Saturday, September 24

Vacation is Over!

I was supposed to begin blogging here at Word Wranglers at the beginning of September, but I was away on vacation so the date got pushed back. My husband and I drove to Ontario to visit relatives in Toronto and Ottawa, a round trip distance of about 3,000 miles (4,828 kilometers). It was a lot of driving, but we had fun.

On the way there and back we played some golf and did a little shopping. We stayed with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law who have a lovely place on a lake. (I took this picture when we were last there in 2013, but the lake looks just as lovely.) My brother-in-law is having a milestone birthstone soon and we were all together to celebrate.

But now we’re home, and the vacation is officially over. It’s back to work, on all fronts.

At the day job where I work part-time, we’re gearing up for the busiest time of our year. I’m an accounting person and the audit is coming up pronto, followed quickly by sending out annual invoices for dues. Our conference is set for the beginning of February, and it’s a huge production to plan and execute.

And then there’s my writing. I’m trying to finish a three book series that I call ‘Love in the North Woods’ which I talked about last week. Though each book is a complete romance (three sisters, three romances), the over-arching mystery means the books should be read in order. So before I pitch/submit the first book in the series, I’d like at least a solid first draft of the other two. I also need to write blurbs for each of the books. Which means I’m writing my face off and scrambling to finish.

Speaking of pitching, in October I’m attending the Surrey International Writers Conference in Surrey, British Columbia, a suburb of Vancouver. Another reason to finish my WIPs. More about the conference in future posts.

As if I didn’t have enough to do, several weeks ago I signed up for a self-editing class called Before You Hit Send with Angela James, Editorial Director with Carina Press. This is a good class with TONS of information, but really, what was I thinking? I knew I was going to have a busy fall.

And of course there’s always the never ending time-sink of marketing and promotion.

Color me overwhelmed.

I’m worried about dropping one or more of these balls that I’m juggling. So my question to my fellow Word Wranglers and readers of this blog is, what do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed with work and other life commitments? Do you put down your head and keep plowing through, or do you find a way to lighten the load?

If you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to work!

Friday, September 23

Forcing the Muse

These past few weeks, my day job has commanded all my creative juices. As Margie can attest, the Holidays are beginning to hit the stores already. Holiday-related products. Holiday-related displays. Pumpkin spice everything. In order for all this holiday to make it to your store, someone has to sell it in first.
That’s where I come in. Today is the statewide holiday sales meeting for my wine & spirits employer. Today, my company showcases our holiday products and displays so that our sales force can go forth and conquer…er, I mean sell. I don’t sell; I do sales meetings. And with the fate of our holiday selling business on the line, I was given the marching orders to do this meeting up really big. Oh, and get creative.

Siiiiigh. I like to think of myself as a creative person, but the muse is temperamental and doesn’t like being on anyone’s timeframe but her own. So, to have to be creative is a bit daunting. And, hey, it’s only my job on the line, which doesn’t add any stress to the situation, right? Add to that, the minutia of putting together an event—the little bitty details no one thinks about or even knows about, but if they don’t get executed the big picture falls apart like a house without nails.

It’s like writing my masterpiece while at the same time heartlessly editing it. Like giving the creative muse free reign but then questioning everything. And it’s exhausting.

Okay, enough of my self-pity-party. By the time you read this, the meeting will be in full swing. As of this writing, everything is in order and as ready as it can be. All the company grand-poobahs are appropriately impressed with my preparations. And all I have to do is keep from tripping over my Greek Goddess costume. Plus, because the industry I work is has its benefits: there will be alcohol served.
As long a lunch shows up on time, I’m golden.

So the stress and pressure (and lack of writing) which has consumed me these last few weeks are over and I can get back to some semblance of normal. But it makes me wonder who else has to re-direct their muse, either occasionally or all the time? And how do you do it without going crazy?

Thursday, September 22

Thoughts in Autumn

I woke up in fall this morning. There was a nip in the air and I had to put on slippers. Kinda digging it. 

Won't last long as it's supposed to be close to 90 on Monday. But, today it feels like fall.

Okay, that's all I got this morning. Might have to venture into stream-of-conscious post.

Butterflies make me happy. I don't know if they always did, but ever since I started writing Ana's story, they inspire me.

I think I'm going to bake some Pumpkin Cheesecake Snickerdoodles today. 

I've decided that Hallmark movies are my guilty pleasure. Really looking forward to the October batch that are coming. And I've also been enjoying Chesapeake Shores on Sundays. 

I watched the premiere of This Is Us and didn't see the end coming. I'm eager to see where this show goes in the coming weeks. 

I love the idea of a owning a little free library. But, the cost to buy one is out of my budget and I'm not much of a carpenter--I think I'll need more than the hammer and nails I have at my disposal. 

When all else fails, I braid my hair. Apparently, a lot's been failing, because I seem to be braiding my hair more lately. Hmmm 

I still want to paint some rocks. Jordan and I bought some a couple of weeks ago and they are still on a card table out on my patio. Talk about procrastination. 

Vancouver "Rocks" is up to almost 25K members and they seem to be planting rocks in the community in force the last couple of days. I wonder if people feel more inclined to share goodness when there's more badness on the airwaves???

And this is where I leave you.  Enjoy the first day of Autumn and may the good trounce the bad.

Wednesday, September 21

Let's Sing Together!

So every once in a while I post about a few of my favorite things (insert Julie Andrews and those little hooligans dressed up in old curtains, singing loudly here)...and since today I have music on my mind, it's a musical favorite things post -- one that I hope y'all have fun with, too, because it's filled with earworms. Don't worry, we're not going to the bad side of the earworm, these are the songs you just can't not sing along with...and if they get stuck awhile, it's okay.

Written primarily because I've had the Mamma Mia soundtrack stuck in my head for...oh, the past 48 hours. No reason. Haven't watched the movie or listened to the soundtrack in ages. It's just there. In my head like the earworm it is. Dancing Queen is fading into Money, Money, Money as I write this. And, being the kind soul I am, I'm sharing. bwahahahaha! So here are a few of my favorite songs:

3. (and not just because it's in my head right now) Honey Honey ~ Mamma Mia: I was too young to get ABBA the first time around, so in my head, this isn't a cover...and neither is the original. I love 'em both equally, but I have to admit the movie version is the one I hear most often in my head. What I like about this song is the end, when she is standing on the balcony and her voice gets softer...and you know, she's not thinking about a love affair. What she wants is to put a face to a person who has been missing from her life for a long time. Play the clip below, you know you want to:

2. Magic ~ The Cars: This is probably one of my favorite 80s songs...although, again, too young to remember it the first time around. It doesn't hurt that RadioMan is a HUGE Cars fan, but there is just something fun and young and summery about this song. So when winter days get too long or work gets a little boring, I crank up this song and things immediately start to look better.

1. Whenever, Wherever ~ Shakira: Okay, you guys got me. I'm a pop girl. If I'm not listening to country, it's pop, and I'm good with that. I love the beat of this one - my feet start tapping and pretty soon I'm be-bopping around the house. I just can't sit still when Shakira comes on...and here's your clip:

There you have it: 3 of my favorite, spill, which songs always make you get up and dance (and sing along with that hairbrush-microphone), even if they do get stuck in your head...for just a little while?

Tuesday, September 20

Reflections on a Gift of Vacations . . . and Friendship

It was two weeks ago that Liz and I left for our Michigan vacation/writers retreat. I had a glorious week, enjoying first of all, Liz’s company. We are very companionable travelers and it’s rare to find someone you can travel with well. Our clocks are pretty much in sync, so one of us isn’t sleeping late while the other rises at the crack of dawn. Neither of us are particularly night owls, so we pretty much crashed each night at about the same time. Our energy levels are on par and we both enjoy walking, even though the weather was almost too sultry to go outside much during the day—unusual in Michigan. We’ve vowed to make our trip be later or earlier in the year next year to avoid uncomfortable extremes of weather.

The river walk was delightful and I loved walking along the bluff above the lake, watching the waves and the brave souls who wind-surfed or swam. I wasn’t quite bold enough to go into the icy water this trip. As a kid, I learned to swim in Lake Michigan and although I remember the water being cold, I don’t remember letting that stop me from forging into the surf. Age, on the other hand, occasionally stops me from doing stuff I did as a kid. We enjoyed visiting the Maritime Museum, a boat ride up the Black River, and trying new dishes at several nice restaurants in South Haven.

This trip was different because instead of staying in hotels, we rented a cottage, and I have to say, I liked that. Having our own kitchen, spreading our laptops and notes out on the dining room table, being able to get up in the morning, make a pot of coffee, and sit in our pjs to talk and write was incredibly freeing. So much so that I freed myself from the confines of Willow Bay and started a brand new story. 

We got to bounce ideas off one another and as Liz pointed out, although we both read aloud in the privacy of our offices at home, sharing what we’d written with each other was great. At one point or another, each of us was heard to say things like, “I need a word for . . .” and “Does this sound awkward?” or “Listen, what do you think?” Brainstorming story lines or character arcs, figuring out exactly how much is too much backstory and whether or not a plot line is believable while you’re actually writing just works for me. 

There aren’t very many people I could do this kind of trip with—writing and relaxing and talking—man oh man, did we talk. Not just about writing, but about everything and that was another true blessing of traveling with Liz. She listens, offers wisdom, doesn’t judge, and even if we don’t come from the same place, we usually always end up in the same place on any given subject. Each time we travel, we discover something new that we have in common and we never ever run out of topics to discuss. I’m looking forward to next year—maybe doing something different and taking two shorter trips—one in spring and one in fall—because even though we had a wonderful time, both of us missed the spouses terribly.
The trip was a gift, but more important, the friendship is a gift—one that I never expected to get so late in my life. Thanks for a terrific time, Liz! Looking forward to next year!