Ambient Lighting and the Comforts of Home – In the mood…for writing

I’m currently away from home for a few days for my non-writer job, and I’m staying in a room with very bright lights.  They are not “soft white,” and though they can be turned on and off in many different combinations, the quality of the light is the same.  I’m pretty peaceful here, reading, writing, and editing in solitude, but I do miss the atmosphere of home.  My husband laughs at me when I come into the living room when he’s been sitting in there for a few hours and adjust the lighting.  Hey, I like my lighting, all right?  It sets a mood.  I love feeling like I’m in a calm, inviting environment, and lighting is one of the keys to that.

I also should have brought my sweatpants.  Mistake!  I mentioned in my last post how I hate to be cold…well, the AC in this place is not fully within my control, and it’s a little chilly.  I may or may not have slept in my jeans and a wool sweater each night.  I was warmer that way.

Still though, it hasn’t been a bad few days at all.  I’ve got some more writing work to do after I finish this blog post.  I’ve got the lights turned down as low as they can be while still functional.  (They are still too bright and too white.  They are saying, “What’s the problem?  What kind of fancy light do you want?  Aren’t we good enough for you?” and then they think about dimming, but don’t because they weren’t made to, and they want to speak to me in a softer tone, but they can’t.  Still, they feel sorry, so they add, “We have our good points.”  They don’t elaborate.)  I acknowledge that I can see everything very well.  There is no question of that.  (The lights appreciate the concession and show their appreciation by shining in exactly the same glaring way as before.)

When I’m home, I like to have the light right, and sometimes I listen to music with headphones, though other times I write in the relative silence that is not headphones but still life.  Often, I read something to transition into what I want to work on…even if I’m focused on editing.  I’m replicating as many conditions as I can here.  Home soon.

Any other writers have your own “getting in the mood” rituals?  Or anyone else have a preparation ritual for some other work?  

P.S. My short story, “Glass Eyes” is still free at Smashwords through tomorrow with the code SW100 at checkout through their summer sale.  Also available for purchase for Nook at Barnes & Noble and for Kindle at Amazon.

Links:

“Glass Eyes: A Short Story about a Family’s Struggle” on Smashwords

“Glass Eyes: A Short Story about a Family’s Struggle” at Barnes & Noble

“Glass Eyes: A Short Story about a Family’s Struggle” at Amazon

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And the Liebster goes to…

liebster_award_logo

Miss Literal over at literallyreading.wordpress.com nominated me for a Liebster Award!  Thanks, Miss Literal, for your thoughtfulness!  I enjoy your reviews, complete with cell phone images and related craft projects!  I hope people will check out Miss Literal’s fabulous blog!

 

So since the rules for this award are:

1. Thank the person who nominated you for the award.

2. Display the logo on your blog.

3. Answer the questions the award giver asked.

4. List 11 facts about yourself.

5. List your 11 nominees with 200 followers or less, no tagbacks.  (Sorry, I didn’t do 11!)

 

The questions I was asked:

1. Favorite comfort food?

My mother’s Swedish meatballs and rice.  No question.  She usually makes garlic bread with it, too.  Damn.  Now I’m hungry.

2. Favorite childhood movie?

Hmmm.  There were a few–a big one was The Last Unicorn.  As an adult, I have read the book, too, after a reminder I read from Patrick Rothfuss–great book, great movie–I still love it.  I also love Patrick Rothfuss’s KingKiller Chronicles and I’m eagerly awaiting the conclusion of the trilogy.  Eagerly.

3. Favorite current movie?

Oh no, I don’t know!  Hmm.  I love re-watching good period films–some good Austen will always get me!  Then there are others, too, like The Waitress, Ever After, and others that I love.  I’m a sucker for beautiful, colorful images on the screen, good lines, good soundtrack–beautiful food movies…

4. Favorite book?

Now I really can’t answer.  There are far too many.  I love Joyce Carol Oates, Michael Cunningham, Toni Morrison, Jodi Picoult, Stephen King, and so many more.  I also have some fantasy loves: Juliet Marillier and Tamora Pierce, in particular.

5. Favorite YouTuber?  I don’t have one!  I enjoy YouTube, though.  New question: What’s a location that means a lot to you?  (A coffee shop?  A favorite room?  A place in nature?  A place a world away?)

There are many, but one important one is my granndparents’ house.  The house is no longer there, but sometimes we go to that area and remember it.  It’s also by the ocean, so I like to go there and walk barefoot in the sand and look out at the familiar skyline.  Sometimes, I just go there in my mind.

6. Favorite actor/actress?

Hmm…right now I’m leaning toward Johnny Depp and Claire Danes.  My answer to this question will probably depend on what I’ve been watching.  I’m not good at favorites–just at loving things, liking them, feeling ambivalent, or really disliking them.

7. Favorite song?

Right now I’m listening to Jewel, Sarah McLachlan and Sheryl Crow…different songs by each.  It depends on my mood!

8. Website you cannot go one day without?

Email, Twitter, WordPress : )   …though I certainly hope I could go a day (or more…) without them…?

9. Clothing article or accessory you feel naked without?

A sweater.  I hate being cold.  I don’t like to allow for the possibility.  If I’m not wearing the sweater, it’s in my purse.

10. Pet peeve?

Hmmm…well, not too long ago I saw someone blow through an empty four-way stop honking his horn and giving the world the finger through the sunroof.  I was annoyed by that.  I was also disturbed.  Is he angry at the world?  Why?  Why express it this way?  I have some questions.

11. Number one reason you keep blogging?

I used to blog and then took a hiatus and now I’m back.  I like the community and reading people’s thoughts, and I think blogging is part of that; the reading and the writing pair nicely together.  I’m also focusing seriously on my other types of writing (short stories and upcoming novels), and I want to share my other writing work here.

 

My 11 Facts:

1. I like gardening.

2. Miss Literal – I get carpal tunnel too.  Knock on wood–haven’t had it in a bit!

3. I like cooking when I have time and energy.  I like trying new things.

4. I am terrified of the idea of scuba diving and will never do it.

5. I just started watching Tiny House Nation on the FYI channel with my husband.

6. My dog basically talks to me using sign language and noises.  I talk back.

7. I love elephants, and I have seen some in person, in their natural habitat.

8. I am wishing I had socks on right now because my feet are cold.

9. I love the early King’s Quest games (1-7, couldn’t get into 8).

10. Packing causes me a lot of anxiety.  What if I forget something??  What if it’s a sweater, and I’m cold???

11. I love listening to NPR, and yes, NPR, I did make a donation.  I love it all–Ted Talk Radio, Moth Radio Hour, All Things Considered, Science Fridays…

 

I now nominate the following diverse and excellent blogs (sorry if you already have 200 followers):

1. http://fieldnotesfromfatherhood.com/ – I enjoy the anecdotes about life and parenthood with humor, pictures, and video!

2. http://www.lisapais.com/blog-the-enchanted-notebookcom – Just started, but I know it’s going to be a good one!

3.  http://hauntedpen.blogspot.com – Great blog – very knowledgeable author and blogger.  Check her out on mostlymystery.com, too!

4. http://shortstoriesoftheordinary.wordpress.com/ – I enjoy the sudden turns in some of these stories, which could be humorous or sobering.

5. http://dreamingintoknowing.com/– Interesting thoughts on dreams, their uses, and meanings!

6. http://proudlybipolar.wordpress.com/ – I’m very drawn into these reflections on life, society, mental illness, and more.

“Where There’s Smoke” by Jodi Picoult – Review and Connections

While out and about in the car today, I used the Kindle Text-to-Speech feature to listen to Jodi Picoult’s new (FREE!) short story, “Where There’s Smoke.”  I loved it.  One of my all-time favorite Jodi Picoult novels is Second Glance (another is The Storyteller), and I’m excited that Picoult is again taking on ghosts and their interactions with the world of the living.  I love the way she did this in Second Glance: the novel remains character-driven and has a great plot as it incorporates elements of the paranormal.  Second Glance has a similar feel to Picoult’s other novels for me, and I think the strength of the characterization make this novel accessible, not only to those who enjoy paranormal novels, but to readers who tend to focus on commercial, upmarket, and women’s fiction which might not normally include any ghosts.

In “Where There’s Smoke,” the main character is Serenity Jones, a TV psychic receiving communication from spirits on the other side and struggling as we all do, to live life the best way she knows how.  I really enjoyed the story, finding Serenity easy to relate to despite my initial hesitation over her profession.  Though I’m interested in the paranormal (loving shows like Paranormal State, Ghost Adventures, and The Haunted), I sometimes feel skepticism when it comes to big TV psychic personalities and wasn’t sure what to expect with Serenity.  Well, I loved the story and the stakes that Picoult created for this character and those around her.  I’m looking forward to Picoult’s upcoming novel, Leaving Time.  This novel will include Serenity, and the short story definitely worked to hook me and cause me to breathe a sigh of disappointment when I saw that I’d have to wait until Leaving Time‘s October release date to find out more.

What are your favorite Picoult novels?

Do you find the paranormal interesting?

Short Story “Glass Eyes” FREE for a limited time on Smashwords!

Read my short story, “Glass Eyes,” FREE on Smashwords!  Just follow the directions on the page (enter the code SW100).

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https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/459999

Five-year-old Kate struggles to understand what is happening to her father and her world as she witnesses his deepening depression. In the midst of her family’s turmoil, Kate finds solace in her grandfather’s upstairs apartment, though she is troubled by the stuffed fox in his bedroom. As Kate tries to adapt to the changes in her life, the fox becomes a symbol of what she fears.

The Itch

It’s been an interesting week.  My husband and I were just talking about our lives over lunch, and how busy we’ve been, and how we keep saying “We’ll feel less busy when…” but then we never seem to feel less busy.  I’m going to attend the Writer’s Digest Conference next weekend in NYC, and I’ve been writing, editing, and prepping.  My husband is studying to take the bar in two different states.  I also have professional development for my teaching job next week and will be spending the week sleeping in a college dorm room and I will leave directly from there to go to NYC.  These are all good things, but they do add up to busy.

Another challenge of the past few days has been an allergic reaction I’ve had to something (I really don’t know what!), causing me to break out in an itchy rash.  As I’ve been avoiding scratching with cold compresses, cold showers and Benadryl,  I’ve also been trying to get some stuff done.  I think the Benadryl, in addition to making me feel drowsy and spacey, also had a hand in a VERY odd dream I had last night.  This was the weirdest dream I’ve had in some time…I may have to think further on that–is an empty bedroom full of cockroaches symbolic of something?  and a stained coffee table?  and a navy soldier who turns into a gray cat after showing up uninvited to a holiday party?

Despite the odd dream and the odd reaction (please don’t let me unknowingly expose myself to whatever it was again next week!), I have been getting some writing and reading done.  My allergic reaction is abating now, and with that I feel the renewed itch to keep writing.

I’m ready switch gears now, moving from blog to other writing.  I’m Benadryl-free and not too itchy and listening to Jewel and Sheryl Crow.  (I love So You Think You Can Dance!  Did anyone see last night’s?  It reminded me how much I love Jewel.  Every week I watch and want to become a dancer.  It would be SO cool to dance like they do!)

As I try to stay in my place of calm focus, my writing companion has no trouble feeling relaxed: he is an inspiration, isn’t he?

relaxed

 

10 Ways to Know You’re a Writer

#5, 7, and 8 I found funny, but I enjoyed the whole post!

Stories are the Wildest Things

You’ve wondered, right?

You’ve asked yourself this question many times and you’re reading this post to find out, “Am I a writer?”

Like a hypochondriac checking out WebMD for signs and symptoms, you scour articles and blog posts for the telltale signs and symptoms that you’ve got what it takes to declare yourself a writer.

I do, too. That’s why I came up with this list of 10 Ways to Know You’re a Writer.

After reading the list, click on the links to the other great blog posts and articles that relate to each of these ideas.

Please leave me a comment about which symptoms you come down with most often, or add some new ones of your own.

You Know You’re a Writer if…

10. You take really long showers because you’re working on a writing problem or your fictional characters are having conversations in your head and…

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Trying Self-Publishing: “Glass Eyes” Now Available for Purchase!

I am a high school English teacher, and this takes up a lot of my time during the school year, so this summer I’m trying to spend as much of my time on writing as I can.  As I’ve been reading, dreaming, writing, editing, and querying, I decided to self-publishing an ebook.  This is the perfect time for me to delve into this process and learn the ins and outs through firsthand experience.  I took a story which is dear to my heart, “Glass Eyes,” and prepared it for publication, focusing on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Cover Art

I had a lot of fun creating the cover for my ebook.  A stuffed fox features prominently in the story, and I knew that my aunt and uncle had one.  I drove down to their place and took several photographs of it.  My aunt and uncle were very helpful and accommodating!

Here are some covers that didn’t make the cut:

         

Once I got home, I sifted through my photos and edited the ones I liked best with the Microsoft Office Photo Editor.  I brought my favorite edited images into Microsoft PowerPoint and added the title, subtitle, and my name.  I played with placement, font, and color, and feel satisfied with the final product.  I can’t wait to make another cover!

Here’s the one I went with:

 

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I like the way the fox breaks up the image in this cover.  If you look carefully on the right, there is a swing, representing my five-year-old protagonist, Kate.  While I liked the images of the fox indoors in front of the books, I felt that those covers were too busy and distracting.  I also felt the cover I went with felt more modern than some of the others.

Preparation and Formatting

To prepare for launching “Glass Eyes” as an ebook, I read Building Your Book for Kindle and Publish on Amazon Kindle with Kindle Direct Publishing, and Mark Coker’s Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success.

The Kindle publications had some helpful information for how to navigate the process of publishing on Amazon.  I found Coker’s book the most helpful.  In addition to giving instructions for publishing an ebook, Coker also gives tips on marketing, defines terminology, and talks through the pros and cons of different ebook publishing decisions.  Once I had gone through the steps to publish on Amazon, I also read the Smashwords Style Guide and carefully worked through the Smashwords template.

Formatting was a big part of this process.  I spent a lot of time trying to get my indents to look right for the Kindle edition, and I read several pieces of internet advice and eventually found the right advice, written in a way that I could understand it, and (Hallelujah!) made a well-formatted book.  I plan to add a blog post about formatting that goes into more detail, and I’ll share the resources I found helpful.

Published!

Once the ebook was available on Amazon and Smashwords, I was so excited!  None of this excitement has dissipated yet.  It’s exciting to have a published story out there, and I’m also looking forward to learning about marketing and sales through this experience.  I’ll keep my ears open to advice.  I meet with a weekly writer’s group of very kind and talented individuals, and I constantly benefit from their points of view.  I’m also keeping in mind what I learned from attending this years NECRWA conference (New England Chapter Romance Writers of America).  Many authors spoke about their experience with self-publishing and ebooks.  In particular, I benefitted from author Katy Regnery‘s workshop in which she shared her experiences about indie and self-publishing, and all that goes along with them.

More details to follow!  Have you self-published or indie published?  What were some of your takeaways?