Don’t Just Sit There

I had a scary few hours before the “storm for the history books” was supposed to hit New York. I thought I should share it because, if you’re like me and sit a lot for work, you know this but tend to ignore it.

As a writer, sitting for long periods of time is part of the process. I probably sit more than many writers, though, because I have three jobs and each keeps me in front of the computer for hours (and hours) at a time.

I fidget, I get up for coffee, I let the cat/s lounge across my lap and shift them around when my legs go numb… but I don’t MOVE.

Last Wednesday, I wound up with pain in my leg and thought I’d somehow pulled a muscle (hamstring). I did all the things you should do for sore muscles without thinking further about it. Until Saturday night when I saw how red the back of my thigh was, and by Sunday morning when it was still red but also solid, aching, swollen and hot to the touch.

As I said, I have cats – one of them is 18 years old. I rarely notice pokes and scratches from them anymore. I figured, one of them must have scratched my leg at some point, and I now had a reaction to it, like cat scratch fever.

By Sunday night into Monday, the pain was unbearable and all sorts of thoughts for what it could be tortured my mind.

Depositphotos_22663233_l copyMonday morning, I made an urgent appointment with my doctor, who questioned me thoroughly about my daily habits. After hearing how I work at the computer all day, she wrote a script for a doppler ultrasound of my leg to check for a blood clot. Two very long hours later, I found out I wasn’t going to die from a clot that could have been in my leg and suddenly broke off to lodge in my lung.

I have cellulitis (so I might have been right about the cat-scratch), and the antibiotics I’m on should clear it up soon enough. They’re already helping.

BUT… once my doctor heard about my routine – of sitting for hours at a time, day after day, she knew my risk of clots was pretty high up there.

So is yours if you sit a lot, too.

Her advice to reduce the risk is to sit for shorter periods at a time and really move around. If you want to write for an hour straight without getting up, she said, then do it, but don’t sit in one position. Sit up straight if you tend to lean forward toward your keyboard, put your feet up on a rest under your desk. Lower them. Put your computer on the kitchen counter, and stand while you type. Don’t do your entire day’s workout in the morning and think you’re done. Break up your sitting/writing time with additional five minute workouts throughout the day – even if the time is spent simply going up and down the stairs.

Move.

And… don’t sit on the sofa or other soft cushion with your laptop on your lap. We tend to sit ‘folded’ that way, she said, and that causes other problems (I know, I have those too).

Naturally, this was advice given to me by my own doctor. You should look further into this yourself to see what’s best for you.Be safe, be smart, be active

The pain I felt Sunday night and the fear I felt about possibly having to deal with a dangerous blood clot – with a blizzard on the way, no less – reminded me how quickly hours can go by when we’re writing, and how easily we can get caught up in the work while forgetting about taking care of ourselves.

Be safe, be smart, be active.

Have you ever noticed how much time you spend sitting in one position? For fun, or not, time yourself. A change of habit is probably in order for you, too.

I was using my treadmill during the day and “between jobs”, but then I stopped, having gotten caught up in the work. I’m bringing it back in and looking at other ways to make sure I don’t put myself at such high risk again.

What are your habits like? Do you have a way to break up hours of sitting?

Holiday Traditions

Harry Potter - The Night Bus

For this Christmas holiday,  I vacationed in Florida with my family. We visited the ever-amazing Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and spent nearly every waking moment traveling between Hogsmead and Diagon Alley via the Hogwart’s express.  It was an awesome experience filled with magical moments of discovery.Diagon Alley - Gringot's Dragon

 

But in addition to time in the world of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, we visited Disney’s World Showcase at Epcot Center. Talk about magical moments.

We strolled from Canada to the UK to France, Morocco… all around the world, taking in the sights, the sounds, the scents and flavors.

Disney's World Showcase at Epcot Center - Christmas in Germany While in each country, we learned about their holiday traditions. I was, at first, impressed by how familiar so many of those traditions were, and how many of them overlap and compliment one another. We’re all separated by borders but share so many ideas, ideals and passions.Disney World Showcase at Epcot Center - Christmas in France

Despite the similarities and the exciting differences, one country’s traditions stood out the most for me. It was unique (to me) and made me smile as I considered implementing them myself. It was in Japan.

One of their traditions involved the Daruma Doll. It is a small hollow “head” with blank white circles for eyes. The idea is to consider and plan your goals for the coming year and then to color in one of the doll’s eyes. The doll will sit on a shelf, untouched, until you have reached your goal or goals. At that time, you may color in the other eye.

Disney's World Showcase at Epcot Center - Daruma Dolls - Japan

I love that idea so much I bought tiny Daruma dolls for my family so we might each strive to reach our personal goals with this doll as a reminder to do so.

Another Japanese tradition associated with the coming of each new year, involved refreshing the home so you have a new start with the new year.

I doubt this means anything as extreme as remodeling, but rather a change of window treatments, new slipcovers, or, perhaps, a fresh coat of paint. I can see myself doing that. I can also see myself altering my furniture layout so my rooms feel new even though they are not.

Disney - Epcot Center - Spaceship EarthI don’t know about you, but I often find myself falling into a rut. When I came home from our holiday getaway, I noticed a drop in my energy and enthusiasm. While away, we were up at the crack of dawn and out well after midnight. Those couple of sleep hours were enough to propel us into each next day of adventure. While at home, if I tried to stay up that late and rise that early, I’d be dragging myself through the day and would be grouchy to boot.

Not that I intend to deprive myself of sleep every day, but the idea of a fresh start to the new year, with new draperies or shades, with new colors on the walls or even a simple rearrangement of furniture intrigues me. I can imagine wanting to spend time in this ‘new’ space and feeling good about the environment, because, I would assume, if I’ll be shifting stuff around then some of that ‘stuff’ will be left at the curb.

When it comes to living space, there is little I can do that’s more satisfying than purging. I think of how often I open my closet door, just to peak inside, after I’ve reorganized it. Admit it, you’ve done that, too. ;-)

So, this year, for 2015, I will start a new tradition in my little home and freshen my space. Papers will get tossed, clothes we do not wear (or can no longer fit into) will be donated, the fridge will be cleaned, the cupboards stocked with healthy choices, the throw rugs and pillows replaced and the furniture shifted about. I will rediscover my home and be happy here. Maybe you’ll try this to? You just might find a way to bring adventure into your own home. Or do you already do something like this? What are some of your holiday traditions?The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogwarts

Akemashite Omedetō Gozaimasu – Happy New Year.

May 2015 bring smiles to your face, health to you and your loved ones, peace to your home, and fulfillment to your heart.

 

 

No-no to NaNo

NaNoWriMo - CopyI’ll be honest from the start – I am a slow writer. For that reason, I’ve resisted participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as it rolls around each year. The goal of NaNo is a great one – spend time prepping yourself for a writing marathon then enter the marathon and come out of it with more words on the page than you would have had otherwise. More specifically, the goal is to complete a 50,000-word novel in one month by writing 1667 words per day, every day for 30 days.

It sounds incredibly daunting and it is. However, there is logic within this madness.

I think of it like Christmas, which to me is the greatest time of year. I start planning early – like in the summer. By September I’ve prepared my gift-giving list and might have even started shopping. By October, I’ve planned the menu for Christmas day. By Thanksgiving, the day after actually, my house is decorated inside and out and during that following week, my family holiday picture is taken – kitties included. By the time Christmas day comes around, all that’s on my list is cooking and celebrating. The day itself is a marathon but I love it because all of the nitty-gritty has been tended to prior to the day.

So it is with NaNo. Plot your story early. Do your character charts or interviews, if you normally do those. Create your storyboard or dictate your notes into a digital recorder… whatever you do to prepare yourself before writing a new story is what you should do in the months or weeks before NaNo.

Then, shop. Stock the fridge and even consider prepping meals you can freeze so that during NaNo, you won’t have to worry about meal planning. Clean the house if a tidy house helps you focus on the story. Warn your friends and family that November will be a very busy month for you and you won’t be taking calls or receiving visitors during that month’s writing hours.

book by candle lightDitch the excuses and the inner editor at the door and give your muse permission to play. When November 1st arrives, you start. No looking back. No revisions, no self doubt, no research. Just forward motion. If you need to look into something further before you add it to your story, add a note saying you need to look into that further but don’t stop to do it now. Do it in December.

Write. Every day. You’d be surprised how, even if you were unsure where your story would go because of some unexpected blip, by staying in the story day after day, by immersing yourself in your characters’ lives, in their setting, in the action and emotion, each day’s writing will get easier. You’ll just know where to go with each new writing session because for this month you, too, will inhabit the world you’ve created.

It sounds wonderful. I so wish I could work this way. I wish I could complete even surrender1,000 words per day. However, knowing I have to, knowing that is what’s expected of me, stifles my muse. Performance anxiety, I suppose.

Even though the draft written during NaNo is for no one to see but me, I can’t bring myself to just write – or to leave “to be researched” notes in the text. I have to know NOW. I write linearly. (except for when I jump from Chapter 3 to write the final scene, then jump back to Chapter 4). What I write in one paragraph directly affects the next in a way that will not allow me to skip over details in favor of words on the page.

Since November 1st, I’ve written 4,000 words. My personal goal was 1300 words per day. By now I should be up to 18,200 words. I’m writing a novella so that would put me at the midway point. How wonderful that would be – which is why it was my goal.

The reality is very different for me. My process is different. I simply cannot write this way and trying to rework my process to fit the mold has only frustrated me. I value NaNo’s intention. I admire those who attempt it and stick with it – whether they meet the daily goal or not. But for me, it’s not an enjoyable or productive process and so I’ll be sticking to my agonize-over-every-word method of writing, wave at the NaNo marathoners as they zip past me and continue in my own way, at my own pace, and for my own pleasure. I know I’ll be among the last to cross the finish line but I don’t mind because I will cross it.

writingEmbrace your process. Whatever that may be. You should never be afraid to try something new, but neither should you be afraid to say that something new is not for you.

What has your experience been with NaNo? Thrilling? Daunting? Did your experience with it alter your ‘normal’ writing habits or did you revert back to your own process without looking back?

 

Pick a Path, Any Path

For the past few months, I’ve been working on my erotic novella trilogy. I released Book 1 on May 27th, 2014. Book 2 should be released at the end of this month and then, for the next couple of months, I’ll be working on the release of Book 3. Hopefully, that will be in the fall. The beauty, for me, of writing these stories is that I’m writing them for myself. I had a goal. A tale I wanted to tell in a way I wanted to tell it. And that’s what I’m doing – with input from dear and wise beta readers, and a brilliant copy-editor. I’ve hired an awesome designer for my covers and formatting, and I’m promoting the trilogy myself with the help of some wonderful friends and dedicated readers.

It has been an awesome ride.

I explain all of this because I’m probably like a lot of authors who never expected to have their work out there via self-publishing.

I had always imagined taking the traditional route. I hoped I would query agents, have one see potential in my work, take me on as a client and then shop it around to publishers who would do the whole thing – copy-editing, book doctoring, marketing, cover design, printing and distribution – the way it had been done for ages.

Instead, for this series – which I’ve written under my pen name since it’s erotic fiction and I wanted to distinguish it from my romantic suspense – I chose to take a different route. Yes, I started the traditional way by sending out queries. The responses, however, were requests for me to revise and then resubmit. The requested revision had to do with turning my gritty erotic tale into erotic romance with a happily ever after ending. “Romance” and “Happily Ever After”, are the last words I think about when I consider my trilogy, so that was not a request I felt comfortable fulfilling.

I’ll admit, the decision to keep the trilogy as is and publish it myself was an easy one because self-publishing and erotica seemed, to me at least, to go hand in hand.

Does that mean I’m against traditional publishing? Absolutely not. Though, sad as it is, some rather intelligent people seem to think so. There’s a petty battle being waged between some in the self-publishing corner and some in the traditional publishing corner. Because of that petty battle, any mention of one method over the other is often met with defensive comments and accusations.

I don’t speak for every author, I speak for myself, and I will say this – I admire anyone who puts their work out there for public consumption, no matter the publishing path they take.

This is not a business for the faint of heart. Reviewers – professional and otherwise – can be as wonderful as they can be brutal. You have to trust yourself and your work enough to ignore the random insults while absorbing constructive criticisms and acknowledging that maybe the work isn’t as brilliant as you originally thought. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be out there. It means everyone has a different opinion. And whether you’re self- or traditionally published, a newbie or Nora – you’re going to get great and not-so-great feedback. Success is not determined by the route you take but by timing, luck and the effort put into the project.

I self-published my current work and people seem to be enjoying it. I don’t care that some people look down on self-publishing. I’m not a threat to traditionally published authors, though some react as if I (meaning the entire self-published community) am indeed a threat, a peon, a person who couldn’t get work past the guardians, and decided to enter the market through some dark and dirty tunnel instead.

There’s not a shred of fact in that assumption. I said above that, in my mind, erotic fiction and self-publishing seem to go hand-in-hand. That’s why I chose this route for this series. Would I choose the same route for my romantic suspense? I don’t know. I believe I would query agents as usual. I believe I would hold the same hope I originally held for this story – that they’d see the potential in the work and want to take it on. I also know now that if they decide not to, other quality options are available to me.

*Most* self-published authors are people who believe in their work. People who have poured their passion into it. Who have a dream of seeing their name on a book. Who feel this giddy rush of pleasure when others buy the work, and an even greater rush when they receive a nice review. Most self-published authors aren’t looking to take over the publishing world. Nor are most looking to somehow belittle the accomplishments of traditionally published authors. They’re just creative people who have a story to tell. And if it’s riddled with typos? If the prose drags on or is incomprehensible? Does that mean every self-published book is the same? If you pick up a book from one of the big-five publishing houses and find it to be a wall-banger – and there have been plenty of wall-bangers over the years – is that a sign that standards for the entire industry have plummeted? Or does it mean you bought a book you didn’t like? Or a book that should have received more attention from an editor?

Is there arrogance in some self-published authors? Is there indignation? Of course there is. And it’s exactly the same for the traditionally published community. We’re all part of the same. We’re all authors. We all have stories to tell. Some of us tell them in a more commercially-acceptable way than others. Some of us have the business and common sense to take it slow, to check and recheck before putting it out there. Some of us are still learning, and some of us don’t give a shit. It all shows in the work – whether that work came to life via self- or traditional publishers.

It’s not about the path you take – or about the path someone else chooses to take. It’s about the story you tell.

 

And now for a shameless plug…

 

Cover RevealHistory is revised in this erotic tale of choice removed as the duty to submit wars with the desire to resist. Abigail Prescott, a 17th Century woman accused of witchcraft, seeks to prove herself unmarked by Satan. She willingly submits to her governor’s thorough examination but is ill-prepared for his shameful grueling probe, as it permits him to see and test her every inch and every hollow.

“The Governor is one hell of a Dom.” – award-winning author, Bianca D’Arc

“I defy you not to squirm and moan right along with Abigail as you read The Mark. Rejoice, erotic-fiction fans. Arla Dahl has arrived!”-best-selling author, Pam McKenna
“The Mark, a beautifully written and captivating novella, kept me on the edge of my seat and completely spellbound.” -Smart Mouth Smut
From the Author:
THE MARK, Book 1 in the Immoral Virtue Trilogy is a highly erotic, non-romantic tale of sexual awakening and abandon, of the duty to submit vs. the desire to resist. Due to its explicit sexual nature, with elements of BDSM and dubious consent, THE MARK is intended for audiences 18 and over.

Amazon   –   Barnes and Noble   –   Smashwords   –   KOBO

My Writing Process – Blog Hop

My thanks to Debora Dennis for inviting me to participate in this blog hop to discuss my writing process. I accepted twice – once last week under my pen name and once this week. To see what my alter ego had to say, check out the post here: Arla Dahl

What am I working on?

I am working on keeping track of who I am on a given day since I’ve been switching hats, playing erotic author one day and romantic suspense author the next. At this moment, I’m working on revisions for a story I fell in love with – flaws and all. I am now smoothing those flaws – or trying to.

CANYON ROAD, my current romantic suspense, is set amongst the stunning, though unyielding, Colorado Rockies. It delves into the heart of an abuse survivor as she fights to overcome the past and move on with her future, only to become trapped in the crazed and deadly world of a man determined to rescue his kidnapped sister and nephew. Survival techniques abuse survivors employ are explored as danger levels ratchet ever higher. But no technique is guaranteed, and without wit and a willingness to join forces, survival may be but a fading dream. As I drive my hero and heroine toward that common goal – to rescue mother and child from a deranged drug dealer – I force them to they fight a growing attraction that could – will – change them forever.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My hero is a regular guy who becomes a hero because he’s been thrown into a situation where he’s forced to think and behave in ways that are more fine-tuned and forceful than he’s accustomed to. His background isn’t military or law enforcement. His background is a strong family where each member does what they can for the others. I have a soft spot, myself, for men and women who show their own unique heroism in surprising ways, whose bravery has been untapped, untamed or undervalued. And I have a lust for those same heroes and heroines who can tap into something before-unseen that lies deep inside of them, something they call on as danger ratchets ever higher. No formal training. In a life or death situation, they don’t crumble. They become the one to count on.

Why do I write what I do?

When I sit with the family to enjoy a movie, that movie will most often have a main theme of action and suspense. Of course, I love comedy and romance. I love whodunits. But a movie with action? A movie that makes me think and wonder and hold my breath? That is the kind of movie I want to see. And that is the kind of book I want to read. And write.  

How does your writing process work?

There’s no question that I’m a planner. I am the workshop queen and have taken an uncountable amount of classes on the subject of craft. From each workshop, I’ve taken something, usually something I can weave with other somethings from other workshops.

I’ve pieced those bits together to give myself a process that excites me, that makes me eager to dive in and write. Charts are involved but nothing extreme – too much pre-planning and my muse goes on hiatus.

By the time I’m ready to start Chapter 1, I have a very loose list of events for the story, and a simple chart plotting the order of those events and their emotional impact on the characters.

That’s basically it. If I include too much information upfront, my creative side gets bored because there’s nothing new to discover during the actual writing. Also, if while I’m jotting the notes for potential story events, my muse is stirred, I will stop jotting and actually write the scene, then save it to be inserted into the story at some future point. Some of my most powerful and emotional scenes have been written well before the plotting was through. Its surprises like that which make me fall in love with the writing craft despite the occasional muse mutiny.

Thank you for coming by to see what I’m working on and how I work it. It’s been fun talking about my process and it’s been exciting to talk about my hero and heroine. They’ve been patiently waiting for me to finish some other work and come back to them. And now I am eager to do just that.

Also posting their writing process this week are Debra Druzy and Tuere Morton

Debra Druzy is querying her first finished Christmas story called SLEEPING WITH SANTA, a sensual contemporary romance. She had a job (several of them) but has gone the stay-at-home-mother route, making writing her full-time gig, in the wee hours of the morning, during school hours, and any spare time in between. http://www.debradruzy.com

Tuere Morton writes young adult fiction by night and is a health professional by day, earning an MS from the University of Stony Brook. When she isn’t voraciously reading, the Long Island native’s fearless children and lovable German Shepherd serve as inspirations for her stories. She hopes you’ll enjoy the first book in her series, ICON. http://tueremorton.wordpress.com/

 

 

Throwback Thursday – March 20, 1988

Twenty six years ago today, I made the move to adopt my first pet. I wanted a puppy. From a shelter. My mom happened to call a local shelter after she learned I planned to drive more than an hour to one of the more popular places. Well, at the local shelter, she learned about a shih-tzu who had been there for one day short of two months. The dog was five years old.

I reminded her that I wanted a puppy, not a five year old. Thing is, when the shelter told her this dog had already been in their care for one day short of two months, they also told her dogs who are not adopted by the two-month period are put down. Healthy, young, happy or otherwise. This was not a no-kill shelter.

The five year old shih-tzu had only hours left to live unless someone got over there and signed her out.

My mom, my sister, my grandmother and I piled into the car and hightailed it over. High-tailed was the shih-tzu the moment she saw us. It was as if she knew we were there to rescue her from imminent death.

Tiffy in her sweats greeting a piglet

The shelter didn’t know anything about her except her age and that she seemed like a purebred shih-tzu. They said she was found wandering the streets and, from her appearance, had been out and about for at least several weeks. This was March 20th. That means this little one had suffered the worst winter weather with few chances to find food or even water instead of ice. But she survived and happily came home with me where I immediately gave her a bath and a haircut.

She must have been treated well with her family, with baths and other pampering, because she lifted her chin, turned this way and that, closed her eyes and seemed to bask in her day at the spa.

Her name was Tiffy. She became my constant companion, my sounding board, my cuddle queen, my full heart.

I knew nothing about dogs before her because I’d never been able to have a pet – allergies, partly. House rules, mostly.

But Tiffy taught me what I needed to know. She was patient and understanding. Never seeming to forget what nearly happened to her and never – ever – letting me forget that she was not only grateful but more than worth the effort.

Tiffy in her favorite sweater and hat

Tiffy lived to the ripe old dog age of 117, which is only 16 human years. I had her for 11 of those years and my life was enriched because of that time with her. Because of her. I’ll never forget that precious beauty. I’ll never forget her prima donna stubbornness nor her unconditional adoration. I’ll never forget how she waited to have her hat and coat put on before we went for a walk, nor how she’d run and bark at dangers in her sleep. I’ll never forget the way she looked at me with love when I carried her out of that shelter, nor how she looked at me with bittersweet thanks, years later, when I helped put an end to the suffering of her cancer-riddled body.

I’ve rescued other animals since then. I’ve adopted, fostered and adopted out kittens and cats. I have six cats now in my house, and I love each of them more than I can ever express. But there will never be another to fill my heart and soul like Tiffy.

Tell me about your first pet. Who was he or she? What do you remember most, what made you smile, what melted your heart?

Revision Tool – Text-to-Speech

AGood books a writer, when you snuggle into the corner of your sofa or favorite chair to read, do you read aloud or to yourself? When you write a scene, do you think it, hear it in your head or speak it, dictate it? What about revisions? When you sit with your story, red pen and highlighter in hand, do you read those pages to yourself or do you let yourself hear the words, the flow of a scene, the rhythm of the sentences?

For many of us, the most enjoyable way to read a book is silently. I have found, however that the best way for me to determine whether a scene or a chapter I’ve written is working, is to have it read to me. But, of course, since what I’m working on is probably only a draft, not a polished piece, I shy away from handing it to someone. Instead, I use a great tool called, TextAloud.

I’m not a spokesperson for this software, I just like it and want to tell you about it. You might know of other text-to-speech programs, but this one works for me for a variety of reasons.

1. It’s affordable. :-)

2. You can set the pace of playback so you can edit as it goes.

3. You can modify the voices depending on the lines being read.

4. It drones.

Reasons 1 and 2, I believe, are self explanatory. Reason 3? The program comes with standard voices but I bought extra that are slightly more realistic. I regularly use three female voices and two male voices during playback of my scenes. I mix them up so one narrates the story while the others take turns with the dialogue, adding personality – as it were – to each character. It’s easy but time consuming to set up voice changes so I don’t do it all the time. I usually save the variety of that for when I’m getting closer to that polished work. If you’re looking for ways to procrastinate, then adding a variety of voices does make for a more enjoyable listen.

I, of course, never procrastinate. I’m sure you never do, either.

Reason #4 might sound like a negative but, for me, it’s a definite positive. The voices are much better than computer voices of days (thankfully) gone by. Still, they come through with a mechanical rhythm. Emotion and inflection are, of course, absent.

TextAloudI find that helpful. Hearing prose recited in this way highlights long-winded sentences, boring phrases, clumps of description or verbose dialogue. It also makes the snappy prose more obvious – if it sounds good while droning on, then chances are, you’ve hit the right balance in that bit of story. If it sounds monotonous, dull, never ending, you know changes need to be made… the change can be as great as slicing an entire scene out of the book or as simple as modifying a word or varying sentence length.

This particular text-to-speech program is my non-judgmental partner, my otherwise-silent alter-ego. No inner editor there. I can never take offense by something it says because its words are mine and if I’m unhappy with them, it’s up to me to make them better. And if I am happy with them? Then I know I’m getting close to ‘there’.

What is your revision process? Do you wait until you’ve reached the end then go back to the beginning to edit or do you edit as you go? Do you hand off your first draft work to critique partners for feedback or polish before passing it on? Have you ever used a text-to-speech program to help you hear the story? If not, would you? Do you have your own go-to tools?

The Agony of Defeat, The Thrill of Victory

I’ve taken on a new venture. Writing erotic fiction. My go-to genre has always been Romantic Suspense and so by taking a little time now to work on an erotic novella series, titled Immoral Virtue, I feel like I’m having an adulterous affair with a different –and most salacious – type of character.

It’s fun. It’s torture. And so is the plot. ;-)Immoral Virtue Trilogy - Arla Dahl

Thing is, I’ve given myself a deadline in the form of a date by which Book 1 in this trilogy – The Mark –  will be released. Look for it this spring. The cover for The Mark is being designed as I type this, a new website for the identity I’ve assumed as its author – Arla Dahl (www.arladahl.com) – is being created, I’m working on some swag, and I’m writing Books 2 and 3 in the series.

Which brings me first to the agony of defeat.

I had been struggling with a specific chapter and had therefore saved several versions of it so I could flip back and forth to cut and paste, combine, highlight, etc. After a full day of that – seriously, a FULL day – I had finally found my groove and produced what was as close to my vision for the chapter as I had come to date. And then I did something stupid – I clicked and clicked “undo” so I could get it back to a previous version to be saved with a different file name. However, instead, of clicking “save as”, I clicked “save”, thus overwriting everything I had done.

Like *that * a day’s work was gone. I was crushed.

This happened last night so the prickle of agony is still there.

This morning, I found myself questioning where to go from here, and thought I could easily move my deadline. It’s self-imposed after all. No one is counting on me but me… but…

With the Olympics having just ended, the words, “the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat” kept ringing in my head. And I remembered something one Olympian endured – a heart wrenching twist of fate which obliterated all chance of victory for him. As all Olympians, he had trained harder than most of us can imagine, he was pumped and ready to go. The bell rang. It was time for him to start, time for him to shine. He took off.. and stumbled. He, literally, tripped himself up. That amazing, talented man was then forced to spend what should have been the most thrilling moments of his life trying to recover from that fatal mistake. His dream was crushed the instant the clock started ticking and no amount of adjusting could save it.

THAT is the agony of defeat.

A lost file? Ha. Can’t even compare.

It can, however, become the thrill of victory. I have only to begin again. At least I, unlike the athlete to whom I referred, have that option.

Let the games begin…

How 15 Minutes Changed My Life

vacuum

Like most people, when it comes to housework, I do it when I have to. I vacuum when clouds of cat hair rise from the carpet as I walk on it, I dust and I put stuff away. I’m not, obviously, what you’d call a happy homemaker. I never was and probably never will be. But, of course, I like a clean and tidy house. Ah, the dilemma.

I read an article recently which suggested taking 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes before bedtime to tidy the house – you know, pile the strewn papers, empty the bathroom trash, put away the ‘stuff’ that appears from nowhere on the kitchen counter. All of that. Morning and night.Cleaning supplies

Well, if you do that, only fifteen minutes, the first day you’ll see a whole lot of things you could put away, and feel overwhelmed, knowing it would take much longer than 15 minutes to do it. But stick to those fifteen minutes. Do it daily and soon – since you’re tidying before bedtime, too – by  morning, there’s not much to tidy. What then? Pick up a dust cloth. Spend the fifteen minutes doing that. No? Then organize a bookshelf. In the evening? Vacuum or pay the bills. I know, I know. I said those 15 minutes changed my life, how is that? By making me a happy homemaker after all?

Um. No.

By organizing and energizing me.

My routine used to be to get up at dawn, feed the cats and get to work (from home, writing). Before the rest of the house stirred, I’d take a break from working, get on the treadmill, shower make breakfast for all then head back to work… taking a serious break again only for lunch and dinner.

Each morning, my sleepy eyes would scan the mess that was my home. I knew I’d have to spend an entire day each week cleaning it and sorting the mail that had piled so high it was falling over. But I had work to do so I kept putting off that day of cleaning. Tomorrow. Tomorrow.

By forcing those 15 minutes into my morning and evening routines, the mess was gone. Once everything was in its place after a couple of 15-minute tidy sessions, it was easier to clean – and the clean was more noticeable – and lasting. I could go to work and not worry if someone came to the door unexpectedly. :oops: My bills were paid on time and papers were filed where they were supposed to be. Knowing the chore would be limited to 15 minutes made it manageable. It also awakened the worker-bee in me. I might lag when it comes to home chores, but when I work, I work hard. I looked at it as a job and a challenge. How much can I accomplish in this 15 minute block?

Something about it was energizing. It also didn’t hurt that I could scan the house and see how pretty it actually was.

The added bonus? The life-changing effect? My mind feels clearer. As if that has been tidied, too. Decluttering my space decluttered my mind, seeming to clear a path for the muse to come out and play. I picture her now, as she had been, like a hoarder trapped in her own space, tripping and climbing over clutter so she could come to rest on my shoulder all day. The more clutter there was, the longer she struggled to get through. The harder it was for me to work.

Fifteen minutes in the morning. It takes ten for the coffee to brew. Five for it to get nice and hot on the warming plate. There’s my fifteen minutes. In the evening, on the way to the bedroom, make a quick stop here and there to pick up things in the way. The incentive? Waking early and seeing everything – mostly – in its place. Of course, no matter how diligent you are, there will always – always – be that one dirty dish in the sink that no one ever recalls placing there even though the dishwasher is two inches away.

Fifteen minutes. It made the air cleaner in my house – I have cats, you know.

My Pride

Fifteen minutes. It decluttered my space and, by extension, freed my muse. Fifteen minutes. It makes unexpected company less unwelcome (ha), clears the dust from the muse’s eyes, and has, honestly, changed my life.

Are We There Yet?

When I saw the date of my last post here, I shivered with thoughts of how much time had passed since then. I thought, like so many people, about how quickly time slips past us. But as I sit here in my kitchen typing this note, inhaling the aroma of baking cookies and enjoying the smooth flowing rhythm of white twinkling lights on my Christmas tree just a yard away, I realize how much “life” and “living” has been packed into these last few months. Months BEFORE Christmas had been announced in stores.

It’s true, I haven’t posted anything here since July. I have stopped by intending to post, though. Inevitably, something would require my attention and off I’d go again. If I didn’t stop to give some deep thought to why this blog has been so quiet for so long, I’d say the days simply got away from me, time has moved faster than ever, I’m lazy, I’m void of ideas…

None of those excuses/reasons are true, however. I’ve been writing. I’ve been a second pair of eyes for my daughter’s college essays, I’ve designed digital albums for my husband’s customers, visited with friends, paid bills, cooked, cared for sick pets… and worked on Book 2 of my erotic novella trilogy which I intend to self publish in the spring.

I’ve been busy. I’ve had richness in my life. I may be moving a little slower now than when I was in my teens and twenties, but time is not moving any faster. However, more is expected of us than ever before. We read and post tweets and status updates that provide minute by minute reporting of what we’re doing and before we know it an hour has passed. Two hours… But we’re so focused on the reporting of it, that we’re not living it. At least I’m not.

It’s my desire to step back a little. To head into 2014 with a new appreciation of time’s ethereal design. It’s not meant to be captured. It’s meant to be lived – and acknowledged. It’s the foundation for memories.

2014 will be a year of doing, and of savoring every moment. If that includes tweets and status updates – or even blog posts – that’s great. As long as the moments themselves are not shrugged off, as long as the focus isn’t on the outcome but the path to it.

My husband often says something that I tend to shrug off because I’m “too busy” and “need to get there”.

“It’s the journey,” he says. “Without the journey, the destination is just more of the same.”

May your 2014 and beyond be a journey and may your destination be that much richer because of it.

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