Posted in Uncategorized

Snowmageddon 2021

Living in East Texas, we don’t typically see much snow accumulation. We usually see an ice storm or two and temps that dip into the 20’s or upper teens. This results in a day or so off from work, maybe a power outage or two, and then nlife goes back to normal. Being so far south, Texas doesn’t have the infrastructure to handle these major changes in temperatures for extended periods of time. Nor does it prepare to treat the roads for excessive ice and snow accumulation. They don’t have snow plows here. We don’t usually need them. This week is definitely different though.

Valentine’s Day was normal but we had the “Winter Weather Advisory” coming through on the phone and weather apps. People went out and got the usual inclement weather supplies. I know we did. We stocked up on fuel for our kerosene heater, batteries, and even left the water trickling to ensure that pipes weren’t freezing and bursting. We’ve had enough plumbing issues. Also, keep in mind we had the usual spring temps in the 70’s last week. Honestly, I bought gear for walking and then got stuck by rain and this mess. So, the weather here is just crazy. Now, Monday, we had about 7-9 inches of snow on the ground. So much so that we ended up having to go rescue our tenacious little chihuahua who got stuck trying to go do the usual potty routine. Pip was smart and stayed by the porch where a roof covers so the depth wasn’t too bad for him. Under the porch was a good option too.

Warming My Car Up

Living in Texas for going on 20 years (give or take a few), I’ve never seen it like this. We lost power for about 11 hours. Many people have it far worse though. I know people who have been days with no power, have pipes bursting, and are running out of firewood for fireplaces or alternative fuel for other heaters. Last I heard, 5 in our area have lost their lives due to the extreme cold that we’re ill-equipped to deal with. We’ve had sub-zero temperatures that broke records.

My mom came and asked me if I would be okay driving my Dad to town to see if we could get more kerosene. Why? Well, the fact is, I spent time driving in these type of conditions when I worked for a transportation company. I was sent to Wisconsin for about eight weeks to supplement their crew. So, I have more experience driving in it than my Dad who is a native Texan. So, I bundled up like I used to when I grew up in Kentucky and trudged out to my little SUV. I didn’t have anything to clean the ice off my windshield though so it took a while to warm up enough so we could drive. Dad took a broom to the windows to speed up the process. And off we went. I didn’t scare him too badly but it was definitely slow going.

Our goal was to pick up some additional supplies for food, drinks, and kerosene for heating. Most stores were shut down. (Understandable, given the road conditions.) There was no kerosene to be found at any of our stops. I wanted to take the time to fill my car up too. I was at half a tank and I didn’t want to run the tank dry if we got stuck and had to wait for a tow. Only one of the 5 gas stations in town had gas to buy. Our local grocery store was packed and Dad said the shelves were looking awfully barren. We made it home before dark, but we had issues getting back into the driveway. I managed to maneuver into the bottom of the drive and get out of the main road. Getting back up the hill into my usual parking spot wasn’t going to happen though.

I count us very blessed right now. We still have power and so we have electric heaters to knock the chill off the house. I was able to get a hot bath this morning without feelilng like I was going to catch my death of a cold in the process. For now, I’ll accept a nap under three blankets, snuggles with my pup, and a good book to read to keep warm when I need to. And I’ll wear actual slippers and fuzzy socks instead of my flip-flops. I’ll try not to complain and I’m keeping busy with planning, journaling, and working on things while the electric is still on. We may lose it again at any minute thanks to… well let’s not talk about that right now. I keep my devices charged, my favorite candle burning for the moment, and I’m frequently checking on my pup here in his little bed beside me (which is fluffy and warm) to make sure his blanket is all tucked in to conserve heat as well. We will get through this week. It will likely be back to the 60’s and 70’s next week and life will resume.

In the meantime, I’m making plans for some exciting things. I’m cleaning up categories here on the blog and planning some awesome content. I’m also looking at coordinating a YouTube channel to go along with this that will have more interactive content as well. I want to do some documenting of various changes in my life. I also want to interact more with other aspiring authors, artists, and readers. So, I may invite some friends for some productivity sessions where you can write with us live and ask questions. I think sometimes, things come across better when you can hear and see the person trying to communicate them. I also need to get over the block I have with getting myself on camera. So keep an eye out for that soon, I’ll be announcing the details for everyone and I want to kick it off with some sort of giveaway. We’ll see what I come up with.

Keeping things productive even in the midst of this Snowpocalypse. But seriously y’all. Pray for Texas right now. We aren’t cut out for this kind of weather. We’ll get through it but, I’m praying that we can do it without anymore lives being lost.

Keep your chin up and tell me in the comments what your favorite way to warm up on a cold winter day is.

Posted in The Writer's Life

Happy Galentine’s Day…

Today, I’m going to address the elephant in the room. It’s Valentine’s Day again. This is a hard holiday for a lot of people. People who hope to find a partner in life. People who are going through break-ups, divorce, or learning hard truths about the people they call their significant other. And I know this well because I’ve been in all those categories at one point or another. Currently, I’m single. And while I am ready to mingle, apparently the pool of available singles aren’t all that into people like me. And that’s okay!

Ladies, I think this is one time, I’m grateful for the pandemic limiting options. Restaurant services will be more limited than usual thanks to the holiday. This is a time when, being in public, you’re hyper-aware of all the couples that surround you. Your social media feeds will have “Our Story” posts, or “Look what I got!” posts. Meanwhile, we’re over here in our leggings and sweaters while huddled up on the bed/couch with a blanket, fuzzy socks, our favorite drinks, snacks, and a Netflix binge or book. Book boyfriends are a real thing for the avid readers out there. I’m counting myself lucky that I get to create my own. 🙂 Though I would not mind a Warren or Nathan in my life. (Thank you Elicia Hyder.) And don’t get me started on those Winchester brothers. (Have mercy!) The point is, it is okay to find something to distract ourselves for the next few days.

That being said, I want to tell you a few things.

My Funny Valentine
  1. Never doubt that you are an amazing person. (Unless of course you’re killing people for sport or some other crazy thing like that.) You don’t need a holiday to recognize your own worth or to celebrate your own version of self-love.
  2. You don’t need permission to buy yourself fresh flowers or chocolates. Indulge once in a while, I promise it’s okay and it will do you a world of good. Besides, buying it yourself, you get what you really like.
  3. It is perfectly acceptable to take a break from social media. I often wish that Facebook and other sites had options for excluding politics and “look at my kid” posts. I love keeping up with my friends. I’m happy for those who have found their person in life. But, it can get overwhelming seeing all the lovey dovey posts. Not to mention the insane amount of engagements and “in a relationship” status changes that will happen this weekend. So, I will take that break and just focus on something other than what everyone else is doing.
  4. Yes, your beloved pet counts as your Valentine. I know Pip does. That unconditional love is something you can’t replace with a human being. It is the closest thing to the love God has for us on earth.

I’ve been blessed with a few amazing friends in life. Among them, I’m the only one who remains single at this point. My best friend of 27 years and her husband sent me an awesome Valentine’s Day surprise ahead of the hooplah. She knows I love my tea and sent me a lovely Tea Forte sampler to try out. Which will go amazing with my new flamingo mug she sent earlier. In fact, as I am typing this I’m enjoying the Raspberry Ganache tea and it is delicious.

Let me tell ya, there were plenty of years that I wished we didn’t live so far away now. I would definitely have been happy to spend Valentine’s Day at a dinner party or tea party we put together with board games and conversation over the years. So, don’t overlook opportunities to help a friend who may need a pick-me-up as well.

I know the feeling of wanting to have someone to share life with. I’ve also learned that you have to build a life you love while you’re open to that happening. The way our world is now, people have awkward notions of what relationships are and how to be in them. Sometimes being on your own is the best thing for us. It allows us to focus on our own growth and find our passions. Finding real love is a rare thing. I’m convinced of that now. Maybe we’ll get lucky. But maybe we won’t. The key is figuring out how to find your own happiness in any situation.

So for all of us who are struggling with our relationship status while the world is celebrating couples, I wish you Happy Valentines Day. Journal those feelings and let them out. Take a deep breath, look yourself in the mirror and tell your reflection all the things you love about yourself. Take that hot bath, go for a walk/run, do some yoga, or whatever you do to move and feel good. Treat yourself to a mani-pedi or a massage. Remember that you are worth the time and effort it takes to love yourself and no perfect partner is going to fill a void you’re creating for yourself.

Comment and tell me what you’re doing for your solo Valentines Day experience. Maybe you’ll give me and other single readers some ideas for next year.

Posted in book news, Marketing, The Currents, The Writer's Life, Uncategorized, Writing & Publishing

January Recap & February Goals…

From the writer’s desk.

I always said that I wanted this blog to be a window into my corner of the world. So, this year, I’m trying something a bit different with the blog. Along with various articles, I’m going to share some of my process in creative living. I’m big on motivation and inspiration here, but I admit that there is also another side to this way of living and that includes setting realistic goals and getting the work done.

January was a month of resets for me. It didn’t quite feel like the fresh start it normally does. This is perhaps because there were still some big things looming over the newness of it all. There was, for many, still a great deal of anxiety and unclear direction with how to deal with life. The world has changed and it seems that there will never be a sense of normal again. It has me questioning what will be normal as I figure out my own next steps. I didn’t hit all my goals for January. However, I did make some hefty progress and get a sense of direction that I desperately needed.

Work on the new series is coming along nicely. I’m about to the stage where I can start developing the cover art and deciding when to release it to the public. Before I do that, I’m going to make some changes in my process and try to use feedback from pre-release readers to make it better. More on that later though.

In the meantime, I’ve started a sale over on Amazon for the ebooks of the Slauson Cove Series. You can find it here on my Amazon Author Page. And be sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Mewe if you would like to get the play by play on promotions. Ebooks are on sale for $4.99 right now through February 14, 2021 at Midnight.

I’m still learning how to navigate all the promotion parts that Amazon has. But, hiring a PA to handle that side of the business isn’t in the budget. So, I’ll flounder about until it is an option and figure it out as I go.

February feels a bit different for me. I’m full of ideas, optimism, and looking into virtual options to interact more with readers and other writers. The idea of a YouTube channel hasn’t left my brain yet. I am just not that comfortable on camera and I am too critical of myself when I edit. So, I think that if I do it (at all) it will be more of a vlog and livestream option to involve myself in building a virtual community to talk about creative things, life, and maybe review some products. Thinking in terms of write-a-longs, maybe a virtual writer’s retreat could be an option. We’ll just see. I’m brainstorming that still.

Also on the list for February is:

  • get some merch together for Slauson Cove to offer online
  • get stock in for signed copies you can order through my website
  • I also need to get a PO Box or mailbox somewhere so that I can send and receive packages easier.
  • Book more in-person events for the year to promote books
  • Get new signage and business cards in for those events
  • And of course, sell some books, get some new reviews, and do some promotion for the work out there.
  • Finish my 2nd draft for the new series and create some promo & teasers for that.
  • Also start outlining for a personal development book that I’ve had an idea for.

Yep, it’s a busy and short month to get it all done in. I also still have course work to finish. We’ll see if I can tick those boxes off this month. Right now I’m motivated. It is keeping that momentum going that gets tricky.

Do you have any tips and tricks for helping to stay motivated?

Posted in Creative Living, Lessons Learned, My Process, The Writer's Life, Uncategorized

What to do when things get out of control…

Just when you think you have it all figured out, life throws you curve balls. I consider that to be a universal fact of life. Sometimes those curves are big ones like finding yourself single again after many years of marriage or you have a life-altering accident. Other times, those curves are anticipated, normal, and even just a natural process of life. Consider options like sending the last kid to college, empty nests, retirement, or becoming a grandparent. Change is inevitable. Sometimes, it can overwhelm and cause us to feel completely out of control of our lives. What we do in those times is defining of our characters. And I want to explore some practical ways that I have dealt with feeling like I had no control and got back on track.

Strategy One

Taking to the Journal
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

The first thing I do is take to my journal. No, not the blog. I know this often reads like a journal. It is meant to. I do keep a personal hand-written journal that I put my thoughts down in with something that feels like a regular interval to me. It is a place to vent frustrations, talk to myself without feeling silly, and generally explore things that are deeply personal and troubling. Believe me when I tell you that, in the last year, my journal has been put through the wringer. There’s a lot of fodder in those pages. With the lockdowns, starting school, being laid of, the pandemic, and all the riots and political and social unrest there was a lot to unpack this year. Clearing out the mess in my head is beneficial in allowing me to see where there are obstacles and where I’m just overreacting. They are also useful in identifying opportunities that I can pursue.

Being a creative individual, I tend to find a wealth of interests to pursue. So, I’m prone to making lists of ways that I could change things up in my life. Sometimes that’s new hobbies to try or places I want to travel and see. Sometimes it’s about changing my environment or routine. The journaling process helps me to figure out options and to work on making decisions. Sometimes, I write a hypothetical scenario about each option and see where it could lead me and that helps. Just remember to be realistic when you write those scenarios. Consider doing two versions; one where it is perfect and everything goes right for you and the other where everything goes wrong. This is just an exercise. Chances are taking any of your options will land somewhere in the middle of these two. Doing this will help you decide what is likely to be next for you.

Strategy Two

Making Lists

We can’t always change our goals. Long-term goals are often lofty and worthwhile but it is easy to lose our motivation and direction with them. To that end, we often have to remind ourselves why we took on that goal and then decide what we can do to stay the course. I’m sure we’ve all been there at some point. I end up there frequently, if I am perfectly honest. Sometimes a book idea isn’t panning out as I planned it. Other times, I just lose interest in a project. Day jobs get boring or unfulfilling. Making lists is a way to help realign with your visions and your goals.

Yes, you can make a list of new things to try or new goals to consider, if that makes it easy for you. But, I think more of this step when I want to continue my work on goals I have previously set. This means it is time to revisit those goals and evaluate where I am in the pursuit, evaluate the next steps to those goals, and then, put down actionable steps I can take to move into the next level.

Photo by Miesha Maiden on Pexels.com

For example, I’m in the process of writing a new book to release (hopefully in the spring). I am also looking at new avenues for promotion of the books I already have on the market. (You can find them here.) So, those two goals, while entertwined, require separate courses of action to reach them. My checklists may look something like this:

For Writing
  • Finish research on setting/location for (book)
  • Complete character sketches for main recurring characters
  • Character sketch for main antagonist
  • Complete mapping/details for primary settings
  • Write Chapter 1-3, 4-6, 7-10 to complete part one.
For Marketing
  • Create New Graphics for Ads
  • Start gathering elements for book series trailer video
  • Research contacts for promo spots & interviews
  • Book Vending Space for Comicon, Paracon, and Local Festivals
  • Inventory Book Stock
  • Order new business cards & promo materials
  • Post to social media for sales
  • Create & pay for ad campaigns
  • Start a list of contacts for Series launch partnerships.

These steps are all things that will help me to reach bigger goals for sales and for producing more content for my readers. You can apply this to your own goals though. Want to start a business? What do you need to do? Are you a student? What are your next steps to finish a paper or study for a class? Want to do more volunteer work? Where, with who, and how can you do that? Taking up a new creative hobby? Make lists of supplies to purchase over time, classes to take, tutorials and videos that will help you learn, or plan a project list you want to do. Trying to be more social? Make lists of events to attend where you can meet people or friends to reconnect with over zoom, phone, or emails. Plan a get-together or meet up if you can.

Strategy Three

Focus On Self-Care

Look, the last year has been rough on everyone. It’s okay if you don’t feel okay right now. In the midst of all this pandemic isolation and mask craziness, we’ve all changed how we’re living our lives. So many found these changes jarring and difficult to deal with. Many of us lost jobs. Many were forced to be without things that made them happy or able to escape the mundane for a while. For introverts, this was a bit less jarring. We like our houses and limited interaction with the outside world. Even introverts, like me, have been left feeling out of sorts and at a loss for how to deal with all the changes to our lives that don’t seem to be lifting at all. So, focus on what you can control.

Photo by Madison Inouye on Pexels.com

Take a moment to consider what you can do to take care of yourself. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I need to feel better about my appearance?
  • What would make me feel better about my health?
  • What do I need to feel better spiritually?
  • What do I need to feel better socially?
  • What do I need to do to feel better financially?
  • What do I need to do to feel better about my relationships?

The answers to these may surprise you, if you answer them honestly. Starting to implement changes to feel better about all of these aspects of life will be a step in a direction you’d rather be going.

Final Thoughts

You may have noticed that all three of these strategies work in tandem. I’m a writer. Journaling comes naturally to me. This isn’t the case for everyone. So let me give you some variations to try.

If writing isn’t your style, consider video journaling. Most laptops have a webcam and most smartphones have a camera you can use for this. Open it up, ramble on, and then take time to review it later. I don’t like to watch myself on camera, personally, so I would be more likely to use voice memo or a microphone with a free program like Audacity to do the rambling. Whatever method you choose, think of this as communication with yourself. It’s crucial to being able to live your best life in any circumstance. The ability to reason, communicate, think, evaluate our position, and change (when needed) is part of the human experience.

It isn’t always easy to make a change in a positive direction. But there is never a better time than what you find yourself in to do it. And it is never too early, or too late, to make a change and live your best life.

Posted in Creative Living, My Process, The Writer's Life, Uncategorized

Productivity & The Creative Process

It’s two weeks into a new year and I’ve been busy juggling all the hats I wear. There is schoolwork to keep up with. I am also working on a new book, outlining, drafting, plotting, and editing one that I hope to be ready to get out in April. I am also looking at getting back into the game when it comes to in-person events like conventions and doing book signings. So, I’m putting the marketing hat on more as well these days. Just trying to keep living the dream and build a better life for myself by being creative and keeping my focus on the things I can control. Which isn’t always an easy task.

New projects are usually a motivating and exciting part of the creative life. However, eventually, the excitement wanes and we find ourselves floundering trying to finish the project we’re working on instead of just moving on to another. In my 20+ years as a writer, I’ve found that nothing is quite so important as motivation. It is the thing that keeps you going on a tough day, helps get you unstuck when you’re facing a roadblock, and yet, it is often the most difficult thing to identify because it is different for every artist. There is no quick fix and no guarantees that what works for me, or any other artist, will work for you. What an article like this can hope to do is give you some ideas to try. Ultimately, it is up to you to find what works best for you.

Photo by Amina Filkins on Pexels.com

Some people like routine and stability. Having a dedicated space that they can go to that is static and rarely changes help them get in the right frame of mind. They surround themselves with things that are comforting and inspiring to them. The familiarity of space and an active routine are part of a sort of ritual that helps them to be productive. They have a favorite mug, beverage, and a favorite tool they use. The same music helps them get into a sort of “zone” and thus a cycle repeats and they continue as creatures of habit at their computer, easel, instrument, or desk.

Other artists work better under pressure. They like a deadline they can use as a competitive edge. Maybe they prefer working with an audience around them. Coffee houses are full of people on laptops. Libraries have long had tables and carrels for students and those doing research or work. Groups meet for write-ins both in-person and online. Artists get together for sessions in a park or at a local art museum. Musicians often come together to collaborate in jam sessions for inspiration and to get feedback. And many find that’s for the better.

Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle of all that. I try to give myself a combination of routine and new that keeps things fresh and exciting. Sometimes that looks like a simple conversation over the phone with a friend or a chat through a messenger service. I’ve been known to take my laptop to a favorite coffeehouse in town and find a quiet table where I can do a combination of work and people watching. I’ve also been known to change things up in my own space. Lately, this has helped me really get back into the groove.

My Desk Courtesy of and copyright by the author

Part of my holiday gift to myself was a bit of an overhaul to my desk space. I’ve had a more traditional set up for years now. I wanted to give my little hand-me-down desk a bit of a facelift and personality that matched my own. So, I’ve invested in a few items to do just that. Simple changes in color and design along with some added functionality for organizing the multitude of stationery that I’ve accumulated over the years. I have different lighting, switched most of the plastic pen cups to rose gold metal ones. And I added some extra storage drawers and trays. It arrived after my photo session but I also got myself a new mechanical keyboard in white with a rainbow of backlighting options.

These small changes, a bit of time organizing, and then taking time to write down some goals and plans have helped me get motivated and be more productive. This weekend I’m planning to get out and go to my favorite coffeehouse for a bit of time in “the wild”. I need some interation with people again. So, I’ll pack my day bag and get out for a cappucino and a caraffe of Earl Grey tea while I plod away on my laptop. Then I’ll come home to this light and lovely new space to put on some jazz and work a bit more. That’s my way of keeping productive.

It looks different for everyone. I’ll post about more productivity methods in the next post. But I’m curious, tell me in the comments what your creative space looks like and what you think it needs to be even more inspirational and motivational for you.

Posted in Lessons Learned, Reviews, The Currents, The Writer's Life

Planning for change…

In an effort to be transparent, I might have a slight addiction to stationery and planners. They are my most-purchased items when I go to the store. I have wishlists on my Amazon dedicated to pens, notebooks, planners, stickers, journals, and the like. I’m a girl who is more excited by a gift card to Staples, Office Depot, or Hobby Lobby than I am jewelery. I know, many will find this strange and unusual. I also know that I’m not the only one out there.

I’ve spent the last week sitting down with some of my tried and true planning products to consider goals for this year and how to reach them. I want to write about my goals as a matter of keeping a record, but I also want to give my fellow planner addicts and those who are looking to get more organized my recommendations for tools based on what works for me. I’ve tried so many over the years that I know I can give you some great feedback on these. I’ll likely also do a video review at some point in the future as I pursue another goal. Right now, I’m not an affiliate for any of these products. They are simply honest recommendations based on my personal experience.

There are two major considerations for me when I choose a planner now; functionality and cost. As a student I need something that is affordable and will also allow me to track all the things that I need to for my schooling, business, and life in general. I need a planner that serves as a place to document life and creative efforts while also being easy to use and take with me. I personally prefer a pen and paper planner to a digital one. I love my iPad and I have experimented with a digital planner but, when all is said and done, I keep going back to the paper versions.

For the creative focused with plenty of time on their hands, nothing beats a BUJO. Bullet Journaling is the epitome of cusomized planning systems. There are no hard and fast rules for it. It is also probably the most affordable at the minimalist level to get started. I adored the versatility of this and honestly, if I weren’t so busy, I would keep doing my own because it is a hybrid of journal and planner that you create with a simple notebook and pens. Sure you can embellish with washi tape, stickers, and stencils. There are some awesome artistic examples out there. And if you search on YouTube there are loads of tutorials. Some of the best notebooks I’ve used for this have been the EXCEED brand that I’ve found at Walmart for about $7-$9. But you can also adapt any notebook you choose for this purpose. The biggest con for me was the amount of time it took to set it up and actually do the planning every day. I decided to find something that already had a basic usable structure for my use.

Another affordable option that is highly effective in terms of goal setting and task management is maybe a surprising one. Momentum Planners by Productive Flourishing (found here) was a surprising find for me. The price point of $18 gets you a digital, full-featured, printable planner that will help you stay motivated to reach those goals by tracking progress on tasks. They are minimalist in design focusing more on function making them great for people who like a less artistic approach. This one works well for business needs, academics, and even for writers. This allows you to get a year overview of your goals, break it down by quarters, then monthly, weekly, and finally daily. The pros to this system are a big list really. What I would take away is that you have the ability to make changes as needed without all the erasing, white-out, and correction tape. Simply print out a new blank page. The form-fillable PDF also allows you to keep things neat despite character limitations in most fields. They do offer a printed and bound version of this in limited supply at the end of the year prior. For my money, I like the PDF and being able to print what I want. I use this one as a worksheet to get the goals down, actionable, and generally keep a relevant copy of the yearly, quarterly, and monthly printed and with my other planners.

I’ve used the Erin Condren Life Planner for years. However, recent experiences with their customer service and delivery have really ruined a great product for me. So, while I find it useful and stylish, I think this will be my last year investing the $60 in this planner. It has served as a way for me to do a bit of goal setting, planning, calendar keeping, and memory keeping. But I am looking at other options for 2022. I’ll post about those later. The Life Planner is great because of the customization. There are different layouts to choose from and custom covers that are personalized. I have a number of these and I admit that I will be sad when I’m not using them anymore. Space for reflection and goals was a plus for this year’s edition. But that $60 price point is a little steep in my opinion.

As a daily planner, I’ve been using the Daily Passion Planner. I have to say that I think this is a great option for someone who likes the BUJO but needs something that already has a structure to embellish if they’re up to it. The compact sizing is great for on the go in a purse or backpack but also gives ample writing space by putting a great layout for schedule, goals, tracking space for mood and emerging ideas, and still giving the opposite page in a dot grid for journaling or lists as you need them. I feel like this will end up being a go-to for me. It has a yearly and monthly calendar along with a prompted check-in and goal worksheet. While it hasn’t replaced my usual journal, I do feel like this gives me a more focused idea of where my time goes and thoughts on various projects and ideas for changes based on how the days go. The only drawback I’ve found is that the book is designed to last 3 months, not a full year. However, they offer a buying discount if you get more than 3 at a time. So, that helps. Plus Passion Planner in general has free printable downloads so you can try the format first. They also give a planner away for every one that is sold. So, it’s a win-win in my opinion. I know plenty of start-ups, artists, and students who can use that help. Monochrome makes it easy to print off a version of your own if purchase isn’t an options. You can find them here at Passion Planner. They do have a larger format Annual version that may become a go-to for me in replacement for the Erin Condren product though. Definitely check them out.

I admit that, being new to the iPad, I’m not familiar with digital planners and I’m open to options if you have suggestions for me to try. Given some of the changes in plan for me, I might find them useful. So, I’d love suggestions for those that you use and love. I’m juggling multiple goals this year including writing new books, writing the blog, and a full-time course load with school. So it is important for me to keep myself on track. What planning methods do you use to keep yourself accountable and on track for your own goals?

Posted in My Process, The Writer's Life, Uncategorized, Writing & Publishing

Starting Where You Are…

Welcome to 2021 everyone!

I could do a whole post lamenting the woes of 2020. It was a complete disaster in so many ways. Yet, looking back doesn’t serve my purpose today except that we should take it as a lesson that life is not always certain. With that being said, we have an opportunity for a fresh start here. I encourage you to sit down for a moment today with a piece of paper or a journal and put down your thoughts about what you would like to accomplish in this new year. I realize the task is daunting for many. For me, I’ve realized that all the floundering of 2020 has failed to serve a purpose. I’m tired of feeling like my life is on hold. So it is time to get on with the process of seizing opportunity instead of focusing on the limitations.

For many people the idea of starting something new is at the back of their mind. Immediate needs take a front seat in difficult times. I think it is important to realize that this may be the very time you should put the effort into a creative endeavor. Many of us still find ourselves looking for work, stuck in lockdowns, and trying to cope with our changing world. It’s the perfect time to consider starting your own side hustle and create something that you can be proud of.

When people ask me what I do and I tell them that I’m a novelist, the thing I hear most often in reply is something similar to, “You know, I’ve always wanted to write a book.” When I inquire as to why they haven’t the answer is usually that they wouldn’t know where to start. And it’s the same of many creative avenues. People love to paint, sculpt, or create crafts and they are envious of those who make their way into creating a business around it. The truth is that a little ingenuity and passion go a long way. There are people out there who can help take your ideas and give you the path to turning them into a reality. The question is are you motivated to do it (whatever that “it” is for you)?

For the aspiring authors out there, working with a coach can be just the catalyst needed to finish that book and get it out to the readers who are waiting for it. A lot of things go into creating a novel or a series of novels. It isn’t a sprint to write a lengthy piece of fiction, it is a marathon. Completing that race takes time, dedication, training, and moral support. While a coach can’t replace a writer taking the time to put the words down, they can help with moral support and providing direction on a project. As someone who has completed the process of writing several books, I can say that I would have benefited from hiring a coach early on in my efforts. With specific feedback on a manuscript while writing it, I could have avoided time-consuming rewrites due to holes in my plot or flat characters. With accountability and encouragement, I also could have completed projects faster and with more motivation to put them out to readers which only would have served to get me to this point in my career faster. Now that I’ve completed several novels of my own, I’ve decided that I would be open to coaching other aspiring authors. If you’re looking for that sort of support, definitely feel free to get in contact with me via email.

I can’t remember where I heard this but, it made a lot of sense. “If you do something that you love, you will never work a day in your life.” It’s true. I know what it is like to feel weighed down by a job that just sucks the life out of you. I’ve worked at many of them. It’s something I have learned I really don’t want to do again. So, I’m doing what I love and pushing this year for it to be a primary source of income for me. But doing that isn’t always easy for everyone. There are expenses to any business start-up. Shoestring budgets are a real thing, especially for those of us who are without jobs thanks to the events of the last year. But, you start where you are, with what you have, and you figure out how to make it work as you go along.

Being an author in the 21st century is more than just writing a book though. To that end, I need to make some changes to my approach as well. Yes, there are books to write. There are also other things that I need to put the focus on in terms of getting known. Books don’t sell unless people know about them. So, this year will be about blogging, vlogging, and getting more interviews and reviews for the work out there as well as the new projects coming out. I’m preparing for filming and regular blogging here. I’m also blocking time for new projects, collaborations, and generally being more active in my approach to online marketing. God willing, I’m also trying to book some in-person events for the year. Hopefully, the events of 2020 will stay in 2020 and not follow us too much into this new year.

If you think about it, the past year took our whole world virtual. We met in Zoom Meetings, Google Hangouts, Facetime, and through Skype. We shopped virtually, had our food delivered virtually with apps like Grubhub and DoorDash, and we even went to school virtually en masse. This change alone should give us all a bit of pause to realize that being at home doesn’t mean we have to be alone or unable to do things. We just have to be a little creative to get the same results. People still need to shop, be entertained, and figure out ways to keep in touch. And while it sometimes feels like we’ve all suddenly become agoraphobic, I think we can all appreciate the time we do get to be together now.

2021 will present her own challenges. That’s something I’m certain about. I think it is important to focus on what we all can do to make our lives a little better as we go through it. So, connect when you can. Pursue something with a passion. Reach out when you need help coping with whatever life throws you. Live life as best you can and let the rest go.

Leave me a comment and let me know what your goals for the new year are. Is there some project you hope to finish? Is there somewhere you would like to go or someone you want to spend more time with in 2021? What’s the current plan to do the things you want to?

For me, I’m continuing my education efforts. Still planning on being a teacher in the next few years. I’m also making it a goal to put out two books this year, launching a new series. I’m going to start a YouTube Channel / Vlog as well. So, if you have questions or topic suggestions, I’m open to those. And I would like to work with a few aspiring authors this year to help their writing dreams come to reality.

Posted in Uncategorized

Merry Christmas…

It is Christmas week and I am enjoying some time with family and friends this year. Returning to the old Kentucky homestead for some much needed time with my grandparents, best friend, and my brother and his family is always a change from the usual hermitage I live back in East Texas. Taking time away from the normal routine is refreshing and this year, I needed a reminder of what the holidays are meant to be about.

I have enjoyed spending time talking into the wee hours of the morning with my grandpa. Discussing politics, history, science, and philosophy and religion have been staples since I was a girl.

I’ve also enjoyed meeting my new goddaughter who was born four months ago. Getting to spend time with her mom and the rest of her family is a blessing as well. We managed to have an afternoon at their house and then an evening here for dinner.

As I get older, the holidays are less about the gifts. Not that I don’t enjoy presents. I certainly do and I’ve been given some amazing things this holiday season. However, what I’m treasuring more is the time I am able to spend with the people I love in my life. Time to chat, to play board games, share meals, and generally feel normal amidst the chaos that’s been the last year; those are the real gifts this year.

We’re all blessed to be healthy and able to be around one another safely. I know that many are not. I have friends who are struggling with loved ones on ventilators. Others are financially struggling and there are hard candy Christmases all around. I think it is important to remember to pray for those families. My extended family is not immune to loss this holiday season. But we’re all clinging to what we do have. We’re celebrating together because we don’t know how long we’re given. So we’re cherishing these moments and making lasting memories.

This may be my last post for the year. I’m working on a plan for the new year, of course. However, I’m taking time with family and enjoying it while I can.  I hope that all of you reading this have a very Merry Christmas and my best wishes for us all in the coming new year.

Posted in Reviews, The Currents, The Writer's Life, Uncategorized

The Writer’s Wishlist

The same question comes up every year about this time. “What do you want for Christmas?” For those who get excited about the gifting part of the holiday, it is a good question to know the answer to. And if you’re one of those people who has an aspiring author in your life, it can be hard to get them to give you an answer to that.

Personally, there aren’t many people that I exchange gifts with every year. I typically stick to the family for budget reasons. I also know that I am likely a hard person to buy for aside from the typical notebooks, pens, and fun drinkware that are common. Part of the reason I’m hard to buy for is that I usually get what I want for myself. If there is something I really want it is just too expensive to expect (and in many cases accept) as a gift. It’s not like I’m 13 and asking Santa for that new Macbook. I’ll get it one day, but it’s likely going to be a Christmas to myself sort of purchase.

What I want to do is give you a few items that will be useful to the writer or even the students in your life.

TECH RELATED IDEAS

We all know how technology-focused our society has become. We rely on our phones, tablets, and laptops daily. Even when we unplug for the day from social media, the phone is nearby, an e-reader is commonplace, and maybe a gaming system comes into play. So here’s a top pick for tech gifting for writers that won’t break the bank. It will, however, require you to know a bit about their preferences.

A good pair of headphones. Sounds simple, right? I have my eye on some airpods or the pro version. There are budget friendly options that I use all the time though. I have a cheap pair of earbuds that I got at our local Walmart. I have odd shaped ears so I get the kind that have the ear loops attached so I don’t lose them. They’re less conspicuous when I’m out and about. However, I also have a wonderful pair of noise-cancelling over ear headphones as well. They’re by a brand called mPow Tech and they actually have great sound. These are Bluetooth and so wireless when I’m going back and forth with things but there is also the option of a 3.5mm audio jack to connect directly to your devices. The pair I have I bought about 4 years ago and I spent about $40.00 USD for them through Amazon. They’ve gotten a little beat up over the years using them so much. So, I would love to replace them soon. That being said I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase the updated version of them. Which can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Mpow-Cancelling-Headphones-Bluetooth-Playtime/dp/B082D6WV5B/ref=sr_1_4?crid=1YSJ3MVPB912N&dchild=1&keywords=mpow%2Bbluetooth%2Bheadphones%2Bnoise%2Bcancelling&qid=1606600066&sprefix=mpow%2Bnoise%2Bbluetooth%2Bheadphones%2Caps%2C269&sr=8-4&th=1

Another tech option would be a new keyboard. Writers are usually going to wear these out on a regular basis anyway. On a whim I purchased an 87 key mechanical that is wired for myself. It was a bit of a novelty in that the keys looked more vintage, like an old typewriter. I call it my clicky-key keyboard. I love this one. My only regret is that I got the one that was just the QWERTY and I didn’t get the standard layout with the ten-key instead. I use that keypad more than I realize.

I realize that I might be the odd duck, but when I am stuck for productivity and inspiration, I cycle through keyboards. I have an ergonomic split key and a quiet touch flat one. I also have a magic keyboard in the Bluetooth. Now, I’m waxing nostalgic and wishing I could find an old keyboard like I had back in high school; the old IBM ones in the computer lab at school. And I’ve had my eye on a new mechanical keyboard that is backlit. I think I would like the backlit ones since I get so much eye strain in the evenings. Just being able to put the lights low and have that glow would be a good thing when I’m composing.

PLANNERS & GOAL SETTING TOOLS

Let’s talk about planners. I’m an analog girl in this digital world when it comes to my planners. I prefer paper, pens, and highlighters to my iPad or phone any day. There is just something about writing it all down that helps to solidify the plan of action in my mind. Over the years I’ve used many different planners. My first was a daytimer back in high school. There are certainly more options today. From a $9.99 to nearly $100.00 for the year, you can take your pick of styles, customization options, or even DIY approaches. While I enjoyed the idea and practice of a bullet journal, I found it to be too time consuming and prefer something that has already got the form and function I need.

As much as I like, and have used, Erin Condren Life Planners over the last 10 years; I think I’ve spent my last money with that company for personal reasons. So, I’m looking into alternatives for 2022. I’ve used it in conjunction with another planner system to help keep myself on task for my personal goals. So I may just invest in a good binder next year instead and switch entirely to the Momentum Planner by Productive Flourishing. For $18 you get a fillable PDF Printable that is a full year of guided planning that really helps to break things down. While not as aesthetically appealing as the more feminine-branded Life Planner, it really makes up for it by being super functional and customizable.

Alternatives that I would also consider is Passion Planners. They have a great design for people who need to track time as well as goals. And I would also consider the Dreambook & Planner by Dragontree again. Their holistic approach is really a game changer and gets you to dig deep to find purpose and passion in your life while also walking you through the goal setting process to be successful.

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

DESK & SPECIALTY STATIONERY ITEMS

I’m working on a long term personal project that will help me bring some personality to my workspaces. I wish I had room for a corner desk with more worktop space for notes. But, I’m working on being organized in the spack and desk that I do have access to while also being a bit more aesthetic as well. I’m sure many other authors can relate. Decorative tastes change over time. For me, they’ve gone from being dark and broody to being much more light and feminine. So, I’m looking for things in rose gold, creams, teal, and aqua to complete my space so I can use my own pictures in the future. Not to mention this new obsession with flamingos. (I have no idea why.)

So think about things that can brighten their space. Desk organizers are a great start. Pen cups, post-it holders, novelty paper clips, and binder clips. Think about new artwork as well. Paint them something yourself or find something from a local artist. Consider gifting a new cover for their favorite chair, file storage boxes, or novelty file folders. I’d also say to consider a large magnetic dry erase or corkboard as well. These can help tremendously as storyboards that are reusable. And I have my eye on a simple one that is a monthly calendar with corkboard space at the bottom as well.

PERSONAL & WEARABLE

There is a common problem for writers and office workers everywhere. We spend more time at a desk, usually in a chair, staring at a screen, and doing repetitive movements all day. Many of us deal with eye strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and back issues over time. A good desk chair is an expense that most writers will put off because it is expensive. I’ve found several inexpensive things that have helped me over the years.

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

A good seat cushion. Something with support where you need it. As a bigger person, these wear out fast for me. So, it is always a struggle to find one that will really support with comfort and still hold up over time. I personally look for something with sciatica in mind. Forgiving on the tailbone and yet providing some padding on the hips and legs. I tend to sit and lean forward in my chair, so something for support in the back is a good idea for me as well. I’m sure I’m not the only one with those issues. It’s a gift that adds comfort to an already long process.

Finally, two wearable items that have alloed me to be more productive and avoid the pain of headaches due to eye strain and alleviate the pain from carpal tunnel.

I found the first item at my local pharmacy. Compression gloves that were infused with copper were in that unique section where they put all the “as seen on TV” items. Now, I don’t know that the copper necessarily has anything to do with the effectiveness. All I know is that, I purchased them when I was having issues and they helped tremendously. These are a sized item, so you want them to be snug on your hands. Mine aren’t fingerless, but the tips are gone allowing for ease in typing or using my touchscreen devices. Not every writer will need the compression and a nice pair of fingerless gloves will be a welcome addition to their writing sessions. There are some lovely literary themed options through a company called Storiarts.com. They even make throws and totes that have printings of classic books. So they are worth checking out for the booknerds in your life.

The last item I will suggest is a good pair of blue-light blocking glasses. I’ll admit to dropping a pretty penny for a pair of these. While those glasses were a great product, the company that makes and distributes them was a nightmare in terms of customer service and the delivery process. So, I hesitate to recommend them. There are other companies out there though, other brands that are just as good. I found a three pair pack on Amazon for about $23.00 and even those have been a lifesaver on my eyesight.

So, there you have it. My gift guide for the wordsmiths in your life. I provided a link to the headphones above. However, I don’t use an affiliate link for those. I honestly have those and recommend that particular brand. They’re a heck of an alternative to the brands that are a couple hundred bucks. Maybe next year I’ll do an affiliate program for specific brands. But this year, I’m keeping it fairly general.

Whoever you’re gifting for this holiday season, I hope that you have fun and create some wonderful memories with the people you love this season. I know, I plan to.

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The Thankful Post…

This year has put everyone into a sort of funk. I think we have to be realistic and see that there is a possibility that the way we live is changed forever. Things won’t go back to “normal” as they were before the pandemic. As my family enjoys our traditional holiday meal today, I’m forced to take a look at the blessings I’ve experienced in the past year. I think that it is important for all of us to consider the small things this year because it has been such a trying year for us all.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

I am very thankful for my family. I’m sure many of us are feeling that way. For an introvert like me that love and support is so important.

So very thankful for my pup. I don’t know how I could even begin to cope with the loneliness I’ve experienced without him at this point. He’s been such a big blessing in a little package.

I am also thankful that I was able to enroll in myself in school again. I still cannot believe at times that I am a student again at the age of 41, but here we are and I’m doing okay with it all. We’ll see how that goes when I find a new job though. Juggling everything is going to be a trick.

I have been able to do several things for myself this year that I didn’t expect. Hoping and praying that I have taken steps to set myself up for better success in the new year as well. I’m thankful that I was in a position to do so.

I’m also thankful that my immediate family hasn’t been affected by this virus. Though, I admit that we’ve taken precautions and I have opted to stay home. Going back to a normal workplace, especially if I have to work with the public, is something that makes me nervous though. I am praying that my luck holds when I do go back to work.

I am thankful that God granted me the ability to amuse myself through creativity. I am rarely at a loss for ideas. And that’s kept me from being bored in quarantine.

I am also thankful that I’m able ot do a little something for my loved ones for the upcoming Christmas holiday as well. It may not be much, but it is more than many families will be able to do this year thanks to the circumstances we all find ourselves in.

I am writing this at nearly 3:00 A.M. My night owl tendencies are showing. I’m happy to still be able to do what I do. And I’ll likely spend part of my day with my journal at some point. There is a much larger list of gratitudes I’ll put down privately. But I wanted to share some of these big ones in an effort to connect with all of you who are reading this blog. And I hope that you’ll take the time to share something with me that you’re grateful for this year in the comments.

To all of you, I want to say Happy Thanksgiving. I pray that, if you aren’t able to or comfortable with being in person with family and friends today, you’ll get creative so you can share time with them. Facetime them, Skype, make a call, or do something else. Remember that there are some who will spend the day alone longing for someone to share memories with. Count your own blessings today and enjoy making the best memories that you can. Then, may we all start looking forward to Christmas and the hope it brings every year.

Image by Biljana Jovanovic from Pixabay