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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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.

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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?

 

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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?

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Monday Mayhem – Typecasting

Do you have a type?

I’m working on Easy Bake Lovin’ (Play Dates #2), and one of the plot points is that the heroine is about as opposite the hero’s usual type. Their attraction stirs some not-so-subtle commentary, which, in turn, leads to hurt feelings and confusion.

“Type” seems a shallow plot point on first glance, but when you think about it, most of us DO have some characteristics we gravitate toward. Types can be based on appearance, common interests and passions, and our attraction can be conscious, or sub-conscious.

Weird example: Most of my celebrity crushes were born within a year or so of the man I eventually married.

1960 was a magical year.

Obviously, this was not an intentional thing. I didn’t go looking for a man who was born within months of Colin Firth or John Taylor from Duran Duran. It just happened that way.

And upon noticing that, I realized that they all share similar physical attributes – each just a shade over six feet tall, dark not-quite wavy hair, dark eyes, squarish jaw. Check this out:

Colin plays it a little bit stuffy

John’s still rock ‘n roll

 

My combo deal

Fodder scoffs at this, of course, but that’s okay. It works for me, and that’s all that matters. And when I really want to bug him, I tell him I’m going to frame this:

How about you? Do you have a type?

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – Birthing a book

Two weeks ago, A BOLT FROM THE BLUE released into the wild. This was a super quick labor – only about thirteen months from conception to birth. Since I am traditionally published (meaning I sell my work to a publishing house, and their team then takes over the editorial timeline and production), this can be a relatively long process.

It’s always fun to see non-writers reactions when I talk a little about the behind the scenes. It’s shocking to discover how many people think you just write a book and put it out there. With the advent of self-publishing, that is certainly possible, but if you’ve read one book that has been released without benefit of an external editor you’ll most likely agree that it isn’t preferable.

With BOLT, I was dealing with a publisher and editing team I have worked with on 5 previous publications, so it was easy for us to press the accelerator.

Here’s pretty much how the timeline played out:

I sent a synopsis to my editor on March 6, 2016, and she submitted it to the team at Lyrical Press.

On April 26, 2016, my editor said, “Yes!” Contract talks began, and I hunkered down at my keyboard to magically transform the synopsis to an actual 60k+ word manuscript.

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

May 9th – I was informed that expected delivery date on BOLT was July 1, 2017 for an April 2017 release.

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

May 23rd – sent the first chapter to the fabulous Julie Evelyn Joyce for critiquing.

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

Also on May 23rd – Publisher requests completion of Cover Art and Publication Information forms. Because I have sold the rights to this book, these forms are my last and only chance to give input on the look of the book and the message conveyed in the cover copy. Most people are surprised to find out I do not have the final say in any of that kind of stuff.

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

On June 13, I received the official contract and signed it. Wooot!

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

Sent the full manuscript for to Julie Evelyn Joyce for wizardry June 15th – she sent it back June 26.

Spent days eradicating excess instances of ‘just’, ‘that’, ‘it,’ and other favorite words from what was a 67k word manuscript.

Delete, delete, delete, delete….

July 1, 2016 – Sent 66k word manuscript to marvelous Marci, my editor at Lyrical Press.

July 5, 2016 A WILL AND A WAY releases – promo ensues.

Received the first round of edits August 7, 2016. She requested an added scene toward the end of the story.

Typing, typing, typing, typing….Send to Julie…Back from Julie…delete, delete, delete, delete….send back to Marci August 14th.

Second round of edits arrived on the 16th. Back to her the 18th.

Another round of edits from the line editor on September 2, 2016. I returned them on the 4th with some notes and questions. Marci shot them right back, and I went at it again.

Manuscript sent to my esteemed editor again on September 7th. She repaid me by sending the whole enchilada back in galley form (proofing for minor corrections only) on the 8th. I passed the hot potato on the 9th, and we put the book to bed.

Then, I ran away to the beach.

September 15th, the cover art fairy visited with this:

I squealed, then got down to writing the first book in the Play Dates series.

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

NaNoWriMo starts – more typing, typing, typing, typing….

November 22, 2016 – LOVE & ROCKETS releases. Promo madness ensues.

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

December 1, 2016 – Final formatted digital copies of BOLT landed in my inbox. I cooed over them, checked for any hiccups in the front/back matter. And then, the wait for April 4, 2017 began.

In the weeks around release, authors step out of their caves long enough to do some social media schmoozing and guest blogging (Read & Watch 2017, Just Contemporary Romance, and later this week, Fiction University).

The publishing industry is about as unlike what you see on TV. There’s no publicist, or even publicity budget. We arrange and pay for most of our advertising ourselves. We are not making big money. In fact, most of us make less than a dollar on each book sold.

That’s why we annoy our Facebook friends with incessant reminders that, yes, the book is available now, and yes, we desperately need reviews. That’s the biggest thing readers don’t really know.

We NEED reviews.

Not for ego-gratification, or self-flagellation, but because they allow us to leverage better marketing for our books. Seriously. There are many, many places where we cannot BUY advertising with our own cash money unless we have a certain number of reviews on Amazon or GoodReads. Most of my books do not have even the minimum, so I am BEGGING you. Please consider leaving a review in a public forum.

They don’t have to be essays or even a paragraph. I am not asking you to sing my praises. I just need an honest review on the book itself that says, “I liked/didn’t like this, because XXX”

And that’s one book’s journey to publication in an extremely long and picture-laden nutshell. I think I’ll go have a nap now…

Kidding! Kidding!

I can’t nap…I have 5 more books coming at you in the next year.

Brace yourselves!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – I’ve been up, down, all around…

I’ve been feeling completely unmotivated lately.

For most of this year, actually.

At first, I didn’t worry about it too much. I’d finished another NaNoWriMo in November. December had been its usual whirlwind, but with the special added bonus of a software conversion and move at the day job. Then January came, and I ran out of patience with the life I’d been living. Cue another big life change…

Is it possible I used up whatever motivation I had focusing on getting out of one day job and into the new one? Because, I don’t seem to have anything left for the writing. I’m even writing this blog post late because I am so daunted by the thought of facing this damn blinking cursor that I will do endless loads of laundry to avoid it.

It’s a phase, I know.

At least, that’s what I tell myself.

I can’t leave all those plot bunnies lingering in their hutch indefinitely. Something’s going to start to stink in there.

Every author knows the ebb and flow. Some stories pour out like water. Most are prized out with pliers. Genre fiction writers have been on a roller coaster ride for the last half-decade. As the authors who drive most of the revenue in the industry, we’ve been expected to produce more, faster, better, and cheaper than ever before. And we’ve answered the call…but at what expense?

My first book was published in 2011. Next week, my 33rd (A BOLT FROM THE BLUE) will hit the digital bookshelves. Crazy, huh? I’ve written and sold 33 novels and novellas in 6 years. Numbers 34-37 are already written and awaiting editorial. I’m scheduled for release through number 38 in the fall of 2018.

I should be riding high, right? I ought to be psyched. But mostly, I just feel tired. Like Madeline Kahn in Blazing Saddles tired.

This weekend, Fodder and I hit the flea markets and excavated some awesome old albums. I came home with this fabulous Barry Manilow double album. And while Sally may not appreciate my rendition of Weekend in New England, I totally understood where Barry was coming from when he sang about Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again.

There are times when I worry that I’ve fallen out of love with writing. Moments when I wonder if I could just walk away from it—leave all those bunnies in the hutch to battle it out until all that’s left is one single killer rabbit of a story with nasty, pointed teeth living in a deep, dark cave.

But I won’t. I can’t. So, I’m still meditating every night. I started doing yoga again. Mainlined Grace & Frankie season 3. And, hey, look—I just wrote a 500 word blog post whining about not wanting to write.

I just…need to find a way to get my storytelling groove back. I’m hoping the Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass album I scored for $2 will help.

 

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Monday Mayhem – March Madness

No, I’m not talking basketball, though, I can, I will and I do. I’m talking about the week we just had around here.

Did I tell you we had tickets to so The Phantom of the Opera this week?

I’ve seen it 5 or 6 times in Chicago and St. Louis, but this is the first time it made it to Little Rock. I made Fodder order the tickets the day they went on sale in November. We chose the Thursday, March 16th show because there were some primo orchestra center seats that would have put us near the chandelier. Since it was the man’s first time to see it live, I really wanted to see his face when the Overture started.

The best laid plans of grandparents…

Our daughter was pregnant with her 2nd, and due March 19th, so for five months, I’ve been telling her to keep her knees locked together on March 16th.

Of course, the phone rang at 5am Thursday morning. Needless to say, we missed the show,  but look what we got!

Yeah, a pretty good trade, I’d say. We also got to spend a few days with my little Stinker while mommy and daddy got that whole baby brother thing sorted out. Fun and fruit snacks were had by all!

And never fear…we’ll have another shot at Phantom when it swings back around to Memphis later this year. In the meantime, I need to get back on track. And I will. Right after I finish kissing all the sugar off this baby.  🙂

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Monday Mayhem – Whoops!

Whoa! Life got me.

Yesterday, we hosted a party for our grandson’s 4th birthday, and we were so worn out at the end of it I completely forgot to post!

I hope this bit-o-cuteness makes up for my inattentive behavior. I’ll be better next week!

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