Another Month of Walking

It’s been four weeks since I told you about my new walking plan. Last time, I did my 4.5km daily walk 20 times in 28 days. This time, I did it 24 times, which means I missed 6 days.

On one of those days, we went to Ikea and parked at the far end of the lot. Between that and walking around the store, I was only 1km short for the day, which is funny. So, I’m counting 25 days of walking.

I also went to a conference last week (more about that in tomorrow’s post), and ended up with two travel days. On both of them, I managed to fit in my walk before going to the airport. Both of those days, I doubled my walking distance for the day, which tells you all you need to know about Pearson International Airport in Toronto. While at the conference, I walked on the beach each day, which was a lovely change of scene. Those days also had more distance – the walk down the beach was 6 km, then there was all the running around the conference hotel. In the end, I’m probably not short 5 full days if I add up the distance, but we’ll call it 25 days of walking and aim for improvement.

Autumn has arrived here in Canada, and I enjoyed seeing the changes on my daily walk over the past month. The leaves on the trees are changing colour, of course, and are just beautiful. They haven’t fallen yet, but I’m looking forward to walking through them. (The urge to kick them never seems to fade.)

I’ve also been noticing how the wildlife is migrating. The cormorants arrived on the lake a few weeks ago. They’ll stay until the water gets colder or freezes over, since they need to catch fresh fish every day. The Canada geese started to fly their practice flights: they fly shorter circuits, probably working up their strength. At first you can watch them fly the entire circle and they’re airborne for only ten minutes or so. Within days, they’re flying huge loops and disappear from view before returning. They tend to hang around until the first hard frost, but are becoming more numerous as more northern flocks arrive and take a break here. The blue jays are back in larger numbers again—although they’re often noisy birds, in flock, they’re quiet. It’s common at this time of year to glance out the window and discover two or three dozen blue jays looking for food, silently, before they all take flight again.

Have you been walking this month? Are you seeing the change in the seasons where you live?

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you a bit more about attending the Novelists’ Ink conference this year.

20 Days of Walking

Since 2011, I’ve been spending a lot more time at my desk, getting this indie publishing thing squared away. It’s been a lot of work, plus details kept changing so the work had to be updated and done again. (And again and again and again. Gah!) I’ve also been writing new stories at the same time and publishing them myself. Right now, there are over 80 books on my dashboard at any given portal. That’s a lot of content and a lot or work. Moving to indie meant not just long days at my desk but every single day at my desk, which meant I was feeling a lot less healthy.

I tried a number of different things over the past year, none of which seemed to stick. But on August 6, I decided to walk. I’ve always liked walking and I’ve always – at least until 2011 – walked a lot. I used to walk with my dog, but she’s getting older and doesn’t always want to walk a second time each day. (She goes for a run with Mr. Math every day.) Also, she tends to dawdle on her second walk, so I decided to walk by myself. I picked a route and walked it. My phone says it’s 4.5 km, or about 5600 steps. My phone also says that it takes me between 42 and 44 minutes. That’s not even an hour. I figure I can invest an hour a day in my own well-being.

Beginning August 6, I walked that route every single day, rain or shine, for two weeks. (It was actually quite nice in the rain.) I changed the time around a bit, experimenting with what worked best for me. The next two weeks were very hot and sticky, so I only walked it six times in those 14 days. I also had my annual canning to complete during those two weeks, plus I did a lot of weeding and mulching in the garden. I was still active, just not walking every day. So, I walked my route 20 times in 28 days, which isn’t bad for a new habit. I’ll try to improve on that in the next 30 days, and do my walk every single day.

And what’s the result? I have lost a couple of pounds over the past month, which isn’t epic but is better than gaining a few. 🙂 I haven’t changed my eating habits, so didn’t expect otherwise. (I might be eating a bit more – ha! – because walking makes me hungry.) The more important thing is that I feel better. I’m sleeping better. I feel less stressed and more organized.

And the most exciting thing is that walking for 45 minutes daily is a marvelous way to unravel plot tangles. I feel joyous about writing again, and I feel creative. This next year is going to be very exciting for new stories – and maybe I’ll even lose a few more pounds.

Have you started any new habits lately and stuck with them?

 

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

What a crazy year this has been. 2017 seems to have gone by at warp speed. I had all these plans…some of them happened, but some didn’t. And here is – the eve of the weekend of Christmas. I still have some pictures to take for the next Fiber Friday, so we’ll do that next week. 🙂

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas with your friends and family, and lots of good cheer. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a great weekend.

I’ll be back next week on Boxing Day as there are new releases coming out next week – and I have a 99 cent sale next week, too.

So, stay warm, be happy, enjoy the blessings of your life, and I’ll see you back here on Tuesday.

Building a Book Tree

Deborah Cooke's Book TreeA couple of years ago, I built a book tree for Christmas in our dining room and decorated it for the holidays. There were some questions about how to do it, so this year, I took pictures of the tree in progress.

You can read that old post right here.

That’s the tree from two years ago on the right. I built the new one in the same spot.

Book Tree Base, built by Deborah Cooke 2017

I started with eight books in a circle on the floor. Because book trees tend to be a little tippy near the top, you want the base to be as stable as possible. (A book tree might not be a good plan if you have acrobatic cats.) Choose books of similar or even the same thickness, and start with big books at the bottom.

I apologize for the picture quality. I started to build the book tree at night and the lighting in the dining room was…atmospheric.

We have a lot of coffee table books, and they found their way into the tree this year. These two cookbooks are exactly the same format as well as large, heavy books. The circle is about three and a half feet wide at the outside edges and I built it on a piece of carpeting. (The rug we used last year is now at a window where the New Girl keeps an eye on the world.) The red books are Sir Walter Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders, which is a good foundation for many things. 🙂

The book tree built by Deborah Cooke 2017Then you start building. Angle the next layer over the gaps, so each book on round two rests halfway on one book in the first level and halfway on the adjacent one. Again, keep an eye on the book thickness and use hard covers for best results.

Here’s the tree after about four rounds. Inevitably, books end up being of differing thicknesses and sizes, so it all starts to get less mathematical. Angle the books over the gaps, stack books to make up the thickness of their neighbors—and when you do stack books, twist them at slightly different angles.

After four or five layers, it’s good to check that things are lining up. Get down on the floor so the base of the tree is at eye level. Check that things are lining up vertically. You don’t want to be drifting to one side or the other!

Book Tree built by Deborah Cooke 2017In this shot, you can see that the tree is rising vertically on each side and just starting to cant inward a little bit. This is a good point to start making the diameter of the tree smaller. You can also see where I’ve stacked three books to make up the height of a big fat one, the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. I also checked this from the other side to make sure those sides were rising vertically. If you don’t build yours against a wall like mine, walk around it. When I get about this far, and have books stacked all over the dining room table to sort them, Mr. Math usually shows up and starts reading. 🙂

Completed book tree built by Deborah Cooke 2017From this point, there’s just a lot of stacking to be done. Gradually, change to smaller books because that will make it easier to taper the tree to a point. I always top my tree with some small leatherbound editions of classics (Dickens is there) and a leatherbound copy of Grimms Fairy Tales at the summit. On top is the little tree my SIL made for my husband’s apartment many years ago.

Here’s my finished book tree for this year. Just a little picture because it’s not as sharp as would be ideal—plus you really want to see it tarted up. I think it’s about a foot taller than last year’s version.

To decorate it, I used two strands of Ikea LED snowflake lights again. The lights are easy to add: you just push the wire between two books to hold it in place. Round and round, from bottom to top. It works out perfectly each time.

Once the lights were in place, I added lot of ribbons, berries and flowers in red and gold. (My book tree has a palette. Ha.) Maybe you’re like me and have a box of shiny trinkets from Christmas packages or floral arrangements that are shiny and festive so you save them, but you aren’t quite sure what to do with them. (I even have three glittery pomegranates, although I’m not sure why.) The book tree is a great destination. Tuck those ribbons and berries into the gaps between the books. There’s some gold bead garland in my box of tricks, too, and it goes on this tree.

Here’s this year’s finished book tree:
Book Tree built by Deborah Cooke 2017It looks even more sparkly and festive in real life. I’m pleased with it. 🙂

Have you built a book tree yet? Are you going to?

Home with Lists

The exciting thing about attending a conference like Novelists’ Ink is that I always end up with so many action items. Novelists’ Ink is also unusual among the conferences I attend because it’s only for published authors, most of whom write genre fiction. (A high percentage of members write either romance or mystery.) So, there are no reader events like booksignings during the conference (although Jodi Vaughn and I made an exception and met with some readers for lunch on Saturday. It was such fun – Jodi is lovely and it turned out that her fans were also some of mine!) So, NINC is about the business of publishing. In this still-changing market, there are not only new options available, but better ways evolving to get things done. I always end up making lists on the flight home. You’ll notice some changes happening as a result of what I’ve learned this past week, although a number of them will happen behind the scenes.

You’ll notice some changes happening as a result of what I’ve learned this past week, although a number of them will happen behind the scenes. For example, I need to review my notes from Erica Ridley’s wonderful session on newsletters, and decide what to improve first with my monthly newsletter. (There are LOTS of things to be improved there!)

Wyvern's Mate, book #1 in the Dragons of Incendium series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeI’ll also be changing the numbering of the Dragons of Incendium series. Amazon doesn’t allow incremental numbers on series pages and I’ve been stubborn about changing my idea of the book numbers to fit theirs. 🙂 In talking to other authors, though, it’s clear that there are tangible benefits to having all of the books on the same product page. I’ll make them the same at all portals once they’re reformatted. The short stories will be given whole numbers in this arrangement, so the book order will become:

  1. Wyvern’s Mate
  2. Nero’s Dream
  3. Wyvern’s Prince
  4. Arista’s Legacy
  5. Wyvern’s Warrior
  6. Kraw’s Secret
  7. Wyvern’s Outlaw

Love Potion #9, a paranormal romance and romantic comedy by Claire DelacroixI’m going to commission new covers for my time travel romances, and probably move Love Potion #9 over to the Deborah Cooke side of things. It is a contemporary paranormal romance, after all. I do love the cover image, but it doesn’t communicate the subgenre clearly enough to do its job well – if you love this cover and want a print copy, grab it soon!

There are dozens of other tweaks and changes to be made. I attending workshops with tips on productivity and on strategies for publishing. I learned about conferences that I haven’t attended before and revisited the idea of attending some others again. I’ll let you know when any of these items impact what you see on your end of the publishing biz.

The second exciting result of going to conference is meeting new authors. I always meet some authors I haven’t met before and learn a bit about them during the conference, then come home with a huge shopping list so I can become acquainted with their books. No matter how avidly I read, there are always new voices and new fictional worlds to be discovered – that I’ve sat with the author in a workshop or had lunch with him or her is icing on the proverbial cake. I’ve already added a dozen books to my reader and am looking forward to digging in. When I find some I particularly love, I’ll share them with you here.

The third and maybe the biggest benefit is creative. Walking the beach is certainly a contributing factor, plus I went offline for the week. I came home from NINC recharged, with my imagination full of new stories. I did a lot of plotting, which surprised me but that’s all good. I also have more ideas to connect my existing stories with each other. I have started to do this (as some of you have seen in A Duke By Any Other Name) but the possibilities multipled for me when I gave them the opportunity.

Whisper Kiss, #5 in the Dragonfire series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeIn the Midnight Hour, book #3 of the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances by Deborah CookeFor example, I need a tattoo artist based in New York for the Flatiron Five series and realized that Rox’s tattoo shop, Imagination Ink, which we encountered first in Whisper Kiss, is in NYC. Rox has a partner and friend named Chynna (as well as one named Neo). I decided that Chynna would be perfect. She’ll turn up at F5 in Damon’s book, In the Midnight Hour and become a continuing character in that series. Flatiron Five doesn’t have any paranormal elements, but Chynna isn’t paranormal. Even Rox isn’t paranormal herself—she’s just partners with Niall, a dragon shifter. This kind of cross-pollination between series is particularly fun—I went back and read what I’ve said so far about Chynna and got excited about the possibilities. I remembered writing a scene with Chynna that didn’t make it into the final book and had to hunt it down. I posted it as an out-take right here so you can meet Chynna. (She doesn’t actually appear in Whisper Kiss.)

There are wonderful plans in the works already, and I’ll share them with you as soon as I can!

Since we’re talking about conferences and reader events, tell me whether you attend any reader events. If you don’t go to reader conferences or events, is there a reason why? (Some readers like to save their money for books, which is good, too.) If you do go, where are the events located? Do you attend for workshops or signings or both? What’s your favorite part?