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2016 Goals

  • write to my grandmother every six weeks or so
  • call my moms every month or so
  • cook/eat better
  • clean out and organize my writng/craft room
  • re-institute the cleaning plan
  • publish six books by September 2017
  • reach 120 to 125 pounds
  • walk the dog three times a week

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Red White and Blue FOR THE WIN


I love this time of year for many reasons. I like the warming weather. May is Mother's Day, June is my birthday, July is America's birthday.

And because of Memorial Day and Independence Day, the stores are filled with temptation in the form of all kinds of themed household goods. From kitchen ware to beach towels to fairy lights, yard signs, flags, bunting, and flowers. It's a patriot's dream.

Look at all the stuff!!!



One thing I couldn't resist...!


And this might just end up in my cart next week, because, well...you know!!


Stay tuned for more evidence of my red/white/blue fetish--um--I mean weakness. :0)


Monday, May 29, 2017

Celebrate, Honor, Remember...





Friday, May 26, 2017

The Pittsburgh Penguins are the Eastern Conference champs once again...


The Penguins celebrate their 2OT victory over the Ottawa Senators...


For the first time since 2009, an NHL team has returned to the Stanley Cup finals for a second year in a row. In fact, in 2009, both teams were repeat finalists. The Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins played each other both in 2008 and 2009. The Red Wings won the Cup in 2008, the Penguins in 2009.

Now that The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup finals for the second year in a row once again, they're trying for back-to-back wins. The last time that happened was in 1997 and 1998 by none other than...the Detroit Red Wings!

As a side note, for the first time in twenty-five years, the Red Wings did not even make into the playoffs this year. That's kinda sad.

My second favorite player, Justin Schultz, got a goal and an assist in his first game back after missing several games with a shoulder injury... Now I really need that shirt I ordered. :0)


The Stanley Cup Final starts Monday night. Can't wait...


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Decisions, Decisions...


A couple of weeks ago, I shared that I was rethinking the timing of publishing my books. It's been on my mind since then, and I'd pretty much come to the conclusion that it would be August or September before I sent my books out into the world.

But this weekend I spent some time talking to an author friend of mine. An author friend whom I consider very successful in terms of the income she's making, which is three times my monthly goal...!! I asked a few questions and got her talking and she was off to the races. She told me the secrets to her success, and while our genres are different, I think everything she said applies to mine.

She also got me to thinking about the timing and intervals of publishing each book...and I'm wondering if I shouldn't have all nine books written, if not completely ready for publication. (I've pretty much decided my first series is going to be nine books.) If I decide to do that, then I probably can't begin the publication process in September. She suggested October or November...but I still don't think I'd be able to get all my ducks in a row by then...

(My rubber duck collection...)

So now the notion of waiting until next June is now under serious consideration. That's a year to get those other four books plotted and written. I still don't really want to wait that long, but that wait might mean the difference of thousands of dollars. And I've waited this long, right?

So, in between writing and revising, the day job, my side job, and just generally living life, I've got to determine what the best path for me is.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Annual JAG weekend...


It was JAG weekend again--the one weekend each year when a group of women brought together by the love of a TV show (JAG 1995-2005) gather and enjoy a weekend away from home and family.

Two ladies came from out of state (Michigan and Tennessee), several from south Texas, and the rest of us in or around the DFW Metroplex.

Here's this year's group photo:

What a great weekend of food, fun, and conversation... Not as much drinking occurs these days as did in previous years as we're all getting just a little bit older. :0)

But a grand time was had by one and all. I love these ladies.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Mike Rowe, at last...


My sole reason for tagging along to Nashville was to see Mike Rowe--narrator of Deadliest Catch and host of Dirty Jobs and Somebody's Gotta Do It, as well as executor of the mikerowe Works Foundation. He has a deep love for our country and it seems as though he's the only one with a realistic view of the work force situation playing out in America.

His foundation offers scholarships for trade schools and training and apprentice programs in fields like plumbing, welding, electrical, etc. There's a huge skills gap in our country and he's single-handedly trying to fill it. I try to help out by sharing stories from his Facebook page.

His presentation was everything I'd hoped it be, and he looks and sounds just like he does everywhere else. I will never *not* know his voice until the day I die. I was able to get my picture taken with him although, sadly, he had limited time which meant no chance to chat with each of the one thousand people who wanted a picture with him. It was get pushed to his side, smile at the camera, and scurry off. (But I was 4th in line. :0) I was not missing that opportunity!)

The story goes that in order to apply for your Screen Actors Guild card, you have to have an acting job, but in order to get hired for acting jobs, you have to have a Screen Actors Guild card. You can see the problem. There are a few exceptions and way back in the day, Mike Rowe found a gig that would qualify him to get the card, but didn't require one to get hired: bit player in an opera.

There are clips on YouTube, but after the Q & A with Mike at the conference, the MC asked Mike if he'd be willing to sing a little opera. And he agreed! I was so thrilled. So anyway, it's hard to see him well, but the audio is all right--I was right next to a speaker.


And have a great weekend!!!


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

America the Beautiful...


The trip to Nashville is mostly a pretty one. Driving through the big cities, Dallas, Little Rock, Memphis, and Nashville are interesting, but the open highways in between always speak to me.

I find all terrains beautiful--mountains, beaches, even deserts, but open prairies and farmed fields are my favorite. I love the grand sweep of land, especially in spring and summer when things are green and actively growing. When the sun shines brightly and the sky is so blue it hurts to look at.



I love to see homes, from single-wide trailers and small bungalows to traditional farmhouses and sprawling ranch houses, set off the highways and nestled in a copse of protective trees. I like to see pickup truck and mini-vans parked in gravel driveways. I like to spot dogs and cats in swing-setted yards. I like to see cows in the fields.

The other thing that really struck me this time as I navigated my way across the south-eastern U.S. is that our highways, biways, spurs, and farm-to-market roads are the arteries of our great nation. (It has a lot of issues, but in the grand scheme of things, I still think it's pretty great.) I shared the road with a ton of big rigs on the way east. For several hours, it was pretty much truck after truck after truck after truck after truck.


I've heard it said that the trucking industry is the backbone of our nation. And while I get the metaphor, I think a better one is that the trucking industry is our nation's blood cells. The roads, from nation-traversing super highways to that small two-lane highway through Small Town America, are the arteries and the trucks are the blood cells delivering the gamut of goods from food to clothing and mail to gasoline to even the most rural small town. Most of them, anyway. My mother-in-law lives in a small Texas town, population approximately 200. I think all it gets is mail. There's another small town, though a bit larger in scope, about ten miles up the road that has gas stations and convenience stores. According to Google Maps, it also sports a bar, a couple of repair shops, and a restaurant.

Yeah, so the open road got me a bit thinky...

Hope you're well on this gorgeous Wednesday.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Reassessment...


My publishing journey is just that...mine. I've been of a mindset to publish the first three or four books in June as a sort of birthday present to myself. Disappointingly, I don't think that's going to happen.

Two things are at play and both are a subset of my friend and yours: TIME.

First--

If I want to publish my books on or around my birthday, I have five weeks from last Friday to ensure books one, two, and three are ready to go. That includes all final revisions based on comments from my editor, as well as having all file formats ready to upload, and having my website capable of processing payments. Those are just off the top of my head. There are probably a few more things I could come up with.

Twenty-eight days after that, all that same stuff for book four needs to be in place and same for book five twenty-eight days after that.

I'm struggling to get book six written (that plot issue I mentioned last Wednesday) so that it can go to the editor at the end of June.

The best recipe for success with indie publishing is to be able to publish something new every twenty-eight days for five or six months. I don't have enough "stock" yet. I'm in a better position than a lot of debut authors, especially ones that aren't part of any sort of writers group and don't get the benefit of learning from others paving the way. I could go forth with what I have and everything would work out fine. I know this. I'd still need to postpone at least a month though.

But I just don't feel like I'd be starting out on as firm a foot as I would like.

Second--

If I worked eight hour days just at this writing/publishing gig, I could probably get everything done and ready. But I can't work eight hour days just at this writing/publishing gig. I have a day job and a life. There might be a trip to Seattle in my near future before Sonshine's ship deploys for real. Fireworks season is also around the corner. Two of them actually--the State of Texas has added several and one of them falls over Memorial Day.

Plus if I want to work on my plotting skills, I need to read books or take workshops, and that requires time too.

I've also mentioned how I don't want to be a slave to the writing either. I know other writers who, it seems, are always chained to a deadline and a keyboard. They're grumpy and tired and have little fun.

Since it is my journey, I get to decide when to pull the trigger. I thought of waiting a whole 'nother year and doing it to celebrate my FIFTIETH birthday. I don't necessarily want to wait that long, but it's not off the table.

Seems like I have some serious thinking to do and some important decisions to make.

I'll keep you posted.

Hope you had a great weekend.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Hockey time takes about three times as long as regular time...


First off... CONGRATS to the Pittsburgh PENGUINS.

(image courtesy the Pittsburgh Penguins)


As of Wednesday night, they made it to the Eastern Conference Final-- There's a Western Conference Final too, and the winners of each play each other for penultimate hockey award: the Stanley Cup.

(image courtesy of Wikipedia)

So this last series the Pens played against the Washington Capitals was a tough one and it took all seven games to result in a winner. (All playoff rounds are best of seven.)

During the regular season, I watched only Stars games. They didn't do so great and every game was a nail biter, hoping one of two things would occur: they could hold onto the lead they had or they could rally enough in the time left in the game and win it.

Since the Stars didn't make it to the playoffs and my second and third favorite teams did, I've continued to watch hockey. In the first round, said second and third favorite teams played one another, so it didn't matter much who won. I did have a preference, but it wasn't that big of a deal. Watching the games wasn't stressful. It was just fun to watch.

Once the Pens won that series and took on the Washington Capitals...well...it was a whole new ball game and every minute of play seemed to take three times as long. The last half of every third period felt like half an hour instead of ten minutes. This time for similar reasons to Stars games.

These two teams are long-time rivals. Last year, the Pens beat the Caps in the second round in six games. This year, the Capitals wanted redemption, the Penguins want a repeat.

I know that one minute takes sixty seconds, one hour takes sixty minutes and so one, no matter what's going on in life or on TV. It's just interesting how it seems to bend depending on what's going on...

Time expands when (maybe) you're watching an important game of some random sport. Alternately, time contacts when you're spending time with a cherished guest or family member. Like when Sonshine comes home on leave. His ten days go by in a flash.

Is there a point to this post? Maybe to cherish every moment, because you can't get back time.

Have a great weekend.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Anti-Motivation...?


As mentioned on Monday, I went to Nashville last week. In addition to MIKE ROWE, I heard a guy named Larry Winget speak. He's marketed himself as "the pitbull of personal development" and "the world's only irritational speaker." He was funny and personable, but most importantly he was real and realistic. (Much like Mike Rowe...)

In fact, he poked a little of fun at some of those other inspirational messages. He points out that some of them don't even make any sense. For example...

1) You can be successful if you give 110%.

-->Larry says you can only give 100%. That's all there is.

2) If you can think it, if you can say it, you can achieve it.

-->Larry says he'd be Halle Berry, if that really worked.

3) You can be anything you want to be.

-->Larry says short, overweight people will never be runway models or ballerinas. Just. Ain't. Happening.

And so on.

What he does say is that honesty, integrity, and just plain old hard work will get you so much farther than just believing in feel-good claptrap. (That's my paraphrasing, he didn't put it quite that way.)

Everyone wants to believe they can get something for nothing. Everyone tries to get more for less. Even me. Probably even you.

But if you want to be successful at whatever you're trying to do, you have do it right/be good at it, be nice, and keep your word. Easy to say, easy to aspire to. Not always easy to pull off. C'mon, let's face it, we're all human.

And even though he was speaking to a roomful of IT guys, his point was applicable to everyone. Even me as an author.

Now I can't be as good a writer as Shakespeare or Hemingway. Patterson or Brown. ROWLING. Roberts or Steele. But I can strive to be the best writer I can be.

There's always something to learn and I'm still trying to get a grasp on plot. Some plots come easy, some don't, so for the foreseeable future, I've got to figure out how to consistently cobble out a decent plot.

So...the point of this post? I don't even know, other than if you get a chance to listen to Larry (check YouTube maybe?), you should.

And try to be a better, nicer person. Me, I mean. I need to work on that.

Hope you're having a great week!!


Sunday, May 7, 2017

And speaking of music...


I traveled to MUSIC CITY last week-aka Nashville, Tennessee-with DH. Which was why there was no post on Friday.

And the reason I went to Nashville was to see... MIKE ROWE!! You may be familiar with him strictly by name or you may know him by his voice. He's been narrating Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch" for twelve years now. He's also been host of "Dirty Jobs" and "Somebody's Gotta Do It."

So not only did I get to see and hear Mike Rowe in person, I got to hear Mike Rowe sing opera, and I got to take my picture with him!! Sadly there were a lot of people and limited time and I didn't actually get to chat with him during the picture session except to say "Thank You" for so much more than his talk earlier in the day.

I'll share pictures and opera and some of the meat and potatoes of what he said later...for now, have some random pictures of my visit.


About 2.5 hours into the drive, my car asked me if I wanted to take a rest. I really did, but kept driving for another hour before stopping for gas. :)

This is obviously the AT&T Building...I however call it the Batman Building. It made me laugh during my first trip to Nashville in 2013, and it made me laugh again.

Being the hockey nerd I've become, I wanted to see the Nashville Predators' arena up close and personal, so a trip to the fan shop was in order.

While Bridgestone Arena was just up the street from the hotel where DH's conference (and Mike Rowe) was being held, The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is attached at the backside to the hotel. And actually, the photo was taken from right outside the fan shop!

I didn't go through the museum this time, though I did the last time. I ducked into the gift shop to buy a little something for DD. Here are my pictures from the last time, if you're so inclined.

And last but not least, the Mississippi River as we crossed over on the way home, leaving Tennessee and entering Arkansas.


More from Nashville coming Wednesday and Friday and possibly even next Monday.

Have a great week.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Sound of Music...


Or, rather, the sound of instruments.

Often, I have to listen to plug in my earbuds and listen to something when I go to bed because, either, I'm too awake to fall asleep and I really need to, or my brain won't stop even though I'm super tired.

On occasion, I listen to Benedict Cumberbatch narrating an audio book, because he's got a great voice.

Mostly, though, I listen to the soundtrack to the seventh Harry Potter movie. Even after the dozens of times I've listened to the first handful of songs (I'm usually asleep after three to five of them, so...they serve the purpose), I still listen carefully and try to identify which instrument creates which sounds and effects. Some are easy. Some not so much.

Several years ago, the Led Zepplin song "All Of My Love" came across my radar via the radio station I was listening to at the time and there's a musical interlude somewhere in the middle. I would have bet money that trumpets (or some sort of brass instrument) played a big part in it.


Except, when I had Sonshine listen to the song, he claimed it was a pipe organ. Which--huh-- During subsequent listens, I could hear how, yes, it could be a pipe organ. But, then again, it still sounds like trumpets to me.

Anyone else, play that sort of game with music?



Monday, May 1, 2017

The only way out is through...


Last Friday I mentioned I was having issues making progress on my book. Churning out books is still new to me even though this is the six one of the series. Books three and five were already written, so they just needed some adjustments. Major adjustments to be sure, but I wasn't coming up with everything from scratch.

Now's the time when things are going to get hairy...having to write books from the ground up, if you will. Having to plot and pull the story together start to finish in a designated amount of time.

On Friday, I put out a call to my chapter mates for some brainstorming help, and one dear soul offered to help me talk through some of my issues. Was I ready to write once we'd signed off? I said 'yes' but was thinking 'no.' I had a few 'a ha' moments while we were chatting, so that was definitely good, but I still didn't feel ready to dive back in.

Did I have a choice? Not really. I didn't get to write at all Friday because the day ended up getting chewed up by a lot of other things I needed to get to done.

So Saturday morning I got out of bed and plopped myself in front of the laptop. I started reading from chapter one, armed with the new info I had and the decisions I'd made about one of the characters. By the end of the day, I'd added just over a thousand words to chapters one, two, and part of three. My daily goal is nine hundred words, so I achieved that, and my first two chapters are stronger and better than they were before.

Sunday morning I skimmed chapter two to get back into the character head space and moved on to make headway / finish chapter three. Did I succeed? Not as well as I'd hoped, but progress was made.

Sometimes having to stop for the day is bad for the momentum. You're in a character's head. You know where he or she is coming from. You're on a roll, feeling good. But we authors can't always write all day every day. Also I refuse. I've mentioned being a slave to the process and I don't want to be that.

Right now, it takes me much longer than I like to get those 1K words everyday. I'm trying to polish my plotting skills because when I know what's going on with the characters and the plot, I can actually write pretty fast.

Anyway...the point of this post is that sometimes you just have to ram your way through. I've often had to just sit myself down and say: You have to do this. You don't have choice. You can do this.

And you know what? I do. It might not be great, but it's something. There's a saying in the writing world: You can't fix a blank page. So some days I just have to get words on the page and not worry about how crappy I think they are or the fact that it's all dialogue and I may not even know who's saying what.

But then, once they're on the page, I can add to them or change them. I have a starting point. I can enhance. I can add in the emotion. I can sort out who says what. I can make them say what I really want them to say.

So--that was my weekend. How was yours??


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Jen FitzGerald
Thanks for stopping by one of my little corners of the world wide web. So, a little about me...My husband and I have been married for twenty years and we have three adult children although our youngest is still in high school. We've lived in Texas for fifteen years and for the rest of the story, click here.
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Jen's Glossary of Terms

  • DH = my husband
  • my Brown Eyed Girl = my oldest daughter
  • DD = my Darling Daughter (the younger one)
  • Sonshine or Marching Band Boy = my son
  • NT = the North Texas chapter of RWA
  • RWA = Romance Writers of America