You Are Now Being Monitored For Performance: One Month on the Fitbit Flex

Six weeks ago I went to visit my doctor for my yearly physical. Yes, it was a special day for all of us involved. So I go in and the first thing they have you do is step on the scale. Now, like every woman in the world, this is the worst part of the visit but I step on the scale and the  nurse goes “hmmm.”

Why on Earth someone would say ‘hmmm’ in a doctors office I’ll never know because ‘hmmm’ is the very worst thing you can say in a doctors office because immediately you assume they’re diagnosed you with a rare, uncurable disease and you have minutes to live.

So I go into the exam room and my doctor meets me and she tells me “your weight is a bit up. And so is your blood pressure. I know you’ve been busy but I’d like you to start exercising more. A good investment to help you do this is to get a Fitbit. You can get a Fitbit flex, it’s waterproof (we both have daughters who are swimmers on the same team and the doc knows I like to swim laps for stress relief), and it will help record how much exercise you do. It can monitor your sleep. Monitor your activity. And it can help you make better choices—just by wearing it on your wrist.

What can I say? I fell for it. Another toy that is actually supposed to help me. So I get myself a Fitbit Flex and I strap it onto my wrist. I go onto the site and I set up an account and I’m all ready to go. I set myself an alarm so I can “silently wake myself without disturbing my parter” and I set my step goal (10,000 steps) and I get ready to get healthy.

Here’s what my first 30 days were like:

Day 1 6:15 am: I begin having dreams about being sent to death row. Old school movie clips play in my mind. I’m being led to the electric chair with a priest in formal robes with the big red hat and he’s walking in front of me reciting parts of the Bible.

My husband shakes me awake and tells me I’ve been screaming in my sleep about how I didn’t kill the guy he was already dead when I showed up.

Turns out it was the alarm.

Day 1 Noon: I’ve been to the gym and gotten my 10,000 steps in. Can I quit now?

Day 5: I realize that I haven’t been getting 20,000 steps a day. Turns out that I talk with my hands. A lot. The Fitbit thinks my talking is steps taken. I now take my Fitbit off if I’m having dinner with my husband, arguing with my kids or on the phone with friends. My daily steps have now dropped to somewhere around 7500 unless I make it to the gym. Which means the gym has now become a priority. Yay?

Day 10:  I’ve finally stopped having dreams about my own death via electric chair. Now the stupid buzzy alarm is just freaking annoying.

Day 15: I now find myself tapping my Fitbit Flex to see how many steps I’ve taken before I get myself a snack to debate whether I can “afford” the calories.

Day 20: I gave up on this early morning crap and moved the alarm up to 7:00 a.m.  (Now that it’s summer I’ve actually shut the alarm off because I no longer have to landmine my kids out of bed to get them to the bus each morning).

Day 25: My jeans are a little looser. I make healthier food choices when I go to the store. I’ve got more energy. I’ve been conditioned to wait for the little buzzes coming from my wrist like one of Pavlov’s dogs waiting for a dog biscuit.

Day 30: I’ve lost 5 pounds. Most days I get 10,000 steps in. The days I don’t—I don’t sweat them because I know that I can make up those steps the next day. Every day I get excited when I feel that buzzing. Every buzz reminds me that I’m making progress and I make better choices because I don’t want to undo that progress.

So, for me? The Fitbit Flex was a win. Sure, it looks a bit dorky wearing a rubber bracelet around everywhere but the constant positive reinforcement helps me to achieve my fitness goals. And no offense I can deal with looking a bit dorky—especially now that I’ve started craving that little buzzy feeling.

My Best Beach Reads

It’s Summer and I think everyone knows what that means. Beach and vacation reading. This year me and mine are heading on a 10 day eco tour of Costa Rica. Tortuguero National Park, Arenal Volcano National Park and Manuel Antonio National Park. Sea Turtles, Volcanos, Monkeys, Horses, Zip Lining, Surfing. This is not DisneyWorld my friends. So I also made sure to book in plenty of relaxing beach time for my lazy bones. And there’s nothing I love to do more on lazy beach days then work on my sunburn and read a good book. So here are nine that I’m held off on reading so that I can take them along to enjoy:

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And the one book I can’t wait to reread:

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Happy Birthday To Me!!!!

Just a sort note today to let everyone know I’m middle aged. I’ve been middle aged for a while but today I’m going to celebrate it. I’m 34 and this is the year I’m expecting big changes to happen.

My youngest is getting ready to start kindergarten this year which means I’ll now be home alone during the day with a full time writing career. I’ve got a banging new office that my family gave me for mother’s day, and a great spouse and two fabulous kids.

I am an exceptionally lucky woman and today I’m celebrating it? I’m going to enjoy the day with my family, the sun, and a whole lot of margaritas. And possibly barbeque.

For everyone else? I hope you have a good week. Read something fabulous. Have a drink for me. And remember—birthday cake doesn’t have calories so have a second piece.

Proud Book Girl

There was an article last week about Book Girls at BEA. Book Expo America for those of you who aren’t in the know. I didn’t get to go this year and it’s killing me. Especially since post-BEA was BookCon and BookCon looks like it’s going to become each year’s pilgrimage place for Book Girls.

Book Girls (if you don’t know what they are) are girls who love to read. Seriously love to read. Girls like I used to be. Girls who would rather read a book than anything else. Girls who seriously connect with the characters on their pages—or their screens. Girls who want to be special for more than their hair or their ability to get on a reality television show. Girls who are smart and funny and sensitive.

I was one of those girls. I still am one of those girls. And the great part? My oldest is a book girl as well. But the difference is she’s a book girl with a community. She’s not weird or nerdy or anything else. The teachers don’t complain because her nose is in a book.

Now, people are embracing book girls. Hollywood, publishers, the internet, even teachers and other students. People want to be the book girls. Why? Part of it could be that YA novels are starting to get real respect and very talented writers have started treading the boards in YA. Not just one or two authors like it was in my day. Now there are talented writers all over the place and their focus is the YA/NA market.  Another reason is that people are starting to see that the Book Girls are amazing. They’re smart and funny, confident girls. They’re girls that are sensitive to others and are capable of leading.

These Book Girls are going to be the ones who finally break the glass ceiling once and for all. And in thirty years? When we’re all old and grey and they’re us—their daughters aren’t even going to know that a world where Book Girls were something different and amazing even existed.

If you’re interested in a really great article from on the ground at BEA try this one at NPR.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2014/06/05/319064976/the-muscle-flexing-mind-blowing-book-girls-will-inherit-the-earth

New Work Spaces

So I’ve been behind in putting this up but I’ve got to share the Mother’s Day present I got from my family. Back in May it was decided for us to turn our fourth bedroom into Mommy’s Office. (Yay, the youngest is soon in school and that means Mommy gets an office to work in rather than tapping out words between disasters during the day. I repeat—loudly—YAY!!!

 So, back to the task at hand. Turning a dark brown, dreary fourth bedroom into a place where I not only could work but wanted to work. Let me show you how it looked:

 

This is what the room looked like before...

This is what the room looked like before…

Okay. You’ve got the old room in your mind. First things first—new paint. We went with this gorgeous light blue from Valspar called Beachy Sparkle. Or as Oldest called it – Alice in Wonderland Blue. Perfect for me—I’m a serious Alice Addict. This is the color it turned out:

 

aka Valspar's Beachy Sparkle...

aka Valspar’s Beachy Sparkle…

Now, what an office needs is a workspace. And I need lots of space since I am a work blob—I will expand to fill my space like no one’s business. That meant either A.) a new desk or b.) a trip to Ikea. After some looking online we decided that Ikea was the way to go. Now instead of one  foot desk I have two six foot desks that are joined together at their long ends giving me one big, white 12 foot hunk of space to clutter. Now I have my computer, two additional monitors and both of my printers along with office supplies right where I need them.

 

Ignore the mess

Ignore the mess

Next came the bookshelf filled with all the possible reference books I might need. Then the closet was filled with filing stuff and tended to sit around taking up space and needing to be moved before now. Before it was cluttered—now it’s still cluttered but I know where everything I need is. I might have to root through the closet but at least I know it’s only that closet.

 

My Reference Shelf and Reading Nook

My Reference Shelf and Reading Nook

Where the Ideas are supposed to happen

Where the Ideas are supposed to happen

Then? A comfy place to curl up and read a novel—or have a visit from hubby and the kids. I put in a futon and covered it with a quilt that Ben’s grandma gave us that matches the walls. Heck, I can even take a nap in here if I want to pull it out and have a kip. And I have with Youngest several times since the office was finished.

And for the finishing touch? Alice decorations. Red heart party lights strung over where the curtains should be. Alice in Wonderland wall decals up to inspire me and make me laugh. And red roses so I can keep reminding myself that if all my flowers turn out white then I can always get out the paint and start coloring them in.

What about you? If you were designing the ultimate YOU workspace what would you include? What wouldn’t you include? And what can you totally not live without?

 

 

Checking Out Fiction Unboxed

So I signed up for a Kickstarter (something I never do by the way) for a program called Fiction Unboxed and if you’re a writer or you’re just curious about how writers do their jobs or you’re one of those assholes who say “I could totally write a book if I wanted to I just have too busy of a life”—let’s hope you’re really not one of those assholes—then you should consider signing up too.

What is Fiction Unboxed?

Fiction Unboxed is this really cool program being ran by two great authors from Austin Texas – Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt. If you sign up and contribute what you get to do is watch these two guys write a novel from the ground floor up. Depending on your level of contribution depends on how much you see and how much you get out of it. At the level I donated at I get to watch these two authors go through their process (which is probably much different from my process) and see how they make their magic happen.

Why do I want to do that? Because no one, NO ONE, except maybe J.K. Rowling and Nora Roberts is an absolute Jedi Master Yoda when it comes to writing. There are still tricks and techniques that we can learn—and teach—to each other as writers. Seeing how someone else does their process and does their work will help me evaluate what they’re doing, compare it to what I’m doing and then see how their process can help  me make mine better. And what comes from an improved process? Better stories.

How I explained Fiction Unboxed to my husband (who is not a writer): It’s like I’m Volkswagen and Toyota just invited my engineering and design team in to see how they make cars. When my time at Toyota is over am I going to stop making Volkswagens and start making Toyotas? No, but what I’m hoping is that I can learn about how they move their Prius down the line so that the next time I’m designing and building a new Beetle I can take what I’ve learned from them and use what applies in my work to build a better Beetle.

Which FYI—if that would have happened I guarantee you that the new Beetles would still look like Beetles and not some sort of toaster with a Cougar complex.

Anyway, Fiction Unboxed—it’s a cool program for authors and nonauthors to check out how one duo puts out a lot (and I do mean a lot) of fun stuff every year.  If you want to  learn more and possibly get in on the fun here is an article about it from the Austin Business Journal and the website for Fiction Unboxed as well as their publishing company Realm and Sands.:

http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/blog/at-the-watercooler/2014/04/kickstarted-how-two-austin-authors-raised-19-000.html?page=all

http://fictionunboxed.com/

http://realmandsands.com/

 

 

What’s Coming Next

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on my blog (I know I know, bad author no Starbucks) but I’m starting up again and I thought a good place to start was with what’s coming up. So here we go:

1.)    My novella—Sleeping with the Enemy—comes out Tuesday in the Spellbound in Sleepy Hollow Anthology with Boone Brux and Rosalie Lario. If you like witches, ghosts and all sorts of funny romance then this anthology is for you. And oh, yeah, it’s $0.99 when it releases so talk about a good deal—three novellas by three different authors (two of them are wildly funny and allowed me to come along for the ride) all for the price of a normal novella.

You can buy it here:

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2.) My St. Louis Superhero trilogy is churning along. I don’t have definite publication dates yet but I can tell you that His Secret Superheroine (St. Louis Superheroes Book #1) has been through it’s second pass edits with the editor and His Sidekick Situation (St. Louis Superheroes Book #2) has been through it’s first edit pass with the brilliant Allison Blissard at Entangled Publishing. The Villian Who Loves Her is almost finished and it should be heading into the publisher early this summer. So lookout for more information on this trilogy.

3.)    If you haven’t finished the Speak of the Devil series (my first series of books) all of them are now out and available for sale. Do Matt and Faith get happily ever after? Will the world end before they can finally get some time alone together?  What sort of secrets is Malachi hiding? (trust me even I didn’t see some of them coming). Find out by picking up the whole trilogy now. And if you comment below with an email I’ll even send you a special bonus short story on how Lisa ended up a succubus.

You can buy them here:

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THE GREAT THING ABOUT FAIRYTALES AND A LIST OF MY TOP 5 FAVORITE RETELLINGS

I’ve been thinking a lot about fairytales lately. My new series, the Chronicles of Nerissette, is based on a group of teenagers who get sucked through a book of fairytales in the library and end up in a magical world that’s on the brink of civil war. As I was writing these books I spent a lot of time pouring over fairytales and fairytale retellings, trying to figure out what it was that made them resonate. What is it about princesses locked in towers and brave princes on white horses that sticks with us. Then I found a quote by G.K. Chesterton and it seemed to sum it up for me:

“Fairytales don’t tell children that dragons exist; children already know that dragons exist. Fairytales tell children that dragons can be killed.” ― G.K. Chesterton

The problem was—in my books, the dragons are the good guys. Not to give away too big of a spoiler—it’s pretty obvious really if you’ve gotten past about page 3—but the love interest in my series is a dragon. But I rolled the quote around in my head and I realized that old G.K. had it half right. It’s not the dragons we need fairytales for—it’s the evil that the dragons in old school fairytales were meant to embody. And I think that’s what fairytales and Harry Potter and all those stories that resonate for us is that all of them show us the same thing—that in the end the good things in life—love, friendship, loyalty—they can defeat the evil things.

Once I figured the whole psychological thing out I realized that I didn’t love fairytales any less because I’d figured them out. I realized I loved them more. And because I love fairytales and their retellings so much I’ve put together a list of my top 5 favorite fairytale retellings and I hope you love them as much as I do.

1.)The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor – this is the first book in a trilogy that sees Alice in Wonderland taking on a whole new, steampunk feel. A relatively late comer to this series (I picked all three books up off the bargain table at a Barnes and Noble) and spent an entire weekend going “not now I’m reading”. Now whenever my husband sees one of them on my nightstand he just plans on ordering pizza to feed him and the kids.

2.)Enchantment  by Orson Scott Card—I’m not a fan of his politics but I don’t think anyone can deny that Orson Scott Card can write one heck of a story and in my honest opinion this one leaves Enders Game in the dust. A retelling of Sleeping Beauty that’s set in Post-Soviet Russia it involves time travel, a talking bear with one eye, Baba Yaga and a disappearing 747—all of it told from the poor confused hero’s POV.

3.)Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine—Who doesn’t love a good Cinderella story? And one with a couple of inept fairy godmothers who keep screwing things up? The story would be a keeper just from that but throw in spunky Ella and her view on the world and that just makes it a classic as far as I’m concerned.

4.)Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire—Before the musical there was the book. Wicked embodies the spirit of “the winners write history” better than any other book I’ve ever read.  This book tells things from the other side though and it changed how I watched the Wizard of Oz from that day forward.

5.)Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce—Little Red Riding Hood with an ax to grind—quite literally. Scarlett and Rosie are characters that captured my heart and sort of made me wish I could have traded my brother in for a sister back when we were young.

 

 

 

 

One of Those Odd Weeks

So it’s been one of those odd weeks. Oldest started school and that means we’re all back on the grindstone. Sure, I have youngest at home with me but it’s different somehow.

When Oldest is off school I work on a sort of as-needed/when the mood strikes sort of way. If I have a deadline or I have some free time and I want to write I do. Otherwise I try to act like a school teacher and enjoy having a summer vacation. I spend time with my kids. We hang out by the pool. I purposely make sure I do the one thing that I told my boss I wanted to do when I quit my last corporate job. I spend more time with my kids and less time working– that’s a luxury that I get as a full time author and I tend to exploit it like mad over the summer.

Now though, Oldest is back to school and I’ve been back to actually working for a week. I spent all of last Sunday getting prepped. I have goals. And a to-do list. A calendar of plans and scheduling and deadlines. I have a kanban flow board on the web that lets me track the progress of each and every one of my projects. I have engineered myself into a place of complete focus. And that works for me. I’ve written more this week than I have all summer—not counting the times I was on deadline—and my brain is chattering with new ideas and plots and I’m more energetic than before.

But there’s still this part of me that keeps glancing out toward the pool. Missing popsicles and water gun wars.

I love my work and the life it lets me have, but man I won’t lie and say there are times that I wish that summer wouldn’t ever end.