End of the week hello, China and Norway

I hope you had a good week and are off to a good start to the weekend.

I’m 11,475 words into my 40,000 word novella, but who’s counting? LOL! I need to crank out about 1450 words a day to get this in on time for the call for submissions. I spent most of my time planning it, which I definitely do not regret! Anyway, this really is the fun part, the actual writing.

Funny thing about writing a romantic suspense, which is a subgenre change for me (very excited), as much as you plan the plot, unplanned details come up in the writing. They must be addressed and this in turn requires changes to the plot. As long as I can make these changes to the plot, I’m liking the process. I sincerely hope I do not get to the point where I can’t make changes to the plot to account for some detail I hadn’t considered. The plot lies to a great deal in the details; that’s what I’m learning about suspense.

Time for some pictures, again from the vault as I have not been out taking pictures. That is going to change next week when we go on an extensive road trip. (Hooray!)

China 2-2
Bergen Norway-2
Bergen Norway




Exploring creativity, sideways thinking

So I’ve been working all week on the plot for the last of the Cruz sisters’ trilogy. The third one has a mystery plot. It’s a lot of fun, but requires a lot of thinking, and my concentration seems way off. I flit around the project, every time the thinking gets hard, I jump to the internet. I have to keep reminding myself to go back to the work. I don’t know why this is.

Well one of the things about creative writing is that you spend a lot of time with your own mind and discover things about it. I was not happy with this jumping thing. Seems like I need to concentrate and fill in the plot one thing at a time, but I don’t know what to put in all the slots.

This post is sprinkled with unrelated photos, but their very lack of relatedness, relates, because this is the kind of thing I’ve been doing all week, think a little, then do something else.

Lake Tahoe
Oregon, Horsetail Falls

I would read the outline and the guidelines for the classic mystery. Get stuck. Jump to something else. This behavior seemed very unproductive, and I was getting frustrated with myself for not sticking to the plan and concentrating.

Did I share this info graphic with you? This is actually for the book I worked on during NaNo, but which I have set aside to work on the last of the Cruz sisters.

Aesthetics of my novel

Yes, that novel is very outdoorsy, and there are horses.

So here’s what happened when it seemed all I was doing was thinking sideways. Solutions came. I filled these into the outline. It’s sort of like translating vertical motion to circular and therefore useful motion the way a car translates the piston motion to the wheel motion.

What are your plans for the weekend? I hope you will be having fun.

Motivation in writing and San Diego

Happy Monday. What do you have planned this week? I am working on final edits for Third Strike’s the Charm and once that’s done, I’m going back to my special project. I won’t have it completed for NaNo, but at least I wrote 30,000 words!

Do you find you have to juggle goals based on other demands or simply motivation? What about creative goals? Do you fight it if the excitement isn’t there?

I have found that if I don’t want to work on a project, it’s often okay if I don’t because everything always gets done. I prefer to be in the flow and allow my inner rhythm to guide me when I’m writing. I’m inherently goal oriented, so I’m able to work that way. Even when I had a day job, I could work on things when I felt like working on them. There’s a distinction, though. I actually enjoy some of the more tedious work, it’s the creative work that is more difficult, and I prefer to do that when I’m inspired and excited. So I would work on all the routine stuff when I wasn’t inspired and work on the really hard stuff when I was. However, just like with writing fiction, when there was a deadline, I had to push myself, and it could be very unpleasant, working all night and racing against time. I don’t work all night now, but I used to have to do that a lot when I was a technical writer. When I was a project manager at the end of that career, I didn’t have my own “deliverables” and so didn’t have to pull all-nighters.

There are times when I have to push myself to get a story done. In fact, right now, I’m floating along on a magic carpet, feeling happy and light, but I have to remind myself of the intense stress and hard work I had to go through to get Third Strike’s the Charm written and submitted on time. So many times I didn’t think I was going to pull it off. So many times I pushed myself to work every waking hour. I didn’t want to let down my critique partners, especially one of them, who had put in a huge amount of work to help me after she told me the first draft didn’t work as it was. (She was right.)

I also didn’t want to let down my husband. I told him this after I had completed the book. He said I wouldn’t have let him down and not to ever worry about that. But I probably still will worry about that too.

Wow, in writing this post, I’m realizing again that what motivates me is other people. That was true at my day job too. Not wanting to let people down is what spurs me to work extraordinarily hard. Otherwise, I float along on my magic carpet, dreaming and enjoying, until I really have to land back down there on earth and perform or somebody is going to be disappointed.

My preference is to get things done because I want to get them done and to experience mostly joy along the way. I think the key for that is not having too many external deadlines. I still have to find that balance of learning to push myself hard when the going is not easy. That is a matter of holding myself to my own deadline and not letting myself down. I look forward to learning this new ability to push myself out of choice.

What motivates you to perform at your peak?

Here are some photos from San Diego. I took this first one at the end of my photo shoot. This surfer stood here for a long time, just looking at the sunset. I love how he reveled in the moment, how he appreciated the natural beauty. This man inspired me so much more than all the people who stare at their phones, including me. (I’m trying to break that habit.)

Surfer at Scripps Pier La Jolla
Church of Latter Day Saints temple in La Jolla
University City San Diego

And here is a gallery for you. PS I’m saving my best photo for my monthly newsletter, which goes out tonight. So if you’re not already signed up, just click on the link above (monthly newsletter). That will take you to the form. I’d love to have you as a subscriber. You’ll get a recipe and be entered in a giveaway each month, plus see a unique piece of art in medium resolution.



The dependency chain and the next step in my publishing process

Check it off! I received the executed contract, which triggered the blurb and cover information tasks. I did those yesterday, and now the edits begin. I still have time to work on other things because the editor has to do her editing, then I’ll have to do everything she tells me to do, LOL.

Dependency chain

A dependency chain shows tasks that depend on something else before they can start. Sometimes the dependencies march along in single file, like in the case of writing a book, which is wonderful. Sometimes they are a lot more complex, like when I was a project manager for documentation for a large software integration project. With writing, the promo phase is going to be more complex than the book-creation part, but not as complex as my former day job.

Up at the top of the chart, where the projects lie, are things that will be checked off. I don’t check off the operations or I’d be making new sheets of paper every day. If you have not yet run screaming from this series, you may remember for operations I had daily, monthly and as-needed columns containing check boxes next to the tasks. I don’t actually check those off for operations, just the projects. That way the paper only will need to be changed once in a while. Projects last a while, so I’ll probably only have to change the paper every two or three months.

It is hump day. How is your week going?

Here is a photo of someone who knows how to enjoy life.

Person watching the sunset in Monterey California
Enjoy life

And one of my favorites from my photography day in San Francisco.

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco
Palace of Fine Arts

I was in downtown Campbell for lunch today and took another picture of the water tower. I liked the sky today. In our part of the world, the weather is having a hard time realizing it is supposed to be fall. It’s so warm, it might as well be summer. Having a few clouds is unusual for summer, though, so I took it as a sign that the seasons might change soon.

Campbell California water tower

Are you planning to do anything fun this weekend?

Writing life, the next level

My critique partner shared this story with me: http://www.theplayerstribune.com/matt-duffy-giants-dad-photo-gallery/ This is a baseball story and a very inspiring one. Also, for photography fans, it’s a gorgeously photographed chronicle. From birth to the major leagues, Dad (Tom Duffy) photographed his son (San Francisco Giants, Matt Duffy) playing baseball. He said:

To see a big league stadium with 40,000 fans there supporting him was both surreal and incredible. You see, while he was growing up through the game of baseball, Matt and I never once discussed making it to the big leagues. We continually kept our eyes on a much smaller prize: getting to the next level.

Emphasis mine. I love the thought of not focusing on the big time but just on what’s next for you. It made me ask myself what is the next level for me? That is an exciting thing to focus on compared to trying to imagine a big dream that just feels overwhelming. I have a little announcement to make. I just now received the contract from The Wild Rose Press for Third Strike’s the Charm. Talk about the next level; this book really is that for me.

I went out to take pictures early the other day and had a lot of fun but was disappointed when I looked at the results. They weren’t interesting. My husband helped me analyze why, look at other photos that are interesting, and create a plan for going back and shooting the same place again. I’m happier with the results.

In addition to writing, I’m focusing on learning and getting to the next level of amateur photography, and that’s what’s exciting. With photography I really don’t have goals, other than to take interesting and exciting  photos for my blog. With writing I do have dreams, of course I do, and when I make sure that dream is writing increasingly good books, the journey is a joy.

City Hall
City Hall, Campbell California
Clock at City Hall
Clock at City Hall
Campbell water tower
Campbell water tower

Do you focus on outcomes or the journey and which inspires you the most?

Waiting for a contract for my new novel…and New York life

It has been very convenient not to have a contract in September because I’ve been vacationing like mad.

I have some scenery shots from the New York portion of my September vacation, plus some photos of New Yorkers living their lives. You can see that despite the stresses of the city and the crowding, that people here live normally, exercising, walking their dogs, playing with their children, and going grocery shopping. I didn’t take photos of all of these activities, but I’ve seen them. The parks are what make the city livable for people. Because I grew up in the mountains, I didn’t appreciate the value of parks until I came to New York City.

Exercising at Riverside Park
Exercising at Riverside Park
Exercising at Riverside Park
Exercising at Riverside Park
Exercising at Riverside Park
Jogging on a pier in Riverside Park

Even while on vacation, I’ve been checking email 10 times a day, hoping for one from my publisher saying they’d like to offer me a contract for Third Strike’s the Charm. So far, nothing.

I did get up early to take photos at Riverside Park. The rewards for crawling out of bed so early were there, and I have to ask myself why I’m not doing the same for writing. I have to think about that. I bet I could get some good creative thoughts first thing in the morning (and then go back to bed for a nap later.)

Heading to work
Morning by Riverside Park
Old railway ties with New Jersey in the backgroun
Old railway ties with New Jersey in the backgroun


Early morning on the Hudson River
Early morning on the Hudson River
Early morning on the Hudson River
Early morning view from Riverside Park
Riverside Park
Riverside Park

In the middle of the day, I could do your standard kind of work, the editing, research, promo, and networking, just like I took an amble through Central Park and snapped a few good travel shots.

The Bow Bridge, Central Park
The Bow Bridge, Central Park
View from Central Park
View from Central Park

Around lunch I could enjoy some time with friends like this man with his best friend.

Walking with your bestie in Central Park
Walking with your bestie in Central Park

In the afternoon it’s important to have some refreshments,

Having some refreshments
Having something to drink

Finally, evenings after dinner can be left for:

John Lennon memorial in Central Park
John Lennon memorial in Central Park

For the rest of today, I’m going to imagine receiving the email that says something like, Dear Nicci Carrera, The Wild Rose Press would like to offer you a contract for THIRD STRIKE’S THE CHARM.

What dream of yours are you imagining into reality?

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.


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


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


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.


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


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


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.


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 


Cover art, artists, and design

Happy Saturday! I hope you are having a nice weekend. I am resting my shoulder today from too much mousing yesterday. But I did spend a bit of time on the ol’ computer anyway. Even if I’m not doing that much work on the computer, when I have some leisure time, I like to read. Blogs and articles, mostly. Here is an interesting article about art and artists. It is a review about an Ethan Hawke documentary:


What I love about the article is the part that talks about continuing to “do” art privately. And that how one’s art is going is how one feels as a person.

I’m excited about something new I learned. A friend talked to me about viewing book covers as blocks, top, middle, and bottom, and to see what is going on with each block. What is there to look at in the block. The middle block should tell the reader what genre the book is. Based on this feedback, John Holland and I are changing the cover for Left of the Rising Sun from this:

Left Cover 2

to this:

Left Cover 4 C new final

I needed to do a poster board to display at a table where I’ll be selling these books and I had the idea to summarize the book in very few words and some images. This is the result.

Left poster

I also made this poster, but I found it much more difficult to boil the books down to just a few words.


That’s what I’ve been up to. I hope you have a nice remainder of the weekend!


#Giveaway Monday

There’s a big giveaway happening on Wednesday, February 25th from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. EST. Here are the details:

Hook a Book: A Lobster Cove Facebook Party

The Wild Rose Press and the authors of Lobster Cove are hosting a Lobster Cove Facebook party on Wednesday, February 25 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., EST. Readers can find out all about the Lobster Cove books and “meet” the authors. At the end of the party we will give away a basket of Lobster Cove print books and a Kindle Fire!!  Individual authors will also be doing giveaways throughout the party. There will be lots of prizes!

I hope you’ll stop by “Hook a Book: A Lobster Cove Party.” Enjoy a party at the beach—a fire, friends and a good time. Come party with the authors of Lobster Cove on Facebook.

If you have a Facebook account, just click on that link or copy and paste this link: https://www.facebook.com/events/928761120475937/?ref=br_tf into your browser and then you can RSVP by clicking on the little button near the top that says Going. In the same area, there’s also a button called Invite. You can click on that and invite friends. You can also just click on that link at the time of the party. I will be hosting from 4:30 – 5 Pacific Standard Time. That is 7:30 – 8 Eastern Standard Time.

The day of the party and the day after, the publisher also plans to put all the Lobster Cove e-books on sale on their Website.

Lobster Cove is a fictional small town on the coast of Maine, near Bar Harbor. It is quaint and quirky with a colorful history, a friendly population of charming residents, and a vibrant tourist business. It is home to research scientists and small shop owners, grumpy cops and sassy chefs. Back in the day, it was a bustling fishing town and home to many immigrants, from both the state cabins and the lowest decks.