Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How I'm Organizing My Writing Time

I'm such a goof-off. My October plans for writing were to become more consistent by sticking to a scheduled writing time but October has not gone smoothly. With NaNoWriMo on the horizon, I hope that this trend doesn't last. My good  intentions this month simply disappeared, with a few other plans I made, into the murkiness of my life.

I did write but not as much as I'd hoped. Most of the month I spent dealing with the weather. Not in some magical way but the changes in weather patterns tend to make my Rheumatoid arthritis worse. On top of that, for a couple of weeks I experienced plummeting blood sugar and I don't know why. I had to make adjustments. My blood pressure was also down by about 10 points on both sides of the equation. 

I know there will be some who think such problems should have no impact on writing but when you can't operate the keyboard because your hands are swollen and the joints stiff, or  you can't stay awake due to the extreme fatigue, then it has a huge impact. 

On a positive note, I found part of the problem was caused by dehydration. I had several days where I was extremely sluggish and unable to stay awake. After everything else checked out, I thought I might be dehydrated. So, I checked my skin. To do this pinch the back of your hand, below the knuckles and let go. If your skin is slow to return to normal, you're dehydrated.

Since I failed the test, I drank 24 ounces of water and in a hour I was awake again. I forget to drink and eat now that I'm not working. I don't get hungry or thirst and I don't go to lunch on a schedule to remind me. That isn't a good thing. I take a diuretic blood pressure pill and dehydration is a risk. 

I seemed to have licked the water problem. Less stress overall has probably resulted in the changed in blood pressure and blood sugar levels. So, now I need to bring myself to task.

Time

I went in search for something to assist me in staying on track with my writing. I'm terrible with schedules unless I have a calendar handy to prompt me and then I have to make myself stick in the chair for a specific amount of time, regardless of what happens. I decided I needed a timer, something a bit more elaborate than the basic kitchen timer I have on my phone. 

I have a friend who does a work schedule where she does her housework in breaks. She works 30 minutes and takes a 30 minute break. I've tried it and found it a great way to get a lot done and not feel overwhelmed. Months ago I ran across an article about the Pomodoro Technique(T) and it was basically my friend's method. 

I've wanted to implement this type of schedule for my writing time but I needed a good timer that allowed me to set the schedule I wanted to use without having to reset it each rotation. There is a Pomodoro timer but I didn't care for it. 

After examining several timer apps for my computer and phone, I only found one I really liked called Breaker. I've tried it several times and am happy with it. The ease of operation and low profile are just what I was looking for. And I can program a variety of schedules and rotations.

Organization

If you know me, you know I'm a rabid Google fan. I use everything Google that I can. I have email, blogger, YouTube, G+, Google Drive, and Google Calendar. There are other Google items but I'll stop with the most common. 

Google Calendar is my lifeline to my life. I schedule everything on it, right down to reminders to call someone. I have the app on my phone and it reminds me where I'm supposed to be and what I'm supposed to be doing. I could download it to my laptop with Microsoft Mail or Outlook but I don't like either of those and it just adds stuff to my computer that I have to sort through and clean out periodically. Online, Google requires none of that. 

Today I found an app that I hope will prove useful in keeping up with things when I'm on the computer. Gminder is a small app on my taskbar that loads everything I have on every calendar that I tell it to load and reminds me. At the moment I have three calendars I monitor: one personal calendar for all my appointments, meetings, and assignments, one for NaNoWriMo calendar to let my region know when, where, and what time we have meetings, and a third tracking calendar as a separate log. 

I loaded Gminder on my computer on Tuesday, told it what calendars to load, and my scheduled items appeared in the minder. I got a notice immediately that it was my birthday. Did I really schedule my own birthday? Probably not. But my contacts' birthdays are included on my calendar so, if my birthday is in my contacts, then it is on the calendar. Why put my own name in my contacts? I have three email addresses and three phone numbers. This way, they're all handy if I need to send them to someone.

On first glance, I think I'll like Gminder. If I hate it, I'll have to schedule myself a reminder to come back and tell you. I think Breaker and Gminder are going to be excellent tools in my arsenal to get organized. One can only hope that they are effective. It's a choice.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Branding, Marketing, & Self-Publishing Your Novel

I don't feel I've had a very productive week but there was some positive things. My oven stopped working on Monday and my son and I were able to repair it for the cost of the part. On Wedensday, I was supposed to have a job phone interview but they never called. I  haven't called them because they scheduled the interview and ought to know when to call. Do I want to work for a company that it has taken three months to get a response from and then they flub it?

Things began to look up on Wednesday. My friend and author, Rae Ford, called me Tuesday evening to point me to a potential job as a PA to another author, C.J. Ellisson. I contacted Ms. Ellisson and it was the smartest thing I've done in a while. I didn't possess the skills she was looking for and I wasn't really surprised, but I still profited by the call.

Ms. Ellisson was so nice and not too busy to talk about writing with me. She provided me with valuable information and encouraged me to start learning those skills because I need the same knowledge as a writer. 

The industry has changed radically in a very short time and many writers are navigating in strange waters, including me. I found it ironic that much of her advice I'd already heard at the Austin, Tx Re:Write Conference last October. It overwhelmed me then. I had two days and a truckload of data shoved at me. This brief conversation gave me a bit of clarity and encouragement. 

Ms. Ellisson is a strong proponent of self-publishing and she provided a list of books she feels are the best place to start my education in marketing and self-publishing. When I looked for them on Amazon I found I actually had the first one on my Kindle. I'd obtained it free it over a year ago but I have so many writing books that I simply had not got around that one yet. Had she not talked with me, I might not have read it for a very long time.

I've placed links to the books below for your convenience. It is by no means the only books on the topic but it helps when someone recommends a book based on experience. I have the Kindle versions but they also have hard copies that are a bit more expensive. I started the first one today and it is an easy read. I'm taking notes because there's lots of information. 

Let's Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should: Updated Second Edition (Let's Get Publishing Book 1) 

Let's Get Visible: How To Get Noticed And Sell More Books (Let's Get Publishing Book 2)

The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing 

Ms. Ellisson pointed me to her YouTube channel, The Author Coach where she has a series of free videos that teach you how to set up your Facebook page to maximize your marketing as an author.Her opinion is that many authors are under utilizing Facebook in their marketing. After watching three of them today, I would agree with her.  

The videos are interesting, brief,and easy to follow. I was unaware of many of the things she pointed out. Facebook has undergone some changes since she made the videos but the processes are pretty much the same. I was half done making an author page when I realized.... technically, I'm not an author yet. I'm just a lowly writer. So, I put that down and started on the books. I'll go back to the videos once I finish them.

It is rare to find a published author willing to have a real conversation with you about anything. It was nice to find one so willing to share what she has learned about the craft and marketing a novel. I hope, if I'm ever published, that I am equally generous. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Falling Bodies

So, I'm trying to get psyched up for NaNoWriMo. As the ML you kind of have to be pumped up to write a novel of 50K and lead a group of like minded folks on to victory. I'm still in my PJ's this gloomy, wet Tuesday. I've updated the checkbook, which lead to a bit more gloom and decided to check email, FB, and NaNo for anything new. 

I landed on my Nano Novel Page and clicked on the link for last year's entry. I read over it and was mildly surprised that the excerpt, while needing editing, is pretty good. In fact, it made me laugh. That's a good thing. Now I'm ready to do another one. Honestly, there is very little that I recall in last year's attempt of merit but that opening tells me there's potential. It encourages me that I can do this again. 

"Just finish one!" Says everyone I know. The good news is that I'm trying to get the endings of three previous NaNos written. I've been dabbling on all three for a while. I get bored with them, wanting to start something new. Thus the reason I am writing on more than one. Only in the last month did the endings of two of those three reveal themselves to me. But now November is upon me and I have to shove that back for a couple of months.

I decided to share the excerpt here. The link is above but I'm not sure non-NaNoers can access it. This will save you the trouble. 

Falling Bodies, By Cynthia Maddox
Synopsis

Savannah keeps stumbling over dead bodies in strange places but she didn't do it. Unfortunately, her proximity to the victims puts her on the radar of the new detective in town. When Savannah begins to look for a connection to the victims she suddenly finds she may have stumbled onto a secret that places her on someone else's radar.

Excerpt

As she passed Willow Lake she glanced around. There were a series of benches scattered around the lake. Today there was a couple seated together. She couldn’t make out who they were but she’d seen them for several days now. The woman was seated on the bench and the man sat astride of the bench, close to her, one hand holding hers and the other around her waist. He leaned over and kissed her cheek. 

Savannah looked away and walked on. Glancing at her watch, she picked up her pace.It usually took her thirty minutes to walk her route. She had to be done before dark. It wasn't that she was afraid of being in the cemetery but after dark was when most vandalism occurred and she didn't want to risk running into people willing to take sledge hammers to a dead person's grave. 

She rounded the curve in the road that ran along the base of the hill. She used to have to slow down here because she would get winded but these days it was a piece of cake. She looked up the hill at the towering obelisk pointing against the sky. Something dark was rolling along the ground between the headstones. She frowned. What was that? As it rolled it picked up speed until it seemed to be flying. It hit a low stone and bounced and then bounced again and flew off the hillside, landing with a splat in the middle of the road, right at Savannah’s feet. She stopped. Another foot and it would have landed on her. 

She stared in disbelief at the object spread before her. For what seemed ages it simply didn't register in her brain. She knew what she was seeing but she didn't understand why she was seeing it. She looked up the hill, searching for something that would explain it. Then she looked again at the sprawling form of Darin Tate and as the blood began to spread out around his head, Savannah felt the world tip and she stumbled away to lean against the side of the hill where they had placed concrete barriers to prevent slump. 

“Oh good Lord. Oh good Lord.” She fumbled in her pocket for her cell phone. Thank goodness she always carried it when she walked. It took several tries before she could actually dial 911. When she did she recognized the voice.

“Winona! Oh my God! Winona, get someone out here to the cemetery! Darin Tate just rolled off the hill and is dead as a mackerel.” She listened to Winona’s response but interrupted her. “I don’t know why he was rolling down the hill. The last time I saw him he was fast walking away from me. All I know is he just did a snowball down Sweet Gum Hill and he’s bleeding all over the pavement.” 

Winona issued another litany of questions and Savannah sighed. “He’s definitely dead, Winona.”