Tag Archives: inspiration

Wasting Time to Make Time

Moonday Madness

A blog about the craft of writing

This is the third in a series of blogs about organization and what keeps me on track. The first post, Goal Setting Survival is HERE and you can learn about Flying Past the Lure of the Toilet HERE.

It’s crazy.

Insane.

But one of the things that keeps me writing, and keeps me organized is not writing.I know, I know, you are wondering how I could possibly get more writing done by not writing?

This is going to be a tough one for most readers and authors to swallow, because ulike goal setting or organizing a clean house, this one seems to be a time sucker. Not a time free-er. But I have found that the more I take care of myself, the better I feel, and the better I feel, the more I can get done and that frees up my time. Doing something that feels like wasting time actually is benenficial.

Here is a list of time wasters that I need to do when writing that, instead of cutting my writing down, infuse it with energy.

1. Take breaks

Taking a break every forty-five minutes to an hour refreshes my muse. I run up and down the stairs doing laundry. I set the time for fifteen minutes and get a snack, a cup of coffee, sneak a bite of chocolate. I dance, do yoga or pull weeds. Anything that is different from the act of looking at the computer and gets me out of the chair. The most important piece of this is to not check emails or tweet or look at the next fascinating blog. The idea is to get away from the computer and refresh.

2. Take time for a nutritious lunch

I cook my lunch. Yes, I do. On those days when I’m lucky enough to be home, writing full time, I have a real honest-to-goodness meal. My favorite meal is whole grain (real whole grain, not that fake stuff the bread companies tell you has whole grain) bread, topped with humus and sauteed onions, garlic and spinach. Brain food.

Yes, it takes time to make it. I do have some time saving secrets: I saute my onions and garlic ahead of time and just add those to the pan with the spinach. That cuts the cooking time down to about five minutes. And I actually take the time to sit down with a cloth napkin and eat it. Okay, it’s frequently in front of the TV or with a book, but it’s away from the computer. And, despite the TV or book I find it something relaxing and rejuvenating.

3. Exercise

This is the one that I think most people think will drain them. Make them tired and hence unable to work efficiently. But I have found that waking up and getting out of the house, taking a bracing walk (not so bracing with summer here) with the dog, has me coming back to the computer rarin’ to go!

I walk every morning, unless the world conspires against me. And I go to the gym twice a week to do the elliptical and lift weights. You’d think I’d be in fantastic shape! I’m sure my heart thanks me and maybe, in a few years, my body will too. Meanwhile the walking is great for my working. The weightlifting and elliptical, well, I do those at night. I come back ravenous and exhausted, so I sleep well and wake up ready for the next day.

This may sound like  preachy post. A list of all the things  you “should” be doing. I want you to know I didn’t just jump up one day and start acting like a fitness guru, eating right and doing yoga in between my writing stints. This has been a hard-won battle forced upon me by exhaustion and my body saying “I give up!”.

You need to find what works for you. But for me, these are the things that I have to make time for to make my writing really work for me. When I slack off, don’t exercise, don’t eat right and try to push things through…those are the times I have writing frustration. I sit in front of the keyboard zoning out, distracted and un focused.

What works for you? Do you take breaks? Schedule time off with your friends? What things do you do that take time away from writing, but send you back to the computer refreshed and rarin’ to go?

18 Comments

Filed under Moonday mania, writing organization

Why I Love Decimating Alpha Men

Thursdays Bite

a paranormal blog

I write Alpha men. Alpha with a capital A. From my warrior turned forest ranger in Little Red Riding Wolf, to my dark huntsman in The Queen’s Huntsman all my men share one characteristic. They are Alphas. Dominant confident Alphas who finally meet their match when they meet their mates and  find out they can’t push their way through every situation.  Men who finally face their worst fear, that they must expose their vulnerabilities to win the battle. The classic Alpha male dilemma.

I write Alpha men because I love the deep dark silence of the broody man who can’t express his feelings. I love their macho tenancies to push women, even tough capable women, out of the way of danger. And the way they hate apologizing afterwards. Because they know they’re right even when they’re wrong.

Alpha males will take on anything, face anything, if their hearts are in it. They carry men for miles over rough terrain, just so no one gets left behind. They can have rough and tough buddies just like them who they drink beer and thump each other on the back with blows that would knock another man down. Or they can be men of solitude. Men who ride alone, men in dark leather on motorcycles. Men most people would avoid.

Alpha males don’t cry, they don’t say they love you and they don’t talk about what they feel inside. These men tend to be inarticulate, so when they go to the supreme effort to speak about their feelings, you know they’re desperate.

And that pulls my heartstrings every time.

Give me the man of few words, but the man of action. A man who will crawl across burning coals for the woman he loves, but won’t say he loves her until he faces the utter decimation of his heart.

That’s the guy for me.

Why would a modern woman like a man who can’t share his feelings, will always think women need protection, and acts like your basic neanderthal? The process of change. I love watching men go through the shift from needing no one to being entwined with someone. From being strong to being vulnerable. I like to watch them go down, break down until they reveal the small boy hidden underneath.

There is nothing sexier than seeing a tough man, an Alpha male expose his inner heart for the woman he loves. For ever afterward when you see those big muscles, that über-warrior you know, he’s got a marshmallow heart.

Do you love Alphas or are you a beta woman? Leave a comment and tell me why.

19 Comments

Filed under paranormal inspiration, Thursdays Bite

HOW PARANORMAL SEEDS GROW, Part Two

Moonday Mania

a writer oriented blog

This morning I’m happy to welcome guest author Sherry Isaac back to Moonday Mania. Sherry is a talented author from Toranto whom I met at Margie Lawson’s house during a fabulous week of Deep Editing Immersion. Sherry is continuing her blog, How Paranormal Seeds Grow from last week and giving us insight as to where the ideas for her short stories in her new release Storyteller spring from. Welcome Sherry!

***

 I love ghost stories, stories that make me wonder where the soul begins and where its journeys leads once it leaves the body.

There are ghost stories on both sides of my family tree, none of them frightening in a white sheet and clanking chains kind of way, but stories that prickle along the spine with the knowledge that there is something more.

And I believe that there is more than one way to be haunted.

Settled in the 1850’s, Streetsville is a tiny hamlet on the banks of the Credit River, not far from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The city of Mississauga has grown up around the village, yet Streetsville retains its small town feel. A stroll down Queen Street can easily transport one to an earlier time.

A graveyard filled with crumbling stones dates back to the founding days. One plain headstone was erected in memory of a child. Isabella.

Isabella died when she was four. I have no idea who Isabella was and can’t even say why her stone impressed me. Not far away is another stone, more ornate, commemorating the life of another little girl. But it was Isabella’s stone that captured my imagination and held it fast. I doubt Houdini could have escaped.

On the summer day that I meandered through the grass, the shade, and the stone monuments, another place and time became reality. Cars and busses and trucks rolled by on another plane.

Maybe I’d watched too many episodes of Little House on the Prairie in my impressionable years, but I could not shake the image of a young girl, 15 or so, leaning from the upper window of any one of the original buildings that remained, a silent testament to the early days of the pioneer settlement. A girl who held up her skirts when she crossed the dirt road. A girl who rubbed the nose of her favourite horse. A girl who picked pussy willows on the riverbank, not far from the grave where I stood.

What might it be like to give Isabella life, if only on the page? I pictured that girl walk out of the general store with a friend, giggling over new ribbons for their hair, ribbons they would wear to a fair in a neighboring town, ribbons they hoped would catch a suitor’s eye.

When I sat down to write Isabella’s story nearly ten years later it worked out differently. Left on the back burner of my mind to simmer, Isabella’s story had taken root, its branches stretched in another direction, the blooms took on a different shape and hue. Isabella’s story was claimed by a brother I never imagined she had. His name was Alistair and he’d been instilled with the gift of storytelling.

I handed the keyboard to Alistair and let him tell the story, let him bring Isabella to life in a way I was powerless to do.

I think he did a pretty good job.

~~~

STORYTELLER

Short Story Excerpt

Sherry Isaac

Alistair crept through another crowd in another town, late the next afternoon, shoulders hunched, hands clenched like claws, a predator ready to pounce.

“I was a fool to go out on my own and without my gun, but the bite of hunger overpowered my senses. If you’ve never seen the jungle then ye cannot imagine the trees that grow so tall and thick they block can out the sun, or shield a wild panther.

“The ground was soft, I made my way forward, stalking a bird with feathers of colours so brilliant and rare not even a rainbow has seen them, unaware the giant cat was stalking me. Slowly, slowly I inched closer to my prey, my mouth watering at the thought of its succulent meat roasting on a fire. I stepped on a twig. The bird took flight, the cat roared, terror shook my spine. I looked above me, my eyes wide as I met the cat’s yellow stare.

“My bare arms made a hopeless shield. I closed my eyes, ready to become the big cat’s dinner. A gunshot rang through the air. The cat landed at my feet with a thump, so close I could smell its breath.”

Alistair straightened, his head cocked and his smile easy. “And do ye know who my rescuer was?”

“Isabella!” the children cried.

“Isabella!” their parent’s echoed.

Alistair put his hands on his hips, swayed back as if slapped. “You’ve heard this story before, then?”

“No!” The children’s voices a chorus.

“Aye, you’re right. It was my little sister who came to my aid, with more stealth than any feline hunter, and an eye sharper than an eagle’s.”

Winner of The Alice Munro Short Story Award, Sherry Isaac’s tales of life, love and forgiveness that transcend all things, including the grave, appear online and in print. Her first collection of shorts, Storyteller, debuts July 2011. For more information, or to order an autographed copy, click HERE.

8 Comments

Filed under Moonday mania, paranormal inspiration, writing craft

How Paranormal Seeds Grow, part one


Moonday Mania

A writer oriented blog

Please welcome guest blogger, Sherry Isaac. Sherry and I met at an amazing week up at Margie Lawson’s Immersion Master Class. I was stunned by Sherry’s writing and unsurprised at her success in the publishing world. Thanks Sherry, for being my first guest. Please check back on August 8, 2011 for part two of How Paranormal Seeds Grow.

***

Want to see a writer cringe? Ask him, or her, where their ideas come from.

I know that cringe, I’ve felt that crinkle in my nose that must, I’m sure, make me look like I’ve just caught a whiff of an overripe diaper.

It’s a tough question to answer. Snippets of conversation, a line from a song, an interesting character on the subway. Any obscure thing can be the source. Those little nuggets, snippets and images simmer in our subconscious and take on a life of their own. A plaid jacket with one ripped pocket doesn’t belong to the wearer once that jacket ignites a spark in a writer’s imagination.

For the most part, I can’t tell you at what point the seed of a story was sown in my fertile, murky little mind. Crowning Glory started with the title, a turn on the phrase. How Glory ended up on the street, a lost soul picking through food court leftovers and searching for redemption, beats the storyline out of me.

But some of my stories have a definite root. Like a genealogist with a fine tip pen and a family tree, I can track their development from conception to completion.

Stories from my life, stories that were hard to market, until I realized the common theme that threaded its way through each tale like a knotted vine. Stories with a paranormal twist.

The Visit was not an easy sell. My hometown Winnipeg in winter set the scene: The isolation of a stormy day, the house locked tight. A hooky-playing pre-teen all alone. But it didn’t quite work as a memoir, didn’t read like young adult and certainly not middle-grade. An eerie hit at coffee house readings convinced me that my odd yet ordinary experience was not so ordinary.

The premise is simple. Simple as the question at it’s core. If someone you loved touched you with their presence, would you recognize their spirit?

On a wintry day in November when I was twelve, one of my sisters came home. It was not until much later that I realized she could not have come home, it was not possible that she was ever there. She could not have come in the front door because she moved out in a fury days before we moved to a new house in Fort Rouge, an older area a short bus ride from the downtown core, but a long way from our old neighborhood. My sister and mom weren’t speaking. My sister didn’t move with us, she had never been to the new house.

She did not have a key.

Though I know all these facts, I am as certain she was in the house that day as I am certain of the floor beneath my feet, the computer screen in front of my face, the cat determined to snooze on my lap.

And I am just as certain she was not there, for there was no possible way she could have been. Every shred of evidence confirms that she was not there: logic, reason, and the physical world.

I never saw her but heard her, smelled her. Felt her presence.

Did I take literary license? A little. In the recorded version the revelation comes quickly. In real life, it took a few hours to find out where my sister was, physically, in those moments that haunted me with her spiritual presence. And a few hours more to realize what I’d experienced was unusual, impossible, out of this world. A realization that jerked my dozing mind awake and filled me with toe-tingling wonder as I lay tucked under warm blankets. Out of this world. Ordinary. All at once.

Cool-headed reason battles with what the heart believes. My sister wasn’t there. She was not in the house. She was not in the kitchen, shirking her jacket and lighting a cigarette. But part of her had come home. Part of her that breathed and moved and smelled and coughed and stopped by for a visit.

For several silent minutes on a winter afternoon, part of my sister’s spirit was with me. And then the magic was gone.

~~~

THE VISIT

Short Story Excerpt

Sherry Isaac

            I held my breath, frozen in place by fear. Fear and one too many paperback murders. A chill ran through me, deeper than the chill outside. I sat still and listened.

            A tap of boots on the mat. Whoever came in the door was polite enough not to track snow through the house. Another small grunt of effort echoed up the stairs as someone bent to unlace a pair of boots. Snap, snap, snap, small sounds amplified by our narrow stairwell.

            Boots removed, socked feet padded into the kitchen. A zipper slid down its track, a clink as it released, and a rustle of material as a jacket was shrugged off shoulders. A series of small ‘ahems’, loose phlegmy sounds as a closed throat was cleared. Another clink as the zipper hit wood, the jacket thrown over the back of a kitchen chair.

            Jenny.

Winner of The Alice Munro Short Story Award, Sherry Isaac’s tales of life, love and forgiveness that transcend all things, including the grave, appear online and in print. Her first collection of shorts, Storyteller, debuts July 2011. For more information, or to order an autographed copy, click HERE.

12 Comments

Filed under Moonday mania, paranormal inspiration

Goal Setting Survival

Moonday Mania

A writer oriented blog

Today’s blog is the first in a series of four about how organization has saved me. The other three parts will run in August, after Sherrry Isaac’s guest blogging.

The blogging Karma has spoken. The other day found me talking with a friend of mine about stress and how it makes her sick and how she needs to cut it out of her life. We both agreed, modern people (especially women) think we need to do everything, do it well and get it done yesterday. And it’s killing us. Some of us end up obese and some with auto-immune disorders and some with shoe shopping fetishes.

Lo and behold the very next morning my friend Sherry Isaac sends me a link to More Cowbell and Jenny Hansen’s outlook on setting a goal to add “worry free writing time” to her list of to-do’s.

What’s this? A to-do on my writing list of killer goals that makes time for me as a person? Crazy. But obviously the universe is telling me something. All my over-stretched goals don’t help me become more productive, they just make me over-worked. Can goal setting actually help us become healthier? And I’m not talking setting weight-loss goals. I mean actual professional goals. Does your mental health require you to set professional goals that encourage you to nurture yourself?

Setting goals is part of my life. I set yearly goals, monthly goals, weekly goals and daily goals. All in hopes of achieving my dream, publishing my writing. (Okay, earning some cash with said writing.) I love the process of goal setting. Purchasing new notebooks and writing things down thrills my inner organizer. But then the inner organizer runs up against the real me, the Procrastinator. And I get stressed.

There is no way I can do all of this. No way I can keep up with the day to day over-the-top goals I want to achieve. So how do I do it all? How do I become a paranormal writer extraordinaire, an amazing self-promoter and still survive?

Am I trying to become superwoman writer and achieve so much that I actually end up sabotaging myself in the process?

Jenny Hansen”s idea of adding “worry free writing time” to her to-do’s is amazing. It’s still a professional goal but it has the added benefit of not being something you can fail at. There are no word counts in worry free writing. No required three-character-sheets-by- the-end of-the-hour deadlines. No plot constrictions. It’s free. And freeing.

By adding one goal to your to do list that feeds your soul its like adding in time for meditation, exercise, or ice cream. Its something that you can relax and enjoy and get those endorphins flowing. And it is still a professional goal. Still one that you can use to drive your creativity. And one that might even improve your creativity while it lowers your heart rate. Amazing!

I’d love to hear how you free yourself within your goal setting. What kinds of goals can you think of that are within your profession, but not constrictive?

15 Comments

Filed under channeling success, Goal Setting, Moonday mania, Optimisim, writing organization

Brave New Adventures in Awareness

When you sign up for a class in something with a title like Online author awareness, you might not be sure what you are getting. I wasn’t. I hoped I knew what it was. I planned on what it might be. And then the big day arrived and I finally was in class and could see what I was getting into. And I was thrillled.

Last week was my first week of Carolyn Cooper’s class. I was floored.

I’m an information junkie. I love learning. Carolyn loves teaching. It was a perfect fit. Yes, the first lesson was a bit of a shock. I’ve taken several online workshops before, its one of the great benefits to being a member of CRW. But they are all different. Some have one big lesson per week and some homework that the teacher doesn’t give feedback on. Those are the classes where you wish you were getting a little more. Then there are the classes where there is so much homework you can’t keep up. For a moment when lesson one was followed by lesson one part two, I was afraid.

Could I keep up? I, like many in the class, have other responsibilities besides my favorite activities of writing and learning. But as I read on, I realized that Carolyn was a communicator. Yes, it was a long lesson. Yes, I had to slow down and think a little. Yes, there was a lot of information packed in there. But once I followed it through it all began to gel and I began to get excited.

Yippee!

This was it!

I had been for a class to help me understand more about my efforts at marketing my work, and boy am I in the right place. I am learning so much more than I’d hoped for. I thought I’d learn how to manage Twitter better, what’s polite, what helps me and other authors. I think we’ll get to that eventually. This week we learned all about ourselves. What? Don’t you know that already?

Yes and no. I know who I am as a person, but who am I as a paranormal reader. What makes me tick  and what I have in common with fellow paranormal readers are two different subjects. As a person and an author, I have things that I am passionate about. Those are the things that a reader wants to know. And then who am I as a reader? As a reader, how do I look at websites? How do I use them? What am I looking for when I go to an author’s website.

Ashely March, a fellow CRW member and fantastic historical author, spoke to my group on this topic. As an author she wants to be accessible. She wants readers to meet her on the internet and to have a personal experience. When you go to her website you can see that. You can comment on her blog and email her through her contacts. She’ll follow you on twitter and she isn’t spamming when she tweets. Its the real Ashley out there.

Some authors are more removed from their readers. Whether its because they don’t have the time or they are not interested in interpersonal contact, or they just don’t realize it, their websites are cool, removed, impersonal. They sell books, but are they making connections with readers? What kind of author are you? Why? You probably know by now I am pretty friendly. I thought I would hate getting online and doing all this connecting stuff, but it turns out I love it.

I have to set timers so I don’t burn the food and then I shut the timer off and, whoops! I did it again, be right back!

(Whew! Had to stir the steel cut oats!)

Okay, so I love it. I get distracted and if I don’t set a timer I would spend all my time connecting with people. I can’t do that. I need to write and clean the house and exercise and, oh yeah, eat. But my website can help me. My website, by its design, can show who I am. I can be friendly and readers can look at it and see who I am and what my books are about. They can connect to me, Jessica Aspen the person, and I can be off doing what they really want me to do anyway. Write more books.

You’re going to be seeing changes on my website. I’m in the process, but slowly and surely I will be changing my website up to be more reader-centric and less author-centric. The great thing about that is authors are readers too! I’m not sure exactly what this will entail, this is my scary adventure, remember? (Those of you who didn’t read last weeks post can catch up here.) I have committed to this being my summer of change. Actually this whole year has been a year of change.

Since my year starts in the fall, I began this year with Margie Lawson’s Deep Imersion class (WOOHOO-U), where I realized I was serious about being an author. Now, instead of writing in my spare time, I spend my spare time writing. That was an ah-ha moment for me that started me on a different path that has led to here. In September I didn’t have a web site, didn’t have a blog, didn’t even have business cards. I have all that now. And the next step on the path is being facilitated by Carolyn, the shift to online author.

I’m excited to see where this goes, what my website will look like by the end of the summer and the end of my year. When I connect with my WOOHOO-U peeps in September and we talk about what we’ve done during the year I will be able to say that this year I grew into being an author. I now spend my time like one, I have the comittement of one, and my website reveals exactly what kind of an author I am. A paranormal author.

(Keep checking in and I’ll be making those changes!)

18 Comments

Filed under channeling success, Optimisim, website

Why Write?

On Saturday I did something I love to do. I spent the day socializing with my peeps at the Colorado Romance Writers mini-con.There was something for everyone. An editor, Kristen Sevick of Tor/Forge, for pitches. A silent auction, which I am happy to report was full of wonderful critiques and gift baskets. And of course a whole day spent sucking up the wisdom of our guest, Kara Lennox.

Kara has published sixty-eight books. Sixty-eight! In an amazing feat Kara provided a one-woman conference, doing workshop after workshop for the whole day. We started with queries, moved through three act structure and right on into movie tricks for romance writers. Her plot-fixers and agent advice finished out a marvelous day of information overload.

Even when its a topic I think I know something about, I still learn something. I took pages and pages of notes and intend on reviewing them to see what I’ve already forgotten. For example, the three act structure. I use a plot structure when I write that is based on something like three act structure. I am going to do exactly what she suggested and peek into my mid-point and see if its where it should be. Did it move during those many revisions?Kara used movies as her examples. She explained that movies are exactly three acts and when you write screenplays, there had better be three acts. Its something I do and something I’ve learned, but the way she explained it has me wanting to pull out my stopwatch and check my Disney movies for their exact mid-points and black moments.

Many authors want to ignore structure and fly by the seat of their pants, but even fly-by-fabric writers should have some sort of map. Kara said many people think the three act structure is hardwired into our brains. That we look for it, and if an author doesn’t stay close to it, the reader feels cheated.

The most exciting thing for me was seeing that even after so many books, and the ups and downs of a long career, Kara is still excited about writing. She loves her plots and characters. She’s written category romance and screenplays and hopes to publish in single title, but the common theme for the long, long, long day was her enthusiasm.

She kept us interested right to the end. I always wondered how anyone could be as prolific as a Harlequin author. How do they keep coming up with new plots that are fresh and interesting book after book. After listening to Kara, I think I know the secret.

She loves it. You can see as she talks that she feels lucky to have made a career out of romance. And who wouldn’t? A lifetime of creating new stories, new characters and new happy ever afters? Why wouldn’t everyone be struggling to do this for a living? Well, maybe because it isn’t the easiest thing to do. You have to be prolific to pay the bills and there are the rejections and revisions.

But seeing someone who has been successful and prolific and still loves writing? That’s a calling. That’s inspirational. That’s who I want to be.

13 Comments

Filed under channeling success, Optimisim, writing craft