Monday, October 31, 2011

Nah, Nah, Nah, NaNo!

It's that time of year again. No, I don't mean Halloween. I mean the time where eager writers from all over the world frantically prepare for November 1, the official kick-off of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).



Goals will be made, caffeine will be consumed, and many, many words will be written. Loved ones will roll their eyes, and later in the month, they will hide in fear. Laundry will pile up. Fists will pound keyboards in frustration. Sleep will be lost, and new friends will be made.

NaNoWriMo is an exhilarating time of year!

While I'm not participating this year, I am writing a first draft. I love this phase of a book. I'm most creative when I'm writing a first draft. So for all you NaNo-ers out there, I will be cheering you on.

If I can encourage you to do one thing, it's to log the time you spend writing, the number of pages you've written, and your word count. Don't be afraid to break your writing sessions up. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish in thirty minutes. The log will boost your spirits when you feel as if you're not moving forward quickly enough.

Other advice? 
- Lower your expectations for all other aspects of your life.
- Plan a few takeout meals if you normally cook every night.
- Take two minutes to deep breathe if you're getting tired.
- Stuck on a plot point? Have no idea what to write next? Jot the scene basics on notebook paper and explain the goal of the scene to yourself. It should unblock you. If you're still stuck, go back and read the last chapter. I'll bet something triggers your muse.

Are you NaNo-ing this year? What advice do you have?

Enjoy your Monday!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Why a First Draft is Like a Day at the Farm

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of chaperoning my son's field trip to a farm. Since I grew up in the country, I knew what I was getting into and wore old jeans and hiking boots. We clearly had two groups of parents--those comfortable with a farm's unique qualities and those who wished they could dip themselves in a vat of Purell. It made for a fun time!


Several things on the farm reminded me of my first drafts.

1. Barn cats, like secondary characters, weave in and out throughout the day, stopping for a quick pet or a nap in a patch of sunlight. They aren't the main attraction, but they enhance the overall setting.

2. The draft, like the grounds, will be mucky in some places, hard in others, and extra words (and straw) will be everywhere.

3. Subplots will need to be tended to even if they, like the penned animals, aren't in our direct path.

4. Sometimes a fantastic twist will be added for fun, much like the peacock strutting its way along a barn roof.

5. Sections of the draft will bring the warm fuzzies, and you'll feel as if you're sitting on a bale of hay with a baby bunny in your arms.

6. The draft will stink. The scent of manure, decaying crops, and wet dog will permeate the area. That's okay. First drafts can smell.

7. By the end of the draft, the chaos will have order. Farmers move through their day in a logical progression, just as first drafts do by the time we've finished them. They still carry a stinky aroma, still have mucky areas, and still have a stray cat unaccounted for, but revisions will polish all of that up.

How are your first drafts like a day at the farm?

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Jessica Nelson!


Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or  best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming…Jessica Nelson!!


I met Jessica years ago through blogging, and I instantly adored her posts about her writing journey. It's been fun watching Jessica's progress, including landing an agent (woo-hoo!) and a contract with Harlequin Love Inspired Historical (double woo-hoo!). I can't wait to read her debut novel next April!

Let's get to it!



1. Beverage of choice?

Starbucks Raspberry mocha, but I drink water regularly and like it.

2. Any pets?

One cat, Pretty Girl. Sadly our other cat, Kiah, went missing a month ago. He was a sweetheart who loved the kids and dogs.

3. Dream vacation?

Anywhere! I love traveling and I love to learn languages!

4. What are you listening to right now?

The gurgling of my husband's annoying fish tank. Everything else is silent because the wild, albeit adorable, children have gone to sleep.

5. What's for dinner?

Ummmm...nothing, yet. Maybe melted chocolate chips with peanut butter? Cooking isn't my forte. :-)

***
Mmm...rasperry mocha. I haven't tried that one, but it sounds like the perfect drink for this time of year. I'm sorry to hear about your kitty. I can only hope he's in a good place. As far as traveling, I am so with you! I don't care if we head somewhere an hour away, I just love puttering around new places, but sadly, I don't share you adoration of new languages. I've attempted to learn French from a CD, and it didn't go so well. Okay, your dinner is the BEST EVER! Melted chocolate chips and peanut butter? Sign me up! Thanks so much for being my guest today, Jessica!

*** 
About Jessica:

My heart is filled with romantic stories, my shelves are loaded with chocolate and I'm always longing for one more cup of Starbucks. Besides that, I write for Love Inspired Historical and am a happy mom to a bunch of little boys.

Jessica's debut novel, Love on the Range, will be available in April, 2012 through Harlequin Love Inspired Historical. To learn more about Jessica, head to her blog, Booking It, be friends with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.
Has anyone gotten their winter coats out yet? The weather is turning brisk here!

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Charmed Life?

Bath & Body Works released a line of lotions and sprays called "Charmed Life." I have a mini-bottle of lotion perched in a spinning pencil holder on my desk. The scent is light with floral and vanilla accents, and the bottle itself has a cute bow and a picture of a ring on it. It makes me smile.


public restroom hospitality
Photo by evelynishere

The slogan, "charmed life," made me pause. Does anyone really lead a charmed life? I recently watched a portion of Kim Kardashian's televised wedding special. If anyone would come to mind as having a charmed life, I would think it is her. Yet as I watched the program, it became glaringly obvious she lives anything but a charmed life.

Yes, she's financially blessed, but her personal life seems filled with disarray. Three days before the wedding, Kim and Kris held a discussion about her taking his last name, and she informed him she was keeping hers. I'm not getting into a judging match about last names here, but it struck me as something that should have been discussed long before three days prior to the nuptials.

I realize weddings are stressful, and expectations run high, but neither Kris or Kim seemed to even like each other. They shared, on-camera, their doubts, but they didn't address them together. I hope they find a way to communicate better or their marriage will be a struggle.

Also, Kim's family, Khloe in particular, airs opinions that would grate on any man's nerves. I cringed at Khloe's announcement (and I'm paraphrasing, her words were crude) that men in their family weren't allowed to make decisions.

Really?

I respect and admire my husband's opinions. Maybe he does not share my love for the perfect purse, a red can-can costume for our mini-dachshund, or a number of other things, but that doesn't mean his opinion isn't valuable. Many times he sees things in a different light than I do, and I make a better choice because of his input. We mutually respect each other, and shouldn't all married couples?

Hmm...maybe I do lead a charmed life after all?

What are your ingredients for a charmed life?

Enjoy your Monday!

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Idea Hour

I recently read Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Anne  Klauser. It's a fantastic book, and I highly recommend it. In fact, I picked it up because Wendy Lawton mentioned it in a blog post for Books & Such Literary Agency. One of the bits of advice that resonated with me? Once a week, head somewhere you can get inspired and spend an hour writing down ideas.

Man reading at Coffee shop, Cardiff
Photo by gordonplant

I loved this advice for a number of reasons.

1. As a work-at-home mother, an excuse to head to a coffee shop once a week and do nothing but think got me unusually excited.
2. I often push "idea sessions" back for months to get my "real work" done.
3. I'm a writer. This advice included a. writing b. ideas and c. solitude.

Since I already meet local authors for coffee twice a month, I decided to try the Idea Hour on alternate weeks. Hey, twice a month is better than nothing, and the overachiever in me struggles with giving up even fifteen minutes.

Idea Time:

Yesterday morning, I woke up tired, with a long to-do list, and a few worries hanging over my head. The clouds drizzled rain against a dreary gray sky, and all I wanted to do was drop the kids off at school and head home. But I'd already decided Thursdays were my day, so I drove to Panera with my notebook.

A coffee and a window seat helped my mood, and I took a few moments to soak in the cheery maize walls, strategic lighting, and happy conversations. Feeling a bit better, I journaled for several minutes about the above-mentioned worries. That act improved my attitude immensely, and soon I wrote a few pages of ideas about my writing career, possible blog posts, and what I could realistically accomplish by the end of 2011.

I still had five minutes, so I sipped my coffee and relaxed. By the time I arrived home, I couldn't believe how productive and calm I felt.

I'm already anticipating my next Idea Hour. We have so many different areas to brainstorm. My next session will focus on any areas I could improve my current work-in-progress.

You don't have to limit your sessions to one area in your life. Here are suggestions for other Idea Hours.

* Business
* Housekeeping
* Raising children
* The holidays
* Romance
* House projects
* Vacation
* Book: Work in progress
* Book: New book ideas
* Social media strategies
* Exercise/health

If a theme bothers you, feel free to just come up with solutions for whatever is pressing on your mind.

Since I chose one area--my business as a writer--I thought about what works and what doesn't. The things that aren't working are the ones I brainstormed different methods to try. I didn't limit my ideas to negatives, I also reflected on areas I've improved. It's good to congratulate ourselves from time to time.

Have you ever tried setting aside time each week (or in my case every other week) to write down ideas? Does it seem indulgent to you? Would you be willing to try it?

Have a fabulous weekend!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Susan J. Reinhardt!


Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or  best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming… Susan J. Reinhardt!!

I met Susan through her excellent blog, Susan J. Reinhardts's Christian Writer/Reader Connection. We share similar tastes in fiction; indeed several books Susan has recommended have been favorites of mine! I always feel inspired after stopping by her blog because of her generous spirit, go get 'em attitude, and excellent interviews.

Let's get to it!

1. Beverage of choice?

Lactaid milk. I'm a serious cookie hound, and I love to dunk. Chocolate soy milk is another favorite, as well as Tazo Calm tea.

2. Any pets?

I don't have any pets right now, but I had two cats. Their names were Abraham and Sarah. Abraham was a black and white tuxedo cat, who loved to nap in the bathroom sink. Sarah, a beautiful tabby, was my wild child. Climbing anything made her happy. A space between my kitchen cabinets and the ceiling provided a perch from which she could survey her domain. Someday, I'd like to write a children's book based on their antics.

3. Dream vacation?

My late husband and I went on our dream vacation six months after we married. Colorado's mountains, Denver, and The Garden of the Gods made for a romantic belated honeymoon. I think God spent an extra hour or two creating that landscape.

4. What are you listening to right now?

Nothing. Unless I'm working on a Sign Language Special for church, I like silence. I get too distracted if I have music on when I'm trying to write. I listen mostly to worship music, so I want to sing and enjoy His presence rather than do the task at hand. Both writing and worship demand my full attention.

5.  What's for dinner?

Rotisserie chicken from Costco! If I don't have someone to fuss over, I don't have the time or inclination to putter around the kitchen. Domestic diva is not one of my descriptions.

***
Susan, when we lived in Virginia, we could buy Chocolate Lactaid. It was delicious! I haven't been able to find it around here, though. Your kitties sounded like they were entertaining companions. My late cat used to curl up in the bathroom sink too. How cute!  I have to agree with you on Colorado. I've been blessed to spend time there twice, and both trips left me awestruck.

Silence is good. I'm listening to the sound of my dryer tumbling. While my kids are at school, I rarely turn on any optional noise. And I'm so with you on non-fussy dinners! What did we do before rotisserie chickens? :)Thanks so much for being my guest today, Susan!

***

Susan J. Reinhardt's devotionals and short articles have been published both in print and online. Her latest piece is in the recently released Love Is A Verb devotional. She is currently working on a futuristic fiction trilogy and collaborating with Karen Lange on a historical novel. Susan's active in her church, enjoys reading, gardening, antiquing, couponing, and spending time with family and friends. (Is it any wonder she doesn't have time to cook!)

To learn more about Susan, head to her blog, be friends with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

I bought several bags of Halloween candy and enough chocolate chips to last a lifetime. Have you went nuts in the grocery store lately??
Have an amazing Wednesday!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Be a Sponge

Be ready. Be willing. Be able.

A long time ago, I read these three sentences on an agent blog (sorry, I can't remember the author). I thought they were terrific guideposts for writers.


Plain blue and pink polyurethane kitchen sponges
Photo by horiavarlan

I'd like to add a fourth. Be a sponge.

Many aspiring writers are ready and willing. It's the able that gets them. That's why we need to be a sponge.

Let's look at a fictional aspiring writer, Susie. Susie wrote her first manuscript last year during NaNoWriMo. She spent the bitter winter months revising and editing it, and she attended her first writer's conference in June where she pitched to an editor and an agent. Both requested a partial.

Susie is pumped. She knows she's got what it takes and certain it will be a short wait until her big dream comes true. Of course, if her future publisher has suggestions, she'll take them, but as far as she's concerned, she'll land a contract, and soon.

What Susie finds out eight weeks later from both the agent and the editor is that her story shows promise but she needs to work on her craft. They decline her project.

Her craft? Rejected? What??

Susie takes a few days to rant, cry, and eat brownie batter. Slowly, she returns to life. She remembers how that guy from the fiction workshop self-published his book. He made it sound easy. Maybe the agent and editor don't know everything. A hidden part of her protests, though, since both pointed out the same problem.

She doesn't rule self-publishing out, but decides she'd better investigate writing techniques and make her book as polished as possible before making any publishing decisions.

She starts paying attention to the blogs she's read that talk about point of view, info dumps, and backstory. Even though she doesn't quite believe she's doing any of those things, she checks out a few recommended books on the writing craft. As she reads, she has many breakthrough moments. Once more, she gets excited about writing.

Now she knows what she needs to do. As she writes book two, she knows she's writing much better than her last book. She queries agents and gets a few requests. This time she gets a rejection based on pacing.

Pacing? She heads back to the blogs, checks out more books. And so the process goes.

While she's learning about writing, she's also picking up advice about self-publishing, e-publishers, and traditional print publishers. She now knows the genre she writes, let's say urban fantasy, sells really well as an e-book and she decides to query a respected e-publisher. She not only gets a request, she gets a contract.

Susie was smart. Sure, she had big dreams for her first book, who doesn't? Some writers actually get their first book published--why not her? But when her book one got rejected, she took the advice given and worked on improving. She kept studying, kept her ears perked for advice, and picked up every tip she could.

Now when Susie writes, she's creating better books, and she's building an audience. Her confidence is based on a solid foundation. She knows she'll always be soaking in writer advice. And because she was willing to be a sponge, she is able.

Be ready. Be willing. Be able. Be a sponge.

Are you always on the lookout for tips to improve your writing? Do you have anything to add to the mantra?

Have a wonderful Monday!

Friday, October 14, 2011

My Reactions to This Week's Headlines

I've brushed off several intriguing headlines from my online homepage this week, but on a whim, I read some of the stories. Today, I'm going to share with you my reactions to two gems.


Hot Dog
Photo by preppybyday

First headline...

"Fan explains why he threw a hot dog at Tiger Woods"
(Story via The Associated Press. Article is linked.)

My reaction:

1. Love the headline! Hot dogs? Tiger Woods? I'm immediately wondering why anyone would throw a hot dog at a golfer. Surely not to injure him? Not a great weapon. I click on the story.

2. Opening paragraph: "A California man arrested for throwing a hot dog at Tiger Woods during a tournament said he wanted to do something 'courageous and epic.'"

Oo-ka-a-ay. I'm not sure anything involving a hot dog would be described as courageous and epic, unless it involved feeding someone trapped in a cave for twenty-three days. I mean, really, how is throwing a hot dog at a champion golfer courageous or epic? I'm actually taking a few moments right now to ponder this.

Nope. Got nothing.

But I did laugh throughout the article, so maybe the hot dog thrower did do something epic? It's not easy to make people laugh.

Second headline...

"Family lost in Mass. corn maze calls 911 for help"
(Story via The Associated Press. Article is linked.)

My reaction:

1. Again, classic headline. Those corn mazes freak me out. I could easily see myself getting lost in one for days--except I have a good sense of direction, and I would probably walk through the corn until I found civilization. Hmm...

2. Oh boy, I've got two goodies here for you.

     a. 911 call: "'Hi I just called, I'm still stuck at Connor's Farms, I don't see anybody I'm really scared, it's really dark and we've got a three-week-old baby with us,' the woman is heard on police tapes telling the dispatcher."
     b. Info about maze: "The maze has several guide posts with clues and posters instructing visitors to send text messages to receive additional guidance to help them make their way out."

After reading the entire article--it seems there were street lights, the sounds of cars nearby, and the above-mentioned guide posts and posters with text messaging instructions--I can only assume the family panicked. Maybe we get so set on following the rules (in their case staying on the actual maze path) we sometimes forget to use common sense. If street lights and the sounds of cars were nearby, maybe the first option would be to walk toward the lights even if it meant weaving through corn stalks. I can't judge. Just a suggestion.

What headlines grabbed your attention this week? Are you giggling at the "courageous and epic" hot dog throw too?

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Jennifer Shirk!


Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or  best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming… Jennifer Shirk!

I've followed Jennifer's fun, quirky blog, Me, My Muse, and I, for years. It's like heading over to your best friend's house for a cup of tea and a brownie--it just feels right. Jennifer has two "fun, feel-good, romantic fiction" books out: Georgie on His Mind and The Role of a Lifetime, and later in this post you'll learn how you can enter to win a copy of The Role of a Lifetime! Woo-hoo!

Let's get to it!


1. Beverage of choice?

Water. (I know, boring. But you asked.) After I read how good water is for you, I’m now hooked. However, if I’m out in a nice restaurant or bar, you would find me drinking a Stoli Doli for sure!

2. Any pets?

Yes, four hermit crabs. What the? Yes, hermit crabs are the way to go if you want low maintenance, except I think I need to get a heater for them this winter.

3. Dream vacation?

Portofino or Rome, Italy. *sigh* I’ve never been to Europe, but since my hubby is Italian (half) we’re planning on going there first. Someday…

4. What are you listening to right now?

Music? Ha! My kiddo has the TV cranked to an insane volume and it’s on the Disney channel.

5. What's for dinner?

Mexican black bean lasagna. (It’s my one day a week to pretend to be a vegetarian.) The hubby and kiddo dubbed themselves “meatatarians” but they do enjoy this recipe.
***
Jennifer, hermit crabs are the one pet I've been able to prevent from entering my home. The kids are experts at pushing my "let's get another pet" button. It's sad, really! Your dream vacation sounds extra special since your hubby is part Italian. I hope you can make it happen soon.

Disney and I are not on friendly terms right now. If I have to hear that song with monsters in it one more time--maybe by the star of Ant Farm?--I'm borrowing an air-soft gun and shooting our television. But I will say, your dinner is making the "meatatarian" in me drool! I'll take anything with layers of gooey cheese! Thanks so much for being my guest today.
***


Sandra Moyer has a good reason to distrust actors. She was once married to one who left her and her child. However, she’s desperate for publicity to help her struggling preschool. Hollywood playboy Ben Capshaw’s request to access her classes to prepare for a role is an offer she can’t refuse.

Sandra second guesses herself on that decision until she sees Ben in action with the children. Her apprehension turns to wonder, and then to feelings she’d thought were closed off forever. Yet how can she trust that what she’s seeing is real?

As a boy, Ben learned that acting was the answer to everything. The role he’s up for now will enhance his career and, he’s sure, secure his happiness. But spending time with Sandra and her daughter stirs up emotions that—for once—aren’t pretend.

Ben’s ready for a lifetime role as husband and father—if he can convince Sandra not to typecast him.

***
Here's your chance to win a copy of The Role of a Lifetime. Head to Goodreads, linked here, to enter! Contest deadline is October 16, 2011, so don't delay!

***

Jennifer Shirk has a bachelor degree in pharmacy-which has in NO WAY at all helped her with her writing career. But she likes to point it out, since it shows romantic-at-hearts come in all shapes, sizes, and mind-numbing educations.

She writes sweet romances for Samhain Publishing and Avalon Books. She's also a board member for Straight Ahead Ministries, an organization involved in helping spread the gospel and aiding medical and pharmacy students in Russia. She resides in a beach resort in NJ, and when she's not involved in all the above, she's taking care of her most treasured possessions: her husband, daughter, and four hermit crabs.

For more information about Jennifer, head to her website, her blog, be friends with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

Who has spotted Christmas decorations in stores? Anyone counting the days until Christmas yet?

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Monday, October 10, 2011

7 Ways to Prepare to Give a Conference Workshop

Over the weekend, I was blessed to speak at a local writer's conference, Write Brain Workshop, presented by Northwest Ohio Writers Forum in Perrysburg, Ohio. I've given presentations to writers and I've taught fiction workshops in the past, but this was my first time speaking to complete strangers.


autumn falls...
Photo by dexxus

I had a wonderful time meeting so many talented local authors, and the venue--a gorgeous mansion on the banks of the Maumee River--couldn't have been better.

I spent a lot of time preparing for my workshop. If you're interested in speaking at conferences, here are my preparation tips.

1. Give the presentation on a topic you are passionate about.

Months in advance, the event coordinator, Elizabeth Irwin, and I discussed possible topics that would interest the attendees. She felt a craft-based workshop would fit well with the other speakers, and I quickly offered three options which I felt passionate about. We narrowed it down to "Plotting the Scene." Since I've spent years experimenting with plotting methods and I regularly study books on plot and structure, I knew I'd be comfortable speaking about it.

2. Prepare a written handout to supplement your speech.

One time saver was that I had already written a short article about plotting the scene for this blog. If you're interested, here's the link, "Plotting the Scene." I printed it out, and expanded it with regards to the time frame I would be speaking. Write Brain Workshop is a hands-on conference, meaning the guests prefer an interactive learning experience rather than only listening to someone speak. I brainstormed ways to get the audience involved.

3. Write a brief introduction about yourself, your writing, and your qualifications. Practice it.

This summer I gave a presentation to Maumee Valley Romance Writers of America about questions to ask during the agent call. While I was more than ready to speak about the topic, I'd failed to practice my opening, and I stammered a few moments. Lesson learned. We think introducing ourselves and our topic will come naturally, but sometimes it's the hardest part of the presentation. Practice it over and over until you're comfortable.

4. Using your written handout, break your topic into several chunks, depending on how much time you have to speak.

I kept my introduction short, asked several questions to get a feel for their writing level, and launched into the definition of a scene. I then paused to allow for questions before continuing to the next chunk. By breaking the presentation up into digestible bits and pausing to allow the guests to process and ask questions, I was able to avoid the dreaded glazed over look in their eyes (for the most part!). It also assured me I was connecting with the audience and they understood the new information.

5. If it is a hands-on presentation, determine how to involve the audience.

I had a lot of ground to cover. I knew I would not be able to give the guests enough time to work on their own scenes. But I wanted them to be part of the creative process because I know how sticky information becomes when we work on assignments. Since I'd broken how to plot a scene into three levels, we brainstormed part of a new scene together after each segment, building on our previous work.

6. Determine what materials you will need the day of the presentation.

Find out how many guests are expected to attend. If you are giving handouts, prepare for the maximum amount of attendees. Since we were doing a group exercise, I needed an easel, a dry erase board, and dry erase markers. I also brought a notepad just in case.

7. Relax and enjoy it.

People are paying to learn about writing when they come to a conference. They're excited. No one is forcing them to be there. Make the experience as enjoyable as possible for them by relaxing and enjoying it yourself. After all, you've been given a gift--a set amount of time to share your passion with others.

Have you ever presented at a writer's conference? What are your tips? What qualities in a speaker do you admire?

Enjoy your Monday!

Friday, October 7, 2011

And My Day Disappears

8:00 AM. Shiny new day. Happy times! I'm ready to tackle my to-do list.

Time
Photo by alancleaver

2:00 PM. What?? What happened? How did six hours pass? Did I get anything done? Please tell me something got checked off my to-do list.

5:00 PM. Seriously? Five? Now? I don't believe it. Tiny gremlins snuck in and changed all the clocks. It's the only explanation. Or maybe I got sucked into some weird sci-fi time loophole? Hmm...not ruling that one out.

10:00 PM. Not only did I not complete my to-do list, but I also failed at my plan for the evening. I was supposed to relax tonight. Relax and read. But did that happen? No. Where did the day go??

***
I had too many days this summer that went down exactly like this. Did I actually accomplish anything? Yes. But I felt frazzled and behind, like I'd been swept into a time tornado and didn't have the strength to break free.

However, I decided to fight back and reclaim my day. I'm still working on it, but so far, I'm accomplishing more and relaxing again--win, win!

Here are the steps I'm taking to take back my day:

1. Analyze current schedule to determine what works and what doesn't

When I reviewed how I typically spent each day, I quickly realized I had let social media take over my mornings--yet I couldn't fit one of my favorite activities in--reading writer blogs. It frustrated me that I was spending hours each day ineffectively.

My solution? Split my social media marathon into two sessions; one in the morning, the other in the afternoon. This freed up a large chunk of my most valuable work time, the morning.

2. Set daily goals and write down the actual time it takes to complete them

I always set daily goals, and I usually meet them, even if I have to work on them later in the day. But I knew I'd let my priorities slip.

My solution? Next to each goal, write the actual start and end time. This helps me be more realistic about how long it takes me to write and schedule a blog post or whatever task I'm working on. It also dissipates my anxiety of feeling like I didn't accomplish anything. I can look at my daily planner and clearly see that I spent 3 hours plotting, writing, or networking.

3. Build relaxation and fun into the day

Sometimes I get so caught up in "achieving" I miss out on the essentials in life. I struggle with this aspect the most.

My solution? Remind myself that relaxing, exercising, and reading are not optional. They are essential parts of my day. Your essentials may differ from mine, but we all have activities our souls crave. No one is going to force me to relax, exercise, or read, and I am not being a hero by shoving my needs to the side. I'm hurting myself. No thank you!

Does your day ever disappear from you? What do you do to reclaim it? Share your tips! I love to hear them!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Joanne DeMaio!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or  best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming… Joanne DeMaio!

I've been following Joanne's magnificent blog, Whole Latte Life, for years. Every time I read it, I feel refreshed and relaxed. Joanne is such a smart and talented writer--she shares interviews with fascinating musicians, and she makes me think about my writing in a different way. I'm thrilled to have her as my guest today!


Let's get to it...


1. Beverage of choice?

I’m all about living a whole latte life, so it’s no secret coffee is my drink. Steaming hot, in one of my favorite mugs. I value what it represents … good conversation and our bonds with others. Because coffee often forms the connection with a friend, a daughter. So I love coffee, even more so because of everything that comes with it.

2. Any pets?

Our little cat spent five long months in the Humane Society before we happened by and brought her home, indulging her with lots of treats and toys sinceShe’s a real talker, cooing and chattering all the time. If she could write, I think she might have a book in her. :) 

3. Dream vacation?

I’m lucky enough to take my dream vacation every year at a little beach on Long Island Sound, nestled in the crook of the Connecticut coast. With its sandy boardwalk, whispering lagoon grasses and sweet salt air, it’s a place of peace and beauty, and has been a backdrop to much of my life.

4. What are you listening to right now?
Last weekend, my family and I saw Roger Daltrey perform The Who’s entire Tommy rock opera. Really, as a writer I love finding stories in different forms around me, and the mingling of story and song that night was fascinating.

5. What's for dinner?
Chicken cutlets with roasted sweet peppers, mashed potatoes and zucchini. Bon Appetit!

***
Joanne, I feel the same about coffee and hot beverages in general. I start every morning with coffee, and every time my parents visit, we bond over steaming mugs of tea. Your kitty definitely has a story in her. What a blessing to rescue such a talkative gal!

My fantasy vacations usually take place on a beach so your description of Long Island Sound made me sigh. How nice it would be to head over there right now. And what a treat to attend the Roger Daltrey concert. We went to the University of Michigan's football game last week, and the energy of the crowd spills over, infects you with zest, much like a concert. By the way, I'm coming over for dinner. Yum, yum! Thanks so much for being my guest today!
***

Joanne DeMaio is a Connecticut writer blending family, coffee and friendship on the page. Her music essays have appeared in literary journals, celebrating her passion for song, in print.  She is also the founder of the inspirational blog Whole Latte Life.  Grab a coffee and stop by for a visit at joannedemaio.blogspot.com. To learn more about her writing, visit her website at joannedemaio.com.

Heard any good songs lately? Care to recommend one?

Enjoy your Wednesday!

Monday, October 3, 2011

When a Little Deoderant Won't Cut It

All year I've wanted to redesign my cyber homes, but time was always an issue--when isn't it, right? So I freshened everything up, but by late summer, I knew another layer of deoderant wouldn't cut it. It was time for full immersion with body wash, shampoo, and scalding hot water.



I'm so happy to finally share my new website! You can access the pages from the navigation bar at the top of this page. Feel free to browse around. I update the Home page every month with what I'm reading, what's on my iPod, any events to note, and just a brief update on life in general. You can also access my Speaking page from the home page. The Proposals page leads you to interactive pages for my active proposals and teasers of the projects I'm working on.

For Writers has .pdf files of many of my articles. I know I keep hearing "print is dead," but if you'd prefer to have a hard copy of my revision checklist or any other articles, go ahead and print them out for future reference. (All articles are copyrighted, but you're welcome to link them to your sites if you give proper credit.) You'll also find oodles of links for aspiring writers from the For Writers page.

Links to all of the social media sites I interact on are provided in the Connect page along with a sign-up form to get on my mailing list (also linked in the sidebar of my blog).

I had so much fun sprucing up my cyber home--I hope you enjoy it too!

Do you check out your favorite authors' websites? What features keep you coming back for more?

Have a wonderful first Monday of October!