Reasons to Get Out of the House

Struggling with writer’s block,  I decided to get out of the house yesterday. 

I ran errands with the boyfriend to mail out ARCs of Ultimate Courage and talked about high cupcake standards with the girl working the counter at UPS. Apparently, cupcake places only last a few months in the Phoenix area and then go out of business. Why? Hmm. But we’re hoping a new place that specializes in cocktail inspired cupcakes will last.

Excellent quirky things to write into a book.

 We stopped to get the car washed and detailed. I took my diploma, from the Masters Degree I earned over 10 years ago, to be framed. Then I popped into World Market for tasty international treats and Ulta looking for the Too Faced Peanut Butter and Jelly eye shadow palette.
I didn’t find the elusive eye shadow palette. It’s sold out both in store locally and online. But I fired up a chat with two of the make up consultants as I tried on daring (for me) summer lipstick shades from Urban Decay’s Vice line.

One of the make up consultants told me he once had a client that paid him  $85 a day to do her make up for her, every Friday and Saturday. She’d moved to Florida eventually, but still flew him out to do her makeup for special events. And he stayed in her beach house when he was out there.

Whoa. Very cool. Taking mental notes because that’s a fun character idea.

Then we chatted about ill-advised things people do coming into make up stores. Like randomly using the sample make up without disinfecting it. *shudder*

PSA: people, this is seriously unhealthy and could cause infections. Just take the extra time to get a consultant to help you disinfect that lipstick or blush or eye shadow or whatever before you try it on.

And boyfriend walks in, letting us know the police have cordoned off a portion of the parking lot right outside. In addition to standard police, TAC was on site. They’d also expanded the secured area three times in the time it took me to try on two lipstick shades.

Could’ve been a bomb threat. Could’ve been a robbery. There were actually quite a few possibilities. My writer’s brain was going crazy with all the possible plot bunnies.

And for some odd reason, the Ulta suddenly got incredibly busy. The general store manager had to hop on a register with two other cashiers to handle the line. Why the influx of shoppers just yards away from a developing police investigation? 

It is a mystery. 

And mysteries, puzzlements, conundrums, are fantastic mental stimulation.

I came home with a mind full of What If? Ready to write and ready to take my story unexpected places.

All of this, because I went out to run a few errands and indulge in a bit of shopping.

It was well worth the cost of a lipstick.

I decided to get out of the house and tried on Urban Decay’s Vice lipstick in Wired. This was not the color I ultimately bought.

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Task Management and Kanban

Kanban is a method for managing work to be done without overloading the people doing said work. The method is applicable to writers, especially when undertaking complex projects. It allows the author to have a nice overview of what needs to be done while still having it easily organized into do-able tasks.

Kanban starts with creating a few basic categories for your work. I divide my process into Triage, Do Today, In Progress (right now), and Done. You can divide your process into categories that resonate with you and match your personal way of doing things.

Post It Notes and Kanban

At first, I take each of my tasks and put them in the Triage category. These should be finite, do-able tasks. If I’m drafting, this could be researching a particular detail or writing a specific scene. If I’m revising, this could be addressing a specific revision note like clarifying my order events and timeline or adding more detail to my hero’s backstory.

At the beginning of my day’s work session, I pick one or two tasks–no more than three–and put them in the Do Today category. Then when I’m ready to start working, I pick one task and put it in the In Progress category. Then I get to work.

This allows me to focus on the task at hand. And maybe I’ll finish it, so it then goes in the Done! category. Or maybe I’ll have worked on it as far as it can go before I finish other tasks, so I’ll leave it in In Progress and take the next task from Do Today.

The goal here is to not be overwhelmed by all the things floating in the Triage category. I’ve identified them. I know they’re there. I can even add more. But on a given day, I’m only focusing on the few tasks I’ve placed in Do Today. Because I’m focusing on them, I can get them done.

Kanban method can be done on paper. I have big Post-It notes on my workspace wall, actually. Or there are online web apps to let you organize. I use Trello, for example.

Trello and Kanban

Using the kanban method to manage my “things to do” is effective to keep myself productive and protect myself from getting overwhelmed. It makes me feel better to have all my random, free-floating to do’s in the Triage category. It let’s me focus on the specific tasks I’ve pulled into my Do Today. It feels really good to drop a task into my Done! category.

Does this method interest you? I’d love to see examples of this method applied to other authors’ work.

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Picture Perfect: Author Pictures

I’m going to need to set up a fresh author media kit this year in prep for my upcoming book releases. This means new author pictures so my readers can recognize me when they come to conventions, book signings, and other events.

But we’re all a little nervous when we’re getting ready to put ourselves out there.

I’ve found that the best author pictures result from being prepared and feeling good about yourself during the shoot. Which means having confidence in your look: make up, hair, outfit.

I prefer to put more into my make up for a photography session than I do my everyday make up (often, I don’t wear any make up at all). Lighting can do funny things and wash out your face or pick up the shimmer/glitter in your make up and … O.O

So it’s a little extra coverage to hide hyper-pigmented spots and dark circles, then matte eye shadows and blush. I go a touch heavier on the eye liner or mascara too.

When it comes to hair, I tend to do my own but if you’re pressed for time or want that little bit of extra oomph to your look, try scheduling yourself for a blow out with a nice hair salon. This reduces the anxiety and nervousness of fighting with your own hair. Plus a salon will know how to combat the day’s local atmospheric challenges: humidity, wind, making your hair stay in the style you want. Another tip: don’t wash your hair the morning of your shoot or just before you style. Clean hair may seem to make sense the day of, but especially if you have silky fine hair, it won’t hold a curl or stay in a style as well as if you washed it the night before and gave it a few extra hours to lose the excess moisture from washing. Salons have healthy products to get your hair “dirty” and give it texture to set your hair in a style that will last the entire photoshoot.

For outfits, I choose simple clothing components. Solid colors, so the patterns don’t distract from my face. The goal is to have headshots so readers can recognize me, after all, as opposed to the shirt I’m wearing. As my photographer friend, JR Blackwell, advised – I choose a shirt I feel attractive wearing, one that makes me feel beautiful. Again, because if you feel good, feel confident, your pictures will turn out wonderfully.

However, I’m definitely not a beauty expert so I figured I’d link to a couple of the tutorials available out there with some of the things I do plus extra tips others might find useful too.

Here’s a tutorial by Michelle Phan with useful tips specifically for preparing for photos:

And when it comes to actual posing tips for the photo shoot, Michelle Phan had a good video for that too (note: Michelle is also an author! Make Up: Your Life Guide to Beauty, Style, and Success–Online and Off):

Hope this helps or at least gives some insight to the fun of photos. I’ll be sharing my new author media kit in the weeks to come!

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Advise for the Over-eager Author

10264688_1463370013945045_7725103808870214630_nIt’s exciting to be working on a new project, especially a contracted 3 book deal. I have a basic idea of when the series will be released and am in love with my characters, my plot, my new genre.

But while it’s all very real to me and I’ve plunged into the deep end of this world and this series, it’ll still be a while before you — my readers — get to share it with me. A year is a long time to be teasing you all with little bits and pieces. Especially when I don’t have a cover or a specific release date or an official blurb or pre-order links.

My awesome agent was the first to caution me on frustrating you all. And then the fortune cookie wisdom pitched in its 2 cents.

It’s too early. And there’s not enough tangible to share. So I’m going to keep working on this new romantic suspense series, look forward to learning from an editor at Carina Press I’m super excited to be acquired by, and prepare for the day when I’ve got fun stuff to share with you closer to my first book’s release date in fall of 2015.

Until then, we’ll have adventures in research and writing here. Travel shenanigans too. And mostly, I’ll give you all some peeks into what it’s like to be Piper J. Drake. I hope you’ll enjoy the ride. 🙂