Monday, December 22, 2008

Guest Blogger Marta Stephens: A Midlife Dream

I have a special guest today! One of my boomer babe girlfriends is here today to give us the lowdown on pursuing your dreams later in life. Marta just so happens to be ending her virtual book tour this week, so it's such a pleasure to have her stop by and give us her boomer wisdom!

Take it away, Marta...

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 21,000 unique visitors from 110 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 a native of Argentina who has made Indiana her home since the age of four. This mild-manner lady turned to crime with the publication of the first in her Sam Harper Crime Mystery series, SILENCED CRY (2007) which went on to receive honorable mention at the 2008 New York Book Festival and top ten in the 2007 Preditors & Editors Reader Poll. The second book in the Harper series, THE DEVIL CAN WAIT, will be released by BeWrite Books (UK) on November 3, 2008.

Stephens holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism/Public Relations from Ball State University (IN) where she is employed in human resources. She is a member of Sisters in Crime International, Sisters in Crime Speed City Indiana Chapter, and the Midwest Writer’s Workshop.

Stephens believes learning is a life-long adventure. Aside from her writing, she is trained in graphic and web design. She co-designed the award-winning book cover of her debut novel, SILENCED CRY with friend Scott Parkison (IN), created the book trailer, and designed/administers her website, www.martastephens-author.com, her personal blog, http://mstephens-musings.blogspot.com, and the authors’ blog, MURDER BY 4 http://murderby4.blogspot.com.

Stephens lives with her husband, daughter (22), and son (20). She enjoys oil paintings, gardening, the family’s pet Boston Bulls and mini Daschunds, and shared moments with family and friends.

13 comments:

  1. We all love great successes...It means we can also have them. I am always interested in people with great dreams and relentlessly pursuing them. carol stanley author of FOr Kids 59.99&Over

    ReplyDelete
  2. Marta, you are an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Carol and Margay. Glad to be here. I love this site. LOL One of my best birthdays was 50--so liberating!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Excellent advice Marta. Heck, there are days I wonder if at 40 I can pull off the whole writing gig.

    Loved the new book and can't wait for the next one!

    Cheryl

    ReplyDelete
  5. Cheryl, pant, pant, I'm working on it, pant, pant. LOL

    ReplyDelete
  6. I loved Silenced Cry. I can't wait to read The Devil Can Wait.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Marta, you definitely have done well and are an inspiration to me, over 45 too. The Devil is such a great book! I cant wait for the next one!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Right you are. Don't stop anything because of age. At 60, I'm past mid age and am learning so much I feel like I'm just getting started.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://morganmandel.blogspot.com
    http://www.morganmandel.com

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi ladies, thanks so much for stopping by!

    I feel so strongly about the need for women our age to pursue a dream. I’ve watched so many women (including my mother) over the years go through “withdrawal symptoms” after their children left home. These wonderful, selfless ladies spent 18 to 20 or more years of their lives focusing on their children’s needs. They’ve done the PTA thing and went to every orchestra recitals, play, science fair, and ball games. They helped their children with school projects, got them packed for camps, class trips, and planned untold birthday parties. After the children leave home these women felt “abandoned” and didn’t know how to fill their time.

    I adore my children. They are my life, my focus and priority. I’ve done all of the above too, however, the reality was/is that children grow up, life changes and now that they’re in their 20s and living independently from mom and dad (except when they need to do laundry, eat, buy school books and supplies, buy gas and groceries, etc.) it’s wonderful to have something to call my own. My writing feeds my soul and you know what? It’s added a new dimension to my relationship with my children. They’ve actually read my books. Wow!

    ReplyDelete
  10. What an inspiring story about launching a new career in midlife. I, too, am a journalist who would like to write fiction. This story is a good outline of how to get focused and learn how to write fiction, something I'd like to do.

    My blog is The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide at http://boomersurvive-thrive.typepad.com

    Rita

    ReplyDelete
  11. Rita, to quote the Niki slogan, "Just do it!"

    Best of luck to you!
    Marta

    ReplyDelete
  12. Yup - I'm 51 and my first novel will be published in the spring of 2009. Now is the perfect time, in my opinion. I have no children at home. I'm not afraid to take risks. I feel incredibly fortunate.

    Go Marta Go!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Kat, I'm SO happy for you and your upcoming release!!

    "I'm not afraid to take risks." I think that's the key. At our age, we've seen and heard it all (or at least that's how it feels at times) so what's the worst anyone can say? No? And what if they do? According to the Dalai Lama we need to: "Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck."

    I'm sure several doors closed before this one opened for you. Congrats!!

    ReplyDelete