The writing life, satisfaction, my project management plan unfolding #amwriting

When do we feel satisfaction? When book sales are booming? When reviews are glowing? How about when the editor says “It’s a great book.” Well, my editor did. And I feel a sense of satisfaction which I am nursing today like a glass of fine wine because tomorrow I have to open the file and face the edits. The other feedback was that I repeated a lot of words. Anyway, vacation is really over. I am at that fourth box in the dependency chain for Third Strike’s the Charm, Edit 1.  It’s satisfying to see that progress!

Dependency chain

I would like to get this done as fast as possible to free up November for National Novel Writing Month. (NaNoWriMo or just NaNo for short.) Are you a writer?  Are you doing NaNo this year? It’s really misnamed now because it’s international.

On an educational chat that The Wild Rose Press does every Tuesday for authors (which is open to the public, FYI, and is excellent), my editor was teaching about deep-point-of-view, and she called on me and said that the manuscript she was working on for me right now was in much better shape than the one she edited for me last year. (That one is a good book now, I stand behind it, and reviewers loved it, but it was a grueling editing process for my editor and me.) Making progress with craft is also a source of satisfaction. What gives you satisfaction with your work?

In photo land, I filled up my computer disk pretty quickly once I started taking bracketed shots in camera RAW, LOL! I had to start deleting images. I did buy an external drive, but I still have to clean up photos. Space is not unlimited, so I can’t keep garbage.

In the process of cleaning up, I found some more images to develop for you. These are from San Francisco.

Military tunnel in the Marin Headlands
Military tunnel in the Marin Headlands
Roots in the Marin Headlands
Roots in the Marin Headlands
Looking down on a road from the Marin Headlands
Looking down on a road from the Marin Headlands

I had a lot of fun when I noticed this in the archives. Do you see it? I did try to make it obvious with a lot of cropping…

Sailing over the bridge to work
Sailing over the bridge to work
San Francisco view from Lombard Street (the curvy one) to Coit Tower and the Bay Bridge
San Francisco view from Lombard Street (the curvy one) to Coit Tower and the Bay Bridge
Hyde Street cable car at Lombard Street
Hyde Street cable car at Lombard Street

Happy Friday. We are driving up to Lake Tahoe today. But once I get there, I have to start editing. That’s okay, I’ll get out to take some photos and hike a bit. What are your plans for the weekend?

Overcoming career limiting behavior, #amwriting

It’s Wednesday. That means I owe you a blog post! Well I am hot on the heels of a new story idea and it’s big, really big. I’m so excited. So I’m going to repost a blog post where I was featured. The series is Authors Bare All on Casi McLean’s website, and I reveal more behind-the-scenes stuff about the writer’s life, but what I found really interesting were the responses of other authors.

http://casimclean.com/authors-bare-all/nicci-carrera-featured-author/

Along the same lines, in terms of tips, my new metrics tool has been helping me learn what the majority of you like, so I plan to do more tips from the project management treasure trove. I’ll cover metrics for writers in my next PM post.

Speaking of which, I received a recruitment email for a consulting job in my former field, the first offer since early retirement that has interested me, so I stated outrageous requirements. If they want to meet my demands, I might do a short-term project to make some money to support this writing habit. But it is unlikely, unless they are really desperate. If it happens I’ll just work a little. Don’t worry, I’ll still blog, take photos, write, and, most importantly of all, talk to you.

Here are some of my favorite recent photos for your enjoyment. Saratoga public library

Redwood growth

Redwood at first light
Redwood at first light

Jelly fish Jelly fish DSC05290 DSC05050 DSC05009 DSC04995 DSC04983 DSC05094 DSC04637 Wolf 3

Happy Hump Day.

Waiting to work, waiting to play, and bursting with life

Happy Monday! Woo hoo!

Redwood at first light

What is up with this woman? you ask. I crawled out of bed early, not super early, but since I went to bed late, I was still tired. I just read yet another article about how important getting enough sleep is, but the photos outside my door beckoned more than bed.

I opted not to go back to downtown Campbell. Instead I went to the parks near me. I found the feeling a park gives is really different from a downtown area. There’s a calmness as the trees stand and wait for light. People are quiet as they walk around getting exercise, as though not wanting to disturb the peace.

Since everyone loved my redwoods the other day, I started there. Standing under these trees in the morning feels amazing. Trees, especially redwoods, have an energy you can feel, if you just pay attention, which photography forces you to do. I noticed a feeling of calm anticipation.

Redwood growth

This little guy seemed to be growing in the wrong place, but the big tree allowed its wayward child to do as it wished. The fresh green needles seem to shimmer with excitement.Redwood growth

Ah… then I drove to the other park and found trees reveling in the light and a playground waiting for children.

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Playground

This fire hydrant spends most of it’s time waiting for work.

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My morning photography shoot infused me with excitement instead of dread. I am waiting to work…my edits will be coming soon, and I’ll have to work hard and face the slings and arrows of criticism.

There’s still a little time to play. Today that means finishing up the last edits on the middle grade fantasy I set aside six months ago. It feels like play because the book is now where I want it, so I’m just reading it quickly and enjoying the story.

Do you have a hobby that is purely for fun? Does it energize you?

Look at the dew glistening on these roses. They have been blooming the whole six months since I set aside Mark Taggart and the Circle of Stones to work on Third Strike’s the Charm.

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Rose

Perhaps the roses have been holding the dream for my co-author and me, so when I return to look closely, I find a precious gem ready to be pruned and shared.

Waiting for an answer…oops!

I’m eagerly awaiting word on the next step for Third Strike’s the Charm, hoping for a contract.

I had to fill out a form, which I did. After not hearing back from my editor, I decided yesterday to be a pest and make sure she received it. No, she didn’t!

I thought I sent the form four days ago, but she never received it. (The form is for the Lobster Cove series, which is a fictional small town on the Maine coast. Many authors are writing books set in this small town, so we all have to coordinate the setting and characters. We have a reference spreadsheet that is our “bible.” When we submit a manuscript, we fill out a form identifying the shared information we’ve used, things like street names, minor characters, major buildings, land marks, weather events, newsworthy events, and the physical characteristics of the main characters. The editor who is managing this series makes sure all that information goes into the spreadsheet.)

I checked my Sent Items folder in Yahoo mail. Somehow I managed to email the form to myself! Well, I could have been waiting a very long time! I now understand that if I don’t hear back from my editor confirming that she has received an email, to follow up. At least the clock has started now, plus I also learned more about working with my editor. She said she’s always there and will always send confirmation. We had a laugh about me sending the form to myself.

Have you found that your communications are getting mixed up lately? Apparently it’s in the air, so if you don’t hear back, double check.

I have a confession to make though. If I don’t get my first round of edits until October, that would work out well for my vacation. I am in New York. I wandered around the city today. Here are a collection of photographs. I read recently about photographic voice and making one’s own stamp on pictures. I was excited about these concepts in theory, but in reality, I found myself not sure what to photograph! My friend said just shoot everything. That I can do. These were my favorite today.

New York City fall day (13 of 17)
Newspaper vendor outside Penn Station
New York City fall day (12 of 17)
US Post Office
New York City fall day (10 of 17)
My husband worked in this building many years ago.
New York City fall day (2 of 17)
A kasha knish at 2nd Avenue Deli (now on 33rd Street)
New York City fall day (16 of 17)
Penn Station
New York City fall day (15 of 17)
Penn Station
New York City fall day (14 of 17)
Penn Station

New York City fall day (17 of 17) New York City fall day (11 of 17) New York City fall day (8 of 17) New York City fall day (6 of 17) New York City fall day (5 of 17) New York City fall day (3 of 17) New York City fall day (1 of 17)

New York City nightfall-1

Good night!

Blending passions for writing, photography, and animals

I wanted to be a writer since I was about eight years old. That’s when I started to keep a journal. One of the first things I wrote about in the journal was how I wanted to be an animal behaviorist. I was torn. Such a momentous decision for an eight-year-old!

Now, thanks to the Internet, we have blogging. Thanks to digital photography, we can take photos of animals and learn about them.

I love how sea lions bask in the sun. They keep their eyes closed a lot. I noticed this because I wanted a photo of this guy with his eyes open. My theory is that their eyes are meant for seeing under water where it’s relatively dark, so the bright sunlight is painful.

Sea lion

I notice they really like to hang out together, too. They seem sociable.

Sea lions

These pelicans were hunting as a pair, which also seemed sociable.

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This bird was resting by herself, though.

Sea bird

This sea lion was the only one I saw working today.

Sea lion

All of the above photos were taken outside in the wild. Inside the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a glorious place, they had these birds, which were injured. They can’t survive in the wild but have found a wonderful home.

Stilt bird

Piper

This exhibit shows animals who wait for food to come to them.

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I love how animals are masters at the art of allowing what they need to be provided.DSC05200

I was also pretty thrilled with the soft pastel colors of these ones, especially compared to the bold colors of the ones above.

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These were very difficult to photograph in low light because they are constantly moving, sort of the opposite of the stationary creatures above.

Shark

The jelly fish are the “wow” exhibit. Actually, there’s a lot of competition for that name, but this show was truly exceptional.

Jelly fish

Jelly fish

Jelly fish

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Another hard working, constantly moving, yet playful animal, the sea otters were nearly impossible to photography and equally impossible not to love.

Sea otter

Tomorrow I head to New Jersey to visit friends in a completely different environment. I hope to do as well as these animals at enjoying camaraderie and sunshine.

May your weekend be filled with warmth and friendship.

Nicci

You like tomato and I like tomahto…

I’m having a blast with my Australian photographer friend who is visiting, so even though I like tomato and she likes tomahto, we’re definitely calling the calling off off. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m quoting this song.)

Not only is my husband a foodie and a great cook, he’s passionate about growing food. His garden suffered this year from our being a little too tight with watering because of the drought restrictions. It’s tricky to get that drip watering to come out just right. We think the veggie garden needed a bit more. While we didn’t get the bumper crop that we had last year, we did get enough to can some tomatoes to be enjoyed this winter.

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You have to look closely at the jar on the right, but if you do, you can see the bubbles rising. That jar just came out of the pressure cooker. It was hot! I needed to set it on a pot holder.

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Tonight we are going to enjoy some zucchini. Again, not the usual bumper crop, but the plant has come back to life and delivered a couple nice squash. Eggplant thrived this year, so we’ll have plenty of those tonight.

I know Saturday isn’t one of my blogging days, but I might be doing more posts over the next month as I’m on an extended photography and travel blitz with my friend. We’ll consider Monday, Wednesday, Friday the minimum I’ll blog. There will be a lot of extra credit because I’m excited to share photos with you as I process them.

I’ve learned some about composing pictures during a photo shoot and after, in Lightroom. I’ve bitten the bullet and subscribed to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, having learned that Lightroom is very good for someone like me who doesn’t have much time to devote to processing pictures. (I took a Photoshop class, which I loved, but haven’t had time to practice much.)

One of the things I am learning from my new and old photographer friends is how fun and nurturing this hobby is. I am finding that it is a great way to help me reduce the stress from writing. Yes, writing causes me stress. I know that sounds weird, that my passion would cause stress, but sometimes it does.

Photography, by contrast, is pure joy. I’m so excited to realize it’s good for me and to embrace the hobby. I’ve always taken zillions of photos, as you know, but what will be new is taking the time to play with developing photos, to learn more, to go out on photo shoots, and to meet up with other photographers.

Thankfully, I already have a blog where I can post my photos. I really appreciate your time and interest in taking a look. Thank you, and enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Free stuff and links Monday, gut instincts and black and white photography

Happy Monday! Or Tuesday, as the case may be. Time for links to things online that I enjoyed this week.

I was intrigued by this article, which I found while looking for something else. I was looking for info on weird feelings in the stomach after food poisoning, another bout of which I just endured. This article is not about that at all but is much more interesting! I’m always writing about my characters’ gut clenching (male) or butterflies (female). It’s hard to come up with other ways to describe characters’ physical reactions to situations, so I’m always looking for other ways to do so and then going back and revising my manuscripts so they don’t say these things the same way all the time.

I recommend this article for writers, especially the list of physical reactions at the end, but this article is of general interest as well.

5 Gut Instincts You Shouldn’t Ignore.

The author (Courtney Helgoe) talks about the enteric nervous system, also referred to as “the second brain,” which is an interesting and new-to-me phenomenon.

In addition to warning you about danger and helping you recognize when someone needs sympathy, your instincts can help your achieve peak performance once you have mastered a skill. Here is the quote for you:

“Once you’ve developed expertise in a particular area — once you’ve made the requisite mistakes — it’s important to trust your emotions when making decisions in that domain,” [Jonah] Lehrer insists. If you know you can do it, trust your gut — not your head.

Next time you’re tempted to think too much about something you know how to do, try a little therapeutic distraction. Say the alphabet backward when your yoga teacher orders you into the dreaded handstand, or sing a favorite song to yourself at the free-throw line. Briefly engaging your conscious mind with something other than the task at hand can leave your instincts free to do their job — and free you to enjoy the satisfaction all that practice has made possible.

I’ve been trying this a bit with my writing, by closing my eyes and just writing what I’m seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, and tasting in the scene.

I also like what the article said about your first impressions of meeting a new person. I have tried to override negative first impressions, and I’m not talking about danger here, just incompatibility for a friendship, and it never really works out. It’s best just to go with gut feel, I think.

The article also talks about inner conflict versus knowing when something is right.

When your intuition signals that you’ve found something or someone truly right for you, the choice often becomes strangely easy. “It feels healthy; it feels good; it doesn’t feel like you’re forcing it, there’s not a lot of conflict,” [Judith Orloff PhD] says.

Lehrer agrees that when you’re poised to make a big decision with lasting repercussions, like choosing your life partner, you’re best off deciding from the gut. Based on the bulk of his research into the cognitive mechanisms of decision-making, he actually recommends that you “think less about those choices that you care a lot about.”

My other favorite article of the week comes with beautiful pictures. This is a very richly contented blog post about black and white photography with contributions from several experts. This article is on Leanne Cole’s site. I’ve met Leanne, and gone on photo shoots with her. It was interesting to me to see how natural she is at taking great photos. She definitely has that muscle memory, or in the case of art, the eye, for composing beautiful photographs.

Up for Discussion: Images in Monochrome 

Enjoy.

On needing new photos and eating meat

I’m going to the coast today, first time I’ve felt like going somewhere or doing something since I left Tahoe last week.

Tahoe-1

I’ve been so tired, and I had a sore hand. I think the fatigue was a combination of allergies (and anti-histamines) and needing a little red meat. I had some grass-fed bison last night and did immediately feel better. This has happened to me before. I am an “occasionarian,” which is a tongue-in-cheek description of my dietary habits. I think veganism is awesome, but I am not a perfect person. Far from it! Anyway, I do eat animal protein four times a week–so seldom that I can afford to buy the compassionately raised (and slaughtered, I hope) version, or wild salmon or dolphin-safe tuna. I have been forgetting to eat some red meat sometimes though. I don’t know why my body needs it, but as one goes along in life, one does learn what works for one’s body. That was a lot of “ones!” Sorry about that! As blog reader SquawPeak said yesterday, wheat and grains don’t work for her. We all need protein, carbs and fat, and veggies and fruit, but we are also all a little different.

I do think we can make a difference by simply eating less meat, and as it turns out, this is a strong trend in the USA. People are simply cutting back on the meat.

As for dairy, my solution is to guy organic milk and cage-free eggs. A vegan will think this is pretty lame, and I agree, but again, I have to do what works for me, and I do believe that an effort, no matter how small, can make a huge difference. I do see things changing as people come to terms with the situation and seek ways to improve their diet, which is not really that easy.

Time for a plug for my newsletter. Each month I include an original recipe, always vegetarian. Sometimes it’s a cookie recipe or something else decadent, sometimes something vegetarian. We’ve learned to make a lot of stuff using beans, lentils, tofu, or eggs as the protein basis for dinner. If you are interested in getting the newsletter, you can leave a comment below or click on the link in the left frame of this blog. That will lead you to the sign-up form.

My husband just called me for breakfast…he made his amazing breakfast frittata. That recipe will also be in my newsletter eventually, so please sign up! Meantime, I’m off to eat breakfast, then get some overdue writing done, then go have some fun at the coast and hopefully take some new photos.

Have a happy Tuesday, or Wednesday, as the case may be.

Nicci