Temptation makes victory taste ever more sweet

There they lay, within reach, and yet to do so was entirely forbidden. It would be so easy, I told myself. All I had to do was open up one of kiddo’s packaged snacks from the basket in the pantry and chew. All those delicious salty treats were mine for the taking. But I’d made a promise to myself to limit my carb intake, particularly over the next thirty days, as the scale had taken issue with my summer beach excesses.

“She’d started taking up a lot of bad habits”, I imagined its snide electronic voice justifying itself to my toothbrush and my towel as they discussed my morning routine. “You both just help her stay hygienic. I, however, am helping her make better lifestyle choices.” I am sure both towel and brush would roll their eyes if they had them, but that awful scale had a point. I had enjoyed my summer a wee bit too much and it was starting to show.

You know what the secret to weight loss is? Don’t eat much.” – Simon Cowell
(Gee thanks, Simon)

It came to a head one Tuesday evening. There, on the table, were all the fixings for tacos which had become our weekly staple since the Lego Movie first introduced the children to the concept of Taco Tuesday. A pair of tortillas waited for me to add lettuce, beef, and cheese, with a dollop of yogurt just as I had done the Tuesday before and the Tuesday before that.

“After today I am going to limit my sugar and bread for awhile,” I announced to the hubby. “At least for the next thirty days.” Lamont looked at his own plate and agreed to support me by doing the same. We both were in the mood to change up the dietary cycle. We wouldn’t cut it out altogether, we agreed, as that was next to impossible seeing as both ingredients were hidden in way too much. To avoid them altogether would involve *gasp* actually reading labels. But we would try not to intentionally consume either.

I’m not going to lie. It wasn’t easy. I’d gotten into a habit of having a bit of ice cream in the evening after tucking the boys in their beds. A reward for successfully surviving another day. Suddenly I was out my reward. The cravings started to chip away at my resolve.

“Lead us not into temptation. Just tell us where it is; we’ll find it.” – Sam Levenson

Brilliantly (at least in our opinion), we decided to make our own dessert. We had plenty of plain greek yogurt in the fridge. Add a few berries and some honey and poof. Instant ice cream substitute. We even added a little cinnamon to give it a bit more pizzaz!

And other meal times took on a bit more excitement as we managed to break away from our weekly routine, replacing the stand-bys with things like zucchini pasta or eggs poached inside an avocado. This whole “sacrifice” wasn’t one.

Then my mom’s birthday came along with a visit by my sister. After a celebratory dinner, the smell of a fruit pie tempted my nose. A bit more of my resolve chipped away. But still, I remained strong, empowered by what I had accomplished before. There was nothing to this goal. Or so I thought until I entered the final days of my self-imposed thirty-day challenge.

Then the air began to change. Fall has arrived and with it will be the assault on my senses that is pumpkin spice. I do so love the smell of Fall. If you listen very carefully, you might yet hear the sound of my scale crying. If my resolve started out as a mighty oak tree, it is now only a splinter of its former self.

“What makes resisting temptation difficult for many people is they don’t want to discourage it completely.” Franklin P. Jones

A friend of mine suggested I read Stephen Pressfield’s book The War of Art in which the author theorizes that our brains are somehow wired to resist completing goals. While I haven’t yet read the book (though fully intend to) I can’t help thinking he might be on to something. I was so close to writing End of Book Two in this current draft, and yet my characters keep drawing out the action. No matter how much I wrote, there was still more to do. More to say.

It was so very tempting to simply type THE END before the story is ready and short circuit the process. And if I did? Would it really matter? This is not my final draft. I’ll be rewriting an editing next. I could grab those chips as well. One small bag on day 29 isn’t going to make a difference in the scheme of things. Who would know?

I would.

And so, while my resolve may only be a splinter, that splinter wedged itself deeply under my skin. I can’t ignore it. I can’t make a move without feeling its pain.

And so, I stood fast over these final few days. What’s a couple hundred more words compared to the many I’ve written thus far? Certainly not enough to lose heart now. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote until the words END OF BOOK TWO were no longer words in my head but words on a screen. Yes. You read that right. This draft is finished. Now on to round two.

I pull back from the pantry and fixed a salad instead. It might not taste quite as good to my sugar biased tastes, but victory continues to be more satisfying.


As a reminder, I will be on the air Friday, September 23rd at 6pm Eastern time. The link to follow is http://www.blogtalkradio.com/writestream/2016/09/23/the-speculative-fiction-cantina-with-madeleine-holly-rosing-and-allie-potts

How to make an author panic in 3 easy steps

A friend posted a picture of her son, roughly Kiddo’s age, riding a bike, which while cute, was more notable by the fact that the child’s training wheels were off. Seeing the picture, I’d asked Kiddo if he’d like to give it a try too.

“Just imagine – you’ll be able to go biking with the big kids. When you don’t have training wheels, you could even go to the park by yourself or even to Nana’s. Doesn’t that sound like fun?”

Lamont and I wheeled the bike out. After strapped Kiddo’s helmet on tight, Lamont and I took turns holding Kiddo’s bike upright as our son wavered and wobbled down the side of the street. Still, no matter what we said, or how we cheered, it was clear that Kiddo’s confidence wasn’t quite there. Lamont tried the old parent stand-by. Running behind Kiddo, he simply let go.

Kiddo wasn’t fooled for an instant. Crash. Scrape. “How could you!”

“It’s important you keep trying,” we’d told him, hoisting the bike back up. To give him credit, he did. Several more times. But no matter how hard we tried, gravity (and more than a little fear) continued to knock him down.

“Try pedaling faster,” we’d suggest loudly. “Try actually steering…” we’d mutter more to ourselves.

Flustered, we eventually decided we’d tried long enough. “Most people don’t get it right on the first day,” I told Kiddo. We’d keep trying, a few minutes a day. He’d get the hang of it in no time.

We didn’t. He didn’t. The weather got hot. The dog needed walking. There were any number of excuses that cropped up. Finally, we simply reattached the training wheels. The timing simply wasn’t right.

It is easy to make excuses. But the weather has begun to cool. Those excuses are now running out. It is time for Kiddo to get back on his bike. Which brings me to the other subject of this post.

How to make an author panic in three easy steps.

  1. Tell them you’ve bought their book. Okay, technically step one is usually enough to send me into cold sweats, but then again, just because they’ve bought it, doesn’t mean they’ve read it. So…
  2. Recommend they look into marketing techniques such as podcasts. All the cool authors are doing it
  3. Encourage them to contact hosts. It’s so easy! Just follow their instructions.

There are those in the writing world with far more years of experience under their belts, who recommend not worrying much about book promotion until you have at least three if not five books to your name. In theory, this method allows you to have a greater catalog ready to offer readers when promotion efforts hook new readers. One book at a discount could turn into multiple book sales by return readers.

Take the Apple for example. Sure, Apple spends most of its time promoting the iPhone, but that is only one of their products. Once they’ve gotten you hooked on the device, you are more inclined to purchase accessories or even less advertised gadgets. The same principle applies to books. Promotion takes a lot of work. You want to ensure you have the best return possible.

This was also a convenient strategy for me. I accepted I would not be an overnight success. I dare say I embraced it. I felt justified not worrying about marketing beyond the occasional giveaway or occasional guest piece as I worked away on the next project.

Unfortunately, as I neared the final pages of this draft it occurred to me that I will have three books to my name in the coming months. Which means it is time for the marketing training wheels to come off. In a fit of insanity, masquerading as bravery, I researched blog and radio hosts who might be interested in discussing a book like mine. I figured, what’s the worst that could happen?

Within days I received a message back. They’d love to have me on their show. My heart began to race as the reality of what I’d done began to sink in. I’d have to talk to people I’d never met. Publicly! I read further. In September. Phew! September was weeks away. My breathing calmed. I’d have plenty of time to get myself mentally prepare by then.

Only… the weather is beginning to cool. School has resumed. It is already mid-September and my show is coming up in one week. September 23rd at 6pm Eastern time to be exact.

So now I have one week to calm my nerves. It’s not like this is your first guest appearance, Allie. One week to practice my selected reading. Wait. What? One week to ponder why writing, which traditionally is such an introverted activity, requires so much extroverted follow-up. Really. Why? And one week to remind myself of reasons I am doing this. I want to be able to ride with the big kids one day as much as I want to set an example for my sons. But also, just as importantly, I am doing this because I’m proud of what I’ve done.

It is time to dust off the virtual helmet and restock the band aids. So wish me luck. Here I go.

Cause baby, there ain’t no mountain high enough

Earlier this year we introduced Her Royal Highness to water. Being that at least part of her noble ancestry can be traced to Labrador, she deemed that this introduction most pleasing (almost as pleasing as pillows, which she will tell you, remain at levels well beneath her station). Therefore, when we received an invitation to a friend’s house at a nearby lake she sent her acceptance post-haste.

Being the highly trained servants we are, we prepared her luggage, which included a bag filled with assorted balls designed to be retrieved from lakes or oceans. When we arrived at our destination, she eagerly inspected the property. She sniffed. It would do.

While the front yard is relatively flat, like many other houses on this particular lake, the house sits well above the water’s edge, the ground in the back, with its steep decline more cliff than yard. The land further dropped away under the water. Without a beach or even shallows, to speak of the owners expressed their concerns about playing games such as fetch from the home’s pier. “She won’t be able to get out on her own,” and “you will have to pull her out.”

Undeterred by troublesome things like risk, or topography, Her Royal Highness made her way to the bottom of the hill where she waited for we servants to attend her. Splash. Her Royal Highness leapt into the water and began paddling. She turned and looked at those of us standing on the platform. She swam. Then she was gone.

I scanned the area, spotting her moments later on the rocks at the lake’s edge. The only problem was the rocks weren’t anywhere near the access platform. Her Royal Highness pressed on. I watched, more than a little concerned, as she scaled the hill. Her claws digging into the mud. I wondered as she somehow fit her body between the dirt and a tree, giving herself more leverage. She reached the platform, but unfortunately, its wooden planks were still well above her head. The ground should have been too steep for her to use as an effective launch pad, but launch she did.

I’d gone to the platform intending to haul her up as our friends suggested. I hadn’t needed to. The concerns of man (or woman) had not registered in her ears. She crawled up on the platform. Dropping the ball, she wagged her tail and ran back toward the water leaving muddy paw prints in her path. “Yeah, I don’t think this is a good idea,” I told her as I picked up the ball. I tried to put it away. After that athletic displayed, she’d earned a rest.

She disagreed.

Splash. Once again she was in the water.

Over and over she repeated the process. Each time, I thought for sure she’d had enough and each time she proved me wrong. Soon she was finding another way to launch herself. Instead of scaling the hill, she found another rock at the bottom, positioned close to another edge of the pier and would jump from there. Sometimes she would miss. Sometimes she fell down. But she never stopped trying. There is no place for the word ‘can’t’ in Her Royal Highness’ kingdom.

“The man who begins to say it can’t be done is often interrupted by somebody else doing it.” – quote generally attributed to Confucius, George Bernard Shaw, or Elbert Hubbard

They say that people eventually resemble their pets, and with regards to Her Royal Highness, I find it no insult. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve all but written the words End of Book Two in my current draft in process. I’ve written before about how writing a novel is much like running a marathon and how impossible reaching the finish line can feel when you are at the base of a particularly big hill (or at a lull in the story’s progress). Today, I’ve written over 70,000 words (that’s equivalent to 280 book pages for my non-writer readers). And that’s just this last book. I’ve written approximately half a million words now when you look at all my publications.

Somedays the words came easily, but not every day. Somedays I had to jump from questionable surfaces, get my hands dirty, and scale seemingly impossible walls. I did this because I have a goal in mind and the confidence and determination to see it through. I am the only thing that can stop me. All that suggests otherwise is simply noise.

 

Is it a good time to make easy changes?

“Are you Allie?” A woman I’d seen temporarily filling the office’s front desk asked. I nodded. “I have a package for you.” She disappeared for a moment only to return with a box that could have easily fit a flat screen TV. It was my new desk. My new standing desk. Yes, apparently, the newest hires managed to persuade the powers that be into experimenting with new-fangled equipment in hopes of making us all more productive, happier people.

(I am both intrigued and alarmed at this video of an office that takes the term rat race a bit too literally)

The box remained in the corner of my office unopened. I knew once those seals were broken, there would be no turning back. The box seemed to stare at me as if aware of my thoughts. Don’t you care about your health, it seemed to ask. I do, I thought back in reply, it’s just that I enjoy sitting down too.

Change. It’s never comfortable. Is it?

Eventually, I succumbed and cut through the packing tape, my inborn need to keep my work area relatively clutter free outweighing the fear of the change the box represented. The entire thing slid out in one piece. Darn it, there goes my excuse to procrastinate set-up due to assembly.

Within minutes my workstation was online. Taking a deep breath, I found hidden handles underneath the desk. Then, with a squeeze, my workspace rose. And rose. And rose. I pushed my chair backwards and grit my teeth. Here goes nothing. I started to work. I originally intended to work for only a few minutes, but then return the desk back to its ‘seated’ position. I would ease into this change. But a glance at the clock informed me that an hour passed.

A bit later, my feet began to ache. I shifted my weight. I could have sat back down, but instead decided to go for a walk around the office if only to see how the others might be coping. The funny thing was none of them were at their desks either. Where had everyone gone? I wondered. I pulled up my calendar. Was I missing a meeting? No. By heavens! It was lunch time. The insidious device had tricked me into working into the lunch hour. The horror! I quickly fled my office to find sustenance as no one likes me hungry. No one. I don’t even think my children like me when I am hungry.

But it got me thinking. I’d accomplished quite as a result of that one simple change.

Fall is once again almost upon us, bringing with it, more change. School is once again in session, the faintest hint of red is beginning to show on the leaves outside my window and I have managed to drive more than once with the air conditioning off and the windows open. Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

In fact, it can be quite healthy from time to time.

Earlier this summer, dismayed by my lack of progress and bullied by fans (just kidding Eric – I am grateful for each and every one of your friendly reminders to get back to work), I decided to change how I managed my writing goals by teaming up with another writer. The idea was we’d help each other stay on track in order to complete our various writing projects, preferably before the end of this century.

I expected I’d be better about hitting my goals, but what I didn’t expect was exactly how helpful this simple change has been. I’ve doubled my weekly word count since we started (or tripled compared to some weeks). While I have yet to write the words “End of Book Two” in my current work in progress, I am overjoyed to say it has an ending (if you are interested in either beta reading or becoming an advance reviewer when the time comes, be sure to let me know).

Unfortunately (at least for me), my accountability partner has grown overly fond of our current rate of success and is forcing me to make other changes. Like actually telling people when The Fair & Foul will be available for free download (September 8th – 12th). Or the fact that I’ve been invited to be a guest on Speculative Fiction Cantina radio show on September 23rd (details to follow).

“Change is inevitable–except from a vending machine.” -Robert C. Gallagher

If change is inevitable, then the least I can do it try to lead the change rather than let it lead me. These small changes I’ve made, and the ones I make tomorrow, may not seem much to you, but a year from now, I will look back and know they made all the difference.

A tale of fright and fate on one crazy night

Spiderweb

Image courtesy of Sebastian Gerhards and http://www.flickr.com

I’ve written before about my family’s Friday night routine. How we typically crank up the music and dance like no one is watching. But not this past Friday. No, this past Friday was not our typical Friday at all.

It all started earlier in the week. Kiddo complained that his stomach hurt. A kid had accidentally kicked him earlier that day. Boys, I sighed to myself while I took a look. His skin was red and swollen ever so slightly. “Did you get bitten by an ant or something?” I asked Kiddo, not really expecting an answer. The raised area was larger than the typical mosquito bite, but then again it was located near his waist line. His clothing could easily have irritated it to a larger size, especially if he was scratching it, but it looked more like a larger insect bite.

“I did see an ant on my tummy,” Kiddo advised. “It could have gotten stuck.”

After Kiddo went to bed that night, I looked up images of fire ant and poisonous spider bites as well as medical articles their associated effects on children. An ant bite can result in a rash in some children for up to a week one article said. Another said three days. Another said to consult your child’s physician. It was the usual mixed of contrary information. We decided to simply monitor bite for the next few days, treating it with a mix of hydrocortisone cream and Benadryl.

The following day, the bite still looked ugly. The surrounding raised area seemed to have grown smaller, but the bump in the center had grown larger as if troops of bad news under the skin were amassing for a larger assault. However, because there had been at least some positive change, we decided to monitor and treat at home for another day.

Friday rolled around. The bump now appeared like an epidermal volcano compared to the flat plane that is typically Kiddo’s abdomen. Lamont would take Kiddo to the doctor’s office. I expected a phone call to say that they’d given him a steroid shot or something of that nature, thinking that it had to be an allergic reaction. It was not.

Instead, I received a call from Lamont. “We’re going to the emergency room.”

That bump proved to be a golf ball sized abscess (and not a bite at all) and required immediate treatment involving light surgery. My mind instantly went into pure what if panic mode. “What should I do?” I asked while my mind desperately sought a lifeline to cling to. I wanted to be there, but what about my other son? An ER is no place for my 4yo.

“I’m with him,” answered Lamont. “You, take care of LT.”

“If he has to stay overnight, I’m staying with him,” I informed Lamont, although I wasn’t yet sure how we’d manage the child swap. Either Lamont would have to leave Kiddo and meet me at the house or I’d have to somehow find someone to watch LT, last-minute, on a Friday night. Then it hit me. My dad, stepmom, and brother were spending the evening with us. We’d set it up weeks ago. My other brother was moving into his new place and our house was to serve as a hotel.

My dad’s other title is Doctor and my stepmom’s is Nurse.

My dad’s first question upon arrival was, “would you like me to go to the hospital?” He looked at my face. “Or should I ask, do you want to go to the hospital?”

“We are happy to stay with LT,” my stepmom added. “Whatever you need.”

Just knowing that had options was a balm to my nerves in and of itself. LT rounded the corner, just as frantically hyper in activity as were my thoughts just seconds before. A three to one adult to child ratio might not be enough to contain him in this state. I realized there was little I could offer in the hospital room beyond what Lamont was already providing. The procedure could well be over before I even arrived. “I’ll stay here for now,” my logical side ultimately decided. “But if anything changes, I’m going immediately.”

My dad continued to rattle off a slew of medical questions and terms as the time progressed. My brother asked if I understood anything our father was saying. He laughed when I shook my head. He hadn’t either. And like that, things began to feel, if not more normal, at least more manageable.

We continued talking in between updates from Lamont, the conversation keeping the worst of my what if fears at bay. Kiddo had been given a sedative. Kiddo’s procedure was underway. The medical team is awesome. My parents would nod with each report. They would have treated the same. Kiddo was resting. Kiddo was coming home. When it was all done, I was mentally and emotionally tired, but I knew deep down could have been much worse. Kiddo’s prognosis could have been less favorable. I could have been alone with my what ifs.

The next day, released and back at home, Kiddo was healing as he should (my dad verified). As I waved to my departing family, it hit me once again just how fortunate I’d been. Of all the times to stay over, they just happened to visit me during a medical emergency.

Whether the timing was a lucky coincidence, fate, or blessed intervention, I make no judgment. I wrote last week about my fear of sharks not then knowing a much more immediate threat lay waiting at home. I wrote about my father’s advice to mentally combat the ups and downs not then realizing how soon I would have to put that advice once again to the test. I continue to marvel at the interconnection of things, this web more comforting to see especially after experiencing a spider’s bite.

In this case, the how or why doesn’t matter. All I know, all I care, is that my son is already acting like his normal, goofy, lego-dinosaur-and now Pokemon-obsessed self, and for that, I am grateful.