Tag Archives: being an author

Type A persona engaged—warp speed ahead!

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Alica Mckenna Johnson, pasta

Photo by Nebulux76

I was watching So You Think You Can Dance, which I love it is one of my favorite shows. So there I am watching these amazing beautiful power dancers, while eating a huge plate of spaghetti. Then they showed this interview with a young male dancer who’d been in a bad car accident, and his back had been broken.

I teared up listening to his parents talk about how scared they were. Listening to his story, watching him work out with the trainer to re-gain his strength and to be able to dance again I was inspired. That he could go through all of that and fight his way back to being able to dance, and dance beautifully, gave me chills.

As I sat there eating spaghetti, I thought about how hard he had he had worked and what he must have suffered through to be able to dance again, to re-claim his body again, and yet somehow I can’t lose ten pounds and keep it off?

I thought about this, about how if this is something I want, then I should fight for it. And that’s when I realized I wasn’t even sure what I was fighting for. I have been overweight for so long that I no longer remember what it is to feel good about how I look. I want to feel sexy, strong, healthy, and confident in my body. I have no idea what that is any more. And in truth the last time I felt that way, I was a teenager. The body I remember liking was two children, 20 plus years, and thousands of cartons of Ben and Jerry’s ago.

Will I even like my body after I lose weight?

I mean I’ll feel better, be healthier, stronger, and when the Doctor comes I’ll be able to run away from Daleks and such. All very important. But will I like it? Will I think I look pretty, sexy, or be happy at all?

I have no idea, and I think that sense of wondering, that not knowing, makes things harder. The dancer could remember what it felt like to spin, leap, and move across a stage. He had a very clear goal in mind. And I think that goal, that focus, helped him get through the hard times.

I don’t have that. When things get hard some I have some ambiguous idea, but no “I’ll be stronger, I’ll be healthier, I’ll fit into a smaller size,” just isn’t that inspiring. And in that moment, I usually give up—I eat something fatty, I sleep instead of working out, I stay up all night to read instead of getting the sleep I know I need.

How do you stay focused on a non-tangible goal? Do you find a goal you can’t quite picture or feel harder to stay committed to?

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Brainwashing, it’s not just for cults anymore

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docguy, weight loss , ice cream

Photo by docguy

I am always my own worst enemy. The thoughts that run rampant in my head can take a turn for the worst, and when this happens my life crashes. Of course, I have big batches of time where I am sane-ish, when I get things done, take care of myself, and feel good. But when things tip, when I lose my balance, these thought come rushing in, and suddenly not writing and sleeping all day sounds great. Instead of eating an apple, I eat ice cream, and getting enough sleep? yeah, that’s one big joke.

So how does one stop crazy thoughts?

I could read books. There are plenty of spiritual/ self-help books that focus on being in the here and now, that offer meditations to let those negative thoughts go. But really I don’t have the time, and I would only do it when I’m doing well.

So I have opted for an easier way, a more passive way, and I’m doing it right now. Subliminal messages. Oh, yes. I am employing the ancient art of brainwashing on myself. I am using a series of tapes, some that are subliminal, some guided imagery, some sleep programming.

If I can’t find will power within myself, then I shall brainwash myself into it!

Right now I am doing tapes that focus on health, healthy eating, and weight loss. But they also have ones on creativity, getting more done, overcoming fears, and tons of other topics.

I have had enough of my brain getting in the way of self-discipline, leaving me the moment things get tough. Maybe these won’t work. Maybe they will. The other day I was planning on eating nachos for lunch. I started to grab the stuff and suddenly did not want them anymore. I had fruit instead and an hour later when I was actually hungry, I made a sandwich.

apocalypse, mango, magoes,

Photo by Tatters:)

I figure as long as the messages aren’t turning me into part of some mad woman’s secret assassin army, it’s all good.

Do you have self-discipline? Are you able to keep the negative self-talk to a minimum, or do you also try to drown the voices in egg rolls and cheese cake?

Do writers make good cult members?

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Kevin Bacon, Alica McKenna-Johnson

Kevin Bacon by Sagindie


I watched The Following with hubby, okay I peeked at it while doing other things like hiding behind pillows, and hubby. This is a seriously scary show, very good, but I’m thinking too scary for me.

Anyway one of the followers gets a text saying “do it now.” She strips revealing words written all over her body then stabs herself in the eye with an ice pick.

While wondering how the serial killer could control other people so easily via the internet, the answer came to me.

They are all writers! The killer is a Lit Professor, he has obviously promised to help them craft the perfect novel.

Kristen Lamb, Alica Mckenna Johnson

Photo by Kristen Lamb, an author pushed to the limit?

The woman, poor, poor creature, obviously went insane after being told to revise her book for the fourth time. The text was telling her to get to work, the words on her body her finest, most beautiful, and poetic lines which he has told her to remove from her novel, and the ice pick to the eye? Well hasn’t every writer felt like that when they’ve been told to revise?

Yes, this graphic, violent, bloody, scary show is all about the writer’s process, and our willingness to ‘kill our darlings’ or possibly other people to get a book deal.

Take it slow and make it hot.

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I like to snack, but I also am hoping to lose weight, and the two don’t always go well together. Of course I do try to eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies, but sometimes I just want something else. So I snack hot.

You see, I have a delicate tongue. I like spicy, but I honestly can’t handle very hot and spicy foods, which means I eat them slower. You are beginning to see the mad brilliance of my plan, aren’t you? When I snack on spicy foods, I can’t eat them as fast, nor can I eat as much. If I do, my tummy will be very unhappy, and in all honesty, my butt the next morning. Ouch.

My favorite slow and spicy snacks:

Dried mango covered in chili: This is sweet and spicy and reminds me of the Mexican tamarind candy. Trader Joe’s has it, and all I can eat is one piece instead of the whole bag of plain dried mango.

Wasabi peas: Not only do I get the crunchy/ salty combo, which is important for any balanced diet, but sometimes a pea will have a lot of wasabi on it and I get a ‘fun’ rush of heat which clears my sinuses and makes my body shudder. So really this is a whole body food.

waasbai peas, Alica Mckenna-Johnson, Isa Costa, spicy snacks

Wasabi Peas by Isa Costa

Hot Cheetos or now as I react badly to MSG, Barbara’s Jalapeño Cheese Puffs : Now these are an extra treat because the nutritional value is much lower, but again I can’t eat as quickly or as many so they get put on the list.

Spicy Chocolate: There are many different brands to choose from, but dark chocolate with chili in it is something to be savored slowly. Make sure to get one with a good kick, or you’ll eat it too fast.

So what is your favorite slow and spicy snack???

Betrayed by Junk Food

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Alica Mckenna-Johnson, Chocolate

Chocolate Understands

So it’s one of those mornings and the adult part of my brain that was trying to get me to work out, lost. Which means it is now time for junk food. So I am pondering what to eat when I realize that I no longer have my junk food favorites. Sure I can order Chinese, but I want something now and the restaurant isn’t open yet.

Deep sigh.

So I head to the store but what can I get?

I’m vegetarian gluten and dairy free- by allergy not choice. What in hell can I eat???

Junk food is supposed to mask my emotions not make unhappy ones. Is junk food now betraying me??

I slog through the aisle trying not to cry because explaining why I’m sobbing in front of the display of macaroni and cheese is not something I want in my police records.

Then I see them, the one food that is obviously a gift from the gods because it spans the healthy food junk food yummy barrier, AVOCADOS. Carefully I fondle select two perfect avocados and head to the chips. Picking a bag of organic blue corn chips, that were on sale, I scurry to the froze food section where I grab a box of vegan, gluten free taquitos and coconut based caramel ‘ice cream’.

I have succeeded! The Universe loves me. I can now go home and medicate my sorrow in junk food that won’t make me pray for the grim reaper to come for me the next day.

As I prepare my feast I will listen to this lovely, happy making teaser from the BBC radio 4 production of Neil Gaimin’s Neverwhere. Benedict Cumberbatch is singing.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0169jdc

The Darkening

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images

My friend the amazingly talented Myndi Shafer has just released her second book in the two in her Shrilugh Saga. So today I have a short interview with her, come and meet Myndi!

Myndi Shafer is author of the best-selling book, Shrilugh. Currently she makes her home in Kansas with her husband and four children. Her second book, The Darkening, releases in February 2013.

I hang out on Facebook here: Myndi Shafer Stories

I chat on Twitter using the handle @MyndiShafer

And my website/blog is www.myndishafer.wordpress.com Her blog is really funny you should check it out 🙂

What was the inspiration behind The Darkening?

When I first wrote this story, Shrilugh and The Darkening were all one book, told solely from Aydan’s POV. When I changed the POV, the story really exploded, and needed to be divided into more than one book. Which is why the first book of the Saga ended rather abruptly, and why, if you read these two back-to-back, they’ll feel a bit like one piece of work.
So, really, the inspiration for The Darkening came from the same place as my inspiration for Shrilugh: an old silo on the farm where I was raised. There’s a ladder that extends up past the top of it that looks kind-of like a door, and I’ve always, always wondered where that door would lead. When I began writing Shrilugh that was my goal – to find out what kind of world was beyond that door.


How long did it take to write the book? What was the most challenging thing?

Since I basically wrote Shrilugh and The Darkening (and the two books that follow) all in one fell swoop, it took…um…years. Nearly four.
The hardest part of writing them is the editing process. I’m still learning so much about what makes a book tick that when it comes time to edit, I literally struggle over every word. It’s gotten easier and easier to cut what needs cut, and sharpen the dull parts, but the thing about the editing process is that you have to look at everything with a critical eye…and when I do that, all my trusty doubts come flying to the surface, ready to pounce on any insecurities I may have. It’s a tough battle – getting to a place where I’m confident in my abilities, but willing to see what my flaws are without getting all worked up over it.

How did you decide to write fantasy?

It wasn’t ever a conscious decision. In fact, when I began writing, I didn’t know I was writing fantasy. I didn’t know there were genres like that. I mean, I liked reading (okay, loved reading), but I never paid attention to genres. I’d just read whatever I could get my hands on. I began writing with that same attitude, and the story just kind-of went where the story went.
I don’t think I’ll ever be a writer that sticks to a strict genre. I’ve got a couple new stories brewing in my head – one that’s a little dystopian (hmmm, is there such thing as a little dystopian?), and one that’s a sort-of rom-com with weird fantastical elements (the world around the protag shifts randomly into a pirate’s world). Mostly I think I’ll just write whatever sounds like fun at the time.

You have four kids. How do you find time to write?

Well, the time is there, I just have to plan for it. I keep a pretty tight rein on how I spend my time. If the baby is sleeping, I’m working. If I have a spare minute, I work. Any time that isn’t spoken for with family or cooking or cleaning, it’s pretty much given to writing. But it never feels like a chore – I love what I do, and it’s always been worth the sacrifice of my free time.

What’s coming next?

Couple different things. I’ll be working on the third book in the Shrilugh Saga. Right now its working title is FRUITION, and I’m expecting to see its release in a year or so. I’m also working on a new series whose working title is called SALT MINE. It’s about a girl who has chosen to be mute, a government that’s after her secret, a dog that’s been ‘progammed’ to protect her, and a guy hell-bent on keeping his promise to her dead brother.

The Darkening, Myndi Shafer
THE DARKENING (Book Two of the Shrilugh Saga)

As Aydan Fulbert settles into her new life in a new world, she realizes a few things. She’s healing from losing Brig. She’s coming to terms with her new home. And she’s lonely.

Rein Torvald’s return from his long absence helps alleviate her loneliness, but a darkness comes with him. Unsettling news about her father and the Sovereign has the potential to make her a fugitive all over again – from his world and hers.

Will Aydan allow her heart to be taken places she’s never been brave enough to go? Or will the threat of danger – of the Sovereign’s rage, and her father’s vengeful grudge, send her running?

You can find the Darkening at Amazon or Smashwords.

Juggling Explosives

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Photo by mbtphoto. Doesn't he make juggling look easy?

Photo by mbtphoto. Doesn’t he make juggling look easy?

Last night I had a minor melt down. I managed to hold off until the kids were in bed then the ugly thoughts and tears began. Now my overly emotional state might have been caused by the email saying I hadn’t placed in a writing competition I’d entered, the fact that I had gone almost a week without thyroid medication, or that I worked straight through the weekend and got the see my husband for only a few minutes each day (I’m rather high maintenance).
No matter the reason, I was in a bad place.

And while I was sorting my clothes- the nice ones to give away and the sweat pants which would fit once I abandoned my diet and stopped exercise, because why does the crazy night clerk at Circle K need to look good. I mean surely Circle K would hire a failed writer, mother, wife, human being right???

I had a thought. Yes, it hurt a lot a little bit, hush! I imagined myself as a juggler trying to keep all these balls in the air, work stuff, paperwork, work kids, personal kids, hubby, house, cooking, writing, sleep, social media, blogging, reading, working out, showering, crap that come along and fucks up my day. And there are all these balls and they are different size (based on importance) and some things like my family and work have more than one ball because, hello, there is a lot of shit to take care of.

Cold, heavy dread suffocated me as my eyes filled with tears. I shuffled to my computer and began filling out on line application to Circle K. I was never going to be able to do all of this, never. Needing a moment to figure out what my assets to the Circle K International team might be I scrounged up a hidden Snickers bar and while numbing my sorrow with chocolate and caramel, I began to imagine my life without writing.

I could still write a little bit, and of course pop in a social media and blogging enough to maintain what I had already created but I couldn’t keep trying to pretend I could do it all, when I was obviously failing at EVERYTHING!!!
So after moping about and finishing my Snickers bar, I decided to go to bed. I stumbled over the pile of clothes and as I brushed my teeth, not looking in the mirror because I didn’t need to see the evidence of five years of dieting failure at that particular moment, I had another less painful thought.

What if I gave each of the three main areas in my life one hour?

What if I gave one hour during my six ours off per day to my family? I could clean (we have a small apartment so I could get a lot done) I could prep food for dinner, or put together something, or put something in the crock pot. Sure my family isn’t home, but I can still support them and the space they live in by doing 1 hour a day. AND, because I am a multi-tasking fiend, I can listen to audio books while I’m doing so.

Okay this was sounding reasonable, which is not something I normally hear from the voices in my head so I paid close attention.

If I also gave 1 hour of focused time to work, one hour where I did something focused with the kids (preferably) or paperwork (an occasional necessity) I would feel better about how I’m doing my job. And I already read to them at bedtime, so 30min are already getting done, if I’m having a bad day and need to count it in.

This plan also gives me 1 hour to dedicate to writing every day. One hour where I will focus on my writing and nothing else.

Now I can still check Facebook and Twitter while the kids watch Sponge Bob, and I can read blogs while I eat lunch. Multi-tasking can still happen. But maybe, just maybe I will feel like less of a failure at life if I focus some time every day on the three areas I feel like I am always sucking at.

What do you think? How do you juggle your life?

Jury Duty: A Goldmine of Awesome!

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The old court house in Tucson, this was near the ugly modern building I went into.

The old court house in Tucson, this was near the ugly modern building I went into.


Most people groan when they get a summons to jury duty. I will no longer be one of those people. The last time I went to jury duty it was a fount of inspiration and study.

While in the room waiting to be called (which I never was, and I am taking that part personally) I people watched.
I learned that some people are a lot more attractive when they keep their mouth shut. I sat across from a tall handsome man, broad shoulders, nice suit, thick brown hair. I remember thinking how he would make a perfect romance hero then he opened his mouth and told his friend an offensive racist joke he just got in his email. I got up and moved. Eye candy should be silent.

People have a variety of odd tics and nervous habits; it was fun to watch, and I am sure they will turn up in future characters.

I saw the cutest man. He was sitting at the Thai place I went to lunch—one of those quick, greasy, yummy restaurants with lunch specials ready to go. He sat a few tables away from me. He was middle aged, plump, and wore tan slacks, white shirt, and blue tie. His legs were curled up under his butt and he leaned over onto his left arm which was propped up on the table holding a book. He ate one handed and he read. I wish I could have gotten a picture, or even seen the tittle of the book.

A lot of people read books to pass the time, but it was never easy to read the title. They would fold over the cover, set it down face down, or upside down. Why? At first I thought it was a coincidence, but then I noticed that almost everybody did it. Be nice and set your book down so the nosy people around you can see what you’re reading!

And the final thing that made jury duty fun: they showed Young Frankenstein—seriously—at the jury duty courthouse waiting room! I thought it was a good choice .

Photo by twm1340's

Photo by twm1340’s


Anyone else have fun at jury duty??

Taking the Day Off

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Hubby in a fez because fezzes are cool

Hubby in a fez because fezzes are cool


Yesterday I went out on a date with my hubby. Both the kids were in school, he didn’t have work, and I took the afternoon off. And it was amazing. We just walked around downtown. Nothing spectacular and yet it was perfect, because I needed a break from everything.

I take time off to attend school things for my kids, to go to writers groups and workshops, and to get work done at home. But I almost never take a whole day off.

A Chai Latte I didn't have to share

A Chai Latte I didn’t have to share

I never have time, my to-do list is a mutant radioactive monster growing bigger each day. I can’t take time off.
Yet today I feel so much better. I have gotten more done, I’ve done it better, and my energy levels are higher.

Do you take time off to enjoy life? To read, walk, go to the movies, or hang out with friend? Or is everything you do something you can mark off on your to-do list?

Critiquing Your Life

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Should I really be left in charge of my life??

Should I really be left in charge of my life??


As an author you hear over and over You can’t critique your own work. And You can’t edit your own work. These are absolutely true, which is why I am thankful every day for my wondrous critique partners and editor.

The other day I was thinking (I know—scary) and I began to wonder if I am not a good judge of what is working and not working in my writing, can I be a good judge of what is working and not working in my life?

Should we ask people we trust to critique the way we live?

I can tell you everything I think is wrong with me and how I live, but would someone else feel the same way?
I know I judge myself much harsher than I judge my friends. But even still, I love my friends enough to want the best for them. If they were doing something which was making their life harder, hindering their happiness, or in conflict with their goals I would say so.

Maybe there needs to be a job of Professional Life Critique Expert. That person could look over your life, time, health, money, etc., and tell you where you need help, what you need to get rid of, what needs work, and of course what you are doing well.

Do you think you are a good judge of your own life?