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.

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 Baking & Decorating, 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, Updates

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!

Posted in My Process, The Writer's Life

Breaking Ranks…

If you’ve followed me online, here or elsewhere, you’ll likely recall that I usually take part in NanoWrimo. It is one of the few times of year that I really buckle down to focus on putting substantial word counts on the page along with other amazing writers. This year, I’m breaking away from the tradition. Not because I have no story to work on, but because I need to break from routines that haven’t served me well.

November has always seemed to me to be a bad month for such a major challenge. I mean, it is the middle of the holiday season and many people have extra obligations on their time with family gatherings, travel, end of the year deadlines looming, and events related to celebrations to attend or plan. Without fail, for me, there have just been too many distractions in the month of November to make the challenge without a significant amount of unnecessary stress. This year, when the Preptober videos started to pop into my YouTube feed, I recognized that there really was no way for me to commit to the challenge.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Life has changed for millions of us with the onset of this pandemic. It would be a lie to say that I’ve not seen some significant changes in my own life. Losing a job in April and now finding that, despite the lifting of restrictions, the job market for people with my skills is simply not bouncing back, well, that’s left me in a real predicament that I will need to remedy somehow soon. Now, add to that the fact that I’ve started back to school with a serious focus on study and there are bigger demands on my time creating more stress that factors in. Taking on a big challenge with a deadline like that is not going to make writing any easier and certainly won’t help my mental state. So, I wish those of you participating this year the best of luck in completing the 50K challenge. I’ll be cheering you all on from the sidelines!

I will say that it is not a matter of not wanting to write though. In fact, I’m happy to say that I am starting something new and what I hope will turn into something quite special for my readers. I say it is new, but it is really an older idea I’ve had floating about for a bit that I rediscovered while going through old files to organize my computer. The excitement of new characters and developing back stories is a fun part of the writing process for me. So, I will happily toil away on my laptop in my home office or in local cafes throughout November for writing and study sessions alike. In fact, I’ll probably be spotted doing just that throughout the remainder of 2020 and into 2021. I have found a great little local coffee spot closer to home. I’ll have to post a review when I get some pictures.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

I find myself slipping more lately. I haven’t been completely compliant with the idea of staying home. I can admit that much. However, I don’t get out often either. That’s something that I need to change in my life. You see, I’m one of millions that have depression. Some days are better than others. If I am truly honest, there have been more hard days than good days lately. They seem to come in waves.

For example, I’ve fought insomnia for weeks. I’ve had my days and nights mixed up making it hard to even function normally. I’ve drifted into periods of mindless surfing of social media and videos on YouTube or watching old cartoons on Amazon Prime or Netflix. I’ve read books, played mindless games on my iPad, and started to work on art pieces that never seem to get finished. Then again, I have experienced stretches where I could sleep for days on ened. Get up for just an hour or so and right back to bed for hours. My pup loves these days, mind you. I’ll try setting alarms, even multiple alarms in succession, only to sleep through them. I know that none of this is good for me, but its a viscious cycle and now being out of work, I certainly don’t have the luxury of health insurance to be able to get to the doctor.

I’ve attempted to give myself a schedule. I wanted to find things to do with myself. I think that was partly why I got back on the dating sites. Like maybe if I had somewhere to be, or someone to see and spend time with, it would help me find that motivation. It never takes long before I give up on those though. I’m just not the typical modern gal. What can I say? I’ll blog more on that at a later time though.

One good thing from all of this, I joined a local church and started getting to Sunday School more often. The insomnia has been a problem. Online services have been a blessing for me to keep up with the sermon series when I haven’t heard the alarms. The truth is, I feel like this was a very good decision and that I’m finding a group of people that are like-minded at least. So, that’s a good thing. I’m actually really looking forward to the Fall Fest they are having. It should be fun. But, despite feeling good and motivated when I leave church, it is still a struggle to find the energy and motivation to get up and get dressed to go on Sundays.