I’m in full holiday mode. My gift shopping is nearly done, I’ll do a little baking, but it will be limited this year, and I’m ready for Thanksgiving turkey and holiday decorating. Christmas songs are playing in my head.
In between wrapping gifts and writing, you’ll find me curled up reading holiday books. In my head Karen Carpenter is singing Sleigh Ride and I feel the same hope and wonder that I’ve felt every holiday season since I was a little girl.
And so of course, I’ve written a Christmas romcom, because after all…it’s Christmas.
#12DancingSantas is the last book in my #HermosafortheHolidays series, and as I finish it, I feel like I’m spending time with friends.
The whole series is set in my fictional version of Hermosa Beach, California, and is centered around a social media app called Framed. Framed is a social networking app similar to Instagram. Members have a profile and a ‘wall’ where their pictures and pictures that they are tagged in hang for their followers to see. Other members can comment on photos on your wall. Since the beginning of the year…or the beginning of the series, the heroines of these stories have gone viral on Framed for one reason or another.
This is Brenda’s story, and it’s a bit of a reverse Cinderella story. Brenda is a school teacher, who loves to cook. She and her friends are at the Hermosa Beach Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, they’ve just watched a performance by twelve firemen from the local beach city fire departments, dancing on roller blades to a medley of Christmas songs from classic to current. The performance has ended, and the girls are discussing how to spend the rest of the evening when one of the Santa’s skates over to the little group of friends, grabs Brenda, bends her back and gives her the most romantic and magical kiss that she’s ever experienced. But he skates off so quickly that she doesn’t get a chance to find out who he is.
As luck, would have it, a boot falls out of his duffle bag, and now Brenda is on a search for the man who fits the boot. With girlfriends, chocolate and mistletoe she just might find true love this holiday season…
#12DancingSantas is on preorder at Amazon for just 99 cents right now. I hope you’ll check it out!
In the meantime, I’m wishing all of you, good friends, chocolate (unless you’re allergic) and mistletoe this holiday season.
So, what about reward systems? Do they work for you? And if they do, how do you set yours up?
A solid reward system can work for so many things. Years ago, when I homeschooled my two younger boys, I made a reward chart for them. They got stickers for completing each task during the day, and they loved getting the stickers, but when they reached a certain number of stickers they got a small ‘prize’. It might be doing something special with Mom or Dad, getting to pick their favorite lunch out, extra video game time, or a small toy. When they collected a larger number of stickers, they earned another larger prize, usually a field trip somewhere special such as the local aquarium, or the zoo. This tiered rewards system was very motivating for the kids, and the rewards were really for both of us. We spent time together that wasn’t school related, and we had new experiences together.
Some of you know that I’ve recently lost a substantial amount of weight. In the beginning, I was rewarding myself for every 5 lbs. with a manicure, of course, the pandemic has changed that, and to be honest, once I hit a certain point, the weight loss itself became the reward, as well as fitting into smaller sizes! Not to mention, how good I feel, and the increased mobility that I have.
When it comes to writing, of course, finishing the book and having people actually read it is the ultimate reward, but sometimes you need those little incentives to get you to THE END. I used to reward myself with food, a piece of See’s chocolate for completing the day’s word count, dinner out for meeting a larger goal. I also justified dinner out by saying that it gave me more time to write. Obviously, in recent months I’ve learned that those rewards had created a different problem, and I needed healthier incentives.
But, I have another passion that I don’t get to indulge as often as I’d like. Sewing. And that has become my new reward. If I meet my writing goal, I’m allowed to sew, and when I finish the book, I get a new sewing toy! With my weight loss, I need new clothes desperately, so I better get writing! And I may even add new clothes (that I didn’t sew) to my rewards.
Oh, and sometimes a writing class or workshop with someone like Angela James is a reward! A reward that can make your next project even better.
How do you reward yourself for your accomplishments? What are your favorite treats? Or do you feel the accomplishment is reward enough?
In the middle of this pandemic, riots and protests, my husband and I decided to buy our retirement home, which will hopefully serve as a getaway place, until he retires in four years… so in the meantime I’m thinking writer retreat. But, gee, let’s add the stress of buying a house to the already chaotic situation we’re all living with.
And did I mention I’m finishing a book right now…well, I’m always either starting or finishing a book, so that’s not surprising. But finding focus during the unprecedented mayhem in my life, in all of our lives, isn’t such an easy thing.
And writing a romcom with all of the darkness going on sometimes feels like a disconnect.
And yet, when I need to escape, I’m turning to Hallmark Channel, or old television shows like The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie, so maybe writing a romcom right now is not so out of place.
But finding focus, being able to escape to the peaceful little beach world in my head isn’t always easy. I wouldn’t call it writer’s block. If I can get there the words flow. It’s more an inability to detach from the real world…and stay detached.
Usually when I write, I plan long blocks of time to work. I schedule breaks at the end of each hour to stand up and move around, then I get back to work. But, my process has changed. Instead of writing for 3 or 4 hours with ten minute breaks each hour, I’m writing in little bursts. I’ll sit down write a scene maybe 15 to 20 minutes, instead of writing a full chapter. Then I get up to go do some chores…pack some boxes for our new home…sew some masks, any of the above sit down and write for another 15 to 20 minutes. It’s a challenging process, but then, everything is challenging right now.
I’m trying to focus on the good things. People coming together to help each other and their communities, to support each other, sharing resources, finding new ways to teach, work and celebrate. Human beings can be amazing. Those things make it easier to sleep at night, and to write about people
Well, I’ve been writing for nearly 20 minutes, so it’s time to do some chores…or pack some boxes…or maybe it’s time to look at pictures of my new house, lol. How are you finding focus in this challenging time? How are you distracting yourself from the stress? Share your tips and ideas. I could sure use the help!
When I was a little girl, both of my grandmother’s saved margarine tubs, whipped topping containers, reused aluminum foil, and even washed the plastic bags that bread came in, turned them inside out to dry and reused them. One of my grandmothers was known to scrape the black off of burnt toast and serve it, and I once even saw her eat a banana so black that I wouldn’t have used it for banana bread!! “You don’t waste food,” she told me.
My father’s mother, Mildred Porter, was born in 1902. My mother’s mother, Maclovia Villereal, was born in 1916. They both lived through The Great Depression, but came from vastly different backgrounds and were at different stages in their lives. My grandma Mildred, was a young mother, with the responsibility of keeping food on the table for her children. My grandmother, Maclovia, who went by the name of Maxine, was a teenager at the beginning of the depression, and by the time those dark days ended, was in her early 20’s. Yet, for both of them, that depression era mentality of not being wasteful was ingrained in their behavior to the day they died.
As a child growing up in more prosperous times, I thought it was funny to wash bread bags and foil, then hang them up to dry. The margarine tubs and cool whip containers were more reasonable and something I’ve always done. They’re convenient for sending leftovers home with guests, if I’m out of plastic containers. But, bread bags and foil…I didn’t get it.
And today, with all that’s going on in the world, I find myself doing many of the same things. I’m washing jars and instead of tossing them in the recycling bin, I’m putting them aside…’just in case’. Yogurt containers that I’d normally throw away, I’m washing and storing…’just in case’. I’m saving my butter wrappers to grease bread pans with, and I’m using cloth napkins instead of disposable napkins, and using dish-towels and rationing paper towels, and serving almost every meal on glass plates. Why? Just in case… Not because we’re broke…at least not yet, but because we can’t get them.
Food, and daily necessities have become precious, in a way that we’ve forgotten that they should be all of the time. For many people, it’s already a matter of financial necessity, but for everyone it’s a matter of access. We don’t know when we’ll be able to get toilet paper again, or diapers. Will there be mayonnaise on the grocery shelves this week? Will they be out of chicken in the meat department? (It was three grocery orders before I got fresh chicken!)
We’re cooking more, rationing more, appreciating small things…I mean, who ever thought you’d be so excited to get a package of toilet paper??
Things have changed, and we don’t know for how long. Will this be a permanent change? Will these new habits become ingrained in our behavior? What about our children?
And would that be a good thing? And while we don’t want to become hoarders, maybe we should continue to conserve, to waste less and appreciate more.
So, what do you find yourself doing now that you didn’t Before? Are you saving containers? Rationing? And do you think that some of these changes will be permanent for you and your family? I’d like to know…
Saturday was a tough day. We said goodbye to a good friend, author Joyce Ward, who also wrote as Linnea Alexis. This was the message I shared on Saturday, and I wanted to share with all of you:
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Many of you know what I’m talking about, but for those who don’t, as writers, plotters are those who plan out their books in detail, and they know where the story is going long before they actually start to write. Pantsers, are those who take it as it comes, writing by the seat of their pants. And then there are I suspect many of us who are somewhere in the middle. We do some planning and some pantsing as we write. There’s no right or wrong way, it’s just the process that works best for us as authors to get the story on the page.
In life it’s much the same. Many are plotters, planning their life in detail. Where do you want to be in 5 years? In 10? What’s the best path to reach those goals. Others are pantsers, living life as it comes, waiting for the surprise plot twist. And most of us fall somewhere in the middle, because in life, a plot twist isn’t always something that we plan. Again, there’s no right or wrong.
Joyce Ward and I met when we were at similar places in our lives. Our kids were grown and we were both reaching for a dream we’d long waited to attain, being authors. We were new members of the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America, and in a little bit of a plot twist, the first time we met we were sharing a hotel room for an author event. There were three of us sharing the hotel room that weekend, Joyce, Erin Pryor and me. All of us unpublished authors.
We were instant friends, talking about story plots, the speakers and what we hoped to learn and achieve in our new endeavors. After that weekend, Joyce and I roomed together at many writers events. It worked out well. We both snored, we coordinated our workshop schedules, and at night we would talk for hours about writing, but also about our families…she loved hers very much, about our pasts about our lives.
There were many times that Joyce called me and told me she was quitting, that she was a terrible writer and she was done. She wasn’t going to write another word, and I would remind her this was her dream, she couldn’t give up, and she had way too many ideas that needed to be put on paper.
The next time we spoke I’d be the one ready to walk away, stay home and bake cookies, and Joyce would be the friend at the other end of the line telling me I couldn’t give up.
In fact, Joyce was the reason that my first book was published. She had submitted to a boxed set publisher, and called me up to tell me I needed to submit as well. Her support, her belief in me pushed me to do what I wanted to do, but sometimes wasn’t sure that I could
Joyce worked tirelessly for our RWA chapter, chairing the Book Buyers Best Contest for many years. The contest is a lot of work, and at the time that Joyce started doing it, she had to collect piles of print books, store them in her home, sort them and mail them out to people, as well as recruiting all of the judges and collecting ballots. She was good at recruiting judges. I could never say ‘no’ to her!
My best memories of Joyce are of the conferences and events that we attended together. We shared a passion, we shared many of the same hopes and dreams. We could talk about our families, especially our children. I know how much Joyce appreciated that her children supported her dreams, and believed in her. We called each other with good news, or to commiserate. We were friends.
And then another plot twist, and here we are today. Saying goodbye for now.
I miss Joyce. I miss calling her when I want to throw in the towel. I miss her voice telling me not that I can’t stop writing. I miss planning our writing trips.
But Joyce will always be in our hearts, her books will keep her alive to everyone who reads them, and memories will keep her story going for all of us who loved her.
I’m sure that Joyce is in heaven right now, plotting and planning stories to share when we meet her again.