Monday, August 27, 2012

What is Red Mojo Mama?

Over the past year or so, I’ve many reasons to smile over people’s reaction to the title of my first published book.

I had originally titled it “Full Circle” and got very few requests from agents to send it to them. I was rethinking the title one day, and decided to try to come up with a name that reflected the protagonist’s nickname. I bounced a number of things around, finally deciding on Red Mojo Mama, because it was similar to a nickname my late husband had for me.  The requests for my manuscript took off.

In the novel, Lydia “Red” Talbot is faced with her lackluster life three years after her husband, Mac, dies. She’s been in mourning for him and now she’s in mourning for her beloved aunt, who bequeaths her a trailer park. She’s droopy, she’s sad and she’s definitely lost that mojo her husband had been so proud of.

The Urban Dictionary has a couple of entries for “mojo” – but #1 and #3 below are what I had in mind when I used the term:
-   mojo     N.
1. Self-confidence, Self-assuredness. As in basis for belief in ones self in a situation. Esp. I context of contest or display of skill such as sexual advances or going into battle.
2. Good luck fetish / charm to bolster confidence.
3. ability to bounce back from a debilitating trauma and negative attitude

What I have found interesting is that more often than not, people have assumed that mojo meant sexual prowess. I had Red Mojo Mama on Smashwords for a while. It was obvious by the number of free views that potential buyers were checking it out and hoping for erotica. While the book does have plenty of sex in it, it is by no means erotica. Woe is me!

Mojo, baby, is that special something you have that attracts people or success to you.  It is usually all in your style and approach to life.  I’ve definitely had times when my mojo left me. Thankfully, I’ve always been able to get it back. Red, my main character and imaginary (don’t tell her that) friend, has definitely gotten her mojo back.

Here’s to you and your mojo!

Friday, August 24, 2012

How to Deliver Feedback

I worked with a woman who was allergic to the words “good job.” Seriously. Guidance and constructive criticism was a major part of her job, yet she was unable to do the simplest of things – give her employees verbal pats on the back.

Likewise, I’ve run into people, who love to give others feedback on their projects, whether requested or not, who only deliver the negative stuff. What? How long do you have to live to understand that is not the way to handle performance reviews, guidance or assessments of anything actually?

The advice I’m about to give is going to sound so simplistic to many of you, but it’s apparently not as well known or understood as it should be. It was a recent run-in with someone about delivering feedback that prompted me to post this:

This is how you deliver a message which contains information the recipient really doesn’t want to hear:
  1. You find something good to say about the person, job or project.
  2. You deliver the bad news – as specifically and kindly, but honestly as you can.
  3. You end the conversation by reaffirming the good news you started with.

Sound too simple? It really is simple. Delivering good news first (and there is always SOMETHING good that can be said) relaxes the individual and lets them hear you. They are still not going to love your bad news but at least they know you’ve taken the time to find something good in them. If it’s a creative project, especially, the project equals their ego, so tread gently. No one wants to hear that they’ve just given birth to an ugly baby. When you wrap up with a reaffirmation of the good news, they relax again and just possibly hold on to your advice on how to fix or improve whatever you’ve discussed.

Again – I know this is going to sound preachy to some of you, but believe me, there are still bosses, friends and family members out there who can use this info.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Veering Away from the Playbook

Years ago, I loved watching football with my late husband, Pete. It was hours of watching the game on the couch next to him that taught me two things: he was actually a brilliant strategist and being flexible is a great asset.

Many of you know that Pete was the model for Mac, a major character in Red Mojo Mama, so you can imagine that I had a ton of love and respect for the man. However, he wasn’t a “book smart” kind of guy; too bad, because with a college education he would probably have made a huge dent in the world.

We watched every single 49ers game we could together, and many other teams' games – the Cleveland Browns were another favorite – and even sat through an NFL draft one weekend. He explained the process of the draft and the strategy involved that day and I was amazed at my husband. His percentage of correct calls on who would be picked next and by what team was really high. I asked him how he knew what would happen. He told me that he paid attention to the stories in the paper, but it was mostly knowing the current composition of the NFL teams and where their weaknesses were. However, almost every pick he’d have to reassess the next pick because the field of available college football players had narrowed by the latest pick.

The first of his football skills I picked up on was the ability to know how a team should “adjust” their plays, or veer away from their playbook (for those of you that don’t know, a playbook is a collection of plays that are rehearsed repeatedly by a team and are identified so that they can be called in a huddle easily or even followed in sequence). He would very often be passionately expressing himself to the television (yelling at the coach), trying to magically tell him what he should do next. Many times the coach would do exactly as he said, rarely on that play, but one or two plays later. He was very seldom wrong on his call. When they “adjusted," as he put it, the team would almost always meet their objective.

Let me say here, that I’ve also watched football with other men over the years. There was a big difference between the others and Pete. They were usually shouting out frustration and very rarely actually giving the coach advice.

What Pete had that the others didn’t was the ability to see the big picture and realize that an adjustment needed to be made in order to be successful. He often said that even a great team could be defeated by strategy every day of the week. 

While many people do have the ability to see the larger view of things, not many have the trait of flexibility that’s needed. Some people will “stay the course” right into an iceberg. As I move through life, I try to always be watching for inflexibility in myself. Regular reassessment is important and shifting to a new play when your playbook develops a flaw is critical.

I learned many things from my husband, a simple man with a simple sort of wisdom, and he continues to be a part of my life.

I would urge everyone to look over their own playbook. If it’s fine, then great! If not, think about changing it a bit.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sexy Zombies?

Okay - I'm not a zombie person. In fact, it would be fair to say I have had a prejudice about the whole Zombie phenomena. However, the author of the A Zombie-ish Apocalypse series, Shannon Mayer, changed my mind. First, you can write a good book about zombies where the story is compelling and the characters feel real because Shannon has done so. Second, I never really considered that zombies would be former people, humans. This series (Sundered, Bound and Dauntless) highlights that fact and never lets you forget it.

Because Mayer’s zombies – the ones we get to know personally – still exhibit so many human traits, we care for them, for the tragedy of their condition. Most improbable for me was the idea that a Zombie could be a bit sexy, but again Mayer pulled it off. I cannot give away too much of the story, so let me just say this, at the core of Mayer’s series is a love story, and because of that strong emotion, the reader can find the “monster” sexy.

Let me just state that this is not a review of Mayer’s books, but instead a commentary on my own startled reaction to a genre I never would have believed I would like. Good story-telling is good story-telling wherever you find it and I’m glad that my association with Shannon in a book promotion event led me to try something new. I’m also glad I got to know the author.

I have another Mayer book on my Kindle that I’m now very anxious to read.

PS – a note from Red, “I was all into the hunk of a zombie Kathy is talking about! You go, Shannon!”

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

And Now for the Newest Additions!

I’m taking a new tack into the wind. I’m trying out a couple of new blog ideas – subjects that I love and are important to me, but don’t quite fit into my current two blogs – Red Mojo Mama Musings and In the Writing Groove. Here are my newest babies:

Live Young Die Old – I’m hoping you’ll be excited about this one. I’ve been passionate for years about resisting our society ideas about aging. I got very turned on by a website I’ll be presenting to all of you about women in New York City, who are definitely older but still extremely fashionable and courageous in their lives. They are young at heart. Everything about this blog will be geared towards encouraging and supporting a youthful outlook on life and spirited lifestyle.

Fabulous For Less  I’m personally frugal but not cheap, so I’ve always been attracted to finding ways to save money and still get what I want. I think most people would love to have access to good stuff in life for less than their currently paying for stuff they don’t even really want. I’ll be showing the way to get or make the most fabulous of things, announce your personality, live life to the fullest and all for less, in most cases, much less than you’re shelling out now. You don’t have to pay top dollar to live like you want to.

So, there they are – I hope you’ll stop by and get a feel for these newborns. Watch closely over the next couple of weeks as they learn to fly.