Monday Mayhem – Are you an innie or an outie?

girl reading

Are you an innie or an outie?

I don’t mind telling you, I am an innie. Total introvert. An INTJ, to be exact. So, this weekend was challenging for me. 

I had two holiday parties to attend on Saturday. If you know me well, you know I am not an overly social person. Oh, I can turn it on and have a good time, but I have to be revved up for it.

It’s not that I don’t want to do these things. I always have a wonderful time once I’m there. It’s the ramping up and coming down that takes it out of me. If I had my way, this is how I’d celebrate the season:

girl reading

However, like the Architect I am, I have a plan for how to tackle the season’s greetings. I plan my naps. Block out chunks of time spent in yoga pants. Map tub time into my days. Then, I sprinkle it all with a liberal dose of seasoned salt.

Chex Mix

How about you? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Have you been partying the month away?

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Monday Mayhem – The Best Laid Plans

Plans

I’ve got ’em! I love ’em. Plans, goals, aspirations, hopes and dreams…Over the years I have purchased an assortment of lovely paper planners to write them in, too.

And so sad that I never use them.

It’s that time of year again…

December means my social media feeds are full of photos my planner friends have taken of their new toys. And they are beautiful. Spiral, ring, or perfect bound. Covers made of leather or emblazoned with inspirational messages. Washi tape. Stickers…

My covetous little heart hammers each time I see one. I run to the planner website and gaze at the photo insets of interior pages, drooling over:

  • Bullet Journals
  • Goal setting
  • Daily routines
  • To Do lists
  • Morning and evening reflections

See what I did there with the bullets and all? *le sigh*

But I don’t click. Why?

Because when it comes to paper planners, I am Meat Loaf.

I want them.

I need them.

But there ain’t no way I’m ever going to use them.

 

Still, I can admire them from afar.

Are you a planner person? I have a friend who will only use Erin Condren planners. Another was showing off her 2019 #PowerSheets, which, I admit, tempted me greatly. Last year, I bought not one, but two of the Blue Sky planners a co-worker swore by. In different sizes, you know – one for desk, one for bag. I never made it past January.

I’m not anti-scheduling. I use electronic calendars faithfully. Lord knows, I love a good deadline. It’s just the thought of messing up my beautiful planner with mistakes stops me in my tracks. And yes, I have erasable friction pens in every color.

Perfectionism is a disease, my friends.

How about you? Do you keep a planner or journal?

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Monday Mayhem – Nifty

I turned fifty last week.

I know, right? How did that happen?

It’s true. The big 5-OH! A full half century. I’m now officially eligible for AARP, not just some hanger-on who piggybacks on her husband’s DOB for 10 % off.

Sometimes, I wonder where the time went, but mostly, I think fifty is going to be nifty. I can feel it.

My forties were a big time of transition for me – personally, professionally, and creatively.

Looking back, I can’t say I didn’t accomplish anything. Ten years ago, I had not yet written my first book. Now, I have 40 novels and novellas under my belt and #41 halfway there.

At forty, I spent my days trying to climb a corporate ladder that was made out of rope and dental floss. I still thought money and accolades were important. I’m so glad I grew out of all that nonsense.

In my fifties, I plan to stand in my truth:

badass

I have a better handle on who I am and what’s important to me. I also have a more limited quantity of fu@ks left to give about everything else.  Other than the pocket issue, I can admit that I prefer elastic-waist leggings better than jeans these days. There are fleeting moments when I fret over the wrinkles that seem to be popping up all over, but then I laugh and remember where I got them. I look at old pictures of me and my friends and marvel at how young and fresh we were. I look at more recent pictures of me with those same friends and realize how incredibly blessed I have been.

So, yeah. Overall, I’m finding these middle years liberating.

I think fifty is going to be nifty.

Speaking of people in their fifties…

I was cruising the ‘Zon the other day and noticed that all of my Worth the Wait Romances are on sale for $1.99. If you like smoking hot stories about people in their *gasp* fifties, doing thing sure to make their grown children blush, snatch ’em up! https://amzn.to/2qOkAXY

  

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Monday Mayhem – A Veteran’s Day short story

Veteran’s Day

Today, many offices are closed in observance of Veteran’s Day, so I thought I’d provide those lucky folks who get the day off a little reading material. Here’s a short story called SNAPSHOT that was published in the first episode of Fictionvale magazine.

Snapshot

I never told anyone I was the girl in the picture. There wasn’t any point. The kiss didn’t mean anything at all. He was just a fella cast adrift in the big city at a time when everyone wanted to hold their loved ones close. I was just the girl who was close at hand.

And I happened to be married at the time.

At least, I believed I was.

Sixteen months had passed since Joe ejected from his plane somewhere over France, and I had no idea if I’d ever get to kiss the man I loved again. The end of the war meant there was still a chance he’d come home to me. I hadn’t given up hope, but I had given up kissing for the duration.

Until that day.

I never forgot that stranger’s kiss. How could I? It was near perfection. The only thing that could have made it better was if the guy had turned out to be Joe. Either way, the man had some chops. I can still feel the scrape of five o’clock shadow against my chin and cheek and taste the whiskey on his lips. But it wasn’t sexual or even romantic. That brief, hard press of his mouth to mine was nothing more than a punctuation mark on a war that had seemed like it might turn into a life sentence. A potent cocktail of relief, jubilation, and frustration served up by a pair of warm, soft lips.

It was just what I needed to remind me that I was still alive.

That brave, crazy, possibly drunk man gave me a taste of light in the days when the darkness felt so thick and heavy I thought it might smother me. I was grateful for it at the time. I didn’t know that kiss had the power to change my life forever if I let it.

To be truthful, I didn’t appreciate the notoriety. Unlike these kids today with their computer videos and their need to expose themselves and their dirty laundry on television shows, I had no desire to have fifteen minutes of fame. I only wanted my husband back. The photograph caused a hubbub when it was first published, but most of us didn’t give it another thought. We had bigger worries. I saw it and knew right away it was me, but I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. I remember one of my fellow nurses going on and on about how romantic it was, and how she wanted to be kissed like that. I also remember feeling a little smug that I could say I’d been kissed like that, but I didn’t say it out loud. It seemed silly to gloat over a kiss. And there were more important things to do than moon over a foolish picture.

It wasn’t until years later that people started calling it “iconic.” I’ve always thought it was embarrassing. After all, I was a married woman, and there I was kissing some strange man in the middle of the street. As good as that smooch was, my mother would have said it was unseemly, and she’d have been right. I’d only kissed one other man before that day, and God willing, I’d kiss the same one again.

Like most people at that time, I lived in fear of the Western Union delivery boy. Thank goodness my neighbor, Jackie, was nearby the day the telegram telling me Joe was missing arrived. I’ll never forget her hugging me tight and telling me the only thing missingand killedhad in common was a single I. I clung to that shoestring of hope long after the Western Union boy pedaled away.

Later, I told Joe that semantics kept me sane. Semantics and pure, blind pigheadedness. I was not about to accept anything less than the life I’d planned to have, and I’d vowed to spend my life with him. Until someone told me that wasn’t possible, I was sticking by my word. Joe used to tease me about my stubborn streak, but I liked to tell him it was my stubborn streak that brought him home.

And it did.

Sort of.

I sent a six-foot-two-inch Colgate football player off to war, but the man who returned to me was barely more than a shadow turned sideways. I told myself it didn’t matter. Joe was home. He was safe. He’d gain the weight back. The toes he’d lost to frostbite were a small price to pay. He would heal. Eventually. But being on American soil wasn’t anything like coming home.

The world had changed. I was very different from the naive young bride he’d left shivering on the railway platform. I’d swapped apartments with another nurse because her husband came home and she needed more room, while I, on the other hand, had far too much space for my own good. I’d lost weight while he was gone, though it wasn’t nearly as extreme as Joe’s loss of bulk. Still, by the time he made it home, the letterman’s sweater he’d left behind had patches where my elbows wore holes through the wool. But those things were easy to fix. The hard part was healing the wounds no amount of home cooking could soothe. Joe had seen and done things that left scars that ran far deeper than the marks on his skin, and I hadn’t the faintest idea how to piece our lives back together.

I fed him and coddled him, using every bit of my famous stubbornness to hold on tight until he began to rebound in both body and mind. Like many women of my generation, I set aside my own ambitions and willingly handed the reins of our life back over to him. Day in and day out, I plumped his battered ego and massaged away his fears and worries. And I can honestly tell you I never gave that picture or the man in it a second thought.

Little by little, bit by bit, my Joe came back to me, complete with the slow, shy smile that made my heart turn somersaults. There’s no way to describe the pride and joy I felt when I watched him emerge from the shadow of death and stride right back into life like the conquering hero he was. There was also no way I’d risk shattering his fragile confidence. Not when we’d both worked so hard to rebuild it.

How could I tell my proud, quiet man that the woman he loved had made a fool of him on a national stage?

We were at a cocktail party the first time someone said I looked like the woman in the magazine. I remember feeling blindsided. My life was so different from the way things had been that day in Times Square it was hard for me to put two and two together. I remember I wore my hair up for the party even though Joe liked it down. I was nervous and anxious about making a good impression on his colleagues. My dress happened to be white. The man who’d made the observation let his eyes linger a too long on my hemline. I felt my husband stiffen beside me.

I laughed it off, telling the small knot of Joe’s curious coworkers that the guy I liked to kiss was a soldier and not a sailor. To my relief, Joe laughed too. Pride and admiration shone bright in his dark eyes as he slipped his arm around my waist and gave me a gentle squeeze.

He could never know. I’d make sure of it.

If you haven’t figured me out yet, I’ll clue you in on a secret—I’m a woman who always gets what she wants. I never said a word about the picture. In all honesty, I rarely ever thought about it. I didn’t have time. A year after his return, I was pregnant with our first child and feeling miserable twenty-three hours out of the day. Joe had landed a job with a life insurance company and was working his way up the ladder. We’d moved out to the suburbs.

Despite the rocky start, we had a very good life. Our three boys ran wild on a street where it was safe for them to ride their bicycles and play catch. I’m happy to say they grew into men as honorable and true as their father, even if my youngest did turn out to be a bit of a hippie. Joe mowed the lawn on Saturday mornings and took the trash to the curb on Tuesday evenings. I finally learned to cook something other than pot roast, and I volunteered two days a week at the Veterans’ Administration hospital. It was a perfectly ordinary, terribly predictable existence, which was just fine by us.

Every few years, some yahoos with a little grant money and too much time on their hands start waving that silly picture around and spouting cockamamy theories as to the identities of the kisser and the kissee. They make the talk show circuit, and a  passel of old guys and gals crawl out of the woodwork claiming they might be the ones the photographer captured in that clinch. I have no idea if one of the fellas might actually be the one who kissed me. I never wasted much time thinking about it. In truth, I couldn’t care less.

Joe and I shared thirty-seven more years before cancer took him from me far too soon. Day after day, I held his hand in mine as that horrid disease waged war on his body, but each time he opened his eyes, he somehow found the strength to give me a smile.

The night he died, I sat in that darkened hospital room with his gnarled fingers snug between mine. The whir and beep of machines measured our last moments together. His breaths grew impossibly shallow while my heart beat strong and relentless. His foot moved beneath the thin sheet. He turned his head and spoke his last request of me, tender and sweet.

“Kiss me.”

So I did. Desperate to mingle his last breaths with mine, I kissed the man I loved. Fat, hot tears streaked down my cheeks. They wet our lips and blessed his departure. The second I drew back, he slipped away from me, taking my heart with him.

That was the kiss that told the story of how the war was won. A simple brush of his lips against mine. A caress packed with the kind of innate goodness that can be never be thwarted by power-hungry madmen or even cancer.

If you ask me, that was the kiss that counted.

I just wish there’d been a photographer around to capture it.

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Monday Mayhem – To Blog or Not to Blog

To blog, or not to blog, that is the question…

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer. Or to continue spewing random words onto the interwebz every Monday, braving the slings and arrows of SEO optimized posts…

I go through this debate every fall as I start goal setting for the next year. The fact is, there are about 4-6 of you who comment on these post regularly, and 20-30 who actually click the link to read. Occasionally, I have a Monday where I hit 50+ views, but those are rare.

And the numbers haven’t been growing. Actually, they are slipping. So I have to wonder…

Is there a better use of my time(and yours)?

And the answer is, probably not. In truth, this blog is the only way I have of communicating with a wide, unrestricted audience.  We all know that social media site throttle posts so they don’t reach a broader audience – even those who have opted in. Since I’ve removed Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram from my phone, I find myself looking at them less and less. I also think this is a growing trend, so ditching my blog for social media doesn’t makes sense.

Newsletter mailings rely on opting in, which is great, because we can assume that the audience wishes to receive them. The problem is, we all suffer inbox overload. I myself can be rather capricious when it comes to  randomly unsubscribing depending on how my day is going. And if someone sent me newsletters weekly, they would be a goner. Which means the blog is the best way to stay out in front of potential audience.

So here I am. I’m optimized baby. My readability scores are high. I use eye-catching images like this one to pique the interest:

But if the audience isn’t clicking the link, does potential reach matter?

These are the questions that plague me every week when I sit down to write my post. But in writing this post, I’ve managed to answer the big question for myself. So, let me ask you, lucky person who clicked because of the cute but slightly confused hamster, the more important question:

What kind of posts do you want to see going forward?

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – Back to Reality

Summer fun vintage car

Back to life, back to reality

As of last week, I am back to reality-working full time.

Some writers would shudder as they read this sentence, but I am more than a little relieved. Turns out, I’m one of those people who needs stability and structure in her life in order to be creative.

It seems counterintuitive, I’m sure. Most writers dream of being unfettered. I know I did. But having unlimited time to write does not mean you’ll have unlimited creativity to back it up.

The truth about writers

Being a writer is not at ALL like you see on TV. Sorry to bust that myth, but that’s the truth of it.

Authors do not sell a book and become automatically rich. Some never make much money at all.

The reality is, few authors can survive solely on the income from advances and royalties. Most have other streams of income-teaching, content creation, graphic art creation, or another side hustles.

We also don’t hear about the people who may be underpinning this marker of perceived career success. Behind many a good author is a partner with a steady income and employer-based health insurance. But their names are not on the cover so…

The misconception that being able to ditch the 9 to 5 grind is a sign of authorial success endures.

This wasn’t my situation. My unemployment was never meant to be long-term. I didn’t toss a match as I walked away from the corporate world and expect to become the next Nora Roberts. I was downsized, and because I carried our employer-based health insurance, I needed another job as soon as possible.

Still, I thought I might be able to take better advantage of the situation. I was wrong. These months of uncertainty have been hard. I’ve written 40 books whilst employed full-time. I wrote exactly 3 chapters while unemployed.

Lessons learned:

  • I need structure and time constraints. I work well under pressure. Left to my own devices, I spend too much time communing with Netflix.
  • It’s difficult to write happy ever afters when worried about bills and health insurance.
  • I can make enough money to pay the bills, but not to pay my bills and maintain our coverage long-term. Having two self-employed persons in the household can get pretty spendy. Welcome to America 2018, where too much entrepreneurship is highly discouraged.

Summer fun vintage car

I don’t regret my summer of fun.

I relaxed as much as I could. Sally and I suntanned and napped.

Fodder got used to having lunch, because I am accustomed to eating on schedule.

But the reality is, I was ready to get back to work. Happy for life to settle into a pattern again. I like a good rut.

Soon, I’ll be ramping up for my 10th NaNoWriMo, and psyching myself up for crunch time.

How about you? Are you a creature of habit, or a go with the flow kind of person?

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Monday Mayhem – Slowing My Scroll

We have rolled into September. How did that happen? With the change of the calendar page, I decided to make a change of my own. I am slowing my scroll.

What does that mean? It means I have removed all my social media apps from my phone.

Gasp!

social media icons

Like many people, I’ve been thinking about breaking the social media habit for a while now. Facebook is great for keeping up with family and old friends, but the recent political climate has tainted the fun as far as I am concerned.

And Twitter… Oh, I have such a love/hate relationship with Twitter. I used to love it. There are some things I love still.

Every Sunday night, a bunch of romance writers have a weekly chat on a variety of topics. It’s been an excellent place to get to know other authors, and for us to share a little of the angst that comes with being a writer. And trust me, there’s a lot of angst.

But along with all that good stuff comes a sort of gang mentality. Twitter is very us against them. And the pile-on… It can get ugly.

True, social media has given each of us a platform. We can share our every thought, opinion, or memorable meal. But should we?

I agree, some of it is good and fun. However, I find much of it draining.  For that reason, I’ve been finding ways to limit my time using it.

Ironically, I learned about Scroll Free September from an article my niece shared. Still, I X’ing out of all those apps.

I’m mostly over my fear of missing out. Probably because I’m pretty sure I won’t be missing much that would do me any good. At least, nothing I need to know about while standing in line at Walgreen’s.

I can always take a look when I’m on the computer.

It’s a holiday!

So, happy Labor Day, my friends.

I hope this day of rest is the perfect reward for all of your hard work.

Put your phone down.

Go out and play.

If you need me, you can reach me the old fashioned way…maggiewells1@gmail.com

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Monday Mayhem – Dumpster diving beats dumpster fires

Dumpster Diving

The news has been nothing but a dumpster fire all week, so Fodder and I decided to go dumpster diving.

Now, I am not a flea market or yard sale type person. Fodder is. The man lives for the hunt. I like to tell Fodder that I don’t want most of the junk that’s cluttering my house already, so why would I go buy someone else’s cast offs?

Yeah…He doesn’t follow the logic. Not when there’s treasure to be had.

One person’s trash is another woman’s treasure

He took me to the donation center of a large national charity under the pretense of offloading some of the stuff he no longer wanted cluttering up the barn. While he made the drop, it was suggested that I wait inside because the pickup has no A/C, and it’s August in Arkansas.

Mm hmm.

I have to tell you, I found it to be a very sad place. This is where memories go to die. They are tossed into a large plastic gondolas on wheels and rolled out into a huge warehouse space, where they are pawed through by strangers. I didn’t like it.

Fodder tried to cheer me up by telling me that these things were getting new life and a new home, but still. I couldn’t wait to leave. There’s were too many items in there that reminded me of thing my parents had around the house when I was growing up.

Then, I turned the corner and spotted this little lady in need of a loving home:

Underwood Typewriter

Her keys seemed to be in working order, her carriage proud. She’s lacking a ribbon, but I’m not above providing such fripperies. I checked the sign above the bin. All items weighing more than 5 pounds cost only $4.

Sold!

Fodder spent the evening polishing her up, and look how she shines.

Cleaned up

Maybe all we need to take us from a sad place to a happy one is someone to notice us. A second chance. Some love, affection, and a touch of Old Gold polish.

Now my Underwood (Claire or Carrie? Her true ambitions are yet to be revealed.) is parked next to my super sleek Karmann Ghia.

typewriters

Looks like this is the start of a colorful collection.

How about you? Do you collect anything? Did you start the collection yourself, or was it something that just happened?

 

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Monday Mayhem – Mumble mumble

I don’t have much to say this week, so I’m just gonna mumble.

A RING FOR ROSIE came out last week. Thanks to all who bought it, tweeted or shared posts, and generally helped shout (not mumble) it to the world. I’m not good at tooting my own horn, and I am eternally grateful to have you as my horn section.

Finger puppet couple

I’m over the pinkeye and mostly over the technicolor bruising from my slip and fall down the steps. Frankly, I’m over feeling puny in general. I’m hoping that this week I can return to what passed for normal prior to my trip to Denver.

I did watch the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society movie on Netflix and enjoyed it very much. No, it’s not as detailed as the book, but I think they did a nice  job with it. A couple of the scenes had me grinning at the screen like the hopeful romantic I am.

Revisions on SUPERSTAR are coming along slowly. I added a bunch of additions to my plate, then in doing so, realized it was overkill. Now I am free-writing those parts and will pare them down to round out the story.

DOUBLE PLAY is set for release on October 25, 2018 and it looks like we are a go for simultaneous digital and audio release. Yay! I’m working on making a mass market sized print-on-demand version available for anyone who wants to special order it, but I have to tell you, being my own publisher is proving to have a steep learning curve.

And so, here I am, mumbling through. How are things going with you?

 

 

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