An Empty Inbox

I have this thing about emails. For years I’ve been horrible about answering emails, and when I say horrible, imagine having an email over a year old sitting in your inbox, still needing a response. Yes, it was very, very bad.

At the end of last year I decided that era of my life was over and I was going to answer emails in a timely manner. First I had to decide what “timely” meant, and I decided that under two weeks, preferably under one, would be my aim. My next job was to empty out my inbox, so I spent a lot of time in December doing just that. I made it a point to respond to emails even if they were eighteen months old, because after all, two wrongs don’t make a right and better late than never and all that other good advice. Besides, if it was me waiting for the email, I’d probably still remember that the person had never replied even if a good portion of my life had been lived since I wrote to them.

It was beautifully freeing to start out 2016 with a (nearly) empty inbox and the thrill of starting over (at least in mindset) at my fingertips. At that time though, I didn’t realize how much fun it would be to  keep up with replying to emails. Seriously, it’s better than a game. (Or maybe I should say a traditional game, because keeping my inbox empty is a game to me.)

The thing that amuses me the most is that I have nearly as much fun emptying out my inbox as I do receiving emails. It’s especially enjoyable to me when I reply to emails either on my phone or my computer and then I get on the other device and watch as my inbox seemingly magically clears of emails.

I have a rather non-efficent way of sorting my emails right now which consist of over 80 folders. Most of the emails go in a couple of the top folders which I conveniently put “2016” in the title so they’re easy to get to. Some day I need to clear up some of the excess folders, but until then I’ll be quite happy to go along with the system I have.

So far this year I’ve mostly kept to my plan. There might have been a very few times that I’ve gone more then two weeks without replying to an email, but I can’t recall any at the moment. Although I must say, sometimes I kinda cheat at my own game and reply with an I’m so sorry that I haven’t replied yet, a full reply will be coming soon to longer emails. Still though, I’m replying, so that counts.

A lot of Saturday nights I do a somewhat of a mad dash through my emails, trying to get as many of them responded to as possible before the week is over. It’s one of the most satisfying feelings to end the week with the screenshot on my phone of a nearly empty inbox. (And yes, I do screenshot it and then smile happily at the picture.) It’s also a lot of fun to wake up Monday morning with a dozen or so emails waiting to be read, in fact, that’s probably one of my favorite parts of Monday morning.

This morning I had fun going through and answering the emails I’ve had come in during the last couple of days from my Lymeaids (beta readers for When Life Hands You Lymes). It’s encouraging and fun to read their feedback and see WLHYL from someone else’s perspective.

Today is also the day when I finally totally and completely emptied out my inbox. I’ve generally had at least one email in it at all times and was fine with that (I actually like how it looks with just one email). Today though, today was different. I’ve replied to and sorted all the writing emails, all the business emails, all the personal emails, and all the junk emails. So yay!

Deep happy sigh. Now I can simply sit back and wait for my inbox to fill up again. (Which is code for: I need to hurry and get to work at my non-writing before I’m late.)

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What about y’all? Do you enjoy having an empty and sorted inbox?

Author Disillusionment & Delight

It was nearly midnight several days ago and the world was dark around me. My thoughts had started out excited: How long would it be until I could reasonably hope to have a completed version of When Life Hands You Lymes in my hands? What could I do to promote the book? Would the book give the hope I had always dreamed of? 
Before long though, my happy expectations faded as I waded deep in the overwhelming swamp of It’s not good enough. Suddenly a deluge of issues flooded into my brain and next thing I knew I was wondering how in the world WLHYL was ever going to work out. The ending scene was good, but what about those last few chapters? Did they wrap everything up? Or, oh my goodness, wait a second: I never fully closed that issue. Or fleshed out that sub-plot fully enough. Or explained in a reasonable way why she had overcome that problem. 
I prayed. I worried. I tossed and turned in bed. Finally I pulled my phone over and opened a copy of my book. I skipped toward the end and settled down to read. As the words came into focus and I inundated myself in the story again, I felt hope rising up in me. Some of the sentences that I’d written recently and hadn’t even remembered described the feeling I was going for so perfectly that I felt like gasping. In a way, this book had become part of me, and the emotions trickled onto the page without me being fully conscious of what I wrote. 

The hope that I’d fall asleep and escape my nightmare didn’t happen, so at last I propelled my weary body off the mattress and half tripped over to the windows where I opened the curtains. {From WLHYL}

“My dreams have crashed down around me and my world stopped spinning for a time.” I leaned forward “Yet I’ve found that the world is full of music, whether I can play it or not.” At that moment though my words felt fake. I couldn’t hear life’s music, only an awful, crushing silence. {From WLHYL}

Tiny waves of peace lapped at my toes. Yes, the book still had issues. Yes, it was scary thinking of other people going through it and finding mistakes. Yes, I had a lot of work to look forward to with it… Yet in a way this is just the beginning. Although I’d been crafting WLHYL for almost 30 months, it’s still just a baby. And babies need to grow.
I keep having to remind myself that life is full of corrections, and that’s a good thing. Just because WLHYL has a river of issues that need cleared up, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t also have an ocean of possibilities waiting to be discovered. 
Instead of being cut adrift by the tide of uncertainty and possible disillusionment, I’m choosing to delight in the possibilities and learn and grow and take each step at a time and dance to the tune of some unknown melody. In reality, God has it all under control, and even though I still have quite the road ahead of me, with Him all things are possible. So I’m gonna throughly enjoy this journey and I’m grateful for y’all who are along for the ride with me. 

Soon their music filled the room with a thousand different memories that swirled around me in a kaleidoscope of colors and hues that danced in perfect harmony with each other. {From WLHYL}

Reading *Echoes* for the First Time

Late Saturday night I finally figured out how to email my books in a format I can open in iBooks on my phone. Who knows how in the world I never figured it out before, but I’m quite happy to know how to now. And when I say “quite happy” that means very extremely happy with a tad bit of thrilled-ness mixed in there.

I proceeded to immediately send and download When Life Hands You Lymes and Echoes. Seeing my WIPs (work in progress) actually looking like books was so deliciously beautiful and I’m still savoring the feeling. Look at them, sitting there in the library looking all professional and kinda-sorta like real published books.

Yesterday I began reading Echoes for the very first time ever. I wrote Echoes back during the first week of November for NaNoWriMo and didn’t allow myself to go back and re-read any of it during the writing process. After the book was finished I skimmed a little and found a few snippets for my blog, but other than that have not even opened the document since November 7th. 
That means I had an entire book sitting there that had thousands of little parts that I had totally forgotten about. Plus, when I write in a rapid flurry of high word-count days, then sometimes I’m not too sure about the quality… But at the same time my brain sometimes works best when I just set aside almost everything else and take a running leap and immerse myself in the story. (During NaNoWriMo I wrote 50,000 words in 5 days, including one 20,000 word day.) That meant I was very eager to read Echoes for the first time.   

In a very non-bragging way, I was quite pleasantly surprised yesterday when I started reading. Despite the many typos (some of which were so bad I’m not even sure what I was trying to say), an extreme amount of repeat words, several almost-funny plot holes, and various other problems, I really like the story. 
After spending a good portion of the last 760 days working on When Life Hands You Lymes, I was rather amazed at how different Echoes was. From the cadence and rhythm and placement of words in the dialogue, to the descriptions of the world the story takes place in, to the main character’s love languages, it was all unique and beautifully, wonderfully different.
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What about you? Have you ever re-read something you’ve written and been utterly delighted? I think one reason I like Echoes so much is because I’ve actually been writing down ideas for the story and marinating it in my mind for around five years now. That’s a fair amount of time, I would say…
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Yay! It’s time for us to choose the country Annie will go to this week in our Friday Series, Around the World in Fifty-Two Weeks. And the destination is… Tibet! (Yikes!)

Beta Readers

Last night I stayed up far later than I had planned to because I received comments/edits back from one of my beta readers at about the time I was thinking of heading to bed. The thought crossed my mind that I could wait to read them until morning, but I quickly dismissed that idea and dove into them. 
One thing I’ve discovered recently is that writing and reading are so subjective. I can say one thing in my book, but that’s probably not what the person reading it is going to understand it to mean. That’s one reason why beta readers are so important to me – because they can help me to figure out what scenes in my books came across clearly and what scenes are going to be misunderstood or taken the wrong way. 
I’ve found that the more beta readers that agree on a subject, the more I should take it into consideration. Take Emerson Airlines in When Life Hands You Lymes for instance: I’ve heard several times now that it would probably be best if I changed Emerson Airlines to another business and added a bit more realistic details to that sub-plot of the book. Since I’ve had some of the same thoughts myself, I decided that those suggestions have exceptional merit and so one of my next editing projects is to switch out Emerson Airlines and develop the new business more. 

I’ve also had some beta readers who have pointed out issues that I gasped at because I thought they were so clear, but apparently they weren’t. Or when a beta reader highlights a problem that I hadn’t even realized existed. Now that can be a weird light bulb moment. (How in the world did I miss that?!?)

Then comes the times when I disagree with a beta reader. It’s always hard to figure out what advice to follow and what advice to politely leave behind. After all, different people are going to have different ideals when it comes to books, that’s just life.

It’s times like that when I start talking out loud, answering the comments and waving my hands around wildly, acting like a crazy little author. I also sometimes respond with long emails because typing out my thoughts on the subject help me to process how I actually feel about it. If I don’t like an idea, I generally try to think about it for a few days (or at least a few hours) before deciding what road I’m going to take.

One thing I’ve discovered though, is that beta readers are a writer’s friend. They spend large amounts of time reading through the WIP (work in progress), making comments, and trying to give the author a better understanding of their work. I am so very appreciative of everyone who has beta read for me.

I’ve found that being a beta reader can be a rather daunting task, but it can also be very rewarding. I’ve learned a lot through beta reading and even more from people who beta read for me.

And… With that all in mind: Does anyone want a chance to beta read When Life Hands You Lymes? It will probably be a few weeks before I have the first several chapters ready to send out again, but I’d be delighted for some more feedback. (Getting a lot of feedback is really important to me.) I’ll just be looking for your general overview/impressions, although if you want to add more thoughts, I’d be happy to receive that as well.

If you are interested, please email me at and let me know. I can’t guarantee you a place in the beta reading group, but I am in need of some more opinions. When you email me, I’ll reply with more details.

Thanks, everyone!

When "National Novel Writing Month" Turns Into "Eat All the White Chocolate I Want Month"

I have so much super amazing support when it comes to my writing that it’s pretty crazy. Take for instance the announcement that I made at the beginning of this month that I was calling November not only “National Novel Writing Month” but also “Eat All the White Chocolate I Want Month.” 
Writers are always talking about how they eat chocolate to celebrate or when one of their characters are threatening to die or when a plot hole is so large it has the capability of swallowing whole cities. Since I don’t generally go around eating candy I always felt a bit left out of these enthusiastic virtual (and real) chocolate eating parties. So, this month I decided to include myself in the festivities.  

I’m not sure if I’m sub-conciously begging people to give me handouts of white chocolate or if my face proclaims “White chocolate makes me happy” (perhaps is the fact that I talk about it all the time???), but people have been giving me white chocolate. Yes, that’s right. People, not just one person. No, this month I’ve had five people give me whole packs of white chocolate, four of them just this past weekend. Needless to say I was rather astonished and blown away. (Thank you, by the way!!! Y’all are amazing!)

See? I’m surrounded by generous and caring people and it makes my little heart so happy. It also makes my chocolate box filled to the brim and maybe overflowing, so we just had a party where I invited my sister and a couple of friends into my room and we snacked on the delicious goodness. It was wonderful.

To all of you who support my writing, whether it’s by reading my blog or buying my book or giving me white chocolate or asking how my writing is going or emailing me encouraging words/advice, Thank you! Being a writer isn’t always the most easy road to travel, but I know I have tons of support and that makes the journey so much more amazing and totally worth-while. 
To all you writers who read my blog: Keep going! Writing can be difficult but if it’s really your dream and passion than it is worth it. There are times when I feel like curling up in a ball and hoping that I’m a caterpillar so I can emerge from my cocoon as a butterfly because this is hard work and sometimes hard work seems way harder than it should be. It’s a journey we’re on though, not just a destination we are striving for. One day you’ll be able to look back and be proud of the way you kept going, even when the going got tough. 

And to all of you who wonder how much chocolate I’ve devoured during the first sixteen days of my “Eat All the White Chocolate I Want Month” here’s a picture. ^ That might look like a lot, but it averages out to one and a half pieces a day, so I’m pretty sure I’m doing fine.

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What about you? Do you like white chocolate? 

The Thoughts of an Author

Yesterday I sat down to blog and started a post about four times before deciding not to force it and moved on to editing my WIP. My plan was to come back later on that day and blog, but then life got in the way and I realized at about 9:00 last night that I hadn’t ended up blogging. 
This morning I’ve been staring at this blank page wondering what to write about for about five minutes. It’s not that I don’t have a blog post running around inside my head; instead it’s that I’ve been editing so much recently that all my blog post ideas revolve around editing and writing thoughts and I’m afraid Noveltea is becoming a tediously redundant echo of my thoughts. 
Editing does weird things to my brain. As I was writing the above sentence I suddenly thought I wonder what capitulating means and if it would fit into this post somewhere. So I looked it up. I also thought about how I would describe the picture of my cozy writing area. And then I second-guessed the spelling of “staring” and wondered if I possibly wrote “starring” instead, so I looked that up, too. 
Next I reminded myself that I needed to go through and add scene breaks to the story, send the next several chapters to my beta reader, check out how all the spacing looked when I changed from double spacing on my WIP to single spacing… I should finish reading the writing book I’m two-thirds of the way through, possibly start another writing book, and maybe skim-read a couple of blog posts on writers blogs about the final stages of editing.
I should probably look at my WLHYL Pinterest boards again and then add a few more details about the characters and setting because even though I added 70 or so of them yesterday, details/descriptions make the story pop and come alive. Details/descriptions take a skeleton and give it distinct features. 
I ponder over my decision to change a few key words that help progress Maddie’s character arch better. Like where she’s having a hard time and her mom tells her to be thankful. Originally she “wilted” in her seat at the thought of being thankful when she didn’t feel well, but after looking at the over all character arch instead I made her “straighten” in her seat. It was a one-word swap but changed the tone of the whole scene. It’s almost freaky at how huge of a difference one word can make. 
So yes, my brain is fairly consumed with editing at this moment and so that’s what spills onto my blog, and I think that’s ok. Spending this month editing has been a rewarding, exciting, tiresome, and all around good experience for me. I am so looking forward to being done, though. 

What I’m Doing Matters

Yesterday I got zero editing done (or blogging for that matter) even though I lugged my computer around me with me all day long as we traversed this part of the state with some friends. I have a deadline though, and that deadline is quickly approaching and this draft hasn’t quite seen the light at the end of the tunnel yet. 
I’m up in my library with a beautiful view and more editing to do than I can accomplish today. It’s exciting though, because we are getting closer and closer to the point when this book is ready to go off and explore the world on it’s own. Crazy, right? 
Sometimes I need to just stop my work and take a minute to remember what it actually means to be creating a book. This book may literally travel the world as it’s readers take it on vacations, family trips or to college. One day my book could be stashed away in a box of treasures. It could be held tightly as an anxious grandchild sits in the hospital waiting room. Copies will get food spilled on them, coffee dripped, left out in the rain, perhaps slept on… Copies will be read by high school students, middle grade students, homeschooled kids, public schooled kids, private schooled kids. 
This book will cross barriers. It will talk to people who I’ll never meet. It will open eyes to a new world. Will explain, touch, heal and help. It will show people that they aren’t alone, that they’re not the only ones. It will inspire, entreat, encourage and frustrate. 

These are the things I need to remember as a sit on my window seat with a pile of blankets and begin yet another day of editing. I’m not just working on a book for something to do. I’m not just working on a book for my job. I’m working on this book because it’s a deep part of me that I can share with others and help make their lives a better place.

I am the creator of worlds, of stories, of tickles that will take the imagination to soaring heights. It’s not a task I take lightly and I’m determined to stick in there and continue editing and perfecting and moving this story to the next level. Because it isn’t just a story. It’s, in a way, my story. It could be your story. It could be your neighbors story. This is our story. One that many people can relate to. And it’s important.

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What about you? Do you have to sometimes remind yourself why what you’re doing is important? 

Writing Time Quirks

If you asked me if I had any writing quirks, the answer would be a resounding yes. In fact, there’s so many writing quirks that are displayed by yours truly that I decided to make a list so you can see a little bit of the behind-the-scenes when it comes to my writing (and editing and re-editing and re-re-editing). 

1. Music. I can listen to the same song over. and over. and over again. During other activities this would drive me nuts, but when I’m working on my writing the music helps me zone out and focus.

2. I randomly say/half-yell things like “Booyah!” and “Oh no she didn’t” and “Or not!” and “Oh come on people!” and “Oh! For real?” often. Very often. Plus I make weird sounds. Often. Very often. 
3. I do weird things with my hands. Like wiggling my fingers and tapping my finger-tips together and ‘air-typing’ and flicking my hand backward and having my hands talk to each other (although I don’t actually say anything). 
4. I act out scenes. Generally only the emotions and hand gestures though, because I don’t get up and walk around. My face probably looks like a seven-year-old child looking in the mirror for the first time as I twist it into dozens of different facial expressions. 
5. I rub my face and pull my hair and take my glasses on and off and generally act like I’m a toddler with their mother as I poke and examine my arms and hands. I think it’s a diversion technique that I employ because I don’t feel like I’m actually procrastinating, but I am getting a bit of a breather from the writing. 

6. I talk a lot. I mutter scenes. I tell the music to “just be quiet”, I encourage myself and I discuss (with myself) whatever my brain is coming up with at the moment.
(Edit: Added example: I published this post then when I pulled it up to look at it I realized the picture was off-center. I shook my head and said No, not acceptable in a grown-up-talking-to-a-baby voice without even thinking about it.)

7. Probably my biggest quirk though, is that I have to have something in my mouth when I’m writing. Before I consciously realized this I doubtless ate way too much while crafting a new book. Now that I’m aware of the fact that I just want something in my mouth, I’m not actually hungry, life is good. I often chew on my headphone cords (I know, I know… I don’t bite down though), pencils, pens, (even though I write on my computer) my finger, pieces of wood, little rubber toys, hard candy… You get the point. I also drink a lot when I’m writing. I keep a pitcher of water near my writing chair and fill up my cup over and over again. I also have a Keurig maker and consume mugs for of steaming drinks.

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What about you? What are some quirks you have? 

Editing Block

I don’t have writers block. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I did. If I wanted to sit down and write right now I’m pretty sure my brain would kick into gear and supply the needed elements to make a story seemingly magically appear on the computer in front of me. 
I don’t have plotters block. In fact, I have had new ideas (and some old ones) swimming around inside my head teasing me, trying to get me to focus on them and fill out numerous outlines and charts. The books I’ve been reading about the craft of writing keep popping into my thoughts, asking me to test them out and plot a new book. 
I don’t have brainstorming block. In fact, I could probably stop writing this post and fill out several pages of ideas I have for various stories without any trouble at all. There are so many elements to brainstorming that appeal to me at this moment. Foremost would be the random act of spewing words unfiltered and un-thought-through onto a page and having it actually accomplish something. 

What I might possibly have at this moment is editing block. In fact, every time I think about sitting down to work on the forth draft of my book my brain feels like it’s filling up with air and my eyes start to droop and all I want to do is go take a nap.

Sometimes I really like editing. My brain spins into a different mode and starts to see problems and inconstancies in my story that I haven’d noticed before. I have a delightful feeling of being able to make something more artistic than it was in it’s previous state. I know I’m pushing my story to the next level and getting it that much closer to being published.

There are other times when I really don’t feel like editing. Like now. I’m busy with the rest of life and yet I’m trying to work on a deadline with my editing so I have to fight stress that’s dancing around trying to back me into a corner.

I know editing will accomplish something, and yet that something feels rather ambiguous at the moment. I won’t be able to look and see 5,000 fresh new words on the page or a plot with a delicious twist. We’re in the forth draft, people. That means the changes are going to be more underlying and less noticeable. Plus, there’s all the little issues I’ve been pushing off taking care of and I can’t continue leaving them for the next draft. I need to decide what to do with them now

Despite how it may seem or what I feel like at the moment editing is worth it and so therefore I am going to edit. And this book is going to be so worth the time I’ve poured into it. Amen and amen.

When Life Hands You Lymes Update

Happy Friday, folks! Crazy that I don’t have any more segments from When Life Hands You Lymes, right? But, but, but, I do have a little update about how the book is going (and don’t forget to check out this post for the giveaway that ends today where you could win either a $15 Amazon gift card or get a character named after you!).
So, how is my precious little book (that really isn’t so little after all) doing?
Well, I’d have to say it’s Overwhelming. Ginormous. Full of flaws. Beautiful. A piece of my heart. Crying-worthy. Lovely. A dream come true. A huge mess. Funny… It’s a conglomeration of so many heart-felt writing sessions and tears and fears and laughter. It’s the byproduct of seven years spent battling Lyme disease. 
Pretty much that means that it’s half-way between terrifying and exhilarating. 
I’m ready to begin the forth draft and also ready to clean my office and cut the grass and do the laundry and get something to eat and take a walk and pretty much do anything that will help me procrastinate and not rip my book (aka “a piece of my heart”) to shreds again. 

I’ve been getting some fantastic feedback from my beta readers and I’m ready to dive in and push my book up to the next level. Only. Only. Only. I’m not really actually ready. Instead thinking about going through When Life Hands You Lymes again makes me feel exhausted.

See, this book is so engrained in my brain that it’s hard to see it from new eyes and I like it the way it is. I’m about as far from a perfectionist as a person can get and that doesn’t necessarily translate into “stunning work” when it comes to writing. Instead it’s more like “Eh. The story had potential but the plot holes and lack of character development and random scene jumps ruined it” which is not what I want a publisher to think when they see my book for the first time.

Which of course means I am going to happily jump into this next draft of the book and embrace the changes that need to take place. Cause you know what? When this draft is over I’m going to be holding a sparkly and beautiful story in my hands. And some day other people are going to be holding it too, Lord willing.

I’m excited about being an author. Excited about sharing this story with the world. Excited about growing as a person as my book grows as a story. (I’m easily excited, by the way.) This book has taken up a huge part of my life so far, but I think it’s going to be well-worth it.

And with that said, good-bye, y’all! I’m off to edit. (Or perhaps eat breakfast…)

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What about you? What is one word you would use to describe the last big project you’ve been/are working on?