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Get Help Managing Amazon Ads (The Self Publishing Show, episode 189)
Toby Neal was raised on Kauai in Hawaii. She wrote and illustrated her first story at age 5. After initially majoring in journalism, she eventually settled on mental health as a career and loves her work, saying, “I’m endlessly fascinated with people’s stories.”
Toby credits her counseling background in adding depth to her characters–from the villains to Lei Texeira, the courageous and vulnerable heroine in the Lei Crime Series, to the wounds and psychological implications of the heroes of the Scorch Series.
By Fred Waitzkin
Young writers often ask if I am sometimes afflicted by writer’s block and if I’ve discovered a cure. Most writers wrestle with this malady from time to time. Over the years my relationship to the illness has evolved, and as an older writer I see it as a frustrating companion who at times can offer profound advice.
All authors relish days feeling on fire with a story when sentences pour out, almost without effort or thought. They spill into paragraphs and pages. It feels like riding a magic carpet that will soar on forever. I call such periods, writing within the bubble. But then after days or weeks, inevitably, life gets in the way.
Consider this scenario: I’m just home from a ten-day fishing trip, determined to get back to my manuscript when my grandson Jack begs me to take him to tomorrow’s Mets game. Instead of going to my office I take Jack to the game. We’re both excited as hell about our trip on the subway…. It’s okay. I’d been on a roll with my story. Another day won’t matter at all. As we rumble toward Mets stadium, I pleasantly recall the feeling of riding the carpet, the story pouring out of me…. I’ll be back there tomorrow.
The Mets lose. Jack cries, inconsolable in his new Mets cap as we’re leaving the stadium. “Why do the Mets always lose, Baba?”
I’m thinking about Jack’s sorrow and the Mets string of losing seasons. I’m disgusted with the Mets, a thickening edifice forming between me and my story.
Next morning I’m finally back in front of my computer after an eleven-day break. I take a look at my last chapter…. Pretty good. I sit at the computer waiting for the words to flow…. Nothing. I wait. Nothing. Four more days pass of nothing. I’m pulling what’s left of my hair. Now I’m living outside the bubble.
Okay, seven days of writer’s block. I’m back in my office at 9:30. I make a cup of tea. I pace around a little. I have a lunch date at 12:30. I’m looking forward to that. I stare at my Mac like it’s the enemy. I begin to pace around. I sip tea. I look at my computer. No way I’m sitting there to suffer any more. I snap on my old radio and listen to sports talk radio, a discussion about the Mets falling apart after a promising start to the season. Every year they do it. They cannot hit…. It’s now 11. I look at the computer, shake my head, no way. I pace in the hall. I come back into the office and read the paper. Now it’s 11:50. Almost time to leave for lunch. Not yet, Waitzkin, not yet. I stall another five minutes, pressure building. It’s twelve. Suddenly I throw myself into my chair in front of the keys. I need to leave my office for lunch in 18 minutes. It’s now or never…, and if I’m lucky, the dam breaks. Words pour out. I’m feverishly typing words that wouldn’t come for days. They are gushing out now when I hardly have time to write them, trying to catch them in the air like butterflies, get them into the machine… I’ve written some of my best paragraph this way, when it was do or die.
Another trick for writer’s block: I always carry around a tiny notebook in my shirt pocket. When I’m riding my bike home along the river, thinking about the Mets losing streak, an idea pops into my head. I stop the bike and jot it into the book. I’m talking to my wife Bonnie and an idea suddenly appears. I’m talking to my son. He shakes his head, annoyed, while I scrawl treasure into my notebook. “Dad never listens to me.”
Two days ago, I was stumped how to end an essay about my artist mother. I woke up after a two-hour nap and suddenly I could see the words hanging in the air in front of me. I wrote them in the notebook before they disappeared…. Carry a notebook. Just having it with you elicits ideas.
I wrote my new novel, Deep Water Blues, without once having writer’s block. It was pure bliss, beginning to end. I’d decided I was going to write a short book, 150 pages or less, something I could hold in my head without having to turn back to see what I’d written two or three years earlier. I was determined to write this one fast. And also, I’d gone into it after having written a screenplay, my first. I wanted this new book to move like a movie.
Deep Water Blues describes a gruesome disaster that takes place to a little island civilization—an island once gorgeous, and peaceful, almost Eden like, and in the aftermath, the island becomes decimated by greed, out-of-control ambition, violence and murder. At the heart of it, Deep Water Blues, which was inspired by true events, is an adventure story. I wanted to tell the story fast, fast and violent with no looking back, no flashbacks, mostly taut bold scenes as in riveting film…. Writing this book took me over like a runaway train.
There was no room for writer’s block in my new book. Pace and length and a harrowing story were the key elements. Maybe I’ll try that again.
Inspired by a true story, artfully told by the author of Searching for Bobby Fischer: A Bahamian island becomes a battleground for a savage private war.
Charismatic expat Bobby Little built his own funky version of paradise on the remote island of Rum Cay, a place where ambitious sport fishermen docked their yachts for fine French cuisine and crowded the bar to boast of big blue marlin catches while Bobby refilled their cognac on the house. Larger than life, Bobby was really the main attraction: a visionary entrepreneur, expert archer, reef surfer, bush pilot, master chef, seductive conversationalist.
But after tragedy shatters the tranquility of Bobby’s marina, tourists stop visiting and simmering jealousies flare among island residents. And when a cruel, different kind of self-made entrepreneur challenges Bobby for control of the docks, all hell breaks loose. As the cobalt blue Bahamian waters run red with blood, the man who made Rum Cay his home will be lucky if he gets off the island alive . . .
When the Ebb Tide cruises four hundred miles southeast from Fort Lauderdale to Rum Cay, its captain finds the Bahamian island paradise he so fondly remembers drastically altered. Shoal covers the marina entrance, the beaches are deserted, and on shore there is a small cemetery with headstones overturned and bones sticking up through the sand. What happened to Bobby’s paradise?
Fred Waitzkin was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1943. When he was a teenager he wavered between wanting to spend his life as a fisherman, Afro Cuban drummer or novelist. He went to Kenyon College and did graduate study at New York University. His work has appeared in Esquire, New York magazine, the New York Times Sunday Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, Outside, Sports Illustrated, Forbes, the Huffington Post, and the Daily Beast, among other publications. His memoir, Searching for Bobby Fischer, was made into a major motion picture released in 1993. His other books are Mortal Games, The Last Marlin, and The Dream Merchant. Recently, he has completed an original screenplay, The Rave. Waitzkin lives in Manhattan with his wife, Bonnie, and has two children, Josh and Katya, and two grandsons, Jack and Charlie. He spends as much time as possible on the bridge of his old boat, The Ebb Tide, trolling baits off distant islands with his family. His novel, Deep Water Blues, will be published in spring 2019. You can find more on Fred Waitzkin at his website or check out some exclusive content on Facebook.
Have you ever wondered why some people seem to catch all the breaks and win over and over again? What do the super successful know? What is standing between you and your wildest dreams?
A Wall Street Journal and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller, The Book of Mistakes will take you on an inspiring journey, following an ancient manuscript with powerful lessons that will transform your life. You’ll meet David, a young man who with each passing day is more disheartened and stressed. Despite a decent job, apartment, and friends, he just feels hollow . . . until one day he meets a mysterious young woman and everything starts to change.
In this self-help tale wrapped in fiction, you’ll learn the nine mistakes that prevent many from achieving their goals. You’ll learn how to overcome these hurdles and reinvent your life.
This success parable is packed with wisdom that will help you discover and follow your personal purpose, push beyond your perceived capabilities, and achieve more than you ever dreamed possible. You’ll find yourself returning again and again to a deceptively simple story that teaches actionable insights and enduring truths.
“This book is written to motivate individuals to consistently achieve their own high goals,” Prichard says. “Creating results and momentum is only possible when readers take personal accountability. That’s what this book is about.”
Skip Prichard is an accomplished CEO, growth-oriented business leader, and keynote speaker. He is known for his track record of successfully repositioning companies and dramatically improving results while improving the corporate culture. He is a keynote speaker on topics ranging from leadership, personal development, growth strategies, culture, corporate turnarounds, and the future of publishing. His views have been featured in print and broadcast media including the BBC, The New York Times, CNN, NPR, The Daily Beast, Harvard Business Review, Information Today, The Bookseller, Publishers Weekly, Christian Retailing, and the Library Journal.
How I Embraced Vulnerability to Tell the Story of Becoming Starlight
by Sharon Prentice, PhD
Writing a book. To be quite honest, the thought had never entered my mind; I’d never written anything other than personal prose or patient charts that were never meant to see the light of day. The idea was so remote that it would’ve been, as in the Twilight Zone monologue, like “opening a door into a fifth dimension of thought and sound, as timeless as space, as vast as infinity.” But once the possibility was introduced to me, I had one reaction: exposing the secrets that lay hidden within my Soul sent chills racing through the recesses of my very being. I couldn’t let it go, though — once unearthed…the thought simply would not leave me alone!
Imagine, if you will, standing on a stage, alone, in front of hundreds of people unknown to you, while guffaws and ridicule, barbs of judgement undeserved and previously unknown are all directed your way! A dizzying array of emotion and confusion filling your Spirit with every direct hit…and then, you realize you are, as my dad liked to say–naked as the day you were born! It’s then, possibly for the first time, that you begin to understand the concept of unadulterated vulnerability.
No one enjoys feeling vulnerable. Especially those of us who exist in environments created to keep vulnerability at bay. But there comes a time when life slaps you awake–and you can no longer exist within the protective bubble that served you so well in your private life.
Every writer understands this concept of vulnerability. Opening up to that bone-shaking, fearful reality—that I would be vulnerable–was the beginning of my journey into the world of publishing. Accepting that in order to tell my story, I would have to surrender my oh-so- carefully tucked-away secrets to public scrutiny was my biggest hurdle. But it was one that needed confronting and eventually–conquering.
To tell my story… was exactly what I needed to do! One of my greatest mentors, Dr. Wayne Dwyer, before his death, told me, “Tell your story, Sharon. Tell the story.” The beginning of the writing process for me was the recognition that I was more uncomfortable staying silent than I was letting the words flow free and accepting the vulnerability inherent in exposure. Naked body or naked Soul–same thing!
But how and where to begin? What exactly did I want to say–or have to say–in this effort to release the words that were forming in the underbelly of my soul? Instead of letting anxiety rule the day, I simply sat myself down…grabbed pen and paper…and let the floodgates open.
I didn’t change my physical environment…I embraced it. The old La-Z-y Boy recliner that had been my dad’s “home base” before his death became my sacred space. I felt safe and peaceful. It became my home…my sanctuary. My body just seemed to conform to the indentations that had, for years, become its very nature and I felt as if it “knew” me. I didn’t feel the need to have a totally private, quiet, locked away space that had no recognition of me and the joys and sorrows of my life. It was there, on my dad’s well-loved recliner, that Becoming Starlight was birthed.
But even in that sanctuary, I found myself chasing words. It was irritating as the words seemed to erupt and run like madmen away from my conscious mind. The more I chased after the words as they fled the scene, the more irritated I became. Was this the well-known “writer’s block” rearing its ugly head? Or was it simply me trying to force something that simply couldn’t be forced? The operative word here became–relax! I needed to relax and just let it flow. Not trying to force each and every thought into some perfect form of writing saved the day! I stopped worrying about tense and punctuation and dangling participles! I simply put pen to paper and wrote the story.
It was then that the sacred words fell into place. It was then that the words found their place and told their story. My process needed acceptance of the vulnerability of the story that needed to be told. I let the invisible dancer lead the way and make the pen I held in my hand dance.
Becoming an author can be a life-altering decision! Finding your own safe space, your own sense of security, allowing the unfolding of the magic within…effortlessly…is the first step to creating and releasing the music in your Soul. Drawing out that music for healing and comfort…uncovering the shadows that haunt the human condition–that’s what it’s all about and what I hoped my readers would find.
About the Author:
Dr. Sharon Prentice is the author of Becoming Starlight: A Shared Death Journey from Darkness to Light. Soon after completing her graduate studies in psychology, Dr. Prentice longed to discover “the why’s” about her own intimate experience with death in the form of an SDE, and that of others who had experienced something “weird, unbelievable, odd” at the time of the death of a loved one. Dr. Prentice is in private practice as a Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor – Advanced Certification. She is also a Board Certified Spiritual Counselor (SC-C) and holds Board Certification in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Group Therapy, Integrated Marriage and Family Therapy, and Crisis and Abuse Therapy. She is also a Board Certified Temperament Counselor. Dr. Prentice is a Professional Member of the American Counselors Association, a Professional Clinical member of the National Christian Counselors Association, a Clinical member of the American Mental Health Counselors Association, and a Presidential member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. She is also a Commissioned Minister of Pastoral Care. For more information, please visit https://sharonprentice.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.
Were those people in Isaiah’s dream the same people from school? Popular soccer star Magda? George, who he’d never heard speak because he always left classes for special services help? Angry Rose, the Chinese girl who was always in trouble for fighting? And why were there dead birds and fish everywhere? When the four encounter one another the next day by the same pond from the dream, they realize they’ve shared a dream and there really are dead birds and fish covering the ground! This leads to real-life adventures and more dreams as they discover a toxic waste plant disposing of poisons illegally. Not friends in the beginning, romance blossoms as they work together with their Power Animals to close down the plant.
The Hidden Worlds
Sandra Ingerman and Katherine Wood
Both of us love working with children and have worked with them for many years, both in healing and in teaching them to perform shamanic journeys as a powerful way to feel empowered in challenging life situations.
Sandy felt it was important to write a book for children that included ways to work with spiritual guides in shamanic journey to help them navigate both personal and planetary challenges. In ancient shamanic cultures, children were taught to do this, to live in harmony with nature, and to use their gifts and strengths for the good of the community. Children are our future, so a story to help them bridge these ancient possibilities was important. So Sandy set the intention to write a beautiful book that would incorporate these practices.
When she showed her draft to her agent, she was told that it needed more to capture the imagination of the readers. The agent said it was too heavy on spiritual lessons with not enough story to draw the reader in. That’s when Sandy asked Katherine to collaborate. Katherine had taught for 31 years, had her own children and had been writing stories and taking workshops on writing for children for many years. She was thrilled by the opportunity.
We brainstormed plot ideas, went deeper into the character development, and selected a setting for the book. These new ideas were woven into the original story and The Hidden Worlds emerged after much revision and reader feedback.
We worked on Skype, on the phone and via e-mail. Sandy’s ideas were already in writing, so Katherine added her ideas to structure the story.
The theme of the book is that every person has the power to make a difference in the world. We all have access to higher powers who can see the whole situation and send in ideas. When working with others and their skills, knowledge and ideas, an amazing project can emerge. We feel collaborating on this book is proof of this theme.
Because human beings are unique and complex, we both felt it was important to show this diversity in our characters. We wanted to show that people in middle school can cross the barriers of cliques to become friends with those unlike them. We wanted to show differing perspectives—someone with a debilitating illness, someone who was brought from another culture into this one, someone in special education, someone heavily involved in sports, someone with anger issues, someone who was a natural born leader who felt invisible, someone who was bullied about weight, someone who was popular with lots of friends, someone with no friends. Despite their differences, however, they each had passion for nature and courage to confront things that were wrong. Their commonalities were more important than their differences.
Power Animals are guides in the spiritual realm. Some say that each person comes in to this life with at least two power animals. In the original story, Sandy paired each of the characters with a specific animal. Each character developed through the loving support of these animals.
It is our hope that our readers will enjoy seeing how Power Animals can help with everyday life situations because they love us, and they want to help us make life better. The book has shown tools that work in real life through the characters and the way they solve the problems they encounter.
There comes a time when couples decide to create and raise tiny helpless human beings, hoping they one day become non-tiny and less helpless.
This is one family’s journey through ten months of pregnancy (isn’t it supposed to be nine months?), the first years of parental cluelessness, the terrible twos, threenagers, and the few years that follow when they begin to learn about a world that’s even crazier than they are.
Join the author and his wife as they navigate those ten months, from the always romantic conception, to her water breaking in the most unique way possible. Then watch them attempt parenthood, from the seemingly simple routine of dressing their kids for school, to the complex experience of teaching them to use public bathrooms.
It’s mostly a breeze…
No it isn’t. Pre and postnatal complications; battles with their own mental health; and those rapidly growing and irrational miniature versions of themselves. Some of it is devastating. Much of it is overwhelming. All of it challenges them to maintain their sense of humor.
And when they attempted to go on an airplane as a family… that was a sh*tshow.
An interview with Brett Grayson
author of What Could Go Wrong? My Mostly Comedic Journey Through Marriage, Parenting and Depression
Why did you decide to write What Could Go Wrong?
Well, deep down it’s probably because I’m a narcissist. Anyone who writes about their life and expects others to care has to be a little self-absorbed and potentially delusional.
On a practical level, I am a person who struggles to get out of bed each morning unless there’s something for me to shoot for. This book gave me a purpose that was lacking in my life for so many years.
The book is full of hilarious parenting anecdotes. Can you share your favorite story?
That’s like picking my favorite dog. I should be reticent to do so, but unlike with my kids, my dogs don’t understand it anyway, so I have no problem choosing a favorite.
And speaking of dogs, my favorite story from the book is probably the night my wife Lauren’s water broke in a bizarre way which related to my dogs. So I used to cook our dogs their dinner because when you don’t have children yet, you have too much time on your hands and do insane things like cook for your dogs. Well, one night I made salmon and the smell permeated the air in our tiny apartment and led to Lauren getting nauseous and facilitated her water breaking.
You are very honest in describing the good, the bad, and the ugly of parenthood, including tough times your family has had. How does your wife, Lauren, and the other people in your life feel about this honesty? Has writing the book changed any of your relationships?
With Lauren, no. The book wouldn’t have been possible without her being on board from the start. She knew it would be revealing and signed off on it, which is freaking amazing as she’s more naked in the book than I am. (Figuratively naked, I mean. It’s not a porn book.) I’m not sure I’m a secure enough person that I would have been as understanding if she were the one writing it. But that’s why I married her. She’s better than me.
My parents have been a mixed bag as they’re from a generation where you don’t share your secrets, especially anything about mental health. Slowly though, as I’ve revealed a lot through my blog, and people have responded so positively, they’ve come around.
They were also rightly concerned about my career as a lawyer being compromised by the mental health revelations. That was the driving force behind me using a pen name for the book. I can keep the two careers separate.
In the book you talk about your struggles with depression and anxiety, as well as Lauren’s postpartum depression. What has been the biggest challenge in relation to your mental health and your role as a parent?
I think being present and active in their lives is a daily challenge. On one hand, I’m better around them because they don’t know about my struggles and also because being with them gives me meaning and forces me to be present. On the other hand, they are difficult to handle for long periods of time. They always require attention and sometimes I have a hard time taking care of others when I’m so caught in my own head. They also don’t listen and require patience, which I don’t always have.
It’s hard to admit, but at times I fight the urge to want to get away from them, and at night to rush them to bed. Life is easier to handle when you don’t have to care for others. But paradoxically life is also meaningless if you’re not helping others. And I know this and love them so much and try to remind myself to appreciate my time with them rather than rush through it.
How has becoming a parent changed your relationship with Lauren?
I go into this a lot in the book and I hope my honesty on it will be relatable. Because I’m not sure that becoming parents has necessarily been a good thing for my marriage. Yes, it creates meaning and gives you motivation to work through your problems for the sake of the kids. But kids are also a burden on a marriage in many ways. You don’t get to spend a lot of quality time alone, which is something I miss and has caused us to drift apart at times. Kids also have led to a lot of fighting for us on the issue of how to raise them. Lauren and I just disagree a lot about parenting decisions.
In the book you talk about your son’s diagnosis of CLOVES syndrome. How has this diagnosis impacted your family, and how is he doing today?
He has a big surgery coming up in the first half of 2019. It’s the first big one, though likely not the last. At four-years-old, he’s still in the dark about all of it. Which is both good and bad. On a social level, we’re worried about how he’s going to do once other kids start commenting on his different appearance. But we’re not there yet.
In terms of its effect on us as a family, it’s actually brought Lauren and I closer together. While we have our challenges as I’ve elaborated in the prior answer, experiencing this with our son together is a great emotional equalizer for us. Now I’d rather find a different equalizer, but I can’t make that trade. So experiencing all this with Lauren-the trips to Boston, the dozens of doctors’ appointments-are an experience that we share and few others can understand.
What advice would you give new fathers and fathers-to-be?
how you intend to parent. And write it down. For example, Are you going to let your baby cry or are you going to run into their room the second they cry? It seems unimportant until that moment when you start disagreeing while it’s happening.
What’s next for you?
I intend to keep writing about the absurdities and meaningful parts of my experience as a parent. I’m not sure I have another book in me for a while on this topic, as this book covered a six-year period in our lives. I’m sure I’ll be sharing my story in some form, though.
I’d also like to write a bit more about mental health and continue to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of anxiety and depression. It’s just so prevalent in our society. I’m not sure I really understood the extent of it until I started blogging about my own struggles. More than anything I’ve written about, my blogs on mental health have garnered the biggest response.
Where can we learn more about What Could Go Wrong?
Go to Amazon and buy the book. Half the money is going to support a charity for our son’s condition (CLOVES Syndrome). So you’re being a good person regardless.
And I think you’ll enjoy the book. Worst case scenario – it winds up on that place on the back of your toilet that I don’t know the name of.
book blogger & reviewer
Minty Fresh Reads. Murder and mayhem, with a sprig of mint.
A Grand Procession of the Writing Community
Reviewing young adult, new adult, and romance since 2013.
Author of the psychological thriller series, Incalculable
Author of the Commune Series
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New York Times-bestselling author