Sunday, January 14, 2018

Two weeks in & this writer is making headway!

Cutest beta reader, ever. :) 
These first two weeks in January have been telling for me as I moved into a new schedule and routine when it comes to my writing life. I have to say…I am so pleased with how it’s progressing so far!

First of all, the best news I can share is that I finally completed all the edits and the final tasks necessary to finally publish the fourth book in the series! I ordered some proof copies so I’m waiting for those…and then I’ll need to review it, while also have some beta readers give me feedback, and my hope is that any necessary changes can be made easily and the book will be ready and available by the end of this month. That’s the ideal plan anyway. Wish me luck!

Besides getting the fourth in the series completed, I have also been up to the following:

Writing stuff – after completing the final edits on the last novel, I researched more about style sheets and the em dash, both of which I’d honestly not been too familiar with until after receiving feedback from my editor. I also read articles with advice on must-have tools for writers, writing advice from established authors, and I decided to purchase another book on writing (The Artist’s Way) that keeps coming up as a recommendation in various articles I’ve read recently.

Author stuff – I spent time reviewing my stats for the past year and researching books comparable to my own, I researched a few indie authors who had success stories to share, and I reviewed tips about book promotion and author platform building. I also read up on some self-publishing tips for 2018 and what upcoming conferences I might be able to look forward to during the coming year.

Of course, it’s easy to get sidetracked when researching on the web but the most significant subjects of note that I found myself reading about was information with regard to 2017 death penalty cases and the recent horrible train derailment that occurred just north of where I live. This accident was completely awful, to the extreme, especially since deaths were a result and it apparently could have been prevented.

My bullet (or dot) journal: I’m finally getting the hang of it and while it will be a work in progress for a while still, I have been enjoying it and I especially appreciate the fact that all of my lists and notes about weekly tasks and everything in-between are all in one place, versus random pieces of paper in various places all over the house. It might also help that I no longer have a regular day planner handy to keep going back to since I did not give in the urge to buy a 2018 planner.

Organization – I spent time organizing my author marketing to-do’s, cleaned out my in-box and unsubscribed to a number of people/companies if they landed on the list of usual suspects when it came to those I usually deleted without reading, and spent time reading up on goal setting (I have a lot I want to accomplish this year) while mapping out my goals for the next 300+ days.

I’m happy to note that the past two weeks have been pretty productive, even given the fact that I have two new “housemates” – my son’s kittens who just can’t help themselves when it comes to being extremely cute and distracting while I’m trying to work. But I’ll forgive them for their demanding ways, because a kitten cuddle can result in only positive vibes when I am ready to get back to work. It’s a win-win, as far as I’m concerned.

I hope your New Year is in full-productive swing, as well. If not, we’re only just now two weeks in so there’s plenty of time to make up the lost time. 

Either way, enjoy the upcoming week!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

End of the year check in – ready for 2018!

Maui sunset - so long 2017!
I’m working on my list of intentions for 2018, while reviewing my list from 2017, and the task immobilized me as I thought to myself…another year gone just like that!  I can only shake my head, amazed that each year seems to go by more quickly than the year before.

So how did I do with my 2017 intentions? 

When I look at the focus of my 2017 list, which included writing, health, self-care, family and fun, it is apparent that health (mine and Piper’s) and self-care almost completely took over my attention.  My back issues made me look much closer at my health so that I focused more on what could help me heal, which has led to improving my core strength and knowledge about what types of movements and also which types of foods can cause me more pain due to inflammation in my spine.  Physical therapy and restorative yoga have been helpful and while I still have my limitations, I am thankful I’m getting better. 

Family and fun ran a close second, with my son returning home from Hawaii, as well as family trips to Disney World in Florida and Universal Studios in California.  In addition, trips to Vegas, the beach, the zoo, Mt. Rainier, and family get-togethers kept our schedules pretty full.  It has definitely been a busy year with visits to a lot of fun places.

Writing and reading are always part of my day, in one form or another, but I did not accomplish nearly what I had hoped for this year.  I was able to complete the fourth book in the series, but wasn’t able to get it published before the end of this year, as I had hoped.  Which means my young adult novel and another book in the mystery series will have to be my main focus next year once the fourth in the series is finally published.  I dislike that I’m behind where I had hoped to be by this time, but one focus for this year was to learn to let go.  It is what it is, and all I can do is let go of any negative thoughts and move forward from here.

And moving forward I will go.

When I made my list of intentions for this past year, I also made a list of words, in addition to writing and reading that came to me when I thought about the upcoming days of 2017.  Now that I look at it, the list was pretty long, but as I review the past year, I see I was able to focus on most of them at least a few times throughout the year.  My monthly check at the end of April touched on strength and movement, less clutter, being present, finding beauty, creating, reflection, family, travel, and adventure.  My bi-yearly check in shared my thoughts on balance, growth, focus, gratitude, being mindful, dreaming, less chaos, being brave and letting go.  October hit on fun and the need to recharge.  I now notice a few I did not write about; one is laughter, but I can guarantee that item is not missing in my life.  However, there are a few others - less stress, more sleep, forgiveness and contentment – that appear to have missed their debut post this year.

Well, forgiveness is a personal journey, and a work in progress, but isn’t something I will likely ever write about here.  The others, though…less stress, more sleep and contentment, are a reflection of how I react or feel based on what is going on with my life.  Now that I’m preparing for the beginning of 2018, I realize that these particular three will come into play this next year given the fact that I have made a decision that will greatly affect my routine and creative life.  I’m going to have more time to focus on my writing, and because I will no longer be stretching myself thin, I expect it will result in my feeling less stressed (because I do get stressed when I have limited time to focus on writing), and more sleep (because I am less stressed), which will lead to contentment with my days as a writer. 

Big changes will result in big expectations for myself but I am excited to move on to a new year with the knowledge that these changes will pave the way so that I can focus on what I am passionate about, and be able to accomplish more as I live a creative life.  I am so ready for the New Year!

Happy New Year and cheers & best wishes as you close out the year and move on to the next!!


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Reading, journaling and photo challenges, oh my!

Clouds provide plenty of photo ops

It’s the last day of a long weekend, the longest of the year for most, and we now have another holiday under our belts and will soon be celebrating the next. 

But for now, it's a good day to stay in, so I’m enjoying this last non-busy, non-stressful, no-need-to-drive-anywhere-if-I-don’t-want-to kind of day. Yesterday I spent a full afternoon working on my novel and felt incredibly accomplished by the end of the day. Today, I am leaving what I do to the moment or mood and right now, I feel like blogging, while listening to Christmas music. Yes, I'm one of those people this year.  J

As we’re about to move on to the last month of the year, I’ve been thinking about where I am with regard to the goals and mindful intentions I made early this year. Will I have made good use of the 365 days as we close out another year? I’ll be posting my end-of-the-year update next month; some goals I completed, others I’m still working on or maybe haven’t even begun, but I’ll share more about what tools I’m using to reach my goals (or work toward reaching them) with regard to my specific mindful intentions for 2017.

In the meantime, the month of November was about spending time with family, focusing on health (there’s so much crud going around!), and writing.Oh, and reading, of course. And journaling. And taking in the moment to capture photos here and there when the mood strikes me. 

While I’m always reading one or two fiction novels at a time, I’m also reading the non-fiction book, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve already read the book, but I decided to join an online book club challenge and it’s the book they proposed. I decided I liked the idea of reading the book again along with other creative women and hearing how they interpret or relate to it. In the process I may have also found an online writing community, so that’s a plus.

I’ve also been working on a journal that is probably the most difficult one yet…I’m trying to decide whether or not I want to start a bullet (or dot) journal. Not what you expected me to say when you think of difficult journaling? Well, it is. I use paper planners. I love them…I’m a paper planner fanatic, sad to say. But I also make tons of to-do lists or lists in general, constantly, and not always in my planner because the planners don’t accommodate me in that regard. Which means my planner is usually full of loose pages of lists. So, I’ve been looking at the idea of bullet journaling, and began a “test” project for these last three months of 2017 to see whether I’d like it, or stick with it, before I decide to commit to a whole year. So far, the jury is still out. I like the idea, and I know it could probably be the best fit for me with everything I need to keep track of, but it’s a huge change from what I’ve been use to. Either way, I have another month to go; we’ll see what happens.

This time of year can be really stressful for many and lately I’ve felt an aversion to anything that has too much negativity, raging opinions or commercialization. I’m “this close” to unsubscribing from a number of people who clog my inbox with buy-my-latest-item emails and when it comes to social media, I’m more in love with Instagram since I first began using it. Rarely does a post on Instagram make me frown or cringe and I like using it to share my own photos. I enjoy taking photographs because it’s a great way to get caught in the moment, find the beauty where you are and enjoy time to yourself while you capture what draws your attention away from this noisy life. December is the time when we reflect on the year as a whole and I look forward to taking part in another December Reflections challenge by author/blogger/photographer Susannah Conway. This month-long challenge is a mixture of photography and journaling…so, of course, I love it. It’s also a great way to look back on the year, whether in photos or with journal prompts, in preparation for how I’m going to approach the coming New Year.

But now I’m getting ahead of myself – I’ll enjoy these last few days in November before diving into the month of December. 

Whether you read, write, journal, take photos or all of the above, I hope you’re able to find time during this busy season to let the moment or mood strike you in order to enjoy some extra quality time to yourself.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

An extra hour with snow is my kind of day!

An extra hour in the day – it can feel like a gift, those extra sixty minutes. If I have to admit to how I used my extra hour today, it’s probably the time I spent going outdoors to take photos of the snow we were treated to this morning and sharing those photos on social media with my friends and family. October treated us to some very nice weather, but November appears to have other ideas, having shown its hand with a dusting of snow as early as the second day of the month and a good amount today. 
1st good snow of 2017

If I had to pick one of my favorite weekends of the year, this is one of them, because I love the idea of getting an extra hour in my day. Sometimes I use it wisely, other times I don’t, but I like the idea of it, just the same. Of course, six months from now when we turn our clocks back, I often wonder why the heck we still take part in daylight savings because I thoroughly dislike the idea of actually losing a whole hour of my day.

But do we have to wait for daylight savings to gain that extra hour? Or can we easily find an extra hour or more every week depending on how we use our time? 

Well, of course it depends on whether we use our time wisely; it’s just not always that simple.

I’ve come to recognize that the concept of time management is going to be a lifelong work in progress; there’s just no getting around that. Not because it’s a difficult concept to learn, but because life happens. Things change. You may get to a place where you have it all figured out but then discover you have to adjust your schedule around new obligations, other people, different schedules. What you learn is how to adjust your expectations of how to manage your time depending on what you currently need to account for.

As we move into this new month, I’m preparing myself so that I can stay on task. October had a lot going on, and I don’t expect November to be any different. What I have always liked about November is that it can be a good month to find the extra time to stay in and write and is also the reason taking part in NaNoWriMo can work for me. However, with many things to focus on currently, both personally and professionally, I had to admit to myself that I just wouldn’t be able to find the extra time needed to join and commit to NaNoWriMo this month. 

Sometimes you just have to acknowledge that while you may be able to find extra time in the day, you might not be able to find time for everything you’d like to do. I gave up joining NaNoWriMo for that reason. I feel good about my decision and I know there’s always next November, or even Camp Nano in the spring or summer before that if I so choose.

Instead, I’ll be completing the tasks necessary to publish the fourth book in the Jorja Matthews’ mystery series, as well as other to-do’s I need to focus on in order to prepare for the end of the year. This upcoming New Year will include many changes for me, leaving me with a lot to complete in order to accommodate these changes. As those who know me are aware, I’m not one to nonchalantly take on change, so I’m making good use of the time I have to prepare myself. Regardless of the fact that change is coming and my time management skills will again be put to the test, it is all positive and exciting and I am eager to see what this next year has in store.

In the meantime, I think I’ll make more use of my extra time today to enjoy taking more photographs. 

Have a great week!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The season begins with fun, frights & fitness

I guess the letter of the day is F!  Sorry, couldn’t help myself…

The month of October has been a mixture of fitness and fun, both of which are competing with my time to write on the weekends. Other than the months I’ve taken part in NaNoWriMo, if I look back at this season for the past five years, I’m fairly certain I’ll find that it is not always the most productive when it comes to writing. 

Horror Nights in CA
The fall and holiday season is my favorite time of the year, hands down, and this year I finally decided to take part in something I’ve been interested in attending for a long time: Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood. I love Halloween and I enjoy scary movies so the chance to finally see what Horror Nights was all about was like a dream come true. And I was not disappointed. It’s really difficult to put into words just how much fun we had or how incredible the haunted mazes were, especially when the mazes are based on some of my favorite horror movies. For those of you who don’t enjoy Halloween or horror movies, or being frightened…period, I’m sure it’s hard to imagine taking part in this sort of experience, but for me it was a fantastic way to start the season. Speaking of the season, for those of you who do enjoy Halloween and ghost stories, don’t forget to check out my short ghost story if you haven’t already: 1313 Psycho Path ($0.99 e-book or $5.50 paperback).

Mt. Rainier near Paradise

That’s how we started out the month with fun, and only a week later added fun with fitness with some day hiking at Mt. Rainier. This spectacular mountain is a majestic offering from nature that is basically in my back yard, so to speak. Some of the trails were clear, if just a little damp from trees constantly dripping moisture, while further up the mountain we hit a good amount of snow, which gets me in the mood for Christmas. J Only a week before I was strolling around in California wearing shorts and sandals, but on the mountain hiking boots, jeans and layers on top were a necessity. The mountain was impressive, as always, with views that only awe and inspire. I look forward to returning, especially in the spring when a new season and showcase of beauty will be waiting for me and my camera.

I’ve also had to focus more on fitness during the work weeks this month, because I finally began physical therapy for my back. Not only do I have a back injury I’m trying to heal without surgery, the amount of sitting from my day job and my writing can increase the pain I’m in, which is really an issue when I’m trying to stay put and remain focused on a project. Just writing this post has taken me much longer than normal, since I’ve had to get up and walk around at least a handful of times to try to walk off the pain I’m feeling in my lower back. 

Oh the joys of injuries and aging…but I’m optimistic. I like what physical therapy is doing for me, I’m still able to partake in yoga, and I’ve always enjoyed walking so I’m happy it’s an activity that doesn’t hurt. With some other changes I’ll be making, I expect to make great strides in my health when the New Year begins.   

Life is all about balance – so this weekend we stayed put, giving me the extra time needed to write, to blog and relax a bit. Sometimes we need to get away to switch things up and sometimes we just need to stay home to recharge.

I hope this weekend you’re either taking part in something fun, or using the time to unwind.  Either way, enjoy the day!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Carrying on with calm – another book event under my belt

The month of September was not lacking when it came to how busy life can get in a single month.  My head is spinning a little when I look back at the past 30 days. When it comes to my personal life, my day job and my writing, there has been a lot going on lately!

While the days are busy, much of my attention has involved making changes so that I can more effectively focus on my writing career. That includes getting myself back out there as an author. The first part of September I attended a writer’s conference – a much-needed day out to mix and mingle with other like minds and to meet and learn from seasoned and bestselling authors. And then a few days ago I had my first book signing in…quite some time, now that I recall the last book club meeting I attended as a guest speaker.    

I had at first only called this most recent event an author meet and greet. My expectation was that maybe only a handful of the attendees would have heard about me or even read any of my books beforehand. The exposure, as well as the practice of speaking in front of a group, can only be a good thing, so I was more than willing to take part when one of the residents wanted to schedule an event so that other residents of the community could meet me.

I should have been more nervous before arriving but, honestly, I didn’t have much time to think about it because I had worked at the office that morning, taken a long lunch to attend the Celebration of Life for my great uncle who had passed away a few months ago, and then spent a few more hours at work before heading to the venue.

When I arrived and entered the room where the event was to take place, I barely had time to prepare myself because the room was already full of people! Apparently there was a snafu with the time and many of those who were present thought the event was set to begin a half hour earlier than the agreed upon time, so that when I arrived to get set up, they were all waiting for me to begin.

This is where my lessons in life come in handy. I just had to go with the flow…you know the saying: keep calm and carry on.

Since two different times may have been posted and there were others who were still likely to arrive, the host asked me to hold off until our agreed time, just in case. My husband was with me and he took it upon himself to entertain the early attendees with stories and humor about the two of us and his perspective as the husband of an author. I wasn’t able to listen to all of what he said, but based on the amount of laughter I heard, I could tell he was doing a fantastic job.

When the time came to begin the event, and even more attendees had arrived, I was humbled by the number who had come to meet and hear from me. My husband told me that there were close to 40 attendees present, which is a terrific turnout for someone who is still at the beginning stages of getting their name out there. I shared with the group my journey as a writer and while I couldn’t recall now exactly what I covered during that hour, I pretty much spoke from the heart. I had a great time and afterwards, as I met some of the attendees on an individual basis, I felt good about the fact that they appeared to have enjoyed themselves as well.

With another book event under my belt, and the number of chances I was given that entire day to lose focus or falter, I feel great about the fact that I was able to keep calm and carry on. I’m still learning as I go, but what’s great is that I’m paying attention and able to make use of what I’m learning.  J

Until next time, carry on and have a great week!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

When social media “speaks” to you

I have a love-hate relationship with social media and I’m likely not alone with my feelings. Over the past several years, as I’ve continued to grow as an author, I’ve read many posts and books about how or why we should use social media in our endeavors as we try to get our name out to readers. 

For me, it’s still a work in progress and since the “rules” and available media tend to change on a regular basis, a WIP it will always be. 

I’ve stuck with Facebook, not because I particularly like it but because it’s what I know. I have continued to use this blog, although I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing right when some months have a huge spike in interest above others – which means trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong the rest of the time. I have not dabbled with Twitter, at all, because I honestly don’t have the mental energy for it. Pinterest interests me, because I like the concept, but if I ever try it, it will be for my own use to pin what helps me with my stories. And I thoroughly enjoy Instagram, but only personally, as I have yet to become daring enough to use it for my author self.

There are more options, but who the heck has the time to keep up with all of them while also writing and publishing books? Some authors do, I’m aware, but possibly because they have a team of people helping them. It’s too much for just one person to tackle on a regular basis and any attempt to do so will eventually result in major burnout.

When I think about the above options, I realize Instagram is my favorite because it is the only social media I take part in that never irritates me. I enjoy the photos, videos and quotes all shared by those I follow. Other than some new ads that now pop up every so often that I may not be interested in, Instagram has been quick to figure out what I like or don’t like so that even the ads aren’t rubbing me the wrong way. Hopefully, that won’t change.

Facebook, on the other hand, is a different story. And I’m talking about my personal page, not my author page. There’s just too much when it comes to drama, opinion, politics, anger, belittling, negativity and photos or videos shared that I don’t particularly wish to see. The world can be an ugly place and I’m not saying we all need to hide our heads when it comes to what’s going on around us, but FB is all very subjective and I’m tired of using any social media that embodies that ugliness as a whole. Some might say I need new friends, or I should follow more positive pages; but that’s the point…my friends and pages I follow aren’t the issue. Since FB tends to pick and choose what you get to see, I’ve seen more of a trend of the ugly over the inspiring. I guess it’s what FB believes followers like to read.

So I was surprised this morning when I decided to view my FB news feed. After scrolling through a few updates from friends and family, there appeared before me posts with a more positive theme…one after another, again and again, these were the types of messages I was reading:

To be happy let go of what’s gone, be grateful for what remains and 
look forward to what is coming next

Life should not be a journey to the grave… (basically, make it a life worth living)

8 things to remember when going through tough times…

Let it go…

...breathe – don’t quit

Life is beautiful – soak it in and be grateful

Find yourself again

Now, I don’t require a pep talk from FB every day, but it was nice to scroll through my news feed and see these types of positive messages over the more negative ones. I’ll be making some serious changes in my life soon and it was a breath of fresh air – a positive push, even from random feed on social media, can help you feel you’re headed in the right direction. 

Will this change how I use Facebook? I won’t quit my FB timeline, but monitoring the news feed still won’t be a daily habit since I doubt this positive feed trend will continue. My timeline and my Instagram feed are more than enough for me right now. 

So did my social media “speak” to me this morning or was I just on the lookout for what might inspire me and answer some internal questions?  I’m not going to admit to my computer or any social media having that much power over me…instead I’ll chalk it up to pure coincidence.  One of my favorite quotes about a coincidence is:

Coincidence it will be.  J

Happy scrolling – and have a great week!