Monday, December 30, 2013

Every Goal in Life...Has a Learning Curve

As we approach the new year, many of us are busy setting goals. Dreams we want to achieve which aren't always easy. Learning from mistakes, failure even, is so important, especially when it hurts and you wonder if you have what it takes...So, here are motivational quotes to help you dig deep and keep you going through those tough times in the New Year. I have goals. I have dreams. I've been learning as much as I can, and I'm prepared to learn more. I've been working hard and while mistakes and setbacks are painful and disheartening...I'm dead set on using them as learning tools. So, come with me in 2014. Hell, let's set the bar high...dream big! But have concrete steps along the path to our goals. To get us started, here are some quotes on not quitting when it gets hard. Learning from failure. While I don't wish failure on any one of us, at the very least, failure along the journey shows we're trying and taking risks.

“I am not discouraged because every wrong attempt discarded is a step forward.”
~Thomas Edison~

“Never let your head hang down. Never give up or sit down and grieve. Find another way.”
~Satchel Paige~

The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
~Rocky Balboa~ Rocky

“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson~

Each mistake teaches you something new about yourself. There is no failure, remember, except in no longer trying. It is the courage to continue that counts.
~Chris Bradford~

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” - Denis Waitley

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” - Henry Ford

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” - Winston Churchill

Friday, December 27, 2013

Getting Ready

"The method of the enterprising is to plan with audacity and execute with vigor." Christian N. Bovee
On Life: Only five more days left in 2013 and I'm trying to get everything ready for the New Year. I like to start the new year with a clean slate, meaning Christmas decorations are down and put away, the house is clean, fridge and pantry stocked with healthy food again and a bright, shiny list of concrete goals for the year is ready to go. #1 son is will leave tomorrow to return to his AF base, so I'll probably take the tree down Sunday (while watching football) or Monday at the latest.

On Writing: I've narrowed my actual writing goals down to 4 projects for 2014.
1. The next Cates brother's story. I've written books about 2 of them. I have 3 more brothers to go.
2. A romance totally unconnected to my Cates brothers' series.
3. A Christmas romance.
4. Deep edit on another m/s that has been waiting. It's got good bones, just needs a new opening.

Non-Writing Goals:
1. Exercise regularly. Look up kettle bell exercises to add to workouts.
2. Drink more water.
3. Find a new volunteer opportunity closer to where we live.
4. Find a new church closer to our new house.

These goals are totally dependent on me. If I fail, I own it. I have other writing goals towards becoming a published author that I will continue to work on during 2014. Some of these I can't control since they depend on the opinions/needs of others, timing and maybe even a little luck. But I can control how I react, by staying professional, positive and persevering. So that's my roadmap to lead me into 2014. I hope you have a life goal or event to look forward to in 2014!

“If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.”   ―Yogi Berra   

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Thoughts

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.  ~Charles Dickens

 Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind.  To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.  ~Calvin Coolidge, 1927

Wishing safe travelling to all who are heading to a loved one's for Christmas!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Holiday Traditions (aka How We Gain 5 lbs Over the Holidays)

My husband's family is Czech. He and his sister are the first generation born in America. So, along with that come many yummy Czech recipes...because boy, do the Czechs like their food, and it's pretty damn tasty. When we finally got all the kids home on Friday, my husband cooked his favorite Czech meal, Svickova na Smetane with Houskove Knedliky. Rough translation: Beef tenderloin with bread dumplings and an awesome gravy that takes many hours and many ingredients to prepare. But sooooo totally worth it. The kids love it too, especially the two oldest as they have both visited Prague and eaten yummy Czech food. We couldn't afford to cook this until just a few years ago (the meat is very $$$) but it has become a Christmas tradition our family loves.

Next on the list is the Czech Christmas cookies. #2 son cracked all the hazelnuts yesterday and ground them up last night, so we're all ready to make the dough today. The Vanilkove Rohlicky cookies are everyone's favorites.

Today, we're working on our new, yet fast becoming a favorite, family tradition...smoking meat. Threw a pork shoulder on the smoker about two hours ago and will be eating BBQ sandwiches and cole slaw for dinner tonight. Christmas day will see us eating the traditional ham dinner, but we might try smoking the ham this year.

Sending warm thoughts and prayers to all our military members stationed throughout the world who can't be with their families and loved ones this Christmas. I so very much appreciate the sacrifice they and their families make for us.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Making Lists

Yesterday's To-do List:
#1. Christmas Cards :)

Today's To-do List:
#1. Finish cleaning the house before my sister and her three kids arrive tomorrow. Get the beds ready.
#2. Plan meals to feed 10 for the week with the full house.
#3. Wrap presents.

On Writing:
Writing To-do List:
#1. Go over synopsis for WCTBL? Make sure it's got all the important stuff without being boring.
#2. Write a query letter for it.
#3.  Review my list of agents and get a spreadsheet ready to send out the first batch in the New Year.

What's on your To-do list?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Merry Christmas to Me

On Writing: I received an early Christmas present. I found out that Why Can't This Be Love? placed 1st in the ST category of the Unpublished Beacon Contest! My very first win and it feels pretty great. This contest is sponsored by the First Coast Romance Writers and they did a fantastic job of communicating throughout the process. The first round judges gave me great critiques on my manuscript so that even if I hadn't won, I know WCTBL? is a stronger m/s coming out of the contest than went in. So, a big thank you to the FCRW, the Unpublished Beacon, the coordinator Tory Michaels, the individual category coordinators, the 1st round judges and final judges and all the other writers!

On Life: #1 son will arrive home today. He got leave for Christmas and this time is driving home from his base in MS. (I think he wants to take his guitar back with him and doesn't trust the airlines.) The other three kids are all finally finished their semesters and darn if they didn't all have great semesters. In fact, #2 son might have gotten a 4.0, which is good, but the battle over his gaming addiction was constant and stressful over the semester. Daughter #1, also living at home and commuting, also tried to help me keep him focused, but the stress of it really got to her. I know she's dreading a repeat of another semester like it in the spring. I am too, so we'll need to sit down and with him and evaluate.

I'm taking the puppy-sister, Bella,  to the vet today to get her lytes checked and for her next percorten shot. My Vet is soooo not happy with me. He said he would try the "low-dose" percorten protocol (Thank you Dr. Julie Bates and the Addison's Dog Yahoo group!) that I researched but he is fighting me at every stage. I think I may need to find a new Vet after all. The good news though, is that even after the first reduction of percorten (from 2ml to 1.5) she is already more playful and affectionate and (knock on wood) no tinkle accidents for weeks now.

Other than the Vet, it's just a day of cleaning and getting the Christmas cards addressed. No more procrastinating on that. I'm going on record to say that I will not go to bed tonight unless I have all the cards addressed. Seriously. I mean it.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Getting Ready For the New Year

On Writing and Life: I'm beginning to come up with my list of goals for 2014. Yes, I know, it isn't even Christmas yet. But I want to have clear goals for the New Year. And not just goals that I came up with on the 31st, as if on a whim. I mean concrete goals that I've thought about and can even plan how to go about them. I'm not ready to write them down yet, but I'll think about them as I clean and bake and wrap over the next few days. Are you already thinking about your fresh start in the new year?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

It's Beginning to Look...

...okay, a little like Christmas, not a lot. Yet. Out of my list of 3 things to-do yesterday, I accomplished one of them. We did a big stock up food shopping trip at the commissary. We've got my sister and her three kids coming back for Christmas and oldest son was able to get leave from his AF base in MS, so we'll have a full house to feed for a week.

No Christmas baking yet, but I did get the house vacuumed and yesterday we went and got our tree. Yes, we still do live trees, messy but they smell sooo good.  This morning we put it up and strung the lights. We'll add the ornaments when a few of the kids are around to help. I did hang the stockings on the mantel and set up the nativity scene on the foyer table, so I may be late, but I'm getting there.

On Writing: I think I'll just spend the next week brainstorming ideas for my next project. I've got an idea for the next Cates brother (my series.) Ideally, though, I'd like to come up with something completely different. Oooh, plus, I get to pick a new spiral for my next WIP. Here's the post where I explain my love of spiral notebooks:  My "Harriet the Spy" Spirals .

On Life: Some days you just try to do the very best you can. Today, in respect to #2 son, is one of those days. I have no answers for him. And many days it seems like I'm trying to help him more than he is. I hate those days.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gotta Have Faith

I'm going to get a lot done today and none of it includes writing. And why no writing? Because I finished my book yesterday! Ha! I just wanted to say that one more time. No, today is about catching up on all those household jobs and Christmas prep that got put off while writing like mad.

1. Food shopping. Yes, the cupboards are bare.
2. Clean.
3. Start Christmas baking.

I think I'll get through most of 1&2 today. My favorite cleaning music is George Michael's Faith album. I like the concept...You've got to have faith. In something bigger than yourself. For me that's God. In Love. For me that's my family and friends. In yourself. For me that's this writing journey I'm on, but also the causes I believe in. Okay, I'm off to be a shopping and cleaning machine today.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Stick a Fork in It!

On Writing: I'm done. Finally. I finally finished adding the 10k I needed to my m/s Why Can't This be Love? Holy cow that seemed to take forever! I think the problem was I originally wrote it to be a series length book. It is part of a series of my 5 Cates brothers from Climax, NC. So, it was originally about 55k. And then I got a judge's opinion in a contest from the first book I wrote in the series, Bringing Delaney Home, that she wasn't sure my voice was a good fit for a series book. Sounded more ST to her. So, I entered WCTBL? into its first contest as a ST entry to help get a second opinion...and it finaled. Delaney has finaled as a series entry and WCTBL? as a ST entry. I'm not really sure where my voice fits. I will need to puzzle this out. Or attempt to get an agent and let them help me figure it out...that is next on my list anyway.

But, back to the big news...WCTBL? is finished and entered into the Golden Heart contest with just hours to spare. This is the first year I've ever entered the GH, so it should be quite a learning experience. I've signed up to judge too and I'm pretty excited about that. I've read that it's not only fun, but a great learning tool.

On Life: I need to catch up on house cleaning and get some decorations up. Come up with a shopping list for any Christmas baking. Actually do some baking. Address the Christmas cards. Get gifts for our nieces and nephews. Okay, poor Bella has been so patient sitting with me all afternoon while I finished my book and uploaded my contest entry. Time to take her out to run!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Highs and Lows

On Writing: Highs: I had a good writing day yesterday. I added almost 3k to my m/s. The basic idea for this plot is my heroine is living a quiet, happy life until her sister tells her she is sick and might need a bone marrow transplant. Now she must suddenly find the rest of her long-lost foster family. Desperate, she ends up using a movie star in a nearby town to get on the cover of a tabloid and attract the attention of her family. Part of it works. She does find her foster family. But it blows up in her face because she and the movie star have a red-hot fling, until he thinks she was just using him. Which she was. Just not for the reasons he was thinking. And then the heroine finds out her sister was lying to her anyway. Her sister isn't sick, unless you call morning sickness sick. And that's just the first 50 pages of the book. I warned you I write quirky romances, right?

So, anyway, originally the sister just kind of disappeared from the story after that as the story takes a weird twist around page 88 with other problems for heroine to deal with. The sister does reappear near the black moment, but she did feel a little like a dropped thread.What I added yesterday brings her back into the story to add more conflict for my lovely, gullible heroine. And today I'm adding another scene with conflict. I know who it's between but not sure how it's going to end up yet. Should be fun.

On Life: Lows: #2 Son is home with us this semester taking classes at the local community college instead of the 4 year college where he's studying engineering. We brought him home because last spring semester he became addicted to on-line computer gaming. You know, role-playing type games. He stopped going out with friends in his dorm. He stopped communicating with everyone in the family. He stopped eating properly. He says he went to classes, but his grades plummeted. So, he's been back since May and we've been working on this with his family doctor and it's not easy.

A computer game addiction is like any other addiction. He uses it to escape when he's stressed. He can avoid reality lost in a game. I guess I'd liken it to someone who has a food addiction. With an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you can go cold turkey and build your life to avoid it. You can't do that with food or computers. It's been stressful on the family, trying to help him and watching the many times he tries to play. Like any addiction, there's a lot of lying involved. And that's hard when we're all trying to help him. He's a great kid. Smart, funny, sensitive, sweet. I want so badly for him to be happy and successful. Addiction is a painful thing especially knowing there is no magic pill. One day at a time, I guess.

And, since I ended this post on such a depressing note, I promise I'll find something happier for tomorrow. Like rainbows and puppies. Maybe even rainbow puppies.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sweet Reminders

On Writing: Writing started slowly, but I'm on a roll right now. I had to take a break to cook dinner, so I thought I'd write a blog post while waiting for the chicken to be ready. If you've read my older posts, you know I've been trying to add about 10k to an almost complete m/s. I had to go through it a few times to find where to add. I've found a few places. Now, one of my Beta readers wanted me to add more happy conversations between the h/H. But, as nice as that might be to read, we all know what editors want, right? More conflict. So, that's what these extra scenes are aiming for. I should know by tomorrow if the scenes are pulling their weight.

On Life: A few weeks ago, at the mini-reunion we had in MD, we helped my sister empty out the storage unit of furniture and boxes she's stored for the family since my mom passed away ten years ago. (None of us were emotionally ready to deal with most of the items for years after my mom passed away.) We ended up bringing home the kitchen table and china hutch that I grew up with. It's actually a formal mahogany table that my parents got from my grandmother's side of the family. So, we're the 3rd or 4th generation of family to use this furniture. Love that!

After ten years in non-climate controlled storage unit, they weren't in the best shape. The table was okay, but the china cabinet had some mildew/mold on it. We found someone to refinish them and got them back just before Thanksgiving. They look beautiful! Along with the table and china cabinet was a box of my mom's china. It's not my favorite, but my oldest sister loves it so we're storing it at our house for her until one day when she has space for it.

And it seemed silly that my mom's china was just sitting in a box, so we pulled it out and used it for Thanksgiving and filled the china cabinet with it. It still isn't my favorite china, but I have to say...there is something so comforting about seeing her china in the cabinet just like it was growing up. I confess, sometimes I walk through the dining room just to look at it. Sweet reminders of my mom. Of how lucky I was. I won the mom lottery. I still miss her like crazy, but seeing this reminds me of her and grounds me.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Fun Facts About Me

I've added to my "About Me" page. I started a "Fun Facts" list that I'll add to periodically. Here are the first ten...

Fun Facts about Me:

1. My favorite breakfast is a bacon cheeseburger.

2. I drink my coffee black. No sugar.

3. I do not like dill pickles or mustard.

4. I love windy days.

5. I am a dog person. The fact that I have always been allergic to cats may have something to do with this. I am not sure.

6. On our first date, apparently, I out-drank my husband. He remembers this. I do not. Whoa, wait. Not because I drank too much! It was just something he noticed and I didn't. Honest.

7. I am the 5th of 7 children, but the baby girl.

8. I have lived in (in order) CA, Turkey, Scotland, PA, MD, AZ, MD, NJ, MD, NC, TX, and NC.

9. I took ballet for many years. I was very good. Then late in high school, I quit. Some of my reasons for quitting were valid (bad knees) and some not (fear.) Quitting on my dream messed me up for many years. I will not let that happen with my dream to be a published author. 

10. Raising our four children, one of our ironclad family rules was no one could use the words "shut up." I think it's one of the worst things you can say to a child. I wanted our children to know that at home they were free to express themselves and they would always be heard and loved. No matter what.  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Time To Get Moving

On Writing: Okay, I feel like I've been moving in slow motion like swimming in mud. No more. Part of this is due to the time it takes to get a manuscript ready to submit to a contest. Since I'm new at this, the process takes me longer than I like. But after tomorrow, I am done and moving on.

The other reason for this turtle-y feeling I have is that I subbed a full manuscript to an editor and waiting for a response takes time. I totally get that. This is not a complaint at all. But, here's where I made my mistake...the next book I wrote belongs to the same series and the next one I was planning to write was also in the series...(5 brothers.) Well, in theory, I can't do anything with anything I write about that family of brothers until I hear from the editor on the first book. So, instead of starting the next brother's story as I was planning, today I decided I will swim out of that gene pool and start a shiny brand new totally unconnected story.  Because I need to keep moving forward.