Wednesday, June 28

Halfway Through & A New Plan ~ @AuthorKristina Knight

Liz (and Nan and Margie and Ava and Jana) reminded me last week that I am woefully behind on both my reading challenges for this year. Well, assuming that I'm only counting the books that I've finished. There have been a handful of books that I started and stopped...and feel no real motivation to start up again.

I will say, though, that I'm more-caught-up with the general 'read 50 books this year' challenge than I am on the themed read/watch challenge. I got stuck back in April on that one (the theme was 'Time' and I just couldn't get into the book I chose...or the show I chose...and I haven't gotten back to it).

The one thing I've kept up with is my reader journal (although, that's mostly because Liz's post last week nudged me to enter in the last few books I finished). It's been fun to write down favorite scenes or quotes from the book, and while I don't really dwell on the books that I haven't finished, I'll usually write down why I *think* I haven't been able to get into it. As I was updating the journal last week, I realized that most of those reasons have been character based. Either the heroine or the hero were just too...something for me to identify with/root for. And so I stopped reading and went on to the next book. And so, I'm making a mental note (and a few in my reader journal and my planner) to keep the characterization in my books interesting.

Speaking of planners, I picked up my new Happy Planner last week, and I LOVE IT! I went with the 'big' planner this year (it's 8.5x11 rather than 7ishx7ish), and with a more watercolor-y theme (last year's was very brilliantly bright...and I loved it...but wanted something difference). The reason for going bigger was because I wanted a little extra room for my daily planning, but I also wanted the ability to build out my quarterly goal sheets, and add in more of a business plan. More about that in a sec. I always use the horizontal layout because then I can divide my days according to family stuff, writing stuff and health stuff. 

On to the business plan - mine is only a 'business plan' in the sense that I named it that. It's more of a listing of current deadlines, projects I want to work on either for one of my publishers or on an indie basis, ways I want to expand my writing, publishers and editors I'd like to work with, and projected timelines for all those future-not-contracted projects. Because I picked up the big planner, I was able to add sections that go farther than my 2017/2018 goals, which is something new (and exciting) for me to add. I also added in quarterly goal recap sheets, that include writing and reading material.

There you have it, a kind of mid-year check in...and a planner check up. What are you planning for the rest of 2017?                                                                                                                    ~Kristina

Tuesday, June 27

Podcast Fun

 Do you listen to podcasts? I never really did much until Lani Diane Rich’s Will Write for Wine—she and author C.J. Barry delighted me with their irreverent humor as they talked about writing. Then I got hooked on Popcorn Dialogues—again Lani Diane Rich (as Lucy March), podcasting with author Jennifer Crusie and talking story in films—also delightful.  

Today, I’m sending you somewhere else, though—not being lazy, honest, but last night I listened to the first episode of Chipperish Media’s Big Strong Yes podcast and you so want to hear this. Author, podcaster, and story expert Lani Diane Rich and researcher Dr. Kelly Jones talk about “what it means to engage in badassery,” as they explore three books, Brené Brown’s Rising Strong and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear and Shonda Rimes’s Year of Yes. Lani and Dr. Jones are real and vulnerable and brilliant and amazing—you’ll be all in from the first moment. I’ve bought the first book (Brown's) and I’m planning on following along each week.The chemistry between these two women is fun and they really explore writing and themselves.

Chipperish also has several other fabulous podcasts, including How Story Works--all about story and storytelling;  Jed Barlett Is My President--a look at The West Wing, one of my favorite TV shows, and Still Pretty, in which Lani discusses Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

If you've never listened to a podcast before, any of Lani's are a great place to start. Use the links. Go listen. I promise, you'll have a great time! Enjoy!

Monday, June 26

But I LIKE the Oxford Comma!

I got an email the the other day. It had one of those innocuous-looking paper clips beside it. No harm. No biggie. No...oh, dear...yes, it's the line edits for my December book, The Happiness Pact, from Harlequin Heartwarming. There are many, many, many notations on the formatted document. Did I say many? Yes, that's exactly what I meant. The number of suggested changes is in the...well, never mind. Let it suffice to say many. And, yeah, I can see I've said it too often already. A couple of those should be edited out, and maybe a comma or two, editor's not here so he can't give me comma grief.

You don't know comma grief, you say? It's a really common ailment among
writers. There are those who hardly use any at all. Case in point (which I'm making up--I don't have real examples): Hi Mary. No really. Bill do you think I should? I want butter pecan, vanilla and chocolate all in the same carton.

Yes, there should be a comma after Hi, a comma after No, a comma after Bill, and definitely, absolutely a comma after vanilla. That is of course the Oxford comma, which I use every chance I get and my editor allows...well, never.

You will note I didn't set of course aside with commas in the previous sentence, which I probably should have; however, I don't put the pause in there when I say it, so I don't put it in when I write it. You know which pause I mean, right? It's the one you hardly notice but you know is there.

Oh, but I'm digressing again, just as I always do. Could you make sense of what I said up there? A lot of people don't use nearly enough of them. Reading their work is very difficult for people like me, who probably use too many. (Too many doesn't include the Oxford comma, which is necessary.) Too many is in fact hard for me to illustrate because...well, it's just hard for me to believe there is such a thing.

That being said, there is the dealie with two independent clauses. It's one I see a lot...something like: I want to go to town, you can go with me. Don't you think that's just wrong? It needs to be two sentences, or at least have a semicolon (something that can get your hands slapped by an editor) or an em dash. I love em dashes--oh, and ellipses! I love them, too. Had you noticed?

Reading back over this, I discover that what I intended to be an informative little treatise on commas became something with no detectable direction that probably makes very little sense. But, hey, didn't you read what I said in the first paragraph? I have line edits--which honesty insists I admit I love doing--but making sense is out the window until they're done.

Have a great week!

Saturday, June 24

Money and Happiness
Last week I talked about experiences vs. things; which make you happier? This got me thinking about happiness and money.

Money is a big deal for me. Making money, saving money, spending money – I think about those things a lot, maybe because I’m the one who pays the bills in our house. What’s the best way for me to use the money I have to give myself a psychological boost?

Buying Experiences rather then Possessions – Every article I’ve read talks about how buying experiences gives us more pleasure in the long run than buying things. Like I said last week, the thrill of buying a physical object fades quickly, but the memory and joy of an experience lingers on. These experiences needn’t be expensive, and they are even more meaningful to us when we share them with friends and family. How about dining out, or going for drinks? Or going for pedicures with your girlfriends? My daughters and I have done that and it’s very enjoyable. It’s our interactions with others that make us happiest. Spend money and time cultivating relationships.

When you do buy possessions, make sure they match your values – If family is your focus, it makes sense to purchase a large dining room table where family can gather for Sunday dinner. I think aligning your spending with your values means spending consciously instead of mindlessly frittering money on things that mean little to you. For me, that meant buying a new desktop computer this spring when mine went on the fritz. Having a working computer is my lifeline.

Give it away – We often derive more pleasure from spending money on others than we do on indulging in things for ourselves. I know I enjoy buying little things for my daughters and husband, just because. Donating to causes we believe in also gives us pleasure. Habitat for Humanity is one of my favorite charities. We’ve given cash donations in the past, and this year after our renovation we donated some items from our old kitchen and bathroom. Instead of trying to sell our old beater car when we got a new one, we donated it to Habitat. I felt really good about that.

Feeling good is better than looking argues it makes more sense to buy a $100 pair of jeans and four $100 sessions with your massage therapist than to spend the entire $500 on one pair of designer jeans. Trying to keep up with pricey fashions will only burn a whole in your wallet, and fashions change so quickly it’s difficult to keep up. I’m not one to spend a lot of money on fashion, but I would rather spend my hard-earned cash on yoga classes than on fancy clothes. Yoga makes me feel good, and hopefully look good, too.

Learning lasts a also talks about the benefits of learning a new skill. Maybe you want to take golf or tennis lessons. How about learning photography or scuba diving? Spending money to learn a new skill or hobby not only gives you life-long pleasure, it might introduce you to a new social group. For me, this might mean spending my money to attend a writing conference like the 20Book Conference to learn something new about indie publishing and marketing. I don’t think I could spend my money in a better way.

Buying time – How much is your time worth to you? To a busy mother, hiring someone to clean her house so she can spend time with her kids makes sense. For a busy writer, hiring a virtual assistant to free up time for writing is money well spent.

In the end, money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy some things that will make you happy. Don’t forget that when the chips are down, your expensive watch won’t comfort you; only your family and friends can do that.

What do you spend your money on that makes you happiest?

Friday, June 23

We're half-way there?!?

In keeping with the mid-year review theme we have going, I’ll just say “Gah! Is the year half-over

The passage of time always sneaks up on us, and this year is no different for me. I began January railing at 2017 for starting out sucky. Yes, my emotions were pretty raw at that point. Fortunately, time also has a way of tempering the drama. My loved ones who were battling illnesses have since recovered. My mother’s estate is almost finalized, which leaves more time for…everything else. And I’m writing again (although I still manage to cram plenty of non-writing things into the day…so, I’m not nearly as prolific as I imagined I would be when I initially lost my job.)

I am still unemployed. But then again, I’m not actively seeking a job either. Hubby was cool with me taking the summertime to work on my writing and “play”… and I’m not crazy enough to talk sense into him where this is concerned. Permission to have the summer off? Heck yeah, I’ll take it!

Book three is coming along, more slowly than I had hoped (see above comment about cramming non-writing things into my writing time). I find I can’t write at home because the kitties are too cute and need constant petting. Actually, they don’t need it; they’re perfectly happy to sleep in the sunbeams. However, I can’t resist the urge to get up and love on them. And the fridge/pantry/chip box it right there as well. Too much temptations. I can’t go to the local library because their chairs are horribly uncomfortable. I wish there was a non-Starbucks place I could go with comfy chairs and a low-noise-but-not-entirely-quiet atmosphere and spend the day writing. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

On the up-side, I’ve begun exercising. Well, if you count 25 minutes on the exercise bike every few days. Not winning any endurance medals anytime soon, that’s for sure!

Also, I’m getting ready for my first RWA national conference later in July. It’s being held at Disney World, so it’s going to be a whole family-fun-trip and writer-business-trip rolled into one week. I’m totally excited to go! Getting my outfits together as well as my workshop plans and whatnot. If you’re going, let me know and we’ll make a plan to at least pass in the hallway!

Other than the sink-full of dishes I did today, that’s about all I have for my mid-year review!