Friday, February 28, 2014

Notes from the Queen

Yes, that's me.  The Queen of Procrastination.  I'm the one who always put off those term papers in high school, waiting until the last, possible moment to start.  They did get done and turned in on time, but the headaches and anxiety that caused didn't need to happy.

I can procrastinate with the best.  The best would be myself, when it comes to that.  It's so-o-o-o-o easy to put things off, especially the things that don't thrill me.

Sometimes that's writing.  Okay, often it is, if I'm going to be honest.  I haven't had a chance to procrastinate with that for a while and have missed the few TV shows I watch.  (I gave up a lot of TV, a long time ago.)

Procrastination is one of the easiest things to do.  The problem is, it doesn't have much value.  Things, chores, wants and needs have a tendency to pile up, if we ignore them with something else.  Let's take laundry, for an example.  Or washing dishes.  Or cleaning.  Or...  Yeah, all of those things that need to be done, yet get set aside.  For me, lately, they have taken a backseat to deadlines.  But today I finished the last of big deadlines.  Only a few to go.  Revisions, line edits and proofs is all that are left.  And you know I'll be right in the swing of procrastinating when they arrive.

Yes, I blog a lot about goals.  Unfortunately, I focus my goal setting on writing.  Daily things--other than "It must all be cleared" tend to fall by the wayside.   Why?  I've been focused on that writing.  I'm over a month past my normal schedule of getting my taxes done.  Guess what I'll be doing Sunday, when my desk is clear?  Yeah, you guessed it.  I'll be downing massive amounts of caffeine and looking for a wig to wear, after I've pulled out all my hair.  I am so not into math.  But it must be done.

Now that I'm back into the real world, instead of the trying-to-beat-it world of deadlines, I'm being smacked by all the things that didn't get done.  With what's left of tonight and into tomorrow (after running errands and watching Wichita State University try to make their 30-0 record a 31-record), at the top of my list of things to do is clear my desk.  O.M.G.  What a mess!  There's only an 8" square that I cleared a couple of hours ago where the actual top of my desk is visible.  And I have a pretty big desk.

So after I finish finding the top of my desk, my goal for the next few days--other than those taxes--is to make my goals for this month.  And they're going to have to include all the silly day-to-day things----dishes, laundry, cleaning...  Yeah, the fun stuff.  As for writing?  Yeah, there will have to be some of that.  I need to plot, I need to edit some things I worked on last spring...before the dreaded deadlines hit.  And I need to remember to kick back and enjoy a little TV, reading, or whatever strikes my fancy.

If you're looking at your goals for March (yikes! already?), remember to make time for a little enjoyment, while keeping those goals uppermost in mind.  Work on our goals should come first.  Okay, after family and personal hygiene.  We work to gain the perks of enjoying the good things.  While that doesn't sound like much fun, rushing around at the last minute to finish a goal that was ignored for too long, is even worse.  Don't procrastinate.  Do the work, the reward yourself with something, whether it's time or a small gift.

Here's hoping March will bring warmer weather, time to enjoy life and the satisfaction of meeting or even surpassing our goals.
Procrastination is like a credit card: it's a lot of fun until you get the bill. ~ Christopher Parker

Monday, February 24, 2014

It's Not What You Think

No, I was not on vacation last week, although I truly wish I had been.  Sometimes work and deadlines and family completely take over life, and other things must take a backseat.  In fact, I shouldn't even be here writing a blog.  I should be working, but my conscience is bothering me, so, well, here I am.

It's a good thing February is a short month.  By the weekend, we'll have run the four weeks of the second month of this new year and be on our way to what will hopefully be spring.

Does anyone remember Spring?

We've been on a long run of cold and ultra-cold this winter.  Polar Vortexes, included.  I'm yearning for warm.  Not hot, mind you, but a nice 75-80 degrees to thaw my feet, hands, nose...  On the other hand, as I complain about the cold, and the snow, and the sub-zero temps, I realize that it could have been worse.  I could live in the Northeast. ;)  Blessings to all of you who have had a rough winter.  May you thaw quickly and soon!

I'm impatiently waiting to see the first green buds on trees.  They will come, as they always do each year, but sometimes the wait seems eternal.  Spring, it's been said, is eternal, but this year I'd have to say that Winter has been.  This week is supposed to be another cold one.  Not frigid, as some of them in the past couple of months have been, but still cold enough to wish for a few more days of 60 degrees, when a jacket is all that's needed.  I'm more than ready to put away the long, down coat, gloves, three pairs of socks and the rest of the layering.  I yearn to sit barefoot at my computer.  If I tried that now, I'd have a severe case of frostbite.  I'll even try to be grateful when my 6" fan, buzzing away on my desk, is needed to keep me cool.  And I know it won't be long until I'm complaining about unstable weather and threats of tornadoes, along with power outages.  Although I hope this year those outages don't cause another computer monitor to die.  Which reminds me, I need to find a chimney for my oil lamp.  One more thing to add to an ever-growing list of needs, thanks to the weather.

As I sit here, I gaze longingly at the photo above.  How I would love to have a hammock, where I could rest and dream!  I've been so busy, even dreaming has crowded into that backseat with work and deadlines and family.  But I have given myself permission to watch college basketball.  Our beloved WSU Shockers are now the only undefeated team in the nation.  I'm convinced that's the only thing that has kept me from complete insanity.

Oh, have no fear.  By May I'll be whining about storms and tornadoes.  By mid July it will be the heat.  By August it will be the need for school to start again.  If only I could learn how to accept and enjoy each season, each turn in life as it speeds by, faster and faster.  Maybe I'll work on that...when  spring arrives.  And maybe, if I'm really, really lucky, I'll get a vacation, even if it's a working vacation.

Now back to trying to dream about that hammock and the beautiful beach with a gentle, cooling, tropical breeze...  Dream on!
I'd like to dial it back 5% or 10% and try to have a vacation that's not just e-mail with a view. ~ Elon Musk

Friday, February 14, 2014

Halfway Through February Already?

I guess we're firmly entrenched in 2014 now.  It seems like New Year's Day was a week or so ago, when it's been a month and a half.

Yes, time flies.  I'm wondering where the first half of this month has gone.  But it only takes a few seconds to know that mine has been spent putting words on paper...and then changing them.

Author and friend Patricia Davids and I were just exchanging emails about our writing methods.  We each do our writing in a different way.  Her method is to edit and change as she goes along.  Mine is to write a first rough draft and then go back two or three times to change, add and edit.  Both ways are acceptable, both are perfect for each of us.  I've done the go-back method before, and all it does is confuse me.  Not only am I visual, I'm linear.  I start at the beginning and keep writing.  If I think of something that needs changed, I make a note, stick it on my book bible for use later.  After almost 20 years of writing, I find it's better if I do it my way.  That doesn't mean I don't tweak and change my way.  (Please be aware that I typed T W E A K, not t w e r k.)

The Pluses of Plotting
On top of that tic, I also plot.  I didn't start out that way, so maybe that's why I'm linear when I write.  "No plotting for me!" I cried to my critique partners.  Yeah, that didn't last as long as I thought it would.  Even to pansters I have to say, "Know where you're going!"  Why?  Because there's no reason to write half a book, only to dump it because you've come to a dead end or no reason to go back to the beginning and start making huge changes in the story.  This counts especially for new writers, who sometimes tend to have a super idea, but get lost in the telling and go off on tangents that are great for word counts, but not so good for a great story.  Involving a little plotting is a good thing, and in a week or two, I'll go through some ways that can vary.

Continuing to Learn
I was in the middle of reading Alexandra Sokoloff's Writing Love: Screenwriting Tips for Authors II when I had to stop and do other things.  You know, those writing things.  But I went back to it a couple of days ago and picked up where I left off, which was story middles and endings.  She uses examples from both movies and books, which I find to be a great help.  The thing is, none of us ever know everything, and it's always good to find another and another and even another way of looking at our writing.  I think that's another reason I enjoy writing.  I keep learning.

Making Adjustments
This isn't all about me, this is about you, as a writer.  Are you finding that writing has become more difficult?  Are you growing bored with your story, your characters?  Have you come to a place where writing is no longer something you look forward to?  If so, it's time to make some changes.

Change.  It doesn't have to be a big change.  Even changing the font you use could bring about a change.  No, I haven't tried this, but... ☺ What I did do when editing after that first draft is to change the method in which I read.  I tend to do better when I edit on hard copy, so I print the manuscript and go through with a red pen.  I may do an on-computer read-through afterward, finding a few more things that need corrected or changed.  But with the last ms, I uploaded the file to my Kindle, highlighting anything that jumped out at me and making a note of it.  It appeared more as a book than a manuscript and was different than the other two ways.  I've only done it once, but I'm going to try it again.  If it works, great!  If not, I can go back to my old standby of printing again (ouch!) or reading off my computer.

If It Doesn't Work, Try Something New
Never, never, never be afraid to try something new.  It's not as if you threw out that comfy chair and brought in a new one that makes your back ache.  What you did before a change can always be done again.  But I have a feeling that first way may end up being done in a small, but different way.

Love Yourself, Not Your Words
Great for Valentine's Day, right?  But it's true.  Sometimes things don't go right.  If your story is starting to read the wrong way, don't despair.  Words and ways can be adjusted and changed.  If needed, brainstorm with friends--writing friends are the best for this, not Mom or Aunt Jill or Best Friend Charlotte.  They will always LOVE your writing, even when it's bad.  If you're self-publishing, hire yourself a reader or an independent editor.

And when you're done...

Love Your Work
See how I worked that in to Valentine's Day? ;)
It's always a day brightener when an editor adds a note to a manuscript that something you thought funny is funny or something makes he/r smile.  Even better is having a reader tell you s/he loves your book.  In the process of writing, if you aren't loving what you do or something doesn't feel right, stop.  Then think.  If you're sick of writing and ready to throw in the towel, take a mini-vacation from writing and enjoy all the other things that life offers.  And there are so many things besides writing that life offers.  Grab one.  Or two.  Or even three.  But don't go away for long.  If you're really a writer, you'll stick with it.

Always learn through your mistakes.  Doing so is a gift that only we can give ourselves.  And what a perfect day for gifts!  Happy Valentine's Day!!  And pass the candy. ;)
All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt. ~ Charles M. Schulz

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Short On Time

There's never enough, is there?  Time, I mean.  We're given 60 minutes for an hour, 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 52 weeks/365 days in a year, and yet there's never enough time for everything.

I have a mental list of all the things I want to do "when I have time."  That list grows longer, not shorter.  It doesn't include the dreams.  The vacations in a warm spot, with a beach and sunshine.  (I'm really tired of wearing 2 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, and 3 pairs of socks to keep warm...while sitting at my desk!)  And I really should put that list in my head on a piece of paper.  The trouble is, I'd probably lose it.  One of those things at the top of my list is to declutter my office.  It's not happening. :(

The fact is, right now I should be working on one of three deadlines.  One is small, one is medium, and the other is much bigger.  The small one is due ASAP or by Friday at the latest.  It shouldn't take all that much time.  I have a Dear Reader letter to write for my August book, along with a dedication.  I know what they'll both be about, but the difficulty is setting aside the time to do it.  The medium one is to finish reading through the proofs for that same book.  It takes some time, making sure everything is as perfect as possible.  (It's never perfect.  We're human.)  I have two chapters and an epilogue left to go through.  It's due next Tuesday.  And the there's the much bigger one:  Finish the book!  Or rather editing and polishing the book.  At least the first draft is written.  February 24th--that's less than two weeks away!--is the deadline for the full manuscript (entire book) for the last book in my Desperation, Oklahoma, series, which will hit shelves sometime early next year.  Hey, I'm trying.

The above are only writing deadlines.  Then there's life.  Pay bills, pick up a washer cartridges for two dripping faucets, declutter my office...after writing deadlines are met, buy groceries, fix meals, do some laundry so I actually have clean clothes.  Just the normal stuff.  Oh, and there are still taxes to do and send to the IRS.  Add to all that the 3-4 trips to schools during the week, and two upcoming no-school days next week.  Really?  I mean, REALLY!  Can we add a few more things to the Have-To's?

So what do I end up doing?  Watching basketball games and staying up much later to work on writing deadlines at night than I should, i.e. skipping much needed sleep.  My beloved Wichita State University Shockers are 26-0, one of only two unbeaten teams in the NCAA.  Only five more games to go.  And then my Kansas State University Wildcats are a must see...even though I forgot and missed the biggest game of the year on Monday, the second rivalry game of the year, KSU v. KU (University of Kansas).  And KSU won!!!!  Even though I knew the final score, I watched the whole game yesterday online. ;) Yes, I should have been working. :(

I've already given up two of the few television shows I usually watch.  I haven't seen one episode of this season's DOWNTON ABBEY, and I'm way behind on PARENTHOOD.  Except for basketball, there are only three shows (and the one CNN: The British Invasion special) that I've watched over the past month or so.  Do I miss watching TV?  Sometimes, but I'll find a way via online or other to catch up, if I feel the need.

When time is short, we have to set priorities.  We have to give up some of the things that are important to us.  Believe me, a little down time is needed to get through life, as it is, so giving up some of it is almost painful.  Yet following our dream is important, too.  Yes, work is what pays the bills, whether we love our jobs or not, so it can't be ignored.  Those other things can, at least for a little while.  There will be time, later, to enjoy the good things, too.  Or at least I hope there will be!

I'm off to work on those priorities, those deadlines.  Hope all is well in your world and you're getting done what needs to be done, yet still having a little "playtime!"
Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work. ~ H. L. Hunt

Monday, February 10, 2014

Oh, (S)No(w)!



As I posted on Facebook this morning...

Dear Mother Nature,

What the (fill in the blank)?

Yes, I know February is one of the winter months.  I expect cold and even snow.  But the past week has netted us 13 inches of the white stuff.  9 inches last Tuesday, which had not melted away, only melted a little and froze...harder and harder throughout the week.  And now another 4+ inches over night.  One sweep of the car with a broom last week was quite enough.  This morning invited another, and I had no excuse not to accept.

I'll admit that snow can be pretty.  I've seen the beauty of Jack Frost's artistry.  But I'd really rather see it in pictures, not deal with the stuff.  My three oldest daughters and I once spent five hours sitting on a country road, two miles from home, and no way to get there, thanks to an unexpected blizzard.  The road grader/snowplow had gotten stuck, and five cars full of neighbors and friends, including ours, sat and waited, while he hoped help would arrive while we tried to stay warm.

At that time, my girls were 3, 5, and 7.  I'd left work early and picked them up at the babysitter, then drove ten miles farther--sliding sideways once--to meet their dad at a small gas station.  The plan was to follow him and the road grader.  Until the road grader got stuck.  And so did all of us who thought we were smart by follow the snowplow.  Uh, no.

We had no snacks, no drinks, and just enough gas to keep the car warm enough so we wouldn't freeze.  After four hours of waiting, we all walked more than half a mile to the closest neighbor's house.  They offered all us warmth and friendship, fixed us sandwiches and drinks, and assured us that help was on the way.  Help came from two other neighbors, who drove their four-wheel-drive tractors and picked us up to take us home, when they could have stayed snug and warm in their own homes.

No driving the tractors on the roads.  No one could see where the road ended and the deep ditches on both sides began.  We traveled cross-country over winter wheat fields.  And let me tell you, a driver (my brother-in-law and the only one seated), plus five of us in the cab of that tractor was not a picnic on the plains of Kansas.  (Hint: Tractors in fields are not smooth-going.)  The girls were bounced around like billiard balls, and I lost track of how many times my head hit the top of the cab.

When the driver let us out across the road from home, we headed straight for our house---only we forgot about the ditch.  We couldn't see it.  I nearly lost the youngest in the 4 feet of drifted snow.  I kept telling my daughters that we were on a great adventure, and that someday we'd look back and laugh.  I chuckle now, but a laugh is hard to come by.

We're not the only ones who've been dumped on this year.  The Pacific Northwest has had more than its share, as has the East Coast, the South, the Midwest, and most of the country.  Really?  If I wanted Canadian weather, I'd move to Canada.  It's beautiful there and they know how to deal with snow and blizzards and cold and...  All those things I'm not so crazy about.

Frankly, Mother Nature, I've had enough, and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one.  While Spring is not my favorite season---thanks to tornadoes---I really wouldn't mind if it came early.  This is one of the longest cold spells in winter that I can remember.  So cold, the City opted not to salt the streets to melt the snow and ice for two reasons.  Isn't that an oxymoron?

  1. They're low on salt.  It's all sitting at the salt mines, fifty miles away, and the roads are too bad to go get it.  
  2. It wouldn't do any good.  The temps have been in single digits, making the use of salt, well, useless.

But we'll thaw.  By the weekend, temps are expected to hit 50 degrees.  I'm not sure I want to look beyond that.  In spite of wishing for spring, we have at least five more weeks of winter.  I don't expect my feet to thaw until July.

What's your weather been like?  Have you been snowed in?  Spent far too much time clearing snow from your car so you can crawl to work, hoping you don't get stuck and/or no one slides into you?  Or are you basking in the Florida/Arizona/etc. sunshine?  (If so, a resounding raspberry to you. ;) )

A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water. ~ Carl Reiner

Monday, February 3, 2014

Crunch Time

It seems as if I'm always crunched for time, but right now, it's at the point of crucial.  Deadline looms for the last of the Desperation books.  I'm a scene + one chapter + an epilogue from having it written.  That will be done by the end of the week, but then there's editing and polishing.  Deadline is the 24th.

This past weekend, I'd planned to be much closer to being finished.  Weekends are usually my best time to get caught up on word count.  Not this past Saturday and Sunday.  I'd forgotten about college basketball.  I didn't even make a note of it, and the schedules I'd printed seem to have buried themselves under quickly scribbled plot notes and snips of dialogue. When I realized my beloved Wildcats were playing, it was far into the game.  And since two granddaughters were here for basically the weekend (more bad planning on my part) and had commandeered the TV, I watched the last half of the game on my computer.  The game wasn't going well, so I missed the last few minutes to switch to another.  Thanks to friends on FB, I realized that my beloved #4-in-the-nation Shockers weren't playing in the evening, but were just beginning their game.  It wasn't televised, so I listened to the play-by-play on the radio.  This game had a much better outcome, with a 23rd straight victory.  GO SHOX!!!  But then that other State university was playing yet another beloved team, the Longhorns, and UT was leading by a wide margin at half-time.  Obviously a must-see and well worth the time.  I giggled for a couple of hours over that one.  An impromptu dinner at oldest daughter's house took up most of the evening, but I came home and hit the keyboard, at least finishing two more scenes.  Can we say 'dedication?'  Can we say 'panic?'

My intention on Sunday was to bury myself in getting words on paper.  I ended up spending more time on line edits for the August book than I'd planned, and time went by without much notice...except for that nagging in the back of my mind that I really needed to finish the line edits and get cracking on that new manuscript.  Then came the sad news that Philip Seymour Hoffman had died, as I eagerly awaited 8 p.m., when the CNN documentary, The 60s: The British Invasion, a lead-in to a new series, was to come on.  But PSH news kept that from happening, and it wasn't until 10 p.m.that the CNN docu finally aired.  I'm really looking forward to the full CNN The 60s series in May.  I truly enjoyed The British Invasion, listening and watching all the great bands and music from that era and how it all shaped, not only the music of today, but the world.

So this is my life at this point.  The usual running back and forth to schools to drop off and collect the g-kids, checking Facebook off and on during the day, and racing to that deadline.  A threatening snowstorm over the next few days may put a crimp in my crunch if school is closed due to weather.  Which would be better?  Refereeing 5 kids or having to drive through snow to get them to and fro?  Something tells me I won't get to choose.  Mother Nature sometimes has a lousy sense of humor.  I'm working on mine. ;)
The thing that would most improve my life is 27 hours in a day. I could meet all my deadlines. ~ Yoko Ono
Or not.