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

quit-or-be-exceptional

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.

Musings Over Coffee: Writing to Your Strengths

Years ago, I did the Personality Type test that said I was ENFP, a Campaigner. I posted the assessment results on my blog and then moved on, mainly because while it was cool to be someone who was “a true free spirit,” or “the life of the party,” I had no idea how it applied to my life as a writer.

“More than just sociable people-pleasers though, ENFPs, like all their Diplomat cousins, are shaped by their Intuitive (N) quality, allowing them to read between the lines with curiosity and energy. They tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle where everything is connected – but unlike Analysts, who tend to see that puzzle as a series of systemic machinations, ENFPs see it through a prism of emotion, compassion and mysticism, and are always looking for a deeper meaning.”

-ENFP Personality, the Campaigner, 16 Personalities

Last month, I took a course by Becca Syme called Write Better Faster. It came highly recommended by authors I admired. It took me a while to get into it because I was still in the midst of tackling more projects than I could handle and feeling overwhelmed by them all. It also explains why I have four giveaways for February to celebrate the release of ONE novella.

It comes with the territory of being overwhelmed and not realizing I’d signed up for or set up so many promotions. All while trying to write three stories at the same time.

Anyway, back to Becca Syme’s course. Well, I finally had time to go through the lessons and one of the first things we had to do was take a personality test, the same test I took two years ago.

Guess what? Same result – ENFP.

But this time, Syme, who is also a life coach, explained the results in relation to being a writer or a creative. Her examples made sense as to why a very detailed story outline that I tell myself will take me two weeks to shape into a novel (as I pretend to be someone’s ghostwriter) often has me looking for more new projects instead… oh look! A squirrel!

It’s a vicious cycle but thanks to Syme’s Write Better Faster course, it’s a cycle I recognize doesn’t work for me and never did. The system that works for me is not an outline or an 8-image collage aesthetic. It’s a book cover, one that has my name on it already and the working title.

From that image, I go to town and write the story loosely following Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” and my understanding of Michael Hauge’s “identity to essence” which you can find here. When I’m stuck, I talk out loud to myself. Sometimes I talk to my characters (in my head) and ask them where they’re going with the story so far. Sometimes I write out the scene according to their eyes even if that chapter won’t make it into the final book. It’s my process and it turns out, it falls under my strengths as an ENFP.

I have my eighth-grade English teacher to thank for this, by the way. One day, she handed us a shoebox filled with pictures and she told us to select one picture and for the next half-hour, write something based on the photograph. It blew my mind and to this day, it’s one of the only days I remember from that year other than the one where I almost got suspended for writing an NSFW play months later… but that’s a story for another day.

So anyway, for so long I thought it wasn’t just weird. I thought it was wrong because I didn’t know anyone successful who did it. I mean, the successful authors in my peer group had visual schedules and publishing schedules that went all the way to two years with multiple series and books already outlined and written within the two-month window they allotted and then published. I mean, their systems worked. They rocked and they killed it in terms of sales and ranking. Of course, I wanted to do exactly what they were doing (although some now have ghostwriters to keep up with the crazy schedule).

Did it work?

Well, no, not for me.

So now I know better and accept that my process isn’t weird or wrong. It’s simply what works for me and I’m finally okay with that (I may have said I was okay with it before but I never believed it).

At this point, it’s not about writing or editing faster for me. It’s about letting my personality type work for me and not against me. So if I need a book cover to inspire that next story, then that cover will inspire that story. If I need to talk to myself or to my characters instead of writing the details down, then I talk as much as I want. It’s just the way my wiring works and after two years of trial and error, I’m glad I finally realized that the way I used to write was because of my wiring, my personality.

If you would like to find out how to write better faster, check out Syme’s course. I think she’s got a new one coming up this month. If not, sign up for her newsletter so you can stay updated about the next one. That’s how I heard about it. I signed up after one course was closed and then got signed up to the next one and I have no regrets.

Syme also has a new book out called Writer, You Need to Quit (and no, it’s not what you think).

Here’s the description:

The marketplace is crowded. The industry is moving fast. Everyone has opinions about how you should work and how you should run your business. If you’ve found this book, there’s a good chance you’ve heard them all. So, what am I saying that’s any different?

I’m saying, there are some things we all need to quit doing. What are they? Take a look inside and see.

Of course, you could still click away, and go about your business. Up to you, Neo. Red pill or blue pill?

I’ve coached a lot of writers–from the Uber-successful to the brand-new–and this book is a collection of what I’ve learned from watching patterns. There are some things we all need to quit, and I can tell you why.

So that’s pretty much all the musing I’m doing this Sunday. My coffee’s long gone cold and I might need something to eat before the caffeine hits me on an empty stomach.

What about you? What’s your personality type?

Why Do You Write Love Stories, Mom?

On the drive to school this morning, Lil Dude asked me why I write “love stories.” He’s just turned nine and has seen my books and keeps the first editions of them (the not so steamy ones) on his shelf.

I didn’t answer his question right away. I kinda hemmed and hawed before I realized that I was a bit embarrassed to write love stories instead of serious literary fiction ones. So I told him that I didn’t use to write love stories when I started out. I wrote women’s fiction, historical adventure fiction specifically, and then paranormal stories about vampires, changelings, and ghosts.

He made a face when he heard this but I added that with all the stories I wrote, many readers said the same thing: You write about relationships very well.

So to make a long story short, my readers made the decision for me. Sure, I write stories that have adventure, mystery, even a ghost or two depending on my mood, but in a world where everything needs to be put in categories, genres, and tropes, my readers helped guide me to the right lane.

I write love stories. Real and honest romance, as a few of them have said.

“I like your love stories, Mom,” he said and my day has been going great ever since.

collage-every-breath2
Every Breath: A Valentine’s Day Slice-of-Life Novella falls on the very very steamy side of romance and will most likely not end up in LilDude’s bookshelf, but if you like steamy love stories, then definitely check it out! It’s scheduled for release on February 8, 2019.