Distracted Organizing

I can already tell that this is going to be one of those days when focusing is a challenge. I got my kitchen cleaned and organized last week and earlier this week, which inspired me to tackle the dining room. That room mostly tends to hold the spillover from the kitchen and from the patio, as the dining table is by the door to the patio, and so a lot of the stuff I use on the patio that isn’t stored outside ends up sitting on the dining table. When I was out shopping yesterday I found a little cart that’s perfect for storing my patio stuff. It sits in the corner near the door, and now my table is clear. I also got a little plastic bin that fits in my cabinet shelf to hold all my tea, so I can just pull it out and see all the varieties, and it’s sad how thrilling I find that.

But then having those two rooms cleaned and organized has inspired me to tackle the living room, and now when I sit down to try to think about work, I find myself instead looking up things like racks to hold CDs or cute baskets for holding my knitting. I want to organize All The Things. Some people do spring cleaning, but I turn domestic in the fall.

All this is great, and it needs to be done, but I’m supposed to be writing a book. I’ll start thinking about the next scene that needs to be written, and next thing I know, I’m off on a mental rabbit trail, contemplating ways to organize things and what I need to buy to make that happen.

I think what I may need to do is establish a starting-to-write ritual for this book, something that’s guaranteed to get me into the right mindset to write and focus on that world. That usually involves a piece of music that serves as a theme for the book, maybe a few images to look at. I normally write in silence, but if I find a piece of music (usually a movie score) that works, I can play that to shut out all the other voices vying for attention. Scent can even work — a candle or essential oil that takes me to the right place.

Of course, the effort to pick all this stuff can serve as its own kind of procrastination/distraction. I’m probably better off just giving myself a stern mental lecture.

My Books

15 Years of Enchantment

I realized yesterday that it was around this time fifteen years ago that I started writing the first Enchanted, Inc. book. I’m not sure of the exact date, but I know it was early October.

I’d had the first spark of idea in early 2002 but didn’t do anything with it because I was focused on some other projects and wasn’t sure there was a market for it because I’d never seen anything like it. I hadn’t seen much fantasy in a contemporary setting, and the early bits of “urban fantasy” that had come out were much darker and more serious. “Chick lit” was a hot market, but I hadn’t yet seen any with fantasy or paranormal elements.

Then I had a conversation with an editor at a conference in the summer of 2003, and she was enthusiastic about the idea. I had something else to work on first that I’d promised to another editor (that ended up going nowhere).

In early September, I started doing research, and I added a side trip to New York to a trip I was taking in late September so I could do location research. After I got home, I spent a few days doing a bit more development of the plot and characters, and then in early October, I started writing.

That means I’ve been living in that “universe” off and on for more than 15 years. I’ve known Katie and Owen longer than I have most of my current friends (whom I met after that first book was published).

And yet, the characters have barely made it through two years. I’ve been trying to stay on the same timeline with them, so I’m at the point where those books almost count as historical fiction.

The ninth book went off to the copyeditor this week. I’m not going to say “never” since I never know when an idea will strike me, but I think that’s going to be the last full-length book in this series. I may do some short pieces set in that universe. If I get another idea, I will probably make it the start of a new series and do a big time jump. But I think nine books and fifteen years is a good run for a series, and I’d rather not get to a point where I’m bored with it.

Of course, now that I’ve said that, I’ll probably get hit with an idea that will distract me from the book I’m supposed to be writing.


Diving In

I got a rough outline of scenes done yesterday, as well as developed the major characters. That means it’s time to start writing. I just have to do one bit of research and work out a timeline, and then I’ll be ready to start. This shouldn’t feel so much like the dive off a cliff that starting a new book usually feels like, since I’ve already written about a thousand words, but there’s still a moment that feels kind of like vertigo.

Meanwhile, I got my kitchen cleaned yesterday. I’d already organized the cabinets, and now the counters are pristine. I still want to do a little work on one of the pantry shelves and I need to mop the floor, but it’s progress. Cleaning is a better way to take breaks between writing sessions than social media. It’s movement that counts as exercise and that feels different from sitting, and it has visible results that are very satisfying.

We’re getting into the time of year when I really want to bake, but I’m strangely not all that keen on eating at the moment. I haven’t had much appetite since I got that cold a couple of weeks ago. I’ve even got desserts that are ready to go, but since I haven’t been hungry, I haven’t bothered. I’m stockpiling recipes for when I have a baking urge and am hungry. I’m trying to focus on nutritious food when I do eat, and I’ve been trying new recipes from a cookbook on the Mediterranean diet (recommended by my doctor), so I guess that takes care of my cooking urge. This weekend, I made a vegetable lasagna, which used a couple of kinds of squash, red bell pepper, goat cheese, and olives with marinara sauce and whole wheat lasagna noodles. It was … interesting. Not bad, but given the effort involved and the quantity produced (I have enough in the freezer to provide all the veggie lasagna I could ever want for months), I don’t think it will make it into regular rotation. We’re supposed to get a cold front this weekend, so I think I’m finally going to get to make a stew with my Instant Pot.

And that’s enough rambling for the day. Time to dive off that cliff and get to work!


Planning vs. Procrastination

Yesterday was all about getting back into the mindset to start work on this new book. The last time I opened those files was in February, so I had to dig up all my notes and remember what I’d decided about the characters and story. Then I realized that I hadn’t done much development for the characters who weren’t in the opening scene that was part of the proposal. I had a vague mental image of a character we’re about to meet in the next scene, and I knew the role he played in the story, but I didn’t have a good sense of his personality. I also realized I didn’t even know what the main character looks like. She’s the narrator, so I was seeing the world through her eyes and never actually saw her.

So I spent most of yesterday on character development. Today I’m going to be working on a more detailed outline, figuring out what scenes there need to be and a bit of what happens in each. I have a couple more characters I need to develop in more depth, but that may wait until they come up in the book.

Some of this feels like it could be procrastination, but I think the writing will go more smoothly and there will be less rewriting if I have more of it figured out ahead of time, if I make a lot of the tough story decisions up front. I reserve the right to change my mind if something better comes up, but it does help to have a plan up front.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to move more throughout the day, so every hour I’m taking a short (using a timer to keep it short) break to do housework. I got my kitchen mostly cleaned yesterday in five-minute increments. I have to admit that it was nice to come into the kitchen this morning to make breakfast and see all those clean, clear surfaces. Last week, I reorganized one of my cabinets, getting rid of a lot of extraneous food storage containers and clearing space to put a lot of other things away or make things that were at the back of the pantry more reachable. I seem to be becoming a neat freak as I get older. We’ll see how much organization and cleaning I can do in five-minute sessions throughout the day.


A New Start

I finished my edits on Friday and will be getting them off to the copyeditor today, and then I’ll start work on the new book I just sold to Audible. It feels like the first day of school or the first day of a new year, a time to reset and try to start again with new habits, or reviving the old habits.

I even set an alarm this morning. I had been using sunrise to wake me up, but they put a really bright LED bulb in the lamppost in front of my house, and that meant it was essentially as bright as daylight all night long. I kept waking up in a panic, feeling like I’d overslept because it was so bright outside, and then I’d look at the clock and see that it was two in the morning. So, I had to put up light-blocking curtains on my bedroom window. That let me sleep, but then it made it harder to wake up because the room was still dark even after the sun came up. I needed to set an alarm if I wanted to get up at a reasonable hour, but I hate waking up to an alarm because I wake up startled but still groggy.

Then I got the bright (pun somewhat intended) idea of trying one of those wake-up light alarm clocks. Instead of waking you with a sound, they gradually brighten a light, which replicates what I was doing with the sunrise. Most of them are pretty expensive, and I couldn’t see spending $90 on an alarm clock when it’s not even critical that I get up most mornings. But then I found a $20 version on Amazon and thought I’d give it a try.

I suspect that the difference between the $20 version and the $90 version is that the more expensive one really does light up gradually and changes color temperature to match the sunrise, so it does a better job of resetting your body clock and tricking you into feeling like the day has started. This one theoretically gets gradually brighter in the half hour before the wake-up time you set, but I honestly can’t tell much of a difference. Still, I find that I wake up five to 20 minutes after the light comes on, depending on how deep I’m asleep and which direction I’m facing, and I feel like I’ve awakened naturally instead of that startled, groggy feeling I get with a regular alarm clock. There’s a sunset feature that supposedly (again, I can’t tell a big difference) dims the light at bedtime before it cuts off, but since I read before going to sleep, I don’t have much use for it. That light’s not bright enough to read by, so it would mean having the clock light on for a while after I turn out the reading lamp, and then I’d be lying there with light on for a few minutes more until it cut off.

I’ll have to see how this works on an ongoing basis, and then I may keep an eye out for sales on the more expensive models that do a better job of mimicking a sunrise. Giving myself an extra half hour to hour of productivity a day (possibly even more in the winter) may be worth it.

And now to make use of that extra time …



I have some big news that I’ve been waiting to share: I’ve sold a new book!

This one is going to be kind of different because it’s an Audible Original. That means I’m writing it specifically to be an audiobook. After the exclusivity period runs out, it may get published as a print/e-book, but for about a year it will only be an audiobook.

It’s an entirely new story not related to any of my existing series, but it is a light contemporary fantasy, so I suspect Enchanted, Inc. fans will like it. It’s the story of a tourist who gets way more than she bargained for, including a rather magical adventure, when she stops to help a little old lady.

When I’ve mentioned having something I need to finish this year before I can work on anything else, this is what I’ve been referring to. The deal’s been in the works for most of the year, but it’s taken a while to finalize. I’m wrapping up editing on the ninth Enchanted, Inc. book today and getting that off to the copyeditor, and then I’ll be drafting this new one.

I’ve only written a proposal so far, and I’m excited to finally really delve into this story.

I don’t know exactly when it will come out, probably sometime next year. Don’t worry, I’ll keep everyone posted.

And now, I have three more chapters to edit.


Change and Renewal

I’ve had a weird bout of restlessness and dissatisfaction lately, where I find myself feeling like I need to change something. I’ve thought about moving someplace else entirely, looked at possible jobs, pondered going in different directions with some things in my life.

It only occurred to me yesterday what’s going on: my army brat background is acting up again. I grew up moving every three or so years. Every few years, everything got uprooted — new home in an entirely new place, new school, new friends, new church, new activities. It continued to some extent even after my dad retired because although we settled in one place, I finished high school four years later and moved to a different city for college, then moved to yet another city when I finished college. From birth to about the age of 22, my life was totally changed every one to four years. I was used to constant renewal.

I’ve had a tendency to uproot my life every few years since then. Before I bought my house, I changed apartments every 2-3 years. I stayed in my first job nearly five years, but it was about three years per job after that. I’ve lasted longer in churches, but have generally found myself drifting from one to another every 5 years or so. I even seem to do a bit of a friend turnover every few years, gravitating from one group of people to another.

But now I’ve lived in the same house for 20 years. I’ve had the same “job” of working for myself for 16 years. I’ve been going to the same church for about 12 years. I’ve been hanging out with the same group of people for about that long. No wonder I’m feeling restless. The problem is that I don’t necessarily want to change these things. I would like a different house, but that’s a complicated process that will require a lot of work and saving more money. I really don’t want a different job. I like my church and the community I have there. I like my friends. How can I give myself that sense of renewal and change without actually changing things?

My mom deals with the itch to move by rearranging furniture. My house is small enough that there aren’t many functional options for rearranging furniture (though I did swap my bedroom and my office after a few years in this house, which kind of worked like a move). I don’t really want to redecorate entirely if I’m going to possibly be moving within a couple of years, but I think maybe doing the big decluttering project I have planned may feel like a move. I’ve been working on mostly the same series for a while, so maybe writing something entirely new might help. Maybe I could travel more, and that would give me the sense of relocating. I could start a new activity that would bring me around new people, letting me make new friends without losing the old ones.

Just identifying the feeling and its source helps. Now I realize that I’m not unhappy. I just have that itch to change something. I need some renewal.


Spooky Fall Reads

We got our first real cold front of the season, and it feels like fall. Hooray! It will be a good day for snuggling up with a good book. Okay, it’s a book I’ve written, but I think it’s pretty good.

Since it’s nearly October, I need to pick my Classic Horror read for the year. Or, more accurately, Classic Spooky, since I’m a real wimp and probably couldn’t deal with real horror. A couple of years ago, I read Frankenstein. Last year it was Dracula. Now what? I guess I could do Fall of the House of Usher. Or House of the Seven Gables (since I’ve actually visited and toured the house that inspired it). Any other suggestions of the sort of classic book that everyone should have read that’s spooky and atmospheric?

Though, I must say that reading these kinds of books on a tablet loses some of the atmosphere. They seem to belong in a slightly musty old book that you read by lamplight on a cool, windy evening while bundled under a blanket. Tapping to turn the page seems all wrong. Maybe I should check the library to get a real book instead of just going to Project Gutenberg to get the books for this project.

And then I need weather cool enough for that kind of reading experience before Halloween.

Harbingers of Fall

After taking yesterday as a rest/catch-up day and after running all the errands this morning, I’m about to dive into a final proofreading pass, and then next week I’ll be ready to start something new that I need to refresh myself on (news about the new thing to come soon).

Meanwhile, I totally forgot to mention that my publisher put the e-book version of Don’t Hex with Texas on sale for $1.99, probably through the rest of this week. I’m sure most people who might be reading this already have all the books, but in case you need the e-book version, here’s your chance to get it as a bargain.

I succumbed to two fall things at the grocery store this morning: the first Honeycrisp apples are out (my favorite harbinger of fall), and Pioneer has a pumpkin spice pancake mix (it’s the spices with no pumpkin). I don’t get excited about pumpkin spice lattes because I don’t like coffee, but I like spiced baked goods. I think I’m going to make a spiced peach compote to top the pancakes for this weekend, hopefully to celebrate being done with the book (other than dealing with copyedits, a final proofing pass, and then dealing with all the publishing stuff, getting cover art done, etc.).

And now lunch, then work!

If I Were a Villain …

I’m treating this as a semi-weekend day to recover from essentially working all weekend. I got mostly better from last week’s cold, but then the weather got in the way. We got record amounts of rain, more than 7 inches in one night, and it was more than the hotel conference center roof could handle. A few leaks let water pool in the ceiling tiles until the ceiling tiles couldn’t handle it, and you can imagine the fun stuff that exploded into the air along with bits of ceiling tile and all that water that had been pooling in there. I wasn’t there when it happened, but I’m fairly sure the entire place was contaminated the rest of the weekend. I’d be okay at home, then couldn’t stop coughing while I was at the convention. I managed to get through my panels then beat a hasty retreat for home.

I’d thought that the panel on evil overlords would be about writing villains, but instead it was more of an improv exercise in which we were essentially creating evil overlords on the spot, answering questions about our lairs, wardrobe, minions, etc. It was a ton of fun. I’ve never been a villain-centric writer, so it was an interesting exercise in putting myself in that viewpoint, but since the idea was to be funny with this, I got to create a villain who was a spoof of the Maleficent type. My chosen lair was a castle with a moat. I went with formal wear in basic black for public appearances (unless I was pretending to be a captive princess to lure heroes to my lair), but for casual wear just hanging around the castle, I preferred yoga pants and sweatshirts. I may get a couple of fun stories out of that exercise because I kind of liked the character I created. To some extent, I suspect she just put on the evil overlord front to keep the villagers away from the castle so she could get some peace and quiet.

I’m also tempted to create the costume for this character and wear it next year.

Meanwhile, I went to a couple of Marian Call’s concerts and bought some more CDs. She’s an Alaska-based singer/songwriter who does geeky stuff along with more mainstream topics. I saw her in concert a few years ago and she was the music guest of honor this weekend. And from a conversation after her Saturday concert we both came away with writing prompts for something that needs to be addressed.

Now I need to catch up on life and all the stuff that didn’t get done while I was sick or busy with the convention. My kitchen is a disaster, I have to do laundry, and there’s a lot of admin work I need to tackle. Then tomorrow I start the proofreading pass on my book.