Monday, January 30, 2012

When do you find time to write?

The question is one I get from my friends, my fans, and fellow writers: When do you find time to write?

Sometimes, finding time is challenging. And goofing off and not writing can be tempting. It's certainly easier than dedicating yourself to a couple hours of quality time with a blank sheet of Word paper. And at the end of the day, sometimes I'm so exhausted it's easy not to feel like writing.

But in life, whether it's writing or reading, prepping healthy meals or spending meaningful time with your spouse and children, reading the Bible or exercising, we need to remember to make time for what's most important.

If we don't consciously carve out time, often what's most important but not most demanding gets forgotten in the busy errands that fill daily life.

So how do we carve out time? I recommend setting aside a designated time or times during the day where you're doing just that one thing (writing, or whatever it is to you that is most important). If it's writing, I also recommend using the same time during each day to write... always first thing in the morning, always from 8-10 p.m., or whatever it is (and the more time the better, of course). Your body/brain/creativity will get accustomed to this routine. Like a muscle that needs to be trained, sitting down and doing nothing but writing might hurt at first, and sticking to that workout schedule/routine might be difficult at first... but it gets easier and you get stronger as you go along.

I'm a mega-A-type personality and a bit of a nerd. Okay, big-time nerd. I have a schedule that I check off every day. (For some reason, I enjoy checking off boxes on lists.) But this keeps me on track, and at the end of the week I can look back and see my progress. Did I exercise like I said I would? Complete my scripture reading goals? Write every day like I said I would? Sweep the kitchen floor daily? Limit internet time? You get the picture.

And about that internet time... What are you doing reading this when you could be writing? Just kidding, kind of. One of life's huge time-zappers for me is the internet. Keeping up with email, Facebook, Twitter, blogging and reading other blogs, online Sudoku, newspapers... you get the idea. I've begun to consciously limit the time I spend on the internet. I go online, knowing I have a half hour to do everything I need to do, which keeps me focused and energized. And at the end of that 30 minutes, the internet goes off, regardless of what else needs to be done... sometimes. Well, that's the goal I'm working toward! And it's not going to happen every day, but it's something I'm working toward most days. Just shutting off the connection is going to reap time for me to do one of the many things in life I find most important to me.

If I stick to my schedule, I can squeeze all of those important things in! Most of the time...

What's most important to you? How do you carve out time for doing it?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Winter blues


Every year, the cold, overcast weather and general lack of sunshine make me proclaim that I want to move to Florida. I tire of fighting my husband for the covers at night, our nocturnal tug of war, and my fingers seem to be perpetually frozen. And I’m not even living in a state known for its hard winters! North Carolina winters generally are mild, especially in the piedmont, where a snap of cold weather often is chased by a few days of sunshine.

Image courtesy of office.microsoft.com
To fight my winter funk, I zone out with feel-good movies, longtime favorites I’ve already watched so many times, and the old standby: chocolate. Hot cocoa especially. My favorite is Abulita, made by Nestle. It’s Mexican hot cocoa and has a dash of cinnamon in it. I’ve only seen it come in huge chunks of chocolate I melt in a pan with milk on the stovetop. And I suppose I also escape in my writing. Of course, there’s always that dream of moving to Florida…

What are you doing to keep warm this winter?

Monday, January 16, 2012

I hate your character!


I’ve been getting a lot of comments from readers who say that, while they like my main character in Storm Surge, they really dislike Kimmie, my main character’s antagonist. On more than one occasion, a reader has told me she hates Kimmi. My response: “Good!” I didn't write Kimmie to be a likable character.

When I was thinking about conflict in my novel, there always was the conflict of the major plot: the mystery my sleuth must solve. But I wanted even more conflict. I wanted conflict at her workplace and in her romantic interest. And I also wanted conflict within my character’s family. Hence, Kimmie was born. She’s a big-haired redhead and a police officer. And she’s mean and cruel, self-centered and greedy. And she won’t let go of a grudge. She has a body that’s so tough it reminds me of a tree trunk.

Sometimes I’m asked how I came up with Kimmie’s character. I’ve been asked if I fashioned her after my own brother. (No! My bro might have big hair, but we’re pals and always have been.) In part, developing Kimmie was a practice in heightening conflict. She doggedly stands in the way of my main character. If my main character goes left, Kimmie goes right.

My only concern is that she’s too over-the-top. So in my second Jonie Waters mystery, readers will find there’s a reason Kimmie lashes out the way she does. Does her reason justify her behavior? Probably not, but perhaps it will explain it. In the meantime, readers, hate on.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Peak Pages: Peak's Best Seller of 2011

Peak City Publishing just named Storm Surge as its best seller last year! Thanks to all my readers and supporters, and thanks to everyone who helped me before the first book was even on the shelf!

The Peak Pages: Peak's Best Seller of 2011: Congratulations to Tamara Ward, author of Storm Surge, A Jonie Waters Mystery for Best Seller status with Peak City Publishing! The book, r...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Facebook or Fakebook?


An outspoken friend of mine who is not on Facebook and who doesn’t know I’m on Facebook recently derided it, calling it Fakebook. She said this in the presence of another friend who was on Facebook but recently defected. But he knows I’m there. He eyeballed me from across the room, perhaps waiting to see if I’d speak up and defend my favorite social media platform. I stayed quiet and let my friend rant. But I felt a pang in my heart, because I do enjoy Facebook, but also because I knew that her Fakebook ranting had pieces of truth in it.

Is Facebook Fakebook? Not necessarily. Sure you can photoshop your pics or creatively crop them – I just don’t include my bad photos, so perhaps I’m misleading folks to think I’m naturally photogenic. One of my resolutions this year is to upload a fresh profile pic, which I haven’t done since about a year ago. (I look pretty different now, having grown out my bangs, which I finally *finally* decided were sooo 80s. And, okay, I’ve gained a few pounds! But that new profile pic will be up by… um… Easter. Yeah, Easter.)

If you’re adjusting your photos more than doing a little cropping here and there, yes, you’re Fakebooking it. But my friend was referring more about how many Facebook friends type in just positive postings or trite tidbits – nothing of profound substance. I’m one of these people with the light Facebook posts. I’m not going to post on Facebook that my grandma is in the hospital. But I also wouldn’t reveal that information if I ran into 99 percent of my Facebook friends at the supermarket.

Is Facebook light? Mostly, yes. But since when has a little light interaction been bad? I’ve got a handful of true thick-and-thin friends in the (non-virtual) world, and I don’t expect I’ll ever be able to manage deep friendships with hundreds of people at the same time. I’m not wired that way. And I don’t go to Facebook wanting virtual friends to spill the dregs of their hearts to me, either. (At least not immediately.)

My biggest Facebook problem is sarcasm. Ah, my dry wit – how I love it! But what trouble it’s gotten me into when no one realizes that I’m joking! I’m still struggling with sarcasm, both online and in my personal interactions!

Now about enjoying Facebook too much. My Facebook defector friend quit the social media site because he said it took up too much of his time – time that he felt he needed to be spending with his family. And that’s true. Facebook can suck you in, and I find myself using it at times as a procrastination tool when I should be doing something else. If my writing is slow in getting started, I’ll log onto Facebook planning to spend a few minutes – and then a half hour later I’m mad at myself for still being logged in. And my writing gears still aren’t oiled!

So Facebook or Fakebook or time drainer – I think the site is what each person makes it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year! I hope 2012 brings you lots of happiness and success, as well as a boatload of good reads!

As I look back at 2011 and forward into 2012, for better or worse, I think a lot about my own writing progress. After the publication of Storm Surge last spring, I've been working hard on the cozy mystery's sequel, as well as on another mystery series. My plan is to see both of those novels come to fruition in 2012 with the publication of the Storm Surge sequel in mid-2012 and the publication of the first book in my new mystery series in late 2012.

Just as I thought 2011 was wrapped up, the WG2E published an anthology of short stories, including one of mine, introducing me to the world of indie publishing. Reading the posts at The Writer's Guide to E-Publishing is one thing, as I've gained knowledge and ideas, encouragement and tips. But being part of their anthology, being included - wow! More anthologies by WG2E will be released in the coming months, and I wish all my fellow writers much success. (For a link for more information about or to purchase the Winter Wonderland anthology, click here.)

Writing the short story for the anthology was more than fun - it was eye-opening. I learned a ton about the characters in my new mystery series. And writing the story helped me realize I might enjoy writing more short stories. I've never felt I mastered the art of the short story... definitively not while I was in grad school years ago, which was the last time I attempted to write one before the WG2E opportunity. So now, whether I've matured or just loosened up some, I'm finding I actually enjoyed the writing process and the result much more than I once did. This year, I plan on writing and publishing three additional short stories.

So two novels and three short stories: that's not too much for a writing goal for 2012, right? (I'm chuckling manically.) That's my plan, and now the rubber's got to meet the road. So I'd better sign off and begin writing!