Wrapping Up ROW80 & Looking Ahead to 2015

I hope your Hanukkah, Christmas, or other holidays were peaceful and enjoyable. For those who struggled with the holidays this year due to hardships in their lives, my heart goes out to you. I pray that everyone faces a hopeful year in 2015.

But here at year’s end, I’m doing a little wrapping up and looking ahead for me, my writing, and my blog.

ROW80LogocopyFinal ROW80 Check-in

It’s been years now that I’ve been involved in A Round of Words in 80 Days. I’m aware of other writing challenges, but I like this one particularly because it’s flexible to the participant and the season. Writers set their own goals for a round that last 80 days, and then report their progress and receive encouragement from others.

I haven’t been quite as on top of ROW80 this time as I like to be. But I did participate once again, and here’s my final report.

1. Edit, polish, and release two more short stories in my Paranormal Playground series. I edited both, but I need more feedback from critique partners before polishing and publishing. Thus, these releases will happen after the first of the year.

2. Read 12 books. I read 10 books. And I’m still trying to get through Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. Honestly, if this one hadn’t tripped me up, I’d have made my goal. I feel bad about my slow progress, but Mansfield Park is often named as Austen’s least engaging novel and it involves a lot of telling and dialogue — more than I recall in her other works. Yes, yes, that’s all rationalizing, but I have sworn to myself that I will finish this book and I plan to make it through before the end of this year.

3. Attend Immersion Master Class and follow-up. I completed Immersion, made necessary edits based on what I learned there, and have only a couple of scenes to fix to be completely done. In addition, at the encouragement of Immersion mates and others, I entered my manuscript in the Golden Heart contest.

2015Looking Ahead to 2015

It’s good to take a look back and where you’ve been and what you can improve, but I don’t believe in dwelling there. Take stock, sure, but then look ahead to what’s next.

So here’s my overall list of writing goals for the New Year:

1. Revamp my website. Yes, I’ve done this before, but I’ve never been supremely happy with how it’s all going here. In fact, I wrote not that long ago on Blogging: What’s the Point? I’ve had some ideas stirring around in my head for months, but I haven’t had time to get to them. I’m planning to change that in 2015 and reboot the blog.

2. Publish three paranormal short stories. I have three more short stories to put out for my Paranormal Playground series. I’ll be releasing those, hopefully in the first half of 2015.

3. Publish “Color Me Happy.” This young adult contemporary short story was published in an anthology, but I’d like to publish it as a single as well. I’m aiming for perhaps a summer release.

4. Query Sharing Hunter. This contemporary young adult novel has been my heart’s work in 2014, and I believe it’s ready to go out to agents and publishers. It’s already been sent out a few times, but it’s in better shape now and I’m eager to query my manuscript.

5. Edit The Year of Firsts (working title). I wrote this middle grade novel a couple of years ago, then let the draft sit. I like the story and the characters, but after much thought, I’ve decided to edit it into a young adult novel. Of course, that means more like rewrite than edit, but I think this will be a great follow-up project. (And yeah, I no longer like that title, so I’ll be trying out new ones.)

6. Serve as RWA chapter officer. Next year, I am the vice president of special events for my RWA chapter. Some moments, I think I was crazy to agree to add another item to my already full plate, and other moments, I’m really excited to get to do this job. Wish me luck!

Perhaps I’ll get even more done in 2015. But I’m keeping my list right there for now.

What have you accomplished this past year? What are you looking forward to doing in the New Year?

I Wash My Face with Oil & ROW80

Welcome to Scarlet Thread Sunday, the day I share something I’ve learned in the labyrinth of life. I’m on a sort of blogging vacation right now. But I am posting Sunday ROW80 updates, with a brief something first.

Today’s life lesson is about cleaning my face with oil. Yep, you heard me right. When a friend of mine suggested this, I was incredulous. “Oil? You want me to use oil to clean my face?!!” Then I did the research, gave it a try, and discovered that it works. My skin looks and feels better than it did before.

How does this work? Well, it’s a blend of oils–one that moisturizes and one that works as an astringent. I use olive oil and castor oil.

Oil in my hand

You have to experiment with the ratio (mine is 1:1, my friend’s is 3:2). And you have to give it about a week to see the difference. I also don’t do this every night, but about 3-4 times a week. My skin is smoother and healthier, and–believe it or not–I break out less often.

For specifics on how to start, you can check out this article from MindBodyGreen.

ROW80 Update

  • Edit/rewrite SHARING HUNTER, a YA contemporary novel. No more progress.
  • Edit two short stories–one needs a final polish, the other a full edit. Done last week.
  • Read 10 fiction books: The count’s at five: White CatRed Gloveand Black Heart by Holly Black; Firelands by Piper Bayard; and Almost a Scandal by Elizabeth Essex. Now reading Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World by Kristen Lamb and re-reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams with my son.
  • Finish craft book: Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson. (I read the first half last round.) Read two more chapters and typed up a lot of notes from the book.
  • Visit and comment on five ROW80 blog posts per week. Done.
  • Attend at least one RWA meeting. Attended Northwest Houston RWA meeting yesterday, where I listened to a presentation on the secrets of ebook success from Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords.

Have you ever heard of cleaning your face with oil? Have you tried it? And how did your week go?

Blog Vacation Update

Welcome to Scarlet Thread Sunday, the day we enter the labyrinth of life and see what lessons we can learn.

Last Wednesday, I mentioned that I am taking a blog vacation, with the exception of ROW80 updates. Still, I want to share something I’ve learned, so here’s an important truth my humorous uncle taught me while I was growing up.


At least not without getting clobbered right after. Consider yourself warned. 😉

ROW80 Update

  • Edit/rewrite SHARING HUNTER, a YA contemporary novel. No more progress.
  • Edit two short stories–one needs a final polish, the other a full edit. I wasn’t ready to get back into Sharing Hunter, so I got on this one. Done! I even edited a third story.
  • Read 10 fiction books: I’ve knocked out four so far: White CatRed Gloveand Black Heart by Holly Black and Firelands by Piper Bayard.
  • Finish craft book: Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson. (I read the first half last round.) Read another chapter.
  • Visit and comment on five ROW80 blog posts per week. Done.
  • Attend at least one RWA meeting. Just waiting for August meetings to arrive.

How did your week go? Have you ever taken a blogging vacation? What vacation plans do you have the rest of the summer?

By the way, I appeared on Catie Rhodes‘s blog last week, writing about my Celebrity Author Playlist for “Color Me Happy,” my young adult short story in the anthology Orange Karen. Check out the post HERE.

My Epic Failure, Fast Draft, and Moving Forward

I’ve had one major writing goal since the beginning of the year: Complete a full rewrite of my YA contemporary novel (SHARING HUNTER).

This would actually be my third draft of the novel, and I have changed POVs, tenses, and subplots as I went. I have gotten feedback from beta readers, deep edited, made a timeline, and replotted. I swore last week that I would kick into gear with Fast Draft, a writing process promoted by author Candace Havens, and complete this novel. I had great intentions and high expectations!

On Monday, I spent hours writing and ended up with about 100 new words.

Feeling completely and utterly defeated as well as frustrated by my inability to get on the page what I know is a wonderful story that I can tell, I shut down that file on my computer and booted up a plot bunny that had held my attention a few months ago.

To my surprise, I had already written several chapters. I reread them straight through and thought, “Hey, this isn’t bad. I like this.” I found myself engaged by the characters, enjoying the protagonist’s voice, and excited about where this could go. I breathed deep and shut off any thoughts of returning to the YA contemporary for the moment. Then I started typing.

Still feeling a desire to Fast Draft–so that I could have an actual completed novel sometime this year and to test the process for myself–I made myself write for hours. I churned out 4856 words on the first day.

The second, I logged 5051 words.  The third, I got down 4231 words. By day three, I was in a groove. A Big Time Groove.

Because I was writing so fast, I didn’t open up my manuscript and have to re-read a chapter or two to get my bearings before starting. A line or two would do it. In fact, I applied a tip from James Scott Bell’s The Art of War for Writers. He advises that you start the next chapter and write a few lines there. Indeed, that practice helped me to keep the flow going when I could see where I was intending to go when I had stopped the day before.

On that third day, I also read Kristen Lamb’s fabulous post on her experience with Fast Drafting. While I don’t personally have big battles with my “Internal Editor,” I agree with Kristen that something seems to take over when you’re enveloped by your story. Call it Subconscious Mind or Happy Muse or Fairy Dust or Flow. Whatever it is, I feel like Stella this writer has got her groove back.

I’m sad that Sharing Hunter is sitting on a shelf for a while longer. I still want to write that story. I still think it wants to be written. But for the time being, I had lost the flow on that project and needed to move on.

After all, my single word inspiration for 2013 was to be the word FORWARD. “No looking back. No standing still. Keep moving forward.”

That’s exactly what I plan to do.

ROW Update


  • Complete full rewrite of SHARING HUNTER. DOA.
  • Fast Draft new project – YA mystery with no real title, but I’m called it PK Mystery #1. 19,584 words written this week. BAM!
  • Edit first short story. Deep-edited the story before. According to my plan, I let it sit last week and will polish it up this week.
  • Write second short story. First draft finished. I’ll edit this one in the next round.
  • Write blog posts for Sundays (including ROW80 updates) and Wednesdays. Posted What an Edited Page Looks Like on Sunday and Where to Check Your Words on Wednesday.
  • Complete weekly lessons for Writing Body Language course. Completed Lesson 5, but nothing more happened this week because Margie Lawson is a grandmother! Big congratulations to her and her daughter Tiffany Lawson Inman. I hope they can take some time to study their precious baby’s body language.


Non-writing goals

  • Exercise twice a week. Yoga on Wednesday. And for some reason, I’ve been incredibly sore all week long.
  • Take a true Sabbath–no working and time with God and family one day a week. Done.

How have your goals changed since the beginning of the year? Have you failed in one area but succeeded in another? Have you ever tried Fast Draft?  And do you know what a “PK” is?

#ROW80 Goals and Inspiration

While the official launch of A Round of Words in 80 Days is tomorrow, I am a creature of habit who has gotten used to posting on Sundays. Thus, I am declaring my Round 4 goals today. This time, I am categorizing my goals to make them easier to track.

For each category, I looked for a little inspiration among my resources.

Editing: SHARING HUNTER MILLS, young adult contemporary novel.

“If there’s one thing every successful writer’s process includes, it’s rewriting. Talent aside, in my experience, what separates writers who break through from those who don’t is perseverance mixed with the wholehearted desire of a zealot to zero in on what isn’t working and fix it.” Lisa Cron, Wired for Story

  • Complete full rewrite.
  • Revise using Margie Lawson’s Deep EDITS system.
  • Deliver to beta readers.


“Blog in ways that communicate your distinctive writing voice.” Kristen Lamb, We Are Not Alone

  • Post Sunday ROW80 updates, Amaze-ing Words Wednesdays, and Deep-Fried Fridays.
  • Send interview questions to two guests I have lined up for my blog.


“Finally, one just has to shut up, sit down, and write. . . Writing is so simple, basic, and austere.” Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

  • Write two short stories.


“I remember the exact day I decided I was going to be a writer. I jotted this in my journal: ‘Today I resolve to take writing seriously, to keep going and never stop, to learn everything I can and make it as a writer.'” James Scott Bell, Plot & Structure


“Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life.” Stephen King, On Writing

  • Nothing special here. Just read. A lot.

Non-writing goals

“Clean up this mess.” Mom (Hey, some things still reverberate in your brain from childhood.)

  • Exercise twice a week. If I don’t take care of myself, my body will become a mess.
  • Sort through photos and complete at least one album. I stopped scrapbooking five years ago, and it’s piled up into a big mess. Moving into digital albums.

So what are you using to inspire yourself with your writing goals? Have you joined the ROW80 Round 4? Do you have any writing craft book recommendations for me?

It’s not too late to join the “writing challenge that knows you have a life”–where you set your own goals and post progress updates accordingly. If you’re interested, check out ROW80 HERE.