90: How to Follow Through (in Writing and Life)

Happy 2017 everyone! I hope y’all had a wonderful holiday season!

Since we’re all now back to the grind, this blog post will be as well.

I’ve written previously about pushing through the most difficult part of a book: the middle. The big parts are finished, the end isn’t quite yet in sight, and you just have to keep plugging away and following through on that promise to yourself and your readers of a finished book.

Following through. Oof. Easier said than done sometimes, right?

You mean well and sometimes even make plans but then that thing called life gets in the way. Maybe the hiccup really was out of your control…we all have times when work, family, etc. spoil the best of intentions. Or maybe you “let” life get in the way…sometimes it’s easier to blame circumstances than to follow through.

What if you’re like the billions of your fellow Earthlings and want to get better at following through? Heck, that’s why so many people set New Years Resolutions, right? An attempt to follow through on a goal?

Well, here are Danielle’s tips for finishing what you start and becoming the reliable person/goal achiever that you’ve always wanted to be! (Hopefully I’ll remember to listen to my own advice! 😉)

1. Priorities

Figure out what is important. There is a limited amount of time in each day and we have to allocate that resource wisely. Some things will inevitably take high priority: sleep, family, and work. But if there’s a new activity that you want to bump up the list, you have to do just that: bump it up the list. Which means something else will inevitably get bumped down. But following through begins with knowing where things stand in your life, so that you can…

2. Only commit if you mean it

Sometimes we get a little too ambitious. We get a little too wrapped up in the moment and we think “sure, I can write a book in 4 months” or “I’ve never run in my life but I’m gonna finish a marathon each month this year” or something else absurd. Our time is precious (see #1), so only commit to something if you really mean it. Otherwise, you’ll feel guilty when you don’t follow through and you’ll run the risk of earning a reputation as a flake. And remember:

3. No excuses

The vast majority of successful people are successful because they want it more. Because when you really want something, you’re willing to sacrifice for it. For example, my mom and I watched every episode of Gilmore Girls when I was growing up. When I went away to college, we would call each other during the opening credits to sing the show’s theme song (yes, we’re crazy). And even though new episodes were released the day after Thanksgiving, I haven’t watched them. Because as much as I loved Lorelai and Rory, I love writing more. And I want to be a successful author more. 

The trick to following through? As Nike said, just do it. No excuses. If you want it, if you really want it, you’ll make it happen.

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89: Happy New Year

I’ll keep this one short and sweet,

Unlike 2016, this message will be nice and neat.

As we say goodbye to far too many beloved faces,

And close the book on bitter political races,

Let us pause and give thanks for 2017

And everything that the new year will mean.

A fresh start, a clean slate

With more love, and less hate.

Second chances and new beginnings,

Open doors – or perhaps overdue endings.

Whatever this new year shall bring,

I hope above all we get this one thing:

Be happy. 

Be you. 

Be grateful. 

Be true.

~~~~~~~~

Wishing you all a very blessed 2017!

88: Modern (Holy) Family

Over in the Middle East, a couple just got married. The circumstances behind the marriage were less than desirable (both are still teenagers), but they’re in love and the girl got pregnant and, well, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do, right?

Like many young couples, they’re broke. To make matters worse, their local government is notoriously inept and they have to go to the husband’s hometown in person in order to pay their taxes (umm…PayPal, anyone? Venmo? C’mon man).

Their car breaks down several times along the way, and they can’t even call Uber because his hometown is in the middle of nowhere. Pregnant, cold, and hungry, the wife and mom-to-be is wondering what in the world she got herself into. The husband and dad-to-be is realizing that his own father was right about how hormonal women can be when they’re pregnant. And why couldn’t I just mail in the tax form like all normal people do?, he thinks as he works to change the car’s tire yet again.

When they finally arrive in Po-dunk-ville (as she likes to call it), all of the hotels are full. Well, all of the hotels we can afford anyway, she thinks. But her back has been hurting her since this morning, her feet are swollen, and she’s feeling a bit nauseous, so when the hotel manager mentions off-hand that they can sleep in the barn if they want to, she jumps at the chance.

A barn, she thinks to herself. Holy cow, I really did marry a good ol’ boy from the country.

Several hours later, though, the newlywed bride isn’t thinking about how the barn smells like manure, that the wind is whipping through holes in the wooden walls and turning them all into popsicles, or how her in-laws and husband’s other relatives seriously suck for not offering them a place to sleep. This is their town, after all. Making us stay at a hotel? For real? Okay…so maybe she is thinking about that last one a little bit.

But most of her thoughts are focused on the watermelon-sized human being forcing its way out of her body and into the world.

A baby.

A boy.

There’s no crib, no blankets, and no Curious George mobile dangling from the ceiling to play lullabies and help the infant sleep. The only songs her son gets to hear are the baying, grunts, and groans of animals in the barn.

I should’ve taken that job in the factory like my parents told me to, the new father thinks. But then his wife places the baby in his arms and all of the cold, uncertainty, and fear melts into love.

The warm fuzzies don’t last long, though. Their country is ruled by a crazy dictator and he decides that all baby boys are a threat and need to die. Hearing this, the teenage father knows they only have one option: run away.

Leaving behind everything and everyone they know, the young family flees to a country in the West that promises protection, a certain degree of religious freedom, and jobs. They’re safe in the Empire in the West, but they’re not entirely welcome either.

I promise, honey, as soon as we can return home, we will.

***

Teen parents. Poverty. Violence. Fleeing one’s homeland.

Sound familiar? It’s not unlike the stories we hear and see on the news every day in 2016, no?

A young boy, two or three years old, crossing dangerous waters with his family in order to reach safety? That could easily be Alan Kurdi, could it not? The little Syrian boy who drowned in the Aegean Sea?

Or perhaps the story sounds familiar for another reason. Perhaps those teenagers aren’t in a car. Perhaps they’re riding a donkey. Perhaps Uber doesn’t exist, and perhaps the reason they can’t mail in their tax form is because taxes are counted based on a census for which everyone must be present in person. Perhaps the safe country in the West isn’t Greece or the United States. Perhaps it is Egypt. Perhaps the teenagers are named Joseph and Mary, and perhaps that baby boy is Jesus.

This hasn’t been the easiest of years for many of us personally or for all of us collectively as a country and a world. We’ve lost loved ones and heroes. We’ve seen old wounds ripped open and begun to question if cracks are appearing in foundations we once deemed unbreakable. But in these times of struggle, it is even more important to remember the virtues and values that bind us all together. Let us see ourselves in others, and perhaps they will see themselves in us.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

87: On John Glenn and Heroism

Americans like to throw around the word “hero” a lot. We also enjoy using its many variations: heroic, heroism, etc.

This especially applies to sports. An athlete plays a particularly good game and he/she “gave a heroic performance”. LeBron, OBJ, and Messi are children’s heroes. Our ticker-tape parades are reserved for championship teams.

Hero.

1. a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character.

2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has special achievements, abilities, or personal qualities and is regarded as a role model or ideal.

There was a time, not too long ago, when heroism required more than catching, shooting, or kicking a ball.

There was a time, not too long ago, when Americans demanded more from a person before he or she could earn the label of hero.

John Glenn was a hero. He earned the label – and then some.

When the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor, Glenn quit college to enlist in the military. After completing pilot training, he saw combat in the South Pacific during World War II and also during the Korean War. Twice, Glenn returned from missions with over 250 holes in his plane from enemy flak. John Glenn continued his military service after the wars, becoming a test pilot and then earning international fame as an astronaut – the first American to orbit the earth. If that weren’t enough, he finished his lifetime of service by working for 24 years as a United States Senator (and returning to space in 1998 as a payload specialist on a Discovery shuttle mission).

Image result for john glenn good of mankind

Rather than seeking a “safe space”, college-aged John Glenn left the confines of his university to defend his country and the world against tyranny. When he orbited the earth, Glenn did so in a 2,700 lb metal bin that most closely resembled an upside-down flood lamp bulb…all powered by technology significantly less advanced than what you’re using to read this blog post.

Heroism is abandoning one’s own plans and personal safety in order to serve a cause greater than oneself.

Heroism is sitting alone atop a giant firecracker, inside a sardine can, and praying that everything the scientists drew up on the chalkboard about Earth’s gravity is actually true. That when you shoot into outer space, you’ll return again – rather than drifting off forever into the black abyss.

Image result for john glenn lowest bidder

In modern terms, heroism is running into burning buildings to save the lives of people you’ve never met.

In today’s world, heroism is showing up to work in a police uniform – knowing there is a target on your back because you choose to protect and serve.

Heroism is climbing inside a humvee and driving down roads that may or may not have bombs hidden under them. Hearing, seeing, feeling, and even smelling bullets and mortar fire landing all around you and knowing that the only way you will survive is if the person shooting at you dies.

I read one obituary for John Glenn that called him the last great American hero. I respectfully disagree. We still have plenty of heroes today. They just don’t always get the recognition they deserve.

86: Books Update!

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

The questions are starting to pile up about when my next book will be published, so I figured I would use this week’s blog post to give everybody a bit of an update!

First of all, thank you for asking about my next book! I love that y’all love my books enough to continue asking when the next one will be published! It warms my heart and motivates me to make the next story even better for y’all!

Two books in 2017.

Yep, you read that right! I have two books scheduled for release next year!

The first will probably be mid-to-late spring. It’s a mind-twisting, keep you up at night psychological thriller that brings back two of my favorite characters from the Joseph series: Reagan White and Allen Williams! 

The second is the long awaited, highly anticipated The Boy From The Abyss. This book has been a work in progress for 4 years now and I promise it’ll be worth the wait! Plus, it’s going to be released in October…on Friday the 13th! Y’all know that will be one awesome release party!! 

Upcoming Giveaways

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. This upcoming January, I will once again be giving away signed copies of my human trafficking bestseller, Price of Life. More details coming in the new year!

I’m sure a few other giveaways and promotions will be sprinkled in along the way! 

Christmas presents

In case you haven’t already seen it, I’m selling signed books via my website. All books can be personalized with a message for the recipient and make excellent holiday presents! Be sure to order before December 15th to ensure delivery in time for Christmas!

That’s all I’ve got for y’all! 

Until next week,

Danielle

85: Christmas Card Grammar

Longtime readers of this blog will already know my affinity for all things Christmas, up to and including Christmas cards.

Let’s face it, Christmas cards are a little bit of humble bragging, and nothing defeats that more easily than a glaring error on the envelope, signature line, etc.

If you’re like me and are starting to put together your list and mail out those holiday greetings, be sure to check out the grammar tips below!

1. Apostrophes are for possession, not plurality

If your last name ends in a consonant, just add a “s” to make it plural. No apostrophe needed!


2. Apostrophes, Part II


You are sending someone the greetings of the season. That means possession, which means apostrophe.

3. Apostrophes, Part III


Last names ending in “s” are tricky, but the same rule applies. Yes, it looks weird to write “Reeveses” or “Forbeses”, but that’s the correct way to do it!

4. Commas

We love grandpa. Let’s let him live to see the new year, shall we? When speaking directly to a person in a sentence, his or her name should be preceded or followed by a comma (depending on the name’s placement in the sentence). When speaking about someone, no comma is necessary.

5. Commas, Part II


Lists of three or more need a comma between the next-to-last item and the conjunction. Otherwise you end up with some really weird rhinos.

Hope these tips helped! Feel free to share them with family and friends! 😀

84: Thank You

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

It’s one thing to see someone be thankful for people and things in their life. It’s another to have someone thank you directly.

So here goes:

Thank you, God, for Your many blessings and unending Grace.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for being awesome and loving parents.

Thanks, Amanda, for being a lifelong friend and confidant.

Thanks, Joshie, for being my favorite big little man, fellow lefty, and lacrosse junkie.

Thanks, Gus, for being my best friend, pawralegal, editor in chief, and exercise partner.

Thanks, extended family, for giving me love, support, friendship, and a sense of history and place in the world.

Thanks, friends, for all the good times in the past, the promise of even greater times in the future, and for being “the family I got to choose.”

Thank you to any current or former service members and first responders who are reading this. Your dedication and sacrifice make it possible for me to write my books and live in the best country in the world. 

Thanks, Reading Committee, for helping turn my jumbled stories into printable books. For catching my mistakes and not making me feel like an idiot for making them.

And a million thanks to you, my readers, for providing an audience and outlet for all of my creative energy. For reaching out to tell me how much you enjoyed a book or particular character and to always ask when my next book will be published.

I am forever grateful to all of you and wish you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving!