Category Archives: Creativity

My Soul Pants For You, My God

Last week we had unusually cool temperatures in Southern California – highs in the 60s and 70s – so I had to take the morning last Friday to enjoy it. I knew it wouldn’t last (I was right, the forecast is for the 80s next week), and I wanted to enjoy one more green hike while I still could. Besides, exercise is supposed to help your creativity. 😉

I found a park a mile back from John’s work and thought it might have some nice trails. Sure enough, the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve was beautiful! (Sorry for the misspelling, that “n” is supposed to be an enya, but I don’t know how to make it show up.) About 4000 acres of flat trails and hilly trails and a creek and a waterfall (that was shorter than me!) and lots of birds and lizards and a snake and even a deer!

The deer reminded me of the verse from Psalm 42:1 – “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” S/he was very calm, occasionally watching me with her huge ears pointed my direction. (Hence, the name “mule deer.”) She didn’t give any more notice when several very loud military jets flew overhead. Of course, she’d be used to them her whole life living so close to San Diego.

It was a beautiful morning, three hours of walking through green and yellow and mauve fields, along the very green creek, ducking out of the way of dozens of mountain bikers, out to the very small but nice waterfall and back. I took a bunch of pictures, and thought I’d share them with you. I added a red circle around the deer so you can find her in that picture. 🙂 Enjoy!

Deer on hike in Los Penasquitos

Mule Deer Watching Me Hike

 

Enjoy the green while you can - summer is about here!

Enjoy the green while you can – summer is about here!

Very Small Waterfall

Very Small Waterfall

A peaceful patch of the stream

A peaceful patch of the stream

Hard to believe an industrial park is just out of sight

Hard to believe the I-15 freeway and an industrial park are just out of sight

Restart: Beginning Again At Any Time

I’ve been teaching a time management class for writers in January for the last few years called Going the Distance. I’ve been thrilled that it’s been so hands-on useful to my students, and I started thinking I should do another shorter class in the summer called Restart. It would be about taking the time to stop and re-focus when your schedule gets out of control.

Yesterday, I had a brief Restart moment myself. The last few years have been very difficult financially and career-wise for both me and John. The last few months of unemployment I’ve been trying to think of ways to bring in money without totally turning away from my writing and teaching business. After looking at a lot of options, the only appealing one was to try to grow the teaching side of my business.

That has taken up most of my time (8-12 hours a day, 6 days a week!) since I put out my last book in December (A Very Merry Superhero Wedding). When I have tried to work on “My Bullheaded Superhero Valentine”, my latest superhero short story (that was supposed to be out by February 14), I have had to fight to get every word on the page, and still it’s only 15 pages long. Combine that depressing number with the numbers I pulled together for our tax accountant, and I was half-heartedly wondering at what point I should just give up.

Then John was unexpectedly called back to work two days ago! I immediately lost the feeling of wanting to give up, but I felt I needed to take one of those Restart moments and ask God again what I should be doing. You know, check in, touch base, see if there is a new direction, same direction, or if I’ve been blown off course and need to correct my route.

Turns out, it was the last one. I’ve been so focused on our daily need for money to pay the bills, I was chasing that rabbit and too often ignoring the one thing that I’ve been certain of the last few years – that God wants me to write.

And that’s why I’m here. I need to course-correct. So I’m going to hit the Restart button and start blogging regularly here again. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy the posts. 😉 But sometimes you need to do things because it’s what you need regardless of what the marketing experts tell you. And what I need is a place to talk about the things that interest me – like spirituality, neuroscience, relationships, and comic books. So I’ll be doing that on Wednesdays every week.

One thing I used to write a lot of is devotionals – little stories about life and how a Bible verse or subject applies to it. I love writing those stories because it’s an outlet to share the silly, ridiculous, interesting, and heart-wrenching things I’ve seen or experienced as well as giving voice to the things I learn about God and his amazing love for us. So I’m going to start writing devotionals again (yay!) and post them here every Sunday.

That nudge I got from God yesterday – that I’m not really doing what I know I should be doing – has turned around my dragging feet and helped me not to feel so down about my writing career. Just the act of writing this post has revived my spirits already! And this is just day one!

I encourage you, if there is anything you feel like you should be doing but haven’t been, take a moment to stop and think and listen. Hit the Restart button in that area and begin again. You may feel your spirits revive, too! And please share it with me here. It’s more fun when we have a conversation instead of me monologuing like a super villain!

My Writing Process – Blog Tour

Thanks so much to Jennifer Brassel for inviting me to join the blog tour. 🙂 Jennifer’s blog can be seen here. Jen and I both have stories in the romance anthology, Moonlit Encounters, and her book Secret Reflection is a modern Gothic tale complete with ghosts, romance, and an unsolved crime.

My Writing Process

j0178677What am I working on? Right now, I am finishing up the second book in the Adventures of Lewis and Clarke series, Superhero in the Making. At the end of book one, Unexpected Superhero, Tori has decided she definitely wants to pursue life as a superhero. But it’s harder than it looks. On top of everything else – family issues, secrets uncovered, and secrets to keep hidden – there’s another woman trying to catch Joe’s attention. Tori is trying to keep in mind that undercover superhero work is a job like any other, and Joe is a professional. But can she trust him?

How does my work differ from others of its genre? The Adventures of Lewis and Clarke is about superheroes living their daily lives as our next door neighbors. It’s about love and marriage, friendships, family, and trying to save the world one person at a time. It’s also about the battle between good and evil, and constantly begs the question – am I up for the task? It’s romantic comedy meets urban fantasy. I really enjoy writing this series and I hope to continue for several books to come.

j0309372Why do I write what I do? I love writing about people in love because I’m in love! 😀 But I think it’s more interesting to see the ups and downs and sideways parts of love, not just the happy moments. Falling in love and getting married is awesome, but nothing prepares you for what comes next. It’s hard! But it’s so worth it. Add that to the fact that I am amazed at how God created us to be strong, good, loving people and yet the world and the dark forces around us keep knocking us down so that we’re weak, selfish, and greedy, and there is a lot of room for stories in there! I’m trying to write about both of these elements in my superhero series.

How does my writing process work? Well, that depends entirely on my deadline! LOL! Right now, I am writing six days a week, 8-12 hours a day to finish this book in time for WonderCon. I’ve taken time away to write at a timeshare several times recently, and over the years, because I can focus on just writing. I usually start with the big idea and boil it down to six or eight main points, then whittle those down to a dozen or so scenes each, then create 3×5 scene cards that I spread out on the floor looking for holes in the story. Once I’ve got the first quarter of the story worked out, I start writing based on the scene cards. Then I look at the second quarter, see if anything needs to be changed because of what I wrote in the first part, tweak the scene cards and write the second quarter. Repeat for the last two quarters of the book. Then I talk to my editors (I have two, Marcy and Sarah) about plot problems, etc. It’s intense and exhausting, but I wouldn’t trade it to do anything else. (Though I’m really looking forward to a vacation soon!)

I hope you found this fun and interesting. Maybe you learned a little something about me that you didn’t know. It was fun giving you a glimpse into my world. 🙂

Moonlit EncountersIf you’d like to read about another of my Aussie friends with a story in Moonlit Encounters, check out Coleen Kwan‘s My Writing Process blog hereColeen Kwan writes both contemporary and steampunk romance. She lives in Sydney, Australia with her partner and two children. When she isn’t writing she enjoys avoiding housework, eating chocolate, and watching Criminal Minds.

And now – back to writing!

Don’t Get Comfortable in 2014

brandondontI’ve been listening to this Brandon Heath song rather a lot lately. It just keeps showing up on my playlists. I’m beginning to think it’s a sign! LOL! With or without the lyrics to this song, I think 2014 is going to be a great year. I think we’re going to need to be flexible and willing to make fast changes, but I think it’s going to be a great year! 😀

Anyway, enjoy the lyrics to the song. You can buy the whole thing on iTunes, or just listen to a minute of it. It’s a catchy tune!

“Don’t Get Comfortable”

Comfortable, don’t get comfortable.
I am gonna move this mountain
Then I’m gonna move you in.
Yesterday
This is not yesterday.
You were standing on my shoulder
Now you’re standing on the edge.
You’ve been looking for a sign all this time.
I am gonna show you what I mean
I am gonna love like you’ve never seen
You are gonna live like you used to dream
This is your new song
So afraid
But you don’t have to be afraid
Even if you make mistakes
You know that I’ll remain
You been looking for a sign all this time.
If you seek you’ll find me every time.
So I am gonna show you what I mean
I am gonna love like you’ve never seen
You are gonna live like you used to dream
This is your new song
NA na na na na na na na nanaaah
NA na na na na na na na nanaaah
Can you feel the call of love?
Is it moving you to be a child of God of love?
Is it reaching you?
It’s everywhere the call of love.
I just wanna to show you what I mean
I just wanna to love like you’ve never seen
Do you want to live like you used to dream?
Then I’ve got a song for you
Cuz I am gonna show you what I mean
I am gonna’ love like you’ve never seen
You are gonna live like you used to dream
This is your new song
NA na na na na na na na nanaaah
You’ve got a new song
NA na na na na na na na nanaaah

Time and Project Management Class Starts Monday

j0227558Hello my friends! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s. I sure did. I’d planned since last Christmas to take two full weeks off and relax. Right up to the last minute, I was sure I wouldn’t “be able to” do it. But in the end, I did!

My workload piled up during the two weeks off, but I feel so much more relaxed and rested and ready for work! How did I manage to take so much vacation time when life has been battering me for the last couple of years? The primary reason is because last January I laid out a written plan for my year.

Granted, a LOT of things went wrong with the plan. I couldn’t have anticipated six months of unemployment for John. I made more money than I did in 2012, but it wasn’t enough to offset the costs of a few book-selling risks I took that didn’t pay off. Near the end of the year, I had to put my writing business on the back burner and work full-time at a temp job.

Calendar 2013But for the whole year, I could look at my writing plan and my calendar and I could figure out how each of my plans would be affected by the new turn life took. I could move the sticky notes on the calendar to change deadlines. I could cancel things that just couldn’t be accomplished now that the course of life had changed.

And I could do it all with more peace than usual because I had a written, changeable plan.

If you’d like to work with me over the next four weeks to get a plan in place for you this year, please sign up for my online class Going the Distance: Goal Setting and Time Management for the Writer. Due to popular demand, this is the fourth year I’ve taught this class, and there’s always something new to learn and share. I hope you’ll join us!

What do you want to accomplish this year?

The Potter and the Clay

My pot

One of the pots I made in college

A couple weeks ago, one of the pastors of our church, Pastor Care Crawford, gave one of the most moving sermons. Care’s voice is very soothing anyway, so that added to the nuances of the story. And the fact that the sermon sounded more like a story made it even more intriguing for me.

Care talked about loving Play-Doh as a child, and taking a pottery class in college. I was totally in sync with what she was saying because that was me, too. Then she talked about the Bible passages about God being like a potter with plans for each and every pot that he makes. And we’re the clay.

Since Care has had pottery classes, she explained exactly what happens in the creation of a pot. And since I’ve taken a pottery class, I knew what she was talking about, and I could completely see the parallels between the potter and the clay, and God and us.

It’s not that I haven’t heard sermons on this topic before, but the life I’ve been living recently has been seriously tough. And being reminded about how you have to handle clay to make a beautiful pot was seriously helpful in gaining perspective on what’s been happening.

Right down to remembering what it’s like to squeeze the clay back down to a ball because it’s not shaping up right. I didn’t do that because I hated the pot I was making or because I had it in for the clay. I did it because I knew I could make the pot better and the clay could take it. I’ve still got some pots I made in college, and I still love them.

So I’ve been trying to keep in mind lately that God knows what he’s trying to accomplish, and it’s better than the life I’ve lived until now. And like the clay, God believes I can take the pounding. That makes me believe I can, too.

Spring and Fall, the Most Colorful Times of the Year

This might be one of my favorite pictures by my friend Neville Crombie. Lucky me, I have been able to live near jacaranda trees since I moved to Southern California in 2001. How happy I was to find out jacaranda trees are in Sydney, too! I think part of the reason we picked out the apartment that we did (when we lived there) is because there was a jacaranda tree in bloom outside what would be the office window. 🙂

It’s fall in America, with amazing colors in some areas of the country. And it’s spring in Australia – with amazing colors in some areas of the country! This is a beautiful little Illawarah Flame tree standing next to a lovely jacaranda. And if I’m not mistaken, this is Centennial Park – the most perfect park in the world to run in! (Right, John?) 😀

IMG_1961

Beautiful Pictures of Sydney from Neville Crombie

My friend Neville Crombie takes the most beautiful pictures! I love them, and asked Neville if I could share them with you. He lives in Sydney, Australia, and he recently took an afternoon to ride the ferry to Cremorne Point just to relax and take pictures. I hope you enjoy them!

For those of you who are interested, Neville uses his iPhone 5 for all the panorama shots and some of the others, and a Nikon D80 with an 18-135 zoom lens. He also takes still shots from his videos sometimes, shot with a Sony HRE12.

IMG_1852

 

DSC_2194

IMG_1869

DSC_2226

 

IMG_1910

 

IMG_1903

 

Get a Mentor For Your Small Business

rbbp-coverSix months ago, I heard about Jennifer Lee and Artizen Coaching after reading her book, Right-Brain Business Plan. Jenn was just starting a new mentorship circle and it sounded ideal for start-up one-person entrepreneurs who could use some guidance in growing their business. I signed up.

I didn’t even know what I needed when I began. I wanted to get more accomplished, but I also needed to know what needed to be done. Over the last six months, along with a group of like-minded small business owners, I’ve learned a lot from Jenn about how to grow my business quicker and smoother than what I was doing on my own.

I recently signed up for another eight months of mentorship. I’m bringing out new products and figuring out how to market my products and services better. I’ve gotten so much help from my “Cohorts” in my mentorship circle that I want to continue in the program.

If you’re at all interested in this sort of thing, I’m going to be on a LIVE free video chat broadcast today on this Livestream channel from 11 a.m. to noon, Pacific Time. Several of us who have been in the mentorship program these past six months are going to be chatting with Jenn about what we’ve gotten out of it and why we signed up for the next eight months. Should be fun to hear all the excitement and energy!

You can also check out the Right Brain Business Plan web site to find out more about all the different products and services and other free webinars that Jennifer offers. Details on the mentorship program are here. (Early bird pricing ends June 6.)

Her most recent free webinar is called Embracing Ease. It was a great reminder that you can often get more done by taking a break than by pushing yourself to exhaustion. You can sign up to watch the free replay here. Watch it and see if Jennifer’s style and way of doing things might be helpful to you.

And maybe I’ll see you “live” online tomorrow when I talk about how my business has grown!

Fame, Fortune, and Ferraris

I wrote this article for my local Romance Writers of America chapter to encourage people to enter our contest for unpublished writers. I really enjoyed writing it, and I’m told a couple people laughed out loud when they read it, so I thought it’d be fun to share it with you. Enjoy!

Imagine… You’re sitting by the ocean on the coast of France, sipping a little wine, nibbling on a platter of fresh breads, cheeses, and luscious fruits. Your latest book is coming easily and you’re ahead of deadline.

writer at workYou type, you nibble, you sip, you stare out at the ocean. Then you type some more. Life doesn’t get any better than this.

This could be you. Perhaps it will happen because of Scenario A. You’ve heard the call for entries for the Orange Rose Contest for Unpublished Writers. You went through your usual list of excuses – my first 35 pages aren’t ready, I’ve entered contests before and only gotten helpful feedback but no book contract, my pet giraffe ate the cloud where my files were backed up.

And yet…something whispers in the back of your mind, “This could be your year. This could be the year that all the other entries suck rocks and yours could rise to the top  by default.”

You remember buying a book by some smart aleck writer who signs “Listen to your voices” before her autograph. You decide to listen to yours, you enter the contest, and you win! Both your favorite agent and the editor who would be the perfect fit for your book judge your entry and offer you representation and a multi-book contract.

You become the next thirteen-year-overnight-success. Everyone wants to read the book you’ve been ranting about for years as being the next Twilight for senior citizens who love dogs. Turns out you were right and there was a market there.

You buy a house, travel abroad, and buy another house. You come up with a smart aleck signature line, too. Sink your dentures into this one, Grandma! You sell even more copies.

And that’s when it hits you – this all started when you entered the 2013 Orange Rose Contest. Wow. Good thing so many people encouraged you to enter. You owe them a lot!

You may also come by fame, fortune, and a Ferrari via Scenario B. You are a brilliant published writer. You have deadlines and commitments and a cat who refuses treatment from the cat shrink you hired. But you have a heart of gold.

You remember how difficult it was to get your start in this business. You hope helping unpublished writers will take your mind off the fact that you can’t seem to help your cat. You sign up to be a judge in the Orange Rose Contest.

The quality of the writing is better than you expected. You enjoy reading most of the entries, though a few of them suck rocks. You give each of your entrants valuable feedback that will surely help those writers become almost as good as you.

Years go by. You’re heralded as the most significant writer in your age group – and not just because you’ve outlived your peers. Then one day, a year before you lose your driver’s license due to failed eyesight from old age, you get a delivery.

A red Ferrari is in your driveway, and the keys are in your hand. You maneuver your walker so that you can fall into the driver’s seat. There’s a note.

“Thank you for helping me achieve such astounding success. I’ve tracked you down because I know now that I couldn’t have gotten here if you hadn’t been willing to judge the Orange Rose Contest for Unpublished Writers way back in 2013. I already have four cars I don’t drive, so I thought you’d enjoy this one. Best regards, 2013 Orange Rose Winner.”

You drive the car for a couple weeks until your kids find out. They make you sell the car. On the way home, you notice a bumper sticker that reads, “I’m spending my kids’ inheritance.”

You suddenly act all sweet to your kids and thank them for thinking of your safety rather than your happiness. You shoo them out the door with more kisses and hugs than usual, then run (as fast as your walker will go) to your room and start packing.

IMG_0029You arrive on the coast of France exhausted but happy. You sip some wine, nibble on a platter of fresh breads and cheeses and exotic fruits, and realize this is the life for you. You die happy.

So you see, whether you enter the Orange Rose contest or volunteer to judge it, you have a shot at fame, fortune, and a Ferrari. All you have to do is sign up before April 13 at http://www.occrwa.org/orangerosecontest/.

The voices in your head are telling you the time is now. Listen to them.