field on their first possession. I was overjoyed.

Until they fumbled near the end zone.

Ben RoethlisbergerIt kind of went downhill from there. Sacks, interceptions, punts, injuries… It was ugly. We had one good drive near the end and our offense finally put seven on the board, but we didn’t recover the onside kick. The Steelers lost, 9-16.

The good news is, the rest of our division lost, too. All four are tied for first place. Or last.

When the yelling and complaining and armchair coaching were over, I got to work. And as I prepared this post, I realized a few things.

  1. Hard work doesn’t always result in a win. It does make you a better person, though.
  2. Officials aren’t perfect (or they’re horribly biased). In short, life isn’t fair. Adapt.
  3. If your choice of entertainment raises your blood pressure, it’s no longer entertainment. It’s a health hazard. Reevaluate your attachment.
  4. In contests, there are clear winners and losers. But that doesn’t mean everyone can’t learn something from the process.
  5. There are more important things than winning. Like, how you conduct yourself in the face of adversity and how and with whom you choose to spend your time.
  6. Time spent with family is time to treasure. Years from now, no one will remember the score of the game, but everyone will remember the good times spent together.

footballWe’ve got months left in the season. I’m going to try to keep my emotional investment to a minimum and just enjoy the sport for what it is—entertainment. Maybe you can help keep me in check. If I start ranting about the games, please remind me of this post.

For Writers:

Some of these lessons can be as important for your characters as they are for society. As you work, consider:

  1. How hard your characters work at both enjoyable and miserable tasks. What do they learn from their efforts?
  2. How one character can impact outcomes for another character. Do they make bad decisions resulting in more problems? How is that adversity coped with?
  3. Do your characters have unhealthy attachments to something? Can they change their attitudes? Do they need to? Is it a harmless vice or a dangerous addiction?
  4. At the end of a conflict or battle, have all of your characters grown and changed?
  5. Do your characters have an opportunity to make a choice between a habit and a loved one? Which do they choose and why? What are the consequences?
  6. How do your characters interact with loved ones? Can you write a scene or two about which, years from now, your characters would reminisce? One that is poignant enough for your readers to remember?

So everyone, what’s your take on these lessons? Why don’t you share (WIP stories or real life experiences) in the comments section?

6 Lessons Learned Because of the First Day of School

back to school

I thought we were organized and prepared, but as you can tell, my daughter lost her blow dryer. How do you lose a blow dryer? Should have expected the unexpected.

Today is the first day of school for my kids. I have no idea where the summer went. It seems like it was just last week that they came home ready to celebrate the end of their school year. We went back to Pennsylvania for a visit, came home, and sports practices started. Now here we are, school supplies purchased and packed, and struggling to get up in time to make the bus.

I guess the adage is true: Time flies when you’re having fun. Or running all over the city as a chauffeur.

I dreaded this day since the first day of summer break. I hate not having my kids around. Sure, they weren’t around that much anyway, what with social events and sports activities, but they were here a lot more than they will be now. And in a few years, they won’t be here at all.

Saying goodbye is hard. (tweet this)

But there are positives to the new school year starting.

  1. The kids will get to see all their friends every day.
  2. They’ll get to explore new subjects and learn new things.
  3. I’ll get back into a routine, which will make writing easier than it had been this summer.
  4. There will be less mess in the house.
  5. Steeler Football is starting. (Yes, that’s a selfish one, but it’s a benefit to me.)

I don’t know if you, like me, are feeling that temporary empty nest syndrome, or if you have the house to yourself permanently, or if you have babies at home and won’t be getting a break. What I do know is that we all have things in common.

  1. We all can benefit from spending time with family and friends.
  2. Knowledge is wonderful and powerful.
  3. Routine breeds productivity.
  4. Physical decluttering leads to mental clarity.
  5. Change can be good.
  6. Entertainment in any form (particularly Steeler football, but to each his own) is necessary for recharging.

Fall isn’t always looked at as a time of new beginnings. In fact, that’s when leaves are falling, harvests are being reaped, and summer toys are being stored.

But it’s time more than just students and teachers look to autumn as a new beginning. (tweet this)

Take this opportunity to reexamine WIPs and breathe new life into your efforts. January 1 does not need to be the only time we stop, take stock, and make plans for improvement. What areas in your life could use a fresh start? Why don’t you share in the comments section?

Do You See the Magic in the Small Things?

Did you ever see something that took your breath away? Something new to you, beautiful beyond compare?

We were out shopping at a home improvement store, something that makes everyone in our family grumpy. The kids were arguing, my husband and I had grown short-tempered, and we all really just wanted to go home. Then my daughter said, “Hey. What’s that in the sky?”

cloud anomalyWe all stopped and looked. There was a large cloud in the sky colored like a rainbow. It wasn’t raining; it wasn’t even overcast that day. It was a sunny afternoon, no chance of precipitation. But there it was: the rainbow cloud.

We all stopped and stood in the parking lot, staring at the anomaly. None of us had ever seen anything like it before.

And then I noticed the true benefit: we’d all stopped arguing. There was no sniping about the heat, no arguing over what to buy, no griping about how long we were out.

We all were silent taking in the beauty of the rainbow cloud.

Sometimes nature interrupts life and we need to just stop and take it in. (tweet this)

Once we got back in the car, the fighting was over. It was as though the spectacle had erased all feelings of ill will. We were quiet, and at peace.

I’m not saying it was a magic cloud. On the contrary, I believe there is a scientific explanation for what we saw. I don’t know what it was, but I know there is one.

What I am saying is: sometimes things intrude in our lives that make them better. (tweet this)

Take a moment today to look around, to stop and smell the roses, to listen to a symphony or just walk in the park. Open your mind to a new experience and you might be surprised at how you’re elevated.

mystery novelAnd writers: consider taking a break in the action to let your characters experience something momentous, something that changes their perspectives or just gives them time to breathe. Sometimes the best parts of your work can be found not in the action scenes, but in the downtime between them.

In my recently published novel, Mystery Heir, the most poignant scene doesn’t occur during the action. It occurs in the moments between, when protagonist Naomi reunites with her new friend, Aaron. Here is an excerpt:

Out in the waiting area, Penelope and Ryan were standing and talking. But Naomi’s eyes were drawn to the benches. That’s where Aaron sat, alone, waiting. She headed straight for him, and when he saw her, he leapt up and ran at her. He flung his arms around her waist, nearly taking them both down to the floor in the process. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and put her head down to his. She had a great rapport with all her college students, but she couldn’t remember the last time she had bonded so quickly or so fully with a younger child. She stood there, enveloped in his embrace, and marveled at her fondness for him.

“I was worried about you,” his muffled voice said from inside the hug.

She pulled away from him and looked into his eyes. “I’m fine. I was worried about you.” She pulled him down on the bench beside her.

“They couldn’t reach my mom last night. She was in surgery.”

“Oh no! Is she okay?” Penelope asked. She and Ryan had walked over and she heard Aaron’s last statements.

“She’s fine. She’s a nurse at St. Vincent’s Hospital. I guess she was called into some surgical procedure, and they couldn’t get her out. They reached her this morning. She’s on her way here now.”

“I’m sure she’ll be happy to see you’re safe,” Penelope said.

He looked at her, then turned back to Naomi. “They’re bringing Social Services in, too.”

Naomi took his hand and squeezed it. His eyes were dry, but she could see the sadness and fear in them. “Everything will work out, Aaron. You wait and see.”

He shrugged. “I’m glad you’re okay. And I’m sorry I blamed you. I know it wasn’t your fault.”

She dropped his hand and put her arm around his shoulder, hugging him again. “No worries now.” No matter what he said, what anyone said, she’d always carry guilt for what happened to him.

Ryan said, “Aaron, Miss Williamson from Social Services is here. She’d like to see you before your mom arrives.”

Naomi gave his shoulders one more squeeze, then she turned him to face her. “Listen to me. You’re going to be fine. And you have my number. If you ever need anything, anything, you call me. Understand?”

He nodded. And without another word, he got up and went off with Deputy Ryan.

“Good kid,” Penelope said.

“Yeah,” Naomi said. Her voice was hoarse, and Penelope was wise enough not to comment on it.


So you see, the downtime between action scenes and plot progression is where readers learn the most about your characters. Make sure you use those slower moments to explore your characters’ depths.

If you’d like to read more of Mystery Heir, you can find it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

If you’d like to share something that stopped either you or one of your characters and led to a breakthrough moment, tell us about it in the comments below.

3 Writing Lessons Learned While on Vacation

One of our favorite vacations is going to the beach. I’m sure I mentioned it before; we’ve been to Jamaica, California, Hawaii, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and several East Coast beaches ranging from New Jersey through Florida. There’s something about a vast body of water—the breeze bringing that briny scent to your nose—and wiggling your toes in the grainy sand that just sings “relaxation” to me and my family. Having the sun warm your skin and cooling off by jumping waves… that’s one luxury my family splurges on and doesn’t feel guilty about it. Well, not too guilty.

Hilton Head

View of Hilton Head Beach

One year, when my daughter was three, we went to Hilton Head, South Carolina with my husband’s family. We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and decided to go to Mass that evening so we would have all day Sunday on the beach. My little girl was ramping up into a full blown fit. She didn’t think she should have to go to church when she was on vacation. Finally, my mother-in-law came to our rescue and began talking to my daughter.

She reminded her that Jesus died for our sins, so it wouldn’t be nice for us to ignore him just because we were on vacation.

File:Andrea Mantegna 036.jpg

The Agony in the Garden.
Image via Andrea Mantegna [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

My daughter promptly stomped her foot and crossed her arms over her chest. She replied, “He does that every year. You’d think he’d know not to go into that garden by now.” Then she turned to go get ready for Mass.

Yes, you read that right. She was three.

On one hand, I was mortified that she was so belligerent with us and my mother-in-law. On the other, I was proud that she remembered the story of Christ’s persecution and crucifixion.

My family still attends Mass regularly. We go every Holy Day and every Sunday, even when we’re on vacation. It’s more than just a family tradition; it’s part of who we are. Neither of my kids even complain about going. Whenever I doubt my parenting skills, I think about how accomplished my kids are intellectually, athletically, and especially spiritually, and the doubt goes away. For all my faults, we’re raising two wonderful children.

It made me wonder if there were any lessons I could take away from those experiences that would help me with my writing. And as usual, there were.

  1. Routine, in any endeavor, gets things done.
    Just as we didn’t, and don’t, stop attending Mass because of vacation, bad weather, or general inconvenience, I don’t stop writing because of those things either. The best way to complete a manuscript is the SAW method—Sit And Write. There will always be things that call you away from writing. The trick to getting your work done is to ignore those things. You can’t get published if you don’t complete your work, and you won’t complete your work if you keep walking away from it.
  2. A change of scenery can do wonders for you.
    Just as we take vacations and do things we enjoy to recharge our batteries, when I write, sometimes I get in a rut. Sometimes I even get writers block. I agree with the experts who say the best way to get past the block is to writer through it. Just write anything. But I also believe that the status quo may not be the best way to go about it. If you write in your office, try your patio. If you write in a coffeehouse, try working in the park.
  3. Don’t try to change who you are.
    In life, pretending to be someone you aren’t and abandoning your values and traditions will never result in anything positive. There are those who believe in the “fake it till you make it” philosophy, but I believe in honesty and integrity. Just as I live my life that way—no pretenses, no acting—I write that way. I’m not saying you have to write what you know. I’m just as able as the next person to write a story about a time and space traveler who defeats an alien army one hundred years in the future before it comes to and conquers Earth. Do I “know” that? No more than the next person. I mean really, who could possibly know about time and space travel and about defeating an alien army? No one. It’s never been done. But if I’m true to my writing style, if I develop my sci-fi characters the same way I develop my romance characters, if I construct my settings and weave my plot with the same attention to detail I do in my romance writing, then I am being true to myself and my abilities. And that’s what will create rich story worlds and realistic characters.

I’m sure all of you have stories in your past that are just cute little anecdotes you tell over coffee at family events. Consider looking at those stories for life lessons. For professional lessons. Do you have one or more in mind? I hope so. Why don’t you share with us in the comments section?

Times Change — Embracing New Traditions

fourth of july

Backyard Fireworks

We celebrated Independence Day this past week. In addition to the swimming and the picnic food, we set off fireworks. That’s one of my son’s favorite things to do. I think it has something to do with the power of the explosives and the exhilaration the display causes everyone who’s watching. The ones we set off this year were pretty good, for backyard fireworks.


Excited Casey and
Scared Max

My family enjoyed them. One of my dogs did. The other was frightened, to the point he made himself sick. Maybe next year he’ll adapt better and enjoy the show like his brother does.

My nephew, when he was young, called it a “spectacular extravaganza in the sky.” It’s cuter if you hear it coming from the lispy voice of a two year old. He’s twenty-five now, but I’m pretty sure he still likes fireworks. I don’t know anyone (my youngest dog excluded) who doesn’t like them.

Festa di Italia

Vandergrift Festival

Growing up, Independence Day was spent at the local festival in my hometown. There were food stands, game booths, and live bands for days. Fireworks started around 9:00 on the fourth and lasted for about an hour, culminating in a grand finale that left us all breathless. Most people stayed at the festival to watch the show, but my family always went to my grandparents’ house. Their backyard faced the field where the fireworks were set off.

Those are some of my fondest memories of childhood.

There were the years when I was very young and quite frightened that the embers would land on me. I stood on the porch under the roof and peaked out at the ones that were above my head. There were the years when I was older and stood as close to the field I could, eagerly anticipating the next explosion, and the next, and the next.

We stopped going when my grandfather passed away. My grandmother’s heart wasn’t in it anymore, and if she wasn’t celebrating, it seemed wrong to enjoy the show without her.

As the years went on, I started dating the boy who became my husband. We’d watch the fireworks from his parents’ backyard. It always left me nostalgic for my younger years, but it was nice being with the boy I loved.

Samantha/Seth toddlers

My Kids as Toddlers Ready for Summer Fun with Family

When we were married and had kids, we’d bring them to the festival and then to my in-laws’ house. They had a blast, and so did we. But time marches on, and things change. We moved away, and getting back for the festival became harder and harder. Finally we stopped going home for the festival, and now we live so far away and our kids’ schedules are so full, we couldn’t go home if we wanted to.

Not that it matters.

My town stopped having the Fourth of July Festival years ago, choosing instead to have only the church festival in August.

What’s the point of this story, you ask?

It’s so you understand that time marches on. Things change, people change, and you should embrace every opportunity that comes your way. Before long, loved ones will be gone, events will have changed or ceased to exist, and you might have to start your own traditions just to have any connection with your past. And connections with your past forge the person you are today.

backyard fireworks tradition

My grown son preparing our fireworks display.
Traditions change, but the emotions behind them remain.

My husband and I do what we can to keep family traditions alive for our kids—even when we have to change things to keep the traditions alive. Do you still keep old traditions alive for your family? Why don’t you share some traditions in the comments section below?

And writers, in addition to the family matters discussed above, consider how to apply these principles to your WIPs. Do you have family traditions that you can work into your characters’ lives? Have those traditions changed over the years? If so, for the better or worse? How do these traditions impact your characters? Don’t forget to include setting, senses, and character reactions. Maybe you could discuss a tradition you’re incorporating into your WIP in the comments section.

How Everyday Life Becomes Fodder for Writing

timeToday’s blog post almost didn’t happen. I just ran out of time. I always reserve my weekends for spending time with my family. But Sundays always play out pretty much the same way: get up, go to Mass, (if it’s football season, watch the Steelers), prepare my blog, make sure laundry is done, make sure homework is done, and just generally hang out with each other until we’re tired and go to bed (or in my case, until I go to bed, because it seems I’m always tired).

Yesterday’s schedule was completely busted from the very beginning. I should have known the night before that it was going to be an issue and just written the blog then.

My daughter has a career-prep class this term, so she has to job-shadow someone who works in a profession that interests her. She chose her tennis coach, because she thinks (this week) she might want to do that for a living. She had to spend the whole day on the court with him, so we had to go to an earlier Mass than we usually do. Fine. I rushed the whole household through their morning routines, and we made it out the door (late) and didn’t quite manage to feed the dogs. No problem, I thought. We were earlier than usual, so they could eat when we got home and they’d just be a little behind schedule.

We attended a different church than we usually do (because we needed a different Mass time) and got a long-winded priest. That also put us behind schedule. I didn’t mind that much, because his homily was actually quite good, but he ended Mass with a plea for us to return for an additional Mass that day to witness the Confirmation class receive their Sacrament. I love the Confirmation Mass, but, really? We snuck out during the recessional hymn. We had to get our daughter fed and to the court.

We figured a dash into Steak ‘n Shake would get us a quick breakfast and then we’d be on the road. Our Steak ‘n Shake is never crowded and always fast. We entered a time warp. The food just never came. My husband finally left and took my daughter—foodless—to the tennis court, while my son and I stayed at the restaurant and waited.

While my son and I were waiting, a girl he knew from school came in. They exchanged a few words and she and her family were seated by us. In fact, she and my son were back to back. They could have kept talking, but except to say how miserable they were, what would have been the point? She was probably eavesdropping on our conversation anyway. It had devolved into a ridiculous one about the merits of haircuts with the Flowbee®. We were laughing pretty hard when we started doing our own version of the infomercial. (We do things like that far too often when we’re bored.)

Our food finally came and my husband finally came back. All told, we were there for about ninety minutes. At a Steak n’ Shake! And we didn’t even get shakes. There’s something not right with that.

When we got home, we finally fed the poor dogs and I started laundry. We’re perpetually low on towels, especially now that we’ve opened the pool. Once I had that going, we went outside and began working on repairing our hot tub. I don’t know if the man in your house is successful at home repairs, but mine usually is. Of course, there could be parts left over afterward. And it usually takes twice as long as it should. But the end result is usually success, so I can’t complain. We spent most of the afternoon out there. It probably could have gone faster, but we had to keep dragging the dogs out of the pool and there was a chunk of time where we had to chase a frog so the dogs didn’t eat it. However, the end result is that the hot tub now works. Of course, I forgot to finish the laundry and the towels are wrinkled in the dryer. Which beats them being mildewed in the washer, I guess.

Around this time, I came in to get dinner ready and my husband went to get my daughter. After we all were gathered around the table and shared stories about tennis and the hot tub, there was the usual battle of kitchen chores and then the evening rush to gather items for Monday’s classes. My daughter will be starting high school tennis practices, so that required extra preparation on her part for some reason. I don’t miss being a teenager.

I went to bed exhausted. So did my husband.

I had completely forgotten about preparing my blog.

I opened my eyes this morning, not slowly with bleary dread but immediately with disbelief and panic. How could I have missed my blogging day?

So after my usual rush to get the kids to school and my husband off to work, I sat down to write this apology to you, and to turn it into something useful. The topic I had planned on writing could wait. This is more important.

Yesterday was one of those days that got away from me. We all have them. More than we’d like, I’m sure. So let’s mine them for the gold that they are and turn them into writing treasure.

  • There was a comedy of errors that made us late for Mass. There’s a story in what happened in my house before we even walked out the door.
  • A Mass (or any religious service) is a good topic for a story, if you can put a twist on it that hasn’t been done before.
  • Restaurants make excellent backdrops for stories (especially if you’re trapped in one because your ride left and you don’t have your wallet with you).
  • Home improvement stories can be humorous (they made a sitcom out of them, duh) or angst-ridden or convey any emotion you want.
  • Animals and swimming pools? Need I say more?
  • Family dinners? Need I say more?

So, there you go. I didn’t get my blog done yesterday, but I ended up with six writing prompts, probably more if I really massaged things a bit. For example, the girl my son bumped into at the restaurant could become a teen love story.

We’re surrounded everyday with writing prompts. We just need to take the time to look at them. What did you do yesterday that might make a good story? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Reality Blogger Award

realityA shout-out and thank you to Janna Hill, blogger extraordinaire at, for this nomination. It took me a while to post this because I’ve been practicing my acceptance speech. Then I realized I don’t actually get to give one. I just have to answer the questions below. So really, I wasted your time. Twice now, once while I wrote a beautiful and heart-wrenching speech, and once while you read this paragraph. So, without further ado, I give you my answers:

If you could change one thing what would you change?

My husband’s mind when we argue.

If you could repeat an age, what would it be?

The Age of Aquarius was pretty cool, if you’ve ever watched Hair. Seriously, I have my husband, my kids, my dogs… I’m pretty happy.

What one thing really scares you?


What is one dream you have not completed, and do you think you’ll be able to complete it?

I’d love to out-sell J. K. Rowling, but I think that’s why it’s called a dream.

If you could be someone else for one day, who would it be?

I wouldn’t want to be someone else. I know what a mess my thoughts can be; I’d hate to see what kind of mess I’d stumble into in someone else’s.

So, the rules state I should choose up to twenty bloggers. Up to? Craziness. Do you know how many blogs there are out there? What topics they cover? How often they post? Insanity. Instead, I chose just a smattering of blogs that have touched me in a special way over the last year. I hope you check them out, and check out Janna Hill’s, too. In no particular order, here they are:

Joy Keeney @

P. C. Zick @

Candace Knoebel @

Doug Oldfield @

Jooseph Anthony @

Here are the rest of the rules. Nominees:

  • Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you
  • Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and link back to them
  • Answer the 5 questions presented
  • Nominate up to 20 blogs for the award and notify them on their blogs
  • Copy and paste the award (found above, or in my sidebar) on your blog somewhere

That’s it. Enjoy your award, winners, and the rest of you, please visit my nominees.

Inspiration for 2013’s Goals and Targets

comedy tragedy masksHappy New Year!

For those of you who thought the world was going to end in December (an end that the Mayan’s never in fact predicted), welcome back to the party. And it is a party, by the way. I have the highest hopes for 2013 being a fabulous year.

It’s time for resolutions. It’s a time I usually dread. I think back over the resolutions I’ve made (and never kept) in the past and wonder why I should bother. But this year I have a better outlook. One reason is that I know even attempting to improve myself in any way is better than the status quo. Another reason is that everyone needs a clean slate once in a while. This is a great time for a fresh start. Finally, I usually look at the resolutions as something bad that I have to try to change. This year I’m looking at them as something good that I want to try to attain. Perhaps a different outlook will make all the difference in achieving my goals. Even though I’m just starting today (my vacation is just ending because my kids are just going back to school today), I already feel better than I have in prior years. It all has to do with outlook.

Many writing sites say to set both goals (something within your control) and targets (something outside of your control, but likely affected by your goals), and to be specific. They say if you set them publically, you’re more likely to be held accountable. I agree with the goals and targets, and I agree that a public declaration does give you motivation, but I believe that your resolutions are personal. Do what you want with them. If you want to share them for motivation, by all means, take a megaphone to the mall. If posting them above your laptop keeps them on your mind, then post them there. Write them in glitter paint and hang them across from your toilet dining table so you see them several times a day. Tell your mother-in-law so you can be harassed about them until you complete them. (Hey, whatever works for you.) But the important thing is to be specific. Use concrete numbers, not generalities, and set realistic deadlines.

In order for me to set my 2013 goals and targets, I thought back over 2012. And I realized, I had an emotional year. I laughed a lot, and I cried a lot. I cried when my niece left for boot camp, I cried when my son “graduated” middle school and cried again when his football team went undefeated this year. I cried when there were births and deaths, I cried at natural disasters and violent tragedies. I cried at Mass when I heard hymns that reminded me of my grandfather and I cried when I heard songs on the radio that reminded me how precious and short life is. I cried during movies, TV shows and reading. And, despite my kids’ utter humiliation, I even cried during certain commercials on television. I’m a softie.

But I also laughed a lot. I laughed when my husband and kids told jokes. I laughed when my dogs jumped up and licked my face. I laughed when family visited from out of state. It filled me with joy just seeing them walk in the door. I laughed (and maybe cried a little) when my daughter won her first tennis match. I laughed when I learned for the first time I was getting a story published. I laughed with my friends at writing group and at writing conferences. I laughed at myself when I did and said stupid things (more times than I care to count). I laughed when my computer posted an, “It’s dead, Jim,” message on my screen (otherwise I would have cried). I laughed when my daughter and I foolishly thought we could do the P90X system. That lasted four days. (And then I almost cried when I could barely walk.) I laughed when the Steelers hired Todd Haley as the OC. (Look where that got us.) I laughed at Christmas when my kids opened their gifts—their faces were priceless.

Yes, it was an emotional year. I wish I could erase the horrors, but we learn and grow from them, and they make us appreciate our joys and successes all the more. As I evaluate 2012, I know what I want from 2013. I hope you take the time to do an honest assessment of your last year and create a goal and target list for 2013. If you want, post it here. I’m not your mother-in-law, but I’d be happy to keep after you about your progress!

Hard Work Pays Off

I posted earlier that you send your work off and you wait and you wait and you wait. Well, I waited.

And it paid off.

Two stories were accepted for publication today. “Code Blue” and “Dudley” are being published in an anthology later in the summer.

I’ll post details when I have them, but today, I celebrate.

But only for a little bit.

And then I’ll get back to work.

Patience is a Virtue

So you’ve sent off your short story to a contest, or your query letter to an agent, or your manuscript to a publisher. And you wait. And you wait. And you wait.

It can be agonizing.

What’s a writer to do?

This is the age of instant gratification. If you need an answer immediately, go to a conference. There you can sit down with an agent or editor and have a face to face chat and find out immediately if you have what their agency is looking for. You may not like the answer you get, but at least you’ll get an answer. Immediately. If you don’t like the answer, don’t give up. Pitch to a different agent or editor. If you keep hearing “no” well, then maybe you should write something else.

If you’re willing to wait the two months for the competition, or the answer to the query or the manuscript submission, then there’s nothing you can do but wait the time out. And while you do, don’t twiddle your thumbs. Keep writing.

Someone may want to read a sequel.

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