Thursday, January 26, 2012

Milledgeville Misfit Give-A-Way - Hop

I will be giving away a free copy of my latest young-adult novel "Milledgeville Misfit" as part of the Give-A-Way Hop hosted February 24th - 28th.

Check back here for more details closer to the HOP start date.

CCWC January 2012 Newsletter

Precious Time

One of the biggest misconceptions I’ve run across these past few years is that:  people who don’t punch the clock from 9 to 5 have what is known as “free time”.  The truth of the matter - those that work from home are usually time-pressed. They are go-getters, creators, inventors, visionaries, entrepreneurs, and world changers. Their day doesn't end at five o'clock, their on 24 – 7.

For me, when I made the decision to put writing as my top priority, my time devoted to my craft became precious; something to guard, something to treasure. There are all kinds of things, including “good” things, that want to steal that time. I have to protect it or else it'll get away from me. There is always a noble cause to support around every corner, but I'm only one person and can't do everything. There is only 24 hours in a day for me, just as it is for everyone else. I must prioritize those things that are most important to me and what I feel is the path laid down before me by God. If not, I can be busy doing "good" things, and miss what I was meant to do.

Working from home requires a lot of discipline. You can be easily distracted and lose your focus. It takes a disciplined person to wake up every morning and focus their attention on their destined target. It also takes a disciplined person to not allow their feelings to lead them, because feelings can waiver and get you off the path.

I exercise my body first thing in the morning. The first 15 min. is really more of a struggle between my body and my mind than anything else. If I only exercise when it felt good, I would never step on the treadmill. Yet I keep my target of good health and a balanced weight before me and push through my feelings. I must apply the same principles to my life as a writer, or it'll get lost by the wayside. The world as a whole doesn't understand this concept, because writing often doesn't produce the financial fruit of a 9 to 5, but it can. Thank God I don't have to please the world, because I'm at the point that I could never imagine doing anything else.

So the next time you ask me to do something and I turn you down, don't take it personally. It's not that I don't deem your cause worthy, I just deem my time more precious.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Author Appearances

February 2012

Neva Lomason Public Library
710 Rome Street
Carrollton, GA  30117
Friday, February 10, 2012 
6:30pm - 8:00pm


Dog River Library
6100 Hwy 5
Douglasville, GA  30135
Saturday, February 25, 2012 
11:00am - 1:00pm

March 2012

Horton's Books
410 Adamson Square
Carrollton, GA 30117
Saturday, March 24. 2012 
12:00pm - 2:00pm

May 2012

Underground Books
102 Alabama Street
Carrollton, GA  30117
Saturday, May 5, 2012
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Don't Be Hatin'

One of the things I can't quite understand when it comes to authors is why there is sometimes jealousy and animosity between writers.  We're not in competition with one another.  There are plenty of books to go around.  Stories have been told long before we arrived, and will continue long after we're gone.  If anything, we should support one another.  

What benefit could there possibly be for me to know or associate with a failed writer?  I can't think of anything.  However, there are endless possibilities of knowing and associating with a successful one.  Not only out of the goodness of my heart should I encourage, inspire and support my fellow authors, but it's in MY best interest to do so.  I don't have to LOVE them, actually, I don't even have to LIKE them on a personal level, to support and wish them the best in their endeavors. 

Still, from time to time, I come across that beleaguered and jealous writer who not only wishes for my failure, but will go out of their way to help support it.  They’ll spread slander, malice and pray to the gods of destruction to place every obstacle and roadblock in my way.  I feel sorry for them.  They’ve already lost, and are already defeated, regardless of their book sales.  This defeat may not reflect in their book sales (even a snake could sell a book) – but as a decent human being. 

I choose to separate myself from those who only have negative thoughts, actions and intentions. Instead, I choose to surround myself with dreamers, artists and people who desire to share their gifts and talents with the world.   I may, or may not, hit the New York Times Best-Seller list, but I’m already a success , because I’ve surrounded myself with successful people.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Monday, January 23, 2012

Please Yourself

Have you ever tried to do something, yet everyone around you didn't understand your actions or motives? While many people express their support, their actions don't necessarily live up to their confession? What do you say in those circumstances? What do you do? One thing you can't do - is give up.

Sometimes I find myself pulled between two worlds. I love each side equally, that neither fully. Don't get me wrong, I'm not straddling the fence. I find the place I inhabit, is a place of my own choosing; not theirs. Let me try to explain this more plainly - I am a writer, a scribe, a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a Christian, a deacon, a leader, a friend, a business partner, a marketer, a dreamer, and yet I must strive to find a balance between all of those positions. Often times some of the expectations of these positions oppose others, not that they have to. 

We are complex people, living in a complex world. Each of us is an individual with their own ideals, beliefs, and expectations. But I have learned over the past few years, I can't change or manipulate my actions to satisfy someone else’s expectations. Not everybody is going to like my choices. Not everybody is going to support my decisions. Not everybody is going to think I'm making the right judgments for myself. But the bottom line is: these are my choices, decisions, and ideals. The only person I must please - is me.

I’d love to make everybody happy. But I'm not fool enough to believe I can. However there is one person I can strive every day to please – myself. Just as I have discovered truths about love, I'm learning the same thing applies to peace and happiness. I have to first be filled with peace and happiness, before I can share it with the world.  If I'm truly happy with myself, then I can be happy for you. If I can walk in peace, then I can offer peace. We can only share what is in the overflow. If we have nothing, we have nothing to give.

So today I encourage you, do what makes you happy.  But remember: though everything is permissible not everything is beneficial. Sometimes we deceive ourselves into thinking something or someone will make us happy, when happiness is truly a simple decision. It’s not found in a gift, an object, another person, or a possession; it’s a state of mind.

Till next time,
T. L. Gray

Friday, January 20, 2012

Never Stop Learning

 I'm what you might call a self-learner.  While I love instruction, I get the best education by hand-on application.  I do read directions, but I like to 'use' the item, program or machine WHILE I read the instructions.  That way my hands learn at the same time as my brain.

This morning, I am learning to use my new program "Dragon". While things are slow going at the moment, with each practical use it gets a little easier.  With this program, the biggest thing I have to learn is how to speak properly.  I guess you could say the lesson would be that with practice comes perfection. My typing and writing skills are above average, but my speaking etiquette could use a lot of work.

The last couple of weeks I have been in editing mode. While I scanned the pages of my manuscript, I searched for every grammar, typo and punctuation error.  But that was only one step of the process. Today, I am focused on structure, formatting and font selection.  While I have grasped a general understanding of the word processor I use, I realize there is so much more that I need to learn. Today I am challenged with the subject of headers and footers. I know that the only way I am going to learn how to properly use these options are to play around with the program. I have to get that hands-on experience; just like using this Dragon program.

The bottom line of what I'm trying to say is - we never need to stop learning. If we ever get to the point that we think we know everything, we’ve learned nothing. There is always something new to discover, a new skill to inherit, a new understanding to be revealed. I know many people in this world want to jump to the conclusion, the solution, or the end to receive the fruits of their labor, but I find the true treasure is in the trials and tribulations of our journey - not the end. The pride that comes from a personal accomplishment is so much more rewarding than a gift. While we may struggle in our quest, the payoff is even greater.

Never stop learning. You never know what you'll discover tomorrow.

Till next time,
~T. L. Gray

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Don't Give Up - Keep Running/Keep Standing

Giving up is the easiest thing in the world to do; it takes the least amount of energy and releases the largest amount of pressure.  However, while everything I do is permissible, not everything is for my own benefit.  While I am free to give up (I have the power to choose), doing so isn't always for my good - even if I'm wrong.

Standing fast, holding out, and refusing to move is hard, especially when it comes to standing still.  I might not think standing in one spot, refusing to budge and keeping my eyes focused straight ahead is easy (compared to digging, shoveling and barreling through), but I'm finding it's the hardest thing I've ever had to do.  I'm also discovering it takes a lot more faith to stand still than it does to move.  My mind is constantly bombarded with questions of, "What if I'm wrong?", "What if I'm making a mistake?", "What if I'm supposed to be doing something else?" and "Am I wasting my life and time?"   Yet, I can't move based on what I think and feel (the two major contributors that lead to confusion). 

My thoughts can be deceptive and my feelings can change with every shift in the wind.  The only way to make it across the finish line is to put aside thoughts that want to take me out of my lane and send me in the wrong direction, and push through the aches, pains and fatigue.  I must relegate my breathing, concentrate on the goal I want to achieve and push forward - even when I have to stand still. 

So, what if I'm wrong?  What if the path I've decided to take is the wrong path?  The only thing I can do is continue with the quest I'm currently on until I receive a clear directive to shift, but not based on shifting thoughts and feelings.  Perseverance means to push on in the midst of opposition.  Without opposition, there's no perseverance.  Without options there's no choice.  Without determination and a desire to win, there's no victory.  Without other runners, there's no competition. 

Press on.  Continue to stand, even if you don't think or feel like it.  The only way you're truly going to know if you're in the right race is to finish it.  And if you are wrong ... so what?  You've at least accomplished something and have a more clear idea of what race to run next.  And if you are right ... you've won!

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Keezy's 10 Awesome Rules for Teenaged Dating Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Keezy's 10 Awesome Rules for Teenage Dating is a "10"!, January 16, 2012
This review is from: Keezy's 10 Awesome Rules for Teenaged Dating! (Paperback)
I read Keezy's 10 Awesome Rules for Teenage Dating to my mentally challenged, twenty-one-year old daughter. She absolutely loved it! She laughed and enjoyed all of Keezy's zany antics! It's hard to find a book these days that contains down to earth, moral advice written in a very stylist and contemporary voice. You love Keezy immediately, and you care about what she has to say. I had no reservations about reading this to my daughter since Keezy's advice was tastfully delivered. She covers a plethora of subjects important to today's teenager. No rocks left unturned, so to speak. I would recommend this to anyone with a teenage daughter! This book would be great for book clubs, church youth groups, or any venue where teenage girls congregate. Keezy's 10 Awesome Rules for Teenage Dating is a "10" all around!

Thank you, Laura! That was a wonderful review.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

P.s.  Happy Birthday, Meagan. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012


When I'm writing a character in one of my novels, I try not to form them into the idea of who I think they should be.  While I may have some idea, their true personalities emerge as I get to know them. If I try to force my idea, eventually the true personality will conflict and the plot will form holes. This is a common mistake I see among many writers, myself included.

When I'm writing a new story - I try to brainstorm as much as possible of what I envision for the plot, but I try to keep the main ideas and characterizations in various shades of gray. If I color the story or characters in too much I end up with a huge brown mess.  We all know what a stinky situation that would be.

When I'm reading a story - the main factor that keeps me glued to the page is a simple fact of whether or not I actually care for the characters.  If by the second or third paragraph I have not already been introduced to a character and can sympathize, feel empathy or outright dislike, most likely I will put the book down and never pick it up again.  While there are some great tomes that are action oriented, that's not my preference. 

I love Harry Potter because I love Harry Potter and I hate Lord Voldemort. I get bored with The Lord of the Rings because I do not care about a ring or the salvation of a bunch of people I know nothing about.  I love Eragon because Paolini allowed me the privilege of being right there beside Eragon as he transformed from a simple farm boy to a fearless dragon-rider. I won’t even mention what Cinda Chima Williams did for the the Demon King with Han, or my how I hoped passionately for Elizabeth Bennett to capture Austen’s Mr. Darcy, or hopelessly fell in love with Dumas’ Edmond Dantes.  These stories are great because their characters are great.

Don't get me wrong, I love action. But what good is a great battle without a passionate reason?  Just to win is not enough. Sacrifice without heart-felt purpose is meaningless.

As you think about your story this morning, think about the heart of your characters. What do they feel? What do they fear? What are their hopes, their dreams, and their passions?  What makes them unique?  What drives them? What angers them, makes them lose control, and makes them compromise their values? These are the aspects that draw me into a story.

Till next time,
~T. L. Gray

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Deadlines & Excellence

There are some positive and negatives to everything in this world, including deadlines.  Having a deadline gives me a clear and precise expectation and a time-frame to work within to meet them, while struggling to also maintain a spirit of excellence in my work. 

Deadlines and expectations also gives Murphy the same thing.  He tends to work overtime to do, send and lend a hand to anything he can think to knock me off course, tempting me to rush and give only partial effort. I must persevere, push forward, and not allow anything to give me to pause or an opportunity to present less than my best.

Today I sit here with a clear deadline and directive from my publisher to complete the latest edits for Milledgeville Misfit.  Half my face is smiling; the other half shares a grimace, yet on I strive for excellence.    I'm reminded of a proverb: "Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men."  Again, I have such great expectations.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Friday, January 06, 2012

Getting Back Into the Groove - Random Thoughts

While I love all the merriment of the holiday season, I love getting back into some semblance of routine even more.  I'm a creature of habit - and this coming from someone that doesn't have a set routine.  Every day is a new experience, a new test, filled with new requirements, expectations and plans.  But it's also filled doing what I love - writing, reading, marketing, encouraging, blogging, editing, updating, scheduling, meeting new people, meeting old friends and surrounding myself with those I love and admire (not necessarily both at the same time). Many of these days I spend most of the time alone with my imagination, but that's okay - that's a great place to be too.

Even though I'm over-weight by the world's standards, I find that I'm happy with who I am and what I weigh.  I'm healthy, I'm active, I'm mobile.  I get up every morning (well - at least 5 days a week) and tackle my exercise routine with the same zeal as a medieval warrior.  While the first twenty minutes are painful and sluggish - the adrenaline rush of the last forty minutes is worth every bit of the effort - as well as the pound or two drop at the end of the week.  I'm multitasking - killing two birds with one stone by reading the latest novel on my Kindle as I burn calories on the treadmill.  This helps me take my mind off the strain of my muscles as I exercise. I also love taking a long walk as I enjoy the beauty and majesty of nature.

Blogging is my brain exercise.  No matter the subject - the practice gets all my synapses sparking, sharpens my vocabulary and speeds my typing so that when I start tackling the editing beast of my novels, I'm wielding writing weapons and stand ready for battle. Writing is like any defensive measure - it requires much practice and application. I rarely suffer from 'writer's block' because I never stop wielding my writing sword.

Not all writers are blessed and successful the first time out the gate like a Stephanie Meyer or J.K. Rowling.  Most of us have to do the majority of our own marketing, selling and promotion.  This takes a LOT of time and effort.  You've got to really believe in yourself.  You don't have to know everything; believe me - you'll learn as you go - but you do have to have a determination of steel.  Never give up.

And a final thought for the day:  Not everyone measures success in the same degree.  Some writers would measure success in royalties, others in books sold.  If I've been able to inspire one person to chase their dreams, take a second look at what they thought they believed or understood, or sparked one imagination to believe in themselves and what they can accomplish, then I'm a total success.  THAT is what I strive for on a daily  basis. THAT is the foundation to everything I write. 

Those are some random thoughts for the day.  I hope you've been able to find at least one bit of encouragement from some of it.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Grocery Store Gripe

Standing in line at the grocery store this morning I overheard a conversation between this young couple that made me want to cringe.  It  took only a few moments for them to really cause my blood to boil. I didn't  realize how angry I had become until I arrived home and found myself vigorously scrubbing out the refrigerator.  I always clean when I'm angry.  I took a deep breath, calmly put away the groceries in my freshly clean refrigerator and sat down to have a hot cup of coffee.

As I meditated  and focused on all the good things in my life, I felt tension leave my shoulders and the heaviness of anger melt away.  I then took a stab and pondered the reason I had became so upset in the first place.  I'm not twenty-five anymore - full of passion and energy; able to fly off the handle on a moments whim; being carried away by my emotions.  I'm 40.  I'm more mature, more grown-up, more in control of my emotions.  At least that's what I tell myself.

So, why did I get so angry?  I'm not going to go into everything this young couple had to say, but I will tell you the gist of the argument.  It was full of selfish whining, constant complaining, back-stabbing bickering, outright blaming everyone but themselves, lack of appreciation and unbridled angst.  In other words... hypocrisy dripped off their lips like sweet honey  - sending a stab through my patience like a hot knife through butter.

I understand the world's not fair.  Crap happens all the time.  However, in my 'old age' I've come to discover that most of the time the crap we deal with in our lives we brought on ourselves.  How we feel about ourselves is our doing as well.  Sure, OTHER people do stuff to us; they use us, abuse us, talk bad about us, take advantage of us, and outright are mean... BUT  - THEIR actions don't dictate who we are or how we respond.  OUR actions make all the difference.I've learned to quit judging people by the words they say alone.  I watch them, study them and see what they do.  Because many say one thing, but their actions prove contrary to their words - proving their own deception.

I had to stand in line for about fifteen minutes and listen to two young people complain about how horrible their 'strict' middle class parents were because they wouldn't allow them to do anything (I'm a strict parent so I'm assuming they couldn't drink, smoke, and cuss like a sailor, had to show respect to their elders, say "please" and "thank you" and refrain from having wanton sex with everyone that looked at them as their hormones raged) and MADE them go to school (perhaps being stupid, illiterate and lazy was the better course - seems like that forced education and the strict rules didn't do them any good).  From their colorful language, I dared to guess they didn't have a drug problem (meaning - being dragged to church), either.  We all know how horrible and abusive it is to believe in a power and understanding higher than our own, that encourages us to be obedient, good, kind, merciful, and giving. Heck, believing in Magicians, Vampires, Celebrities and Aliens is hard enough, and I don't even have to mention how exhausting it is believing in NOTHING and that everything in existence is a big bang of an accidental mistake. I mean, Oh my Amoeba!  If there's no God then we've only got ourselves to blame.  How is that going to work when we're too busy blaming everyone else?

We blame our parents, we blame our government, we blame our teachers, we blame our co-workers and fellow students, and be blame religion.  But, if we're a cosmic accident - how can we blame God?  I mean, the world is a mess because of THEM, whoever they are.  We're just lowly victims of their bad decisions. Surely WE'RE not to blame.  I still haven't figured out how to separate "THEM" from "US", but I'm sure I'll discover the formula soon enough.

Needless to say, as the conversation progressed and the young woman constantly ignored the crying baby in her arms and the young man kept putting back various items his toddler kept picking off the shelves, their angst only grew in passion.  Next in the blame line came politicians and the issue of paying taxes.  The young man stated that he was really worried about the government soon forcing people to take drug tests when applying for welfare.  He expressed how that was a form of slavery and that those food stamps and welfare checks were owed to the people because they were Americans, even if they're here illegally; that it was the government's responsibility to take care of the poor.   The young woman replied that these new welfare laws was the government over-reaching it's authority; that it was none of their business what a person did in the privacy of their own home.  I wondered, which was it; too much or too little of government interference?  They want the government to take care of them (feed them, clothe them, and provide medical help for them), but then also mind their own business (don't tell them what they can do behind closed doors).  Don't they eat, dress and throw-up behind closed doors?

I'm not even going to get into what they had to say about paying taxes and grumbling how it's not fair the young man didn't qualify for unemployment benefits having only worked for three weeks at his last job.  Let me just say I blushed at their vehement expressions of unfairness.  I couldn't quite understand their train of thought until their $348.74 grocery total was rendered by the cashier and they handed over their Food Stamp card and WIC vouchers.  Of course they couldn't pay for their cigarettes and beer with those, so they had to pay cash in a separate transaction.  I'd venture a wager they think it's wrong and unethical to make them pay for those items; that's a targeted and prejudiced tax against the poor. 

The young girl griped about the slowness of the elderly bagger, chastising him from putting boxed items in the same bag as her cheese, and never even looked up at the smiling cashier who handed the young girl her receipt and politely said, "Thank You".  As the complaining couple pulled away from the check-out I said, "You're welcome."  The young man scrunched his brows at me and wrinkled his nose as if he smelled something putrid.  I'm sure he had no idea what I meant.  He probably thought I was thanking him for loudly sharing his enlightened views.

I knew no thanks was coming from them.  What should they be thanking ME for, you ask?  Well seeing as how I dutifully pay my taxes, and have done so for many, many years, I essentially bought their groceries, including their beer and alcohol.  More than likely I am currently or will be in the near future paying for their children's education, health and welfare.  I'm also pretty sure that neither of them realized when they were vehemently putting down Uncle Sam and rattling on about their entitlements, that Uncle Sam stood right behind them.

Unless it isn't clear, let me state the obvious.  I'm Uncle Sam.  It is MY (and all the other Uncle Sams out there) hard-earned money that pays for all these entitlement and social programs.  I pay for the roads, schools, police and fire departments, our military, our hospitals and even our politicians.  So if you don't like me, want to steal and take advantage of me, complain about me...THEN STOP driving on my roads, don't send your kids to my schools, don't call my police when you're in trouble, don't expect my fire department to save your house or life, don't go to my hospitals, don't accept my hand outs, go fight your own wars and don't vote. 

I'm also a strict parent.  I care about my children and their well-being.  I set down rules and regulations BECAUSE I care and want the best possible life for them.  I make them go to school and study hard to receive the best education they can obtain.

Worst of all... I'm a Christian.  I believe in something or someone higher than myself; a being that loves me and my family and cares about me and wants me to have the best possible life (sounds like a strict parent to me.)  My children are not babies anymore and are old enough to make their own decisions about God.  Some believe as I do, some don't.  It's their choice - and I thank God that I live in a country where they have the freedom to make that choice.    

I'm not a rich fat heiress sitting on her gold throne.  I'm a middle-class mother who has worked hard her whole life, who has struggled in a man's world, who has studied hard, and has a giving heart.  I feed the hungry, I care about the animals, environment and future and do what I can, when I can.  I visit the elderly and believe my elders have earned my respect, and support their needs.  My family is honest, hard-working and diligent, yet due to the high cost of living we can't afford but very few groceries a week, very limited amount of gas for our fuel economy vehicles - often car pooling,  and had to cut out health insurance altogether because the new HMO policy (thanks to Obama Care) increased so much we couldn't afford the extra $80 a month to be taken out of our paychecks.  What good is the additional health coverage for my 21 year old son when can't afford coverage at all for anyone?  We don't go to the movies much anymore, we hardly ever go out to eat and we buy our clothes at the discount stores or wait till we can catch an extreme sale.  Unless something changes, I'm soon looking about scaling back to basic cable and losing all but basic functions on my Internet and cell phone.  So forgive me if I'm just a little bit fed up with people who are constantly putting me down.

A friend of mine recently brought it to my attention about how wrong it was that the world thought it had free reign to dump on blondes with their constant prattling of blonde jokes.  I'm one of them.  I've always loved a good blonde joke and never really thought about how blondes might have felt.  Since then, I quit telling blonde jokes and have since turned the same jokes into "TWILOCS" (Those Who Insanely Lack an Ounce of Common Sense). Yet the world seems to think it's open season to degrade fat people and Christians.  I'm out of luck on both.

Well, that's my grocery store gripe for this morning.  I had gotten over it, but then I wrote this blog and it all came rushing back.  I suppose it's time I went and had another cup of coffee and another half hour of meditation to simmer down.  After all... I'm responsible for my own attitude - or else I haven't got the memo yet from my government telling me it's their job.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Congratulations Give-A-Way Winners!

Thank you to everyone who registered to win 1of 5 free copies of Keezy's 10 Awesome Rules for Teenaged Dating.  There were almost 400 entrants for the give-a-way.  That was nearly 400 people who were interested enough in reading Keezy's story to take the time to enter, and that is the true treasure of this whole experience.

So here's a big "CONGRATULATIONS" to all the winners.  Your autographed copies will be shipping out this week.

Our winners are:

  • Brittany Ziegmann from Rapid City, South Dakota
  • Lisa Fosburg from Mossy Rock, Washington
  • Randy Smith from Louisville, Kentucky
  • Stacy Robinson from Bath, Michigan
  • Blaire Johnson from Cape Coral, Florida
I really hope you all enjoy Keezy's adventure and are able to apply some of her advice into your everyday lives.  I can't wait to read and share your reviews with my readers.  

 Till next time,
~T.L. Gray