Managing Time (or not as the case may be)…

As I looked at the date today and realized my Scene13 blog was coming due soon, it dawned on me: I had forgotten to post last month.

I’m not one to overlook obligations I’ve agreed to, so it horrified me to realize this.  And I thought Why? Why?! WHY?! (Okay, maybe not so dramatic. One blog post missed doesn’t kick me onto Santa’s Naughty list. I hope.)

My reasons for gaining temporary blog amnesia? My day job was in the month affectionately called “hell month.”   As I just started this job about 7 months ago, this was my first go-round.  I had no idea how all consuming hell month would be.  My company puts on an annual international conference.  So this took on long hours, late nights, wee mornings, 15 hour days while the conference is running and a complete inability to focus on anything else.  Including writing.

Those are the tough times, when your life responsibilities get in the way of writing.  And prior to that, I’d been on a roll. Every night, butt in seat, throwing down with my muse to get my work count done. It all came to a halt.

And it was okay.

I think as writers, we listen to what everyone else says they do to keep moving forward.  We think, “i should be doing getting up at 5 am to write like she does…” even when we know at 5 am, zombies have more brain power than we do.  We wonder how the Nora Roberts’s do seem to write a book a day.  How the Brenda Novaks and Allison Brennans with huge families do it.  We compare. We contrast.  And invariably, we’ll fall short.

So here is the point of my rambles: stop comparing.  Life is a journey and there are times that other priorities, like family and the job that pays the bills, must come first.  And when the moment is over, you force yourself back to the desk. Get back in your groove.  And write again.

“It’s just imaginery…”

Whenever I think of Halloween and fears, I can’t help but remember one of my worst recurring nightmares as a child—and the funny way it turned out.   I think it’s safe to say that I had an active imagination (yes, I see you all raising your hands… it’s a writer’s blessing and curse.)

So when I was about four or five, I started having a nightmare — every night, for about three weeks.  In my nightmare, there was a big spider on my ceiling, slowing descending toward my bed. It was going to eat me.  I knew it.  Every night when I woke up screaming for my parents, that’s what I told them.

Now, when I’m talking about a big spider, I don’t mean a measly tarantula.  I’m not even talking about the Goliath Birdeater tarantula —and because I’m nice, I decided NOT to include a photo of said really, really, REALLY big spider.  If you want to see for yourself, here you go.  (But really, anything bug sized with the name birdeater? Yeah. Not messing with that.)

Anyway…  my 4-year old imagination came up with something even bigger.  It was about as ugly at the Goliath Birdeater, but it wasn’t a foot long — it was a ceiling long.  That’s right, this thing measured wall to wall, covering my entire ceiling with it’s hairy, spindly legs, its big huge fangs and …yeah, ick.

So night after night, this spider visited my nightmares.  Began its descent toward my bed.  Night after night, I screamed for my parents.

And finally, one night, my beleaguered, exhausted father got a little tired of trying to tell me it was just a nightmare.  (Can’t say I blame him now that I’m a parent… sleep is a precious commodity.)  So he might have raised his voice a bit when he told me repeatedly that it was my imagination, it was an IMAGINERY spider (said very slowly, with very little patience remaining.) So, in my most indignant 4 year old tone, I told him to take an imaginary gun and shoot it.

He did.

And I can happily say, we all got a lot more sleep after that night.  Big, hairy and unwelcome never returned.

And yep… to this day, really not a fan of spiders.  What about you?

Flash Fiction Scene: We Meet Again

This month’s topic is flash fiction, as you already know.

The book I’m reading:  While We Were Watching Downtown Abbey by Wendy Wax. (A book I highly recommend.)

My first sentence: As a child Samantha Jackson Davis loved fairy tales as much as the next girl.

girlMy word: GIRL

My image: To the Right.

Here goes nothin’…

————————————-

Was that man watching her?

Evie’s fingers tightened around the cool orange she had just lifted from a street vendor’s basket. Spider legs of wariness crawled up her neck, a feeling that had become an old friend. She had thought…no, hoped, this time would be different.

Adrenaline shot through her, negating the desperation she’d felt for food, for something to fill her stomach and keep her going just moments ago. She turned around and strolled down the dirty, busy walkway of Covent Gardens. There was an alley just steps away she could slip into and—

“Miss, ye must pay fer that!” someone yelled after her.

Evie looked at the orange in her hand, and her heart jumped. “Here.” She handed it back. “I’m sorry.” She glanced behind her.

Blast.

He was following her. He was watching her.

How far was it to her tiny little room? Could she run fast enough, hide from him long enough to gather her belongings? Stupid, stupid girl! She shook her head, hurried her gait. She’d grown too comfortable. Too confident that in the fog, dirt and crime-ridden streets of London, she would blend in with every other dark-haired, orphaned waif.

Who had they sent this time? It wasn’t a face she recognized, not a family member of the very esteemed, old-as-dirt noble family from whom she ran. But a pain settled inside of her heart just the same. If they had found her again, then it meant he had betrayed her.

Sending him–the boy she had loved her entire life–to force her return had been cruel.

And brilliant.

And just like the family she abhorred.

She refused to marry their heir, their golden child, no matter how many people they sent after her. She would just have to run again.

The alleyway was just around the corner, and she hurried toward it. Two steps and she could—

A hand landed on her arm, skidded her to a stop. She fought the urge to scream and turned around instead.

Dread melted her bones into a puddle of fear at the cruel smile of the man in front of her.

“At last,” he drawled. His fingers curled like talons around her arm, a purposeful move intended to make her aware that he’d stolen her freedom. “We meet again.”

One Writer’s Inspiration…(otherwise known as a serious Fan Girl moment)

Last month, I attended the RWA Conference in Atlanta.  My hubby and I turned it into a week’s vacation and had a wonderful time. I still can’t believe it was weeks ago.

Among the many perks of attending conference has always been getting to listen to, see, and —if lucky—even take a picture with some of the authors who have provided endless inspiration to me.  These are the authors whose work I study, read and get inspired to work harder and write bettter.  These are the authors who bring out the fangirl in me.

My first fangirl moment was in meeting Kristin Hannah.  She was signing books at an RWA conference years ago, and though I had met other authors I admired before her, I stammered my way through an introduction and managed to say how much I loved her work. (Oh so original.)

MeLisaGardnersmThis year, I got to meet Lisa Gardner and hear her give a workshop on writing romantic suspense.  I’ve read every one of her books. I’ve studied her books. I even got my husband to read her books (and he had his own fan-guy moment at conference, too — she took a photo with him as well.)  (She’s the blond on the left.)

It was a thrill to meet someone whom I so admire.  Lisa Gardner is one of the reasons I’ve turned toward writing suspense.  The one next on my list? Judith McNaught.  She’s the reason I started writing historicals.

Who would you love to meet? Who would give you that slightly embarrassing fan girl moment?

Romance, Action and suspense this summer…

I’m getting ready to go to the Romance Writers of America conference next weekend (will I see you there?), which means a number of hours prime for reading time.  This year, my husband is coming with me, we’re spending the full week in Hotlanta and making a vacation of it.  I know the idea of “summer reading” is light, easy and carefree… for me, a summer read is about digging into books that I’ve wanted to read for a long time and haven’t had time to read.  It’s about immersing myself into a another world, even if that world keeps me on the edge of my (airplane) seat.

So given the hours ahead, these are the books that top my list to read with whatever time I find to read them:

The King’s Deception kingsdeception

This book is a recommendation from my husband, who has read every Steve Berry book featuring the apparently amazing character Cotton Malone.  I haven’t read the series yet, but hubby told me this one I have to read.  It’s a modern day thriller that is chock full of Tudor history — how can I resist?

And with that book comes the novella,  The Tudor Plot.  They are both holding court on my kindle and waiting for the plane to take off.

whiskeycreek

 

Brenda Novak’s When Lightning Strikes | Whiskey Creek series

On the lighter, more romantic side, the series I can’t wait to dig into is Brenda Novak’s Whiskey Creek series.  This series hits the “relaxing read” for me because it’s romantic, about families and love. And, since this series is already a few books in, as soon as I jump in, I know I’ll have a number of books to dive into.  The first book is When Lightning Strikes, which happens to be on sale at the time I write this for $1.99.  Fortuitous!

What about you? What are the qualities you look for in a relaxing read?

 

 

 

 

How the World Has Changed…

picWhen I started to write this post, I was writing about transitions with a new job, a new schedule and my seven year old son.  Then I stopped.  Thought about what I was writing, and where it would be.

And I deleted each word.

Even though I was careful to keep specifics out of it, well it just didn’t feel right.  Even when it seems innocuous, even when you “think” it can’t connect to your every day life.  Of course it can.  We’ve all watched enough movies and TV shows and enough news programs to know it can.

I write romantic suspense, often historical, so a lot of my time is spent in researching just how bad things could be.  My upcoming book (and series) is set in Regency era England, showing the pretty worlds of ballrooms and debutantes and a side we see less of, the uglier underworld.  Somehow, I think we romanticize the past, we view it as less violent, less harrowing, and less dangerous.  But I’ve found facts and stories of the past that astound me.  After this series, my next book will be set in Victorian England.  The facts about a crime I unearthed in my research wanderings shocked me to my core.  (And I think it’s clear that I might need professional help since I can’t wait to write that story.)

I remember being a kid and heading out the door when the sun came up and not coming back inside until it was just peeking over the horizon.  I would stay out for hours. All day.  Playing, running around the neighborhood with friends, exploring the world.  Riding my bike most often.  I took city buses to school when I was in 3rd grade.  Did we live in a gentler, softer world?  Or perhaps what has transitioned is how much we know, and how fast.  Information exchanges at lightning speeds these days, and we can know within seconds of a crime committed in another state.

So has the world really changed?  What do you think?

When It’s Time to Pull out the Mommy Voice and Just Say No.

SO001396I have a confession to make.  I get myself in scheduling trouble.  A lot.

A whole lot.

I try to keep my mouth shut.  I try to stand firm, even when I’m looking at edits due, an outline that won’t write itself, two websites to be designed and 4 book covers with deadlines looming (and that doesn’t include my day job or my family).

But when someone asks, “Hey, can you squeeze this in?”,  that annoying inner moppet that wants only to please other people pipes in and says, “Sure! Whatever you need.”  Then I — the better adjusted and now cranky adult–have to deal with the consequences.

This month’s topic is about obstacles.  And for me, it’s about knowing when to put up the white flag and surrender.  Saying no is tough.  I have a hubby and son who beckon with a smile.  I have a day job that keeps trying to encroach outside its allotted hours.  I have an after hours job and design clients I adore.  And I write.

And yes, if you notice that “I write” came at the bottom of the list, it was intentional…because it’s often where my writing has taken its turn in the past.  And that’s my fault.  My choice, if I’m being firm with myself.   I let other things become more important because I don’t want to let anyone else down.  So once I’ve over-promised my time, I feel obligated to put others first.  See, my obstacle isn’t how busy I am.  It’s has been not stopping myself from taking on more than I should, so I protect my time to write.

It’s been not saying NO.

The past year, however, I’ve begun to change that.  My writing has become my priority.  I’ve taken classes.  I went on a writing retreat, and cleared the deck of any other work, for an entire week.  I’ve scaled back the design work I do, and I’ve learned to leave the day job at the day job.  I am expecting edits from my editor this month, and they will get the best of me, not the last of me.  I am finally putting my writing first.   I’ve realized it never was about being too busy, but more about WHY I was too busy to write.  And that, I can control.

What about you? How well do you say No?