Body Well Done?!

scooter - CopyThis month we are doing our series on maintaining good health as we pursue our writing careers. When you type for a living, you find yourself sitting A LOT. When you sit a lot, it’s easy to spread A LOT. 🙂 Technology is trying to help our dilemma with things like the treadmill desk, but as for me, I do all my writing from a chair. I really don’t have room for a treadmill desk and let’s be honest, it would be one more piece of workout equipment bought at retail and sold at yard-sale.

I wish I could tell you that I was a vision of health and could provide you with helpful tips on this subject, but I’d be a hypocrite. I struggle with this daily.  However, I refuse to give up on the pursuit of getting healthy. In fact, I was recently taught a very valuable lesson concerning health. I became pretty good at complaining about my body. It’s too soft, too achy, and it doesn’t work as well as it once did.

NOT ANYMORE!

I’m not sure if you noticed, but I missed my last blog date because I took a hard tumble. I could barely move my hand much less type a post. I’d like to say that the fall was from something exciting like rock climbing, but in all honesty, it was just a clumsy misstep from one deck landing to another. While I was recovering the awesome Sally Kilpatrick filled in for me. Thanks again Sally. You rock!

Now that I’ve piqued your curiosity, I broke a crucial bone in my foot, badly sprained my wrist, and took a nice hit on what my father loved to reference throughout my youth as my hard head. 🙂 It hurt! It hurt really badly! It still hurts! That was seven long weeks ago, and I’m still dragging around on a knee scooter and according to my doctor, I have at least another three weeks to go. My family has jumped in and helped out with household responsibilities, however seven weeks later, my mental health is taking its toll. Who would have thought I’d miss loading the dishwasher or walking the dog? All I want is the use of the body I became so good at complaining about. I have a greater appreciation for simple things like getting my own water or making my word count.

Please know that I’m not telling you my story for sympathy, that’s for sure. There are so many people with bigger health issues then my broken foot. I’m telling you this because, maybe like me, your body isn’t as healthy as you’d like it to be. Perhaps you also complain about how you look or how achy you feel. I’m telling you my story in hopes that you will start to appreciate the body you have this very second. Not the one you’ll have ten to twenty pounds from now. I challenge you to be thankful for your body and your health just the way it is!

I’m not saying we should settle here. Should we strive to be healthier? Absolutely! These past few weeks have been enlightening. I want to do more for the body that has done so much for me, by making better food choices, exercising daily and clearing the mental clutter from my mind. I want to show my gratitude for a body well done!

How about you?

Remember to Dream Big!

9 Comments

Lemony Things

Sometimes life is lemony.

We all have days, weeks, months, even years when our arms are full with all the lemons life has dealt us. We work to make lemonade from the pile we carry around as we’re told to do, but sometimes we end up with lemonade, lemon pie, lemon drops, lemon pound cake, those lemon squares with the powdered sugar on top, and still lemons left over. What’s a Bad Girl to do?

Earlier this week I encountered some lemons of my own. It had been a long week sprinkled with a bit of lemon zest here and there at #RWA16 and I was ready to get home and hug my family. So I was all smiles on the airplane headed for the east coast.
IMG_1157
Only the plane never left the ground. After getting off the plane twice, they announced that the flight was canceled and we walked back out of the gate for the third and last time. Thankfully I found the ingredients for lemonade nearby since Jeanette Grey and Sydney Carroll were on the same flight.

I’m not going to gloss over this part. There was about 30-45 minutes of panic over all the lemons: We’re stranded. We need to get home to our families. I can’t even tell my husband what happened, because he’s on a plane today too. The red eye out is already booked up. Where do we go? What do we do?

But then I remembered what I’ll call Lemony Law #1: You have friends who love you no matter what.

So we rescheduled our flights, called an Uber to take us to the Airline’s designated hotel, and paused to take a selfie. 🙂
IMG_1156
But what we found when we got to the hotel was even better. The hotel was across the street from the attraction we’d regretted not making time for while we were in town: Anthony’s Fish Grotto and the Maritime Museum. And our hotel wasn’t too shabby either.

Which brings me to Lemony Law #2: Don’t let the lemons steal your joy while you make that lemonade.
IMG_1087IMG_1146fish grotto
After relaxing in the room for a while, we walked across the street, ready to experience anything the day had to offer. If you’re going to be stranded somewhere, I highly recommend San Diego.

Lemony Law #3: Sip that lemonade like you’ve never sipped lemonade before in your life. Work it! Sip it! You never know what sights you’ll see along the way.
IMG_1152IMG_1129IMG_1155IMG_1118IMG_1151

Ship

IMG_1150Ship at sunset
We finally got home yesterday after being tourists and eating at the fish grotto. There was much rejoicing over airplanes that actually lifted off the ground. But we’ll always have the memories of the day we were stranded in San Diego together.

IMG_1154
Lemony Law #4: You have family who love you no matter what. Hug them often, especially after extended time away.

If life has thrown lemons at you lately: a rocky point in your career path, health problems you’re struggling to overcome, or simply a canceled flight home, find a way to make lemonade, and enjoy it to the fullest. After all, every one of us has to drink lemony things on occasion.

*sips lemonade with a smile*

6 Comments

The Fight to Stay Happy

This month on the blog, we’re tackling the issue of staying healthy while on this crazy writing train. Heather and Trish both talked about physical health and things they’re doing to stay active. And I was originally going to chat about that. How I made myself a treadmill desk (take that, guy at Lowe’s who asked if my husband would be able to figure it out), and how I’ve started taking my dog for a two-mile a day walk.

But then I decided I wanted to talk about the other side of things: our mental and emotional health.

Whether you suffer from a mental illness or not, there’s no avoiding the fact that this industry takes a toll on everyone. I’m not exactly a seasoned veteran, but after a few years in the business, I’ve taken some steps to help me stay focused and happy.

  1. Do not look at the reviews. Ever.

I learned this very early on in my career. And learned it totally by accident. I stumbled upon a review—a three star review, I believe—and I can’t even recall now what it said. All I remember is that one small sentence in there froze my writing mojo for weeks. Weeks. So, nope, I steer clear of Goodreads and Amazon. And while sometimes I get sad that this means I miss out on some lovely words from lovely reviewers, it’s what I have to do so I can continue producing words.

  1. Stop comparing yourself to everyone else.

I’ll admit this is the one I struggle with the most. It’s a constant battle, and one I rarely (if ever) intend to engage in, yet it happens. I’ll be strolling along on Twitter, minding my business and being totally jolly, when suddenly a PM announcement for a fourteen book deal for nine figures gets posted and it’s from an author whose debut came out a year after mine*. And then suddenly I’m looking at my backlist and my advances and my upcoming deals and comparing them all to Ms. Nine Figures, and then I’m on a downward spiral ain’t nobody got time for.

On days like these (and there are many. Many, many, many.), I just repeat over and over again, “Their path is not my path.”

Sometimes it helps. Sometimes I need ice cream. Either way, it’s a great reminder that no two careers are alike.

*totally hypothetical situation, in case my hyperbole wasn’t clue enough

  1. Meditate

This is something I’ve just recently started trying after I saw Marie Forleo mention in one of her videos that she does it as a way to clear her mind and increase her productivity. I’ll be honest and say I’m not sure if it’s made a significant impact on me or not, but I enjoy doing it. I downloaded the free app Stop, Breathe & Think, and I really love having those five+ minutes just for me to do nothing but chill and clear my mind. One neat thing with the SB&T app is that you can select which kind of meditation to do based on your mood and how you’re feeling emotionally/mentally. So if you’re feeling anxious, it’ll suggest a specific meditation to help relieve that.

  1. Gather thy tribe

There is absolutely no freakin’ way I’d be able to survive without my tribe. I have several friends—most of whom are writers—who I use as sounding boards, venting partners, and shoulders to lean on. Whether it’s a plot point I’m stuck on, an ad I can’t figure our, or if I want to whine about Ms. Nine Figures, they’re there with their (how’s that for a grammar lesson?) pom-poms and words of encouragement when I need them. I would be so lost without that connection and support system.

What about you? What steps have you taken to keep yourself happy mentally and emotionally while writing?

6 Comments

I Like To Move It, Move It!

Let’s be real for a second: This writing gig ain’t the healthiest around. Add to that the fact that my day job is also desk bound, and I spend a lot of time sitting on my arse. The zinger is, if I don’t get some kind of physical activity or exercise on a regular basis, if I don’t move, I go full “Meh.” Mentally, my brain feels so full I can’t pick any one task to tackle. Physically, I become lethargic. I think they call it malaise in historical novels. 😀 Or is that ennui? Whatever it is, I come down with a big ole case of it. But, with a full time job and a child now in elementary school, specific classes at set times (like spinning or Zumba) are difficult to manage, if not downright impossible.

For me, the key is convenience and a flexible schedule. During the school year, on a week day, I wake up before 6am and I get home a little after 6pm. I don’t want to spend another hour at the gym, away from my family. But, where there’s a will, there’s a way. At least 3 days a week, I work through lunch and, around 3:30pm, I go downstairs to the gym in my building, and I squeeze in a workout. I crank up my Spotify (good tunes are key), and I do some elliptical and lift weights. I love weight training. It’s hard work and often times I’m sore the next day, but the work out makes me happy. The endorphin, the results, the fact I can pick up my 50lb kid with little effort – all of it makes me happy.

IMG_2389

Now that the days are longer and we don’t have to be at school so flippidy-flappin’ early, I’ve gotten back into swimming. Morning swims are like this weird, cardio-heavy meditation for me. I swam competitively in high school, but I’m not 16 anymore. Swimming is hard, y’all! But in the water there is quiet and calm. Despite my panting at the end of each 100m, it is peaceful. When I’m swimming, I think of little else; only my stroke and my breathing, my form, and my progress. When I finish, I’m exhausted but exhilarated. Every day, I can swim a little farther. I leave the pool, just as the rest of the neighborhood begins to stir, and I feel balanced.

Working out and swimming, even the teensiest bit of run-walking I’ve recently added, keeps me balanced and my brain works better. Even if I spend ~8 hours a day at a desk, I’ve swam half a mile or I’ve walked 1.5 miles and ran .50 (running is hard too, y’all!). Whatever it is, I’ve done something that is the opposite of sitting at a computer. This helps me focus on what I need to do at the desk jobs. I love writing and I’m lucky enough to really like my day job, but I the only way I can continue to enjoy them, is by taking the time to move.

What do you like to do to move it, move it? 😉

 

1 Comment

The Importance of Movement

I couldn’t tell you the number of articles and blog posts I’ve read that talk about how writing is a sedentary profession. And it is, just like any of the millions of office jobs held by people around the world. We know that having such a job, we have to be conscious of things like weight gain and circulatory problems that come from sitting too long at a time. But having such a job, where we sit in a chair and look at a computer screen for hours a day, also has other repercussions that hamper our very ability to move.

physiotherapy-567021_1280A few years ago, all those years of sitting at a computer began to catch up to me. My range of motion suffered, and there was a persistent ache in my bones. Was I just getting older and everyone had to deal with this? Maybe to some extent, but I also started going to both a chiropractor and a massage therapist every few months. It helped and I liked them both. So when I moved to a different state, I had to begin the process of finding both types of professionals again. Luckily, I think I’ve been able to do so. I’ve only been to the massage therapist once since moving here, but it was nice to have that feeling of relaxation afterward.

I typically get deep tissue massage because it really helps release the tightness in my shoulders that comes from typing. Another thing that I didn’t expect when I first started going to a massage therapist was how much the sides of my hip joints hurt when she worked on those areas. She said that’s also common with people who sit a lot. Besides just simple relaxation, massage has a lot of benefits, helping to alleviate anxiety (which I admittedly have some issues with), digestive issues (ditto), headaches (ditto), TMJ (beginning to have issue with this), fibromyalgia and circulation.

massage-1237913_1280When we first moved to Florida, my main concern with finding a good chiropractor is that I tend to have a rib in my back that sometimes pops out. Yeah, that’s all kinds of fun. It did so while we were loading our moving truck — really bad timing. But since finding my new chiropractor, he’s been working on an issue that I’d never had fixed before. I didn’t have full range of motion in my neck, hadn’t for years. My neck didn’t want to adjust one direction, and my previous chiropractor didn’t want to force it. And I agreed because I was having horrible images of my neck breaking if he did. The new chiropractor showed me my X-rays of my head and spine in my neck leaning forward on its own and how that was causing calcification on the lower vertebrae in the front of my neck to hold my head up (the human head weighs between 10 and 11 pounds, not unlike carrying a bowling bowl around on top of your spine). He said this was more common in the past 20 years when we’re always looking down at devices (phones, tablets, etc.) and at computer screens. This was going to cause more issues as I got older if not corrected. He did say that most chiropractors are no longer even taught how to adjust the C1 vertebra (the one out of place, at the top of the spine where it connects to the skull), but he said that if that C1 is out of place it has a cascade effect on the rest of the spine.

wellness-589770_1920I was admittedly nervous when he showed me just how much he was going to have to turn my head and how, and when he said that at least initially it wasn’t going to be pleasant and I might not like him very much. It took several visits before he was even able to begin to adjust it (or I was remotely comfortable with him trying). But the first time it moved noticeably, so much pressure alleviated and the headaches I’d been having every day disappeared. I’m not going to lie and say that those adjustments are a piece of cake now. They’re over quickly, but they’re still unpleasant, but I have more range of motion than I’ve had in years and I’m thrilled not to have constant headaches. I was also given neck exercises to do at home to help keep things stretched out and moving. But a word of caution — make sure if you ever go this route or have it checked out, go to a chiropractor with experience in this area. There are even chiropractors who specialize in C1 adjustments or at least are upper cervical specialists. Do your research.

Whatever methods you find for relieving tension and pain (I’d love to know everyone’s suggestions), I hope you’re able to do so and thus be able to continue writing the stories you love to write and that readers love to read.

10 Comments

The Ultimate Staycation

I’m neither outdoorsy nor athletic. Shocker, right?

My elementary school offered kids two options—go outside for recess or spend the twenty minutes in the school library. Guess which one I chose? I always thought I got the better end of the deal. While my peers were limited to destinations like the swing set or foursquare court (I’m assuming here—isn’t that the kind of stuff you find on a playground?), I was off on daily journeys to Blackbird Pond, Narnia, and ancient Egypt.

Flash forward to present day. It is summer. Not even my air-conditioning can keep the muggy southern afternoons from being miserable and I feel like I’m being roasted alive if I step a toe outside (unless it’s after sundown, at which point I become an all-you-can-eat buffet for mosquitoes in spite of my efforts with bug-repellent/Citronella candles/hazmat suits). According to some of my friends, summer is the perfect time for travel. Some of them even think it’s a good time for grilling out (what the hell do you need the grill for? I’m pretty sure the zillion degree heat will cook those hot dogs for you) or—shudder—camping.

It’s not that I don’t love the prospect of bugs and sweat and sleeping on the ground. I mean, who wouldn’t want all those things? It’s just that I have more exciting plans this summer, a wide variety of trips using my e-reader as my travel agent. In the event that you don’t have the budget to see the world this summer (or if you’d like to see it from the comfort of your own air-conditioned home), here are a few locales you might want to consider.

Two Rivers mansion, home to food columnist Cranky Agnes and the site of one of the funniest weddings (flamingos! Mobsters! Dognapping!) I’ve ever read. Jennifer Crusie makes me laugh in every book she writes, and I adore the collaboration AGNES AND THE HITMAN Bob Mayer co-authored with her.

London. I eagerly devour historical romances from Sarah MacLean, Eloisa James, Elizabeth Michels, and Lorraine Heath. If you have not yet read any of these wonderful ladies, I highly recommend you start now!

Henry Adams, Kansas. Beverly Jenkins has created a community readers will want to visit again and again, and I can’t wait to read her latest, STEPPING TO A NEW DAY, which includes a 600 lb hog as one of the entertaining secondary characters.

Cupid’s Bow, Texas. Okay, yes, this setting/series belongs to me…and I love writing about the characters and the town. Book 3 will be out in November, which gives you plenty of time to read FALLING FOR THE SHERIFF (a single-parenting romance) and/or FALLING FOR THE RANCHER (about a guilt-ridden cowboy, his temporarily wheelchair bound sister, and the feisty physical therapist who not only adjusts to ranch life but kicks a little ass.)

The Demon Plane of Oblivion. It’s no secret that I love Kresley Cole’s paranormal series Immortals After Dark, and her book DEMON FROM THE DARK is one of my favorites. To save her goddaughter, a witch is sent on a possible suicide mission to capture a demon from a savage dimension. For all his barbaric ways, he has some truly adorable moments. I said “awwww” out loud numerous times reading this book, which—given what prompted my outbursts—may mean I’m a little warped. But it’s an imaginative, sexy read.

Sector Four. If you like super-sexy romance, I would recommend Kresley Cole, Jeanette Grey or even my recently released Blaze TURNING UP THE HEAT (a very seductive, friends-to-lovers foodie romance). But if you like to take the occasional trip past sexy to dirrrty, let me introduce you to Kit Rocha and the post-apocalyptic Beyond series. These futuristic erotic romances (which start with BEYOND SHAME) include graphic sex and the occasional orgy, but they also feature fabulous dialogue, character growth, emotional confessions that make me sigh every time I re-read them and political plots that grow more complex with each book and are beginning to rival Westeros for back-stabbing attempts at power.

Barefoot Bay. This ongoing series by bestselling author Roxanne St. Claire can be your trip to the Florida beach this summer! She even has collections within the overall series so you can choose what you’re in the mood for—wedding-themed romances, books with a little more mystery to them or her “silver fox” books with slightly older than average (but oh so sexy) heroes.

Truthfully, I could talk about ten dozen more places and not even scratch the surface. Have you been to Sally Kilpatrick’s Ellery, Tennessee or Trish Milburn’s Blue Falls, Texas? Have you been to a hockey game with Sophia Henry’s Pilots team or out to the bayou with award-winning Harlequin Desire author Joanne Rock? What about Farrah Rochon’s Maplesville (shorter books that make for excellent daytrips)? (Plug from my teenage daughter–her current favorite world to visit is the alternate reality of Gena Showalter’s ALICE IN ZOMBIELAND books, where high school teenagers fight evil spirits most people can’t see.) There are so many wonderful choices, whether set in another city, another country, another time period, or even another dimension. But if I keep listing all of them, I won’t have time to work (or, worse, read!). So I’ll leave these suggestions here as a starting point and pose the question to all of you, what are some of your favorite fictional vacations? A certain book website recently issued account credit, which I think of as frequent flyer miles I’m eager to spend!

Book staycations–all the glamour and adventure, none of the packing drama or lost luggage.

4 Comments

Author Outburst Syndrome

Y’all. I have a problem.

Okay, so I really have lots of problems, but I’m going to focus on only one today. I have Author Outburst Syndrome (AOS) thus I randomly shout things about my characters when I’m supposed to be attending to daily life.

When I was younger, I used to keep all of the information about my fictional characters locked away deep in my subconscious. Then, one day, I had what I like to call the Carpool Epiphany. I had written The Happy Hour Choir, and I had just found an agent. We were revising and getting ready to shop when it hit me. I slammed on the brakes and almost got rear-ended while shouting, “Hooooo-ly shit!”

Why would I do such a thing? Because I had been gathering wool, as writers are wont to do, and had realized that a certain character in Anderson’s Funeral Home also played a part in the The Happy Hour Choir. Then I realized that my characters in Bittersweet Creek made a habit of frequenting the bar in The Happy Hour Choir.  In other words, I had been writing a series the whole time, but I hadn’t realized it because I wrote Happy Hour in 2009. I had written the first draft of what would become Better Get to Livin’ back in 2006, and I wrote the first complete draft of what would become Bittersweet Creek back in 2007.* Blessedly, the person behind me did not hit me, and the children had already left the vehicle.

Just a year or so ago, The Mister and I were sitting at the breakfast room table enjoying a leisurely breakfast when I blurted, “Wallace Dandridge is a veternarian!” My husband replied, “Good for him?” At that point I realized that I must’ve been suffering from AOS for a very long time because he wasn’t even shaken in the least. As to Wallace? He’s been around since 2001. It took me 14 years to figure out his actual profession.

Something similar happened with the protagonist of Wallace’s story, Persephone Willis. I thought I had totally given up on that novel when something funny happened on the way to publishing Better Get To Livin’. I’ll be darned if Persephone didn’t walk into the Holy Roller and ask Presley to cut her hair. I actively fought it. I said, “No, I don’t want to tell your story! You were a problem child while I was trying to finish my thesis! Go away, Persephone Willis!” Alas, she’s in there, and she’s arguing her case to be a part of the book that will be out in 2018.

Sadly, I find my AOS is getting worse as I write, probably because I keep writing stories that are set in the same town and thus characters keep reappearing. When I was writing Bittersweet Creek, I was having a devil of a time trying to figure out what to do with the pit bulls. You see, I don’t personally believe all pit bulls are evil, but I knew the breed would appeal to my villain, Curtis. I also know he would make them mean. I needed to get the dogs away from my heroine without actually harming them. I fretted over what to do with those poor dogs for ages. Finally, I had one of my AOS moments, “Pete Gates is the local Turtleman!” 

See, that’s the sort of exclamation that could get the nice young men in the clean white coats to come take me away. Maybe, just maybe, you’re familiar with the reality show Call of the Wildman which is a show in which Ernie Brown, Jr. aka Turtleman will come to remove animals that are bothering you. I’d had a soft spot for the Gates brothers since The Happy Hour Choir, and it only made sense that Pete was the kind of guy who got along better with animals than humans. He took care of those pit bulls for me–totally reformed them if you’re wondering–and I anticipate he’ll be back to help Persephone. Even if I don’t want to tell her story. She’s being awfully pushy about the whole thing.

I tell you all of this in the hopes that I am not alone. If just one of you feels better for crazy outbursts about people who don’t exist, then my work here is done. For your amusement, I leave you with a few more of my favorite author outbursts:

“OMG, Mrs. Morris is a Baptist elder!”

“His name is Goat Cheese because he wants to raise goats!”

“[Redacted] is sleeping with [redacted]?! No, no, no, no!”

“Ginger Belmont went off and bought a big-A box of condoms?” (I blushed while writing that. I still can’t believe the woman did that.)

“Caroline Anderson is not [redacted]!” (If you’ve read Better Get to Livin’ then you know she’s up to something. I plan to tell you in a special free read.)

“She’s going to give that cat to Persephone!”

“There’s going to be a llama in the drive-through Nativity!”

So there you go. On the off-chance you thought I was normal, I have proven you wrong. I suffer from AOS, which is kinda like iOS but without all of the updates. What about you? Writers, how do you communicate with your imaginary friends? Readers, do you have these revelations about characters after you’ve read a book?

*The idea and some rough drafts for Bittersweet Creek came earlier. Not as early as 2002 but before I actually saw Sweet Home Alabama. Imagine my chagrin when a movie stole my thunder about a secret country marriage. *sigh*

 

 

8 Comments

What’s in a name?

I have many weaknesses in my writing. Some I’ve identified and am working on, and some I’ve not yet discovered. But, that’s true for all us! No matter how long we’ve been writing there’s something else to learn. Which is awesome, and also why I’m afraid to go back and read any of my books. I’d probably nit-pick them to death with what I’ve learned since.

One of my weakness is picking names. Not that I pick *bad* names per se, but I tend to get hyper-focused on one or two letters in the alphabet. For example, my character list for Slow and Steady Rush:

Darcy (heroine)

Robbie Dalton (hero-often called Dalt)

Reed (cousin and hero of Book 2)

Dave (football player)

Rick aka Rick the Dick (policeman)

Dylan (football player)

Ada (grandmother, not technically a ‘D’, but strong ‘D’ sound)

I realized my issue when I was editing a scene with Robbie and Reed. What stinks is when you become attached to names, or the names have already imprinted onto your character. There was no way I was changing my hero or heroine, but I caved and changed Reed to Logan. I had already written his book, so this was heart-wrenching. I had to keep Rick the Dick (for obvious reasons, amiright?), so I changed Dave to Tyler and Dylan to Jamal.

Another of my weakness is keeping (or not keeping) a series bible. This has bitten me on the butt more than a few times, yet I feel like I’m too busy to go back and reconstruct a detailed one. So while I recognize this as a weakness, I still didn’t do one at the start of my new series. But I was introduced to a copy-editor trick that helps me avoid name repetition and also helps me keep track of main character highlights, like hair and eye color and any distinguishing characteristics or titles. It’s the Cliff Notes version of a series bible.

Pardon my handwriting and lack-of-OCD straight lines…this could be set up in Excel, no doubt, but I like keeping it next to me while I’m starting a book so I can jot things down or scratch things out. To me that’s easier than the screen. Plus, I use a spiral bound notebook for each manuscript to long-hand scenes and jot down ideas, so this works for me. I’ve found it super simple, and extremely useful…

You can divvy up grid2your quadrants however you like, and if you do it on the computer, you could expand into as many as you want. But, the point is to write every name (first, last, nicknames) and proper nouns on the grid. From a glance you can tell where you have too many names of the same letter.

 

 

It also helps narrow the search for new names. In my case, I’d probably go to the ‘H’s or ‘P’s in my big book of baby names for a first name and the ‘A’s or ‘Y’s in my telephone directory for last names. (Don’t throw those antiquated books away… They are very handy for surnames!)

I hope this helps some writer out there avoid my missteps. I would be very interested in how you guys keep track of names or other shortcuts you use to keep track of your series…

7 Comments

Top Tips for Tricking Yourself Into Writing

I love to write. That said, more often than not, I will take any excuse to procrastinate or avoid it. But the only way to get that book written is to plant yourself at that keyboard or in front of that notebook and just do it already. To that end, I’ve cultivated a series of ways to trick myself into getting some freaking words on the page.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Make progress tangible. One of the problems with writing is that at the end of even the most productive day, what do you really have to show for it? A slightly longer Word file? So unsatisfying.

    My trick: graphs. If you’ve ever participated in NaNoWriMo, you know what I mean. Part of their motivational program is to have you input your word count at the end of every day, and it makes this little climbing bar graph that shows exactly how close you are to your goal. But what’s a girl to do any month of the year except November? You can set up the same basic thing in Excel, or you can get an app to do it for you. Personally, I’m a fan of Write-o-meter for Android. See how pretty my graph is?writeometergraph
  • Set low standards. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but let me explain. For me, the hardest part is getting started. Realistically, to stay on track for my deadlines, I usually need to write 1-2k words per day, but that can be daunting. So if I find myself endlessly scrolling the internet, putting off getting started, I tell myself I only need to write 300. Even on a bad day, I can usually manage that. And you know what? About 80% of the time, once I get those first 300 down, I’m in the groove again and I end up rocketing along to my goal for the day.
  • Set a timer. Then block the clock. I swear I heard the advice about setting a timer a million times, and it never really helped me. Then I figured out the secret: make sure you can’t see how much time is passing. For me, this means writing in Scrivener in full screen mode, which blocks the clock in the corner of the screen. It means putting my phone on silent and then turning it face down on the table beside me. My timer is usually set for only 25 minutes, and even I can ignore the internet for that long. My text messages and Facebook alerts and Twitter stream can all wait. Making it impossible to see how much time is passing keeps me focused for the duration. It keeps me from getting distracted. And most importantly, it keeps me from sitting there like a kid in the last hour of a road trip asking “Are we there yet are we there yet ARE WE THERE YET????”
  • Peer pressure. This can come in so many forms. Some people like to stalk the #1k1hr tag on twitter where everyone agrees to write for an hour and then reports back on their progress. Others find a small group of fellow writers and text their word count for the day to each other every night. Personally, I find all of that too stressful, but I adore this app called Habitica. It turns your life into a role playing game. You pick the tasks you need to accomplish every day. Then you find some friends and start a questing party. Everyone who accomplishes their tasks for the day does damage to the bad guy. Any unfinished tasks hurt you and your friends. No one knows what you did or didn’t do, but there are (admittedly silly) consequences for not getting shit done. I feel weirdly honor-bound not to lie about what I’ve accomplished for the day, and knowing that my slacking hurts my friends is just this little bit of extra motivation to keep me productive on a consistent basis.
  • Reward yourself. It doesn’t matter what you promise yourself. It can be a snack or another cup of coffee or some free time to scroll your favorite fansite or a chance to read whatever juicy bit of fiction you’ve been dying to lose yourself in. Just don’t let yourself do it until you’ve accomplished what you need to. Then indulge guilt-free once you do.

Have you tried any of these tricks? What sort of luck have you had? What other tricks help you keep the words flowing?

10 Comments

A Space to Create

It’s just a little nook at the top of the stairs, but it’s mine, all mine. Some time ago, I wrote a post about my goal to have a writing space of my own. At the time, it was only a frustrating wish, as we had recently gotten our floors refinished, and all the random boxed stuff that hadn’t been put away yet was stacked all over my area, which had never really been set up properly in the first place. Fast forward a year or so, and I’m happy to finally update. I have a space to create! It’s a little more cluttered than I’d like, mainly because it doubles as a sewing studio due to our square footage constraints. While it’s no pæan to sleek modernism, it’s functional and decorated with love and inspiring bits of this and that. Allow me to give you a tour!

IMG_20160615_131811

Pending projects, fabric stash, happy art, including some my grandmother painted… and most importantly, my writing buddy.

 

All the necessities, including the giant glass of iced tea!

Antique motel postcards, and vintage patterns help put me in the creative mode for both writing and sewing. There are also the obvious necessities, especially the giant glass of iced tea!

My knockoff Hans Wegner Rope chair, the perfect place to sit and ponder.

My knockoff Hans Wegner Rope chair, the perfect place to sit and ponder.

Hello, who's this? The vintage gown I hope to wear to the Rita/Golden Heart Awards banquet at RWA Nationals in San Diego! She's still in rehab, but I have every reason to hope for a glorious recovery.

Hello, who’s this? The vintage gown I hope to wear to the Rita/Golden Heart Awards banquet at RWA Nationals in San Diego! She’s still in rehab, but I have every reason to hope for a glorious recovery.

 

Well, that’s the grand tour of a tiny, happy place! What’s your space like? Are you lucky enough to be all Virginia Woolf with a room of your own, or do you have to make do with a corner somewhere? Does it make you happy? How have you made it yours? I’d love to see or hear about it!

 

Happy Writing,

10 Comments

%d bloggers like this: