Variety News: June 21, 2021

On My Mind
Last week, I had a goal to make an eye doctor appointment on Monday. I haven’t managed to get it done yet, so that’s how last week went. I did manage to get my hair into a french braid though, which is a game-changer when it comes to this next phase of the grow-out period.

I really need to get the eye appointment made though, and an appointment for Athena to get a broken tooth taken out too. Those are top of the list this week. Why are the simplest goals sometimes the hardest to complete?

Making
We didn’t “make” it so much as put it back together, but our patio swing is usable again! We took it apart this spring to paint and re-cover, and finally got it back together this weekend. It’s so nice having a place to sit and watch the dogs in the yard. Slowly but surely, things are coming together back there.

Growing
Last weekend, we finally added some annuals to the pots out front for a bit more color while our new plants grow in. Oranges, yellows and purples are the “it” colors this year, and while they’re kind of sparse at the moment, I think they’ll look very bright and cheerful once they mature.

Eating
The best thing I ate last week was a thick bone-in pork chop with fresh spinach penne on the side. I try to eat local whenever I can, and everything in that meal except the mushrooms were locally grown/made. And it was all *delish*. The perfect end to a very busy week.

The Thin Mint Blizzard from Dairy Queen mid-week wasn’t all that bad either…just sayin’.

Bling & Things
I mentioned I can get my hair in a French braid now, and one of my favorite hair accessories at the moment is a bow barrette with a small snood attached. I got a pack of 6 in different colors from Amazon, and they are the *perfect* accessory for that hairstyle for work. The satin bow is elegant and classy, and the snood keeps the short, unkempt ends all tucked up and neat.

I also keep forgetting that I have some fancy bobby pins I could use to keep the straggly side hairs up. I’ve just been using regular bobby pins (from Lilla Rose – they are the *best*, hands down…very strong hold) and trying to keep them hidden under hair sections, but there’s no reason I couldn’t use something with a fancy flower/bow on on the end, or pearls along the length just for a little extra “pop”, right?

Post Round-up
The Writer’s Desk – My notes on writing and progress reports (last updated Sat, 6/19/21)


Support your author:
This House of Books (my local bookstore!) | Bookshop.org
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks | Audible

Hitting Reset

It’s been a few weeks, hasn’t it? Things have been a bit crazy, to put it mildly. A quick run-down, for anyone who doesn’t follow me on social media:

– Got my second covid shot and immediately got a norovirus the same day, so that was super-fun. I was sick for a week, couldn’t eat for a good 24 hours, and couldn’t eat anything substantial for the next five days after. Good times. Bonus: I have no idea if I had side-effects from the shot or not.

– My dishwasher broke, and is still broken. I finally got an appointment to have someone look at it…Tuesday. Have I mentioned I hate, hate, hate doing dishes by hand?

– I broke my 100 daily words for 100 days streak when I was sick, and with the dishwasher being broke, I haven’t picked it back up because my writing time is late at night after the kitchen is clean, and the kitchen takes me twice as long as it used to now.

– I got my hair cut for the first time in a year, and that was a far better experience than I’d hoped for. I like the new stylist, she was very thoughtful and careful with how she cut my hair given my grow-out goals, and I can let it grow for the next six months now and it should grow out very nicely.

So. Lots going on. Ironically, I feel a lot better overall since the norovirus/full-body-purge…some other health issues I was having seem to have magically gone away/fixed themselves since, which is actually pretty awesome. So much so that I’m considering doing a planned 24 hour fast every so often, just to sort of “reset” my physical systems. Gotta do a little reading up first, but it seems like it might be a good idea. Anything that keeps my body running smoother as I get older is on the table, as far as I’m concerned.

I am getting somewhat faster at doing the dishes (and eating out an extra night or two per week), and my writing issue is more of a “pouting” issue, so there’s really no reason I can’t sit down and whip out 100 words and still get to bed on time, other than attitude. So, I need to give myself a stern talking-to, and get my butt back to writing. I have a very nifty new planner that’s basically just habit tracking for writers, and it actually makes me want to write so I have something to record daily. Whatever works, right?

As for my hair…I’ve got some new routines forming due to both the longer length and the silver growing out. I watch YouTubers who are growing out their gray hair too (judge all you want – everyone likes company when embarking on a new adventure), and one of them mentioned that something she wished she knew before growing her gray out was that makeup will get in your white hair, and you can *see* it (because…white), and you can’t get it out. So you have to put your hair back when you’re doing your makeup, which is something that never crossed my mind, but makes total sense to me. So I’m changing up my routine since I do already have a lot of white right up near my face. I used to shower, then do my hair, then do my makeup (and my hair would often get in the way, because it’s “poofy” when I blow it out). I’m switching it up, and after a shower, wrapping my hair in a hair towel (women and long-haired men, have you discovered hair towels yet? If not, do!), go do my makeup and get dressed, and then do my hair last. Voila! No makeup in my white hair. It’s the little things…

Also, the new cut has taken away the worst of the “flips” at the end of my layers that forced me to take a shower and wash my hair daily for work, so I could tame those silly flips with the blow dryer. Now, I find that my hair just flattens out a bit on the second day after a shower, so I can skip the shower and hair wash every other day, which is far better for my scalp, my hair *and* my skin! Huzzah! I celebrated by ordering a flat iron and a heat-resistant mat for the bathroom counter, so on days I don’t need to shower, I can either straighten or curl my hair (or leave it alone) as I feel like it. It’s a new era, which is awesome, and exactly what I was hoping for. So yay!

In other news, we’re back to yardwork again, and I tell you what – nothing gets those muscles screaming again like shoveling a bunch of wheelbarrows and buckets of dirt to fill garden beds and pots. I am *sore* today, I tell you what. But we got a bunch of tomatoes planted this past Saturday, and I moved my hardy geranium into the brick planter in the front of our house. It’s a start.

In any case, things are slowly getting back on track *again* (though the to-do list is longer than ever), and with any luck, they’ll stay that way for awhile this time. One can only hope, eh?


Support your author:
This House of Books (my local bookstore!) | Bookshop.org
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks | Audible

Springy Spring

Daytime view of the yard – can’t wait until it grows in!

The front yard landscaping is done! Huzzah! We’ll spend the next several years paying for it, but it looks great, and is very low maintenance, which was the main goal. The neighbors have had favorable comments so far. But we haven’t put our pink metal flamingos out yet. Who doesn’t love pink flamingos, right?

Yes, we are going to be “those” neighbors – the ones with the beautiful landscaping broken up by all manner of kitschy lawn art. Pretty *and* fun, all in one spot.

Nighttime view – skeleton tree!

I need gnomes now. Ones that scream when you pick them up. There has to be a way, right?

Needless to say, with the front yard done (or as done as it can be until the last frost date, which here is May 15th), we’ve turned our attention to the back yard. We have much to do and very little time to do it in – our spring motivation wears off very quickly once temperatures are above 80 or so for any length of time. We’ve started refinishing the old patio swing with a new coat of paint (we ran out – need to get more soon), and I have new cushions/covers for it that I bought two years ago just hanging in the basement waiting to be put on.

We have a new gazebo in boxes in our driveway to be assembled on the patio, which will give us some much-needed shade back there when the sun is frying everything for hours on end. Before we can put that up, we need to disassemble and remove a shed we have sitting on the patio at the moment.

I started a project to raise the two rose beds just off the patio a couple years ago. I need to finish that project, replace some roses, and spread out the plants with better spacing.

We ordered some new veggie bed kits with compost towers in the center to help with feeding. They’re also sitting in the driveway, and we need to assemble them and get those filled (before May, hopefully!).

And we need to rake and overseed the backyard again, to continue our weed abatement/grass revitalization project. Eventually we’ll probably have all that just ripped out and redone, but for now, we’ll just take care of it as well as possible. And maybe this year I’ll finally get the hang of using the hose-based liquid fertilizer spreader for using the organic fertilizer I get from the company that picks up our compose each week. It doesn’t seem like rocket science, but apparently it kind of is.

By mid-June (at the latest), I’ll be sick of yardwork and outdoor projects (I’m not really a “play outside” kinda girl). So it’s important to get as much done early as possible.

Crate training…with treats!

Inside, we’ve been rearranging furniture to accommodate a couple of wire dog crates for our little four-legged hoodlums. Because sometimes it’s just too hard to be good. Especially for younger pups who are still very impulse-driven and eat everything. Including things that might harm them. And things that cost a fair chunk of change to replace. *sigh* I’m not sure if we’ll be able to crate them while we’re gone or not yet – they’re still getting the hang of the whole “sit quietly in the crate” thing. But we’ll see. It’s good training, no matter what happens.

Last but not least, I’ve instituted a writing goal for myself, to hopefully get that habit ingrained again. One hundred words a day for one hundred days. That’s the goal. Ironically, I had five days down, and then missed Sunday so I could get this blog done and posted. So, I’m starting over (again) at zero. I’ve ordered some word count stickers and black certificate covers to post them in, so that each day I’ll have a record of whether I hit 100, or went higher. It’ll be fun, as long as I don’t start over too often. There’s really no reason to – 100 words takes very little time (five minutes or less when I’m on a roll).

So, busy busy around here. At least until it gets hot, and staying inside to write is the only thing I actually *want* to do. 😉


Support your author:
This House of Books (my local bookstore!) | Bookshop.org
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks | Audible

Body Talk

Ah, the human body. It’s only as high maintenance as we make it, I guess, but just doing whatever without taking the effects on the body under advisement can lead to…well, a much shorter, more difficult life in general. Too bad that realization doesn’t really make the constant attention to maintenance any less annoying.

With that in mind, a few things from the past week:

– The bathroom scale is now registering high enough when I step on that I was forced to face the fact that my experiment with adding more bread and cookies back into my diet is a complete failure. I’ve started imposing restrictions again and am already seeing downward movement. Call it bloat or “water weight” or whatever you’d like, the fact is, my body does not process breads and flour-based foods well. Moderation is a *must* – no getting around that. I need to plan better for next week so I have alternatives ready, and can easily limit both calories and breads/pastas/flour-based treats.

– Still on the subject of food, I tried not-snacking in the afternoons to limit calories, but the brain drop is severe enough to stifle productivity, and it wasn’t helping with the weight issue anyways. Tried nuts again, still not as helpful as I wanted. Then a co-worker shared a single thin mint (girl scout cookie, for those poor unfortunate souls who don’t know), and the chocolate/slight bit of sugar definitely seemed to help. Tried it again the next day (with a single dark chocolate cashew-butter cup), and same thing. In the meantime, the scale is still moving down (inching, but not going up, which is the important part). The nice thing about this is, I don’t like chocolate well enough to sit and eat a whole candy bar or pack of chocolate (it’s not like…say, Pringles or gummy worms, both of which I will consume the entire can or bag of before I even consider stopping). I really don’t like milk chocolate, but I like dark in small doses, and just a very small piece is plenty for one day. So I got some Bark Thins in this week’s grocery order, and I’m going to try one in the late afternoons for the next week. If it works the way things have been working, that’s a total win for me.

– I dyed my hair this week, but unlike previous times, I did the roots first, and then the rest of my hair for less time. Because I’m growing my hair out, I’m worried that dyeing my whole head like normal will result in the lower part becoming much darker than the roots, because they come in white, and henna is permanent (so it doesn’t wear out, and I’m not chopping the length off anymore). It went okay, though I still ended up with lighter roots than I was hoping for. I’ll have to experiment a little more, I guess. One person who also uses henna just does her whole head all the time, and doesn’t have a problem with the roots blending (or not). So maybe I’m making it more complicated than it needs to be? We’ll see. It will be about 6 weeks before my roots start bugging me again. We’ll see how it looks when this dye job has grown out that far, and make a decision then.

– When I dye my hair, it’s a three-hour project (because that’s just how long it takes for natural pigments). I have to take my earrings out first, which is another hour or more project after just choosing a theme and putting all my jewelry back in. Saturday nights are nail nights, so that’s another three-hours (remove polish, cutting, filing/shaping, buffing, polishing). And Friday nights are foot-care night, which is an hour for filing, soaking, and moisturizing. Plus random eyedrops & hand lotion – because…dry is bad.

So all in all, I spent a full workday or more just on physical maintenance this weekend. I don’t do that every weekend, of course, but…it just struck me as a lot of time spent just…maintaining. Obviously I choose to do that, and none of it is strictly necessary, though all of it makes my life easier in various ways. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing or it just…is.

I don’t think I want to make any different decisions at this point, but…it is a lot of time spent.


Support your author:
This House of Books (my local bookstore!) | Bookshop.org
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks | Audible

The Princess Bride & Editing

I am very nearly finished reading The Princess Bride (finally). I’m quite enjoying it in most ways, and only semi-enjoying it in another. That is to say, my copy is a beautiful hardcover collector’s copy that my mom bought me for Christmas, and while I adore it, it’s also kind of a pain in the butt to deal with in my lap (there’s no way I’d be able to read it in bed).

I love how the pages look, and the color and fonts throughout, and even how it feels, but it’s hard to get it at the right angle with my bifocals (“progressives”, whatever – which admittedly, need updating), and also difficult to juggle it with my teacup as I settle in my reading chair without spilling the tea or dropping the book (or both).

Yes, I need a small table by my chair. I’ll get to it eventually, but for now, I have the armrest, which is where I perch my teacup.

In any case, I’ve very much enjoyed the story, as well as the way Goldman went about skimming over details and scenes without actually “writing” them out. The ultimate “screw you” to the old “show, don’t tell” adage…he does exactly the opposite with his little faux abridgements. The rebel in me who hates editing and sometimes wishes I could just tell the story instead of “showing” the story adores that he actually does just that.

Honestly, I’m jealous that he both figured out a way to get away with it, and at the same time wrote something that turned into “Something” and became beloved by so many people, myself included.

Seriously. Genius.

At the same time, I have been trying to both edit, and figure out why I hate editing so very much. I think what it mostly boils down to is that writing – “creating” is fun. Editing (and revising) is serious work that requires reading the same thing over and over. I find it incredibly tedious and boring. I love writing, even when it requires work and extra thought or the odd bit of research. I don’t love editing. Not at any stage. It’s just…boring.

I need to become okay with that, and I need to adjust my perspective, employ self-discipline, and make the time to get it done.

I’m not really sure how to do that, other than to first make time, and then just…do it regularly. I need to prove to my brain that it’s a worthwhile endeavor, and to do *that*, I need to edit.

Alas, finding/making the time has proven more than difficult. I have fifteen minutes of writing time every morning, and I’m using that faithfully for new words. The rest of my day is spent either at work, or at home in the company of my husband and dogs, aside from half an hour I take at the end of the day to read before bed. And that’s it. That’s my day. Even my late half-hour gets encroached on occasionally by a chatty husband or needy dogs. The only way to really get more time would be to stay up later, but then I’m sacrificing sleep. And I’m trying really, really hard to get 6 hours a night whenever possible, to protect against mental conditions and diseases later in life.

So. That leaves weekends. I don’t schedule my weekends well at all. My late nights are routine, because I have complete control over those. The days tend to be more of a free-for-all, compounded by the fact that the TV is on all day because my husband likes noise. When I’m home by myself, no problem, but I fall into that “sit in front of the TV” trap while he’s here, and then I end up not getting anything done until he leaves and I can turn the TV off – at which point I need to get all the other stuff I didn’t get done, done (housecleaning, dog food, etc).

I need to just get up and go to the office, or get up and do housework while the TV is on and he’s here, so that once he leaves, I can have that quiet time to edit and work on writing stuff. There is no schedule for that though, which always throws me off. I don’t deal well with a lack of routine. I tend to do nothing (obviously). Not good.

So that’s the goal for this week. Instead of trying to find a time during the week to shoehorn in some small amount of editing time, I’m going to do my best to get my housework and domestic chores done while the hubby is sitting around during the weekend, and then when he’s gone (normally Sunday evenings), sit and use that time for editing.

Another week, another time experiment. Wish me luck!

And I’ll have to pick a new book to read too. What will jump off my TBR pile this time? Hmm….


Support your author:
This House of Books (my local bookstore!) | Bookshop.org
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks | Audible

Writing Progress & Healthy Habits

Things have been busy, busy in my world lately, and while a lot of it is just annoying “gotta do it” stuff, I’m actually starting to make progress on the things I want to make progress on again. Like…writing and editing.

I tell you what – that feels incredible. I am *so close* to finishing the novel draft I’ve been working on for at least two years now. I’ll finish it this week, and it will be ready to edit, and then I’ll get back to work on the other one I was working on before Christmas.

Last week I marked up one of the new flash stories (I’ve been writing a flash story every Monday to “warm up” for the week), and after the final type-in sometime this week, it will be ready to put in the “Completed” folder. After researching what it would take to make a calendar of stories, I’ve decided to scrap that idea (it would be expensive, as it turns out, and time consuming), and just publish a collection of 12 flash stories for the year. The story I just finished would be a great spring story, so I think it will be the April or May entry for that collection. The story I wrote today will be perfect for a January or February entry.

I’ve also been working on edits for a story I wrote several years ago, but never published. It needs a new last quarter or so (I knew that when I finished the first draft), and now it’s finally going to get one. I’m doing line edits at the moment, until I get to that part where it “jumped the shark”, so to speak. Then I’ll start rewriting from there, and see where it takes me. I’m guessing it will be somewhere good, based on what I’ve read/marked up so far.

My goal is to publish this one by October 1st. That shouldn’t be a difficult goal to hit at all, especially if things keep going like they have been.

For the most part, I’m keeping up with my workouts, though it’s been too cold to walk the dogs at night this week. Hopefully we’ll be able to get out for a bit towards the weekend, because they’re going a bit stir-crazy being stuck inside, and I need exercise. Unfortunatly my eyes can’t really handle much time in the cold, dry wind, so that’s limiting too. But it’s been a much warmer, milder winter this year, so we’ve had a lot more time to walk than normal, which is a nice change.

Speaking of eyes, the e-ink reMarkable tablet has been a real lifesaver. When my eyes are fatigued and sore, I can still use that, no problem, so I’ve been doing line edits while I sit and watch TV at night. I have a light that hangs around my neck for crochet and for using with the tablet, and there’s just enough light, pointed away from my eyes, to make editing painless.

It means I can work longer without straining my eyes, and I love that. My eyes love that even more, and they get a rest between the workday and my late-night laptop session (aside from the occasional Pokemon/Animal Crossing/facebook checks, that is). I also use the tablet for planning & brainstorming. Sometimes it’s just…easier to write things out by hand.

Now, if I could just figure out how to get enough sleep, and then force myself to quit working earlier so I’d have time to read before beed..that would be perfect. I have been reading comics in the mornings again, and getting caught up with those. Now I just need to get back to Origin by Dan Brown (which is the print book I’m reading at the moment), and life will be going swimmingly.

Alas, tonight I am late with the blog (by a day, but also in getting to bed), so no reading time again. I’m determined to make it a habit again by the end of the year. We’ll see how that goes.

Progress feels so good. Wouldn’t it be great if we could bottle it and take it later, like a spice with dinner or an energy drink or something?

That actually kind of gives me an idea….


Support your author:
This House of Books (my local bookstore!) | Bookshop.org
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks | Audible

Hats, Seaweed, & Dry Eyes

I’m happy to announce that I finished and delivered my mom’s hat this weekend, which settled the last of my Christmas gift “debt”. No, I did not get a picture, because I was interrupted on the very last row by a work call Saturday night, and by the time I got back to it Sunday, I just wanted to finish it and go drop it off. It turned out nicely though, I think, and since I made two sizes so she could pick which one fit best, I have an extra one to donate next year. Win-win!

Now I have my evenings back for editing, gaming, and I’ll probably designate one for knitting so I can finish last year’s blanket project. After that’s done, I’ll get started on this year’s gifts. Or something for myself. We’ll see. I’m just glad to have the “must do” projects done. I hate it when hobbies turn into “work”. Defeats the purpose of doing them, methinks.

I’ve also recently discovered those packs of roasted nori sheets as a great low-cal snack at work. Seaweed is supposedly very good for you, and may even have cancer-fighting properties, and part of what I want it for is thyroid support (nori has low amounts of iodine in it…kelp has quite a bit more). It’s difficult judging how much is good and how much is too much, but maybe the iodine will get my thyroid moving a bit faster, as long as I don’t overdo it.

Also, the seaweed keeps me from snacking on other things at work. Like, donuts. *sigh* It’s a very low-calorie snack, and the oil coating sats my appetite. So, we’ll see how it goes in the long run, but I’m enjoying it at the moment.

Moreso than my eyes, which are currently being rebellious. A pretty severe lack of sleep over the weekend coupled with cold winds and dry weather has my corneas in a bunch, quite literally. I’m trying to mitigate it the best I can, with limited screen time, closing my eyes and letting them rest regularly, and making sure I use my eyedrops at least once a day, but two if I feel the need.

I’ve been referred to a “cornea specialist” by my eye doctor, but I didn’t go last year when I was supposed to. I’m honestly afraid of what he’ll say. But if this doesn’t clear up on its own, I dare say an appointment is in order. Dammit.

In any case, I’m going to post this, and then go to bed and give my eyes a good rest.


Support your author:
This House of Books (my local bookstore!) | Bookshop.org
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks | Audible

Sugar, Carbs, & Self-Destructive Behavior

I may have gone a little overboard with the food in celebrating my birthday last week. It’s mostly because I never quite crawled back out of the “sugar and carbs” hole I allowed myself to fall into over the holiday season. “Just gotta finish off these cookies,” or “don’t want to let that go to waste” – two of the most self-destructive things I told myself when faced with all the cookies, breads and candy this year, and the thing about carbs and sugar for me is that they are very addictive to my palate and my body. When I eat them, I crave more. Even when I’m not hungry, my mind wants to find that next “fix”. I know some people can eat carbs and not have that problem, but breads are just as bad as cookies for me – I love bread, and I could easily eat myself into the ground with them if I gave myself the chance. My body will grab those carb calories and hang onto them for dear life in the form of fat cells, and that means I’m also dealing with hormonal issues (because estrogen tends to get stored in fat cells – the more fat cells you have, the more estrogen your body holds on to).

Due to this “just a little” mentality, I’m around five pounds heavier than I was in November and not fitting into my clothes as well as I’d like, my body thinks I’m trying to starve it every time I go for even just a few hours without something “carb-based”, and my skin is breaking out. To make matters worse, we indulged in Chinese Friday night for my birthday dinner, and now we’re both dealing with the fallout from so much salt (because there are always leftovers, and that means Chinese Friday and Saturday night too). Dehydration and carb cravings do not make for a pleasant duo.

Basically, I’m physically a mess, because I quit taking care of my body and just “gave in” to the temptations around me. My ankles are unhappy for some reason too – the burning was bad enough Saturday night to wake me up. I suspect that whether I injured them or if it’s inflammation for some other reason, they’ll probably be happier/more likely to heal quickly if I start taking care of myself again.

The main problem is, I have very little self-control when it comes to sweet snacks and breads. Today I’m wrestling with the fact that there are ginger snaps in the kitchen, and also a few pieces of leftover angel food cake. Do I just eat the cake since I’m already so far into the hole, or toss it and start the climb out? Do I keep the ginger snaps and do my best to ration them out reasonably, or just toss the whole tin and not subject myself to the daily temptation (I got them for free for spending $10 at the bread store a week ago). Ginger is good for inflammation, but they’re full of sugar too. I can put ginger in my tea and skip the sugar, which would be healthier.

I think the cookies are headed for the garbage – I can’t trust myself to ration them out reasonably, and I certainly don’t need that sugar “hit” making me hungry 20 minutes after I have one little cookie. As for the cake…well, that’s a harder one. I have sliced strawberries to go over it (I’ve been just eating it plain though, because…yum), so maybe I’ll set aside two thin slices to put strawberries over for dessert tonight (or maybe even lunch today, just to get it finished off), and toss the rest. I need to be snacking on healthy things like prunes and unsalted nuts, not cake and cookies. I need to get back to where I was before I allowed myself all of this culinary debauchery.

The weather is warmer, so Athena and I can get back to walking daily, and if I clean up my diet/bad eating habits, I should be back to a healthier state of being fairly quickly. Enough with the self-destructive behavior already!

More water and walking, less sugar and carbs. That’s the goal, starting…well, now.


Support your author:
This House of Books (my local bookstore!) | Bookshop.org
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks | Audible

2019 in Review

Ah, the end of another year. No, I’m not going to do an entire decade in review, because frankly, my personal timelines tend to get all tangled up in my head after a year or so, and something that happened 20 yrs ago feels like it happened last week, and another thing that happened a month or two ago feels like it’s been over for years. Honestly, I wouldn’t even know how to get 10 yrs worth of “life” straight in my head, much less on paper. Things happen. We learn stuff, do stuff, and hopefully keep moving forward.

I do know that I published my first book and established Brazen Snake Books in 2010. So that was pretty significant, I guess. Speaking of which, I really need to update that cover and blurb…

In any case, last year, I had three major resolutions to work on (and a lot of smaller goals). The big three were:

1) Pay off one major and 2 minor lines of credit
2) Institute a one-paycheck waiting period for all unnecessary, un-budgeted purchases
3) Publish two books

Finances were very much at the forefront of my mind because I’d just done some major overspending, I was way behind on my “normal” bills, and I was very much aware that I really needed to get a handle on both my spending, and the lackadaisical way I’d been handling money.

I’m happy to say, I did get myself in gear, got tough with myself, did my weekly budgeting whether I wanted to or not, and completed those first two resolutions. It was frustrating and annoying a lot of the time, and as soon as I finished paying off those particular credit lines, I was hit with a whole host of dog-related medical bills I had to pay, and then dental work I had to have done, so that was even more frustrating/annoying (because I was on a roll, dang it, and wanted to keep paying stuff off!). But, even though I’m operating closer to my personal margins than I’d like, I’m in a much better financial place this year, with money set aside to be invested when I have the time and a tiny bit of savings (which I haven’t had in a long while), so…those were very worthwhile goals, and I’m still very much motivated to pay several more credit lines off this next year. Which should be interesting because we’re actually taking a vacation in the fall (like, a fly-out-of-state vacation), but we’ll figure it out.

The last goal was an ultimatum to myself to either “publish or perish”, so to speak. I really, really struggled with writing time for the first three quarters of the year. At the moment (and by “moment”, I mean “moment relative to the rest of my life”) my schedule…my life is just not really conducive to sitting down and composing/typing a bunch of words late at night (and there is no other time…oh man, did I try to find another time). I can’t think well enough early in the morning, and my brain was done being creative about three hours before when I sit down late at night after everyone else has gone to bed and the house is finally quiet enough that I can think.

I really thought I was going to have to consign this one to the “perish” bin, as in, don’t bother publishing anymore until after I retire. If I can’t get a first draft down, there’s nothing to edit, and ultimately, nothing to publish. It all starts with the draft.

Late this fall, I decided to try one more thing: dictation. I figured I’m awake and alert in my car, I’m alone, I can have it quiet, and I’m often thinking about story lines or things that would make a great story while I’m driving. I honestly didn’t think it was going to work, because while I talk to myself, I don’t generally “dictate” stories or tell them out loud, and it was exceedingly weird the first couple of times I tried it. But I reminded myself that no one else was listening (and who cares if the other drivers think I’m nuts), and that no one else ever needed to listen to the audio version – the whole point is to dictate and let the program transcribe the dictation, which I can then edit into something readable.

I can edit even when my brain is tired. Editing is much easier than drafting – it’s all critical voice, and that is what my brain is best at – being critical and fixing things. It can do that sort of thing in its sleep (and often does). So the more I dictated, the more comfortable I got with it, and I found that while I struggled hard to come up with even 250 new words late at night, I could dictate a thousand or more in the car just in 2-3 fifteen minute trips to work and back! And then when I uploaded the transcripts at night, I could sit down and edit, a task that wasn’t nearly as much of a struggle late at night after a full workday.

It’s a lot more work to write this way – because the transcription has to be edited into a “first draft”, and then a second round of actual editing to get it ready for copy-editing. But I can do it with the time and energy I have available, when I have them available, and it feels good to be making forward progress on stories again. I’ve written more in the last quarter of 2019 than I have in a long time, thanks to dictation.

So no, I didn’t publish any books this year, though I did write and edit a flash fiction story to send off with my Christmas cards. But I am going to keep writing and have a goal to publish some books next year, and maybe get this whole writing business back on track. I’m optimistic, to be sure.

As for my smaller goals, I got a few of them done, but I never put in place the infrastructure I needed to really be successful with them. I need to make calendar reminders and routines and in some cases, buy something small to make the goal easier. This year, I’m doing that.

More on that in tomorrow’s post on resolutions and goals for 2020.

Happy New Year’s Eve!

Support your author:
This House of Books (my local bookstore!) | Bookshop.org
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks | Audible

Tools, Motivation & Forward Progress

I got my new laptop the week of Thanksgiving, and spent several days setting it up. It is *so* much better than my old one. We’re talking leaps and bounds. The bigger screen is nicer than I thought it would be, it’s quick and clean and “roomy”, and best of all, it has a true mechanical keyboard that is clicking happily (and audibly) along as I type this post.

The right tools really do make all the difference, and honestly, I *want* to use this laptop. I want to have it with me in the living room, where it’s in easy reach to work on a web site update or make some cover art, edit part of a story or even write a blog post (*ahem*).

Needless to say, having the right tool(s) is paramount, and this laptop is definitely a game-changer for me. Why did I not get this post done/up last week, you might ask? Well, it’s because I finally got motivated to actually start getting things done.

I’ve had a lot of outstanding projects going on lately, and while I still do, I decided it was time to quit letting those feelings of being overwhelmed de-motivate me.

You know how sometimes you have so much going on at home, at work, and everywhere, and every time you even think about making some progress on *something* (even just one tiny little thing), you get interrupted or derailed or…whatever, and more things keep piling up and not getting finished, until you just sort of hit that point where your brain shuts down and states that if you can’t even finish one simple little thing, there’s no point in even trying to do anything at all?

Yeah. That’s kind of where I’ve been for awhile now. Drowning in “things” that need to be done, things I want to do, and being constantly interrupted and derailed at every single freaking turn. It’s the most annoying thing ever in life, and I got to the point where I just sort of shut down and quit trying.

Then I went ahead and got this new laptop against my better judgement, and I decided to *take* the time to get one thing off my plate. Just one minor side project that I’d been working on for awhile now, and only had just a little bit left to do on it. If I could have focused, it would have taken me an hour, 90 minutes tops. As my life is at the moment, it took me several hours and a lot of irritation at interruptions, plus a later bedtime than normal (which actually turned out to be pretty normal for last week, unfortunately), but I got it done.

Finishing that project was a major turning point for me. I finished something! Anything! Done, complete, off my plate! I tell you what, it was such a relief just being able to finish *something* that I was downright giddy (at 1am, that happens quietly, but it does happen). I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need to prove to myself that I am capable of focusing and finishing things, especially when it’s been a long time since I’ve actually…you know…finished something.

Completing that project was the “re-proof” I needed, apparently, because I actually managed to get some larger projects off my plate last week, which felt phenomenal. And there are a couple more that I’m on track to finish this week as well.

Granted, I have had to be very focused, and sometimes very insistent with others that I needed time to work. I hate having to do that, only because I feel like people should just automatically leave me alone when I’m clearly busy. That never happens, but it would be nice if it did. I’ve also been giving up some sleep too…compromising between the 6 hours I want and the 4.5 hours I can’t really function well on anymore for around 5 hours instead. It’s not optimal, but honestly? The better mental outlook because I’m finishing stuff is worth a little less sleep. At least for awhile, until I figure out how to sneak the sleep back in too.

In my continuing quest to “get stuff done”, I have two smaller writing projects I’m finishing this week – one a story for an advent calendar (it’s actually done now, and yes, the calendar is late, but better late than never and one of the projects hanging over my head), and one a story for my Christmas cards this year. My writing projects have been suffering just as much as anything else, but I think I’ve found the (mental) problem, and I’m working on “fixing” that as well. More on that later.

I don’t actually know if any of this would have happened without the new laptop. Having a tool you *want* to use is so much more productive than having one that frustrates you every time you need it.

Like magic, of a sort.


Support your author:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks