Category Archives: goals

Explosions, spreadsheets and snowstorms

I didn’t realize how much I love to cook until my oven exploded last weekend. Unable to use my oven — or even the stovetop, since I turned off the circuit breaker — suddenly my thoughts were filled with all the amazing food I couldn’t make. Poor me. Never mind that I’m entirely capable of ignoring my oven for weeks at a time. Regardless, I spent the week feeling deprived, even though I wasn’t exactly starving to death here.

OK, fine, my oven didn’t actually “explode.” The heating element burned out. There was a big whomp sound and a bright red-orange ball of fire in there, which sure looked like an explosion, but it’s not as if the entire thing blew up. It was a mini-explosion. Dramatic, but contained.

Good thing I was sitting at the kitchen table, aka my writing desk, at the time or I might not have known what happened. Luckily, the pork roast I’d been slow cooking all day was thoroughly cooked. Here’s a pic of the aftermath. Looks like it exploded, right?

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I tried to shoo her away so I could take the pics, but The White Ninja was fascinated.

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I put off calling a repair person for days. Partly because I didn’t want to know how much it would cost if they couldn’t just replace the element, but mostly because I hate making phone calls.

But I finally made the call and a repair guy came yesterday and replaced the element. He was very pleasant, charged a totally reasonable amount, did the work in less time than any other repair person has ever done anything, and yet still managed to tell me ALL ABOUT HIS LIFE.

I’m not kidding. This happens all the time. People seem compelled to tell me stuff. Personal stuff. Stuff I’d never tell a complete stranger. Well, except on my blog. Heh. I now know how long he’s been in the business, where he grew up, how many siblings he has, where they live, where he lives, all the details of his dad’s and stepmom’s recent medical troubles, which hospitals they’re currently in, how often he visits them, how many hospice places he has researched, and that he planned to spend the rest of the day looking at more facilities. All this in the space of a half hour.

I’m telling you, appliance repair is overwhelming and exhausting. And all I had to do was sit there and listen.

* * *

Speaking of procrastination, I recently did something I’d resolved to do last year, when I was getting tax info together for my accountant and thinking how much easier that chore really should be. I resolved that 2014 was the year I was finally going to get organized and put all my financial info into QuickBooks.

This is why I don’t make resolutions, which are generally a promise for future action. They don’t work for me. I either do a thing, right now, in the present, or I don’t.

Anyway. When I realized a few weeks ago that it was 2015 and I still hadn’t done it . . . well, let’s just say I was mighty fed up with myself. It’s not like this is a difficult thing for me. I’ve worked with QuickBooks (and other financial accounting programs) for decades, in various day jobs. I can make that program sing and dance if I want to.

So I finally downloaded the program and entered all my 2014 information. I can now track expense (ugh) and income from all vendors/distributors, broken down by each individual project/book, for any time period I choose. The reports, they are beautiful. I even made categories for Advances and Royalties. Because, reasons.

Not difficult, but time-consuming and tedious. I took frequent breaks. And I did stay off the internet, as I said last month that I going to. Mostly.

* * *

The other thing I did — I mean, if you’re going to get organized, you should just go ahead and get completely organized — was to finally make a comprehensive Excel spreadsheet to keep track of word count on all my writing projects. Yet another thing I’d resolved to do (several times) in the past and never quite got around to. Another thing that was not even remotely difficult, given my experience.

When I was done, I was surprised to discover that I currently have eight on-going writing projects. Well, that does include the category “blog posts.” And, granted, a couple of those projects are just extensive notes or research or a few random paragraphs I wrote before they got lost in my brain. But still. It’s more than I thought I had going on.

I imagine some of you will be glad to know I haven’t abandoned Max and Jenna, although they’re going to have to wait their turn. And try not to kill each other in the meantime. (<— that’s a link to the beginning of their story, in case you  missed it)

* * *

In far less tedious news, my daughter and her husband enjoyed playing in all the snow produced by the snowstorm that hit Boston the middle of last week. She took a bunch of pictures and said I could share some of them over here. They were taken sort of mid-storm and don’t show the final depth of snowfall (which was, I believe, somewhere around 20 inches).

(There’s a slideshow here, for those of you reading in feeds and who perhaps can’t see it.)

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* * *

Let’s see, cat pics? Check. Snow pics? Check. What else has been going on that I should add to this too-long, topic-less, meandering post? Hmmm. I do encourage you to sign up for my Mailing List, if you haven’t, so you can be among the first to know when I release a new work of fiction. Or, you know, something else similarly exciting and noteworthy. But that’s about it for updates from me. For now.

Overall, I’m feeling a huge sense of relief and accomplishment. Mixed with mild frustration. Because even though the tasks I accomplished in the past few weeks were necessary, and long overdue, they did take time away from writing. Not that I stopped writing. Far from it. Just as I didn’t stop eating simply because my oven exploded.

Luckily, I’m pretty good at making alternate plans. Also luckily, I have a microwave. And lots of leftover roast pork and garlic mashed potatoes.

Sometimes you don’t realize how desperately you want to do a thing — cooking, writing, whatever — until events transpire that divert you, that prevent you from spending as much time working on a thing as what you had planned.

But now those diversions have been resolved and I’m full speed ahead, all writing, all the time. Plus a bit of cooking. Why do I feel like I just jinxed myself?

 

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Filed under goals, miscellaneous bits, writing

One step at a time

I know, I’ve been quiet lately. I’ve been feeling subdued. Introspective. Sometimes when I’m quiet it’s because I have nothing to say. Other times there’s just too much and it’s overwhelming and I don’t know how to say it. It has been a little bit of both, lately.

I’ve gone through intense periods of time the past few months when all I can do is write. And equally intense periods of time when I simply can’t. When all I can do is think. But honestly, frustrating as it is, “just thinking” is a necessary part of my process. Still, none of that helps with writing blog posts. And sometimes you just have to go with some random topic so people will stop wondering whether you’re still breathing.

Hence, this post.

My daughter sent me a text message yesterday, saying she had just achieved a personal best time in running— two miles in 19:20. She said it’s the first time she has broken the 10-minute/mile pace.

running-mdMy first thought was, “Wow. That’s really impressive!”

My second thought was, “Oh for godsakes, you are so disgustingly healthy.” Okay, fine, that was actually my first thought. But it was closely followed by that I’m so impressed thing. Really. They were almost the same thought.

I’ve always hated running. Always. I don’t hate when other people do it, I just hate doing it myself. These days, with my ridiculously messed up knees, running is not even an option. Not even if I loved it. Which I don’t.

But I have been concerned lately about my lack of exercise. Well, let’s be honest. It’s more of a lack of movement. Of any kind. I have become terrifyingly sedentary, now that I’m working at home full time. Even more so than when I was unhealthily sedentary while chained to a desk in the working world five (or six) days a week.

I sit when I write. And when I read. I sit while browsing the internet. The cat insists I sit for a certain length of time each day so she can snuggle. It’s a problem. And it’s dangerous to my health. I know that.

Part of this burgeoning [ahem] problem, as I perceived it, was my close and continual proximity to my kitchen and all the lovely food contained therein. Lovely healthy non-fattening food, of course. And I’ll admit, I focused for a while on food as an issue because it was easier than contemplating exercise.

I like to think I’m pretty knowledgeable about which foods are fattening and what constitutes healthy eating. I mean, it’s basic common sense, right? But since I was bored procrastinating looking for fancy electronic toys to quantify my eating habits, I started using MyNetDiary. So I could officially document my oh-so-healthy food choices. I could at least reassure myself that my caloric intake was not a problem.

The thing about NetDiary is that it not only tracks calories, it also categorizes fat and carbs and protein. Depending on which diet theory you subscribe to, each of these things is considered, by someone, to be BAD. But arguably, depending on what type of fat it is, fat is the worst of the three. And I was surprised to find that I was consuming too much of it. That things I’d always considered to be “protein” were also pretty high in fat content. Mostly, cheese. Damn, I love cheese. Did you know eggs contain fat? Chicken fat, I presume. And nuts. You add a small handful of pecans to your nutritious salad at lunch and OMG, suddenly you’re courting death. Or something.

It has been an interesting experiment. But really, my eating habits are pretty healthy. So now my focus has shifted to increasing the use of my muscles. Yes, I still have a few. They’re pitiful, but I have hope I can figure out how to make them work again.

I’ve decided I need to do more walking. More than the paucity of steps that comprise the well-worn trek between my desk and the refrigerator. Walking is fantastic exercise. And with my knees being as irrevocably messed up as they are, walking is one of the things I can still do without it resulting in urgent reconstructive orthopedic surgery. Or amputation.

Since NetDiary has worked so well in helping me keep track of food intake, I want to find something that will similarly help me keep track of physical activity. Something that will count my steps and motivate me to take more of them. “You took 10 steps today! Hooray! Let’s try for 12 tomorrow.”

one-step-at-a-time-86951-500-395I know there are a bunch of things out there that do this. But none of them are free, as far as I can tell, so I want feedback before I invest. Have any of you used these things? I googled FitBit and it looked promising. But since then I have been mercilessly stalked by online ads for their product and am sort of pissed off enough by the intrusion that I don’t even want to give them a try, let alone my money.

I know. I am so unreasonable. And so reluctant to admit I need to do this. Sigh. Exercise is hard. Writing is hard too. Isn’t it enough that I’m doing one hard thing? I have to do two hard things at once? And how many times can I write “hard” in one paragraph without having prurient thoughts and snickering before I change all occurrences of that word to difficult?

What was I saying?

Right. Keeping in mind that I don’t have a smart phone (so apps are not an option) and have absolutely no desire whatsoever to connect with an online group of strangers who are also tracking exercise, do any of you have a suggestion for a tracking device? Hmmm, perhaps “tracking device” is a bad choice of words. I really don’t want to have to intercept NSA reports on a daily basis to figure out how many steps I’ve taken. Although I’m almost convinced they could tell me, give or take a step or two.

How do you all keep track of your daily sluggishness activity? I need some inspiration and motivation.

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Filed under goals, health and well-being

The Power of Three

“I’m not dead yet!”

Sorry for the extended silence over here. I’ve actually written a small handful of posts in the past two months, but they were either too trivial or too whiny or involved too much navel-gazing. So I deleted them and decided to wait until I could fit all those qualities into one post.

Ahem.

I’ve been busy writing. And deleting and editing and writing and deleting some more and . . . I swear, I will never participate in NaNo ever again. I suspect I’ve deleted or completely re-written every single word spewed forth in November. Mind you, I think NaNo is a terrific thing for writers if it works for them. I’d absolutely recommend that any interested writer give it a try, because you never know what might work if you don’t try it. But it’s just not a good fit for my writing process. Geez. I’ve never had to do such a major overhaul.

There, that takes care of the trivial whining portion of the post.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about marketing. Trying to think like a reader. Luckily, I am one! In fact, I am a voracious and highly experienced reader. So I’m the perfect person for me to ask about what works in terms of marketing books [just nod and agree as if that made sense].

What works for me? When I discover a new-to-me writer and read a book of theirs that I really like, the first thing I do is check to see whether they’ve written anything else. If they have, I’ll buy another book. If I like that, I’ll buy a third. And a fourth. And probably the entire backlist, provided it’s priced such that my budget can handle it.

But what happens when I read a book I really like and there are no more books by that person? Well, of course, I make a mental note to remember that person’s name. Because that works so well. Not. Sure, I could make an actual list. But I know how hard it is to write a book. I hope that person will write another, but I’ve seen dozens of writers disappear in my decades of reading. So I’m not counting on it.

Seeing an author’s name once or twice is not going to make it stick in my brain, no matter how much I might have enjoyed their writing. There are just too many other books and authors out there. And I read A LOT. But three times . . . there’s something memorable about that. Seeing something three times, searching Amazon three times, buying an author’s books three times, and — this is KEY — really enjoying something three times. That would leave a lasting impression, even with me.

Now, the importance of having a backlist is not a new concept. I’ve heard it from several sources, but probably heard it first from Bob Mayer. He has an uncanny knack for being way ahead of his time. Our time? The times? Whatever. I’m sure his prescience is a direct result of all those alien abductions. Anyway, I remember him saying there’s not much point in marketing your books until you’ve published at least three of them (there’s that number again).

I’ve decided to take that advice a step further. I’m not going to publish any of these stories I’m currently writing until I have at least three of them ready to go. Because if someone really likes a book I’ve written, I want them to be able to buy another one immediately. And, if they enjoy that, yet another. I might never get a second chance to capture that person’s attention. There are just too many other books out there.

I want that person to remember my name when future books are published. I figure three books ought to do it. I might be wrong. I have no statistics or publishing experience to back this up. All I have is my intuition and experience as a reader. But I’m pretty average in terms of remembering things [just nod and agree, humour me] and it seems to work for me. It makes sense to me.

As a writer, putting books out there as soon as they’re ready to go is a seductive prospect. Everyone does it that way, even traditional publishers. It would certainly satisfy my towering impatience. I also think it’s a mistake.

Yeah, I know, most of you reading this post already know my name (as well as my new pen name) and will argue that you don’t want or need to wait until I have three books ready. I know that, and I’m sorry to make you wait. Really, I am.

But I’m sort of hoping to sell books to more than five people. Looking at this from the perspective of an unknown reader, it just doesn’t make sense to rush to publication and do this piecemeal. The importance of seeing things from that perspective, being aware of the discovery process of the unknown reader, is something writers can’t afford to ignore in this new realm of DIY publishing.

So if you’ve been wondering why I haven’t published anything yet, that’s why. Yes, I could have. But just because you can do a thing doesn’t mean you should. And I believe there are compelling reasons why it would be foolish to do so.

Of course, none of this matters AT ALL if no one enjoys the books. So, back to working on that part of it.

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Filed under goals, marketing, self-publishing

An update and an excerpt

Well, here we are, approaching the last week of the 30 days of NaNo, and I thought it was time for an update. Words so far: 26,058. A bit behind, according to their timeline, but I’m happy with it.

My goal is not so much to write 50,000 words as it is to write as many words as I can, consistently. Not to write faster, necessarily, but to spend more time doing it. To get better at not letting myself be distracted by all the Shiny Things on the internet — something I’ve been horribly guilty of the past couple months.

After YEARS of wishing I didn’t have a day job to intrude on writing time, I’m finding it difficult to make the transition to having all the time in the world to write. I’m not accustomed to having more than an hour here and there to focus on writing. It’s tough, forming new habits.

I know, I know. Let’s find the world’s smallest violin and play a thin weak tune to accompany my ridiculously inappropriate whining.

So I’m getting better at focusing and spending more time writing each day. Well, most days. Because there are distractions. There was the day last week when the plumber was here. And I wrote, “And then he kissed her, hard. With all the passion– [pause to answer doorbell] –and longing . . . um, yeah, so then they . . . oh hell . . . finish this scene later, because I am NOT going to write a sex scene while some stranger is messing with my plumbing.”

No, that is not a euphemism.

But the plumber didn’t finish that day and the dispatcher called and said Ray (not his name) couldn’t come the next day and was it okay if his brother Steve (not his name) came instead and, after I reminded myself she didn’t mean it the way it sounded, I was all “sure, as long as he can get the job done.” Did I just say that? And then Steve shows up the next day and HE IS RAY’S IDENTICAL TWIN BROTHER. And then my mind exploded. I swear, you can’t make this stuff up. But you can perhaps imagine how difficult it is to write steamy romance with people spouting double entendres in your general direction and with strong sweaty clean-cut romance tropes flexing their lean muscles all over the place while they do things to your pipes. So to speak.

I mean, c’mon. My imagination is a fearsome and filthy thing.

Anyway. I suspect it might take more time to edit this “fast writing” than it did to actually write it. [Note to self: delete all random references to ménage with twins; save for next book.] When this month-long experiment is over, I’ll have to evaluate whether the benefit of increased quantity [ahem] is worth the loss of . . . what was I saying?

In the meantime, since I know this talk of process is boring, here is an excerpt for your amusement. It’s rough. It hasn’t been edited. Well, maybe a little. Probably it needs to be completely re-written. Or maybe deleted. But I’m posting it anyway BECAUSE I AM FEARLESS. Um, wait. No, not that.

I’m posting it because it has been tough getting back into the mindset of writing romance. I keep wanting to add a conspiracy. Or maybe kill someone. In the story. Obviously, I hope you enjoy it. But also, if you feel inclined, I’d welcome any feedback. Please let me know whether I’m doing this right. Does this sound like the set-up of a steamy romance? Is it something you’d want to continue reading? Do you care about these people? I’m close to being done with the first draft, but it’s not too late. I’m sure I could knock off one or both of them in the edit.

It’s ridiculously long– er, lengthy– um, there are a lot of words, so I’m inserting it after the– oh hell. The excerpt is after the jump. If you want to read it, click the “continue reading” thing:

Continue reading

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Filed under goals, reader opinion, writing

There’s a first time for everything

Oh, help. I’ve signed up to participate in NaNoWriMo. For the first time ever. And I have NO IDEA what I’m doing. Well, other than writing like crazy for the next 30 days.

Anyone else out there participating? Do you want to be my “buddy?” Or tell me what that even means? Or how it works? Because I’m completely clueless.

Here’s the “bio” I posted over there, in which I confess that I’m breaking the rules right off the bat. Which I’m sure surprises exactly no one:

I’ve temporarily set aside the umpteenth draft of the thriller I’m writing to try my hand at steamy romance in the form of short stories and novellas. My goal is to write 50K+ words in November, which will finish the novella-in-progress and also complete a rough draft of the next two projects I’ve outlined. Yeah, I know it’s breaking “the rules” to work on a project already begun, but I don’t really care about that. I won’t be reporting words written prior to November 1st.

My goal is not to “win” according to the standard definition of finishing a 50K novel, but to get a ton of words on the page without stopping to edit or get all angsty over whether they’re good enough. Even if those words belong to different stories. Really hoping some public accountability will help with that. Feel free to (virtually) beat me up if I’m not making progress.

I’m “KD James” over there and here’s the link to my profile:

http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/participants/kd-james

Wish me luck. I have a feeling I’m going to need it.

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Filed under goals, writing