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.

Posted in Uncategorized

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 
Posted in Family Life, The Writer's Life

Preparing For Holiday Mayhem…

I may have been late to the party (seeing as I was born the following morning), but I am a Christmas baby. It is no secret to the people in my life that I love all things holidays. It is a special time of the year for me and my family. It has always been about making it magical for the kids in our lives while also remembering the reason for the season from a spiritual perspective. I think those spiritual reasons have become a bit more in focus for me in recent years, primarily because I am single and don’t have kids of my own. I still enjoy the festivities with those I love though. And I even get a little wistful hoping that someday I’ll meet someone that I can start some of my own traditions and make holiday memories with. I try very hard to let it all go and just stay in the moments I have with my family though.

Cakes by Me and Mom

It is also a very hectic time of the year for most people. While this year will be somewhat different for many, I am sure. 2020 has been a tough year for just about everyone you talk to. At some homes there won’t be holiday celebrations as in years past. People will be missing thanks to this pandemic. Sadly, many will choose not to gather with their family in a time when we really should be relying on family. Whether that’s because of guidelines given by medical advisors, mandated stay home orders, or fear of catching or spreading this virus it is just a sad thing that there will be families missing opportunities to make memories and share time with one another. For me, I’m looking forward to spending some time with my grandparents and my best friend. And the next few weeks are going to be full of preparations for time away from home.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner now. In fact, I’m going to have to get to the store this weekend to pick up the rest of the trimmings for our Thanksgiving meal here at home. Just my parents, myself, and the pups. However, we’ll enjoy Daddy’s smoked turkey, my devilled eggs, grandma’s dressing recipe, and Momma’s pineapple casserole just the same. It doesn’t matter that there won’t be a parade on TV. We’ll still celebrate the day, share what we are thankful for, and get into the holiday spirit.

In the next few weeks, there will be much to do. As is our tradition, my momma and I will be in the kitchen cooking, baking, and making candy for the family. Things we do every year together. And I’m looking forward to spending some time with my grandparents for Christmas. And I am increasingly grateful that I’ll have the opportunity to do so. That opportunity isn’t always there. So I am grateful to be able to do that this year.

There are always memories to be made at the holidays. I think that this year has put into perspective for me that we’re not always guaranteed time with the people we love. The reality, for me, is that I realize that eventually, I’m likely to face spending holidays alone. So, I plan to cherish the time I do have with my family and being part of something larger. I know that won’t always be the case for me. So I appreciate all that I can while I can.

I keep telling myself that I need to take more pictures, to document these times and memories so that I have them to look back on. The truth is that I get so caught up in just being in the moment that I don’t always pick up my phone or my camera to take pictures. I want to make sure that I take that time to document my memories with them this holiday season.

I also want to take some time to get some positive momentum going for a new year ahead. Please, God, let it be better than 2020!

So I’m looking forward to new projects, building new relationships online and off, and continued success as a student. I’m into my second term as an Elementary Education student with Western Governors University and I definitely have my work cut out for me. Coupled with trying to run a startup business as an author entrepreneur and likely working a day job (once I can find one). At least I’ll keep busy and hopefully focused on positive things in my life. Maybe I’ll get to have a few adventures along the way and take some time to have a bit of fun. We’ll just have to see what happens though.

As I usually do, I plan to sit down with my planners and put some goals and ideas down for things in the new year. I have several versions of planners that I use. I thought that I might do a post reviewing the different planner formats, tools, and what my planning process is for the new year. Drop me a comment if you’re remotely interested in that process and my honest reviews for the various planners I use.

Until next time, hug someone you love today. We all need a little extra TLC these days. So if you can’t hug someone, be kind and try to make someone smile.

Posted in Family Life, The Writer's Life, Uncategorized

The #DogMom Life

Today was all about the baby boy. My Chiweenie, Pippin has had these small bumps on his chest for about a year. They’re small and felt like cysts to me and, as they haven’t been bugging him, I’ve not been too concerned. Except that now, they’ve almost doubled in size over the last six months. So, I decided a trip to the vet was in order to have them looked at. Better safe than sorry with the history of doggo cancers we’ve had. He loves the ride with me in the car, that is, until we pull up onto the hill where the vet’s office is. Then the whining starts. he knows that place is where he gets poked, prodded, and they always do the thing he hates most… trim his nails. It is seriously a two person job because he fights so hard when it’s done.

The good news is that the vet thinks they’re likely just lipomas (fatty cysts). She did take a sample and will analyze it to be sure. We’ll have those results tomorrow afternoon. Otherwise, he’s a happy, healthy pup. Which is good. And we got his booster shot since it was about time for that as well. Results come back good then he’s all set until April. And after the “torture” we went to get some popcorn chicken at Sonic. That’s our usual “date” when we go for a ride and I wasn’t about to skip it this time. Tomorrow he has to have his flea and heartworm pill though. That’s fun. He’ll be a sleepy boy. Tough week for my baby but, it needs to be done.

That little dog is my constant companion. Been my best bud since I got him when he was six weeks old. It is hard to believe that he is 7 years old now. Time flies before you even know it has passed. I wouldn’t trade a day with this litle guy for anything.

For all the running today, I still have the work cut out for me. I am also struggling to get myseslf on a more normal schedule. I took something to help me sleep at a normal hour last night. Of course, I set an alarm to get up about 8:30 this morning. Either it didn’t go off or I slept through it. This is why I usually make appointments for the afternoon. I am such a night owl by nature. A typical day for me doesn’t end until about 3:30 AM. That’s when I finally stop working on things and go play a game on the iPad for a while and put something on the TV until I eventually get so sleepy I put it away and drift off to sleep. Tonight, I need to work on this history class and do some work on the outlines and character sketches for the new series.

You know, my life is generally a solitary one. I spend more time with my computer and the pup than I do with people. I suppose that’s why I have weathered this lockdown fairly well. I’ve kept myself busy since I was sent home from the day job, mostly with school. There has also been a great deal of thought given to how I could move my writing career forward as well. Fresh material is a must, of course. There is also a matter of looking into additional revenue sources that I’ve overlooked and overhauling my online presence.

I’m a fiction author. There are new things coming in 2021. However, the most popular thing in my back catalog at the moment is my Slauson Cove novels. So, I am considering doing a bit of overhaul on the initial novel and designing some merchandise for people to have a little something to remember their “visit” to Slauson Cove. Tshirts, hoodies, mugs, and other novelty items will be the focus. I’m also going to do an overhaul of the website over at http://www.annebellefiction.com so that I have something up to date and fresh for visitors. Besides, any artist grows and the website should grow with them.

You may also notice that I’ve made some changes here on the blog as well. I’m redefining my presence online in general. I want to connect more with my readers and share more of my process and my life on my own platforms. I’m doing away with Facebook aside from the automatic posts about the blog. I’ve never been good at using it consistently. I don’t like to share all the little details of my life because it isn’t all that exciting or glamorous. I may start doing more with Instagram though. I’ll experiment with it and see how I like it and drop the details in a future post. Taking control of the blog is a start.

I definitely have my work cut out for me over the next few weeks. And I think it is best to get to it!

Posted in My Process, The Currents, The Writer's Life, Uncategorized

Getting Back To The Basics

When I started my writing journey back in the 1990s I had no idea where it would lead me. All I knew, for certain, was that I enjoyed the process of creating a world that I, and others, could escape into. My life was turbulent in the best of times in those years. Writing became a way of coping with bad situations that I couldn’t control. It was a plus that people I allowed to read these early stories found them entertaining and full of promise. They enjoyed them and were encouraging in my efforts.

It has been a journey. I’m going to show my age for a moment.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The early days were simple. I wasn’t from a wealthy family who could afford early PCs for me to word process on. It started with notebooks and mechanical pencils or pens. My love affair with stationery started early and persists to this day. My other love was music. So when most kids were headed for the toy section or the new video games, I was found in school supplies and the music section. I had plenty of mixed cassettes from hours of listening to the local FM radio station waiting for favorite songs. I had a fair amount of studio-recorded albums too. But my favorites were the mixes that I got from friends and family who would put them together. My uncle bought me a walkman when I was about 12 and from then on, it became one of my favorite things. I could shut my bedroom door, put on my headphones, plug in a mixtape, and pick up a notebook and pen/pencil and I was set for hours. The real world went away for a while.

My grandparents eventually gave me a word processor. It looked like an electric typewriter only there was a small screen where you could watch your typing go across. It had a 3.5 floppy disk drive to store your work and then you could feed paper into the rollers and it would type it out automatically. It eliminated the bulk of the need for correction tape. And I would spend as many weekends as I could at their house happily typing away on it.

I migrated to a CD player when I started college in 1997. A small boom box that was enough to sit on my desk to help with drowning out noisy roommates in the dorm and portable enough to take home with me to use on the weekends I was off-campus. And eventually, my grandparents gave me a laptop. That first one must have been 3 inches thick and weighed in the neighborhood of 10 pounds, but I was ecstatic with it. Finally, I had access to Windows 95 and WORD. So began my preoccupation with writing software and computers.

Now, there are dual monitors for my PC, a laptop, and an iPad that I use for writing and schooling. My walkman and boombox are long gone, replaced by an iPhone and Amazon music. The headphones remain a steadfast necessity though. There are times I still need to drown the world out to get things done. I’ve held firm to my love of stationery though. Anyone will tell you that my biggest collection revolves around pens, highlighters, notebooks, journals and other desk paraphernalia. I write with Scrivener. Format with Word. And I’m longing to make the switch from PC to Mac lately. But, the process all begins with a notebook, my pens, and an idea.

The world is a crazy place. With lockdowns, virus panic, political turmoil, and all the rest, I’ve returned to the basics of getting lost in a world that, for me at least, is more hospitable and makes sense. I’m sure eventually these stories will find their way to others who would like to be lost in the place I’ve created.

Today, my Amazon music is set to a retro 80’s mix. Currently listening to New Sensation by INXS. I’ve got my writing buddy in his bed by my feet. I’m working on character sketches and outlines for a new paranormal series. It is time to embark on something fresh and new. That’s meant putting together a new “series bible” for reference and shifting gears in what I’m focusing on. Paranormal enthusiasts should like this series though. Yes, it will be fiction and somewhat sensationalized but it is also fun pulling from personal experiences working in the paranormal investigation field for so many years. And it’s also fun creating my own secret society.

Enough spoilers though. Time to get to work on it.

I do hope that you’re all doing well and making the most of this crazy season in life for everyone.

I want to do more posting here in the coming months. I would appreciate if readers would share the blog with others and comment if you have questions for me. Questions don’t have to be writing-related. Knowing what you’re all curious about helps me to know what to post about. If you want the scoop on the writing and publishing process, I can post more on that. But if you’re curious about hobbies or related product reviews, the paranormal experiences, or whatever, I’d be happy to do posts on those things as well. So, leave me a comment about what you’d like to see in this blog.

More soon! Stay sane and stay safe everyone!