Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

It's that time again!

2014 brought with it many ups and downs, but I am determined to make 2015 the best year yet. I don't care what anyone says: a new year is a clean slate. It's the chance to create a whole new world. To let go and move on. To start over. To try something different. To reach that goal.

If you don't know where to begin, check out my Setting Goals post from a couple of weeks ago.

Time to stop dreaming and start doing!

Be Brilliant! :)


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday Sign-Off!

Powering down for the holidays!

I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

See you soon!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Setting Goals: Five Things on Friday


It's among us.

It's hard to believe, actually. This past year flew by (cliche to say, I know).

Right now my writer friends and I are taking stock and setting goals for the new year, as a lot of people are, I think. Because of the "clean slate" that another year brings, it's a popular time to really sit down and think about what we want to accomplish.

In my particular circle, there's a lot of talk of "quality" over "quantity," more balance, spending more time with those who matter--not rushing, I guess. When nothing is holding you back, it's easy to want to plow forward--to write and release everything you can as soon as you can.

(Which might have worked for Indie writers back in '11 and '12, but didn't work in '14, and probably won't work in 2015, either.)

There are so many things vying for my attention from day to day--kids, day job, house duties (not cooking, because I don't really do that--lol), connecting with readers, writing. When I look back on 2014, it's easy to think I accomplished absolutely nothing.

But . . . when I put it on paper, I actually did as much as I set out to do.

On a personal front, I wanted more balance. I started meditating toward the end of the year, and while I'm not as consistent as I should be, I'm much more focused on what matters and the vibes I send out into the universe. 

I also wanted to blog more and tweet more.

On the writing front, I did a major revision on a project early in the year. Over the summer I worked on a duology (still working on this), but I revised and added for a total of 160,000 words. At the end of this year, I wrote and released my Christmas novella. I would've loved to have that duology finished, but the truth is I needed to step back for a while and focus on something else.

I also got the paperback versions of two of my books formatted and ready to release.

So in actuality, and though there were some "lean moments," I hit on every goal I set for myself last year in some way. 

I'm about to sit down and write out my goals for 2015--projects I want to finish, and new ones I want to tackle. 

So . . . in the spirit of the season, here are five things I try to remember when goal-setting:

1. Write the Goals Down

It's proven that just in writing your goals down, you're more likely to accomplish them.

2. Make them Specific

Don't just say you want to "read more" or "write more." Write down how many books you want to read a week. Determine how many words you want to write a day, and which story (or stories) you want to write.

3. Create a Plan and Set Deadlines

What will it take to read a certain number of books in a year? Trips to the library? Penciling "reading time" into your schedule? If I wanted to read six books a month, that's one book every five days. With due dates, that's two individual trips to the library. The first and fifteenth could be designated library days. I could find a quiet place and read for thirty minutes after dinner every evening....

Get an action plan together.

4. Get Out of the Way

I fully believe that we are in control of our own destiny. I'm not a fan of assigning blame, or even letting past events or situations affect our today and tomorrow. Don't sabotage your goals with a negative mindset. Believe in yourself.

5. Remember WHY These Goals Were Set

Maybe it's to become more well-rounded. Maybe it's to step outside of a comfort zone. The "why" is just as important as the "what" and "how." This is what you will return to when the road gets tough. 

So . . . what do you want to accomplish in 2015?

Your goals don't have to be reading or writing-related, either. Make this the year you get healthy--both physically and spiritually. Make this the year you save for that trip. Learn that language. Work for that promotion. Make that career change. Go back to school.

Step into your "discomfort" zone.

And, as always: Be Brilliant!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Purging ALL the Things!

I am apparently in a Purge Purge Purge mood.

Delete Delete Delete

Omit Omit Omit

I say that because I trashed about 5,000 of my "darlings" on this last read-through of the WIP.

I say that because I trashed two bags' worth of my daughter's desk junk yesterday.

I tossed entire paragraphs that didn't flow and markers that did not work.

And no one should have 500 crayons. No one. I mean, how many ceruleans could one possibly need?

I am all about some minimizing streamlining editing right now.

(In both the real world and my fiction world.)

And you know what? It's hard, but I don't miss those paragraphs as much as I thought I would. And the daughter? There was a meltdown, but when I saw her working happily at her desk that afternoon, I knew I made the right choice.

I have another POV to work on starting this week, and my next job is the daughter's room.

And then the playroom.

And then all of our closets . . .  until there is nothing left to purge. Nothing, I say. ;)

Be brilliant!


Thursday, December 11, 2014

On Revising

So . . .

I shelved the project I was working on (furiously) over the summer. I had a solid first draft of the story (dueling points of view) at the time. The story was told--there were no more scenes to write, etc.

They say you should put your work aside, you know, and I am all about what "they" say is right.

So I stepped back to get some perspective, and while I was waiting for whatever to happen that was supposed to happen, I wrote my Christmas novella.

Since I recently sent that project out into the world, I decided it was time to go back and re-open this story that had been "simmering" for the last few months. And . . .

Oh. My. God.

I'm going to be honest:

I would be embarrassed to put my name on this story right now.

Have you ever had a project like that?

It was like a facepalm/light bulb moment, where it was: "This! This is why they say it's good to step away! This is why you stuff your work in a drawer and forget about it! So you can come back with fresh eyes and a new perspective!"

Well, my fresh eyes fell right out of my head and my new perspective vomited all over the floor.

I'm exaggerating, but the point is this: first drafts suck. They do. ALL first drafts suck. I don't care who you are or how long you've been writing. Your first draft is never the best draft. This is just part of the roller coaster.

The good news is:

There's nothing wrong that cannot be fixed.

I've got Scrivener notes out the yin-yang about what this story needs. I have scenes to omit and rearrange, passages to delete, a few storyline matters to rework, key points to zero in on, etc.

I also have my handy dandy John Truby book--Anatomy of a Story--(which Sarah Ockler highly recommended to me, and I now highly recommend to everyone else!) to help me straighten this mess out. 

At any rate, I'm thankful I took this time away from the story. I'm thankful I did NOT go ahead and send it to my agent for her opinion, because then her fresh eyes might have fallen out of her head, too, and I can't be responsible for something that horrible.

I know there's this pervasive pressure in our "now now now" society to "create create create" . . . but don't rush.

There's nothing wrong with a story that cannot be fixed, but you can't rush the process.

That is all.

Be Brilliant! :D


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cool Writer/Reader Things: Booktrack

So maybe I was living under a rock--I don't know--but I got an email last week from Chazz over at Booktrack (who is super nice and helpful, by the way).

I had never heard of this site, though Hugh Howey has, apparently, so it wouldn't surprise me if I'm last to know everything.

Either way, soundtracks for books? 


I am *ALL* in.

So I signed up and signed in and decided to work on a preview of the novella--just an excerpt. It didn't take long at all, and now there's a song and a few sound effects, and it just sounds so sweet and festive. . . .

If you haven't had a chance to preview Once Upon a Christmas Eve yet, I hope you will.

And I hope you'll preview the version at Booktrack, because it is super-cool.

Oh, and if you're a writer, this site is free and SO easy to use. I'm not kidding.  Hugh Howey loves it, I love it--I figure that's about all the testimony you need, right? ;)

Seriously, though, I'm excited about this site and what it offers right now, and I'm definitely keeping my eye on it for future projects.

So . . . what are you waiting for? Go read and rate and share! 

When you're done with the novella preview, check out "Twas the Night Before Christmas." My daughter *loved* it. I'm sure we'll read it a dozen or more times between now and the 25th.

I love music, I love books--mixing the two is just the *ultimate*. 

Like a kid on Christmas morning. ;)


Friday, December 5, 2014

Fact on Friday: Christmas Edition

So if you've read my new Christmas novella, you know that on the way to Olivia's house, she and Jonathan start talking about their "favorite things."

Jonathan's favorite Christmas album is Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton's Once Upon a Christmas, because it's a family tradition. 

Your fun fact for this beautiful Friday is that this happens to be one of MY favorite Christmas albums. Like Johnny Baby, my parents listened to this on vinyl record, and I eventually got it on CD for my family.

It's a classic.

Oh, here's my proof:

And here's my favorite song:

And, you know, just searching the names "Kenny and Dolly" and seeing all the duets listed affirms that I was *not crazy* in thinking those two were married when I was growing up. They sang everything together.  

Your BONUS confession is that, like Olivia, the Michael Buble Christmas CD is in my car right now, and my least favorite Christmas song is "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time." It's kind of overplayed around here.

So, join the discussion!

What are your favorite (or least favorite!) Christmas songs or albums? Any traditions? Guilty pleasures? Post them in the comments.

Let's chat!


P.S. You *HAVE* to come back by on Sunday. I have something super-cool to show you. It's novella-related, obviously, and at this point I'm worried I'm not going to be able to keep it to myself until then. We shall see. ;)   

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Five Ways to Turn "One Day" into "Today"

On Monday I posted a blog about the "Four Things that Changed my Writing World." At the end of the post I tossed out a few questions.

I wondered what it was that kept people from following their dreams and meeting their goals.

I have an aunt, for instance, who loves writing. Years ago, she was inspired while on a walk. For months afterward, every time she was on that walk, she would plot the story in her mind. I'm pretty sure she was close to having it all mapped out. The only thing left was to actually get the words on paper.  She hasn't, as far as I know. We eventually stopped talking about it, because 

It was always an "idea" that never became an "action." 

For me, that was extremely frustrating.

I didn't understand the disconnect.

What lies between good intentions and goals and action? What is this void? What is this black hole of nothing that sucks us in and keeps us from living up to our potential?

I honestly don't know, but if it came up in conversation today, here's the advice I would give my aunt: 

1. Call yourself what you want to be.  

I don't care what it is: writer, painter, cross country skier, or the best office manager or teacher in your department.  Give yourself the label. Write it on the mirror, on a sticky note, post it on the fridge---anywhere you will see it. Say it. Repeat it. All the time.

Even if you've never written a whole chapter or picked up a paintbrush: 

The first step is acknowledging you have
something to offer the world, and then owning it. 

2. Set realistic goals. 

Figure out what it is you want to learn or accomplish most and get a game plan together. Add a deadline.

(I will read one book related to my career field by Sunday afternoon. I will paint one landscape each week for a month. I will write one thousand words a day until my novel is complete.) 

3. Get the tools you need to make the job easier. 

Get the apps. Take the class. Buy the book. Locate the supplies. If it's important to you, it's your responsibility to make it happen. No excuses. 

4. Make time to accomplish the goals you set. 

Even if it's just an hour on weekends, or thirty minutes a day, every step (even the small ones) takes you closer to the end result. 

You're not failing as long as you're trying,
 but you have to schedule the time, then protect it like mad. 

5. Find someone who will hold you accountable. 

For me, it's readers waiting for my next book. For you, maybe it's a spouse or a sibling or a best friend. Maybe it's your iPad, and the reminder you set for yourself each day. If someone expects something from you, and you know they're going to ask about it, you're more likely to make accomplishing the task a priority. At most, you'll get the job done. At the very least, it will save you the awkwardness and discomfort of having to fumble through the excuses.

All that to say: Please don't be my aunt, and don't spend another second dreaming about "one day."

One day I'll write a novel.
One day I'll sign up for a pottery class.
One day I'll audition for community theater.
One day I'll sit down at the piano again.

Do it today. I dare you. :D

That is all!


Monday, December 1, 2014

Four Things that Changed my Writing World

I love writing.

I do.

Even when I can't.

If I'm excited about the story I'm telling, or working on an intense scene, I can tear through some words--no joke. Sometimes, though, the words don't come, or the time to write just doesn't present itself (in addition to writing, I also have a telecommuting day job and two kids to wrangle). Some days, writing just can't be a priority. I know you understand. You're there, too.

However. . . .

I made a few changes in the last year so that I could write more consistently (at least five days out of seven, if not every day).

Here's how I managed:

1) I Sent Myself a Reminder

I have my iPad set up to "ding" every day at three o'clock in the afternoon.

The message that appears?


If I want to be a writer--if I want to get the books written--I have to make writing a priority. Three o'clock is actually a pretty inconvenient time for me, and, unless it's the weekend, I'm usually working.

But this simple statement sends a powerful message:

Writing is important. 
You want to write books, not grade papers forever. 
Remember why you're here. 
Make time for what you love to do.

The message also validates my goals and dreams. This is my way of owning who I am.
2) I Re-scheduled my Writing Time 

This past year I switched out my afternoon/late night writing routine for morning writing sessions.

(It was a necessity, as I was mostly sleep-deprived and a zombie by nine/ten o'clock, anyway.)

I realize that not everyone is able to do this, and, for others, it means getting up super-early. I don't have anywhere to be, though, so when the baby started waking up consistently for a bottle at 7am, I decided to go ahead and start working. My mind is clear, I'm fresh, and the kid is content (for a while, at least). Even though I'm not a "morning person," I discovered that I could easily pound out 1,000 words before my day even begins.

Now, when my iPad reminds me YOU SHOULD BE WRITING, I can smile and think: got it. If I'm lucky, I'll have a few minutes before I crash in bed to work on my ms, but it's okay if it doesn't happen, because I've already met my word goal. 

This means I'm not frustrated at the end of the day; 
I set out what I accomplished to do first thing. 

3) I Started Doing Timed Writing Sprints

I use my iPad for this, too, and a free app called 30/30 to manage my tasks and keep me focused. When I have a small window of time to write and I'm trying to stay distraction-free, I plug in a 30-minute writing sprint and go. 

There's something about a clock ticking to zero that motivates my fingers--
that keeps them moving.

The app is great, but any kind of timer will do (oven, microwave, stopwatch, egg timer, etc.).

4) I Started Using Scrivener

This was actually a gift to myself last Christmas, and it was the best $45.00 I have ever spent. This software is AMAZING. Honestly? I don't know why I spent so many years writing in MS Word. I can keep my photos, brainstorming sessions, and "outside" links all in one place. I can outline. I can jump from chapter to chapter or section to section. There's a built-in thesaurus and dictionary. I can even export to MS Word, or compile a mobi or epub file directly from my chapters.

I actually look forward to opening my Scrivener files each day. 
It does all the dirty work for me, so I can focus on the writing. 

It's a great feeling.


So what's keeping you from writing more consistently? Time? Focus?

Or maybe you don't write. Maybe you have some other longing--something you want to do or be. Something you want to accomplish.

What's stopping you? What's keeping you from making this happen?

I'll be back with more later this week.

In the meantime. . . .

Be Brilliant!