Resisting the Sparkly

*No audio today, because I pretty much rewrote the post from the transcript.*

Are you part crow, like me? Not the Native American kind – the “attracted to shiny objects”, avian kind. I love the shiny – shiny nail polish, shiny jewelry, shiny yarn…bring on the bling! Oddly enough, I’m not much for gemstones in jewelry, but I do love fun and funky patterns, colors and themes. And while I love most yarn, the stuff with those shiny little strands woven in for a subtle sparkly look just wants me to bring it home.

As you can imagine, I don’t actually open all the newsletters I get very often. That would be a serious fight with temptation far more often than I want to deal with it, so I normally just delete them unread, except for right after payday when I might have a few extra bucks to spend, or when I’ve actually budgeted for a sparkly expense and want to see if there’s a coupon in one that isn’t expired (that doesn’t happen often – don’t get me started on the “you just spent $50 with us, here’s a discount good for the next 12 hours because you couldn’t possibly have already ordered everything you need or spent all your money yet” codes – I want to kill someone when I get those).

But, companies tend to unsubscribe you if you don’t open their newsletters at least occasionally, so I’ve been trying to do a better job of at least opening them quickly and then deleting them (occasionally I do get a coupon code that’s good for more than a day or so!). Sometimes I have more willpower than others, and last week, while I was able to resist the sparkly yarn (barely), I didn’t have it in me to say “no” to the sparkly Halloween earrings on offer (and I did use the discount code in the email, thankyouverymuch). Three industrial bars and two rook bars later, I can’t bring myself to regret the decision, even though I probably shouldn’t have spent the money on them (and yes, it was far less money spent than if I’d bought the yarn).

This past weekend, I actually budgeted for sparklies – because Halloween is coming! I needed some other new earrings to go with my new bars for the holiday (I mean, if you’re gonna wear the bling, why not have it all themed?!), and we also needed some stuff for our “grim reapers on vacation” costumes this year. I don’t think long skeleton gloves/buffs really count as “sparkly”, but the Hawaiian style shirts I ordered are pretty darn bright…

I’ve been practically salivating over the new nail polish colors coming out…holos and glitters, especially. *sigh* Alas, I’ve been good about deleting all those emails and their damned quick-expiring discount codes, because…Halloween. And bills. Stupid bills.

It’s no wonder that the “special” pocket monsters in Pokemon are “shiny”, and the special event things in Wizards Unite are “brilliant”. I think we’re naturally drawn to things that sparkle and shine and bend the light a little differently. Otherwise precious metals and sparkly gemstones wouldn’t be so popular either. I wonder why that is? Why we’re seemingly “hard-coded” to be attracted to sparkly stuff? Something for more research, perhaps.

Are there people who can’t perceive “shiny” or “sparkly”? Anyone know?

What’s your favorite “shiny” thing?


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Audio Posts and Making Room to Edit

I’ve been thinking about making these blog posts available in audio format as well, since I’m recording them anyways. I’m dictating them basically so that I can transcribe them back. But as we were discussing earlier, some people prefer to listen rather than read. So I was curious if there’s any interest in me making these available as audio files as well.

I don’t have the time or the inclination to do any editing on the audio files (or making them “pretty”). So it’s just going to be raw audio with all my hemming and hawing and rambling and occasional double sentence structure. It’s not going to be like a professional podcast by any means, though I did download Audacity so I could cut out the long silent beginning to the recording. I typically start the app recording before I start driving, and then don’t start dictating until safely out of my parking space and on my way. Safety first!

But if there’s any interest, I’d be happy to post it, so you can listen to my ramblings rather than reading them if you prefer. I’ll post this file (see above – it’s an mp3, so should play on pretty much anything), and you can let me know if you listen to it. If you prefer to listen to the blog posts instead of reading them, please try to leave a comment somewhere – Facebook, Twitter, on my blog, whatever. Let me know if it’s something that you find useful, or if it’s just extraneous.

One more quick note – I’m speaking slowly due to wanting the transcription process to be as accurate as possible. So it’s much slower than I’d normally speak. You might want to speed it up a little for listening. 😉

In any case, last week, you may have read my ultra whiny blog post about my frustration with not being able to do as much as I would like to do. And that is a huge issue for me. But more so when I’m really tired. And last week, as I said, I had a couple of nights where I made bad choices. I got to bed late – really late. And I got very little sleep.

I’m not used to that anymore. I guess until I started getting 6 hours of sleep a night, I never realized just how how much my brain was not actually processing as well as it could have been on four and a half hours of sleep. It’s kind of one of those, “you don’t know what you’re missing until you get it” sort of things. In any case, being tired makes me whiny, frustrated and a lot more pessimistic about everything, really.

So I got some sleep.

And I checked out my schedule and did a lot of math. Well, I didn’t do the math – I used a calculator, because that is still one of the premier functions a computer can do, so I don’t have to. Anyways, I did some math – added up some word counts and some dictation counts. I looked at the time I have available, and I rescheduled a bunch of my routines. I made a scheduled plan for my dictation times, because they’re pretty set in stone, for the most part: going to work in the morning, going home from work at lunch, going back to work after lunch, and then going home at night after work.

So unless I have the day off work, I have four 10 to 15 minute segments where I can dictate something. That leaves my late night writing times free for editing or scheduling blog posts or doing social media stuff or formatting books or whatever.

I will need more time to edit, because I’m writing a lot more with dictation, but it requires more editing as well. I’ve been doing my budgeting on Friday nights, and I usually don’t get started until around midnight. It takes me a couple of hours, because I don’t just budget – I also pay bills and plan for the future by doing more math (because I love it. Not!).

But the thing about the budgeting is, I can do it amidst distraction. I have it set up now in a program, and I’ve got recurring payments scheduled and my bills all in there. It’s highly automated now, so I can do it with distractions – I don’t necessarily need that hyper-focus I needed in the beginning. So what I’m going to try is doing the budget earlier on Friday nights, after I walk the dogs. And if I can get that done before 10, 10:30-ish, then I will have that late night time on Fridays free. I’m going to schedule out three hours from 11 o’clock at night till two o’clock in the morning, just for editing fiction. I’ll go through the first edit of just cleaning up the transcript files and making them into a first draft, basically.

I guess you could argue that I could write during that time too, and not have to clean up so much. The thing is, it’s harder to be creative late at night when I’m already tired from the day. I’m tired, and my brain isn’t working as well as it should be at that point in time. So it would take me longer to write from scratch than to just clean up a wonky first draft. Also, I can’t type as fast as I can dictate. But I can edit pretty quickly if the words/ideas are already “on paper”.

I’m going to try that, and then my late night time will be for editing and scheduling blog posts, and working on formatting, cover and publishing minutiae. We’ll see how that works for a couple weeks.

It’s gonna take me probably two weeks to get into the new groove. But I’m excited that I have a plan. And if it doesn’t work, I have a couple other options that I think I can try that might be effective.

I think it’s gonna work out pretty well one way or the other.

Now if I can just figure out how to clean my dining room table off so that I can use it for something other than storage. But that will be my next project. I need to get this writing stuff figured out first.

Thanks for joining me, whether you’re reading or listening!


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Frustration

I used to be really good at getting stuff done. I used to be a pretty prolific writer, publishing several books a year, I used to keep up with multiple blogs, several social media outlets, several newsletters and even my own email – all while keeping up with my day job. But times and perspectives change, priorities shift, and…now I get less done, and most days I’m quite frustrated with that sad fact. Because even though my priorities may have changed, the fact that I want to write and publish at those former levels hasn’t.

I guess the thing that frustrates me most is that my priorities are in competition with each other, but I feel like health really has to win out for the long term. I sleep more and workout more now, which is what uses up a lot of my former publishing time. It’s a little over 2.5 hours out of my day – which is a lot of time, when you think about it (I sleep an extra hour and a half, and workout for an hour most nights). I do this in an attempt to stave off some of the less-savory parts of aging & genetics…the parts like dementia and/or Alzheimers, and the lymphoma that runs rampant in my family. It may work, it may not, but…I’d rather err on the side of caution, there.

My job also requires a lot of mental energy, and more social energy than I have to spare. So I’m mentally exhausted a lot of days when I get home, and after dinner and walking the dogs my brain just says “no more, I need to rest” and…that’s that. I do try to rally late at night to work, but then there are before-bed “chores” and whatever I didn’t manage to get to earlier (or whatever I’ve forgotten for several days and only “just now” remembered). Often by the time I sit down, I’m tired again, and I only have half an hour before I need to get to bed for a full 6 hours of sleep (the minimum needed for nightly “brain-cleaning” chores that stave off dementia, so the scientists say).

This is why I am so thrilled to have discovered dictation, so I can write during the day when my brain is already in “work mode”. Unfortunately, I now have the problem of words that need to be edited. A lot of them. And now I’m trying to figure out how to use the minuscule amount of time in the evenings I have to do that. Which would be somewhat easier had I not signed up for a monthly knitting class this time last year. I have one class left at the end of October, and I’m behind 3 half-squares, so I need to spend an hour or so knitting every night until those squares are done if I want to finish by the last class. There goes another hour. *sigh*

Obviously, I’m whiny this week. Not enough sleep (staying up to get things done…bad), the weather turned cold and gray, etc.

Less whining, more working. I’ll get there (again).

Probably after a night of decent sleep. So, Wednesday, maybe?


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Trying Dictation

Last week I mentioned that I wanted to try to dictation for my books, but I wasn’t sure if I could do it…well, for a lot of reasons. But I downloaded a couple samples of books about dictation by authors who use it a lot all the time, and I read the introductions.

I decided to give it a try. If it works, it’ll be a great tool. If not, then nothing lost, right? But dictating while walking really wasn’t going to work for me – at least not at the moment. Honestly, I enjoy just being out with the dogs and being *quiet* for awhile. It’s my downtime, and I didn’t want to give that up.

But I do have several short trips in the car every day as I drive to work, back home for lunch, back to work, and back home again. It’s basically wasted time. Why not use that for writing?

So as an experiment, last Friday after work in my car, I opened the Otter app on my cell and put my phone in the cup holder. As I drove home, I started talking. Rambling, really, like I was writing a blog post. From work to my house is about a 15 minute drive (give or take). I pretty much just rambled the whole time, and let the phone record. I got home, connected to wi-fi, let the audio file upload to the cloud and transcribe my ramblings. When I finally looked at the raw text file, I realized that it really wouldn’t be all that difficult to edit the transcription into a bonafide blog post.

I was kind of excited after that, because it took me around 11 minutes to write an entire blog post – around 1600 words. I was surprised at how little editing it needed, and how good the AI transcription services have become.

I decided it was worth a concentrated effort to learn the skill of dictation. Monday morning, I got in the car, I turned on my Otter app, and I dictated/wrote the daily email I send to my friend Carol while I was driving to work.

That worked pretty well. It needed some editing, obviously. But it was it was nice to have the the basic blueprint down, that I could just add a quote for the day to it and send it off on my break. Then on my way home for lunch, I turned the Otter app back on while I was driving home, and started dictating a short story.

I got about 800 words “written” on the way home. I continued dictating on the way back to work, and wrote about 800 more words. So by the time I got back to work after lunch, I had a little over 1600 raw words dictated and waiting to be transcribed and edited. That is more than I’ve written in the last few weeks, and it took me 21 minutes (10 minutes and 11 minutes, respectively).

Monday night I planned to use my normal writing time to edit the transcriptions for the day. I ended up needing to do some day-job work though, and then I needed to figure out a workflow for moving the transcriptions into the normal programs I use for writing/editing – namely yWriter (fiction) and Workflowy (non-fiction). So I didn’t have as much time as I’d have liked for editing, but I still got one scene edited before bed, and that 800 raw words became 750 edited/usable words. Not bad, really, considering it only took me 20 minutes or so to edit it down (and that time should get shorter as I get better at dictating.

I also dictated this post on my way home from work Monday night, and spent a few minutes last night editing it. I wouldn’t have had time to sit and write the whole thing out at the keyboard this week, so this post might not even have been written had I not dictated it on my short commute.

I bought two books about dictation (linked at the end of this post) which have been very helpful so far – one more of an overview, and one more focused on the actual nuts and bolts of the skill. One prevailing theme they both seek to hammer home is that dictation is a skill and a tool, just like typing or writing longhand. It’s not something you just “jump into”. There’s a learning curve, and practice time required, and it’s going to take some effort before you reach that point where it’s second nature (like sitting down at a keyboard to type, or picking up a pen).

But considering I’m still not very good at dictation, and my transcriptions require quite a bit of editing, I’m already seeing huge gains in word count and progress, and that has me very excited about what this skill/tool could mean for me in the long run. If I’m doing this much better *now*, and I still basically suck at it, how much progress is possible later as I get better? Seriously. This could literally be life-changing for me.

I’ve ordered a phone mount for my car, so I don’t have the phone rattling around in the cup holder (will also be handy when using google maps to get somewhere). I have Otter set to *not* transcribe in real time, both to save data, and so it doesn’t write out the words on the screen as I’m speaking – that would be a distraction. This way, the screen is just white, with a little bar across the bottom that lets you know whether it’s picking up sound or not. And that’s really all I need, at least for now. Start the Otter app before I start driving (and turn the radio off) and…talk as I drive. Simple as that.

I’m looking forward to tallying the amount of words I’ve written at the end of this week (for the first time in a long while). Stay tuned (if you’re interested, anyways).

The two books:

15 Minute Dictation: More Books, Less Frustration by Sean M. Platt and Neeve Silver

On Being a Dictator: Using Dictation to Be a Better Writer (Million Dollar Writing Series) by Kevin J. Anderson & Martin L. Shoemaker


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Reading Aloud

As an introvert, most of my cohesive thoughts happen quietly, in my head. I don’t process auditory information well, and while I can impart thoughts and ideas verbally, it’s not my best or favorite way to communicate.

No, this isn’t a “millennial” issue – I’m solidly Gen X. This is just a “that’s how my brain works” thing, and along with that, I don’t listen to music while doing anything I need my brain for. I can do rote tasks and listen, but nothing mentally engaging. Needless to say, audio books don’t really work for me – I have to work harder to process what I’m hearing, so I can’t do anything else while listening to one, which sort of defeats the purpose (especially since I could just be reading the book).

I know several people who are exactly the opposite. They process everything more easily if they can hear it, rather than trying to read and comprehend. A couple of them are dyslexic, so of course it’s going to be much harder for them to make sense of words on a page than sound in their ears. It’s amazing (and kind of fascinating, really) how differently our brains work to process information. At work especially, I’ve found it’s good to have a balance of people who process things better in different ways, because we each catch things the other misses while processing info using our own strengths.

I remember doing the edits for my first book, and reading it aloud just to force myself to process it in an entirely different way (reading aloud is yet another set of processes, I find – both reading and hearing at the same time). I think it made the book stronger, but it also drove me a little nuts, both in trying to find time alone to read (I didn’t really want to read aloud to my husband), and also just the “noise” aspect of it.

And listening to my own audiobooks once they’ve been recorded (by someone else) is a very interesting thing as well. It requires a lot of focus to get through, but it is kind of surreal listening to someone entirely different read my stories aloud.

Given all this, you might be surprised that I’m still curious about dictation for writing. More specifically, I’m curious as to whether I could learn to be okay with speaking and storytelling aloud enough to eventually dictate part or all of my first drafts to a digital recorder/transcription service. This requires something I am already abysmally low on though, which is time to myself. I am generally either at work, at home with my husband, or out walking the dogs. And while I know there are authors who dictate while dog walking, I’m really not sure I can do that. Too self-conscious.

But if I could, that would be an excellent way to get a lot of words down in a short amount of time. Or even just a good way to get blog posts “written”. I’m generally out walking for half an hour or more, so plenty of time, as long as Athena doesn’t mind me yammering on while we walk.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do fiction this way, but I may well try dictating a few blog posts. And I have a couple of book samples for training yourself to speak aloud that I plan on reading and buying if they seem worth it. Nothing to lose, and everything to gain (or at least another tool for the writing box), right?

Do you dictate and/or read aloud? Are you comfortable composing stories or other things vocally? Or are you generally the quiet, write-it-down type, like me? Inquiring minds…


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2019 Goals Check-Up

As a reminder, these were my three goals elevated to “Resolution Status” this year:

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

The first one is nearly done, and it would already be done if not for some unexpected expenses that came up this summer. I’ve paid off two minor credit lines, and the third will be done in October. I was actually really hoping to pay down more on several larger credit lines, but…well, we do what we can. As a side-goal to this, I’ve been paying very close attention to my finances and budgeting every single week. It’s been a little tough here and there, but overall, I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to pay down the outstanding debts faster, and start saving a decent chunk every month as well.

The second resolution has been more difficult, mostly just because several things came up that were time-sensitive right at the start of the year, and…well, I needed to act quickly, or forgo whatever it was. I opted to “do the things”, and they were fun, but they did cut into the budget and set me back, which was the whole reason for the “rule” in the first place (to avoid being set back). And then of course I had several un-budgeted but necessary things come up this summer, so…yeah. The finance thing isn’t going as well as I’d hoped, but it is still moving in the right direction. I am trying to stick to the resolution for the rest of the year, but we’ll see how well I do budgeting ahead of time for things like Christmas gifts. I should start thinking about that…well, yesterday. Hmm.

As for the third thing…so far, it’s a complete and total bust. I keep trying to reclaim my writing time, and life just…happens. I really have no guaranteed quiet time at home until after midnight, and then it’s almost too late (depending on whether I want time to read as well, which is important – you really do have to be a reader to write, and I haven’t been reading nearly enough lately). As far as working on edits and rewrites and all the various stuff that goes with actually publishing (formatting, cover art, etc)…wow. I’ve not been making the time I need to for that, and given the time it takes to publish one book (much less two), I’m not sure I’m going to make it. Which is, frankly, quite depressing.

I do have a plan for more writing, and that started today. I’ve got some new routines in place that should help, and some new “rules” for myself that will hopefully reset my priorities to “writing before fun” in my off-day-job hours. I don’t really know what to do about the publishing side of things yet, but…getting back to a very regular writing routine would help a great deal on the writing side.

I do have a couple of books that are published in ebook format, but not in print yet. I think I’ll work on getting the print copies of those done and out first, and then maybe that will be enough to establish routines for getting those types of tasks done. Both books are good Halloween/creepy type stories, so those would be good to have available by October. A tight time frame, but maybe that’s exactly what I need.

There are four months left in the year. *sigh* Writing and publishing are definitely going to be my top priorities for that time. Even if I don’t make the goal, I want to put as much effort into it as possible. So…onward.


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Housekeeping?!

No, this isn’t a resolution check-in. We’ll do that next week. I’ve got housekeeping on the brain at the moment. Probably because I just cleaned the toilet for the first time in…well, I’m not going to say. Let’s just leave it at “it’s been too long”.

I’ve admitted my housekeeping shortcomings here quite often, but somehow, it never ceases to amaze me at just how lazy I am about this one thing, and also, that other people manage to keep their house far cleaner than mine on a regular basis and still have a “life”. How does one do that, exactly? Because honestly, I have no idea.

I spent time both this past weekend and the one before trying to get our bathroom cleaned up. Granted, it wasn’t a lot of time – probably a couple of hours each Sunday, but that seems like a lot of time to spend on one room just cleaning. And it’s still not “done”. The floor needs steam-mopping, the ceilings need to be cleaned, the rugs need to be washed and the curtains need to be…well, replaced, honestly. So what did I spend all that time on? The tub mostly, and trying to get soap scum and other grime off both the porcelain and plastic surfaces.

It’s still not done. It looks a lot better, and the hubby re-caulked the surround (it needs to be replaced, but we didn’t have time to go that far this weekend), but there’s still a thin layer of scum everywhere. We need to figure out a different way to deal with the soap, too, because the shower caddy over the shower head is just not working – soap drippings go through the caddy and down the wall, causing serious soap-scrum build-up and eventually mold.

We replaced the rusty shower curtain rod (it’s downstairs – I think we can clean it up and reuse it), and both the curtain liner and the curtain. Once I find a new caddy I like (I’m thinking a corner one on a tension rod, maybe), I’ll get that and some bonefide soap dishes to keep the soap drippings from going everywhere.

One more weekend and I should have it in much better shape…but then I need to figure out how to keep it that way.

And there’s also the matter of my dusty blinds (all over the house), the dining room table/storage area for misc junk, my makeup vanity in the bedroom…the laundry room…needless to say, it’s somewhat overwhelming.

I used to use Flylady’s cleaning method, but the last thing I feel like doing after work is cleaning something. I’m generally doing really well to clean the kitchen before I get ready for bed, and that’s thanks to the Lucy-dog, who needed her meals mixed up with enzymes in advance. Her special needs “trained” me to clean the kitchen last thing at night, and I still do it to this day, even though she’s been gone three and a half years now. Still, it could use a monthly cabinet wipe-down and floor mopping.

I need a plan. A new routine. A list to follow. Something that will work for me, and keep the house cleaner in spite of my best efforts to just let the dust-bunnies proliferate.

Are you a good housekeeper who keeps everything dust-and-dirt free? If so, what’s your secret/routine?

If not…solidarity! I’ll let you know when I figure out a plan/routine/magic spell that doesn’t require me to clean all weekend long.

Why don’t we have self-cleaning bathrooms by now, anyways? I mean…it is nearly 2020…


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Introducing Athena & A New Keyboard

Wow. I’ve been trying to get a post written for nearly a month now, and things have just been so busy that every time I start working on it, it’s late and I’m tired and I just don’t have the energy to finish, much less post. Which really just goes to show you how routine-driven I am, and what happens when those routines are disrupted for an extended period of time, as they have been this summer. July and August have been busy months, and I’m just now (as in, for one whole week) getting back into my regular routines without random sidetracks and distractions throwing me off.

Although there’s another disruption coming, as we have to replace our shower surround this weekend. Hopefully it will only take one day though, and we can still have a “normal” weekend with Labor Day tacked onto the end.

The biggest news since my last post is that we adopted a boxer puppy (2-3 yrs old) named Athena. She’s adorable and spunky and was obviously mistreated at some point in her young life, but she’s brave and curious and has made herself right at home with us. She’s also white, and shedding like crazy at the moment – getting rid of an old, malnourished coat and growing in a much thicker, healthier one. So, we have little white hairs all over everything, including ourselves. I ordered lint rollers last night, along with a shedding glove, and am going to get some conditioning shampoo for dear Athena this weekend. I just can’t make myself buy lighter clothing. LOL

In any case, Athena is young and full of energy, and she’s already getting the Murph off the couch more often (I don’t think he necessarily appreciates that, but it’s good for him) and he’s walking a tad bit farther with her at his side. Of course she needs a much longer hike than he does, which means we go with him, take him home, and then Athena and I go for part two, which is a good half-mile to a mile at the moment, and we’ll work up to a couple miles most nights in moderate weather. So I’m getting more exercise too, which is perfect (and much needed). It’s always easier to walk with a buddy, IMO.

Writing has been hit or miss, a lot more “miss” unfortunately, but as the routines get back to normal and I don’t have to think so much about every little thing I do during the day, I have more energy and headspace available for creative endeavors. I have gotten a little lazy about using the Neo though – mostly because uploading to the laptop requires plugging the Neo in by cable and then transferring the keystrokes into my writing program (yWriter). I tried working directly on my laptop again, but between hating the keyboard and having distractions so readily available (I forgot to order this! I need to post that! Was that an important email that just came in?) it just doesn’t work for my flighty brain.

So last week, I ordered a bluetooth keyboard (full-sized, with scissor switches) to pair with my cell, and I can use that to write directly into yWriter from my lap. The size of the phone screen really doesn’t lend itself to switching apps often (so less distractions) and my yWriter files live in my Dropbox account, so I can get to them from both my phone and my laptop – no transfer needed.

I think it’ll be a good solution…we’ll find out at the end of this week. The keyboard I really wanted with Cherry MX switches and a really nice “typewriter” look was two hundred bucks, the one I got was thirty. Maybe I’ll splurge on the nicer one if the solution works well enough to finish a novel by Christmas.

So, moving along. Getting back on track. Putting the things I can back on auto-pilot, so I can focus more on things like writing. It feels good. I hope things will stabilize for awhile now. My brain could use the rest.

Next week…a resolution check-in.


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Music, Books, & Creativity

It’s Monday as I write this, and it’s been…oh goodness, has it been three weeks? Wow. Things have been a bit crazy/busy around here, and my mind has obviously been elsewhere. I think we’re finally due for a settling-down period though, which is nice. I’m on the last day of a five-day vacation (okay, two last week and one this week) that has helped a lot with the whole mental recovery/reset thing.

We just did two concerts in three days…I tell you what – I may be getting a bit old for that. Interestingly, even though all four bands were headliner status, the first bands on each night were just mediocre (Marilyn Manson & Pop Evil), while the second bands were incredible (Rob Zombie & Disturbed). Which is too bad, because I’ve seen Pop Evil before, and they were really, really good…but they fell flat last night. In their case, I think it was because they were trying to be creative with their arrangements, and changed up a lot of their old songs. It just didn’t work. Manson just phoned it in – it felt like he wasn’t even trying, honestly.

In any case, all that made me think about entertaining and creativity and performing and writing. And how readers are often disappointed when a writer decides to change direction when they’ve been doing one thing well. On the flip side of that coin, ongoing creativity requires change and growth and…something different. Doing what you’ve always done just because you do it well is…boring. But there are ways to use that to your advantage without losing your fan base, as evidenced by Zombie and Disturbed – both of whom have grown and changed over the years (musically and otherwise), but they’ve retained enough of what makes them who they are at the base layer that their fans are happy to come along for the ride.

If I ever get to the point of cultivating an actual “fan base”, I want to remember that. That, it would seem, is the secret to making success last. That, and not getting worse as you get older. Thank goodness writing doesn’t depend on the quality of my physical voice!

I have been thinking a lot about my writing lately, especially given that our local bookstore will be featuring my romance books sometime next month. I’m a little torn by that, honestly. I haven’t published a romance novel (okay, any novels, but let’s focus) in several years, and while I am working on one at the moment, it’s somewhat different than what I was writing earlier. Much like erotica, I’ve sort of lost a lot of my desire to write them. I feel more drawn to the thriller and “alternate reality” genres at this point in my life – that’s what I’m excited about and currently working on. I think my future probably lies more in those realms than in the romance arena, honestly. And that’s okay, I think…but it does make for an odd feeling when my romance books suddenly start getting a little attention.

As I said, I do have another romance in the works, and it’s holding my interest well enough so far. But one of my thriller ideas currently has me by the throat, so to speak, and I’m anxious to keep working on it while the desire is there.

We’ll see, but I suspect my “own name” novels will be taking a back-seat to Alex’s thriller novels for the foreseeable future.

Aside from that, I’ve cut down on games again – only playing Wizards Unite on rare occasions to help a friend with battles, and uninstalled Jurassic World Alive (I was enjoying it, but…just don’t need that many games going at once). So now just Pokemon Go, Pokemon Let’s Go, and Animal Crossing. Occasionally Batman: Arkham Asylum on the PlayStation. Much like…well, anything, games can take up too much head-space too. I need to remember to leave myself space to just think, dream, and ultimately, write.

Fifty words per day. That’s my new minimum for fiction.

Now if I could just remember to change my sheets. Think I’ll set myself a reminder before I go to bed. It’s the little things.


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Stress, Death, & Sleep

Good to rest after a nice walk in the rain…

It’s been a few weeks, hasn’t it? If I remember correctly, two weeks ago I was busy wallowing in writerly self-pity over not making/taking/finding the time to do all I want to do on the writing side. So then instead of writing a blog post, I tried to work on my fiction, and ended up coming up with a plan to work in some sort fiction, which failed miserably in the first week (keep reading).

Then last week, there was a problem at work that required quite a bit of extra troubleshooting hours, which pretty much tanked both the ultra-fun weekend I had planned and bled over into the week. Such is life, sometimes, and at those particular times, life sucks.

But not nearly as much as when you have to say goodbye to a furry friend, as I did last Wednesday afternoon. I had our vet come to the house and put my quirky Mica-dog to sleep after watching him decline rather quickly over the week or so before that. He was older, around 10 or 12 (hard to say for sure with a rescue), and had many tumors and some other health problems that finally made it so he couldn’t leave the property (not that he’d get in a car…he’d refused to do that for the past few years, but he loved to go for walks), and while I wrestled hard with the decision for three days after scheduling the appointment, I knew it was ultimately the right choice when I looked into his eyes that day.

Mica-dog…on guard!

I sat on the floor of our living room with the vet and the nurse, and held his head as he closed his eyes for the last time. It never gets easier (and it shouldn’t), but unlike a few of the other five times I’ve done this, I don’t think I’ll have any lasting guilt or agonizing over whether I made the choice either too soon or too late. This is one of the few times I’ve been at peace with the timing after the fact (it’s never going to be a peaceful process to get to that decision, and again, it shouldn’t be). So there’s that, I guess. I still miss him – he was loud and demanding and persnickety and sometimes really annoying, but he was also the best couch-cuddle-buddy and one of those dogs who just wanted to be with his people and keep his “pack” in eyesight.

*sigh*

So. Throughout all the pity-party and work stress and losing-a-best-buddy stress, one thing was very, very noticeable to me. I wasn’t sleeping much, and not only did that not help, it created even more problems, from digestive issues to being hungry all the time (and subsequently making poor food choices), and then also not performing as well as I sometimes can, and also not communicating as well as usual. Stress is a killer, and certainly no fun to deal with, but when you haven’t gotten a decent 6 hours of sleep in nearly two weeks…yeah. Things start to slip. The body starts expressing displeasure. And while sleep can’t fix everything, it sure can go a long way toward helping you deal with whatever’s stressing you out. Especially when it comes to making good food choices (what and how much to eat, specifically).

I’d always read that sleep was that important, but it was never so evident to me as during these last few weeks, mostly because I’ve just been hungry *all the damn time*. I was doing so well at maintaining a lower weight and even moving down on the scale here and there…and I’m on the cusp of being seriously derailed all because I didn’t go to bed (and this past Sunday night, just because I couldn’t sleep for some reason – nothing on my mind, even, just…no sleep).

In any case, I have one more night with less-than-optimal sleep to go (gotta be at work an hour earlier on Tuesdays), but after that, the only thing stopping me from a solid 6 hours is…me, choosing not to go to bed on time. So often I don’t make the right choice there, because I don’t want to lose any of my precious alone-time at the end of the night, but…sleep is important. Rest and mental rejuvenation is important. I need to make better choices when it comes to getting enough sleep.

Rest well if you can, dear readers. And for my Mica-dog…rest in peace, buddy.


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