Saturday, October 17, 2009
The Magic of a Family Christmas
I thought it was very appropriate that my November release was titled THE MAGIC OF A FAMILY CHRISTMAS.
For me, the "holiday" season begins in November. It used to begin in August! Back when my kids were younger, I'd "layaway" everything they needed for Christmas and gave myself months to pay for it. By the time I picked it up, the gifts were even a surprise to me because I'd forgotten most of what I'd bought. LOL
But as my kids and I get older, I really don't begin preparations until November. If you start too early, you stretch the mood too thin. But, if you "open the season" in November, beginning with shopping for and preparing a wonderful Thanksgiving meal for family, you open a season that continues for the next four weeks with shopping, parties, wrapping gifts, attending parties, visiting and baking . . . and ends with a New Years Eve party!
You get six or so weeks of wonderful time with family and friends that really does feel like a holiday!
My mother hosts one of my favorite holiday traditions. The day after Thanksgiving when lots of my nieces and sisters are shopping for those Black Friday bargains, my mother hosts her grandkids and greatgrandkids in a cookie painting day.
She bakes "shaped" sugar cookies and prepares different colored icings for the kids to paint onto the cookies. There's a segment about this in the back of THE MAGIC OF A FAMILY CHRISTMAS, including my mom's recipes for both the cookies and the icings.
Anyway, when the cookies are iced and cooled, they loop ribbons through them so they can be hung on her cookie and candy tree in the family room. It's a fabulous tradition that has become one of the most special memories for all my mother's kids, grandkids and great grandkids!
To me that's the real "magic" of Christmas. Don't get me wrong. I love a good gift! But the get togethers are more fun for me. The traditions that bring us back to our roots and reminds us of all the good things in our lives...the good things we've had for decades. So that we can appreciate them and each other.
That's why I was so thrilled with the title of my November release. THE MAGIC OF A FAMILY CHRISTMAS...I couldn't have said it better myself!
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NOVEMBER WRITING TIP!
A few years ago, I wrote a workshop called, THIS IS THE YEAR YOU WRITE THAT BOOK! When I was looking through my writing material for something to share with you this month, I realized the first lesson COMMITTING, is actually a mini goal setting workshop. Because we're coming up on the beginning of a new year when many of you may want to set some new goals, I thought this might have some insights for you as you ponder new goals for 2010!
Lesson One: Committing
The first step you must take to assure that this is the year you will write your book is to make a commitment. Believe it or not, you're already halfway there. How do I know that? Well, nearly all the pundits agree that there are seven steps to goal setting.
1. Decide what you really want
2. Write your goals out on paper
3. Determine the price you have to pay
4. Make a plan
5. Take action immediately
6. Do something every day that takes you to your goal
7. Resolve in advance that you will never quit.
When you signed up for this class, technically you were telling yourself that you wanted to write a novel, an entire novel, this year.
You did step 1. You…Decided what you wanted. Then you did step two. You wrote it out on paper (cyber paper when you signed up for this workshop). You determined the price by paying a workshop fee and recognizing that you were committing yourself to four weeks of lessons, as well as the price of one year's time. (To write your book!)
You're pretty much depending upon me for some assistance with number four - - the "plan" end of things, and I'm going to hold to my end of the bargain by giving you tons of information in the next seven lessons. You will get both motivational ideas and crafting tools that will enable you to create your plan to write a book this year.
But to cement your commitment, you need to finish the seven steps.
The three things left for you to do are:
5. Take action immediately
6. Do something everyday that takes you to your goal
7. Resolve in advance that you will never quit.
So, pause, raise your right hand and repeat after me. Today, I will take action immediately on my book. I also promise to do something everyday that will take me closer to my goal of completing a novel this year. And I also resolve, not promise, not hope, but resolve that I will never quit.
Put your hand down and realize that unless you intend to break another promise to the most important person in your world (you) you're going to write a book this year.
But before I tell you to get the heck off the Internet and start writing, let's talk a little bit about why I want you to promise me you will take some sort of action immediately, do something everyday that takes you another step closer to your goal and also to resolve in advance that you will never quit.
Why do I believe steps five through seven are the most important steps of goal setting?
Because anybody can know what they want, anybody can write out those goals on paper, anybody can determine the price he or she has to pay and anybody can make a plan. But not everybody can take action immediately, discipline himself to do something everyday and resolve in advance that he or she will never quit.
These last three steps, taking action, disciplining yourself to do something every day and resolving never to quit are the hardest part of any goal because they are the engine of the goal.
Let’s start by examining step five: Take action immediately.
Why is that so important? Why is that part of the engine of your goal setting process? Because, quite simply, by actually taking action on your goal, you physically say you are committed. You tell yourself you believe you can do this.
If you don’t take action immediately, there’s always a question mark. Sure, you said you could write your book this year, but you haven’t even turned on the computer, so do you really think that you can write a book this year? Or were you wishful thinking again? Do you really have faith in yourself? And if you don’t…why the heck did you torture yourself by making a promise you don't believe you can keep?
I think you know you can do this. I think you know it's physically possible to write a book in a year. After all, at one page a day, you would have 365 pages at the end of a year. That's not hard at all. It makes writing a book very doable.
Taking an action immediately is like saying: I know it's possible so I'm going to take the first step. I can do this.
So… Do it!
But there’s another reason to take action immediately. The beginning of any project is the hardest. Once you set your goal and then take action by doing something, the difficult hurdle of “beginning” is handled. Your goal no longer seems like something off in the distance. Instead, it’s something you’ve already started.
It becomes real, manageable, and you begin to feel the sense of ownership necessary to commit for the long haul.
Simply put, step five, take action immediately, speaks of self-confidence and commitment!
But so does Step six: Do something every day to take you closer to your goal. Except it doesn’t merely speak to commitment, it also has two other advantages.
First, doing something every day, a piece of your project every day, breaks your work down into manageable increments and pieces, and teaches you that any task can be completed when taken one step at a time.
Second, working on your goal every day keeps you involved in your goal. You can’t forget it. But more than that, you can’t fall behind. At least not so far behind that you feel overwhelmed. Working on your goal everyday keeps you active, involved and moving toward the prize.
And that usually ends procrastination. Do you know why? Because most of us procrastinate out of a feeling of overwhelm. Consistently and consciously doing something everyday that takes you toward your goal eliminates overwhelm. And if you're never overwhelmed you'll probably have no trouble getting yourself to sit down every day and write at least one page.
But if you begin talking yourself out of your daily portion, if you don't do something everyday, then that work begins to stack up. When you sit down to write, instead of having one page to write, your quota is now one page for today and one for yesterday. And then your portion doesn't seem so easy anymore, and then you might just blow off another day and another until you're so far behind you can't work at all. You're paralyzed. (Sound familiar?) Instead of floating along, maybe even getting ahead because some days you can write more than your quota, you find yourself in yet another uphill battle!
So the trick is…Do something every day to take you closer to your goal. Don't let yourself miss a day!
Step Seven: Resolve in advance never to quit. No matter how difficult things get.
This step is the best. The resolution to keep going, no matter how defeated you feel, no matter how far your faith has depreciated, will actually walk you through the hard times. It will get you through the times when you want to quit, when you feel like it’s pointless, when your back has been broken by criticism or a rejection.
Face it. You are going to have days when you don’t feel like doing your daily portion. You will have days when your plan seems insane. You will get rejections, hear of friends who sold or got agents, get poor critiques, lose contests and face every form of hurdle known to writerkind.
But… If you’ve made the vow that you will not quit, that you will stick it out for your year -- or until your book is written -- then you will see yourself not merely face, but also overcome (or outlast) hurdles that might have otherwise defeated you!
Truthfully, I face a "hard time" every week. Every darned week something potentially work stopping happens at my house!
For instance, my husband has so many vacation days that he surprises me by taking weeks off. Weeks. Entire weeks! Weeks when I have deadlines and don't want him under foot!
My children have gotten sick. Editors have quit. Manuscripts have gotten lost. Chapters haven't worked the way I thought they would. Endings have been wrong. Outlines haven't worked. But I didn't quit. (Otherwise, I wouldn't have over forty books published.) I had made a promise to myself years ago that I would provide my share of the income (in the form of the monthly mortgage) as a writer and I have done it by keeping that promise that I made to myself.
That's commitment. Doing what you say you are going to do. Keeping the promises you make. The funny thing is we CAN AND DO keep promises that we make to our kids, the PTO, our parents, our pastor, even the bank, but we don't follow through on things like watching our weight, taking vitamins, maintaining an exercise program, pursuing our art -- the very promises that should be the most important to us because they don't merely sustain our physical person, they also nurture our souls.
Then we wonder why we're tired, depressed, defeated.
If you do nothing else this year…for once…keep the promises you make to yourself.
And that takes us to today's assignment. Make your commitment to this book this year. Really make the commitment. Don't merely pay lip service. Realize that your goal of writing, revising, polishing your book is possible. It's not a stretch. It's an accomplishment, but you've got an entire year and you can break your project down whatever way it needs to be broken down, and work incrementally. Realize also that you are worth a couple of hours every day. You're worth the effort.
Take your first action toward the goals you’ve set. Make the initial calls, write the first few pages, start a synopsis, buy the crafting book, find the Internet sites for research…Take all those first steps.
Then resolve to continue to do something every day.
And then resolve never to quit.
Keep this promise you've made to yourself. Not for anybody but you. Not for any reason other than you count. So does your book. Somebody might be waiting for it.
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What you missed...
If you haven't been to susanmeier.com lately you missed...
A recipe from my sister at the Homecooking Blog...
As well as my "made up" Easy, Peasy Ham Pot Pie recipe...
The story of the sprinkle we gave for my mother...
A blog about eliminating writer's block...
The announcement that HER BABY'S FIRST CHRISTMAS tied for first place in the MORE THAN MAGIC CONTEST!
The announcement of my new 3-book contract.
My 2 new speaking engagements for next year...2010 Written in the Stars Conference in Louisiana March 5th and 6th and the WRW conference in April.
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Last month the spotlight was on Sophia. Today, it's Fluffy's turn. Fluffy's real name is Fluffy Doodle...like Yankee Doodle, without the feather in the cap or the macaroni.
Sarah and I had both longed for a cat, but my husband didn't really like cats and he constantly vetoed us. Then a week after Sarah got her driver's license I sent her for tomato sauce and forty-five minutes later she hadn't returned. I'd promised to take her to the mall to get her new "cheerleading" shoes so I knew she wouldn't dilly dally.
I started calling the hospitals and we found Sarah at Conemaugh. Furious that no one had contacted us, we raced to the hospital where they told us we had to wait to see her. We sat for an hour, totally convinced by this time that she was dead or dying.
Finally, we ventured up to the nurses station and asked about Sarah and the nurse was surprised no one had called our names. We could go right back.
We were so relieved we raced back and when my husband saw Sarah he blurted, "Anything you want you can have it!" (Silly man.) Though she had a concussion and torn ligiments, Sarah had the presence of mind to say, "Can I have a cat?" And my husband was stuck!
We got two cats, Fluffy and Basil. We had to put Basil to sleep a year or so later, but that's another Cat Tails.
Anyway, Fluffy is absolutely Sarah's best guy. He sleeps on the foot of her bed, waits by the door for her when it's time for her to come home and knows the sound of her car! It's amazing.
Fluffy is also the inspiration for Creamsickle, the cat with the bell in THE MAGIC OF A FAMILY CHRISTMAS.
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EXCERPT from THE MAGIC OF A FAMILY CHRISTMAS!
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Wendy Winston twisted the key to silence her small car and turned to the boy on the seat beside her. Six-year-old Harry Martin blinked at her from behind brown-framed glasses. A knit cap covered his short yellow hair. His blue eyes were far too serious to be those of a child. A thick winter coat swallowed his thin body. His mittened hand clutched a bag of toy soldiers. "I'm really sorry to have to bring you to work." He pushed his glasses up his nose. "S'okay." She wanted to say not really. It wasn't okay that he'd be forced to sit and play with his plastic soldiers for God only knew how long while she worked. It wasn't okay that he'd lost his mom. Or that Betsy's lawyer had been out of town when she'd died. It had been four weeks before Attorney Costello had finally called to tell Wendy that Betsy had granted her custody of Harry in her will, and another few days before social services could pull him out of his foster home and give Wendy custody—and then only temporarily.
Regardless of what Betsy's will said, Harry's biological father's rights superseded her custody bequest. But no one knew where Harry's dad was, so, for now, Wendy had a child who needed her, and, for the first time in two years, she had someone to anticipate Christmas with. Though social services was searching for Harry's dad, Wendy believed she and Harry could have as long as a month to shop, bake cookies and decorate. If it killed her she would make it the best month before Christmas this little boy had ever had.
She smiled. "I promise I'll make this up to you."
"Can we bake cookies?"
Her heart soared. It seemed that what he needed done for him was what she needed to do. They were the perfect combination. Maybe fate wasn't so despicable after all.
"You bet we can bake cookies. Any kind you want."
Wicked wind battered them with freezing rain as they raced across the icy parking lot to the executive entrance for Barrington Candies. Juggling her umbrella and her purse as they ran toward the door, she rummaged for her key, but before she found it, the right side of the glass double doors burst open.
Cullen Barrington stood in the entryway. Six foot three, with black hair and eyes every bit as dark, and wearing a pale-blue sweater that was probably cashmere, the owner of Barrington Candies was the consummate playboy. He was rich, handsome and rarely around, assigning her boss Paul McCoy the task of managing the day-to-day operations of the company while he handled the big-picture details from the comfort of his home in Miami. Cullen was also so tight with money that no one in the plant had gotten a raise since control of Barrington Candies had been handed to him by his mother.
That's what she'd taken to calling the man who'd summoned her to work on a Saturday afternoon. Even though he'd surprised everyone with his offer to fill in for her boss so Mr. McCoy could take an extended Christmas vacation, Wendy wasn't fooled into thinking he'd changed his ways and become generous. Though he'd probably called her in today to prepare before he took over on Monday morning, he'd paid no thought to the fact that she would lose her day off. She'd lose precious minutes with Harry. She'd lose the chance for them to enjoy whatever time they had together, and maybe even the chance for her to show him life wasn't entirely bad, just parts of it.
Even if, some days, she didn't quite believe that herself.
Occupied with her thoughts, she slipped on the ice and plowed into Cullen. She braced her hand on his chest to stop her forward momentum and it sank into the downy cashmere covering the hard muscle of his chest. His body was like a rock.
Confused, because she thought all rich men were soft and pampered, she looked up. He glanced down. And everything inside Wendy stilled. She swore the world stopped revolving. As dark as moonless midnight, his eyes held hers. Her femininity stirred inside her.
That confused her even more. She hadn't felt anything for a man since her husband's death, and Cullen Barrington was the last man on the planet she wanted to be attracted to. A playboy from Miami? No thanks. She'd glimpsed him a time or two in the four years she'd been working for his company and never felt anything but distaste at the way he treated his employees. She had no idea what was going on with her hormones, but it had to be an aberration of some sort.
She stepped away, and as the door swung closed behind her a bell rang.
Funny, she didn't remember a bell being on that door.
She turned to investigate and sure enough someone had tied a bell to the spring mechanism at the top of the door.
Probably Wendell, the janitor, making sure he'd be alerted if one of the executives sneaked in to check up on him.
"Why did you bring your little boy?"
She pulled off her mittens. "Oh, I don't know. Because I wasn't supposed to be working today? Because it's such short notice that I couldn't get a sitter?" She shrugged. "Take your pick."
His gorgeous eyes narrowed. He obviously didn't like her speaking so freely with him.
Wendy almost groaned at her stupidity. A single woman who might get custody of a little boy couldn't afford to be fired!
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have snapped at you. It's just cold and I had things to do. So tell me what you want to work on and we can get started."
"I'd like to catch up on what's been going on, so I'll need production schedules and the financials. Once you help me find those, you can go home."
He didn't smile. Didn't give any reason at all for her heart to catch at the smooth baritone of his voice, but it did. Her entire body felt warm and soft, feminine in response to his masculinity.
She stepped back. She did not want to be attracted to him. It had taken her two long, miserable years to get over Greg's death. And she refused to go through the misery of loss again by being attracted to a playboy who—as sure as the sun rises every day—would dump her.
Of course, she might not be attracted to Cullen as much as she was simply waking up from the sexual dead. It had been two years. And she had been feeling like her normal self for at least three months. Maybe this was just a stage?
She peeked at Cullen, knowing that beneath that soft sweater was a very hard male body. Something sweet and syrupy floated through her. Moving her gaze upward, she met his simmering dark eyes and knew she could get lost in them.
She swallowed. Nope. Not a stage. It was him. She was attracted to him.
He turned to walk back to the office. Following him, she caught Harry's hand and brought him along with her.
"As far as the financials go, I don't want those fancy reports that go out in the annual statement. I want the spreadsheets. The nuts and bolts."
She stopped with a frown. She had access to everything, but if he was looking for the whys behind the line entries, she couldn't help him. "Why didn't you call Nolan, the accountant?"
He faced her. "Are you saying you can't get me the financials?"
"No. I have them. Everything is in my filing cabinet. But—"
She stopped talking. First, his eyes were simmering sexily again and her whole body began to hum—which made her want to groan in frustration. Second, she was making this harder than it had to be. All she had to do was find a few documents for him. The faster she found them, the sooner she'd be at home making cookies.
She squeezed Harry's hand. "I can get you anything you need."
Cullen turned and resumed his walk to the executive suite. Wendy and Harry scurried behind him.
In her office, she stripped off her coat and removed Harry's. Cullen stood patiently by her desk as she rummaged through her purse for the key to the filing cabinet. Walking over, she noticed the door to her boss's office was open. Papers were strewn across his desk.
"Oh, you're already working?"
Cullen nodded. "I typed a few letters. But there isn't a printer in the office. I'm guessing I have to send my things to a remote printer, but I'm not sure which one is which."
"E-mail them to me and I'll print them."
"Why don't you just come to the computer with me and show me which printer to send them to?"
Okay. So he didn't want her to see what he'd written. No big deal. Whatever he wanted to print was probably personal. Not her business. She not only got the message; she also agreed. The less she knew about this man and the faster she got away from him, the better.
She unlocked the cabinet, pulled out the accordion file that contained the backup documentation for the financials for the year that had passed and handed it to him.
He glanced at the packet, then back up at her. Her stomach flip-flopped. His eyes were incredible. Dark. Shiny. Sexy. And the perfect complement to his angular face. He had the look of a matador. Strong. Bold. Everything about him was dramatic, male.
"Is the forecast in here?"
With a quick shake of her head, she rid herself of those ridiculous thoughts, not sure where the heck they kept coming from but knowing they were absolutely wrong. She returned her attention to the open drawer and pulled the file folder for the five-year plan. "Here you go."
Cullen took the folder from her hands and stepped back. He'd thought that bringing in Paul's administrative assistant would make his life easier, but this woman wasn't at all what he'd been expecting. For a widow, she was young and incredibly good-looking. Long, loosely curled red hair fell to the shoulders of her thick green cable-knit sweater. Her cheeks had become pink in the cold, accenting the green of her eyes. Low-riding jeans hugged a shapely bottom.
He wasn't sure what the heck had happened when she'd fallen into his arms after she'd slipped on the ice. Their eyes had met and he'd felt a jolt of something so foreign it had rendered him speechless. He couldn't blame it on the fact that she was attractive. He knew hundreds of gorgeous women. Women even prettier than she was....