Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Kind of Town!



Looking for something to do this weekend? Something educational? Interesting? A little off the wall?


If you’re in northeast Ohio, I’ve got the perfect solution! It’s the Killer Cleveland tour at Cleveland’s historic Woodland Cemetery, this Sunday, October 2.


Join us for a look at the lives and tragic deaths of nine murder victims. We’ll visit their graves, talk about the who-dun-it of each case, and even tell a few ghost stories.


There are two tours scheduled, one at 1 pm and the second at 3, and I’ll be hosting and taking groups of visitors around from gravesite to gravesite. At some of them, I’ll be telling the sad stories. At others, costumed re-enactors will help visitors learn about the victims and the perpetrators.


The tour is sponsored by the Woodland Cemetery Foundation and they’ll have raffle prizes (including a basket of all the Pepper Martin mysteries), refreshments and some surprises along the way.
For more information, check out:


http://wcfcle.org/


On a side note, I’m celebrating week three of "Button Holed" being #5 on the Barnes & Noble mystery bestseller list. Thank you, readers, for making the numbers so good!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Giving an ARC a day this month!


Happy Tuesday! I have some fun news this morning. I'm giving away an advanced reading copy per day on my Facebook author page. It wasn't a huge planned thing. But I had this box of ARCs, and I had this new Facebook page and, well, it's kind of that old commercial with the chocolate and the peanut butter. They just go better together.

Now these are ARCs for The Real Were Wives of Vampire County. It doesn't release until October 25, but I've got copies to burn. Just "like" the page and you're entered to win. The book is getting great reviews, too. So, to sum it up - free books that don't suck. Get yours today.

Okay, off to go mud wrestle a different novella. There are a bunch of us contributing to an anthology to benefit Novelists Inc. It's me, Katie MacAlister, Patricia Rice...and a bunch of other authors whose names are on an email somewhere. Anyhow, I'm doing biker witches and wouldn't you know it? They're getting a bit out of hand. So wish me luck and in the mean time, go see if you can snag a free book!

Monday, September 26, 2011

ARCHON here I come!

This upcoming weekend I'll be in Collinsville, IL for ARCHON, a science fiction/fantasy convention for the St. Louis metro area. It will be held September 30th through October 2nd. I have a blast each year and this will be my first year presenting on some panels. Both of the panels are related to writing young adult books (since I write in the YA genre as well), but I'll definitely have some of my excerpt booklets on hand to give away. My two panels are all on Saturday with YA author Cole Gibsen: There's More To Paranormal YA Than Twilight and Crafting/Plotting Your Young Adult Book.

Angie Fox will be there as well. She has a lot of panels (The Critical First Five Pages, True Blood - Vampires, Werewolves, Fairies, Witches, Shapeshifters, Demons, Werepanthers…What's next!?, Steampunk: Everything Old Is New Again!) and she'll also be signing on Friday September 30th at 3:50 p.m. in the Main Hallway. So if you're in the area come say hi to her and get your demon slayer books/gear signed.

I can't wait to attend another conference. I had so much fun in Atlanta with DragonCon (my first panel ever with Del Rey) and now I get to have some more fun again. (And well the shopping for books and other cool geekery never hurts...)

If you have a chance, I'd love to see you there as well. If you're in a Storm Trooper costume when I see you, I'll completely understand. :) Next week, I'll be sure to post some pictures and have a contest with some of the cool stuff I snagged.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Twitter Spies

On Tuesday night, I organized a Mom's Night Out for all the moms in my daughter's kindergarten class. Out of twenty families, twelve moms came, which was awesome. Who knew there were so many moms beside me who wanted to get out of the house for some quality girl time?

Anyway, I knew only five of the women in attendance, so it was fascinating to meet new people and hear about paths and careers. We had eight different countries represented, and twelve different careers. Let's see, we had neurobiology, pediatric anesthesiology, higher education, a stay at home mom, a medical writer, a novelist and others.

But there was one job that I found particularly interesting, and, when I heard about it, I knew that was going to be the topic of my blog post today.

What was that job I found so interesting and relevant? Well, I'll fill you in…

The gal worked for a company that had developed software to search the internet for mentions of their clients, which were usually big companies. She said that their number one place to find mentions was on twitter. Yes, that's right, there are companies whose business it is to track every single tweet for tweets of interest. I think she said there were something like 98,000 tweets a second worldwide. I can't remember the exact number, but it was huge.

Apparently, companies like Microsoft and American Express (and smaller ones) will pay companies like hers to keep them updated on what their customers are saying about them. Most interestingly, they are often most concerned with people saying bad things about them so they can fix it.

The mom then went to say that with a major company, if you tweet about a problem you are having with them, you will get a response within hours. Their software will find that tweet, filter it, report it back to whoever is in charge of responding, and they will track you down via your tweet and respond to your concern.

When we all expressed surprise to hear then, she told us that when she was trying to get moving quotes to move cross country in August, she couldn't get a response from one of the companies she was trying to get a bid from. She finally went on twitter and tweeted about it. Guess what? Within two hours the company had contacted her.

They also track facebook, blogs, and everything else posted anywhere that isn't protected from public viewing. So, how about that? Sure, we always hear warnings about remembering that whatever you post on the internet can be seen by anyone, but I'd never contemplated it on this level—that within two hours, the object of your mention will know exactly what you said and how to find you to reply.

On the one hand, I think that's so cool. I'm totally tempted to test it by making up a negative tweet about American Express and see if I really get a response.  It makes me wonder whether there might be an application for this in the writing world. If a fan tweeted about an author or a book, would they be psyched or freaked out if the author responded personally within hours? And if author started doing that, would it help their sales? Would it help their writing, if they could see every good and bad thing everyone was saying everywhere? Or would it hamstring them until they couldn't write a single word? Is there at point at which customers simply want a place to vent or cheer and they don't want to have to hear back from the object of their discussion?  What do you guys think?

And if anyone tests it and gets a response from a company, let us know!




Thursday, September 22, 2011

Attention Target Shoppers!

I had some exciting news this week—around the end of October, LOVE LIES BLEEDING will be carried by Target as part of their “emerging” authors series. Me being the na├»ve person that I am thought “that’s great—at my age being considered an emerging anything is good, plus it’s an opportunity to reach a whole new group of readers.”

Then I found an old article from The New York Times concerning the impact that being featured at Target can have on a specific title. And here’s a quote:

“Target can sell hundreds of thousands of copies of a book that is virtually unknown in the rest of the marketplace,” said Jacqueline Updike, director of adult sales at Random House.

Now how do I feel? A little scared (don’t want to bomb!) and a lot lucky for this chance. Will the sales go through the roof? That’s going to take a crystal ball shinier than mine to predict that one, but here’s what I’ll take away from this experience regardless of the results.

Even if the sales don’t rock the world, I’ve been given a shot and who would’ve thunk it six years ago when my first book hit the shelves. If I never would’ve started this adventure in writing, I never would’ve had this opportunity. If I would’ve let fear, uncertainty, hold me back, I wouldn’t have had all the wonderful experiences that have been a part of my life over the past six years. I never would’ve had the chance to meet all the terrific people—other authors, readers, booksellers—that I’ve met during my travels. As I’ve said many times…it’s truly been a trip of a lifetime.

And probably the most important thing this whole deal points out—it just goes to show that you’re never too old to follow a dream. At a time in my life when most people are winding down their careers, according to Target, I’m emerging…and honestly…how cool is that??

That’s all for this week—have a good one and I’ll see you next Thursday.

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Another One Bites the Dust

It seems these days, Wednesdays are sneaking up on me.

That might be because life is so busy. Just this week, I participated in a cemetery re-enacting event, had coffee with a dear writing friend and helped her brainstorm a new project, had two visits from Sears (a fridge, and we’re on #3, don’t even get me started with that!), had lunch with a former editor, attended a friend’s neighborhood association spaghetti dinner fundraiser.

In between all that, of course, I’ve been writing. Or at least trying. I also read over the galleys for "Wild, Wild Death," Pepper Martin mystery #8 which will be released on January 3.

The galley stage is a funny thing. By this time, an author’s already sent in a manuscript, an editor’s read it and offered comments/criticisms/revision ideas. A copy editor has seen it, too. The CE is the person who is charged with looking for inconsistencies (like does the hero have the same color eyes on page 276 as he does on page 3–yeah, yeah, laugh, but it happens. It’s hard to keep this stuff straight!). Once the copy editor has seen the manuscript, the author gets it back one more time.

This is the moment to make any substantial changes and to look over the things the CE has suggested. I’ve been lucky lately, I’ve had a terrific copy editor whose caught some small but important details that needed tweaking.

Then an author sends the manuscript back.

And all gets quiet.

At least until about four months before the book is set to publish.

That’s when the galleys arrive. At this stage, the book has been typeset and the author is seeing what essentially looks like a book that’s been flattened and copied. This is the time for looking for typos, and for only those changes that are absolutely, positively so important, they must be handled. Why? Because every publishing contract I’ve ever signed specifies that at this stage, if an author changes more than 10% of the total words, the author pays to have the book re-typeset. This makes sense, of course, since given the chance, most authors I know would tinker forever.

For me, the galley stage is also the last time I’ll read my book. I have never, ever read one of my books after it’s published. I’m too afraid I won’t like it. Or I’ll find typos. Or I’ll decide the whole thing is just incredibly silly and I never should have bothered.

Clever person that I am, I do all that in the galley stage. The good news is that I enjoyed "Wild, Wild Death." I haven’t seen it in quite a few months, and I’d forgotten most of what happens. A lot of it surprised me. A lot of it had me wondering how poor Pepper would ever get out of whatever trouble she was in. But she did. I did.

The book is done, and I won’t read it again. But I know it’s ready for the world to see!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lexi George's book giveaway


So I was talking to Lexi George the other day, lamenting that I don't have more copies of So I Married a Demon Slayer to give away and she came right back with an, "I do!" And seeing as her story is so fun and witty, I had to invite her here to tell everyone about it (and to give away a couple books, of course).

Lexi writes about small town librarian Bunny Raines, who has waited all her life for a guy like Rafe Dalvahni. He’s gorgeous. He’s attentive. And, while he hasn’t said the ‘L’ word yet, she’s sure he’ll get around to it.

Imagine her surprise on her wedding day when her darling husband informs her that he isn’t a man at all, but an immortal demon hunter with super powers. Worse, the ‘mugger’ he recued her from the night they met was a rogue demon. In order to save Bunny’s life, Rafe had to give her part of his demon slayer essence, which means she’s no longer human.

Of course, Rafe isn’t the only one in this relationship with a secret. Bunny is pregnant. Hurt, confused, and terrified that she might be pregnant with ET, Bunny runs away from the wedding with Rafe in hot pursuit.

Can you say, "yum?" And along with her giveaway, Lexi sent me a recipe for a Dalvahni Demon Hunter. Excuse me while I go mix one up...
Recipe for a Dalvahni Demon Hunter
Start with approximately 225 pounds of prime Dalvahni male, extremely fresh.*
Add four to five gallons of uh uh uh.
Throw in several quarts of pure, undiluted yummy. **
Add a bushel each of unsurpassed fighting skills and tracking ability.
Combine with insatiable lust and zest of virility.
Stir in a large dollop of stoicism and dispassion.
Toss in a generous amount of loyalty and a couple of heaping tablespoons of denial.
Omit the sense of humor, but be sure and sprinkle in a pound of literalism.
Blend with true love.
Fold ingredients lightly together. Stir vigorously for best results. Best served hot.
*Note: Dalvahni males are large in size (in excess of six feet in height), lean and muscular animals. Do not substitute generic or ordinary human males or recipe will not rise.
** Do not substitute imitation flavoring.
*** Warning: Demon hunters are habit forming and slippery when wet.
Just post an "I want one!" below and you're entered to win one of two copies of So I Married a Demon Slayer!

Vanessa Kelly Winner!

The winner of Vanessa Kelly's giveaway is RebeLovesBooks! Just email me at angie @ angie fox.com and I'll put you in touch with Vanessa.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Out with the old, in with the New

Today's a busy morning for me. Before I run some many errands my head won't be on straight, I have 1-800-Got-Junk making a visit. That means everything in the house that is horrifically big and gargantuan that is of no use to us must be tossed out.

I find it amazing how much one household accumulates over time. With three kids, I have so many things that worked years ago that barely turn on now. They had great memories associated with them, and for a brief moment, it will hurt to let them go. I'm not one to hold onto broken things though. I actually hate clutter and since I live in a house where entropy seems to be in full effect, today's a happy day. Now that I'm taking a mini-vacation from writing, it's time to tackle the madness which is my home.

Goodbye broken dresser. Have a nice day, trashed mattresses (and those really, really needed to go)! Don't let the door hit you in your happy place broken-tv-stand-where-I-smashed-my-finger-good-God-that-hurt-so-bad! Farewell exercise machine that was sadly broken and hardly used.

Okay, so some of the stuff doesn't have the best of memories, but I feel good to have the load of more stuff off my shoulders. You'd be surprised what a decluttered house can do to brighten the whole place up. :) And now that I have more space, would it be so bad to go shopping?

And now for the fun part of my post today: the winner of the book giveaway from last week. The winner is Na! Congratulations! Yay! Just shoot me an email with your contact information and I'll send you the book with some other goodies I grabbed at DragonCon.

Friday, September 16, 2011

My Socks




Hi, my name is Stephanie Rowe. I'm a professional, I'm a career woman, I like people to take me seriously. And these are my socks. They're a little hard to get on (labor intensive, anyone?). They're a wee bit uncomfortable (not a huge fan of material between all my toes). But I love them. L-O-V-E. LOVE.

Why? Because these socks have attitude. They say things I don't always have the courage to say with my mouth or my pen. These socks are about daring the world to tell me I have to conform, and then thumbing my nose at them. These socks are cheerful, bold, high energy--all of the things I wish I was, and so often am not. These socks announce to the world that I am not afraid to be different. That I'm not afraid to buck the system. And even if I am sort of afraid? These socks empower me to do it anyway.

These socks give me spirit, energy and hope on those days when my dreams, even my little ones, seem so far away. So hopeless. Even foolish.

Guess what? Your dreams are attainable and worthy, and you are worthy of having them. 

But to get there, you need your special socks. Or your pen. Or your mantra. Or whatever it is that lights a fire of hope and energy under you. 

Because you never get anywhere wonderful if you don't have strength, or courage, or attitude. The best things in this world aren't handed to us as we roll out of bed in the morning. You have to fight for them. You have to take risks to get them. Sometimes you have to be far more patient than you want, while still plowing forward with every fiber of your soul. But if you get there...No. WHEN. But WHEN you get there, it will be because you've left a mountain of socks like this strewn in your wake, and because you're pulling on a new pair as we speak.

Stand out. Be bold. Dare to have your dreams, and then dare to fight for them.

These are my socks. Where are yours?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mark Your Calendars!



I’ve got a couple things for northeast Ohioans (or anyone who would like to visit the beautiful North Coast) to keep in mind:

This Sunday, September 18, is the Meet the Neighbors event at Cleveland’s historic Monroe Street Cemetery. This year’s neighbors are all people who were somehow involved in the Civil War. Walk the grounds of this beautiful cemetery and meet a neighborhood boy who joined the Confederate army, a local abolitionist, two cousins who were killed in battle, an army surgeon, and more. The neighbors will be portrayed by re-enactors who will tell their stories and help us learn some history along the way.

It’s always a great event, and this year’s is extra-special. My writing students at the Brecksville Center for the Arts wrote four of the scripts! I wrote the fifth script and along with them, I’ll be a special guest.

Tour start at 2 and the weatherman says Mother Nature is going to cooperate. For more information:

http://www.mscf1841.org/events.html

Mark your calendar, too, for the launch party for my newest mystery, "Button Holed." It will be on Thursday, October 6, from 5-8 at:


Something Different Gallery
1899 West 25th St.
Cleveland


If you can’t be there and would like a signed copy of "Button Holed," my newest mystery, or any of the Pepper Martin books, give them a call: 216-696-5226

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A great new book and giveaway from Vanessa Kelly



One of the best things about writing historical romance is that I get to do a lot of cool research. My books are set during the Regency period, so my research is focused on British history from the late 1790’s to about 1820.
And what a time it was! If there was one thing the aristocracy knew how to do back in those days it was party. Actually, most Brits seemed to party hardy back then. Beverages included ginger beer, ale, punch, gin, fortified wines like sherry or port, brandy, negus (mulled wine), cordials, and lemonade for the Regency misses. And, of course, everyone loved champagne!
One thing you could be certain of: folks back then tended to consume lots of alcohol. To say that many people in the Regency era could drink most of us under the table would be an understatement!
And then there was the food. The upper classes in particular could really pile it on, often serving two or three courses that had up to twenty dishes a course. Some of the favorites were roast chicken, stewed or boiled game birds like partridges, ragout of beef, stuffed goose, mutton, pastries, soups, fish with sauce, puddings, custards...well, you get the picture. And many of those dishes could be served at one meal. No wonder people had gout!
Research isn’t all fun and games, though. My latest book, My Favorite Countess, features a doctor hero, who spends quite a bit of time in the slums delivering babies and caring for pregnant women. I had to do a fair amount of research on what women’s medicine looked like back in those days. I can use one word to describe it—gruesome. Trust me, having a baby back in the 19th century wasn’t for the faint of heart.
I did get a few laughs, though, from period illustrations of Regency doctors—dressed like Colin Firth in Pride & Prejudice—discretely groping under the dresses of fashionable ladies. Touch but don’t look seemed to be the way many examinations were conducted.
I also did research on London slums. Gruesome as well, but fascinating in terms of social history. One of the interesting things about the Regency period was how frequently the upper and lower classes jostled up against each other. The worst slums of the city were only a few blocks from the luxurious mansions of Mayfair, and it was very common for wealthy young aristocrats to cut loose in the less savory parts of London. Mayhem was often the result.
Doing this kind of research is both fascinating and fun, but the part I like best is incorporating the really interesting bits into my story in a way that enhances plot and character. So in My Favorite Countess I not only have all the glitter and glamour that we’ve come to expect in Regency-set novels, I also have a riot, some dramatic scenes in the slums—including an attempting kidnapping and murder—and a birth that could go tragically wrong if my hero doesn’t arrive in time. Whew! That’s one of the great things about writing historical romance. You can use all these interesting elements to really ramp up the drama and conflict.
But My Favorite Countess is first and foremost a romance, so I do have a lot of that good stuff too—including a very sexy scene between the hero and heroine in a deserted ruin in the woods. I won’t give you the details, but I will say that it takes place on a hot summer day, and that things get a whole lot hotter before my hero and heroine get out of there!
There’s been a lot of talk lately about period accuracy in historical romances. How much accuracy do you like to see in your romance fiction? Do you like lots of history and the nitty-gritty detail of what life was really like? Or do you prefer to keep the nasty bits out of your reading? One person who comments will win a copy of My Favorite Countess.
Named by Booklist as one of the “new stars of historical romance,” Vanessa Kelly writes Regency-set historical romance for Kensington Zebra. She also writes contemporary romance with her husband, under the pen name of V.K. Sykes. You can find Vanessa at www.vanessakellyauthor.com. She also blogs: www.vanessakellyauthor.wordpress.com.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Corner to Collapse In

The second book in my series called KEPT has been turned into my editor! Yes! *fist pump*

Since I'm in a post-deadline haze that could be better described as a zombie shuffling around my house looking at the carnage of neglected chores, I thought I'd offer a giveaway: ASCENSION by Sable Grace, and some swag I grabbed at DragonCon to a commenter who leaves some suggestions on the best way to decompress. I've done pedicures and even had a massage before. But I'm open to all sorts of suggestions to relax and refuel my creative energy. Cause I am ex-haust-ed!

Have a great week everyone!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A lesson learned?


My life, past and present, can often be summed up in one sentence…“It seemed like a good idea at the time.” You see, mostly out of necessity, I’ve always been something of “a do-it-yourselfer”, and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve started a project, then half way through wound up asking myself what in the heck was I thinking?? For example, the time I decided to paint an English ivy border…complete with shaded leaves…around my entire kitchen. Or when I ripped out the carpet in the master bedroom and laid six inch wood tiles by myself. Then there was the time I tried to create a unique look in my entryway by painting the walls one swatch at a time and then pressing crumpled up newspaper into the wet paint to give the room a mottled effect. I’ve always completed these projects—never been one to give up on something once I’ve started—but I always seem to underestimate the amount of time it’s going to take to get the job done and as a result, I’m heartily sick of the whole thing by the time I’ve finished.

Well, now I’m in the middle of it again! Three weeks ago—I think—I can’t say for sure—it’s all kind of a blur—I decided to paint the trim on my house. Not a big deal. It only took a couple of days. But then the siding looked shoddy so I decided I would clean it and borrowed my oldest son’s pressure washer. Bad idea—when the force of the water hit the siding, patches of paint from the lower third of the house started flying through the air like dried leaves in a windstorm. Okay, now I had repaint the house. Simple right?

Not really—after painting a small section, I noticed the missing paint had left a ridge that showed through the new layer. Not a good look. I had to fix it. One new orbital sander, a new finishing sander, twenty packages of sandpaper, a gallon of primer, plus hours upon hours of sanding and dabbing on primer, and I think I’m about ready to finally paint the house.

What have I learned from this experience other than NOT to use a pressure washer on painted wood? Maybe that I should look before I leap…put a little more thought and research into a project before I rush willy-nilly into the fray? We’ll see, or will I still be saying “It seemed like a good idea at the time?”

I’ll let you know!

That’s all for this week—have a good one! I’m off to Bouchercon next Wednesday so I’ll see you all again on the 22nd.

Best,
Shirley

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hurray!



"Button Holed" is on sale and I’m enjoying that peculiar euphoria authors get when after weeks of plotting, months of writing, and many more months of waiting, a book is finally on the shelves.


At the risk of tooting my own horn (well, why the heck not?) i'm thrilled to report that as of the time I'm writing this, the book is #7 on amazon's bestselling list of mysteries that feature women sleuths.


Here’s what one reviewer has to say about the first book in the new Button Box mystery series:


Button Holed is absorbing, clever, crisp and finally not another contrived mystery with crafts tossed in as a diversion.
Brava Logan for creating a protagonist who is authentic, bright, enthralling, fun, innovative, and strong – it has been a long time coming for an amateur sleuth to pull off so many empowering attributes and you did it in style! Stand back and watch the copycats swoop down on Logan’s imaginative series, but always remember she is the groundbreaking pioneer in this genre.


Thanks, blog readers and fellow writers, for coming along for the ride.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Guess who wins a copy of my new book? Everyone!

Last Tuesday, I announced a new book release. So I Married a Demon Slayer hit stores. And that same day, a box of author copies showed up in my doorstep. They are so pretty. I've been fondling them all week.

And since I have lots of them. And since only six of you entered the contest last week - everyone wins! Barbara, Margay, Na, Sharon, CrystalGB and KatrinaW - just shoot me an email at angie @ angiefox .com and give me your snail mail. I'll get those books out to you!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Seeing What Isn't in Sight

I haven't slept on my right side in 18 years.

I haven't carried my purse on my right shoulder in 18 years.

I haven't propped myself up on my right elbow in 18 years.

I haven't done a plank in 18 years.

Why? Because my right shoulder is gimpy. I never actually injured it, but when I do the things listed above (and a few other similar ones), the next day (and the next week or three weeks), I'm in serious pain. I've been to physical therapy a few times, and they've all said that I have rotator cuff issues. I've adjusted my life to fit my shoulder, and as long as I pay attention to what I'm doing, I'm generally fine. I've accepted my limitations and lived with the flare-ups that occur every six months or so.

Then, this week, something changed. This week, I turned my shoulder over to a physical therapist recommended by a friend of mine. See, I was having terrible knee problems this summer, so a friend recommended a PT who she said was absolutely BRILLIANT when it came to diagnosing issues. So, I went to see her, and she was amazing. Her assessment of my knee problems was right on and my knees feel the best they've felt in years.

My referral had more appointments that I didn't need for my knees, and my shoulder was in a bad place again, so I decided to give this goddess a shot at my shoulder.

After listening to my tale of 18 years of woe, and after doing her own assessment, she sat down and looked at me. She said, "Stephanie, it's not your shoulder that's the problem. It's your neck."

I stared at her. "My neck?"

She said, "Have you ever had neck problems?"

"I said, 'No, of course not…" And then my voice faded as I remembered that I sleep with a special foam pillow because my neck used to hurt all the time. And I remembered that when I get stressed, the right side of my neck knots up. And I remembered how I once had a massage therapist (who had 35 years of experience) tell me that I had one of the top five tightest necks she had ever touched in her life. And so on… Hmm… I acknowledge that maybe my neck isn't perfect… So, then I said, "Okay, tell me what to do."

She gave me an assortment of stretching exercises for my neck, and a few strengthening exercises. I was still skeptical, of course. After all, I have pretty well established my identity as a "woman with a bad shoulder," and that's who I am.

Then, on Wednesday morning, at 4am, I was awakened by really brutal pain in my shoulder. Even taking ibuprofen didn't ease it, and by the time I finally gave up the challenge of sleeping and got up, my shoulder was really killing me. My first thought was "I'm never going to be able to pick up all the moving boxes when I move this weekend." But I paused, thought back to my PT appointment and said, "Okay, Sue says that this is my neck, not my shoulder, so let's see what happens."

I then spent 40 minutes doing all the neck stretching exercises she gave me. I felt looser, better, but my shoulder did still hurt. But it kept feeling better and better as the day wore on, and by two o'clock in the afternoon, the pain was COMPLETELY GONE.

GONE in six hours.

Usually, when I feel that kind of pain in my shoulder, it lasts for several weeks.

This time? Six hours.

Why? Because apparently, I am not a "woman with a gimpy shoulder." I am a "woman with an incredibly tight neck who can solve her 18 year shoulder infirmity by stretching."

Damn. That is a serious re-definition of my identity.

I'm not saying I'm ready to sleep on my right shoulder tonight when I hit the sack, but I am seeing myself and my body in a whole new light right now. What I thought was hopeless (18 years of shoulder pain)? Solveable. What I thought was flawed (my shoulder)? Totally fine. What I thought was fine (my neck)? Not so much, but fairly easily treatable.

For me, this wasn't simply a lesson to go to Sue Bloom when I'm injured (though that is a really good lesson).

For me, this was a lesson that sometimes, in life, we look only at the big flashing neon signs pointing our way. We see those massive, obvious obstacles as our only challenges, and we try to solve those huge ones, which is daunting at best, and impossible at worst. But sometimes, if we slow down, and soften our vision, we might see something else going on, something else we didn't even notice, something that we actually can fix, something that is causing those big ripples that are catching all our attention.

A recent example of this was the book I posted about a few weeks ago, the one where I'd written 35k and then realized the book just DIDN'T WORK. I tried to fix it, and couldn't, and finally decided that the book was doomed and I abandoned it.

A month later, I decided to pull it back out and use it for another project. But in order to do so, I had to write a synopsis for it. In the process of writing the synopsis and having to distill the core elements, I suddenly realized what was wrong with the book. It was indeed fundamentally flawed (which is why I hadn't been able to write it), but it was also SO EASY to fix once I realized what it was. I changed the element, wrote the synopsis, then changed the chapters, and suddenly the book came to life. Had I not written the synopsis (and done so with a calm, non-frustrated mind), I never would have stepped back far enough to be able to see what was really going on.

The short lesson from that was to write the synopsis before writing the book, so I can see if everything works. The bigger lesson was the same as my shoulder: that sometimes we get so consumed in what isn't working, that we don't step back far enough with a calm enough mind to see the tiny little screw that's out of place and causing the whole structure to wobble.

Sometimes, it's not easy to get that other viewpoint. For my shoulder, I needed Sue Bloom. For my book, I needed the distance of time and the tool of a synopsis. But if you can do it…

Yes, I grant you that there's not always a simple fix to something. But often, there IS another way around the obstacle, or another path entirely, that will help us get where we really want to go. But we'll see it only if we stop perseverating on the problem long enough to allow ourselves to see the other options. It's a good lesson to learn, and I'm hoping that I've learned it well enough that the next time I'm up against another huge, intimidating brick wall, I will pause, take a deep breath, walk back twenty paces and begin to look in other directions, instead of trying to hit that same wall with my dented hammer again.

What about you? Has there been a time where you've found a solution to a problem only after you allowed yourself to stop staring directly at the problem and turn your head to look in other directions?