When the Brain’s Been Hijacked

My writing bestie and critique partner, Charissa James-Weaks, said it best: Babies hijack your brain. Boy, is that ever true (especially during pregnancy)!

If you follow me on social media, then I’m sure you’re aware of my amazing news: there’s a Baby Collins on the way!

13 Week Ultrasound of Baby Collins

13 Week Ultrasound of Baby Collins (taken March 24th).

But I’m not posting to talk about the baby–at least not exclusively. I’m posting to talk about how pregnancy seriously hijacks your brain. If you remember, at the first of this year I made a commitment to get back into blogging and being active on social media and all that other jazz. BUT… the universe decided that after 2.5 years of trying to no avail to finally gift the hubs and I with a baby, and that’s when everything changed (and don’t get me wrong–I’m beyond THRILLED to finally have the child we always dreamed of, so my thoughts in this post no way lessens that or makes me ungrateful 🙂 ).

From that point on, whatever writing/revising plans I had, blog posts scheduled for writing, books to read…basically anything that wasn’t pregnancy, sleep, eating, dayjob, and hubby-related was out the damn window.

Whatever enthusiasm I had for my new blogging schedule, or my book and it’s schedule for completion became NONEXISTENT. I’m not even kidding a little on that. Between utter exhaustion and mood swings and the overwhelming excitement of a baby finally happening zapped every single bit of interest I had in my dream of publishing a novel. Cause my brain was literally hijacked.

So how am I going to overcome this so I can get the rest of this damn book revised (preferably before the little one arrives)??

Well, not quite sure yet, but I’m sure the first step is the simple fact that I’ve realized what’s happened and accepted that it’s totally okay for this to be happening. It’s my first pregnancy and I should enjoy it. If that means not being eyeballs-deep in revisions the entire nine months, then so be it.

So far the second step is shaping to be inching back into the creative part of my brain. For this I’ve just finished reading Art in the Blood: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure by Bonnie MacBird, and man, can I just say that it worked in getting that part of the brain churning? 😉

Next I’ve printed up the pages I’ve revised so far in the book (about 150 total), and plan to read in order to immerse myself back into that world. From there we’ll see what happens, but I’m hopeful I’ll be able to get back into some kind of revision schedule that allows me to spend more time away than I would under normal circumstances (because I know every weekend from now until the birth will be filled with getting things ready for the baby). So if that means the expectation is one fully revised chapter completed at least every two weeks should work, then that’s what it’ll be in order for this soon-to-be-mama to keep her sanity.

How all of this re-immersion into my writing-self will go is yet to be determined. But I do know one thing: Life’s too short to be hard on yourself. Give yourself a break, accept how things have changed (or how they’re going to change), and roll with it. Everything will work out how it’s meant to in the end.

Til next time! 🙂

I’m Baaaack… Life & Other Updates

Oh my frickin’ God! Has it really been over a year since I blogged?!?

My guess is you’re wondering 1) Where the hell has Mel been, and 2) WTF is happening?

Believe it or not, I have LEGITIMATE answers for both 😉

1) I’ve been soul-searching and spending time with like-minded writers (at the RT Conference, for example), and busy, busy, busy with both my personal and day job lives.

2) I’ve FINALLY found my TRUE artistic self…among other things.


By soul-searching, I’ve been able to explore without expectation. This has allowed me to abandon any and all expectations m, which includes social media. And abandoning all things social media for the last year has allowed me the freedom to observe from the sidelines. When I say observing, here a few of my favorite moments:

  • Witnessing Sylvia Day as she drank a cocktail at the hotel bar at RT 2015 (and may I say she looked damn fine?).
  • SITTING NEXT TO CHRISTOPHER RICE in the bar area of RT 2015 (Such a nice man, BTW).
  • Seeing Kami Gargia as she conversed with Mr. Rice, who was sitting right next to me (did I mention this already?).
  • Meeting authors Charlaine Harris  & Marie Lu during the big book fair day
  • Remaining in my room and refusing to go down to the bar or lobby even though we had a *confirmed* sighting of the famous author known as E.L. James (I won’t go deep into my reasons of why, but I will just leave this link to a post from Jami Gold to give you an idea).
  • Hanging with these pretty ladies (my crit partners) at the RT Booklover’s Convention in Dallas, Texas. 🙂
Authors Charissa Weaks & JL Henry Authors Charissa Weaks & JL Henry

Detailing the findings of my TRUE artistic self will end up being detailed later in this blog, so I’m not going to go into too much detail right now, but what I can share are a few personal things that have been going on for me.

  1. That new position with my company that I got in May 2014? I still enjoy it very much…I just don’t have time to breath, much less pee, on most days. S’okay, though, the good days outweigh the bad, and that’s all that matters, right?
  2. My husband and I decided, after 2 years of trying to conceive a child with no luck, to start seeing a fertility specialist in March 2015. So far, so good with nothing truly wrong with any of our baby-making parts *whew* so we’re just taking it a month at a time and leaning on the specialist to get us through what’s turned out to be an emotionally difficult process.

So yeah, not blogging over the last year has allowed me enough time to rest and catch my breath and figure quite a few things out. And thank goodness because I’m baaaaack and feeling mighty refreshed and ready to rumble mingle again. 🙂

Stay tuned, as I’ll be posting writerly things on Mondays and randomness on Thursdays.

The Accountability Factor—Part One: The Family

Ahhh… Accountability. The state of being accountable. Liable. Answerable.

Online Webster’s Definition of Accountable

No matter which aspect in our lives we’re looking at, we’re all accountable to someone. And how we handle ourselves in response to the many demands accountability dumps on us is part of what defines us as individuals.

Today I wanted to look at one of the many areas of accountability in a writer’s life.


Waking everyone up in the morning, prepping lunches for school/work, getting dinner on the table at six, running the household errands day after day… this just a sampling of the variety of tasks our family holds us accountable for on daily basis. But since we also wear the Author Hat, guess what else we’re accountable for?

Movement in our writing careers.

Whether the movement is finishing a novel that may never sit on a shelf in your local Barnes and Noble, or winning a writing contest, or starting the dreaded query process, or signing with an agent, etc…. We are accountable to our family to show some kind of movement in our journey to publishing success. After all, we are taking time away from them to play with write the stories in our heads into existence.

So what happens if a year goes by—or two or three or four or five—and we’re not seeing the movement the family would like? Or, more to the point, the movement we desperately want?

Sure, it’s easy to stress over the absence of advancement in our writing career. We’re the ones pouring our heart and souls into these books and characters and spending all this time away from the family in order to make our dream come true.

But you know what? I truly believe that just because we’re not seeing the movement we want doesn’t mean we’re not making strides in our writing career. A completely written and polished novel? A step forward. A queried novel that was rejected 20+ times? A step forward. These small accomplishments may not seem like much, but they are! And accomplishments, no matter how small or large, deserve a treat, don’t you think? *breaks out the chocolate and confetti*

Involve the Family

Sometimes simply talking about the writing process with our family shows them that we know we’re accountable to them. And many times we don’t even have to bring the topic up to them because they’ll ask us.

Husband/Wife/Mom/Dad/Sibling: “How’s the book coming along?”

Answer: “Well, I didn’t get any action off the queries I sent, so it looks like it’s just not the right time for that novel. I’m going to move forward and start plotting a new one this weekend.”

From there the questions can vary, but most times we’ll get asked why no one was interested in our novel, is it our writing, is it the agents. This opens a fantastic window to share the world of publishing and the many facets of perfect timing that we usually need to happen in order to take a leap forward (right story meets the right agent at the right time…right?). Once they understand a small portion of the pubbing industry, their need of seeing movement in our career is usually temporarily satisfied.

Be Open with the Family

Tell your family what’s going on. Especially the husband/wife. We can make them our sounding board for our frustrations. Just the simple act of sharing our angst over character difficulties, the excitement over a new story idea, the giddiness over an exceptional plot twist we just wrote… All of these satisfy a bit of the accountability we have to our families.

The only downside, obviously, is that we can’t control everything, can we? We can’t make the publishing world see the golden nugget that is our novel. We can’t force an agent to concentrate 100% of their attention on our query and opening pages. We can’t Professor X an editor at a NY publishing house to offer us the four-book deal we’ve dreamed of.

All we can do is our personal best. Learning the craft, utilizing what we’ve learned, writing the best novels and queries and blurbs possible. All of these are in our control. And all of these are how we are accountable to our families.

We need to put our best idea forward and go as far up the road to publishing as we can with that idea. If we do that, we’re not letting the family down whatsoever. And because they’re our family, they will be proud of us no matter what!

What do you think? How else are we accountable to our family? Do you have any other tips to share?

On Candy Crush and Writing

Ahhh, Candy Crush. I wish I could say that I have loads of self-control.That I was able to not succumb–yet again–to an online-Facebook game. But … I cannot. *grin* I mean, come in, cute rainbow-colored candies and nifty power-ups? Why, it’s like Bejeweled. But on crack. 😉

Candy Crush_Level

Looks complicated, huh?

In any case, I was incredibly lazy the weekend before last. My sister and I held a Slumber Party at our house, and so in preparation for this female-only gathering, I cleaned my house top-to-bottom, inside-out. I ran myself into the ground to make this place shiny and perfect for my guests. So what happened after this party? *crash*

My brain was not going to cooperate with my over-worked ass. Nope. So I lazed around all weekend and played … Candy Crush! I passed about 7 levels that weekend–woo hoo–and probably grew about a hundred new gray hairs in the process–boo! That’s when I realized how much Candy Crush is like writing. 🙂

It’s Addictive

Yes, yes, yes. Writing is like a drug for us writers. If we’re not writing, revising, editing, reading, thinking about writing, or making plans to write, then we’re grumpy as hell. And when we’re in our perfect little writing world doing any of these, we’re do deep in the hole that we don’t ever wanna come out and see the light of day. Just one more chapter to revise before bed.*wields red pen* 

Hmmm….. that sounds a lot like how I feel when I can’t get past a stupid level on Candy Crush! I’m addicted and have to keep playing to win the level. Just one more level, honey, and I’ll come to bed. Promise. 😉

Every Level is Like a Puzzle

Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, at some point you have to stop writing and take a look at what’s on the page. Whether it’s at the end of the first draft and we need to map the bigger picture to ensure all the inner-workings are playing nice with one another, or if it’s a bit of plotting at a time as we’re writing that first draft, or if it’s before we even begin to type Chapter One. We look to decide how to move forward. What scene should go where. What’s the most logical follow-up to the scene we just wrote? Where does the character go from here? How do we get the Hero into the same room as the Heroine? How are they gonna serve it to the villain? Ugh, why won’t they just freakin’ cooperate already?!?

Again, this sounds pretty familiar. Because once you start getting into the higher levels on Candy Crush, you have to start thinking ahead. *gasp* There are obstacles in your way like jelly that you have to bust away, cages you need to spring a candy from, chocolate you must keep from growing and taking over the game board–er, wait … do we really want the chocolate to stop growing?

It’s Frustratingly Fun

At some point we all dart out of our chairs and threaten to throw our computers across the room. And instead of throwing our technological best friend against the wall, we walk away thinking that we’re never going to figure this scene/plot/character out. Never! BUT, after a nice, longer breather, we calm down, and suddenly the answer comes to us. So then we run back to our computers and BAM! We did it! We figured it out and we can move on. Am I right, or am I right? 🙂

Hehehe … yeah, this is me and Candy Crush. When I have to play a certain level more than 10 times to pass it, heck yeah my phone’s going to find itself breaking against a wall. Just kidding. Sort of. But in all seriousness, I keep coming back to it, like I do with writing. It doesn’t matter how frustrated the damn game makes me feel at times ’cause when it’s good, it’s good enough to outlast the smaller moments of frustration that I feel at not being smart enough to figure out the puzzle.

Candy Crush_Failed Level


Help! I’m Out of Lives. Help! I need more Moves to pass this level!

Every writer and author needs a good beta reader and/or critique partner. Someone to cheer us on, tell us we’ve got the power within us to make our stories shine. Whether online or in person, we have to not only surround ourselves with other writers/creative personalities, but we have to be willing to ask for the help!

In Candy Crush, you only have certain number of moves in which you can beat each level. And to make it a bit more interesting, you only have five lives. When you run out of your lives, you have to wait a certain amount of time before accruing more. *cries* But, wait! I have friends who also play Candy Crush. And they see that I’ve been stuck for a few days on this level. *checks Candy Crush inbox* WOO HOO! Friend A just gave me three extra moves and Friend B has given me a life. SCORE!

Candy Crush_Help Your Friends

Do Unto Others

It’s All a Part of Our Journey

Every word, every sentence, every line of dialogue, every scene, every chapter, every novel, every critique, every beta read, every blog post, every rejection and every acceptance are the building blocks that make up our writing journey. They are what makes us into better, stronger, NYT-bestselling-level writers. If we want to win at this publishing game, then we’ve gotta do the work. We’ve got to learn, master, and surpass every level of writing craft–especially if we wish to not only draw our readers in, but keep them wanting more.

We have to know when to sacrifice for our passion, when to take a break and decompress, when to stay up all night and when to listen to our bodies and go to bed. And we have to make smart investments with our money, energy and time. I have an hour before work. Should I write? Or should I play Candy Crush? *ponders* Writing it is!

Candy Crush_Journey

Wait, there’s more levels?!?

As of this morning, I’ve actually managed to stay off Candy Crush for 2 days. Okay, well, not completely. Because I want to continue to support my friends’ addiction to the game, I’ve logged in via cellphone and sent them lives and extra moves to help their progress. But other than that, no playing for this writer.

The new rule in my home is: No playing Candy Crush unless I write 500 fresh words. Oh! That means I get to play today since this post is well over 500 words, right? 🙂

What about you? Do you play Candy Crush? Can you think of additional writerly lessons from this game? Do you have another game-crack of choice? How do you abstain from playing?

What Do You Do When You’re Smacked Five Steps Back?

Happy Monday, everyone!

As you may have already noticed, I have a new site header. *pets screen* 😀

My amazing sister-in-law, Julie, designed this fantastic graphic, and she’s even going to shrink it scale for business cards. With the new design comes new excitement and a fresh feeling of oh-my-God-I’m-really-doing-this.

I’ve been absent from pretty much all social outlets for the past week or so due to a mini personal crisis, and an all-around lack of motivation. As in, I got hit hard with major revisions that I must do in my current WIP, which, in turn, unintentionally deflated my motivation. And as you can imagine, because writing is deeply personal, I took a small hit in my personal life (but one that happens at least once a year, so nothing too out there for me).

So what do we do when we’re hit hard? 

Take a break to gain distance and subjectivity.

My break happened subconsciously at first, but then it turned into an intentional decision so I could gain better distance from my work.

Take baby steps back into game.

I started by breaking down the plot in my current WIP, mapping it out on my plot planner, spreadsheets, and scene lists.

Slap on the big-girl panties and get back on horse.

After a small amount of time of reflection and baby steps, it’s time to just bite the freakin’ bullet and get back on the horse. ‘Cause we’re never going to get anywhere by sitting on the bench. Our books aren’t going to write themselves, they’re not going to revise themselves, and they’re most certainly not going to query themselves.

Realize this happens to the best of the best … so relax!

I’ve always been extremely hard on myself. And, at times, this has helped tremendously. But it has also hindered my progress and my creativity. So when we fall, we need to accept that it happened, give ourselves a break, and not be so hard on ourselves (or lecture ourselves on how much precious time we lost by taking that break).

Overall, I’m fairly happy about the time I took away from everything. I’ve been able to spend even more time with my husband, catching on TV shows and movies. I’ve been able to read a book purely for pleasure. And I’ve been able to catch up on some much-needed Zzzz’s. 😉

What about you? What do you do when you feel as though you’ve been smacked five steps back? Do you have any additional advice on how to get back into the game?

Finding the Balance, Part Deux: Warning Signs and How to Gain Control Again

Photo Credit

Last July I addressed every writer’s favorite topic: Balance. Back then I described life as I knew it as chaotic. Has it changed? No, not really. But instead of out-of-control chaos these days I find myself in the realm of calm, otherwise known as contained chaos – composed and unflappable. *knocks on head wood*
Last year I addressed my personal struggle with balance and shared the plan I’d created to get everything under control. I’m sure it’s needless to say, but that plan didn’t quite pan out like I’d hoped. And that’s okay. Sometimes it takes several failures before you finally realize the warning signs, what’s needed to gain back control, and how to maintain that new feeling of I’m almighty and can do anything.

Warning Signs

Sometimes we find ourselves so knee deep in life, work, projects, reading, etc. that we miss the forest for the trees. We miss the warning signs that the road we’re on is going straight to Chaosville and our vehicle is slowly but sure gaining speed.
You might need a U-turn if:

  • Someone mentions a popular TV series such as Touch, Game of Thrones, True Blood, House, M.D.,The Vampire Diaries, and Modern Family and you say, “Huh? Never heard of it.”
  • Your to-do list has grown exponentially over the last six to eight months, everything piling on top of each other, and you’ve yet to delete one or two items to lighten the load.
  • Your coworkers, friends, husband or kids can count on more than two hands the number of times you’ve said, “Oh my God, I’m soooo busy,” or “It just doesn’t stop!” or “Kill me now!”
  • You spend at least two hours every day/night writing a blog post, or with your Tweeps, or commenting on others’ blog posts. Then you’re upset because your writing time is almost nonexistent afterwards.
  • You curse yourself nearly every day because in order to be a good writer you have to be a reader first…and the finishing time for a novel lately is nearing the one month mark.
  • The last time you and your pillow made sweet, passionate snoozies you were lucky if it lasted five hours (and you can’t remember a time where you got at least 8 hours of sleep).

Any of these sound familiar to you? If more than two or three of these do then it’s time to slam on the brakes and jerk the wheel to the left. Get the hell out of dodge and don’t look back…not anytime soon at least. *smile*

Gaining Control

Once you realize you have uncontrollable chaos on your hands, it’s time to stop the time suck, evaluate, plan, re-apply (‘baby steps’) and re-apply again (in ‘time out’):

  • Stop the time suck: Break from one of your biggest time sucks (other than plotting/writing/editing, reading and education). Break from it for at least a month. Mine was blogging and social media in general.
  • Evaluate: After a week or so without the time suck, stop and evaluate how much time you now have on your hands. You’ll probably start to feel as though you have a bit too much time. *cheers* You work, come home and cook/clean, spend an hour or two on the WIP and/or other special project and/or watch a movie/TV show, and still have time to read for about thirty minutes before it’s time for bed. AND you and your pillow are once again well-acquainted!
  • Plan: Now that you’ve been unstressed by time (hopefully), you can realistically plan your time. By having so much time when you’re not at the day job, and not stressing yourself out to get this done, get that done, do this, do that, you can actually sit back and realize 1-2 hours on the WIP is enough per day or every other day. That a TV series is awesome and well worth an hour a week. That movies are a delicious break from life in general. That doing absolutely nothing for a while feels absolutely amazing and should be done at least twice a week. And so on and so forth until you begin to think, once again, that you truly can balance all of it.
  • Re-Apply: Ease back in to your previous time suck with baby steps. The last week or two of your break, ease yourself into the former time suck by maybe tweeting two-three times and commenting on blogs maybe 2-3 times a week.
  • Re-Apply: Begin anew with your previous time suck by disciplining yourself like a three-year-old in time out. Buy a timer, set it to 20 or 30 minutes, and stick to it! Spend that time visiting other blogs, chatting on twitter, and contributing to your next blog post. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s okay to write your posts and/or research them a little a time. Plan ahead to ease the pain.

In the end, you’ll feel more relaxed, more like yourself, more free than you had before, and more like the super-being you are.
Do you have a U-turn ahead in your future? What were your warning signs? Are you back on the road after a recent U-turn? How did you gain control of the chaos?

Finding the Balance

Like a lot of people, I’ve been struggling with balance in my life for quite a while now…balance between my work life, my writing life, my reading life, my blogging life (which is still new to me), and my personal life. I’ve got so much going on, that I’ve lovingly referred to my life (as I know it) as chaotic.
Fellow blogger, Lisa Gail Green, actually posted an article, Balancing Act, that has stuck a chord with me since the day I read it. I’ve thought long and hard for the past several weeks about time/energy management. 
Just to break down the chaos for you:

  • I work 40+ hours a week at a job that I absolutely love and enjoy. Everyone I work with has become family, and the company’s absolutely amazing to work for.
  • I’ve completed the first draft of my WIP and am currently 70% through my first round of edits. I’m still overwhelmed by the amount of work I’ve got ahead of me: 2nd and 3rd drafts and line edits (to name a few). 
  • I love to read, and in order to be a writer – at least a good writer – you have to read; mainly books in your genre. This is a much needed escape for me and without it, I’d be completely lost — no GPS system on earth would be able to locate me.
  • I enjoy connecting with other readers and writers via Twitter, Blogger and Facebook. I often find myself on there for at least an hour every night (C’mon, it’s really really easy to pass that 1-hr mark on the clock!). I learned quickly from my FT job that networking is important in business and I’ve actually grown to love it.
  • I have a blog and I thoroughly enjoy sharing my life with other readers/writers…especially my personal favorites from the week! I like to put myself out there, say what I need/want to say – whether it’s wrong or right – and share my fears, hopes and dreams.  I also enjoy spending time on other people’s blogs, reading their fears, hopes, dreams, and all of the wonderful writing tips they each have to offer. Everyone is so amazing that it’s hard to keep up with it all!
  • I have a wonderful husband and small circle of friends that I absolutely love and adore. While my husband is extremely supportive of my craft, I often feel guilty since we don’t spend too much time together during the week. I also couldn’t imagine not going a week without seeing our dear friends.

Now, when you think about, that doesn’t seem like a lot. But when you dive into it, there’s only so many hours in the day to do it all (Side note: I am a little OCD and a complete Type-A personality. Call me crazy and it won’t hurt my feelings whatsoever.). The only constant that I know I must do to keep my ‘mojo’ is writing and/or editing. With the exception of one day a week, I have to spend time (even the smallest amount) with my current WIP. Whether it’s writing or editing, it’s an absolute must. The worlds I create are mine and I looove spending time in them. My muse and those worlds keep me sane (at least by my definition of the word).


Here’s my solution/plan for Finding the Balance in this chaotic, surprising, exciting, lovely life:

  • Taking it one day at a time: I was given a motto by an old boss several years ago: IOOP = I’m Only One Person. I try to do as much as I possibly can. I’m a passionate and selfless person, and as such, I push hard and strive for my dreams. But…..
  • Remember: Stress = Illness. The more you stress, the more your body wears down (notice I didn’t work fitness into my chaos – I should probably re-evaluate that). You lose sleep the more you stress, thus, the more your body begins to beg for you to sloooow the hell down! *One day at a time*
  • Several passions = several days a week to slowly spend time with them all…without feeling guilty. As much as it pains me to not be able to write for three hours every single night, I’ve come to realize that ‘slow and steady’ can be best (more to come on this one). Beginning Monday, I’ll begin following a strict schedule:
    • Monday & Tuesday evenings: 30-minutes working out, 1 hour for blogging – and not just my own, but reading and catching up on some of my favorite blogs! Follow up with an hour of editing and an hour of reading (depending on what the hubby and I have planned).
    • Wednesday evenings: 30-minutes working out followed by quality time with my lil’ sis, then quality time with the hubs. <—this entire night provides what can be a much-needed break from writing and editing! 
    • Thursday Evenings: 30-minutes working out, 1 hour of Twitter/Facebook, 1 hour of blog time (personal blog this time) then an hour of quality time with my WIP.
    • Friday Nights: This was a tough one to plan out, but I’m leaving Friday nights open to do whatever my little heart desires: hanging out with friends, editing, spending time with the hubs, watching a movie, reading a book….. the possibilities are endless!
    • Saturday Mornings: More time (maybe 2-4 hours) with the WIP (or spending time editing my CP’s MS or researching a new project). Maybe I can squeeze in another 30-minute session of working out???
    • Saturday nights: much-needed quality friends and family time! <---and maybe a little brainstorming on my WIP with my best friend (who is also an avid reader & tells me if I’m falling off the tracks).
    • Sundays: Twitter, blogs, laundry, alone time with the hubby, TV show catch-up…maybe a little reading as well, but only after spending more time with the current WIP. 

Notice I didn’t include blog surfing in there? Well… I consider the blogs I ‘follow’ as favorites. I tend to come across other blogs by following the hashtags on Twitter and I plan on reading through those during my breaks/lunches at work (thank goodness for my android phone!).

We’ll see where this new outlook and plan will take me. Who knows…I may find enough time to  add another item to my list.

What balance are you struggling to find? Is it between work and personal/family life? Work, personal and reading and writing? Or maybe it’s just a professional balance: you spend to much time on emails, and not enough time on reporting or talking with your clients?

Please share your thoughts, fears, and insights on Finding the Balance in your life.