Monday, January 26, 2015

Setting Stretch Goals and Achievable Goals

It's been awhile since I posted. Life got in the way quickly toward the end of 2014. My father entered the hospital with pneumonia the day after my last post. He died on December 10th with his family surrounding him. In the past month, I have allowed time to process all of that--both emotionally and physically as I and my family went about the business of living life with loss and all the legal followup that must be done. This not only put me behind at the end of the year, but also put me behind already in 2015.  However, that is the nature of life--to provide changes in a path that forces you to stop, reconsider, review, and find a new path.

I usually spend the week between Christmas and New Year's taking stock of what has happened in the previous year and making new goals for the coming year.  I didn't really get to that process until about a week ago.  Some of my goals are similar to what they were last year. Others are a little different.

My word count goal has diminished from last year. This year it is 400,000. Last year it was 500,000 and I didn't make it. I only did a little over 300,000. It wasn't just the death that stopped me from making my goal. I actually started slipping toward the end of August. But, like many people, I was convinced I could make it up. It really meant two books and a couple short stories for that last 200K. Then there wasn't time.

One might ask, why go for 400K when you've already proven you can't do it.  First, I always set "stretch" goals. Those are goals that I know with good focus I can achieve, but also know that if something big happens in my life I'll miss them. I ALWAYS dream big. My goals are hard enough that I need to believe in the big reward to keep myself going. Of course, then the key is not being horridly depressed if the big reward isn't quite what I thought. However,  I can learn from failure too. I can readjust my dream if it proves completely unrealistic. On the other hand, I've had big dreams throughout my life and if I hadn't had them I would have settled for much, much less. I would have settled for never going to college because the truth is there wasn't money to do it. I would have settled for never seeing beyond our national borders because it is very easy for me to cocoon in my own little space and surround myself with all those things that are familiar and safe. I would have NEVER been a writer or published because I learned early in life that a steady, consistent paycheck was the only way I could survive. 

Dreams are important. But they don't happen without incremental goals to get there. And then taking action to meet those goals. If I fall down on any one of those steps--dreaming big, setting goals and a timline, and then consistently taking action--I would not have accomplished most of what I have in my life

So why 400K words when last year a barely got over 300K? First, last year I had some darn good excuses in life rolls for not making my word count. However, I also know there was a good amount of wasted time that I can wrangle into something more this year.  Also, I'm dropping the number from 500K of last year to 400K in order to accommodate some things in my life that are not word count related. Honestly, 400K is 8,000 words per week for 50 weeks. That leaves me two weeks of vacation time. That is only 1,600 words per day for five days a week. For me that is 6-1/2 double-spaced pages of writing each day. My posts on this blog average 1,000 words. Really, very doable. No excuses.

By choosing 400K instead of 500K, I'm allowing myself time for editing, plotting, admin stuff around my writing career and running two businesses that relate to my career--Windtree Press and Indie Author Prep. It also allows me to do my volunteer work which takes about 10 hours per week on average.

Outside of writing a have three other goals that are "must haves" for me to keep a balanced life. I didn't do so well on these either last year. But this year I am putting solid intention behind them instead of leaving it to when I happen to think about it. These non-writing goals are:

Walk every day -- It's hard to believe but I can very easily not leave the house for days on end. I can be glued to my computer and the walking I do is limited to going up and down the stairs in my house. Believe me, long term that is NOT good for me.  To make it more likely I will do this, I haven't even put a goal of how far I have to walk. I just have to physically leave the house and stay out there walking for AT LEAST 10 minutes.  If it is raining, I put on my raincoat and at least get up to the mailbox and back. I know it sounds small, but for me this is a huge deal. I actually LOVE to walk. But tearing myself away from my computer to do it is very difficult.

Spend time on something else three days out of every month --Take a minimum of three days (24 hours) out of every month where I do no writing work. Instead I spend time with my husband, my friends, doing something other than my work. Last year I did some of this when I collaborated with my husband on music and lyrics for a couple of original songs. It was both challenging and freeing. Most important it really made me happy. I also do try to connect with friends and family regularly. But I need to set aside time for this--not just let it happen when I'm procrastinating doing work and am already stressed, or doing it because I feel guilty for having ignored them for a month. It must be intentional!

Take a "vacation" once every quarter -- I don't necessarily mean the go-away-for-weeks-on-end type of vacation. Though that will be a goal in a future year, right now that isn't in the budget time- or finance-wise. What I mean is to take a vacation with my husband from all the "must do's" in our lives. It might be just one day that we spend hiking or just sightseeing. It might be two days that we go somewhere and spend the night and disconnect from electronics and those things that keep us constantly at attention.  We did do this a couple times last year, but again it was more of a last minute thing instead of being planned. I am focusing on intentionality with this.

Something I knew intellectually, but hadn't taken into my heart, is that I HAVE to make time to reconnect, renew, and remember that I am sooooo very fortunate to have the people in my life that I do. They all love me. They all put up with me, and rarely ask things of me. I need to be more present with them. Doing that will provide balance and I will be renewed. Whenever I do it I am so thankful.

What goals do you have? How do you find balance?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Don't Forget the Mistletoe by Christy Carlyle
Continuing my author interviews with authors in The Gift of Christmas anthology. Today, I'm talking with Christy Carlyle about her short story "Don't Forget the Mistletoe." I loved this story about the difficult transition of friends to romance and all the expectations we set for that to happen.

Not only is Christy the author of this story, and the author of two wonderful historical romance novellas, but she is also the cover designer for the anthology.  A truly talented person who works way too many hours in many venues, I'm lucky she had a few moments to join us today.

Tell us about your inspiration for this story, Christy.

I’ve always loved stories set during wintertime and somehow linked to Christmas traditions. When I was a kid, there was an archway in the wall that joined our living and dining rooms, and sometimes we would hang a bundle of mistletoe in the center of that arch. It was glossy and green, and I knew the special tradition of giving or receiving a kiss when you stood under the mistletoe with someone. I’ve always wanted to incorporate that tradition into a romance story.

I grew up in the Midwest and most of my extended family lived nearby, so the holidays were always a grand event with lots of laughter, food, and fun. It was a chance to catch up and plan for the coming year. The backdrop of the holidays immediately evokes sentimental memories, yet it also makes me think about change. The advent of a new year is a time when anything is possible—resolutions are made, fortunes can change, new beginnings are just around the corner. The story of Ben and Amelia came to me wrapped up in this notion of a new possibility—a relationship that blossoms from friendship into love.

The friends-to-lovers story is one of my favorites. When I was younger and first read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, I was devastated that Jo March didn’t end up with her friend and neighbor Theodore “Laurie” Laurence. Mr. Knightley and Emma Woodhouse from Jane Austen’s Emma are my favorite example of literary longtime friends with the potential for more. Much like Ben and Amy in my short story, “Don’t Forget the Mistletoe,” they are the closest of friends, even confidantes, but one of them is driven to risk the comfort of their friendship for the chance of something more.

You can learn more about Christy and her other books in these places:
Christy's Website | Windtree Press Author Page | Facebook | Twitter | G+ | Tumbler | Pinterest

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas with You by Jane Killick
Back to the holiday anthology, The Gift of Christmas, author interviews.  As a reminder, I am continuing my posts for individual authors on what inspired them to write their particular story. Today I'm talking to Jane Killick, the author of the short story "Christmas with You" in the anthology. 

Jane lives in the UK and works for BBC radio.  Like myself, and many Windtree Press authors, Jane is a cross-genre writer in both fiction and non-fiction. For my SF fans you may know Jane's well-regarded books about the series Red Dwarf and Babylon 5.   For my romance fans, you may have laughed your way through her romantic comedy novels, If Wishes Were Husbands and Fairy Nuff. She's also written plenty of short stories for magazines, anthologies, and as stand-alone reads.

What I love most about Jane is her sense of humor. Many of her titles make me laugh out loud. This story made me smile and cry.  It is poignant and reflects so much of a young family's first Christmas together with a new baby and all that entails.

So, Jane, What Inspired You to Write "Christmas with  You."

Last Christmas, I was out having lunch with a friend when the restaurant owner got into conversation with the couple on the table next to us. The man was an airline pilot working out of London’s Heathrow and was talking about how he had to work over Christmas. The planes have to keep flying, he explained, because there isn’t enough room to keep them all on the ground. I found this really interesting and, when I was looking to write a Christmas story for The Gift of Christmas anthology, I remembered this conversation and used it as my starting point. But my story, Christmas with You, although it features an airline pilot, isn’t really about an airline pilot.
Some years ago, my brother-in-law started to come to our house for Christmas. In his family, opening Christmas presents is a solitary affair as everyone opens their gifts in their own little corner all at once. We thought this was boring and selfish, so we made him do it our way. He was amazed at how we opened each present, one by one in front of each other, so the rest of the family enjoys the excitement as each gift is revealed. This makes opening Christmas presents much more inclusive and fun, even if it is only watching Grandma tear off the wrapping paper from her new pair of slippers.
I used this annecdote in my story. But even though it features a family opening their Christmas presents, this isn’t what my story is about.
One year when I was a child, my parents bought a turkey for Christmas that was so large that it wouldn’t fit in the fridge. So my dad put it outside in the greenhouse to keep it cool and fresh. This seemed like a good idea until Christmas morning when he went to bring it in, only to discover it had frozen solid during the overnight frost. We had to wait for it to defrost before we could cook it. Christmas dinner was very late that year.
I remembered that incident when I was writing my story, which features a turkey too frozen to cook for Christmas dinner. But my story isn’t really about desfrosting turkeys.
My story is about a young couple desperate to spend their first Christmas together with their baby son. Fate, it seems, is on their side as circumstances fall into place to allow this to happen, despite the husband’s work schedule.
Except my story isn’t really about that either. The truth about my story is only revealed at the end, and to find that out, you’re just going to have to read it.

Readers, doesn't this peak your interest? I have read Jane's story and I promise you will remember it for a very long time. 

To learn more about Jane and her work visit her at these places:
Jane's website | Windtree Press author page | Facebook | Twitter |