Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Positive Side of Things

I was talking with a good friend of mine yesterday about midlife frustrations and other weird things that I never dreamed I’d experience 10-20 years ago. She was particularly amused when I told her that we’ve lived in my home for 22 years and for reasons unknown, I caught myself trying to turn the kitchen light on by flipping the wall plug at the other side of the room. Don’t ask ... I have no answers. Life happens and sometimes all we can do is shrug a shoulder, hope no one was watching, and move on.

But in spite of the weight gain, apparent temporary memory loss as demonstrated above, and the miscellaneous aches and pains, I tend to think fun time are just beginning. At any rate, our talk reminded me of an article I wrote during my December 2008 virtual book tour that hit on the subject of aging and following your dream later in life. Thought I’d post it today for anyone who missed it the first time and who may need reassurance that there is life after 50.

A Midlife Dream
© Marta Stephens 2008 all rights reserved

What I would say to someone interested in pursuing their dreams later in life? Go for it! No matter how small, large, or unattainable the dream may seem, it’s always within reach if you want it badly enough. People can find a million and one excuses for why they haven’t accomplished a goal—age shouldn’t be one of them.

Crawl out of that comfort zone, feel the edge of an uncharted path beneath your feet, and push forward. Life is a series of stepping stones, each leading to a new challenge and the next level of development. The jagged edge that trips some people is the fear of the unknown. “Should I stop while I’m ahead, or move on?” Regardless of the decision, in twelve months you’ll be a year older. The question is, will you be a year older and adding to your list of excuses or on your way to living a dream?

I began to write fiction in 2003 at the age of 49, and although my degree in journalism/public relations gave me the foundation and discipline I would need to succeed as a writer, fiction is an entirely different process. However, it has been invaluable as I plan my marketing/promotional strategies.

The first three books in the Sam Harper Crime Mystery Series began life as a set of three novellas. I joined online author groups, followed discussions on plot, pace, characterization, etc., and participated in writing workshops. I also read every how-to book I could get my hands on and applied all I had learned to my writing. The turning point came in 2006 when I joined an online critique group and decided to expand each of the novellas into novels. Participation in this group was not for the thin-skinned individual. Comments were often harsh, but the honest, constructive critiques forced me to push my writing to the next level.

The challenge for me was to learn the intricacies of the craft, find my voice, develop a complex plot, create believable characters, polish the prose, and turn SILENCED CRY into a marketable piece. Seven months after joining the group, BeWrite Books (UK), who I had queried a year before about my series of novellas, requested the expanded manuscript. SILENCED CRY was released in April 2007, and went on to receive honorable mention at the 2008 New York Book Festival. The second book in the series, “The Devil Can Wait” was released on November 3, 2008.

But how does one get from the solitude act of writing to getting published? Networking and dedication to the craft. In this day and age of global marketing, Internet sales, online reviews, interviews, and e-zines, blogging is a writer’s lifeline. I've been blogging for several years through my website, a personal blog, and my authors’ group blog, Murder by 4. At last count, I belong to about 26 online writers’ forums/groups.

Keeping up with some of the blogs is time consuming and I’m often asked how I manage to find time to continue to work outside the home, care for my family, home, write novels and network as much as I do. Unlike a hobby, writing isn’t something I do when I have time—I make time. Call it prioritizing or time management, what it means is that I haven’t cut out all my television viewing, I simply don’t watch it every night. I may not be able to work out in the yard all weekend long like I used to do either, but that’s okay, because when it comes right down to it, I’ve always made time for the things I wanted to do and right now, my focus is on writing. I can’t say that I’ve cut anything out of my life. I simply take things one day at a time and focus on what needs immediate attention.

All the work aside, the best part of this business is meeting people. Being published has opened doors and has given me a chance to get to know people from all walks of life and nationalities that I would have never met otherwise. My publisher is based in the UK and has an international reach, a global author pool, and full-time professional editorial and technical staff in Germany, France, Canada, USA, and Australia. This has given my books world-wide exposure and readership. The proof is that in the year and a half since I launched my website, over 30,000 unique visitors from 119 countries have visited the site. That's not only amazing; it’s what makes the experience fun.

So what’s the most exciting part about getting published in my 50’s? What I leave my children; proof that learning is a life-long process and the understanding that dreams can come true, regardless of age, if you put your mind to it.

* * *
Marta Stephens is the author of the Sam Harper Crime Mystery series published by BeWrite Books (UK)
SILENCED CRY (2007), Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival, Top Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery)


Anonymous said...

Wow Marta, you're an inspiration. I'm in awe of you. Fantastic.
Jo Ann Hernandez

Marta Stephens said...

Hi Jo Ann. Thanks so much for stopping by! Sometimes hindsight is 20/20 and at other times, I've wonder how I got through particular moments. Usually the answer has been, one step at a time. It's doesn't seem to be scary when you consistently take small bites. Then again, I've turned into something of a fearless Freda. LOL

s.w. vaughn said...

Ha! That's too funny about the light switch in the kitchen. I do the same thing sometimes - our light switch is over by the fridge, but there's another switch by the door that actually doesn't do anything, and occasionally I'll flip that switch instead and wonder why it's still dark. :-)

Reminds me of a Steven Wright comedy routine. I don't have the exact words, but it was something like: "There was a switch in our house that didn't do anything. I used to turn the switch on and off, over and over, for no reason. One day a lady in China called our house. She said, 'Stop it.'"

I've read this article, but it's a good one. Thanks for posting it!