Wednesday, February 18, 2015

V-Day Celebrations and Other Things

I'm one of those people who really does enjoy celebrating every holiday in some way. Usually that means getting out of the house and away somewhere. However, I'm also one of those people who would prefer not to be celebrating with hundreds or thousands of other people in the same place. I know some people are energized by big crowds. I'm not one of them.

Part of my Valentine's Day celebration was spent at Jan's Paperback's with four other authors. We were greeting customers, helping them find books and generally talking about romance and books. It was a very pleasant way to spend my afternoon. Customers came in mostly in twos or threes. Just enough to actually be able to chat, if they wanted. In the pic to the right are authors Pamela Cowan, Sarah Raplee, moi, and Susie Slanina. Mercer Addison was also there but left before this pic was taken. We tried to include her by standing in front of her excellent historical romance books.

Then on Tuesday--after the three day weekend crowds had all gone back to work--my husband and I headed to the Oregon Coast via a longer scenic route out hwy 103 and then hwy 202 to Astoria. We have always enjoyed traveling together and this was no different. We took a short hike off Hwy 202 to see Fishhawk Falls, drove by the Wildlife Refuge where a herd of Elk were grazing in the meadow. Our primary destination in Astoria was the , Columbia River Maritime Museum. I always knew the Columbia River entrance was one of the most dangerous in the world because of shifting sand bars; but the museum really drives that point home. I learned a lot about the river, the history of sailing and trading on the river, and the great work of the Coast Guard in rescuing fisherman both in the Pacific and on the Columbia River.

 Ships line up awaiting a pilot to join the ship and bar pilot to navigate into the river. They then pick up a river pilot to help them head up the Columbia River to ports far away.

We ended the evening with a nice pub meal and a celebration with a tasting of eight different stouts at Ft. George Brewery.  February is their "festival of the dark arts" where they brew about 15 different kinds of stouts. No, I didn't drink 8 pints of Stout. I'd still be there under the table asleep if I did. My husband and I shared a sampler tray of 8 and played the game of trying to figure out what each one was based on the descriptions. We were right on four out of the eight. Then we each settled on the one we liked best. I fell in love with the Murky Pearl Oyster Stout. Believe me, if I hadn't tasted it I would have NEVER ordered it based on the description. But it was delicious.

A wonderful day, beautiful weather, and lots of great conversation, dreaming, and laughing with my husband.How do you like to spend your Valentine's Day?

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