Category Archives: Living your dreams

Winning

Home Office, Workstation, Office

Here’s an interesting post from Nathan Bransford that asks the question are you really doing what you love, or just trying to win?  For someone who is quasi-competitive (when I feel like it, basically, which isn’t all that often), it brings up some good points. The last few years have been a whirlwind of writing & promotion & connecting with readers & traveling and it felt like I hadn’t taken a deep breath in a long time. I write 2 books a year, which is a great pace for me. But I’ve been reading about authors getting caught up in the whole, “you need to publish 6 books a year” (or 3, or 12–take your pick) or readers will forget all about you and you’ll fade into obscurity.

And I thought, “In the great scheme of things, does that really matter?”

Don’t get me wrong. I love having people read my work. LOVE it. But I don’t want this gig to become just another day job. Because boredom. Because unfulfilled. And if I gave myself over to “winning” this game, that’s what would happen. (YMMV) It would become just another thing I did, rather than a vocation.

When I asked myself the questions at the end of Bransford’s post I realized I seriously love to write and will do it as long as I can string words together in a coherent fashion. I have goals that I’ve achieved and some that I haven’t. I’ll keep working toward them as I’ve always done–that’s just how I roll. But it’s good to occasionally remind myself why I do this–yes, most definitely for the wonderful relationships that have come from being a writer (readers, other writers, etc.)–and yes, for the money I earn from creating something out of a seriously twisted imagination–and a big, huge hell yes for the love of the craft.

Not the love of the game.


Where Did the Summer Go Part 2: Writers’ Police Academy

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, a day after we got back from Rainier, I flew to Appleton, Wisconsin to attend the fabulous Writers’ Police Academy.

The brainchild of former LEO Lee Lofland, the Writers’ Police Academy brings together crime writers and experts in the field of law enforcement, CSI, emergency services, etc., in order to help writers “write it right.” Now in its 7th year (and having outgrown its original home in North Carolina), the conference was held at the brand-new Fox Valley Technical College Public Safety Training Center.  It’s three jam-packed days of information sessions, hands-on experiences, and a whole lotta fun. (pictured below: Lee Lofland)

photo of Lee Lofland

The state-of-the-art facilities had an airliner on site, as well as a derailed tanker and a faux city with several buildings including a bank, a motel, and an apartment building. LEO training was ongoing at the time of the conference and attendees were welcome to watch traffic stops and various other law enforcement scenarios.

photo of airliner

One of the most informative classes I took had to do with blood spatter and DNA with Jeff Miller (pictured below). Talk about fascinating. Did you know that fingerprints can actually transfer through latex gloves? Not so with nitrile (the blue gloves). Or that the reason DNA results take so long (other than a backlog) is that they have to go through a quality assurance/peer review process that takes an average of 15 days before a report can be issued? (Although if you have a suspect, a match can be determined within a day.) I also learned that DNA can still be detected through seven layers of paint, and that 90 minute results will be available to law enforcement once the FDA approves a machine/process called RapidHit DNA.

photo of blood spatter class

More interesting factoids: a) hermaphrodites can have two different sets of DNA (think of the fictional possibilities!); b) even though identical twins have identical DNA, there is a copy number variant that can help determine which twin committed the crime; and, my personal favorite, c) if a person kisses a suspect for 30 seconds or more, the suspect’s DNA can transfer to the other person–your PI/sleuth character will need to get a swab from them quickly, though. Also, Luminol is on its way out as a blood visualizing agent, and is being replaced by a product called Blue Star. If a criminal tries to clean the crime scene, both Luminol and Blue Star sparkle in the dark when introduced to cleansers.

blood spatter class

There was a boatload of interesting lectures by world-class presenters (pictured below: Dr. Katherine Ramsland giving us an Overview of Forensic Psychology) Katherine has a way with words–especially when she’s describing– shall we say– unusual sexual proclivities in serial killers;

Dr. Katherine Ramsland

The CSI Effect: Real vs Reel (with Mike Black). A great class that blasted through several of the inaccuracies inherent in television programs regarding crime scene investigation. And no, CSI: Miami/New York/etc. should NOT be used for research purposes. But you already knew that, right?

evidence photo

slide of CSI myths

Not surprisingly, some of my favorite sessions were of the hands on variety, like MILO: Shoot/Don’t Shoot Interactive Training. In this class, you’re given a laser pistol similar to a 9mm and told to stand in front of a screen while they run video scenarios involving suspects behaving badly. It’s up to you to determine whether you should shoot or not. I have a new appreciation for how scary it must be for an officer to face down someone who has (or most likely has) a weapon  (sorry, no pics of this one–suffice it to say I didn’t have a problem shooting bad guys coming toward me on the screen…);

Then there was the shooting range (rifles with scopes! Need I say more?);

photo of DV shooting an M4

Bangs and Booms 101 (and all things incendiary with John Gilstrap — pictured below). You can certainly tell by the way he teaches that he LOVES his job 🙂 ) In this class we learned about shaped charges (e.g. RPGs), grenades, dynamite, and C4, and a host of other cool stuff;

John Gilstrap session

Fighting Words: Martial Arts for Writers (with Howard Lewis). The mindset of a person who practices martial arts is very different from one who does not. Howard is extremely entertaining–if you get the chance, go to anything he teaches. And don’t forget to ask him about Bruce Lee…

Martial Arts for Writers photo

Karin Slaughter was the Guest of Honor at the banquet (I forgot my camera that evening, so no pics), and she was hugely entertaining. If the whole crime novel writing gig doesn’t work out for her, she definitely has a shot at a career as a stand up comedian 🙂

In the end, I came away with a much better understanding of the challenges faced by law enforcement and emergency personnel, and gleaned all sorts of little details that I will certainly use in future books. If you write about crime or law enforcement, you’ll LOVE this conference. I wish I could have cloned myself so I could go to every one of the classes. Sigh.

I guess I’ll just have to go again next year.


If You’re in the Area…

Come on out and say hello. March 6th, I’ll be signing books at the Boatshed in Manette, Washington from 5-8pm. It’s First Friday ArtWalk and always a fun evening. I thought it fitting that I’ll be sequestered in the bar, signing and sampling their wines-by-the-glass…

Cool poster by Sheli Story

Cool poster by Sheli Story

AND, if you’re going to be anywhere near Portland, Oregon March 12-15th, I’d love to see you at  Left Coast Crime – Crimelandia.  LCC is a reader-writer Crimelandia - Left Coast Crime 2015extravaganza of a conference, held this year at the Doubletree by Hilton, and promises to be BIG fun. And if that wasn’t alluring enough, I’m banding together with three other suspense authors for Criminal Cocktails with the Women of Suspense on Thursday, March 12 from 5-6pm. I’ll be yakking it up with Donnell Bell, Christine Finlayson, and Cathy Perkins and 8 guests in the hotel bar (hurry, only 2 spots left!). The first round’s on us and I hear there’ll be some swag or books or inebriated writers or something…

Hmm. I think I see a theme emerging here…
A man sits by a table and examines a full glass of wine that Wellcome V0019562

If you’re going to attend the actual conference, I’ll be in some stellar company as part of a panel Thursday afternoon and lying about how to keep a series from growing stale.

And there you have it. I’ve been enamored of late with the slow-blog movement (read: haven’t had the time or brain cells to post more often), and am about halfway through the latest draft of #4 in the Leine Basso series, so if you don’t hear from me until sometime in March, don’t be alarmed. It’s just a case of crazy-writer syndrome and I’m sure I’ll be back in form in no time.

Maybe.


5 self-publishing truths few authors talk about

Here’s an excellent post for folks thinking about self-publishing (and a good read for those of us who have done so, but haven’t yet achieved fame and fortune 🙂 )

5 self-publishing truths few authors talk about.


10 Beliefs that can block success in self publishing

Number tenA little late, but here’s a link to a great post on 10 obsolete beliefs that can block self-publishing success by Anne R. Allen.

http://annerallen.blogspot.com/2014/08/10-obsolete-beliefs-that-can-block-self.html


Destiny?

Alphonse Mucha - Fate

Alphonse Mucha – Fate

Lately, I’ve been thinking about destiny (or fate, if you prefer) and what it’s meant in my life. Imagine my delight when I read not one, but two blog posts this morning regarding being in the right place at the right time and seizing the opportunity presented. I imagine destiny is part what you make it, part blind chance. But there’s a small voice inside of me that whispers of mystery and magic and refuses to cave in to total and precise logic.

And really, what fun would that be?

Now, of course there’s an obvious explanation to that train and it goes something like, “Well, she writes fiction–what do you expect?” But it goes far deeper, I think. (Maybe it’s because I saw the movie Lucy last night, but I’m in a hella philosophical mood today…)

John Atkinson Grimshaw - Spirit of the Night

John Atkinson Grimshaw

Long ago, people believed in magic, in forces beyond what they could see, and ascribed what they couldn’t explain to gods and goddesses, faeries and other supernatural beings. Or, in the case of Feng Shui, to the effect of energy, or chi, on space and time. Along came scientific inquiry and religion, both advocating that theirs was the only way, blowing the shit out of centuries of beliefs (although, in many [most?] instances religion jacked the original festivals and belief systems, modifying them for their own use. Science just rolled its collective eyes and ignored these belief systems, assigning the moniker of superstition to the practice.)

But centuries of belief in forces beyond ourselves created that still, small voice in each of us and is represented in the modern world by our little quirks: like the writer who lights a candle every time she sits down to her computer; or the pitcher who circles the plate three times before throwing the ball (I’m sure you can come up with more, but you get my drift). Many of us pray, others meditate–all trying to connect with something outside (inside?) ourselves. Some people prefer to call this voice God, some call it by a different name. Some don’t believe in anything other than themselves (which in itself is a belief system). I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t believe something. So, for the sake of argument, can we admit human beings are defined (at least somewhat) by their beliefs?

Okay, now that we’ve got that established. Where was I? Oh yeah, destiny.

Personally, I believe in destiny, or fate, or whatever you want to call it. I also believe in science. And stuff we can’t see or explain (I simply label that “energy”). What I don’t believe is that there’s only one way of looking at the world, one narrative. The universe is far too ginormous to hobble it with one true explanation. To me, it’s like saying my friend who takes belly dancing lessons is only that: a person who belly dances–when she’s so much more. Why limit our thinking?

Especially when it comes to the universe.

When Fate DecidesSo I choose to believe in destiny. But I also choose to believe destiny likes a little help now and then. Like putting yourself in the way of the freight train of fate. In regard to writing, maybe you’re not where you ultimately want to be at the moment. I’m convinced that if you act like you’ve already achieved/received what you want, put yourself in the way of success, meet others in the industry, network, believe in yourself and persist, eventually you’re going to get it. “It” may surprise you, though. The universe is so much more intelligent than we could ever imagine…

Case in point: I never would have met my husband Mark if it weren’t for putting myself in the way of the destiny train. Several times. Until it took. Back when I was in senior high, I came out to Washington State to visit my sister and she tried to get me to transfer to a local high school. I didn’t, but if I had, I’m pretty sure I would have met Mark then rather than 18 years later, when I went white water rafting with the same outfit he did. Back then he worked as a chef and owned a French restaurant in the same town where my sister lived. He often ate at the cafe  where she worked. They even remember each other, vaguely. The really weird thing? Back home, I was dating a guy who was the spitting image of Mark at the time. Years later, I showed my mother Mark’s old passport and she asked why I still had my ex-boyfriend’s I.D. Seriously, they could’ve been twins. Over time, we’ve compared timelines and events and have found many, many instances where we could have/should have met, even though we lived in different states or even countries.

What I’m trying to get at, (and this is quite a ramble, sorry) is that I believe there are forces at work that we know nothing about, and to be aware of what you put out there in thought and action. And never give up. Especially if you have a dream, whatever it may be.

Some day, you just might find yourself in the path of destiny.

 


Spotlight Series–James Radcliffe

photo of the artistToday I’m right stoked to  introduce you to indie artist/musician, James Radcliffe. I became aware of James after he connected with me here. I visited his award-winning blog and read a few posts, listened to a couple of his tracks and bought his album. His music struck me as ethereal and unlike anything I’d heard before, and I was interested in finding out more about him. Turns out he’s living the dream of creatives everywhere by making a living through his art. Here’s his bio:

James Radcliffe is a 100% listener-supported, independent artist based in Edinburgh, Scotland. He writes an award-winning blog that boasts over 4000 followers, and released a solo digital album in early 2014 priced at £5 that listeners now regularly choose to pay over £30 to download. Spotlight Series logo

He pretty much lives in his home studio, and will be releasing new music very shortly in a new and experimental way.

[Note from DV: James has just released a limited edition CD of his album. It can be found here.]

Some listener quotes:

Unapologetically, disarmingly, impossibly beautiful.

Haunting

…not just heard, but felt.”

STUNNING. BRILLIANT. It’s like an indie film for your soul.”

Genius.”

And now for the Spotlight questions (a sample and links to James’s work are below the short interview):

D: When did you first realize you were a musician?

J: Doing music has felt natural to me for as long as I can remember. I was in the school brass band and orchestra when I was a kid, and did my first solo performance when I was around 7. So there wasn’t really a: ‘bolt of lightning from the heavens now-I-am-a-musician’ kind of moment. It was much more prosaic than that. Music was just something that I did, like drawing with crayons, eating, or going to the toilet. It’s always been there.

D: What do you hope to convey through your music?

J: There is a feeling I get when I make music that I can’t express in any other way. Time stops and I totally lose any awareness of myself. It’s very ecstatic for me. It’s the closest I’ve ever been able to get to pure freedom.
The people who really connect with my stuff say that they have the same kind of experience when they listen, but this communication is not something that I consciously strive for. It’s more like a happy by-product of me doing what I love to do.

D: What’s your favorite part of working in a creative field? Least favorite?

J: I really love what I do. And I’m fortunate enough to make a living at it, so I don’t have to do anything that I don’t want to. I love the process of making art, I love sharing it, and I love connecting with the people who resonate with it. For me, there isn’t a downside.

D: Where do you see yourself in five years?

J: I don’t really think in those terms. I just focus on: each days practice; each little project. I am not working to some Masterplan here. My life is the Grand Experiment. 😉

I do whatever work has energy for the moment until it’s done. This approach seems to be working pretty well, and I like being surprised, so I’ll stick with it for now.

D: What would you like readers of this blog to know about you?

J: That I exist. That I am real. That my music is out there should they want it.
And that I am readily available thru my website should they want to connect with me.

The Blog: http://jamesradcliffe.com/
The Music: http://jamesradcliffemusic.com/album/i

James Radcliffe

 


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