Category Archives: Television

The Power of Being (I’m not procrastinating…I’m preparing)

Hello Scribes friends,

PJ Sharon here. Some of you may not know this about me, but I can be a bit lazy. I know—you’re thinking, “No way, PJ. Not you! You’re so motivated and productive!” Um…not really. Looking at the big picture, I do seem to manage to keep a pretty steady schedule, meet my goals on a regular basis, and take care of my daily responsibilities while maintaining a fairly decent attitude, so I guess I’m not a total slacker. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that anything I do accomplish is because I know myself well enough to make my goals achievable and realistic, I accept my limitations as an imperfect human being, and I plan accordingly. Being a natural multi-tasker and somewhat disciplined helps too, but these days, I’m less rigid and a much nicer boss to work for.

With my writing, I try to push new limits, set appropriate deadlines,  and stay challenged–since I know these are what motivate me to stay on task–but it would be foolish and self-defeating to expect more from myself than I want to give. You have to want success…and you have to want it bad! And you need to ask yourself, “What am I willing to give up to achieve it?”

Admittedly, I’ve given up a lot to get where I am. But certain things–like time with my granddaughter and at least one day off a week, are now higher on my priorities list. What I also won’t compromise on is exercise. I commit myself to doing 30 minutes a day, five days a week because I know the payoff is totally worth it! When I’m strong, fit, and happy, I feel like I can handle anything that comes my way. If my schedule gets crazy, I let myself off the hook for a day or two, but then I’m back at it. The same applies to diet and nutrition. I’m not as rigid as I once was, but I try to eat high quality, nutrient dense foods that properly fuel my body. I like chocolate and pie as much as the next girl, but I believe in the 80/20 approach to everything. If I’m doing the right thing 80% of the time, I can slack off 20% of the time and I’ll probably be okay. Yay…pie!

For me, first and foremost, my mental and physical well-being are my priorities, and stressing out about what I’m NOT accomplishing only serves to make me feel overwhelmed and down on myself. It has become clear to me that my to-do list will never be done and that if I want to keep my sanity, I have to focus on just a few daily tasks that keep me moving toward my overall goals. It might take me longer to get there, but it’s not a race for me anymore. I’m in it for the long haul, so pacing myself is key to staying the course.

If goal setting isn’t your strong suit, here’s a great article to help you get on track and stay there.

Could I accomplish way more if I didn’t watch twenty hours of television per week or spend time gazing out the window at the lilac buds sprouting? scent of spring Maybe I could shave ten or fifteen minutes off my overly-lengthy shower time, or possibly I could sleep less. It seems changing even a few of these “recreational” behaviors would lead to a tremendous increase in my productivity. Then, maybe I could write five books in a year or spend another twenty hours a week promoting my butt off. After all, I do understand that the success of my business depends on me and how hard I’m willing to work. But how hard I’m willing to work today may be different from what it was two years ago, and will likely be different again a month from now. We each have to decide what’s important to us.

It comes down to perspective and priorities. In my opinion, none of those “recreational” activities are a total waste of my time. One could even argue that I am more productive because I’m living a balanced lifestyle. A full night’s sleep–when I can get it–is an essential tool for weight management, stress reduction, and overall health. I need at least 6-8 hours a night to remain productive and happy. Staying up late to write that blog that’s due in the morning, or waking at the crack of dawn to sneak in some “quality” writing time may help me check off a few to-do’s, but it’s going to leave me cranky and tired, and increase my susceptibility to illness. That’s not worth the trade for me at this point in life. Maybe some of you can live on five hours of sleep, but I’m betting it catches up with you eventually.

As for the apparent television addiction, I do try to limit my viewing to “must see” shows that give me the most enjoyment. I’m not a total hedonist! I TiVo my favorites and dole them out throughout the week as reward for accomplishing my tasks for the day. Getting lost in my favorite shows not only helps me decompress after a full day of massage work or long hours at the computer, it activates my creative brain. I’m constantly analyzing and deconstructing what I watch. I’m looking at story structure, dialogue, characterization, metaphor, etc. My mind is being entertained, but I’m also in my writer’s brain and learning.

The long hot showers, which some may argue are a luxury and a waste of not only water and resources, but are a self-indulgence. I assure you, they are a necessity for me. There are many challenges in daily life, and few “inexpensive” luxuries for most of us. If spending a half hour in the shower (where I do a stretching routine to treat my arthritic neck and back) relaxes me and reduces my pain, then so be it. I’ll take every little bit of relief I can get. Besides, my shower time is the most creative and productive time of my day as far as I’m concerned. It’s like a cup of tea, a soothing massage, and an opportunity to let my thoughts flow freely without my internal editor alarms ringing, all rolled into one.  My best ideas and snappiest lines of dialogue come to me while standing under a piping hot shower. I’ve also been known to belt out a few tunes while I’m there. Singing elevates my mood, clears my lungs, and centers me. It helps me shift from my right sided “business” brain to my left sided “creative” brain so I can get those 1,000 words on the page. The long hot shower is staying!

So, what about the inordinate amount of time I spend staring out the window, walking around my yard to see what’s coming into bloom, or simply sitting on my front porch with a hot cup of tea, paying attention to my breathing for a few minutes and taking time to be grateful for the multitude of gifts I have in my life? Am I procrastinating?

Maybe, but these moments too, are priceless. When I’m not actually writing, I’m usually preparing to write. I’m processing my next scene or coming up with some brilliant twist to my plot. As a writer, my brain is always processing some bit of information that will ultimately lead me to where I need to be on the page.

What it comes down to for me is that I’m a human being first, and a writer second. I NEED to stay connected to my higher self–the part of me that knows how to live in the moment and appreciates the power of just being.teens prayers5 (2013_02_16 17_00_55 UTC) That’s the part of me that inspired me to write in the first place and continues to be the well from which I draw my best work. Whether it’s called prayer or meditation…or just plain daydreaming, we all need it on some level.

I know that nothing can substitute for diligence, consistency in getting those daily word counts on the page, or putting in the overtime, but these quiet moments of stillness and reflection are essential to my sanity and well-being. I know this to be true about myself. Perhaps it’s just an excuse to be lazy or to procrastinate, but I prefer to think of it as “preparing” the soil. The fertile ground of productivity is only as good as what you feed into it. So next time you start to feel guilty for daydreaming instead of writing, or taking a day off to hit the beach, don’t look at it as “slacking”. Consider it part of the process. Tomorrow is another day and there is always more work to be done. Today, take a moment to reconnect to what nurtures and feeds your soul. You may be slightly less productive on paper, but you’ll be happier and more balanced in the long run.

Namaste!

PJ

What are your best “self-care” indulgences? What fuels your muse? What have you done for you lately?

Return to Downton–Part Two

Hello, my darlings! Suze here. What’s new with you? Lots of things going on in Suze-ville. Like, I heard from my editor and the Berkley team is working on my cover! My Greek restaurant series has a new, adorable name: The Georgie’s Kitchen Mysteries. Book 1 will be called Feta Attraction. I’ll be sure to let you know when I have a release date!

In the meantime, my Downton Abbey obsession continues. If you missed my post from a couple of weeks ago, click here.  So here are some more predictions for the characters of DA:

Lady Mary, what's wrong with you? Are you really going to let Lord Gillingham marry someone else?
Lady Mary, what’s wrong with you? Are you really going to let Lord Gillingham marry someone else?

Mrs. Hughes:  Guilt from the lie she told Mr. Bates continues to eat away at her.  So she hatches a plan to exact revenge on Lord Gillingham’s valet. Throwing everyone off the scent by saying she is needed by an elderly aunt suffering from the gout in the Outer Hebrides, Mrs. Hughes steals the estate car and travels to Gillingham’s estate. She lures the valet outside under cover of darkness and promptly dispatches him, stuffing his body into the trunk then driving back to the Abbey.  The next day, she presents Mrs. Patmore with a large amount of ground meat and requests that she make pasties.

Alfred: Fresh from his disappointment at not being accepted into the chef school, Alfred continues to hone his craft in the Downton kitchens.  After catching James kissing Ivy in the scullery, he secretly laces one of the savories (which he whipped up from some of the leftover meat he found in the newfangled refrigerator) with a powerful laxative and offers it to James. But before James can take it from the tray, Molesley swoops in and pops the tainted treat into his mouth. He spends the next few hours in the servants’ loo, lamenting his lowly, not-able-to-get-a-buttling-job state.

Carson: Carson refuses to eat the pasties, having seen what Mrs. Hughes has done. Although he now realizes he loves her passionately, his respect for her is erased and he knows he can no longer stay at Downton. He retires to his room and makes plans for his return to the stage. Working feverishly, in a single night he blocks out the choreography for a new production: The Downton Burlesque Revue.

Cousin Rose. Cousin Rose, desperate for a part in Carson’s show, enlists the aid of the Countess’s new maid (what’s-her-name) and her mad sewing skills to make her a costume–complete with rip-away bodice and a fan made from feathers pinched from the hats of The Dowager Countess and Isobel Crawley.  She wows Carson and it’s off to London with the two of them, where they mingle with all the wrong sorts of people. The Downton Burlesque Revue? It’s a smash!

Edith. Jealous, Edith decides she also wants to be in the show, so she steals Rose’s costume and tries it on. However, due to the fact that her midsection is swelling noticeably, she cannot fit into the tights and skirt.  Her cries of anguish can be heard all the way to Germany.

That’s all for now. Do you watch Downton Abbey? What do you think should happen?

Thinking Random Thoughts

Happy Friday! Casey here.

So here it is, the day before I’m scheduled to blog and I’m twiddling my thumbs. Normally, I’d be panicked. I like to get blogs done on Sunday night. But with Downton Abbey and Sherlock premiering in the US – what sane fan can think of blogging? Not me.

Blame the Monday holiday. Or maybe the fact that on Tuesday, hubby came home sick and promptly infected me. Thanks dear.

Or it could be that, while I’m in the final throes of Lachlan’s Curse (should be subtitled – Why, oh, Why Isn’t This Book Done Yet?) I can’t summon any ideas other than those related to the book. I did take comfort in reading Chuck Wendig’s blog post – It Takes the Time it Takes. Thank you, sir. I needed that!

Instead, I will leave you with my thoughts in pictures.

I am so glad you’re back. Don’t make me wait another two years.

I miss you, O’Brien.

Got an ARC from Jess, can’t wait to dig in.

Can’t wait to meet you.

But you’re still my favorite Doctor.

And finally, when the heck is spring coming?!!

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Return to Downton

Hey, folks, Suze here. I’m deep in the writer’s cave working on book 2 of my mystery series coming next year from Berkley Prime Crime. I hear that the talented folks at Berkley are working on the cover of book 1 (which has a new name that I like a lot!), so I’m super-excited to see what the art department comes up with. Of course I’ll share when I can.

downtonLEGO2_610x519[1]In the meantime, how ’bout that Downton? The season has gotten off to a bit of a slow start, in my opinion. But we’ll see what transpires. Here are my predictions:

Robert and Cora. The Earl seems bound and determined to lose Downton, whether through mismanagement, gambling, or stick-in-the-mud-ism. Is it just me, or do both of these characters seem to be getting dumber? I predict more conflict between Robert and his daughter Lady Mary (see below), and I see Cora siding with Mary on most issues. But I certainly wish they’d give him and Cora a more interesting storyline. Send them off on a trip to the Continent to rekindle the spark in their marriage or, even better, to America to visit Cora’s mother.

Lady Mary. Thank goodness she’s stopped moping around the Abbey, pale and wraithlike. Now she can get down to the business of wresting control from her increasingly dotty father. Now, I’m no expert in British succession laws, but I thought Downton was entailed. So how is it that Matthew could leave his half of the estate to Mary? She will become a savvy businesswoman and somehow figure out how to pay the death duties–perhaps by organizing a Downton bachelor auction! Tom and Thomas (really, couldn’t we have given somebody a different name?) should bring in some nice money, depending on the bidder’s orientation.

Lady Edith. Here’s a character who’s become a lot more interesting to me. Not just because she’s become a writer, but because she seems to be leaving Downton behind for the modern world. I liked her better when she was scheming, honestly. But with her beau trying to get German citizenship (uh, might want to rethink that) so he can get a divorce from his insane wife, she’d be better off just shacking up with the guy until she gets preggers (thanks, Casey Wyatt, for that prediction!). Then she’ll be in a real mess, especially when Michael gets arrested for treason. But no matter. There are plenty of unsuitable men out there, ripe for Edith’s plucking.

Bates and Anna. Angry. Can’t talk about this.

Daisy, Ivy, Alfred, Jimmie. Snoresville. Daisy, you can do a lot better than that big clod, Alfred. Let Ivy have him. Once your dead husband’s father dies, you’re going to come into a cute little farm and you’ll be able to make a nice living on your own terms–and there will be a studly neighboring farmer out there for you. Seriously, I’d much rather get a valentine from Mrs. Patmore than either one of those footmen. Count yourself lucky. Or maybe they’ll be in the aforementioned bachelor auction, and you can take your pick!

Isobel Crawley. She needs to quit whining, play with her grandson (in a dignified way, of course), and find a cause or two or three to support. Or find fault with the way little Georgie’s being raised. Or go visit Cora’s mother in America. That should light a fire under her.

Violet, the Dowager Countess. Still my favorite character. Would love to see a little romance in her life. And she could drop a few quid on that bachelor auction!

If you love this era, you’ll love a couple of book series I read religiously: the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear, about a maid who goes off to become a nurse in the Great War, obtains a college education, and opens her own private investigation company.

And in a more humorous vein, try Her Royal Spyness and the rest of the series by Rhys Bowen. Thirty-fourth in line to the throne of England, the penniless Lady Georgiana secretly cleans houses to make a living and is summoned quite regularly to Buckingham Palace, where Queen Mary assigns her various tasks, including keeping an eye on the Queen’s son David and the dreadful American, Wallis Simpson. Part Downton Abbey and part Jeeves and Wooster, these cozy mysteries are just delightful.

What are your predictions for Downton this season? No spoilers, please!

Super Powered Thoughts

Yay! It’s Friday. Casey here.

So this past weekend, while eagerly awaiting Downton Abbey to begin, I saw the obligatory Viking River Cruises advertisement (that PBS airs before the show) and it got me thinking about travel. Where would I like to go? What would I visit first?

 

And hey, wouldn’t it be cool to be able to speak the local language? Which led to a different line of thought about having super powers. Like the kind in comic books, not the more serious, real world issue of global super power nations. Sorry, this isn’t that kind of post.

Anyway, while I like the idea of adventure, I’m also a total wimp. Hence the thought about super powers. I know this is totally nerdy, but if I could have a super power (and I have given this a lot of thought over the years – yes, it’s true), I’d want to understand every language in the universe. Not just hear it, but be a fluent speaker, read it, write it, and understand all the local customs too.

Yes, that probably takes the fun out of visiting new locales, but I can’t help it. It’s the anthropology major in me to want to understand a culture not just muddle around lost.

What? Too nerdy? I don’t care. Other people can have flying or x-ray vision.

How about you? Take the poll and share your views.