Why I love FlyLady and the FlyLady Cleaning Schedule (for someone who doesn’t clean)

If you’re anything like me, housecleaning is on the bottom of your list, if on your list at all. Like, there are so many more interesting things I’d rather be doing, like starting a new knitting or craft project, working on my writing, reading a good book, playing my computer game, watching an awesome TV show, going on a bike ride or hike or taking a catnap.

But I also want a clean house. It doesn’t have to be spotless, the lived-in look is fine, but I want it to be generally clean on a regular basis. I just don’t want to do it myself. And I don’t always have the income to hire a cleaning lady (even when I do, I can only pay for her to come once a month – what about the other 29 days?)

Why I Love FlyLady

Over the years of having, raising, and sometimes homeschooling four kids close in age, I’ve tried various cleaning ideas and methods. I’ve even done about half of the method from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Maria Kundo. That one was fun but very intense – both in time and energy. And later I wished I hadn’t gotten rid of some specific things. But it was nice to do it as a one-time thing, purging a lot of my stuff and getting rid of most of my paper files and clutter.

For me, the FlyLady system has proven the best, the easiest and the most effective, even when I haven’t done it consistently. (By the way, FlyLady does not have an affiliate program and I’m not getting anything for this review – I just love it so much.)

Why does it work so well?

  • Marla Ciley, who started FlyLady, knows exactly our struggles with clutter, lack of motivation, distractedness, it-never-quite-gets-done mindset. She’s been through it and devised ingenious methods for getting the house decluttered and clean anyway. All while learning to love ourselves, to think more positively, to take care of all parts of ourselves and our families, etc.
  • The FlyLady system is built on learning one small habit at a time. You start with the simple task of shining your kitchen sink every morning. With FlyLady’s 31 Babysteps, anyone can learn these easy, daily habits, slowly building up a lifestyle of organization and cleaning which makes it seem as if your house is cleaning itself. These habits are easy, simple and quick to implement.
  • Marla understands behavior patterns, and her system sends you emails throughout the day to encourage, remind and enable you to succeed.
  • If you mess up, stop doing it for a while, or miss a few days, it’s no problem, you can just jump right back in (and forgive yourself while you’re at it).

What is the FlyLady Cleaning Schedule?

The FlyLady system is wonderful, but it can be a little overwhelming to understand, navigate and implement – not because her website doesn’t have all the information (it does, loads of info – everything you need), but because there are so many layers to her program that it’s hard to get the big picture of it all. I highly recommend a delightful novel written with the character implementing the program and changing her life through the process. This book is a keeper: Hidden Treasures by Paddi Newlin, found on Amazon.com. FlyLady also has a recommended book, which I haven’t yet read, called Sink Reflections by Marla Ciley (found on Amazon.com and on FlyLady’s FlyShop).Many readers have said that they like this, her original book, better than her more recent one, The C.H.A.O.S. Cure. From what I’ve rea, they’re both similar enough I would just get one.

For your reference, here is the Big Picture of the FlyLady Cleaning Schedule:

  1. Start with learning The 31 BabySteps. (Just this alone will transform your home and life.) This will be your first month.
  2. Once you finish the 31 BabySteps, jump into where everyone is in the daily emails. Add the Weekly Home Blessing Hour.
  3. Then add the Habit of the Month. I don’t know about you, but having checklists and goals like this is fun.
  4. Next, start tackling the Zones. The emails will instruct which zone you are in each week, and the specific tasks to do each day for that zone.
  5. Last, enjoy all the extras in the daily emails, including testimonials, “Afternoon Tea” live video sessions with FlyLady, the latest deals in her FlyShop, etc.

Note: FlyLady now has a new FlyLady Express option, where you can get her many daily emails sent in one concise email a day. This option costs $4.99/mo, however, because of the time it takes her to pull these together every day. But she firmly believes in her method of us getting emails throughout the day for reinforcement, encouragement and reminders. I find that when I’m actively doing the FlyLady system, the many emails don’t bother me too much – I simply read the ones that peak my interest, and delete the rest.

FlyLady Pairs Perfectly with Norwex

I’ll put a plug in here because I so strongly love these products, I became a consultant to get these awesome cleaning aids at a discount. Norwex has simple, green cleaning solutions for every part of your home and body. Their Envirocloth and body cloths are made with silver, so they do not get mildewy. When you rub it against itself, it kills 99% of all germs. This means you can actually clean your house with a Norwex Envirocloth and hot water – no need for toxic or any other cleaning agents.

Yes, you read that right. All you need is your Norwex Envirocloth and hot water. Talk about ease and simplicity, as well as being green for the Earth. I’ve found that the tight weave of the Envirocloth picks up and cleans my kitchen counters SO much better than my kitchen cloths I was using. This tightly-woven silver-infused cloth also works great as a Body Cloth, which exfoliates and cleans your skin and face, as well as removing makeup. Good-bye, make-up wipes!

Check out these incredible products here.

Helpful Links & Ideas for the FlyLady Cleaning Schedule

Because I like games and tactile motivators, I came up with a Mancala FlyLady BabySteps Game:

  1. Use a standard Mancala board, but have all different color stones (any kind of stone, real or glass, or beads, etc.)
  2. For each BabyStep, I choose a particular stone to represent that task; IE., I chose white for “Shine your kitchen sink” because my kitchen sink is white. Each day when I complete this new habit, I move that stone along in the mancala board. I do this with each of the 31 BabySteps as applicable (some of them are one-time tasks). I include the longer depression on the end of the board when moving the stones around the board.
  3. Each day I move a stone and remember what I’m supposed to do (Hot Spot for 2 mins; Check my Control Journal, etc.).
  4. It’s fun, and the idea is that by the time each stone starts collecting in the starting depression, it means I’m doing that task as a daily habit. The starting depression should fill up as I near the end of the 31 Babysteps. (And I can have a stone keep going around if I still need the reminder.)

Another Tip: FlyLady has you build (or you can buy) a Control Journal, your central notebook to organize your life and home. You can make it completely from scratch, but I fell in love with this Etsy shop’s PDF version of the FlyLady Control Journal Template. When I asked, she even made me a 31 BabyStep Checklist, too. Etsy.com is a great resource for your Control Journal.

Helpful Links for getting started with FlyLady:

If you want a clean house, but don’t like to clean, this is for you.

I’m only into the 31 BabySteps by about a week, but already my home is looking cleaner and more feng shui. Granted, I didn’t have a huge cluttered mess to begin with, and the FlyLady system works miracles for those starting out with such a challenge. In my house, having several small spaces decluttered and my house already a little cleaner is blessing me in so many ways, who would have thought?

Comment below if you have used and/or like the FlyLady system, and also comment below if you’d like me to get you a discount to Norwex products on my site. I will see what I can do for you. 🙂

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Let me Define Larping – and its Unexpeced Blessings

Besides wanting to define larping here with its interesting and unexpected blessings, I’ll share with you some larping costumes I’ve worn.

Define Larping

Larping means Live Action Role Play. It’s like playing D&D or another tabletop role-play game, only instead of sitting around a table rolling dice to see if you’ve picked the lock, we’re actually out in nature and have to literally pick a lock with lock picks. It’s like an adventure computer game, similar to Skyrim, for example, only instead of sitting home watching a screen, we’re actually running around in the real weather in the woods, joining guilds, going on quests, exploring crypts and dungeons, dealing with politics with the nobility, and fighting large battles while also handling all kinds of weather and conditioning our bodies with trekking through hill and dale and dealing with snow, rain, cold or heat.

In other words, it’s like feeling totally alive and living every moment.

It’s like a survival challenge in a made-up world. Survival in a medieval fantasy setting with elves, dwarves, wizards and fae, or in a post-apocalyptic setting with zombies, Raiders, mutated monsters and human factions, or in an Urban Fantasy setting with werewolves and vampires, or in a…well, you get the idea.

What is larping really like?

Until you actually try it, it’s difficult to convey what it’s really like, but I’ll try. Do you remember playing make-believe when you were a kid? It’s like that, only with adults who know how to craft the most amazing costumes, make-up and accessories with real-looking foam boffer weapons of all kinds.

Does the crypt really look like a crypt? No, it is actually a girl scout cabin on the site we rented for the weekend (one weekend a month, with a few months off in winter). There’s a Marshal there, running this particular quest, and they describe what we “see” before we start this adventure:

“Going down the dark stairs you come into a crypt, with dust and cobwebs everywhere, sarcophagi along the walls…”

There are some decorations in the cabin to make it look cool, like maybe some LED candles or medieval-style torches, with a treasure chest in one spot (which may be trapped), some coins in a golden bowl in another area, etc.

You will be amazed at what the human imagination can do. When we’re in the moment, playing our character, and an NPC monster is coming at us with swords, it really feels like we’re adventuring in a deep, dark crypt and fighting for our lives. Your adrenaline kicks in, you go into fight or flight mode, and the magic happens.

What is an NPC?

Anyone familiar with computer gaming know that an NPC is a “non-player character.” Basically these are the people and creatures you meet when you’re playing the game, be they local townspeople, or the giant rat attacking you or the undead swarming the night. Or the newly-turned vampire hunting for blood in the woods near your path to your cabin. Or the barbarian tribe we have to negotiate peace treaties with. Or the fae queen trying to lure you into following her into the forest…

In larping, we have volunteers play the many varied NPCs. In my own local Alliance Denver Larp I play in, when a person chooses to NPC for a whole weekend, they get to go for free, with meals and lodging provided. The costumes and make-up are also provided, and as an NPC one weekend I got to play a drunken towns person in the tavern, a funny, friendly goblin, a newly-turned vampire out for blood, and a shambling zombie going right through enemy lines. It was so much fun.

Speaking of cost

So if you NPC all weekend, your event is free AND you’re rewarded with points and such which will later help you with your character development, AND with our local chapter, for every five events you NPC full-time, you get a FREE Player Character (PC) weekend event.

When you’re not NPCing, you’re playing your main character, called your PC (Player Character). To attend my local Alliance event as a PC, it costs anywhere from $50-$80 for lodging and the event itself, then another $20-$25 or so for meals (three meals provided over the weekend). My annual membership is $30. First-time players usually get a free or deeply discounted weekend event, just to try it out.

I could go real cheap by tent camping, which costs less, and bringing my own food. But with tent camping, for my character, not only is it much more work, but I’m never safe because I can’t ward it against monsters, so I could be attacked at any time in the night. If I’m by myself in my tent, my chances of survival are not high. So I opt to pay the extra $20-$30 to stay in a cabin with other adventurers. This way someone is usually able to ward the cabin (a magical protection which most monsters cannot enter), or even if we are attacked, there are plenty of others in there and we can fight together.

With the food,  by opting for the meal plan for an extra $20 or so, I don’t have to pack and bring coolers, cooking tools and food. I can simply go to the tavern at the set times and enjoy a hot, home-cooked meal.

So for a full weekend event, it usually costs me around $70-$85, depending on the site, meal plan, and particular costs. Our chapter generally hosts one weekend event a month, taking 1-3 months off in the winter. There are several larps here in Colorado, and one of the medieval fantasy types, called Nero, larps all year long (yes, that means in the snowy mountains, sleeping in cabins with no heat, unless they bring their own propane heaters).

Larping’s Unexpected Blessings

  • When I first started larping, it was partly because I didn’t have the time to fully participate in the medieval re-enactment society (SCA), my first love. With the SCA, to really become a part of the community, you have to attend every event and activity (like weekly fighter’s practice and baronial meetings, guild meetings and weekend events) in order to get to know people and get the most out of the experience. I just didn’t have the time while I was running a couple of businesses and parenting four teenagers. With larping, you make friends immediately in the survival environment and going to an event once a month is enough.
  • At the time, my business was dying and I was under an incredible amount of stress – as in not sleeping at night and trying not to have a nervous break-down. I couldn’t get out from under the pressure, couldn’t get my mind to stop thinking about it for a moment. Larping is so immersive, it was the one place where I could actually forget my troubles and do something completely different, a true escape, pushing my body’s limits and recharging my emotional creativity. I could be someone else for a weekend, a leafy dryad having medieval adventures. It was a life-saver for me when I most needed it.
  • I really want to travel the world, and am working toward that goal. Until I am doing that regularly, larping is a way to travel to a different “dimension,” with some of the same benefits of globe-trotting – being in a completely new culture and environment, dealing with challenges, experiencing new things, meeting new people, creating amazing memories.
  • A truly unexpected blessing I’ve noticed: I’ve interacted with a couple of people who have a physical deformity. In our modern youth-loving beauty culture, they’re usually seen as defective and different, and I imagine they’re treated differently, even if they’re just stared at. But in the larp culture, these players can play an interesting character and whatever their physical “weakness” is in the modern world, works perfectly in the fantasy world, enhancing it, in fact. These adventurers are seen and treated the same as everybody else – they are simply another adventurer with a war wound, perhaps, or a mutation caused by the bombing and radiation after the government tried to eradicate all the zombies. Or maybe it’s a trait they were born with, being part tree (or part elf, or part hippogriff, etc.). We’re all the same, just trying to survive in this new world.

I’ve included several photos of me in my various larping costumes – I mostly do Alliance Larp, Denver chapter, which is high fantasy (like LOTR and Narnia). But I also like to play Dystopia Rising when I can (post-apocalyptic zombie world).

Comment below your reactions and if you’d like to learn more about larping – I’ve been enjoying it tremendously these last three years and am willing to answer any of your questions (and continue to write endlenssly about it).

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Latest Update on Being a Writer: My Writing Projects

What’s going on with my current writing projects? Here’s my ongoing updates:

Encyclopedeia Magica: Vol.1 – AlchemyEncyclopedeia Magica Volume 1 Alchemy

  • Quite a while ago: Asked Spirit for inspiration for my own unique novel idea – received it as I awoke next morning.
  • Over a few years: Worked on my novel in starts and stops. I was also running two business startups and parenting four teenagers. Biggest struggle – finding the time and discipline to write consistently.
  • More recently: Feb – GalaxyFest in Colorado Springs, where I attended a writer’s workshop and met full-time author Susan Lambdin. She became so excited over my novel idea (pun intended) that she offered to write the back cover blurb. Her enthusiasm acted as a catalyst and I started working seriously on my novel. Joined a local writer’s group, started participating in NaNoWriMo events, etc.
  • April – Attended BarCon at Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference. Met and got to pitch to my very first agent: Natalie Lakosil with Bradford Literary Agency in CA. She immediately got the vision and asked for the full ms – even though I wasn’t finished with it yet. This was a miracle.
  • June – several revisions later, I finally finished my novel! After several rejections, I landed Natalie Lakosil as my agent in August. Honing it back and forth with her until we got it perfect. It’s a multi-layered never-been-done-before book.
  • Natalie had the brilliant idea of separating the three components of my novel (novel, potions textbook encyclopedeia, and puzzle workbook). I’d written it all together. Once separated, we were able to work on each separate part, making them perfect. Then we re-combined them and finished the story!

Other Top Secret Writing Projects

  • 2018: Playing around with several new novel series – shhh.
  • 2018: Attended a Pike’s Peak Writers Workshop on Freelance Writing. After that I landed my first freelance client, and have been ghost-writing her four-book fantasy series. It’s amazing to be paid to write novels! Finished Book 1 by Christmas.
  • 2019: Finished ghost-writing Book 2 by end of May.

Blogs

  • 2018: Needing income after closing my businesses and saddled with business debt, I started learning how to do affiliate marketing with the Wealthy Affiliate platform. Such a great community with lots of classes, training, tools and help from a friendly people.

My Uncommon Life

What am I up to? Several of these have to do with my writing projects.

  • Learning to read and write Egyptian Hieroglyphs, along with learning all about Egypt, ancient and modern.
  • Learning Astrology in preparation for the second book in my Encyclopedeia Magica series.
  • Learning to use GetResponse CRM and email list tool for my author site – highly recommended by a successful business friend.
  • Working my way through the Wealthy Affiliate training program, building my coffee site and my author site.
  • Taking my 17yo son on a short trip or two to visit potential colleges, starting with UPenn in Philly.
  • With my husband, training and preparing for our 3-hour hike on the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland this August.
  • After my hip replacement surgery in March 2019, I’m starting back larping again this month – hooray!
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Learn to be a Writer, Part 1 – It Takes a Tribe

So you wanna be a writer? Can you be a writer? Yes, you can learn to be a writer, especially if, like me, you’ve had an underlying feeling for a while that you are meant to be a writer. Of course, it helps if you can write, too, and are an avid reader as well.

Learn to be a Writer – It takes a tribe

This was the theme of this year’s Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference (2019), in Colorado Springs. This is one of the things any writer starting to get serious about their writing does – they seek out their tribe. This means joining a local writer’s group (or two or three), being around your people who are also writing and who can help you along your journey, learning the ins and outs of writing and publishing, etc. I’ve learned more practical, professional information about becoming a writer from my writer’s groups than anything I remember from being an English Major in college. (Of course, it was a long time ago.)

I started in one writer’s group, from which I learned a lot and made vital friendships (which later translated into me being introduced to my future agent), then switched to a different writer’s group which met my immediate needs as a writer. Their focus is for all of us to get our stories finished. This was exactly what I needed – a structure and group of writers to hold me accountable to actually getting my first novel finished. They meet every other week, and in the off weeks we each submit around 2,000 words, to get feedback on at the next meeting. This way we each receive good feedback from readers of our first draft while it’s being written – helping to make it better and shape our story. This group is my Alpha Readers, if you will.

Studying the Craft of Writing

Then there’s actually studying the craft of writing. I highly recommend you connect with writing friends by going to writer’s conferences. Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference is one of the best, but there are many others – there’s an annual conference in Denver, one in Salt Lake City, the Romance Writers of America hold their conference in a different city each year. Speaking of which, be sure to join these groups. Joining Pike’s Peak Writers is free (and they hold monthly workshops, meetings, critiques, etc.) and they offer scholarships to their conference. Some writing organizations have an annual fee, like the Rocky Mountain Writers in Denver.

You will learn to be a writer as you take the workshops and classes at these events. There are so many class choices offered at conference, you can go to whichever topics you are most needing in your writing life. Last year I took classes on Writing the Perfect Monster, Techniques of the Advanced Novelist, Writing to Theme, All About Magick, How to Make Money as a Writer, How to Build an Author Platform, and Getting into the Hot Middle Grade Market, to name a few. I also learned, after professionals advised me two years in a row, that my novel, written for the Young Adult market, really is a Middle Grade novel – big changes in the revision process, like having to trim a 90,000 word novel to 50,000 words or so – yowza!

This year I attended many classes on the business of being a professional writer (from sources of income as a writer to building your marketing plan), as well as classes on going deep with your character, the resonance of writing, outlining your plot, customizing Scrivener, etc. (Scrivener is a writing software program that works great for drafting novels or other writing projects – even nonfiction.)

The point is, no matter where you are on becoming a writer (or being a writer), there will be classes that are exactly what you need to propel you forward.

Connecting with your TribeJerilyn Winstead with Rachel Howzell Hall

Besides the awesome classes, at conference you get to hear inspiring talks from New York Times best-selling authors, and then meet them at BarCon in the evenings (or at the meal tables). This past conference I really liked Anne Bishop’s talk about tribes. She mentioned that our first tribe is with our own characters in our writing. We spend more time with them and in their lives than with any other tribe in our writing life.

Then you have the tribe of other authors and writers, published and unpublished, who you connect with in your writer’s groups, events and conferences. Then is your tribe of professionals – like when you get an agent, or work with pro editors, etc. Honing my novel with my agent has been so much fun – I now have a partner-in-crime, as invested in my story as I am, and together (with her set of objective, professional eyes) we are making my novel better and better. Soon she will be pitching it to publishers.

Can you be a writer?

Yes, you can learn to be a writer by starting to act as a writer – and joining your tribes is one way to get started. The tribe of your characters as you write, the tribe of your local writer’s groups, the bigger tribe of writers and professionals you meet at conferences, the professional tribe you develop as you get an agent or hire pros to help get your book published. Lastly, as you reach success, you’ll gain a wider tribe of readers and fans. Being a writer is an ongoing adventure with many ups and downs, and with our tribes we will make it together.

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Learning Why We Eat the Way We Do – Personality Types

This post has more to do with my own health journey, which affects all parts of our lives, including writing. I’m a little overweight, though up into my 30s I was that skinny girl who could eat whatever she wanted whenever she wanted. Since then, I’ve tried so many diet plans, but with every one I find myself rebelling against it in a fairly short time – unless I had an outside motivator, like a professional modeling or acting gig coming up. I wear a woman’s size 14-16 but I used to always be a size 10, and would love to return to that, my perfect size for my 5’9″ frame.

The Enneagram

Some friends recently mentioned the Enneagram – I haven’t yet read it, but it’s a book and method of finding out your own spiritual personality type, if you will. There are several books on Amazon.com which teach the Enneagram, and I will be exploring that soon.

The Enneagram of Eating

Instead, I saw this version of the method and immediately put it on hold with my Libby app (an app to check out ebooks from your local library). I haven’t even finished it yet but I’m learning so much about myself, which explains why diets have never, ever worked for me.

Adventurer

The Enneagram lists nine personality types. When reading The Enneagram of Eating, I saw myself right away in Type Seven – the adventurer. This type (me) wants to experience new things, new tastes, new foods, new adventures – all with total freedom. That means no restrictions whatsoever, which translates to “diets will never work because every diet restricts you in some way or another.” In fact, my body now automatically goes into rebellion mode – anytime I try a new diet plan and set restrictions on my eating, my body then goes into overdrive craving the specific foods I’m not supposed to have. It’s like an obsession, it’s all I can think about, and eventually I end up giving in to it.

The Nine Eating Personality Types

Here is a brief overview of the Nine Types in The Enneagram of Eating:

  1. Type One: The Self-Righteous Sinner or the Selfless Saint
  2. Type Two: The Giving Gorger or the Humble Helper
  3. Type Three: Fast Food, Fast Life or the Chomping Champion
  4. Type Four: Moody Muncher or Creative Connoisseur
  5. Type Five: The Neglectful Nosher or Ruminating Relisher
  6. Type Six: The Fight-or-Flight Feaster or Courageous Culinarian
  7. Type Seven: The Gallivanting Gourmet or the Discerning Diner (what I call The Adventurer)
  8. Type Eight: The Binging Bully or the Forgiving Feaster
  9. Type Nine: Sluggish Scoffer or the Serene Health-Seeker

In the book author Ann Gadd goes through each type, and covers the underlying motivators (fear, shame, loneliness, etc.) which affect our eating habits in ways we’re probably not even aware of. She looks at each type’s primary Issue, Overview, likely Career Choices, Eating Triggers, How each type approaches eating and their own body image (including eating out and entertaining at home), each type’s food choices, what you may not see (behind the scenes in each personality type), how each type views their bodies, likely addictions, childhood contributors, and which diets and exercise programs will serve them best. Ann Gadd even includes how to motivate the various types (good to help your significant other – after fully understanding them), and what each level of the types look like – when they’re functioning in the most healthy manner, or on an average level (mixture of both healthy and unhealthy habits), and what they fall into when living unhealthy lifestyles.

Time to Change Your Own Habits in the Best Way for You

At first I resonated a lot with Type Four, until I read Type Seven, which is completely spot-on me. You may find you match with one or another of these until you find where you actually are. There’s also some overlap and some numbers in the special diagram affect each other in smaller detailed ways.

The good news – for Type Seven, the best advice Ann Gadd has is to slow down, every time I eat. Eating too fast (so I can get on to the next adventure right away) is my Number One Bad Habit. I always thought it was because I grew up with three brothers and I had to eat fast in order to get enough food, or that maybe I always ate fast because I’d get so hungry as a teen (with my fast metabolism). Now I see it’s more about my Enneagram eating personality type. Slowing down, learning to become mindful of my eating (no more eating while also reading, working or watching TV), actually sounds completely doable for me – though it will be a challenge. If this is all I have to really conquer in order to lose my excess weight, I’ll be a perfectly happy camper!

I had my right hip replaced six weeks ago (end of March, 2019), and I’m now finally allowed to start exercising again. I find that I have to move regularly to keep my mind sharp and my senses stimulated – it’s too easy to just sit at my desk with all the writing and researching I do every day. So it’s now back to my normal life – back to exercising and getting up to move more in my working day. (This is also why I love larping – it pushes my body to the extreme of moving).

I’ll be adding “Mindful Eating” to my daily task goals on my app, Streaks. If I can stick with this goal for a good length of time, hopefully I will see results! I’d like to lose forty pounds, but even losing that first ten makes such a huge difference in how I feel and look.

This book, The Enneagram of Eating, by Ann Gadd, is found on Amazon.com as well as at the library.

Please comment below on mindful eating, on eating personalities, if you’ve read the book, what type you are, and what its solution has done to help you become a more healthy you.

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Nanowrimo – To Use All Year (not just November)

  For many of us writers, we look forward to November every year for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The website is awesome, it provides goal trackers, motivating articles, interviews and blog posts, and connects you with other writers around the world. Many of us meet up with local writers at locally-scheduled write-ins, parties, contests, prizes and fun. The annual goal of participating in NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words – to write the first draft of a novel, all during the month of November. Many writers spend the rest of the year planning and outlining in preparation for writing in November.

Nanowrimo Virtual Camps

So if you’re ready to try and write a whole novel in November, you’re all set. Sometimes, though, my writing timing doesn’t line up with that (though I try to plan it so that it does). In 2017, I was revising the novel I had finally finished (with the help of previous Nanowrimo’s). So there’s another website called Camp NaNoWriMo. They have virtual writing camps throughout the year, where you get paired up with online cabin-mates for a specific month (usually April and July).

The beauty of the camps is that you can set whatever goal you need for that month. So when revising I set an hourly goal – 50 hours of revising for the month, for example.

All of these are immensely useful in providing structure, a deadline, motivation and support for us writers trying to actually write.

Nanowrimo Writing

But here I am in February, sometimes struggling to get in the word count I need in my current writing project.

Having some kind of structure helps me so much.

Well, enter nano wrimo once again! I recently discovered that on their main website, under “My NaNoWriMo,” they have a Goal Tracker. So anytime during the year, you can set up any kind of goal and use the site to track it for you, with whatever deadline you give it.

There’s just something about updating my word count on a daily basis and seeing my little graph go up and meet my deadline. I’ve always been a charts & stars person. (“Here’s a golden star for you today, Jerilyn!”)

Nanowrimo Young Writers

I’m fifty-one years old. But these tools are helpful for any writers at any age, especially nanowrimo young writers. Keeping up with a chart, updating daily word count goals, all of that, is so helpful.

Writing Goals Work – Especially for a Freelance Writer

Setting and structuring and updating your writing goals work. Whether you’re a freelance ghost writer working from home, like me, or working steadily on your own novel. Did you know that nanowrimo also offers extra tools like writing prompts, ideas to overcome writer’s block, forums, velociraptors and awesome merch?

Take Advantage of Nanowrimo (it’s free)

I am not affiliated with them in any way, and their tools are free – they live off of donations and their shop merchandise. I just love using all that nanowrimo has to offer, as it has helped me so much in own writing journey. Whether I’m doing my freelance writing (ghost-writing at the moment), or working on my own novel, setting and tracking writing goals works really well.

A Bit of Improv Writing from Me to You

Here’s a bit of my own writing, totally off the cuff and not edited, from a writing prompt I did recently:

Ridge came fully awake. He was lying on the cold cave floor, deep underground. Something was strange – what was that sensation on his front hip? He looked down and saw a slight bulge – something was in his left front pocket.

He reached inside and pulled out a miniature pyramid made of limestone, pale and perfectly proportioned. It was like an exact replica of Khufu’s Pyramid.

“Am I still in the pyramid?” He looked about. Yes, he was in the cave, the deep subterranean chamber under the Great Pyramid. “How did that get in my pocket?” He examined it. It pulsed, like a throbbing heart, in his palm. For a second it glowed, reflecting light from his dark eyes.

“Ridge, what is that?” Ash asked. She reached her hand out and the boy put it in her palm. It looked dull and dead, just plain stone, in her hand.

“Do you feel anything?” he asked.

She shrugged. “No, it’s like a souvenir. Where did it come from?”

“I don’t know, it just appeared in my pocket.” She handed it back and he held it for a long minute, then closed his hand and crushed it to crumbles of stone and dust…

(This was some Improv Writing I did at a recent Pike’s Peak Writer’s half-day conference preview workshop (Write Your Heart Out 2019). I’d never tried Improv Writing before, it’s just like Improv Acting – you’re given a one-sentence prompt, two seconds to think, then you write without any editing or revising, for seven – ten minutes – the moderator sets the time.)

Congratulations if you’ve gotten this far into this article. Google has some strange rules now, if I don’t write an article with at least one thousand words in it, it won’t do well in the search rankings. But most blog posts, all that I’ve done in my writing life, are closer to five hundred words. So this is a bit ridiculous. Why force a writer to write one thousand words, when a good writer can convey the information you need in five hundred?

So if you’ve gotten this far, great job! Leave a comment below with the phrase “Google can be so ridiculous sometimes” and I’ll see if I have a prize for you, or at least will acknowledge your comment.

Here’s another fun contest. Can you identify which are the keywords I was targeting in this post? Yes, I write what’s on my heart but I use the keyword and educational tools at Wealthy Affiliate to help me get my posts out there, so people can actually find them. I used five keywords / keyword phrases in this article. I will find you a prize for that! (Maybe something from my house.)

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Get a Book Agent – I’ve been signed!

This journey of becoming a novelist and writer has been so fascinating. After working on my great big idea, my very unusual novel, on and off for sevearl years, I finally finished and got a book agent (also called a literary agent). This author can’t stop dancing!

Becoming a Writer

From the beginning and throughout the entire process I’ve been studying, learning and practicing the principles of the Law of Attraction – reading all the books by Esther Hicks, the original source of this material. There are also a ton of YouTube videos where you can listen to Esther Hicks answer all kinds of questions. You can also search under Abraham Hicks.

Through these principles I first asked for an original idea for my own novel. The next morning I awoke with the first few sentences in my head. The whole idea was full of magic and I’ve been enchanted with it ever since, even though my work on it was on again – off again, for many years.

Finishing the Novel

At a sci-fi/fantasy conference I took an author’s workshop. When she learned about my idea, she became so excited she offered to write the blurb on the back for me. Her enthusiasm acted as a catalyst and I began writing in earnest. I joined a local writer’s group whose main goal is to get our novels done. In about a year, and with the help of NaNoWriMo virtual camps, I finally finished my novel. Then I spent another whole year plus a few months revising and editing the novel, studying and applying the craft of writing from recommended books like The GMC, My Story Can Beat Up Your Story, and Editor-Proof Your Writing.

Get a Book Agent

A writer friend highly recommend I attend the local annual writer’s conference. We have a big one here in Colorado Springs: The Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference. It is so popular and fun that even the speakers often ask to come back.

While I was still writing my novel, not quite finished, I went to the writer’s conference one evening to attend “Bar-Con,” where everyone networks around the bar. A writer friend introduced me to my future agent, though I didn’t know it at the time. But I was able to pitch my story to her and she immediately saw the vision of my unique book. She asked for the full manuscript–a miracle in itself! I told her it wasn’t quite done, and she said to take my time, not to worry. Of course, I didn’t expect it to take over a year later!

Many Queries Later

I completely finished my book, revisions and everything, finally. This year I attended the full 4-day writer’s conference and pitched my story to five agents, receiving five rejections and one literary director and editor who loved it. I sent the full ms to the original agent from last conference, and also queried it out to about 15 agents in the U.S. and the U.K. (my story is set in 1665 London). Then I waited for two months, sending it out to agents here and there.

In August my agent, Natalie Lakosil, told me she loved my book. She arranged a phone call and offered me representation! By now, I’d received enough rejections that I accepted from the original agent who saw the vision.

Next Steps

It was so exciting to get a book agent! Now I’m in the interesting phase of Natalie and I collaborating to make my novel even better with more revisions and edits. I knew going in this would happen somewhere along the line towards publishing, and I’m really enjoying watching my novel get better and better. I’m learning that a good novel is sometimes more about what the author takes out, than what she leaves in. Less can be more, allowing the reader to bring more of themselves and interpretations to the story.

So what is the big idea, what is my unusual novel? It’s a potions textbook that has accidentally gotten out of Hogwarts and into the muggle world. It looks like an old encyclopedeia, with black and white woodcuts throughout. When you start reading Encyclopedeia Magica: Volume 1 – Alchemy, you discover there is something weird and alive in this book. Without giving it away, let’s just say you will be pulled in to becoming the magical hero of the story, if you wish to take on the challenge, and learn about a young girl who had to dress like a boy and became an alchemist’s apprentice, before the book defeated her. Now it is up to you to save her!

What is the take-away to get a book agent?

  • Study and practice the Law of Attraction, to bring the right ideas, circumstances and people into your life – everything by Esther Hicks and Abraham Hicks
  • Join local writer’s groups. Go to your nearest, best writer’s conference (they offer scholarships).
  • Make yourself write, study the craft, and finish your novel.
  • Network with agents and editors at conferences. You can also query your writing to agents with the online service, DuoTrope – worth the $5/month.

Onward and upward, my writing friends!

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US Literary Agents for Young Adult – How I Got my Agent

To clarify, my first novel is technically Middle Grade. I had originally planned it to be YA, but then I met my agent – over a year before she became my agent. She and others since her told me to make my story MG, so I changed it. Here I share my journey to agenthood with ideas and resources on where to find US literary agents for Young Adult (and Middle Grade too).

How I Got my Agent – Local Writer’s Conference

First, I highly recommend attending your local writer’s conference, or go to the nearest good one you can find. I happen to live in Colorado Springs where we have one of the best conferences every April: Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference. Denver hosts the Rocky Mountain Writer’s Conference every August, and now Utah has a big one in September. I know the Romance Writers Association hosts their annual conference in a different city each year.

A year ago I didn’t have the money to attend the full conference. So I took the advice of the other writer’s in my writer’s group – at least go to Bar Con. Show up in the evenings when everyone is hanging out at the bar – this is where much of the networking happens. One of my friends was there attending the conference, as well as several of my writing buddies, so when I arrived Saturday night I got to visit with them first.

Before I even came I attracted and intended and prayed that I would meet exactly those I was meant to meet tonight. I’ve been studying the Law of Attraction and everything by Esther Hicks for a little bit now – if you want to land an agent, I highly suggest you read every book by Esther Hicks and listen to the videos on YouTube (search Abraham Hicks). It will change your life.

Join a Writer’s Group

Now I wouldn’t even have known to go to Bar Con if it weren’t for my writer’s groups. I had been in one writer’s group for a while which met weekly. I made strong connections there. One of those writing buddies later became one of the main leaders of our local conference – he was the one who introduced me to my agent that night at Bar Con, because he knew my story and knew she would be interested.

It was valuable being a part of that writer’s group for a while. Later I switched to another one – its main focus is for us to get our novels done – this was invaluable to helping me actually finish my novel.

When I was at Bar Con that night, I was still writing my novel, it wasn’t done yet. But I mingled and visited with several people. One writer had just gotten published – he highly recommended I get the book My Story Can Beat Up Your Story. He said before that book he couldn’t get published. Then he applied the principles in that book to his novel and he got published. This is the kind of vital information you get from visiting with other writers.

I ran into my old friend from my first writer’s group. He introduced me to an agent, Natalie Lakosil. I chatted with her for a little while, then got to pitch my novel. Right away she asked for the full manuscript – this was a miracle!

“Okay, I will finish it as fast as I can,” I said. She told me to take my time. I’m sure glad she said that, because my novel didn’t get finished until a year and three months later! But the reason it got done at all was because of my writer’s group. I finished writing the novel, then spent a year revising and editing it.

DuoTrope

This year I joined another writer’s group which meets weekly for coffee and chatting. I get such valuable information there from other writers I often take notes. One of the writers had just sold a short story using Duotrope. I had never heard of it, so checked it out and tried the free subscription, then joined for $5/month.

Duotrope shows all the current market, contests, agent and editors and what they are looking for. You can submit to paying markets and contests as well as non-paying. It has a Submission Tracker to track who you query or submit to, it is so useful! A great resource to find both global and US literary agents for young adult and other genre novels – it’s all organized and listed right there.

Duotrope: an award-winning resource for writers
I find it really fun to enter the various writing contests. I also used this platform as my tool for querying out my novel to many agents.

(Note – I do not get any compensation for recommending Duotrope – I’m just passing on valuable information and sharing this wonderful resource. At $5/month, they’re not in it for the money either!)

Of course I sent the full manuscript to Natalie, but queried about 15 agents over the course of a month this past summer. The Submission Tracker shows when you are expected to get a response by.

I also got to attend the full writer’s conference this year – I was awarded a partial scholarship which helped greatly. It was so fun being there for the whole thing. One editor helped me rework my whole first page – it was wonderful. I learned so much from all the classes, connected with a couple of editors, and got to pitch my novel to five agents! Most of them told me my novel was too novel, that publishers wouldn’t want to take a risk on such an unusual idea.

So, two months later, when Natalie emailed me back telling me she absolutely loved my story and wanted to talk to me on the phone, I knew that she got the vision of my novel – she’d seen it right away. By this time I’d received several rejections and was still waiting to hear from many other agents.

Do Your Research

Before talking to Natalie on the phone I researched online to see what a standard agent-writer contract looks like. After I had spoken with her last year I researched her and her agency. I knew she was legit since this large writer’s conference only brings in legitimate agents. Be careful who you hand your novel over to. Using platforms like Duotrope and meeting agents at writer’s conferences is a safe way to go.

When she offered me representation, I knew I wanted to go with her. She’d known right away which publishers would be very interested in my unusual novel. She has the confidence to go with it, and loves my idea and my book. I looked over the contract and saw it was the standard one I’d already researched.

All of the Above, but Law of Attraction most of all.

When it comes down to it, everything that’s happened with my novel, from its inception to landing an agent, has come from me attracting it successfully and in perfect timing. The more you study and practice the Law of Attraction, the better you’ll get at bringing forth your desire. Practicing these principles also taught me to completely trust all of this to God and relax about it. Then things just began falling into place – it’s awesome to watch.

In the revising process I did study and apply My Story Can Beat Up Your Story, as well as two other highly recommended books: The GMC and Editor-Proof Your Writing. The more you study and hone your craft, the better your novel will be. Attending the conference and going to writer’s groups also vastly improves your writing and changes your novel towards the best – don’t neglect these. These things are what marks a professional writer taking this seriously, from those who just dabble.

All of this applies to US literary agents for young adult as well as for other genres and other literary agents. I even queried agents in England, since my novel takes place in 1665 London.

Which techniques have worked for you? Where are you in the process? Please comment below, we all benefit from each other’s journeys and stories.

 

 

 

 

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Motivate Yourself to Write – How I Did It

motivate yourself to writeWhen you embark as a writer, one of your first and earliest challenges is: how do I make myself actually sit down and write? We have no boss, no time-clock, no paycheck to motivate us, and we have to fit it into our already busy lives earning a living, caring for family, etc. How do you motivate yourself to write?

Get Inspired

Do you remember when you first got that great idea? You were so excited and writing from an inspired idea charges your batteries like nothing else – it’s fun!

Working from the energy of inspiration will help you a lot. Do whatever you need to get back into that inspired place again, whether it’s reading what you’ve written so far, brainstorming over your idea, meditating on it, talking to someone who is equally excited about it. I don’t suggest talking about it too much, however, as you don’t want all that inspired energy to dissipate in just talking about your idea. But if you have a close friend or two who loves your idea as much as you do, discuss it with them and let their enthusiasm keep you going.

Looking for inspiration? When I decided I wanted to write a novel, I asked and prayed for an inspired idea. Next morning I awoke with the first few sentences in my head – my life has never been the same.

Get Structure

Sometimes a little structure goes a long way. To motivate yourself to write is often as simple as building a daily or weekly habit – modifying your schedule and putting it in as an appointment. Keep this appointment. Some people like to make themselves write every day – they’ll make a goal of one sentence a day (which usually leads to many more sentences), or one hour a day, or 1,000 words a day or week. You can start small like 15 minutes a day – again, it usually leads to much more. Or maybe you’ll set aside one or two days or evenings a week to work at your writing desk.

Getting started is the biggest hurdle. Setting even a tiny goal like those above gets you past this hurdle and into your writing groove.

Other habits you may want to build and incorporate:

  • Spend time writing in your personal journal each day. Once you start doing this you’ll see just how cathartic and fulfilling daily writing is.
  • One writer I know finishes the previous day’s writing mid-sentence, so that he can pick up on that same thought immediately next day to transition back into writing mode.
  • Build “getting ready to write” rituals to help you get into writing mode. This may be just making yourself a coffee, or meditating or brainstorming briefly before writing.
  • Go somewhere to write, like a coffee shop. This will minimize distractions at home and help you to focus.
  • Participate in local or virtual writing groups and aids, like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). These provide awesome structure that is not solely reliant on you.

Get Accomplices

Writing with a group is a surefire way to keep you motivated. Try out several local writing groups to see which one is the best fit for you. I tried one at first, which I liked, but their focus was not on getting our novels done – what I needed. I found another group on Meetup, they meet every other Monday night and the focus is getting our novels finished – we write and submit around 2,000 words a week in that group. The feedback is amazing and I was able to grow as a writer and finish my first novel (after around ten years of on and off writing).

Take advantage of online virtual groups like NaNoWriMo as well. Besides the big writing month every November, Camp NaNoWriMo hosts several virtual writing camps throughout the year to help you reach whatever writing goal you set. I used these camps to set hourly monthly goals for revising and editing my novel.

Know Yourself

Everyone is unique, and what works for one will not work for another. Are you an early morning person? Set your daily writing appointment for early morning. Night person? Set it for night-time. Are you more motivated to write after a brisk walk outside? Does it help you to study a book about the craft of writing? Do you need to meet up with another writer to write together once a week? Or have a close friend hold you accountable to your goals? Are you motivated by a chart where you can add shiny stars each day you meet your writing goal?

Figure out what makes you tick, which tools and tricks motivate you, and use them – use your own personality quirks – to your best advantage. Outsmart yourself.

Get the Ball Rolling

Though it’s often hard at first to get into the regular habit of writing, once you master this and write consistently, you will discover how much fun it is. The ball will get rolling and then it’s easy – you find yourself writing on a consistent basis and getting your work done. You may have setbacks here or there, but you’ll quickly pick it back up again. This is one habit that once you master it, it becomes easy – like riding a bike.

And hopefully soon you’ll start making money from your writing – the best motivator of all.

What tricks have helped motivate you to write? I’d love to hear them – please comment below.

 

 

 

 

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Receiving Inspiration and NaNoWriMo Saves the Day

I learned that several famous authors received their original ideas by inspiration – from a dream or the like. So, many years ago, I prayed to receive an inspiration for a novel. The next morning I woke up with the first couple of sentences in my head, I saw it clearly: “Alpha, first letter of the Greek alphabet…Hello, my name is Alpha, I am trapped, please help me…”  Alpha reached out to me from the ether and told me of her plight.

So I received a tiny germ of an idea, just the first few sentences (I’m not including it all here since I don’t want to give the story away). The idea fascinated me, captured my imagination, sent a thrill through me. What will happen to Alpha? What happens in my story? What is Alpha’s story? I knew the book was like an old encyclopedeia with alchemical terms, like a Potions Class from Hogwarts. This novel is my answer to a deep desire to attend Hogwarts.

Thus began my journey as I worked on my first novel, on and off, for many years. It required a lot of research, which I love to do. I struggled the most with finding consistent time to make myself work on it – the first challenge of all writers. I was also running a business, then started a second, and raising four teenagers. My auburn hair began to gray.

But I continued working on my novel off and on for several years, spending the bulk of my time doing historical research and learning alchemy myself.

Then I met full-time author Susanne Lambdin at GalaxyFest and attended her writing class. I shared my story idea with her and she became so excited she offered to write the blurb on the back and connect me with her book reviewers and network. Her excitement acted as a catalyst, getting me fired up about my story again and finally figuring out how to work on it consistently.

I started participating in the various NaNoWriMo goals throughout the year (National Novel Writing Month plus their virtual writing camps) and joined a more aggressive local writer’s group. They meet every other Monday night to give feedback on each other’s works, to learn the craft of novel-writing, and to push each other to write at least 2,000 words a week and get our books done. I was encouraged to stop researching and get the writing done – the research can continue alongside the writing. I had been stuck in the research hole for a long time so this was what I needed.

I got serious with my writing and spent a year finishing the novel. Whew – I thought the main work was done. I was wrong. It took me two years of working on it steadily to revise and edit. I learned so much.

Finally in June of 2018, I finished my novel and kept dancing all day. I’m now Encyclopedeia Magica Volume 1 Alchemyquerying it out and one agent is reading it!

It’s called Encyclopedeia Magica: Volume 1 – Alchemy.

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