Happy New Year and Welcome to 2017!

joywordAt the beginning of a new calendar year we often ask ourselves what we’d like to accomplish in the next twelve months. I do and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. But when I sat down the other day to think about how my next year will shape up, it occurred to me that there’s something I need to do first.

I need to take inventory. Retailers do it, generally once a year. They check out what they have left in stock, look at what’s sold and what hasn’t. Other businesses review their business plans on an annual or even semi-annual basis. Some do a SWOT analysis (looking at their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). I’ve done the SWOT thing with some writer friends several times and it’s a great exercise, especially in a group setting with people you respect and trust. But my next writing retreat is months away so I’m taking stock – taking inventory – on my own this time.

And my inventory list is focusing on joy. Why joy, you ask? Because between Christmas and the New Year I had coffee with an artist friend who confessed she’s feeling burned out. She’s normally the gung-ho sort, always up for a challenge, always creating new things. But she admitted she’s pushing herself to create, and the idea of doing more in 2017 left her feeling exhausted. I can relate. 2016 was a bitch of a year and I felt burned out by the end of it.

I’m pretty sure joy is one of the antidotes to exhaustion and burn out. It certainly helps fill a well that’s close to dry. So if you want to do a joy inventory along with me, grab a pen and paper or sit down with your laptop and open a new file.

We’re going to make a few lists. Don’t groan. It’ll be fun. And since it’s 2017, we’re going to limit each list to 17 items.

List 17 accomplishments you’re most proud of. Do it fast; don’t overthink it. It doesn’t have to be something you accomplished this year. And don’t limit yourself to professional accomplishments either (For example, I’m proud that after ten years we managed to grow a kiwi on our vine in 2016. It speaks to our tenacity and patience).

Note down 17 strengths or things you’re good at, both personally and professionally.

Next, jot down 17 things you love. Come on, this one’s easy. I can think of 17 things I love to eat, for heaven’s sake. Your list might include discovering a new writer. French press coffee. A hot bath on a cold night. The smell of sweet peas. The sound of church bells. The touch of a kitten’s fur.

Then write down 17 things you love to do. Think out of the box. What about travel? Star gazing? Meeting a friend for lunch? Needlepoint? Fixing an old car? Doing your taxes? (okay, maybe not taxes).

Finally, list out 17 places you’ve been that make you happy. If you have trouble with this one, add in a few places you’d love to go that you know would make you happy.

That wasn’t so hard, was it? Now you have a sense of what brings you joy and a written record of your proudest accomplishments. Next week I’ll talk about how to use the joy inventory when it comes to goal setting.


A New Look


website-redesignIt’s been a busy few weeks. I’m plotting a new novel, writing a few articles and getting ready to upload a new Laura Tobias title. I’ve also been overseeing the design of two new websites, which were put together by the very capable Jessica Veinot.

It all started with a simple comment at a Red Door writing retreat about establishing a mailing list and tying it to my websites. Such a list would allow me to let readers know when I have a new title coming out, or when I’m running a contest or special offer. Around the same time, my marketing savvy daughter suggested both sites needed a more cohesive look and should be linked to each other so readers would know I write under two names. Finally, I knew (and I’ve known for a while) that my old sites weren’t as mobile friendly as they should have been. Sure, they showed up on mobile devices but they didn’t display well.

It was impossible to ignore the inevitable. So even though it meant pushing back the publication date for my next Laura Tobias title (watch for it around the end of this month), I went for it. And I’m very happy with the new look!

When you get a minute, feel free to check out both sites. And don’t hesitate to subscribe to my mailing list. You won’t hear from me that often – only when I have a new release or a special offer.



Finally, I have to apologize for last week when you likely received all my previous blog posts in one email. I’m not sure what happened. I’m hoping it was a one-time glitch as we switched to the new site. With luck and a prayer to the techie Gods, it won’t happen again.

Save The Cat

Fairwinds Schooner Cove and marina.In a few days I’m heading up island to Schooner Cove for another Red Door retreat with the Pen Warriors. These ladies have been getting together every three or four months for fifteen years! I’ve been part of the gang (with a few breaks here and there) for a good part of that time.

Retreat is an act of moving back or withdrawing. And that’s what we do. We withdraw from the outside world. We retreat from our families, our responsibilities, and the news of the hour. We spend a couple of days concentrating on writing, publishing and all things related to both. We always leave time for personal catch up and we never go hungry (or thirsty) but for the most part, we work. We follow an agenda (thank you, Bonnie) which varies from session to session and can include everything from story critiquing or group plotting to blurb writing and promotion. And we generally leave time to talk about craft.

Up for discussion this time is Blake Snyder’s classic Save the Cat. Most of us read it soon after it came out in 2005, but we decided to read it again and discuss it at the Red Door. Snyder was a Hollywood screenwriter who maintained you need a log line to summarize a story even before coming up with a character or a scene. He felt the log line helps with clarity and focus and ultimately results in a stronger story. If you haven’t read Save The Cat I recommend it. If nothing else, it’s one more thing to consider and another possible tool in the writer’s tool kit.savethecat

Revise, Revisit, Retreat

reviseI’ve been in revision mode for the last few weeks, working on In Plain Sight, a YA novel about a girl who learns her father was a terrorist. I’ve also been cutting and shaping Million Dollar Blues, a women’s fiction novel about a lottery win.

This Friday, however, I’ll be leaving the desk and heading up island. I’ll catch up with a dear friend that night and then on Saturday, I’ll head to the Red Door for a two-day writing retreat with my friends, the Pen Warriors.

It’s a revise, revisit, retreat kind of week. With luck, I’ll find time for a beach walk.

And that’ll make it rejuvenating too.   P1000623

A Sifting We Will Go . . .

Later this week I’ll be retreating with a few writers to ponder all things story and publishing. We do this four times a year, usually over a weekend. We laugh . . . we eat . . . we drink. And we work. We work hard. So hard that by the end of the weekend my head is crammed with information and ideas and inspiration, and it takes me a few days to sift through it all.

156523419This time, though, my head is also full going in. Actually, it’s more than full; it’s a mess. I need help brainstorming a new novel. I have an idea – an inciting incident really – and I have a character. But the rest is a tangled mess of threads, mostly because I could take this story in a number of different directions.

Needing to send something ahead for the agenda, I wrote out a rough book blurb as a starting point for a brainstorming session. Except – the second idea had merit so I wrote that one out too. And then I wrote out the third one because it was different again, and also full of possibility. I tossed in a few character notes. A thought or two about the setting. A vague suggestion (okay, mostly a whine) about where I might find the love interest in all of this.

And I emailed the whole tangled mess to my fellow pen warriors. No doubt I’ll come away from the weekend with a head full of information, ideas and inspiration. But with some luck – and a little hard work – I’m also hoping that those tangled threads will be nicely sorted into one tight, cohesive and colorful story idea.

Wish me luck.   1954248-red-ball-of-yarn-on-green-background