April 26, 2010

Making a start

It's a long weekend here in Australia, and I've been having an at home weekend, puttering around doing things that needed doing (well, apart from hanging out with my awesome crit buddies on Sunday...minus the fabulous Keri who is swanning around in Ohio, getting ready to party at the Romantic Times conference).

One of the things I tackled was clearing out my spare room, which had become pretty much full of junk over the last few years. A task I've been avoiding forever because it seemed like too big a job. But this weekend I reached that point of "enough is enough", girded up my virgo loins, grabbed my handy dandy kitchen timer and attacked.

And here's the thing. It took nowhere near as long as I thought. I still haven't finished completely, I need to sort through two bookcases to identify books to go to the Salvos or somewhere so I have a bit more space but tackling the junk took maybe 2 and half hours. (Trust me, there was plenty of junk!) In fifteen minute spurts so I'm not exhausted at the end of the weekend and I had plenty of time to relax and do other things. I've probably spent far longer over the last few years looking at it and thinking "too hard".

Getting rid of stuff is good for the brain. It gives you space to breathe. And Nike has it right. Just do it is a pretty good motto. Starting something gets rid of the niggling "I should do x or y, or I need to tackle x or clean" thoughts that take up so much space in our heads.

I don't think it's a coincidence that Saturday night, after I'd finished, a shiny new book idea popped into my head. Sure, I don't have time for it right now but new ideas are always a good thing. Space is a good thing for writers. It's easier to be creative when you're not worrying about everything else you "should" be doing.

So that's my wisdom for the weekend. Getting started always makes you feel better and you can tackle anything (even something huge like writing a book) in fifteen minute bursts and it will get done. You don't have to kill yourself putting in twelve hour days (well, maybe sometimes on a deadline you do..but even then if you're in the regular habit, you shouldn't have to do so much to meet a deadline), it doesn't have to be perfect straight away, you just have to make the effort to start and keep going. Maybe not particularly earth shattering (particularly if you've ever listened/read any Flylady stuff) but well worth remembering when writing or anything else seems overwhelming. Just do it.

Hopefully I'll remember all this if I have to disappear into the depths of the revision cave over the next few weeks!

April 18, 2010

Little steps

Given we've whizzed through a third and a bit of the year already, I thought it might be helpful to revisit my yearly goals (the radical thought being that paying attention to them during the year helps keep them on track!).

So back in December this is what I had to say about my 2010 goals.

So how have I done so far?

1. Writing

Obviously the big achievement for the year has been selling a book (it still seems quite surreal to say that!) so that started the year off right. But it also changed my plans as I now have official deadlines etc to meet and will have a whole lot of extra stuff to do. So the new goals are to meet my deadlines (beat them if I can) and still try and write some extra bits and pieces and enjoy the process : ) I've been working away at book 2 while I'm waiting for my revisions, so I'm on track so far!

2. Get healthier. So far mostly good. I've lost about 6 kilos this year but will confess to falling off the exercise wagon in the last four weeks or so (a combination of post book sale adrenaline crash and being crook and day job getting a bit crazy). But this week I started again with baby steps and next week will get back on the elliptical. I'd gotten up to week 7 on c25k, so might have to back track a bit. One thing I realised in getting to that point was that I vastly prefer interval runs on the elliptical and the last few weeks of the program are pretty much three long runs a week so I might do a variation where I do 2 interval runs and 1 longer steady state run a week. Not sure why but it's easier for me to do 30 mins of intervals than 30 mins of "just run". So let's go with what works. The shoulder which was bugging me most of last year has been a lot better but not perfect which is making it hard to pick up other things again but I'll keep working on it. And I've gotten back into tracking my food this week too after having my adsl out for 11 days got me out of that habit.

3. Filling the well. Still doing bits and pieces of craft and relaxation so that's good.

4. Organisation. This was definitely a 'needs improvement' area from last year. So I've been taking small steps there too. Trying to get my routines back in place to get my little house ticking over nicely and declutter. I mostly use Flylady's techniques with a few variations of my own as I'm a big fan of the do things in little bits and pieces and build up habits approach. Plus the whole "just get back on the wagon whereever you are" is a good thing to remember in most areas of life. Things (the To-Do program I blogged about back then) has been really good for me in keeping things more organised, so that's a Yay. I haven't been using Tumblr or Evernote quite as much as I probably could but I still really like both of them.

The other area I'm reorganising is my finances. Given I'll have some writing income (yay), I have a need to be paying closer attention. One day I'd like to be a full time writer which will mean living on unpredictable and variable income so time to really knuckle down and get good habits in place.

A few years back I was using Quicken and doing okay with tracking everything but then the day job decided we couldn't put any additional software on our work computers and I was on a Mac at home (and they don't sell Quicken for Mac in Australia) and at the time, there wasn't anything much around that worked well for me Mac software-wise so I went back to just keeping tabs on things on paper (after all, I am an accountant and a Virgo so I had to use something). But keeping it on paper is kind of tedious and leads to a "well, let's put some money aside for various big bills" and the rest is just a big pile of money approach to finance (at least, for me it does). Which doesn't really work for either personal or business finances and leads to much time being put in at tax time to file and organise all the business stuff (of course with Flylady back in place I'll be filing all along this year ; ) ).

Luckily, a piece of software I'd looked at and liked back then (that didn't have a Mac version at the time) called YNAB (or You Need A Budget) which combines both register type functions like Quicken etc with sensible, zero based budgeting has recently brought out their Mac version so I've put that into place. The only thing it doesn't do quite as fancily as Quicken is reporting but it does export to excel and I can produce all the fancy reports I want for tax purposes etc from there, so that's good enough for me (if it turns out I need something fancier down the line I'll address that with something else like Moneydance or iBank or whatever is needed and use it just for the writing side of my finances). This is not a personal finance blog so I won't rave on about how much I already like the YNAB methodology for really making you pay attention to what you are and aren't doing with your money but it's well worth checking out if you are interested in that sort of thing. They have lots of resources on the site about budgeting etc that you can read and access without buying the software (which is much cheaper than Quicken etc anyway) if it is something that interests you.

The other thing I'll be doing is seeing an accountant. Yes, I am an accountant but I am NOT a tax accountant or a day to day running a business type accountant so I'll be getting advice up front to confirm (and hopefully improve on) what I think I need to do business-wise. I'm lucky in that I do understand the business side of things given my background but I also know enough to know what I don't know and that I'll need advice. Writer's income with royalties and overseas income and things like income averaging is not straightforward and I'm sure now that I'm actually earning some proper income over and above the odd comp win, there are probably more deductions I can claim. Getting advice now and using an expert will save me/make me money over time (much the same way having an agent does : ) ). To any writer (whether pubbed or pursuing it seriously) I'd say you need to know about the business stuff and keep good records (In Australia you can claim your expenses before publication, and I think the same is true in the US, but there are rules and things you need to do to not fall foul of the Tax Department/IRS so get advice! Which this is not). So you either do it yourself or farm it out to someone else if it's not your thing (and get advice either way!)

So my goals for organisation are to keep Flylady habits going and keep the finance tracking/systems going (including said accountant consultation/s once I get a cheque).

So all, in all, I think I'll give myself a green light so far. Even though I haven't been perfect (and really, life isn't perfect so it's not that big a deal, I've been moving forward and making the changes I want to make. So now I can keep taking little steps and getting to where I want to go over the next few months!

April 12, 2010

She lives

Yes, I am indeed alive. Bad blogger. But I have been suffering from a horrible cold which decided it should bring its friend razorblade throat and consequently have done little worthy of blogging for a week. Catalogues of pills and potions and tissue count are not very exciting. I haven't even read a lot due to foggy brain. I have watched a fair amount of DVD (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and most of Glee if you care) and slept a lot. Perhaps I'm turning into a TV watching cat.

But today I am starting to feel human again and have managed ten pages. Yay. The muse is throwing up disconnected random snippets but at least they're snippets that are flowing easily. So given book has decided to talk again, I'm figuring Murphy's Law will dictate that my revisions will hit any second now and I'll have to switch tracks. But oh well, nice problem to have : )

April 05, 2010


Hope everyone has been had a good weekend.

I've drawn the winner of my March contest and it's Jo Mc!

Jo, contact me at mel @ mjscott.net (without the spaces) with your details and Sunshine will be winging its way to you.

If Jo doesn't contact me by the 19th, I'll redraw the prize.

Don't forget, this month, it's Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie up for grabs!

April 01, 2010

April fool (well, not really)

Apparently March has whizzed by already and that means it's time to announce April's contest. For the history of my paying-it-forward contest go here.

I'll draw the March winner sometime over the weekend and post it here and on Twitter so stay tuned!

And now onto April. This month, the prize is Welcome to Temptation by Jenny Crusie.

Way back in hmmm, 2001, when I had decided to give this whole writing thing a serious go, one of the first things I went to (thanks to the sharp eyes of my flatmate at the time) was a talk given by the always lovely Anne Gracie at the Victoria Writers Centre about writing romance (sensible given that was what I wanted to do). Anne was fresh off the plane from the Romance Writer's of America New Orleans Conference and probably jetlagged as a jetlagged thing but she was entertaining and educational and full of enthusiasm for what she did (and alliterative, apparently). She was pretty much the first real! live! author! I had met in person and because she was so nice, something clicked in my brain that authors were people too rather than superheros (though Anne is a superhero) and maybe I could do this after all and I came away all inspired. I finished my first manuscript which had been languishing at three chapters for quite a long time about two months later. Anyway, at the talk Anne had spoken about different genres of romance and one of the contemporary authors she mentioned was Jenny.

Welcome to Temptation had been out for a little while in Australia (I remember wandering past the bright green cover in various bookstores several times - picture the above cover kind of Granny Smith apple green) but after Anne's talk, I finally gave in and bought it (there may yet be a recurring theme in these tales of books Mel has resisted for no particularly reason then adored once she bought them). I took it home and started to read and fell in love with contemporary romance all over again. Witty, sexy, intelligent romance. I became a Crusie fan on the spot and remain one to this day. I own every single book she's written and some of them twice but I think Welcome to Temptation remains my favourite mostly because Phin is a hero who is right up my alley. Still not sure why as generally I don't do blonds.

Jenny is also a great writing teacher and I've belonged to her loops for ages and can be found hanging out on the Cherry Forums from time to time.

Other favourite books of hers include Manhunting, Tell Me Lies and Agnes and the Hitman (co-written with Bob Mayer) though really, I love 'em all.

So this month's prize is Welcome to Temptation, another book I have read too many times to count, and turn to as a treasured comfort read. Anyone who hasn't read it and loves great contemporary romance is in for a treat. Now, to continue the tradition..here's a taste of the back cover blurb from that very green book I bought.

"Sophie came to Temptation, Ohio, to help her sister make a movie. Now she's making trouble for the town council, love with the mayor and lemonade for a murderer...Welcome to Temptation. Population 2158. And falling."

For April, it's the same rules as March. Comment on this or any other of my blog posts this month and you're in the running. Simple. Winner will be drawn early May and announced on the blog and via Twitter and will have two weeks to claim their prize or there will be a re-draw.