Summer Quarter Goals 2016

I have goals to accomplish. I’m guessing you do too. I don’t know about you, but I set goals all the time. My problem comes in when I actually have to accomplish these goals. I need accountability. Someone (or several someones) expecting things from me to remind me that I’ve got things to do. If I don’t have accountability, I tend to change my mind on what my goals are, sometimes even in the middle of doing them. Which means very little actually gets done. For example, there was that time I started a YouTube channel before I decided what the heck I wanted to do with my life. I made a few videos and then quit. Sigh.

And then there was that one time that had the goal to paint the baseboards in my house. Each time I go to do this, I decide I’m going to do something else. I got fed up with never completing it, so I grabbed some paint and a paint brush and marched upstairs to begin. Aaand then I ended up painting the cupboards in the bathroom. Well…I started to. So now, the baseboards are not painted and my bathroom cabinets are a two tone combo of 90s looking wood and white. It’s sexy. No. It’s not. That was a joke. I’ll include a picture. Maybe if I share my shame, I’ll actually finish painting it.

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See what I mean? I need help.

I decided to set myself goals for the four quarters of the year. Each quarter I’m going to come up with a list of goals (writing, reading and personal) and share them here. If I accomplish the goals, I am excited to come share with you. And the idea of telling you all that I’m going to do something and not doing it is a little embarrassing. I’m a pretty competitive person so I think this method will work for me. I got this idea from a pretty awesome writer that I follow on YouTube, Jenna Moreci. You can check her out here! She is hilarious, and oh so wise. Also, her book Eve: The Awakening is pretty cool!

So here we go!

Summer Quarter (July-September)

-New blog post every Tuesday! I’ve been doing pretty good with it, but I want to keep up my momentum! (I almost didn't make it today because my day was busy. But here I am!)

-Start posting fiction on my blog. I’ve begun to share writing prompts, but I am trying to challenge myself to share a piece of fiction with you from time to time. I haven’t because, nerves. (It was also a mini goal to actually include this goal. I deleted and retyped it five times. Yay me!)

-Figure out what forms of social media I am going to use to promote my blog. This is going to take me a little bit of research because I am pretty much only proficient at Instagram, and I’m decent at Facebook. I know I don’t need to use every form of social media out there. Thank God! I checked out Tumblr the other day and that scared me to death. (The name irks me too. I really don’t like it when things are misspelled on purpose…cringe.) I’m not so great at all of this internet business, but I do want to broaden my horizons.

-Read 1 book/week (This will push me towards my bigger goal of reading 52 books this year!)

-Read a wider range of books. I have a lot of books on my shelves that I need to read before buying more. I would like to read every book I own no matter what it is about. I fully believe there is always something to be learned from every book! (Even if the lesson is how not to write.)

-Write 30,000 words in my novel (sounds like a whole lot but that’s around 500 words per day, not counting weekends and a few extra days off here and there, like 4th of July.) I’m a wordy person. I can do it!

-Get outdoors more often! I tend to hermit when I'm busy. Or stressed. Or tired. Okay so I'm a hermit most of the time. I live in the desert so it's not always appealing to go outside, but there are nice parks to go to! And I do have a really pretty tree in my front yard! I definitely spent Friday evening waiting for my hubby to come home reading in my front yard. I need to do that more often!

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-Clean out my garage. It is jam packed full of all kinds of things. Some of it is stuff I need, most of it is not. Time to donate, donate, donate! I’d really like to be able to park my car in the garage, since I hear that’s what it’s for!

-Create a better system for paperwork (bills, etc.) that way my desk is more free for writerly things! (And so I'm less stressed about the bills!)

-Oh, I guess there's the painting. Those baseboards and bathroom cabinets aren't going to paint themselves! Seriously, I keep waiting to see if it's going to happen. I was hoping for little elves to come in and help out while I'm sleeping but no such luck.

Well that's my list! I'm a little intimidated. But, I have to say that I am excited to see just how much I can accomplish over the next couple of months!

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Do you have a system for setting goals? Is it a list you keep somewhere or just in your head? Do you set deadlines on those goals?

Please share, I’d love to hear what keeps you motivated! 

Flash of Inspiration #1

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I'm going to try something new today. Why? Because some days we all feel a little (or a lot) uninspired. On those days it's hard to keep writing. What usually helps me is a writing prompt. Here's hoping that you can come here and find inspiration to get you out of your writing funk.  

My idea was inspired by this picture. (Yes, I totally used it as my cover picture for this category. Which means you see it twice on this post. Sorry, but not really. I couldn't help it. Because...GORGEOUS!)

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I just so happened to snap it on a drive yesterday. As usual, I was thinking about how much I love where I live. Then I had a thought. What if someone had never, ever seen a mountain before? Not even in a picture.

So here is the prompt for today: Imagine you (or a make-believe person) have never seen mountains before. Ever. You wake up one day and see this. Write as much as you can in 10 minutes! Ready, set, go!

Feel free to share what you wrote in the comments below or just use it as a shove to get your creative juices flowing.

Happy Writing!

 4 Tips for Balancing Productivity and Creativity

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I don’t know about you all but I pretty much always felt like growing up these two things were polar opposites. You could either be productive or creative, not both. Just me then? Well, I am learning more recently in my life that I can have both. Most often I find that the more productive I am, the more freedom I have to be creative. This may sound a little strange at first but bear with me.

We all have our goals for creativity, things we “want to do.” Word count goals, books to read, video games to beat, etc. But we’re weighed down by the real life things that we “have to do.” Laundry, dishes, cleaning toilets, changing diapers. Especially when those things begin to pile up and then before we know it we are surrounded by the chaos of an endless to-do list.

Now, if you’re like me, you might hate all of the mundane to-do things. You might let the loathing of those things get in your head and defeat you. Your brain gets all overwhelmed and turns to mush. Then you might throw your hands up and say “F*#% it. Nothing is getting done today.” (Okay, I still say that sometimes. But I’m working on it.)

Now I say, “Well, I gotta do it so I might as well like it.” (Thanks Dad, that one’s stuck in my head forever!)

Growing up, I hated when my dad said that to me. Usually it was when mom wanted us to get chores done, and my siblings and I fought her tooth and nail on it (sorry Mom). Then Dad was called in and dropped that line. Like, every time. Ugh.

Now that I’m an adult and have spent the majority of my twenties feeling a little lost in life and doing the bare minimum to get by and keep my life in order, I’ve realized that I think he’s got something there. Because the more I actually get done, the more I feel accomplished and my mind is freed up for my creativy things. (I know it’s not a word. Carry on, Grammar Nazi.)

So here are a few tips that I’ve discovered that help me to be productive so I can get creative:

1) Get up early.

I know, I know. Creative people are supposed to be night owls. Well for me this just isn’t realistic. I mean, I could stay up ‘til the butt crack of dawn (another lovely saying I’m resurrecting from my childhood) but then I have two young children who like to rise with the sun. Have you ever dealt with a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old on just a few hours of sleep? I have. It’s not pretty.

My solution? I go to bed early. I give myself an hour or two after the kids fall asleep to have adult time, whether that means writing, watching a little TV with the hubby, or reading. I seldom use this time for productivity because I get very little time without my kids for me to do something I like to do uninterrupted.

Getting up early has been revolutionary for me and my day. I hated getting up early when I was young. Still kinda hate it. But it’s worth the payoff. I get up before my munchkins, have some coffee, read my Bible, and get a little writing done. It’s like I have a patience/energy tank that’s being filled up with glorious gas. (I know it’s kind of a weird metaphor. Bear with me.) Seriously though, there is a huge difference on the days I do this than on the days I don’t. I’m writing this in a silent house with a cup of hot coffee. It’s pretty much the best.

Try it. If it doesn’t work for you after a couple of weeks, then you go back to bed and enjoy that sleep. I’m going to be over here being all early birdy and gettin’ those worms!

Also you get to catch beautiful sunrises, like this one!

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2) Set a timer.

We all have things that actually have to get done. Sadly, most of us cannot afford a maid, or a personal chef or the like. We gotta do all that stuff ourselves.

I’m discovering that my parents are genius. Must call them and thank them again for teaching me these things that I’m recovering from my long-term memory archives (Inside Out anyone?). My mom taught me that if you try to race a timer you’re more likely to get more done in that time frame than if you didn’t set a timer. What, that’s silly. It’s just a timer.

Well it works. I do 15 minute increments. I’m a very competitive person, and I know I’m just racing time, or myself. (Philosophically, which would it be? Hmmmm.) But. It. Works.

Here’s what you do. Set a timer. Pick one or two tasks that needs to get done. Start the timer and GO! When the timer goes off and I get more done than I set out for myself to do, I seriously do a little victory dance! Take that time! (Or self!) Ha!

It may be silly, but whatever gets the job done, right?

3) Get organized.

Definitely cringing as I type this one. I hate to organize. I’m not an organized, or really cleanly person for that matter. My mom did her best to reform me and passed the torch on to my hubby, and he does his best but I am just kind of a mess.

I go with my dad’s method. Organized chaos. There’s a method to my madness. Seriously. There may be sloppy piles everywhere, but I know exactly what is in them. Mostly.

Recently though, I have discovered that I’m a very visual person. If things are cluttered and chaosy, (I know I’m making up words. Someone stop me.) I can’t really focus. I may sit down and start to write or read but then I feel supremely guilty. It’s mostly subconscious, so then I don’t realize I’m feeling this way and then before you know it, I’ve ruined my precious writing time and can’t figure out why.

So now I’m working on having a system. I put things in specific places. If an item doesn’t serve a purpose that I need, I donate it or throw it away depending on what it is. If it’s useful, I put it somewhere handy.

Papers get sorted into (mostly) tidy piles. Everything now has a home. And the kitchen counter and dining table are no longer homes for anything (except kitchen appliances). If it all has a place to go, it’s faster to clean it up. Duh.

This goes for my writerly things too. (I’ve always been organized with my books. I like them stacked neatly on shelves where I can admire them.) I had several different notebooks and loose papers from compiling research for my novel. It was all a little scattered. Then I got binders, and those divider things. Now it all has a home and I know exactly where to go to find different parts of my book or research. It’s lovely, and saves me time because I’m not searching for ages to find that one note I wrote down when I could be spending that time actually writing.

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4) Set a schedule.

Now this one is really hard for me. Wait, the other ones were hard for me too. Okay, all of this is hard. Adulting is hard. It’s worth it though! (I keep telling myself this. I’m actually starting to believe it.)

If you have kids, you totally get this. Try scheduling your toddler’s nap. Hahahahahaha! Some days it goes beautifully. Others, well we’ll just leave that to your imagination.

I’ve gotten to the point where I have a loose schedule for my day, because rigid schedules don’t really work for little munchkins. If you don’t have kids, then you go for it. Schedule the shit outta your day!

The loose schedule thing doesn’t always lend to creativity. But, if I have the goal of working towards giving myself creative time every day, even if it happens at different times each day, it usually happens. It’s kind of like a reward system. If I get the kitchen cleaned and I organize my desk now, then when the kids have naptime, I won’t have to do any cleaning and I can sit down and write my book! See how that works?

Now I’m not sitting here writing all of this from a sparkly, shiny perfectly clean house. As I tripped over my sons’ toys on my way to get coffee, I felt a little hypocritical for writing all of this. And as I sit here with a cluttered desk I still feel it a little.

What I’m trying to say is that I don’t have it perfect. But I’m working on it, and the more effort I put in, the more time I get back out. As soon as I post this, I’ll hit cleaning mode with my timer and tear through this house like a reverse Tasmanian Devil.

Try some of these, or all of them, and see what it does for your day and your creative time! It takes a little time and some effort to change the way we do things but it’s totally worth it if the payout is that we get more time for the things we want to do!

What things do you implement in your daily life to make time for your writing? Or reading? Or other enjoyable pastimes? Share them below, I’d love to hear your ideas!

May Reading Recap

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I can’t believe it’s already the end of May! This month flew by! I am so excited to share the books I read this month!

The first book I completed was Red Dwarf by Grant Naylor. This book was bizarre right out of the gate. I was uncertain about it for the first few pages and to be honest, if one of my best friends hadn’t recommended it, I may have put it down. But I kept reading and wow! It was without a doubt one of the strangest, yet most intriguing books I have ever read! The space travel, time travel, sound effects typed right into the story like dialogue would be, and off the wall characters are all things that have you shaking your head but in an edge of your seat, can’t wait to find out what happens next sort of way.

If you are any type of sci-fi fan, you have to read this book. I literally read it in one day because I had to know how it all turned out. Talking about it again just reminds me how much I loved it and that I need to get my hands on the sequel!

Next book I tackled this month was Passenger by Alexandra Bracken. I had seen this one around a lot and just thought the cover looked awesome. I heard there was time travel and pirates and I was in!  I thought the method of time travel was actually really clever. It was not an overly complex story but for the most part, the simplicity was enjoyable. I have a few hang-ups with it, but I think those are due to the fact that it’s a YA novel and the depth just wasn't there for me. All in all, it was a good read, and I’m looking forward to the next installment, which I will sadly have to wait a while for since it was just published this year.

After travelling through time and space in two totally different ways, I struggled with a couple of different books. They just weren’t clicking for me so I didn't get all the way through them. I have plans to finish them in June.

Then I picked up The BFG by Roald Dahl. I remembered it’s going to be released as a movie this summer and I wanted to read it first. It’s one of the few Roald Dahl books I hadn’t read yet. I adore this man, and his genius for storytelling. Yes, it’s a children’s book but if you haven’t ever read a Roald Dahl book you are missing out on life. I have to say this wasn’t my favorite book by him (George’s Marvelous Medicine and Matilda tie for that spot) but it was true to his style and I walked away from the book smiling. The movie adaptation of The Big Friendly Giant will definitely be very interesting to see!

The last two books I completed this month were creative, writerly type books.

The first of these was Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. This book is definitely for all creative people, not just writers. It was a fresh, fun take on the concept that no idea is truly original. We all have people who influence us and the truly great artist recognizes that and makes all the parts of all his influences into a new and shiny looking book, song, poem, etc. It was a really refreshing, quick read for some encouragement and motivation to just keep pursuing my dream!

The next book is definitely aimed at writers. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg was an incredible book. I learned so much from her. From the concept that we are all capable of writing amazing things, some people have just been at it longer to the idea that all of your writing, even the bad stuff, is fuel for growing good writing. Like a compost heap. This book was filled with tidbits of wisdom, all of it applicable as a writer, all of it challenging and encouraging. Goldberg took Zen Meditation and combined it with everything she had ever learned about being a writer, from her vast experience and those of others. While I am not a huge fan of some of the Buddhist concepts, there was something to learn from each and every section. It was a slightly longer read, but that’s okay. This is of those books to be read slowly, so you can contemplate it and learn better from it.

I loved my reading month! It really lit a fire under me to write more and enjoy and learn from all of the books I read, whether they are ground breakers or not!

What did everyone read this month? Anything that inspired you to do something big, to carry on a dream or even try for a new one?

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Of Trees, Roots and Culture

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I’ve been in a bit of a writing slump this week with my novel and wondering why I haven’t felt motivated to work on it. At first I thought maybe it was because I have been really busy and a bit stressed because of big changes in my personal life. And while that may have been part of it, it wasn’t the whole picture. I realized after sitting and thinking on it a bit (and maybe after a beer or two) that my characters seem boring, flat and one dimensional. I had my outline for my story and my character profiles. I know what color their hair is and what their deepest, darkest secret is. I know where they are going next and how they are going to respond to a question that is asked of them. So what’s the problem? The problem is this. I don’t know the whys to it all. Why do they feel this way? Was it something that happened to them as a child? If so, what specifically is that thing? Why did that traumatizing, embarrassing, or exciting event happen to them? What kind of society do they live in where something like that would occur? What kind of religious practices to they engage in?

It’s important to have culture set up for your world, because it’s the little things that give life to a story. Really it needs to be to the point where you can stand there with your eyes closed and picture the tavern where the heroes are sitting and drinking a hard earned pint of ale or visualize the ritual where they stand beneath a tree to swear an oath to defend a wall in the middle of an icy wasteland. Why do they do these things? Do you feel excited for them, relieved with them, overwhelmed for them?

What kind of difficulties or excitements do they encounter other than the typical badassery of questing and such? Do they come across an entirely different race? Ents, elves, dwarves, hobbits, orcs, demons, and the like. Do they have language differences, like the between those in the Westeros and the Dothraki? Do the people they encounter engage in strange rituals like the worship of clocks? (The Claidi Collection, anyone?)

I had begun writing some ideas on how I want my world to be set up but I didn’t think I needed to figure EVERYTHING out immediately. To some extent, I’ve been able to carry on just fine without having my complex world set up completely. But then I hit a turning point and I was stumped as to why these people don’t get along, and why my main character was just being dumb. (Because literary characters DO have a mind of their own. Just ask any writer.)

I hadn’t figured out what makes my heroine’s culture different to make her so upset by the changes she encounters in the extreme one that is forced upon her.

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I love this quote I found about culture and history, mostly because it involves an analogy of tree roots. If you know me at all, you know I’m obsessed with trees. So in case you missed the point of the quote in relation to what I’m talking about here, it’s that our story needs roots. It needs the depth that comes with a rich backstory. Even if all of those details are not shared in the book, it helps to create rich characters. If there is no depth to the world around your characters, even their exciting actions and words will fall flat.

Think about some of the most epic fantasy books of our time, or really any good book of any genre for that matter and you look at the depth of the backstory. There was a whole lot of time and energy put into that, and honestly a lot of it probably didn’t even make it to the final cut of the book.

Just look at The Lord of the Rings. (Tree) Ever hear of The Silmarillion? (Roots.) If you haven’t, it’s a ridiculously detailed backstory of the history and culture of Middle Earth. It’s intense. Now, not every story needs something quite that involved but that’s just an example to show how much back story and crafting a complex world can affect how good a book or series ends up being.

As for me, a bit unfortunately at this point, I tend to most enjoy the types of books that are complex and keep you guessing. The kind that have rich backstory where they mention something in book one and in book three they’re like, remember that one thing we said? Well, BAM! Here it is, in an awesomely complex twist. Yeah, I just shocked the hell out of you! Mind blown, mission accomplished!

So I figured some of my culture and history roots out and now I’m doing a bit better, but sooner or later I’m going to have this issue with each and every character big or small in my story. I need more, a lot more to make my tree into the majestic one I envision. So it’s time to sit down and get to world crafting! (No, I don’t mean the MMORPG, although that would be fun also but a bit counter-productive to writing goals).

How much time have you put into your back story? Does it need something complex or is it one of those simply beautiful things? Where did you pull your ideas from? Please share!

(Also, photo credit goes to my awesome brother! Thanks for the amazing picture!)

April Reading Recap

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So I pondered how exactly I wanted to do this and I think all I’m going to say to start off is that I almost always go into reading my books blind. I don’t read reviews or synopses on them, or even read the back of the book. I quite literally judge a book by its cover. Don’t judge me, I like surprises.

The first book I completed this month was The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. I’m sure there are lots of people who insist upon reading the book before watching the movie, but I’m not sure if there’s anyone else that takes as long to get around to it as I do sometimes.

So, I am obsessed with history and find all of the symbols and ways that Dan Brown interconnects things incredibly interesting. I love Leonardo DaVinci. I also love the pacing of the writing as it feels like a mad dash to the finish line so it kept me on the edge of my seat. It was another fun adventure with Robert Langdon, whom I now will forever picture as Tom Hanks since watching Angels and Demons. Some people seem to think that I’m not a fan of Tom Hanks since I recently blasphemed against Sleepless in Seattle (so sue me, I’m not a sappy romance girl, but I will get all sappy over a book I love, as you can see by how many times I use the word love in this paragraph). Speaking of blaspheming, I know a lot of people find issue with this book and while I can understand this, I enjoyed it for the awesomely entertaining piece of fiction that it is. Also, I find Mr. Hanks to also be awesome, so let that be cleared up. Tom Hanks is perfect to cast the adventuring symbologist and can’t wait to watch the movie. I love Tom Hanks! And this book! I’m really looking forward to the next two books in Dan Brown’s series on him!

Next up, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. I had seen this books series everywhere, mostly on Instagram and decided I just had to read it. While overall I did find it to be an enjoyable book, I think all of the hype made me expect a little more. My slight disappointment may also be due to the fact that I read a book right before that was much more complex with its historical background (and I am a history geek), which made the subtle references to the history of the Welsh King by the Raven boys fall a bit flat for me. I realize that this is a YA novel so it’s depth is not going to match that of an adult novel. That concession, along with the supernatural and mystical plot twists made me want more once the book ended. So I definitely will be continuing to read the series, perhaps they get a bit more involved as they go along.

 (Disclaimer: The next review may have spoilers! Nothing detailed I promise but it’s really hard not to give stuff away with this book even by hinting at things!)

Finally, I read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. As mentioned earlier, I am not a romance book girl. Sure, if the swashbuckling pirate falls for the governor’s daughter while they are saving the world then I’m rooting for them and rather upset if they don’t end up together. But if the entire storyline is about two people falling in love, I usually either want to fall asleep or hurl. One of my best friends read this book and insisted that I read it too. In spite of my extreme doubts and again, knowing nothing about the book other than the fact that it was a romance, I decided to give it a go. And wow, it was good. So very depressing, but oh so good. I think part of me liked it so much because it was not even close to a traditional romance story. While it was pretty predictable from the very beginning, you still wanted to read about these people and invest in them. (Shoot, I probably gave away something there, sorry.) The reasons being one, they were British and said things like “bugger” a lot, which was fun. And two, they all had legitimate personalities, with lots of flaws and awesome things that make you actually like them! What a concept! I’m not going to say anymore or I will surely ruin it for you.

To recap everything, I recommend all three of these books for completely different reasons. The first, because history and fiction together are a match made in heaven (and because you should picture Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon). The second, because it’s just intriguing enough that I really need to know what happens next (and I’m a little in love with Ronan). Third book, because its satisfyingly heartbreaking (which I didn’t really know was a thing until I read it).

Hope I gave just enough insight to these books to intrigue you without ruining your life in telling you too much about it or by putting you to sleep.

What did you read last month? Anything I need to get my hands on?

Good luck with your May reads! May (haha, see what I did there?) they reach into your soul and teach you amazing things and never put you to sleep (except maybe from sheer exhaustion at their awesomeness)!

2016 Reading Goals

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Goals, by definition are the object of a person's ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.

Historically in my life, I’ve shied away from goals. I haven’t really worked out all of the whys to that yet, but I think part of it is that Atychiphobia thing.

Usually, I don’t set goals because I tend to do something to throw a monkey wrench in my own ideas. I aim for something, and then, when something happens to distract me from that (I have a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old…regular distractions are inevitable for me), I freak out and pretend I never had a goal to begin with. Rather than make more of an effort towards my ambitions, I shrink back and ultimately quit.

Now while sometimes compromise is a good thing because I set myself crazy goals like, I’m going to read a book a day this year (!), maybe I could run a marathon in a month (1 month after having a baby), I’m not going to cut my hair for a year (if you know me at all, you know this very nearly impossible…I’m a sucker for an a-line or pixie cut), or I’m going to stop eating sugar (hah!). You get the picture.

First off, I’m discovering I need to set realistic goals. Weird. And secondly, I need to push myself to make those results happen. Failure is a thing, absolutely. I’m going to set goals, even realistic ones that I will fall short of.

That being said, I have decided that falling short of my ambitions will not be due to a lack of effort on my part. Or a lack of setting goals entirely, which I am so very guilty of.

When I looked up the definition of goal on the interwebs, I immediately saw the definition I pasted above. Then my eye was drawn down to another definition.

The destination of a journey.

I really like the idea that our goals can be a journey in and of themselves. Like, my more realistic goal of going to the gym to lift weights twice a week. I definitely don’t do it every week, but the weeks I do go I feel so proud of myself. Now that I’ve been lifting for a little while, when I don’t go I find that I miss it. I’m different than I used to be because I never used to miss going to the gym.

OR my other more realistic, and on topic, goal of reading 52 books this year.

(That’s a book per week if you didn’t catch that.)

Now, I’m already behind a little because over the course of February and March I think I started 5 books but only finished one. However, this month I have finished three books, which I’ve read in the last two weeks. I’m going to try to pick up an extra book here or there to try to catch myself up. I think I can, I think I can!

Anywho, this reminds me of something else I decided on. I’m going to be writing a recap at the end of each month of the books I’ve read. I’m going to give you a few high-points, or low points depending on the book, about each one and then share whether I recommend them to you. Because, let’s face it, you’re totally here for my opinion on all matters books. Yes? Unless you’re my family, then you’re here because you love me. My family gets more than enough of my opinion in real life, so they get brownie points for being here. (Wave. Hi guys!)

And I digress…Where was I? Oh, right!

Goals. Ambitions. Intentions. Targets. Destinations. Missions. Whatever you want to call them (P.S. I’m addicted to the thesaurus).

Set your goals. Aim towards those ambitions. Conquer those intentions. Hit your target. Get to your destinations. Accomplish your missions.

And after you make those happen, set new ones! My goal for 2016 is to set more goals, and accomplish them!

Anybody else like me have unrealistic goals? How have you learned to set yourself realistic ones? What are some goals you have for this year?

5 Ways to Become a Better Writer

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In my quite limited experience, I have found these things to be a huge help to me in my quality and quantity of writing. I haven’t been writing for years and years but I think my newness has brought a level of desire to make sure that I am making my time count, so I do a lot of research and thinking about ways to help myself grow as a wordsmith.  

1. Find the time

It is so important to find time to write. If you claim to be a writer you have to actually write stuff, yes? So how are we going to make time for that in our busy schedules? As a mom of two young boys I understand how difficult it is to find time, uninterrupted. “Me time” involves taking a trip to the bathroom alone. Thank God I have a really awesome husband who sees the importance of me getting breaks and watches the boys for me every week so I can get out of the house by myself.

But honestly, once a week is not enough. I have to carve time out of my daily schedule to write things. So I started getting up earlier. I hate to get up early, but a quiet house and a hot cup of coffee go a long way to tempt me into crawling out of bed. It doesn’t have to be ground breaking stuff, just a little time to get words on paper. The good stuff will eventually flow out. (At least, I like to think so.)

2. Set realistic goals

I made a goal to hit my word count every day. I read this amazing blog post a while back about famous authors and their word count goals. You can check that out here.

So I decided to set myself a word count goal every day (to be honest it doesn’t happen daily, but on the days I do write I usually exceed my goal). Mine is 500.

I journal and I’m quite wordy so it’s pretty easy for me to reach that goal daily. Usually I get to about 200 and then I feel like I’ve gotten all of the crap out of my system and I can actually write something good. Something worth other people reading. Which brings me to my next point.

3. Start a journal

I really believe it’s a great thing to write about yourself and your insecurities, especially before diving into something you care about. We all have that nagging voice saying we can’t do it.

I’ve been reading “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldman. Seriously guys, amazing. The chapters are really short and to the point. She gives great advice on how to get more confident in yourself as a writer.

In one of those awesome chapters she talks about having a journal. It always makes me really excited to see that I’m already doing things that famous authors recommend you do…like writing in a journal to give voice to my insecurities. Because once they have a voice, that voice gets old and then (most of the time) you feel like you can move on and write something worthwhile.

4. Create a space you love

I just recently did this and I’m finding it to be really helpful. Usually my desk is the place in the house where all of the bills, junk mail and other paraphernalia lives. I felt guilty displacing them, they looked so comfy. But I had to be brutal and take back the desk for myself, and I’ve been loving it!

I have a clipboard with inspiring quotes on it, and a few tools to help me write, colored index cards, pens, notebooks and my laptop. Otherwise it’s pretty clutter-free. Which I need, because clutter stresses me out. You wouldn’t know it to look at my house though. I am actually trying to work on that issue, but that is a topic for another day.

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5. Read, a lot!

This one used to be so easy for me. I could dust a 600-page novel in a day or two when I was in high school and college. Now, I’m lucky if I can get through a whole page without being interrupted. We’re working on family reading time, but to 3 and 1 year olds that is a little more difficult than I pictured before having kids. It’s a work in progress and I’m sure one day they will love reading as much as I do (they had better, or else! Mwahahahaha!).

The more I read though, the more my mind starts working with new ideas. I notice flaws in my writing style and discover ways to fix them. I see ideas on how to write dialogue (which I need SO much help with!). I feel inspired to write amazing, well-rounded stories with deep characters.

Also, did you know that people who read regularly are actually better at spelling than people who don’t? Why is that? Because they see the words being spelled accurately and used in proper context on a regular basis, so their minds naturally begin to do the same when you write them out! Pretty cool, huh!

So there they are. The things that I believe contribute to becoming a better writer. I hope these help you as much as they have helped me. Are there any other things that you do regularly that have helped you as a writer? Please share in the comments below!

What is Atychiphobia?

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I can’t even pronounce it, but I definitely have it. So what is it?  

Fear of Failure.

I think we all have this on some level, but maybe I’m wrong. If you don’t have it then I’m extremely jealous, but more power to you and carry on with your bad self. The rest of us who need a support group can sit here and commiserate on this.

 

So I almost didn’t start this blog, or write this post. What if I don’t have anything unique to say? What if I say the wrong thing? Freaking out about the fact that I’m not perfect and I make typos, I don't have the perfect layout and my comment button won't appear and I’m not as good at this as everybody else seems to be. (Hello, learning curve? Can you let me skip this step please?) Also, I’m busy and of course, my busy life is a very justifiable excuse to not do this, right? WRONG! Time to pull up my big girl panties and do this!

My favorite author, C.S. Lewis said, “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.”

Worry, fear, failure. Scary words. But we must face our fears as if they were demons to be slain, to attack them with all the vigor of an epic sword duel. Right? Right!

Knowing that others, famous authors even, have sat in self-doubt just like we do. The difference? They don’t (or didn’t) let their fear and insecurity win. We need use it to fuel our drive to succeed and understand that we will fail. Someone I admire once told me, “You can fail but You are never a failure.” I love that. No matter how many times we fail, it’s our choice to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again.

My mission: To not let my fears cripple me. To fight them head on and to learn new and amazing things. That’s why I’m here. I challenge you to do the same. Hope to see you on the battle lines!

 

 

 

The Power of Our Words

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So I was thinking about St. Patrick’s Day today, naturally. It’s a big deal for me as I am Irish-American (okay so I’m probably a lot more American than Irish but I love my roots no matter how far back they go). I started prepping our Guinness-soaked Corned Beef and looking for my Irish Soda Bread recipe when I had a thought about Irish proverbs and sayings. I knew there was one about words but I couldn’t exactly remember what it said, so I hopped on good ole Pinterest.

I came out with this gem.

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I continued thinking as I got ready for my day (listening to some Irish music, duh) to head over to my family’s house to eat together and then go watch my brother and sister-in-law play some fantastic music at a local Pub. (Seriously, check them out.)

I started thinking about holidays and their meanings and how things get lost in translation so easily.

Take today, for example. It’s a holiday to celebrate a saint who was a missionary for the Catholic Church. And what do most people do to celebrate? Wear green, eat preserved brisket and cabbage and drink a lot of Guinness (or Killian’s Irish Red in my case). I get the progression based on history, don’t get me wrong but it’s interesting to think about how things evolve over time. Kind of like how our thoughts go on tangents.

That’s why I love the written word so well. Our words have value, and quite often we just say way too much. When I’m writing, I have the opportunity to think, to write my thoughts down, to filter and add and subtract where needed, or to even walk away and come back at another time to finish what I’m going to share. (Which is what I did just now.)

Our words, spoken and written, are powerful. They are just as capable of tearing people down, making them feel low and alone as they are of making people feel loved, needed, respected and inspired.

Writing has helped me so much with this. I am known for being very blunt and I quite often speak before I think, which leads to a lot of hurt feelings. Being able to think about what I want to say before I write it all down has really helped me tone back some of the bite to what I have to say. I’m still honest, which I feel is extremely important, but the harsh edges are sanded down just a little bit.

In a day and age where people can say anything they want behind the anonymity of a computer screen, we actually have opportunity to check our words before we push send. Yet we don’t. (I’m talking to you, trolls.)

We humans are far from perfect. I’m right in there with ya. I’m still going to slip up and hurt someone’s feelings. I’m going to let a swear word (or five) slip from time to time. Yet I think, if we all try to use our words to inspire, educate, empower, to share mercy, grace and love we’re all going to be a lot happier people.

What does this have to do with writing fiction? Even though we create make believe worlds, we are still imparting wisdom, morals, a lesson, and the joy of learning and imagination. We were given all of these things for a reason. Let’s use our words to do just that! Sláinte!

 

A Book Is Cooking: An Introduction

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It’s probably not a far reach to guess what I’m going to talk about here. I’m cooking a book. In my brain. It’s one of those low and slow kind of things. Like a good pot roast. I’ve been sort of working on this idea in my head (off and on) for a few years now. In December I decided to try writing more in general, so I started journaling. Which I actually used to do when I was younger and always found it therapeutic. But I didn’t even consider writing more seriously for myself because I wasn’t the “writer” of the family. I was the “reader.” And you can’t be both, right? That would just be silly. Seriously.

That leads me to January, when I decided to actually put those words on paper. I threw my pot roast in the pan for a good sear!

Then, a dream that was sitting, neglected in the recesses of my brain gained life! Since then I have been eating, breathing, dreaming about writing and all it entails. Which has been tiring, yet fun!

So what are you doing here? Besides hanging on my every word because you’re dying to hear about my dreams and goals. (No? Well maybe just pretend.) Okay, I actually like to think it’s because you might have a similar goal.

Perhaps you’re a lot like me and you didn’t know or couldn’t admit to yourself that you wanted to write. So you have a lot of demons (real or imaginary) to deal with in gaining confidence and momentum to do just that.

Maybe you know that you want to write that novel about alien ants that live on a farm but you just need to know that there are other weird people out there like you that are writing these insanely awesome ideas down! (Seriously though, the farm of alien ants has already been done, even if it’s not a book. Maybe pick a new idea.)

Or maybe you could even have been a writer for a while but you’re all about learning more about the technicalities behind it. Writing styles and plot formation and other fancy writerly things.

While I obviously am no expert, I am dedicated to figuring this stuff out! The more people who write about their methods of research and their trials and successes and failures, the more people out there like you and me that have more resources to make our novels happen! So we begin to learn as our tasty little hunks of meat cook all slow to be tasty and melty and perfect. (Can you tell I’m hungry?)

In case you aren’t good with metaphors, we don’t want our books to be literally eaten or to melt. But we most certainly want them to be perfect, to be devoured by other’s minds and to be satisfying to their souls.

I’m looking forward to this new, albeit slightly scary endeavor and cannot wait to share what I learn with you!

Book Hangover

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We all get them right? When you read that amazing book or finally finish that series that speaks to you in such a powerful way that sometimes you can’t even find words to talk about it. You must finish it, but when it’s over you feel empty inside. You try to pick up another book but its characters don’t speak to you yet, and you put it down again. Then, daydreaming about the just finished, wonderful book, you realize that you may never find this hauntingly beautiful feeling ever again. You panic and pick up a book and devour it as fast as you can. When that book is over you discover, with a sigh of relief, that you actually can enjoy other books again. But the in the in-between time is the killer. Or at least it used to be for me. I find though, that if I really put my mind to it, a lot of my inspiration in life comes in that limbo period. I get something different, a tidbit of wisdom from every book. Sometimes it’s simple and other times it’s more complex.

For example, when I read Inkheart, one of my takeaways was that I needed to read more classics. Her quotes at the start of every chapter made me excited when I recognized it, and desirous to read the book if I hadn’t. I also learned that reading aloud can be dangerous. Haha just kidding. It’s utterly magical.

When I re-read any Harry Potter book, it makes me excited to share adventure and the passion to learn and read with my kids when they get a little older! Also that I want a wand. Badly.

So my latest read is speaking to me about writing. The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, is an amazing book!

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It’s quite easily the best book I’ve read in a very long time. Erin's use of third person present tense while writing is spellbinding. Yes, I know it’s used so frequently of late that it has become a little cliché but it is actually difficult to write a story that is set in a time period in the past, and make you feel like it is still happening all around you, therefore making you extremely invested in what is coming in the next sentence, paragraph, and page.

No, my takeaway from this magical book is not that I am going to follow the group mentality and start writing in the same way. (Not that doing this is a bad thing, if it works for you and what you’re writing then you go for it!) Not my style. (And that’s okay too.) My thoughts today come from the end of the book when a couple of the characters are having a conversation on the importance of storytelling.

All authors are storytellers and we want our story to have impact upon our readers. We want others to love our book so much that they quite literally have a literary hangover when the last page is turned. Definitely difficult to do, which is why not every book out there is a national bestseller. Books that do accomplish this status often leave us with a feeling that there must be more to life than the mundane and make us wish we could be a part of a grand adventure. Which is why we escape into books, right?

How am I going to evoke such emotion in others, and make them want to lose themselves in the pages of my novel if I don’t keep working? My ideas are worth sharing, because they speak to me in a way that these books do, I just have to figure out a way to make them speak to you too!

Even if all of us get something different out of it, if we’re all affected in some way, then Mission: Accomplished! So great how we can learn life lessons from books! Even if we never run away to join the circus to learn ours! Although you should definitely run away to The Night Circus for a couple of days! You won’t regret it!

Bookish Adventures: An Introduction

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So you know when someone starts explaining a story to you and then before you can stop them, you realize that they’ve given you all the high points and ruined the story for you? Yeah, me too. I’ve also done it to others. (Gasp!) Granted, it’s been a while since I have. I actually stopped long ago trying to explain books to people because I’m such a detail person that I wind up ruining it for them. And I HATE when someone does that to me. Which is why I will NOT be doing traditional book reviews on my blog. You’ll find that I’m actually not very traditional about a lot of things around here. I have my own way of doing things and I like it like that. (Aren’t recipes made to be tampered with?)  Wait, what was I saying? Oh, right! Book reviews.

My book reviews are going to contain ideas and feelings that the book evokes from me, rather than a traditional synopsis and rating. (Mostly because I hate reading them myself, so why would I write them? Snore!) Just enough for you to see if you think you might like to read it and see what it brings out for you, but not enough to totally ruin the book or put you to sleep.

Books attempt to take us on an adventure in our minds. We’re able to check out of reality and experience new and exciting things. The best authors though, are able to take their book, their suspended reality and implant little ideas into our brain that we can’t quite shake even after the pages are closed. The people that can make those ideas unique for each person that way everyone looks at the book just a little bit differently are the bestest authors. (Yes that’s a word. No, don’t go look it up. Fine. It’s made up! Are you happy?)

My goal in these “Bookish Adventures” I will be sharing with you, is to divulge what I got out of these books. To encourage you to pay just a little bit more attention when you’re reading and see what the book gives to you. To get you just excited enough about the books I’ve read that you want to read them too. And to inspire conversation about these literary gems and the goodies they share with us, because every book has an idea (or two!) to share!

About A Book Cook

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You feel it too. That excitement when you find a new book to read. That wonderful, earthy smell when you flip the pages. The desire to consume the book as rapidly and simultaneously as slowly as possible. The satisfaction yet sadness at the end of a truly good book. Yep, I knew it. We’ll get along just fine.

 

Maybe you also have really wonderful and even fantastical ideas floating around in your head that you struggle with capturing and putting on paper for others to enjoy.

Me too!

 

Well, welcome to my little corner of the internet! A place of dreams and magic, where anything can happen. My own personal Narnia, if you will. I mean seriously, who doesn’t want their own personal world? Complete with flying creatures, magic wands, talking animals, heroic characters, and an epic throne, just for you. Maybe one made of a bunch of swords. Eh, maybe not. Sounds really uncomfortable…well, maybe we could add some cushion. Like a magical one made of clouds.

 

As some of you may be backing away slowly, or even running for the hills because this chick is WEIRD, the rest of you are all starry eyed and not paying attention to me anymore because you’re picturing your own little imaginary world. Haha, caught you!

 

Now that I’ve weeded out all of the crazies that don’t belong here, hi! I’m Karli, and we can totally be friends. And by that I mean that you know what I look like and you’re reading my thoughts and I have no idea who you are. Uhhh, this is getting uncomfortable fast. I guess that’s what I get for writing my thoughts down where others can read them. I suppose that’s really kinda the point here, isn’t it?

 

Well, why are you here? You need someone to share in the journey of book love! Reading them, appreciating them, learning from them, even writing them! That’s great!

 

So here you are, reminding me of why I’m here! Thanks! I like books. A lot. Big books, little books, old books, new books…I think you get the idea. I’m kind of a book groupie, a bibliophile as I prefer to be called. It sounds classier. Or a little (okay, A LOT) obsessed, but oh well. It’s what I am and I’ve learned to embrace it. Say it with me, “I am a book-a-holic.” See, don’t you feel better now? I know I do.

 

I’ve been a life-long book lover, but just recently discovered (or really admitted to myself) that I’d like to be a book writer too! What does this have to do with you?

 

Well perhaps you’re an aspiring author too! Perhaps you like to read as frequently as humanly possible! (I know I do!) Or maybe you’re looking to squeeze as much as you can out of every book you come across!

 

Well that’s what I’m here for! I hope to bring a fresh, fun and thought-provoking take to all the books I read as I share them with you! Bequeathing my little nuggets of wisdom and my struggles as I learn, not only how to dig deeper as I read, but to also apply it to writing as I wrestle onto paper this magical world that is stubbornly trying to stay stuck living in the shadows of my brain!

 

So here is my own little space to talk about all this book stuff. I think I’ll paint it green. I love green! It makes me so happy! Like leaves on trees. Mmmm trees, the beautiful things that give us oxygen and books. (Let’s be real, they’re actually the same thing.) I think I’ll share this space with you too though, you look like you need a place to relax! Hope you love it as much as I do!

 

What specifically do you have to look forward to as you hang out here with me? I bring to you:

“Bookish Adventures" (In which I attempt to impart wisdom based on the books I've read)

“A Book Cooks" (In which I write...about writing)

"What's Cookin' " (In which I share yummy things to eat. Because let’s face it, we need yummy food to keep our brains ready to learn awesome things!)

 

Thanks so much for stopping by! Can’t wait to chat about books (and tasty treats!) with you soon!