Monday Mayhem – Accomplishment vs Ambition

Good morning! This blog post is brought to you today once again by the letter D. Hi! I’m here with Desdemona, my Dragon software, and I’m talking to myself again. After last week’s post, a few people have asked how it’s going, so here’s an update:

I’ve been working with it all week, I’m not sure that I’m getting any better, but I’m doing it. I’ve been dictating during my approximately twelve minute drive to work each morning. That time has netted me about 900 words on average each day this week. I’m only dictating basic punctuation, and not using the dialogue marks as of yet, but, yeah, progress. When I come home, I have Desdemona transcribe what I’ve dictated into my phone, I edit it, and add it to my work in progress. So far, so good. I’m finding that dictation allows me to get the bones of the scene in, and when I go back to edit it, I’m adding the color, character, and voice to the story.

In other news, at a great time the ladies from the Diamond State Romance Authors yesterday. it had been a couple of months since I’ve been to a meeting, and I really needed this one. Being around other writers helps to recharge the batteries.

We had an interesting discussion at lunch about ambition, expectations, reality and our accomplishments.

When you’re waist-deep in the publishing industry the disparity between an author’s ambition, expectations, and reality, can be…disheartening. And in those moments of despair, we have a tendency to downplay our accomplishments.

So if you are in one of those funks where you feel like a failure, ask yourself these simple questions:

1. Did I try?
2. Did I finish?
3. Did I dare to show my work, even if only to one person.

If you answered yes, to any of these, then you are an accomplished person.

It’s easy to lose sight of our accomplishments when we hold them up next to our ambitions. Most of the time, our ambition and expectations are waaaaaay up here, and our reality looks something like a royalty check barely big enough to cover lunch. But that doesn’t mean we still haven’t accomplished something spectacular.

I’m speaking directly to my novelist friends now, but I believe this applies to any creative endeavor:

Look at what you have done. You are amazing. Literally, one in millions. A percentage so minute, most people don’t even count it on a chart. The year I signed with my literary agent, Sara, she tweeted her 2015 query statistics in December. The numbers were so staggering I broke out the calculator, and did the math.

I know! I voluntarily did math.

You know what? I am one of the .003%

One-percenters may think they are something because their checks cover more than lunch, but you, me, and a handful of others? We’re in an even more exclusive club.

As writers, we build a career one word at a time, one book at a time, one series at a time. What we need to do is stop using yardsticks to measure a game played in millimeters. It doesn’t covert properly.

It’s not wrong to have ambition or expectations. Reality can sometimes be better than we expected. But please, oh please, don’t sweep your accomplishments under the rug because they didn’t jibe with the rest of that jive.

Feed your ambition.

Temper your expectations.

Plot what you can do to enhance your reality.

And celebrate your accomplishments every damn day. Because, wow! Who knew you had this in you?

You did. That’s who.

So, yeah… *steps off soapbox*

Right now I’m working on revisions for novel number thirty-seven and adding words to number thirty-eight. See what I did there?

I’m totally high-fiving myself as I eat the peanut butter sandwich I brought from home.

Monday Mayhem – Dictatorial Behavior

About a year ago, I purchased Dragon Naturally Speaking software for my computer. I messed with the little that first week I had it, then I walked away because it seemed too complicated.

A number of friends also purchased the software at the same time since there was a deal going on, so over the course of the year we’ve had many, many discussions about our different hangups about using dictation software. The biggest one being that you have to speak your punctuation. Every mark you’re seeing in this post, has been verbalized.

Awkward!

I get particularly mush mouthed when trying to dictate dialogue, which is a bit ironic if you think about it. The commands are  just so unwieldy.  I’m sad to report that a number of us gave up on training our dragons pretty quickly.

Did I tell you that my Dragon’s name is Desdemona?

Desdemona wasn’t cheap, so it’s been hard for me to walk away from her entirely. Over the course of the past few months  A few of us have tried different things to try to make dictation work for us.

Why bother, you ask?

First, I type all day, then I go home and type all night. That takes a pretty hard toll on your wrists and fingers and I’m starting to feel a little bit of arthritis in my hands. Nothing I can’t deal with, and I actually do yoga stretching for my wrists and hands that has helped quite a bit with keeping them limber, but I can see the proverbial writing on the…page.

Then, there’s the oh-so-tempting productivity aspect of it.

It’s amazing how many words you can speak faster than type. And, I’m a fast typist. With hands on keyboard I can usually put up about a thousand words in an hour. With my headset on, and just free-flowing speech, I can dictate that same thousand words in about ten minutes.

Now, I won’t pretend that the storytelling part of writing a novel comes as naturally as speaking. At this point, it’s easier for me to make the story come out of my fingertips than it is to make it come from my lips.

But, the increase in productivity keeps drawing me back to Desdemona.

One of my goals for this summer was to get better at dictation. I started last week with a voice recording application on my phone. Each day, I have a ten minute ride commute to work. I’ve been using that ten minutes to do what some writers call morning pages. Morning pages or were you pretty much info dump everything your thinking about your writing onto the page. The point is to clear your head so that you can move forward with the work.

I then would have Desdemona transcribe the mornings babblings into a document. The results were sometimes hilarious. And not on purpose.

Still, practice makes perfect. Or, at least a 90% accuracy rate.

I’ll probably be using dictation to write this blog posts each week, because, like anything, the more you practice the better you become.

So this blog post is brought to you by the D: Desdemona, and dictation, and discipline.

A couple weeks ago, I spoke about the inspiration I found in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book called BIG MAGIC. One of the bits in her book referred to her attempts at eschewing perfection as ‘the song of the disciplined half-ass.’

I totally ganked that one.

So, here I am, a disciplined half-ass stumbling my way around using this new tool. I can tell you that I am better at it than I was last week. I also have new toys – a swanky headset and a fantastic adapter that will allow me to speak into my phone or iPad if I want to use transcription.

I have everything I need to really rock this disciplined half-assed effort of mine.

Tell me, what dragons will you be taming this week?

Monday Mayhem – Poised on the brink

Here we are in JULY. Can you believe it? Yeah, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it myself. Camp NaNoWriMo started 7/1/17. I’m hoping it gives me to motivation/momentum I need to finish drafting A RING FOR ROSIE (Play Dates #3).

Tomorrow, we celebrate Independence Day. I’m working today and the rest of the week, so that means it’s one of those weird mid-week holidays, but I don’t mind.  We’ll party it up tonight, then I can spend the holiday lounging in my chair watching The Music Man. 🙂

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July, my fellow Americans!

Monday Mayhem – Nothin’ doin’

I did nothing this weekend.

Those of you who know me well, know that this is kind of a shocker, because even when I say I’m being lazy, I’m usually still producing something. Not this weekend. This weekend was Margaret Ethridge’s day(s) off.

I didn’t really plan on being such a layabout, but circumstances were ideal, so I went with it.

If you need excuses (as I do), there have been 2 novels revised and returned to two different editors in the last 3 weeks. And I do have a day job that keeps me hopping. On Friday, we served lunch to over 150 hungry teenagers in support of a community outreach program.

Oh, and a sick hubby…and a bit of insomnia.

So, yeah, I didn’t even play an Author on TV this weekend, but that’s okay. I needed to rest and recharge. So sayeth, Dr. Sally.

 

Monday Mayhem – Big Magic

I’m not much of a non-fiction reader. I prefer the world of make-believe most of the time. Unlike most writers, I’m not much of a ‘craft’ book reader, either. I don’t like being told what to do or how to do it, so I tend to rebel. But sometimes, I do go looking for inspiration when I feel my creative well running dry.

This week, I started reading the book BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert. I admit I never read EAT, PRAY, LOVE, nor did I see the movie, but I am in love with BIG MAGIC.

Not because she has some nuggets of magical writer voodoo to impart, but more because she reminds us that it’s okay for people engaged in creative pursuits to be burned out, worked up, disillusioned, or even madly in love with their own work.

I needed this right now.

So go out there. Be brave. Be bold. Live a life filled with Big Magic. No one can tell you you’re wrong.

Monday Mayhem – Hunkered down on the doghouse

I plan to spend most of my summer doing revisions. I know that doesn’t sound like fun to many people, but it’s very exciting for me. With some fabulously constructive input from my editors, I have a chance to make this book (and every book I release) better than I originally believed it could be.

But I wouldn’t say revisions are easy for me. My first responses to almost any editorial feedback usually start with the words, “But…”, “I wanted…”, and “You don’t understand…” Then, I stuff my overinflated ego into a strongbox and set the revisions aside for a day or two.

When I read through the comments again, I often find they are right 99.9% of the time. That’s when I get to work.

I’ve been steadily wading through these revisions all week. I have a couple additions to write, then I’ll take another pass through the whole thing to be sure it works. Then, I send it back to my editors for round two.

Did I mention there are two more completed manuscripts awaiting revisions behind this one? Yep. Going to be a busy summer, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

 

 

 

Monday Mayhem – This Magic Moment

I did something totally out of character for me this weekend…I lived in the moment.

On Wednesday, I turned in the finished manuscript for Easy Bake Lovin’ (Play Dates #2), and then from Wednesday night ’til this minute, I haven’t even powered up my computer. Oh, it traveled to Illinois with us and back, but I didn’t do any work.

Here’s what I did instead:

Walked out of the Isle of Capri casino in Cape Girardeau, Missouri with $50 more than I had when I walked in. Wooot! Thanks, Ghostbusters!

Took the bypass around Bloomington-Normal, Illinois (my hometown) without stopping for the first time in my life. It was a little freaky.

Laughed my butt off with some of my oldest friends – seriously, these broads are getting up there.

Trained from Level 1 Ninja to Level 5 Ninja thanks to my Karate Kid crane kick and guidance from my nephew, Liam. Sadly, that still wasn’t enough for me to be able to wield the plastic nunchucks. I’m told you have to be Level 10 Ninja for that.

Learned how to vanquish the undead (neon green plastic skeletons) with a sword. Special thanks to nephew, Connor, for letting me use one of his foam swords. Fodder refuses to buy me one of my own. The big chicken.

Rebuilt a bulldozer. (I wasn’t sure I could do it, but great-nephew, Bo, had faith in his Aunt Moogie.)

Laughed my butt off some more, but don’t worry, I ate enough to ensure continuous padding. Plus, we made the resident teenagers whine and beg us to go to bed, so we win!

Swept into Bloomington on our way south again to share a little lunch with my biggest brother, nieces & nephews, and great-niece and nephews.

Rolled into the St. Louis area and scammed a bed for the night from second biggest brother and his ever-patient wife. Devoured my first steakburger from Freddy’s Custard – yum! Can’t wait until our Freddy’s opens!

Up early to drive another six hours through sporadic rain, but it was all worth it to come home to this smiley beast:

I realized when I started this post that I forgot to take pictures of all of the above, but I decided I’m okay with that. I was living in the moment, and enjoying every one of them. <3

How was your weekend?

 

Monday Mayhem – A Grateful Nation

We’ve been the lucky ones. My grandfather served in WWI. My father (Europe) and three uncles (Pacific) in WWII. I have nephews and friends who have served in various branches of military and civilian service over the years.

They all came home safe and sound.

So many were not lucky.

This weekend, we celebrate those who died to protect and serve the freedoms we cherish. Rest in peace and know that this grateful nation will forever be in your debt.

Monday Mayhem – Ripples Needed, Apply Here

The Diamond State Romance Authors met this weekend. As usual, spending time with my writer friends recharged me.

This month, we talked about every author’s worst nightmare – PR and publicity.

Most people don’t realize that almost all book promotion falls on the author. My publisher will promote the book through their existing networks (which are admittedly much larger than mine), but there’s no campaign to speak of, and almost no advertising beyond the occasional boosted post on social media. Once, I was lucky enough to have my book included as part of a print ad in a trade publication, but that was mainly a matter of lucky timing.

But mostly, it’s up to us to flaunt our work. Not an easy thing to do for people who prefer to spend their time writing the next story.

So, yeah, promotion a vital skill for an author to master. And one that stymies me every time. You see, there is no magic formula. What works for one book may fall flat on the next. A catchy cover can help, but that only goes so far.

Word of mouth is everything.

Kelli Reep of FlyWrite Communications talked to us about how to maximize the ripple effect needed for marketing success. We’re so inundated with information and images that it takes a minimum of seven impressions for something to register with most people. Which means I am tempted to do this and go back to my keyboard:

   

   

I threw an extra in there for symmetry and good measure… But that probably isn’t going to do the trick, huh?

I have a new series starting this fall and my first mass market paperback release coming in 2018. Man, do I want them to be a success. I mean, I want all of my books to connect with readers, but the Love, Unexpectedly series from Sourcebooks will be my first shot at being on shelves in major retailers. This a pretty big deal for me. I confess, I occasionally go to visit my spot in our local Barnes & Noble:

So, yeah, I’m going to have to get better at this marketing and publicity bit. I’m hoping I can count on you to help me. To be my ripples. And I’m asking you in advance to forgive me, as I blab all over the place about these books.

After all, an author has to do what an author has to do, right?

Monday Mayhem – The thing about things

Not long ago I reposted this picture on social media:

So true.

But it takes some of us a long time to learn that. This past weekend was Mother’s Day. Fodder once again complained about how hard it was to shop for me because I have everything I want/need. I have a jewelry box that is mostly neglected because I wear the same pieces most days. My electronics are not the latest models, but in fine working order – I’ll update when I have to, thankyouverymuch.

He’s resistant to buying me the one thing that’s always a hit – gift cards for book buying – because a) he thinks it’s taking the easy way out, and b) he’s worried I may have a book hoarding problem.

He may be right about the second one.

So, I hauled him out to garden center, pointed to four hanging baskets of flowers, and said I NEEDED them for the carport and porch. The man was pleased to accommodate my needs, and all were happy.

The thing is, I think I’m really easy when it comes to gift giving.He knows I like to rescue flowers from the supermarket bargain bin:

Anything that allows me to grow my own creature in a bowl:

Socks:

And, I love homemade cards – particularly those with inside jokes, or characters I love. Like Woodstock. Our daughter knows this. Check out my awesome card:

 

I like spring evenings spent hanging around the homestead…watching the man teach a four year-old how to start fires.

 

And I like watching said four year-old and his granddad enjoy their first s’mores together. (Seriously. I think he’s been living under a rock. The man was a Cub Scout, for cripes sake!)

But the best things in life really aren’t things. They are puppy cuddles:

Melty marshmallows:

And heart-melting smiles:

What are some of your most precious non-things?