Goal setting

  1. By the end of March I will finish my second draft of my novel.

Flipping through my notebooks I find goals like these plastered everywhere.  Goals are not dreams or wishes, they are targets for action plans. If you’ve read any literature at all on the subject, you know that writing down goals makes it more likely you will succeed, and that goals should follow the “S.M.A.R.T.” strategy- Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and on a Timeline.  The other commonly described goal is the stretch goal, which is described as a goal that seems out of reach but isn’t completely impossible.

“Yeah, yeah yeah, Jane,” you say.  “Goals.  I had goals, but I didn’t achieve them, life got in the way.”

Ok, go look at those goals now.  Evaluate them.

Ask yourself a few questions.
  • Did you make any progress toward your goal?
  • Did you encourage or reward yourself for taking action on this goal?
  • Was this goal given to you from the outside world?
  • Are you still the same person who wanted these goals?
  • What will happen if you let go of this goal?  Any negative consequences?
  • Do you want to make a whole-hearted commitment to trying again?
  • Do you want to make a different goal instead?
  • What tripped you up the most in trying to achieve the goal- scheduling, motivation, fear, other people, unfortunate events?
  • Is there anything you can change to make this goal easier?
  • Did you break it down into smaller chunks?

Ok, now make some new goals.  Here are the rules- the goals must be something you are willing to commit to, that you have reasonable amount of time to complete, that don’t involve other people giving you approval or permission, and that will give you satisfaction and enjoyment in working towards them (not just achieving them).

Now, think about how to achieve those goals.  What are the obstacles- do you have solutions to overcome them, a “plan b” when things go wrong?  What are you going to do to encourage yourself?  How can you get support from loved ones?  Do you have the tools and space you need to start?

Share your goals with people you trust to encourage you.  Get to it!


649718I’m reading Secret Societies: Inside the World’s Most Notorious Organizations by John Lawrence Reynolds to help me develop my own evil organization for my story.  I recommend this book- I’m not usually a fan of history books, but this one was fascinating.  It covers the league of assassins, Templars, Illuminati, the Priory of Scion and Freemasons, explores the myths behind Kabbalah, Wicca and Rosicrucians, and explains the origins and organizational structure of Triads, Cosa Nostra, and Yakuza.

I’m most interested in how they develop and what methods they use to find and bind members to their cause.  The Assassins used elaborate staging to make members think they’d died and gone to paradise so they could “come back from the dead” and recount what they saw.  The Yakuza punish members by making them cut off their own pinky finger (which is needed for master swordsmen).

Reynolds also talked about how many organizations became secretive to avoid prosecution, but that very secrecy made it easy for their enemies to make up stories about their practices, such as claiming early Christians ate babies.

I’m coming up with a name for the group in my story.  They were established to protect cultures from outside influence and contamination from other worlds, but over the years they’ve built up rituals, beliefs and  practices that will lead them to try to destroy the connections between worlds, even though that will sever their communication to each other.  I started out with “the Order” but I don’t want to look like I’m copying Star Wars.

Here’s some possible secret organization names:
  • Oathbound
  • the Pact
  • Lock
  • Wall Guard
  • Protectorate
  • Portas
  • Alliance
  • Guild of Smiths
  • Borders Union
  • Cleaners
  • 21
  • Council of Order
  • Venn Diagram
  • Root and Leafhailhydra

Hail Hydra. 😉



This year for NaNoWriMo, I’m rewriting the first novel I ever wrote.  It’s awful.

Back at the end of the 20th century, I worked on my book for over two years, writing when inspiration struck. I rewrote chapters, added in elements, cleaned up sentences and changed the ending.  I asked friends for their opinion and got very politely worded feedback.  I had what I thought was a complete manuscript and eagerly sent it out to publishers, thinking it was just as good as what was out there.  I thought I had read enough books on writing, taken a college course, I was ready.  My friend cheered me on, even going so far as to get a copy printed at a vanity publisher (that’s the version I’m working from, with map endpapers and parchment-style paper.)  After a series of rejections, my enthusiasm waned.  She meant well, but I realized that was probably the only way I was going to be published, and was secretly crushed.  I put the gift away on a shelf and went back to writing short stories.

A quote from the tv show Supergirl that I just watched last night really resonated with me.  “You can’t walk into a company and expect to become the CEO.”

Unless you are some kind of genius, you must learn by doing.  I’m going through the book now, trying to rescue it from itself.  I gave my main character, living in a medieval society, a crushing fear of fire (think Frankenstein’s monster level).  I made her perfect in every way other than that.  I wavered my point of view between her and her love interest, whose main motivation was to follow around his unrequited love and mope.  The villain’s main motivation was to be evil.  I created horrendous monsters that wandered through the countryside, allowed to do whatever they wanted since the people were not at war with them at the moment.  I threw in random characters, some who were there just to have one conversation with the main character.  I created a group of twenty characters and had them travel together.  Twelve of those characters had names starting with “Z” because of a plot point.  Don’t even get me started on the fake medieval dialect, for I know not what I will do on that.

That was fifteen years ago. Now I have done eight novels (five polished and three first drafts) and I better understand the craft.  Just like a musician that practices and learns pieces, I know what is supposed to be produced, even when I don’t have the skill to produce it yet.

At Dragon Con, I went to a panel on writing and getting published.  One of the authors, Jenna Black, said she wrote 18 novels before she got published.  I tweeted that was discouraging, and she replied:

So I am encouraged, looking at my first fumbling attempts, because now I see what I did wrong and why it didn’t work.  So hopefully by my 18th novel, I’ll have work that is being read by others, characters that are loved and talked about like friends, and perhaps some compensation for my efforts.


Here’s my cover for the book- what do you think?

I was going for “uncovered ancient book of knowledge.”

July 18, 2015

Write Right Herecoffee

I’m working on revising a rough draft of a novel.  I have a skeleton there, but there is a long, hard way to go. I look at the mess and wonder if I’ll ever make it, if I’m wasting my time.  I took a break and saw a pretty picture of a coffee drink, and started dreaming about writing places.

I want to write in a quiet cafe with wood-paneled walls, leather cushioned booths and intriguing pictures on the walls.  I’d have a latte with a design swirled in the foam, and an almond pastry.  A stranger walks by and says “It’s unfortunate she found that,” and I’m off and running.

I want to write at a picnic table in the woods, in view of a lake where I’d just gone kayaking.  The warm wind ruffling the leaves of the trees overhead would join together with birdsong as a quiet background noise.

I want to write in a room at the top of a tower, with a large window looking out over a valley.  My broad oak desk is full of interesting knickknacks, and a nearby wall has a bulletin board full of inspiration pictures.  I stretch, climbing circular stone stairs to the roof access, and out in the wind, I watch the sun set.  The solution to my character’s development comes to me, and go back in to write some more.

I want to write in a shady pavilion on the beach, sitting in a sling chair.  The waves hit the white sands with a soothing roar and the scent of salt water is refreshing.  I have a frozen lemonade at a little table next to me, and I promise myself a nice swim if I get this chapter down.

I want to write in a cottage in a big easy chair next to a fire, with snow drifting by the window.  The air is chill, but I have a blanket over my lap and a cat curled up next to me.

I want to write on a sleeper train, late at night, listening to the clatter of the tracks and imagining a complicated murder mystery involving a lost letter and a secret engagement.  The train is taking me to a city to explore with my friends and family, and I am excited for the adventure awaiting me.

I want to write at a Sci-Fi convention, collaborating with several friends.  We work silently for a while, writing with a frenzied focus as people in costumes walk by our table.  Then we share ideas, tweaking and rearranging the plot of a shared story.  Someone asks to join us and we are delighted to work with a well-known fantasy author who shares her insight and experience.

I want to write in a fancy resort with a balcony overlooking mountains.  There’s no need for me to pause my writing for cooking or cleaning, since I have meals delivered and a maid coming in every morning.  When I need inspiration I go out on a hike.

I want to write in a library, but not just any library.  The ones I see in librarian magazines, with beautiful architecture, comfortable furniture and quiet nooks.  A library of massive size but designed to welcome readers of all types.

I want to write in a secret room of a mansion, a windowless hidey-hole accessed by a staircase behind a false bookshelf.  The little room is full of cleverly designed storage, and the desk has plenty of light.  I feel snug and safe.

Where I am is not that terrible.  I’m sitting in a comfortable chair, watching the sun set through our window, the dying light illuminating the piles of books, toys and dishes on the coffee table, the figurines and pieces of the Heroscape game spread out all over the floor.  The dog walks up and casually punches me with his paw, asking for attention.  My son comes in and wants help getting ice cream.  My daughter comes in and wants help designing a creature for a story of her own.  The fish tank burbles.  Explosions and screams from the tv come from the other room.  The doves cry.  Now the dog is staring at me with sad eyes, his head on my knee.

Not bad, actually.  I want to write here.


April 18, 2015

spine poems

In honor of poetry month, create a “found” poem by stacking books.  This is a great and easy display for a library, and a mind-stretching exercise for writers and other creative types.  Try to use spines that are easy to read from a distance, and don’t have the author’s name hogging too much space. There are some great examples at 100 Scope Notes and Pinterest.

spine poetry 2

March 7, 2015

griffin smallWriting Progress

I’ve set aside my Librarian Craft project to focus on my second draft of a fantasy novel called “Other People’s Magic”.  It was a tangled mess, as I had somehow shuffled four chapters.  With the help of my writer’s group, I’m deciding what to keep, what to get rid of, and what to change.  Feedback is really helpful, as I was allowing my character to wander around encountering magical things instead of having an urgent goal.  I’m cranking up the tension while trying to keep the playfulness and sense of wonder.

The hardest part of writing is not getting distracted by the internet, housework, reading, tv, children, husband, friends, family, work….ok, mostly the internet.

seekingclaritycover2 small


My ebook, Seeking Clarity, is now available to purchase at Smashwords, Barnes and Noble,  Kobo, and more.  Lucy meets Jack, a burnt-out dream-seller hiding from the world, and together they must stop the King of Dreams from putting the world into permanent sleep.  The key to the puzzle is Clarity, but who is she and how will she shape the future Jack and Lucy are hurtling toward?


November 29, 2014


November 12, 2014

I switched from having my books individually uploaded to different sites to using Smashwords, an ebook distributor that translates my files into multiple formats.  You can download a 10% sample for free.  I’d love some feedback!

Name Questnamequestcoveroct14– Anything can happen in the dreamlands, where the wild magic flows across the land, distorting everything it touches. Flying ships, monsters, and spells abound. Despite that, a nameless girl is determined to pass through the horrors and wonders to complete her pilgrimage, and gain her new name. Three women and a shapeshifter discover who they truly are, and accidentally save their world.

Promotional price: $2.39
Coupon Code: MA74J
Expires: December 12, 2014


Imagine the worst

In some writing book I read, I don’t remember which one, it advised to think of the worst possible thing to do to a character, and then do it.  I have realized that this advice is not working for me.  What’s the worse thing that could happen to my characters who are solving a murder?  They never solve it.  They give up.  They all die horribly.  I don’t think that’s what the writing advisor meant.  He (or she) meant that I should add conflict.  Stories with minimal conflict are lifeless, dull things.  I find I need to do that.  I just formed a team of very different characters in what could be a lively buddy cop type of situation, and they are all getting along and agreeing with all the decisions of their leader.  Blah.  That’s a fantasy of a different kind.  People are irritating, and people seldom agree with each other about everything.  I should get inspiration from trying to clean the house with my family.  We love each other dearly, but our arguments are ludicrous.

Just a few minutes ago, I ended a disagreement with my daughter (about the fact that a box of something does not equal a serving) by yelling “I didn’t pay for an argument!”  Then I sat down and wrote a scene where all the leader’s team told her how wonderful she was and that they would do what she said.  Hmmm.

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