What’s Been Happening This Week?

Blog post created with the input and help of Bella, the pug.

There have been several things that have happened over the last week, so today’s post will be more of a list.

  • First off, I’m running a giveaway from my newsletter subscribers. The prize is a 50.00 Barnes and Noble gift card–just think of all those great books you could add to your shelves! To get in on this action, just sign up for my newsletter! Here’s the link.
  • Next…are you a librarian, reviewer, or book blogger? Well Her Perfect Life is now up and available for request on NetGalley and Edelweiss Plus. I hope you’ll consider requesting it for review!
  • And speaking of Her Perfect Life; my editor emailed me last week to inform me that my book cover would be changing…um what?! Yes, that’s right. Apparently they received some feedback from an influential retail buyer who advised that the cover needed more tension. They sent me a draft of the cover…and I like it! It’s not significantly different from the one you see now, but the new one definitely does add more drama to the overall impact. I look forward to sharing the new cover with you as soon as they send me a finished version.
  • Last year I joined the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and when they held their board elections at the end of 2019, I decided to throw my hat in the ring for the Secretary position. Being the only one on the ballot, I won in a landslide! Last Wednesday was our first quarter meeting; it was wonderful to get to know many of the other board members and I’m really looking forward to being a part of all the great events and learning opportunities this organization is offering this year.
  • I’ve been connecting with other author’s whose work is debuting in 2020 and I’ll be trying to read as many of their books as possible this year. Last week I shared Christina Clancy’s The Second Home; this week I’ll be posting about Samantha M. Bailey’s Women on the Edge–so stayed tuned! Oh, and if you’d like to follow along with the Debuts 2020 Instagram account, here’s the link.

My Recent Reads: The Second Home by Christina Clancy

I had the opportunity to read an advance reading copy of Christina Clancy’s, The Second Home.

Christina is a fellow member of my #2020debuts author group on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram so I’ve also had the great good fortune to get to know her a little bit through social media over that last several months.

People…not only is she a fantastic author, she’s a lovely person as well.

Here’s my review of The Second Home:

“Christina Clancy has crafted a wonderful book about a family in flux. Insightful and honest, her characters navigate their complex lives with emotional punches that left me turning pages for more. The Gordons are a family to fall in love with, faults and all. Perfect for a good book club discussion, The Second Home will break your heart–then put it back together.”

Publish date: 6/2/2020

Enter to win a 50.00 B&N Gift Card

Are you a subscriber to my author newsletter? If so, I’m currently running my January giveaway exclusive for my newsletter subscribers. This month’s prize is a $50.00 Barnes and Noble gift card. Not yet a subscriber? No problem! Subscribe here and be entered to win.

Winners announced 1/30/2020 via newsletter. US residents only. Must be 18 to enter. Giveaway not affiliated with Barnes and Noble.

Planning for the New Year 2020

Current status: My office looks like an Office Max and a Michaels drank too much, hooked up, and then threw up all over.

My poor messy writing space is not fit for Pinterest

As I get ready for 2020 (and I’m really trying to be prepared this year instead of knee jerking my way through the lead up to my book release) I have steeped myself in productivity-porn.**

What is that you ask. Well, productivity-porn is all the many and varied motivation, habit, production, get it done, stay on task (you get the idea) books, videos, planners, etc out in the world aimed at connecting your daily, weekly, and monthly actions with the goals you set.

Admission: I am most definitely their target market audience. I eat this stuff for breakfast–and happily. I could spend hours, and I have, watching YouTube videos that basically are another person talking about their planner.

My own Kanban board!

My current favorite is Sarra Cannon and her Heart Breathings YouTube channel. The great thing about Sarra’s channel is that, in addition to watching her set up her A5 planner, I have also learned about using a Kanban Board and getting my goals (that are now clearly defined) aligned with my projects (also clearly defined). And all of this is now scheduled through Q1!

Now it’s true, I have ALWAYS had a planner and have used it religiously to schedule the multitude of Must Dos across all the many factors of my life as a writer, a mother, and day job holder. But I have never taken the deep dive into planning out my writing career like I have done since being introduced to Sarra’s channel and her advice on: goal setting, prioritizing, and task management.

After learning about her system, I was happy to purchase the planner pages she developed (specific to writers) and add them into my own A5 planner. (I bought the teal Lux Productivity on Amazon). Decoration not included.

My new planner. AKA, Life Preserver

Looking ahead to these next six months felt daunting to me. With Her Perfect Life releasing in June, the marketing schedule, and the due date for turning in my next book to Sourcebooks rapidly approaching in March; I was feeling unprepared, scattered, and disorganized with regards to what I should prioritize and how I would execute on any of it.

Honestly, now armed with the knowledge from her videos, the new planner, and a desire to not majorly screw up these next six months, I feel like I have a handle on what needs to be done and the timing for getting it done.

Which, considering the growing panic I had been experiencing, feels like nothing short of a miracle right now.

**I cannot take credit for the term productivity-porn. The first time I heard this was from my dear friend and fellow writer Kristi Helvig during one of our brunches. I have no idea if she can take the credit, but damn if it doesn’t perfectly sum up my feelings about addictively seeking out this stuff!

How To Write, Work, & Raise a Family All at the Same Time While Not Losing Your Mind

Hello friend! If you’ve found your way here, more than likely you are like myself and so many other writers I know trying get the words down while raising a family and holding down a job. You have embarked on a life that desires the whole enchilada: family, creative fulfillment, and the ability to pay all your bills.

All three of these pursuits are important to you and, for the most part, bring you joy (family), satisfaction (creative fulfillment), and a sense of accomplished responsibility (paying your bill).

But let’s be honest, while all of these pursuits fulfill us in different ways, they also often compete with each other for the one resource they all need the most of.

Our time.

And it’s this competition pulling at our brains that often creates the conflicts for those of us trying to do it all. Our kids need us, our jobs need us, our creations need us. There really are only 24 hours in every day and you do have your limits. It doesn’t take a psychologist to tell you that this is why we start wishing, hoping, praying that we could combine two of these pursuits into one:

creative fulfillment=ability to pay bills

Wouldn’t that be great?

Okay, so we’ve admitted to that wish, hope, prayer–but you know as well as I do that getting to that magical land where our creations keep the roofs over our heads is, most often, a long, long, long road. Uphill. Unpaved. Unmarked.

It’s easy to think that giving up on one area, your creative pursuits, would solve all your conflicts. But maybe you’re like me; you tried this already and it didn’t stick. Eventually you returned to that keyboard, camera, or easel unable to just walk away from something that brings you joy.

Let me say this first: What you are doing is hard. Very hard. And it may at times feel overwhelming, pointless, unfair even.

How can we keep on? How can we persevere? We want it all: the best for our kids, a creative life, AND food.

For me, it’s helpful if I keep a few things at the forefront of my thinking.

  1. I actively, and enthusiastically, participated in the creation of my life as I now know it.
  2. I would love to spend my work days writing and my weekends and evenings with my family; this is a destination I’m heading toward.
  3. I’m not at my destination–yet.
  4. My journey toward that destination will not look like anyone else’s journey. We are starting in different places, taking different routes, and most likely ending up on different continents.
  5. There is zero point in paying attention to the journey other’s are on unless it is to cheer, lift up, congratulate, or otherwise encourage them to keep on going. Other people are not my competition.
  6. To that point: Since we are all on different journeys, my only reference point for degree of advancement along my road is, wait for it, MYSELF.
  7. Every day I’m alive and able to love, hug, hold, strive, think, reach out, encourage, empathize, connect, care, and basically try to be a better human being than I was yesterday IS A GIFT. Treat it as such.
  8. Some days it’s very hard to remember that every day is a gift.
  9. When I remember these things, it is basically impossible for me to ever feel anything but completely blessed for every aspect of my life. Conflict and all.
  10. Do your best, keep showing up, hug your kids and tell them you love them every day…especially when you’re shooing them out of your office door.

Enter My Get Ready For 2020 Instagram Giveaway!

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GET READY FOR 2020 GIVEAWAY!! 2019 is almost over and this is the perfect time to start thinking ahead and planning for an amazing 2020. I’m giving away this beautiful Lilly Pulitzer 2020 planner, a copy of Jen Sincero’s You are a Badass, and a multi-color pack of my favorite pens. Total value: 60.00. Winner announced 12/01/19. ———————————— TO ENTER: Subscribe to my author newsletter (link in bio above) + Follow me here + Tag 2 Book Loving Besties ————————————- Must be 18 or older to enter. US residents only. Contest not sponsored by Instagram. Winner chosen on 12/01/19 @ 8PM (EST) * * * * #reader #readersofinstagram #momlife #momsreading #bookclub #planners #youareabadass #jensincero #bookcontest #bookgiveaway #bookcommunity #bookaholic #bookaddicts #bookblogging #bookworm #booklover #bookishlove

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Post Retreat, Back at Work, Keeping Sane…mostly

My current read: Pretty Guilty Women by Gina LaManna (Sourcebooks Landmark)

So I had an amazing time at my first ever Women’s Fiction Writers Retreat! As I said in my last post, it was amazing meeting, connecting, and talking writing and books with so many fantastic writers.

I’m already looking forward to going again next year.

But that is a whole year away and Monday found me up, bright and early, trying to get some writing in before heading back to work for the week. And I did, but man, not nearly as many words as I cranked out while away.

This is the ongoing challenge, keeping the new book progressing and growing in my off hours while the bulk of my days are spent working in a profession that requires 250% of my headspace. Like many other writers who also work jobs, I often come home so exhausted at the end of the day, all I want to do is sit in silence and stare into space.

Or nap. I love naps even though waking up from them feels like trying to raise myself from the dead.

But I’m now on a bit of a roll with the new book–thanks to the retreat–and it’s always easier to keep a writing habit in motion that to try to coax it up and to the keyboard from a weeks long hibernation.

In other news: I had an article featured on Women Writers, Women’s Books. Go check it out!

Also, Tuesday my editor sent me an email that basically said, “So um…that question I asked you in your copy edits letter that you didn’t address…”

And I replied, “Oh…right.”

So I fixed that. But only after I placed a call to my ex-chief of police uncle who DID NOT tell me what I wanted to hear, but reaffirmed that, yes, I needed to make the change because there was no way the gun was going to end up where it did. So, lest I wanted to look like a fool…

And I try to not do that, at least not when it’s avoidable.

So I dug back into my copyedits and changed everything pertaining to the gun being in a place it could and would not be.

So to sum up: Back from retreat and trying to hang onto writing mojo, back at work and trying to not burn myself up from both ends every day, had an article published, and making last minute copyedits in a hurry before Her Perfect Life heads out to the printer for ARCs.

Did I mention it’s only Wednesday??

Women’s Fiction Writers Retreat 2019

Back Row: Erin Bartels, Sherri Gladwell Leimkuhler, Alison Hammer, Denny Bryce, Rebecca Hodge
Front Row: Rebecca Taylor, Barbara Conrey, Lyn Liao Butler

This week I have had the great good fortune to travel down to Albuquerque, New Mexico to attend the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Retreat.

I have been to many writers conferences and retreats in the past, but this is my first time attending WFWA’s. The format is not as intense, or jam packed as larger conferences I’ve been to and this allows the entire four days to be more intimate in general.

On the first day here, I met more amazing women dedicated to their creative passions and writerly pursuits than I ever did at the larger venues.

And not just met–engaged in real conversations where we shared our personal progress, greatest hopes, and biggest fears about our writer lives and careers in this often tough business.

Ever since joining earlier this year, I have loved this community and the attitude of support and generosity that it engenders. Which was why when they announced the need for volunteers to raise their hand for board positions opening up for the 2020 year, mine shot in the air.

I’ll be running for the WFWA secretary position this fall!

I’m looking forward to learning more about the organization and contributing what I can to it and its members. But mostly I’m excited to continue to meet and connect with more people in this community through our shared love for the written word.

Almost Done…

Working on copy edits and it’s pretty messy in here…don’t judge

I have a few celebrations this week.

But before I get to that: For those of you that follow me on social media–in this picture you can see my giant bulletin board that I covered in fabric a few weeks ago being put to proper use. The thing weighs an absolute ton and was hard to hang by myself–and yet I did! And it’s 100% level! Is there anything worse than uneven shit on your walls??

Okay.

First good news: I’m nearly done going through the copy edits for Her Perfect Life. Most readers probably don’t have any idea how many times an author goes through the book, at various stages of the editing process, before it’s a final-final copy.

I can tell you, right now it feels like I’ve read this book fifty times!

But with every pass, we get closer and closer–I can hardly wait to hold the advance reader copies in my hands in just a few months!

Second good news: Blurbs from other authors have started to come in. These are the complementary lines from other established authors that adorn the covers and inside pages of the book.

And I now have two from New York Times Bestselling authors!!

When I read that they would be reading the book, I was thrilled. But when I read the praise they sent in to my publisher, I may have cried…just a little bit.

I asked my agent for their addresses and sent them both a thank you bottle of wine. Which, by the way, if you haven’t ever used wine.com to send gifts, you may want to check out.

Other than that, I’m getting ready to head out for the Women’s Fiction Writers Retreat down in Albuquerque next week as well as working with my WFWA mentee and reading through some of her work (which is so good!)

Did I mention I also spend my days at my full time job…

Yeah, it’s a little hectic around here.

Great Friends

Brunch at Perfect Landing with Kristi Helvig, Rebecca Taylor, and Shawn McGuire. Not pictured, A.G. Henley (who moved and is greatly missed!)

Between sitting around my fire pit and watching the full harvest moon rise on Friday night, and brunch with two of my favorite writing gal-pals on Sunday–I had a wonderful weekend!

I feel so fortunate to have made long lasting connections with other women in the writing community. Getting together with them on a regular basis does wonders for staying sane, motivated, and above all else, positive about this oftentimes crazy business of book writing and publishing.

When it comes to our writing careers, we have bounced pretty much everything and anything off each other. From book concepts, to ideas for marketing, cover copy, cover designs, writing resources we’ve come across–you name it. There probably isn’t a single topic we haven’t tackled at one of our regular Sunday brunches.

But by far I feel the greatest benefit, at least from my perspective, has been the genuine support and friendship we have for one another. Any rough patch, day, or season–all it takes is one email and we rally.

On Habits

The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy

I’m thinking about habits right now, specifically mine, because I am fully aware that I’m at the crux of needing to change some of mine right now.

Over the past few weeks, probably since going back to work, I feel like I’ve been sort of in drift mode. Meaning, I know where I want to get to, and I can see the destination out on the horizon, but there’s no wind and my engine seems to be malfunctioning.

My boat is drifting off course.

Now it’s early enough on my journey–I still have time to get everything fixed and reroute.

But if I wait too long, keep staring at the sunset in a mindless paralysis of non-activity, the degrees between where I am and where I need to be will eventually become so great that I will have blown any and all chances of arriving on time.

Enter the toolbox called Habits.

Fortunately for me, I know the habits that have worked for me in the past that get me working consistently and progressively:

  • Waking up early
  • Setting reasonable daily word count goals (that are actually achievable on hard/busy days)
  • Saying “no” to pretty much everything and everyone for at least 4-5 months
  • Closing my office door, locking it, and being very firm with anyone looking to get past it
  • Having set social media times and restrictions about “checking it real quick”
  • Resisting the urge to binge all the amazing shows for at least 4-5 months
  • Not drinking alcohol for at least 6 months (I do miss my wine…but even one glass makes me so lazy and also prone to Netflix my motivation away)
  • Exercising at least twice a week because everything else is easier when I have energy and feel alert

I have found that even one-less-than-helpful-habit tends to set off a chain reaction on a whole slew of others that accelerates my drift status away from where I want to get to.

For example: When I haven’t worked out for a few weeks, by the time I get home from work on Friday I am absolutely exhausted. I drag myself into the house vowing that I will just take a quick nap and then get to work on writing in order to kick start the weekend of writing.

But then, my husband texts me a siren call, “What to meet up for happy hour?”

Now, I’ve been working my ass off all week–I DESERVE happy hour and I really love sitting at that particularly atmospheric bar and catching up with this guy.

“Yes! See you there.”

Now we have a wonderful time! And that’s great.

Except, as I’ve aged I have found, sadly, that even one glass of wine leaves me sluggish and mentally unfocused. Additionally, these effects don’t seem to subside as quickly as the alcohol does. So, I wake up Saturday morning, later than I wanted to, and not especially raring to go on mentally strenuous activities requiring me to use my imagination and sustain focus and attention for extended periods of time.

Instead, I roll toward my husband and whisper, “Hey, let’s go out for breakfast.”

And because he’s such an easy sell, we spend the next six hours on breakfast, then shopping, then wandering around downtown–all of which is completely lovely but does not involve me sitting in from on my keyboard.

I’m drifting. And every moment takes me farther and farther away.

Here is how I change course:

It’s Friday night and I’m exhausted from a long week. But I’m not even going to entertain taking a nap–I go to Orange Theory instead.

Text from husband comes in, “What to meet me for happy hour?”

Yes, I really do. But I text back,

“Sorry, on my way to OT and then I’m in for the night. Also, I’m writing this weekend but if I hit my word count goal tomorrow morning want to go see a movie after?”

With this course of events, I’ve likely added at least five thousand words to my manuscript by Sunday night AND feel rested and energized enough (because of working out and making healthy choices) to get up early Monday morning before work and keep at it.

I’m heading back toward my course with momentum fueled by the habits and choices that I KNOW get me there and then keep me there.