Bookcase Love

ImageWith a topic of literary love for February, and whatever it is about Spring that makes a person want to reorganize the entire house, I’ve got my heart set on some pretty fantastic bookcase ideas for my paper darlings. It almost makes me want to start a pinterest account just so I can keep up on the inspiration!

Image

I grew up with bookcases and I have them in every room of the house, on just about every wall. Most of them are crammed full of books and games and bins of toys. I keep telling myself more bookcases will give me space to spread things out…but I know I’m just kidding myself. Still, it would be nice if I could unpack all the record albums I have stored in the garage. 🙂

ImageI don’t seem to have a problem with purging the toys the kids have outgrown, but I have a hard time parting with books.

Image

However, as much as I want to keep them all, this Spring I think I might have to pass a few along with hopes that someone will enjoy them for more than just their good looks. And then I can play with turning my bookcases into a beautiful feature of the home, rather than the crammed, cluttered storage space they seem to be now.

One thing is certain: there’s an endless supply of ideas out there. Do you display your books with pride, or pass them along to others?

Wrapping up 2013

At the beginning of 2013, I wrote down my resolutions (some vague, some specific, but mostly a to-do list of ambitions for the year), and then I tacked the list to a bulletin board near my desk. But then I did some rearranging in the Fall and the list got put into a box to be sorted at a future time…where it was soon lost and forgotten. Well, I recently got around to finding the list (mainly to cross things off and see if I still had time to cross off more—because I’m a bit competitive in that way).

It’s no surprised that I did not exercise regularly (perhaps being more specific could have helped that one). I did not shop for Christmas throughout the year so I could be done before December (oh well, maybe next year), and I did not take care of all the blackberry vines choking out the yard (a chore that has been on the list for 10 years now). I might still have time to get up on the roof to take care of that moss…if the weather holds, but it looks like many things will have to be carried over to next year’s list.

That said, I’m celebrating the fact that more than half of the listed items were achieved!! Some were rather straightforward and simple, accomplished with minimal dedication and a shift in perspective, and some were major events that have taken years to get wrapped up—like the release of my debut novel, Descendant, which has already exceeded my expectations on the open market!

2013 has been a thrilling year and I’m looking forward to 2014, even more so because I can finally get back to work on book 2! And guess what!? I can cross off another item on this year’s list because I’ve now thought about my 2014 resolutions BEFORE January 1st. 🙂 Go me!

When compiling your New Year’s Resolutions, do you pick things that can be crossed off once accomplished, or are they more general ideas that can only be measured by personal reflection?

Wishing you all safe and spectacular holidays,

Toni Kerr

Thanksgiving Top 10

Since the things I’m thankful for are never far from my mind throughout the year, Thanksgiving for us tends to be more about making time to be with extended family (which always includes a traditional feast of scrumptious food). So in the spirit of list-making fans everywhere, here are my top 10 things I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving.

1) I’m thankful I only have to supply a single dish or two—I’m a terrible cook when it comes making fancy food.

2) I’m thankful to have relatives who can accommodate such family functions. It would take me a month and a small fortune to make my house company-ready.

3) I’m thankful that everyone is obligated to take the day off, otherwise we might never make the time to see other! Especially when traveling is involved. I’m ALWAYS left with the guilty feeling that we really should make a better effort to gather more often… but it rarely seems to work with everyone’s crazy-busy schedules.

4) I’m thankful for the reminder about vehicle maintenance. If it wasn’t for a long drive and carpooling, I might be putting off an oil change until the next big drive, and all the kids’ junk on the floorboards might pile up for another few months.

5) I’m thankful that there is no business happening throughout the world on this American holiday, which means I can unplug and spend guilt-free, quality time with my family without missing a thing.

6) I’m thankful that my kids have the opportunity to pick and choose from an amazing assortment of foods. (see #1)

7) I’m thankful for the excuse to go buy something a little dressy. I hope I actually do!

8) I’m thankful that I won’t have to spend the next six months working off that extra helping. (see #9)

9) I’m thankful for the picture on facebook assuring me that no harm will come from consuming 10x the necessary amount of food as long as it was made with love for Thanksgiving: No ‘bad’ calories, no ‘bad’ sugars, no ‘bad’ fats, no ‘bad’ carbohydrates, no ‘bad’ cholesterol, no preservatives, no glutton, no pesticides, and certainly nothing that has been genetically modified in any way.

10)While I’m in the mood to believe anything I see on facebook, I’ll be thankful that everyone has someone special to share the day with, that everyone has shelter to stay warm and snug, that everyone has more than enough food to eat and money to get wherever they need to go, and that there will be no tragic accidents to ruin a perfectly good day.

Be safe everyone!

 (Click on the image for how to make these cute turkeys! Because kids and sugar are a great mix on Thanksgiving!)

Image

Message Received

Our challenge this month is to use the last noun from the first sentence of the book we’re currently reading, and write about the first image that appears in a search engine. In my case, the book is Blender for Dummies. (Don’t laugh. It’s for a 3D computer animation software, not a kitchen appliance. :-)) The last noun in the first sentence (I skipped a bunch of pages to get to the introduction) is GRAPHICS. (Whew! Could’ve been worse!) The first image to pop up in google is:

scene13fanfic image

Message Received

The wreckage of our entire civilization drifted in shards through space, just outside our escape pod. I put my hand against the shielding barrier and watched in bitter silence, shoulder to shoulder with my sisters, determined to spot something recognizable in the debris.

“Maybe it was an accident,” Allenah said quietly.

“This was no accident.” I held back my anger. “There was a message embedded in the disc. Chandok was trying to break the encryptions.”

“A simple message would not have done this.”

“The message was not so simple, and he had it narrowed down to one solar system.”

“Still—”

I pulled my blade and pinned Allenah against the barrier before she could say another word. “Whose side are you on?”

“Yours, of course. But Earth? They aren’t capable of this.”

“You saw the contraption they sent, with that cursed golden disc. They destroyed everything—our men, our children, our future. Our entire race will cease to exist when we are gone.”

“Masa. Not now,” said Grogenas, our oldest sister.

I released Allenah and stood with my back against the wall, wondering who was with me, and who was against. “Would you have us wait until we are too old to fight back? Would you stay here, drifting aimlessly among the dead, and not seek any retribution at all?”

Grogenas fixed her gaze on the ruins beyond the barrier. Once again, we fell into a mournful silence. Until a child’s toy came into view.

“We will gather support from allies and build our army, with or without council authorization,” Grogenas announced. “When all is ready, I know of a ship that can have us on Earth within the beat of a human heart.”

Back to Work

Being off the grid and in a different location for nearly six weeks has been a great learning experience, even if somewhat painful in the beginning, and I still have another two weeks before I can get back into a serious writing routine (I’m currently writing this from a hotel—but hey! at least they have internet).

Now that the summer is almost over, I find myself taking another serious look at the work-related resolutions I made last January, and I’m feeling more motivated to make some changes after seeing real results (as forced as they were).

1)   My office is a chaotic disaster zone compared to the room I was in for the summer. I’ve come to realize that all my complaining (several years worth) about clutter has been nothing but a huge waste mental energy. Taking care of it once and for all would SO be worth the effort, and the energy could definitely be put to better use.

2)   With such drastic internet restrictions (and a clutter-free workspace), I experienced some serious writing progress. I think I might *gasp* shut down my browser and schedule internet time instead of checking in several times an hour.

3) I realized that I’m not getting any work done by hashing out scenes for the 40th time while I ought to be sleeping (or hiking or 4-wheeling or pretending to pay attention to what the kids are doing) on the pretense that all I’ll have to do is type it out when I get back to the computer. I’m just missing out on much needed sleep and life in general. I deserve a break! And sleep!

4)    As much as I’m dying to get back to work, I’m going to do my best to write ONLY when the kids are at school. I’ve gotten better about turning off the writer in me to put more of my attention in the real-life present. It’s a lot less stressful for everyone when I’m not trying to work at all times.

So that’s the plan and I hope it sticks! How ’bout you? If you’ve taken the summer off, do you plan to make any changes before you get going again?

Summer Reading and Writing

Summer reading? Ha! Before I left home for the summer, I loaded my nook with plenty of e-books I thought I’d have time to read, but it hasn’t happened—I haven’t even peeked at a book. (Well, we do have an audio book playing in the car during our trips to town, but I honestly can’t recommend the one we’re listening to.)

I’ve been “unplugged” for a month now and my to-do list is 300 miles away. It’s stressful being so out of touch with the world and my normal routine, but it’s been a learning experience too. Life is slow and constant and focused; such a huge contrast from the hectic, crisis-management mode I tend to be in at home. It’s not like we’re not super busy, we’re working or playing by the first light of dawn and crashing hard when the sun goes down.

I think the difference is that I’m not being pulled in a million directions. I used to take pride in my ability to do many things at once, but now I’m seeing the benefits of focusing on one thing at a time. I make an effort to get up extra early for dedicated writing time, and without Internet, the time is used quite efficiently. I’m impressed by how much I can get done when I’m not so easily distracted. And another odd thing I’ve discovered, when I’m done with a bit of writing, I’m done. I don’t linger on various scenes throughout the day, or replay conversations between characters, or dwell on how to blend sub-plots. This evening I realized my WIP didn’t cross my mind all day, yet I’m ready to dive in if I get the chance.

So this summer, I’m seeing proof that I don’t have to be obsessed with my writing at all times to keep up the momentum. I can devote 100% of my attention to the day’s major and minor events without the guilt of neglecting my characters, and I know I’m not going to lose that driving dedication just because I’m thoroughly invested (and enjoying) something unrelated. I just hope I can remember how relaxing it is to have a less cluttered, more focused mind, and how efficient my writing can be if I’m not multi-tasking at the same time (like checking email or reconfiguring the mental to-do list). So I think that’ll be the new goal when I get back home: to gradually increase my unplugged, focused, dedicated writing time from the current 45 minutes to at least a few hours. Makes me happy just thinking about it. 🙂

Enjoy the summer while it lasts! Whether it be relaxing with a book or challenging your physical and mental limitations.

Challenging the Writing Process – With Scrivener

Theme for this month is Transitions. I can’t say my current transition comes as a surprise. It happens every summer and has been on my mind for the past several months—packing up the kids and leaving home (my office!) for two months to visit family. It’s a love/hate transition that both energizes my personal self and sets me back big-time.

It takes about two weeks to wind down from our hectic, over-scheduled, computerized lifestyle, and my writing always takes a backseat during this time. But one of the positive things about writing is that it can be done anywhere. Right? So I have to consider…

Location can’t really be my excuse, no matter how enticing the surroundings are. (Ever try writing in a movie theater when the movie is extremely entertaining? Wish me luck!)

Lack of internet can’t be a real obstacle, since I could technically put off any research until I get home. Besides, not much research happens when I’m surfing the web with that first cup of coffee at 5am—I’ll probably gain an hour right there! And I’m betting I can get more done in that one hour without internet than I can in four hours with internet.

The kids are getting older and this will be their 6th summer at the ranch—they probably don’t need as much supervising… though I really, really want to make sure they play smart. They have a lot of freedoms in the middle of nowhere, but it comes with cougars and bears and rattlesnakes in the canyons.

Anyway, back to the writing… since I’m never as productive in the summers as I ought to be, I’ve decided it’s the perfect time to explore the crafty ins and outs of Scrivener with a project that’s been simmering for a good six months now. Nothing too obsessive, just some fun experimenting to see if I like the program, and if it’s worth changing the way I currently organize my novels.

I kind of like the OCD-ness of Scrivener, and from their tutorial, it seems to break the writing into smaller chunks that won’t necessarily require intense concentration or long binge sessions (which is how I prefer to write). I’m curious if I can get Scrivener to track multiple plot lines and character development the way I hope it will. It should be interesting! And it’s not like I had high expectations of getting anything done in the first place. 🙂

So wish me luck (again)!  By the time this is posted, I’ll be 85% off the grid. I say it that way because it might take an hour or more to get a stable internet connection (if I can sit around that long), and anything with images is completely hit or miss. But on the positive side, maybe instead of coming home with lost writing habits, I’ll come home with better ones!!

Do you use Scrivener? Any helpful hints or features I should play/pay close attention to?