Update: Downsizing and the 100-Item Challenge

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Link to the original article about downsizing: https://catspydell.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/downsizing-accepting-the-100-item-challenge/

Today is the day I have been waiting for. As mentioned previously in my blog post about my downsizing movement over the next couple of years, I have been collecting ‘crap’ I don’t want or need in an effort to get rid of it. Continue reading

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Reinventing Yourself: The New Frontier

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For years, all I wanted was a few things: A small office in my backyard overlooking my mini-ranch of rescue animals, to write novels, to get them published, and to be happy working from home so I could be available as a single parent to raise my two children. My one-minded goal was to ‘go out the back door to work’ every day.

I achieved all of that! I turned my kids’ playhouse into my writing studio (photo above), wrote non-stop, got two of my fantasy novels published, and even fixed up the old falling-down corral and moved the goats, pig, and pony in from their rented stable. I named the animal rescue at my home Pixie Dust Ranch and wrote about fairies. I lived the author lifestyle of writing in my backyard office, going to weekly writing groups, then, once I was published, I booked speaking engagements and spoke at writer’s conferences, libraries, book stores, fantasy conventions…my dreams all came true! I even arranged to edit and publish other people’s books for a steady paycheck, all the while going out the back patio door to traverse through the garden to work every day.

Unfortunately, I never calculated how difficult it is to sell and market books, how writing is the fun part, but creating a valid marketing plan and selling one’s novel is an entire other job. So while I accomplished my goals, in an often round-about way, I did not garner the paycheck I expected to go with it when sales plummeted. Luckily the kids were grown and in college around the same time the steady money stopped coming in, and while the corral residents still demanded my daily attention, traipsing daily to my cute little office to work as an author just didn’t seem to fit any longer.

There are a few things that coincidentally coincided with the demise of my monthly paycheck and author status abandonment. Three major changes came into my life. A baby peacock we named Rad arrived at my privately owned animal rescue, a big classic red 1976 Cadillac Eldorado serendipitously became my new ride, and I met my long-distance boyfriend who opened my horizons by getting me (and the peacock!) out of the house and into the world. I reclaimed my rusty carpentry skills and went to work with my boyfriend (whose online moniker is ‘Rad’s Dad’) at his roving handyman job to make ends meet.  We traveled to far away job sites with the peacock and our dogs, towing our trailer, like gypsies on the fly. The word ‘author’ rarely crossed my lips anymore. I stopped going to the writing group I had attended for over a decade, because I decided to stop myself from writing another book until I could effectively market the two books that were already published. I lived in a sea of possibility, with no anchor.

 
Fast Forward 4 years since my last published book:

While I was never able to pop my book sales enough to make a living as a writer again (even though I worked at it endlessly), I was able to stay solvent by doing odd jobs: construction work, pet-sitting, dog training, freelance editing, and the like. Meanwhile, Rad the Peacock, as he came to be known, continued to grow and flourish, against all odds. Around his first birthday was the test: peacocks usually become violent and are  untouchable in the wild and on bird ranches, but Rad had to continue to travel with us for his own survival. We were able to work through his aggression period, and after he hit the year and a half mark, all was well with our moody exotic road-tripping bird.  We realized we were traveling with a growing male peacock that would cap at about 9 feet long. We needed more room as our Cadillac seemed to grow smaller as Rad grew longer. We began to search for a schoolbus to turn into an RV, because meanwhile, Rad was becoming popular. We started taking him to schools, botanic gardens, Boys and Girls’ Clubs, and libraries to enlighten kids and adults alike about these majestic but noisy fancy pheasants. Soon Los Angeles Magazine, local newspapers, and even a video production team at the local college wrote about him and filmed this unusually tame pterodactyl-like creature that strangers could walk up to and actually pet. As far as we know, Rad is the only adult male peacock that can be safely approached. Rad even joined our ventures into the local music scene, and is known by several rock bands because he frequents, with us of course, a few music festivals each year year. Rad loves the attention, expects people to fawn over him, and even earned a title as ‘Peacock Ambassador of Palos Verdes.’ When I wasn’t paying attention, my life was pulled into the Rad Vortex, because I am Rad’s only handler. There was no one else who could take over.

Rad the peacock

Mr. Curious, a.k.a Radagast the Peacock

While the home rescue Pixie Dust Ranch always had its own Facebook page, soon Rad was such a mini-celeb he needed his own Facebook page, and Instagram, and Twitter (because he likes to tweet)!  He even has his own hashtag, #radthepeacock. His life is charmed in a way that is difficult to describe, but as a result, I have somehow become Rad’s secretary and driver. Each month I get a few calls (even though my contact info is unlisted) about Rad’s ‘availability’ to attend events near and far. I check his calendar, book the event, and get him there (an arduous task until the schoolbus RV arrived). We were so grateful when the schoolbus we were hoping for materialized (#moonshinethebus). Rad takes up four seats on the sleek built-in-ex-party-bus couch, but he is more than happy to spend time in the schoolbus and hit the road. We even started a ‘Where’s Rad’ campaign, documenting his travels through online memes.

In the true sense of adventure in reinventing oneself, I didn’t fight it, any of it. If Rad gets a call and his calendar is clear, we book the event. Even though we don’t usually get paid  for Rad’s appearances, Rad enjoys the traveling, the attention, and meeting new people, so why not? As word of Rad the tame ambassador peacock got around, I started getting interviewed more: about him, Pixie Dust Ranch, and even the local coyote problem. I was now becoming known for what was real and prevalent in my life: Animals. Even as a young child, I was called on as an animal whisperer of sorts, as I was the only one who could approach my neighbor’s stallion that got loose way more than it should have. The owner would call me and I would go catch the horse by talking quietly to him, throw a halter on him, and lead him home. Working with animals is my truest calling. But while I am both a writer and an animal handler, few who know me as Rad’s mom realize I am a published author, too.

Recently Rad was booked in another state, this time to a Washington retreat center to join me for my speaking engagement in a workshop I created called ‘Transcendent Animal Relationships.’ We packed up the bus, loaded up the polar bear white dog (#drinianthebigwhitedog), and the feral but traveling kitten (#athenathekitten), and we hit the road in our Party Bus-turned-RV for a 3,500 mile, 4 state, 20 day road trip, following a peacock’s lead. And it was perfect.

rad on bus

                                            Rad being a couch hog on #moonshinethebus

Recognizing that we would be meeting a lot of new people on our journey, I wrote a dog training book called The Wolf Pack Guide to Dog Training that had been in the back burner of my mind and promoted it as a free download while I was on my road trip to Washington. Now I was officially creating my platform as an animal handler. While I may not get hired by movie sets to wrangle beasts or anything like that,  I do wrestle a french-fry loving 12 pound 8 foot long peacock from the bus to his tent to his portable aviary cart (The RadMobile) to a classroom, so if that doesn’t qualify as ‘animal handler’, I don’t know what does.

Rad the Peacock per se is not earning me a steady income, but I am starting to be paid for the events he attends, and he is gaining online followers.  He certainly is bringing me to new places, allowing us to travel as a weird little human and critter pack on our ex-party-bus-now-RV schoolbus. Because of Rad’s unusual schedule of having to be put into a safe garage aviary at night due to coyote threats, I do still work from my home so I can be nearby at sunset each day. In fact, I work in my bedroom office nook, with the feral kitten at my side so I can watch Rad relaxing on his perch outside my window all day long. And even though I can see the sweet little office I once wrote my fantasy novels in just past Rad’s aviary, I don’t really miss it, because being Rad’s mom has its own rewards. Reinventing myself as Rad’s handler has been a fun and often unpredictable ride. But who knows, maybe there is yet another book brewing inside me, a crazy non-fiction one about a young peacock named Rad who eats In N Out french fries, has traveled to five states, goes to schools on a schoolbus, and enjoys listening to the Grateful Dead.

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Rad perched in his day time aviary in front of the writing office

 

Addendum photos: For ‘Car Guys’ (and ladies who enjoy automotive delights)

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The Phoenix: Rad’s ride until he outgrew her!

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Moonshine the Bus, a much-beloved work in progress and Rad’s bigger ride

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Cat Spydell is the author of The Fairies of Feyllan, The Time Traveler’s Apprentice                             at Hollywood High, and The Wolf Pack Guide to Dog Training

Available on Amazon.com!

The Wolf Pack Guide to Dog Training can be read on this blog for FREE!

Check back after August 1, 2017

Thoughts About Thanksgiving: The Good, the Bad, the Beautiful

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it! May you find time to be with and appreciate those you love today, and take time to be thankful for all the good things you have in your life!

I have to admit, I am not a fan of Thanksgiving. As a conscientious vegetarian, I cringe at the word “Turkey Day” and sort of despise the fact that when Americans are the fattest people on the planet, that we celebrate food and overstuffing ourselves as a national tradition. But, I do love seeing family, connecting with people, and remembering “Thanksgivings Past” at the dinner table, so I usually keep my personal Thanksgiving politics to myself. I know that this has been a very challenging year for many, with diverse issues from politics to civil protest, to personal issues. I have been challenged by an ongoing phone and computer hacking situation that may or may not be associated with some recent personal attacks on my property, namely my vehicles, starting with huge crowbar-induced scratches on my classic car, to smashed car windows and everything being stolen from another vehicle,  someone messing with my tires and letting the air out, leaving me stranded at night while waiting for a tow truck, to our schoolbus RV being totaled when it was rammed from behind by a rented semi-truck. Whether it is all one thing or a few coincidences spread in between ‘mean people actions’, I don’t know.  But it has brought new challenges into my life as I deal with a mountain of paperwork, a sense of anger I can’t do anything about, and a realization that humans can really suck sometimes.

That being said, this year has been full of amazing moments. The schoolbus painting party was a highlight: what a fun cooperative effort to transform the scraggly graffiti-covered Sunshine the Schoolbus into a lovely RV, complete with her peacock mural of Rad the Peacock, her big painted sun on the front, and her special “Jerry” Garcia panel, the only art we were able to save off of her before she goes to the scrap yard. I am so grateful for the people who have come into my life who make it better, whether to create music and art, to share words of wisdom and support… and all who participated in the Sunshine the Bus transformation certainly did that!  I am also incredibly grateful for those who chipped in on our “Go Fund Me” Sunshine the Schoobus campaign. Because of the financial help, we were able to make five trips to see Sunshine in the tow yard a couple hours away and rescue our belongings, that were buried deep in the interior wreckage. The Sunshine campaign saved us thousands in  having to replace everything. An example of how people can be stellar and generous!

I also have ongoing gratitude for the amazing animals that have come into my life. Rad the Peacock just got his new ‘real’ adult peacock feathers. He is like walking performance art, and watching him preen and show them off gives me such a feeling of thankfulness. Rad nearly died on more than one occasion while he was growing into the adult bird he has become in the past 2 ½ years. I am happy to have such an unusual animal companion in my life, and am grateful that he has an easy going enough personality to go on road trips and bounce around with our wacky critter/human family. I adore each animal at our animal rescue, Pixie Dust Ranch, and feel eternally blessed for the time on this planet that I have with them all.

I love that our ranch’s pygmy goat, Buttercup, was involved with the antic high above Dodger stadium during a Cub’s game to break the Cub’s Curse. That was some major epicness right there, involving a group of rabid hippie Cub’s fans, a DeLorean, and… Buttercup. Fun times! These are the kinds of wacky moments that make up a life that while challenged in some areas, can be described as “magical” also. I am a firm believer in discovering the beauty in all things, in seeing the silver lining, in allowing Spirit to intervene and create magic. Sometimes, if we step out of our own way, we can just ALLOW and that is when life slips from mundane to amazing.

This Thanksgiving I feel blessed to spend the holiday with my immediate family: My mom, my kids, my brother and his lovely family, including his wonderful wife and two children whom I love like my own. Last night I drove my boyfriend downtown so he could take a bus to visit his family in Arizona. He just discovered on his way there that his nephew, his sister’s son, passed away yesterday morning, at the home we stay in when we visit Phoenix. His nephew was 21. This is the kind of devastation that life can just inflict on a person, sight unseen, no warning. I know of another family dear to me who lost their son in a similar fashion this year, as well as a couple of others in the past few years who I hold a constant lit candle for in my heart. Life can be so cruel.

But it can also be beautiful. That is why I feel that even though Thanksgiving has its downside, including a fakey-history lesson about the way it all began in America, there is much to be gleaned from an annual event that makes you stop the daily grind, hop on a plane or bus, traverse the holiday crowds, and fight to be with those you love. THAT is where the magic happens. THAT is what life is about. So today, as you gather with family and friends, take a moment. Appreciate your life and all that is in it. Remember, it does not matter if the turkey is a bit dry, your gluten free diet is being tested, your sister said something snide, or that your aunt is late (yet again). That is not what this day is about. It is about gratitude, a sense of being a part of a world that many are taken from too soon, and about love. Ultimately, love is the common denominator for us all, the way we connect and feel in this crazy existence called life. So live it. Be present. Hug someone you love tightly. You never know when these opportunities can end because someone will die or move on from your life. Today, at the dinner table, tell someone you care about how you feel. Express love. That is the way to celebrate a holiday, regardless of how you feel about the day itself. Truly, love is the answer. Be grateful to have someone to love, and let love permeate your senses today as our nation celebrates in unity, the idea of gratitude for what we have.

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The Fairies of Feyllan novel available for .99 cents for a limited time!

My novel The Fairies of Feyllan is only .99 cents for a limited time!

fairyfantasies

Supermoon Special: For a limited time only, my book The Fairies of Feyllan is available as a Kindle purchase for only .99 cents! That’s a $7 savings…get it quick before the price goes back up!

This is an unprecedented price break!  Link below: 

http://www.amazon.com/Fairies-Feyllan-Cat-Spydell-ebook/dp/B00G4TSW3I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1410225012&sr=8-1&keywords=the+fairies+of+feyllan

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Penguin’s Solution for Authors: One Racket To Rule Them All

The pitfalls of being an author in this day and age!

David Gaughran

author_solutions-penguin Regular readers of this blog will know all about Penguin’s purchase last July of the universally reviled Author Solutions – a company infamous for overcharging writers, doing a terrible job of publishing their books, and forcing ineffective and expensive marketing services upon those authors when their books (inevitably) fail to sell.

My posts on the topic have been leaning heavily on the tireless work of Emily Suess – a writer and blogger who has been documenting this racket for some years now.

At the time of the purchase, many in the publishing community expressed a hope that Penguin would clean up Author Solutions, or at least tone down some of their scammier tactics.

I was more than a little skeptical, and invited Emily Suess to give us an update. Here’s Emily:

One Racket to Rule Them All

Did you notice that skeevy self-pub racket, Author Solutions, is accumulating brands as…

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HOW TO GET COVETED BOOK REVIEWS USING THIS ONE SIMPLE GOOGLE TOOL

Literary Craft Works

Lighting the way for New Authors

GOOGLE TOOL PROVIDES CONNECTION TO THE RIGHT BOOK REVIEWERS FOR YOUR GENRE

Chances are, if you have been at this for a while, you already know how to use Google Alerts to receive articles and posts that have been written about you and/or your topic. If not, learn more here: https://support.google.com/alerts/answer/175925?hl=en

But did you know you can utilize this important tool to get noticed by journalists who may review your book? The process is extremely simple and will take minimal time and effort (compared to other methods).

• Go to http://www.Google.com/alerts and create a Google Alert for your genre (fiction) or your area of expertise (non-fiction). If your book is already published, we recommend you also create an alert with your book title so that Google will send you a prompt (with a link) every time your book is reviewed or mentioned on the net.

• Google Alerts then sends you related articles, blog posts and…

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