Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Color of Hate

Usually I dedicate this blog to the writing beast, but today another beast crept from its place in the muck forcing me to waver in more ways than sticking to my usual. The incriminating ugliness called "hate" surfaced to such a degree, and spit so much acid in my usual peaceful Sunday, that I couldn't ignore it any longer.

The hate didn't suddenly appear. It has simmered since the passing of singer Whitney Houston, a music icon of our time who set the bar high for similar songstresses to aspire. And now the legend slowly becomes the base for sick jokes and complete disrespect, as if she were the Bin Laden of pop culture.

Her passing brings to light what lingers within people's souls, a darkness I never would have recognized by merely looking at their faces. From an Associated Press reporter who said, "I'm not shocked that she died, just sad," to the Facebook accusations implying that Ms. Houston was a bad mother, and onward to the tasteless jokes. Current society is on the downward spiral with no recourse.

Does anyone try looking beyond their own darkness anymore, or could it be that their darkness pushes their caustic button? Perhaps modern society is unable to recognize darkness, blurred in the blinking paparazzi bulbs and glaring headlines of the supermarket rags.

I recall seeing a story years ago about NHL player Derek Sanderson. He played center for the Boston Bruins back in the late 60's, early 70's I believe. A gifted hockey player, one who hit the ice without today's protection, he suffered injuries that required heavy-duty pain killers, the kind today's middle-school kids steal from their parents' medicine cabinets and sell during lunch break. As the story went, addiction found him; he lost everything and eventually lived the homeless life. As luck would have it, and I can't remember the turn of events that led to rehab, he entered a facility and turned his life around.

He was the lucky one. Or maybe since he fell from fame in a different sort of way - injuries removing him from the ice, people forgot about him - paparazzi rarely follows a broken down hockey player. But they will always follow the falling and rising star as if waiting for failure to find them. Cameras ready, snapping pictures, taking video and recording speech, who can hide from public execution - convicted without a defense?

And then I recall my story, a recent one that came in the form of an unexpected, life-changing experience. But I'm lucky. I'm not famous. No one followed me around with cameras, shot videos or recorded my speech, as I stumbled, barfed, and slurred my words. Sudden weight loss; dizzy spells; reactions to stress. Depression. Heart break. Who cared?

Did anyone open fire on my strife via Facebook? Was I the brunt of really bad jokes? And if my journey led to my demise, how many would have been saddened but not shocked? And would anyone take the time to utilize simple critical thinking and get the facts before offering opinion?

This is the world we live in. People waiting for the fall of another and later having something to joke about, criticize and form uninformed opinions.

Rest In Peace: The new oxymoron of today's society. It makes me wonder if the Four Horsemen have taken new shape.

And may Ms. Houston rest in peace eventually.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad No? One of the smallest words in the English language. The most feared word in everyday life.

A few days ago I attended a sales training/mini-boot camp for a company I recently joined, Stella and Dot. The facilitator of the meeting, V.P. of Training, Danielle Redner, opened with this question: "What would you do if not afraid?"

I thought to myself, "Me, afraid? Cha-uh, never!"

And then subconscious tapped on my shoulder and said, "You are so full of it, ya know?" The truth is, my biggest fears are rooted in the smallest word of the English language, "No." With my success embedded in sales, I'm doomed by my shortcoming.

And how do we get people to buy? We ask for the sale. Really? We ask?

"Ask," a word attached to the yes and no answers of the world. So it goes, the training seminar focused on overcoming fears, and realizing that "No" is part of sales. Fearing "No" puts a huge damper on gaining sales, which places a huge road-block to income and success.

The more we got into the training, the more I felt my confidence gain speed. She taught us how to engage people; get their interest; go after the sale. The worst case scenario: Someone says "No."

No guts, no glory, right? No one will buy it if I don't promote it. Simple as that.

Thereafter my daughter and I went to the local mall and visited a high-end retail store. I found myself in the cosmetic section, which reminded me that I needed mascara. I first went to my usual counter to find no sales person. From there I went to my second choice, which truthfully is always my first one, but too pricey even though I love their product. That counter had a sales person lurking behind their new Spring palettes of eye shadows, blushes and lipsticks. "May I help you," she asked. "Yes," said I while eyeing the mascara. "I need one of these in black." Clerk goes to the drawer, fishes around, pulls out the mascara and says, "Anything else?" while ringing me up.

I thought to myself that this clerk cut her chances of earning more if only she had pulled out an eye-shadow pallet and said, "Your eyes are gorgeous! Oh, this would look lovely on you."

"Cha-ching!" her cash register would have screamed, but alas, not to be since she was merely interested in giving me what I asked for, and not going the extra mile.

Which later made me think of my writing world (oh, what a sneaky segue as well as shameless promotion of my Stella & Dot world).

I have completed three, that's right, THREE novels. I have three others in the making, but for purposes of the point I'm about to make, I'll focus on my completions. After putting many hours, days, weeks, months, years, into these babies, I only queried two of them to less than six agents, and even fewer editors. I signed up for writer conferences where I had appointments for face-to-face meetings with agents and editors, and canceled going to them.

Why? One word answer: Fear. I was so afraid to hear words such as, "Not for me," or simply, "No," that I never put myself or my work out there, much like a person standing in the rain in downtown Manhattan hoping a taxi will simply pull over without first being hailed down for a ride.

With fear comes lack of confidence. Same as pimping beautiful jewelry that literally sells itself, my writing won't sell if I don't offer it to potential buyers, as well as warming them up with a great hook, query letter and synopsis.

It's all about overcoming the fear of hearing one simple word, "No."

Not everyone says it. Many will buy something because of its presentation, intrigued by that "hootchy-kootchy" dance at the carnival's entrance. (I once saw that term used to explain the purpose of a synopsis, "The hootchy-kootchy" dance that draws the patrons in.)

But without overcoming fear, one might as well fold up their tent, put away the pen, and watch the stampede pass them by, which is basically what I learned in a mini-boot camp geared toward sales, which screwed in the light-bulb that been blinking and now shines brightly on the answer.

"Ah-ha!" says Oprah.

"Ah, yes," I sigh. If you write it, they will read. But in between, it's all about honing your hook, query and synopsis. And then you suck in your gut and put it out there knowing that, yes, you'll hear "No," but you'll also increase your chances of hearing, "Yes."

"Ah, yes." Simple truths to answer the mystery of my abysmal self-confidence. Simply, "Ah, yes."