Cold With a Cold

I’m back home after my quick weekend trip to the Louisiana Book Festival. It was a really nice event. I think my panel went pretty well, and I had a steady flow of people at the signing. A couple were already fans who brought books to be signed, but the rest seemed to be just discovering me, which was nice.

Unfortunately, I got sick while I was there, either being hit with a massive allergy attack or coming down with a cold, so I didn’t get to enjoy the festival fully. It was a bit colder than they forecast. I’d packed for the forecast, but it was really cold, and that didn’t help matters. I was fine during my events in the morning, just with a slightly sore throat, but it got worse as the day went by. After I checked out of my hotel, I just spent the afternoon in the author hospitality room before I headed for the airport, and I fell into bed as soon as I got home.

I’m feeling better now, but I’m giving myself today as a “light duty” day since I’m sick, it’s a national holiday, and the weather is good for a sick day, all cold and gloomy. I’m working on brainstorming a story idea, but I may also let myself watch a movie that kind of counts as “research.”

Tomorrow if I keep feeling better, I can go back to “normal.”

Life

Autumn Pleasures

We’ve been having my favorite kind of weather this week, cool and gray, not quite raining, just a bit misty. The autumn leaves do look glorious on a sunny day, but I love the way the golden trees almost work as a substitute sun on cloudy days, serving as a bright pop of color. I really enjoy my morning walks on these days, and then coming home and having a hot cup of tea.

Though this morning, I dressed a little too warmly for the walk once I got going, and I came home hot and just wanted cold water. I need to remember to expect to be a bit cold at first, and then I’ll warm up quickly.

I may be on the verge of becoming a bird watcher. There’s a network of waterways through my neighborhood, and we have a community of ducks that lives here year-round, but at this time of year, we also get the migrating birds. There’s one kind that I’m trying to figure out. They’re sort of duck-like, but very different from the mallards who live here. They look a bit like loons, but I haven’t heard any of the loon sounds. I’ve been hearing geese, but haven’t seen any of them. Then there are the egrets and herons. Watching all of these birds is fascinating. The other day, they seemed to either think that some leaves in the water were fish or they were playing a game because they were taking turns swooping out onto the water, picking up a leaf, and taking it to shore, where they’d throw it at another bird.

I also like trying to identify trees by their leaves. When I was in fifth grade, we had to do a science project in which we collected as many varieties of leaves as we could find, pressed them in wax paper, and tried to identify them. On the plus side, we lived on the edge of a great forest with walking paths through it, so it was incredibly easy to get leaves. The challenge was that we were in Germany, and the reference books in the school library were American, so the species didn’t quite line up (and this was long before the Internet). I can still identify a lot of trees, but the purely American ones are harder for me.

The squirrels are also fun at this time of year as they run around with their mouths full of acorns. Normally, they don’t seem to mind people, but now they hide from everyone, probably thinking we’re going to steal their stash.

Help! I’m starting to sound like a food blog. This is where I’d finally start talking about the recipe and how I like to eat it when I come home from one of these walks. We’d have a few more paragraphs about the recipe and what I like about it, then lots of pictures of it, then finally the recipe. I should have taken pictures of all these things I was talking about, but I’m usually so busy looking at it all that I don’t think to stop and take pictures, and since I’m walking for fitness, I don’t think about stopping at all. I just take pictures with my eyes and mind so I can remember it.

One More Event

This weekend, I’ll be a speaker at the Louisiana Book Festival, my last big book event of the year. I think they’re stretching the definition of “Louisiana author” a little bit, but they invited me. I don’t even know if they know of my Louisiana connections (my family is from Louisiana, and I lived there briefly when I was a baby). It’s ironic that this is my first big state book festival invitation. So far, Texas hasn’t been interested in me for the state book festival, state teen book festival, or even regional teen book festival. Texas needs to up its game! I also haven’t heard anything from Oklahoma (my actual native state).

I’m on one of the panels for teens, but I’m not sure what kind of audience we’ll have for the first panel in the morning. The up side of that is that I have the rest of the day free to go to the panels I find interesting. And there’s the south Louisiana food. I’m hoping to get a little gumbo and maybe a beignet while I’m there.

It’s just a one-night trip, but I’m doing my usual overpreparation, as though I’ll be gone for a week. My wardrobe planning keeps changing as the weather forecast keeps changing. I was going to buy a new dress for cooler weather, but now it’s going to be chilly enough (and I’ll have to be outdoors enough) that I think I’ll just go with slacks and a sweater, and I have plenty of sweaters I seldom get to wear. There’s a party the night before, and it will probably be too chilly to wear my little black dress unless I also wear a coat, so I think I’ll do a skirt and sweater for that. That means I won’t have to go shopping. I really need to purge my wardrobe before I add more to it.

So, if you’re in Louisiana and coming to the book festival, I hope to see you!

Books

Seasonal Reading

My spooky classic read for this year was The House of the Seven Gables by Nathanial Hawthorne, and it was kind of a bust for “spooky” purposes. It was more atmospheric gothic than truly spooky, possibly because I’ve been to the house it was supposedly based on, and I found it to be a rather pleasant place. I wouldn’t mind at all living there, so it was hard for me to get in the mindset of it being a place where these characters felt trapped.

So I’ll need to find something else for next October, but now I can get back to my normal reading. And, yikes, it’s almost time for holiday-themed reading. I’m a “not until after Thanksgiving” kind of person for Christmas stories, but I need to go searching for some good ones. Or maybe I should write one to release next year.

If you are looking for holiday reads, I do have a Christmas novella, Twice Upon a Christmas. There’s also Christmas-related content in Once Upon Stilettos and Damsel Under Stress. The holiday season is just starting in the third book of the Fairy Tale series, A Kind of Magic. And Rebels Rising takes place during the holiday season.

Hmmm, maybe I should write my own spooky October read. Fall is my favorite season, and I do seem to set books in the fall, but I haven’t gone all out with a book that’s specifically about the season.

Really, when you think about it, Cinderella should be set in the fall because that’s when the pumpkins are ripe. I noticed that they were growing in a greenhouse in the recent Disney live-action version, so it could have been any season, I suppose, but I remember taking the train cross-country in mid-October and seeing the fields of pumpkins in Iowa, so it seems reasonable that Cinderella is set in October. I may make watching that movie one of my fall traditions (hey, any excuse).

My Books

Status Update

I did finish my draft on Friday (yay!), and my brain immediately started work on another story. I’d had an idea fragment I scribbled down a couple of years ago, and it popped up and started fleshing itself out. So I may make a stab at writing a draft of it just to get it out of my head before I jump back and start revising the previous book. So, for those keeping score at home, here’s what’s in the works:

Enchanted, Inc. Book 9 — with the copyeditor. I’m hoping to release early next year, but there are some other things I need to get lined up first, like cover art, cover design, seeing if I can get it sold to Audible and coordinate the release, etc.
The new Audible book — that’s the draft I just finished. It will be coming out as an Audible Original sometime next year and will be exclusively on audio for a year. Then we’ll see what else happens with it.
Rebels 4 — I plan to dive into writing this early next year when I have the Audible book completely done and turned in. I’ve done some preliminary research and have some vague plot ideas that I need to flesh out.
Fairy Tale 4 — I would like to do more in this series, but I haven’t put much thought into it in a while. It’s started stirring, so maybe I’ll get to it sometime next year.

Then I have ideas for at least four other things in various phases of development.

But, hey, if I can maintain the kind of pace I had last week, I might get all this stuff done.

Good Strategies

I’m down to about three thousand words until the end of this book — at least, of the target word count. I think the rest of the story may fit into that. I just have to write the finale. This may be the most I’ve ever written in one week. Which means that writing before I do anything else is a good strategy, as much as I hate to admit it.

The other good strategy is turning off the wi-fi on the computer and resisting the urge for most research or “I just want to check my e-mail” breaks. Sometimes, I do need to do research for the book as I write it. The main character is a librarian, so her response to everything is to do research, and sometimes I need to look up what she’s looking up because the results will affect the plot. But I’m also really bad about having a thought pop into my head and suddenly wanting to look up things related to it. I’ll think of what I want to have for dinner and start looking up recipes. This morning, the knob broke on the portable radiator I use to warm up the bathroom, and I desperately wanted to research what other heaters might be best for that purpose so that I don’t have to heat up the entire house when I take a shower. But I resisted that urge. I can look that up after I’m done writing.

This isn’t new. It’s just a lot easier with the Internet. In college, my dorm was across the street from the main campus library, and I would often dash across the street to look something up that I’d suddenly become curious about. Now I can do that without leaving my house. I think a lot of it is a stalling measure when writing starts to feel hard. It feels like a reflex — I don’t know what needs to happen next, so I’ll just go look something up. If I power through, I can move on and get past the tiny blocks. It’s just a difficult habit to break.

The next trick will be to see how the time change affects me. I’ve been waking up more or less on my own at an early hour, but if I keep waking up at that time after the change, I’ll be super early. If I go back to sleep, I’ll end up going through a whole additional sleep cycle and be super late. I may just go with early. We’ll see.

And then we’ll see if I can keep up this level of productivity.

Two Days to Go

I managed to avoid having to drive in much rain, as the rain didn’t start until I was on my way home from the dentist. It was funny having an appointment on Halloween because the staff dressed in costume—everyone dressed up as the head dentist. It was hilarious. Then they played spooky haunted house music on the sound system.

I didn’t get a candy overload since I wasn’t at home on Halloween night and didn’t have to buy any candy just in case I had trick-or-treaters (which I never do, but it’s best to be prepared). However, the chocolate is on sale now, so I may not be able to resist loading up. I helped out at the church “block party” for trick-or-treaters, but the rain had only just stopped and kids were only just starting to come out when I had to leave for choir. The weather was bad enough that I don’t know how many kids went out. I noticed a lot of pizza delivery cars out and about, so I suspect a lot of families decided to stay in, have pizza, and watch spooky movies, which sounds pretty good to me. That might have been what I did if I hadn’t been singing Christmas music.

Now I have two days until my self-imposed deadline to finish the book, so I have work to do. I’ve got the rest of it outlined, and I know there will be a lot of revision because I came up with some fun ideas toward the end that I want to move earlier in the book. There’s a character who really added energy to things who needs to show up earlier, and that will require some rearranging.

And then I will give myself a weekend to collapse.

Scary Day

Happy Halloween! I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I scheduled a dentist appointment this morning. Actually, I know what I was thinking — it’s a Wednesday, and the odds were pretty good that I’d be around on a Wednesday since I have choir.

The “what was I thinking?” isn’t to do with this day being associated with candy. Most of the candy eating will come after I see the dentist. It’s more to do with the fact that it always seems to rain on Halloween, which means I have to go out in the rain. Every other day this week is supposed to be nice, but the weekday I have to leave the house, it’s raining.

Then again, Halloween or not, the same thing probably would have ended up happening. I can make bad weather appear by having a dental checkup. Before I managed to adjust the schedule for my regular appointments, I used to have a checkup in February or March, and we tended to get sleet on that day. Rain is relatively easy.

However, I also have good things happen when I’m at the dentist. That’s usually when my agent gets in touch with me with good news. In fact, I was at the dentist when my agent first called to say she wanted to represent Enchanted, Inc.

So, will I get caught in the deluge today? Will I get good news while I’m having the tea stains scraped off my teeth? We shall see!

The other issue with today is that I’d just started establishing different morning habits and this will throw off my routine before it becomes habit, but I still started the day with writing and have done a thousand words, so maybe it won’t derail me entirely.

writing life

Morning Writing

I’ve always rolled my eyes at those “I get up at four and get all my words done before the day starts” writers. I’ve also rolled my eyes at the advice to get started on writing first thing in the morning, before you do anything else. I’ve never been much of a morning person. Even when my body clock started to shift last year, I wasn’t what real morning people would consider a morning person, and getting up earlier didn’t mean I started thinking earlier. I felt like I needed time to ease into the morning. I like to read the newspaper over breakfast and tea. Reading e-mail and various social media feeds was a way to warm up my brain and get going.

But I’ve been reading a number of things lately about getting started first thing in the morning with the most important thing you need to do, and I’ve seen testimonials from other writers about the difference it made to write first before doing anything else. I’ve been doing that somewhat over the last week, but I really dove in yesterday.

I still eased my way into the day somewhat, since I read the newspaper and ate breakfast, then took a walk. During the walk, I brainstormed a bit about the book I’m working on, imagining scenes and thinking about my characters. When I got home, I wrote down the things I’d thought about. Then I started writing. I managed to get half my target word count done before lunch, and I still managed to read my social media feeds and post a few things. I had time before lunch to practice some of my choir music. After lunch, I shut off the wi-fi again for another good writing session, and instead of the reflexive check e-mail, check the feeds break, I did a little tidying around the house. By the end of the day, I’d written more than 6,000 words, and I still had a little free time before the end of the work day.

The funny thing was, I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. I did more of what I wanted to do when I wasn’t wasting time doing mindless stuff. I don’t know how much of that has to do with writing early, but I think that helps with getting started. Starting is always the hardest part, breaking out of what I call the “doom loop” of reading the feeds, posting something, then going back to see if anyone’s responded or posted anything new. Once I’ve started, keeping going is easier, and starting before doing anything else does seem to help.

So, I’m sold. I guess I have a new work schedule.

writing life

Patio Office

It’s deadline week, So I’ll be digging in and focusing on my work. Not that it’s a do-or-die deadline. The final book is due in January. But I want to have time to revise it and also enjoy the holidays, so I’d like to finish this draft by the end of this week. I’m off to a good start. I got up early this morning and have already walked a couple of miles and written a couple of thousand words, along with planning out what I want to write today.

It’s a really nice day, so I’ve been enjoying Patio Office. That started when I thought I’d have a cup of tea on the patio after my walk while I did some brainstorming, then I decided to just haul the laptop outside and work. That way, I can enjoy fall and still get my words done.

Patio OfficeWhile I enjoy optimizing things, I also know that it’s good to shake things up every so often. Ruts are bad for creativity. I also like to take advantage of my flexible working conditions. I don’t have to sit in an office all day. Moving around keeps things fresh. I haven’t tried writing in public, though, since I’m easily distracted. I don’t think I’d get much done in a coffee shop, though I have gone to the coffee shop by the library to brainstorm and plot. I’ve gone to parks for brainstorming and plotting, too, especially when I need to be near water. Fortunately, I live near a lot of water, so it’s easy to find a place to sit by the water and think. Patio Office, taking my laptop desk onto my patio, is my way of getting away from the house to write. The wi-fi extends outside, but I don’t really think about going online when I’m outside, so I’m less likely to have the impulse. I can’t see any books I want to read or housework I need to do, so my only distractions come from nature, like watching the lizards sunning themselves, the snails creeping their way up the trellis, or the flowers blooming. And sometimes the mosquitoes that need swatting. My morning glory didn’t make it this year—between caterpillars and whiteflies, it got stripped of all its leaves—but my mum is blooming for the third year in a row.

It sure beats a desk in an office.