It’s the small moments that make a life special
The Happiness Jar is Launched
I first saw the idea for a happiness jar on Facebook, and loved the notion of the family writing down the little things that make them happy each week, so we could reflect on them in the New Year.
Life is so busy that it passes in a flash of colour and motion. It’s easy to remember the huge events that shape us, like the release of my first book in February, but sometimes we forget about the small kindnesses, or secret triumphs that make us smile each day.
So… at the beginning of 2015 I turned a pretty glass jar I received as a Christmas present, into a vessel to capture memories throughout the year. The children really enjoyed this activity too, although we became lax towards the end of the year.
Of course, there were some rotten things that happened last year, but we didn’t focus on those. We made sure the things that make us happy on a daily basis went in the jar, and those things are different for each of us.
When I was a child I used to puff the fine seeds from a dandelion and make a wish. It's amazing how many of those dreams have become a reality over the years.
On 2nd January 2016, the family sat down to a delicious dinner of salmon steaks with jasmine rice and vegetables, and took turns in taking a sunny yellow piece of paper from the jar and reading it aloud.
This is what we found…
Naturally my teenage sons were most impressed by triumphs on or new games for their game consoles, and a lot of my highlights were literature related, but there were some surprises too, like:
* We all enjoyed family outings, but from a different perspective, and chilling during long weekends, and hanging out with our friends rated high on the ‘happy meter’.
* People also mentioned how much they appreciated one another, or how another member of the family inspired them.
* There were some awesome sporting achievements in high jump, soccer and swimming.
* The children really loved having exciting birthday parties and appreciated the effort I put into making spectacular birthday cakes.
* A school camp at the beginning of the year was an action-packed learning adventure.
* Catching up with friends who have moved interstate.
* Being thrilled to see our dog after we’ve been away on holidays.
* Hubby was extremely excited when we finally pulled down the rusting above-ground pool to make way for a new shed.
* Enjoying the elaborate Christmas light in our street.
Some other highlights for me were:
* Doing author talks, local art events, and a radio interview, and all of the fabulous people I met along the way.
* Taking a sick friend who doesn’t have a lot of money, out to a movie and lunch. We also did some window shopping in the expensive part of town.
* Swimming with dolphins in Western Australia.
* The support and friendship I receive from the Novelist’s Circle critiquing group.
* Self improvement through public speaking at Toastmasters.
* Wine tasting (lets face it, living in a wine region means I’m spoilt for choice).
* Missing the family members we’ve lost, but being able to smile at the good times we shared.
* Seeing the historic organ rise from the floor and play incredible tunes at the Capri Cinema.
* A tour of the Haigh’s chocolate factory in Adelaide, which of course involved some taste-testing and a rather large bag of goodies to take home.
* A meet and greet with one of my favourite bands, Seether. I even got to chat and have a photo with the members.
* A day at the Myponga Gun Club with the South Australian Romance Authors group. All in the name of research of course!
Reflecting on the year that was and being thankful for everything we have, was a great experience for my family. We’ll definitely be keeping the Happiness Jar going in 2016.
I don’t like to make new year’s resolutions, because I hate to feel I’ve failed. Instead I have dreams (lots of them) and I make small goals to work towards them. They include personal improvement, literary and family oriented goals, but I’ll make time to ‘smell the roses’ along the way too.
I hope you all had a successful 2015, and even if it contained heartache or illness or loss, that you also managed to appreciate the sunsets and friends and dream a little.
Do you have a different way of reflecting on the past year?
What was your most precious memory for last year?
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Robust heroines, twisted plots, and passionate romances
Bookings essential, online or to 8336 0333
The Payneham Library, 2 Turner Street, Felixstow.
Chat with feisty local gals about their love of suspenseful stories and bold heroines.
We'll be sharing anecdotes about our journeys to publication, reading from our latest novels, and signing books.
Stay for a chat, glass of wine and light refreshments.
Books will be on sale at the discounted cash price of $20.00.
(A great Christmas present.)
Novelists go to great lengths for research gems
Good research can make or break a story, which is why you may have heard it said that you should ‘write what you know’.
One of my life mottos is I’ll try anything once. A philosophy that has provided me with a plethora of life experiences to draw on when I’m writing. Well recently I joined two-dozen romance writers for a gun day. Yes, you heard right.
We all traipsed into the wilderness (okay, that may be an exaggeration) to shoot thirteen different guns, all in the name of research. It was frightening and exhilarating, but there’s one thing for sure, there’ll be guns in our next books.
Research in general can be exhilarating, but there are two main pitfalls.
1) Most writers will tell you how easily they can be lead down the rabbit warren of investigation, following all sorts of interesting leads, and magically making hours at a time disappear.
2) Just because we’ve collated all this fascinating data, DOES NOT mean we should put it all in a book (unless it’s non-fiction). The iceberg principle is crucial when deciding what to include in a story. The writer may need to know the ins and outs of gunmanship, but the reader doesn’t care. They want only what is necessary to drive the story forward and make it come alive in their imaginations.
Of course, my research won’t stop here. When it comes to writing my next book, I’ll select the model of gun being used and I’ll do more detailed research about it. I might even talk to someone who owns one, in the hope that I’ll learn something you can’t read on the internet. Something that will take the use of that gun from a prop to a feature. And I might refer to the multitude of information snippets and links I have saved over the years for just such occasions. As Ryan Holiday says, “…you’re as rich as your database.”
So, when I write about guns, I not only have a better idea of some of the idiosyncrasies of different weapons, but know how they feel in my hand, how to load them, what they sound and smell like when fired. Oh the kick back!
A special thank you to the Myponga Pistol & Shooting Club Inc., who welcomed a gaggle of chatty women into their man cave (an impressively spacious affair with dining tables, a massive pot belly stove and a drinks bar) and took great care to teach us all the safety considerations associated with guns, as well as patiently answering our myriad of questions.
And did I mention they put on a mean barbeque lunch? You couldn’t find a more good-natured bunch.
Check out this fantastic article by Ryan Holiday: How I did research for 3 New York Times Best Selling Authors (in my spare time). I particularly like the bit about getting the most from your internet searches.
Over to you
What interesting life experience have you had that could make its way into a story?
Custody Combat is my next Romantic Suspense
My latest WIP is a romantic suspense story called 'Custody Combat'.
It all started with the question: how far would you go to save a child that wasn’t yours?
Kindergarten teacher, Neve, hates everything money stands for, since a drunk driver killed half her family and bribed her way out of jail.
She lives with her father, who has a Big Brother complex and can't cope with the modern world. Their home is secluded and simple, and their lifestyle relatively self-sufficient.
Micah is the seventh richest man in Australia. He controls a multi-billion dollar empire, but can't keep his ex-wife and their son on his radar, so hires a Private Investigator to track them.
When Micah, arrives in the rural town of Turners Gully, Neve is embroiled in a custody dispute. The situation becomes dire when Micah's son, Rowan, is kidnapped.
Neve and Micah will have to pool their resources to meet the ransom deadline and save Rowan. What they hadn't planned on was a confrontation where they'd have to choose which loved one they save. An impossible choice.
Read a sample here
I love courageous heroines who know how to take care of themselves. They don't need a man to sweep them off their feet or save them. They want a man who will fight beside them and see them as an equal.
Neve's father is a military veteran and taught her how to defend herself and live off the land. By day she takes care of four-year-old children. She has a heart of gold and is well loved in the rural township of Turners Gully. But don't underestimate her, because she can do as many chin-ups as any man, and knows her away around a gun.
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Part 3 - Present the Speech
Standing in front of a crowd is a terrifying prospect, but I’ve shared my journey with you. In previous weeks I shared tips on developing the best speech you can to engage the audience and leave them with a call to action.
In Part 1 I defined the topic/theme of my speech
In Part 2 I wrote the speech
Now I’m going to share my experience of speaking at my first public event, My Passionate Philosophy. It involved a panel of six local, inspirational women talking about who or what had an impact on them and shaped their life philosophies.
When the day of reckoning arrived, I was as well prepared as I could be. I’d written an engaging speech, practiced it often, and was dressed for business. I still felt sick at the prospect, but this didn’t mean for a second that I would entertain the idea of backing out. Hell no! I’m a strong, independent woman and I can do anything [repeat on loop].
I was worried about everything: the sold out audience wouldn’t like me; my voice would shake from nerves; or worse still… I wouldn’t have an intelligent response to their questions. My goodness, I was going to stand beside a bravery award recipient, who saved a friend from a shark attack, a radio announcer, successful entrepreneurs, and passionate naturalists. I felt like such a fraud! Who would want to hear my story?
When I arrived, The Links Lady Bay Resort at Normanville, was already abuzz and I reminded myself that the audience wanted me to succeed. They were interested in my journey to publication, and all I needed to do was have fun when I delivered it. (How can the audience have fun, if you’re not?)
Here is what I did:
· Hold my small note cards at around waist height, so they wouldn’t obscure my face, and only glanced at them when I needed a quick memory trigger.
· Make eye contact with different people around the room.
· Project my voice, and use different tones for emphasis.
· Smile and joke with the audience, letting my personality show through.
So, I told a crowded room about my philosophy that the people we meet every day shape our identity, and I shared a few anecdotes about people who have influenced me and the type of person I am (a motorbike-riding dare devil with a middle-aged mother alter ego). In conclusion, I reminded them that I’m no more remarkable than the person sitting beside them at that moment. We can all lead an extraordinary life by using the influences that shape our beliefs and acting on them.
And the most amazing thing happened... the audience fed on my excitement and openness and I fed on their response. The energy in the room was invigorating, and I was touched that many people stayed back to chat to me.
What should you take away from my experience? Anyone (yes that means YOU) can speak in front of people. Take small steps and be persistent. I recommend joining your local Toastmaster’s group.
I’d love to hear about your terrifying public speaking experience.