Deadline adventures continue as we head into September and the end of summer. Where the heck did summer go? We’re coming up on Labor Day weekend and it’s my birthday month! (Thus the Passion Planner giveaway to celebrate, but more on that below.)

It’s the start of a new school year for people of all ages, though it’s been a long time since I’ve graduated…various levels of education. But I still love September to start new projects and planning initiatives. It’s like Back to School without the new bus schedule.

I’m planning to finish the year strong with 1 more contracted manuscript to turn in (Deadly Testimony, a Safeguard novel) and 2 short stories before diving into NaNoWriMo to start drafting the final books in each of my romantic suspense series: Safeguard and True Heroes.

I’m still really enjoying using a paper planner to keep my writerly tasks clear in my head. In fact, I’ve been looking at great features of other planner systems (though I’m still using my Erin Condren planner!). For example, I’m loving the concept of inkWELL Press‘ mission boards. There’s also the clean, simplistic look of Passion Planner’s Academic layout with the area for mind-mapping and thoughtful doodling.

These nifty features are helpful to keep monthly or weekly goals in mind as well as encourage brainstorming. Trust me, I’ve been doing a lot of brainstorming recently. September is travel heavy and I want to make the most of my writing time. Optimizing the use of my paper planner is key. Plus, I want to enjoy all of it as I go and playing with washi tape and stickers in my planner makes me happy. 😉

We’re headed into Labor Day Weekend and it’s my birthday month so I’ve decided to give away a Passion Planner Academic Compact planner for August ’15 – August ’16 to one winner (open to US and International entrants).

So what are your goals for September? or the rest of the year?

Passion Planner
a Rafflecopter giveaway

As you might know from seeing my “Piper’s Travel Hijinx” on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, I am on the move rather often. Mobility is key to my productivity. Or more specifically, mobile writing. I’m always exploring technology solutions to allow me to write from anywhere, anytime. Recently, I’ve been pondering my choice in personal writing laptops. (I make it a practice not to write on my day job laptop. I keep the work for day job as separate as possible from writing.)

I’ve been an AlienWare user for a long time. I love the look and feel of these laptops. I used to play a lot of StarCraft II and World of Warcraft, so a gaming laptop made sense. I’d plug in my 4k gaming monitor and have a blast of a time. I’ll also admit to recently giving Final Fantasy XIV Online a trial run. But writing takes priority over gaming in my time nowadays and the software I use for writing does not have the same heavy-duty system requirements that gaming does.

Drinking chocolate and writing tonight. Perhaps a little nip of Something stronger …

A post shared by Piper J. Drake (@piperjdrake) on

AlienWare laptops are heavy and bulky. They’ve gotten more streamlined over the last year or so, but there’s only so much streamlining to be done. Though the new M13 is interesting at 40% thinner than previous models, it’s still heavy on long walks through airports.

As an interim solution, I was using an iPad for a couple of years with a bluetooth keyboard. This was working but I truly missed being able to work in Scrivener which is one of the best writing apps out there. I struggled to do edits, almost always waiting until I could work on a laptop instead. Not a viable long-term solution.

And yet, a lot of writers love their Macs. Love them. I can’t count the number of times a MacBook Air has been recommended to me and Scrivener–my favorite writing software–was originally developed for the Mac OS, to help me decide what laptop to get I read this really useful blog here.

I still love AlienWare and keep it at home for gaming. My friend does something similar and he loves to play games like League of Legends on his laptop often enjoying Unranked Smurfs so he can have some fun with his lower-ranked friends. But now I have a Macbook Air specifically for mobile writing and my shoulders/back appreciate the consideration. Especially when I’m running through the airport terminal to catch a connecting flight. 😛


I’ve been messing with ice cream recipes for kaffir lime ice cream for years now. The leaves of the kaffir lime tree are wonderfully versatile and fragrant. I love to add them to soups, finely slice them for salads or tea, and now I’ve got a recipe I’m really happy with for ice cream too! As a note, I do grow my own kaffir lime tree(s) so I harvest my leaves fresh from the tree. It’s harder to find them in grocery stores and using older leaves may require a longer simmer time to transfer the flavor to the milk. 

Kaffir Lime Ice Cream

3-4 servings


12 – 14 fresh kaffir lime leaves, washed
6 to 7 ounces (180 mL) evaporated milk, just over 1 cup
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla extract
1/2 cup (120 mL) sugar
1/8 teaspoon (.625 mL) salt
1/2 cup (120 mL) heavy cream


Roughly chop kaffir lime leaves.

Notes: No need to be pretty. This is just to maximize flavor transfer and will be strained out of the mixture. Also, try to chop right before you go to the next step so the leaves are very fresh.

Pour the evaporated milk into a small pot and add fresh chopped kaffir lime leaves. Bring to a simmer. Be careful not to boil it or scald the milk by making the heat too high. Patience here.

Meanwhile, separate the egg yolks and place into a mixer. Add vanilla extract, sugar, and regular salt. Whisk on medium to high until the mixture falls off the whisk in thick ribbons.

Using a strainer to separate out (and discard) the kaffir lime leaves, incorporate the simmered milk into the egg mixture by mixing and pouring in slowly. Once combined, pour entire mixture back into the small pot and place on stove at a medium heat.

Whisk continuously until the mixture begins to thicken and take on a custard like texture. Be very careful not to boil or overheat the pot otherwise your eggs will begin to scramble.

Once finished, place the mixture into the freezer until it reaches room temperature (30-45 minutes)

Using an ice cream maker, add the room temperature custard to the freezing bowl and start the paddles turning. Slowly add heavy cream and allow the mixture to mix and freeze to soft serve ice cream. Store in freezer overnight for a more solid set.


Making kaffir lime ice cream to enjoy at midnight. #foodporn

A video posted by PJ Schnyder (@pjschnyder) on

Serving suggestions: goes really well with Girl Scout Cookies.

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!

10264688_1463370013945045_7725103808870214630_nLast weekend I had the opportunity to explore a new friendship. It was delightful, fun, entertaining, and inspiring. It also got the gears turning in my head – pondering productivity.

What I also realized, as I chatted to a wonderful woman (who is also one of my long time favorite authors), was that I really need dedicated writing space. My productivity is much better if I can move from a sleepng area to a day job working area to a writerly working area. It helps me change mental gears and makes me more productive. Over the last five years or so, I haven’t had these spaces.

I’ve been saving money and living in a 2 bedroom apartment with my roomie. Now that boyfriend has moved in and begun to share my sleep/day job/writing space, we’ve hit maximum saturation of the living space. It’s crowded. And worse, no room for pets.

I find I need to kick both roomie and boyfriend out of the apartment (which isn’t fair or feasible, really) or I need to leave in order to get my writing done.

I need a writer’s space.

This past weekend and previous visits with more writerly friends gave me a lot of ideas. Patricia Briggs uses a trailer as her office (for the time being while her more permanent awesome office is under construction). Even though this is only a temporary arrangement in using her trailer as an office, I told her that she should consider looking for some office furniture online that she can store within this space so that she can have the same amount of productivity that she would have if she was in a professional environment. At least that way, she can just move over this furniture into her new permanent office when it’s finished.Scott Sigler has an incredible studio space with designated areas for writing, podcasting, packing books for his fans, and even a sound booth for recording audio books. Tee Morris & Pip Ballantine have their new, actual, Shared Desk.

I’m making plans and hopefully by the beginning of next year, a few more variables will resolve. I’ll be able to pull the trigger on some lifestyle enhancements. Until then, I’ve got a deadline to hit and I’m working in the space I’ve got.