Saturday, April 30, 2011
On any given day, I can put off washing the dirty dishes in the sink, taking the clothes overflowing the laundry basket in the bathroom into the basement, and walk around the dirt my son tracked through the house. I tell myself I'm going to get more writing done if I continue to ignore those chores.
Sometimes it works. Mostly, I just don't want to do those things so I don't. Eventually I get around to them. Sometimes my husband gets there first. He has a lower tolerance for squalor than I do. **Smiles**
What I hate about my procrastination is when it extends to my writing. I don't have the luxury of losing entire days to solitaire and mahjong.
I've learned to deal with my mail box first thing in the morning so I'm not as tempted to keep checking it all morning. Which I do anyway. Just not as much.
I also allow myself to play solitaire for fifteen minutes after lunch. Usually when I'm enjoying my Junior Mints. Knowing I have those fifteen minutes coming usually helps me avoid calling up the game to play when I'm stuck on a scene.
But my worst procrastination tool of late is Vistaprint. They send nice little emails giving you free stuff. Promo material. As a writer, I need promo material. Creating postcards and banners is a necessary part of my job. Well, yeah, sometimes.
But really, I'm just wasting more time.
I know there are a lot of other writers and readers out there who do the same things and I'd love to hear what techniques you've found to help.
Friday, April 29, 2011
In addition to being the least spontaneous person on the planet, I prioritize. Ruthlessly. My "To Do" list is a short list of Everything Which Must Be Done, the non-negotiable stuff: self-care/health, work tasks, (day job and writing), family and personal commitments, finances, anything with a deliverable or deadline. If it's on the list, it gets done, no questions asked.
Anything not urgent or important enough to qualify for the "To Do" list gets put on the "Nice To Do" list instead - and it must be said that at Chez Hogan, home of two adults, two cats and no kids, household chores don't hit the "To Do" list until we're approaching grossout stage. Because really now, on my deathbed, will I regret not having spent more time vaccumning, or scrubbing the stovetop until it shines? I don't think so. If anything, I'm pretty sure I'll regret ANY time I've spent on these onerous tasks that wasn't strictly necessary.
My least favorite household task? Laundry. GAH. It's so...labor-intensive, with the pre-wash color sorting and Kleenex extraction, and the carrying the basket(s) to the basement utility room, the washing, the drying, the folding, the hanging up, the putting away. And I don't know about you, but I'm forever losing socks to The Secret Dryer Dimension - or perhaps I'm losing them for another reason altogether? Not that I'm accusing anyone of anything here, you understand. Just asking.
Thankfully Mark, having lived on his own for over a decade after college graduation, is very self-sufficient about laundry and has no expectation that I <shudder> do his. Actually, we learned long, long ago that our personal laundry processes are really quite incompatible. He, being 6'5" and always fighting leg and sleeve shrinkage, line-dries almost everything. Using actual wooden clothespins! How retro. ;-) I find line-dried clothes almost unwearably stiff and scratchy, and use the dryer for everything. So Mark does his laundry weekly, and I do mine either when I run out of socks and underwear, or when the laundry pile starts resembling something seen on the last episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive.
As long as no one's getting sick, it's all good.
Which household task do you most like or loathe? Why?
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Post the first two paragraphs of your manuscript anytime today--up until midnight--and I will post my critique by next Friday.
Here is what I need from you:
- Sub-Genre (Romance & Women's Fiction ONLY)
- One Sentence Pitch of Book
- First Two Paragraphs
Looking forward to reading your openings!
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
It's an ongoing battle as my house is noisy and I have a tough time settling down at the end of the day. But here are some tips I've found to tip the scales in favor of a better night's sleep. (Now keep in mind I am not a doctor... but I've written about one in my books many times!)
*When you wake up in the morning or once the sun rises, stand outside in the bright sunlight for 15 minutes to help reset your melatonin cycle so you'll be drowsy at night.
*No TV or computer right before bed.
*Only use your bedroom for sleep (not writing!)
*Lavender scent can help you relax. Scented linen sprays are a nice way to pamper yourself!
*Exercise during the day, but not in the evening.
*Try a noise machine. They can be great for covering startling noises - and for canceling out any ringing in the ears.
*Achy in the morning? Try a new pillow. Make sure your mattress isn't too old.
*Set a regular bedtime. Avoid naps if possible.
*Keep your room dark. Turn clocks and other minor light sources away.
*Avoid alcohol, caffeine and big meals at night.
*Avoid drinking too many liquids right before bed.
*Some advocate deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercies.
*And of course, there's always the tried and true, read a book until you drift off to sleep!
Do you have any tips for a better night's sleep? Or funny/strange stories about being woken up?
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Ask any writer and they'll tell you writing is a solitary endeavor. Growing up, I was never one who enjoyed group projects because I prefer to work alone. (I also like to be in charge but that's a topic for a different blog!) That preference could explain why I became a teacher (a job you often do alone) and why, when I left teaching, I took up writing. For a writer, though, the hours spent all alone can lead to feelings of either a) inferiority in all things writing related ("Man, everything I write sucks!") or b) delusions of grandeur ("I am so freakin good...this is the next best seller!) Both of which can be dangerous to the muse. But in today's technology enhanced world, that isolation is becoming obsolete. Not only do we now have instant messaging, we have Skype and Twitter and Facebook and email. If I'm feeling alone (or depressed or big headed) or without a single clue as to what to blog about, all I have to do is log on and there are suddenly hundreds of someones out there to connect with and ask. How and when and if I want to make those connections is all I need to decide.
Of course, it's not always about connecting with just anyone. When you're in need of an uplift, it has to be the right one. Another author friend I connect with daily has written for Harlequin for years. Alice Sharpe and I met through our local writer's group and instantly clicked. When we're both under deadline--like now--we challenge each other to timed writing segments and check in on each other's progress. (During these check-ins I often point out she has it easier because she only has to write 280 pgs vs my 400+. She reminds me I have it easier because I can toss in a god-induced earthquake when my characters are surrounded by bad guys while she's stuck on a ranch in Wyoming in the middle of winter with a serial killer.) No matter where our IM conversations lead (and sometimes they go in very strange directions), I know at the end of our chat I'll feel better about where I am in my book, even if I've only advanced two pages for the day. And I know it's the same for Alice. She told me a while back that our IM conversations reinvigorated her love for the job. When you've been doing this as long as she has (40+ books into her career), it's easy to get caught up worrying about how your publisher is treating you and if you're getting what other authors are getting and what your numbers are doing. The isolation that comes with writing can make it easy to lose sight as to why we became authors in the first place...so we could excite and inspire and entertain all through the written word.
Procrastination isn't something I'm encouraging others to take up, but last night it reminded me how important my writing pals are to me. I'm confident I could write without talking to them each and every day, but would I be as productive? Would I work out plot problems as quickly? Would I have half as much fun? I know the answer to all of those questions is no. Even when Joan's giving me blog topic ideas like "How about a procrastination crossword puzzle?" (lotta help, Joan) or Alice is stressing over the end of her career (she's sure every book is the end of her career), I appreciate every word my writing buddies say (or type). And I love the fact technology has brought us all so close, regardless of how far apart we may truly be, I feel like I have my best friends right there in the room with me when I need them most.
Not everyone is a writer with the same crazy needs and neuroses writers have, but in our busy jobs and lives, it's easy for each of us to feel disconnected. What do you do to stay connected to friends or family?
So I don’t often procrastinate. I just get pooped. I order my lists by most important to least, and sometimes something will crop up and I have to put the list aside. For example, I had a tight deadline for book 3 in THE ELVEN LORDS series, THE LORD OF ILLUSION, so that took precedence over my marketing list. Then when I finished, my partner sent me her book for a final read, and that takes precedence over my marketing list…which takes precedence over my cleaning list (since I started writing, I ignore dust bunnies.) My family always takes precedence over any of my lists, so ultimately; there are a few things on the bottom of the list that I may not get to in time.
I’m pleased to say that I did finish my writing lists and progressed to my marketing. I updated my website for the pending release for book 2 in THE ELVEN LORDS series, THE LADY OF THE STORM, and launched my first contest in celebration. I’m sharing it below, so I can check it off my list…and go on to the next task. If I’m not too pooped, that is. :}
First contest for
THE LADY OF THE STORM
To celebrate the upcoming release of THE LADY OF THE STORM, I am offering a gorgeous genuine blue topaz raindrop necklace, which represents the magical power my heroine half-breed inherited from her elven lord father. See below for a photo and description of this magical prize.
This first contest is all about spreading the word about the THE LADY OF THE STORM. To enter, just post the following blurb anywhere on the internet (Chatrooms, Forums, Blogs, Myspace, Amazon, B&N, Twitter, etc.) You may also copy and paste the cover, if you would like. Err, no inappropriate sites, please. If you don't own the site, please make sure it's okay to post the blurb.
Coming August 2011
THE LADY OF THE STORM
A darkly delicious new fantasy world
of sizzling romance amid the pageantry
of Georgian England.
Email the link to your blurb to: email@example.com with TLoTS CONTEST 1 in the subject line.
A winner will be randomly chosen using RANDOM.ORG. Your information will be kept confidential. Contest ends June 30, 2011. You can enter as many times as you like to increase your odds of winning (Tweet about it every day!). Void where prohibited by law. You must be 18 years or older to enter. No prize substitution permitted. Odds of winning are determined by number of entrants. This contest is subject to all federal, state and local laws and regulations.
Friday, April 22, 2011
I can't put off writing this blog any longer. As I write, it is 7:05 PM on 4/18/2011. I have a riding lesson in the morning and I work the next three nights. Then on Friday, when this blog will post, I'll be heading to Kentucky to visit my sisters for the weekend--after I've slept for a bit. My sister doesn't have internet service. (HOW WILL I LIVE????) Therefore, this blog must be posted tonight.
As I've mentioned in my comments on the other blogs this month, I can't really say that I'm much of a procrastinator. However, if you're looking for a couple of world class examples, my DH and my eldest son are definitely in the running. I could go on about them for days on end, but since I'm feeling gracious and magnanimous this evening, I'll pass on that. Suffice it to say that Mike has a T-shirt that says "Procrastinators of the World Unite... tomorrow." And he wears it with pride.
Not being one to put things off (I hate having stuff hanging over my head), sometimes I have to force myself to procrastinate just a bit. Other people might call it "taking a much-needed break," but I did that a while back, and it felt very strange. After I sent in the completed manuscript for CSC #8, I took a few days off before I began book #9. I felt like I was slacking terribly. But guess what? I'm already 10,000 words into it and I haven't even gotten my edits back for #8. No, wait. That was only three weeks ago. Really???
You see, this illustrates the reason why a lot of us probably think we've been procrastinating. We simply don't have the luxury of taking our sweet time with our work anymore. Before I was published, I could crank out books like crazy. I printed them up and put them in Amazon boxes and let my friends pass them around. There were no deadlines to prove that I wasn't writing them fast enough, but I wrote ten of them in two years.
Then I sold that first manuscript. Suddenly, good time management wasn't enough because at any given time, I was writing one book, editing a second, and promoting a third. It nearly killed me. I've backed off since then, and though I'm sure there are folks out there who don't think I'm writing fast enough, well, if they want me to write faster, they need to come to my house and fix dinner, do the shopping, mow the lawn, clean the barn, and work my full-time nursing job for me. Granted, my DH helps with a lot of those things, but though he's great at picking up pizza, he can't cook worth a darn.
No matter how hard any of us try to keep up with everything that needs doing, we can't win. We prioritize, which means that some things have to wait, giving the illusion that we are procrastinating when we are really doing everything we can as fast as we can. So, while the computer sits there, its cursor blinking at me as if to say, "You'd better get busy! You've got a deadline!" There will always be grass that keeps growing, cat hair that piles up in the corners, and a refrigerator that needs restocking. The best we can hope for is to get done that which needs to be done before someone lowers the boom on us.
Then there is that other nightmare that only makes us seem like we're procrastinating: The increasingly faulty memory. I used to have an excellent memory and rarely forgot to do anything. Not so anymore. Age has taken its toll, and now that I'm trying to do so many things at once, I've become a hazard. My son Sam worries to the point that he calls me to make sure I've turned off the stove. And he has good reason to worry, but what this also does is make it appear that I'm putting things off, when in reality, I've just plain forgotten.
So, the next time someone accuses you of procrastinating, tell them they've got it all wrong. You're really doing the best you can to keep up, it's just hard to remember everything.
At least, that's what I keep telling myself. . . .
Thursday, April 21, 2011
It’s really easy to be hard on ourselves for procrastinating. After all, everyone has a mountain of to-dos every day—especially if you’re juggling a full-time job, kids and a writing career. Seriously, I’m in awe of you. It’s very easy to become overwhelmed and beat ourselves up over not crossing off every item on the list. For my day, it could be contracts, revision letters, back cover copy, cover art feedback, author correspondence, submissions, meeting prep, returning phone calls, or any number of other things—even editing when possible!
But it’s important to remember that we need some unstructured time. Just because something isn’t on the to-do list doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Here are five things you might consider procrastinating that can actually help improve productivity:
- reading blogs – it’s vital keep up on industry news and make connections with other bloggers, reviewers, and authors
- watching YouTube – scope out the top videos to see what’s popular and remain current (because, believe me, it’s horribly embarrassing when you’re the only one who doesn’t know “Friday.”)
- reading other romance novels – if you don’t keep up on the latest trends in the market, how will you know where your project fits and how to compare?
- email – especially if it’s from readers—there’s no better ego boost, and it’s a fabulous way to build brand loyalty
- getting away from the desk – If I'm stuck on something--back cover copy or title brainstorming especially--a change of scenery and an opportunity to get the blood flowing can bring a whole new perspective that's just what I needed to get past the block.
What else in your workday do you find it’s important to make time for even if not on your official task list?
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
This month we’re blogging about procrastination. That word isn’t really in my vocabulary, but I do have a little delay to talk about.
First, I want to gush about the cover of my September release, LORD AND LADY SPY. This is definitely a book of my heart, and I can’t wait for readers to meet Adrian and Sophia, Lord and Lady Smythe. You see, the Smythes aren’t your average viscount and viscountess. They’re actually highly specialized operatives working for a secret organization called the Barbican group. Their identities are so secret, they’re even hidden from each other. Their mission? To defeat Napoleon.
But what happens when the mission is complete?
Meet Lord and Lady Smythe, out of work spies. Lady Sophia Smythe will scream if she has to attend another tea party. Lord Adrian Smythe will hit someone if he's forced to while away another evening in Parliament. What are secret agents to do when the war is over?
There's one chance left to get back into the game. The prime minister needs a murder investigated. The problem? Two spies. One position.
All's fair in love and war.
If you think the cover is a bit of a wink to Mr. and Mrs. Smith, you’re right on track.
And now for the delay. THE MAKING OF A ROGUE, the third in my Brothers of the Revolution series, has been changed to a February 2012 book. This was a strategic decision made after discussions about my brand and how to properly brand me. Those of you who read my books know I write fast-paced, adventurous historicals that are often witty and poignant but always exciting. I’ve been fortunate to have some truly beautiful covers and great titles, but these covers and titles didn’t always “say” much about what a reader would find inside the book.
I’m excited that with the cover for LORD AND LADY SPY, I finally have a title and cover that completely illustrates my brand. THE MAKING OF A ROGUE is going to get the same treatment, so look for a new cover and possibly a new title in February. In the meantime, stay tuned for more about LORD AND LADY SPY.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Monday, April 18, 2011
When something comes up that has to be done, I simply do it. Yes, right then. If several things need to be done at once, well, obviously that's not possible, so you randomly select something and do that. Next you do another thing, then another. Before you know it, everything is done.
I think a lot of what makes people stall is getting overwhelmed. (An aside: My hubby and I were tallking about how underwhelmed now seems to have become a word. But how do you strike a balance between those two? Is there such a thing as being just the right amount of whelmed?) Sorry, that made me giggle and I like to share my giggles with others.
Perfectionism is my husband's problem, and that's what makes him procrastinate. But there's an upside. Sometimes, while waiting for him to make up his mind (i.e. getting new granite countertops) a new product is invented that will save money, work and time. (granite overlays) Now, I wonder how long he'll have to mull those over before we actually get them installed. Sigh.
So, if you're a hopeless procrastinator, don't sit there moaning about it. Pick up the sponge and do your dishes, or put on your running shoes and take a walk. You know what you're putting off. Whatever it is, go do it now. I'm off to write my 1,000 words.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Here ya go. Be warned, though, watching birds do almost nothing can get pretty darn addictive!
Streaming .TV shows by Ustream
I've seen the mama and the papa take turns sitting on the babies (which would get you in sooo much trouble in my world...). I've seen them take turns bringing home the bacon (well, fish, actually, but I'm betting the babies wouldn't mind some bacon. Kind of stir things up in the taste department.) I've seen one of the parents sleeping (head tucked back under wing) all night and the other, God-knows-where. Seriously - the eagle doesn't come home at night? What's he/she doing? Out visiting eagle strip joints? Going on a girls' night? Hooking up with strange eagles of the night? One wonders.
Actually, I wonder. A lot.
This morning I saw both parents feeding the babies. I was heartened to see that these are good parents. They cut up (okay, tear/rip/shred) their children's food into swallow-sized pieces, they make sure each one gets enough to eat, and they even will pull the food back out if one of them has gotten an overlong piece and appears to be choking. They keep a fastidious nesting area (not a fastidious nest, as we won't describe how the babies haven't quite yet mastered the art of, er, eliminating their digested food OUTSIDE of the nest itself, but do a funny/interesting job of keeping it out of where they sleep), always arranging what I'll call windbreaks for the eaglets, and do a good job of rotating around to make sure each baby maintains the correct body temperature.
I wasn't along for the hatching of the eaglets, but I'm going to have to go check out the archived video of the eggs hatching. I'd heard about this site online and with other people chatting about it, but it was on Wednesday night when my mom texted the link to one of my Kids for the umpteenth time (annoying said Child who couldn't really care about baby eagles when there are electronics and friends and school functions coming up), and I texted her to send me the link.
If only I'd known what I was getting into. I've always been fascinated by raptors, eagles and peregrines in particular. And I see this usstream has other cams, including a peregrine one. They also have another one I'm definitely going to have to check out: the hummingbird cam.
If you remember from I Dream of Genies, hummingbirds appear at rather, um, auspicious moments in my story. I might have to do some more research...
Yeah, that's my excuse. Procrastinating is all research.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
So, who's seen this video? Who's at least heard about it?
And who have I now hooked on it? (I have it playing on my iPhone constantly...)
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Well, not on writing, or making bears for orders, or working on promotions, but...
Okay, so every year I tell myself I'll organize my papers so that by tax time I'm much more organized. And every day, I tell myself I'll put my clothes away when I get home at night after work. And every every week I tell myself I'm going to start weeding the garden.
But I have good reasons for procrastinating on THIS stuff.
It's because I'm not procrastinating on the OTHER stuff.
With working full-time at a job where I can't work on anything but my job, teaching online writing classes at night, publishing my earlier eclectic works from fantasy to urban fantasy and young adults, writing my current contracted books, and ohmigosh, promotions--which since Heart of the Highland Wolf is coming out in June, that means writing a million blogs and appearing on a million blogs and so yes...Procrastination is not something I can do. :)
Prioritization is absolutely necessary. Self-imposed deadlines is essential. But not everything that needs to be done can be done in a day, week, or month. Sooo, that means some things just don't have the priority that other things do.
Which is why I'm up at 5 AM to write blogs, then work some more on the first of the jaguar shifter series--something that's too fun to research and write and I can't procrastinate on, make a cover for one of my vampire romantic suspenses, Killing the Bloodlust, and uploading it, and I've got to get 2 bears done for an order--all this weekend!!
But I also have to work at the library this morning. *sigh* That's to make up for time I took off on Thursday to spend 3 hours trying to renew my driver's license. I'm a month early, but you know what? It's just not something I'm willing to procrastinate on!
Are you a PART-TIME procrastinator???
"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male."
Friday, April 15, 2011
I'm not procrastinating... I'm prioritizing.
Earlier this week, I meant to look up which day I was supposed to blog on the Casablanca Authors blogspot, but priorities happened and when I got the email notification on Wednesday that my turn to blog was on Friday, my priorities got rearranged a bit.
I'll be back later. I need to prioritize this food in the microwave. (7 pm on Wednesday)
(7:20 pm on Wednesday) Well, it turns out that there were only enough leftovers for one person. I'm prioritizing this blog post again while I simultaneously eat my roast beef on bagel sandwich. No left-over chicken enchiladas for me.
Well, the sandwich is gone. I just remembered the garbage gets collected tomorrow and I need to clean out the refrigerator. Then I need to prioritize doing the dishes, because I'm almost out of clean spoons. Without clean spoons, I can't make my hot tea with sugar and milk. Without my hot tea... It's a priority! (7:24 pm on Wednesday)
While cleaning out the refrigerator, my mom called. So the refrigerator cleaning became a lesser priority and chatting with my mom prioritized itself to the top of the list. The refrigerator is now clean, but I'm prioritizing this blog post before those dishes. Okay, I guess I better go wash them. They're not going to wash themselves. I'll be back when this blog post becomes the priority again. It might have to wait until tomorrow. I need to prioritize some writing after the dish priority. After that cup of hot tea. Hey, I might as well wash one more spoon while I'm prioritizing those dishes. (8:13 pm on Wednesday)
Did you miss me? I've been prioritizing again. You probably didn't even know I was gone so long. This is the story of my life. Rearranging priorities. (4:15 pm on Thursday)
I don't procrastinate. I prioritize. Things that must get done, will get done and they will be done on time. Maybe not in the order I intend them to get done, but I somehow get everything done that has to get done. If it's not a priority, I put it off until it has to be done, but that's because I have other things that are higher priorities. So you can call it procrastination if you like. I'm calling it prioritizing. (It decreases my guilt...)
Crap, I just remembered I need to prioritize paying the electric bill.
How do you prioritize?
Thursday, April 14, 2011
I don’t think I’m alone if I say that once you work in publishing, procrastination goes out the window. There’s literally no time to even think about procrastinating. As many of you know, publishing is a HUGE group effort—from our copy editors to our designers to our web team to our authors, it takes a lot of people to make one book… and Sourcebooks publishes around 300 books a year! Just think about what would happen if ONE person were to push things aside and put even the smallest kink in the process…
Luckily, we’re pretty efficient over here at Sourcebooks (and that’s not to say that there haven’t been issues with late books or cover re-designs at the last minute), and even when something does have to be arranged differently, we stay flexible to make the proper changes.
However, I do find small ways to procrastinate, in ways that won’t be detrimental to our publishing machine (which is wild and crazy and generally makes no sense):
-I won’t answer an email right away. A lot of you tell me I’m ridiculously fast with returning emails. The truth of the matter is, I’m OCD about that little Outlook envelop in my bottom right hand screen corner—for some reason I HATE IT. So I check emails to get rid of that envelope. However, in recent months, I’ve gotten “better” about letting things sit… for a few minutes at least.
- I rewrite my to-do list. I make an insane amount of to-do lists. I make one for each week every Monday morning, and usually make one each day. But then, I also make one throughout the current week, to plan for the following week. No, Seriously. I do. But when there’s a mountain of press materials that need to be written, or reports to be double-checked, I re-write one of my to-do lists, because, well, I’m just making sure I’m doing what I need to be doing!
- I read books! I think this goes without saying—when you work for a publisher, and you just so happen to love reading, you can’t really get in trouble for saying you’re reading, right? Because it’s an essential part of your job! :-)
- I hang out with a bunch of smart ladies, who have great ideas! So I might not start out talking to my colleagues (and currently, our all-star PR team is a total girls’ club—awesome!!) about a great marketing idea, and I know a few authors who like to chit chat in their emails throughout the day, but you never know what can happen when you start talking about Toasted Almond Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee (dee-lish, btw) and end up with an idea for an email blast to librarians.
Admittedly, I have never really been one for procrastinating—it rides on my conscience too much when I know I should probably just finish something instead of checking Facebook all day (though, I do have to do that for my job, and by the by, I end up checking my own page)!
Are there certain things you almost procrastinate about? Or would you rather have that added pressure when you’ve put it off long enough, and you know you have to get it done?
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Ah, PROCRASTINATION – my old friend. Procrastination and I used to be really tight. (The Jodie ½ of Lydia, that is. I’ve never known Tammy to ever procrastinate.) Sadly, procrastination is an old friend I’ve been too busy for lately. And I kind of miss it.
In school, I remember waiting until the last minute to finish a paper or start working on a project that was due the next day. Memories of all-nighters just flashed in my mind. But at the time, there had been too many fun things to do that prevented me from working on whatever I should have been working on. Trips to the mall, gossiping with friends, dances, football games, and my after school job.
So whatever I needed to do got pushed and shoved aside time and again until it couldn’t be pushed or shoved any further. Enter the all-nighter. Of course, I could have done those projects with time to spare. *Sigh* I miss those days. Having time, that is, to either goof off or to complete all the work that needs to be completed.
These days my life is so busy, I can’t afford to procrastinate. Oh, that doesn’t mean I get everything done that I should. (Some things don’t get done at all. Shh, don’t tell my mother. She wants me to be perfect.) But I have to prioritize. What are the most important things that need to be finished? Whatever that turns out to be any given day gets completed on time. And whatever isn’t important (or falls low on the list – like laundry) gets pushed aside. Not because I’m putting it off in favor of something more fun, but because other things trump it on my to-do list.
If we could just add 5 hours to our day, I’m sure I could get everything done that needs to get done – but alas, sleeping does rank pretty high on my list. After all, without sleep nothing else would get completed at all.
Do you have a list that seems never-ending? What always gets done? And what do you never find time to get to?
Monday, April 11, 2011
Procrastination is something we’re all really good at—okay, maybe some are better than others—I have taken procrastination and turned it into a veritable art form. Still, we all do it. Why is that? We seem to have evolved into a society of procrastinators. There must be a reason this hideous trait is passed through our DNA. It must serve some purpose, mustn’t it? You’d think that procrastinators would have gotten so little done in their lifetimes they’d have at least succeeded in not multiplying and would have effectively flushed that nasty little gene out of our genetic makeup. Unfortunately for me, that’s not the case—it seems procrastinators don’t procrastinate enough to become celibate. I should know, I’m currently raising three teen aged procrastinators.
I had planned a survey to use for my procrastination blog. It was to prove my hypothesis that procrastination is a genetic trait we all have. Think about it, when was the last time you met someone that said, “Gee, I wish I could just spend the day spinning my wheels and accomplishing nothing—I just get too much done.” Unfortunately, I never got around to doing the survey. But let’s just say I had and proved we’re all fighting this procrastination gene. How do we counter it?
Me, I try to use reverse psychology on myself. Unfortunately, I always see right through it.
Another way is to use a timer. If I write for twenty minutes, I can play one game of spider solitaire but then, I’m so good at procrastinating, one game leads to ten and before I know what hit me, I’m deep into procrastination mode.
When I get really desperate, I give myself a reward system that I hate. When I stop writing, I have to clean the bathroom. That doesn’t work for me because on the way to the bathroom I get sidetracked and end up doing something like rearranging my paperbacks. Invariably a book catches my eye and I can’t fight the urge to read the first line. Once the first line is read, I have to finish the book, because, let’s face it, how can I start a book and not finish it?
I’m a hopeless case. It’s a wonder I ever accomplish anything.
After wracking my brain I have discovered a few good things that come from being a true procrastinator: It makes me invent amazingly imaginative excuses for procrastinating and if we didn’t have that amazing imagination, we couldn’t be writers at all, could we?
Procrastination also instills a huge amount of guilt on my psyche and makes me do things like write for twenty-eight hours straight so I finish the book by my deadline. And every time I succeed, I swear it will never happen again.
After being a mother, and a life-long procrastinator, I’ve always wished the procrastination gene and babies came with an on/off switch. But then if they had, after one bout of writer's block or eight hours with a colicky baby, we’d never turn the suckers back on.
So, what do you do to counteract your procrastination gene?
Sunday, April 10, 2011
I've been putting off writing this blog. A little birdie (actually an Angry Bird) told me I could do that. He keeps saying, "Why write a blog today that you can write tomorrow?" Well guess what? It's now just after 2:00 AM and here I am writing this blog that I should have already written and scheduled to post at my appropriate time. All this for some silly golden eggs and three stars?
Like Tracey and the others, it's not just writing that I find myself procrastinating at. Every task in my life has been bit by the procrastination monster every so now and again. The bill that I kept avoiding to pay, the essay I had to write for my college history class, the incident report for my full time job. I could go on and on.
I've often wondered why this habit keeps rearing its ugly head. Do I like setting myself up for failure? Do I thrive on panic as I scramble to finish my taxes? And trust me, that panic isn't good when you find yourself owing Uncle Sam either. Maybe I can put off paying them? Just kidding. Tax evasion is a crime after all. I've come to the conclusion that procrastination should be added as an eighth deadly sin, because if I continue to procrastinate, it certainly will end up being the death of me.
And seriously, I don't want to die. I've got books to write. Time to put the procrastination temptation where it belongs... and it's certainly not with birds with kamikaze tendencies.
What about you? What sort of temptations lead you astray down the path of procrastination? Three lucky commenters will win a free pdf copy of my short story, AN ABSOLUTE MESS. One random commenter will win a $20.00 Amazon gift card.
Friday, April 8, 2011
I have to say I’m in Carolyn Brown’s corner when it comes to procrastination and my work. Any work, not just writing. Many years ago, I learned putting off an unpleasant task or situation doesn’t make it go away and, most of the time, delaying the inevitable just amplifies the problem.
After a few hard smacks, where I caused myself more work and more stress, I vowed to meet my problems head-on, no matter how difficult. That’s not to say I tackle every issue with finesse. Oh, no. I tend to hit a lot of bumps in the road before I figure it out. LOL
Housekeeping is a different story. Sometimes it takes the threat of company to make me clean my house. Have you ever noticed how quickly junk mail piles up? Or those annoying shopping receipts? And don’t even get me started on the dust bunnies!
Another area of procrastination? Shopping. Clothes and shoes, to be specific. Yeah, I know. I’m a disgrace to my gender. If the outfit isn’t on a manikin, I haven’t a clue. The thought of walking down aisle after aisle of clothing and pulling out item after item to assess its viability is like standing at the bottom of Everest and looking up. OMG
I’d love it if I could walk into a store of manikins that are decked out in beautiful clothes with matching earrings, necklaces, and shoes, and be able to point to one and say, “Mine.” Life would be good, especially if I had the dough to point and take.
So, by necessity, I’m not a procrastinator when it comes to business. But personal life? Embarrassingly so.
Are there any other ladies out there who find it painful to shop? Don’t leave me standing out here alone, exposed, and wearing sadly outdated outfits.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Please give a warm welcome to fellow Casablanca author, Mary Ellen Dennis. Mary Ellen is the award winning author of The Landlord’s Black-Eyed Daughter, which Sourcebooks will be re-releasing in August (originally slated for April, but these things do happen… such is publishing!), along with a brand new novel, Dream Dancer (title subject to change… again, such is publishing!). Today, Mary Ellen shares with us her favorite thing to do…
My name is Mary Ellen Dennis and I’m addicted to writing books. Reading them, too. Writing and reading and true love and chocolate—life doesn’t get much better than that. Well, maybe I should add watching The Princess Bride or The Enchanted Cottage while munching crème donuts.
When I was in grade school one of our assignments was to read a poem in front of the class. Someone read “Trees” (“I think that I will never SEE a poem as lovely as a TREE”) and someone recited “Jack and Jill”—or was it “Humpty Dumpty”?
I couldn’t decide between Alfred Noyes’ “The Highwayman” and Shakespeare’s “Venus and Adonis” (I love horses).
Why yes, I was an overachiever, why do you ask?
I chose Alfred Noyes and I must have “done good” because the bell rang before I had finished and no one moved. At that very moment I decided I’d be an actress when I grew up. And I’d write a novel inspired by my favorite poem.
I’ve achieved both goals, although to be perfectly honest, writing and marketing The Landlord’s Black-Eyed Daughter took a lot longer. Mostly because editors were “concerned” about the paranormal elements: 13th-century ghosts in a 1790s time period.
My novel Heavens Thunder, A Colorado Saga, was inspired by Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis, but that’s a blog for another day.
First, I want everyone reading this blog to know that The Landlord’s Black-Eyed Daughter has a happy ending. I believe in happy endings because I’m living one. I met my husband, novelist Gordon Aalborg, via the NINC (Novelists Inc) on-line list. He lived in Tasmania. I lived in Colorado Springs. We decided to write a romantic suspense together and fell in love. He asked me to marry him. I said, “I think we should meet face-to-face, first.” He suggested I fly to Australia. I said I had a deadline. He said (and I quote), “Silly wench, I have a computer.”
I applied for a passport and flew to Tasmania. The “honeymoon” worked out fine, so we both sold our homes and bought a heritage cottage on Vancouver Island. And we said our vows at a writers conference. Well, to be perfectly honest, Gordon wrote (and recited) his vows while I sang “Evergreen” (I have a thing for Streisand).
Gordon writes romances under the pseudonym Victoria Gordon, http://www.gordonaalborg.com/victoriagordon.html, and I’ve got to admit, you’ve never been romanced until you’ve been romanced by a romance author :) Last October we celebrated our 10th anniversary!
Gordon inspires me, and I wrote The Landlord’s Black-Eyed Daughter in the beautiful office he built for me, an office that includes a huge framed poster of Daniel Day Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans (I have a thing for Daniel Day), a chiseled rock that says CREATE, a merry-go-round horse (merry-go-rounds play an important part in my second Casablanca historical romance, Dream Dancer), and a stuffed “deadline vulture” named Michael, after my first editor.
I hope you enjoy Landlord as much as I enjoyed writing it, when it finally hits stores this August. And always, always remember: “If you drop a dream, it breaks.”
Thanks so much to Mary Ellen for stopping by! We have 2 Advanced Reader copies of The Landlord’s Black-Eyed Daughter up for grabs today—please tell us what your favorite thing to do is (or your favorite thing to do to procrastinate, to fit in with this month’s blog theme), and leave your email addy. US and Canada only today—sorry kids! Winners will be contacted on Monday, 4/11. For more information on Mary Ellen, please visit http://www.maryellendennis.com/.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Please welcome New York Times Bestselling and now a Casablanca Author, Elaine Coffman! Elaine is an acclaimed author, and we are so excited about her new book The Return of Black Douglas, which hit bookshelves this month! To do something a little bit different for our guest, I decided to do an interview (I once thought I’d be a journalist, so humor me…)!
1. Welcome to Casablanca Authors, Elaine! And congrats on your new release from Sourcebooks Casablanca, The Return of Black Douglas. We know your readers have played a major part in the inspiration for this book—can you tell us a little bit about it?
EC: Sophia Loren once said, “Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti.” I can take that one step further and say, “Everything I am writing about, I owe to my readers.” In 1997, when the sixth book of Mackinnon series was published, I wrote in the back of the book a note telling my readers how sad it was to let go of characters I’d spent so many years writing about. My publisher and I were overwhelmed with letters and email telling me, as one reader put it, “Noooooo… you can’t leave us out there in la-la land. We want to know what happened to the sister!” After weeks of this, my editor called and said to write it, so I did. If You Love Me, was the seventh in the series and my first book to hit the New York Times Bestseller LIst. After The Bride of Black Douglas was published in 2000, and I moved on to other books, once again the readers let me know I was not through. They wanted Black Douglas to return. So, I can truthfully say my readers were, indubitably, the inspiration for this book, or in this case, a whole new series of them.
2. The Scottish Highlands are always a fan favorite in historical romance. What do you love most about writing about Scotland?
EC: I have Scottish ancestors, so I was already drawn to the country before I started writing. There is something about Scotland that is eternal, for she is Niobe, turned to stone by grief, yet weeping still, the symbol of eternal mourning. Tempered by never ending sorrow, Scotland calls out to me, like echoes from the past . . . secret, mysterious, evocative, and eerily stirring, waiting for me to give, them a voice. The call is strong- and I wonder if it is the voices of my own Scots ancestors, for I cannot help thinking that when it comes to woe, Scotland wins hands down.
3. If you traveled back in time, what three modern things would you choose to take with you? What time period would you travel to?
EC: I really enjoyed writing about this book’s time period, the early 16th century, but it would be an easier adjustment, I think, if I went back to the 17th or 18th century. I’d take knowledge in the form of books. I can cheat a little bit here, because I’m now writing the story of my current heroine, Isobella’s sister, the physician, Elisabeth. I realize medical knowledge would be a great thing to have, so I’d want the basics, like a BIG book detailing how life-saving medicines, vaccines, aspirin, pasteurization, and even soap were made—did you know penicillin was first made from mold produced on bedpans? I’d love to toss in a few seeds if I was going somewhere with better weather than the Highlands. I’d also want a book on making practical things like matches.
4. Have you ever been visited by a ghost, like the mischievous Black Douglas? Or had any “interesting” encounters you can share with us?
EC: No, I haven’t had any visitations or encounters. Not even the Black Douglas, after all the notoriety I’ve given him. Perhaps he doesn’t want me to cut back his role in the next book, as a way to get even, so he is remaining in the background . . . at least for the time being.
5. A little bird (who may or may not be named Deb Werksman!) told me you have another book in the works… tell us a little bit about it!
EC: Ah Deb! Our wonderful editor! I ’m writing Lord of the Black Isle, for Isobella’s twin that was also taken back in time in The Return of Black Douglas. Elisabeth is a doctor about to start her last year of residency as Chief Resident at Johns Hopkins, when she finds herself in a Scottish glen with her sister and a ghost. A year passes and Elisabeth is about to be married, when the King’s Regent, the Duke of Albany has other plans for the groom, and Elisabeth’s heart is broken.
Her only salvation is her medical skill and she educates herself to understand medieval medicine. Word soon gets around about her and she is kidnapped by Devan Murray, the Earl of Kinloss, and taken to the Black Isle to heal his dying sister. Devan keeps Elisabeth under his watchful eye, not allowing her to return to the nunnery, while he fights the tormenting desire he feels for her, but Elisabeth has vowed to devote her life to medicine. Devan chips away at her defences to reach her cold heart, for he is determined to make her forget the man who separates them. But then a voice from the past calls out to her and she is forced to make a choice no woman should ever have to make.
A BIG Casa thanks to Elaine Coffman for stopping by and chatting with us about her latest release, The Return of Black Douglas, which is in stores now!
We have 2 copies of The Return of Black Douglas to giveaway. Tell us in the comments what modern item you’d take with you back in time to the Scottish Highlands (remember to include an email address so we can reach you). The winners will be contacted on Monday, April 11.