Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Cleaning my office

I don’t know about you, but mess and clutter suck the energy right out of me. My office, the place where I spend so much time and where I create the books I love to write, is a mess. I have finally decided to clean it up. I’m calling this a New Year resolution started early—and I’ll need the extra time. ☺ Because considering the piles of papers everywhere, this is one daunting task. Piles on the floor. On the work area where my computer sits. On the adjacent desk. In the closet. Plus there are three 2-drawer filing cabinets and one file-size box that are bulging with stuff—papers, but who knows what they are? Every file needs to be cleaned out. I thought about posting photos of the mess, but I’m too darned embarrassed!!

Just thinking about that gives me a mega case of dread. A friend once told me that when she faces a monumental task, she pats herself on the back for what she completes every day, rather than on all that’s left to do. Wise advise, indeed, and I’m taking it to heart.

In November I made a to-do list and have pledged to complete every task by January 2. Here are some of the things on the list:
Paint the walls
Organize and clear the bookshelves of books I don’t read and don’t use
Move the inspirational sayings tacked all over the bookcase shelves and covering many of the books (blocking the titles, etc.) to a different location
Purchase a 4-drawer, vertical filing cabinet
Buy a bulletin board
Sort, file and toss papers on work spaces, the desk and the floor and the filing cabinets, and get rid of all piles!

Here is my progress report to date:

In November I painted the office a lovely, pale apricot color. I bought really cool paint that has little odor—a plus since it’s too cold to open any windows. The room looks clean and warm now, and I really like it.

I found a four-drawer, cherry wood vertical file cabinet at Office Max online for a great price. Twenty-four hours later, they delivered it . My husband assembled it without my even asking. Now that’s what I call support and encouragement. I labeled each drawer and am ready to file.

I tossed a good chunk of paper from the file cabinets. (Still a ton to go—but I’m focusing on the great work accomplished to date, not the piles left…)

The crammed bookcase is now clean and organized, with the inspirational sayings in a pile (yeah, I know—another pile). That will change, just as soon as I buy a bulletin board. Soon!!

Lots of empty bookshelf space, which is a good thing, as I know more books will come. This time, though, I’ll be careful about what I stick on the shelf. And I’ll periodically weed and clean. Weed—isn’t that a great word for clearing clutter?

The stuff that inspires me—angels and ferries, the Never, Never Never Give Up poster, foil-covered Ritas, little Japanese and Chinese “good luck:” figures—in plain view of my computer.

So yes, I’m making good, but slow, progress. Hooray for me!! (Pat, pat, pat.)

Until next time, and wishing you Happy Holidays and a clean, pleasant work space,


Thursday, May 24, 2007

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Living With Gratitude

I saw the coolest DVD recently. It's called The Secret. Maybe you've heard of it; not only has the book been on the bestseller lists, but Oprah talked about it on her show. I'm always a little leery of anything that's getting a lot of hype, but someone I know recommended it highly, and when Netflix had it available, I put it in my queue.

Overall, I thought it was excellent. I didn't agree with everything that was said and a couple of the presenters seemed a little, well, smarmy to me, but it was definitely worth the time to watch it.

So why am I blogging about it today? The subject seemed to fit Thankful Thursdays perfectly. One of the things that was talked about in The Secret was how we as humans tend to focus on what we don't want to happen or on what we don't have rather than on what we'd like to see or on what we do have. I know I'm as guilty of this as anyone and there were several helpful suggestions to help change this.

My favorite idea was called a gratitude rock. One of the men said that he started to carry a rock in his pocket, and whenever he touched it, he'd think of something he was grateful for. Just touching it was a reminder to give thanks.

It's a simple idea, but what a wonderful way to remember what's positive in our lives!

If you have a moment right now, why not think of some things you're grateful for in your life? I'll even start. I'm thankful that my mom is out of the hospital after suffering congestive heart failure and is doing better every day. I'm thankful that I have a full-time job that pays my bills and keeps a roof over my head. I'm thankful that I finished my latest book and that I can take a break and spend more time with my parents. I'm thankful that my fifth book will be out in August and that I've been able to write another book of my heart.

Even as I wrote those things, it was so tempting to qualify them. I'm thankful, but-- I resisted, though.

Another suggestion from The Secret that I really liked was called the Vision Board. What you do is cut out pictures of what you want and paste it to a piece of cardboard or whatever, then you spend time every day focusing on them. I think of it as visual goal setting. I heard somewhere that goals are more likely to be achieved if they're written down and this is the same type of thing, just done with pictures rather than words.

I always used to tell people who scoffed at my big ideas that if I was going to dream, I was going to dream big. From the time was in eighth grade, my greatest desire was to write stories and have other people read them. When my first book was published in 2002, I walked around with a copy of it in my hand everywhere I went (yes, even at work!) because I couldn't believe my dream had come true. Sometimes I still look at the books I've written and it seems surreal that something I've wanted since I was fourteen has come true.

I'm a big proponent in pursuing dreams. When I sign books, I'll often write "Always pursue your dreams" instead of Best Wishes or Happy Reading because I want other people to find the joy that comes from chasing their rainbows. Mark Twain has a wonderful quote and I have it pasted on my cube wall. He said:
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Dream. Discover."
What are you grateful for? What are your dreams? What are you doing to achieve them?

Patti O'Shea
In the Midnight Hour - Aug 2007

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Fessing up, part 2

Since no one is scheduled for today, I'll butt in and get this off my chest. A while ago I think I blogged here about reviews. As I remember, I was sort of cocky, saying how I read my reviews and sometimes learn from them.

Well, I've changed. I've now adopted JoAnn's policy of not reading reviews unless they come up and bite me in the...um, you get the idea.

Why am I not reading reviews? Because suddenly they make me crazy. Not crazy mad. I fully understand that everyone is entitled to her opinion and that some people will not like my books. And I do think people are also free to share their opinion with the world. But I've also decided there's no requirement that I know that opinion. That, in this case, ignorance is bliss.

I mean, a book really isn't like a child. If one of my boys was tipping cows or drinking sarsaparilla out behind the pool hall, I'd want to know so I could do something about it. If the book's misbehaving...well...I guess it's more like my adult children. I've done my best. If they're going to cause trouble, there's not much I can do about it now.

Yes, this means I miss the good reviews, but so be it. If I need those quotes a few months from now, I'll go googling. By then I'll be well into writing the current story (I'd better be!) and hopefully more detached from the one already out in the world. But for now, I've sworn off the google function and I haven't visited that Amazon page in forever. It's really rather liberating.

Now excuse me while I liberate myself from the Internet entirely to get back to work on that work-in-progress.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Fessing Up

Yesterday I was at a loss for a proposal I've been working on, and a friend of mine pulled out two books that she always prefaces with an explanation, something like "this one is full of horrible little writing exercises. I bought it for $1 from the Borders sale. . ." and a tiny book of conversation starters. I always think it's funny, and cute, that she sort of apologizes for not only having bought, but for using, these dorky little books.

Still, no bones about it, they were helpful. She pulled out two ideas at random and threw them at me -- I chewed on them for a while, and they didn't end up in my proposal, but they did get the wheels turning and I managed to finish a draft of a new proposal by the end of the day. She had me thinking maybe I needed to try to find a couple copies of those books for myself.

We all have some of those books the shelf, the book that we put in a place where no one will notice, or that we preface with "It only cost a dollar" or "A friend gave it to me." But at the end of the day, we get something from them, even if we can only admit it to ourselves.

In my case, it's the copy of Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul -- it pains me to admit I have it, but a friend gave it to me for my birthday, and bless him, he actually apologized in the card (I think he might have threatened me if I let anyone know he sent it). Chicken Soup books are pretty much one of the few books I swore I would never have in my home, the ones that make me shudder when I see them at the bookstore, seeping their sentimentality and stories of "if only I'd sent her flowers before she died" to teach us life's lessons.

However, I pick it up and read it now and then because I love my friend, and he gave it to me, and I want to honor that. In truth, the book is full of short essays by writers I like: Ray Bradbury, Sue Grafton, Clive Cussler among them. When I bring myself to read them, there are inspirational bits and pieces, and there's even some good advice in the book (though there are still the requisite stories about people who died...). If nothing else, it makes me think of my friend, and gives me a laugh every time I think that he actually sent me this book. And it's something I can hold over him should I have to. ;)

What are the books hidden on your shelf? Feel free to make apologies and excuses as necessary... ;)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Up In The Air

I was recently asked by my agent to give an estimate of when I might be able to get her a revised final copy of the complete manuscript she's currently shopping around for me. I really wish I could tell her.

Not because I don't have a clue how long it takes me to type in (I'm one of those freakish throwbacks who writes first drafts in longhand) and revise half a manuscript, but because my "life" is currently up in the air. The fella is waiting to hear on a job offer that will potentially have us moving halfway--no, about 3/4 of the way across Texas. We currently live in the Panhandle (that's the square, not-very-panhandle-looking part that sticks up at the top, for those of you who aren't familiar with the nomenclature), one of the more westerly parts of the state. The new job, if it happens, will take us to the Texas Gulf Coast. (Yeah, I know, they have hurricanes. We have tornados. Not a lot of difference, IMO.) But until I know whether I will be packing up my household goods and moving them over the summer, I don't really know how long it will take me to get this ms. revised and sent off to the agent, because I don't know how much time I'll have.

Summer is already filled with three conferences (an all-genre one in June, RWA's conference in July, and a science fiction/fantasy con in August), plus the mandatory visits from the grandboys, so I'm already working around those as is. If we add a move (and the insanity-making elements of selling and buying a house) to that--well... But I do keep thinking how much fun it will be to introduce my landlocked grandsons to the beach. I don't want them, like my nephews once did--mistaking a golf course sand-and-water hazard for the beach...

(My middle sister lives in Idaho, and when our kids were little and her family came to visit the Texas branch of the family, we got a golf course condo in Rockport, on the Aransas Pass (No "k" in Aransas, and it's pronounced ah-RAN-sahs), because we thought it would be safer with a horde of pre-schoolers. There was a pond behind the condo, surrounded with sand, and when we all arrived, the nephews spotted that pond, and went running out to it screaming "The beach! The beach!" They were duly impressed when they saw the "real" beach.)

I do know in general how long it takes me to write a book of a given length. And I know how long it takes me to get it revised and ready to ship out. Of course, given the fact that my books tend to grow when I'm writing them, it can sometimes take a little longer than I expect to reach the end. The writing business is insane as it is. When you add life to it... the insanity compounds.

Has life tripped you up lately? We'll listen, if you want to share.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

"Friday I'm in love..." The Cure

Since this is a Friday post, I was trying to think of a Friday type song, so amazingly, I came up with a line from one!

It's appropriate, isn't it, since we all write with strong romantic elements, no matter what our specific genre. I think everyone wants to be in love (every day, not just every Friday,) and so even if they can't personally do so, it's certainly nice to read about people who do and experience the rush vicariously.

Now here's a question - how do you personally feel about love stories that don't have an HEA (happily ever after) ending? And how do you classify them - something that I keep harping on, I know, but our entire world is so classification-crazed these days.

Is it the love story itself that makes you 'fall in love' or is it the HEA? As long as the story is rich and satisfying, does the resolution always have to be positive?

I raise this question and yet even when I am writing a sad love story, the ending is, in its own way "happy." I like HEA, even if it is non-traditional. I think it is a definite human urge, need, belief - that things are resolved in a positive fashion. What do you think?

Dipping back into classification madness - I love my XM radio. I wish I didn't, I wish there was just RADIO, you could hear all different types of music without having to specify a category. Anyway, with the demise of possibility in local, over the air radio, here I am in XM land. Where there is alternative country, country, adult acoustic rock, contemporary rock, "real" jazz, alternative rock, cutting edge rock, alternative rock of the 90's, alternative rock of the 80's -- all on my punch buttons.

Are we over categorized? not just in terms of music, and our writing, but in terms of our lives? Are people niche marketing themselves?

Okay, wandering from far afield back to the specifics - We're supposed to be announcing our news here on FRIDAY , but I haven't much NEW news to report, so I'll go with a quick recap of things -

-signed FIVE O'CLOCK SHADOW and THE MODEL MAN at the Los Angeles Times Book Fair the end of April. I had my kids pass out about 250 book marks and yes, my Amazon numbers did go up afterward. I was also amazed to meet people who actually knew who I was (from local newspaper articles last year, reviews and such.)

-my erotic romance novella from THE COWBOY, Rodeo Man, finaled in the Passionate Plume

-and the warm buzz and new contacts made at the PASIC conference in NYC continue, I'm still getting requested material out there

Five O'Clock Shadow - available NOW

Videos and Awards?

When I signed up to blog on this day a few weeks ago, I had news. Funny thing, you'd think, having spent several years writing for Arizona's largest daily newspaper, I would've remembered that news is only really news, when it's, well, new.

However, since this is Thankful Thursday, I'm still thankful that my edgy video for No Safe Place, from the brilliant Circle Of Seven, won Cameo Awards for Best Suspense trailer, Excellence in Writing (script, Sheila English; visual concepts Mike Miller), the Viewer's Choice award, as well as a Cameo for Promotional Excellence, the top award for all trailers.

There's been a lot of talk about whether or not videos actually sell books. I've had five videos created so far and have no idea. I just know they're a lot of fun, and for me, that's worth doing them. (I'm already working with COS on utilizing actors and incorporating scenes from the books for my upcoming trilogy.) Also, my website statistics show that visitors enjoy watching them, and a recent contest where viewers voted on which of two very different No Safe Place videos they preferred proved hugely popular.

Meanwhile, Simon and Schuster, having decided videos are good way to sell books, will begin creating them for some of their authors. Proving that timing is, indeed, everything, they announced this just a few months after I moved from Pocket to NAL. LOL

Although I've never been much for entering contests, I've judged the RITAs for most of my 26 years in RWA, going back to when the contest was called the Golden Medallion. This year I judged both the preliminary and final rounds and stayed up until two this morning rereading an entry before ranking the books, which, for me, is always the most difficult part of judging. The best part of judging is that I never fail to discover a wonderful writer I've somehow missed. This year was no exception and I'm proud -- and thankful -- to have been able to spend so many years working in a genre boasting so much stellar talent.

Recently some of us have been having a conversation about whether winning the RITA actually makes a difference in a writer's career. Which brings me back to those video awards.
Borrowing a bit from Wondering Wednesday, I'm wondering if viewing a video has actually ever made you want to buy a book? Does seeing a sticker on a cover announcing that the writer has won an award -- a RITA, a Newberry, an Edgar, whatever -- make you more likely to pick a book up? And better yet, does an award make you more willing to risk your money on a new-to-you author?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wondering about Research

If you've ever wondered about how a writer researches to write a book. Here are some of my recent adventures.
My new project is set in Portland, Maine. It involves gun smuggling, a good topic for a port city. Lots of my research can be done on the Internet, but some has to be direct, in person. So I needed to see locations and picture events there. Portland has the nearest airport to where I live, so it was convenient to visit prior to a trip to Washington, D.C. to visit friends. First, I went to the Old Port, the renovated part of the old city that has trendy shops, restaurants, and condos on the waterfront. I walked around the docks and took picture after picture with my trusty digital camera. Then I drove farther along the harbor toward the more industrial section so I could figure out where my murder takes place. I found a really spooky spot beneath a bridge but I have to go back at night to see how dark it is. I may freak myself out. My final stop was in the West End, to check the neighborhood where my heroine lives and to choose a building for her. While there, I had a brainstorm for a scene of the villain chasing her as she jogs on the Western Promenade, a paved walking trail overlooking the harbor. Now I need to go to direct sources--a cop, a Marine Patrol Officer, and someone in the port authority.
That's it. Researching can be fun, but it can suck a writer in so you want to put it all in the book. I have to rein myself in.