I Do An Incredible Amount of Teamwork

i in teamI know what you’re thinking…”Wait, there’s no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM’!” No? Well, maybe not. But there is an “M” and an “E”…”ME”! Yes, I jest. Everywhere we go we find teams. It takes “a village” to raise our children (though where this village is at 2 am when my child is screaming at the top of his lungs, I have no idea). We and our co-workers have a common goal (and often common target of blame) in our jobs. Even our marriages are a partnership (he does his part and I let him – just kidding!).

gearsIn a society that so values individuality, why the emphasis on teamwork? Do CEOs really look at their employees as a mass production unit that should work as if they’re cogs in a machine? Seamlessly? Don’t squeak, don’t cause your neighbor to rust at all, and for heaven’s sake, don’t spark! Does God expect marriage partners to behave in this oneness as if the individual is lost? “Two shall become one”? What does that even mean?

individualIs there any place for the individual? Certainly. You, your story, your unique set of experiences, is valuable. To your children, to your friends, to society. I don’t know about your CEO, but your skill set is not found in just every other person. You have a certain set of strengths, and of challenges that you are working to overcome that make you the individual that you are. And, therefore, set your input apart.

Let’s talk about SYNERGY. What is Synergy? Let’s say I can lift 10 lbs. And you can lift 10lbs. Well, the law of synergy says that if we work together we can lift…I know you’re thinking 20lbs. But, it’s actually 30lbs. None of us is as brilliant as all of us are working together. In a team, we can brainstorm, bouncing ideas off each other, enhancing each other’s sparks until the best in all of us culminates into something really great. Can you picture it?

So, how do you participate in this team and exert your individuality? It’s a balance, just like with anything else. You have to realize that your successes don’t diminish with the success of others. That by helping others further themselves, you will not lessen yourself. Helping others will not sabotage you. You must let your own spark be seen, but you need to do your best to work well with others, too. To enhance their contributions as a member of the whole while interacting on an individual level with your own talents, gifts, and specialities.

Riding the highs and lows of life

I know I have titled this blog “Riding the highs and lows of life”, but let me just talk about this week alone! What a week it has been! It’s often been said to me that, for writers, your blog is an opportunity for your readers to get a glimpse into your life, to “peek behind the curtain” if you will. Well, I’m about to invite you into my living room to sit down for a frank conversation about my week. Not just to talk about me, but to talk about how we all have to go with the flow in life sometimes and ride those waves.

writing computerWriting Weekend (HIGH) – I had the opportunity this past weekend to just go away and write. It. Was. Amazing. I got so much research and writing done. And I had a blast doing it. Having that kind of concentrated time allowed me to really delve into my characters heads and go to deeper places. What a high indeed!

blood clot in legHealth Issue (LOW) – I came home to some kind of intense pain in my leg. Come to find out I have several clots in one of my veins. So, from about mid-thigh to mid-calf in that leg, the blood flow is cut off in that vein. Not only that, where the vein junctions in my thigh, leads to my lungs. So, it creates the risk that one of the clots can break off and shoot to my lungs. Yeah, not so much fun. So, I’m on blood thinners. Also not fun. Take an already cold-natured person and make them even colder. Well, that’s the least of my issues with the blood thinner. This became quite the crashing low after my really high moment. But, with God’s help, I was able to keep my spirits up, keep my emotions in check, and ride the ebbing wave through. Again, the moment you think you’re down and out…you are.

20160302_214034Much Needed Home Improvement Projects Done (HIGH) – Hubby and I finally did a backsplash in our home and painted the first of many rooms (our son’s room) that need to be done. Fantastic! Check and check. And we decorated for Easter. So, our house is all springy and we are getting through our to-do list for the house at long last. Another boost.

pillsMore Leg Pain and Side Effects from Blood Thinners (LOW) – Part of this may be because I was so gung-ho about getting so much done in a 24-hour time period. And I realize I need to rest my poor leg. But the blood thinners…grrr…not my fault that they have side effects. So, now I have to schedule a visit with another specialist who, I’m sure is going to want me off the blood thinners to stop this other problem, but I can’t come off the blood thinners….catch 22. Again, I can either allow myself to become frustrated, or I can remain calm and weather the storm with as much courage and calmness as I can muster.

So, this is what my week has kind of looked like…the highlights (and low points). Now, your highlights and low points look different I’m sure (I hope), but the principles are the same. Don’t take on this defeatist attitude. The minute you do, you are defeated. Cling to God, and allow His strength to wash over you. Let Him be your rock in the midst of the hard storms of life. Let Him hold you together. And bring you peace. This is the only way I know how.

What is the state of things?

We’re almost a year into this blog. A year from my first contract. And I’m getting some questions about what’s happening with this manuscript and that one…what am I working on right now…so it seems appropriate to do a post about the state of things. Where are the books and manuscripts right now? How have things been going? What are my plans for the immediate future and the upcoming year?

THE BOOKS AND MANUSCRIPTS

TheLadyBornekova1400x2100The Lady Bornekova. The one that started it all. It’s been a little over six months since my debut novel came out. Overall, I will say that it has been well received. Is it everyone’s cup of tea? No. But neither am I 🙂 If you enjoy clean Historical Fiction/Romance that’s not too heavy-handed, but has an interesting story with a meaningful romance, my books will be more your style.

TheGeneralsWife1600x2400The General’s WifeThis book has just debuted earlier this month. And we are looking forward to the blog tour coming soon. It was supposed to start January 25th, but has been delayed to take better advantage of bloggers who are interested in hosting but needed different dates. Having a great tour (instead of a rushed tour) is all about timing.

Off to WarThis book has been through my beta readers and needs some final editing from me before it is ready to go. That final round of self-editing/folding in beta reader suggestions is back burner right now.

cripple creek copyHope in Cripple CreekFeedback from beta readers is currently being folded in and I’m about halfway through the book doing so as I apply some final self-editing. As this book was written about a year ago and I’ve learned so much since then, I am wanting to apply what I have learned to this manuscript. It just takes time.

the_trail_of_tearsTrail of FearsStill out with one last beta reader. Also, I am letting this manuscript “rest” before I return to it. So, you could say it, too is back burner for now.

The DiaryJust finished self-editing and sent it out to my beta readers. This is an exciting time for me! I can’t wait to hear what my trusted readers have to say about my work!

The Lady Bornekova’s SequelI am about half-way through writing. I came to a point where, as you can see, I had too many irons in the fire. So, I am taking one manuscript at a time and trying to work my way through it. This sequel is being brought to the front burner (as it were). I am still deep in research about the Hussite Wars and about the military leader of the Hussite armies, Jan Zizka. So much rich history there!

THIS PAST YEAR

critique groupThis past year has been a time of learning and honing my craft. A massive amount of learning! Conferences, online classes, the weekly critique group…all of it. And I am trying to be the best little sponge I can be. I started small in the way of conferences and went to the local Clarksville Writer’s Conference (fairly small, but good). Then worked my way up to a moderate sized conference in Kentucky (the Kentucky Christian Writer’s Conference). Then, finally, I steeled myself for a huge, national conference – the ACFW Conference. It’s been a whirlwind, it’s been so educational, it’s been AMAZING! I am addicted.

THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE

typewriter-chapter-oneJust Keep Writing. Remember all those manuscripts that are on some burner? Well, those need to get conquered. And there are more ideas flowing. I plan to submit another manuscript for consideration in the near future as well. Which one…I’m not telling!

conference1Speaking Engagements. I hope to expand this area of my repertoire. This next month, I will be speaking about my personal struggle with Post Partum Depression. There are many other topics I am ready and eager to speak on including, but not limited to, writing.

Workshops. The critique group I am a part of will be hosting two more workshops this semester, which I will be co-teaching. You can find out more about them here. Topics include branding, blogging, show don’t tell, deep point of view, character development, and more.

goalsWHAT ELSE IS COMING

Conferences. I fully intend to hit some conferences again this summer. They are such a valuable source of information, networking, and a great opportunity to pitch your work to agents/editors. Definitely worth the investment.

Agenting. I have gone back and forth about whether or not I need an agent. I am starting to lean toward ‘yes’. So, I will more seriously be pursuing this prospect.

So, in conclusion…there is a LOT going on. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything, this wild, crazy life of mine. And to think…this all started a year ago. Before that I was a “closet writer”. Writing was a hobby, nothing more than a pastime for me. What a difference a year can make!

Monitor Your Expectations

I am a “recovering” perfectionist…at least that’s what helps me sleep at night. All joking aside, I truly believe I am on the road to recovery. But this perfectionism streak runs deep. I run into challenges in my life created by its existence over and over again. In every area of my life – as a mother, a wife, an educator, and even a writer. Where does this perfectionism come from? Well, it must have something to do with my childhood, with the way I’m wired…but how do I conquer it?

root causeThe cause. I find, after much thought in introspection, that the root cause of my perfectionism is expectations. Expectations about who I should be as a mother, what my home should look like, what my marriage should look like…even how my books should be received. See a pattern here? I do. “Should’s”. The buzz word for expectation. I imagine this picture in my head of what my life could look like (slipped around that should, did you see that?). And I long for that. And I beat myself up that I’m not there. Because that’s what I expect. Because that’s what I think everyone else expects (to some degree). Help me get off this roller coaster!

“Expectations are pre-meditated miseries”

I’m not sure who said it, but it hits the mark, doesn’t it? Who of us has gained anything by setting ourselves up for failure? I’m not saying we can’t have realistic expectations. It’s actually unrealistic, I think, to say that we will reach a place where we don’t have expectations. We all have them. And we’re not all unhealthy about them. But you know I’m talking about those expectations that set the bar way up there. Unreal expectations. “I’m going to be Martha-Stewart-crossed-with-Mother-Theresa when I become a mom” expectations.

solutionA possible solution. I am NOT saying I have all the answers. Or even the only solution to this problem. But I can tell you what is working for me: setting small, reasonable goals for myself. Daily goals, monthly goals. And bouncing them off someone who can help me be realistic and make them tangible. “I want to be more interactive with my kids” is vague. “I will set out 30 minutes of each afternoon this week to just play with my kids” is measurable and attainable. It’s a goal you can reach and then feel good about. Then you can raise the bar a little if it would be good for you. Baby steps.

Learn to accept yourself where you are in your season of life. And monitor your expectations for where you want to be. These are two key things that I am learning right now as I self-evaluate. I never want to stop growing and learning, but I want to be able to experience joy and contentment for where I am and where God has me right now. And then look to the future with HOPE.

 

My “No Resolution” 2016

new years resolutionsSome of you love New Year’s Resolutions…I know you do. And if this day is a special day to you and makes you feel more encouraged to make a change in your life, more power to you and I truly do wish you the best. But it has always seemed to me that New Year’s Resolutions for most people last maybe a few weeks or a couple of months at the most. I really believe that someone who is ready for a change will make that change on any obscure date of the calendar year they finally reach that point where they face their old habit and decide they’ve had enough of living that way. I have had some such pivotal moments in the past year and so for the New Year, I resolve to CONTINUE these changes I have ALREADY made in my life:

exerciseTo CONTINUE to work toward a healthier me. This is a challenge that has been ongoing. There have been times in my life I was more serious than others, but it was more often about losing weight. I have changed my perspective, however. It is now about being a healthier, more well me. So, over the last couple of months, I have made some changes in my life, little by little. My doctor is a fan of making one change at a time (he feels it is easier to sustain changes if you make them one at a time instead of changing so many things in your life so drastically). I am doing good-for-me smoothies for breakfast (which has always been a “what do I eat if anything” problem meal for me anyway). I am striving to trade pasta and rice for quinoa and couscous. More lean meats and veggies. Introducing more physical activity. Small changes, one at a time. And I am seeing results like I couldn’t have imagined.

scheduleTo CONTINUE to schedule my time thoughtfully. As a wife and mom, there is a lot that goes into my life apart from the writing and the extra stuff I do. So, I have to guard my time carefully. And I have to be able to delegate the things that don’t belong in my schedule or simply say “no”. That’s hard for this extreme people pleaser. But necessary. Each week I look at my schedule for the week, looking over my commitments/appointments and then placing my “to do” lists on each day. Then in the morning, I go over that day and make adjustments to my “to do” list – shifting some to another day if need be.

Here is the key thing though: I celebrate that day if I accomplish only 3-4 things on that “to do” list. Anything else I get done is extra. That has taken a LOT of grace-giving and learning. But, especially on busy days, I need to not burden myself with unrealistic expectations. Because you and I know that, especially with a house, husband, and kids, there are always more things to do than are on that list. The others that don’t get done can slide to another day that may not be so busy (as you can imagine prioritizing those items is important).

typewriter-chapter-oneTo CONTINUE to make time for writing. “Write like a crazy woman November” (NaNoWriMo) led into “no writing December” for many reasons. Maybe I was burned out, maybe it was because December was so crazy for me. I definitely spent most of my free time reading. Ah, reading. It is a vital part of writing. It helps you learn from other writers, inspires you, helps you grow in ways that nothing else can. Stephen King says that “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” I think I concur. But, because I haven’t been writing, part of me feels a little….empty. My characters are all sitting around waiting for me to write their next line of dialogue. And they are desperate to know what’s going to happen to them.

All in all, these are the things I have been working on. Along with the “normal” desires to continue to be more involved with my kids and continue to daily “bless my home” (as FlyLady puts it) through routine care. So, while I am thrilled to welcome 2016 and look forward to a new year full of hope and promise, as far as a “resolution”, the only one I’m making is to continue what I’ve already started.

Where are you, Christmas?

This, I think, is perhaps the first year that I find myself searching for the Christmas spirit. This is also the first year I have been vamping up for the release of a book just after the first of the year. Between NaNoWriMo and getting things together for “The General’s Wife“, I have been terribly distracted this holiday season. But I am pleased that my car radio has been tuned into Christmas music as it is the only thing it seems anchoring me to the reality of the season.

hustle and bustle of christmas“I need a Silent Night…” Do you know this song sung by Amy Grant? It is so true for me. All the hustle and bustle of the season has taken me over. Going here, running there, shopping, baking, dinners, appointments, not to mention the daily grind of keeping home and hearth. There’s a part of the song that goes “Did my own mother keep this pace, or was the world a different place?” I don’t think my mother had this craziness. I think she had some of it. But I think as time goes on, much more is expected of us. There are more programs, more TV channels, pinterest, the bar has been raised for us moms. At least it seems that way. The world is a different place. Times seemed much simpler, of course I was a kid. But it just doesn’t seem to me that my parents got caught up in the craziness that I have.

manger“Hope that you don’t mind our manger…Welcome to our World…” This song, “Welcome to Our World”, really does get to me each year. There are several versions of this song out there. My favorite is probably Michael W. Smith’s. How do I not only catch the Christmas spirit and find time to keep my family in joy of the season, but also teach them the reason for the season? That is of utmost importance to me and my husband. And I think even more so as our world continues on it’s current trajectory. There is a lyric here, that says “Bring your peace into our violence, bid our hungry souls be filled. Word now breaking Heaven’s silence, welcome to our world…” Is anything more true than this? His peace into our violence. Look around you, what could we need more than peace? Love? Joy? All the things that God promises lone candlewill come as a wellspring of His presence in us. And, I hope I don’t step on toes here, but I might…if you, as a believer, are not spreading peace…love…joy into the hurting world, you’ve missed the point. Light in the darkness, not light among other lights. Not that we don’t need that time with other believers, but our light shines brightest in the dark. That’s why we’ve been given that light. {Stepping off soapbox.}

So, these are my goals for this week…(remember, without goals, how do you know you have accomplished anything?) To take some time off. Time to just BE with my family in the season and enjoy them. And to take some time in the Word, to just BE in His presence and let Him fill me with His peace, His love, His joy…not for myself, but so I can give it to my family and to those He places in my path who will need it.

 

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like…CRAZINESS!

As much as November was packed and went off without much trouble, December is not quite as full, but I am running myself ragged every day and I don’t know quite where all my time is going! What am I doing each day? My schedule doesn’t seem full, but yet I’m running here and there and all around the square…every day. Then I’m exhausted. What can I do to combat that? In November, I knew my schedule was full, so I used several techniques to manage that. But unless I can get a grip on what’s filling my days, I can’t employ those same techniques. How do you manage details that seem to pop up out of no where?

christmas shoppingChristmas shopping. First off, and don’t be hating on me…I’m one of those people that is usually DONE shopping by the first week of December. Well, with my packed November, that did not happen. I had not even started by the time December rolled around. I had not even made one list. Grrr….

christmas bakingChristmas baking. I’m also one of those wives/moms (again, don’t be hating) that likes to bake Christmas goodies to have hanging around the house during this season for guests that stop in and what not. I’m talking like fudge and cookies and other treats like that. I have not even made the grocery list to shop for the ingredients to start on said goodies. Driving. Me. Bananas.

little people nativitySeasonal Traditions. I like for us to do the advent candles. And we have the Little People Nativity that we do an activity with. The characters are “hidden” around the house and every 5 days, we tell a piece of the Nativity story featuring a character and that character makes their way to the Nativity stable. Yeah, it’s Dec 8th, we haven’t done one yet (we missed Dec 1st and Dec 5th). Grrr….

Galleys. My galleys are in for “The General’s Wife”. The last and most important step of this process before publication. They have a hard deadline though – Dec 15th. I have yet to download the document. I am soooo behind.

So, where is all my time going? I am seriously running around like a chicken with my head cut off…without a plan, letting things hit me as they will. Maybe that’s the problem. I’ve become a reactive person rather than a proactive person. Maybe I need to remember the lessons I learned in November about what goes “on the bar” and what I need to let go of, and plan my day accordingly. And stick to the plan. Not letting these last minute things throw my day for a loop. Proactive, not reactive. What about you?

Do you have an “author crush”?

heartI am first an avid reader. I think that this is true of many writers. This is likely the first medium through which we learn to write – from other authors’ works. And through those pieces, we fall in love with the written word and the power it has to create worlds, make connections, drive stories, and stimulate imaginations. I wouldn’t say, however, that there have been hardly any authors that I have had an “author crush” on. This is a love relationship you have with an author’s works. You are so enamored with their work(s) that you have developed somewhat of a little crush on their writing (not them personally). And, after truly considering the works I have enjoyed over the last several years, think I have two:

michelle moranMichelle Moran. She writes Historical Fiction. Good Historical Fiction. She has spent time on dig sites and visiting foreign lands and deep in research. She knows her stuff. And it shows. She proves to us that truth is weirder than fiction too. At the end of her books, in her author note, she talks about the details in her story based on fact. And, the stuff you were just sure was fiction, was, amazingly somehow, based on actual events. She weaves her stories together with these real events in such an entertaining and relatable way though that the seams of fiction and reality blend perfectly. Amazing.

melanie dickersonMelanie Dickerson. Another Historical Fiction writer. But she specializes in taking fairy tales and placing them in a real time with characters that could have been real people. She takes out the mysticism and magic and anything that could not happen and what you are left with is a very believable story. Dickerson has a gift for pulling the reader into the story and into the plight of the characters that is truly unique I think. I have read three of her books in the last couple of weeks and cannot stop. I’m in love with her work.

And so, my friends, I hope you find time in the midst of the craziness that can become the Christmas season to slow down and relax, maybe take in a good book (I have a couple of authors to recommend). I wish you happy reading!

I’m a NaNoWriMo Winner!!!

NaNo-2015-Winner-BannerWhew! That was a challenge indeed. In the beginning, it seemed like it was going to be a fairly easy thing to do, but by the end, it became quite challenging with the convergence of Thanksgiving and the start of Christmas. My traveling thrown into the month made for an uneven writing schedule, too. But I did it!! Thank you all for your support and encouragement!

Would I do it again? Absolutely! It was a great way to push me to get those words out, to write “x” number of words each day and keep the novel growing. I found it to be a good challenge for myself and a very rewarding one at that.

possibleHow does it compare to the 10K-Day challenge? The 10K-Day challenge was a lot more intense. The stress of getting NaNoWriMo done was spread out, which is usually something I (don’t like, but) can handle better. That intense pressure is something that gets to me. But the 10K day was not overwhelming, so the stress didn’t really get to me. It’s like the NaNoWriMo challenge is like the stress of getting a term paper done. You have time, but in the end, you stress to get it polished and completed in those last 24 hours. I think the 10K-Day is more like waiting tables. I found, when I was a server in a restaurant, that the stress was more intense, more “this minute”, you are juggling several things and you have so many things to get done “right now” when you’re busy. That’s not the kind of stress I enjoy. And, I found that I couldn’t handle the stress of waiting tables. My hats off to those who do that for a living. That’s why I tip the way I do.

writing computerWhat’s your next challenge? No more writing challenges for now! I’m taking on another “write a passage from the Bible each day for the month of December” challenge to better immerse myself and focus my spirit on the meaning of Christmas. I found the passage a day for November to help do that for the Thanksgiving season. I will get back to work on the sequel for “The Lady Bornekova“. I’m a bit over halfway done with that one and I am so eager to get back into it!

goalsSo, I leave you with these thoughts…maybe I should change the word “challenge” to “goals”. I think goals are very important. I had a lot of goals for November and I feel very accomplished about what I got done, but only because I had goals. If I hadn’t had those goals, I probably would have gotten things done, but would I be able to mark their completion the same way? Probably not. So, I encourage you…even challenge you, to set yourself some goals for this month. Not hard-set-can’t-miss goals, but just some things to aim for. You’ll never know what you can accomplish until you try.

 

Challenge….accepted!

Well, it’s been a little while since I posted (sorry!). I’ve been super busy with writing and life. But here I am! And I’m still going strong on my challenges for the month of November. Although I may have taken on a little too much. As the month draws to a close, I am so thankful that I have been able to keep up with everything and not fall apart 🙂

nanowrimo2015NaNoWriMo. We’re coming up on the end of NaNoWriMo. As of today, I have passed the 40K mark and I have 6 days to write a little less than 10K words? I’m believing I can totally do that! Are you with me? My story has taken a LOT of twists and turns that I wasn’t anticipating and I am eager to see what will become of those. Now, this novel will not actually be complete at 50K. For Historical Fiction, publishers/agents want authors/writers to hit more around the 80K mark. So, I’ll still have some work to do, but to be an official “NaNoWriMo Winner”, I just have to complete the 50K words in the month of November.

bibleVerses Challenge. I don’t think I shared this before, but I took on another challenge…to write a passage (several verses) a day that pertains to thankfulness or thanksgiving. I’ve kept up with it. Some days I have to play catch up and do more than one passage, but I’ve stayed on top of it so far. This has been a good challenge to get me in the Bible and keep me in it daily. I hope this is building a habit that will continue.

starbucks cupStarbucks Challenge. Yes, this is a silly challenge. And yes, I needed extra coffee because of the NaNoWriMo…but (some of you may already know), Starbucks ran a challenge for their card-holding members to get a drink every day for 15 days straight for tons of bonus stars (these stars get turned into free drinks in certain quantities). This was an interesting challenge. It was fun. But it became challenging when I was in Florida some days because the closest Starbucks was a good 20-30 minutes away from where I was staying (what on earth, right?) and it was out of the way to get there a couple of days. But I met that challenge head on and completed it (yay!). I know, I’m a Starbucks freak. You can say it.

So, as you can see, this has been a challenging month for me (pun intended). And I’ll be taking on a new challenge for the next several months…a weight loss challenge. And, no, it has nothing to do with a New Year’s Resolution. It has everything to do with the fact that I want to be healthier. I’ve been making small changes over the last several months as far as my diet and caffeine intake (brutal, right?) and increasing water intake and all that…but after Thanksgiving, I plan to dive into a serious plan of action. With these challenges behind me, I think I can take it on!

Blue Weights, Green Apple, and Tape Measure