A Saturday Update #authorlife

I’ve lost count of how long it’s been since we started lockdown. The vegetables we planted when this all began are now ready to be harvested, like the tomatoes I used for this morning’s breakfast omelet. I still have to figure out when to harvest the Japanese eggplant because I have no clue. Looks like they’re ready. Looks like they’re not.

This is why I am a writer and not a gardener.

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Our second sunflower. The squirrel got the first one the moment it opened up and ate half of it.

Speaking of writing, I need to hunker down and write 60,000 words in the next four weeks for one book. And then the next book after that. After all this time, I should have had a book done but nope, I have outlines instead. Outline after outline after outline, all because I can’t quite get the beginning right. And for me, the beginning of a story is whaat counts. If I don’t get my footing right from the start, I won’t be able to sustain the conflict. And this morning, I think I finally got it. It only took six tries, six scenarios, and I finally have the beginning I want.

Between my kid’s online schooling and writing on my laptop for hours (those outlines don’t write themselves, ya know!), computer glare finally got to me. Last night, I switched off my laptops before 9pm and wrote on my Freewrite. I did the same today as well and it now has its spot on my desk.

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My roses bloomed at the same time and so I had to commemorate the event with a photo shoot together with my Astrohaus Freewrite.

Many people have asked me whether it’s a good investment (it costs about $400 – $500) considering it’s basically a WiFi-connected typewriter. Here’s what I think: It is a good investment IF you use it. If you write with it and are getting the words in, it is worth its weight in gold. If not, then it’s a hell of an expensive paperweight or a good Instagram-worthy picture.

It’s great for writing your first drafts, the kind where you just type and go. Then you click a button and have the file emailed to you or to your Google Drive or Dropbox. I do this for every chapter or section I write because I then transfer it to my Ulysses app for further writing and editing.

Speaking of editing, I have moved on from Hemingway, Grammarly, and ProWritingAid to Autocrit. These four are computer-based editing programs that help your writing before you send your manuscript to an editor. I actually don’t send all my work to an editor, just the long ones. The shorter ones (between 5k – 30k) are all edited with these online editors. EDITED TO ADD: I do have a proofreader for all my works, long and short!

I held out on Autocrit forever but three weeks ago, I finally bit the bullet and bought a lifetime license and proceeded to edit a few of my already-published books. You see, I have this bad habit of adding new stuff after I get my manuscript from the editor. And then I don’t submit the updated chapters to her for another pass. Instead, I hit publish and readers end up finding the mistakes.

Another author tool I just purchased recently is BookBrush. It’s an online graphic editing website for authors and after I get the hang of its many features (mockups, box set creator, and even a cover creator), I’ll be able to stop my subscription to Photoshop. I’ve been holding off on Bookbrush for the last year because I already have lifetime licenses to similar apps like Stencil and Promorepublic which can create social media images and post them for me, as well as a monthly subscription to Canva. But Bookbrush does everything I need in one app like my social media ads and headers (minus the actual posting to social media) and I like that, even box sets with different color spine that you create right in the app!

 

 

But I haven’t just been writing those outlines! I’ve also been watching SEAL Team on CBS. Love that show and love that over a hundred military personnel have worked on the series. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a drama starring David Boreanaz, Max Theriot, and AJ Jackson. I like the family stuff they include in the show, the private struggles Navy SEALs go through once their gear is off and they return to regular life.

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How about you? How’s your weekend/month/year going?

Update: Currently Down

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Photo by Olga Mironova on Pexels.com

As the title says, I’m currently down (again) with the remnants of the flu from last week. Maybe I shouldn’t have stopped taking the medicine, thinking I was fine because the congestion returned with a vengeance and boy, even my sinuses hurt a day ago.

Through it all, I kept working, writing the first chapters of the next book in the series (Gabe’s) and I even dictated, something I’m getting better at although my Dragon software might beg to disagree because I now have the voice of a man with this cold. Unfortunately, whatever I wrote just didn’t feel ‘together,’ and I’ve had to set it aside and start over about three times.

Finally, while getting ready to do an hourlong writing sprint with my writing partners on Zoom, my body finally said, rest. So I said goodbye to my accountability buddies and crawled into bed and it’s something I’ve been doing on and off for the past three days as I work out the last of this nasty bug.

I still come up with ideas and just wrote a few hundred words of a new story that’s not linked to any series (man, I sure miss those days when I just wrote whatever story popped into my head, “you-must-write-a-series” advice be damned) but I’m not writing, like, that next book in the series.

I’m also worried about the coronavirus that seems to be spreading with each passing day. As a writer who doesn’t have to go out much anymore, I’m good, but I worry about my kid who has to go to school and be around so many people. Today, he came home feeling rundown and took a nap instead of attending boxing class. He did give up meat for Lent and didn’t have a lot of choices when it came to school lunch today so he ended up with just yogurt and fruit. I made him Mac n Cheese and I hope he’ll feel his usual self in the morning.

What about you? How’s life treating you? How’s the coronavirus looking like in your neck of the woods?

 

17 More Days Before the End of the Decade!

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Can you believe it?! 17 more days and a new decade begins!

A decade ago, I was nine months pregnant with LilDude and scared to death about what would happen during his delivery since he had been diagnosed as having MDCK in utero (Multicystic Dysplastic Kidney, which is when one kidney (or both, which would prove fatal in many cases) doesn’t develop as it should with the special filtration cells and instead just develop a bunch of cysts filled with fluid). So I didn’t really have much planned for the year except to be a mother one day at a time.

For the coming decade, it’s time for me to create a vision board with LilDude and see where we want to go. That way we can work together toward the same goal, whether it’s moving into a bigger house, trips to New York and Washington, DC and me making more money each month with my books.

So far, my plan is to write four more books in A Different Kind of Love series (Sarah and Benny’s second book, and then Gabe, Todd, and Daniel) with the fifth one a huge maybe (Dax and Harlow) which would formally close the series. It will be tough saying goodbye but everything has to come to an end.

Gareth’s book (Loving Ashe Trilogy which was later renamed Celebrity series) also is due to be written this year. He’s waited over two years for me to revisit him and I want to dive in. So if you’re on Wattpad, you just might get the first look at the book coming together!

Unfortunately, Naughty Pen has her own series to finish that’s long-overdue as well. I’ll be writing and releasing it serial style the way I did the first part of the series. With my crazy life, I’ve come to realize that I like writing episodal fiction and it’s more do-able.

It will take some juggling planning and so I’m setting up an author Kanban board that I’m learning how to create from Heart Breathings on Youtube. After the disastrous results of all my goals this year, I need help with planning 2020 and that includes learning which books are a priority for me and which aren’t.

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I actually don’t have any room to create a real Kanban board in my house since we’re in the midst of renovation but there are virtual kanban boards you can use like Trello which is more popular. But it turns out I have had a lifetime subscription to one for the past year and keep forgetting about it. But that’s the problem with virtual boards that live on the cloud. If I don’t see it, I forget it.

However, I plan on using it (in lieu of a real board that’ll only be set aside during the renovations) because thanks to Sarra Canon’s Heart Breathings, I’m finally learning how to use it for my goals in 2020 and beyond.

 

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Turns out I have a lifetime subscription to Ora that I hardly used or used but had no idea what I was doing…

 

It also means splitting the year into 90-day increments to make it easier for me to handle. If I don’t reach one goal in the first 90 days, it can be moved to the second 90 days. I wrote about the 90 day year here and while I’ve been doing that, I didn’t have a visual chart to tell me what I needed to work on. So I was still scatterbrained most of the time. Putting the Kanban board and the 90 day year together will certainly help me become more organized.

And after learning what my top 5 strengths are (which ended up contributing to my feeling of helplessness and loss for most of 2019), here’s to a stronger 2020 for me.

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I’m #1 Empathy, #2 Deliberative, #3 Learner, #4 Harmony, #5 Context which kinda makes for one indecisive author with all the feels.

In fact, one author I admire reminded me to pick ONE WORD for 2020 and I chose COURAGE. Courage to let go of the things and people that don’t serve me, move on and do the things that scare me.

What about you? What are your plans for the next decade that starts in 17 days?

 

 

 

“There’s a story that wants to be told…”

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It’s Friday and I’m scrolling through the hundreds of drafts on my dashboard but never published and this was one of them. I don’t even know why I didn’t press that button but it could have been the many distractions that plague me from text messages, PMs, or the latest notification on my phone about some author drama or other.

But now that there’s not much distracting me at the moment, I’m publishing this one because it rings true for me. Not sure if it does for other writers but for me, there are many stories that need to be told and I just need to find the time to write and/or complete them, especially the four novels on my hard drive just waiting to be finished.

But at least there’s 2020 coming up. Hopefully by then, I’ll have gotten my act together and put the blinders on. Stay in my lane. Write the stories. Find my joy.

How’s your Friday going?

I Did It!

Yup, I wrote 51k words in November! It wasn’t for one book per se but two novellas (under 40k word books) although I don’t know when I’ll publish them.

I’ve kinda become gun-shy about publishing my books fast because the deeper I get into a series, the more I mess up the timeline because I forget what happened three years before book 1 or what color the heroine’s eyes were in Book 2. That’s also what happens when you’ve got too many stories swirling inside your head and even more characters just waiting for their turn.

CarlyQ and I used to talk about the bar inside my head where my characters all wait until I’m ready for them. The original guys—Ashe, Gareth, and Devlin (nope, didn’t forget him, Carly!)—have been waiting a while and they’re long overdue to come back even though Greg is basically in HEA (Happily-Ever-After) land.

I actually found the perfect interpretation of my characters’ current hangout in Gabe Leonard‘s work. He’s a painter who got his start on the boardwalks of Venice and his art is so full of mystery and energy.

The paintings below are featured in his book Power Love & Success which I’m eagerly awaiting in the mail any day now! My absolute favorites are Smoke Screen and Shark Tank because I see my billionaire characters in them especially the men my Naughty Pen writes about.

 

With December already here, it means there are only 30 days left before the end of the decade! Hard to believe, huh?

So far, my plans are to keep writing my books. And not just Liz’s books that are filled with emotional angst (and sometimes food) but other pen name books as well because there’s a thing called brand and once established, you really do have to maintain it. And the other pen names are there to scratch that itch of writing stories that are off-brand, that are insta-love and smutty, and sometimes dark, too. And since my goal for 2020 is for us to move into a bigger house, that means a lot more books need to be written.

What about you? What’s your plan for the last month of the decade?

A Bit of Nature

Another day without a laptop or a computer… can you tell?

Today, LilDude and I went hiking again. Our goal was to reduce his fear of “bugs” since the last time we hiked, he was running away from any “bug” that happened to cross his path be it a dragonfly or a butterfly. So I told him we needed to work on that so he’ll get used to “bugs” because it’s not like they’re going to hurt him or anything.

It was a nice walk and he was actually looking forward to it!

On the writing front, I haven’t written much but I have been “writing” inside my head. After all, not all writing as a writer has to be “butt in chair, fingers on keyboard.” Sometimes all the action is inside my head as my characters slowly reveal what they’re made of after I’ve put them through their paces. I also do a lot of handwriting on my Rocketbook –notes here and there about this or that.

I guess to a casual bystander, it looks like a lot of “doing nothing,” but the moment I do get to put my “butt in chair, fingers on keyboard,” then off I go like a sprinter at the crack of that starting gun. Goodbye laundry!

Saturday Distractions

Day three of no laptop/computer and so far, I’m still… sane. Well, maybe I was a bit cranky last night but it helps to have an iPad and a few wireless keyboards to make sure you still hit that word count each day.

Right now, I should be writing but it’s a steamy sex scene and being constantly surrounded by family members as I try to write on my iPad in the kitchen is not as easy as I thought it would be. And with LilDude constantly coming over to “check the time” right when I’m writing those four-letter words becomes, shall we say, awkward.

And so I’m distracting myself with Instagram. Probably a bit too much because now I’ve probably spent two hours looking at all the pictures and videos of the current muse/inspiration who I had hoped to limit to stock photos like I always do, that way, he remains something I’d create in my head.

Only he’s such a charismatic performer to boot (not just a model but an actor and singer, too) and so he’s quite active on Instagram and today, he popped up in a private message responding to a comment I made on his IG story after he emerged from one of his boxing workouts with a cut under his eye and I had responded with a “hope your eye is okay.” I actually don’t expect responses when I do that because I kinda don’t respond to all my IG story comments myself (sorry).

That was probably a week ago and I had completely forgotten all about it but when he messaged me back, I was working on that steamy scene and I just had to drop everything. And since he can only speak Russian and Spanish, I ended up with a crash course in Spanish which was good because I’ve only been half-heartedly studying it for decades since when my grandparents spoke it whenever they’d get really exasperated with us and I always wanted to know what they were saying. Unfortunately, when you don’t practice something regularly, you forget and today, my Spanish got a workout.

Poco a poco, he said and damn, is he right. When I got confused between “soy” and “estoy” as a variation of “I am,” he said I was correct the first time. He said he liked the way I used his images for my naughty pen name’s IG (unfortunately, this is not related to my Liz Durano IG). It helps that he’s also so gorgeous and sexy and… well, come to think of it, I need to get back to writing that sexy scene again. Sarah and Benny are waiting!

Musings Over Coffee: When You’re Without Your Computer But You Need to Put Down the Words…

So my 2011 MacBook Pro fizzled the other night and it’s at the computer repair shop where they tell me it will probably be about five to seven days BEFORE they can even look at it since they’re backlogged. I could have taken it somewhere else but these same guys upgraded the hard drive to an SSD two years ago and made it work like new.

Of course, the body of my poor MBP isn’t the greatest anymore; the keyboard no longer works and the battery was starting to bulge which rendered the trackpad useless which means I’ll probably end up needing a new Mac. I do have an HP laptop but since all my writing/publishing apps are iOS based, I’m not bothering to use that one.

Yesterday, I typed 4K words on my Freewrite typewriter in a re-edit of The Replacement Fiancée and today, I’m working on my current WIP again, The Other Side of Love online using Plot Factory.

Plot Factory is an online story planner that can help you get your story from idea to completed story. You can even listen to a narration of your story if you’d like which is a great way to self-edit your story as you go.

They have a free plan but I’m using the Novelist plan ($10/month or $100 a year) to make use of all the features.

And with me being without my MacBook where I write, outline, and format all my books, Plot Factory is just what I need. I was already using it before my MacBook died as you can see from the dashboard below but even better, the app works perfectly on my iPad as well and that’s where I’m continuing Sarah and Benny’s story.

So if you’re looking for a tool to help you get your writing organized, check out Plot Factory. I’m not getting paid to say this, by the way. I just think it’s an awesome tool for writers and it’s one that’s saving my butt right now and helping me meet my deadline.

Hope you guys have a wonderful weekend!

Average… (is) invisible

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The next time you catch yourself being average when you feel like quitting, realize that you have only two good choices: Quit or be exceptional. Average is for losers.

Am I being too harsh? Isn’t your time and your effort and your career and your reputation too valuable to squander on just being average? Average feels safe, but it’s not. It’s invisible. It’s the last choice—the path of least resistance. The temptation to be average is just another kind of quitting…the kind to be avoided. You deserve better than average.

Godin, Seth. The Dip (pp. 44-45). Penguin Publishing Group. 

Seth Godin’s book, The Dip: A Little Book that Teaches You When To Quit (and When to Stick), went on sale a few days ago for $1.99 and not knowing what this “dip” was yet knowing Godin speaks a lot of truths that resonate with me, I bought it.

I started reading it last night and then this morning, I found myself highlighting one thing after another. There’s so much here to unpack (for me) and it’s made me realize this is what I’ve been struggling with the last year and a half as I thought I could write fast and publish a book a month—between two pen names at that—just like some big sellers were doing and thus be “visible” in the Amazon store.

The problem with this is that being visible means I’m being average. I’m not really able to produce my best work when I’m scrambling to write a story a month or do a rapid release without first planning ahead of time. Probably if I had factored in the planning and the writing way ahead of time, it would have been different. But I didn’t and as a result, the stories that emerged from my ambitious “let’s publish a book a month” were below average. Maybe except for Benny and Sarah’s story but even their story is really only half since the first part (how they got together ten years earlier) was only half done.

So… ordinary. Invisible. And after spending two years building my Liz Durano brand, definitely off-brand.

So it’s back to the grindstone for me. All projects are on hold. Nothing is going to come out of the pipeline except my best. My readers deserve the best stories I can write, from the characters who have always told me their stories but through all the changes I was putting myself through in the past year and a half, have been primarily silent—as if in protest. As if they knew I was simply phoning it in.

So I’m going back to the basics… with feeling this time.

Watch this space.

Writing Again!

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Just like it says on the tin, I’m writing again. More like, rewriting since now that I’ve finally let go of the last ambitious project that was on my plate (the steamy novellas to coincide with 10 holidays in the year are no more—but the reverse harem is still in), the slate is finally clean and I’m starting over.

But instead of writing new stories, I’ve gone back to the ones I set aside last year and trying to fix the things that had me set them aside in the first place, like story arcs that didn’t seem true, or seemed too contrived, etc. Only this time, instead of typing it out on my phone or laptop, or writing on yet another notebook that I keep picking up wherever I am, I’m using a Rocketbook reusable notebook.

The Rocketbook is basically a 32-page reusable notebook that uses only Frixion erasable pens. After you’re done writing, you can take a picture of the page and it will go directly where you want it to go—email, cloud, Google Docs—you name it. You can then erase it with a wet cloth (it comes with the notebook, along with a Pilot Frixion pen) and start over again.

I actually loved the first Rocketbook Everlast (6×9) I tried out last week that I bought the bigger size (8×11) today.

I’ll probably end up creating my Outline template with permanent markers in my letter-size Rocketbook tonight so I can easily outline my stories starting tomorrow. And write, of course.