Dream Big, Be You: What Do You Want To Be?

I didn’t start out to be a writer, so how the @#$%^&*! did I end up here? I just heard from the Cat Writers’ Association that my fiction book HIT AND RUN just won a Certificate of Excellence Award, with consideration for a Muse Medallion. I always wanted to write fiction, but it only happened when forced to reinvent myself and dream big. What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to be remembered for? What will your legacy be?

what do you want to beThe Accidental Writer

I’ve written about my journey several times and have blogged off and on for 20+ years. But the blog only gained traction about ten years ago when I took an Email course on branding and social media from Kristen Lamb (read her blog!). She asked lots of “thoughty” questions:

What do you (want to) write? What are your interests, besides the writing topics—because we are so much more than (fill-in-the-blank). Who do people “see” when they look at you? Is that the BRAND you desire to create? It must be the real you—pretend won’t cut it. People see through the phony-isity of such things. As an actor, someone able to put on a persona for different people or events, that struck a chord with me.

Taking Off the Mask, Being YOU

Okay, she didn’t use those words, but you get my drift. I had an acting coach tell me the same thing, and I wrote about it in another blog, that you are enough. Bring YOU to the table—that’s enough.

And that’s scary! Dang. And it leads me to another question–what did YOU want to be when you grew up? Kids seem to know and show even in the games they play what path they’ll take through life. Me? I wanted to be an actor because they were glamorous, people liked them, and they never laughed too loud or were at a loss for words. I could be whoever I wanted, and if folks rolled their eyes, it wasn’t about me, but the persona. Being real, though–EEEK! Then if they don’t like you (or your work), what then?

writing advice what do you want to be

“I own this content!”

What Do You Want to Be…?

As a kid, my brothers and I put on plays in the basement, and directed marathon “let’s pretend” soap operas. The recurring kid, horses, dogs, and cat characters and stories were so real, they had us in tears—and made my folks roll their eyes.

I never played with dolls, much to the dismay of my grandmother. Nope, it was stuffed animals and best-bud pretend pets who could “really talk!” Mom always said, “When Amy grows up she won’t have babies, she’ll have puppy-dogs and kitty-cats.”

Mom knew.

Write Your Passion—Be YOU, Not Someone Else’s Idea

Early in my writing career, people constantly questioned why I didn’t write about more important topics, like starving children or world peace? And was cautioned, “You’ll never make a living writing about just pets!” Thpbpbpbpbpbpbpb! (insert raspberry sound effects!)

I write about pets because that’s me. It’s what and who I am, and I am enough. No, it’s not ALL that I am, but it’s a big part. I’m not on Broadway–yet! But all my stage and tv experience serves the pet writing causes. I listened to my furry muses. And I have the bling ready for when the big moment comes.

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Writing about dogs (and cats) is serious business.

Becoming My Best Self

Something unexpected happened along the path to becoming Amy. I’m no longer at a loss for words—and instead I have to work at NOT jumping into every conversation. The animals taught me that. I don’t need to bark, howl, wag my tail (no wise cracks!) or hiss all the time to get ahead. I’ve never found being a “whisperer” to be particularly effective.

I’ve learned to be a pet “listener.” If you listen with your eyes and your heart, animals tell you what they’re thinking and why they’re acting in certain ways. Works with humans, too.

When I was a kid, I wanted to wear sparkles, tell stories with happy endings, and have bestest-bud animal friends who really talk. As an adult, when a career on the stage seemed out of reach, I turned to writing as a creative outlet, and it turned into an extraordinarily rewarding career. What did you want to be when you were a kid? Are you there yet?

what do you want to be remembered forWhen I Grow Up…

I always wanted to write fiction but at first, only made headway with nonfiction. My childhood dream came true only happened when I lost my grownup nonfiction writing career ten years ago and gave up writing to teach high school choir.

For the first time in years, I had nothing to prove and nothing to lose. So I wrote the novel I’d always wanted to READ in twenty-minute increments: before work, on lunch breaks, and after classes.

I don’t have two-legged kids. My legacy will be my written works, and I hope I will be remembered for helping cats and dogs and those who love them. And now and then, helping fellow writers with tips that helped me, like this webinar on beating writer’s block.

And today, my peers have honored my fifth book, HIT AND RUN, (complete with puppy-dog and kitty-cat characters), something I never could have predicted.

What do you want to be? There’s still time!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

 

You. Are. Enough! How to Deal With Criticism

I’m feeling philosophical today, all about how to deal with criticism.

Everybody needs some strokes. The creative mind of authors, actors, musicians, and artists takes criticism so personally, a single sneer can quash the muse. I’m an author, actor, musician and artist, so maybe I got hit with a quadruple whammy. Dang gene pool . . .

Those who read this blog know that I’ve “Kindle-ized” my backlist. I’m excited that the Aging Cat book has sold very well, and lately, the print version has done even better. But along the way, all of my books get hit with a fair amount of bad reviews. Some of the Kindle books have even been “returned.”

Huh? What happened?! Didn’t they *sniff* like my book? Why not? *whimper* THEY HATE ME!

how to deal with criticismRejection Hurts, But Comes With the Territory

I suspect you’re like me, whether you’ve published, performed, created for years or just recently dipped toes into the creative abyss. Dozens of great reviews leave me with a temporary glow, but it only takes one blistering comment to negate all the positives.

And we LOOK for those negatives, don’t we? The reader who posts a modest review must not have liked the book all that well. The audience that didn’t whistle and guffaw at our jokes, or offer stomp-along standing O’s must have hated the performance. If the artwork failed to sell, gallery attendees hated the artist.

Realistically, book returns could be accidental purchases of the Ebook instead of print. I think. Hope. Hell, maybe they really do HATE ME! I’m gonna go eat worms and die.

Nothing’s Personal—Just Feels That Way

It must be in the definition of “artist” to question our own talent and worthiness, even without help from outsiders. Self sabotage destroys more careers than anyone can measure. Because it’s safest to do nothing—pull all the books from the shelves, never write again. To try and fail feels so painful, we’d rather close ourselves off and stop trying than risk the hurt. Again.

So how many of y’all have shut down the laptop, put away the viola, thrown out paints, or given up thespian aspirations? I’ve made that “decision” dozens of times. But it never stuck. Because this is who I am. It’s what I do.

Learning To Be Vulnerable

Years ago I attended an audition workshop with the brilliant Del Shores, who noted that many people have !!@#$%^! -loads of baggage. Nobody gets out of life without some bumps, bruises, and the scars can be visible, deep inside, or both.

Successful performers (and writers ARE performers!) learn to tap-dance into this wealth of virtual crappiocca, use it to create memorable damaged characters on stage, screen, canvas, music scores—and in our books, essays and other writing. Unblemished, perfect paintings, book characters, photos and music is freakin’ BORING!

how to deal with criticismPerfect People, Perfect Pets = BORING!

In dog and cat behavior (another of my worlds), the perfect pet is a stuffed toy that has no potty accidents, no cost to feed, no need to walk in the rain, and no chewed up shoes or clawed sofas. But real pets also have baggage, seen and unseen—baggage is normal, folks. It’s what makes them special, rather than cookie-cutter boring. On top of that, the old days of “punish the bad” have shifted to “reward the good.”

I counsel clients to ignore the bad, and instead catch their pet in the act…of doing something good, and then rewarding with praise, treat, a ball or whatever floats the pet’s boat. We’ve learned that constant brow-beating or (heaven forbid!) actual beating causes pets to shut down.

It shuts down people, too, and it flat-out murders the creative process. Here are some tips to deal with writer’s block.

What floats your boat? How do you reward yourself? You are worthy, ya know! Lift yourself up, and do the same for others. Helping others feeds your own muse!

You Are Enough

Del Shores is fond of saying, “You are enough,” to his actors. No extra bells and whistles required. It applies to all creative people. Lessons learned—and I hope they’ll help you, too:

  1. We’re all damaged goods. Use it. Mine the gold and let it resonate in your work.
  2. Ignore the bad. Reward the good.
  3. You. Are. Enough.

It’ll take practice for me to believe that. But I’m getting better. How about you?

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

 

Cat Writers Virtual Awards Banquet Free To Attend: From Glammies to Jammies

This year, the COVID-19 virus derailed all of my writers’ conference plans including the Cat Writers Association Awards. So far, I’ve had to cancel attending and/or speaking at Sisters In Crime meeting, a library talk (I love libraries!), the OWFI conference, Thrillerfest, and one of my all-time favorites, the Cat Writers’ Association Annual Conference and Awards Banquet.

I’ve never missed one of the CWA events, not since it began way back in 1992. Here’s a recap of our CWA 2018 event, with some promo advice, to give you a taste. So that makes missing this year particularly angst-worthy. Le sigh…

Cat Writers’ Association Virtual Awards Banquet–Y’all Come!

But just like our feline friends, the CWA has landed on her feet. No, we won’t gather in New Jersey for seminars and workshops as in the past. But our annual contest that honors the best-of-the-best published cat work each year had already been judged, and winners selected. So our President Deb Barnes and her team of cat-tastic planners, has put together a VIRTUAL AWARDS BANQUET.

Want more details? Maybe even interested in writing about your cat(s) and joining CWA? Here are all the must-knows.

From Glammies to Jammies

We typically “glam up” for our awards banquet. But if y’all are like me, you may not have worn makeup or fancy clothes for months–not counting rhinestone-studded masks and yoga pants. So the organizers decided to make this easy for everyone. Wear what makes you happy!

IT’S FREE! Did You Hear…EVERYONE COME!

What makes it even more fun is that — there’s no cost to attend, no plane to board, no hotel room to finagle, or cat-sitters to arrange. Nope, it’s OPEN TO THE PUBLIC (that’s YOU, too!), and everyone can watch in the comfort of their own home, with cats (and dogs, or even significant others) nearby. We’ll have special speaker presenters and sponsors, and the event also will be recorded so folks can watch later — or see a re-run for what’s sure to be some great moments.

Invite anyone you think would enjoy the paw-ty. I’ll be presenting awards (so much fun to surprise outstanding colleagues!). And there also will be original music from the SHOJAI & STEELE show STRAYS, THE MUSICAL (where all the characters are cats and dogs). I even won a Certificate of Excellence on two books, and in the running for other awards (below).

How To Watch–Details Here

There are also several ways the ceremony can be viewed. The event will be streamed live on our CWA Public Facebook page where viewers can interact in the comments, or via Zoom, where they can interact in the chat room with other viewers. CWA also has an event page set up on Facebook if you care to join: bit.ly/cwaglammiestojammies

If you want to watch via Zoom, these are the options:

To join the Zoom webinar, click the link below:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82330842216?pwd=dFVFY2MveUMvdGtVUFRsMzh5a2lsdz09
Passcode: 324979
Or iPhone one-tap :
US: +12532158782,,82330842216#,,,,,,0#,,324979# or +13462487799,,82330842216#,,,,,,0#,,324979#
Or Telephone:
Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
US: +1 253 215 8782 or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 669 900 9128 or +1 301 715 8592 or +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 558 8656
Webinar ID: 823 3084 2216
Passcode: 324979
International numbers available: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kh7bf3vp0

If you run into any problems, CWA member, Bonnie Koenig will be monitoring our Facebook public page, our events page, our Facebook private page, and our Zoom chat room at least a half-hour before the event begins, so please don’t fret. She’s also answering any questions you might have, right now as we speak, so if you’ve got a question, please feel free to ask now.

Tabby’s Place Fundraising Event

We are also hosting a fundraising event for Tabby’s Place Cat Sanctuary during our event and we welcome everyone to donate. Each donation is automatically enrolled to win one of our many sponsor-supported raffle prizes and here is the link with details for the fundraiser, the prizes available, and the donation button: https://catwriters.com/wp_meow/tabbys-place-fundraiser-2020/

All we ask is that you have fun – we encourage you to wear your favorite glammie or jammie look and post a selfie on Facebook. Engage with your fellow viewers before and during the ceremony. Cheer the contest winners on, share fun stories, recipes, toast a virtual drink, and more! We’re all just so stressed out and we want this event to be a nice break from everything.

Can’t wait to see you all! I’ll be the one in rhinestone cat ears…and probably blue-purple-pink hair and lots of jewelry. (I don’t get out much these days.)

So…are you coming? Karma-Kat, Shadow-Pup, and Bravo-Dawg will be there, how about you? You KNOW you want to!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Beating Writers Block & Feeding the Muse

I’m all about beating writers block and feeding the muse. You’d think with the lockdown, I’d find more time to write. Truthfully, my motivation these days sucketh. I never suffer from wondering what to write. In fact, I’ve put together an on-demand webinar for beating writers block (currently free).

But for me, and I suspect for many others, the motivation part as well as overcoming blocks comes through inspiration. No, as a professional fulltime writer, I can’t wait around and wait for the Muse to strike. But feeding the Muse regularly does help.

So many of us get inspiration and motivation from writer conferences, but of course, this year, many have been canceled. *sigh* I’ve updated this post, based on a long-ago speech I shared at Cat Writers’ Association.

writers block

Dogs don’t care about writer’s block. They’re eager and willing to inspire your Muse.

Beating Writers Block & Feeding the Muse

I live with two furry muses, and three more live in my heart. These days my Muse whispers, demands, and sometimes screams for attention, like an itch in that impossible-to-reach spot in the middle of your back. Once you finally start scratching it feels soooooooooo good you don’t want to ever stop.

I’m bad at promising to scratch the itch “as soon as…” (fill in the blank) which is why I’m so far behind on my next thriller HIT AND RUN. The truth is, the Muse doesn’t care that we’re busy with real life and a pandemic, or that we only have 10 minutes to spare in between grocery runs (at a safe distance) and home-schooling, plus running a business from the second bedroom. The Muse just gets hungrier and more demanding the longer we ignore her gentle taps on the shoulder–sort of like a dog pawing your leg. And if ignored too long, you’ll get a thwack upside the head that wakes you from a sound sleep.

Sort of like a cat.

beating writers block

Furry inspiration offers great gifts.

 

Feeding the Muse Wherever She Strikes

A muse doesn’t care if we scribble on napkins, type with a keyboard, twitter or fritter our litter-ary time with print or Ebooks. She wakes us at 3 a.m. and demands to be fed, she sinks dagger claws into our heart and soul. The muse pushes that soggy nasty ball into our lap, urging us to throw-throw-throw with all our might, promising how good it will feel and to return that ball to our willing hand time after time after time.

She won’t relent until we give in to the urge. The urge to write. To create.

Publishing During Plague

Some of y’all know that we have had as many as 700 rose bushes surrounding our home. Over the years, the roses have been attacked by grasshoppers, leaving nothing but Addams Family stems; bulldozed by armadillos so that the tender roots fried in Texas sun; and over-pruned, which killed or crippled the plant.

More recently, we lost nearly all of our beautiful flowers to rosette disease, a plague that infects, maims, spreads like wildfire, and kills both tender new plants and healthy ancient individuals. Sound familiar?

But the grasshopper-eaten roses with viable roots produced fresh, healthier growth. Even ‘dillo-dozed roses survived—with scars, to be sure, but still produced stellar blooms. And the fraction of roses immune to the plague or protected by a safe location, now provide a roadmap for a reimagined, reinvented garden–a new normal.

Stay with me, folks, there’s a rose-thorn-sharp point to be made . . .

Perfect Time, Perfect Place, Perfect Prose — Perfect Hogwash!

As an over-zealous pruner, I’ve learned to restrain my instincts and appreciate the thorny, hardened portions of established bushes. This was a hard lesson to learn. See, if they’re cut out completely, there’s no scaffolding to support fresh growth, and the blooms fall in the dirt and are trampled–and the whole bush becomes mulch.

Embrace the battle scars of your writer-icity journey. We rarely appreciate what comes easy, and the struggle itself brings its own joy. After all, only harsh extremes of nature bring forth diamonds. The strain still sucketh–but by embracing and making the negatives a part of the process, we can–we must–endure.

Artists always find a way.

Embracing My Inner Bitch

After more than two decades of writing, I’m a prickly, hardened bitch-of-a-pet writer. I do not flinch at the “B” word, it’s a badge of honor in my world. I know when to show my teeth, and choose my battles wisely. So I have less patience for high-maintenance writers or circle-the-wagons “that’s the way we’ve always done it!” attitudes than in my youth. WARNING: Those grasshoppers are voracious and if your roots ain’t healthy, you’re toast. When the plague of nay-sayers spread negativity that eats away at creativity, the professional writer-gardener knows what, when, how, and who to cull. She also knows what positives to fertilize for new, fresh growth to support glorious future blooms.

Don’t let that fact scare you. I can say that now–you can’t see the head-shaped dent in my office wall from having the pee scared outta me mild concern. Writing is writing, and readers are readers. Publishing has a healthy root system and will survive armadillos, grasshoppers, writing in the time of Pandemic.

My speaking gigs have been cut back–so now there’s Zoom and on-demand webinars. Now my YouTube videos and Facebook Live events provide direct writer-to-reader connections. Print book sales go down, but Ebooks and Audiobook sales become more popular. Theatres close, so many artists can’t perform–and instead sing from windows, and play music on porches, and dance from living rooms all over the globe. I’m taking an on-line audition workshop, and having a ball! And by heaven, I will finish my next thriller one line, one page, one chapter at a time.

Supporting Creatives & Giving Back

Meanwhile, writers—and readers—support each other. Love a book or a writer—say so far and wide! Know a writer struggling with the effort of reinventing themselves? Shine a little color in that corner. That’s what sustains us through the dry spells, the never-ending deadlines, and rejections that nibble us raw. Mentoring each other keeps us sane–that’s the thorny protection that allows us to create our visions and bloom in our proper season.

Now then, listen–shhhhhh! Listen! Can you hear that?–put your hand over your heart and you can almost feel the rumble!? No, it’s not the printer whirring…well, maybe it is. But listen closer—and you’ll hear a symphony of blissful purrs, and the thu-thump-thump of happy wags–the sound of confident, tenacious, and oh-so-proud gardens full of Muses.

Or maybe that’s tummies growling.

So all you Creatives out there, the writers, the storytellers, the painters, the poets, the singers, and musicians, and and and … Go feed your Muse! That’s the best way to fight writers’ block. And if you’re having trouble kicking that writer’s block, maybe I’ll *see* you virtually in the on-demand class here.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

 

Thanksgiving Blessings, the Pet Writer Way

It’s two days before Thanksgiving 2018 and time again to count my furry blessings. This year I’m thankful to be home with my family—furry and human—rather than on the bumpy road and bumpier plane. I’m thankful my human family, though miles away, remain close-knit and loving. And I’m thankful all remain (relatively) healthy.

pets thanksgiving

Counting Thanksgiving Blessings

I’m thankful for veterinarians who make life better for the pets we adore. I’m thankful for researchers who work to find diagnoses, treatments, and cures for our ailments, both for pets and for people. I’m thankful for the animal welfare volunteers who do the work of the angels when others somehow let pets down.

I’m thankful that I have the best job in the world, sharing information about the cats and dogs that have become so important to our emotional and physical health. I’m thankful for publishers, editors, magazines, newspapers, TV and radio shows, websites, community theaters, bloggers and email lists that share these important resources to benefit cats and dogs and the people who love them. And I’m thankful to writing organizations, teachers, agents and all those who promote the craft of good communication and help others pursue this rewarding craft.

Karma a week after he arrived, at about 8 months of age.

Counting Pet Blessings

I’m thankful that we found a dumped kitten several Februaries ago and brought him into our home. I’m thankful that Karma-Kat dodged coyotes, cars, and who-knows-what to find our patio. I’m thankful that Magical-Dawg heard his meow-SOS, and that the little, dumped kitten trusted me enough to come when I meowed back.

I’m thankful that nobody claimed Karma—although shame on whoever dumped him!—and that he and Magic became best buddies. I’m thankful that Karma turned back the age-clock for both Magic and Seren-kitty in their last few years with us.

baby gates

Magic at about 16 weeks with Seren (age 11) learning to accept each other. Awww….the memories!

I’m thankful that we found Bravo-Dawg the Bullmastiff at just the right time. He helped Karma-Kat (and us) emerge from deep mourning after we lost Magic last September and Seren a year ago in December. I’m thankful Karma and Bravo have become inseparable friends—even though their antics threaten the safety of our fine breakables.

puppy training

Bravo at about 12 weeks of age, his first days with us.

I’m thankful for responsible breeders who ensure purebred dogs and pedigreed cats have a healthy paw-start in life. I’m thankful that we had Magical-dawg for eleven years, and Seren-Kitty for more than 22 years.

I’m still missing them, and always will. But now can smile about the water-hose-tag, Bear-toys, Frisbee-tag, Seren pester-sessions and a Karma-Kat buddy that made their last years bliss.

Magic at 8 weeks old, first days at home with us. Yes, my husband was smitten (and still is!).

Counting Chosen Family Blessings

I’m thankful that although he never grew up with pets, my husband loves Bravo and Karma, and mourns our past pets, and was instrumental in finding Bravo. I’m even more thankful they adore him back (that could get awkward!).

I’m thankful for my church family—pet lovers or not—who also support my furry notions. I’m thankful for the gift of music and theatre I get to share with colleagues who have become wonderful friends. I’m thankful for Texas Thespian Festival and the gift of teaching talented young actors. And I’m especially thankful for my partner-in-play-writing-crime who helped make our theatrical dreams come true.

Thankful for YOU!

Finally, I’m thankful to you—yes, those who read this column, the cat book lovers, and the dog book lovers, and folks who have “adopted” my thriller series. And those who offered awesome applause and support any of the other venues mentioned. There are so many to mention, but SHOUT OUT to AdoptAShelter.com that donates to shelters every time you shop one of their 100+ online stores.

Without you, I would not have a career, and my life’s passion would remain unfulfilled. Without you, your pets wouldn’t have the wonderful love and care you provide. Without you, there wouldn’t be any reason for this heartfelt—THANK YOU.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. NOTE: Bling, Bitches & Blood sometimes shares affiliate links to products that may help you with your pets, but we only share what we feel is appropriate.

Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!