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2014 Muse Challenge: What Now?

30 Jan

 Join the 4 Chicks this year to stay focused on the next SMALL thing!

Now that it’s one month into the new year, are you moving closer to your creative goals? Perhaps, like the recording artist Rihanna, you may be asking yourself “What Now?”

If you “just can’t figure it out,” you’re not alone. For 2014 I’m challenging my 4 Chicksand youto ask yourself this same question as often as possible: What now?

But instead of screaming it in reaction to events happening around you, stay calm and query yourself for an answer. Something very specific and very small. What’s the next immediate, tangible action you can take?

Here’s one: Join my 2014 What Now? Challenge. To celebrate and share your beautiful little victories, feel free to check in with the Chicks one of the following ways:

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What Inspires Me

23 Jan

At a writing conference this weekend, I realized the speakers that always inspire me the most are the illustrators. It makes sense because I think in pictures when I’m writing. If only my hands could create what I see in my head. *sigh*

Anyway, I also realized the need to use visuals more in my writing process simply for the inspiration they provide. Here are a few that are inspiring me this morning.

HAPPY NEW YEAR – My 2014 Goals!

4 Jan

Happy New Year!

I don’t know about you all, but it felt like the holiday’s just flew by.  Usually I’m able to sit down and write my goals for the new year.  It helps me be accountable on the things that I want to accomplish before it gets lost with my hectic life.  There are years that I’m able to accomplish many things and there are years that I don’t even accomplish one thing on my list.  But that is Ok, I just add it to the next year.

But for some reason, this year I could  not think of what I want to accomplish or do for 2014.  Don’t get me wrong there are many things I still want to do but I was trying to think of things that was not time consuming or much effort from my part.

Have you ever had those moments that you are thinking of something and you are about to disregard it for whatever reason and something you read or heard convinces you to not give up, do not disregard or ignore it.   Well I just had that moment.

skydiving

This was challenging for me!

I’ve been reading a book called Succeed: How we can reach our goals by Heidi Grant.  She writes:

“Setting and achieving challenging goals has added benefits besides great performance. Think of a time in your life when your accomplished something really difficult, and compare that to how you felt when you pulled off something relatively easy.  Which feels better? Succeeding at something hard is more pleasurable, gives greater satisfaction and happiness, and increases your overall sense of well being.”

As I contemplating what she wrote, I started looking at what gave me great happiness and it was those goals that I set for myself that were not easy and had me doubting myself but when I was able to accomplish them, gave me such an amazing feeling.

daily mileExample: I have never run before and at 40 years old decided that I was not just going to do a 5K, I was going to do a triathlon.  Call it stupid on my part to try something harder, than doing something like a 5K first (like if that was not hard enough for someone that had never run before).   But it was the best decision for me.  I knew if I trained for a 5K, I would be able to do it, if I stuck with it.  But a Triathlon seem so much harder and had me thinking “can I really do this?”  Can I push myself out of my comfort zone? YES! As I look back I always did better on things that took me out of my comfort zone.   Am I scared to death? YES!!!!   I always knew that we are here on this earth for a very short time and I always wanted to make my life count for something for someone.  I wanted to be an inspiration to may girls, that even in the hardest time you are able to get through it and keep pursuing your dreams.  But finding a balance is very hard, I never want my children to feel neglected because of my own dreams.  So I try to choose carefully what I want to do and what is really important to me.

There is a motivational video that I love to listen to and he said

“The wealthiest place in the planet is the graveyard, because in the graveyard we will fine the inventions that we never were exposed to, ideas, dreams that never became reality, hopes and aspirations that was never acted upon. THE QUESTION IS WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH YOUR TIME?”

So, here it is my 2014 Bucket List!  (few of these goals I know that I will be focusing on and the others might happen or not, but I’m not so worried about them if it doesn’t).
1. Find an activity that we all can do as a family together (bike, volleyball etc) (MUST)
2. Take time to focus on my spiritual journey (MUST)
3. Start working on my Documentary (This is the reason why we started the 4chicks and a Muse)
4. Continue my education in Holistic Sports Nutrition (MUST)
5. Compete in Spartan Races (Already signed up)
6. Bungee Jump (scared to death)
7. Take a paddle board class (Dream)
8. Learn to sail (Dream)
9. Go to Greece (I don’t expect this to happen but I’m still putting it out there just in case LOL).
10.  Make time for my chicks and our amazing blog!   (MUST)

What are your goals for 2014?

FLAVOR! Experiencing the different flavors of life

25 Nov

On facebook there was a game that if you commented or liked someone’s post about “what you might not know about me”, they will give you a number and ask for you to write something about yourself that people might not know.

Here is what I wrote:

Here are 11 things about me, in case you didn’t know.
1. I’m a level 2 Reiki practitioner
2. Lived in the projects in Queens, NY for the first 12 years of my life
3. Love Disco
4. When I was 10 years old I send John Travolta $1.00 for his birthday LOL.
5. Was an aerobic instructor in my late teens.
6. My first car was a Suzuki jeep.
7. Did a commercial for a Puertorican magazine.
8. Lived in Minnesota for 1 year
9. Owned a small business with a friend doing personalized books for children in Los Angeles.
10. I’m into genealogy! I researched my Grandmother’s family history from France to Spain and than to Puerto Rico.
11. Love to cross stitch

I found it interesting that many were surprised that I lived in Minnesota, or that I was into Reiki or enjoyed cross stitching.   They couldn’t see me doing those things or being interested in them.

I have always love experiencing new things and I’m willing to take a chance and give it a try before I say “No thanks, this is not for me”.   I want to taste, smell (well I don’t have sense of smell, so this is a hard one :-)), and see new things.  In a way I want to experience life like a toddler does.  I think we have lost that in our society.  We look at the world with eyes of distrust, judging it’s every move, and always trying to rush through it, till one day we stop and see that life has just flown by, and all the dreams and hope that we had once when we were younger are gone.   We then say I’m to old, don’t have enough money, I might as well give up on my dreams.

I’ve had those moments, that years pass by and I say “where did time go”.  But I also have had those moments that I try to cherish every second, every moment.  Because I know that today and NOW is all we have.  Life does not guarantee me that I will be here tomorrow.   So if TODAY is all I have than what am I willing to do, to savor, to experience right now!  What is my life purpose? What can I do to contribute to the world that I live in? How will my children remember me, when I’m gone?  These are the questions that I ask of myself.

cross stitchYes! I cross stitch, I practice Reiki, I love doing mud races and getting muddy, and jumping out of airplanes.  But I also love baking cookies with my girls, and watching movies on the floor when it’s raining, and playing board games.  I love making Christmas magical for them, because I too want to believe in Santa Claus!

So, I ask you, what are you choosing to experience in your life TODAY?

Writing Characters People Care About

1 Nov

I’m generally reluctant to blog about the craft of writing, mostly because I feel like ‘Who am I to tell others what works and what doesn’t?’ I’m no Stephen King (whose book On Writing every writer should read!)  But, as one of my wise professors used to say, “I teach in the area in which I most need to learn”. He knew that we internalize learning best when we share it with others.  So, in that spirit, read or ignore the following ramblings as you like…

Character – What Does It Mean Anyway?

Isn’t it funny how the word ‘character’ is used in conversation to mean very different things?  On one hand we say “He’s a man of character,” which means we agree with his values or morals.  On the other hand, we say, “Isn’t he a character?” by which we mean he’s naughty but we like him anyway.  Unless, of course, you’re from the South and you say, “He’s a character, all right, bless his heart,” which means we don’t like him or we don’t approve of him, but we have to say it in a politely passive-aggressive way, you see, because that’s what we do.

Care About vs. Love

The interesting thing is that any of the above meanings can translate into writing a character people care about.  Notice I did not say a character people love.  You need characters that people don’t always love to make a story fulfilling.  This provides tension which is so necessary for a story we just can’t put down. You need both the yin and the yang in your story to make it work.  Sometimes the yin and yang are even within the same character.  The best books in my opinion are the ones where both the protagonist and the antagonist have qualities we empathize with, and those we self-righteously judge, just in different measures.

Avoiding Meh…

Spice, anyone?

Spice, anyone?

As writers, when we get feedback about our characters that they aren’t likeable, our knee-jerk reaction can be to take away all the ‘bad’ stuff – the snarkiness, the depressed outlook, or even too much perkiness (as in, I don’t like this character because she’s always perky and that makes me feel bad about my life).  Though there might be some over-the-top elements you could polish a little bit, if you take away all the ‘bad’ stuff and you have nothing left, you have, well…nothing. Instead, add some dimension by giving them behaviors or motivators that are contrary to what already exists.

Finding the Right Balance

I like to think of it like cooking.  While it is possible to have too much spice, usually it is the lack of balance that ruins the dish. There’s a funny commercial out now, where a couple is in a Chinese restaurant and someone has left the sweet out of their sweet and sour dish. Don’t take out all the sour – what you’ll be left with is bland.  Here are some examples of sweet and sour character types I like:

  • The snarky teen who is uber-snarky to his parents but kind to his kid sister because, frankly, the parents kind of suck and he feels she deserves better
  • The hyper-driven type A who initially appears 100% confident, but who we learn is motivated by fear of abandonment
  • The wimpy kid who won’t stand up for himself but will for his friend

So, that’s it, my thoughts on character that I will try – try, I tell you – to keep in mind as I continue plowing through my current WIP.

How about you?  How do you find the right balance and create characters people care about?

TWIST AND BOUNCE: How a story got twisted

25 Sep

I’m kind of mad at my fellow Chick Tracey because she already came up with the idea to cheat and use TWIST and BOUNCE in one post. *stamps around pouting*

Okay, so I’m not really mad. It just shows we’re brilliant (or that we put things off–in my case, WAY off)!

OLIVIA TWISTED debuts in less than two months! *Cue freaking out*

This month, I thought I’d share some of the ways I twisted the original characters of OLIVER TWIST to make it a contemporary story, giving you a little insight to the world of OLIVIA TWISTED.

CHARACTERS

Olivia (Liv) Westfield (Oliver Twist)
Olivia, like Oliver, is an orphan. While Oliver lived his young life in a workhouse, Olivia is raised in the foster care system. Like Oliver, she yearns for love and, regardless of a rough life, is still innocent at heart. But though Oliver never really did anything illegal on his own, Olivia made some wrong choices. Sometimes making the wrong choices helps guide a person to making the right ones later.

Z (The Artful Dodger)
I think I might’ve had a tiny crush on the Artful Dodger when I was a little kid and saw the movie Oliver! Just a tiny one, mind you, before I realized he probably should take a bath. So maybe that influenced my decision to make Z the hot bad boy who rides a Ducati. But I always liked how the Artful Dodger took Oliver in hand and was a friend to him (albeit a friend with underhanded motives). I thought this was the perfect opportunity to brew a romance with Liv (I like brewing things, you know). His internal turmoil begins when he starts thinking about someone else besides himself for once in his life.

Nancy (Fagin/Nancy)
Oh, poor Nancy from the original story—what a horrible hand she was dealt in life. Seriously. But I really liked her and the way she fought against everything to help Oliver, even though it led to her demise. I made her the “mom” of the Monroe Street gang because I always thought she deserved better. Though sometimes her decisions are a little messed up (hello, Bill Sykes).

Bill Sykes (Bill Sikes)
Every party has a pooper, that’s why we invited you: Bill Sykes. Yes, Bill is the leader of the hackers (and, cough cough, other homes of ill-repute). He was evil in Oliver Twist. He is evil in my story. Evil can be so much fun (*rubs hands together evilly*)!

Sam (Charley Bates)
Yes, I could’ve named her Charley after the Artful Dodger’s sidekick. But Sam is the type not to do anything because someone told her to. She was Sam to me from the very beginning, and her character is quite happy with that name. Sam is the fun-loving friend and partner of Z’s who befriends Olivia right off the bat. Sam is much closer to Olivia than Charley was to Oliver, though, like Z, her motives aren’t always well intentioned.

BOUNCE over to my website at www.vivibarnes.com to see more on how I twisted the classic. Then BOUNCE over to www.oliviatwisted.com to check out the new trailer for Olivia Twisted, which debuted this past week on www.Hypable.com (there’s still a couple days left to enter to win a signed book and swag)!

Dizzy yet? 😉

Add OLIVIA TWISTED to your Goodreads shelf.

Pre-order OLIVIA TWISTED from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million

OliviaTwistedCover

FLARE! Shine bright, o talented ones!

1 Aug

So I’ve been half-watching (cuz you know – laptop’s always on the lap, duh) these amazing competitions on So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Got Talent, and these people have some serious talent! These days, we’re accustomed to watching the ones who “aren’t good enough” get booted off these shows, but HELLO—even the ones who go home are sometimes incredible!

Which makes me think about some of the reviews I’ve read on some incredible books lately. There are simply amazing books that have made me laugh, cry, and everything in between. Then I go on Goodreads to find out that not everyone feels the way I do. It’s truly shocking when I see a one-star review on a book I thought was fantastic! Sometimes I wonder, “Did you read the same thing I did?”

But it happens. With my book debut just three months out, I admit that this thought has plagued me. Especially considering the company I work for in my day job, I’m used to having happy people around me constantly. Very happy! (See if you can figure it out.) Now I’m putting myself out there—wait, not me, just my book—and who knows what will happen. I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that most authors feel this way—nervous about reviews, hoping the gifs aren’t too horrible, and hoping no one throws virtual rotten eggs at your door.

I just have to keep in mind that as with the crazy talent I see on these shows, everyone’s opinions differ. It’s not personal, it’s just business–or whatever.

So yeah, this is probably the closest I’ll get to a review-paranoid post (no promises). I am just grateful to know I’m in good company, regardless of what happens!

So go forth and shine, o talented ones, and don’t fear the reaper of rejection. Can someone remind me of this later?

July Power Word: FLARE!

2 Jul

Flare – it’s all about the fireworks this month, my friends. And with true flare, here are some (albeit silly) phrases to get you cracking:

  • Let your art POP this month!Colorful Fireworks
  • Don’t let your energy FIZZLE.
  • Let your ideas BURST from your fingertips
  • Go in (or out) with a BANG!
  • Shine forth and prosper (sorry, the new Star Trek movie was awesome)
  • And above all—SPARKLE, people! SPARKLE!

Wherever you are in your project, make every moment, every word, every stroke count! Be heard! Be seen!

FLARE!

DIVE….Do what the French Do!

30 Jun

I was in France a few weeks ago with my husband for vacation.  It was my first time in Europe.  And I had an amazing time.   I learned so much about myself during this trip that I didn’t realize.  We live in a world of always having to be busy.  I will talk for myself, I always have to be busy, always have to be doing something new.  I feel unproductive if I’m not doing something.

966204_10201500832301643_1808902320_o (2)How did I come to realize this?  My husband and I went to the Eiffel Tower and below we saw a beautiful park name The Parc Du Champ de Mars that people were just lying on the ground relaxing.  I was so excited about lying down on the ground, looking at the Eiffel Tower and relaxing.  Well guess what I couldn’t.  My husband had no problem, but I felt so restless.  First half hours it was nice just people watching and they all looked so relaxed.  Some eating cheese , bread and drinking wine.   I just got on my phone and started reading my facebook, walked around, till I had tell my husband it was time to go.

It drove me crazy why I JUST couldn’t relax.   The more I thought about it, I realize that I was always running around doing things.   I did not know how to relax.  Just to lay there and do nothing and admire the small things.  Like the sky, flowers, grass, watch the kids play. Why have I never just taken some food, blanket a good book and enjoyed all the blessing that I have.  How can I appreciate everything I have if I’m always trying to stay one step ahead, always running around trying to do to many things and not really enjoying it.

Well I got my chance again.  8 days into our trip we were heading to Barcelona from South of France on train.  Well guess what?  We missed the train and were forced to wait 6 hours with our entire luggage for the next train.

Here was my chance!  The funny thing was that the night before someone had recommend for us to buy a bottle of wine, some cheese and bread to take on the train.  My husband was so upset but in front of the train station was a beautiful park and I looked at my husband and told him lets go sit on the grass and have a picnic.  My husband said “for 6 hours?”  YES!!!!!  And we did!  We had our wine, cheese and bread, we talked, he took a nap, I read a book and just people watch for 6 hours.

Was it a coincidence? Maybe or maybe not, but it was what I needed to renew my energy and come back with a clearer mind and learn to take time to relax and enjoy the outdoors without feeling that I have to always be doing something.

So, I’m diving into new territory here.  In hopes that it makes me a more rounded person, a better wife and mother and more creative.

Now you know what I will be doing this summer and it’s OK to enjoy the little thing in life, like sitting in the park with some good food and great company.

So thank you France for teaching me to relax!

DIVE! to Your Quiet Place

26 Jun

You’re standing at the deep end, waiting for a clearing, your toes palpating the smooth brick edgers. The pool is packed. Children squeal and splash, whine and wade. Parents chase and cajole. A toddler passes behind you screaming, “Nooo!”

You bend your knees and stretch your arms forward, bringing your hands to a point. You, too, are a parent. You, too, are a child. So you dive.

Gliding below the surface with a gentle break, you slope onward and downward. You open your hold and touch your splayed fingers to the bottom. When you look up through the rippled light, bodies run but their words are muted, distant. At last you can hear your own thoughts, your own words. You realize that you can stay here for as long as you want. You’ve always felt restless, but now you rest contently in your comforting, watery quietude.

You are a mermaid, one made for two worlds. For you, breathing the water below the surface is as natural and essential as the air above it. When you stay on land too long, you suffocate. To this peaceful place you long to return, muffling the noises and focusing on your private passion. Here is where you find your flow. Ideas pour out, and time passes unnoticed. Why did you wait so long, you wonder, so long to return to this place you love.

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Have you ever had a dream like this, too, that you could breathe underwater? For us mermaids, going down for creative air is essential. But contrary to common artistic guilt, getting there does not require planning a solo vacation. Instead, we each can slip into it unnoticed amid the chaos by claiming small moments with ourself and our laptop, piano, paints, sewing machine, whatever.

During this season of busy family fun, how do you get to your quiet place? What would you like to do next there?

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