Happy 2017!

Happy New Year to you! I hope you had a wonderful holiday break and are entering the new year with lots of good energy. We’ve had some sunshine here, which is just about the best option in a snowy January.

Wyvern's Warrior, #3 in the Dragons of Incendium series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeDo you make resolutions for the new year? I was interviewed about this a few weeks ago, and have to admit that I do. I always have writing plans—for example, this year, I’ll publish Wyvern’s Warrior and the next Incendium short story, I’ll finish up and publish The Crusader’s Vow, and I’ll write Addicted to Love and publish it, too. I’ll also finish editing the Rose Legacy and publish those stories in new editions this year. I’m excited to be working on so many new series this year and exploring new worlds.

The schedule gets a bit squishy after the middle of the year, not because I don’t have ideas of what to do next, but because I like to leave a little space for surprises and synchronicity. Last year, the Haunting of Castle Keyvnor was one of those projects that slipped onto my schedule in the spring. I like to remain open to opportunities like that. Oh, I’ll need to publish Something Wicked This Way Comes in its own edition in April, too.

The Crusader's Vow by Claire Delacroix, book #4 in the Champions of Saint Euphemia series of medieval romances.I’m always striving to be better organized. In December, I actually sorted out my knitting yarn stash and (sit down for this) am passing some of it along to other knitters and their needles. Since I’ve started to sew again, I’ve realized what a chaotic mess my sewing supplies are in. I sorted out the material last fall, but will have to get into the notions this winter, too. I have an idea that I’ll finish more projects than I start, and maybe finish up a lot of the ones in progress, but am not too hard core about that. Part of what happens with wool and fabric for me is just creative play. I don’t want to put too many rules on that adventure and risk spoiling the fun. I’m going to look for workshops this winter and maybe learn some new fibre tricks. 🙂

Addicted to Love, a contemporary romance by Deborah CookeMy big challenge for 2017 is to better manage my time. I have this perennial fantasy of becoming more efficient, and oddly enough, there’s always room for improvement. My big time sink is social media—it’s so easy to hop onto Facebook to make one post and get lost for an hour or two. I need to stay on top of that, and that will likely mean that you see less of me there. I want to get more exercise, so have been pretty strict about taking my daily walk with the New Girl. We walk about 4 km together each day, regardless of the weather, and she walks fast. I’d like to start swimming again—I stopped when we moved out of the city because there wasn’t a pool I liked nearby. I’ve found one I really like (saline, not chlorine!!) but it’s about a 30-minute drive away. For some reason, lap swimming is always scheduled at meal times, so I need to figure out how to make that work. I might end up going to yoga instead. This year, I did do a better job of getting out to the garden on a regular basis in the summertime—the weeds still won, but it wasn’t a landslide victory last year. This year, they’d better look out!

How about you? Did you make resolutions for 2017? What were they?

Happy New Year!

The Crusader's Bride, a medieval romance by Claire DelacroixWelcome to 2016!

The first order of business this morning is to thank all of you for starting off my year so well. Gaston and Ysmaine’s book is sitting in a lovely position this morning, thanks to all of you who picked up a copy during this week’s sale.

At Amazon.com, The Crusader’s Bride is #1 in Medieval Romance, #8 in Suspense and #227 overall in the Kindle store:Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 6.28.01 AMAt Amazon.ca, The Crusader’s Bride is #1 in Medieval Romance. #8 or #9 in Historical Fiction and #51 overall in the Kindle store:Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 6.29.19 AMAt Barnes and Noble, The Crusader’s Bride is #18 in the Nook store.Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 6.31.23 AMAt Kobo, The Crusader’s Bride is #3 in Historical Romance, #13 in Historical Fiction and #7 in Romantic Suspense.Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 6.33.46 AMAt iBooks, The Crusader’s Bride is #2 overall paid in the iBooks store.Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 6.35.35 AMThank you, all! This is a wonderful way to start the year and I hope you enjoy Gaston and Ysmaine’s story. If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, the sale goes through January 4, then it’s back to the regular price.

And now, the rest of my post for the new year! At the end of each year, I tend to sum things up, take stock of what worked and what didn’t, then make plans for going forward. After the summary, I do some culling and sorting. I ditch what isn’t working and make lists of what I want to change about how I’m doing things. In this publishing environment, that means assessing what’s working (and not) on a personal level, as well as what’s changing in the marketplace. (We do live in interesting times.)

One goal coming out of that for 2016 is that I want to take better physical care of myself. Over the past couple of years, I’ve spent too much time at my desk. The New Girl and I have been taking a long walk each day this fall, and I now have Chelle managing my newsletter for me. Angie continues to manage some of the other promotion – especially for audio. I also some other schemes to mix up my daily schedule a bit. Less computer time also means less internet time, because I want to focus on writing.

I also want to knit down some of my yarn stash and finish those lingering projects – that means more knitting time, which is great thinking and plotting time. All of these come together to increase my focus on writing new stories. The next cover reveal comes up in February and it’ll be in my newsletter first. It’s for Simply Irresistible, which is the launch title in my upcoming contemporary romance series called Flatiron Five. I’ve wanted to write another contemporary romance series since finishing The Coxwells, and this group of five friends have really snared my imagination. I’m also collaborating with another author, connecting her linked series to my linked series, and will tell you more about that in February, too.

I’ll announce the other new series launch in May, first at Romancing the Capital, in my newsletter, and then here on the blog. Things are going to change on the website this year, too, with some series having their own subsidiary sites. It’s just a question of how best to manage so many titles in so many sub-genres.

The good news is that my sharper focus will more stories and more books. I’ve redone my calendar for my bulletin board and it’s crowded! I have some fun projects lined up for 2016 as a result of doing this review last year, and have added a few more surprises in the last month or so. I feel that I’m back in my writing groove again, and am having a fabulous time planning out new series. The Champions of Saint Euphemia was my first new series in a long while, but there will be several more new series launching this year. Woo HOO! It’s going to be a great year for writing for me, and I’m looking forward to it.

What resolutions or plans do you have for 2016?

Happy New Year!

Welcome to the first day of 2015! Happy new year to you and yours!

I hope it’s a wonderful bright morning filled with possibility, wherever you are.

Do you make resolutions for the new year? I’ve made a few this year (as I usually do) and have already accomplished several of them. (I cheated and started before the old year was done.)

First off, I’ve hired a new virtual assistant. You won’t catch many glimpses of Angie, but she’ll be busily making things happen so I can write more, and focus on my writing more. She’s taken on some of my lists of what I *should* have been doing but didn’t have time to get to, which will eliminate some stress for me, too. (I always worry about the things on my To Do list that don’t happen.) Our relationship will certainly evolve, but it’s off to a good start. Welcome, Angie!

Secondly, I’ve added some social media connections, partly because of Angie. It’s also feasible because of all the automated integrations that are now available for applications like WordPress and Mailchimp. You can now find me on Google+, on Twitter, and (in case you missed it) on Tsu.

Of these, only Tsu is new (you say it “soo”, so that phrase rhymes) and I like it quite well. The particular corner of Tsu I’ve found is very bookish, with lots of bloggers and authors and readers. I like to log in and just watch the book covers go by. That reminds me of browsing in a bricks-and-mortal bookstore, because I never know what I’ll see or what will catch my eye. Tsu is set up to share money with members, but I don’t think you have to worry about it skewing your income tax return: after a month or so, my balance is 35 cents. You have to follow someone into Tsu, so feel free to follow me in on this link.

All of this ties into my third resolution, which is to write more. I’m doing well with that this week, too, so I’m off to a good start. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about some changes I have planned for the new year in terms of promotion, and on Monday, we’ll talk about BOOKS in the works.

How about you? Any resolutions this year that you want to share?

Resolutions

Do you make resolutions at the beginning of each year? Do you stick to them?

I tend to do a review in December of the year that has just passed, making mental lists of what worked and what didn’t work. From that, I try to work out ways to improve my life or my work habits or whatever. It’s looser than resolutions, and there tends to be a lot of squish in my new rules – it’s more like identifying good tendencies – so this works for me.

For example, the past year has been characterized by a high level of stress for me. A lot of this has come from things beyond my control (family illness, for example, or stress in Mr. Math’s work life) but some of it is under my control. My own work-life balance is out of whack. I’ve worked pretty much every day this past year and have still felt that I’m always running behind. I dislike being late, so this has added to my stress level.

The thing is that if I’d been writing every day of the year, I’d be so happy and unstressed that I wouldn’t even notice. It’s the other stuff that’s been making demands on my time – in fact, my stress level can be directly attributed to my having less writing time. I’m a writer, so writing restores my balance. (Kind of like knitting but more so.)

So, my goals for 2012 are intended to restore my happy balance.

• Write more.
This is first and foremost. It’s what keeps my life in order and balance. I tell writers all the time that they need to protect their writing time – a lot of mine has been poached in 2011. I’m going to take it back. 🙂

• Promote less.
One of the big time sinks for me this past year was blog tours. I did two blog tours in 2011 and while they were fun, they astonished me with their time consumption. (Think of a little PacMan gobbling, gobbling, gobbling.) Worse, I’m not sure they made much difference to sales or visibility in the end. This blog will continue, my websites will continue to be updated, and I’ll pop in to Facebook with news. I’ll still have guests visit my blog and swap with them, but the blog tours are over. Just typing that makes me feel serene.

• Cull commitments and reconsider relationships.
This is more of the same, in a way, and is one of my annual rituals. It’s inevitable over time that we get drawn into more than we can handle. We also can get into relationships that don’t give as much to us as they take. Sometimes balances can be re-adjusted; sometimes the relationship is simply unhealthy.

One example of this for me is writing groups. I belong to a lot of listserves and writers’ groups. Some of these are really useful and energizing, while others are draining. Most cost an annual membership fee so there’s a drain on the chequing account, too, and many have an expectation that each member will volunteer or contribute time to the good of the organization. This is all good, but there is a question of balance to be maintained. Which ones sustain me? Which ones drain me? As membership dues come up, I’ll make some choices and cull the herd.

• Play more.
Writing time can also be compromised by a lack of downtime and I’ve felt this keenly in the past year. It’s Julia Cameron’s metaphor that artist dates “fill the well” of ideas for writers and that play is key to creativity. My well is getting a bit low. So, I’ve given myself some new marching orders about spending time online, and I’m determined to dig into my TBR pile to do some reading for pleasure. As always, I’ll be knitting, but I’m going to try (as I do every year) to finish more projects than I start. Playing with string is one of the ways I fill my well, though, which is why I cut myself slack in this department. I’m also going to make an effort to get out of my office and do other non-work-related things. One of the most exciting things we accomplished this year was finally getting the dining room painted. It looks so good and was such a satisfying project that I’m eyeballing the house, choosing the next victim/room. I love painting walls and trim – I think it’s the application of colour and the way the light in the room changes that excites me – so I will do more of that, too.

• Practice better self-care.
This is an ongoing resolution, because there’s always room for improvement in terms of nutrition and exercise. I just remind myself every year to keep at it. 🙂

So, that’s my big plan for 2012. I’m quite excited about all the writing projects I have lined up on my work chart for the year (because that’s another thing I update each December) and really looking forward to the year ahead.

How about you? Do you have any big plans for 2012?

Happy 2011 – and the Ta DA! List

Happy 2011, everyone, and welcome back to Alive & Knitting. It’s going to be a busy year – many dragons on their way to you – so we should have lots to talk about.

One of the things many of us tend to do at this time of year is create a list of resolutions for the months ahead. Maybe you’ve done yours already. I’ll talk about some of mine tomorrow, but first, here’s something to think about.

Last fall, I did another Artist’s Way program by Julia Cameron, called Walking in the World. One of the exercises in this book that I really liked was the Ta DA! list. You make a list of what you have done, or have accomplished, no matter how small. The idea is that many of us tend to focus on what is not done – the outstanding items on the To DO list – instead of what we’ve accomplished. If you’re like me, and there are always far too many things demanding your attention, the Ta DA! list might be a good exercise for you to try. Mine always ends up much longer than I expect it to be and that tends to energize me to do more. To Do lists and Ta DA! lists seem to complement each other very well.

I suspect that the Ta DA! list might be a particularly good thing to do before making resolutions. So, I’ve taken a moment to make a list of everything I accomplished in the past year. I think this strategy will make me feel more positive than making resolutions usually does – as if I’m building on strengths instead of correcting weaknesses.

Here’s a sample.

My knitting Ta DA! list for 2010 looks like this:
• knit 10 shawls
• gave 4 shawls away
• knit 1 pullover
• knit 2 purses
• knit 2 hats
• knit 7 pairs of socks
• knit 1 cardigan
• knit 5 pairs of mittens or fingerless gloves
• knit 4 tea cozies
• knit and felt 1 messenger bag
• knit 1 starfish, 1 star and 1 beet (but no partridges in pear trees!)
• published four patterns on Ravelry

When I look at that, I can have an idea of how much I can expect to accomplish knitting-wise in the year ahead. Maybe I want to publish more patterns. Maybe I want to knit more sweaters. Maybe I want to manage my stash (ahem), by having a clearer idea of what I actually use. This list, in fact, makes it clear that I shouldn’t buy any yarn for about five years! I may have knit 7 pairs of socks over the year, but I have stash for at least 35 pair – not counting the stripey ones I could make with leftovers bits. So, I’m good on stash until at least 2015. I could go on, but you get the idea.

I’ve done the same thing for my writing. I wrote three books and a novella last year, signed three new contracts (for 2 new Dragonfire books and 3 YA books and one digital novella), went to RWA National, taught at NJRWA etc. etc. Looking at what I have done can help me have a better idea of the possibilities.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Tomorrow we’ll talk a bit about resolutions…

Action Plans for the Year

You knew it had to happen sooner or later – I’d come up with another analogy for writing, based on knitting. Today’s the day. And you know how much I love action plans – as a bonus, this analogy gives one.

Here we go.

In trying to make sense of my stash – and develop a plan to stash-down – I noticed one interesting thing. Besides the fact that I can’t resist a sale, when I see a yarn that I love on sale, I buy enough of it for a sweater. This is all good, except that I don’t tend to knit sweaters for myself anymore. I used to. Those sweater-quantity lots are the main reason my stash has exploded. What changed?

I went through my basket of U.F.O.’s to try to find the reason. It’s simple. Most of the sweaters I’ve made recently didn’t fit when they were finished, so they went into the basket to be frogged and reknit. When I knit sweaters in the 80’s and 90’s, they fit, because they were of the large boxy one-size-fits-all variety. (They would have fit anyone, from Twiggy to the elephant at the zoo. That was the point.) That’s what changed. In some cases, I know how to make the sweater fit, but find it depressing to rip the whole thing out and knit it again. In other cases, I have no idea how to fix it, so the sweater waits in “time out” for me to have an idea. In both instances, I wish I’d known how to make the sweater fit the first time I knit it.

A whole bunch of action items fall out of this scenario:

• I need to stop buying sweater quantities of yarn
• I need start knitting sweaters for myself again
…which means
• I need finish sweaters that have been started, instead of repeating the “fit” problem over and over again
…which means
• I need to learn more about fitting and assessing patterns up front, so I can knit it right the first time.

So, let’s use this as an analogy for writing. As writers, we often have great ideas and big plans. Getting the book onto the page in the same glory as our original vision can be a challenge. This can mean that we:

• start projects without being sure of our destination – trying to write a book in a genre or sub-genre which you don’t read is a whole lot like buying my stash in quantities for sweaters when I don’t knit sweaters.

• don’t finish projects – abandoning that book manuscript partway through because it isn’t working out the way you envisioned is a lot like my tossing a sweater-in-process aside because I’ve realized it isn’t going to fit.

• abandon projects, then start new ones which soon develop the same issues – if you don’t figure out what’s not working, and learn how to fix it, then you will end up (like me) with a whole lot of projects started with enthusiasm but each stalled for pretty much the same reason.

“It doesn’t fit” isn’t that different from “it’s not a good read”, is it?

But writers get paid for what they finish and deliver, and new authors sell their work because it is done (and it’s a good read). So, if you want to be published, or you want to have a writing career, you need to finish book manuscripts, and you need to figure out how to fix the ones you can’t finish. You need to make a learning plan.

So, take a hard look at the projects you’ve started, and particularly the ones you’ve abandoned. What do they have in common?

• Are they in subgenres or genres in which you read? If not, read some work in that niche, or write a book in a niche which is familiar to you.

• Do your stalled projects halt in the same place, or for the same reason? If so, take a hard look at each and try to find commonalities. If you are challenged by internal conflict, for example, then you can likely find a course on it, either through your writing group or online. Take the course!

• Finish what you’ve started. It’s always tempting to abandon a project for a fresh new idea, but you need to finish work. Sometimes the projects that give you the most grief creatively are the ones that come out the best.

Have a look at your unfinished writing projects and make a plan for the year, not just for writing but for learning.

As for me, I did figure out the fit thing. It’s something I’ve corrected for years in my sewing, but never had the idea to do for knitting sweaters (duh). I’m not shaped like the model girls, so need to use a different size at the top than at the bottom. It’s that simple – cast on one size and work to the other. Presto. Sweaters should fit. So, I’ve learned from my mistakes and am planning to add some wonderful sweaters to my wardrobe this year.

Happy 2010!

Welcome to the new year. I hope your holidays were safe and happy, restful and restorative. I’m ready to go with another year of knitting and blogging.

This year’s resolution involves stash. (You probably guessed it might.) My goal is to stash down, and to not acquire more stash. I’m terrible about this, as we all know, always tempted by some yummy bit of yarn in a delicious colour, but I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t even know what I have. That means there’s too much.

My reward – if I make it – will be the chance to shop at the Knitters’ Fair in September. Until then, I’m working the stash. The Pam and I have already agreed that there will be no yarn crawl in Nashville in July, so I just have to hold tough for the rest of the year.

Ravelry, btw, is great for stashing down. You can search in two ways – either you find the yarn you want to use and check out all the projects knit by Ravellers in that yarn, or you find the project you want to knit and check out all the yarn substitutions made by other Ravellers. I did that for my holiday gift knitting and am proud to say that I bought nothing to make my gifties. They all came from stash – thanks to Rav and the occasional “hey! I’ve got some of that!” Many balls of yummy goodness found their destinies as mitts and berets and cowls this year as a result.

The cedar chest actually closes now. That’s progress.

What about you? Any resolutions this year?