Archive for March, 2012


March 30, 2012

You’ve probably noticed that, in my previous post about being a success I said nothing about money.  I suppose many–maybe most–folks consider making money a mark of success.  How do you think about that?  If money doesn’t buy happiness, (you must have heard this as often as I have) then do you consider being happy a measure of success?  Maybe I should have changed the saying to:  “Wealth doesn’t buy happiness.”  Vast difference, I think, between having money and having wealth,  between having enough to eat and dining richly on white linen tablecloths.

But we all agree, however we measure success, that we’d like having some, right?  I recently read a magazine article that had suggestions about gaining success.  It quoted Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs who, in turn, had quoted something Jobs said when he was young: “The journey is the reward.”  Jobs went on to say “I did learn some things along the way . . . I really did.”

So, what did I learn from the article?  There were four major categories.  The first category was VISION.  That’s the ability (article author Barbara Vining says),  to see possibilities beyond what has yet been imagined, and to translate that vision into concrete accomplishment.  She says anyone can cultivate this ability.  So, like it or not, I’m betting (and Vining is affirming) that you already have vision, even though you may have to dig deep inside to find it.  Take a quiet moment and think about that.

Second, Vining lists FOCUS as important in achieving success.  “Keeping both the overall goal and the specific task at hand clearly in view enables one to say ‘No!’ to mental and physical distractions, to taking on responsibilities that others can do, and to giving in to unhealthy tendencies.”  (Got that message?  I sure do.  Follow it always?  Well, I sure try.)

Third: COURAGE.  Oh boy, I get that, and I bet you do, too. “Try, try, try again.”  I haven’t a clue where I first heard that. Probably it was a message I heard repeated in childhood.  But gee, it popped into my head now as a mature adult when I thought of using courage on the road to success.  Have the courage to believe in yourself and keep trying.

(What cheer leading messages can you add to help us all along the way to success?)

Fourth: PERSISTENCE.  Well, that makes sense, and repeats the message “Never give up.”  Vining reminds us that Thomas Edison experimented over a hundred times before he succeeded in producing the incandescent light bulb.

Sometimes friends or family members, knowing your goals, will help you in the persistence thing, even if just by asking frequently how things are coming along until you want to swat them.  But still you push ahead so, eventually, you can tell them about your success,  large or small.

If you are a God-leaning person (or rely on an ultimate and beneficent force or power you call by another name) then you have a very strong partner on your journey to success–and you already know that.

However you define success, you gotta admit it’s a topic worth pondering.


Are you a success?

March 23, 2012

The answer to the question posed above depends, of course, on how you view success, so, shall we think about that for a moment?  I’m a professional writer (meaning I work at this job full-time and more), so, what spells success for me?  All would probably say getting my work published, and I would say it too, though today there is kind of a wavy line around that definition of success.  Why? Because it is incredibly easy for writers to self-publish in many forms today. So, does having a 99 cent e-book you self-published give you a feeling of success?  Yes?  No?

See what I mean about how we view success for ourselves? And, by extension, how we view success for others–in other words, do we aspire to what they have achieved? Are we, perhaps, jealous of their “success?”  This type of evaluation applies in any any aspect of life and to any profession.  (In other words:  not only “Does that author sell more books and get more awards than I do?” but, “Does the guy with the hot dog wagon in the next block sell more dogs than I do and, if so, why?”  OR, “Are that broker’s clients gaining more than mine?”)

One of the things I stress when speaking about or teaching aspects of the writing profession is that a most important first step is knowing ourselves,  how we view success, and how diligently we are willing to work for it.  How do we picture ourselves as authors?  If your creative self simply wants to get words out of your head and on paper or a computer screen, then your definition of success is easy.  Finish a poem, an essay, an article, or a book to your satisfaction, and you have succeeded!

But then–who’s going to read your beautiful words?  I don’t think any writer can help going one step further by yearning for readers.  If you enter the path toward acquiring multiple readers, are you first willing to have a competent editor read your work and make suggestions for improvements and corrections?  (Does this horrify you? “It’s perfect NOW?”  Ooops!)

Are you familiar with all the possible avenues to publishing–from Random House to an Internet-attached computer in Granny’s second bedroom?  Do you understand the probabilities, complications, and necessary steps to achieve any type of publication?  Yes, it can be a long learning curve, just as learning any profession demands. Are you ready for that?

Many writers are still startled today when they learn–whether they aspire to Random House or GrannyPubCo, or something in between–that much of the promotion work for their product (the written piece) is going to be in their job description, and much of that will be on the Internet.  (Ugh, records to keep,  media contacts to be made, Internet intricacies to understand, and on and on.)  How to start? Are you ready for this?

Do you like people? Are you comfortable reaching out, helping others, commenting (positively) on their work, going to events where people in your profession gather, listening, asking questions?  Months and years of such up front activity reaps huge benefits.  Life itself gives us the opportunities in many cases. Can you look back and see how your own activities in the past can work for you today?  Do you see how moving among the human throng over past years can now be seen as steps toward success in your profession?  From today forward we must begin (or continue) noticing others, their successes and problems. We will reach out, touch them in some way. That’s a huge step toward success, I believe.  What do you think?

More on SUCCESS next week.  See you back here then.   Radine

“Be my life companion . . . . “

March 16, 2012

I admit it.  I’m a romantic dreamer.  In fact, that’s probably why I’m a writer. I can imagine all sorts of stories. I loved romantic dreaming when I was a teenager, and the title of this blog comes from a song popular then.  All I remember is how it started, “Be my life companion and you’ll never grow old.

(Never grow old? Young-uns today probably don’t realize yet that, whether we’re 26 or 76; inside, we’re still the same.)

My husband and I have been married for a good many years and have always enjoyed being companions. We love doing projects together. For a very long time that project was creating a homestead in the Arkansas Ozarks. We  bought our land ten years before we moved here full-time, and our first job was making a clearing in the forest to build a weekend cabin. We bought two chain saws and got to work. On weekends and during vacation time we cut down trees, large and small and cut out underbrush. I learned to use a come-along (helps guides trees in a proper fall) while my husband chewed through trunks with the big gasoline powered saw. Then it was my job to cut logs to firewood size. For that, I had a smaller electric saw.  We also bought a wood splitter and worked as a team when we operated that.

We built our cabin by ourselves for the most part.  Wonderful companionship, and we were both doing jobs that were really important. We were a team.  It was hard work, but I’ve never been happier.

After we moved here full time our work split.  First, John and friends went to work expanding the cabin into a larger home.  I was the gofer, but, otherwise, there was no part for me. Honestly?  I was unhappy most of the time. No more shared chores or companionship. John was even busy in the  evenings.  Supplies had to be planned and ordered, work schedules figured.  One good thing. I began writing during that time, and sold articles and essays about the Ozarks to magazines and newspapers.

After the house was finished, our life still split during week days, as is common to most couples.   John worked in town at various jobs, I did house cleaning for others as well as at home, and continued my non-fiction writing.  Retirement?  Though we were certainly at an age when some contemplate that, it wasn’t in the cards for us.  Besides . . . wouldn’t we be bored?

On weekends we worked outside most of the year. I had a huge vegetable garden, John took care of mowing. We both tended to necessary upkeep around our 23 acres. Time passed.

When my fiction writing career took off, our work split again. Outside chores were reduced to the nearest possible minimum, my vegetable garden was abandoned.  John, who had been “retired” from the bookkeeping job in town and replaced by a much younger female, now helped me with record keeping for my work as a writer.  We each spent days in our separate home offices.

Then, interest was shown in a quirky cookbook featuring recipes used by the definitely peculiar cooks, Carrie McCrite and Henry King, who star in my “Something to die for” mystery series.  John volunteered to prepare that cookbook.  Now, we’re back to companionable activity in a big way. We pour over recipes, compare, organize.

And we cook!  Every day one new item is tested.  We read recipes, discuss possible alterations,  grocery shop, come home to chop, mix, and cook. We’re a kitchen team, with John as chef and Radine as assistant.  Talk about companionship!  I recommend it.  You never know where your life will go!

A new and different look at conventions.

March 12, 2012

When my husband and I were first married, he was expected to attend a national business convention in his field each January, and since these were held in interesting places like Miami, Las Vegas, and New Orleans,  I took my own vacation from work at the same time and went along.

This was back in olden times when business heads were male, therefore convention planners organized day-long events for wives who had come. I  can’t remember what was planned for the women, because I never attended. Though I wasn’t really involved in my husband’s business, I went to the men’s meetings as an observer, sitting silently in the back of enormous meeting rooms full of suits.

Of course there were the usual strategy speakers, discussions of advertising campaigns, and so on, and many were interesting.  But you know what I remember best? The comradery.

During breaks those guys, whether they’d met before or not, greeted, slapped backs, smiled, laughed, joked, and even had semi-serious discussions. No one was a stranger.  Passersby were invited in shouts to come join a group, offer ideas, tell a joke. I stood in corners and watched. It looked like loads of fun.

“It’s a guy thing,” I thought.

Many years later I attended a convention of my own. It was Bouchercon in Austin, Texas, 2002, and I was a newly published mystery author.  This was even bigger than my husband’s long-ago business conventions, and, unexpectedly, I felt bewildered and overwhelmed.  Everyone but me seemed to know a lot of people, and also know exactly where to go and why. A majority of the attendees this time were female, but I was still the observer, watching groups of women I didn’t know chatting, laughing, telling jokes, and having semi-serious business discussions. I walked up to a few groups, got smiles, but stood back as the conversations continued.  What was wrong here?

Was it me? Was I destined to be the always outsider?

At that Bouchercon, yes, I was. I was an introvert, uncertain of protocol. I had no mental guidelines based on previous contacts. In other words, I hadn’t a clue how to be a part of all this comradery!

Did this ever change?  You bet, because I did! At smaller conferences and conventions in my area, I learned.  I swallowed my hesitation, gulped, joined chatting groups, listened, and even dared ask questions or offer ideas.  In no time at all, I was a part of what was happening. I was an “insider.”

Since that time I’ve been to dozens of relatively small writer’s conferences (for learning), and conventions (learning and bookselling to fans), in the central United States where I live. I’ve spoken or appeared on panels at a majority of them. And I’ve loved enjoying sisterhood and brotherhood connections at all of them.  I’ve learned I can go up to folks I’ve never seen in my life and begin a conversation.  I can also have normal conversations (!) with those deemed most famous and favored in my profession without a single blush or hesitation.  At these events, we’re all real folks. We understand each other, and 99% of us are willing to extend a hand offering friendship and help to fellow attendees.

I love it!

In recent years I’ve attended three of the largest writer’s conventions in the world:  Malice Domestic in the Washington, D.C. area, Left Coast Crime when it visited El Paso, and, recently, Bouchercon in St. Louis.

The 2011 St. Louis Bouchercon was huge. Big, rabbit-warren of a hotel, meetings and panels on two floors, other events and conversations  scattered everywhere.  I had a wonderful time, (whether I got lost in the crowds or not),  and would go again in a heartbeat.

What brought me into full-time participation?  Simply understanding that, at these events, no one needs to play the part of a stranger.  If I want to confine myself to the position of observer, I can. But, introvert or not, I now leap into the river of humanity and swim as part of the whole school.  I act like a comrade, therefore I AM ONE, giving and receiving.  And I love it!

Meet me at a conference, or at



March 2, 2012

Anyone reading this under fifty?  Okay.  At least we’re all interested in what it’s like to be a senior citizen because we either are one, or hope to be one.

I’ve traveled over to Madison Johns Spunky Seniors Blog today to guest post on this topic.  See you there: