#ROW80 Round 1 Achievements

Progress Reports

Okay technically we have until tomorrow, but I’m going to be on the road for the Evil Day Job, so I’m going to go ahead and post my #ROW80 Round 1 Achievements today.  So, setting out at the start of this round my goals were:

  1. Write at least 20 out of 30 days.  January: 28; February: 12; March (so far): 20.  It works out to right at 60 writing days, so I’ll take it.  February was just a struggle all the way around.  I had the flu.  There was some Evil Day Job stuff that derailed me.  Getting the 60 days feels like a win, so yay.
  2. Average 1350 words per writing day. Nope.  Didn’t happen.  January: 1247; February: 1203; March: 907.  But they are words, so I’m still happy.
  3. Develop at least 6 new recipes for Pots and Plots.  I put out 11 this round.  Almost 1 a week.  I’ve got plenty in the development stage, several that are developed, photographed and written up, just waiting to go live.  So for now, 1 recipe a week seems to be working pretty well.
  4. Finish and release my current WIP, a Wishful novella called She’s Got A Way.  Didn’t happen.  Why didn’t it happen?  Because Liam and Riley decided that they were a FULL novel and went and completely doubled in length.  :glares:  But the original expected word count for the novella was in the neighborhood of 40k.  As of this morning, I’m sitting at 41k on the book, so I did actually get the word count in.
  5. Finalize the plotting for the next WIP.  I have done a variety of plotting on a variety of projects–the next Wishful novel, another series, and a novella for an anthology I dreamed up and organized back in January.  So I’m good with this.
  6. Bonus goal: Write another Meet Cute Romance. Nope, didn’t happen.  I plotted one, but it didn’t get written.

Other #ROW80 Round 1 Achievements 

All in all, despite all the struggling (and I DEFINITELY felt the struggle), I feel like I had a pretty productive round.  How’d y’all do?

Finding Time and Making Time

Efficiency 101

Image by Sean MacEntee

I don’t think I know a single person who doesn’t wish for more hours in the day.  I regularly lust after a functional time turner.  We all struggle with finding time and making time where there often seems to be none.  Well, sadly, time turners don’t exist, and the teleportation technology that would save our commute is still a figment of our imagination.  But there are things we can do to scrounge up some extra minutes in our day.

It’s no secret that I like to cook–a fortunate thing given that the food allergies in our household necessitate that most everything be from scratch.  Sundays, for me, are usually spent largely in my kitchen, batch prepping stuff like homemade stock, cooking dried beans, making whatever I’m planning to eat for lunch for the week, baking GF/DF bread, and occasionally pulling together freezer meals (I keep wanting to do more of those).  Even with all that, I generally cook at least 2 meals a day, every single day.  Which, again, is fine, because I really enjoy cooking, and I find it to be good thinking time.  This weekend I happened to make up a batch of quinoa egg mufins, adapting this recipe to better suit my tastes and allergen needs.  I don’t normally make myself a breakfast ahead of time.  Scrambling eggs, making an omelet, or cooking up oatmeal or grits is just part of my morning routine.  I didn’t think it took much time–and in the grand scheme of things, I suppose it doesn’t.  But anyway, between having made my breakfast for the week already and rotating my morning alarms back 5 minutes, I’ve found myself with fifteen extra minutes in the mornings this week.

That doesn’t sound like much.  But it’s meant that I’ve been able to do a little bit of morning reading, which is both  a lovely way to start the day and has led me to feeling more chill as I get to work because I’m not feeling so rushed.  It’s got me thinking about what other things I could do to find an extra five minutes here or there.  This isn’t a new concept for me.  I long ago started planning my weekly menus to avoid the waffling time-waste of “What’s for dinner?”  I wear the same jewelry every day so that I don’t have to make that decision.  My makeup is fairly minimalist and takes 5 minutes.  I often make crock pot meals, which saves me food prep time that otherwise would eat into my post-work writing block (though this is less a thing once it gets hot, as a lot of them are soups or stuff that are very wintery).

The thing is, people have a limited amount of mental capacity each day, and from an efficiency standpoint, it makes sense to eliminate as many decisions as you can in order to conserve that capacity for more important projects.  Streamlining the things that you can makes a very big difference.  If you’re feeling strapped for time (and who isn’t?), I encourage you to think about this kind of thing–actively consider how you’re allocating your mental resources.  And share the things you’re doing (or want to try) in order to free up some time in YOUR life (because I could use some more inspiration in mine!).

Cast Iron Skillet Potatoes and Ham

Recipe

This recipe for cast iron skillet potatoes is an adaptation of another one of those that I’ve seen flying around Facebook (uncredited, as usual).  The base recipe is specifically for potatoes and is loaded with cheese (a no no in our house, obviously).  But I liked the idea of doing these potato slices in the cast iron skillet (this is an 8 inch skillet).  Having them cut thin and drizzled with olive oil gives that same crispy edge effect you get with Hasselback potatoes (a favorite of ours) but is rather easier since you don’t have to worry about not cutting all the way through.  I pulled out some leftover Christmas ham from the freezer and added slices of it in between to make this dish a full meal (In honor of my mom, make sure to add something green!).  Since this was a split dish for hubby and I, his half has real cheese and mine has Daiya (the stuff that browned is the real cheese).
Ingredients:
  • 3 Russet potatoes, scrubbed
  • 6 ounces of ham (I had leftover hunks from a Christmas ham in the freezer)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic powder
  • paprika
  • olive oil or bacon grease
  • shredded cheddar Daiya or cheese
Directions
  1. Brush bottom and sides of a baking dish or cast iron skillet generously with bacon grease or olive oil.
  2. Using a mandolin or a sharp knife, slice potatoes crosswise into desired thickness.
  3. Drizzle potatoes with a little bit of olive oil and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika.  I found it handy to do this in a separate bowl to ensure that all slices were well coated.
  4. Arrange potato slices vertically and loosely in prepared dish or skillet.  Intersperse slices of ham every few slices.
  5. Dot the top with more bacon grease (or butter if you can have that).
  6. Cover skillet with foil and bake in a 375 degree oven for an hour, or until potatoes are tender.
  7. Remove foil, sprinkle with cheddar Daiya or cheese and bake for another 15 minutes, or until crisp.

Sunday Summary and #ROW80 Progress Report

Sunday Summary

Sunday already?  Aaaand another ROW80 Progress Report

  1. It’s been all about the food today.  I put together some tuna salad, hummus, made quinoa egg muffins and mujadarra (using the spice palette from chicken shawarma), and experimented with a single serve batch of slightly healthier dairy free chocolate chip cookie dough (3 tbsp flour, 1.5 tbsp coconut oil, 1 tbsp coconut palm sugar, 1 tbsp dairy free chocolate chips, pinch sea salt, 1 tbsp oat milk (or other non dairy milk), 1/2 tsp vanilla).
  2. 4719 words this week.  I wound up making a change in cast to Liam and Riley’s story, swapping out who her local confidant is.  That necessitated some going back and making adjustments, swapping out a couple of scenes, adding another…I’m really pleased with the changes.  It sets up for Judd and Autumn’s book really well and added a much needed Friend Chemistry vibe.  I’m right at the midpoint.
  3. This week’s recipe was my secret shame, totwaffles.
  4. Did a fair bit of reading this week.  Knocked out the 4th Laurel Heights novel by Kate Perry, Looking For You, been working on  The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, and started Finding Your Way In A Wild New World by Martha Beck.  I’m also going back to the second Dragon’s Blood novel, The Deathmaker by Lindsay Buroker, which I was in the middle of when I got off on this Kate Perry kick.  I’ve got a work trip at the end of the week, so I ought to knock out a fair chunk in audio on that.
  5. I’ve been doing some plotting on a secret project (yeah, I know, I have a lot of those).  It’s a very long term sort of project.  One of those deals where I want to work on this series over time and have the whole thing done before I release any of them (which means a VERY VERY long term project as there are 6 short novels in this series and I’m focused on other things).  But it’s been fun to get some things lined up and sorted out related to the plot.
  6. Hubs and I have been marathon watching all of The Good Witch movies from Hallmark Channel.  They were cute, definitely our level of cheesy.  Of course all this watching of Catherine Bell makes me want to go back and watch JAG from the beginning.  :glares at Netflix for not having it on streaming:  Hallmark has apparently started a TV series based on the stories that picks up some ten years later.  Given the unavailability of the guy who plays the hero in all the movies, they have made some plot choices that this romance lover is not sure she can live with, so IDK if I’ll be watching or not.
  7. Speaking of romance–sort of–hubs and I also recently watched all of The Librarians series.  We picked this up because it was like Warehouse 13 meets Leverage, both of which we adored.  And frankly, we’ll watch Christian Kane in almost anything.  We really liked the team they put together, including the addition of Rebecca Romijn as the Guardian.  But one thing I have to say–whoever was in charge of writing the romance thread of this show failed in a seriously epic way.  SPOILER ALERT.  In the 2 hour premier of the series, she gets dragged in as the new Guardian for the Librarian (Noah Wyle).  Which, fine, he needs a keeper with that whole absent-minded professor thing he has going on.  And then at the end, completely out of nowhere they kiss and talk as if this has been a thing that had been building.  Um, I’m sorry, what?  Quite apart from the fact that these two have zero on screen chemistry, there was absolutely NO seeding of this potential relationship in the prior 2 hours.  It was just BAM.  We like each other!  (No magic involved).  Yeah, no, that’s not how this works.  There was no banter, no real antagonism masking attraction, no Moments, no nothing.  In a later episode dealing with parallel realities, I totally believed in the potential for her and Jake Stone (Christian Kane) as a couple for the ten minutes that reality was happening faster than I believed the one they actually wrote in (and really, I would ship that because…Christian Kane–what can I say, I like watching the man fight).  Flynn (Noah Wyle) is in and out through the series, and I think the episodes without him were much better because I didn’t have that glaring Not Relationship Relationship staring me in the face (and I enjoy the team chemistry).  So this Faux Romance has become the yardstick of bad romances in our household.
  8. On the Operation G.I.T. front, I had good success this week.  I got up all 5 weekday mornings at 6 to do a full workout, and I got my water consumption back up to 80 oz. +.  I have also successfully detoxed from sugar (and consequently dropped 4 pounds).  I’m going to stick to what I’ve got for goals just now.  I need another week or two to really start sealing in my new old habits before I try to add anything or change something up.

Midweek #ROW80 Progress Report

Progress Reports

It is time for another ROW80 progress report.

First up, I am DELIGHTED to say that Buddy, the black lab we rescued a couple weeks back and took to the local human society has been adopted!  He’ll be taken home after he’s been neutered.  This makes me incredibly happy because he is such a sweet sweet boy, and I worried because he was older, (and kinda neurotic after being on his own for so long), that he might have some issues on that front.  So that was a lovely middle of the week uplifting bit of news.

As far as Operation G.I.T., today marks DAY 3 that I have gotten up ON TIME and done my full workout.  Yesterday I was so sore, I’m pretty sure I was hobbling around like a septogenerian–which made my taekwondo class last night pretty interesting.  I’ve also been good so far this week about getting my minimum 80 ounces of water a day.  There’s still room for improvement in my portion sizes, but I am so not worried about that this week.  This week is all about getting back into routine.

On the writing front, after last week’s stupendous week, I hit a bit of a snag, which is 99% of the time evidence that I went wrong somewhere.  I had to be on the road some for the Evil Day Job yesterday, and driving is always good thinking/plotting time, so I sorted out a change I needed to make in the narrative (swapping out one character for another who will better be able to drive the shero’s character arc).  Last night’s writing block was spent going through my outline and making note of the changes that need to be made with that.  I can already feel the mental wheels turning, so I know it was the right move.

Yesterday I finished listening to Dream of You, the 5th in Kate Perry’s Laurel Heights series.  Really enjoyed that (the shero was a romance novelist, so possibly this was a no brainer).  I’m also reading The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, which I’m REALLY enjoying.  For some reason, spring cleaning and a yen for non-fiction tend to go hand in hand for me.

What are you reading, writing, working on?

Totwaffles: Tater Tots In The Waffle Iron

Recipe

As a foodie, I hesitate to share this.  I feel like it should be some kind of secret shame.  But it’s too darned tasty to keep a secret.  And really, it’s not that much of a secret.  It’s so simple, it doesn’t even qualify as a recipe.   I first saw it in one of those Lifehack lists that tend to float around Facebook all the time, for all kinds of stuff you never knew you could make in a waffle iron.  As we’ve recently gotten back into the concept of breakfast for dinner on time crunched nights, I felt like this was a must try.  Yes, tater tots in the waffle iron.

Y’all, these are so good.  And possibly the easiest hash browns known to man (which is a great thing for me because I make the biggest mess cooking them the regular way).  Hubs was delighted to find out he can actually HAVE tater tots (though warning to the gluten free crowd–be sure to check the label–not all tots are definitely gluten free).   He decreed that they must be called totwaffles.  Go ahead and say it.  See?  It makes you grin.  Totwaffle.  Totwaffle.  Totwaffle.  Ahem.  Possibly you should beware sharing that one with kids, as it might end up stuck on repeat.

 

Ingredients:

  • frozen tater tots (YOU DON’T EVEN NEED COOKING SPRAY)
  • waffle iron

Directions:

  1. Lay out the tots on the waffle iron until the surface of the iron is covered.
  2. Close.  Start whatever else you’re making to go with them (for me, that’s bacon).
  3. Cook for 10-15 minutes (start checking at 10 until you know how your waffle iron cooks).  You will need to squish the iron closed tighter about halfway through, once the tots are thawed.  You want them to ultimately stick together in a big square (or wedge if your waffle iron is round).
  4. Look for some nice caramelization before you pull them off.
  5. If you’re cooking for a crowd, pop the finished totwaffles on a baking sheet in the oven on warm while you cook the rest.
  6. Enjoy the deliciousness and grin like a kid.  You’re having TOTWAFFLES.

Sunday Summary and #ROW80 Progress Report

Sunday Summary

  1. I am officially caught in the tractor beam of my favorite chair.  Today was the first sunny day we’ve had in WEEKS, and it absolutely lit a fire under my fanny to GET THINGS DONE.  So I…made a quiche, batch cooked black beans, made gluten free hamburger buns, made an epic batch of turkey meatballs to freeze, did umpteen loads of dishes, emptied the dishwasher, did 4 loads of laundry and actually got them put away (which I didn’t manage last week), mopped the kitchen and bathroom, cleaned the counters, furminated my Big Fluffy (dear GOD, the hair!), bathed Princess Daisy, de-pooped the yard, hosed off my rain boots, tossed a bunch of stuff that needed tossing, put all the winter coats away, and cleaned up after the dog who peed in the guest room for reasons unknown.  And then I sat down.  :wilts:
  2. I’m thrilled to report a great week on the word count.  6759 words for the week.  Thank you Jesus, I actually feel like I DID something.  I had some words every day (though not many today, given that I was Doing All The Other Things).  I also did some plotting on another Wishful novel (one dealing with Liam’s brother Cruz) and changed up the plot for a novella I’ll be writing for an anthology this summer.  May this be the beginning of a new trend for the year.
  3. In case you missed it, this week’s recipe was Dairy Free Stuffed Shells.
  4. My goal for the week is to continue the writing streak and get going on exercise.  I’m in a headspace right now where I need someone to tell me what to do for exercise because having to make the decision is just a little more than I can handle post DST at 6 a.m.  I totally have all the knowledge, but sometimes you just want workout videos or classes.  So, the name of the game this week is The Spartacus Workout DVD.  Weights and cardio in one.

5 Ways to Combat Failure

Musings

I’ve been thinking a lot about failure lately.

StalkerCatIt seems as if it’s haunting me at every turn, skulking along waiting to ambush me in every arena of my life like some kind of apex predator stalking its prey.

I had amazing word counts last year.  Very few days of low or no productivity–only 71 non-writing days the whole year.  This year I’m already at 23, and we aren’t even a third of the way into the year.  I’m already a good six weeks behind my self-imposed schedule, which is half my fault, half the fault of the characters in this current book, who simply wouldn’t rest until I gave them a novel of twice the word count they were allotted (they were SUPPOSED to be a novella and released by now).  This doesn’t bode well for the lofty goals I set for my productivity this year.  Which, hey, I am the champion of preaching the idea that sometimes life happens, and don’t let it get you down.  That’s the entire philosophy behind why I founded A Round of Words in 80 Days.  Some days it’s really hard to practice what I preach.

On the Evil Day Job front, I’m currently in the midst of a project that’s very different from what we usually do in that it’s an epic collaboration between multiple universities across the country.  Which means that every blessed thing is done by committee and there are too many people that have to agree to make a decision.  It’s every school group project I ever hated, on crack.  I was on a conference call last week where they spent FORTY FIVE MINUTES debating about the components of the participant ID number (should’ve been a 5 minute decision).  And then someone said, “Hey y’all, productive meeting!”  God save me from the inefficient.  Pretty sure I’ve had a permanent eye twitch since this project started.  Part of the reason I normally rock my job is that I have no problems making a decision and getting things done.  Given I have zero control over things with this project and don’t have the authority to make those decisions, I’ve spent a lot of time feeling like the village idiot (not a role this type-A overachiever is accustomed to).  I’m definitely not alone.  Everyone ELSE on my team is in the same boat, but it’s incredibly frustrating (and has, probably, been somewhat contributing to the mental fog and poor attention that’s afflicting the writing side of my life).

SleepBut perhaps nowhere am I feeling the fail more than Operation Goddess In Training.  I have simply been unable to get back into a proper fitness routine since Christmas.  There’s been illness and injury that have meant I had to take it easy.  But more than that, I just can’t get myself out of bed early in the morning.  Getting up at 6 a.m. has become this Sisyphean task of trying to escape the tractor beam of my mattress–and the mattress totally wins most mornings.  It’s like I’m caught in this loop of inertia.  I had JUST managed to pull an ENTIRE WEEK of getting up on time, and then the #$^%^#$@$^#^ Daylight Savings Time started and screwed things up all over again.  The moment DST starts, my quality of sleep goes down because it’s further off my natural body clock.  I can’t go to sleep on time and then I can’t manage to get up in the PITCH BLACK DARK.  I require THE SUN to wake up.  That is the signal to my body that, yeah, okay, the day has begun.  If it’s still dark outside, my brain is like “Go back to sleep.  Nobody sane is up right now.”

Other than my taekwondo class, which is the ONLY thing I’ve been consistent with (apart from illness), I’ve been inactive long enough now that I’ve slid into just FEELING ICK.  One of the frustrating things about fitness is that you have to do a fair amount of pulling a Nike (Just Do It) whether you have energy or not, to get into a place where you actually HAVE energy.  It’s like that adage in business that you have to spend money to make money.  Given that willpower is a finite resource, that is a big is part of why it’s so flipping hard to make those kinds of lifestyle changes in the first place.  Add to that the fact that we have had gray and some form of wet precipitation for THREE STRAIGHT WEEKS, and I’m getting an epic case of spring fever on top of everything else.  I would LOVE to start Couch 2 5K again, just to change things up–but it WON’T STOP RAINING.  MAKE IT STOOOOOOOP.

But I don’t say all of this just as a general bitch session about the current state of affairs in my life.  It’s more as illustration of some really negative thought patterns that I think we are ALL prone to falling into at one time or another, and I wanted to try and articulate the tactics I use to break them.

  1. Focus on the positive.  This seems overly simplistic, but in our increasingly over-simplified, dichotomized world, if you’ve got to pick one side to focus on over the other, make a conscious choice to focus on the positive.  Yes, I’m behind on my self-imposed deadline, but I’ve also written and put out a cookbook, written a class for writers on novella writing (goes live next week!), and listened to my characters to create a much stronger, more entertaining story than the one I’d originally planned for them.  I’m absolutely getting stuff done.  Just not what I planned in the first place.
  2. Accept the idea of failing small.  I forget where I read this concept.  I want to say it was something Tom Venuto (The Body Fat Solution) said–some fitness guru anyway.  There’s this incredibly damaging mentality among a lot of people that if we fail at something, it’s all or nothing.  We’ve totally blown it and that’s permission to throw away all of our progress (however big or small).  So, like, we make a vow to give up sugar and end up in a showdown at the office because somebody brought in donuts Tuesday morning.  We have a donut.  A lot of people would then say, screw it.  I’ve already blown it.  I might as well forget it.  Or I’ll start over again on Monday (meaning a full rest of the week of cheating).  Y’all, this is all kinds of counterproductive.  A much healthier way of approaching this kind of situation is to say, “Yeah, okay, I had a donut.  I’ll have a salad for dinner and veggie omelets for breakfast the rest of the week.”  If you miss a day of writing, okay.  Life happens.  Write tomorrow.  Don’t accept a single failure as the end of all your efforts.  That’s totally shooting yourself in the foot.
  3. What’s the least you can change?  When you’re facing some seemingly insurmountable task and you don’t know how you’re ever going to manage it (right now, getting consistently out of bed in the pitch black dark at 6 a.m. feels like that for me), stop looking at the big picture and instead focus on the nitty gritty of the components.  What’s the least you can change to take a step in the right direction?  For me, that’s setting 3 alarms on my Fitbit, at 5 minute increments to overcome my very bad habit of turning the alarm off and sliding instantly back to sleep.  I’m not trying to do everything at once.  Right now, I’m just tackling the first step of getting my fanny out of bed.
  4. Focus on process, not progress.  This one is hard hard hard for me.  I’m a big Set Measurable Goals person, and I track a looooot of things.  It’s possible I have an unhealthy love of spreadsheets.  And yeah, okay, those measurable goals ARE important, but they aren’t all.  Instead of focusing on a number on the scale and losing hope when it doesn’t change at the rate I want it to (because the number on that scale is not directly in my control), it’s far better to focus on the PROCESS, on the things that are most likely to impact that number–Did I work out today?  Did I get all my veggies?  Did I get adequate sleep?  Did I drink enough water?  On the writing, did I write anything (not just did I hit my target word count)?  Did I think about the book?  Did I make the story a priority?  Progress is a direct outcome of process, and process is the thing that’s fully in your control.
  5. Connect with others to realize that you aren’t alone.  Everything is easier to deal with when you realize it’s not just you.  I’ve talked to dozens of other people who are feeling exactly like I am this year.  Writers who have struggled right off the line with the goals they set for 2015.  People who are having just as hard a time getting back into a healthy routine after the holidays.  Many many others who have as many profane remarks to make about the continued existence of DST.  Even better, engage in the buddy system.  Being accountable to someone else adds another layer of pressure that helps with that deficit of willpower.  So, whether that’s a shared productivity spreadsheet with another writer (waves at Lockwood Monk), participating in a writing challenge (Hey ROWers!), joining a community of other writers from all walks of life (Hey WANATribe!), or joining a Facebook Group where you can talk about your trials and triumphs with trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, go find SOMEONE to be part of that journey with you.  You’ll be glad you did.

Fiction Friday Round-up: Candis Terry’s Sweet, Texas

Books

I had other stuff I was going to post about this morning, but the stupendosity (shut up, it’s a word) of the deal I found when I got online this morning dictated a change.  I’ve posted before about how much I ADORE Candis Terry’s Sweet, Texas series.  It’s one of my all time favorite contemporary romance series, and it winds up in July with the 5th book (:cries:).  If you haven’t actually read this series, NOW IS THE TIME TO TRY IT.

The first book, Anything But Sweet, is currently FREE at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo (probably iBooks, though I haven’t looked).  Go forth and buy it, RIGHT NOW.

Welcome to Candis Terry’s Sweet, Texas, a sexy new contemporary series where the wild Wilder brothers find love in a town that, despite its name, is anything but sweet…

War and the deaths of loved ones have changed Ex-marine Reno Wilder’s attitude. Now this military man is ready to settle down into a calmer life. So when Sweet is chosen as a destination for a makeover TV show, he’s less than pleased about the potential disruption to his routine.

Headstrong show host and designer Charlotte Brooks arrives in Sweet ready to change everything, including Reno. Locked in a face-off neither saw coming, will they be able to find common ground and realize that a life together could be sexy…and also very sweet?

 

And because you’re going to LOVE THIS BOOK and this town as much as I do, you should go right on ahead and pick up all the following books which are a paltry 99 cents each!  Go ahead.  Go.  Buy.  Sexy ex-military cowboys (and firefighters).  A matchmaking mama.  Delightful small town.  Awesome old people.  A pet goat.  THERE IS NOTHING NOT TO LOVE HERE.