Jump Off The Hamster Wheel
I am addicted to productivity. There. I admitted it. I’m either making a list of things I need to accomplish. Actually doing things I need to accomplish. Checking off things I’ve accomplished…or feeling guilty over not doing the very things I should accomplish. 😊 My therapist told me I needed to work on letting go of all this. Anyone else there with me? So when I planned my writing retreat for this month, I though it would be just like all the other writing retreats I’ve been on. The goal has always been to get as many words as humanly possible during the period of time while I’m gone. After all, how else can I justify spending that time away from my family and using my precious PTO from the day job? But that’s not how it actually worked out this time. I did get writing done…but this time I actually spent time doing, well, nothing. And I’m not a nothing kind of girl!!! But my brain simply wouldn’t focus on the story. Or at least, not the writing of it. I did some planning. I did some plotting. But none of it was measured by productivity. And that was a little weird, to be honest. Usually my brain is going 90 to nothing. So I found this disconcerting but possibly a step in the right direction. A chance to let my brain work out whatever it needed to. And it helped me come home with a better perspective on some things. A determination to enjoy the small things (which isn’t easy for me, but I’m trying). I guess all of that quiet, thinking time just reinforced some of the things I’ve been trying to come to grips with over the last few months. I’ve been pretty open about my struggles with mental health this year, hoping that others will realize they aren’t alone and we can all help each other. How do you help quiet your mind? What’s your favorite fun thing that gets your brain off the hamster wheel? Take care, Dani Don't forget to check out my Secrets of Covington Corner series! HAUNTED HERITAGE is out this month! Amazon B&N Kobo Apple books Goodreads--Add To Your TBR List!
My daughter made this for me…she created it from a pot she painted for her succulent, so it could travel to college with her. Except, when we arrived, I knocked the pot off the seat of the car and broke it. I feel so much like this little pot sometimes. A mistake that just can’t be fixed, no matter how much effort I put into it. The cracks will always show. My struggle with depression is ongoing—but I use the term “struggle” in a positive way. I’m not giving in! I see a therapist, practice yoga and recently downloaded the Calm app to help me with mindfulness and overactive brain. Then my daughter gave me this gift and it helped me to see things in a new light. Yes, this pot was broken, but she created something beautiful from it. New life is being nurtured. Continued growth. A precious creation…no matter how small. I think I have a new goal. 😊 How about you? Take care of yourself, Dani Download my newest release, SHADOW MANOR, a contemporary gothic novella for only 99 cents today! Amazon Barnes & Noble Apple Books Kobo ADD TO YOUR GOODREADS TBR SHELF!
Planning My Life Away
#PlannerAddict I didn’t realize until recently that this was a thing… I’ve been a planner, a creator of To Do, lists my entire life. I’ve enjoyed videos by Sara Cannon on Heart Breathings (check out her YouTube channel!) about her planners and use of the Kanban board, which I’ve recently adopted in a modified form. I also look through Passion Planner videos, as that is the type of planner I use. I think planning people have a compulsion to write things down. I used to think this was because I was a writer. Now I know that it’s three-fold: both the writing aspect and the control aspect and the brain-dump aspect. Shocking! (not for anyone who knows me personally…) I’m never without a pen and paper; this is always the first thing I reach for when I need to remember something. Typing doesn’t do it for me. Physically writing things down seems to cement them in my brain for some reason. Instead of reaching for that ephemeral thought, it’s like being able to easily find the place I stored it and revisit it (anyone seen the movie Dreamcatcher?). So using a computer or electronic calendar doesn’t really help me as much as creating a physical plan. I only use the calendar in my phone so that it will send me alerts for appointments…shameful in this day and age, I know! My husband will attest to the fact that I’m a control freak…with a little more enthusiasm than I am comfortable with. 😊 Just like the compulsion to plan out my books to ensure I don’t forget something, I need to plan out my life to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. It still happens, but I feel much more comfortable knowing that I at least tried. Which leads to the next part: I’m juggling a full-time day job, a husband on a retail schedule for his job, two teenagers with their own activities, and a writing career (and extended family, friends, chores… it never ends). That’s an overwhelming amount of minutiae to keep up with. And while some might say that’s not completely my job, my personality won’t let me delegate it to someone else. I’m a control-freak, as I established above…but I simply can’t keep it all stuffed in my brain. The busier we are and the older I get, the more things that fall by the wayside. I do my best to simplify and oust unnecessary time wasters so we can meet our obligations and still have down time, but frankly, my brain has more important things to do than keeping up with when my next doctor’s appointment is. I’d rather write it down and forget about it until it shows up on my planner. Most recently, I discovered something new about planning: it can be pretty and fun! Before I was a writer, and no longer had time for many hobbies, I used to scrapbook. I really enjoyed it, but was overwhelmed by the years of pictures that I couldn’t keep up with. But I’ve found that I can use my planner to do something similar. I can decorate it with pretty and inspirational stickers. Instead of writing down a doctor’s appointment, I can put a pretty tag there. I can indulge my pen obsession by trying out different colors and types. But I can also fill in gratitude lists…memories from special days…photos of special events…and quotes that inspire me. On days when I’m discouraged over my word count, I can look back over my progress the last few months. I mark down each marketing task I complete so I remember that I’ve done something towards connecting with my readers. I go back and notate sick days so I don’t think all those blank hours were because I was just flaky…no, I had a reason I couldn’t do anything today (it’s easy to forget and blame ourselves, right?). So, even though being a #PlannerAddict might seem like a trendy thing, I’m finding it essential to not just productivity and planning, but for my own positive mental health. What about you? Do you use a planner? Apps? How do you keep up with life? Dani
This year, our school system moved up our start time to make way for a fall break. I love fall break, but starting school so early is a bit strange. :) Still, we packed our lunch boxes and backpacks and sent the kids out the door yesterday to begin their new year of school. Maybe this is why fall feels like such a new beginning for me every year. This milestone means new teachers, new classrooms (and new school supplies!!!). Yes, I'm an office supply junkie, so I love back-to-school shopping. It's also a great time to start a new project! And that's exactly what I'm doing this year. I've started writing Zachary Gatlin's book, which will be a fourth in the Mill Town Millionaires series for Harlequin Desire. I've discovered that Zachary is very strong and almost stern. His heroine, Kenna, is also strong, but in her own quiet way. I love learning all the nuances of new characters! I hope I can share more of them with you soon. What about you? Are your kids still in the cycle of school starts? Or is fall simply another season for you? For those of you who are overseas, when do your children begin their new school years? Dani
Yep, I'm in the final stages of my personal edits for Luke and Avery's book (Mill Town Millionaires Book 3). It's taken a bit longer than expected. When I went to turn it in, I realized I was about 5000 words over word count. O.O Per Awesome Editor's instructions, I'm working to cut several thousand out now, then we will cut more during Editor Revisions. What are Personal Edits, you ask. Well, my drafts are never very clean, so I edit them once before they go to Awesome Editor in the first place. Then I go through it again when he sends me his notes (I call this Editor Revisions). Then there are Line Edits. And then--once more after the copy editor is finished. Oh my! It gets tedious, but I do my best work in revisions (and both my editors are awesome when giving directions!), so I endure so the story turns out the best it possibly can. So there's where I am this week. :) Pray for me--I may need it! Dani
You’d think after being a parent for 15 years, that I’d know a bit about quality time. But try as I might to “create” quality time, I find the most special of gems come in ways I least expect. Like in the car. It’s amazing the things kids will talk about while you’re driving down the road. Yeah, the kinds of things that might make you swerve. LOL About a year ago, my son started taking karate. He fell in love with the sport instantly. I was so proud of him as he moved up through the belt ranks! To see your child, who has never had a passion for anything before, suddenly become eager to workout—well, its great! And deep down inside, I found it fascinating. I wondered how it would feel to do the moves and attend classes—but I was afraid. I’m a forty year old mother of 2, shaped like a potato with legs. I just knew I’d look stupid in the gee and doing the techniques. Until January 2015. That’s when I decided it was ridiculous for me to sit and watch class when I needed exercise. So I signed up. The good news: no one laughed. The even better news: my son is thrilled. We encouraged each other to practice, compliment each others techniques (my Little Man is a wonderful giver of encouragement), and since I graduated to yellow belt, we’ve begun sparring together. And we talk—not just about karate. And the drives to and from class, just the two of us, are some of the most special memories I have with him. He can be funny, surprisingly insightful, and inquisitive. It’s been one of the most rewarding activities I’ve done with one of my kids (or even just for myself). What’s the most rewarding thing you’ve done for yourself? What’s your favorite way to spend time with your kids? Dani
That's right! The proposal for the next Mill Town Millionaires is in the hands of Awesome Editor and I'm taking a break from it to get an editing round in for Nate and Sara's story before it goes out to Beta Readers. So Excited!!! Book 4 in the Backstage Pass series has finally been titled: GOIN' OUT SOLO. I'll be sharing snippets on FB and Twitter, so don't forget to tune in! (Hopefully some cover love going on soon, too!)
A couple of weeks ago, I packed my bags and headed out of town. No hubby or kids. No girlfriends. No fellow authors. Just me, my computer, and my characters for 4 days. Like a writing retreat, but solo. At first, it always feels a little weird. But I've spent so many years writing out by myself or with author Ella Sheridan than I'm used to it. To feel the complete silence of the hotel room, and know that I wouldn't be interrupted was a relief. I've been pushing pretty hard over the past year, through working with kids in the room, scribbling notes at the day job, pushing through to write in short periods of time where its hard to immerse myself in my characters. Yeah, relief was an understatement. I took Nate and Sara's novella with me. My goal was to finish it, which I didn't. But I made really good progress. Even more important, I was able to sink into the characters and reacquaint myself with them. Spend time thinking about what they would do and say, without the pressure to finish before someone needed something. I think this is a great way to refill our creative well. I talk often about "refilling the well" in terms of renewing our energy, etc., but this is about the creative part of our lives. It reminded me to find ways to reconnect with this part of my life also, which will improve my writing, and also my enjoyment of my writing. That was a happy thing! [caption id="attachment_1061" align="alignleft" width="150"] I wish this was my hotel room. Wouldn't that have been atmospheric?[/caption] Another happy thing is going on today! I'm sharing on 2 other blogs and I hope you will join me. I'm over with the Nice Girls talking about, guess what, refilling the well. :) And my latest hero, Jacob Blackstone (The Blackstone Heir), is being featured on the USA Today Happily Ever After blog with some other chivalrous heroes. What's your happy thing today? Dani
We have some unusual weather here in the southern US recently. Our winter storms usually consist of 1 to 2 inches of snow that shut the city roads down for a day or so. This past week we got 8 inches of snow! Once it started coming down, roads were impassable in about an hour. Schools closed – even my evil day job closed (which never happens). Was I excited? Yes! About the snow? Well, it was pretty, so yes. But I was more excited about the time off. Now, I know moms and dads in different circumstances weren’t as happy. My hubby, who has days off during the week, wasn't nearly as thrilled about more time spent with family. Poor thing, he's born the brunt of bad weather and sick children lately. But to me, the snow days were a gift. Here's why: 1. First and foremost, I hate driving in bad conditions. Closing everything down removes the worry that I would miss any more work because I was afraid to drive on the snowy roads. Not good, for my nerves, or for surrounding vehicles. (Aside rant: People who complain about Southerners not driving in snow should be thanking their lucky stars instead! Do they really want to be on the icy roads with someone that inexperienced and scared?) 2. I get some unexpected SPACE to play with my writing. Whether it's catching up on words or just thinking, brainstorming, I can do it. Without guilt. Guilt comes in all forms and from all sources – evil day job, kids, hubby, family, etc. even from a dirty house. 3. It serves as a reminder to do fun things with my kids. We don't do a lot of “playing”. Most days, I work; they play. But with this unhindered time, I do extra things like take a long walk in the snow with my daughter, or build a horrible rendition of a snowman with my family. [caption id="attachment_1029" align="aligncenter" width="225"] It's a Reader Snowman![/caption] That's just a few of my southern writerly thoughts on Snow Days. What about you? Yay! Or boo! Dani
Musical Blast from the Past
Music provides a large amount of inspiration for me. I listen to music a lot, and often wake up with a song playing in my head. (I just hope it's one that doesn't annoy me. Nothing worse than a bad ear worm!) Every one of my books has a theme song or playlist. I use them to zero in on a particular character’s motivation or state of mind. Music also sets the mood for certain scenes or conversations. Recently I ran into a snag with Nate's book (Backstage Pass Book 4) and realized that the heroine, Sara, didn't have her own song. So I started going through my music. Usually, I'll run across something that will just click, and I know it's right. But nothing came up for Sara. Then one morning, I woke up with a song running through my head – one I hadn't heard in many years, but I instantly knew it was Sara’s theme. http://youtu.be/bhWEI6-_w9E Love this! Not slow or sad. Even though Sara’s past has granted her the right to be those things, she chooses to focus on the present. Working hard and enjoying life – preferably with the man who has treated her like a little sister for years. Here's hoping she gets him for an eternity, not just the weekend that he's offering. What's your favorite "old school" song? Dani