Nancy: A Journey of a Thousand Miles

You know how that journey begins: with just one step. While it’s a cliche, it can be a helpful one, especially when you’re staring down the barrel of a 100k-word novel, overwhelmed and blocked, ready to curl up on the sofa and get lost in ten hours of Netflix and a box of chocolate sea salt caramels. Not that anyone here has ever done that. (Ahem.)

I got a reminder of the importance of breaking down a long, difficult journey into do-able steps his past fall when I took a course called Get Your Scary Shit Done, taught by Jen Louden. We all need different motivators and encouragement at different points on our creative journeys, and fortunately for me, GSSD came at just the right time for me. I not only completed the project I’d identified for the 7-week course (writing an Act of one of my many writing projects), I finished early and started on the next mini-project (planning the next Act). As is often the case in a motivational program, it’s not so much that the material was brand-new, never-before-seen information; it’s that it was framed and organized in a way that made me use knowledge I already had in a different way.

I’ve recently returned to the 7-week course week to overcome the last mental obstacles I have in finishing my HFF series book 1 revisions. In the first week of the course, one of the core activities is Continue reading

Elizabeth: Organizing Creativity

Yes, there is a chair hiding under that pile of fabric

As you’ve seen in recent posts, Jeanne is busy working away on her goal of releasing a trilogy of paranormal romances in the fall of 2018; Jilly is busy working away on her goal to publish her Alexis’s series this year, and Nancy is busy working away on so many projects it’s exhausting just thinking about it.  These Ladies are moving full steam ahead and I’m . . . not.

Now Jeanne and Jilly are fortunate to be writing full time, and Nancy seems to be the Energizer Bunny ™ in disguise, but lack of time isn’t really the problem.  Though my day job keeps evolving and expanding (despite my best efforts to remain invisible), I still have plenty of writing time available. Continue reading

Nancy: January (2018!) Accountability Thread

Wow, here we are in a whole new year. Choosing watchwords. Taking stock of 2017. Making plans for 2018. So in this accountability thread, I want to look at the big annual picture before I set my January goals. And as for accountability for my December goals? Well, to paraphrase Jeanne paraphrasing Robert Burns, the best laid schemes of mice and writers…you know how it ends.

Say the Word

I struggled with a watchword this year, trying on a few possibilities: focus, dedication, gratitude. None of those are bad, and in fact I do hope to incorporate all of those in practice this year. But none of them felt like a thesis statement for the year ahead. Then while thinking about something entirely different, something I now can’t even recall, I thought about how happy I am when I discover am surprised by the turn a story takes, get to see how other writers create story, or try to decipher how to complete a challenge (mental or physical). I get such joy from the sense of wonder these experiences engender, and I knew that was it, my 2018 watchword: wonder, as in ‘to be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe’. Continue reading

Nancy: They Shoot Flamingos, Don’t They? A Chrismas(ish) Tale

Happy New Year! It’s official. It’s now 2018.

And yet, I come offering my 2017 Christmas story. It’s a long one. (Had I been a wise woman like Jilly, I would have posted it in two parts.) It’s involves a bit of romance. And a clandestine organization. And, as promised, flamingos. Whether you’re nursing a hangover, agonizing over returning to work, or mulling over your new year’s resolutions, I hope you enjoy it!

They Shoot Flamingos, Don’t They? A Christmas(ish) Tale

There had to be a better way to make a living.

Going straight was for the birds. Literally. I glanced down at the deflated inflatable flamingos I clutched by limp necks. Who the hell had ever heard of flamingos in a Christmas lawn display? There weren’t flamingos in Bethlehem or at the North Pole. No respectable Christmas story featured the ridiculous pink birds. But Mrs. Leary had insisted that the damned things – part of her year-round yard décor on her 2-acre plot in the heart of Beverly Hills – be included in the Christmas decoration design.

“Miss Klauson, you wanted to see me?” Old Mrs. Leary, probably never very tall but now well under 5 feet, with tight shoulder-length curls shot through with gray, tottered toward me.

“Please, it’s Sandy.”

Sandy Klauson. Seriously. I mean, Jesus of Nazareth. Never let it be said that Ms. X doesn’t have a sense of humor, but if she had to cut me loose a few weeks before Christmas, she sure as hell could have come up with a better cover name for me. And a better civilian job. And a better place than LA at Christmas time, under a beating hot sun with nary a snowflake in sight. X had probably done it out of spite, but it was ridiculously unfair. Anyone could have made the mistake of tranquilizing an overly handsy ambassador from a small but important US ally. OK, so it was more of a choice than a mistake, but still.

Mrs. Leary sucked in her breath and opened her eyes wide in surprise. “Oh, this is a catastrophe!” She reached out and petted one of the limp plastic birds. “My dearly departed husband gave me these flamingos on our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. I’ve had them in my yard ever since.” Her eyes filled with tears.

Well hell. So much for the suggestion of rehoming the birds in the trash can.

“I don’t know what happened.” I didn’t mention the small slits I’d found in their throats. “I found them like this. But I’ll fix them for you. We’ll make them good as new.”

Mrs. Leary wiped away a tear. “Oh, you’re a good girl. Thank you, dear.”

As the old lady returned to the house, I looped around the outskirts of the palatial building until I found TJ, the job foreman, and explained the dilemma and my plan. “I’ll just take the van, find a garage or bike shop, and have someone fix these for me, like a flat tire. I should be back in a few hours.”

Across the lawn, the old lady emerged from the side door with her oversized chauffeur – whom I suspected doubled as a body guard – steadying her, and headed for the detached garage. Her daily 2 PM outing to get a newspaper, a cup of tea, and a comb-out at the beauty parlor. Yes, I’d clocked her movements and done some recon. So sue me. Old habits die hard.

I turned back to TJ, who’d been watching me watch her. He had his own interesting habits, and with his height and heft, I wouldn’t mind having him at my back in a fight, just like Derek…I wouldn’t let my mind go there. Still, TJ would have been good Company material, and if X hadn’t lost her mind and fired me, I might have recruited him.

TJ shook his head at me. “Get the old lady’s birds fixed. But you can’t take the van. We still have half the strings of lights in there. Take an Uber and get a receipt.”

I nodded and headed for the front gates, which stood wide open to give us easy access to our van and equipment that Mrs. Leary refused to let us park in her driveway. I’d just pulled out my phone to contact an Uber – and yes, I would save the receipt and turn it in for reimbursement, thank you very much, since X had frozen my assets – when something caught my eye. Something that didn’t belong on this neat, narrow, tree-covered street in the Hills.

The scuffed black work boots immediately gave away the game. Half a block down and on the other side of the road, leaning against the side of a shiny, black, expensive-looking pick-up truck, thumbs hooked in the belt loops of his jeans, wearing a tight blue tee shirt that showcased his broad chest his rock-hard biceps, with his long legs stretched in front of him and crossed at the shank of those boots I’d know anywhere.

“Bastard.” Continue reading

Nancy: December Accountability Thread

This is it, our last monthly accountability thread for 2017! Can you believe it?

For the past eight days, I’ve been a few thousand miles from home. I’ve been sightseeing, extroverting (in my own introverted way), and occasionally (very very occasionally) squeezing in some writing. In a few hours, possibly around the time you read this, I’ll be frantically checking to ensure I’ve packed everything, running off to see a few last sights, and dashing (sitting) through rush-hour traffic in LA to make it to the airport in time to catch my flight home. But all of this is to your benefit, as for this month’s accountability recap and next month’s goal-setting, I’ll be brief!

You know how this works. First, we’ll recap November’s progress. Continue reading

Nancy: Have You Forgotten Someone?

‘Tis the season of giving and caring, at least for most people in the States. We’ve just passed the annual milestone of stuffing ourselves silly on Thanksgiving Day, and have entered the mad dash toward the holiday finish line of gift-giving and merry-making. Along the way, there will be holiday parties, too many drinks and more rich food, and (sometimes too much) time with extended family.

At its best, this is a time of reflection, of being thankful, and for thinking about and hopefully doing something to help those less fortunate. At its worst, this is a time of feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and even depressed. With so much to do and finish and remember, it’s easy to forget to take care of ourselves.

Unfortunately, lack of self-care and self-compassion isn’t limited to the holiday season. For creative types, it’s easy to fall into harsh self-criticism traps year-round, which can shut down creativity in no time. Continue reading

Michaeline: Writing with The Fool and The Magician

A court fool; a cat has dragged down his tights, and you can see the bottom of his buttocks.

The Fool (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

A bright, handsome magician at his table, ready for transformation.

The Magician (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

The first major rule of writing with tarot cards is: don’t believe everything that comes up will come to pass.

So silly really, and I must lead with the disclaimer that I don’t really believe in fortune-telling methods to predict the future. I do think these methods help us clarify our own thoughts about a situation, but nothing predicts the future.

So, when I gave my daughter a pack of cards and she wanted to read for me, it was extremely foolish to ask, “How will my current story affect my future?” Honestly, this sort of question really does nothing for a person – if the answer is positive, one can start to coast and not do the necessary work. If it is negative, well, then it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. And I have to say, the tarot is often not very kind about my writing aspirations.

But no. I thought, “This time, the tarot will love me. This time, it will tell me how good it’s going to be.” Really, anyone who has any acquaintance with Lady Luck knows how stupid that is.

New pack of cards; first reading. Never cleansed – but should that make a difference? I don’t think it should! My daughter spread the cards on the floor and mixed them around with both hands, then gathered them up and asked me to cut the cards. I did.

I don’t remember the exact details. I should have Continue reading