Grateful for My Writing Tribe

This week promises to be chaotic for me.  C is out of school all week for Thanksgiving.  Even though we aren’t traveling and plan to keep the celebration low key with just a few close friends, I feel overwhelmed.  I love having the extra time with my daughter, but my stomach hurt before bed last night wondering how I was going to do it all: entertain her, clean the house, errands, and make progress on the novel’s edits.

My Spark and Tinder group has been focusing on the word priority this month.  Knowing this week would be nutty, last Friday I decided I would skip a blog post so I could devote all my work time to the book.  That helped my stress some.  Then I got up this morning and put on an EntreLeasdership podcast with Dave Ramsey and Seth Godin while I cleaned the kitchen.  They got to talking about generosity in business, which made me start thinking about all the kind and generous souls I have met in the writing world this last year.  I knew right then I had to write this post.

When I decided to indie publish my work, I stepped into the deep end of a pool.  The idea seemed so simple until I really delved into it.   Because someone said I needed to, I started a twitter account.  Slowly I made friends, read their books, and started asking questions.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  In many industries new faces mean more competition.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover the writing community to be open and excited to help.  So, I’m going to use my little corner of the Internet to thank the people who took time out of their busy lives to answer my constant questions with patience and grace, allowed me a little time on their blog, and those who jump in the writing trenches with me to keep me motivated and encouraged.  I am truly grateful for you all.  Thank you!

Angi Black

Leigh Ann Kopans

J. Elizabeth Hill

Courtney Carver

Hugh Howey

Robert Wall

Elayne Griffith

Simone Linke

Jason Cantrell

Von Malcolm

Skye Fairwin


Tim Oliver

Maria Mora



What Schedule?

When you decide to work for yourself, people tell you that you need to set aside work hours.  You must show up at an appointed time, do your business, and move on.  That’s what happens out in the public domain, right?  I’ll admit, I have never thrived with a rigid schedule.  Now, I know my mother is laughing her head off right now, because I’m such a planner, but hear me out.  I’ve had some great jobs working for other people, but I always felt stifled, especially creatively and over time I grew to resent my lack of freedom.  Looking back it’s obvious because I wasn’t doing the work I was created to do, however each of those experiences shaped me so I could be ready for where I’m at now.   Since I came home over two years ago, I realized I kinda liked the free flowing rhythm of my day, and I got  irritated when people messed with it.

About a year ago, I decided to make writing my job.   I battled with when to clean the house, do errands, and where to squeeze in some writing before C came home from school.  Those were all issues when I worked outside the home, but since I was here and writing wasn’t paying me yet, I felt obligated to get those tasks done first.  I scoured books and blog posts about how to set up the best writing schedule.  Most writers insisted early morning was the best time to write.  I should have known right there that I was going to buck the system.  I am not an early riser and can barely think myself into a pair of slippers before seven a.m.

Since August, I’ve loosened the reigns on my work schedule.  Who am I kidding, I just let go of the reins!  And you know what happened?  I finished my novel’s first draft in record time!  I found myself drawn to my office and the words tended to show up then too.  I released my need for a model home clean house and found I was able to keep up with my chores without being stressed by them.  My whole self was flourishing.  I worked when the muse moved me, and the more I wrote the more ideas I had.  Which, in turn meant I spent more time in the office.  The job atmosphere I had been trying to build for months just created itself when I let go.

Being the over achiever that I am, I started to wonder what would happen if I could take this success to the next level–carve out more writing time and increase my productivity.  That would get me through this book process faster and onto the next one.  Brilliant idea, Kayla!  I was so excited I shared my plans with my Spark and Tinder group.  They applauded my commitment.  Within twenty-four hours I hit a wall. The constraints I put on myself sent my creativity into lock down mode.  My brain was so consumed with trying to figure out how to fit everything in there was no room for words.  Work became a struggle.  My anxiety began to rear its ugly head.  Add that to some other things that were floating around in my life at the moment, and I had set the perfect storm for a meltdown.  It culminated with being awake most of the last two nights.

Once again, I approached my faithful Spark and Tinder group.  They came along side me with encouragement and reminded me there was nothing wrong with what I was doing before.  This morning I took a nap after C went to school.  I did some reading in The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer (highly recommend to those trying to break free from anxiety), and I spent an hour doing yoga.  I interspersed writing in my journal throughout the morning.  A few hours of self care, and though I still felt a bit hollow and sore, I was ready to rejoin the world.

My lessons:

1. Sometimes it’s not a good idea to mess with a good thing!

2. Not every formula works for every person.  We can read how-to books until our eyes dry out, but at the end of the day we have to embrace what works us.  I tend to take snippets from several people’s approaches and cobble my own.  This is not only true for my work “schedule”, but also for my writing style and technique, parenting, you get the idea.

Do you abide by a strict work schedule or are you a free spirit?

The Worry Tree by Marianne Musgrove

My second grader has found herself in a reading rut.  Unless the book is about fairies, princesses, or horses she’d not interested.  The thing is, I think she’s getting bored with the limitations she has put on her reading, but she doesn’t know how to find her way out.  She has been coming home from the school library with books she isn’t interested in because she’s required to check out something, but doesn’t have enough time to find it.  Those books sit untouched for a week until she can take them back and try again.  This is not good for her little reading psyche.  When this happens, I take her to the public library with lots of time to spend and we browse.  I pull titles, read synopses, and try to entice her to try something new.  This requires a lot of patience.  It’s hard to get across to a seven-year-old that not every book is going to be a winner, but great books are only discovered through trial and error.  She doesn’t realize we take something from every book we read, even if it is a stinker.

A couple of weeks ago I was reaching the end of my rope after she had rejected every single book I suggested, when I came across a pretty green spine.  Desperate for an idea, I slid the book from its spot on the shelf simply because it was my favorite color.  A cute, little duck standing on a branch greeted me from the cover.  Then I saw the title: The Worry Tree by Marianne Musgrove.  My heart beat a little faster as I flipped open the cover to read the blurb inside.  I’m a worry wart, and C is becoming one.  I was immediately enchanted by the idea of a painted tree full of animals ready to listen to our worries.  Thankfully, C was intrigued as well.

We started The Worry Tree as soon as we got home and fell instantly for the realistic main character, Juliet, and her all too real family and friends.  Her troubles were common to late elementary age children: fighting parents, an annoying sibling, friend drama, bullies, and a grandma fighting the aging process.  Throughout the book, Juliet learned to share her problems with the worry tree animals and hang them on their branches as a symbol of letting go.  She began to sleep easier at night, her persistent stress rash flared less often, and the space between eyebrows was smooth.

Though Juliet was making progress her family wasn’t.  The fighting came to a head one night over dinner in a row that sent her crying to her room convinced all the trouble was her fault.  She even offered to give up her room and the worry tree if it would restore peace to the household.  This opened her parents eyes to her stress, and they came to her with a beautiful message: not every problem in this world was hers.

I almost cried when I read this section to my precious daughter last night.  The message was as applicable to me as it was to her.  We stopped and talked about it a bit.  It gave me pause, perhaps before I go off the deep end worrying about things, I should ask myself if the issue is really mine for the handling.  I know I will be surprised by how many things do not require my energy.  I also gave C permission to come to me or Brett when she’s worried so we can work together to decipher if it is something she can truly let go of.

I recommend The Worry Tree to children and adults.  Musgrove created a book with a message we all need to hear during a time when stress runs high in our world.


Quick Check-In: Some Firsts

Hello, friends!  Popping in real quick to say I’ve been buried in finishing the first draft of Swept Up.  Whoops!  There it is…the title of my first novel.  I’m hoping the first draft will be complete by November 25, then it will be time to crawl into the infamous revision cave.  I hit 50,000 words on Tuesday and had a mini celebration before I plowed forward toward the real finish line.

One of the tools I’m using to keep my momentum going is NaNoWriMo.  I mentioned this a few posts back, but at the time I wasn’t planning to participate.  Shortly afterward, Stefan Bolz asked me to be one of his writing buddies during NaNo.  His invitation felt like such an honor, I hated to pass it up.  The opportunity to work alongside authors who have done exactly what I’m doing made me a little giddy–I’m less giddy now that we’re all in the trenches working away.  Knowing I didn’t want to start something new when I was so close to finishing Swept Up (hee, hee, I said it again), I decided to participate as a rebel.  Turns out a lot of people do.  Anyway, committing to NaNo got me intensely focused.  I figured out how many words per day I needed to write in order to hit my target of 65,000.  The answer was 870.  So, since November 1, no matter what is going on, at some point I sit my butt down and churn out my requirement plus some.  I don’t know if the story will play out at exactly 65,000, but it’s good to have a general goal.  Stay tuned for more progress updates.

I had another first last week: my first blog interview!  Elayne Griffith was kind enough to invite me into her blog space to answer a few questions.  Thanks for the opportunity, Elayne!

Yesterday brought a really fun first, but I will reveal that later…  So, for now, it’s back to Scrivener and the final words of Swept Up.

Quick Fix Story: Narrow Miss

The last several weeks I have been buried in the home stretch of finishing the first draft of my novel. The other night I found myself resting my brain—clicking around on Twitter. I came across a writing prompt posted by Jason Cantrell. The prompt itself was enough to get my writing wheels turning, but the story behind it was just too cool to pass up.

Jason found a slip of paper in a used book he was reading for one of his classes with the following words scribbled on it: Have a stranger come to the bar-tell her he loves her-asks her to go to Chicago with him the next weekend-she doesn’t go. There was no way that note was left there by chance. Was it for Jason to tackle? Maybe. Perhaps it was there to inspire a bunch of us to take off down a rabbit trail, take a break from our WIPs and flex some underutilized muscles. Thank you, Jason, for sharing this nugget of inspiration. Not only did it spark an idea for a short story, I came up with a new element for my blog: Quick Fix Stories. Quick Fixes will give me a place to address those random plot bunnies that turn up in my head. Working on this short story greased the wheels of my imagination for my novel as well. Sometimes stepping away for a bit is the best thing we can do for our work.

All right, Jason, this one is for you.

 Narrow Miss

Tequila twang hit the back of my throat. I fought the urge to grimace and twitch, grabbed my glass of orange juice and took a slug. Ahh, much better. The tequila warmed all the way down, the juice softened the blow. I indicated to the bar tender I needed another round.

A short, but built man took the stool beside mine. He had clipped military style hair and a close fitting gray t-shirt. The bartender brought him a beer from the tap. He took a sip then looked over at me and my fresh glasses of tequila and orange juice.

“Interesting combo,” he said. Then his eyes slid over my fitted white halter dress. He didn’t know the tie was cutting into my neck. I’d cinched it down tight in a desperate attempt to keep the girls corralled. I never knew when I’d have to launch into sudden, quick action.

“It works,” I replied. I had no desire to get into a conversation with this guy. I had a job to finish tonight. Technically, I was still on the clock. It was one of those “let him sweat” breaks. I checked the time on my phone. There was no doubt in my mind Mr. Mendezo was sweating right now. Smiling to myself, I tipped back my second shot.

Military Hair ordered a tequila and orange juice for himself, one for me too. What the hell. My job bordered on legal, why not drive a little tipsy while I’m at it.

We clinked shot glasses. I sipped my orange juice and watched him experience the combo for the first time. He smacked his lips. “Pretty damn good. Thanks for the tip.”

“Thanks for the drink,” I said.

“I’ve seen you in here before. I just haven’t been brave enough to approach you,” said Military Hair.

I noticed the white tan line where a wedding ring should be. Wise choice.

He ran a hand over his buzz cut. His biceps bulged. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to help myself. I would have touched those muscles. Now, they just irritated me.

“Can I order you another round?”

“No. I have to get back to work.”

His eyes bugged a little. “You get to drink on the job?”

“I work for myself.”

He nodded. “Look, I can’t let you go before I ask you something.”

“Shoot.” I was pretty sure I knew what was coming. This wasn’t my first rodeo. In fact, these moments were what kept my rent paid.

“I have a conference in Chicago next weekend. I’m a personal trainer. We have conferences regularly. Keep up on what’s new in the industry, you know.” That explained the muscles. “Anyway, I would love it if you came with me.”

“Is that so?” I lifted a brow. I wonder how many conferences he’d been to this year. Had his wife attended even one of them?

He blushed a bit, reached out to touch my hip. “Yeah.”

My phone dinged signalling a new text message. I glanced at it. Mrs. Mendoza was ready for her delivery.

“I’ll think about it,” I said. “Do you have a card?”

Eagerly, he pulled out his wallet while I paid for my earlier drinks. He slipped a card for well known meat head gym into my hand. “Call me.”

“Oh, I will,” I said turning so his hand grazed my butt. I gave my hips an extra little twitch as I left the bar.

My car was silent when I reached it. I pounded on the trunk and was greeted with a startled thud. No doubt Mr. Mendoza’s head. My parents had been surprised when I sold my sporty little Mazda for this grandma style Buick. It was deep red in honor of my former ride, but it’s huge trunk served my needs.

Mr. Mendoza and I headed out of town to the meeting place. Mrs. Mendoza would be waiting down by the river about twenty miles from town. Her father owned a large onion farm, many of the fields along the river. The Buick bumped down the skinny access road. A gorgeous Hispanic woman perched on a large rock. She’d followed my instructions to the letter. Her curves poured into a black outfit Cat Woman would envy. Her long, dark hair had been curled and was tumbling down past her breasts. We grinned at each other and hugged in greeting.

I popped my trunk. Mr. Mendoza lay bound and gagged, staring at me with terrified eyes. That look was nothing compared to what passed over his face when Mrs. Mendoza stepped into his view.

“Hola, mi marido,” Mrs. Mendoza purred.

Together, we wrestled him from the trunk, flopped him into a pile of leaves near the river bank. Sheer panic crossed that man’s face. He wasn’t my problem anymore. Mrs. Mendoza handed me an envelope. I peeked inside to glimpse the cash then stuffed it into my cleavage.

“He’s all yours,” I said. “Have fun.” I hustled to the Buick. I never stuck around to see what happened after I made my delivery. I returned the cheating bastards to their wives and they did whatever they deemed necessary.

My mind wandered to Military Hair. I began thinking about how to track down his wife. The set-up was already there. It was too easy.

My phone launched into “O.P.P.” by Naughty by Nature. I grabbed it from the cup holder. “This is Jenna.”

The caller was sobbing. They always were. She’d walked into the house to find her husband serving up her best friend on the kitchen table. The kids saw it too. I have a special package for that violation. Could we set something up for next Friday? Of course.

Guess I won’t make it to Chicago after all. Military Hair was off the hook. For now.