July 9, 2018 • No Comments
Do you love starting a project, with all the fresh, hopeful energy that entails? Or are you one of those who enjoys putting a bow on your efforts and sitting back in satisfaction?
There are different stages to any project, and books are no exception. And, while it’s true that most writers seem to have several things on the go at the same time, starts and finishes are still red-letter occasions.
This weekend, the Corsair’s Cove Orchard Series is reaching an important milestone—the editing phase is nearing completion. The vague “what ifs” we tossed around in the spring are finished stories now, with a new cast of characters (plus some favorites), new predicaments, and brand new romances.
While I enjoy the buoyant energy of beginning (and wow do we brainstorm!), right now I’m doing a happy dance and savoring the finished product like a fine vintage. And that, readers, is a very appropriate metaphor that will linger sweetly—until next time.
June 25, 2018 • No Comments
Some people track the epochs of their lives by the cars they owned at the time. I appear to be doing that with my computer programs. I hesitate to look back at my very early days (the Jurassic of pen and paper, the Selectric, and Wordperfect) and focus mostly on this century, but even that is revealing in ways I don’t expect.
Years ago I started using yWriter. It’s really good free writing software that does everything but make toast. It was excellent for my needs at the time because it had great outlining ability. I could give my stories something approaching a plot arc. I was a joyful creator in those days, tossing ideas at the page with the glee of Jackson Pollock discovering jet propulsion. yWriter saved my sanity, and probably my editor’s, too.
Then I went to a Mac and started using Scrivener, which I love but for different reasons. Now I’m all about the editing flexibility and don’t start using the program until my outline is already in place. Things are just simpler that way, even though Scrivener probably can make toast, along with waffles, homemade jam, and a variety of cocktails. It’s a super-powerful, clever, fabulous program, and I use about 10% of it.
The truth of the matter is, I outline using sticky notes on the wall. Or a notebook. Or a napkin. Unless you’ve got the goods, no amount of computing power will save a book. For this reason, I find my methodology getting simpler all the time. Stories are about the wrench and recovery of the human heart, no more and no less.
May 22, 2018 • No Comments
We all know the past has a pull on us. We write about literal ghosts, but there are plenty of metaphorical ones as well. Some are even more powerful and/or frightening than a chain-rattling specter. These haunts are the echoes of past selves that—for good or ill—we’ve somehow left behind. Memories, emotions, past selves we’ve given up for a higher good or a harder road—nothing is ever truly gone when it’s a part of our soul. Sometimes that’s a relief, or an ache, or both.
Dreams delayed are the strangest of these shades. This weekend was full of open-air concerts and sunshine and the first flush of the festival season. I took time away from my desk to bask in the warmth and watch one of my favorite bands. As a creative, I had two loves—writing and music, and I had to make a choice between the two. I could only nurture one properly and still hold down a full-time job. I chose storytelling, in part because it was an easier fit with a workaday schedule, and I still believe it was the sensible choice. I can’t say that music is a road not taken, because I took that path as far as I could go at the time. I think of it as a road with a bridge temporary closed for maintenance. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel the ache every time the ghost of my musical soul stirs.
I’m not alone, of course. The demands we face as creative entrepreneurs aren’t easy, especially when responsibilities tie us to corporate jobs and all that reality entails. Creativity in that context is an extraordinary quest—one that takes us through feats of time-bending, identity-shifting, and fiscal sleight-of-hand. We transform in metaphorical phone booths, unleashing our true selves in the privacy of hidden spaces. We might not conquer literal armies, but we defend our kingdoms all the same. There are precious things inside us, and creatives fight to keep them alive.
We live in hope for eventual freedom, of a victory before it’s too late. Only then can we be whole again, returning all those lost ghosts to the hearth of our souls.
It’s a dream, but we have to believe it.
April 9, 2018 • No Comments
I confess to being something of a time management junkie. If someone has a system, I want to know about it because I cling to belief in a magic bullet. You know, the secret journal/app/diary that will magically enable me to do everything at once without once mussing my hair. Dream on!
It’s hardly news that most adults are too busy. Authors, while arguably worthy of being committed, are more overcommitted than most. Not only do most of us have day jobs and families, we have a creative life. On top of that, we have all the duties associated with being entrepreneurs. That fills up a timetable pretty fast—hence my interest in scheduling miracles.
I haven’t found one yet. What I have found is that trying too hard can cause paralysis. The longer the list, the less gets done because of overwhelm.
I came nose-to-nose with this phenomenon a few years ago when I was changing jobs, taking classes, and meeting writing deadlines. I froze up, unable to do much more than stare like a deer in the headlights. Needless to say, the longer I dithered, the worse I fell behind.
Out of self-defense, I created my one task system. Beyond going through the basic motions of the day, I had to accomplish one thing. Read one chapter of the text. Complete one exercise. Finish editing a certain number of pages. If I had just one job to focus on, there was a goal post I could realistically reach. If I made it, I could let myself off the hook and sleep well that night.
It was a simple but lifesaving discovery. Did that one thing accomplish enough? No, because my to-do list was endless. Yet it moved me forward and, as long as I inched along, I was no longer stuck. Somehow, that small amount of momentum got me through that rough patch with all deadlines met and assignments complete.
Why? The truth is, things happen one at a time. Workaholics like me don’t want to hear that, but it’s true.
So here’s the miracle cure: Focus on one thing. Just one. And then the next. And then the one after that. Quality of energy, rather than quantity of action, frequently wins the day.
NB: there is no app for that.
March 26, 2018 • No Comments
I was having one of those disturbing discussions about maturity. “Mature” means different things to different people. If you’re a cheese, it means you’re just getting good. If you’re a human, it means people are trying to sell you expensive face creams.
Or, if you’re me, it’s an aspirational term referencing my behavior. Someday, I shall be mature and behave like a sophisticated adult. Or not.
At any rate, a mature individual (or cheese) has gone beyond a certain point of anxiety. Those first few years on the work force, in social situations, and battling life expectations were stressful. Now they are a fait accompli. Been there, done that, don’t care what others think. That’s a huge relief.
The signs of this enviable state are clear. One knows enough to purchase fashions that actually look good instead of just trendy. Fear of missing out is replaced by gratitude for a good night’s sleep. One eats vegetables voluntarily and half one’s childhood possessions are now worth something on collectible sites.
However, the part I like the most is the superpower of a cool head. Problems arise, upheavals strike, and the natural response of the newbies is to run away screaming. Those of us who’ve seen this show before are more likely to ask, “Is that all you’ve got?” Experience enough to stave off panic? Priceless.
The truth is, most things are survivable. If we’ve been paying attention, we know what to do. At the very least, we know enough to take care of business and fall apart afterward. That’s the real gift maturity brings: the knowledge of when to fight, when to surrender, and when to call for take-out.
So I don’t worry about growing up or growing old. I celebrate growing smarter.
March 19, 2018 • No Comments
March is springtime, the moment of renewal, the return of cherry blossoms and the perfect excuse to refresh our wardrobes. After a winter of rain and gloom, blue sky and flowers are welcome indeed. For the locals, there is also the annual running of the goats.
In the spirit of sparkly new things, there was of course our weekend retreat detailed in our newsletter, plus the standing room only Collaborative Creativity workshop March 10 in Nanaimo. Note the celebratory beverage:
Other new things include many plans for future stories—more Corsair’s Cove as well as my solo projects. There’s a brand new calendar on my wall, and I spent part of this past weekend making sure all my dates are captured in multi-colored inks. I also amalgamated a zillion notes, lists and stickies into a coherent one-pager. Now I can see at least a little of my desk. It would be easier if I was able to use electronic prompts effectively, but I seem to enjoy the comfort of physical lists that I can scribble on and cross out.
I’d say this was simple in the extreme and not worth mentioning except for the amount of paper I recycled by the end. Trees died in the name of my productivity. So here you go–proof of the semi-tidy desk with obligatory teacup, stuffed toys and the topic list to the right. I can actually see wood!
March 5, 2018 • No Comments
This past weekend the authors of the Corsair’s Cove Collective met for our semi-annual retreat. This involved food, some wine, a lot of note-taking, planning, dreaming, food, and a mild sense of panic as we turned our wild ideas into actionable to-do lists. Did I mention food? Suffice to say that readers will hear more from the Cove in coming months.
As well as storytelling goals, there are many challenges relating to business and technology. This is one of the ways that I truly value this collaboration: I learn stuff. So much stuff about writing, working together, and my own strengths and areas of improvement. I’ve also learning that if I resist something, that’s usually a signal that I need to double down on whatever is making me twitchy. Therefore, I’m setting myself a task: getting conversant with advertising platforms like AMS, Bookbub and others. This is something I’ve deferred “for later” but it’s time to buckle down. I look at this as taking my author journey to the next level. It’s just another way to take control of what happens to my work in the wide universe and I’ve learned my lesson about leaving that up to outside forces.
And, we have many fabulous ideas about things to do with our shared blog, so look for a TON of value coming to our outreach channels. Corsair’s Cove has developed amazing new depths in the last 72 hours. However, if I go into all that here this will be a very long blog.
I can best summarize this whole experience by saying Rachel and I went directly from our meeting site to the stationery store and bought wall-sized erasable calendars to keep track of all our due dates. Then I heard from Shelley, who bought a new journal for just that purpose. Yup, we have plans!
February 4, 2018 • No Comments
I’m celebrating the release of Enchanter Redeemed with the following blog stops arranged by the good folks at Bewitching Book Tours. Please come visit!
January 21, 2018 • No Comments
Serendipity is a wonderful thing. Since the next set of adventures in Corsair’s Cove feature an orchard and cidery, the universe considerately put the Sea Cider Wassail Celebrations in our path. This past weekend, Rachel Goldsworthy and I braved capricious weather to visit. Happily we missed most of the wind & rain and even found a good parking space. Suffice to say the ocean view from the orchard was moody and Gothic.
We missed the last tour, so self-toured our way through the food and drink, a stroll though the orchard itself, and the inevitable shopping experience. There was singing and Morris Dancing as well as a mummer’s play, all nods to the old English tradition.
The really interesting part for me was the Orchard Blessing, which involved soaking dried bread in cider and hanging it on the branches of the apple trees while the Green Man* invited favor for the coming harvest. It’s an old wassail tradition traditionally done in January. Cursory research tells me that the date is associated with Twelfth Night and/or January 17 because we’re somewhere between pruning and the sap rising. Whatever the origins of the ceremony, with all that boozy bread I imagine there will be some crows with significant hangovers in the morning.
The ciders come with names our piratical ghosts would love, such as “Rumrunner,” “Flagship,” and “Kings and Spies.” The titles capture the spirit of the event—filled with tradition but also a healthy sense of fun. It was an afternoon well spent.
* The Green Man was played by an actor, the true pagan deity of the vegetable kingdom being otherwise engaged.
January 8, 2018 • No Comments
Monday is back to work for me after a nice long vacation. I realized how much I needed the break based on how much sleeping I did. Now that I’ve caught up on some R&R, I notice myself doing two important things: dreaming and having ideas. Apparently whatever passes for my subconscious mind is showing movies again.
To stave off the post-holiday blues, I’m reviewing the things I accomplished over my break. I’m focusing on the boxes checked, because there were definitely some nice wins. And yes, of course I need a plan to finish up the almost-done stuff. What’s that they say about 10% of the work takes 90% of the time?
I also need a plan to cover everything I want to do in 2018, and there’s a lot on that list. Some of that’s just my A-type personality, and some is a reflection of my well-rested enthusiasm. I have a shiny new planner, and I’m not afraid to use it. I’m on the alert for opportunities.
Sure, there will be obstacles, but if there’s a wall, there’s a door. If there’s a door, there’s a way through it. That sounds a bit like a motivational poster, but this is the point in the year when optimism is key to jump-start all my plans. The impossible is always subject to redefinition. It just hasn’t met me yet.