About Jennifer DeCuir

I write small town contemporary romance for Crimson Romance. Busy mom of two, I live for (or is it on?) coffee and chocolate.

This Writer Is Always On Call

Most jobs come with a schedule. 9-5 is probably the most common. Some people punch a time clock, others just show up, put in their time and leave. If I had to describe my work hours, it would be easiest to describe them as ‘on call’.

I write for a living. So you’d think I can set my own hours. Show up at the keyboard, pound out a few pages and call it good. Right? Except it doesn’t work that way. At least not for me. I’ve read a lot of advice on the craft of writing that you should force yourself to sit down – and the words come out. Apparently my muse never got that memo. (Or she did and she’s too busy laughing hysterically to give it any credence.)

Don’t get me wrong. I prepare. I plot like there’s no tomorrow. I know what has to go into the scene I’m trying to write. I know the POV, I know the setting and I may even know whole snippits of conversation. But if it’s not ready to come out my fingertips…it’s not ready. No amount of sitting (or chocolate bribes) will get those words to flow if they don’t want to.

Here’s how my creativity works on call. I plot and plan and set up the scene…every weekday morning after the kids leave for school. Sometimes it comes right then. I write for a few hours, the scene is done. I call it a day. But sometimes (more often, lately, than not) it doesn’t. And I have to get up and do something else. Fold laundry, walk the dog, run a few errands. I’m giving it time to percolate.

I never know when it’s going to hit — that moment when the stars align and everything falls into place. It could be just an inkling, or it could be a fully mapped out, word-for-word scene. It starts in my brain, then my whole body is buzzing. My fingertips literally start wiggling. I can feel the words right there on the ends of them! The urge to run to my computer is a compulsion I cannot control. Nor, do I dare deny.

Now, unlike a surgeon who is on call…my situation gets a little more complicated. Have I mentioned I’m working on four books at once? Can you imagine an on-call surgeon with four different specialties? They’d never know if they were being called in for an appendectomy, a face lift, a c-section or brain surgery. I wait for the muse to strike, but I never know which book she’s going to hit me with. Keeps me on my toes.

Either I’ll keep my mind busy enough to ward off dementia, in my older years, or my sanity left the minute I decided to devote myself to a writing career. We’ll just pretend it’s the former. Ignorance is bliss, after all.

Anyone else have a schedule that requires them to be available on a whim? Tell us about it.

Um…Yeah…No.

Reading is subjective, wouldn’t you say? What is on one readers “auto-buy” list just won’t be another readers cup of tea. I read all kinds of romance, but I especially love time travel. And a creepy house with some mysterious backstory that the hero and heroine must discover in order to put ghosts to rest and get their own happily ever after? Gimme some of that!

I read the first 50 Shades book. Had to. I mean, everyone was reading it, so I had to see what the hype was about. Yeah, I’m still trying to figure that last part out… Hurting for pleasure. Um…nope.

Back when Interview With A Vampire came out (the movie), I couldn’t get enough of vampire romances. After Twilight (again, the movie, because…Taylor Lautner!) I was all about wolf shifters. Johanna Lindsey sucked me in to historical romance (I still don’t know the difference between regency, victorian, etc.). I’ve experienced an obsession with Highland warriors, long hair and (swoon!) kilts.

But there are subgenres and tropes that just don’t do it for me. Billionaires. Don’t ask me why. I feel weird enough as it is. But to me, there is nothing sexy about a three-piece suit. I know, I’m a freak, right? A sexy Greek Tycoon wants to take me out on his yacht? I should be packing my bag already. Nah. Now a scruffy dude in a tight white t-shirt and a tool belt? Yeah, baby! You picked up a pizza for dinner? And picked me flowers? Oh, you are getting lucky tonight!!!

What about all the other shifter books that have come out? Dragon shifters are HUGE. So clearly there is a market for them. But I’m sorry, all I can think about is scales and teeth and…ew! I did a search for shifter romance and saw that horses are a thing. I’ve heard of “hung like a horse”, but literally? Oh, hell no! And I bet everyone has seen the dinosaur romances. Yeah, probably shouldn’t even lump them with shifters, as it’s women with…dinosaurs. No shifting involved. But I’m lumping all the non-humans here.

The last one I’ll take a pass on – royalty. When I was a little girl, I didn’t want to be a princess. I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to be a mom. I’ve never followed Kate and William. She’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong. And I’m sure theirs is a true fairy tale romance, but it’s just not my thing. I’ve tried binge-watching Reign. I wanted to love it, but…eh. Guess I’m just a practical peasant. 😉

Okay, I’ve told you some of the subgenres that I love, and those I’ll pass on. Now it’s your turn. What are your “auto buys” and what do you do your best to avoid? (You can say small town romance. I promise you won’t hurt my feelings.) The great thing about romance is that there is something for everyone. And there is no wrong answer. When the right authors and their particular readers find each other – it’s magic! They get each other. The writers are writing what they are passionate about and the readers are gobbling it up and clambering for more — which fuels the author to write faster — which gets the book in the hands of the reader faster. Wait…I went off on a tangent, didn’t I? Subgenres. Favs? Not faves? And…go!

Books You Need to Read

I finished reading my 17th book of 2017 last night. I’ve committed to reading 70 books on the Goodreads challenge this year, and I am a little ahead of schedule – woo hoo! But I noticed something about my reading habits this year that is different than most years. My genres were all over the place. So I went through my favorites and figured the titles were varied enough that I had recommendations for everyone. So here goes (in no particular order):

MAKE ME LOVE YOU By Johanna Lindsey

To this day, the Mallory family has been one of my favorite “wish-I-could-be-one” families in literature. Just to be clear, this book covers the same time frame but does not mention the Mallorys. It just happens to be by the same author. A regency romance, this one has the brooding hero, the plucky heroine and lots of adventure romping all over England. Horses, wolves and a cat that loves sausage complete the picture. I brought this book to the table during meals, to my desk when I was supposed to be writing and sent the kids to bed early last night so I could finish it. If you love historical romances, you must read this one.

11/22/63 By Stephen King

So we all agree that Stephen King is a master storyteller. But some of his books I won’t even touch — because I know I’ll be so freaked out that I’ll probably need a prescription for anti-anxiety meds. Cell? OMG! I still shudder when I think of that one. The length of 11/22/63 might intimidate some people (at 850+ pages), but make the time. It’s SO worth it. Time travel (one of my absolute favs!), alternate reality…it was so unlike King and yet still wonderfully awesome. There are a ton of conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of JFK and I’d never really been interested enough to read about it until now. I finished this book in January and I still find myself thinking about the main character, Jake. Like he was a real person and you just wonder what he’s up to now. This one will take you a while, but keep at it. Well worth the read.

THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE By Janet Fox

I stole this one from my daughter’s bookshelf. As you can probably tell from the title, it’s intended for middle-grade and YA. But I challenge any adult Harry Potter fan not to love this one. Set in WWII, a group of children is sent to a run-down castle in Scotland to escape the London Blitz. Creepy castle…check. Mistress of the castle who isn’t exactly human…check. Nazi spy…check. Magically imbued objects…check. Lots of fun for the whole family. My daughter was dancing around, waiting until we could discuss this book without her giving anything away.

A FAMILY UNDER THE STARS By Christy Jeffries

While I am no stranger to Harlequin’s Special Edition line, Jeffries is a new-to-me author. And this review is especially for those of you who have asked me for more Scallop Shores books because you enjoy small town contemporaries, with repeat visits from characters popping back and forth between books. All her books are set in the fictional town of Sugar Falls, ID. This one involves a rugged outdoorsman and a by-the-book lifestyles expert. Doesn’t get much different than that, right? I absolutely fell in love with the grumpy grandfather, and her kids were adorably unique. Jeffries is wonderful at dropping in backstory and adding layer upon layer to her characters in just a sentence or two scattered here and there. I finished her book and thought, “Can I be her when I grow up?” Not only is this going in my keeper stack, but it’s on my reference shelf when I need help with my own plot structure.

THE LADIES ROOM By Carolyn Brown

I’d categorize this one as women’s fiction. There is romance in this book, but the main focus of the story is on Trudy and how her life gets turned upside down when she overhears some shocking news in the ladies room during her great-aunt’s funeral. Are you a big DIY fan? Trudy tackles some major renovations. Awkward/hurtful family interactions? By the boatload! I felt bad for Trudy. I felt hopeful. I cheered her on when things looked bleak. And I hollered out loud when she stood up for herself. She’s a gutsy gal and I think every woman out there will find a piece of themselves in this complex character. Read this one. Seriously.

Okay, your turn. You’ve seen a little bit about the kind of books I’m drawn to. What recommendations do you have for me? Time travel? Spooky castles and magic? Sexy, brooding heroes? I’ve got over 50 books left to read this year if I’m going to win the challenge. Help a girl out.

 

I Should Be…

 

I should be writing but…

I’m doing an emergency load of wash for Big Sis, who HAS to wear her green pair of pants today. I’m researching ideas for Little Guy, because he wants to ENTERTAIN everyone at the science fair this year. I’m helping hubby go door-to-door passing out flyers for the cub scout food drive because it was pouring too hard when he took the scouts out on Saturday.

I should be exercising but…

It’s raining…again. The treadmill sounds like it’s dying. I’m bored with my playlist. My workout clothes are now too small. My sneakers pinch my pinky toes.

I should be cooking better dinners but…

That huge bag of fish sticks is going to get freezer burned if I don’t use it up. The more effort I put in, the less everyone eats. My knives are dull, I can’t chop anything. I’ve gotten used to putting dinner on the table in less than fifteen minutes, thanks to Uncle Bens microwaveable rice. I hate cooking — I hate spending any amount of time in my kitchen. I hate my kitchen.

I should be doing laundry (the dishes, picking up) but…

There are only two more episodes of the latest Netflix addiction to watch. I’m drowning in my stack of TBR books – paperbacks and Kindle. It’s my turn on Words By Post (I play 12 games concurrently.) No one is home, it’s quiet and I don’t want to ruin the silence by running all sorts of chugging machines.

I should be promoting my books/brand but…

Does anyone really see it anyway? I feel like I’m pimping myself out – it’s way too uncomfortable. I’ve spent my life avoiding attention, so “Hey, look at me!” is not a concept I’m familiar with. I start helping other authors promote their books instead. I start one-clicking MORE books for my TBR pile while I’m on Amazon. I spend time talking to Disney and Tolkien fans, instead of potential readers, on Twitter.

I should be enjoying a glass of wine at the end of a long day but…

I’m herding Big Sis out of the steamy bathroom–where she’s spent the last 45 minutes using up my hot water. I’m listening to Little Guy’s latest “what if” story that involves dogs that can talk and walk on two legs, when he’s supposed to be sleeping. The dog waited until I sat down to tell me she really has to pee. When I got up to let the dog out, the cat stole my spot on the couch.

 

What’s My Motivation?

Have those of you who work outside the home ever called in and said “Sorry, just not feeling it today. I’m going to stay home and play games on Facebook all day. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.” Of course not. That would get you fired. So those of us who work from home should be subject to the same rules, albeit enforced by ourselves, rather than a boss. Right? Except writer brains don’t work like other brains. Some days (okay, in my case, weeks) the words just aren’t there. The urge to sit down and get creative is just…missing.

And because I see all these posts on Facebook about the super-productive authors with ten kajillion projects going at once, the ones who have charts and schedules for which blog post comes out on which day, and how many thousand pages they are going to edit on which book and all the new book contracts they’re signing this week…I feel guilty. I’m not working hard enough. Heck, I’m not working at all, so let’s call a spade a spade. I’m a fraud. If I’m not writing, I cannot call myself a writer.

Guilt turned to panic. I haven’t had a new release out in over a year. My readers are going to forget my name. They’ll have moved on to the next author who actually releases on a reliable schedule. Then panic to hopelessness. What’s the point? The first book in my latest trilogy has been rejected repeatedly. Why even finish the series? Does anyone really want to read this? It may be the book/series of MY heart, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is going to fall in love with it.

Writing can be a very solitary existence. And it’s easy to forget that there are others out there who might be going through the exact same thing I was struggling with. So I reached out. And it felt so good to talk with another author who knew just how I was feeling. She told me it was okay, healthy in fact, to give myself permission to take a break. To refill the creative well. She suggested I put a time limit on it, a deadline that would force me back into my chair and getting back to the business of storytelling.

I started to get excited. I thought about all the walks I was going to take with the dog, snapping pictures along the way. I thought of all the plant nurseries I was planning to visit, because something about nature and flowers is connected to my writing. I can’t explain it…it just is. I picked up a book I’d promised to read and review. I told myself that it was okay to put someone else’s book first for a change. I queued up Netflix and looked for a new bingeworthy series.

 

But while I was busy telling myself it was okay to step back, I was already feeling the stirrings of something new. And, let me tell you, the floodgates have truly opened wide. My head is full of blog post ideas, new series’ ideas, people I want to contact, publishers I want to query. I’m considering self-publishing for the first time in my writing career. This excitement — a reason to scramble out of bed in the morning and get to work — it had been missing for a long time and I was worried it would never come back. But I am so thrilled that it did. Yeah, it’s making me a little bonkers because I haven’t laid everything out in a “first this, then that” type of pattern, but I’m enjoying figuring out what fights its way to the top. Today the blog post. Tomorrow a little research, perhaps. But I’m back, baby! I’m not a fraud after all. Just a creative person who was in a bit of a slump. It happens to all of us, and it’s not the end of the world.

Sending Mixed Signals

Oh, my poor kids! Some days I feel like I should be putting aside money, not just for their college tuition, but also for the therapy they are going to need to make it in the world as fully-functioning adults. Yeah, I know… “Cut yourself some slack, Jenn. Every mom makes mistakes.” Anyone else do these?

Teach your child not to lie.     Then after a few missed nights of reading, you encourage them to “fudge” an entry or two on their reading log. “But Mama, that’s lying to the teacher!” She wants to see you did your best and you want to show her your best. So just write it down. Bad mom! Last Monday Little Guy brought home a poem and was told he wouldn’t get credit for learning it (thus moving on to the next poem with the rest of the class) unless he’d read it out loud to at least two family members per day. Those listeners were to sign the back of the poem and comment on his reading. I dug it out of a stack of papers today as I was getting his stuff ready for school. So, you guessed it, we “fudged” a weeks’ worth of entries. Bad mom!

Foster independence.     Suggest the kids make their own lunches. It’s good for them, right? But then you find them throwing nothing but granola bars and cookies (with the occasional piece of fruit) into their lunch bags. So you take the task back. They have more free time in the morning and you don’t have to police their actions, so there is more peace. Confession: the biggest reason I took back lunch-making was to be able to go through the pantry to toss in items that the kids refuse to finish. You know the snacks that have sat there for months, and are close to expiring, because something cooler came along? You won’t eat this at home? You’ll eat it at school. (Or, more likely the case, throw it out at school where I can’t see them do it.)

Limit their screen time.     Kids should play and spend time being kids. Get outside and run around in the fresh air. But then it’s winter in Seattle… rain. All.The.Time. They want to stay in and play on the Xbox, the computer, their tablet. They’re whining about how bored they are. But give them the Xbox, the computer or the tablet and the house goes silent. I can get some work done. No one is bugging me. It’s a terrible and beautiful thing, this peace that comes over the house. Hubby tries to reason that video games improve hand/eye coordination. But do they really???

Treat everyone equally.     I try to make sure that both kids have chores that they are capable of completing. I avoid separate bedtimes so that Little Guy doesn’t feel so…little. But here’s where it gets tough: sleepovers. She gets invited over to her best friends’ quite often. He has never been invited to a sleepover. She could have a friend come over and the girls have no problem keeping the level of crazy at a slow boil. He might be able to do that too. But I’m too scared to give him the opportunity. I think “two 8 year old boys running loose through my house” and gray hairs start pushing their way through my scalp. He says “it’s not fair!” and he’s RIGHT! So instead of allowing him to host a sleepover, I stop letting her host them. Selfish mom, much?

Too many sweets is bad for you.     Oh, but it’s okay for mommy to have her own “chocolate drawer” in the kitchen — that no one else is allowed to touch. And then the morning after allowing Little Guy to bid on (and win) not one but TWO cakes at the Cub Scout blue and gold banquet’s cake auction, offering to let them eat cake for breakfast. What kind of mom does this? A mom that has two huge freaking cakes that need to go… need to disappear… like, yesterday! Next year I’m just going to hand over my money to help the pack and not even bid on the cakes.

Parenting is tough. Get the kids through another day and we can call it a win. At least for now. Lecture them on the evils of alcohol and then sit down to enjoy a glass of wine. Hey, our parents sent us mixed signals of their own and we turned out okay. Sorta. How about you? Do you send your kids mixed signals? Are there any biggies I missed?

Odd Man Out

I did something this year that I have never done in my entire adult life. I took a vacation with my sisters – just my sisters. For five days, we cruised the Caribbean, skirting around Cuba as we explored Ocho Rios, Jamaica and Key West, FL. We group text all the time. We update each other with long emails sent while the kids are all at school. But this was new. Being alone together, talking, laughing and catching up… that was new for us. It was good for us.

I learned a lot on this cruise, like how those two can out drink me any day of the week. I learned we all had different experiences growing up that we had, for whatever reason, never shared with each other. I learned what it was like for each of them, caring for our mother as cancer slowly took over her body and mind (I was in my third trimester, and unable to travel to be there and help out.). I learned that even though we weren’t as close as sisters should be, the awkwardness of being trapped on a ship together never came to pass. Conversation came easily. Laughter, even easier. It was a really great time.

I learned something else though. I learned how similar my sisters are… and how different I was. Jill talked about work and life up at camp. All the people she meets and how she craves someone to talk to. Julie is a bank teller and likened the people she encountered on a daily basis as almost a second family. They needed that contact. It was second nature to start up a conversation with a stranger and come out with a new friend. On the cruise, we would be in an elevator with a group of strangers and one or both of them would reach out and connect with a fellow traveler. Without even thinking about it.

Then there is me. I work from home every day and rarely get out to talk with people – and I like that. Conversations make me nervous. Am I saying something stupid? Boring? Do I sound like I’m rambling? When can this be done, so I can go back home and be alone with my books. Hide on Facebook and talk to people from the safety of my computer. Call me an introvert. A slave to social anxiety. The complete opposite of my sisters. I tried to explain this to them, but they couldn’t seem to wrap their heads around it. Their need for social interaction was so great that they felt sorry for me, alone in my writing cave all day.

Low eighties and sunny every day — in January. Couldn’t have asked for better weather.

Another thing that was different was that, as we approached the end of our vacation, I was anxious to see my family again. I couldn’t wait to get back to my desk and submit my next manuscript. I looked forward to getting back to my routine. They would have gladly stayed on the ship and sailed off for a second voyage. And when we got home, they pined for the sunshine and warm weather. Like, really, really missed it. They both suffer from seasonal affective disorder. I live in Seattle, where it’s grey about 75% of the year… and yet it doesn’t seem to bother me like living through winter in New England affects them. Just another thing that sets us apart.

They said we needed to retake this one because I wasn’t making a silly face.

But I gave this some thought and realized that my sisters resemble our mother. She was the life of the party, loved having all the attention on her. She always had a joke ready that would have the whole room laughing. I, on the other hand, am just like my dad. He was so shy, he wouldn’t even answer the telephone if he were the only one home at the time. Parties and visits to out-of-town family were difficult for him. He had a handful of guys he could call friends. But they were good friends. But, hey, opposite attract. And if it weren’t for the wallflower meeting the social butterfly, my sisters and I wouldn’t be here. Variety is a good thing. If we were all alike, life would be extremely dull.

I miss my parents every single day. But I still have my sisters. And I so happy we finally took this trip and got to know each other as women, not just the door-slamming, tattling kids and bathroom-hogging teens we once were. Next year we are bringing our families along. Now THAT is going to get crazy. 😉

Motherhood: A Balancing Act

mom_hectic_morning_webThis gig is hard, man! The back to school routine of getting them up, washed, dressed, fed and out the door with their homework and lunches — sometimes we are right down to the wire. Okay, most times. Yesterday Little Guy had to buy lunch because he didn’t have time to make his own. Yeah, that’s another thing adding, rather than taking away stress to my morning. He wants to make his own lunch. Why it kills me to let go of control in this one little facet of school prep, I will never understand.

Then the other half of the school day. Getting them to do homework. Wheedling. Cajoling. Bribing. She insists on setting her own schedule. He can’t understand why I won’t let him read a comic book during reading time. The teachers want my signature on everything from school lunch menus to nightly homework assignments — just to prove that I’ve seen it. OMG! I’ve seen it, already! Don’t care. Stop giving ME homework. I put in my thirteen years.kids-fighting

It’s a wonder I don’t start drinking the minute we get home about 3:30, instead of waiting until the kids have gone to bed. Hey, chill out. I’m a one-glass-of-wine kind of girl. That’s all I need to find my happy place. Well, that and a good book. Or a good Netflix binge. Just some valuable, non-mom ‘me’ time to counteract the fighting, the arguing (I swear my oldest has a career in law ahead of her), the broken windows (tools, brooms… if it isn’t actually his, Little Guy will eventually break it). I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to wanting to run away every once in a while.

And because we need it, because we’ve earned it, sometimes we’re given that teeny little glimpse of mommy perfection. Just enough to keep us from completely losing our shit. I started to write ‘going bonkers’ and realized that just doesn’t say enough. Call a spade a spade, am I right?

After fighting with LG for days to read his just-right books, I offer him a deal. I’ll cut his reading time down to twenty minutes if he agrees to read the book he got out of the school library. The timer went off at twenty minutes and he asked (I kid you not!) to keep reading. And at 40 minutes he announced he’d finished the book. Cover to cover. That is my amazing second grader! I felt like the quarterback doing his dance after a fifty-yard touchdown. happy-dance

The night everyone raves over dinner, asks for seconds, cleans their own plate and doesn’t ask what’s for dessert. Walking in to find that Big Sis is voluntarily cleaning her bedroom. Not just shoving it under the bed but making piles to donate, recycle and toss. The love notes I find in the shower, when they’ve used up my supply of Aqua Notes I keep in there for when inspiration strikes. Random hugs, even when I’m not wearing a really fuzzy pair of pajamas. God, I live for those moments.

I’ll go in tonight, after they’re asleep. Slide the DS out from under its hiding place under his pillow, and the Kindle out from under hers. I will watch them at their most vulnerable. Eleven and seven and still clinging to a cherished stuffed animal as they snore softly and drool all over their pillows. I’ll take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. Before the crazy starts all over again the next morning. Eh, it may be a different crazy. After all, it’s a different day. And the good moments will be different too. A check and balance system that keeps me on my toes. Because some day I’ll be the grandma, and they’ll be coming to me for parenting advice. Oh yeah, you better believe I’m gonna drag out every embarrassing memory from their childhood I can possibly think of. That’s balance for ya!cutesleeper

I Can Do This!

believeThat’s my new mantra. “I can do this!” Because I can. I learned the hard way. We found out in June that Home Depot refused to do our flooring project until we hired a contractor to put in sub-flooring (something they neglected to mention at the onset of the project). We were completely broke and out of options. A neighbor came over, took a look and said “Oh, yeah, we can totally do this.” Now I’ve used a hammer to hang a picture, but that’s about it.

12Fast forward to August. I put in my OWN subfloor. And instead of backing off and letting Home Depot take it from there, I kept going. I laid my OWN flooring. I learned how to use a few different types of power saws (what a rush!). Instead of a hammer, I got to use a nail gun – three different sized ones. I wore knee pads and measured and snapped, messed up and fixed it. I visited Home Depot for the supplies (oh, the irony!) and got good at choosing just the right lumber. I went to bed covered in paint and aching from every muscle in my body.

We still aren’t done. The landing and the stairs needs to be carpeted. I ripped up the old carpet and padding but we were hoping to find someone who knew what they were doing for this stretch and wouldn’t mind working for pizza and beer. Unfortunately, we were only able to find someone to talk me through it. And back in June, I would be terrified at the prospect. But now? Bring it on. I can do this! That’s on the agenda this weekend.

thisI had no idea that this mantra was going to carry over into my writing life. In July I went to RWA Nationals for the first time. I was scared spitless to pitch to the editor and agent I’d lined up months ago. What if they hated my story idea? It IS pretty different…for me. So I researched pitch sheets and one sheets. It was a little risky, and they might not even want to read it, but you never know until you try. But I did it. And both sessions went so well that I felt incredibly empowered. Both the editor and the agent asked for a full. I’m still waiting to hear back, but I am staying busy and not worrying about things I have no control over.

I-did-it_1Yesterday I was plotting out my next book with a friend. I realized I was staying very safe with the plot ending. It was time to step outside my comfort zone and go places I’d never had the nerve to go before. It was scary to think about, but at the same time…exciting. Now. I’m ready to take my writing to the next level. I’ve learned a lot about myself this summer. I’ve learned not to be afraid to try something new. Because, if there is one thing I’ve learned this summer, it’s that I can do this. 🙂

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The Writer’s Life

roryreading

Remember on the Gilmore Girls, how Rory always carried a book wherever she went? Had to wait for the bus? Pulled out her book. Waiting for someone to get done somewhere? Got in a chapter or two. I love that. And I subscribe to that. I try to keep a book in my purse or in my car, because you never know when you’ll get the opportunity to read for a few minutes.

brainwritingThat’s the reader me. The writer me always carries a story around as well. Except that it’s in my head. And lately, my brain is flipping back and forth between three different stories. It might sound weird if you aren’t a writer. Distracting, to say the least. But it’s really not. It’s just…me.

9scyehtqxhPart of my brain is always disengaged from my current surroundings. Sometimes that’s a tiny part, or sometimes, like when I’m nearing the end of a book, it’s huge. A part of me crying out to get back to my “other” family, the world of my own creation. I see that light at the end of the tunnel, getting bigger and brighter. A little voice whispers “You’re so close – don’t stop now!”

Last night I was at the casino, celebrating a friend’s birthday. A huge group of us were sitting at a table at the buffet and I wonder how many of them realized that in my head, I was writing. Today I have so many things on my list of chores, that it would take a miracle to be able to sit down and work on my book. But I’ll be thinking about it. Part of me will be spending the day with my characters. Because I’m SO close.

thLGSPNW5VTomorrow morning, hubby will take the kids to school. I’ll sit down with a cup of coffee (and a couple of Hershey’s kisses – don’t judge!) and breath a sigh of relief. Because I’m home. I made it through our time apart and now we can continue our journey. There are people in my life that worry about me. And that’s fine for them. Writers are a different breed. I’ve accepted that. No, I’ve embraced that. It’s what I do. It’s what I am. And I love it.

Home Away From Home

PhotoPass_Visiting_Magic_Kingdom_Park_7655151673We’re a Disney family. Fanatics. Junkies. Addicts. Hubby and I honeymooned at Walt Disney World. In fact, we bought ourselves the most generous (and yet practical) wedding gift ever – we bought in to the Disney Vacation Club. We wanted to give our children the same love of the magic and wonder that we feel whenever we visit the parks.

welcomehomeNow here’s the thing. We get people who ask us all the time, “You’re going to Disney World… again? Didn’t you just go last year?” Yes and yes. Sure, we switch it up a little. One year we surprised the kids with a Valentine’s trip to Disneyland. Twice now, we’ve vacationed at Aulani in Hawaii. And pre-kids, hubby and I stayed at Disneyland Paris, taking the train into the city each day. Talk about amazing!

wdwJust because we visit Disney World over and over doesn’t mean it’s the same experience every time. We try out different times of the year. We never do the parks in the same order. We always try to do at least one thing we’ve never done before. And there are things we could never anticipate, that make it that much more special.

One memorable year hubby and I visited the ER in Celebration, FL, Disney’s own town (and nearest hospital) when stubborn baby #1 gave us a scare in utero. Turns out I was severely dehydrated. Fast forward 18 months and the same baby is now an entertaining toddler, drawing a crowd at a jumping fountain in Animal Kingdom. She’s since grown quite shy, and hates it when we point out her “spot”, though the dancers at Raglan Road did manage to get her up on stage for a quick lesson in Irish step dancing.

Down for the count.  He held out much longer than expected.

Down for the count. He held out much longer than expected.

I remember every bench, ride and occasional restaurant where I held a napping child. I remember the scraped knee in front of the Great Movie Ride. I remember the Mickey topiary at the Wilderness Lodge that our oldest had to say goodbye to before we could depart. I remember getting the flu and hubby running to the park entrance for a wheelchair for me to get me back to Boardwalk. (Yeah, I yakked somewhere along the way.) I remember my first visit back after weigh loss surgery made it possible to walk through the ride turnstiles without getting stuck.

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We were taking a sit break in the Italy pavilion when I checked my email and learned that my publisher wanted to buy Wynter’s Journey. One year we celebrated hubby’s birthday by doing the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween. How blown away was I when they handed the adults trick or treat bags too? And they gave out the GOOD stuff! Reeses, Milky Ways, M&M’s. We saw our first (and probably only) armadillo at Wilderness Lodge one year. So freaking cool! Seriously, every year brings an entirely unique experience.

sundaeThis year was a milestone for our youngest. He was tall enough to go on ALL the rides. He was brave enough to try out Space Mountain (hated it), Rockin’ Rollercoaster (loved it) and Kali River Rapids (went on once w/o us). We spent a down day at Typhoon Lagoon, a first for us as a family. OMG, the sand pail sundae! It’s early spring, so we spotted dozens of baby ducks. Oh, the feels! Youngest tried so hard to catch one of the speedy lizards that are so plentiful. And I cannot say enough about the Flower and Garden Festival.rollercoaster

Will we go next year? Well that’s a big “duh”! Because guess what? RWA Nationals is being held at the Swan and Dolphin. Score! Way to mix business with pleasure. (Can you say tax write-off?)

Are you a huge Disney fan? Do you go year after year? What do you tell folks when they ask why? And last of all – do you have any favorite vacation photos that you’d like to share in the comments? I LOVE seeing families enjoying Disney World as much as my family does.

Write Faster, They Said… It Will Be Easy, They Said…

panicYou know that scene in movies where someone is staring down a long hallway and they need to get to the end of it quickly, but the faster they run, the longer it gets and the slower their steps seem to be? They might as well be walking in place. That’s how I feel, writing this current book. And the kicker is, I’m writing faster than I’ve ever written before. So why do I feel like I have nearly nothing to show for it?

blurWriters are told that if they want to stay “in the game”, they need to produce new material every few months. A new book, a novella, something to retain the interest of their readers. There are SO many authors out there and SO many books, that if you can’t keep producing something new, your readers are going to look elsewhere.

My last book came out in November. I had gotten used to deadlines, working with Crimson Romance. So this is the first time in a long time that I was on my own schedule. I started my current WIP for NaNoWriMo, in November. Sure, I got almost 35k words in, but this thing had so many problems that I threw it aside and refused to even look at it until January. Then it took me weeks to figure out what the heck was bothering me so much about it. I’m back on track, but I lost months of work time on this project.

Writer panic.

haNow I’m writing almost every day. Trying for a scene a day. Not quite NaNoWriMo word count, but productive. And then I start paying attention to all the new releases. Wait, didn’t that author have something out last month? A whole trilogy in a few months’ time? How the hell do they do that? I can’t compete with this! What’s the point? Why am I even trying?

Breathe.

Readers might not even realize the pressure that authors face to write fast, faster, fastest. Some authors rise to the challenge, stretching their writing muscles and going for it. Some go at their own pace and are happy to make any sales because they’re doing what they love. I’m that little hamster in the wheel, trying like hell to get at least three books out per year, like a good little writer hamster. I want to be noticed. I have big dreams that start with best sellers’ lists and conclude with my books being made into Hallmark TV movies. I don’t have the luxury of writing a book or two over my lifetime if I want these dreams to come true. I need to write, and I need to write often.

So what do I do? How do I take pride in accomplishment at having put in a hard days’ work? I’m currently on chapter seven, out of probably twenty. I feel like I’ve barely made a dent in the book, that there is so much to go. Yet I’ve been eating, sleeping and breathing this thing since November. I know I’m good for a scene, maybe a part of another, in one good work day. I can’t squeeze out any more than that.

I’ve read the advice out there: “If you want it badly enough, you’ll make time for it.” Um… making time. But my creative brain doesn’t work like most people’s. I have peak hours of operation. My muse takes off after seven PM or so. She might come back by five AM, but she refuses to sit up all night, drinking coffee and pounding out words while the rest of the family sleeps.

cartoonwriterSo yeah, I’m panicking. I am trying to finish this book, and as much of the next in the trilogy for Nationals this July. I set a goal to sign with an agent this year. But they don’t want to read my published books. They want to know what I have for them to sell. What am I working on next. How long does it take me to produce a new book? Am I worth their time and effort? Am I? I’m trying like heck to be.

Anyone have any coping strategies? (Besides alcohol?) How do I maintain a steady pace and still produce enough books to make an agent, readers and potential editors happy? How do I do this and keep myself happy? Because what is the point of writing books for a living if you aren’t happy while doing it? Yoga? Meditation? Cute baby animal videos? How do you keep from cracking under the pressure to be more than you are?

 

Everybody Does This… Right?

weirdhabits

We all have our quirks that set us apart from everyone else.  It’s what makes the world interesting. How dull would life be if we all had the same likes/dislikes, idiosyncrasies and habits? If I share some of my weirdness, you have to promise to let me know one of yours? Fair deal? Cool. Let’s begin:

  • When watching TV I’m too lazy to put in a movie, preferring to channel-surf instead. And when I happen to find a Harry Potter flick, or LOTR, “SCORE!” I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot. Sure, there might only be fifteen minutes left in the whole movie, but you bet I’m gonna sit and watch til the end.
harrypotter
  • I drink a lot of coffee. Well, I happen to think four cups a day is a lot. But I can’t just fix a cup and take it to my desk. I need to nuke it an additional twenty seconds in the microwave. I can’t claim this one is unique, as my sister does it too. Maybe it’s a Littlefield thing…
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  • Okay, while we’re on the subject of food (coffee is food!), I’m not so rigid that I can’t have my food touch. But I do have to eat each item separately before I can move on to the next type of food on my plate. Again, not entirely unique, just… different.
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  • When I read, I have to go back and forth between my kindle and paper books. Like they have feelings or something, and I need to give everyone enough love and respect. This also goes for subgenres. If I finish a contemporary romance, I move on to historical, or paranormal, never reading the same type two books in a row. Doesn’t feel weird to me. Anyone else do this?
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  • This is the one that will have you nodding at each other and giggling behind your hands. It’s okay, I can’t see you. I need a sleep mask AND a noise machine on in order to sleep at night. I even bring them with me when we go on vacation. I take my sleep seriously. Yeah, I doubt anyone can cop to doing this one.
sleepmask

Remember… you promised to share your own freaky habits with me. Don’t hold out on me now. Dish!

Inside a Writer’s Brain

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Some of you are going to be able to relate, nodding your heads and going “Exactly!”. The rest of you are going to be weirded out, and probably more than a little scared. But this is what being a writer is like. We’re a bit different than most people.

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I hear voices. No, they’re not dead people. They are very much alive – in my mind. They hold conversations that have absolutely nothing to do with me. I feel like I’m eavesdropping in my own head. And nine times out of ten, they start talking when I’m not ready to sit at the keyboard and get it all down. Usually when I’m just falling asleep or just waking up for the day. Or in the car while I’m running errands. They love to visit me in the shower.

inside-my-head-the-world-is-more-interesting

Now here’s a dilemma that is fairly recent. I have multiple projects vying to have their stories written, and they all think they should go first. I’m in the middle of book one in a new trilogy. Not only are the characters from the first book helping me write the current scene I’m working on, but they’ve jumped to other parts of the book that I’m not even ready for yet. Then there are the other two leading ladies from books two and three. They think it’s helpful to drop little tidbits about their backstories and what they’d like to see coming up in their own books. I can work with that. The other day I figured out who I would write my monthly short story (exclusive to newsletter readers) about. Yesterday was all about catching the zippy dialogue between the hero and heroine.

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I’m taking a course on strategic planning. I had mapped out a course of action that involved setting work hours. Okay, toss THAT out the window! I may set work hours. And I may work those hours. But this writer brain doesn’t turn off–ever. I have notebooks all over the house. In the car. A waterproof one in the shower (no joke!). I have a little notebook in a fanny pack (don’t judge!) for when I’m walking around the neighborhood or to get the kids at school and the gem of an idea strikes. Because if I don’t write it down the second it comes to me, it’s gone.

Bottom line: I feel like I’m paying rent in my own brain. It’s mine. But it’s really not. Isn’t there a saying about pets and homes? “It’s their house, they just let me live there.”

If you need me, I’ll be slaving away at my keyboard, racing to finish one book before the next one comes along. And btw, if you can relate, drop me a comment and commiserate. Because, while this is a pretty cool problem to have, it is EXHAUSTING.

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A Writers Retreat On A Budget

I’m lucky enough to stay home all day with the kiddos and write. But my office is currently in my bedroom. Hubby and the kids leave for school and work and head down the hall to my bedroom. Sure, I have some really productive days. But I have more days that are filled with distractions like laundry, keeping the dog busy (she can’t throw her Frisbee herself), trips to the kitchen for more coffee…you get the picture.

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Now we’re also lucky enough to have a huge storage shed in our backyard. Up until recently it was filled to the rafters with junk. But a couple of trips to the dump have taken care of most of that. It’s a few steps from the deck. It has four walls, a roof and a door. It is… perfect. Okay, not move-in perfect. The fluorescent lights burned out long ago. It would need insulation if I’m going to use it year-round. A new paint job on the outside. A massive cleaning job on the inside — I refuse to share my new workspace with spiders! And, not that I’ll see it from where I am working, some pretty new landscaping in front.

Here’s what it looks like right now (okay, a few years ago and a LOT more moss on the roof at present) There really IS a window, btw. On the left hand wall:

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So I’m reading up on tutorials on how to install insulation and drywall. I am woman, hear me roar, right? 😉 No reason why I can’t do this on my own. Throw a rug down on the cement floor, drag my desk and printer table in, cover the walls with the kids’ artwork (it’s not a proper workspace without it) and voila! New home office.

Now, to make this the perfect writing retreat, it has to set the mood before you even step inside. I’d love a pathway from the deck right up to the front door. Flagstone or something that won’t interfere with mowing the lawn on either side of it. And flowering shrubs. Something to break up the monotony of the (mildewed) siding. I wonder if hubby will let me paint it pink. Pretty please? Light pink, with brighter pink flowering bushes in the front. A scattering of wildflowers on the ground in front of that. How gorgeous would that be???

As I wait for the weather to warm up (and dry out), I am spending a lot of time on Pinterest, getting ideas. To say I’m excited is a bit of an understatement. I’ve even been to Lowes to check out prices on batting and drywall, see if I can find some decorative trim for the outside and just generally get in the DIY spirit. Too. Much. Fun.

idealhomeoffice

Okay, if my writing retreat looked like this, I would probably never leave.

 

homeoffice

Kinda stark, but functional, right?

 

cottage

How super cute is this? With a front porch? Too impractical for my home office, but lovely to look at.

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Hadn’t thought of a birdfeeder, but somehow that seems necessary now, don’t you think? We get some stunning Stellar Jays that visit us in the spring. Now if I could attract butterflies and hummingbirds too…?

pathway

Can’t do the gravel, but I definitely need a path leading up to my workspace. My daily commute. Leaving my personal world behind as I begin to focus on my work day. I like that.

Have any of you made this type of dream a reality? I would LOVE to see photos of your own writing retreat. I’ll post pictures as I get my own space up and functional.

Spring fever — I HAZ IT! 😀

Where Did My Day Go?

Otherwise known as, A Day in the Life of a Writer Mom:

coffee6 AM: Wake up and stumble out to the kitchen for that important first cup of coffee. No matter how quietly I slip down the hall, little ears are tuned to my whereabouts. There is no school today. But who cares? Let’s do this!

Could start my writing day now, if it weren’t for the fact that Kid #2 is playing laser tag with the dog…at my feet. Nope, not distracting at all.

paperwork9 AM: Sent Kid #1 in to clean and organize her room. Looks like a bomb went off in there. She’s 11, so she doesn’t need my help.

Could start my writing day at this point, but now I’m feeling guilty that the kiddo is cleaning/organizing when I have just as many of those type of projects to tackle. So I start on Mt. Paperwork in the dining room. Two trips to the recycle bin later and the kids are whining for lunch. Where did my morning go?

chuckecheeseOne PM: I promised the kids I’d take them to Chuck E Cheese after lunch. I am either a hell of a great mom, or a certified lunatic. Kinda leaning toward the second option.

Driving down the freeway, my brain starts editing my current WIP. With no possible way to write down these new ideas, I am chanting them out loud to keep from forgetting them. Kids are looking at me weird. What?

6 PM: We got home with enough time to throw a quick dinner together and rush off to basketball practice for Kid #2. Where did my afternoon go?

I’m trying to read a book on writing craft while keeping one eye on Kid #2, reminding him to guard his guy, listen to his coach, take his hands out of his shorts and quit goofing off. I think I read a paragraph.

7:30 PM: We’ve moved on to piano lessons for Kid #1, with a quick stop at the nearest Starbucks for a skinny latte for me and pastries for the kids. Because I can’t *not* get them something when we’re stopping there solely to keep ME awake. Besides, sugar before bed couldn’t possibly be a bad idea, right? Ha.

Moving back to the book I’m trying to absorb. Only now I’m reading while simultaneously being serenaded by piano from room 1, guitar from room 2 (Smoke on the Water, anyone?) and clarinet from room 3. I think my brain is going to explode.

falling asleep8:30 PM: Kids are in bed and I have moved on to a glass of wine to celebrate getting through a no-school day.

Could I get started on my writing day now? Heck no! I am not a night owl. Nights are for winding down, and usually for falling asleep by 9:30 or ten o’clock. I’ve moved on to reading for pleasure. And I’ll probably fall asleep after a chapter or so. Where did my day go? zzz…

Mini Goals…or Don’t Quit Now

scaleHow are you all doing on your New Years’ resolutions? I’ve lost 4 1/2 pounds in three weeks. While I wish it was more, I’m doing everything right. Writing everything down that I eat. Sticking to 1200 calories per day. And I’ve started exercising at least five days per week.

disneyworldCould I maintain this the entire trip to that magic number on the scale that says I am officially where I want to be, weight-wise? Heck no! I can’t think of the long haul or I’ll get so discouraged I’ll completely bail. But can I do this for a few months? Say… until our trip to Disney World in April? Absolutely.

walkingdvdOne of the things I’m doing is a walking DVD that I ordered. Leslie Sansone’s Walking Off The Pounds. I enjoy my drags through the neighborhood with the dog (she sure keeps my heartrate up!) but the weather in Seattle rarely cooperates. So I figured I’d get this easy peasy workout DVD and feel like I’m getting my exercise in, while taking it easy. Wrong! This DVD kicks my butt! And it’s LONG. 45 minutes to do the entire three miles. The first time I did it, I was swearing at the screen, telling Leslie how mean she was. But I did it. Longest workout I’ve ever done. And it didn’t kill me. So I did it again. And again. It’s kind of addictive.

Some days I don’t feel like working out. It’s rainy outside and that just gives me a terrible case of the blahs. But I’ve found that if I get into my workout gear and lace up my sneakers, I WANT to keep going. I’m motivated. And thinking about those calories I’ll burn is pretty great too.

I’m also tracking steps and workouts with my Microsoft Band. This uploads automatically to My Fitness Pal, where I log all my food. Have I mentioned how much I love technology and how my gadgets talk to each other? Awesome!

So I’m plugging along. Losing slowly, but knowing that’s the smart way to do it. Picturing my end goal: the new shorts I’ll have to buy for Disney World, because my old ones will be too big. 😉 And knowing that I’ve gotten in shape for a vacation that is 99% walking around the theme parks.

Did you know walking just the perimeter of the Magic Kingdom is two miles?

Did you know walking just the perimeter of the Magic Kingdom is two miles?

Next up: The Can Do 5k at the end of April. I think I have both kids on board to run this one with me. Motivation=success 😀

What mini goals are you working on? Got any tips on keeping it successful?

Powerball Madness

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I don’t play Powerball. Not even when the numbers start to get insanely big – like 1.4 billion dollars. To me it just seems like another Publishers Clearing House, “You may have already won…”. I know people who have quit their jobs just because they received that hokey junk mail in their mailbox. Seriously.

Could I use the money? Sure. Is it worth the hassle, the taxes, the “new friends” coming out of the woodwork to help me spend it? Nope.

Who wants to come visit?

Who wants to come visit?

Sure, I can play the “what if” game too. What would I do with hundreds of millions of dollars? I’d pay off the debt of probably everyone I am close to (that *I* decide I’m close to). I’m not big on cars or fancy houses, but a new house – with a dedicated office to hole up in and write (that has a door I can close and LOCK!). If I’m honest with myself, I think that home should be on the water, a lake, perhaps. A huge yard for the kids to play in. Room for another dog or two?

I’d love to travel. We want to take the kids to Washington DC, Philadelphia and Paris. You might remember that New Zealand is on my bucket list, as is Santorini. Big Sis wants to go to Australia and Greece. Little Guy wants to see Mt. Rushmore. (The kid’s got simpler dreams.) Hubby has been bugging me for a cruise to Alaska. Bring it on – I’ll do it all!

lotteryofficeAh, money to hire an assistant – someone to do all my social media posts, runs to the post office (just remembered I owe someone a book!), the list goes on and on. And to know I have a limitless supply of funds to pay for advertising. Woot – I could actually reach readers that aren’t in my immediate family. LOL Of course I’d have to update my new office. State-of-the-art EVERYTHING. Oooooh! A treadmill desk. I’ve always wanted one of those.

A personal trainer to force me to do the exercising I don’t want to. A chef to keep me on track by only cooking nutritious (and delicious) meals. A live-in housekeeper to do the laundry and pick up after the messy hooligans I live with (What? I keep my own things tidy…mostly.). A car and driver to take me wherever I want to go.winner

Yeah, it escalates pretty quickly, this Powerball madness. I’m good with the life I have. We’ve got a little extra money this year so hubby has approved a trip to San Diego to RWA Nationals this year. Yay! Can’t wait to show the kids our old stomping grounds. Big Sis was born there – she just doesn’t remember any of it.

So give me more of the same old/same old. I’m happy with that.

New Year, New Me

2016-newyears-resolutionsLast year I only made one resolution – to review every book that I read (as long as I could give it at least three stars). That was, by far, the easiest (and most enjoyable) resolution to keep. But I went too easy on myself. I let diet and exercise fall by the wayside and I gained back ten pounds that I swore I would never see again. I went right back into my old patterns of eating – junk food, stress-eating, eating when I wasn’t even hungry just because it was there.

I set writing goals last year that I did not meet. I told myself I would write a Scallop Shores Christmas anthology. Every couple I’d previously introduced would have their own holiday story. I had it all planned out and even wrote the synopsis and submitted it to my publisher. They turned it down: Readers don’t want to hear about the couples that already got their happily-ever-after, they told me. I disagreed. 2015 was going to be the year I broke into self-publishing. Um… or not.

completedI signed up for the Goodreads reading challenge for 2015 and kicked ass! – I committed to reading 50 books last year and I read 66. (All that time I was supposed to be writing/self-publishing? Hmm) I refuse to regret a minute of that reading time. I can always find writing time if I’m truly honest with myself. But reading time… that’s just for me.

Ah, 2016… I’ve got big plans for you. And blog posts are permanent, right? So if I commit to it here, I have to take ownership. Okay, here goes (for the personal goals):new_year_s_resolutions

  1. Get down to (adjusted) goal weight. (Sorry, folks – even my husband doesn’t know what that magic number is.)
  2. Exercise often – every day if possible. We’re in the market for an elliptical machine. Yay! My goal is to get up in the morning, earn my coffee by doing thirty minutes on the elliptical (or running once the weather gets better) and not have to think about it the rest of the day.
  3. Organize! I have big plans for the holiday clutter in the hall closet. I also have whole bookshelves and other shelving units that are stuffed with books, toys and puzzles that the kids haven’t used in YEARS. Time to purge!
  4. Stress less, mellow more. I have triggers (the family knows what they are) that send my blood pressure through the roof. Manage the triggers, the stress disappears. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.
  5. Try out some of the recipes I’ve pinned to my Pinterest board. A lot of those are really healthy and we could be missing out on some yummy dinners.
  6. Finish the downstairs! We need a spot for that new elliptical and I want my office space back.
  7. Continue to explore the Pacific Northwest with the family. Last year we discovered Mt. Rainier, Ocean Shores and Suncadia in Cle Elum. This year we would love to finally tackle Mt. St. Helens and get up to Vancouver and Victoria.
And now for the writing goals:goals11111
1.  Write at least one blog post per week. If I keep it to something I enjoy talking about, it won’t seem like such a chore, right? Come on, guys… hold me to this one.
2.  Update my website. And by this I mean, find help from someone more knowledgeable than me. My blog posts should NOT be the front page.
3.  Finish the first of my fairy trilogy before shopping the series idea around.
4.  Try like hell to finish the other two books before Dec. 31st. Even if they aren’t 100% polished, get those words out!
5.  Seek representation. I’ve got enough of a backlist that I think an agent will see I’m serious about this writing gig.
6.  Market the Scallop Shores series in Maine, through as many avenues as possible. I have some leads in York and Bar Harbor. (Cross your fingers for me.)
7.  Get out in front of the readers more, and out of my writing cave. Search out reader events and book signings to join.
How about you? Any really unusual resolutions to tackle in 2016? Something that you’ve really, really been meaning to do and are finally ready to see through to completion? I would love to know. Hey, we’re all in this together, right?

Surviving the Holidays

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Ah, Christmas. That special time of year. Great food. Holiday traditions. Memory making. Spending time with family and loving every minute of it. But does it always turn out exactly the way we want it to? And do we REALLY enjoy all the time spent making sure that the rest of the family has a great Christmas?

Here’s my honest opinion on this holiday season:

cookiesI hate baking. But Christmas cookies (and fudge, and brownies, etc) are something the kids love to make and deliver to the neighbors and close friends. Maybe I’m getting OCD in my old age, but watching the kids make a huge mess on the kitchen table with flour, frosting and 50, 000 different types of sprinkles gives me hives. We’ll still do it, because they love it and I love them. But…Christmas stress.

alvinI used to have so much fun, the first couple of years, with Alvin, our Elf on the Shelf. But that sucker arrives the day after Thanksgiving and stays through Christmas Eve. That’s a whole lot of Alvin antics to plot out. And with the kids getting older, and not playing with toys much anymore, Alvin’s bag of tricks is sadly depleted. Little Guy is seven years old and still believes that Alvin is magical. So I struggle to come up with inventive ways to delight him each morning. And that leads to…Christmas stress.

stockingsWe needed new stockings this year because the names were becoming unreadable on our old ones. I found some at Target and bought each of us our own color. I figured if I ended up not having the nerve to attempt to glitter glue our names on them then at least we’d know whose was whose by color. I ended up attempting the names. They came out pretty good – until I realized I wrote Big Sis’ name on MY pink stocking. And then, while they were nowhere near dry, Little Guy managed to ruin every single one of them. My fault for leaving them on the kitchen table to dry. We have brand new stockings, less legible than the ones I threw away for that very reason. Next year I will pay big bucks to get some professionally personalized stockings. And save myself some huge…Christmas stress.

One day? How about a good FIVE weeks?

Now everyone is home from work and school for the next two weeks. I planned a mini-vaca for a few days after Christmas. But for now I’ve got to keep them all entertained, keep the house from getting trashed, keep the kids from killing each other and keep myself from hiding at the bottom of a bottle of wine until after the New Year. I hate Christmas stress!

Please tell me I’m not the only over-achieving, Martha Stewart screw-up. Anyone else have holiday horror stories they’d like to share? Bring me a Christmas giggle or two. I bet it bring everyone who reads this post just a little bit of Christmas cheer to know they are not in this alone.