Posts Tagged 'Books'

The Quiet Mind

There’s no avoiding the truth: some days it’s darned hard to sit down and get started writing, even though I love what I do and (usually) love the story I’m working on. It’s hard to jump into a fantasy world with all the real-life worries vying for attention in my mind. Did I pay the electric bill? What time is that dentist appointment? Will my editor call today with news about that new contract I’ve been waiting on? The dogs are fighting. The kids are fighting. Hubby is pouting because I spend more time with my manuscript than with him.

Sometimes I think what we writers call procrastination, or even <gasp> WRITER’S BLOCK is really just an inability to hear our stories above all the other clattering and chattering going on in our minds.

Over the years I’ve tried multiple techniques to achieve the quiet mind and hear my story, all with varying degrees of success. As my tip today, I offer a few of these to you.

1) Trained Yoga or Meditation. Take some classes at the gym. Learn to do it. It helps.

2) Poor Writer’s Meditation. Buy a guided meditation recording and practice it. Usually this involves sitting still, focusing on breathing, then visualizing a scene or series of scenes as the guide talks you through it. Focusing on that one scene washes all the other junk out of your brain.

3) Even Poorer Writer’s Meditation. Record your own guided meditation. Talk yourself through sitting still, breathing evenly and deeply. Then take yourself on a trip through some calming places and into your story world. I actually did this during a rough patch a couple of years ago. My first scene afer the breathing part was on a beach. I felt the hot sand between my toes, the sun in my eyes and then on my shoulders. I turned off the beach into a tropical jungle where it was cooler and darker. I walked down a path to an ancient stone ruin with high walls. Inside those walls was my story world. As I walked on the beach and into the jungle, I consciously left outside concerns behind. Inside the ruins, I watched my story play out for a few moments (the part I’d already written). By the time I finished the meditation, I was firmly grounded in my story world, other cares were banished behind the wall, and I was ready to write.

4) Breathing exercises. At a minimum, learn to do this, and practice before every writing session. Just Google it. You’ll find pleny of instructions online.

5) Stretching exercises. Feel oh-so-good and help clear the brain. If you take a break during your writing day and feel your mind wandering before you sit down to start again, do some stretches. It gets the blood flowing. Again, many instructions online.

6) Scents. Scientists say our sense of smell has great ability to impact our brain. Light a scented candle before each writing session. Pretty soon you’ll have trained your brain that when you smell that odor, it’s time to write.

Hope that helps!

100-day challengers, how are you doing??????????????????????????????

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Publishing Industry Turning Itself Inside-out

Borders announced this week it would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. A statement from management said they did not have enough capital to continue as a viable competitor in the industry.

This doesn’t mean all the Borders stores will be closing their doors, as far as I know. But it certainly doesn’t bode well for brick-and-mortar bookstores, and that is such a shame. What if they were to fail in the restructuring attempt? Barnes and Noble would remain as the last man standing, a virtual monopoly, and how long would they last against the online sales markets?

I guess the good news is that books aren’t going the way of the dinosaurs (yet) just bookstores.

I love bookstores. I could easily lose a whole Saturday or Sunday afternoon perusing the shelves, skimming through opening chapters and backcover copy to decide which were worth purchasing and which went back on the shelf for someone else. Online outlets like Amazon.com just aren’t the same. Sure, they provide easy home access and huge selection, but I can’t run my fingers over the spine. I can’t turn to a random page and read to see if the exciting opening holds up for the rest of the story.

I can’t smell the paper and ink.

Then there’s the e-book revolution. We knew years ago it would come, and it sure has. More titles are available. Sales are skyrocketing. Last week the New York Times even started publishing an e-book bestseller list.

Authors can publish without spending tens of thousands of their dollars on a vanity press or going through the traditional publishing house system, which has been killing whole forests to make enough paper to print the tons of rejection letters they send each year. Literary agents are unnecessary middlemen when a writer can upload her book and sell it herself a major outlet like Amazon.com, right?

Maybe, maybe not. There are still plenty of kinks to work out in the business model.

But it does seem as if the whole publishing industry is turning inside-out.

What remains to be seen is, when it’s done, will the new being be a beauty, or a beast?

Taking care of yourself — mind, body and spirit

In my last post, I expained my theory on the positivity quotient and the connection between mind, body and spirit. What we think about (mind), affects our overall outlook on life (spirit). An unhealthy outlook on life can have devastating physical consequences (body).

But this is not just a one-way process. The flow also happens in reverse for some people. Obesity, disease and illness (body) can affect our outlook on life (spirit). It’s hard to be happy when you’re hurting, or you body tells you that you just can’t do the things you used to do. An unhealthy outlook on life makes it hard to think positively (mind) –lowering the positivity quotient.

In fact that backwards and forwards flow can become a self-sustaining cycle of despair that seems impossible to break. Your negative thinking impacts your health; your bad health makes you think even more negatively. That increased negativity makes your health worse, which makes you think even more negatively, and so on and so on, ad nauseum.

Maybe you loyal blog readers (all two of you, and Dad, you don’t count) are starting to see that Vickie Taylor’s 100-day challenge of 2011 is about more than just writing. It’s about having the life you want, the life you deserve, and living it to the fullest. That means you have to take care of your mind, your body and your spirit.

We’ve talked about taking care of the mind some–more to come in the weeks ahead. Today we start on taking care of the body, specifically, what you eat. I  know I’m not going to convince most of you to go vegetarian or vegan. I do hope that at least a few of you will take the initiative to educate yourselves about what you’re putting in your bodies. 

Much ado is made about the health care crisis in America. Is it any wonder we’re a fat, sickly lot when McDonald’s has become a staple on the family dinner table (if families even still have dinner tables)? When our school lunches count the ketchup that kids drown their French fries in as a vegetable? And that doesn’t even touch on the issues of genetically modified crops, pesticides in produce, artificial sweeteners, factory farming practices, etc.

I’ll leave you with a couple of resources I found enlightening and which started me on my journey to eating healthier (and yes, I still experience potato chip and diet coke cravings–and still give into them on occasion):

  • Food, Inc. — DVD — where our food really comes from
  • Skinny Bitch — book — no, it’s not a diet book, though it sounds like one. Just good information on why we shouldn’t be eating a lot of what we’re eating

Until next time — keep writing!

Shooting Ducks – How to make time to write every day

Let me explain right off that I would never shoot a real duck, except with a camera. They are beautiful creatures.

When I talk about shooting ducks, I’m talking about wooden or paper cutouts. You know, the kind they have at carnivals. The duckies float by on a little stream and you have to pick them off with a crappy pop gun in order to win the giant stuffed monkey.

Think of your book as the giant stuffed monkey you wanted so badly as a child. Think of all the things that stop you from writing it as those little duckies float. Pick them off without mercy.

By the way, this thinking applies to any goal you’re trying to meet in life and having a hard time finding time to complete.

Label the duck...then shoot it!

Here’s what you do: Print off this picture of a duck. Make lots of copies. Decorate your ducks if you like. Put bows on some, mustaches on others, color them with your five-year-old’s crayons. Then write on each duck one thing that keeps you from having time to write. Tape them up on your refrigerator and take them down one at a time as you conquer them. After a few weeks, you should have a bunch of dead ducks in your junk drawer.

Here are a few examples:

Cooking a nice dinner for my family. Hey, if you have family dinners and want to serve your loved ones home-cooked meals, I admire that. Don’t give it up. Just plan better. Find a cookbook called  Make-ahead Dinners, or something like it. While you’re cooking Sunday dinner, also make three casseroles that can be frozen, then just pop them in the oven on any given weeknight. Ta-da! You just gained back 45 minutes three days a week. Dead duck.

Giving the kids a bath. Cleaning the kids occasionally is kind of essential if you don’t want Child Protective Services to show up at your door. By the time they’re done, you’re exhausted and want nothing but a glass of wine and a soft couch. But, assuming they’re beyond the age where they tend to wear as much of their dinner as they eat, can they be bathed earlier in the evening, so you can get to the writing while you still have a little bit of energy? Can you make a deal with your spouse that you’ll take all weekday morning kid duty if he’ll bathe them two nights per week (the two nights you still had to cook dinner because you didn’t have casseroles to pop in the oven)? Dead duck.

Working out. It’s hard to find fault with anyone who actually manages to stay fit these days. But most smartphones have an app that lets you record voice notes. Take your phone and dictate a few paragraphs while you rock that treadmill. Dead duck.

Day job. Ok, this one is tough. You probably can’t just ditch the day job. Try to be more specific. Working through lunch every day at the day job. Start going out. Drive your car to a park and sit in your car. Eat peanut butter and jelly and write in a notebook for 20-30 minutes. Dead duck. Back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back meetings and conference calls all day. If you have a salaried job where you regularly work more than 40 hours (so you won’t get fired for doing this), try scheduling a few 30 minute breaks during the week. Put them on your calendar so no one can book over them. Call it “2011 goal planning” or something. Close your door and write. Dead duck. Long commute to day job. Try that dictation thing again. Use a voice-activated recorder (hands free)–they’re cheap. Dead duck.

Everyone has time to write. Maybe not time to write a lot, but at least a few minutes to get some words on paper. The truth is we choose not to write. Maybe because we’re afraid, maybe because we think it’s really just a waste of time, that we’ll never finish a book, much less get it published. Look in the mirror. The face you see is the only real reason you’re not writing. Not jobs, not kids, not spouses.

Look at your day. Find the ducks–pockets of time that could be spent writing–and shoot them dead.

100-day challenge of 2011: Another reason to write every day

Still shaking your head over my requirement that you write every day, even if it’s only one sentence? What good is one sentence when I need 100,00 words, you ask? Why spend all that time to boot up the computer, find the file, remember what’s happening in the story, figure out what happens next…just to create one sentence?

I already named a few reasons:

  • To establish writing as a habit
  • To keep the story in the forefront of our minds, where our subconsciouses can access it
  • To desensitive ourselves to the fear of getting started

My goal today is to introduce a fourth reason: Because success is addictive.

When you accomplish something you set out to do–like writing every day–you feel good. Over time, our brains create a positive association between writing and feeling good. Each day we’re a little more anxious to write that sentence, or paragraph or page, because we know we will feel good afterward. The more of these little successes you have, the more quickly and the stronger that positive association will be in your brain.

Success breeds success.

Pleasure is a drug–really, it’s a chemical reaction in your brain. Some people induce the feeling of pleasure artificially through drugs, nicotine or alcohol. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could create addictions to the things that are good for us, make us successful and happy instead of to the things that sabotage our health and our dreams?

So write, or read, or hug your kids every day–whatever challenge you’ve set for yourselves.

And hey, check in with me, would’ya? Because tomorrow I’ve got a blog post planned for those of you who might have experienced a little hiccup over the last five days. We’re up to 15 challengers now, so I suspect there’s at least a couple of you out there who are struggling. I had a close call the other day. I got too caught up in the reading part of my challenge and neglected to write until about 11 p.m. when I had to force myself to open the file and write a few paragraphs. But I did it. And they were good paragraphs. And I felt *pleasure* at my accomplishment.

Positive association.

Keep going!

100-day Challenge – Why writing every day is so danged important

Welcome challengers: Kim, Sandy, Tammy, Leah, Angi, Risa, Kate, Blake, Pam, Ashley and Suzanne! We are an even dozen. That’s 12 people aimed at success. Now we need a name. How about the “Dedicated Dozen?” Anyone got anything better?

How did you do today, day two? I got off to a rough start with a 4 a.m. search and rescue call-out. Didn’t get home until almost noon and then I really needed a nap. Technically I’ve met my goal–finished the chapter I was reading in QUICKSAND and wrote about a page, but I plan to write for another hour or so and then go to bed and read until I can’t keep my eyes open (which will probably be about 2 minutes, lol).

The challenge will be judged on the honor system. You aren’t required to show up here daily and post successes (there won’t be anything but successes, will there? Don’t make me come knock on your door…) but I do hope you’ll stop by periodically. If you trip up, don’t worry about it. Show up, let us know and I’ll restart your counter. It ain’t over till it’s over, baby, and you’ve got all year if you need it.

So why is it so danged important to write, or do whatever your challenge activity is, every single day? Everyone deserves a day off, right?

Right. But not yet.

Let’s get that habit firmly established first. That should take…oh…about 100 days.   🙂

In the original challenge post I touched on two reasons to perform your activity every day. First, because it builds the habit, and we are all creatures of habit. Second, because it keeps that activity in the forefront of our minds. I believe our subconscious mind is working all the time. The question is, what is it working on?

In order to write, even only a single sentence, you have to think about your story. You have to remember where you were, what your characters were doing, what happens next. Thinking about your story moves it to the brain’s equivalent of the cache on your computer. If you’re not a techie, don’t worry about the analogy. Just save to say that it puts the story in the part of your brain that makes it easiest to access. So when your subconscious goes looking for something to work on…there it is. Your subconsious will work on your story long after you close the file. Then when you sit down to write more than a sentence, your mind will already have worked out the next part of the story. You just have to type it.

If you don’t think about your story for a day, three days, three weeks, then your brain shuffles it aside to a remote storage area where your subconscious is less likely to find it and work on it. Don’t let your dreams be shuffled aside!

This line of thought works for other challenge activities as well. For example, Kate is working on acknowledging her kids’ good behavior. Complimenting the kid once caches the activity. Then her subconscious will be on the lookout for more opportunities and remember to acknowledge them.

Tammy is thinking about starting a new business. By doing just one thing every day to move toward that goal, like browsing websites for similar business to get ideas, starting her business plan, or doddling ideas for business cards, she can keep her mind problem-solving all the challenges ahead.

There are two more reasons we should work on our challenge activity every day. I’ll touch on one today and one tomorrow or the day after.

Today’s reason: Because getting started is the scariest part. We all have fears–fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, etc. That fear that niggles at us when we’re occupied with other things  suddenly can become a roaring monster with claws and teeth and green slime dripping from its nose when we actually get ready to try our activity. For a writer, opening the manuscript file can be the toughest part of the day. For a reader, maybe we think our spouses or family won’t be happy that we’re taking 15 minutes to spend quietly with a book when there is so much else to do: clean the house, do the laundry, pay the bills. Or maybe we think people will think it’s silly that we love romance novels or weird science fiction. Maybe we fear that a teenager will shrug off our attempts at affection (the dreaded, “Moooooooo-ooooom!”).

I train search and rescue dogs. Sometimes those dogs have to scary things, like climb and 8-foot ladder. Sound impossible to train a dog to climb a scary ladder? It’s really not that hard, because we use a process of desensitizing them to the ladder. We start with a ladder horizontal and sitting on bricks so that it’s just about 1 foot off the ground. We put a plank across it so they are really just walking across a board at first. As they get used to that, we start moving the plank off so that they have to walk across a few of the rungs, being careful where they place their feet so they don’t slip through. As they have successes at that, We tilt one end of the ladder up a few feet so they have to climb. We gradually increase the angle until finally, they are climbing an 8-foot aluminum (slippery for dog paws!) ladder at a steep angle up to a 6-foot high platform. All along the dogs get plenty of praise, plenty of reward.

Our challenge activities are not that different. We just have to start easy and desensitize ourselves to the fear. That’s why it’s fine to write just one sentence. If we start out saying we’re going to sit down and write for 10 straight hours and we need to crank out 30 pages…that’s just too scary. We’re like the puppies on the ground, looking up at that ladder that must look like a skyscraper to them. Start easy. Reward yourself. Build on success.

Soon you’ll be opening up those manuscript files and diving into your stories like this (just the first 20 seconds or so):

Sorry, I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to show off my boy Boogie. I know, this isn’t an 8-foot ladder and he’s not climbing to a height of six feet, but it’s the only ladder video I had, and he was just learning. He’d only been climbing ladders for a few days!

Hopefully you’ve all made it to day two. Tomorrow things will probably get tougher for some of you as the holiday ends and a work week begins. Don’t let it throw you.

Open up those files and write on, challengers!

The 100 day challenge of 2011

Just this week I said I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, and that’s still true. However this year I’ve decided to challenge myself a little bit, and if I’m challenging myself, what the hell…I might as well challenge you, too. So starting tomorrow, I’m officially beginning the 100-day challenge of 2011 for myself and anyone else who wants to play.

Yes, there will be fabulous prizes. Which I haven’t picked out yet, so don’t even ask.

The 100-day challenge is not your typical New Year’s resolution. The 100-day challenge is not about making yourself (myself!) do things we don’t like–such as exercising. It’s about allowing ourselves to do the things we love. We’re all limited to some degree by lack of time or money. Some may suffer lack of support from friends or family. We’re pressured by the things we think we must do, or should be doing, and everything else gets pushed to a back burner.

The 100-day challenge is about picking one of those back-burner items and making it a priority. Every. Day. For 100 days.

My challenge item is writing. I love to write. But it is so easily pushed off for other things. I think, “I’ll just do this other thing today, and write twice as much tomorrow (which never happens) to make it up.” No more! I hearby vow to write every day for 100 days, no matter what. There may be (probably will be) days when I only write a single sentence, but that’s okay. Because the 100-day challenge is also about building the habit. And no, writing a check or a grocery list doesn’t count. It’s about opening the mental file every day, keeping the story active in my mind.

I’ve read that if you do something everyday for 21 days, it becomes a habit. 100 days should make it a lifelong practice then, shouldn’t it?

I’m also working on the fabulous prize I’ll give myself when I meet that goal on April 10, 2011.

Just for the hell of it, I’m going to throw in a second challenge activity for myself, which is to read every day for 100 days–again, even if it’s only one sentence.

I encourage all my writer friends to join me in this challenge. Please!?

For that matter, I encourage all my non-writer friends to join me as well. The only rule is to pick something you want to do, not something you don’t want to do. I’m hoping lots of you will pick reading. There are many fabulous authors out there to be discovered.

Some other ideas? How about finding something every day to complement your child or your spouse about? How about those of you with that puppy you’ve been meaning to train? I bet some of you like to bead, or paint. One stroke of the brush per day, that’s all it takes to win. I’m betting some days you’ll do a lot more…once you’ve developed the habit.

Please let me know if decide to join in. If you don’t want to post publicly in the comments here, shoot me an email: Vickie@VickieTaylor.com

If 100 days of anything seems overwhelming, don’t worry. There are no losers. If you miss a day, just restart the clock. There is no expiration date on the challenge, and we can all do this!

Happy New Year, everyone.


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western romance novel boxed set

7 men as tough as the West. 7 women ready to Cowboy Up

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Psychological Suspense short story with a bonus inspirational short story included

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Fantasy Romance Novella

What am I reading today?

GOOD OLE BOYS - Denise Barker - Just started, but I'm intrigued so far!

Last five books read:

TEXAS GOTHIC - Rosemary Clement-Moore - Awesome! Great fun and spooktastic at the same time!

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN - Ransom Riggs - Really creative idea. Enjoyed it very much!

BOOTSCOOTIN' BLAHNIKS - D.D. Scott - Very enjoyable, fun book!

THE GOOD DAUGHTER - Diana Layne - Awesome! Get it now!

GOT YOUR NUMBER - Stephanie Bond - Fun little mystery!

What’s on my TBR List?

GOOD OLE BOYS - Denise Barker

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