Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Clean Houses vs Finished Books

This is totally why I don't have any published novels to my name:

(Joy Held)

Because you know, my house is So. Clean.

Okay, even the tortoises are laughing at that. 

Seriously, though, it's all about priorities. In the past, I got off course, got distracted. I fell for some of society's expectations. I let people and what they thought into my head. I tried to please even as I tried to be myself. My dreams and hopes suffered. My writing suffered. My spirit suffered.

Well, enough is enough. The majority of my energy and focus now goes to health/losing weight and to writing. My husband, my partner in all things, gets that. We're in this thing called life together. 

So, if the dust bunnies form an army, my husband will conquer them with the vacuum. If the laundry pile turns mountain, I'll scale it then throw in a wash. If neither of us feels like cooking, we'll hunt for hearty, healthy takeout salads. 

Now, if only we could get the tortoises to pull their weight around here . . . 


How about you? Are you struggling with priorities right now? Are you balanced, focused, on track for the most part? What's working for you? How dirty does your house have to get before you surrender and get to cleaning?     

Monday, September 19, 2016

Get on Track! Writing Books and Links to Guide, Inspire and Motivate

This past summer, I came across some wonderful posts (and books!) about writing that really hit home for me. I'm sharing them here in the hopes we can all stay on a good track - or get on one! - for the rest of the year and into the next. May you come away from reading them with the same inspiration, motivation and guidance that I did! 


If you've lost your writing mojo, check out Anna Elliot's post over at Writer Unboxed - When the Spark is Gone: 4 Ways to Bring Back the Joy of Writing

"But we all have experienced those hard days: times when we feel like we’ve lost the spark of delight in what we’re working on. It might be a scene, a chapter, or an entire book that suddenly feels flat or empty or just lifeless on the page."


If you're trying to figure out where you'd like your writing career to go, these two posts from Pretentious Title can help:

Author Career Planning: "I'd like to talk about career planning. In my opinion, the trad vs self publishing choice is just a microcosm of figuring out a real career path for yourself."

Know Thy (Publishing) Self: "Because the truth is that both trad and self publishing have horrible pitfalls and incredible heights. Neither of them is easy and nothing is guaranteed. So how do you know which is right for you?" 


I can't say enough good things about Lisa Cron's book Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence. I'm now reading her new one, Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages that Go Nowhere.) Oh. Yes. Please.  


And now . . . some inspiration! Bear with me, I'm going all Fan Girl (wait, am I too old for that? Or should it be Fan Woman?) I am a huge fan of Mindy McGinnis - the 2016 Young Adult Edgar Award Winner! - whose new book, The Female of the Species, is out September 20th.

Guess how long it took this book's journey form beginning to bookstore? 15 years! In A Picture of a Thousand Torments, Or: A Literal Pile of Rejection Letters, Mindy says, "I'm sharing all of this with you not as yet another example of "never give up," but rather, "never stop improving." If I had continued to query for fifteen years but never bothered to improve my craft, I guarantee I would still be receiving rejections." Read her post. Please.


(I didn't receive any compensation for mentioning these links or books. I just liked them and wanted to share.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

There's No Place Like Home

I sometimes feel like there's something wrong with me that I don't want to see more of the world, especially since at first glance, it looks like I can throw some things in a bag and just go. Ah, but appearances can be deceiving! The world has changed, and so have I. Airline travel is so much harder for me now - I might as well buy another seat just for my anxiety. And when the trip is over, when I'm back home, I'm usually so incredibly drained it takes me awhile to bounce back.

Oh, I still do it. I make myself do it. I've done it for not-so-happy reasons, like helping out when someone was sick. I've done it for happier occasions, like an anniversary party and just-because. I have flown once a year - at least! - for close to two decades. And I'll continue to fly up North or on vacation . . . but to a lesser degree.

Here's why: I only have so much energy - mental, emotional, physical. I'm at the point in my life where I need to direct that energy to different things, to other hard things like losing weight and writing.

I'm totally open to a road trip. A long weekend away sounds good. I do enjoy seeing new things or seeing old things in a new way. But here's the thing: I like where I live, and I love my home. I will no longer apologize for that.

This quote by George R. R. Martin sums it all up for me:


Do you enjoy traveling or are you more of a homebody? Do you have a fear of flying? Is anyone in your life critical of that? Do you feel like you're not "really living" if you don't see the world? 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

IWSG: So Long, Summer!

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I swear I thought this summer would never end. Every week felt like a month. Every project took longer - and was harder! - than anticipated. Stress, along with the heat and the humidity, skyrocketed. I worked my butt off - exercise-wise and writing-wise - and for what? Progress? What progress?


I am so happy to see September I'd kiss it if I could. Sure, I still have projects to work on and goals to accomplish. The weather here will still be hot for awhile longer. I will continue to work my butt off - literally and figuratively.

So, even though it all looks pretty much the same on the surface, underneath it all, one of the most important things has changed - my attitude.

Are you ready for Fall? I am!


Did you also experience the never-ending summer? What are you working on this Fall? What are you looking forward to? 

Monday, August 29, 2016

A Page-Turning Summer

I don't remember summer reading programs being around when I was a kid, but boy howdy, I would've been all over that. Lucky for me, my county library has an adult summer reading program - you read books, review them on the program's website, and for each one, you're entered in a random drawing for weekly and monthly prizes. Last year, I won a drink tumbler. This year, I won a basket of books! Not only that, but apparently the number of participants exploded. The more people reading the better!

I read some amazing books this summer, and since I love to talk books, here are some of my favorites from June through the end of August: 

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh - okay, I'm cheating here because I finished this one at the end of May, but I can't stop thinking about it. You want twists? Get ready. 


The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis - the description on Goodreads says it all: "True Grit meets The Road in this postapocalyptic psychological thriller--narrated by a young girl who has just learned that her adopted father may be a serial killer, and that she may be his next victim." I mean, come on! How awesome is that? I passed this ARC along to my husband, and he was blown away as well. 


All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda - I love a good suspense novel, and this one had the added bonus of being told in reverse. Yes, you read that correctly. Reverse. It's well worth your time as both a reader AND a writer.


One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus - I first read this historical fiction novel years ago for a book club. I loved it so much, it's lived on my bookshelf all this time. When it was chosen for a new book club, I re-read it. And you know what? Still loved it. Absolutely loved it. 


The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware - a locked room mystery reminiscent of Agatha Christie's works? A murder on a luxury cruise ship yet all passengers are accounted for? I am so there! 


Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys - I've been a fan of this author's ever since I read Between Shades of Gray, a young adult historical fiction novel. Here, according to Goodreads, the author "returns to WWII in this epic novel that shines a light on one of the war's most devastating—yet unknown—tragedies." I pretty much wept through the last chunk of the book. An excellent - and important - read. 


Watching Edie by Camilla Way - I was going to rate this a solid four stars over on Goodreads, but the last chunk bumped it up to five stars. The structure - two alternating points of view, one in the present, the other in the past - really amped up the suspense. It's a dark story, but one that delves into the concept of what is real, what is our perception - how we see ourselves, how others see us, and the possibility of change. 


If you've read any of these, what did you think? Will you be adding any to your TBR list? What have you read this summer that blew your mind? Looking forward to any new releases in the Fall? If you're not already a friend/follower of mine over on Goodreads, come find me!


(Even though I received an ARC for one book, the opinions here are honest and presented purely because I enjoyed all of these books.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Movies in My Mind

I am prone to weird dreams. Not necessarily nightmares - although, I have those, too - but dreams that seem somewhat normal but leave me utterly exhausted. Although I can sometimes tell they originated from a book or from other media, I've never tried to actually interpret them. I'm pretty sure I don't want to know....

Here's a recent weird one:

I'm attending some sort of conference and sharing a huge hotel room with three other people. One of them is a fellow blogger. (Someone who is familiar in the dream but has no name or face I can place when I wake up.)

Huge heavy drapes are pulled across the windows, and I don't know if it's day or night. Suddenly, a group of men come in, my Dad among them. (My Dad passed away last year, but in the dream he's alive, not a ghost or anything.) He tells me we need to go, there's some sort of alert and we have to leave Pasadena. (This tidbit comes from either a horror novel about a spider invasion that partly takes place in California or from an old episode of The Big Bang Theory.)

I shove things into bags - for some reason, I have lots of stuff for this conference. Whatever is happening is bad because my Dad - a very organized packer - would never let me just throw stuff in bags. He picks up a backpack that's obviously too heavy for him - he's wearing a green sweatshirt and sweat stains form between his chest and stomach. I scold him, and he tells me he's fine. (By the way, that part would've totally happened in the real world.) We head out into a morning that looks normal but has a weird yellow cast to it.


Do you have weird dreams, too? Do you use them as inspiration for stories, for art? Do your characters dream or have nightmares? Do you like to interpret dreams? Any thoughts on mine? Hmm, maybe it's a post apocalyptic story waiting to be written....

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: A What If? Post

Scenario: You place an order for some odds and ends. A few days later, a huge box arrives. Aware that sometimes the packaging is deceiving, you're not too concerned as you pull the box inside. After all, it's from the same company and the mailing label has your name and address on it. You open the box . . . .

It's definitely not what you ordered.

What if . . . the item in the box is something you've desperately wanted for a long time? Something incredibly expensive and extravagant? Something you've never told anyone about, ever. Who sent it? And why? And what do you do about it?

What if . . . the box is full of baby-related items, all monogrammed with the name Ella? You don't have children, and you don't know any children named Ella. You contact the company. Yours is the only corresponding order placed. It's bought and paid for by you. But the date on the invoice? Two years in the future. 

What if . . . the item in the box is a little on the naughty side? Maybe something you've been curious about but too embarrassed to check into. Do you call the company and complain or do you keep it?


Come on, let's get those creative muscles sweating in this summer heat! What's in the box? What do you do? And hey, notice I didn't take us down the overly creepy or gross path? And I so could have . . . .