Where Do We Go From Here?

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I am astonished that we’ve just crossed over the 2013 mid-year mark. The old saying is that time flies when you’re having fun. In my case, I feel like I blinked and lost track of the first half of the year. There’s been some fun for sure, but I’ve also faced some unexpected challenges along the way as well.

Way back in January (haha- I feel like that was just yesterday!) I published my tentative 2013 Production Schedule. I hit the mark for the first three months of the year. (Yay, me!) Life derailed the last three months, and my writing derailed as well. Now that’s not to say I haven’t been writing or releasing new work. In addition to some short stories under my new pen name, I also started the Gamescape serial.

Having just wrapped my first full-length contemporary romance novel under my pen name, I found myself uncertain of where I should go next.  There are days when it’s necessary to  hit ‘Pause‘ and take stock in order to decide which road you plan to travel. For me, today is one of those days. I’ve got a bazillion stories ideas buzzing in my head, but I also know there are fans of the Bloodtruth and Twisted Souls series waiting patiently for me to deliver the next books.

Reassessment was needed.

As much as I love the idea of a serial, Gamescape’s production schedule isn’t working for me. First I promised a new installment every two weeks, then every three, and finally once a month. I still can’t hit it with all the other irons I have in the fire. So I made a decision. I’m pulling back the first three installments, and incorporating them into a full-length book that I am planning to release by year end.

So that frees me up to refocus on my two series, which hopefully makes a lot of people very happy. 🙂 So here it is, the refreshed Production Schedule for the remainder of 2013.

August 2013: To Be Titled (Twisted Souls #4)

September 2013: To Be Titled (Bloodtruth #4)

November 2013: Step To My Bones

December 2013: Gamescape

Things may still shift around just a bit, but this is my plan and I’m sticking to it. As always, thanks for sticking with me!

(photo credit Jean-Louis Zimmermann)

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Taking Advantage of Lazy Days

This is Day 4 of my 31 Days of August Awesomeness Blog Challenge. Want to know more? Check out the inaugural post here.

Today is Saturday, and you know what? I woke up late with nothing to do. Now that’s not to say that I didn’t have an agenda in mind of things that I wanted to accomplish, but there wasn’t a single place that I needed to be today unless I chose to be there.

These kinds of days are bliss.

It’s kind of easy to zoom through lazy days and forget to appreciate that they are dabbled in amongst the chaos that is our normal busy day lives, isn’t it? When our game piece lands on a lazy day, I think the most common reaction is to go into some kind of schedule paralysis and turn the dial the complete opposite direction “I must get the 5 bazillion things on my to-do list that I never look at done before 11:59pm when my pumpkin disappears!

Ok, that’s a little extreme, but I think you know what I mean. We don’t enjoy the fact that our schedule and our time are our own. So we overcompensate. What that does is ensure that our brains and bodies aren’t given any kind of break from the normal day stress. We still click away to a beat that has stopped, but we’ll know will be picked up again in just another day or so.

No wonder I’m always exhausted!

As I look into August, I see these beautiful glimmers of light on the calendar like today, and I am making a promise to myself to appreciate and enjoy them to the fullest. That definitely doesn’t mean that I plan to do nothing with them. But I am going to be very intentional about how I chose to spend my time. I don’t see any downside in doing that.

Today’s “schedule”? I slept in later than I have in forever, and I didn’t beat myself up about it. I’m doing three planned writing sprints to progress my current WIP (the sequel to Heiress of Lies), but I’ve already taken a nap in-between. I’m sitting at my local coffee shop enjoying a caffeinated beverage. Tonight I’m going to wrap up by watching the Olympics and probably Underworld Awakenings. (yea yea, I’ve heard it’s horrible but I’m going into it with low expectations.)

I feel relaxed and happy. Which is exactly what I love and appreciate about my lazy days.

(Photo credit Retroeric)

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Need a Kick in the Productivity Pants? Try Journaling

 This is Day 2 of my 31 Days of August Awesomeness posts. Click here for how it all started…

 Ask anyone who has known me for any length of time, and they will confirm what I am about to tell you: I am a lifelong procrastinator.  It is a crippling habit when paired with my other “p” weakness: perfectionism. What do you get accomplished when you are a perfectionist procrastinator?

Nothing.

I have had a bazillion false starts in my writing career. That’s why I spent 7 years working on the Edge of Shadows manuscript. That’s right: 7 YEARS! I wrote it, I edited it, I changed it, I got brave in 2009 and gave it to a bunch of beta readers, I edited it some more based on their feedback, I lost that version (whole other story), then I tweaked, moaned, and edited some more. It still wasn’t right. I felt like I still wasn’t ready, and so I shoved it away for another day.

Now that easily could have been the end of my story. Aspiring writer finds reality and trudges back to day job content to live out the rest of her life. 

Then quite by accident, I stumbled across a reference to a book on a writing blog called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. If you are an artist, not even a writer but any kind of creator of artistic work, and you are stuck, you must run (don’t walk!) to Amazon and buy this book. I’m absolutely serious- the book will change your life.

I’ll wait.

The single most important habit that book taught me, and a habit I continue today is to journal. I journal three long-handed pages almost everyday. I started the self-paced The Artist’s Way course in October 2011, and as you can see by the picture at the top of this post, I’m on my 5th journal.

Why do I consider this course and this habit life-changing? I got out of my own way.

Consider this. Prior to October 2011, I had written two 50,000 word manuscript drafts which were both collecting dust in a drawer. Fast forward ten months. One of those manuscripts I published (Edge of Shadows), and then I’ve written and published 4 more. Ageless is written and with my editor, so that’s really 4 1/2 by my count. And I’m well underway on the next book.

My writing has been taken to a whole new level. I’m not afraid to take risks. I’ve had my share of failures and lessons learned, but that is far outweighed by the massive burst of energy and productivity that I’m leveraging on a daily basis.

It all starts with my journaling. In it, I allow myself to be whiny. I allow myself to be self-deprecating and get down on myself. I nit-pick dumb things I’ve done. But I also plan out what I want to get accomplished each day. I pat myself on the back for every victory. And I have a fabulous record of my writing journey. I get shivers thinking about being able to come back and read my first entry in my first journal five or ten years from now.

It’s heady stuff, powerful stuff. And it’s addictive.

Journaling has opened up my mind and jumpstarted my productivity. It’s one of my awesome productivity secrets, and I’m delighted to be sharing it with you.

By the way, you may be thinking “Well sure, Cege, you’re a writer so journaling is easy for you.” I may have written in a diary a couple of times when I was a teenager, but this kind of structured writing has never been part of my writing routine. Finding the time and sticking with it was a challenge. But in the end, it became part of my day and it’s something I look forward to.

So if you are looking for a way to shake up your routine and find massive loads of inspiration? Try journaling. Plus, it’s a great excuse to go shopping at your local bookstore. 🙂

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Why I’m Still Afraid of the Dark

Confession time. I’m 36 years old and I still jog up the staircase at night after turning off the lights on the floor below. I’ve got an inner dialogue going on the whole time that sounds something like this:

“This is so stupid. You are way too old to act like this. Seriously, what (or who) do you think is going to come after you? The boogeyman?”

Followed quickly by:

“Man, I need to get to the gym.”

That second part is a self-deprecating story for another day.

Let’s focus in on the fact that I turn into a ten year kid in my own house by letting fear almost completely overrule every rational thought in my head. When it comes down to it, I’m not a fan of the dark. I don’t find it particularly comforting, and instead it has always represented in my mind a place where things that want to hurt you hide away until you are completely vulnerable. Then those things will lunge out and grab you with no remorse and reduce you into a crying, terrified, now-I-need-therapy mess (that is, if you weren’t completely spirited away into another universe of course).

You may chalk it up to my early discovery of Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and the like. Or the fact that I read every Stephen King book I could get my hands on somewhere between fifth and sixth grade. My middle school mind was shaped by these big uglies who had their terrifying agenda of revenge and often stalked their prey at night. You know, when everybody was sleeping. I got older and even though I knew that none of these things were real, I was even more drawn to them (ahem, vampire junkie anyone?). But that fear of the dark remained.

Then as a grown-up, I learned a shocking truth. You don’t need a Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, or Michael Myers to come along and do evil things. Human beings, the ones that exist here and now in the real world, are just as capable of the dastardly awful things that I saw in movies and read about in my fiction books. I learned that there are people out there who don’t know me, but given the proper motivation (in their minds anyway) would hurt me without hesitation or provocation. Usually you can’t see those people coming either. They hide behind normal faces in normal places. They could be anywhere. That fear becomes even more pronounced as you transfer it to those that you love.

You may wonder how a big old scaredy cat like me could write horror or any other kind of spooky story about things that go bump in the night when I feel this way. Part of the reason is because regardless of how I feel about the creatures themselves, I still get a little bit of a thrill out of being scared inside a safely contained fictional environment. I’m the first person in line to see movies like Resident Evil (and all of its sequels) and the remakes of my favorite horror movies from when I was a kid (even though they are almost always spectacularly bad). I think the important words there, in case you missed them, were “safely contained” and “fictional”. When I’m in control of the words going down on the page, those things hold no power over me. In fact, I could erase them without a second thought. No, those fictional baddies don’t scare me.

But movies like Blood Diamond and Tears of the Sun stress me out and put me in a melancholy depression for days – because even though the story may be fiction, the truth behind the story is not. What human beings can do to other human beings is ghastly and deeply disturbing to me. In the end, that’s why, at 36, I’m still afraid of the dark. It’s not because of the monsters inside my head or that I find in other writers’ work; it’s the real monsters out there that I know exist. I hope they never find my doorstep, or yours. But in the meantime, you’ll still find me looking over my shoulder when I climb those stairs at night.

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Guilty Pleasures: Streaming Media

Writers write, and so when we are supposed to be writing we should be…writing? Nah. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that when I KNOW my butt is supposed to be in the chair I am finding something- anything– else to do. The name of the game is procrastination.  I do it well.

So I bring you a new feature for the blog: Guilty Pleasures. It’s not quite as naughty as it sounds. These are just the things that I am openly going to share with you that I’ve found throughly distract me from doing what I know I’m supposed to be doing: which is , of course, writing.

Today’s installment is my #1 offender. For something that entered my life so recently (just the last 2 years or so) it has become completely embedded in my life. I have to make deals with myself to stop the madness.

I love me some Netflix. Or Hulu Plus. Or Amazon Unlimited Instant Videos (in a real pinch when I can’t find it on Netflix or Hulu Plus.) Suddenly, I can relive the grand old sitcoms of yesteryear while catching up on all of my current primetime favorites. I am no longer required to be at home at a certain time every week to enjoy some tasty goodness of my favorite show. In fact, there is talk in my house of canceling cable TV altogether and going completely online. (Oh the horrors!)

I get to watch what I want to watch whenever I want to watch it. I can watch it on my iPhone during my commute. I can watch it on my TV. I can watch it on my laptop in bed. I can watch it on my iPad on a plane. It’s like I’m a god.

Until the wifi connection goes from warp speed to a snail’s pace anyway. You may wonder what I’m watching that causes me to lose these precious hours of writing time. Well, that’s another post for another day.

Until then, I have banished all streaming media from my life until Shadows Deep is finished. If I didn’t, I would be sitting here watching… something and my manuscript would never get done.

Streaming media: can you live without it?

(photo credit: Tony Crider)

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