Gwen Hernandez

Author of romantic suspense. Scrivener expert.

Busy brain: The problem with multi-tasking

man multi-tasking

Does your brain ever feel too busy? Mine does. And I’m guilty of never giving it a rest.

In my quest to be productive, I always seem to be fitting something in, and I think I’m suffering for it. Even reading is now an activity I squeeze in while on the cross-trainer. Rarely do I enjoy a relaxing hour perusing a book in my favorite chair.

Got five minutes while I wait for water to boil or a web page to load? I can make a quick phone call. Ten minutes waiting for my son’s next track event? Time to check my email/Twitter/Facebook/Pocket!

Through the wonders of my smart phone, I can access all of my social media and the entire wealth of the web anyplace/anytime. But that doesn’t mean I should.

And when I do, I don’t necessarily feel more productive, just more busy, more frazzled, more overloaded.

Part of my “problem” stems from being self-employed. When I worked full-time for someone else, work was at work, and when I left I was done. I could relax at home without guilt because my workday was over.

Now? Not so much. Home is my workplace, and my day is interspersed with activities from both worlds. I savor that freedom and flexibility, but sometimes it’s hard to set boundaries.

I used to enjoy downtime, sitting and thinking or noticing the world around me. It’s good to not be entertained or “productive” every spare minute of the day. I know this.

One of the reasons I like running so much is because I can’t do anything else while I’m out there except notice the world around me, and breathe.

Multi-tasking is a fraud. Apparently, we actually lose up to 40% of our productivity when we force our minds to keep switching gears.

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to get some of that 40% back!

My goals for the rest of the year are to cut back on multi-tasking and allow for those moments of downtime in my day. I’ll try to focus on one thing at a time so my brain doesn’t have to keep switching gears—Scrivener’s full screen/composition mode is great for this—and maybe even block out some time to sit, relax, and ponder. Heck, I might even meditate.

Can’t hurt.

Why I’m hooked on Bloodline

BloodlineSeason1The Netflix Original show Bloodline has totally sucked me in (I’m sure there’s a pun in there somewhere). This dark drama is absolutely binge-worthy with its slow-release tease of mystery, family secrets, lies, betrayals, and short flashes that promise a sordid ending.

The actors are excellent (Kyle Chandler, Sissy Spacek, and Sam Shepard to name a few), and the setting alone—the Florida Keys—is enough to keep me on the hook. Characters are multi-faceted and interesting and often straddle the line of good and bad. There’s no black and white here, only lots and lots of murky gray.

The show’s writers don’t tell you anything. They just roll things out as needed and let you figure it out for yourself. And I do mean roll. This is not a lightning-paced action show, but it’s absolutely riveting in both story and presentation.

Excellent cinematography rounds out the series into 13 episodes of quality viewing that gets better with every episode. And word is, there’s a second season in the works.

I don’t spend a lot of time in front of my television, but Bloodline has joined The Americans, House of Cards, Game of Thrones, Marco Polo, True Detective, and Sherlock—and a few more I’m forgetting—on my list of must-watch shows when I do take a break on the couch.

What’s your latest TV craving?

Cover quotes, Scrivener, snow, and Apples

So, I’m still kind of flabbergasted that it’s April already, cliché as that is. But it’s been a busy winter/spring, so it’s no wonder I feel like a raft in the rapids of time.

Here’s what’s been going on lately with me.

New book. Just in case you missed it, Blind Ambition released last month. So far reviews are (yay!) good, and I got this fabulous quote from New York Times bestselling author Laura Griffin!

Packed with action and emotion. BLIND AMBITION is a page-turner!

My first cover quote (though it won’t be on my cover right away). 😀

Blind Ambition cover

Guest post. Speculative fiction writer David McDonald asked me to visit his blog and share how I use Scrivener to write a novel. If you’re so inclined, check it out.

Social Media Connecting Blog Communication Content Concept

Snow. Yep, we had a record amount of it for my first winter in New England, and we’re getting more today. But this weekend is supposed to be fabulous. My weather of choice is definitely on its way.

crocus flowers in snow

Teaching. I’ve been crazy busy with Scrivener online classes and workshops this year. I’ve already been to blissfully warm and green Jacksonville, Florida and nearby Burlington, Massachusetts to present, and I have another workshop this weekend in New Hampshire.

I’m in the middle of my Intermediate/Advanced Concepts course right now, and the Compile class starts May 11th. The fun never stops.

OnlineClasses

New computer. My husband and I celebrated our 20th anniversary this year. Go us! 😉 Since I’m not big into jewelry—yes, I’m sure this is one of the reasons my husband loves me—I opted for an iMac. It’s my first Apple desktop and I LOVE it. The 21” screen makes working on class lessons a cinch, and has so much visual real estate that I never want to leave my desk. Good thing it’s a standup desk (though I do have a stool for times when I need a break)!

iMac computer

I hope your spring is going well! What’s new with you?

Blind Ambition release day! (And a little green for St. Patrick’s Day.)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’m celebrating by releasing Book 2 in my Men of Steele series, Blind Ambition. The cover is even green (you just have to look past the muscles).

Blind Ambition cover

Actually, the reason there’s a green jungle in the background is because the book takes place on the fictional island of St. Isidore, which is loosely based on St. Lucia. St. Iz has dangerous rebels running around kidnapping aid workers—like my heroine, Alexa—and generally terrorizing people. Luckily, St. Lucia does not.

For writing inspiration, I used several photos I took on a family vacation to St. Lucia back in 2008. It was our first visit to the Caribbean and I wanted the quintessential lush mountain paradise. We got it.

St. Lucia Mountain View

St. Lucia Beach View

Map of St. Lucia

Framed map of St. Lucia that adorns my office wall

When I started writing in 2009, I knew I wanted to set a book on an island like St. Lucia, but it has taken me a while to make it work. I had a lot of fun with this one, and I hope you adore Dan and Alexa as much I do.

IT’S ABOUT TO GET HOT IN THE JUNGLE

Rescuing a kidnapped aid worker from St. Isidore’s dangerous rebels is just another day at work for former pararescueman Dan Molina. But his mission falls apart when the woman—who once shattered his heart—refuses to leave the island.

Alexa Alyssandratos can’t return to her life as a nurse on the hurricane-ravaged Caribbean island, but she won’t leave until she’s certain the orphans she cared for—especially one sick little girl—are safe from the rebels. Denied their ransom, a would-be dictator and his soldiers are hunting Alexa, and Dan is the only person who can protect her. Old passions reignite as she and Dan race to save the children before they disappear forever.

By the way, I’m over at Kiss & Thrill today talking about different types of kisses (in honor of “Kiss me, I’m Irish”). Stop by and share your favorite type of book/movie kiss for a chance to win a copy of Blind Ambition.

Get Blind Ambition in ebook or paperback at: Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo

Adding Evernote notes to a Scrivener project

Evernote invariably comes up in my Scrivener courses. Someone mentions how they use it for their research and asks how to integrate it with Scrivener. Someone else asks what it is, and off we go. 😉

Since Evernote is a web clipping tool at its core—and a fabulous way to keep track of all sorts of things, from recipes, all of the ISBNs related to a book, book release checklists, travel resources, and more—it often does a much nicer job of grabbing Internet content than Scrivener. Which is fine with me. I want Keith and the crew at Literature & Latte focusing on Scrivener’s core competencies anyway. Especially since it’s a cinch to import or link to research files stored in Evernote.

Here are a few ways to do bring your Evernote content into a Scrivener project. (Click any image for a larger view.)

Import an Evernote Note as a Web Page

Rather than import the web page directly, let Evernote clip and convert into a nice format, then import the Evernote note.

  1. Locate your note in Evernote.
  2. Right-click the Note (or select it and click the Note menu).
  3. Go to More Sharing—>Copy Public Link (Mac) or Share—>Copy Share URL (Windows).
    NOTE: The link is available publicly, but you’d pretty much have to tell someone where to look for it (via the link) for them to find it. Still, don’t link to any private or personal information this way. If you just copy the note link instead, it may not work properly when you try to view it in Scrivener.

    MacCopyLink

    Mac

    Windows

    Windows

  4. Switch to your Scrivener project.
  5. Select the folder (one outside of the Draft/Manuscript folder; Research is a good choice) where you’d like to import the web page.
  6. Go to File—>Import—>Web Page (or right-click the folder and go to Add—>Web Page).
    A dialogue box appears.
  7. If the web address (URL) is not already filled in with the link you copied, paste it into the Address box.
  8. In the Title box, add a title for the web page to remind you what it is.
    Mac

    Mac

    Windows

    Windows

  9. (Windows only) Choose how you want to import it. Webpage Complete (MHT) or one of the PDF options should work, but I’m currently having issues importing web pages—especially as PDFs—into Scrivener on my Windows 7 machine. See Windows Import Workaround below.
  10. Click OK.
    Scrivener imports the note and adds it to the folder as a web page. Select it in the Binder to view. All of the links are active and clickable. NOTE: The import process can take a-w-h-i-l-e.

MacImportedWebPage

Windows Import Workaround

  1. Locate the note in Evernote, right-click, and choose Export Note.
  2. Choose Export as a Single HTML Web Page (.html).
  3. Click Export and save the file to a location where you can find it again (Desktop, maybe?).
  4. If you get a message that the export succeeded, click Close.
  5. Switch to Scrivener and right-click the folder where you want to import the web page. Choose Add—>Files.
  6. Select the HTML file you just saved from Evernote, and click Open. If you get the Import Files dialogue box, click OK.
    The pictures may not import (they’re in a folder on your computer with the same name as the individual HTML file), but the links should work (if not, right-click the hyperlink and choose Copy Link, then paste into your browser).

Create a Reference to an Evernote Note

Don’t want to clutter up your Binder? Having issues importing notes as web pages? Or maybe you want to link to a note that you expect to update regularly so you always want the most current version.

Create a reference to it instead. We’re going to create a project reference, but the steps are the same if you want a document reference (just select the document in the Binder and choose Document References in step 3).

  1. Follow steps 1-4 above to copy the note URL.
  2. Click the References button in the Inspector pane (or go to View—>Inspect—>References).
  3. Make sure the References header says “Project References.” If not, click it to toggle to Project References.
  4. Click the + button and choose Create External Reference.MacRefMenu
  5. Enter the title and paste the URL into the appropriate text boxes.
    Mac

    Mac

    Windows

    Windows

  6. To view your note, double-click the paper icon to the left of the reference.

Create a TOC Note in Evernote

Want a references-like list of clickable links to your Evernote notes on a particular topic, stored as a web page in Scrivener? Follow these steps to create a Table of Contents (TOC) note. It’s a handy thing to have within Evernote too (e.g. as a link from one Evernote folder to notes in another).

  1. Select the desired notes in Evernote (the Expanded Card View didn’t work for me, but all others did).
    Mac

    Mac

    Windows

    Windows

  2. Click the Create Table of Contents Note button that appears on the right.
    Evernote creates a TOC note that you can move to any folder within your Evernote account.

    Mac

    Mac

    Windows

    Windows

  3. Follow the steps in the Import an Evernote Note as a Web Page section above to import the TOC note.

    MacTOCNoteImported

    Evernote TOC Note viewed in Scrivener

For more Scrivener help, check out my online courses, my other Scrivener posts, or Scrivener For Dummies. :-)

Cover reveal: Blind Ambition

I’m so excited! I finally have the cover for my March 17th release, Blind Ambition. What do you think?

Blind Ambition book cover

For those who’ve read Blind Fury, this is Dan Molina’s story…

IT’S ABOUT TO GET HOT IN THE JUNGLE

Rescuing a kidnapped aid worker from St. Isidore’s dangerous rebels is just another day at work for former pararescueman Dan Molina. But his mission falls apart when the woman—who once shattered his heart—refuses to leave the island.

Alexa Alyssandratos can’t return to her life as a nurse on the hurricane-ravaged Caribbean island, but she won’t leave until she’s certain the orphans she cared for—especially one sick little girl—are safe from the rebels. Denied their ransom, a would-be dictator and his soldiers are hunting Alexa, and Dan is the only person who can protect her. Old passions reignite as she and Dan race to save the children before they disappear forever.

Want to be the first to know when the book comes out, and be in the running for a free copy? Sign up for my romance newsletter. Read on for an excerpt from Chapter One.


Alexa lowered the trembling girl into the crawl space beneath the clinic and shut the trap door. She yanked the braided rag rug to cover it and stood. Soldiers would be here any—

The exam room door smashed open and a rangy man in a striped rugby shirt aimed a rifle at her chest. “Hands up!”

Heart hammering, she stepped onto the rug and raised her arms.

The last time the island’s rebel fighters had raided the Hygiea clinic in Terre Verte, they’d stolen everything—right down to the mattresses on the beds—and left one of the nurses dead. The mother of nine-year-old Flore, who should be safe at the orphanage next door by now.

As long as the stress—and the dust under the building—didn’t bring on another asthma attack.

“Just tell me what you need and I’ll get it for you,” Alexa said, her voice shaky.

Rugby kept his weapon trained on her. “Come with me.”

Her stomach jackknifed, but she followed him into the tiny waiting area where two other men stood guard.

He snagged her wrist and spun her into the front wall. “Do not fight me and you will live.” His lilting island tones didn’t match the menace in his voice.

A tremor ran through her body as he trapped her against the wall. Just last month a French aid worker in another village had been kidnapped and repeatedly raped until her family produced a ransom. Would they take Alexa because she was American?

The man drew her hands together behind her, sending her into panic mode. She knew how much rape could devastate a person. She’d witnessed it firsthand with her sister. No way would she go down easy. Not as long as she had any fight left. Alexa kicked back, connecting with her attacker’s shin and eliciting an enraged howl.

Bouzin!” he yelled, calling her a bitch. He knocked her feet out from under her and she slammed to the ground, hitting her cheekbone and hip on the solid wood before he landed on her.

She bit back a whimper and flailed like a madwoman. All of the self-defense moves she’d learned were useless now that she was down.

“No more moving.” Rugby ended her fight with a knee to her back and shackles around her wrists and ankles.

Shouts came from the storage room that doubled as her sleeping quarters. She turned her head to see Garfield in the doorway, a rifle trained on him from behind. His lip was split and bleeding and his dark eyes blazed with anger when he spotted her.

Hands out, palms up, he stepped forward. “Why do you fight us? We’ll let you take whatever you need. We’ll treat your men. No need for violence.”

Rugby stood. “You’ll let us take her.” He kicked Alexa in the ribs and she hissed in pain.

“Stop!” Garfield lunged toward her.

A soldier in a yellow shirt jumped forward and plunged his knife to the hilt in Garfield’s side, then pulled away. Blood ran through her friend’s fingers as he gripped the wound and sank to his knees, his eyes wide.

“Garfield!” Alexa jerked against her restraints. “Let me help him.” Her voice turned shrill as Rugby gripped her under the arms and tossed her over his shoulder, setting off a firestorm of pain in her ribs that left her gasping.

Her captor strode to the door, pausing to call directions to his crew, who appeared in the doorway of the back room with their arms full of medicine, blankets, and syringes.

Then he stepped outside into the moist Caribbean air, and Alexa watched through the doorway—absolutely powerless—as Garfield’s blood drained from his body, sliding into the cracks between planks in the scuffed wooden floor.

Blind Ambition, available March 17, 2015

Click here to add Blind Ambition to your Goodreads list. Thanks! :-)

Snow: From beautiful to stressful

House in snowSnow is beautiful. It can also create stress.

I’m listening to an interesting book called Brain Rules by John Medina. One of the chapters deals with the effects of stress on the brain. Short version: it’s generally not good!

And while I was tromping through the white, fluffy stuff with my dog—we’ve had about a foot of new snowfall every Sunday like clockwork for the last three weekends—I realized that the snow has gone from something neat and fun, to a stressor. Why? Because one key cause of stress is the feeling that you have no control over the situation.

Bingo. That’s me.

neighborhood in snow

Our neighborhood is buried

After the first storm, we were fine. We cleared the snow into the yard, building a nice mound. After the second storm, we had to get more creative with our piles, but it still worked.

The third storm last weekend broke us. Our yard is so full of snow that we have no more room to clear the driveway. The piles are so tall that when I try to add new snow to them, it just rolls back down. The cities are using “snow farms” to collect snow that’s being cleared from the streets and parking lots, but I don’t have that option.

snow farm

A nearby snow farm, like a trash dump for snow

If we still lived in a house with a nice big yard like we had in Virginia, we’d be fine. But in Massachusetts we’re living in a quadriplex (kind of like a townhome) with a very small front yard that we share with our neighbor. We have about two feet of space between our driveway and that of the neighbor on the other side of us, so if we shovel to that side we’ll block their driveway.

My husband’s car is now stuck in the garage behind a mound of snow because I moved it from my side of the driveway to his while he was out of town. In my defense, he told me to. 😉 Not ideal at all, but I had to be able to leave the house.

house in snow

My office window is behind all that snow on the second floor

When we had the space to deal with it, the snow was fun. It’s pretty, and it’s been exciting to see so much pile up. But now that we’re quite literally out of room, I hear that another big storm is coming this weekend and I want to cry.

Helplessness. Stress!

But, hey, it’ll make for a memorable first winter in Boston, right? I’m already trying to look back and laugh. I will as soon as the tears stop.


(For more images from our life under snow, see my My first Nor’easter.)

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