Tag Archives: motivation

Life After the Six-Fingered Man

Inigo Montoya: Is very strange. I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it’s over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.

Westley: Have you ever considered piracy? You’d make a wonderful Dread Pirate Roberts.


The goal of every aspiring writer is to be published.

Maybe that publication comes in the form of a review, an op-ed, an article, a short story, or–*gasp*–even a NOVEL. Hooray! You’ve finally published a novel!

Now what do you do with your life?

Welcome to the Inigo Montoya Dilemma. In The Princess Bride, Inigo dedicated his life to hunting down the six-fingered man who killed his father. After the six-fingered man was dead (spoilers!), Inigo found himself at a loss as to what to do next.

I think every one of us feels that moment in life–after college, after children,  after the marathon, what have you. Writers especially are keenly aware of this. They publish the novel, and then have to create a new benchmark, a new personal goal that motivates them to keep moving forward.

Otherwise, why would we keep writing?

Some of the benchmarks are obvious: Hit the USA bestseller list. Hit #1 on the NYT bestseller list. Win a [award of your choice] Award.

Some of the benchmarks are more personal: Be invited into an anthology by your favorite editor. Have a cover designed by your favorite artist. Have lunch with one of your literary heroes.

I was talking about this mental list I constantly have running in my head to one of the Mermaids and thought: Why not write that down and share it? Why not see what others would include as *their* benchmarks?

So that’s the game, today. I’ll start, and you guys include your picks in the comments. Ready?

Earn out your advance
Write a sequel
Hit the NYT bestseller list
Hit #1 on the NYT bestseller list
See your book in a bookstore
Spot a stranger reading your book in a public location
Chat–as a peer–with one of your literary heroes
Sell a book based only on a pitch
Publish a book outside your original genre
Qualify for Active membership in a national writers organization
Win a major award
Get fan mail
Have a fan bring you presents to a book signing
Have a fan cry with joy at meeting you
Get invited to be Guest of Honor at a convention/conference
Give a keynote speech
Give a TED talk

Okay…now it’s your turn! What else would you add to this list?


Image How can it possibly be August already? Vacations are winding down, and before we know it the kidlets will be back in school. Orientations, school supply shopping, and Back to School nights are right around the corner. As well as soccer/ football/ cheerleading/ field hockey practice/ symphony rehearsals/ robotics and homework. But this year my children aren’t the only ones preparing for a change in schedule and workload… Due to furloughs and the skyrocketing costs of college (I have two teenage daughters) I will be returning to work full time in the very near future. In addition to writing, this summer I have been taking online classes to increase my marketablility in preparation for this eventuality. I don’t mind returning to the workforce. In fact, most writers have a “day job.” But this summer, between the kids, the online classes and certifications, preparing and shopping my resume and trying to fit in writing time… I’ll be honest—my brain is full.

Image 3Every year we take a few days to get away, relax and chill out. This year I’ve been looking forward to this family time for weeks. As a last hurrah, we are living it up at Massanutten Resort this week. I’ve enjoyed spending time with family, long walks, movies. I’m even reading “Shanna” by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. Again. What can I say? It’s a beloved classic, and one of the many books that cemented my love of romance.  But the thing that I loved the most about this week was canoeing down the Shenandoah River with my family. That may not be everyone’s idea of relaxing, but for me, a peaceful day on the river soaking up some rays sounds about perfect.

photoIt doesn’t matter whether I’m overwhelmed with kid stuff, job stuff, or the WIP that I loved three weeks ago that has now come to a screeching halt. Taking a time out from real life helps me clear my mind and regain my sanity. And often, my inspiration.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a weeklong vacation in the islands (okay, it really does matter if I’m not invited!), or hanging out with friends for a few hours and enjoying a bottle of wine. It’s amazing how taking a step back helps me see the bigger picture and hear what my characters are telling me. I find when I step away for a short time and contemplate my story—because let’s face it, a creative person’s brain never sleeps. In fact, most days mine is Image 2set to turbo juggling two thousand ideas at once—that I figure out the best way to refine my character’s motivation, how to up the conflict, or decide who’s POV is going to give the most punch to a particular scene. And that is when the magic happens… when I go back to the computer and my fingers fly over the keyboard.


What about you? What do you do to unwind, de-stress, and get yourself back on track?

Why Am I Doing This?

I can’t say much about what’s going on in my writing life lately, but I can tell you that I’ve been working harder than ever. Getting up almost two hours earlier so I can have writing time before my day job, squeezing in a little writing at lunch and even jotting notes down while I watch TV at night. Writing on public transportation, writing during vacations, writing on weekends. Writing. Writing. Writing….

I’m exhausted. Although, I’m accomplishing A LOT.

But something happened recently that I can’t share (damn, I’m full of secrets today) that made me pause and ask myself: Why am I really doing this?  The Diva Kerr-ina Continue reading

My Big Fat Lazy Summer

There are so many things I’m supposed to do by the end of this month. I set myself some goals, people!

And here’s what happens when people like myself set goals…

…they don’t happen. I tend to overwhelm myself to such a degree that I end up accomplishing a big fat pile of zilch.

When I went to Nationals this summer, I walked away feeling reenergized (kinda). I walked away with some new information that would make me a more organized writer. I walked away with the tools needed to put my goals into action.
I really just walked (or waddled) away ten pounds heavier. Seriously.

I’m stressed, people! I’m unable to stop putting food in my mouth. I guess part of that I can blame on the lazy days of summer and the fact that I drove cross-country with my five kids who couldn’t gain a pound if they tried. So, yes. I admit that some of my extra poundage can be tossed at the feet of the hotels with free breakfasts. But, on the other hand, where can I toss the remainder of that weight?

This got me thinking yesterday of why I’ve gained the weight. I came to the conclusion that I just don’t care. And that sometimes happens when I feel overwhelmed with big goals.

I’m perfectly well aware that I should stop whining about revising my books and actually revise them. It’s easy to say. It should even be easier now with my organizational strategies and my collection of index cards at the ready. But, part of my problem is that I’ve always sucked at organization—in any way.

When a writing friend tells me that she’s broken down her book into scenes and is working on them one at a time, I’m jealous. I don’t even know how to break my books into scenes that I can organize—either on paper or in my head. I just like to write. I like to create. I don’t like to organize those thoughts. Therein lies my problem.

At home, I eat because it’s better than cleaning out closets. Or organizing the drawers in my kitchen. Or sorting through the mountain of shoes that seems to multiply more than my kids.

And I see a pattern in my writing life as well as my personal life. I don’t like to organize or clean. I don’t know how to structure something into twelve acts or eight acts or put my characters on three-fold boards. I don’t have sticky notes. I don’t have lists. I don’t like to structure the hell out of things because I feel like it zaps all my creativity.

I’ve decided I need one of those life coaches. I need someone to walk around all day with me and grab my hand when I go to pick up the bag of chips. I need someone to take me by that same hand like a child and lead me to a three-fold board and some sticky notes and then tell me how to organize my books.

In the meantime, I’ll probably just continue to buy an ungodly amount of school supplies for my kids. I’ll probably play a little too much Bubble MegaShift on my phone. I’ll play too much Clue with my kids. And I’ll definitely pick up that bag of chips.

I keep hearing everyone give some awesome motivational quotes on this blog, and I’d like to print them out and put them somewhere, but I wouldn’t know where. I don’t even have a writing area. I write at my sticky kitchen table.

So, I’ll leave you with a quote today:
“Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.”—Sam Keen.

Now, I’m off to find a respectable laziness quote for the fall. And winter. And probably spring, too.

So, what about you? How do organize your life best? Do you find it easier to organize your characters or yourself? Character settings or your own?

Someone, take me by the hand!

Lessons from the Playground

Recently, when I went to pick up my children from school, my five-year-old daughter burst out of the classroom, leaped into my arms, and buried her face in my neck. When I asked her what was wrong, she said her best friend had told her, “I don’t like you anymore.”

Wow. It’s hard enough to hear this kind of sentiment as an adult. But for a sensitive five-year-old who has never experienced rejection? Devastating.

I’m happy to say it all blew over. After a little investigation and instruction from the moms, apologies were said, the girls hugged, and now they’re friends again.

Afterwards, my daughter and I came home and had a long talk. About friendships and strategies and coping mechanisms. And what struck me the most about this conversation was how wise I sounded. How, coming from an adult perspective, I could so clearly see the “right” solution to my child’s problems.

At the same time, I recognized I was being something of a hypocrite. Because, you see, the lessons I was trying to teach my daughter are the very ones with which I’ve been struggling.

Here are some of the things my daughter and I discussed:

1. You shouldn’t want to play with someone who doesn’t want to play with you.

So simple, right? So true. But if that’s the case, then why does rejection hurt so much? Whether it’s by an agent or an editor, a loved interest or a friend, rejection sucks. Big time. But it shouldn’t. Instead, we should just see the pass as information gained and move on with our lives.

For example, writers look for a literary agent in order to find an effective advocate for their work. If an agent does not love your work, then he/she, by definition, will not be an effective advocate. So you shouldn’t want to work with an agent who doesn’t want to work with you. Right? So simple. So true. And so much easier said than done.

2. If someone is mean to you, walk away.

It is so easy to get caught up in other people’s drama. To get drawn into an argument, to retaliate to their hurtful behavior. When the truth is, it is so much simpler to step away and focus on your own work, your own interests, your own family. I may have given this advice to my daughter as if it were truth, but it is something which I constantly have to remind myself.

3. If you want to have a friend, then you have to act like a friend.

I think we all learned this friendship adage a long time ago. I know I did. And yet, I am still learning the corollary: If you want to be a writer, then you have to act like a writer. That means, working on my manuscript, whether or not the muse strikes. It means being willing to do the hard stuff, the parts I may not particularly enjoy but that need to get done. It means getting up to write another day, no matter what blows have been dealt the day before.

4. Just because your friend wants to play with somebody else doesn’t mean she likes you any less.

This, perhaps, was the hardest truth for my daughter to swallow. In her mind, preference for another friend automatically equals rejection of her. As adults, we know better. Or do we? If the writing corollary were true (someone else’s success has no bearing on our own), then why, in the midst of our sincere excitement, do we feel that tiny twinge of, well, rejection when we hear another person’s good news? I honestly don’t know.

Maybe it’s human nature. Maybe it’s because our hearts and heads don’t always align. Or maybe these lessons from the playground are just ones that we continue to learn, every single day.

What do you think? What lessons do you continue to learn as an adult? Why is it so hard for our heart to follow what our minds know to be “true”? What is harder– dealing with friendship drama as a child, or having your dreams rejected as an adult?

Look Ma! I have a process!

I was torn about what to write about today. Life has been crazy for me lately and I’ve not had a lot of time to think about blogging here today.

Now, the stuff I’ve been doing is the fun stuff:  incorporating myself as a writing business, signing my contract with Entangled, getting new headshots taken (see one to the right), and filling out the cover art fact sheet for my book (my favorite question was the one that asked what I didn’t want on my book cover.  (The first thing that came to mind was, “cowboys, babies, and the Cialis bathtubs”)

I also received a rejection. Not fun. But after a one-night pity party with the Mermaids, I got back up on Seabiscuit and got to work. I sent that manuscript to another publisher and now I wait.

And the EDJ (evil day job) . . .  let’s not go there.  In fact, I don’t want to go there right now. Again, working through some stuff which will likely work out but it’s a pain getting there.

But, even with all this stuff needing to get done the thing I was struggling with was writing.  And, it was driving me crazy! See, I decided that I needed to change how I did this writing thing.


Not.  A. Clue.

So, I decided to monkey with the system and do it differently. Change it up. Get jiggy with it.

And, I couldn’t get it done. Couldn’t make progress. Nothing.

So, in a moment of brilliance I trashed everything I had done and went back to the tried a true.  I wrote my bulletized plot outline. I started on page one instead of in the middle. And . . . voila! . . . I was writing!

So, what’s the moral of that story?

Don’t mess with what’s working.  There is no set way to write a book. No right way. No wrong way

Just my way.

What’s yours?







UPDATE: Since so many people commented on my boots. Here they are up close. I love them . . .

The Subtraction

I am a busy person.

Yeah, yeah . . .  so are you, right?  We are all busy.  On my living-my-life list (it is so much more than just a “to do” list)  I fill many roles:   wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, band member, attorney, author, girl scout volunteer, basketball mom, mentor . . .  whew!  I really don’t know how I get it all done but, in the words of the very funny Ron White: “I’ve seen me do it!”

But, I’ve realized that while I’m trying to get it all done, there are some things I’m not doing very well.  And, really – what’s the point of that?  So, since I refuse to make resolutions, I decided to  make a change. I just didn’t know what to call it – and it seemed like something so momentous needed a name. All the biggies have a name, right?

The Apocalypse.

The Change.


So, I was reading the weekly newsletter from one of my favorite artists – Ali Edwards – and she was talking about subtracting things instead of adding things and it resonated with me. That is how I’ve been feeling since the New Year – what can I remove from my life to make room to experience other things more fully? I call it  . . .

The Subtraction.

Ali said it best: “Subtraction is not always about taking things away to make room for more. Sometimes it’s simply to create space. Space to breathe. Space to listen. Space to see.”

I. Love. That.

So, I’m making room to feel, see, and taste the things I really want to devote my energy towards:  family & friends, writing, art, physical fitness.  I’m getting control of things that detract from the space I am creating.  I’m scaling back on my internet time.  I’m declining requests to run things on various committees – I can serve on them and not be in charge.  I am cutting back on the amount of work I bring home.

So far, I’m seeing a great shift in my productivity and my attitude.  I’m less-stressed, I have written more words. I’m enjoying time with my family more.  I’m completing the P90X workout.  I’m scrapbooking (see some of my projects on this post).

It feels good.

Are you ready for “The Subtraction?”


Bad Boyfriends, Old Lovers and Ex-Husbands

Robin Mermaid’s post last week (Love It or List It? Nov. 17) got me thinking.  She had started with a book review, but then she mentioned an unfinished story that was haunting her.  She put aside a project that was giving her trouble when another idea caught her attention.  Now she’s had a chance to take another look at the unfinished manuscript and wonders if she dares to take it on again.  Can she fix it?  Will it change?  Do they have a future?

I know that story all too well, as I’ve had more than one abandoned (relationship) manuscript in a checkered, challenged and generally lackluster (dating) writing career.  There was the hero intent on restoring a vintage Tucker automobile.  The other hero who rode a motorcycle.  The heroine left at the altar (she kept the ring).  The flirtation with inspirational fiction.  The heroine escaping an abusive husband (no, not from personal experience!).

Not one of these stories saw daylight. The floppy disks and hard-drive files are long gone or reused for other projects.  But they all had their moment.  They all served their purpose.  Only one of those ideas has hopes of being resurrected (not the abusive husband!)

In being unfinished, abandoned, left behind or dropped, they are a lot like the bad boyfriends, old lovers or ex-husbands we may have experienced.  Those relationships taught me a lot (well, not the ex-husbands, since I’ve had just the One True Love).  But the others let me learn – about what love is, how to maintain it, how to know when it is over, how to survive its loss.  I certainly had plenty of boyfriends before meeting the OTL who can put up with just about anything.  I’ve dried my share of tears.  I’ve done plenty of mourning, for good relationships that faded and bad ones that cheated or lied and moved on.  Even when I didn’t want them to go.  And I learned.

The same ideas go with stories that start out well and then seem to just lose their zip.  Or have flaws that only show up after years of struggle.  Try as I might, they won’t behave and I can’t get them to change.  I’ve cried over those, too, and mourned them and wished they would come back.  We would make it work!

I believe now that those unfinished stories are lot like those bad boyfriends and old lovers.  They taught me to let go and not believe that I’m the best match for that work.  They also taught me how to write a better story.  There’s a lot of satisfaction in finally getting a scene right, a plot point made and achieving crisp dialogue.  I learned how to write better stories because of those pages.  Would I go back to them?  Not on your life.  And we won’t discuss the men.  For all you know, they’ll end up as characters in a future book…

Have you ever had a story that fought you, or seemed to misbehave when you thought you had it under control?  Did you ever just give up and move on?  What did you learn about yourself and your writing?  Or, did you find a way to compromise, so the two of you could have your own authorial HEA?








Love It or List It?

I am an unapologetic HGTV-slut.  I. Love. That. Channel.

It doesn’t matter what is on – I’ll watch anything – but my favorites are House Hunters and Property Virgins.  But, a new program has caught my eye and I’ll definitely be tuning in when it premieres later this month – Love It or Leave It.

The premise is that when homeowners live in a house long enough and they lose the lovin’ feeling the question pops up as to whether they renovate or move.  In this show, two real estate professionals take opposite viewpoints and try to convince the homeowner to either stay in their home or list it for sale.  I think it looks fabulous!

It also reminds me of a recent writing dilemma I had about an old, unfinished manuscript. Now, I’m a little type A (don’t snicker, those of you who know me well) and I just can’t leave things unfinished – it drives me crazy.  But, this ms started out so strong and then, like a literary barracuda, I was distracted by a bright shiny object and put it aside.

Now, here’s my confession: It was easy to put it to the side because I’d hit a snag in the ms, wasn’t feeling the love for it anymore and . . . well, the other story was SO shiny!

So, I recently pulled it out and took a look at it to see what I wanted to do with my poor little orphaned baby. It still has the problems I hated before and shockingly the little writing elf did not finish it for me as it languished on my hard drive.  Sigh.

So, what do I do?  I’m working on my NaNo project right now and that takes immediate priority. But November will end and I’ll finish my WIP and the orphan will still be sitting there.

I need to decide if it’s worth picking up or if I should just shelve it for a different time – which might be never. Do I love it?  Do I list it?

I honestly don’t have a clue.

Do you have any advice? Have you faced the same question about one of your babies? When is it time to let a book go?


Do You NaNo?

Welcome to November 1st, my watery denizens. You know what that means!

Yes, in writerly circles, November 1st marks the advent of NaNoWriMo— National Novel Writing Month. In short, those who sign up (I believe you can still sign up today) pledge to attempt to write 50,000 words in the month of November.

I’m not sure why November was chosen as opposed to say, August, when there are no Holidays and people are expected to go to parties and shop for the holiday season of their choice…but that wasn’t up to me.

My handle on NaNo (as it is affectionately called) is Princess Alethea. I will also be tweeting some of my progress and writing sprints under the #NaNoWriMo hashtag.

I have participated in NaNoWriMo every year since 2005, and I have yet to get to 50,000 words. But I still participate every year, and I am still proud when I look at my word count come December 1st.

Now, there are all sorts of theories about how NaNoWriMo should work. Like writing, THERE IS NO ONE WAY TO DO IT. Should you try to write 50,000 words this month? Absolutely. Should you commit seppuku if you do not achieve this goal? Of course not.The purpose of NaNoWriMo is to teach you to find that elusive BUTT in CHAIR state, and get used to it. In the month of November, you will feel what is like to be a full-time writer. If writing is your goal, these are good habits to have. If you are already a writer, these are good habits to remember. This is why I sign up and play the game, every single year.

A couple of things to address:

PLANNING: A lot of folks plan what they’re doing for NaNo prior to the month. They have an outline and a writing space and time in their schedule.

I hate these people.

I usually have a general idea of what project I want to work on going into November, but that’s about it. This year, I got  a second dayjob as a sub at an afterschool program. It sounds crazy (and is), but it also forced a routine into my schedule. I told the bookstore that I could work 9-2 on the weekdays, and assorted weekends. The days I had off at the afterschool program, or the bookstore, would just be writing time. Hooray! My days were going to go from up in the air all the time to a set schedule. I had PLANNED TIME for writing. I told the afterschool program that I could start on November 1st. This was PERFECT.

Apparently, Murphy (my guardian angel) heard the word “perfect” and slapped me down for it. One manager at the bookstore got spirited away to help open more bookstores, and the other manager got fed up with this situation and quit. Suddenly, instead of quietly slipping into a position of less responsibility, as of Saturday I will be the only acting Manager on the premises. Yeah. Oops.

SO you haven’t planned. So you have a wrench somewhere in the works. Who cares? I have a secret: your life will never be perfect, and you’re still going to have to find a way to shove the writing in between the cracks. Make this promise to yourself, just for this month, and see what you can do. I dare you.

CHEATING: Some people say that if you 1.) continue a novel already in progress, 2.) don’t finish your novel in 50,000 words or 3.) write “shark shark shark shark turtle shark” for 24 pages, you’re CHEATING. You know what? I don’t care about this either. Princess Alethea Mermaid’s rules say that if you write 50,000 words in November, whatever those words are, you’ve “won.” Of course, Princess Alethea thinks if you only write 24,000 words in that month, you have also “won.” I mean, come on. In what other month have you written 24,000 words? (Except you horrible prolific people. Just humor me here, okay? Don’t rub it in.

Go on, jump in the deep end! The water’s fine. We’ll be swimming/flailing/treading water right alongside you. Are you with me? xox