Thursday, January 2, 2014

Walking Confidently in the Direction of Your Dreams

Here's one of my favorite quotes from Thoreau: "If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined,  he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."

I think we can all agree as to what that means.  Walk with purpose, walk with definition, walk confidently and there is nothing, no obstacle that will stand between you and your goal.  Okay. Now that we've got that one figured out, props to us.

For me, while I loved that quote, I could never figure out how to advance confidently. And I'm not talking about the blowhards of the universe who know how to fake confidence and swagger around like testosterone-fuled peacocks.  I'm talking about truly knowing how to depend on your abilities. Truly having faith in your reasoning.  Knowing what makes you a happy person.  Knowing how to cope when you are unhappy.  Having faith, perhaps in a higher power to assure you when you're down.  Knowing that you can truly make things happen and hit your goals.

For years the "advancing confidently" part tripped me up.  I remember reading Conversations with God by Neale D. Walsch and that helped somewhat.  First, it showed me that I wasn't insane and you, anyone, could hold a conversation with God.  Second, he brought up an interesting point.  Sort of a Dale Carnegie Power-of-Positive-Thinking point.  Walsch stated that you had to imagine yourself successful first.  No matter what, you had to envision yourself already having achieved your goal.

That tripped me up, too.  How the heck can I imagine myself successful if doors keep getting slammed in my face?  How can you feel positive when you feel like you have a giant L branded on your forehead? That unanswered question was just one more thing that eluded my grasp.

Then I met my friend and writing mentor, Ronald Jacobs.  Ronnie was a producer/director/writer for such notable television shows like Dick Van Dyke, That Girl, The Andy Griffith Show, Mod Squad, I Spy -- he had a wonderful career.  We were introduced by a mutual friend who used to watch me pity myself until she could no longer stand the sight of me.  She still doesn't talk to me! But she introduced me to Ronnie and that changed a lot.

So, if we are going to take a class on "advancing confidently," this will be Point 1.
Point 1:  Get a mentor in the business you are interested in.

First of all, that person will recognize your talent, even if you don't.  And if you are not talented, then you need to hear that from someone you trust.  Maybe you are following the wrong dream. There's no shame in that.  It just means you're pursuing something that's not truly part of your heart. Maybe it's part of your ego, or someone else's dream for you.  Better to realize it now and focus on something that really gets your heart beating.  I guarantee you that all of us contain a glowing lamp inside.  And you need to shine that special personal light, because in doing so, you may just light someone else's way through a bad time.  Or maybe that light you carry will illuminate your own brighter path.  But you can't shine if you are frustratingly following an erroneous path.
I believe I was on the right path because Ronnie gave me encouragement. He is quite possibly the most positive person I've ever met. And he gave me a word of warning:  DONT HANG OUT WITH NEGATIVE PEOPLE.

Which of course, reminds me of another favorite poem of mine: Desiderata.
"Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit." 

I don't know if loud and aggressive people are necessarily negative people, but I'm going to toss them into the testosterone-fueled peacock cage while we're at it.  How can you tell a negative person?  Well, chances are when you have something to be happy about, they'll remind you of a hurricane that killed people.  Honestly, I don't know how they do it, but they find a way to bring you down. And usually, it works.  Mostly because some negative people don't truly come off as negative.  That's so deceitful, isn't it? They'll be more manic-like.  More "high as a kite" happy which, in turn, will demote whatever nice thing happened for you.  Somehow, they will let you know that the incredible things happening for them should make the evening news and you will quietly tuck your good fortune into your back pocket. That's what happens with the insidiously negative people.  Watch out for them. You don't see them coming.

Another thing a mentor does is make you work.  Ronnie and I worked on a play together.  It really was my dream, but I didn't have the guts to go it alone.  He was right there with me.  And you know what?  We made it happen.  I've never worked so hard in my life. Which brings us to Point 2.

Point 2:  Don't be afraid of hard work

Man, you've got to work hard in this life.  My parents' generation made it look easy.  I think they were afraid to be honest with their kids.  I never knew any of my father's financial or business-related aches and pains.  In my world growing up, he never had them.  So, surprise/surprise when I reached an age of truly wanting to make something of myself.  I learned you have to work really, back-aching, head-stuffing hard.  But the first time I heard the actors speaking the words I wrote in a script, I thought I'd gone to heaven in that small theater with the loud air conditioner.

Okay, this blog is too long!  Tune in next time when we hit POINTS 3 & 4!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

My Vinyl Warped

Geez, I didn’t realize what a relic I was until I pulled out my old record albums and started playing them.  It’s Urban Outfitter’s fault. I bought a Crossley turntable from them in the hopes that my husband and I would have a blast replaying songs from our youth.  I hoped to recapture the same feelings I experienced whenever those albums were played.  The Rampal record which featured Japanese melodies was one of my favorites and could always put me in a mellow, happily introspective mood.  My Yo Yo Ma was for when I had visitors and wanted some cool background music.
I guess it’s the same thing when you download music you really like to your device, but there was a glorious feeling to hold a newly purchased record in your hand.  To run out of the store knowing that all that music belonged to you now.  We were proud of our record collections.  Having worked at Columbia records, I had an impressive collection, although it was my friend Peter who scoured the company’s music catalog and told me “you’ve got to have this one!”

When I married my husband, he had been a DJ, so his collection was even bigger.  Because he loves to experiment with different types of music, his collection was also better.  We were enamored of our combined record collections.  We treated the vinyl with respect -- keeping fingerprints off and delicately wiping down the dust from each record before we played it.  And then the record album fell by the wayside to make room for the all-encompassing, perfect sound of the CD. 
We sold and gave away a lot of records, but we kept our favorites. 

Now, I thought, with the new turntable I was going to breathe life into those comatose circles of vinyl.  They had been waiting for me to give them their stage once more.  I pulled out the Rampal, carefully set the needle down -- something I hadn’t done for years, and heard that precious crackling which proudly stated, “This is a vinyl record.”
But instead of hearing soothing Japanese melodies I began hearing the soundtrack to a horror flick.  My Rampal had warped.  I quickly put on one of my other favorites, “The Bessie Smith Story, Vol 2.” Ack! Warped again.  Bessie wasn’t Bessie anymore. Even my Yo Yo Ma had fallen prey to time spent in a cardboard coffin.
I immediately fell prey to my own thoughts.  Was I warped now?  Had my youth gone the way of my vinyl records and could never replayed?  It was a depressing thought, to say the least, and I put my hand to my face to make sure I was still a person.

Time takes its toll; that is true.  But I can’t throw my records out. Thumbnail cover photos on a small electronic device don’t hold a candle to feeling the glossy smoothness of a record album cover.  And I can still worship the process of reading the cover’s information, pulling the vinyl from the sleeve, and setting it on the turntable.  The music was not instantaneous.  You had make preparations. It took work, but the reward was hearing the music.  Working to have a reward is a good thing.  Getting what you want instantaneously gives you the false impression that the entire world works that way.  As I mulled over these deep thoughts, I attached my IPhone to the stereo and put on my favorite playlist.  Ah, well…

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Deep into Dusk by Laurie Stevens

Deep into Dusk

by Laurie Stevens

Giveaway ends September 22, 2013.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

TV Interview: Author's Night - Laurie Stevens

Hi Folks,
Karyn Foley interviewed me on Author's Night. It aired on TV and now here's the YouTube video.  It was a lot of fun doing it and I'd love to hear your comments.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Next Big Thing

Travis Richardson, the talented author of “The Prodigal Detective” has his young protagonist quit school to take up the family business after his father becomes ill. What's the business? A detective agency. Check out Travis's story by clicking on his name! Travis suggested I answer a few questions about my own novel, "The Dark Before Dawn" for “The Next Big Thing.”

What is your working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I'm a big proponent of weeding out the problems in our lives that cause us to be unhappy. I wanted to create a character that was called upon to help others (a homicide detective), who had a mind to solve mysteries (a homicide detective), and yet was burdened by many troubles.  His own psyche needs to be solved.
What genre does your book fall under?
Psychological suspense
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Wow, Michael Fassbender as Gabriel. Not that I wouldn't take Hugh Jackman either! Ryan Gosling would make a wonderful Victor Archwood.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A killer’s identity is locked within the suppressed childhood memory of the detective who hunts him.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It was already self-published, although now it is currently represented by an entertainment attorney.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The first draft took over a year and then sat on a shelf while I co-wrote and produced a play.  After working on the play with my co-writer and mentor, Ronald Jacobs (I Spy, The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mod Squad) my writing became much improved. I took the manuscript down from the shelf, blew off the dust, and revamped it. That re-write took a few months.  The second book went much faster. I was finished with it in less than 8 months. (That does not count editing!)
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
“Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “Silence of the Lambs”
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Children who go through trauma.
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest? 
Besides the well-researched forensic and psychological aspects -- the novel has garnered interest from Hollywood! Options have been offered!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

2012 what a year...

From many accounts, 2012 has been The Year of Change. I’ve heard many stories from people regarding the changes in their lives, and a lot of these changes do not feel good. In fact, many people suffered outright this year. So, what’s up?  From the end of the Mayan calendar to preachers talking about Armageddon, all signs point to an “end of days”.  Hmmm, we all made it through 12/21/12.  But an end of days may not necessarily be about rapture and hellfire.  Maybe it’s an end of days as we know it, which heralds, not brimstone, but change.   And maybe instead of digging our heels into the ground in painful resistance, we should embrace what these changes mean for us.

What does this have to do with writing?  Heck if I know.  I just thought the subject should be discussed.

I think cavemen suffered a lot.  Think about a skinned knee or an infection before Neosporin. Our advances in medicine and technology and agriculture and in just about everything else have given us a sense of ease.  It’s easy to go buy a steak and throw it on the grill.  Think about if you had to actually kill a cow to get it.  Could you kill the cow?  You probably could if you were hungry. But maybe having to kill a cow would make some of us vegetarians.  There’s a lot of blood involved in killing something.  Could you do it? 

Because things are easy, we’ve become more and more afraid.  You wouldn’t think that would happen.  You would think we would become emboldened in our relative state of ease. In some ways, we are bolder. We’re haughtier with each other, that’s for sure.  Some people have quite the sense of entitlement.  But when you get farther and farther away from something, you forget how to deal with it.  There was a time, not too long ago, where children died of childhood diseases.  There was nothing a doctor could do.  People lived relatively close to heartbreak, and yet they danced. They still found the heart to dance. They lived and enjoyed their lives. They reached out to other people and found comfort in sharing their woes.  They created community because they all knew how fragile their lives were.  Maybe they appreciated their lives that much more.  

And that brings me back to suffering. ViktorFrankl wrote about suffering in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning.” He says, “If there is meaning to life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering. Suffering is an eradicable part of life… without suffering and death, human life cannot be complete.”

Maybe the question isn’t, “What did I do to deserve this?”  Maybe the question is, “Now, what?” The only thing left to do, is to deal with the catastrophe.  And as much as we don’t like to suffer, that is when we begin to learn.

Of course, the first thing we need to do is take some responsibility for the things that befall us.  It’s much easier to blame someone else for our problems. You lost your home, so you blame the bank that took it from you. You suffered. So did your family, most likely.  But was there some part of your ego that was attached to that house?  I mean, why stay in a place that you are fast not being able to afford? Was there something that stopped you from selling when you could?  Denial is a pretty powerful force.  I’ve seen it at work in my own life.  But playing the victim is like staying in that relative, misguided, sense of ease.  You’ll always be terrified of the unknown. Now, there are true victims.  People who have inoperable cancer. Accident victims. Truly in the wrong place at the wrong time.  But so many of these people become role models for coping.  They don’t remain victims.  They deal on an everyday basis with issues that terrify the rest of us.  If 2012 has brought some of us closer to the precipice, maybe that wasn’t meant to be a horrible thing.  Maybe it’s an opportunity to reevaluate our values.  Maybe it was a little shakeup in a world fast becoming immune to suffering. 

I went to an inter-faith program where the clergy spoke about the Book of Job. Job, of course, is the biblical poster-child for suffering. The main thing I got out of the lecture was what God says to Job when it’s all said and done.  He says, in so many words,  “Brace yourself.” Actually, the words are, “Gird up now thy loins like a man.” Maybe God meant, “Man up now.” And then God proceeds to berate Job. Again, in so many words, He asks Job why, throughout all his suffering, did Job not recognize any of the amazing things that God created?  Okay, I’ll give you some examples… “Out of whose womb came the ice?”  “Doth the hawk soar by thy wisdom?” “Will thou hunt the prey for the lioness?” At first, I wondered, in the midst of suffering, why would one care about ice, hawks, or lioness prey? I didn’t see the point. But at a second look, I realized that those amazing things are exactly what we should focus on in the midst of suffering.  In the face of all that, Job admits he is but “dust and ashes.”  Comparatively speaking.

Job’s humility.  Well, there’s one for the guys with the sense of entitlement!  Maybe I should throw a bible at the next driver who cuts me off on the freeway.
We can all use a little 2012 now and then.  I hope your 2013 is filled with amazing things and that you reach out to your fellow man. While we may be “dust and ashes” and life may be fragile, the act of reaching out to others is infinitely strong.