The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Monday, August 2, 2021

A Book to Amp Up Your Life

 I recently read Karen Arrington's book, Your Next Level Life. It takes a conversational tone on how to to amp up your life, and even though it's written to help Black women improve their lives, it would help everyone. 

I'm going to share some details about Karen, and then I'll share my review.

 


Karen Arrington is an award-winning author, women’s empowerment expert + global philanthropist + winner of an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work.

Karen’s coaching, mentoring + philanthropic work spans over 100,000 hours of service — including her position as a Goodwill Ambassador to Sierra Leone, her work as the co-founder of the first Diabetes Awareness Day in West Africa, and her role as the founder of The Miss Black USA Pageant.

She won a 2020 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for her book, Your Next Level Life: 7 Rules of Power, Confidence and Opportunity for Black Women In America. She has also been honored by The Lifetime Network, Jones New York + other major media outlets for her tireless advocacy for women’s health, success + empowerment -- including a Red Dress Award from Woman’s Day Magazine for her efforts in the fight against heart disease, the #1 killer of women.

Over the past 20 years, Karen has helped over 1,000 women step into powerful careers in media, business, medicine + law — transcending hardship, abuse + financial limitations, and transforming their lives + communities. Today, Karen offers private coaching + global service retreats around the world for ambitious women who want to live their best lives -- only better.



Here is what I posted on Amazon:

This is definitely not the kind of book I usually read. And usually, I don't even give a moment's attention to ideas like "dream-big" and "write-your-dream-down" and "your-dream-is-your-birthright." However, some wonderful things have happened to me lately. One of my dreams came true (I got a book published that I'd worked on for five years) so now I DO believe in taking a risk and thinking outside the box and believing in a dream. 

Karen Arrington is Black. She's a successful businesswoman and philanthropist, and her book was written with Black women in mind... but her advice works for every woman. Really, it would work for every person. Harrington shares big "rules" to follow, like "Expand Your Horizons" and "Identifiy Your Superpowers" to small gems. A tiny tidbit I appreciated was this one: make chores like researching scholarships (or agents/publishers, in my case) fun and inspiring. I've never made my surroundings pleasant when doing grunt work like this. A candle? Music? Having a friend over? Making a few changes would have made chores like this more appealing, and obviously. Harrington has what it takes to make her cause more appealing... to make her business propositions appealing. So give this book a read if you have dreams you've not reached yet...

So, if you'd like some help reaching for the stars--and being able to grasp them--read Arrington's Your Next Level Life. You might be surprised with what happens...


Monday, June 21, 2021

Who's Your Cheerleader?

 I belong to a writing critique group. I belong to a writing accountability group. Both of them are full of writing friends who are encouraging and helpful, in countless ways.

My husband? He tries. However, he's not a writer, so sometimes his attempts at being helpful go awry.

Recently, I read a post from a writer whose family had gotten her a cake made. Emblazoned across the cake was the word Writer. 

Too often, we get rejected as writers. We write and draft and revise... and all we get is a "no thanks" from editors and publishers.

Check out my post about my cheerleaders... and about my hubby who means well, but I might limit his megaphone use in the future...




Monday, June 14, 2021

Shifting Thinking

 I'm old. I'm rooted in the "old school" ways. However, when something new happens to you, you have to get some new tools in your tool belt.

I recently was fortunate enough to get my book published. That is definitely something new. Before, I only had to contend with a long string of rejection emails--or no email at all. Now, I have to shift my thinking so I can promote my book.





This is one thing I did: I created some shirts. I wore it when I went to Tulsa recently, and the shirt did spark some conversations.

I'm busy speaking to bookstore owners and museum personnel, to hopefully set up some author events. This is also new.

And I'm taking a break from writing curriculum to write this post. My publisher (the brilliant Margo Dill) is working on getting sponsors who will buy classroom sets of my book for teachers, and I'm writing the curriculm materials that will accompany the sets. As a teacher, I'd want a variety of different activities to do with the book, along with comprehension questions (to make it easier, when adding a new book to the classroom's reading list).

How about you? What new things are you doing lately?




Saturday, June 5, 2021

Garth Brooks' Hands

 I went to Tulsa last week for the 100-year commemoration of the Tulsa Race Massacre. I didn't sell any books--physically--but I think I "sold" a few through the conversations I had with people.

Before the trip, I was looking forward to seeing Alfre Woodard and Wes Studi--both former Tulsans and both actors--and was not thrilled with the prospect of seeing Garth Brooks--also a child of Tulsa. (All three were among the stars at a fundraising brunch.) Garth Brooks ended up stealing my heart. You can read my post about Brooks... and how I squeal even now, thinking about it.


                                        This was a mural on the wall of Greenwood building.

These are some things I learned:

  • Don't discount the chance encounters. Even though I was not able to set up a table and sell my books, I met people... I met families, and I hope that some of them order my book, read it, learn from it, and review it.
  • Taking a risk is worth it. After checking out of our hotel and heading home, my friend and I stopped at the Philbrook, a way-cool museum in Tulsa. The goal: to speak to the buyer for the gift shop so (hopefully) they would carry my book. My publisher (Margo Dill) had gone to the museum a couple of days before; she thought it would be the perfect place for Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story.
          Unfortunately, the buyer was in a (Zoom) meeting. I spoke to a few of the gift shop employees, 
          connected to one in particular, and asked him to give my card to the buyer. I started to leave... 
          then stopped and asked, "Would you give her a copy of the book?" He agreed, and gave it to her 
          right then. As she left the Zoom momentarily, she got intrigued (a book written from the 
          perspective of a 12-year old African American?). The employee returned, saying, "She said she 
          gets the shop's books from Ingram. She's loyal to them." I was happy to tell him that my book
          was available through that distributor--thanks to my publisher. 

           It ended up sounding promising. I'd be thrilled if there was a spot on one of their display tables
           for my book, so when people come to the museum, they might buy a copy and the word is 
           spread about the Tulsa Race Massacre. I almost left with just dropping off a card. But I took a                 risk and went a bit further... and I think it paid off.
  •  Sometimes you reap the benefits later. Garth Brooks got a copy of my book. So did Alfre Woodard and Wes Studi and the director of the Greenwood Cultural Center. I got a wonderful   review in the St. Louis paper. Perhaps something exciting will come from one of these. I hope so...
How about you? What exciting things have you experienced or learned because of your writing?
   

Monday, May 10, 2021

My Future Trip to Tulsa Part 1

I'm still working on setting up book events when I go to Tulsa at the end of May. I'll be bringing boxes of my book... Hopefully the back of my car will be empty (or at least less loaded up) when I head back home. However, one thing has been set up.

I'm attending a brunch event and will be in the same room as some famous Tulsans.

One is Garth Brooks. I wasn't aware he was from Tulsa.

Another name is Wes Studi. The name didn't ring a bell, but as soon as I saw his face, I knew who he was.


His present-day face might not bring back memories of his work, but if I mentioned the character's name of  Magua, or if I said, "Do you remember the Native American who tried to convince a young woman (unsuccessfully) off the side of a cliff in the movie The Last of the Mohicans?" would you remember him then?





This is one of the most moving moments of the movie, in my opinion. The soundtrack--during this scene--includes a haunting fiddle piece (it's at the end of the clip). In fact, I bought the soundtrack for this single piece of music. Here is this memorable song:



Wes also played a memorable Pawnee in the movie Dances With Wolves. In the photo below, he's in the foreground, front and center. 



When I post next, I'll share the celebrity who will be at the brunch who made me squeal with uncontainable excitement. Hint: This person played one my favorite characters in the series St. Elsewhere.

How about you? What famous people have you had an encounter with? Giddy minds want to know...



Tuesday, April 6, 2021

The Invisible Vegan

 


When I was in middle-school, I was a vegetarian for a year or so. My mother was constantly worried I wasn't getting enough protein. I was. I just had an overly concerned mom. 

My dietary change was the result of me not being crazy about the taste of meat... along with a short story I'd read. James Agee wrote a moving story called "A Mother's Tale" about a cow that--like all the other cows--wants to experience getting away from the boring pasture and wants to get on the train... the train that other cows are lucky enough to get shoved onto.

The cow does get taken away (by train) to the slaughterhouse, and miraculously, escapes right before it's slaughtered. Most of their hide has been torn off, they're barely alive... but they're on a mission to warn the other cows.

Jasmine Leyva's documentary, The Invisible Vegan, is part history lesson, a tiny part cooking show and a huge part call to action. Jasmine has a calm, casual way of speaking to the viewer, making it easy for anybody to relate to her. The movie takes me back to my vegetarian days, and has probably made it so I'll never have another bacon slice or a chicken patty again.

On the journey to dispel myths and make her case, Leyva includes a movie chapter about enslaved people and how they were forcibly taken from a culture that subsisted on a plant-based diet... and how once they arrived at their new "home," they had no choice but to eat low on the hog.

Now--in 2021--there are minority neighborhoods without access to decent (and affordable) vegetables and fruit.  According to some of the experts who star in this documentary, we should rally for fresh food just like we should rally for social justice.



 If you're thinking of having "Meatless Mondays" or you're seriously considering your food choices, I highly recommend watching Jasmine Leyva's documentary. It's entertaining, engaging and relatable. You can watch the trailer below:

 https://youtu.be/rw2Qp7hXpH0

And here are some other posts reviewing the movie or interviewing the director:

March 22nd @ WOW! Women on Writing
Join us today when we celebrate the launch of our very first virtual film tour featuring Jasmine Leyva's eye-opening documentary, The Invisible Vegan. Find out more about this incredible film, read an interview with the director, and find out how you can stream it.

March 22nd @ Plant to You
Check out Carleigh's blog for her recommendation of The Invisible Vegan.

March 24th @ The Faerie Review
Find out more about the documentary The Invisible Vegan and how you can stream it online today.

March 27th @ Boots, Shoes, and Fashion
Visit Linda's blog where she reviews Jasmine Leyva's film The Invisible Vegan.

March 28th @ Lady Unemployed
Visit Nicole's blog today where Lisa Jones is a guest reviewer and shares her thoughts of Jasmine Leyva's documentary The Invisible Vegan.

March 29th @ AJ Sefton's Blog
Join AJ as he reviews the eye-opening documentary The Invisible Vegan.

March 30th @ Strength 4 Spouses
Wendi shares her insights into the documentary The Invisible Vegan

March 31st @ Merc With a Movie Blog
Visit this movie blog today and find out their review of The Invisible Vegan.

April 2nd @ Knotty Needle
Seeking to transform her own eating habits, blogger Judy Hudgins shares her insights about the documentary The Invisible Vegan. 

April 2nd @ Brookes Bookstagram
Visit Brookes Instagram page today to read her review of The Invisible Vegan.

April 5th @ Michelle Cornish' Blog
Join Michelle as she reviews the documentary The Invisible Vegan

April 7th @ Sioux's Page
Sioux shares her own insights into the documentary The Invisible Vegan.

April 12th @ Look to the Western Sky
Join Margo as she shares her insights into the film The Invisible Vegan and interviews the director Jasmine Leyva.

April 15th @ Wild Hearted
Join Ashley as she reviews the film The Invisible Vegan

April 16th @ Diary of a Smart Chick
Join Kathryn as she reviews the eye-opening documentary The Invisible Vegan.

April 18th @ Leafy Souls
Join the team at Leafy Souls and read their insights into Jasmine's powerful documentary The Invisible Vegan.

April 19th @ Carole Mertz Blog
Join Carole as she reviews the film The Invisible Vegan and shares her insights into this powerful documentary. 

April 21st @ Deborah Adams' Blog
Join Deborah as she reviews the documentary The Invisible Vegan.



About the Author, Jasmine Leyva
 

Activist, actress, and documentary filmmaker, Jasmine is passionate about veganism, social justice, and telling her own stories. With a Bachelor of Arts in TV, Film and Media and a Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting, Jasmine is unapologetically an artist. She has worked as an associate producer on a NAACP winning docuseries entitled Unsung and has written and produced for Being, a docuseries highlighting dynamic entertainers in film and music.


Jasmine ultimately decided to let go of her nine-to-five and focus on her goals with no boss except for her own creativity. She went on to produce her own feature length documentary, The Invisible Vegan, a film that chronicles her personal experience with plant-based eating.  The film also explains how plant-based eating is directly linked to African roots and how African-American eating habits have been debased by a chain of oppression. 

Jasmine’s recently appeared on the Vegan Women SummitThe Sarah Scoop Show, and the 

Soul On Fire podcast.

 

Website: https://jasmineleyva.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jasmine_c_leyva

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUmSXRtjPgc_JQ4N-h67VUg

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jasminecleyva/

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Bittersweet... and Accountable

Life is bittersweet these days. I know, we still have to wear masks and social distance. There are still businesses and community resources (like libraries) that are closed (as far as what used to be their "normal"). People are still contracting Covid 19 and are getting seriously ill or dying. That's the bitter part.

However, after being on hold for a hour (when spread over several calls to pharmacy/store chains) and registering on countless web pages, and getting lost while navigating coronavirus navigation sites, I finally snagged a couple of appointments for the vaccine. It will involve a 3-hour trip (each way) but with a stack of music CDs and an old battered car I love, the trip will be a pleasure. That's one of the sweet things I've got going.

Also, I have a wonderful publisher who's working so hard for me. She's edited my book (which will debut in mid-April), in the middle of the night she's sending me emails with incredible ideas (which says something about how tireless she is, and it says something of the fall-asleep-on-the-couch-at-8-PM-and-wake-up-at-1-AM habit I've unfortunately developed, because I was getting them as soon as she sent them), and she's doing so many things to ensure my book has the best beginning. That's a super sweet part of my life.


                                                                         image by pixabay


Finally, I've written a post for WOW on being accountable as a writer. It speaks of how my wide and flat rear end gets kicked by a group of writers. If you're wondering how to jumpstart your writing productivity... if you're getting lazy about sending out queries... if you sometimes wish you had some experienced friends to help you with your writing/publishing--form a writing accountability group. In my post, I share some of my experiences with the Butt-Kickers.

How about you? What sweet things are you enjoying these days? 

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Save the Cat! Strikes Again

 I've said over and over I'm a pantser. I don't usually plot--instead I fly by the seat of my pants--and in earlier attempts at writing a novel, it resulted in one disaster after another. Rambling manuscripts. Boring stories that weren't really stories. I was at a loss at how to outline or plot a novel-length piece...

... until I found the book Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. This how-to book taught me the structure I needed, but it also had enough room for fleshing things out, making me feel like I was still pantsing--a little.

At the time I was working on a contemporary middle-school/YA novel about a young girl who "channels" Emmett Till. She's a cutter. She's plagued by bullies. In preparing to work on the plot, I inhaled Save the Cat! in huge gulps. I decided to do something large and visual. I bought 8 wooden yardsticks (when cut in half, there would be 15, one for each beat or plot point). I bought different colored index cards, and different colored push pins. (That last one even has me flummoxed. I think I just wanted everything matchy-matchy.) My brilliant idea: I would have the whole plot portable. I'd have the index cards--after I filled them out with the scenes--they'd be tacked to the yardsticks, and when I wasn't working on the story, I could prop them up in a corner.

How did that work out? Well, the yardsticks are neatly stacked under a futon in our spare bedroom, communing with the dust bunnies. The push pins and index cards? Who knows where those puppies went? I realized I needed more help.

Thankfully there is a set of cards and a course, and they're exactly the nudge (and guidance) I need.

First, the beat cards and scene cards. 



The beat cards are each labeled with helpful reminders to keep the writer on track. If you use the reminders on the scene cards (including the reminder I need: "emotional change of the main character") you won't head toward the ditch and get stuck, plot-wise. I've already started filling the cards out... and I'll probably use the yard sticks in our fire pit.

The course is self-paced, and so spot-on. There's videos, homework assignments, and things to read. Some of the advice from the course I'm repeating to myself over and over include:

  • Keep the beats simple--1 or 2 sentences.
  • All the beats should fit on one page, so you can easily get the big visual.
In one part of the course, the "spine" of the story is examined. How well does the story stand up on its own? Here are some points I am going to have to keep in mind:
  • How does the story begin and how does it end? Like bookends, these should be opposites.
  • What does the main character want, and what do they need? The external goals are easy, but as writers, we have to dig deep to find out what the character needs.
Another part of the course asks questions to see how we might need to fix our story. As I work on my manuscript, I'm going to have to regularly ask myself:
  • Does my hero lead the action? That means I need to make sure there is action.
  • Is there a variety of emotions, or it one long, flat note? My story is serious, but I need to include some humorous moments as well.
The videos break down the Save the Cat! concepts so they're easy to understand, and they're engaging. The class is reasonably priced, and the cards are quite inexpensive. If you're struggling with your manuscript, if you haven't even started and you don't know where to begin, I would highly recommend investing in both.

Here's some more information, along with other stops on this tour:

First, what is Save the Cat!®? 

Save the Cat! provides writers the resources they need to develop their screenplays and novels based on a series of best-selling books, primarily written by Blake Snyder (1957- 2009). Blake’s method is based on 10 distinctive genres and his 15 story beats (the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet). Our books, workshops, story structure software, apps, and story coaching teach you everything you need to unlock the fundamentals and mechanics of plot and character transformation. 

Find out more about Save the Cat! by visiting their webpage at https://savethecat.com/

About the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Online Course

This course is designed for writers to turn their idea into a movie or novel. This learn-at-your-own-pace online class helps you develop the 15 key “beats” or “plot points” of your story. Strung together, in the right order, these 15 beats make up the blueprint to a successful screenplay or novel. 

You'll Turn an Idea into a Story by Learning to... 

• Create a solid beat sheet that will serve as the road map, and “backbone” of your story 

• Identify and know the key components of your story genre • Learn the clichés of your genre so that you can break them like an artist 

• Plot your hero’s journey and “transformation” • Troubleshoot your story idea for viability 

• Write a compelling logline or elevator pitch 

This Course Is for Those Who... 

• Want to troubleshoot an existing story 

• Have so many great ideas and struggle to choose "the one" 

• Are ready to write but not sure how to start 

• Are determined to finish a half-written story 

• Want to learn 

This Course Includes… 

• Over 3 hours and 17 minutes of original video production 

• 9 downloadable worksheets • 3 reading assignments (book not included) 

• 4 homework assignments 

Course Value: $59 

Find out more information about the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Online Course by visiting https://www.savethecatcourses.com/courses/cracking-the-beat-sheet.

About Save the Cat! Story Cards

Introducing Save the Cat!®Story Cards, consisting of Save the Cat! Beat Cards and Save the Cat! Scene Cards, all designed to outline and develop your story. 

Save the Cat! Beat Cards 

Crack your story from the “Opening Image” to the “Final Image.” Save the Cat!® Beat Cards provide writers with the 15 key plot points to map out your script or novel. Every set contains 15 individual index cards with helpful explanations of each beat to form the foundation of your story. 

Save the Cat! Scene Cards 

Every scene of your story needs to communicate “place,” “basic action,” “emotional transformation,” and “outcome.” The Save the Cat!® Scene Cards help writers nail the purpose of every scene. Each set of cards contains 40 color-coded cards broken down by act, with 10 extra cards because we know you’ll need them. 

Cards Value: $10.95 

Find out more information about Story Cards at https://savethecat.com/story-cards

More information about Save the Cat!:

Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Online Course

https://www.savethecatcourses.com/courses/cracking-the-beat-sheet

Save the Cat! Website

https://savethecat.com/

Save the Cat! Best-Selling Books

https://savethecat.com/books

Save the Cat! Story Cards

https://savethecat.com/books

- Blog Tour Dates

 

March 7th @ Help Me Naomi

Visit Naomi's blog today and you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Story Cards and the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course.

https://helpmenaomi.com/

March 8th @ World of My Imagination

Guest writer, Stephanie Anne, reviews the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course and Save the Cat! Story Cards on Nicole's blog World of My Imagination.

https://worldofmyimagination.com/

March 9th @ Cathy Stucker's Selling Books

Visit Cathy's blog again where you can read a guest post from the Save the Cat! team about why structure is a friend, not a formula.

https://www.sellingbooks.com/

March 9th @ Sandy Kirby Quandt

Sandy shares her review of the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course and the Save the Cat! Story Cards.

https://sandykirbyquandt.com/

March 10th @ Brooke's Reviews and Sweeps

Join Brooke as she reviews the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course and the Save the Cat! Story Cards.

http://www.brookereviewsnsweeps.com/

March 11th @ Jill Sheet's Blog

Visit Jill's blog today and check out her insights into the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course and the Save the Cat! Story Cards.

http://jillsheets.blogspot.com/

March 12th @ Finished Pages

Join Renee as she reviews her experience with the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet online course.

http://finishedpages.com/

March 13th @ Writer Unboxed

Visit Therese's blog again as she reviews the Save the Cat! Story Cards. You'll want to check these out if you want to storyboard your novel!

https://writerunboxed.com/

March 14th @ The Margate Bookie

You'll definitely want to catch today's guest post where Save the Cat! discusses the power of the writer's board.

https://margatebookie.com/news/

March 15th @ My Heart is Booked

Join Danielle today where she reviews the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course and the Save the Cat! story cards.

https://www.myheartisbooked.com/

March 15th @ LM Harley

Visit Laura's blog and check out her review of the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course.

http://lmharleywriter.com/index.html

March 18th @ Cathy C. Hall Writes

Join Cathy as she shares her thoughts about the Save the Cat! Story Cards.

https://c-c-hall.com/

March 19th @ One Writer's Journey

Visit Sue's blog today as she shares her insights into the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet online course.

https://suebe.wordpress.com/

March 21st @ World of My Imagination

Join Nicole and read her review of the Save the Cat! Story Cards.

https://worldofmyimagination.com

March 22nd @ Mint Miller Writes

Mint Miller treats us to a review of the Save the Cat! Story Cards. Don't miss it!

https://www.mintmillerwrites.com/

March 23rd @ Karen Brown Tyson

Join Karen as shares a Save the Cat guest post discussing the benefits of using a board.

https://karenbrowntyson.com/

March 25th @ WOW's Editor Blog

You don't want to miss WOW's editor-in-chief, Angela Mackintosh' review of the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet online course.

https://wow-womenonwriting.com/

March 26th @ World of My Imagination

Writer Kate Mahony is a guest reviewer at World of My Imagination and she shares her thoughts about the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course.

https://worldofmyimagination.com

March 27th @ Joyful Antidotes

Visit Joy's blog today where you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet online course.


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Sioux and Stephen King: Two Peas in a Pod?

 No, of course not. Stephen King has published a few zillion more books than I have. He's famous, and I'm infamous (in some circles). However, we both have wild eyebrows (but I get mine regularly worked on by my hair stylist). 

I've been working on some creative ideas for book signings. I have a book coming out in April (can you hear me shrieking that? April!) and I'll be heading to Tulsa at the end of May for the 100-year anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. As I drive there with a carload of books, I'd like to have set up events that are clever and engaging.


                                                                        image by Pixabay


Just yesterday I got my edits. In the next couple of weeks I'll be editing my manuscript as I pore over my publisher's suggestions. My publisher. What a delightful phrase.

And in the next couple of months I'll be stretching and growing in ways I shudder to think of. A website (finally). Youtube videos. (Yikes!) I even ordered a ring light. Oh, the tech trouble I can already forsee...

If you'd like to find out some of the ideas I'm considering, check out my post on The Muffin. And if you have some suggestions, please pass them on.