Out of the Shadows

 

ScreenshotSatin

As promised, I have started a new blog and would like to invite you all over to my new home at www.satinrussell.com.

I’ve mentioned before that my real name is not Janyaa. As you have probably surmised, it’s Satin Russell. (How do you do?)

It took me awhile to decide whether or not I wanted to use my real name as my author name. Many people choose to use pen names, instead, and I seriously considered doing so as well.

In fact, it has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make this past year.

You may be wondering why it was such a big deal. For years now, I’ve used this moniker – Janyaa – as my internet identity. It started way back when I first started playing World of Warcraft. (I’ve since quit playing.)

At the beginning, I did it for privacy reasons. Let’s face it, there aren’t a whole lot of people out there with my name. The subject of privacy was particularly relevant given the fact that I was a female gamer, and safety can become an issue.

I also used to write a blog about playing a holy paladin in World of Warcraft. As a stockbroker, I didn’t want my gaming to come up in any searches and bleed into my professional life.

After I quit playing and retired that older blog, it still became a way to differentiate between my “real life” and my “internet presence,” so I kept it. All of my social media was listed under Janyaa, from Twitter to Pinterest. In fact, the only thing that wasn’t listed under that name was my personal Facebook page.

Now that I’m moving into this new phase, being able to connect with potential readers under my real name has become more important. I want to be able to foster a healthy community and interact with people when they discover me as an author.

However, that still left the door open to me using a pen name. As I’ve said, there are a lot of authors out there that go that route. What was to stop me from doing the same?

Ultimately, I guess you could say it comes down to courage, commitment, and ego.

It has taken a lot of courage for me to make this transition and pursue my dreams. Trust me, every day I worry if I’m making the right choice. And every day I take another step towards my goal, I consider it a win against the self-doubt demons inside me.

In some ways, I think it also forces me to reach for a higher standard. There’s no hiding. I need to put out the best product I can. I’m obviously committed to doing exactly that if I’m going to put my name on it.

Lastly, I want to be able to point to my accomplishments and say, “I wrote this. This is me.” I guess you could say there’s a little bit of ego in that, but if I can’t take pride in what I’m producing, then what’s the point?

So, that’s it. This is me! If you’re currently following this blog, I hope to see you at the new site!

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What’s in a Name?

roseHi, how is everyone doing out in blog-ville? Life has been fairly busy over on this end. Let’s catch up, shall we?

I’m happy to report that I finished the first draft of my book back in mid-November, November 14th, 2014, to be exact. I participated in NaNoWriMo once again this year, and it gave me the final oomph I needed to get over the finish line. It was such an amazing feeling!

However, the next morning, I found myself looking around and thinking…uh, guys? Now what? I realized that I needed to get it edited, so started researching how to edit and how to find an editor. Most of what I found suggested that I set the first draft aside for anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month before I start taking a second look at it. This actually worked out great since Terry and I were planning a trip for the holidays.

Terry and I went on a cross-country road trip back to Seattle to visit his family, friends, and then headed down to Oregon to visit with my brother, sister-in-law, and little nephew. (It’s amazing how big he’s gotten! Seems like just yesterday I was blogging about him being born.)

It was a wonderful way to spend the holiday season. Coincidentally, it also happened to be our tenth wedding anniversary. You know you have to still be head over heels for someone if you voluntarily decide to get stuck in a car with them for over 3,000 miles!

After I got back, I felt a bit at odds with how to take the next step. It wasn’t just a matter of needing to get back into the swing of things, either. If I could have come back and sat a keyboard, it probably would have been easier. But, finding an editor? Figuring out what to do? That was a bit more challenging.

Luckily, I sucked it up and found three editors and sent off samples to them. After much deliberation, I’ve managed to find someone that I can work really well with.

All of which, leads me to now. February 1st. Can you believe it’s almost been a year since I’ve started this journey? I gave myself until April to get my first book written and published, and the time just seems to be streaming through my fingertips. I’ve started looking down the road to the next steps of formatting, and finding a cover artist…

not to mention marketing! And networking!

Ahh, marketing. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories from self-published authors about that. As a reader, I can say I’m VERY AVERSE to being “sold” to. Haven’t we all seen “that one guy” that likes to spam his title over and over again day in and day out? Yeah, that’s not going to be me. However, I do think there are some things that I can do that will better reflect who I am and what I’m about.

Then I started thinking about this little blog. “Janyaa’s Scrapbook.” Not a great name. I have to admit, I kind of cringe every time I come to this site. Have you ever noticed in the URL it kind of looks like “Janyaa’s Crap Book?”

Um, not exactly the kind of branding I’m looking for. Especially as an author just starting out. Besides, Janyaa is my internet name that I prefer to use in order to stay anonymous. However, if I’m going to be an author, the last thing I want to be is “anonymous.”

That train of thought, lead me to another train of thought. Should I publish under my real name, or use a pen name? Either path seems fairly well worn. It’s certainly not uncommon that an author would choose to publish under a pen name. There are benefits, not least of which is it helps you keep a bit of privacy and as a female, it’s safer.

Yet, there’s also a draw to publishing under my real name and just taking ownership of my work. Being able to point to it and say, “That’s me!”

This is a debate that I’ve been struggling with for most of this past year. For awhile, I was about 50/50 on the matter. However, about three months ago, I started really leaning towards just going for it and publishing under my real name. It’s taken a lot of courage to quit my job and pursue my dreams. I don’t want to start wimping out now. Additionally, I feel there’s more pressure to set the bar high if I’m going to have my work under my real name.

All of which brings me to the point of this post. I’ve decided I’m going to set up a new official Author Blog under my real name and start trying to write about the processes and books over there. I won’t be taking this blog down, exactly, but it will probably stay fairly inactive as I make the transition over. Once the other site gets established, I’ll be sure to post the new address here for anybody interested in following me.

If you’re a reader that won’t be coming with me, no hard feelings! I appreciate that you thought highly enough of a post or two I’ve written in the past to sign up and get updates from me at all. If you do plan on making the transition with me, it will be great to see you! I’ll be sure to give you all a heads up once I get the website looking a bit more decent.

Having the Time to Live

I had originally planned to write a post about one of the main challenges I’ve been having in regards to being on my own timetable and trying to produce a book. However, something happened today that made me want to focus more on one of the positive aspects to this whole “self-employed writing” gig I’ve got going on right now.

I woke up this morning, quite unusually, at 6am and found that I couldn’t get back to sleep. So, of course, instead of actually getting up and being productive, I lounged in bed for another two hours surfing links with my phone and checking FB, Twitter, Instagram, Buzzfeed, Pinterest, and all the other usual time-sucking suspects.

It was very relaxing and indulgent. The rain pattered outside my window, but it was warm and cozy in my bed. Practically the perfect way to spend the morning snuggled under the blankets. (I say practically, because the only thing that could have tipped it over the top would have been to have a freshly brewed cup of coffee miraculously delivered onto my nightstand…but that’s probably asking for too much.)

Having been a complete layabout for a few hours, I finally roused myself up, took a shower, got myself halfway presentable, and made my way to my daily office, AKA the local Starbucks.

(There’s a post percolating in me about my Starbucks in the near future.)

I was lucky and managed to snag a table by one of the outlets, so things were looking quite good. I hooked myself up, popped in my headphones and began reading what I had produced the previous day to get into the zone and figure out how to pick up where I left off, when suddenly, my phone rang.

It was Terry. They let him out early because it was pouring down rain, the construction site was drenched and they were soaking wet. Would I be interested in having lunch with him?

Can I tell you how absolutely nice it is to be able to randomly have lunch with my husband in the middle of the week? To be able to just stop what I’m doing, pack up my stuff, and go meet him at the restaurant? The freedom! The flexibility! It’s liberating!

Definitely one of the perks to being self-employed.

You know what’s even better than that? No feeling guilty. I actually came home after lunch, sat down, and still managed to get a couple of hours of good writing in. So, yup. Still on target and disciplined.

Today was a good day.

Boston Marathon

NBC still image taken from video shows an explosion at the Boston Marathon

When I first moved to Massachusetts (nearly seven years ago now) I didn’t know what Patriot’s Day was. I’d never heard of it before and was surprised to find that it was a big, highly celebrated Massachusetts state holiday that commemorates the anniversaries of the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

Those two battles were the first battles that started off the American Revolutionary War and our struggle towards freedom and independence  There are annual reenactments of the battles in the morning in both Lexington and Concord. There’s also a ride down the same path Paul Revere made on that fateful day, calling out his famous warning, “The British are coming! The British are coming!”

Students are out of school and many people in Massachusetts have the day off. For MOST people in Massachusetts, Patriot’s Day marks the day for the Boston Marathon. People come from all over the state and the world to line up along the 26 mile path and cheer the runners on.

It is the world’s oldest annual marathon. It attracts people from all parts of the Earth to compete, either with each other or with just themselves. It’s open for both professional and amateur qualifying runners. Meaning, it’s democratic.

Tens of thousands of regular everyday people run the course in any given year, many of them for specific charities or personal causes.

And yesterday, somebody decided to set off two explosions at the finish line.

So far, the morning after, there are 3 dead and over 100 injured. There are photos of people with their legs and limbs completely blown off. There are sidewalks awash in blood and gore. Images of people fleeing, cheeks tear-streaked, clad in athletic gear and running shoes.

In horrific and senseless moments like these, I try and look for the silver linings. The fact that there were so many first responders on hand to jump into immediate action and start saving the people who had been caught in the blast.

The fact that Massachusetts is known for it’s world class medical hospitals all within a short distance of the explosions, specifically geared towards traumas like these. Those are things we can point to and be thankful for.

I was inspired by the photos of regular race watchers running up to the fences and barricades that had fallen on people and helping lift and pry them apart with the policemen and official volunteers.

There was a Google document passed around twitter offering thousands of displaced racers food and shelter from Bostonians wanting to help. Remember, a lot of these people are not only visiting from out of town, but from out of the country.

After the explosions went off, the whole place went into lock down and was cleared out. Many of the racers and people couldn’t get to their cars or hotel rooms. Some didn’t even have access to their keys or cell phones being held by loved ones. They basically were stranded in the middle of a foreign city with no resources and unsure of where to go or what to do.

This is an international event. Our world is so interconnected now that this can’t simply be seen as an attack on Americans. That’s one of the things I think whoever did this doesn’t understand (among many.) Things are not as delineated as they once were. We are Earthlings, first.

One of the images that’s burned into my mind are the flags from all around the world streaming in the wind that the explosions made, then falling to the pavement. All the flags representing the world, being trampled on by people who hastened to help and rescue. Country colors muted, lying there, in the blood and debris.

Coincidentally, about a day and a half ago, just a day before this tragic event, I added a flag counter to my website. You can find it on the right-hand side-bar. In a little less than the 48 hours it’s been up, I’ve already collected 29 flags.

There’s a forum site that supports this seemingly simple little widget. On it, you’ll find people from all around the world asking to exchange flag clicks. I’ve visited many of their sites, giving them my +1 US flag. In doing so, I’ve found beautiful photography, music, art, food recipes, posts on life and love. All the usual and everyday things that people care about. It doesn’t matter where you’re from.

I don’t know who perpetrated this attack on us. It makes me sick to hear of some of the conclusions people are so quick to jump to and the amount of hate and vitriol that can come from something like this. Hate and vitriol is what leads to events like this.

I do know that whoever has done this attack has greatly underestimated the resiliency and the goodness in most people – and of the American people, specifically.

Remember, the Boston Marathon commemorates and marks the beginning of our Revolutionary War. We have known struggles like these; we have conquered them before.

Together, we will again.

A Fool, A Two, and A Couple of Threes

April is the month of birthdays in our family. One of my cousins was born on April Fool’s Day, my sister was born on the 2nd and another one of my cousins and I share a birthday on the 3rd. Add to that another handful of cousins and my dad, and it’s easy to see why I always think of April as “Birthday Month.”

So, today I’m 36 years old. I’ve never been one of those people who bemoans my birthday. I’ve always chosen to see it as an accomplishment…something to be celebrated. “Wheeee! Another trip around the sun!” (Sidenote: Did you know Google personalizes it’s doodle for you on your birthday? I didn’t! It even says my name when I hover over it. That’s SO cool!)

GoogleBirtday

One of my closest friends always frets about her birthday, “Ohhh,” she says, as she puts her hand to her forehead, “I’m getting so OLD!” To which I reply, “Well, it’s better than the alternative…”

I will admit that last year’s birthday seemed harder for me. Something about turning 35 (really, what is it about those round number years, anyway?) I do think it’s a good idea to listen to your inner voice if it’s telling you something is wrong. Obviously, I’ve been unhappy with my job and the fact that I’m living on the East Coast instead of in Seattle. So, those two themes were running around in my head and causing a ruckus and I knew I had some work to do.

I’ve consciously made a decision to change my perspective on living here in New England. It happened during one of the major snowstorms this past winter. Terry and I were sitting in our living room. We had a lovely spread of meats and cheeses out, a warm crackling fire, an open bottle of wine, and I had a good book on my kindle. I looked up and took in the room around me. It struck me how warm and cozy our home and life is. How nice it was to hear the howl of the wind outside and know that we were safe and cared for. I realized that we wouldn’t have been able to afford such a nice place out West and that I really should be more thankful for how nice our life is right now.

It was like turning a corner for me. I don’t think I’ve given this area as much of a chance as I should have. Yes, it’s been hard to meet new people and make friends, but even then I don’t see or keep in touch with the few I have as often as I should. I think I’ve been looking in my rear view mirror and back at all my friends and the wonderful life Terry and I had in Seattle for too long. It’s time to start investing in where I am right now and stop keeping one foot in the past.

As far as the job issues go, well, if you’ve been reading my blog, then you already know I have a plan to address that. I’m still battling some of my self-doubt and fears in regards to my decision to quit my job at the end of the year, but I’m also feeling very determined to overcome them, plan accordingly and make this work. No matter what, something has to change. I’m just happy I’m now armed with a plan to do so!

There are two birthday traditions that I like to do to help me get into the proper frame of mind. First, I like to buy myself a brand new outfit, top to bottom. This means, not just the clothes, but the jewelry and accessories to match, right down to a new pair of shoes. How often do you really get to do that? Most of the time, people will buy a new top, or pants, or maybe an outfit of clothes, right? But, how often do you take the time to get an entire look?

March142012931SwanBoatsThe second thing I like to do is to try at least one thing new, that I’ve never done before. It doesn’t have to be anything super huge or fancy, but it does have to be something completely different and new to me. This year, my sister and I and a friend are going to The Paintbar. We’re going to paint a lovely scene of the Boston Swan boats.

I’ve always wanted to paint something on canvas. I don’t know why, but I’ve never gotten around to it. It’s not like it’s an activity that should seem so out of reach for me, however I’ve managed to go 36 years without ever having painted anything with brushes on canvas. So, that’s going to be my one new thing this year.

You may be asking yourself why this is a tradition of mine. It serves as a reminder that there are still new things to discover and explore. No matter what your age, life can still be exciting and new! Don’t fall into a trap of ennui and cynicism. Celebrate your life!

I know that’s what I’m going to do!