Monday, March 12, 2018

Out like a lion, in like a lamb

We left February after getting quite a bit of snow and moved into March with some nice spring weather. Yesterday was no exception…it was beautiful, with temps in the high 60’s and today we apparently might hit 70 degrees. It makes me happy to have a laptop so that I can sit outside rather than having to choose between writing and enjoying a warm sunny day.

End of February
I don’t doubt that we’ll be back to normal Washington weather soon: rain, rain and more rain. It’s only March, after all, and we still have to get through “April showers bring May flowers.” It’s what makes the PNW so green and beautiful.

So we enjoy the weather when we’re treated to it, knowing that soon enough we’ll be stuck indoors again.

Even with easy access via my laptop, the past two weeks were not as focused on writing. I did complete some admin tasks with regard to updating information on various sites, narrowing down additional tasks and timelines for the projects I want to complete this year and I took part in a marketing webinar, which then added another project to my list that I want to begin when I can make time for it.

Beginning of March
Other than that, my writing focus slipped due to a number of personal tasks, each taking up space on my to-do list. However, the past two weeks were very productive when it came to finally checking off my list those tasks that have been hanging over my head for awhile. The benefit is that I will have more time to focus on my writing, which is a great thing because I feel very unsettled when I don’t get to spend regular time with my characters.

I’ll share one thing I was focused on the past two weeks…tidying up a few things with regard to my mother-in-law’s estate. It’s been long enough and I finally decided I just need to get it done. In addition, I’ve had boxes of photos and family documents to finish going through, and having those boxes sitting on the floor in my office has been, honestly, distracting. I have had a constant reminder of a task that I needed to complete, but usually I found I wasn’t emotionally prepared for. Going through a loved one’s personal items can be difficult if you aren’t ready.

But I’m glad I finally did, and that I was finally able to get through the material with more curiosity and less sadness.

Old school photo of my mother-in-law's
I found undeveloped film rolls and was pleased to discover photos of my in-laws that none of us had ever seen. I found old photos, birth certificates, death certificates, and school records from the 1950’s. I also found very old pages of family history typed up by a family member back in 1967 describing in great detail my father-in-law’s parent’s family history. I’m amazed any of these are in my hands, as they made it through a nasty flood we had in Chehalis back in 2007 (the original pages of the family history show proof of that fact), multiple moves throughout the years and even possibly a house fire the parents had many years ago. What’s even more amazing is that the family history dates back to the early 1800’s on his father’s side and the mid-1700’s on his mother’s side. It’s really a fantastic find and with the addition of little stories about some of the family members, the historic details about what some of the family members dealt with is really quite amazing.

As a reader and as an author, you can imagine how this type of find really peak my imagination!
So I begin this new week fresh and ready to get back to it as I imagine that maybe someday, many years from now, a distant relative will be reading details about me or my family’s history and what we made of ourselves.

Have a great week!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

What happened to February? Let’s call it, fur baby February.

January was a pretty productive month, while February was a completely different matter.  Okay, wait, back up. Now that I look at my calendar, where I track my WIP, I feel more accomplished than I thought I was entitled to feel. I was able to publish Cross My Heart, both in paperback and as an eBook, I took part in an online summit for work-at-home entrepreneurs, I worked on some marketing material for an upcoming book event, took part in a writing workshop, and was able to work on my young adult novel and also another book in progress.

So, maybe February wasn’t as unproductive as I first believed.

The month has flown by, admittedly, not only because it’s a short month, but because I had much more to focus on than just writing…a very small thing requiring a lot of attention.

What would require so much attention?
Jozee at 7 weeks

A puppy.

Yes, a puppy. I’m not sure what the heck I was thinking, except that I have missed Piper terribly and her sister, Mandy, has been lonely these past six months, so we finally decided to get a puppy.

It’s been three weeks since we brought little Jozee home, and I don’t think Mandy has quite forgiven me yet for upsetting her days so drastically. She’s an old lady who isn’t too fond of this little feisty fur ball, but my hope is that soon they’ll be best friends. After all, she finally tolerates the kittens and has forgiven me for radically changing her world with the introduction of new cats. J

It has been a long time since I’ve had a puppy. Mandy and Piper were born not quite ten years ago, and at that time I had their mom and was raising the whole litter (ten puppies!). It was crazy, but I had my private investigator business and was working out of the home so was able to find the time needed to care for them. Still, a decade can dull the memory, and I had forgotten what having a puppy was like. It’s like having a baby again! 

What it looks like to feed 10 puppies

Eventually we’ll get past the puppy stage, I know this, so I’m “going with the flow,” realizing it’s temporary, and getting work done as I’m able in between keeping an eye on her and what she might be in to (right now she’s napping).  

In the meantime, the benefits of bringing Jozee home far outweigh any doggy deeds for which I am constantly on alert. She has brought laughter and joy to our household, and she and the kittens (who are just over six months old), are becoming great playmates. She’s constant, unless she’s napping, and she keeps me hopping (I’m getting more than my fair share of steps in each day) but she also provides a gift I remember receiving from Mandy and Piper and also our boys when they were little. It’s the gift of taking in the moment, enjoying the little things, cuddling just because, feeling pleasure and wonder in something you might otherwise overlook because you are experiencing the moment from their first-time perspective.

Those reasons alone make February productive in its own way.

Well, my time is up – Jozee is awake and I’m on puppy patrol.

Have a great week!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Break out the confetti! Volume 4 in the series is now out!

Yes, I’m excited, if you aren’t able to tell from the title – the 4th book in the Jorja Matthews mystery series, Cross My Heart, is out and available on Amazon. It’s pretty early in the game and both the paperback and eBook may not yet be found on my Amazon author page, so I’ll provide the links for the paperback here and the eBook here.

The process last month and up to this point was more time consuming than I had expected, and I blame that on how long it took to receive my copies of the proofs in order to physically hold, review and note any issues with the paperback before allowing it to become available. The first proof copies took 10 days to get to me so that I could review it, then I provided copies to and waited for feedback from beta readers, made a few changes to the manuscript and decided not to take any chances so I ordered another proof copy to make sure those changes didn’t screw anything up with the formatting. I had to wait another 10 days before receiving that paperback copy. Seriously, I’ve become spoiled with Amazon, where I can order and receive almost any item in a matter of days. That makes it more difficult for me to remain patient when waiting on an item from another source, especially when it’s one of my own books!

Since the 4th book took me much longer to write and publish than the other books, my review of it was different than when I reviewed the other three books in the series. Mainly, I felt more removed from the story and could relate more as a reader, rather than a writer reviewing their own work. Even so, I don’t believe I’ll ever tire of what it feels like to read my own writing – it is extremely surreal to review paragraphs and pages of material that I’ve written, especially when I surprise myself at what I come up with. I think I could have added more to this book, especially when it comes to Jorja and a few issues she’s going to be dealing with, and also about Fritz’s past, but that didn’t happen, and I didn’t want to force it just to make it happen. I will let it come out organically when it feels right to do so, because as a writer, that’s just how I roll. J

If you’ve been waiting for the 4th book in the series, check it out and if you can remember, please leave a review on Amazon. It’s really one of the most important things you can do to help any author you enjoy reading!   

Happy Sunday and have a great week!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January - a great jump-start for 2018

We’re at the end of the first month of this New Year…and you can probably guess from my title that this month has been a good one for me.

First and most exciting is that the 4th book in my series (Cross My Heart) is complete, as I mentioned in my last post, and it will be available very soon. I’m thrilled beyond words to finally have this book out – it has been a WIP for much too long. So far, the feedback on this story has been very positive and I can’t wait for others to finally read it.

Now that Book #4 can be checked off my list, I’ll work on getting myself out there to attend events to meet readers in person and to share my books with those who don’t yet know about me. And so far, with only a month in, I’m doing pretty well after scheduling two meet the author/book signings…one in March and another in June. It’s a bit of a wait but the upside is it gives me more time to prepare. Either way, it feels great to have two already scheduled.

Since there aren’t any writer’s conferences scheduled until later in the year, I will continue to find other ways to learn from like-minded individuals. For example, I’m currently participating in a week-long summit showcasing multiple speakers including writers, bloggers and business entrepreneurs who are sharing advice on multiple subjects, some of which include time management, marketing, branding and productivity. With a packed schedule on various subjects, I look forward to learning useful tips from others who are willing to share their experiences.

I received my copy of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and I began the process of taking part in morning pages three days ago (stream-of-consciousness writing in longhand). I already know there’s an artist in me; so my purpose in trying out this process is to tap deeper into my creativity. It could be interesting to see what I discover and eventually I may share if or how this process helps me.

Completing a novel is one of the most liberating feelings for me as a writer – I really enjoy closing one project and beginning the next. Now I can freely focus on my next projects. And yes, I’m do mean multiple projects when I say that…while I don’t want to overextend myself, I have the time and ability to manage several projects so I will take advantage of that. Even so, the lists of books and other projects I want to complete only continues to expand, so I will use time management and goal setting skills to prioritize and stay on task.

So how am I doing that? While I mentioned using a bullet journal in my last post, that book will be used primarily for my personal life and tasks…with a few pages set aside for writer stuff when a thought hits me if I’m out and about and I need to make a note. Then that note will be transferred to my writing planner where I track all sorts of items: writing projects, ideas and task lists, weekly/monthly/yearly goals, social media ideas and to-do’s, marketing ideas and to-do’s, book events and conference information and anything else writing-related. I use a weekly calendar to track my schedule, daily word count, social media tasks, details relating to phone conferences or e-mails from book event coordinators and my weekly focus.  I also keep track on a larger scale with regard to items I need to complete on a monthly basis.

There is a lot of information to track, which is even more of a reason to stay organized. 

I was both excited and a bit anxious when I finally decided to make a big change this year with regard to my schedule and my desire to live a creative life. January has been a test month for me – but it did not disappoint and I’m thrilled to continue to move forward and especially to begin working on some other projects that have been put on the back burner for too long.

Month one is done – now on to the next. And I will be posting soon when the 4th book in the series is available for online purchase. 

Have a great day!

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.