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Fun, sexy reads

Fun, sexy reads

Looking for fast-paced, sexy romantic suspense with military heroes? All books in the Men of Steele series are connected but can stand alone. Find fun facts and excerpts on each book's page.

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Scrivener Training for Everyone

Scrivener Training for Everyone

Need help with Scrivener? I provide Scrivener training to individuals and groups all over the world through online courses, in-person workshops, and private training sessions.

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Resources for Writers and Scrivener Users

Resources for Writers and Scrivener Users

A great reference for new and experienced Scrivener users, a guide to software and apps that help with productivity, and essays on every facet of writing from the Writer Unboxed contributors.

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Still in the ballpark

In an effort to stay positive, I decided to celebrate my writing hits for 2009. I took the misses into account when writing my daily plan and 2010 goals, but today's post is all about getting, and staying, in the game. Even if I'm not batting a thousand. (Sorry, I'm having too much fun with baseball metaphors…)

  1. Started writing in January! Joined RWA in March.
  2. Completed two manuscripts (When You're Not Looking and Counting on You) and started Floater. (Also wrote about 100 pages each of two others that may or may not be revisited. The characters, however, are eager for my return.)
  3. Entered Counting on You in three contests. Received helpful feedback, and took 1st place in one contest. Also entered it in the 2010 Golden Heart.
  4. Joined Southern Magic RWA chapter and met some great, helpful authors and aspiring writers.
  5. Met my great writing friend and most awesome CP, Christine, thanks to unlikely mutual acquaintance, Marie.
  6. Queried four agents with Counting on You. Got two standard rejections, one partial request, and have one still outstanding.
  7. Got my PRO status with RWA.
  8. Started writing romantic suspense–the genre I really want to write, but was afraid to try–with a little (friendly) push from Laura.
  9. Attended a fabulous reader's luncheon where I mingled with cool authors like Lynn Rae Harris, Christy Reece, Kimberly Lang, Anne Stuart, and many others.
  10. Started an almost-daily blog.
  11. Judged a contest for the first time and got all my entries done on time, complete with comments on the score sheet and the MS.
  12. Read eight craft books and took one online class.

It's been a busy and exciting year. I can only hope that with my goals written down, and the continued support of friends and family, 2010 will be even better!

Getting an agent would be a nice start, but first I have to finish the book, revise it, get my CP to look it over, revise it again, polish it, send out queries…

The Daily Squirrel: Eden, part II (a different coworker's viewpoint)

Eden really knew how to light up a room. She had a smile for everyone, and her colorful suits were a bright spot in a sea of gray and black. When some of us asked for help with our own wardrobes, she happily shared tips for dressing professionally without being boring.

During meetings, she had a way of keeping everyone on track without ruffling feathers, and always had a humorous quip ready in case the mood turned too serious.

Most of all, though, what drew me to Eden was her generous heart. When she heard my husband was in the hospital after a car accident, she brought over homemade dinners for a week so the kids and I could spend more time with Rob. That was even before we were friends.

Eden was a beautiful woman inside and out, and I always enjoyed work more when she was around.

So not Wonder Woman

Okay, so I already missed my blog post on the second day of the year. Ugh, goals, right? I give myself one day off each week, but since I took most of the week off already, I didn't intend to miss a post this soon. But, really, it was a good thing.

I was too busy writing!

The thing about goals and daily tasks is that they have to be prioritized. In my Daily Writing Plan for this year, the first three items (write 1000 wpd, complete daily tasks, blog) are tasks, and the remaining items are really reminders of what not to do unless the first three are finished.

I put the tasks in order of importance. Notice writing comes first. Huh. Weird. So even though I don't always follow my own rule on this–like right now ;-)–the blog is supposed to be subordinate to writing. As are things like judging contest entries, working on class assignments, and reading email.

Goals and plans are important to me, but I also have to be able to cut myself some slack. As much as I always wanted to be Wonder Woman–she had the cool invisible jet and bullet-deflecting bracelets after all, and who wouldn't want to look like Lynda Carter in a leotard?–I can't do everything.

Understanding my limits is just as important as pushing their boundaries. If the goals weren't a challenge, they wouldn't be worth pursuing. Occasional failure is inevitable.

So, I'm cutting myself some slack, patting myself on the back for meeting yesterday's writing goal, and jumping back on board with the daily plan.

The Daily Squirrel: Eden (a coworker's viewpoint)

Every day, Eden wore her auburn hair in an up-do more appropriate for a formal occasion than a day at the office. As she passed doorways on the way to her office, she smiled at everyone, as if bestowing a gift on them with her very presence. And don't get me started on her outfits. Tall and slim, she knew how good she looked, and every tailored silk suit was an opportunity to prove it.

She thought she was Katie Couric or something with her bare legs and slingback heels that screamed, “You know you want me,” to every man in the office. The rest of us faded into the background like so much wallpaper when Eden was around.

High Resolution

Happy 2010! I hope you all had a great holiday. My household is catching up on laundry and email as we recover from a great trip to visit family in Phoenix. And, like many of you, I'm thinking about goals.

Even though resolutions for the new year have become cliché, I find it helpful to evaluate past goals and set a new course for the year to follow. Goals help me see more clearly how productive I've been, as well as where I want to go.

In a November post, I listed a daily plan that I'm using to be more productive. It includes micro goals that get me through each day and help me take advantage of my most productive/creative hours for writing, while saving my “slump” hours for other tasks.

Based on the last two months, I've tweaked the daily plan to be more realistic, but still challenging.

2010 Daily Writing Plan

  1. Write 1000 net words/day, at least 6 days/week, and track in Scrivener
  2. Finish daily goals on to-do list (judging, query letters, synopsis, CP readings, etc.)
  3. Post blog entry including Daily Squirrel, at least 6 days/week
  4. Limit email to three times/day unless daily goals are met
  5. Work out before 7:30 am, or during afternoon/evening
  6. Limit FB and blog reading to 30 minutes/day, unless daily goals are met
  7. No fiction reading unless daily goals are met

Writing Goals for 2010

  • read one writing craft book/month
  • enter Floater and possibly Diego's story in GH and Maggie's
  • attend RWA National Conference (pitch Floater and series?)
  • complete and polish three single title MSs

1/31 – Finish rough draft of Floater (and come up with better title)
2/28 – Finish first major revision of Floater (using Maass & other books)
2/28 – enter Floater in Great Beginnings Contest (finish and apply Hooked)
3/01 – Start next book for DEA series (Diego's story)
4/01-4/15 – Touch up Floater after CP feedback
5/31 – Finish rough draft of Diego's story (before we move in early June)
6/XX – Move to ???, trip to Europe (try to write/revise/brainstorm at least 30 minutes, 6 dpw)
7/15 – query at least five agents with Floater
7/31 – create pleasant and creativity-inducing writing space in new home
7/31 – Finish major revisions on Diego's story, get CP feedback
8/01 – start another book (TBD, part of series, or other idea)
9/01-9/15 – Touch up Diego's story with CP feedback
10/31 – finish rough draft of 3rd book
11/30 – Finish major revisions on 3rd book

What are some of your goals for the new year?

The Daily Squirrel: interview

John forced himself to sit still even though he wanted to adjust his tie, wipe his brow, and fiddle with his gold pen. With a baby on the way, he needed this promotion more than ever. And, dammit, he was the right person for the job. At least his wife kept telling him so.

“What makes you think you're the best candidate for plant manager?” Helen, his long-time boss and good friend, asked in a cool, professional tone. He knew she'd be impartial, but damn, couldn't she at least smile to put him at ease?

“Well, I've decreased the operating costs and increased productivity in my area at least ten percent annually for the last five years. I also spearheaded the new product line roll out, which was on-time and under budget. And my department has the lowest turnover rate in the entire company. I'd like the opportunity to do the same for the entire plant.”

Amazingly, his voice sounded confident, even as his hands trembled in his lap, hidden from view by the conference table.

Helen glanced at the two men sitting to either side of her. “And we'd like to give it to you,” Helen said, finally giving him a smile. “You've got the job.”

A manufactured life

Until I started writing, the absolute best job I ever had was working as a manufacturing engineer. While I don't miss the hours, I miss the great people, and being surrounded by really cool machines that turn raw materials into something (usually) useful. In fact, my favorite part of grad school was the factory tours and working with local manufacturing companies on class projects.

So when our family took a tour of the Hyundai plant in Montgomery, Alabama on Monday, I was back in my element. I don't honestly know much about Hyundai, but the three year-old factory is impressive. It's clean, highly automated, uses Just-in-Time (JIT) delivery of parts, and spits out a new car every 50 seconds.

No, this is not a sales pitch for Hyundai…

While I was on the tour I kept thinking how much I miss being part of the manufacturing world. Maybe after we move this summer I should consider working again, I thought. But then, by the end of the visit, I realized that as much as I miss parts of my old job, I'm happiest writing.

I'll always have a soft spot for lean manufacturing, continuous improvement, Six Sigma, and the like. Heck, I may even find some way to get involved in it again. But not at the expense of writing or time with family.

It's good to go back and visit that world, but I no longer want to stay.

The Daily Squirrel: soda

Maris looked down at her white shirt, now covered in diet soda. It just figured. If she'd been wearing red, she wouldn't have spilled anything. She should have known better on her first date with Josh.

She felt her cheeks heat as she looked at him, and choked back her tears. He was so handsome and nice. Now she looked like a spastic twelve year-old. All she needed were pigtails and braces and the image would be complete.

“Hey,” Josh said playfully. “Didn't your mom teach you to share?”

What was he talking about? Her jaw dropped as he picked up her half-empty glass and poured it down the front of his own shirt. Then he winked and gave her a smile that made her head spin. At that moment Maris knew.

She was in love.

Never give up

I was sad yesterday when a woman I've never met gave up her dream. She's a member of an online writing class that I've been taking, and she received another rejection. It was the last straw. She's apparently been writing for twenty years without publication and has decided to “face facts”.

Okay, granted, if I am still doing this in 2029 and I haven't been published, maybe I'll be considering giving up, too. But, I hope not. Because at the end of the day, I write because I've finally found the one piece in my life that was missing.

Yes, I want to be published. I really, really want to be published. I can't imagine the joy of seeing my name on a book at Barnes & Noble, or better yet, receiving a check in the mail for it. But ultimately, I'm writing for me.

I hope that after a few days this woman will get beyond the pain and change her mind, but she might not. And, maybe writing romance isn't what she's meant to do, but I have to think that if she's stuck with it this long, there must be something in it for her besides the desire for publication.

She may find that her characters won't shut up until she writes their story. Or after a few weeks, the itch to write may overtake her when she least expects it. If writing (or anything else) is what you love, then it's never a waste of time. For me, it has to be for me first, publication second.

The Daily Squirrel: airplance

Simon gripped the armrest, ignoring the overstuffed sausage of a man squeezed into the seat next to him. Why had he ever thought he could strap himself into a tiny, metal tube and leave the ground without having a panic attack? His chest contracted as if it was being crushed by a vise.

He fumbled with the seatbelt latch, unable to get it undone, trying desperately to catch his breath. If he didn't get off this plane, he was going to die.

But then a baby's cries pierced his consciousness, and he remembered why he was on the flight in the first place. Gloria. His beautiful, amazing Gloria was about to have his baby, and he wanted to be there.

He pulled a worn photo of his wife out of his shirt pocket and rubbed it gently with his thumb, as a flight attendant gave the safety briefing. No panic attack, no mere phobia would stop him. He might be half dead from fright when he arrived, but God dammit, he'd get through this flight.