Time Marches On – Time to Renew Commitments

Clock tower on a 19th century brick building in Carson City, Nevada. A visual reminder of the passage of time.
Clock Tower on the Laxalt Building, Carson City, Nevada
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Another Month

Time waits for no one. The tick of the clock is relentless. Grabbing every possible moment is key to achieving goals, whatever those might be. Each tick of the clock is potential. As month three of 2019 begins, the lesson is coming home to me more than ever. Time continues to march on despite my desire for things to slow down.

Time to Recommit

Each new moment is an opportunity to recommit to goals. No need to wait until tomorrow, next Monday, next month, or the New Year. My new motto “the time is now” is my mantra as I push forward to achieve my goals. Posting this thought over every surface I see on a regular basis will be a means of reinforcing the idea.

No Pressure

Artificial deadlines hinder my progress. While some authors plan out their goals in minute detail, this doesn’t work for me. My new attempt to be productive will be to just open one of my WIPs each and every day and see where that takes me. Writing, re-writing, editing, or adding to an outline will all help me to progress toward my ultimate goal of finishing the projects.

Accountability

So each Wednesday, I’ll post on this blog to hold myself accountable. No word counts or deadlines for the time being – just the fact that I’ve worked on one of my projects at least once per day for at least thirty minutes. The current goal is to build writing routine back into my day.

Nothing New to See Here

Also, anyone interested in tracking my procrastination progress can check out these other posts: Time Thief, Day by Day, or Why Write. For some time now, I’ve struggled to get much writing done.

So what are your writing issues?

Maybe sharing them with each other will allow us the opportunity to help each other out. Suggestions are also welcome here.

Paperback Writer

‘Paperback Writer’ is one of my favorite Beatles’ songs and often serves as a source of both humor and inspiration to me. I listen to this one often, but didn’t think much about the lyrics until recently. If you’re not familiar with the song, you can check out the Wikipedia entry here.

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?

This is easy enough to understand. A simple question authors often send to someone they hope will be sympathetic to their work: an editor, a publisher, or a reader.

It took me years to write, will you take a look?

Again, simple and to the point. True, too, since a good book takes a long time to create. Writing is a huge commitment that isn’t for the faint of heart.

It’s based on a novel by a man named Lear

Many novels are based on the works of someone the author read and admired in the past. No surprise here.

And I need a job, so I want to be a paperback writer

This I find amusing. Many people feel they have at least one great novel in them. Most writers work a day job to pay the bills, so they’re considered hobbyists on the publishing front. Except for the ‘overnight successes’ who can give up the rat race to sit in their pajamas with a computer all day.

The reason I’ve been thinking about this so much is that I’ve been off track on the writing for a while now. My day job wears me out, which isn’t a good excuse if I truly want to write since the only writing time available to me is after work. People committed to writing and publishing will get in a few minutes of creative time no matter how hectic their schedules. My plan (again) is to commit to my art in the coming year.

My hope is to be able to ask you the immortal question from the beginning of this song some time this year: Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?

After all, I want to be a Paperback Writer!

Oscar and Me

Over the years, I’ve lived a life based on the philosophy of Lucy Ricardo on I Love Lucy. Lucy inspired me to try outrageous things. Given the chance, I’ve checked a few exploits off my own list: stomping grapes (done), meeting celebrities (done), acting in a movie (done).

A Huge Television and Movie Fan

I watched classic movies and shows on repeat countless times throughout my childhood. Lucy, Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch, The Beverly Hillbillies, etc. You name a show and I’ve seen most, if not all, the episodes multiple times. The fact that I started living like Lucy is a direct result of how much I enjoyed watching sitcoms. Which is explains I’m holding an Oscar statuette in the photo below.

2008 Reno Film Festival

The statuette I’m holding is real; won by Michael Semanick for Best Sound Mixing on Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2004. Mr. Semanick brought his award to the Reno Film Festival (RFF) during my time as volunteer coordinator for the event. We spent a few enjoyable minutes talking about his experiences with the movie before they took the photo.

I first attended the RFF in their second year of existence. In the course of my day job, I’d met the woman who coordinated volunteers at that time, and she recruited me for the following year. Another year later, I found myself in charge when she decided to step down.

Unexpected Experiences

My involvement in the RFF led to more interesting adventures. Cast members of American Graffiti applauded me, screenwriter Shane Black signed a Lethal Weapon movie ticket for me (a one-of-a-kind autograph!), and the festival screened the movie in which I was an extra. Getting my picture taken with good ‘ole Oscar was icing on a very rich and satisfying cake.

All good things must come to an end and I stopped working with the RFF for various reasons. This doesn’t mean I’ve given up my desire to try outrageous things whenever possible. I also haven’t given up on the dream of someday being photographed with my own Oscar – earned for either acting or screenwriting (I’m not picky).

Since nothing much out-of-the-ordinary has happened of late, the itch is building again. In the meantime, I’ll continue to watch TV and movies, work at my day job, play with my grandsons, read, write…and dream.

A romantic touch.

The Best Gift: A Valentine Vignette

Loud voices and thumps filled the cramped compartment as she waited her turn to escape the uncomfortable seat. Switching her phone off airplane mode, she received her first message. Welcome home!

Her face warmed as she smiled. She couldn’t help herself. As the impatient queue surrounded her, she typed a response. Can’t wait to see you.

Get here as soon as possible, appeared on her screen right away. Be safe. LYL

LY2 SYS

She tucked the phone into the back pocket of her jeans and stood, head bowed beneath the overhead unit. An older woman motioned her into an open space in the aisle.

“Thank you.” Reaching up, she grabbed her bag from the luggage compartment, careful not to knock anyone in her vicinity unconscious. She stepped into the line.

The woman behind leaned close. “Heading home?”

She threw a quick smile over her shoulder. “Yeah. Been a while. I’m eager to get there.”

“You must have a hot date tonight.”

Why on earth would she say that? Am I so transparent?

The realization hit her like a ton of bricks. She’d been on the road since right after the holidays and hadn’t paid attention to the date. Her phone confirmed her fear. February 14th.

“Sure do,” she responded. “I hope you have fun plans.”

The woman laughed. “Got a date with my cat and my knitting. Been away from both for too long – though I always enjoy visiting the grandkids.”

They soon reached a flight attendant who ushered them out with a cheerful, “Thank you for flying Northwest Air.”

“Thank you,” she said, mind racing. Her love would be waiting at home, something special at the ready, while she’d forgotten.

As they entered the terminal, her companion wished her a wonderful Valentine’s Day.

“Have fun with kitty,” she replied.

“She’ll be all over my lap. Add a roaring fire and a nice cup of tea. A perfect night.”

“Sounds like heaven.”

They parted ways with a smile and a wave. As the older woman disappeared into the teeming throngs, she almost envied her. Not that she didn’t want to see her husband. They’d been apart much too long. Yet the thought of a hot bath and bed sounded divine. Especially since she’d forgotten to bring him a surprise.

She hurried into a shop to see if she might find a romantic gift. How could she have forgotten? Sure, she’d been caught up in endless meetings, trying to sell their big idea to angel investors. She still should have remembered the day. The love of her life awaited her at home. He’d been working just as hard as she had and deserved a token of her affection.

The display space beneath a heart-shaped sign sat empty, the advertised wrapped gifts for ‘someone special’ already long gone. Nothing else jumped out at her. She didn’t want a souvenir from their home city, for heaven’s sake, because that would just be tacky.

The displays in each shop she passed, at least the ones she could afford, were all cleaned out. No flowers, no chocolates, nothing except expensive electronics. No romance for sale.

She checked the time and found she’d lingered too long already. He’d be worried and waiting. Rushing out into the cold evening air, she hurried to a waiting taxi.

“Where to?” asked the cabbie as she climbed in.

“The Park Tower Apartments, please.”

The driver started the meter and drove into traffic.

Sitting back, she closed her eyes, trying to recall whether she’d bought anything fun during her time on the road. Nothing came to mind. She hadn’t even swiped hotel notepads and pens.

They passed a few florists and grocery stores. She pondered stopping for a quick bouquet…then realized she’d either have a running meter or the need to find another mode of transportation. Neither option seemed good.

Maybe she had a hostess gift left over from Christmas?

None that she could remember.

The taxi drew up in front of her building and she paid the driver before climbing out. After taking a deep breath of the chill air, she stepped into the lobby. Only five more flights to her love.

They’d both been busy. He wouldn’t mind…would he?

Her heart pounded and stomach fluttered as the elevator carried her upward. She dug out her keys while walking the hallway to the apartment.

The door opened.

“Babe!” Her husband reached out.

She melted into his arms. He smelled of Old Spice and hair gel with a touch of musk. A sigh of contentment escaped her. He wore jeans and a pullover sweater they’d bought on a trip to Ireland many years before, when they’d been younger and more impulsive. They had no money for expensive vacations until their dream launched. If they achieved financial success.

After several minutes he released her, reaching out to shut the door behind them.

She looked around to find he’d cleaned the place up. “Smells wonderful. Did you cook?”

He set her bag by the doorway to the bedroom and motioned at their small table. “Dinner courtesy of Pizza Heaven.”

On a red-and-white checked tablecloth he’d placed a couple plates topped with folded napkins. Wine glasses and a bottle of her favorite vintage reflected the light of battery-operated candles. The pizza sat in the center of the tableau, on one of their best serving plates. “Looks heavenly.”

He seated her and picked up her napkin. A ring box sat in the center of her plate. Trembling fingers went to her lips. He’d remembered!

“What’s wrong?” He knelt at her side.

She burst into tears.

He pulled her to the sofa and took her in his arms. “Whatever I did, I’m sorry.”

She ran her fingers through the curls at the nape of his neck as she sobbed into his shoulder.

“This isn’t like you. Did something happen on the road?”

Unable to speak, she shook her head. How could she tell him she’d forgotten Valentine’s Day when he’d done so much? He’d think she didn’t feel about him the way he felt about her.

He tilted her face and kissed the tears from her cheeks. “You must be exhausted.” He squeezed her tight. “I’m so glad you’re home. I’ve missed you, babe.”

The warmth of his embrace filled her with peace. As her sobs faded away, she took a shaky breath, dabbing at her eyes with the cuff of her shirt. “I’m sorry I didn’t get you anything…”

“Is that what’s bothering you?” He took her face in his hands and looked deep into her eyes. “I don’t care about stuff. You know that.” He again pulled her close. “This is all I need.” He kissed the top of her head and rested his cheek against her hair.

A wave of love washed over her. She snuggled closer.

Taking a deep breath, he murmured, “You’re the best gift of all.”

Valentine

The Day by Day Routine

A routine is the performance of the same task over and over. So much of our life is mindless: wake up, eat, work, sleep, repeat. We don’t really think about any of those tasks, do we? That’s because we’ve done these things so often they’ve become a part of who we are. Yet any activity can oh-so-easily slip through the cracks until it’s no longer a part of the routine – which is just what happened with me and my writing.

Blending Seasons

“You will never ‘find’ time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.” Charles Buxton

The above quote from a calendar at the office where I spend my days really spoke to me. Time is one of our most precious commodities. I often feel life passing by in a blinding flash of mindless routine. This means I often don’t get to enjoy a lot of the pastimes, like writing, that I once favored. Writing is high on the list of the activities I’d like to begin enjoying again.

Making time.

I’ve decided I want to set aside just a few minutes each day to work on something writing-related. My first step will be to spend a half hour each day at my desk. Thirty minutes isn’t much to ask. If I then want to stare into space I can, though chances are good that I’d rather continue working on whatever project I’ve started instead.

New routines are created by performing the same task over and over for a set period of time. I’m starting my journey to this new routine by sitting at my computer, here and now, to write this blog post. When tomorrow comes, I plan to sit here again to either work on character development or write, if only a paragraph or two. The next day, I’ll do the same again. I’ll do my best to continue on this path over and over again, day by day, until a new routine is formed.

 

Why Write? A Tale of Procrastination and Progress.

Why write?

Or, more specifically, why do I want to write?

I’ve asked myself this question a lot. Over the past few years, I’ve been trapped in a cycle of self-doubt. Disgust washes over me whenever I re-read any writing I’ve managed during that time. This has led me to a series of activities that I convinced myself were writing related: reading, watching AuthorTube videos, plotting, planning, daydreaming. You know…all the basics of procrastination.

Anything but writing. Even though I have an awesome work space (see below), complete with a sign warning away people who dare try to distract me – which honestly isn’t too hard to do!

why writeThe good news.

Watching YouTube videos (#authortube) helped me realize all writers suffer from self-doubt. I need to stop being so hard on myself. No first draft will ever match the masterpiece I imagine. Work needs to be done to hone the raw material into something worthy of publication. This is one reason to write: the challenge of turning a stone into a sparkling gem. And this is an enjoyable challenge. I just need to remember that the first things to flow from fingers to keyboard to screen aren’t the ones that may one day go out into the world. There’s no need to feel disgusted by a first draft. My new #authortube friends have been a great help in teaching me this important lesson, and for that I’m very grateful. This, in turn, helped me to answer the “why write” question.

Why else would I write?

As a child, I walked to school alone most every day. This gave me a lot of quiet time to create stories in my head. These tales were most often built upon a favorite TVshow and character. The habit of rewriting and expanding upon television programs carried over into adulthood, when I started typing some of these thoughts in manuscript form. In other words, I began creating fan fiction because I like to answer the eternal “what if” question. If a show didn’t quite end the way I liked, I could create an alternate version, which has become a very popular pastime for a lot of people. Chances are that you, dear reader, have done the same thing at one time or another.

Fun, isn’t it?

The problem.

I’ve come to realize one of the reasons I’ve had trouble writing is I’m now creating original fiction instead of building upon already-established characters. My new friends aren’t as fully-formed as the ones I once wrote about. So I’m having more trouble picturing how their stories might play out. This isn’t a bad thing, really. Bringing unknown characters to life can be quite a challenge (there’s that word again). With these new people, new situations, and sometimes even new worlds, I have the opportunity to share the stories important to me. This can be powerful and heady stuff when done right…or write, as the case may be.

Why write?

The short answer for me seems to be that I like a challenge. Of course, this challenge can also be so daunting as to lead to an extended period of writers’ block. The reason I want to write is also the reason I fear writing. Am I up to the challenge of creating something others might want to read?

That’s not the question I should have been asking myself. What I should ask is whether or not there’s a story I want to tell. Do I want to challenge myself to create characters and worlds I find entertaining? If so, that’s answer enough for the question. No one else need ever care about these stories, though some part of me will always hope others might also enjoy them.

What about you?

Why write? What inspires and motivates you?

If you’re having trouble with your own writing, think about those questions. Use some of your procrastination time to consider why writing is important to you. Check out the #authortube channel on YouTube. If you’re interested, try out some of my favorites: Kristen Martin, Vivian Reis, Kim Chance, Su Scribes, Joanne Mallory, and Jenna Moreci. These are only a few of the people I follow, and chances are you may find others that I haven’t yet discovered.

Most important of all…

Image result for writing quotes

Luck for All & All for Luck

Luck (from Dictionary.com): good fortune, advantage or success, considered as the result of chance.

Luck is something people wish each other all the time. The problem is, traditional notions of luck may lead to negativity due to the element of chance. In March of 2018, Scientific American published this interesting article by Scott Barry Kaufman about how luck may be a bigger factor in life than we often realize. Kaufman lists findings related to the achievement of success, like country of residence or how a name looks or sounds.

While these elements may be part of the equation, I believe redefining luck may also lead to success in life…and in the art of writing.

L = Love

Everyone experiences love. We may not all feel the emotion the same way. Yet each of us loves someone: a parent, friend, significant other, our even ourselves. We may love our work, a hobby, the earth, or life in general.  As the song goes: It’s written on the wind, it’s everywhere I go. (from Love is All Around).

Some writers love what they do so much they don’t care if their work is popular; the act of creation is reward enough. Others love the idea of achieving best seller status without putting in the work necessary to make the dream a reality and become disillusioned when they don’t achieve their greatest desire. The former writer will most often be happier than the latter because of the element of love.

U = Understanding

Galileo said: All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them. Understanding comes with familiarity. We can all learn a lesson by watching how children often repeat an experience over and over until they’ve mastered the task. People who are serious about learning something are willing to put in the work necessary to achieve a comfortable level of understanding. Even in maturity, adults can continue to learn and grow.

Understanding how to write well is difficult. As mentioned above, many wanna-be writers don’t have the drive to put in the time necessary to master the art. Loving what they do enough to achieve understanding is an important factor in achieving success.

C = Compassion

Most of us feel sympathy toward someone who’s facing a situation we’ve experienced for ourselves. While we can’t always ease pain, we may try to do something for them because someone helped, or didn’t help, us in our time of need. To quote the Dalai Lama, If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. 

While we don’t all experience life in the same way, I believe creating characters to whom readers can show compassion helps to enhance the reading experience. This is a great way to expand horizons in the hope that those readers may show more compassion to people they’re dealing with out in the world.

K = Kindness

A simple smile, a compliment, or even holding open a door can be a kindness. Being nice to someone doesn’t have to take much time or effort. No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted (Aesop).

While equating writing with kindness may be a stretch, think about how often reading a book can make a bad day more bearable for a reader. Entertaining and inspiring authors provide a kindness. Popular authors like JK Rowling are often kind to their fans in more personal ways, too.

Looking at luck in this new way can be transformational.

Thinking of luck as a way of being loving, understanding, compassionate, and kind instead of just as an indicator of random chance can improve life in unimaginable ways. We all need more of this in our lives. Learning more about the ‘other’ who we may distrust is a good way of finding common ground and understanding. Showing kindness during disagreements helps diffuse tension. Being compassionate to someone else can ease our own pain.

And the world can never have too much love.

For those of us who write, following these principles will add depth to our work. Having our characters show some or all of these traits helps our readers relate to them. And using the components of ‘luck’ may just inspire us to write that best-seller.

Luck for all and all for luck!

Romantic Living Or How to Inspire Romance

Romantic Living

Creating the romantic life can be easy. For example, I enjoy spending quiet time with my husband. Sharing a candlelit meal at home is special, too. Even handwriting a note to say “I love you, have a good day,” can inspire romance.

Romantic Dinner.

I’ve spend a lot of time thinking about the subject because I’ve always loved reading romances. Now, I’ve also started writing them. So I did a little research into the meaning of the word romantic to get a better background for my work in progress and here’s what I found. This not only benefits my writing, of course, but also how I’m living my life. The little things I’ve started doing are ones that inspire romance for me. You’ll need to figure out what touches do that for you. Personalization is key.

The Romantic Adjective

A variety of meanings for the adjective form of the word can be found on Dictionary.com. These include: a desire for adventure, a preoccupation with love, displaying or expressing love or strong affection, ardent, passionate, fervent.

Enduring Thoughts of Romance

To prove this is a topic I’ve thought about for awhile, you can look back at my earlier post Romance in Real LifeI still feel the same way about the subject that I did when I wrote that post, but I’ve also refined my thoughts a bit. The little things are just as important now as they were then. I’ve just added to them.

For example, I now make breakfast each weekday morning. To create a romantic atmosphere, I serve our morning juice in wine or champagne glasses. Seasonal decor brightens our eat-in kitchen table and a wax-melt light wafts a light scent over us as we eat. These are little, inexpensive touches that make the idea of facing the outside world a little more bearable. This is just one of the many ways I’ve chosen to live the romantic life. Hopefully, this might inspire you to try out a few ideas of your own.

And remember…

Romantic decor.

 

Inspiration: A Global Search

Inspiration Around the World

Inspiration at Blarney Castle

Inspiration for my current writing project came in the form of second trip to the Emerald Isle where lush greenery abounds beneath often leaden skies. Castles and cathedrals dot the misty landscapes. History and romance go hand-in-hand wherever you turn.

The project mentioned above is the third piece of a travel romance series where the main novels follow the journey of self-discovery of Lilibet Travance. The offshoot books branch off into tales of others who relate to her in some way. Writing travel romances leads, of course, to more travel! A win/win for both me and my readers.

However, not all the future books may be based on recent trips. Another source of global background could be mined from my memories of living in Japan. My family’s experiences in the Land of the Rising Sun provide fascinating fodder for romance.

Inspiration Around the Block

Inspiration in Northern Nevada

While not as green as Ireland, northern Nevada also inspires creativity. The trail shown above is just a few miles from my house. Here the scent of sage and snow hang heavy on the air. Birds of prey circle overhead. Wind whistles through barren branches and pushes clouds across the endless sky.

These views define the bulk of the first portion of an epic series. Lil’s experiences in the Wild West and beyond underscore the changes she faces after leaving her home and family in the Midwest. Landscapes both at home and abroad serve not only as background, but as a means of self-exploration. In the end, physical travel serves as a metaphor for her emotional journey.

For more regular posts about my works-in-progress and inspiring landscapes, check out my social media. I can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Life in the New Year – Looking Back to Look Forward

Looking Back

The author in 1979

About three years after this photo, I graduated high school, married, and moved off to start a new life. The young couple soon became a family of five. At the ripe old age of twenty-five, and a stay-at-home mom to three kids, I found myself in desperate need of some intellectual stimulation at an adult level. I started writing romantic stories with an eye to a career as an author.

The image above from about forty years ago now, during my junior year of high school, reminds me just how much I miss creating music. I’ve still got the violin and the memories of how to play. The feeling of the bow, the smell of rosin, and the sound of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik are as familiar now as they were then. My love of music hasn’t diminished over the long years since. The young girl in the picture remains deep inside. She just matured into someone who didn’t make time to pursue a once-favored activity

Romances morphed into TV tie-ins (glorified fan-fic!) for my favorite show. This attempt at publication attracted the attention of a well-respected editor at a well-known publishing company. Despite a face-to-face meeting with the aforementioned editor, the book didn’t quite make the top of the publishing pile and TV show (and novelizations) ended. My writing attempts continued unabated until the need for a second income led me to take a day job. Between work and kids, I didn’t write as often, but still managed a few words here and there for quite some time.

Here and Now

The kids are now grown and out of the house so I’ve plenty of time to write after work, yet I haven’t done so on a regular basis. Camp Nano and Nanowrimo aside, my attempts to finish a manuscript haven’t gone far, despite the little voice in my head telling me I’m still the same person who once attracted the attention of that editor. This is a change I plan to make in the new year.

Looking Forward

Who Knows What Tomorrow Will Bring?

The road in the photo above looks like it either dead-ends or fades into the dirt path. Does the asphalt continue? The driver will not know until they go on. This picture is a lot like life in that no one knows what tomorrow will bring. We can only follow the road until we find the way to our destination.

With this in mind, my plan of action for the new year is to take each day as it comes. I’ll follow the road until I find whether this path will head the way I hope to go. If not, I’ll find another route, like the unmarked trail with the potential for adventure. If I have to turn around, I will. The one thing I won’t do is stop at side of the road – and certainly not in the middle – to wait for guidance. The resulting boredom and inactivity are not pleasant.

Musician me will seek out my old violin and practice again whenever I get the chance. Whether or not that someday leads me to audition for the local community orchestra is on the other side of the hill.

Writer me has once again started my vehicle to make the slow drive toward those hills. Creating this blog post has moved me the first few feet forward. The road ahead looks quiet. Of course, potholes aren’t often visible until too late, but that’s something to worry about when the time comes. My current view is smooth enough for me to get at least as far as the point where the road vanishes. I’ll handle whatever I find once I get there.