Friday, January 31, 2014


Thank goodness it's Friday.

It's been a tough week and a tough month. Next month will be just as busy.

Am I ready? No.

Do I have a choice? No.

February, here I come...

New family member, Rayna, is settling in quite nicely. I thought she would miss her dad more, and if she saw him, she'd probably go crazy. I think the upgrade in her living conditions has made a difference in how she's handled the transition--she's not boxed up or sleeping 18 to 20 hours of the day. Yep... she was in her box when her dad was at work and since he works overnight, he'd sleep during the day, so Rayna was sleeping with him.

Here, while she is alone for many hours during the day, she's not boxed up and can roam the house. She's well behaved and doesn't tear stuff up and she has toys. She's allowed on Sonshine's bed as far as furniture goes, and there are a couple of dog beds for her use. Our yard is about three times the size of her previous yard, so she can run and play and chase away all my wildlife. And when we're home we pay attention to her, talk to her, and play with her.

But she's technically, DD's dog. DD was told that if we agreed to give Rayna a new home, she would go with DD when she moves out. DD agreed. So Rayna is really just a temporary house guest. But it's nice to have a critter in the house again.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

There's music in my house again...

Sonshine was guilted into joining the Jazz Band and he's now trying his hand at the trombone. I don't think it was too difficult a task though. I think he missed the music even though there's symphonic band every day. Just a feeling I have.

Here he is practicing Monday night...

I'm not sure why he's playing the trombone over, say, the French horn--God's gift to band, according to him. But expanding one's repertoire isn't a bad thing either.

Back in middle school, he started playing the trumpet and then took a turn with the baritone.

In high school, he's played trumpet, baritone, mellophone (marching French Horn), the regular French horn, and now trombone. I think it's great he can play proficiently on so many brass instruments. What's next--the sousaphone?? Don't laugh, he's talked about it!

Christmas Band Concert, Jazz Band, December 2012

Warming up for the Tarleton Jazz Fest, March 2011

Playing mellophone, football game, October 2013

Playing baritone at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas, May 2012

I wish I was musically inclined...

What about you? Ever played an instrument?

Monday, January 27, 2014

So what the heck else is gong with Jen?

Well, she's knee deep in writing group business. The beginning of the year means the changing of the guard--out with the previous board members, in with the newly elected. Sometimes it's just a shuffle from one position to the next. We lose one or two, gain one or two and everyone else just trades hats.

I love serving my writing group, I really do. I love going to meetings and hanging out with my writer peeps. Writing group day is my one day when I let all my other cares go. I'm gone the whole day, first to meeting, then to hang out with critique partners and other invited friends. I ride with a friend so we have extra time to visit.

This past Saturday was the changing of the guard meeting. My friend, chapter mate, and faithful blog reader Lara was kind enough to open her home to us gaggle of women to get our group on the road to 2014 success. (Thanks, Lara!)

In other news, the yard is frozen. It hasn't had any work done to it in a good month and it needs a pick-me-up pretty bad. On the other hand, it's not the worst it's ever been, so I'm not fretting it too much. There's just been something going on for the last several weeks and when there wasn't, it was just too dang cold to go out.

I spent a couple of weeks on hubby alert. He got a bad case of that flu going around and was laid up at home for a few days. Then, from all the coughing, he ended up with a level three tear in his abdominal wall. If it had been any worse, he'd have had to have surgery to re-attach stuff. Yikes. Until this past Friday, he hasn't driven since when he has to cough, he likes to hunch over to cause the least amount of tug on his belly muscles.

My schedule's been wonky because of DH being sick, and on top of that, the water pump on DD's truck bit the big one, so we were out a vehicle for two weeks. It took a bit longer because we had DD's friend fix it rather than pay a dealership the thousand dollars they quotes us. Instead, we shelled out about $150 in parts and adopted a dog.

This is Rayna...


Her daddy (the friend that fixed DD's truck) lives at home with his parents, as does his sister who has a toddler and a new baby. His parents have been after him to get rid of her because they're worried that she might hurt one or the other of the little ones--not out of aggression, but because she's protective. So we agreed to take her. We babysat her last week and it's going to be a tough adjustment for her. She loves her daddy. I'm thinking she's gonna have to bond with Sonshine. Also, I think I'm going to have to take her to work with me. I don't know that leaving her in a strange house by herself right off the bat is a good idea either. I'll keep you posted.

And last but not least is my continued lack of weight loss. I'm back up around 140lbs, though I haven't gone over but a blip and only once. All the sickies and injuries and crazy schedules and just stuff have conspired to keep me off kilter and seeking comfort in not-so-great food choices. Okay, they're not super bad, it's just that I think I'm eating more that I should be and not drinking enough water. That's gonna end very soon. DH is ready to make healthier choices too.

Well, I think I've gabbed your ear (or eyes?) off enough for today, so I'll sign off.

Hope things are cruising along much better in your neighborhood.

Friday, January 24, 2014

I really hadn't planned to talk about writing yet again...

I had planned to talk about my weight loss and lack thereof or the rest of what's going on in my life, but I had a bit of an AHA moment the other day and so here I am.

I think I've discovered one of the reasons why I haven't finished a book or made much headway towards becoming a published romance author...

I get discouraged too easily and--here's the nasty kicker--I think I've been too lazy to do the hard work to figure out and fix the things that are wrong with my writing.

Yep, I put that out there.

So what am I going to do about it?

Good question. Even though I've taken breaks from writing, I always end up back to piddling with it. Is it because I really want to achieve the goal? Is it because I like the idea of touting myself as an aspiring romance author? Is it because... Well, it could be anything.

The real question is, to quote Tim McGraw: How bad do you want it?

Am I ready and willing and ready and willing and ready and willing to put in the time, do the reading and the research and then the revisions to finish a book, however long it ends up being?

That's a good question. I really want to say yes. But...there's so much going on right now. So much I want to do. Need to do. Have no control over.

But how bad do I want to be published and what am I willing to sacrifice to make it happen one way or another?

The thing is, I want somewhat of a balanced life. I don't want to be a slave to the reading and the research and the revisions either. So I suppose the real decision is not am I ready and willing, but when can I make it happen?

This week, this month? Next? In a couple of months?

I think I need to add a few things to my strategic plan...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My strategic plan for my writing career...

Well, I don't really have one.

My friend Regina does. She's good like that.

So I got to thinking...should I have one too? Probably.

My strategic plan, at this point, is to publish a few more Romance Writer's Guide Books this year. The second one went live last week.

As far as fiction goes, the plan is to stop flitting from project to project and finish one of them. I had some inspiration on a particular one last week, so that's the one I'm working on now. It's going to be short...10,000ish words, give or take.

I think I do better with deadlines. Have it done and submitted or else you don't get included or accepted or whatever the consequence is. Right now, there's no deadline. But even if I gave myself one, there's no consequence.

I thought maybe if I had a reward, that would work, though. If I complete the manuscript by XYZ date I get... WHAT? I don't know. I have pretty much everything I want. I can buy the things I need.

But no matter. I'm determined to make myself finish. Once I finish one, I think it'll be easier to finish the next one and the next, too. Someone once suggested I don't finish because I'm afraid to. Afraid of what's next. Of success. Afraid of...whatever. I think there's something to that, though I'm not exactly sure what it is I'm afraid of. I haven't stopped to contemplate, though it might help me get over it if I know what IT is.

Anyway, my deadline for completing the first draft of this particular book is February 9th. In order to reach it, I have to write at least 250 words a day. That's a doable goal.

Once the book's done, I'll put it aside for a week. Well, it may end up being more than that as an event I'm in charge of will be coming to a head at that point in time.

After that week or two or three, I'll re-read, fix any errors that now present themselves, and do some revising.

And to the critique partners. More waiting. Then more fixing and revising as called for.

In the meantime, I'll be thinking about and having a cover created. Oh--and I'll need a title somewhere along the line--definitely need it before the cover art. Right now this book being referred to by the heroine and hero's names.

But I've gone off topic.

The strategic plan. Finish a dang book and publish it.

Then do it again and again.

Learn about how to utilize social media platforms to my benefit.

Lather, rinse and repeat.

That's the basic version. Thanks for letting me come up with it on the fly.

Is there anything I'm missing?

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Lure of Social Media

As an aspiring author, I've avoided the whole gotta be on social media hype. Had no interest in it, didn't care much, had no desire to spend hours and hours participating in online platforms that didn't work for me and didn't feel comfortable with my personality. So I didn't.

I've written this blog since 2007. The first four years were hit and miss and then became a bit more diligent and regular about it. I like the platform.

I resisted Facebook for ages, but broke down mostly as way to be in regular contact with my half of the family, none of whom live here in Texas. I added a few close friends who are fellow authors, but I don't use it as a networking tool, and I don't have a fan page. I'm not sure about going that route at this point. Since I don't have a work of romance fiction out, I'm not overly worried about it.

I don't tweet. Don't think I'll ever tweet.

I've had a Goodreads account and generally keep track of the books I've read as well giving them a rating, although I've avoided reviews. I think I've written one or two for the over 200 books I've read and tracked via the site.

This past Saturday, the speaker at my writers group spoke to us about how to harness the power of Goodreads. Since I'm already on it and I don't have issues with it, I'm going to implement some of her suggestions immediately, some later. I'm not ready to jump in and get super active and social in groups. I've got enough on my plate at the moment. That'll have to wait a bit until life calms down. Although Murphy may move in and I won't be able to catch my breath until August.

Anyway, I'm trying to decide what and how much works best for me. Of course, if I never finish a fiction book, the point is mostly moot.

Are you active on Social Media? Select platforms? How much time do you spend per week?

Friday, January 17, 2014

The master spreadsheet of stuff...

In Wednesday's post, I mentioned a master spreadsheet of stuff. This is a real thing. Actually, I have several. One for general stuff, one for writing, and one for proofreading.

This particular spreadsheet helps me keep track of important information--like which flower arrangements I sent to which niece. I also track my weight. It's where I keep my master list of books and the list of my Fort Worth Friday features. (Remember those?) Looking at it now, I see a few tabs I could delete. Things I was keeping track of but no longer need to.

How do you keep track of stuff?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Every girl or woman deserves flowers at least once in their life, right?

And those flowers don't have to be from a man. Although that's always nice, isn't it?

My family lives far far away from me. Oregon, Nebraska, Michigan, Denmark. Most of them are women or girls--I have four nieces, all sisters and all born within five years of each other. (I think. No more than six, though.) And the oldest is entering her teenage years. I don't envy my sister. My own two daughters were enough.

The point of my post is that they're far away and I don't get to see them very often at all, so last year I started sending the nieces flowers on their birthdays. I wanted them to know I'm thinking of them and that they're special to me.

These are the flowers I sent them last year...

 Ariana, January 2013
(I guess this isn't really flowers, is it. Oops!)

 Lexi, July 2013

 Miranda, August 2013

 Kaitlyn, December 2013

I've been sending flowers to mom and grandmother for a few years now. Last year, I added my step-mom to the list, and this year, I'm going to add my sisters. I think I'm going to have to add a line item to my budget for sending flowers. Those flowers to Denmark--not cheap! And I've added a tab to my master spreadsheet of stuff with the pictures so I can keep track of which flower arrangement I've sent to which niece. I'm not so worried about the grown women, but I don't want to duplicate the girls' flowers.

When was the last time you received flowers?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Taking care of writer business...

A few weeks ago, on my writers group loop, a friend posted a link to a blog post about how to stay connected to readers without feeling overwhelmed by all the social media platforms available these days.

The advice was two fold--be clear and consistent and make it easy.

The blogger suggested that I and anyone else reading his words of wisdom take an hour and write a new message. From scratch. Then post it wherever I or they maintain an online presence.

Saturday morning while the house was quiet, I took that hour. Then I posted my message on my website as well as Amazon and here and an abbreviated one at Goodreads (they only accepted 2000 characters) with a link to the page here. If you want to read it, click here.

The thing that I really liked about this post was that this blogger verified my feeling that it's okay to be on only one or two platforms consistently rather than being hit or miss across all of them. Someone else has said it before too, though I don't remember who. Kristen Lamb or J.A. Konrath, I think. Writers get inundated with social media advice, most of which says you have to be everywhere. When are we supposed to write if we've got to juggle a day job, kids, spouse, and house too? And if it's not fun, you're less likely to do it.

One of the reasons why I finally took that hour--well, really, it was forced upon me. DH was sick and had to sleep on the loveseat, so I didn't want to disturb him with housework and stuff while he was actually getting some sleep.--is that last week I worked to get my second Romance Writer's Guide book ready for publication and I wanted my author message current, consistent, done and out there.

Remember, one of my goals for the year is to publish at least three more of them. The topic had been percolating for a while and it needed to get put on paper, so to speak. So I spent time before and after work, writing and revising and finding examples. I read it out loud to hear the cadence and flow of my sentences. I tweaked some more. I added new text. I deleted repetition. It needs another read through before I'm comfortable putting it out there. The cover is done too. I took some time this weekend to create it as well. That's my least favorite part--creating the cover. I find the process tedious and time consuming. But it's ready to go when the book is.

Another of my goals was to read books about plotting--the hardest part of writing for me. I think. I spent some time on Christmas day looking for books about plotting on Amazon and bought five of them with the gift card I had. I started reading one of them last week. We'll see what nuggets I can pan from it.

How about you? Making any headway on this year's goals?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Today's post has been cancelled due to lack of inspiration...

Nothing sounds interesting to me, so I don't want to bore you.

Have a good weekend and stay warm.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What happened to all my spare time?

Just a few short years ago, I had spare time. I could lounge and watch TV. I could spend hours online, reading fan fiction or interacting with my online friends. I could write these blog posts on the fly the morning they were to be posted. I could spend hours and hours just writing.

These days I find that have much less spare time to do more enjoyable things. I catch a few TVshows here and there. But the days of reading for hours on end are no more. And online interaction happens only via Facebook. My blog posts have to be thought up and the bulk of it written in advance by a day or two and then read and tweaked the night before.

Now that I'm proofreading for money--that's basically my second job. So that of course eats up a lot of time. And even though business at the day job is down (as it usually is this time of year), it seems as if there's more to do. Well, there sort of is since we've implemented a few processes and systems to track and document what our employees are working on. It's good for cash flow, but bad for me.

It seems cooking and housework are low priorities these days, though laundry is a must. I've made it clear to my boss that I want to work from home. Then I can cook and clean here and there during the day. He's promised to make it happen.

While I really need my beauty sleep, I may have to give up half an hour or so of it per day for a while. With my goals of reading and writing and weight loss, I think I'm gonna need it.

But you know, I really hate being this busy. It doesn't work for me.

What about you? Is your life moving along at an acceptable rate?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Back on the wagon...

Now that the new year is here and life has returned to some semblance of normal, it's time to wrest back my self-control. Time to start watching what I eat, counting a few calories, and exercising again. If you remember, DH bought a treadmill several months back. Now I can walk in the comfort of my home, though it's parked in the garage and there's no heat or air in there at the moment. I'm still at the whim of the weather to a certain degree. But I have a space heater, so no excuses.

I'm eliminating as much sugar and as many carbs as I can again and going back to water and unsweet tea, hot or cold.

In addition it's time to make some other changes. I've determined to consume as little microwaved food or beverages as possible. Surely, the damage done to the food item in question by the process is not that good for the body. At the very least, damage has been done to the nutrients, they've been altered, rendered useless or possibly harmful. So I'll be brewing my tea at home and toting to work in my travel cup and two thermoses until I get my electric kettle back. And no more hot lunches, I guess. I should be getting back to salads anyway. Reheating will be done on the stove top or in the oven. I'd love to get rid of the microwaves altogether, but there'd be an outcry.

(Image courtesy of Wiki Commons.)

We're also switching back to real foods and condiments. So no more artificial sweeteners. I realize processed sugar's not that great either, but it's less toxic than aspartame and the like. I personally like raw sugar, when I use it. But I try not to and there's none in the house at the moment.

 (Image courtesy of Wiki Commons.)

No more margarine either. Real butter from now on. I'm also going to start cooking with coconut oil instead of vegetable oil or margarine (not that we'll have any). My mother-in-law recommended it to me a while back and now I've just read a very short book outlining its many benefits. (Not only can you ingest it, but it has topical uses as well.)

(Image courtesy of

The next major change is going to be to find beef that's grass/range fed so that we can benefit from healthier meat products. My husband is not a fan of Walmart meat, but I've resisted changing. Mostly because I'm lazy and don't want to have to run all over hell and half acre buying groceries. But there's a Grillmasters in the business park and a meat market a few blocks from the house. I'm guessing the meat from the meat market is better than the pre-packaged process stuff from the grocery stores even if it's not completely organic. I printed off the flyer from the meat market and will place my order today. The have a couple of different specials, so I'm going to try one. They include veggies!

And those are just some initial changes coming down the pipe...

Healthier eating and healthier living, here we come, kicking and screaming!

Friday, January 3, 2014

The new year starts of with a bang!

We sold a record number of fireworks this season, though we won't get to enjoy much of the proceeds as we have a few things needing to be paid. But it's nice to have it to rely on. We were busy from noon to 11:30 PM on the 31st. No kidding. Had at least three customers in the store at any given time except for a short TEN SECOND stint at around 9:30 PM. It's not an exaggeration.

My writers group is sponsoring two contests and I'm knee deep in both of them.

The beginning of the month means a lot of work in the office. The beginning of the new year in addition to being the first of the month--ugh.

I even started my first book of the year--Coconut Oil Recipes: Nature's Remedy for Health, Beauty, Weight Loss, Allergies, & Detoxing by Scarlett Aphra. Free for the Kindle yesterday--maybe today, if you hurry. No guarantees.

Twenty-fourteen, here I come...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Looking forward to 2014...

Last year started off okay and got better toward the middle. We even hired two new employees, though one quit a few short months later. The IT industry is tougher than it sounds. Though, it was for the best that he left as cash flow slowed and we might have had to let him go anyhow. A few other things came to pass in the latter half of the year that weighed us down. But we got through it as we always do.

Personally, I had a few things I wanted to accomplish and unfortunately I have no real reminders of what those were. Not even a blog post from this time last year, though I have a sticky note in my Outlook for the first quarter of last year all in regards to writing. Did I accomplish those goals? Sadly, no.

One thing I do remember is my goal to reach a certain weight. Did I make it? No, but I'm closer than ever. Unfortunately, I seek comfort in food so when we had some things happen, I lost momentum and the willpower to say no as often as I should have. I did finally get and stay below 140 lbs. though--barely--which had been a huge marker to get past. Looking at my spreadsheet, I see I didn't do very well at all this year. An overall loss of only 5.2 lbs. Bummer. Next year will be better. I promise.

Writing wise, I changed focus from writing to proofreading in order to earn some extra money to pay off a specific credit card. Things went well until the uphill slide toward the holidays and people re-purposed their dollars. That's okay. The CC isn't supposed to be paid in full until June 2014, so I still have time to make that happen. And I did make progress, I'm glad to say.

So goals for 2014... Let's see...

1) lose weight--get down to 120ish pounds (that's 16 lbs.)
2) pay off the credit card with proofing money
3) create bulb bed/plant bulbs on the side of the house
4) work on back yard
5) bookshelves in living room
6) ramp up proofreading
7) publish three more Romance Writer's Guides books
8) get my son graduated
9) read up on how to make the body work like it's supposed to and help my hubby lose weight and get healthy
10) to read 64 books in 2014, including 12 books on plotting (remember this post from the end of Nov?)

I think I'm gonna post these on the side bar so I can see them on a near daily basis and be reminded. I think that will also help keep me accountable. Plus updates will provide post fodder!

To a certain handful of my readers--thanks so much for your faithfulness. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. It really means a lot. And to the rest of you who read but don't comment, the number of you who are out there tickles me.

To you all:

Happy New Year to you and yours, and may 2014 be all that you want it to be.