Monday Mayhem – Germination

In my last post, I talked about my burnout. In this one, I’d update you on my recovery, and what I have discovered.

I may have mentioned it in my previous post, but I had a bit of an, “Ah-ha!” moment while watching Becca Syme’s QuitCast videos.

Becca is a Gallup certified strengths coach, but she is also an author and a member of the Romance Writers of America. She started talking about burnout issues because most of the authors she speaks to started listing the same worries/concerns.

I won’t go into detail about burnout and all the things she said that spoke to me and the way I was feeling about my writing career. I’ll just tell you that I connected with it enough to sign up for a class she was offering that helps authors identify their top five strengths (according to the Clifton StrengthsFinder) and works with them in a coaching capacity author-to-author.

Here are my five: Input|Relator|Empathy|Achiever|Responsibility

There’s quite a bit of logic behind each of these strength labels, but for the most part, they are self-explanatory. Since the Gallup and Becca’s definitions are copyrighted material, I’ll just give you my hot take on them.

Input – High input people need to take in a lot of information. They don’t necessarily become experts in everything they learn, but they store it away for future reference. I attribute my vast store of movie quotes, superior Trivial Pursuit skills, and ability to sing every word of a song I haven’t heard in 20 years to this strength.

Relator – This means I need to have a strong connection to the people closest to me. I don’t gather friends everywhere I go, but the ones I have are close and well-chosen. I think this may be why I like to include close-knit groups of friends in my stories.

Empathy – I’m good at reading the room. Whether it’s an individual, or a general consensus, I pick up on vibes pretty easily. Which may explain why the negative onslaught we’ve been enduring since 2016 has been overwhelming for me. This is why I have retreated from most social media and holed up in my blanket fort.

Achiever – The name pretty much says it all. I am compelled to complete tasks. If there’s a list, I must tick off the boxes. Like all of these traits, this can also become a weakness. This is why I broke up with my Apple watch. I don’t think it’s healthy to cuss a piece of wearable technology for not giving me stand credit for hours I know I was on my feet. Yeah….

Responsibility – I’m just a girl who can’t say no. Okay, I can, but I don’t very often, and that weighs on me. I am your get it done girl. Once I agree to something, I have to see things through. But when it’s a situation where I have to rely on others to do their part, well… it can take a toll too.

So, yeah, I’ve been talking to Becca about where these traits are working for me, and where I may not be using them to my best advantage. We’re also talking strategy for dealing with those moments when my strengths become a weakness.

So here is my self-portrait for the week:

I’m still not writing, but now my not writing is purposeful. I’m refilling my input well, and hunkering down with those people who help me generate good energy. I’ve made my blanket fort a safe space for the plot bunnies to come and play. I feed my achiever by taking notes on all the happy writing-related stuff I want to keep for later. And I am learning to identify those tasks that I truly own, rather than simply taking responsibility for everything.

I feel good. I feel optimistic. I feel like my writing career will go on for many years to come. Perhaps not at the breakneck speed of the first 10 years, but that’s okay. I’m playing the long game now.

If you are looking for me, one of the places I’ve been hanging out at the most lately is on The Corner of Smart & Sexy. It’s just me and some fabulous author friends talking books and playing silly games. Join us there! You never know who you may run into…

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Monday Mayhem – If you need me, I’ll be in my blanket fort

I won’t lie, it’s been a rough year (or two…okay, three) for me. I’ve been struggling with my writing for a while, and this year, I finally hit the wall.

I’ve spent some time sulking and whining, and even more pretending everything is okay, this was just a phase, and I would get through it if I could just focus, manage my time better, buy 3-5 different planners, convert my bulletin board to a kanban, etc.

But mostly, I’ve spent 2019 wondering if I am done.

a woman in bed with her head laying on the computer holding her coffee mug.

I realize now (thanks to this series of videos by Becca Syme), that I’ve been sliding into burnout since about 2016.

Looking back, it’s really no surprise. While 2016 was the annus horribilis personally (and not because of anything political – though that didn’t help), it was an exciting year for me as a writer. I signed contracts, made plans for mass market and audiobook releases, and generally threw myself and my balled up emotion into all the things that go along with writerdom.

I worked steadily through 2017, my eyes on the prize that 2018 was sure to be. 2018 started out fabulous, back to back releases, and a starred review from Publishers Weekly. And then the hits started coming.

Rejection. Disillusionment.

You’d think I’d be used to the subjective nature of the business by now, but you never really get past the gut-punch. Somehow, I muddled through another two lackluster releases, plastered an ‘all is well’ smile on my face and played the conference circuit, then struck back with an ‘I’ll show you’ indie release that netted me more profit in one month than the 4 others have combined since publication.

But it wasn’t about the money.

I was reeling. Am reeling. After 9 years and 39 books, I am out of contract. An orphan. I am a woman with lots of planners, but no plan.

Time to Set Goals Target Aspirations Intention Objective Concept

I’ve spent much of this year dealing with the fallout from what I see now were unrealistic expectations. I’d been listening too much to the noise around me. I’d been immersing myself in the quicksand of social media and other forms of busy work and distraction to self-soothe.

But it isn’t working.

I haven’t been working. I’ve been sulking. And hurting. And wondering if there’s anything left in me.

I’ve had a first draft on my computer that has been thiiiiis close to being complete since November, but I just can’t stir myself to finish it.

But I don’t want to quit. I know that much.

If I did, I would have a while ago, and wouldn’t have spent so much of this year fretting over it. So what to do now? I’ve licked my wounds for long enough. It’s time to figure out how to move on.

My biggest leap will be stepping off the forced productivity treadmill. I will no longer conform to what “everyone says’ is the ‘right’ way to do this author thing.

I will refill my creative well.

I plan to read, listen to music, watch television and movies… In other words, do all the things I eschewed over the last few years in the name of productivity. These are the things that feed me. They spark ideas and give me the impetus to ask, “What if this happened?”

Those who have been around since my Gilmore Girls days know my biggest works of fanfic started with Lorelai asking Luke if he was ‘good at dating’, and I wondered, “What if Luke took that opportunity to tell Lorelai he didn’t want to wait around for her to finally see him and pick him?”

Are you good at dating?

I want to get back to that feeling…the need to explore possibilities within my books. The possibilities inside of me.

So yeah, that’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about what goes on inside my brain. But there you have it.

If you need me, I’ll be in my blanket fort.

Portrait of cute girl sitting under blanket and reading a book
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Monday Mayhem – Save Ferris!

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Yes, I am taking the sage advice of Mr. Ferris Bueller this week and taking of for a fun-filled weekend with my girlfriends. It’s been far too long since I’ve been able to spend time with them.

Life has been moving pretty fast.

The last time I was with them was 2015, and this happened:

Can you blame me for hoping something equally awesome happens this time?

So far we have karaoke, pedis, pool time, and possibly a day trip planned.

I. Cannot. Wait.

If you don’t hear from us in the next couple weeks, collect some bail money, will ya?

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Monday Mayhem – Vacation…all I ever wanted

We got away this weekend! My company took a long holiday weekend, so Fodder and I ran away to the river. We found an adorable AirBNB on the edge of the Buffalo National Forest just big enough for Fodder, me, and our master, Sally.

Relaxing front porch

We’d never taken Sally with us on a trip, so it was an experience for all of us. But look at this happy face:

We had a lovey, relaxing weekend. Our little cabin in the woods was perfection. Sally swam with us, we ate BBQ, built a little fire in the fire pit, and generally kicked back. We even had a bit time to just Netflix and chill.

All in all, it was just what we needed. July is quickly booking up with activities and events, so the timing was excellent. More happy faces:

top pics taken at scenic overlook, Marshall, AR. Our favorite selfie spot.
bottom from left: Fodder and Sally testing the waters at Wollum access, and a selfie snapped in a spooky spot in the woods…wooooooo!

How about you? Do you have any travel plans this summer?

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Monday Mayhem – Give it away, give it away, give it away now!

Are you on my mailing list? If so, you know I’ve done nothing but give it away this past week. I celebrated Julie Evelyn Joyce’s book, STEEPED IN LOVE, being named to the short list of finalists for the Kobo Emerging Authors prize by giving away a few copies of Steeped. Then, I celebrated those fabulous readers who actually open, read, and interact with my newsletter with a special Amazon gift card giveaway just for them!

This could be you!

Not on my mailing list? Look on the top of the sidebar of this page. There’s a little spot that says, “Join my readers group!” Enter your email there, and I’ll get you added too!

In other news…

I’m still hitting the gym. I don’t like it, but I’m doing it. Anythng to avoid writing, you know…

Okay, I’m not really avoiding it. I’m….circling it. I’m in the homestretch of drafting LOVE RENOVATION, and this is a tricky time. I know where it needs to go. I know what I need to change in the front 2/3 of the book. I know all of the work that needs to be done before I can call it done, and that is just…paralyzing.

So I am chipping away at it little by little. Because a little is more than zero, right?

*nods*

My herb garden is struggling. We’ve had a cool, wet spring so far. Very unusual for us. We usually skip spring and plunge into the summer sauna, so I don’t want to complain too much, but my pal, Basil, isn’t liking it. My Roma tomatoes are scrawny and shivering. Oh, and some insect is eating my pepper plants. *scowls* I hope they get heartburn.

On the other hand, the flowers are loving it. The irises were spectacular, as was the clematis. And just look at the Mr. Lincoln and Knockout roses!

Mr. Lincoln rose
Knockout rose

Tell me, what’s blooming in your neck of the woods these days?

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Monday Mayhem – What’s so funny?

Here’s a fun fact about me – I hate April Fools Day jokes. In fact, I am not a fan of practical jokes at all. I don’t find embarrassment amusing.

You know what I love? Silly jokes. Absurdities. Your mom jokes.

I bought a new iPad this weekend. Poor Penelope iPad was so ancient Apple wouldn’t update her anymore. Gradually, my apps lost functionality because my operating system was antiquated, and so on, and so forth…

Anyhoo, she will now host fun and educational games for the grandboys. I am typing to you now from my new iPad, Pluto.

Pluto was named for my favorite disrespected planet and one of my favorite jokes:

This makes me laugh. Making someone believe something untrue, or tricking them into making a ‘fool’ of themselves, not so much.

But it is April 1st. A fact that amazes me, all shenanigans aside. Where is this year going? Our trees are budding like crazy. Our world is Fifty shades of green. I planted my first herb garden in an old washtub.

Oh! And I’m leading my first online workshop next week. It’s called Even Superman Had A Day Job and available through the Contemporary Romance chapter of RWA.

As of Wednesday, I will be 8 years without a cigarette. On Saturday, I reached my 900th day of meditation. I am think I may try incorporating some tai chi flows into my yoga routine.

How about you? Planning to try anything new this spring?

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Monday Mayhem – Buckle up!

Buckle up, friends, we’re at it again!

I have completed revisions on my Nashville story (Tentatively titled: Make You Feel My Love) and it is going out on submission. What does that mean? It means I’ll be a wreck for the next 3-6 months as we wait to see if any publishers bite.

nail biter

What will I do while we wait? Start the next book!

I have an idea. A big idea. Something different from anything I’ve written before. There’s going to be some world building involved, and a bit of a leap out of my contemporary romance comfort zone and into a world of intrigue, but I’m pretty excited to give it a shot.

ideas

Right now, the ideas/details/possibilities are are swirling around in my head. I’ve tried to capture the higher concepts and work them out in notes, but I’ve never been an extensive plotter. I think I kind of want to let my imagination go wild on this one. So, I’ll be writing it in a sort of ‘go big or go home’ mindset.

Wish me luck!

In the meantime, keep a nervous author in Diet Coke – buy a book. Already read them all? Gift one to a friend! I’ve been spiffing up the website. You can check them all out here.

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Monday Mayhem – Resolution Revolution

pinky swear

Resolution number one

As the new year begins, I resolve not to make a single, solitary resolution. Oops. Um…

Well, you get my meaning. By not making any resolutions, I have made my life infinitely simpler, and that will be my ultimate goal for the year. Like how I did that?

I may not be making actual ‘write it down’ sorts of resolutions, but I have made a few pinky promises with myself. Want in on them?

pinky swear
  • I have promised to stop looking around at what/how other people are doing. In the past, I was really good at keeping my eyes on my own paper, but this past year I slipped a bit. Okay, a lot. It’s hard not to play the comparison game, but I have promised myself I won’t be using anyone else’s yardstick when it comes to measuring up. Man, I hope I don’t disappoint me.
  • I promise to work smarter. As you may or may not be aware, there’s no publicity machine working behind the scenes here. Well, there is. It’s me. I am the machine. But, I have to admit I’m getting a little worn out in some areas. The cogs are slipping. So, for that reason, I am going to reprogram a bit for better (hopefully) efficiency. More on that later.
  • I will write what I want to write. I know this sounds kind of silly, but trust me, it’s not. When a person writes for publication, it’s very easy to get caught up in chasing trends in the hopes of getting in on the next big wave of romance branding. No. Not for me. I will continue to write the stories I want to write. They may not be what editors are looking to add to their lists at this moment, but that’s okay. I think I’ve found my lane and I like it here. No swerving for me.

Promises promises

I know. they don’t sound very ambitious, but I did that on purpose. I’ve set smaller goals aimed at consistency rather than quantity. I’m going to do my best to work across all the platforms available to me.

And for that reason (this is the part I promised to elaborate on later), I will be cutting back my blogging to ever other week, and using the time I would have used to write a post to create newsletter content.

The newsletters will be different from these posts. I always view my blog posts as more of a conversation. A peek into what I’ve been up to and a chance to get your feedback. The newsletters will be more of a brief little hi-dee-ho-neighbor.

I’ll include book information or recommendations, a favorite recipe, quick Q&A with other authors, music playlists, funny pictures, or other random things I’d like to share.

Not on my mailing list? Why not? You can click here or there’s a little box in the sidebar of this page where you can add your email address.

So I won’t be here next Monday, but I will be in your inbox sometime next week, right? You signed up? I won’t say when. It’ll be more fun if it’s a surprise, don’t you think?

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