Thursday, December 29, 2011

2012 Goals

Hard to believe that the end of 2011 is already here! This time of year, I like to write down my goals for the next year. I think it's infinitely important to have goals, and to actually write them down on paper. The act of writing them longhand seems to solidify them and make them more real (at least for me). I like to write them in big, fat sharpie, too, so they are nice and dark and bold.

A lot of people make New Year's Resolutions around this time. Resolutions are good, but GOALS are great. Resolutions tend to be vague, and tend to be forgotten. For example, before I really understood goals, I would have a New Year's Resolution along the lines of, "Get in shape" or "Write more" or "Save money". These things are all good, but they aren't defined. How do you define getting in shape, or writing more, or saving money? Without having a defined GOAL, resolutions are useless. How will you ever cross off "Get in shape" if you have nothing to define it by? By defining these resolutions, you turn them into goals. "Get in shape" becomes "Lose 10 pounds" or better yet, "Exercise five times a week". Do you see the difference? It goes from vague to specific, and when you have a specific goal, you know when you achieve it. "Write more" becomes "Write 12 short stories" or "Write X amount of words every day/week". "Save Money" becomes "Save X amount".

So this year, instead of writing New Year's Resolutions, write Goals, and be specific. Also, don't just think of your goals, WRITE THEM DOWN. Seriously. Get out a sharpie and a piece of paper, and write them down. Now they are concrete, tangible. Now you can cross them off as you complete them. Ahh, the satisfaction.

Here are my 2012 Goals:

1. Write New Novel
2. Send out query letters
3. Learn 6 new songs on the piano
4. Read at least 24 books
5. Do crunches, squats and push-ups/weights 3x a week
6. Write 12 short stories
7. Get student loan down to X amount
8. Go to Disney World! (Just to throw a 'Gimme' in there)

Once you have your Yearly Goals defined and written down, you've completed Phase 1. Yay! Oh, wait, you thought you were done? HAHA. No.

Yearly goals can seem big and daunting. My "Write New Novel" goal seems big and daunting even to me. How do you tackle these goals? Easy. You break them down into Monthly Goals. This makes your big, Yearly Goal into a smaller, more manageable Monthly Goal. Again, write these down on paper.

For example, here are my January 2012 Goals:

1. Write at least 15,000 words of New Novel
2. Learn a new song on the piano
3. Read 2 books
4. Do crunches, squats and push-ups/weights 3x a week
5. Write 1 short story
6. Pay X amount toward student loan

That's not so bad, is it? It's still defined, but it's smaller. Do this for every month so that all of your Yearly Goals are broken down into Monthly Goals. Phase 2 is complete.

On to Phase 3. Weekly Goals. Yup, you guessed it--break your Monthly Goals down into Weekly Goals.

For example, the first week of January will look like this for me:

1. Write at least 3,750 words
2. Choose a song to learn on the piano and practice on Tuesday and Thursday
3. Read a book
4. Do crunches, squats, and push-ups/weights on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
5. Start a short story
6. Set aside X amount for student loan (this is really a monthly thing for me, not a weekly thing, but I'll put it here just for example)

Then, I make a daily To-Do list based on my Weekly Goals. I usually do this at the beginning of the week. I guess you can call that Phase 4.

Why do people usually forget their New Year's Resolutions by February? Because their goals aren't defined and broken down. They don't have a map to follow, so they stop trying. Making defined Goals and breaking them down like this is essentially making yourself a map, something you can follow to finish your Goals. Saying you're going to write a book sounds lofty, but saying you're going to write 3,750 words a week sounds doable. It's all about bite-sized pieces, one piece at a time. And you just keep going.

So with that,

Happy New Year!!

See y'all in 2012 :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 Favorites

So, just for fun, here's a compilation of my favorite stuff from 2011.

Favorite Music: 
1.Coldplay-New album Mylo Xyloto. Favorite song from this album is Paradise.

2. Florence + The Machine-New album Ceremonials. Favorite song from this album is Seven Devils.

3. Greg Laswell (He was a new discovery for me!) Favorite song is Comes and Goes (In Waves).
4. Mumford & Sons (Another new discovery for me!) Favorite song is White Blank Page.

Favorite Books: 
1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

2. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

3. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

There are SO many books that I didn't get to read this year that are on my 2012 To-Read list. I didn't have an actual "list" of books for 2011, so I didn't end up reading as much as I'd wanted to. But watch out, 2012, I come prepared with a LIST this time!

Favorite Recipes:
1. White Chocolate Raspberry Bars, which you can find in my previous post here
2. Brownies, recipe courtesy of Maggie Stiefvater, which you can find here
3.Oh, actual food? Not just desserts? Okay, then I'll choose Orecchiete with Spicy Sausage and Broccoli Rabe, courtest of Giada De Laurentiis. I got the recipe from her cookbook, Everyday Italian. The recipe is online here, HOWEVER, for some reason online it says turkey sausage instead of spicy pork sausage. Use the spicy pork sausage! Unless, of course, you want to use the turkey sausage. Whatever.

Favorite Purchases: 
1. iPhone. The awesome factor is WAY high. Definitely best purchase of the year. Portable Twitter, anyone?
2. Cowboy boots. I got these in Nashville, so you know they're legit!

What's some of your favorite stuff from 2011?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cookies! And New Novel Fun!

Happy Monday! I'm kind of in shock that Christmas is only a few days away. I feel like I haven't had enough cheer yet this season. I mean, this weekend I TRIED to have some Christmas cheer. I blasted Christmas music and baked for hours and hours. It started out quite fun and festive. I was in the Zone. But after the third batch of cookies, I was tired. I mean...really tired. I'd been standing for a few hours already (those of you who are wondering why only three batches of cookies took a few hours, the answer is RAINBOW COOKIES), and the happy holiday music was starting to irritate me. It was becoming ironic, because I was no longer in the Christmas Spirit. But I still had like three more batches of cookies to go, so I put on my New Novel playlist to brainstorm while I baked. So, that was fun, but unfortunately the Christmas cheer didn't last too long. This week though, I will be SURE to get my cheer on. Santa mug, I'm looking at you.

And because I want to show off, here are two of the cookies that I made. White Chocolate Raspberry Bars and Rainbow Cookies. Compliments are welcome.

My husband loves rainbow cookies. They are kind of a pain to make because it is a long process, but the outcome is lovely, isn't it? He always raves about them and it makes me quite big-headed. BUT. Yesterday he tried one of the white chocolate raspberry bars, a new recipe that a co-worker gave me, and he proclaimed something that I never saw coming. He said that he liked them BETTER than the rainbow cookies. Um...what!? I SLAVED over those rainbow cookies, and the raspberry bars were the easiest thing I made! I used a Pillsbury sugar cookie roll for crying out loud! But...I have to agree. I'm not a huge fan of rainbow cookies anyway, but let me tell you, those raspberry bars are DIVINE. So in the spirit of giving, which is part of holiday cheer, I give you the recipe:

White Chocolate Raspberry Bars
Ingredients: 1 roll Pillsbury sugar cookies, seedless raspberry preserves, chopped walnuts, white chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350. Spread the cookie dough onto cookie sheet using fingertips, so it covers the whole cookie sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned and when you stick a toothpick in the center it comes out clean. Let cool for a few minutes. Spread the raspberry preserves over the cookie. Sprinkle with nuts. Melt the white chocolate (I simmer some water in a sauce pan and put a bowl over it with the chocolate in it). Dip a spoon in the chocolate and drizzle over the cookie. Let cool, then cut the cookie into bars.

As far as writing goes (lovely segue, don't you think?), I'm still plotting and brainstorming and getting to know the characters in New Novel. It's really interesting, this being the second novel I'm writing, to go through the beginning process again. It feels much different than the first time around. I mean, I still don't know exactly what I'm doing, but I feel more prepared. More confident. I'm not wondering if this will ever actually get finished, because I know it will. So I'm really enjoying this brainstorming process. I want to have a good enough idea of the story by the end of the year, so that come January I can start writing. Eeek! So excited. One difference I've really noticed is that when I first started plotting/writing my first novel, it was very plot-driven. I put the story before the characters, and so the whole time it was frustrating when I couldn't figure out who my characters were. This time, though, the characters came first. Well actually, the setting came first, and then the characters. Then because of who the characters are and what their situation is, the plot flowed from that. So again, very different, but in a very exciting kind of way.

How is everyone's writing going? Anyone else having a baking extravaganza? Make the raspberry bars!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thursday Things

It's Thursday again, so, that means you get some THINGS! That also means I get to make a list, which makes Amanda a happy girl.

1. I know you're all losing sleep over my mouse sitch, so here's an update: THEY ARE STILL HERE. The exterminator came and did not exterminate. For some reason, in my mind, I pictured a Ghost Busters-like machine that would just suck the mice away, like that machine thingy did with the ghosts. Am I remembering this correctly? Anyway, that did not happen. He put a bait box (with poison bait, natch) in the basement and in that cabinet where they were coming in. And then he left. So I took it upon myself to seal the holes by the pipes with steel wool, and that has seriously helped. Now instead of a MICE INFESTATION there's maybe like one or two that are getting in. So now I just wait for them to eat the poisoned bait and DIE! DIE! DIE MICE DIE!


2. I've noticed that ever since I started blogging, I've been drinking a lot of tea. I've always been a coffee person but now, for whatever whackadoo reason, I'm a tea person. Between the hours of 9am and 5pm, you will always find me with a mug of tea. If you do not see me with a mug of tea, you can be sure that it's just because I'm up making MOAR TEA. It's very strange. I have no explanation for this sudden switch of caffeinated beverage choice. It just happened.

3. I'm insanely excited about my New Novel! Oh, wait, now I can't remember if I've even mentioned this on the blog. Okay, I remember posting about this shiny new idea that I had while trying to revise my WIP. WELL, since then, I've decided to set WIP aside for a while. Why? Well, I shall tell you. I've been working on WIP for two years. I finally finished it and jumped directly into revision mode. I marked it up. I made up a new outline of changes. I started changing things. And then...I realized I was doing it all wrong. I wanted to add another POV and that changed the entire thing (for the better, I think). But for some reason I couldn't figure out exactly how I wanted to execute this, and I was having trouble figuring out character motivations and blah blah blah. And then I realized that I never just let the story sit. It's just been a constant WIP for two years. So, now it is sitting. Simmering, if you will. And in the meantime, I have this New Novel that I'm plotting out and I am basically in love with it. Honestly, I think it's *The One* We'll see. I...haven't actually started writing it yet. Ha. But I just have this feeling, you know?

4. I wrote down all of my 2012 Goals in big, fat sharpie the other day. And boy, it's making me excited. I still need to break these down into monthly and weekly goals, but just seeing them makes me think 2012 will be a fun and productive year. I'll let you in on one: Finish writing New Novel. That might seem obvious, but considering it took me two years to write my first novel and I didn't even revise it yet, finishing a novel in one year will probably be a challenge for me. But I really, truly know that I can do it. I'm so excited!

5. I'm having a hard time finishing books lately. I don't know why this is. I want to blame the books...I mean, maybe it is the books. I don't know. I won't share which ones they are, but there are two books I'm thinking of specifically that I started reading and didn't finish. And it's weird, because they are both in series that I really enjoy. Maybe I just lost interest? But I have a whole pile of books I want to read, and now I'm wondering if I should first finish the books I started, or just move on to the other books. And ALSO, I'm getting the itch to re-read books. But then I look at my to-read pile and think it would be silly to re-read when there's so much I haven't read yet.

Books in my To-Read pile: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, Hourglass by Myra McEntire, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, and Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare. These are all sitting on my desk, waiting patiently.

Meanwhile, I'm dying to re-read The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

The dilemma!!

5 Things seems like a nice number, so I'll leave it at that. Ciao!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Don't Go Near The Baking Cabinet!!!

Yesterday was a day like any other. Except that I was traumatized beyond repair.

Let me preface this by saying that I LOVE our new little cottage. I mentioned a week or two ago that The Husband and I were moving, and move we did. We now live in a lovely little cottage, aka a pool house on a very nice man's large property. It's wonderful. Anyway, on my lunch break yesterday, I merrily decided to bake some cookies. Nothing says Holiday Season like some freshly baked cookies, right? So I went over to the cabinet where my baking ingredients are stored, one of those rotating corner shelve deals, and pulled out the sugar. My delight was soon diminished as I realized the bag was leaking and sugar was suddenly pouring out all. over. the. place.

After I cleaned up the mess, I scrutinized the bag and lo and behold, there was a small hole in one of the bottom corners. I taped it up, thinking it must have gotten banged up traveling from old home to new home. I went back to the baking cabinet and pulled out the flour, which proceeded to ALSO LEAK EVERYWHERE. At this point, I was aggravated. I mean, I only have an hour break and now half of it was taken up by cleaning this stupid cabinet. I realized then that there was sugar, flour, and other various baking ingredients all over the bottom of the shelf. I started pulling everything out, only to find out that EVERYTHING had holes in it.

And then I saw it. Little black things the size of grains of rice. Mouse droppings.

I quickly googled "mouse droppings" just to be sure. And yep, I was right. It was definitely mouse poop.


I was so grossed out. Our last apartment had a bug problem, and now we have a mouse problem?! Anyway, I threw out all of my baking ingredients and thoroughly cleaned the entire cabinet. While half my body was inside the cabinet to reach the back, I noticed a gaping hole toward the back where a pipe came out. So THAT was where they were coming from, those sneaky vermin. I plugged the hole up with aluminum foil until a better plan was hatched, and immediately called The Husband to tell him the news. He emailed our landlord and apparently there will be an exterminator coming to our rescue. Thank goodness, because I wouldn't be too thrilled if I had to set mouse traps.

So, that was my exciting and traumatizing day. I really, really love our new place, especially the kitchen because it's so pretty and updated. But I have to say, I'm a little leery of going in there now. Especially near the baking cabinet. *shudder* I suppose I'll have to buy all new baking ingredients and keep them in airtight containers or something until the exterminator comes, because CHRISTMAS BAKING WILL HAPPEN! Don't worry those of you who will consume my cookies, I PROMISE to only use brand new ingredients, and to keep everything nice and poop-free. :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Time Is A Tricky Mistress

The passage of time is a strange thing, isn't it? We all have time, and we all chose what we will do with it (though sometimes it can feel like we don't have a choice, but really, we DO). Right now it's 12:33am on a Sunday, and I'm thinking of the new novel I want to plot out and hopefully start to write tomorrow. But of course there's the day job which takes up 9 hours of my day. And my general lack of early-rising ability (let us remember it is 12:33am--I am a night owl apparently). Let's also remember that dinner must be made, and that usually takes about an hour. Oh, and the laundry. Monday is laundry day in the Olivieri household. So let's say that after the day job, dinner, and laundry duties are over, it's about 8pm. The husband and I have our nightly TV watching routine that cannot be broken (okay, sometimes it is broken), which means that by the time I get a moment to THINK about my novel, it will be around 10pm. Oh, dear goodness. Where did the time go? I don't LIKE going to bed late, despite my previous statements. It just seems to happen that way because nighttime is the only time I can do stuff, like write. Although I have found that my best writing happens during the day when I'm not falling asleep over my laptop at midnight.

Anyway, time.

It passes whether we like it or not. It pauses for no one. It makes no exceptions. It doesn't care what our circumstances are or whether we have a 5 YEAR PLAN FOR CRYING OUT LOUD or if unexpected things happen or if we have direction for our lives or if we don't. It just. keeps. going. And we can either DO SOMETHING while it passes, or not.

I tend to complain about no having enough time. I'm sure you do too. Time is a valuable thing which gets filled with many invaluable things, and when that happens and we notice it we tend to get upset. The trick is not to let it get filled with invaluable things. And that trick is tricky.

Like, even though I would prefer to write during the day and then go to bed at a decent hour, I need the day job to pay the bills. So, that needs to stay. And even though I wish dinner would magically make itself while I write, that never seems to happen. So, cooking needs to stay too. Same with the laundry. And, uh...the TV know. Sometimes you just need to watch some good evening television with your spouse. And so the THING that is VALUABLE to you is somehow pushed down the line of things to do, and by the time to get to it, there's not ENOUGH time.

So, back to the trick that is tricky, which is to say, filling time with things that are valuable. You'll never get to erase those chores and necessary things that aren't fun from your schedule, but usually you CAN find time in between these things. For example, although I find it TORTURE to wake up earlier than absolutely necessary, I could, COULD wake up an hour early and get some writing time in. I COULD also write during my hour lunch break instead of...what do I do on my lunch break anyway? Obviously it is nothing important if I can't even remember it. I COULD also set aside an hour before TV time, which is probably wasted by browsing the internet. And then I could write for one more hour after TV time (which, again, is usually wasted on the internet) and go to bed around 11-12 which is much earlier than I have been. Did you see what I did there? I took the larger chunk of time I would normally write (which can end at 2am sometimes), and I broke it up into smaller chunks throughout the day, where normally I would be lollygagging on the computer or hanging off the side of my couch acting like I'm bored even though I have a million things to do or pretending to be productive by folding laundry but really I'm procrastinating writing. I mean I didn't actually do this in real life yet, but I COULD. I really could. And then I could fill my time with value and actually get some SLEEP. Sleep is good. I wish I was sleeping right now, in fact. My bed is insanely comfy, by the way. Literally, almost every night when I climb into bed, I think to myself "This is the most comfy bed in the world." No, I'm not joking. I really think that to myself every night.

Anyway, what was I even saying? Something about trickery? Time is a tricky mistress? DO YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON'T SCHEDULE YOUR TIME? You end up writing delirious blog posts at 1am (did I seriously, SERIOUSLY just spend a half hour writing this? Time has evaded me once again!) that start out sounding all mystical and interesting..."Time...what is...time?" and then you end up going on a tangent about your schedule and your heavenly bed then you forget what you're talking about and a half hour has passed and you don't know how because it feels like you just started typing this three minutes ago. And then you write an entire paragraph out of one long run-on sentence?

So the moral of the story is that time is a tricky mistress and you must schedule your time properly to fit the important things in, lest time get the best of you.

And now I'm going to schedule this post before I re-read what I wrote and decide against it. And maybe I'll make a to-do list for tomorrow so I can have some semblance of time management after writing this.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

In Which I Babble About New Story Ideas

Gah! It's been crazy around here, so I want to apologize for being kind of MIA with my blog posts. We just moved into our new place this past weekend and are still getting our bearings and unpacking, etc., etc. I must say that I LURVE our new place. A lot. So...that's nice and happy.

Anyway, something happened last night. The husband went to bed, and I stayed up to work on revisions for my WIP. I typed maybe 200 words and then stopped, because I just wasn't "feeling" it. I decided that I probably needed to start over again because it wasn't exactly how I wanted it, but I wasn't in the mood to delete so many words. So, instead I started typing something completely and utterly new. Something that had been simmering under the surface for a few months, just aching to be let free. I didn't write too much. I hadn't plotted at all and really had no idea what the story was even about. All I knew was the setting and the main character. I wrote a little snippet, quite pleased and excited with it, and then went to bed.

While I was laying in bed I was thinking about this new story and what the premise might be. I had this awesome setting, and this awesome character, but where, exactly, was it going? Then, to my utter surprise and delight, my brain decided to give me a gift. It TOLD ME exactly what this story was about. It told me about two more characters, and various complications for my main character, and what was going to happen. And I was like, ZOMG!! YES! And I literally did a little flail in the dark. This morning I jotted everything down, and now all I want to do is write write write this new story. It is CALLING to me. And let me tell has a tantalizing call.

But then some other part of my brain is like, "Um, hello? Revisions? Current WIP?" And I'm like, "Uhhh, I knowwwwwwwww." Now don't get me wrong, I lurve my WIP. It's like an old friend. But my WIP is one of those stories where I know I'll have to make a zillion revisions before I get it right. I don't know why this is. It just IS. And the thought of getting it right makes me very, very excited, but I still don't know exactly HOW to make it right. But this NEW's already just SO RIGHT. And it's most definitely a standalone. One book, and then done. WIP is most likely a three book series.

I know, I'm babbling. Sorry. ANYWAY. So I'm thinking of possibly writing a teensy bit of this new story. Just a little, keep it casual, you know. I'm still married to WIP and all. WIP will be my priority, but I think perhaps working on the new story will get my creative juices flowing in a new way. Right? That makes sense? Or am I just fooling myself? Should I jot down new story's ideas and set it aside until I'm done with WIP?

I don't know, guys. Have you ever had this happen before? What did you do? Is it wise to start a new project while still revising a WIP? I'm thinking, MAYBE, of setting aside a minimal amount of time per week to work on the new story, just to placate myself. We'll see.

We shall see.

(*excited flail for new story!*)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thursday Things

Some things on this fine Thursday:

1. The Husband and I are moving into a new place this weekend. Yippeeee!! We loathe our current apartment, and so this move is quite exciting for us. QUITE exciting.

2. Because of said move, almost all of my THINGS are packed away in boxes. I don't like to be without my things, but I've learned that I really only need a few things to survive, namely: my laptop, my teapot (also, a mug and tea are implied (but I'm telling you just in case you didn't realize the implication--you're welcome)), my iPhone, my planner, and a book. I am content with these things. Shall I say things one more time? Things.

3. It is December today. Just thought you should know. It's also my brother's birthday. Happy birthday, Matt! (I don't think he reads this but if one day he does, this birthday wish will be here, waiting. I am a good sister.)

4. Today is Christmas card writing day. It is a day in which I write out Christmas cards. Preferably with a glass of red wine and Christmas music playing merrily in the background. Unfortunately, The Husband packed away our bottle opener, so no red wine for Amanda :( I now have an excuse to get a peppermint mocha from Starbucks, though. I NEED a merry drink whilst writing out holiday cheer!

5. I hath written out my writing goals for next year. It makes me feel motivated. And excited! Unless I fail. Then, I'll just feel like a failure. BUT I WON'T!

6. I will share these goals with you at the end of the month. Like an end of year wrap-up. Or maybe like a pre-beginning-of-year syllabus. Either way, it will be a list, so I will enjoy writing it. I like lists. Oh, hey, I'm writing a list right now! Maybe that's why I'm enjoying writing this post so much. LISTS!

7. My tea is now cold, and I have no microwave to heat it up with because The Husband already packed it away. Why must he pack away all the beverage opening/heating tools?!

8. I am learning to play Carol of the Bells on the piano. It is fun. I like it. (No, I don't really play the piano. I PRETEND by learning songs and then I sound like I know what I'm doing but really, I only know VARIOUS SONGS.)

9. That's it. Oh, wait, let me do one more so that it's Ten Thursday Things. That seems much better than Nine Thursday Things.

10. I'm currently reading Crossed by Ally Condie, and I love it so far! I'm almost half way through, and I'm SO rooting for Cassia and Ky! I also love how Ally incorporates poetry into her books. I don't usually read poetry, but the way it's used in Ally's books makes me want to.

BAM! TEN Thursday Things.