And Then Life Happens…

What’s the John Lennon Quote?

Yep, that would be the one.

Living creatively is as much about stopping and experiencing life as it is about creating things that will enhance it for yourself and possibly others. It is impossible to create constantly. If we do we deplete the well of experience and inspiration that we draw from. Once in a while, it is necessary to stop and smell the roses. Whether that is literal or proverbial is entirely dependent on the artist.

NanoWrimo is a huge undertaking even for published authors. 50,000 words in a 30 day span is a huge commitement. It takes planning and foresight. Not to mention everyone in your life being on the same page as you and willing to pick up the slack if you are working full time. Planning is a must if you expect your story to have any sort of flow or cohesion at the end of November. And sometimes, life happens and you know you aren’t going to make that goal.

For me, when it happens, as in previous years, I don’t just stop. Whether I finish a self-imposed ludicrous deadline, or not, isn’t the end of the world. We can’t plan for all the interruptions that can happen in a month.

For example: You get sick. Your attention is pulled away on a project at the office, requiring you to work late most nights. A dog that is persistent in his need for extra snuggles or play time. (Don’t laugh. Have you ever tried to write something with a chiweenie yapping at you from the end of the bed? Impossible! I really need some noise cancelling headphones.) Kids needing attention or homework help. Not to mention extra acitivities with them being off from school or prepping for plays etc. Spouses that want attention or need something from you when you’re in the middle of a huge plot twist. (Suddenly I’m very thankful for my single status.) Toss in a major family holiday to the mix.

The point is. Life happens. No matter how much you plan your schedule or think you have all the distractions in check, life will eventually find a way to pull you away from the projects in your head. And that’s okay.

When you find yourself completely flustered with all these things; sometimes all you can do is embrace them. Enjoy the moment. Be present with the people you care about and who care about you. Whether they be big, small, or furry. They won’t be there forever. They will eventually leave you to your thoughts and projects. And you may find something in those moments that adds just what you needed to your projects.

For me, it is all about embracing this journey we call Life.

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How the heck do you form new habits anyway?

So, I admit that 2017 has been a lack-luster year in terms of productivity. I’ve been dealing with ongoing health issues that left me with little to no energy beyond doing the bare minimum required of me. My motivation went out the window too often in favor of just vegging out with Pip and watching t.v. while working on an embroidery project. To my credit, however, I did spend a tremendous amount of time working on cakes and cookies with mom. I suppose I can’t call it a total waste. Can I?

The final two months of the year, I’m trying to make up for lost time. As much as I love decorating cakes and cookies and working with my mom. My writing has always been my “thing”. And I’ve just let it sit for too long.

Happy to say that I’m at the halfway point of my 50K for NanoWrimo. Which means that I am ever closer to the finish of the first draft of the next Slauson Cove book.

Readers Rejoice!

Seriously loving the plot for this one. In fact, I think I may like it better than I did The Secret of the Storm. Which is saying something really. You always love your first “book baby”. But you also grow as a writer and I think your tastes grow with you. So, I think this is turning into a good one for you. I hope that you’ll enjoy it as much as I’m enjoying writing it.

I digressed there didn’t I? We can just chalk that right up to being scatterbrained with NanoWrimo going on.

I know I need to create better habits with my time management. I don’t really have a lot of free time to work with when it comes to writing and working on my various creative endeavors. So I need to really focus on planning and structuring my day to make the most of what I do have.

Now, I’m a bit of a planning addict anyway. I’ve used Bullet Journaling. I’ve had the Erin Condren Life planner. I bought two of those actually. And I’ve tried various systems in the past. I suppose I need to work out which one is the best for me to use. Maybe some of my readers will have suggestions for what planners have worked well for them trying to create new habits. If you do I welcome the comments and suggestions. I know that the key is to do it and repeat but, getting used to that process is often a big challenge.

For me I want to create a more balanced and successful life. That means working hard and playing hard. It also includes making an effort to be more health conscious. So, I need something that will help me combine all of those things in one place.

What are your tips and tricks?

Today’s Issues

I usually don’t post controversial political things relevant to current events. I’m not a very publicly political person. I don’t enjoy the debate or the hate that it seems to initiate. There are all sorts of opinions and I really do think that the beauty of true freedom is that you can have them and still be civil to one another. We can, I hope, simply agree to disagree.

That being said, I feel very strongly about posting this viewpoint on recent events that happened here in Texas.  Sutherland Springs has suffered an enormous tragedy at the hands of a mentally unstable man. I’ve read numerous reports from a number of news agencies that pointed out several things of note.

  1. The man was discharged from active military duty due to bad conduct involving a criminal offense of domestic violence in which he fractured his own child’s skull and faced rape allegations.
  2. The Air Force failed to report this conduct-related discharge as was policy. This allowed him to slip through the cracks of legislation already in place to control gun possession.
  3. The suggested motive in this was related to a domestic dispute. His mother-in-law attended the church regularly but was not there on Sunday.

Now, I’m a survivor of domestic abuse. Of course, I have pretty strong emotional reactions to things like this. Because, as I see it, this has all happened over a manipulative narcissistic need to control. This is a man with a history of violent behavior toward the women in his life. And, from experience, I can tell you that when a man like this feels he is losing control he often lashes out and he will make threats against anyone his target loves or cares for just to keep her in line. Isolation is control and that control makes them feel strong and powerful.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand this sort of psychology/psychosis. Why? Because it seems that I attract it in spades. That fact alone makes me want to remain single. Once you go through a relationship like that you’re never quite the same. It is harder to let your guard down and trust because, let’s be real, all relationships are bliss in the beginning. The true colors come out once they think they have you hooked.

I’m not afraid of guns. I am, however, fearful of the people who have a blatant disregard for the law and human life.

What happened in Sutherland Springs is another tragic example of repercussions for not recognizing the psychosis and danger associated with domestic violence offenders. It really should open doors for communicating about mental healthcare in this country. The sad thing is that it won’t. Because these behaviors are largely normalized in our society. The women who become victims aren’t weak. They are strong in their desire to love another human being beyond the flaws. And when it does become clear that it isn’t safe anymore, these women often stay in an effort to protect the ones they love outside of that relationship.

So, yes, I’m praying for the wife of the shooter tonight. I can only imagine the horror she is living through right now. I am praying that she and the families of the victims get the help they need to grieve their loss and pick up the pieces. I pray that those, who can physically do so, will return to the church in solidarity to prove that their faith is in tact and evil will not prevail.

We live in an odd time. It is both scary and exciting. There are times I want to go out and do all the things but, at the same time there is a fear of even walking out the front door to do the most mundane of things. Some days the fear wins. Other days, I feel bold and determined to conquer that fear. Right now, I feel like crying for the senseless loss of life that happened in a place that should have been safe for all of those in attendance.

It is likely that I will cry. Aside from this tragedy it was a difficult day for me. For my part, I hope the rest of the week is smooth sailing. There are things to write and preparations to be made. And yes, dear readers, I promise a less heavy topic on my next posting. Something fun and creative is in the works. So please stick around.

Goals Post

We are quickly approaching the end of 2017.

To be honest, it’s been a bittersweet year for me. I’ve tried new things. I’ve dealt with some major health issues. I’ve worked, I’ve played, I’ve procrastinated, been distracted, and at times had a sort of laser focus. The one thing I have to admit is that I haven’t accomplished nearly as much as I wanted to this year. Procrastination is not your friend, as I’ve learned. But, there are still two months and a major writing challenge left in the year and I’m going to make the most of it.

It doesn’t make sense, to me, to start a quarterly goal list now. So I’m just going to set a few goals for the next two months as I prepare to tackle 2018 and make it the year of the writer.   

  1. Finish my draft of the second Slauson Cove book. – Tentatively titled The Castain Curse, this WIP has been much requested by my current readers. You’ll likely be happy to hear that this project is taking a front seat. I’ve made it my NanoWrimo project so you can follow along on progress by going here: Anne Belle  but keep in mind that the goal of NanoWrimo is to complete 50,000 words in 30 days. I already had about 18,000 words drafted when I started. The over all goal for the novel is to have at least 100,000 words to make it a complete novel. So my Nano efforts will likely get me about 3/4 of the way to completion. Completing my first draft by December 31st will allow me to start fresh in January with edits and getting beta reader feedback .
  2. Start that darned YouTube Channel – Yes, you read that right. I’m stepping in front of a camera. This has been on my mind for over a year. I’ve gotten so much motivation and clarification on writerly things from watching videos from other writers who have been generous enough to share their journey to publication with the world. Not to mention giving a more realistic picture of what the writing life entails. For me, it helps me feel less alone in this process. I’ve had a difficult time connecting socially with other authors in my area because of this crazy work schedule. So, I’ve decided to add my own voice to the writing community online. And I can’t keep procrastinating based on appearances. Like many a plus size person, I usually avoid the cameras for fear of not being taken seriously and it turning into a circus. But, it is high time to face that fear and just do it. I see plenty of bold and beautiful plus size people doing this so, I can do it too.
  3. Create a plan for marketing new and old work in 2018- This means I need to figure out a budget, how much  time to spend on things like social media, blogging, videos, and all the other things that go into it. I need to do some face to face marketing so, I need to research conferences and events at which I can go and sell my books. This is, quite frankly, just as daunting as that camera. But it needs to be done. And I know so many things need major updates if I am going to make a serious go of writing fiction as a career. So, getting that plan in place is my first step.
  4. Purge The Papers- I have more mail and paperwork piled up on my desk and in the nooks and crannies of my room than any one person should have.  I have to take time to sort through them and organize myself. On top of that it won’t hurt me to do a general purge and clean of my space. The organization process may require me buying some file bins and shelves. But it will definitely be worth it to start with a clean slate in the new year.

Those are pretty big goals for two months time. So I’m going to stick with those. January, I’ll post some quarterly goals and a recap on whether I met these or not. Call it my accountability post, if you will. I think it will help though.

What about you? Do you have any goals for the rest of 2017? Share them with me in the comments or by email.

Time For An Adventure

It is that time of year again.

Halloween is over and writers the world over are sitting up until midnight to get the first wordsprints in for their new project as part of NanoWrimo. Along with this is a lot of anticipation, excitement, and even anxiety. But, if you’re a writer, or have even thought about writing a book, this may be a challenge to help you get started.

So what is it? NanoWrimo is short for National Novel Writing Month. While it’s name says that it is a national event and, well, it happens to be based in the good old U. S. of A, it has definitely become a worldwide event. It brings writers together over a shared goal and experience, striving to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

All the official details are at their website : www.nanowrimo.org 

In a nutshell, the challenge starts at midnight November 1st. Writers who partake of the challenge come in various varieties. Some will start with nothing more than an idea for a couple of characters and a scenario. Others have been doing research and planning for a while but haven’t really written anything to amount to a manuscript. Personally, I’ve tried both approaches with varying levels of success. Whatever the approach, we all start writing and share the experience using forums, in-person events organized by someone in the area, twitter, facebook, etc.

It is an exercise in creative thinking and time management. I’ve completed the challenge before and found it rewarding. It gave me material to refine that eventually became my first novel The Secret of the Storm. Now, I’m signed up under the pen name and happy to connect with other writers. This year, my project is the sequel to that first novel. I hope to replicate the prior success. And in the process launch a new venture. So, stay tuned for that.

If you’re a writer who wants to make strides in your writing, I extend an invitation to the challenge.  Connect with me and keep up with novel progress by following me on facebook or connecting with me on the Nanowrimo site as I update word counts throughout the month. This month there will be some extra posts about the progress as well.  So open a word processor (Scrivener and several other sponsors offer free trials for November for NanoWrimo Participants) and put your idea on the page with me and the other writers taking the challenge.

Connect with me here: https://nanowrimo.org/participants/anne-belle

 

Happy Halloween…

If you’ve not already taken the kids out trick or treating then, I hope you have fun, get lots of loot, and make great memories. If you’re recovering from a costume party over the weekend, I hope that it was eventful and memorable for you. Likewise I hope that we’re all ready to jump into the holiday season and make the most of it.

For my Halloween weekend festivities, I kept it quiet. I enjoyed a well-deserved day and  a half away from the day job by snuggling with this little guy and watching Stranger Things 2 on Netflix in a glorious marathon of binge watching while working on an embroidery project that will be added to my mother’s Christmas decor. East Texas weather didn’t disappoint me either. It ended up being quite chilly and I was enjoying my new slippers and my favorite comfy pants. I even realized that I’ve lost inches since my sugery in September. That was a big plus for me.

October has been a busy month. The first half of it was spent preparing for a charity event where we displayed this beauty. I’m planning on a post to explain all of it but, just looking at it is awesome. Out of that we actually booked our first wedding cake as well. That will happen next year as they are planning early. I am excited about it though.

As I wrap up the month I am finding myself a bit more determined to make the most of the end of 2017.  I need to finish my current WIP draft and get on with the process. I’ve put it on hold long enough. Nanowrimo is a perfect excuse to do just that. I’ll post about that tomorrow and what to expect in November from me. There are definitely changes brewing for me.

There will be more posts of writing projects and other creative endeavors. And looking ahead. 2018 is sure to be a big year for me. It’s all about priorities. And I’m getting those in line.

 

Explanations…

*taps microphone* Hello? Anyone still here?

An explanation is in order for such a lengthy absence. And I’m happy to give it considering all that has happened for me.

Like many of you I have many talents and interests. Some call it a blessing and others a curse. My own truth is that it is somewhere in the middle. It seems that I am fighting with time, more often than not, to make a way to pursue all of them with any sort of proficiency and take care of myself. I admit that in the past 10 years, I’ve not taken very good care of myself physically. It caught up with me and I landed in surgery. The whole experience has given me reason to take stock of life and what I want from it. Prioritizing certain efforts in life will reap better results than stretching myself thin and getting nowhere on any of my projects or interests.

This year was a bit of an experiment with my mother to see if we could build a baking business from home. What we realized is that most people here in our neck of the piney woods don’t want to pay what our creations are worth. That leaves us with very little clientele. We did a charity event on the 14th of October and the response to what we offered and our pricing made it clear that opening a bakery in town is not a good risk financially. So, that was a bit of a reality check. Though, I don’t regret giving it a try. I enjoyed it and the time spent with my mom. We’re still going to keep decorating and taking custom orders. We just altered the plan and expectations a bit.

For me, it brought my initial dreams to the forefront again. You could say that I took a break from writing with any sort of regularity. Certainly there have been a number of stalled months in 2017. But I want to finish the year strong and with something to show for all the efforts I’ve made. So, I did some brainstorming and have a whole list of topics to write about here on the blog. I even have a grand idea to bring some workshops and a workbook for you all. So, there is definitely some time in the studio that is happening to get all of that together.

Let’s not forget that I have another Slauson Cove book in the works to finish up this year and hopefully be releasing in Spring or Summer of 2018. ( More on that later.) So I have a lot on my plate as we come to another turning point in my life. Time to get with the program and try to reach more of the world.

Planning…..

Juggling everything that I do doesn’t always mean I’m successful at it. No pics this time folks. My week has gotten away from me a bit. This week and last were pretty busy with baking projects with SamBee’s Sweets. Virtually no real writing has been accomplished on the book. Though I am working to get scenes in as I can between all the other projects and work hours. Really, I’m just trying to keep myself going with the day job where I’ve had bosses in the office for audit and meetings. So, believe me when I tell you that this lady is absolutely ready for a break of some sort. Hopefully this weekend I’ll have a chance to catch up and recouperate.

Things are looking up in many ways. That’s a good thing. It also means that I’ll be busier than I have been in the past. That could turn problematic if I don’t plan ahead. So, for my blog this weekend I’m likely going to give you a bit of a walk through of my planning technique and what I use to keep track of it all. I’m sure that, since there is a holiday weekend, I’ll find time for some photos of the current incarnation of my planner.

I am really looking forward to a couple of days to focus on creative projects. I’m hoping to find a couple of hours to be at the easel painting in the midst of all of the merry making. But there are so many preparations to be made for the Gala in October. We plan to get started on those things to minimize last minute things. It will already be a super busy week leading up to it. But, it should be a great opportunity to put our work out there and really let the community know we are here and doing some tasty things.

Too Many Irons

Part of starting this blog was to give you a window into my creative world. And let me tell you something. Lately, that world has been a bit chaotic. The chaos is my own making though and I wouldn’t change it. In fact, there is also a lot of excitement in the middle of it all.

A few years ago I took it upon myself to learn how to decorate cakes. I’m not sure why, except to say that I like pretty things and cake of course. Bottom line is that it started with me learning to make gumpaste roses and it has sort of developed from there. In fact, it all started with this cake for our Thanksgiving celebration. Then we branched out with some for friends including this Octonauts cake. 

Well, in the last year or so my mother and I have been creating some really tasty and cool things. We gave ourselves a name and  started giving out samples we made. We’ve donated cupcakes, cookies, and even a massive gingerbread house to various things locally. Mainly because we were having fun but we didn’t need to eat all that cake. People really liked our twist on vintage recipes.

With time, we find that we have people coming back to us to make birthday cakes, cookies, and other goodies. Now, it is really starting to take off since we have a customer who is involved in a major organization that does celebrations regularly. This is a first and we’re still feeling things out as a business opportunity but, I’m pretty excited about it.

We have orders on the books at this point. They take time to process and crate these lovely confections. Yet it is so rewarding to see a finished project and the looks on people’s faces when they get something for a special day that is just as unique as they are.

Believe me when I say I feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. I’ll be happy to see this turn into a venture with some financial gain to it though. Maybe I’ll be able to shift from working at a day job for someone else to working for myself in the not so distant future. That will also mean more time for writing as well. A life of creativity. Who could ask for more?

This could be the start of living the dream. As slow as it may seem, it is a start.

Nightstand Reads #2 : The Folcroft Ghosts

I am a sucker for a good ghost story.  How else did I get started writing the sort of fiction I do?

That being said, among my Amazon recommendations was this author I had never read before or heard of. So, with a $3.99 price tag on the kindle version, I decided to give it a shot.

I have to say that I was delighted with this gem of a read. From start to finish, the whole book was engaging for the imagination. In fact, I would place this squarely in the mystery genre since you spent most of the book piecing together clues with the main characters, a brother and sister duo in tragic circumstances.

Written from the perspective of the older sibling,  Darcy Coates’s style was captivating as it provided a window into how she coped with the incapacitation of a single parent as well as how she unravels what to do when faced with dangerous circumstances. As an older sibling myself I could easily relate to the girl and the sense of duty that Coates easily portrayed.

Well written and engaging, I was pleased with the read. I found myself reading this one in a matter of a couple of days between work and my other obligations. It helps that I had some slow time to read at the office. I would recommend this to readers both in the adult and the young adult audience spectrum. I thought it was a fairly clean read with a well-developed plot that had plenty of twists and turns before it was concluded.

Over all, I give this one 4 stars on Amazon and GoodReads.

Be sure to follow me on GoodReads, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter for more reviews, releases, and news. Indie authors, keep watch for news on how you can have your book reviewed by me in upcoming Nightstand Reads Posts.