Monday Mayhem – The Gift of Giving Up

This time of year, I’m always focused on what I want to accomplish next year. The list is always fairly lengthy. I won’t get to everything, but I will complete some things. As I get older, I find that accomplishing some things is more than enough. The things I don’t get done will shift to the following year’s list, and life will go on.

Opened personal organizer with a to do list.

Patience is one of life’s great lessons. I haven’t mastered it, but I am learning to embrace it. I’m also learning how to let things go. This year, I plan to carry over my list of anti-resolutions. Remember these?

Stop showing and telling everything to everyone.

Stop comparing yourself to others.

Stop worrying about what others think of you.

Stop waiting.

Stop doubting.

Stop being a stranger.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself.

Stop standing in your own way.

Stop feeling guilty.

Stop thinking money creates value.

Stop feeling obligated.

Stop saying yes all the time

Stop thinking everything is a competition.

Stop trying to be like everyone else.

Stop thinking you have to get it right on the first try.

I’ve discovered that the list of things I plan to stop doing is the very definition of a work in progress. Some days I’m better at them than others.

In 2018, I’m giving myself a different kind of gift: permission to give up.

Not writing, or my day job, or anything important. But the time has come for me to put some conscious effort into quitting things that do not make me feel good.

Almost seven years ago, I quit smoking. Now, just because I list that here, don’t think for one minute I didn’t love smoking. I did. I just didn’t like the way smoking made me feel. So, I screwed up my determination and quit.

This year, I plan to give up some other things that don’t make me feel good. The first I plan to attack will be my social media habit.

No, I won’t be disappearing entirely, but I will be limiting the time I spend absorbing other people’s thoughts and opinions.

I will be around to post pictures and chat about life in general, but I’m going to start sticking to topics of polite conversation: the weather, health, and…books.

How about you? Do you plan to be a quitter in 2018? What baggage will you be ditching?

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Monday Mayhem – If this writing thing doesn’t work out

It’s my birthday week! Yay!

Okay, it doesn’t really mean much other than I get to use it as an excuse to eat stuff and say, “Hey, it’s my birthday week!” but I plan to use it.

In case you were looking for an update on our trip to New York City, Julie Evelyn Joyce covered it here. It’s pretty comprehensive and I really don’t have much to add, since she ganked most of my pictures for it. So much fun.

Fodder got me a special present for my birthday. Apparently, I’m hard to shop for when it comes to anything beyond and Amazon gift card (and I really don’t understand why he feels compelled to go beyond them, but anyhoo…), but he came across something on eBay and knew I had to have it.

He was right.

Meet my 1976 Smith Corona Super G, Ghia

She’s a super sporty portable manual brought to life by Karmann Ghia designers Alejandro do Tomaso and Tom Tjaarda. Not only is she in great working condition, but she is still sleek and beautiful. Even the carrying case is racy!

So, yeah, if this novelist bit doesn’t pan out, I can always fall back on writing poetry in parks, like we saw last weekend.

I just need to brush up on my poetry skills…and stop rhyming things with Nantucket…

Have a great week, everyone. Eat cake and blame it on me!

Oh! And I’m participating in a multi-author contest this week! Join me, Brinda Berry, Juno Rushdan, and Aliza Mann for a chance to win prizes from each author and be entered to win a $50 amazon gift card!

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – Procrastination at its best

This past week, I did the 7 days of black and white photos challenge on Facebook. The last picture I posted was of my desk. I realized that I keep a lot of crap on my desk. And by crap I mean very necessary stuff.

I thought it might be fun to give you a guided tour, so I converted the picture back to color and added a few guideposts. This is my writing view most every day:

Allow me to show you around:

A) Hand lotion. The rarified air of authordom is dry. Very, very dry.

B) Cup of rarely used writing utensils. Apparently, before the QWERTY keyboard became all the rage, people used things called pens and pencils. I keep some here for nostalgic purposes, but find I have mostly forgotten how to use them. For the record, I never run with those scissors. Heck, I never run at all, so no worries there. I love the mug, though. Fodder bought it for me. It says, “True Love and Romance – In this issue: Being A Bad Cook Is the Smartest Move A Girl Could Ever Make” True. So True.

C) Bunny stickers and index cards. Both very necessary to the the plotting process.

D) Sassy pants sticky notes. Because I wear sassy pants most every day. Used only for special occasions.

E) The sparkly rainbow alligator and flamingo paper clip guard the last of my pretty postage stamps. These are particularly valuable, because they are Forever Stamps, so their street value keeps increasing.

F) Fu*king reading glasses because I am old. But it you look behind the glasses, you see I have an ENTIRE PACK OF ROLOS. So, I may be old, but I am an old broad with Rolos.

G) Mechanical caterpillar. Because.

H) All electronics are propped to ergonomically correct heights courtesy of World Book Encyclopedia (M, (j)K, and 1968 here).

I) More sticky notes. And flags. Because I lurrrrve them.

J) Library card. Kept on hand for at-home book emergencies. I also keep one on my keychain.

K) 28″ television used as monitor because I am old (see F). Also allows me to switch from author to chair potato at the press of a button.

L) Stack of boxed note cards used for book mailings. Includes Jane Austen quote cards, classic Harlequin cover postcards, cute typewriter cards, and an assortment of foil embossed cards with things like, “First of all, you’re really pretty” and “You’re so cool, and I’m not even mad about it.”

M) Dongle. *giggles*

N) Macbook: the brains of the operation. Also supported by World Book Encyclopedias spelling W(xyz), (q)R, I, T, E.

O) I am told the out of doors lies beyond these dusty blinds. I’m going there shortly. Wish me luck.

And there you have it. Welcome to my world.

How have things been in your world this week?

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Monday Mayhem – Old Dogs and Happy Goats

This weekend was the annual Diamond State Romance Authors writing retreat! We rented a lovely house on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs. Here was my writing view from the deck:

This time, I didn’t have a deadline pressing on me, but I had a couple things I wanted to work on. Like many of my writer friends, I’ve found myself struggling with the words over the summer, so I was also looking for some new tricks to jumpstart the old motivation.

Most writers will classify themselves in one of two ways: plotter or pantser. Plotter is pretty self-exlanitory. Those writers plot each bit of a book before they even begin. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants.

I started out as — and still naturally identify as — a pantser. But my career has moved at such a pace that I find I am selling books to publishers based on a synopsis of what I think future book will be. If I leave it up to my pantsing tendencies, I tend to veer off course from that synopsis, so I’ve evolved into sort of a plotser.

Adding dictation to my bag of tricks has also changed my writing style. I found I needed to have a pretty good sense of what I was trying to accomplish in that scene before I could speak it. Which meant, I had to do some *gasp* plotting.

This weekend, I took my first steps toward becoming a full-fledged plotter. The fabulous Brinda Berry showed me an awesome template she’d started using. I bought the book (FOOL PROOF OUTLINE) and downloaded that template.

In one afternoon, I’d done over 3,000 words of story outline, character worksheets, and scene plotting for a new project. Here’s hoping this new trick will work for this old dog.

In other news, Kelli Reep and I saw a goat riding in the back of a truck on the way home.

 

Welcome to Arkansas.

How about you? Did you learn any new tricks this week?

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Monday Mayhem – The High Life

Happy Labo(u)r Day, you working stiffs (I added the U for the Canadians)! I have spent most of my long weekend not laboring, and I have to tell you, I’m pretty good at it.

Fodder and I ran away to Hot Springs for a night. This is the closest you will ever see me come to touching an actual bird. As always, the can Miller High Life is a homage to my grandmother, for whom I am named.

I’ve been thinking about my grandma a lot this weekend. She’s been gone since I was in college, but occasionally, flashes of memory pop up. This weekend, I found myself thinking about her hands.

My grandparents were already in their seventies when I was born, so in my mind, Grandma’s hands were already a map of blue veins under paper-thin skin. Her knuckles were swollen with arthritis, and she always wore a dark blue star sapphire ring that spun on her pinkie finger.

When you walked into their living room, there was a good chance you’d find Lawrence Welk on the TV, a can of Miller High Life (the champagne of beers) on the side table, and an embroidery hoop on her lap.

This was Margaret Carbery, in her natural habitat.

My grandmother had both cataracts and glaucoma. The bit in Sixteen Candles where Molly Ringwald’s character complains about being felt up by her grandmother?

Yeah…All the time. Our conversations usually started like this:

“Margaret Mary? Is that you?” *grope-grope-grope* “Well, it’s not Jimmy, Grandma.”

By the end of her life, she had little vision left, but more often then not, you would still find her sitting in her chair under the light with the tiffany-esque shade, embroidering pillowcases. She gave them to people as gifts. In our house, they weren’t kept as heirlooms. We used them every day. I don’t think I rested my head on a pillow that wasn’t enrobed in a case hand-stiched by my grandmother until I was in my twenties. I have a couple of sets stashed away:

 

I don’t have many pictures of my grandmother. Even fewer have been scanned into the computer, but she is still fresh in my mind. If you need a visual, here’s a photo of her (the lady in white with the big old star sapphire on her pinkie) dancing a hula with Don Ho at the Polynesian Palace:

That’s what we Margarets do. We live the high life.

Rest well today, my friends, for tomorrow we are back to laboring!

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Monday Mayhem – Mayhem

I can’t ramble about writing romance novels. It’s hard to think about happily ever afters when it seems everything I believe in is being challenged.

I’ll try again next week.

In the meantime, think peaceful thoughts and turn your face to the sunlight.

 

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Monday Mayhem: Uhhhh

So, yeah. In the last two weeks I’ve completed revisions on one manuscript, approved and completed copyedits on two others, added 15k to my WIP via dictation, and there’s a galley to proof in my inbox.

Yes, it’s safe to say I’ve hit the Kahn level of tired.

So I’m taking the rest of July off. Yep, a whole day.

In the meantime, I have this to keep you entertained:

Lyrical Press is so excited about my upcoming Play Dates series, they are doing a special pre-release giveaway on Goodreads. You can enter to win here: http://bit.ly/2tPeJpg

Oh! And don’t forget to join my Facebook reader group, The Margaritas, if you haven’t already. I haven’t be slaving away on a whole bunch of nothing, you know. There’s going to be some good stuff coming up!

 

 

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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.

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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?

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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.

 

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