I Wrote a Novel

elaina m avalos, chasing hope, beaufort nc

I wrote a novel. In June of 2017, my novel Chasing Hope was published. As I approach the four-year anniversary, I thought I would share a bit about the book. You can find it here in Kindle and print format. There is a preview available on Amazon. You can also sign up for my newsletter to read the first chapter for free! You can do that, by clicking here or here. You can also view what some of my readers have written about the book, here.

Here is the book blurb, from the back of the book:

Dr. Ava Cooper has it all. Scratch that – she had it all. The day she buried her daughter was the beginning of the end. With one fell swoop her ex-husband took what was left of the life they created together. All that is left is a demanding boxer, her worldly possessions, and the SUV she bought as a first year resident. With nothing left of the old life, Ava heads south to help out and old friend. In the small and quirky coastal town of Beaufort, North Carolina – a tiny hamlet situated on the Southern Outer Banks – Ava quickly learns that her plan to quietly fade into the background to find some semblance of normalcy is not on her new neighbor’s and staff’s agenda for her. As she settles into southern small-town living, she meets a family and a baby in the foster care system that threaten to break through her grief-stricken and heart. Will Ava be able to let hope in long enough to get back the life she desperately longs for?

This book holds a special place in my heart for a few reasons – mainly because it’s the first complete novel I’ve written. It’s also one that took me way too long to write. The process was daunting, to be honest. I let so many things distract me and get in the way (like my day job). Rather than be single-minded in my focus on accomplishing my dreams and using the gifts God has given me, I focused far too much on the job that paid the bills. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself. However, I didn’t put enough emphasis on my dreams or writing what I believe I’m meant to write. I let work take over my life. I mean, take over.

I worried too much about what people would think. I shied away from writing content on my blog (I had a different blog that had a larger audience and community at one time). Overall, I just let my writing wither away under the weight of what other people would think. That’s just dumb. In years past, I was part of multiple writer communities online. Many of the people I have known in these circles over the years have gotten literary agents, publishing deals, and are cranking out books with traditional publishing houses.

It’s not arrogant to say I think that I could be in their shoes too. The only difference is, I didn’t work for it. Phew, what a sucky realization that was when I first woke up to it. It was all my fault and all of my own choosing. But one day I came to terms with this and decided I wouldn’t let my life go unlived. I wouldn’t let the books go unwritten. And I certainly wouldn’t ignore the dreams I’ve long held in my heart.

Today isn’t Monday Motivation – but we’ll call it Tuesday Truths. The only thing standing in the way of you accomplishing your dreams and goals? It’s you. It’s me. We can make all the excuses we want. But at the end of the day, we are own worst enemy when it comes to going after what we want. I just refuse to live that way anymore. So whatever it is . . . go get it, friends.

You can check out a few excerpts here, here, here, and here. To read a bit about Beaufort, North Carolina – the Southern Outer Banks town where the book is set, here are a few posts about my Beaufort adventures (I lived there for a bit, too!):
https://elaina-avalos.com/2017/08/17/beaufort-by-the-sea/
https://elaina-avalos.com/2016/04/28/beaufort-wine-food-weekend-wine-bread-and-cheese-seminar/
https://elaina-avalos.com/2017/09/03/more-from-beaufort-north-carolina/

50 by 50

Anne Lamott, Elaina M. Avalos, elaina avalos, 50 by 50

In April 2026, I will turn 50. This year feels like a big birthday, as I turn 45. But gosh, there’s a lot I’ve still got to do before hitting 45 and six weeks won’t do it. So, after a friend posted about her 40 before 40 (that she’s now added a few more items onto for 50 before 50), I’ve decided that I’m going to join in the fun. I am not sure how long it will take me to come up with the full list. Some of this might be ridiculous stuff, big stuff, or things that only matter to me, but I’m starting to work on this list now. I may keep some private. But, I’ll share periodic updates. What would you add to my list? Have you ever done something like this for a milestone birthday? I’d love to hear all about it!

1. Start camping again.
2. Travel to France or Scotland for my 50th birthday (I mean, I’ll take sooner too).
3. Trip to the NC mountains in the autumn.
4. Trip to upstate New York to meet family & see where my grandparents grew up & my mom lived.
5. Fall in love.
6. Start a family. I hear I’m kind of late on this one. Whatever.
7. Get a book contract.
8. Learn Spanish. Like really learn Spanish.
9. Take a dance class (salsa, ballroom, etc).
10. Go to the Pat Conroy Literary Festival in Beaufort, SC.
11. Attend one of the wine dinners at the Beaufort (NC) Wine & Food Festival.
12. Take at least one random (can be a quick day-trip) road trip every few months.
13. Eat at Chef & the Farmer again.
14. Take a few of Chef Marcela’s cooking classes.
15. Western NC Winery Trip (preferably soon). 30 April-01 May 2021
16. Get back to Wolf Trap for a summer concert.
17. Convert website to business plan & learn (really learn) SEO.
18. Make good use of my ridiculous Pinterest time investment.
19. Get a little better with time management (don’t laugh).
20. Finally make a decision about what I want to be when I grow up.
21. Live in a pretty little home with my dream backyard & grow lots of veggies, herbs, and fruit.
22. Hit my target weight (and stay there). I’m on my way having lost 18 pounds so far.
23. Dedicate more time to painting & crafty mccrafterson activities.
24. Cook my way through Deep Run Roots by Chef Vivian Howard (see #13 – that’s her restaurant).
25. Cook my way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I own both books but haven’t cooked enough in either. 26. Get a tattoo.
27. Go skydiving.
28. Get a wedding planning & event planning certificate.
29. Go to Indochine (Thai/Vietnamese restaurant in Wilmington, NC).

Okay, I think I have to take a break there. I am sure I have more things to add to my list!

The First Step Toward Change

elaina avalos, take the first step, accomplish goals, chasing dreams, nathaniel branden

My apartment is a disaster because I’m halfway through taking down the Christmas decorations. I have a second bedroom to organize & clean out {went from a 4 bedroom house to a small 2 bedroom apartment}. I have a bunch of food to meal prep for my week and I need to write. I’ve been up since 7:00 AM, but I’ve accomplished next to nothing. Nonetheless, I am reminding myself to apply liberal helpings of grace on myself. I still need to {and will} accomplish what’s in front of me {the above mentioned items are just the tip of the iceberg}. So while the day isn’t going as planned & there’s a huge mess, I also know that this year and last, were hard and exhausting. I’m getting back to normal. But after what I’ve been through, I can’t expect perfection nor should I. I am aware of my limitations and my strengths and what I need to do, to accomplish what lies ahead. That is the first step – awareness of what I need to do to change and acknowledgement of my current limitations.

In a world where we’re constantly inundated by what everyone else is doing and accomplishing – shared online in a perfect photo – it’s overwhelming and honestly, it’s discouraging. While there are many out there I am encouraged by – it’s usually those who are real about life – in their triumphs and failures, that are most encouraging to me. But I have already taken the first steps, not only to accomplish what I want to accomplish while away from the office, but in the upcoming year, too. Those are the first two steps of change – awareness and acceptance.

If you’re anything like me and you are holding yourself to standards that are based in superficial or artificial requirements or because you’re comparing yourself to others – give yourself a break. While the goals are still ahead, the Christmas mess still needs to be cleaned up, and my healthy meals still need to be made – what good is beating myself up? What do you accomplish by beating yourself up? Usually very little except keeping yourself stalled in place.

Take the first step toward change. Then take the second step. And then give yourself some grace along the way.

How do you motivate yourself when you have a goal to accomplish?

Vision Boards: Designing Your Dream

event planner, event management, wedding planner, coastal carolina events, elaina avalos, oprah winfrey

I’m a dreamer. I always have been. I have seen a vision & picture of what I wanted for my life for a long time.

I didn’t write it down. And I guess I never saw this vision as a goal. That’s kind of weird from my current vantage point, at 44. Isn’t that weird? Maybe I thought it was too much? Or I wasn’t enough? I don’t know, ya’ll.

I even started writing a novel {I write opening scenes when I have an idea – so I don’t lose it.} that looked an awful lot like this dream. It’s in my file of “to be written” novels & short stories.

But, in recent weeks and months, I’ve been formulating my vision in a more formal way. Because I’m a visual, creative person – Pinterest is where the ideas start. While I’ve had Pinterest boards living previously as “secret” for a while – to serve as inspiration, now I’m writing these dreams down, not keeping secrets, and speaking the dream aloud.

While I’m not spelling out all of the details here, I did want to share my process with you if you haven’t named the dream, written out the goals, or created a vision board for yourself.

So what is this big dream & goal? I am going to start my own event management company. My long term dream is a Bed & Breakfast or very small inn that meets up with my event management abilities.

event planner, event management, wedding planner, coastal carolina events, elaina avalos

My order & process:

  1. As a visual person, I used Pinterest as my first “vision board.” Initially, it was just part of my overall event inspiration. As someone who has planned events for more than a decade, I used these to help inspire much less expensive visions since my budget was always small. But as the inspiration grew and I saw how much joy & energy I gain from the planning & designing of events, I knew I was on to something.
  2. Once I was in the midst of this industry, running {for a very short time} an event venue and preparing to open the venue, I knew I’d found it for sure. When I walked away from that, as hard as it was, I knew I wanted to go into business for myself. I started dreaming of this business – what it would look like – and if it really melded with the big, big long term goal. It totally did. In a way I hadn’t thought about before.
  3. I created an actual vision board on Pinterest while printing photos to create a physical vision board that will be hung on a high-traffic wall in my apartment.
  4. I signed up for free small business classes at my local community college. Due to COVID, these will be online this summer. If in-class sessions are available for their full course this fall, I’ll take those.
  5. I started reading about starting a business, thinking about how to incorporate a small business into my current full time work schedule, and brainstorming business names {I suck at naming things}. The other thing I’ve spent time working through is how my health & physical wellness must be stronger to get this done {and what that means}. Ultimately, my entire wellness journey is based in this dream {and in the other – to be a mom}.
  6. Once I came up with a name {I think it’s the right name?}, I reserved social media accounts and a website url – though the actual business details aren’t ready for launching yet.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be putting more complete “to-do” lists together as I plot and plan out what the road ahead looks like.

There’s so much out there for people who are planning to start their own business. If I find value in what I read and what helps me plan, I’ll share. In the meantime, if you’re thinking about it – all of the time – and dreaming about it – all of the time, maybe now is the time to start working on your plan?

What is a big dream or goal of yours that you have let circumstances, fear, money, {or anything else for that matter}, get in the way of accomplishing? Let this be a sign for you, as I’ve needed many of them, to start moving in that direction.

If I can do this, you can too.

Live well,

mylivesig1

Comparison

sea glass, ocean, theodore roosevelt, beach,

If you’re anything like me, particularly when you’re in the midst of waiting, the temptation to compare your own journey to that of others is strong. I have been there {and recently}.

I compare myself to other writers, to women with a house full of kids, with that girl that got that one guy {haha}, and so much more. I’m not sure if men have this problem? I know women certainly do.

When I get caught in this trap and let myself marinate and stew in the comparison game, it inevitably ends up with me feeling discouraged and defeated. Am I the only one? Or do you do this, too?

Comparison is the thief of joy.

This quote is such a simple statement – just six words. But packed into these six words is an incredibly important concept. Comparison does steal our joy. Joy is more than just feeling happy. In fact, you can feel joyful and not necessarily be feeling happy and shiny.

A state of happiness or felicity : bliss

A source or cause of delight

The definition of joy includes the two sentences above. But the Oxford dictionary uses another word . . . satisfaction. Comparison steals our satisfaction. Our ability to be content with the gifts we’ve been given and the life we’re living right now, is lost as we continually compare ourselves to others.

The contentment that comes from being satisfied with your life as it is right now, is a gift. It doesn’t mean you stop moving toward that dream. It doesn’t mean you don’t work hard to meet goals. But it does mean that in the day to day, you choose joy while you’re working towards those goals.

As we strive to live out those dreams, let’s agree to find the joy and gifts in each day. Choosing joy, when the thief that is comparison rears its ugly head, is not easy. But it’s the better thing. And it will make our journey to the life we wait for, an awesome ride.

Do you have a favorite quote that helps you refocus and get back on track when you’re struggling? I’d love to hear yours!