Surprising secrets of success

We all want to “just know” what we’re supposed to do with our lives, for our purpose to be spelled out, but that’s not how life works.

The reality is that we have to do the work, but we also have to pay attention to the lessons life is teaching us.

Your vocation is not something you just discover one day. It’s something that’s been there all along.

That’s the theme of a free ebook that you can get here:


It features Michael Hyatt, Seth Godin, Bob Goff, Jeff Goins, Emily Freeman, Pat Flynn, Wm. Paul Young, Frank Viola, and other top writers, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders.

They share the surprises of success…information that ultimately might help you find your own definition of success. Don’t be surprised if it’s not what you think it will be.

You are not alone on this journey. These leaders have been right where you are, so go grab the free ebook right now:


My hope is that as you read it, you take away some important points about what it means to find meaningful work in this world. The process was surprising for these all-stars. Maybe the same will be true for you, too. Get it now!

Leibster Award

Liebster-award-2I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award by Jean Schara, who is a retired Air Force veteran (thank you for your service!), a writer, and a lover of cats… lots and lots of cats. (See her blog for details.) Thank you, Jean, for pointing in my direction.

Here are the rules, more or less as I’ve been given them. (I thought the graphic was too small, and it looked like it was probably an unlicensed image from an image site, so I dumped it after copying the information it contained. For the record, I try not to perpetuate the use of unlicensed intellectual property. I want to get paid for my work, and I think other artists deserve the same respect. I’m sure that image didn’t originate with Jean, and probably not with the person who nominated her either. I’m not pointing any fingers, just trying to follow my own conscience.)

  1. Acknowledge the blogger who nominated you, and add a badge to your profile.
  2. Answer the 11 questions that blogger gave you.
  3. Give 11 random facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 11 other blogs that have fewer than 200 followers.
  5. Let the bloggers know you have nominated them, and
  6. Give them 11 questions to answer.

Here are my eleven questions to answer:

1. Who is your favorite author?

Wow – talk about impossible questions. When asked about things like “favorite color” I usually respond with, “my favorite color of what?” Because you know, blue is a lovely color for the sky, but maybe not ideal for scrambled eggs. Same goes for authors – my favorite author of what? But so I don’t break the rules, I will give you a few of my favorites.

Note: some of these links are affiliate links. I may receive compensation if you purchase through them.

  • I think Brandon Sanderson is the most brilliant epic fantasy author of this generation.
  • I also love Neil Gaiman. His work is unique, quirky, entertaining, and undeniably good, across the board.
  • I’ve read nearly everything that Holly Lisle has written (still working on some of her back catalog), and especially enjoy her Cadence Drake/Settled Space novels (space opera type SF). I expect to read everything new she publishes for the forseeable future.
  • My current favorite mystery writer is Tana French who writes police procedurals built around the (fictitious) Dublin Murder Squad.
  • I think Jeff Goins is writing some of the best personal development non-fiction out there, and I will continue to buy and read everything he puts out.
  • Bill Johnson writes some of the most mind-blowing Christian non-fiction around. He will make you re-think everything you thought you knew.

I think that’s enough for now. I could probably name a dozen or more additional authors that fall into the “I’ll read anything they publish” categories.

2. If you had 3 wishes what would they be?

Gah. I hate these kinds of questions. It’s impossible to wish perfection for everybody – it’s the imperfections in life that make us who we are. With nothing to overcome, we have nothing to strive for and we never learn our strengths. That said, lets assume that these wishes are for our own personal, selfish reasons. So…

  1. Money. Lots of it. An essentially unlimited supply even. Then I could have whatever I personally needed as well as meeting the needs of lots of other people too.
  2. The unfailing ability to write both quickly and well, and to tell stories that are both entertaining and captivating. I’d love to write something that makes some 12-year-old somewhere declare an undying love of books. I can think of no more gratifying endorsement for any author.
  3. The ability to share truth and wisdom with people in a way that changes lives. I can say things here or in “real life” that might be true or even wise. But really changing things for other people is a different thing entirely and not necessarily easy. Knowing I could do or say something that would make someone’s life better in the long run would be a true gift.

3. If you were given a free round trip ticket to anywhere, where would you go?

Only one? If I have 2, I’d go with the hubby pretty much anywhere. If I only have one I guess I’d use it to tag along with my sister on one of her many adventures. 😀

4.  Would you rather live near the ocean, forest, mountains or a fourth option?

If my answer to question 2.1 was true (unlimited funds) I would gladly have residences in all those kinds of locations… I’ll choose the desert for option 4. The American southwest is beautiful.

If I can only choose one, I would probably go with something in California where I’m within striking distance of all those options. Woo hoo!

5. What is your favorite genre of music? 

I’ll admit it – I still love my ’80s pop. Sue me. 😀 I like a lot of other music too, but if I had to choose…

6. Plane, Train, Boat, Car or other for vacation travel?

It depends. I’ll fly anywhere you want to send me. Seriously. The train could be an adventure. I’m taking my first cruise later this year, so I’ll see how that goes. And a road trip where you can stop at interesting and unusual places along the way is always fun, especially if you have good company.

7. Where is your favorite place to escape from the daily grind to?

First, I apologize on behalf of this question – its grammar is terrible. LOL

But to answer, I have to admit a penchant for Starbucks.

8. What is your best memory?  (You probably have several, but pick one)

Standing on the pier in San Francisco with my best friend and the love of my life.

9. What is your favorite hobby?

Since writing is now my full-time occupation and not merely a hobby, I’ll say my favorite hobby is painting. And photography.

10.  What is the most memorable book you have read, or movie if not a big reader?

This is another question that could go lots of directions. I’ll go with Winnie The Pooh. It was my first favorite book, and I still consider Pooh and his friends to be some of my most steadfast companions. (A.A. Milne version, of course. NOT Disney version.)

11. Would you travel around the world in 80 days if you could?

In a heartbeat, camera in hand.

11 Random Facts About Me:

  1. I’m technically an introvert, but I really like to be around people. Well, the right people.
  2. I would wear nothing but jeans and t-shirts ever if I thought I could get away with it.
  3. Though I was once a die-hard TV addict, I’ve discovered that I don’t really miss it when I’m too busy to watch it.
  4. Coffee. Lots of it. But it either needs to have flavored creamer (or be something like a vanilla latte) or just be black. I find just cream and sugar in my coffee to be a little bit disgusting.
  5. I’m a bit of a tech nerd.
  6. I have an Associate’s degree in music, and I regret never following through on the Bachelor’s.
  7. I used to be a cat person. Now I’m more of a dog person. I still like cats though.
  8. I used to hate driving long distances. Now I kinda like it.
  9. Someday I want to run a marathon… or at least a half-marathon. But I hate running. Go figure.
  10. Take me snorkeling in Hanauma Bay. Please.
  11. Grew up an Air Force Brat. I’ve lived on both coasts, in Hawaii, and smack in the middle of the country. Sadly, we never went overseas as a family when I was a kid.

My Nominees (Since I have no way of knowing how many followers anyone has, I’m just nominating people I like and follow, all of them fellow authors. They can choose to participate or not as their time, interest, and conscience allow. My apologies to anyone already nominated for “piling on.” I tried to avoid it, but may have missed a few.):

  1. Wendy Smyer Yu – Wander-Bird
  2. Autumn Kaquist – Author of the Fractured Era Series
  3. Rabia Gale – Writer at Play
  4. Katharina Gerlach – Intelligent stories for clever readers
  5. Jenn Johnson – Inspire. Believe. Dream.
  6. Lyn Washington – Writer In Progress
  7. Peter Cruikshank – It Is What It Is
  8. Felicia Fredlund – Author of the Sorceress Island Series
  9. Kirsten Bolda – A Scenic Route
  10. Martha Gilstrap – Stories of wonder and magic
  11. C.L. Roth – Author of Cosmic Shift and Cosmic Chaos

And I’ll add a “twelfth man” too. If you’re not nominated and you want to be, please feel free to nominate yourself. I won’t tell. 😉

My Questions for My Nominees:

  1. What color shirt are you wearing right now? (If it’s multiple colors, choose the base or predominant color.)
  2. Have you traveled outside your native country? If so, where’d you go?
  3. You’re all writers. Tell me your primary genre, any secondary genres, and what genres you prefer to read. (Not all writers read in their own genre.)
  4. Who or what has been the biggest inspiration for your writing?
  5. Computer or longhand?
  6. Location of your ideal writer’s retreat. Where would you go to just write? Would you take someone with you, or go alone?
  7. Aside from writing, what other creative pursuits do you enjoy?
  8. If your life was a movie, who would you want to have play you? Or, if you prefer, if your book/story was a movie, who would you want to have play your main character and/or antagonist? Feel free to answer both of these if you wish.
  9. Coffee? Tea? Soda? Wine? Water? Double bourbon, no rocks? What is your beverage of choice? (Sorry – just looking for something different to ask.)
  10. Roller coaster or carousel?
  11. What interesting writing rituals do you have? Include anything you want… music you listen to, habits you have, whether the TV is on in the background, whether you pour coffee and let it sit there getting cold while you’re working (like I do). Whatever. The question is wide open.

That’s it. That’s all I got. I hope I didn’t bore you too much.


Now I’ve done it

I signed up for the A to Z Blogging Challenge.

Why? Why do I subject myself to such tortures? The world may never know. But there you have it. Expect to see more of me come April. Possibly more than you ever wanted to see.

Any thoughts on a theme? Perhaps I will write flash/micro fiction for my posts. That might be fun. 🙂 But I haven’t decided for sure yet, so you’ll have to check back with me closer to the challenge date.

If you are also participating, please feel free to share your blog location in the comments. I’ll try to visit if I can. 🙂

Also, I think it might be wise if I change my email updates from “every time I post to the blog” to “a single weekly digest type email” just to keep from annoying everyone and blowing up your mailboxes.

The fun of writing

I’ll admit it… writing is hard. Like, really hard.

But I’ll let you in on a secret. Some of the hardest things in life are also the most fun and the most fulfilling. Just ask Sean White, the world-class snowboarder who has won both Olympic and X-Games gold medals. Or ask Alex Honnold, the climber who has conquered locations like Yosemite’s Half Dome. Or even ask someone like Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook.

I’d bet dollars to donuts that those guys each think they have the best job in the world. They have fun every day when they show up to work. And they work hard, all the time; much harder than it looks like from those of us who just look at how much fun they’re having.

What is fun?

But what is fun, really? It’s putting in enough effort to make something look effortless. It’s being fully committed to what you’re doing in a way that makes other people sure that you’re exactly the kind of person who should be doing it. It’s developing the skills over time to take you farther than you ever dreamed possible when you first started out. And usually, it’s interactive–we rarely have fun by ourselves.

  • You have to be passionate, knowing that what you’re working toward is what you want more than anything else you could be doing.
  • You have to practice (a lot!), sometimes figuring out what works and what doesn’t by “brute force” or trial and error.
  • You have to be willing to keep learning, because sometimes what you know will get in the way of what you need to know.
  • You have to always be pushing things to the next level, because once you’ve figured this one out and it’s easy for you, it’s really not fun anymore.
  • You have to connect with people who are either on the same journey as you, or who are on a related, complimentary journey; people looking for someone they can commiserate with, be encouraged by, and learn from.

In short, you have to get outside your comfort zone. Because, let’s face it, being comfortable is safe, but it’s rarely actually fun or fulfilling.

But wait, you might say, what about having fun doing something passive, like watching movies? We call that fun, but really it isn’t. It’s entertaining which isn’t the same thing. Real fun takes real effort. The actual fun in watching a movie often comes afterwards, when you’re picking the plot, the acting, the wardrobe, and the cinematography apart with your friends.

Have fun writing

It sounds counter-intuitive, but I didn’t start having fun as a writer until I decided to embrace the difficulty and really started working at it.

If you like the idea of being a writer, and are ready to put in the effort to make it really fun, I want to encourage you to check out How To Think Sideways (affiliate link). It’s a comprehensive course on fiction that will take you from planning and writing, all the way through preparing for publication. It’s available now, but it will be going away later this month as it’s creator, Holly Lisle, prepares for a major website restructuring.

I believe wholeheartedly in Holly’s methods, and HTTS has made a huge change in the quality of my writing, and (more importantly) the fun I have writing.

Before Holly closes the class, I’ll let you know a little more about my experience in her class. And I’ll also let you in on a few bonuses if you decide to order her class through my link. But for now I’ll just say that I wouldn’t be the writer I am without How To Think Sideways and the community that has grown up around Holly’s classes.

I’ll be going through How To Think Sideways again, and I hope you decide to join me!

Note: links on this page are affiliate links. If you make purchases on the sites linked to, I may receive compensation.

I almost forgot…

Kat's Advent CalendarLast year I had the opportunity to participate in a writing Advent Calendar hosted by good friend and multi-published author, Katherina Gerlach. As her name might suggest, she is from Germany, the land of Advent Calendars.

This year’s calendar is populated by fantasy writers who specialize in fairy tale retellings. Each of the included stories has been serialized for the calendar, but the whole collection will also be offered as an ebook on Christmas if you sign up for the alerts!

It’s not too late to join the fun! If you’re interested, visit this page to see the story segments that are already available. And don’t forget to join the list on that page to get the ebook for Christmas.

Published Flash – Full Circle

stephanie casarez / Flickr / CC 3.0

I’m thrilled to announce that a flash fiction story that I submitted to a contest was selected! I guess I could now call myself an “award winning” author… but I probably won’t. Sounds a little too pretentious for a 500 word story. 😀

My story is called Full Circle and you can read it on Reader’s Lane. Go check it out! And if you like it, please share it with others.

And if you haven’t gotten it yet, I’d also love to have you download my short story, Watch Night. To get that one for free, just sign up for my mailing list. I don’t send a lot of email, and I promise you’ll never be spammed.

Merry Christmas – 2013

Happy New Year! Colorful Bubbly for You!
ecstaticist / / CC BY-NC-SA

We all have our customs.

We all have our traditions.

We all have our beliefs.

And we each believe that what we believe is the right thing to believe. Right? If we didn’t, why would we believe it? It’s only natural.

Our world has, in some ways, become incredibly small thanks to things like the internet, mass media, and high-speed travel. We can meet and know people from vastly divergent cultures and traditions. We can visit places that may as well be on another planet for all they have in common with our everyday lives. We are part of what is truly a global community, and we can choose to participate in that community with people from across the street, across the continent, or across the ocean.

Or not.

In some ways, our world is bigger than it has ever been. It’s impossible to live the kind of insular life that was commonplace even a few decades ago. We are exposed to people who come from vastly different cultures and traditions than we are accustomed to, and who come from places that may as well be on another planet for all they have in common with our everyday lives. And when encountering those who have divergent customs, traditions, and beliefs, many choose to draw boundaries and divisions between themselves and those who are different.

They don’t believe what I believe, so they must be wrong. Right? It’s only natural.

But to think that way is to miss an opportunity. To avoid or exclude others because they are different than I am, to belittle them to make myself feel bigger, actually has the opposite effect. If I shut others out, it makes me small. When I open myself up to people and ideas unfamiliar to me, I grow.

That doesn’t mean giving up or compromising my own customs, traditions, and beliefs. Most of life is not that black or white. Instead, it’s about making connections. It’s about believing our differences are smaller than our similarities. It’s about seeing the light and hope in others that I want them to see in me.

So today and in the year to come, try to look beyond the familiar. Open your eyes to the world, and open your heart to people from other cultures and other traditions.  Learn to love a little bit more. It is the true Christmas spirit.

I hope you and your family have a Christmas full of joy and wonder. And I hope you share that wonder with those who may as well be from another planet for all they have in common with you.

Be blessed,
Elizabeth McCleary

Buff and Polish

The Colorful Library of an Interaction Designer (Juhan Sonin) / 20100423.7D.05887.P1 / SML
See-ming Lee 李思明 SML / / CC BY-SA

Have you ever felt like you were going nuts because everything around you was in disarray?

I’ll admit it – I’m not exactly a neatnik. It’s really not an issue for me most of the time.

But every now and then, I just have to straighten things up and put stuff in order. Over the last few days, I’ve been working on getting things on this site in order and tidied up.

I’m sure there’s more left to do, but I’m happier with it than I was.

Elizabeth-McCleary-Logo-1I especially like my pretty new logo that I created. Yay.