How's the new year going so far? We’re now two months into the decade—should we check the pulse on your New Year's resolutions?
Lol, just kidding! I know the statistics for following through on New Year’s resolutions are grim—believe me, I can’t remember how many Januaries I’ve resolved to lose weight, go to the gym regularly, or consistently write each day…and then failed.
Yet I still have hope, that with a good plan, I’ll accomplish ALL THE THINGS. My inner voice says: This is going to be a great year, a fabulous decade, and I need BIG goals to get me where I want to be. Well, I think that voice is right… I just have to learn NOT to try and change everything all at once!
Listen and Learn...
Lately, I’ve been listening to podcasts by writer and success coach, Becca Syme. One of the things she talks about, is how planning systems need to be individualized. So if your new system is failing you two months into the year, chances are it's not your fault, your system just doesn't play nicely with your brain. Check out these podcasts by Becca for more information:
The other thing Becca talked about that really resonated with me is how different personalities are either Data Responsive or Data Controlling. I am definitely what she calls Data Responsive—which means I have to respond to data (information) immediately. So no surprise, Facebook is a bubbling pit of mud for me. It sucks me down, and I get stuck! Too. Much. Data. Can't Disengage.
So knowing that, what's the first rule of Write Club? No going on the internet until after I’ve picked up my kids from school—writing only! That’s my biggest, shiniest goal for 2020. I'd like to say I'm kicking butt on that, but I'm only at about 65%. Part of that has to do with the sweet, little petrie dishes I call children, who are always bringing something home from school. Seriously, I'm on cold #3 since January. I've found it's tough to focus when I'm coughing up a lung...
Once I've got a handle on my morning writing routine, I think I’ll focus on bedtime. 😴 It’s hard to get up early and write if I’m working on a Newsletter or watching a show until the wee hours of the morning (shaking my fist at you, GIRLS and SUCCESSION!).
I actually started my BIG PLAN back in July during a goal-setting and productivity course I took. I was struggling to get my writing back on track after a family illness knocked me off keel, and the course helped. It wasn’t a magic bullet, but parts of it was great. Creating and using a Kanban board took all the clutter from inside my head and put it up on the wall where I could see it. The course planner, however, was soon shoved to the side of my desk and forgotten. After listening Becca’s podcast, I understood why.
What's A Kanban board?
The K-board, as I call it, organizes all my projects and tasks into categories and breaks them down into smaller chunks. I write these small chunks onto sticky notes, which I then move down the board from my MASTER PLAN section to the TO DO section and then into the DONE section. My writing, for example, is broken into 1000 words per sticky note. Every time I write another thousand words, I move that sticky down the board! I love it—and I really love the dopamine surge in my brain every time I get to move another sticky note. It’s like crossing things off a list but multiplied by 1000!
Back On Track
It’s taken me a while to get back on track with my writing since the disruption and emotional upheaval of the family illness, I mentioned. I've had lots of starts and stops—which is why HIGHLAND THIEF has been delayed. I expected to complete the manuscript last year, but it didn’t happen. I wish I’d been able to get more done, but you know what? Maybe that’s all I could do last year. Maybe I needed a year to re-group and re-plan
So how will things be different this year?
Most importantly, I’m prioritizing my writing time, but I also realized that my expectations are too high. I can’t write to the crazy schedules I keep devising. Part of my job is marketing, so I have to make time for that as well as my family and health—because, really, if I don't have that, what’s the point?
I have three goals this year—a health goal, centered around healthy eating, exercise, and getting enough sleep, a writing goal, centered around prioritizing my writing above all other work tasks, and a marketing goal, centered on marketing my books to new readers.
And I plan to achieve those goals by making small, daily changes. As Robert Collier said: “Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out.”
So that’s my New Year’s plan check-in. Care to tell me how your plan is going or share any planning advice or tricks? I’m all ears!
I hope you have a happy, healthy, and inspired 2020!
Before you leave, here's a fun Sneak Peek of HIGHLAND THIEF, book 5 in The Sons Of Gregor MacLeod. I'm still working on it, but it's one of my favorite scenes written so far, and I thought you might enjoy it...
**Please note that the following excerpt is copyrighted. It also hasn't been professionally edited, so you may find some typos!
At the trail’s head, Kerr dropped the reins and whispered for Diabhla to halt. He didn’t want the horse to lose his footing and run him down, even though it was more likely he would take a tumble in the dark. Diabhla had proved over and over that his senses were sharper than Kerr’s at night.
He waited until Isobel turned away from him and paced in the opposite direction along the shore. Her steps on the loose rocks echoed loudly in the quiet of the night, making his ire rise all over again.
She was alone, unprotected, when their enemies could be anywhere—anyone. And they were deadly.
He maneuvered down the steep decline—knees bent, crouched over, hands grabbing rocks and shrubs to stop him falling. He reached the bottom just as she turned around and saw him. She stopped in her tracks with a loud gasp as he straightened to his full height.
“Isobel,” he said evenly, so she would know it was him and wouldn’t be frightened.
She let out a squeak—a sound she would surely deny were he to remind her of it later—before lifting her skirts and dashing toward the boat. The exertion caused her hood to fall back and the bright strands of her hair to loosen behind her. Her long, quick gait ate up the distance.
He could have beaten her there, but that wasn’t his intention. Nay, he wanted her on that boat.
Striding toward her, he let out a sharp whistle for Diabhla. The stallion whickered in response before following Kerr down the trail, his hooves thumping on the dirt path and loosing rocks that slid noisily to the bottom of the steep incline. When he reached the beach, his iron shoes clipped rhythmically along the stony shore toward Kerr.
Isobel shoved hard on the boat to push it into the loch, and then she scrambled on board, her skirts and leather shoes getting soaked in the process. Fierce triumph shone on her face in the moonlight as the skiff glided away from him.
His heart expanded proudly and a grin tilted up the corners of his mouth. That was his lass. She hadn’t trained in weapons, like Callum’s wife Maggie, or self-defense, like Lachlan’s wife Amber, yet she was still out here, executing her plan—successfully!
She’d had to escape the castle, get him here alone, while sending the others in another direction, and trick him into thinking she was eloping.
“Well done, love,” he shouted as she used an oar to shove the boat out farther, causing the rope to stretch taut between them. Diabhla huffed in his ear behind him, almost as if he laughed at the two of them.
“You canna stop me, Kerr MacAlister,” she said, standing to face him, her voice filled with glee. “I love another.”
“I doona intend to stop you. I intend to join you.”
Without missing a step, he reached behind his shoulder, pulled his big sword from the sheath that was strapped across his back, and in one swing, cut through the rope that anchored the little boat to shore.
“Kerr, nay!” she yelled. He felt a moment’s guilt upon hearing the panic in her voice as the boat floated untethered upon the water. Then he hardened he heart against the emotion. He had to do this. For both their sakes.
He stepped into the loch as he re-sheathed his sword, the icy cold soaking through his leathers and freezing his skin beneath his wool socks. The air had cooled, and the chill wasn’t pleasant—the days may still retain the warmth of summer, but at night, fall approached like a charging boar.
Reaching behind him again, he grasped Diabhla’s lead and slid his hand to the end before tugging on it. The stallion followed without protest, his hooves splashing into the water.
“What are you doing?” Isobel yelled as she tried to control the boat with the oar—and failed miserably.
In his other hand, Kerr grasped the rope floating nearby that had anchored the skiff to shore. He quickly knotted it to Diabhla’s lead and then let go. He stepped toward her, the water rising icily along his legs with every stride. “I canna have you leaving with another, Isobel—whether your intent to do so is true or not.”
“You canna stop me. You doona own me, Laird MacAlister!”
“Maybe not, but you sure as shite own me.”
He grasped his pack from around his neck and tossed it toward the boat. It landed at Isobel’s feet and she jumped in surprised, her arms flailing as the boat rocked. She tumbled backward and landed on her arse on the wooden bench behind her with a yelp.
He pushed off with his feet and made it to the boat in a few long strokes, fear that she would fall in or toss his pack into the water fuelling his speed.
“Hold on,” he said, as he grasped the side and then hauled himself upward.
She screeched again, curses filling the air this time, as his weight caused the boat to almost tip over—or at least it felt that way. He pulled himself over the edge, and then grasped her arm as the keel straightened, so she didn’t fly off the other side and into the water. They had a long night ahead of them. He did not want her soaked, too.
Instead, she fell against his chest, causing him to tumble backward against the stern. He squeezed his arm tightly around her waist to steady both of them, and her breath puffed like hot, wet kisses against his neck…and despite the freezing swim he’d just taken in the loch, his body stirred as warmth spread though him like wildfire.
He grunted in response, and she raised her face to his—so stunning in the moonlight—her eyes filled with anger and fear, but also with excitement. And something else…desire.
He raised his other hand and stroked back the bright stands of hair that had fallen across her cheek. “Good plan, love. It’s worked out beautifully.”
Then he cupped the back of her head, lowered his mouth, and for the first time ever, pressed his lips to hers.
Thanks for reading, everyone. I hope you enjoyed the sneak peek of Highland Thief!
Have a wonderful day!
Alyson McLayne is a mom of twins and an award-winning writer of contemporary, historical, and paranormal romance. She’s also a dog lover and cat servant with a serious stash of dark chocolate. After getting her degree in theater at the University of Alberta, she promptly moved to the West Coast of Canada where she worked in film for several years and met her Prop Master husband.
She and her family reside in Vancouver with their sweet but troublesome chocolate lab named Jasper.
Please catch up with Alyson on social media. She loves chatting with her readers!