How To Get in The Flow

Flow State AKA the Zone mental state in which a person performing some tasks is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity, in essence, flow is characterized by the complete absorption in what you do and a resulting transformation in your senses of time. As a person who has found herself in a flow state on several occasions as a painter and as a writer it is a wonderful feeling. The question is how can you achieve such a state. I have twelve great ideas to get you started;

  1. Set a writing block. Block out time on your calendar to write. Keep the appointment with yourself as a sacred time.
  2. Create accountability by telling others you are going to write. Tell a friend that you will give $50 to charity if you don’t keep your writing time.
  3. Clear distractions by unplugging your router and turning off your phone.
  4. Start with a free writing session to get the writing flowing and you ready to write.
  5. Regular exercise will help you settle down when it’s time to write the nervous energy will have worked its way out and you will be settled and ready to write.
  6. Plan ahead to get your notes and research done before you sit down at the computer so you are ready to write when it’s writing time. Use the time when you are doing housework or driving to think about a plot or structure.
  7. Try the Pomodoro method write for fifteen minutes and take a five-minute break do this 4 times and then increase the time you work by five minutes.
  8. Get the soundtrack you need to help you write listening to music can help you get in the mood to write listening to the same music every time you write can train your brain to recognize that it’s time to write.
  9. Make sure you give yourself enough time to write and get in the zone. It could be frustrating if you just reach the zone and it’s time to stop.
  10. Give yourself deadlines to finish your work. This will make it necessary to work diligently on your projects.
  11. Create a habit. Working on the same day at the same time is another way to train your brain to expect this is work time.
  12. Virginia Woolf said it best when she said you need a room of one’s own. If you don’t have space for a whole room, try and get a corner of your own. You do need a space that is yours to work in.

Being in the zone is a wonderful place to be, but it is not easy to get there. It might take some practice so if at first you don’t succeed try again and each time will get easier. That’s a guarantee from a frequent zone pro.



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If you’re interested just let me know in the comments. I really appreciate all you guys that read my blog every week and make comments and tell me you like what I’m doing.

Thanks for all your help.




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Get a Skill Bump Take a Writer’s Workshop

It all started when I was doing some research for a blog post. I discovered that my local library had free online teacher-led courses that I’d be interested in. The classes that I’m going to take include writing classes that are structured like workshops. The first class that I’m taking starts this week is Romance Writing and then Later there is one on Creative Writing. Each class is 8 weeks, and I expect this first class will improve my pacing and imagery. If you’ve never been to a writers’ workshop you may wonder what exactly a writers’ workshop is? A writers’ workshop is a method of teaching writing whose goal is to create a life-long writer. It’s based on four principles according to the all-knowing Wikipedia. Students will write about their own lives, use consistent writing processes, work in authentic ways, and develop as independent writers. So, that’s what a workshop is now this is what it can do for you:

  • Learning literary theory
  • Writing can be learned even if the skills are lacking
  • Meeting people with common interests
  • Reading develops your creativity
  • Learning from experienced writers
  • Testing  your limits
  • Having the pleasure of writing
  • Establishing a routine
  • It helps to overcome deadlines

These are a list of the positives of taking a workshop or writing class but there are also cons and you need to be prepared for those negative aspects as well. Developing a little bit of thick skin helps.

  • Some people will never understand what you’re writing about
  • Some people will want you to change your entire piece
  • You have to read some awful pieces of work and try to see the potential
  • Sometimes you have to follow writing prompts
  • When the teacher tells you to change something
  • Writing can be subjective
  • Your work can be considered abstract

There is both good and bad in everything and if you are prepared accept constructive criticism and ignore the subjective criticism by saying, ‘thank you for your advice.’ You may be ready to attend a writing workshop.

You can find writers’ workshops at your local library or community college or you can start your own by posting advertisements at bookstores and coffee shops or with professional organizations like the Rocky Mountain Romance Writers. In other words, find your tribe and hold them close.


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Critique Partners Who, What, and How

Critique partners are writer colleagues who provide feedback on your work in exchange for providing feedback on their work usually full manuscripts or individual chapters. A fellow writer or author who provides thoughtful and informed feedback on your work based on their knowledge as a writer in exchange you provide the same feedback to them.

How To Choose a Critique Partner

Critique partners should be chosen based on experience, likeability, and professionalism, they love your story, they write in a similar genre, and they have similar work habits. Matching these six categories will make a long-term critique partner match much more likely.

In my opinion, professionalism is most important. Your critique partner should take their writing as seriously as you do. It should be someone who shares a similar vision for their writing journey. Lastly, and most important someone who seems responsible, thoughtful, and hardworking in their everyday life.

Choosing someone with experience doesn’t mean choosing someone with the most experience it means choosing someone with the same level of experience as you or someone with slightly more experience than you. Someone whose comments on story technique and theory make sense to you where you’re at. Someone whose advice about your story gives you little aha moments of understanding.

Likeability is important in a critique partner and should be someone you like to be around even when you’re not talking about writing. It should be someone compatible with your work methods. Yet someone different enough to bring a new and interesting perspective to your work.

You want to choose someone who loves your story. You want someone who volunteers interest in your work. Someone interested in the type of story you are writing. A critique partner who genuinely likes you, your personality, outlook, and voice.

You’ll want a critique partner who enjoys and writes in the same genre as you. Someone who enjoys the same books and authors as you. A critique partner that can recommend books to you that you will end up loving. Someone that writes in the same genre as you and understand the sub-genres and tropes.

Make sure you choose someone with similar work habits as yourself. Someone whose workflow is similar. Someone whose critique preferences will fit into your own life. Someone willing to give you the speed and amount of response you’re seeking.

How To Be A Good Critique Partner

  • Be choosey about what you critique. Do you respect that person and their work? Do you like and respect that genre? Do you truly want to read that draft?
  • Ask questions first. What kind of critique can you give? What do you want me to do for you?
  • Read with your head heart and pen. Interject your responses as you read to add a note or an emoji to let the writer know what you are thinking.
  • Don’t hold back on the compliments.
  • Be kind but straightforward when it comes to the draft’s shortcomings
  • Remember it’s not your draft. Let the writer have and keep their style and voice.


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Failure Doesn’t Have To Be The End

Having failed to meet my daily writing goals this week has me thinking about failure, and what it means to fail, why we fail, and what constructively we can do when we fail. I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog talking about goal setting and things like that, but why do we fail to achieve our goals?

Failure can be a way of evolving and learning. If we fail with purpose. Analyzing what went wrong and make corrections accordingly. The bigger question is why we fail. Here are ten reasons people fail.

Reasons We Fail

  • The goal isn’t specific.

My goal was specific I wanted to write 2000 words a day. But, not every goal is that way. Some goals are nebulous and can change and even hard to pin down into words they are more like wishes.

  • Doubting the goal can be achieved.

At the start of this week, I started a seven-book Romance series. I needed the first book finished by the end of September, That’s a tight writing schedule. But to be honest, I have never written sixty-five-thousand words. I have doubts that I am trying to overcome. Using journaling.

  • Not working toward the goal.

I worked toward my goal when I wasn’t interrupted and wasn’t distracted and wasn’t too tired.

  • The goal is not motivating.

I was highly motivated or at least I think I’m highly motivated, but I sure did get distracted easily compared to my other books. Where I sailed through and just knew what to write.

  • Not being committed to the goal.

This is a big goal with a bunch of little goals inside it.  Being committed to this goal is essential it will be the twenty-four hour a day seven day a week job for me for a whole year. 7 books in one year is a heck of a schedule.

  • Not being focused on the goal.

I thought I was focusing on the goal when I was focusing on the business. I  took care of the Author’s business instead of writing. It wasn’t a great choice.

  • They have too many excuses not to meet the goal.

As you can tell I have plenty of excuses and they are all little things that are on this list.

  • They don’t know how to handle failure.

I don’t know how to handle failure, but I’m getting better at it. currently, or in the recent past, I would ruminate on all my past mistakes not to search for solutions or patterns that could be broken, but to wallow in missey and punish myself for my past mistakes. Now I try and look forward.

  • They get distracted.

That is mostly what happened this week I got distracted by being an author and forgot about being a writer.

  • They don’t give up

I’m not ready to give up just yet, There’s always tomorrow. To-do better. There is a Mantra that I used to use when I was a runner. Good, better, best never let it rest till your good is better and your better is best. It takes a certain amount of courage to write and somehow I’ve found that courage. I’m not about to squander it.

Ten Ways To Handle Failure Successfully

Like I said before when I fail I tend to ruminate over my past mistakes punishing myself again for those mistakes and failures till I absolutely can’t stand it anymore. It is an unhealthy way to handle failure it can turn a bad day into a bad week without much effort. Below are some ideas on how to handle failure in a healthy way.

  1. Embrace your emotions. You need to feel the way your gonna feel for a while, but don’t let it go on too long set a limit on how long you’re gonna be sad or mad and then move on.
  2. Recognize unhealthy attempts to reduce the pain. Don’t go for the alcohol, or drugs, don’t even go for the pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Instead, go for a walk, or take a bubble bath.
  3. Practice healthy coping skills.
  4. Acknowledge unhealthy beliefs about failure.
  5. Develop realistic thoughts about failure.
  6. Accept an appropriate amount of responsibility for failure.
  7. Research famous failures.
  8. Ask yourself what you can learn from failure.
  9. Create a plan moving forward.
  10. Face your fears about failure.

You need to have a healthy attitude about failure and not be afraid of it you should learn from it even appreciate it. Here are some people who failed and went on to succeed beyond their wildest dreams.

  1. J.K. Rowling was rejected by 12 publishers before her manuscript was picked up for publication by a publisher it went on to sell 450 million copies making her 1 billion dollars and a movie franchise and a Disney tie-in.
  2. Steven King threw the manuscript for Carrie in the trash can. His wife picked it out of the trash encouraged him to work on it was passed over 30 times.
  3. Dr. Seuss was going to burn his stories they were rejected 27 times he now has a national day to remember him.
  4. Agatha Christie’s first two novels were rejected the second novel was finally accepted with the agreement that the ending change.
  5. John Le Carre the author who wrote The Spy Who Came In From The Cold had his manuscript rejected.
  6. Luisa May Alcott was to keep teaching she couldn’t write and her book is now considered a classic and is enjoyed by children and adults and has been made into movies.

I guess the moral would be don’t give up and work hard. Stay focused on the right things. Do your level best.










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What To Do While You Wait for Your Writing DREAMS to Come True

Setting goals makes me feel better than a therapist and three bottles of antidepressants ever could. I mean literally and scientifically. Setting goals makes us feel positive about the future it’s important for our happiness.

Goals are a way we can turn our values and dreams into reality. Happiness doesn’t just happen it comes from thinking, planning, and pursuing things that are important to us. Research shows that setting goals can contribute to happiness in various ways

  • Being a source of interest, engagement, or pleasure
  • Giving us a sense of purpose
  • Bringing a sense of accomplishment

Goals help focus our attention.

Goals are most successful when they’re something we want to achieve and when we set for ourselves.

When I set goals, I allow myself to dream big. I visualize myself accomplishing my biggest dreams, and then I put my idea to work. So, as I wait for the Big dream goals to come true here are some things you can do to make the time go by faster and keep yourself engaged in your dream.

  1. Make a plan with a clear sequence of steps. Writing goals do not come true overnight and will remain unfulfilled until you make a plan to fulfill that dream.
  2. Identify helpful resources and systems. One of the easiest ways to begin fulfilling your dream is finding reaching out to support systems and resources like professional organizations that you might consider of which you might consider becoming a member.
  3. Set a timeline to review your goals progress. There is no set-in-stone deadline for checking in with yourself or how you choose to check in. But I do suggest early and often rather than late and rarely that way you can make adjustments as needed. If you are writing a novel you may want to check your word count daily but editorial page count weekly. If your goal is to grow your blog you may want to check that quarterly.
  4. Establish a system of evaluation. You need a system to evaluate your self will you check in with a friend or mentor? Will you just look at your statistics and see where things are? Whichever you choose just remember celebrating with a friend makes the victory twice as sweet.
  5. Be active in the writing community. Being active in the writing community can mean any number of things. It should include belonging to one of any number of professional writing associations. It can also include attending write-ins and critique groups.
  6. Celebrate progress and accomplishments. Big dreams are made of small accomplishments and we need to celebrate those small victories when they happen. Otherwise, it could be a long slog to your dream.
  7. Reevaluate and set new writing goals. You can have more than one writing goal. While you wait to make the New York Times Best Seller List have another goal being published in the New Yorker.

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Ten New Ideas For Writers To Write a Book About

 When I started my new Romance series I needed to come up with seven new romance ideas I researched tropes and came up with seven ideas that way. My ideas will change as I write each book though. The first book was a simple girl meets a boy who has the complication of a child and the story has morphed into that story but also a story with an incredible subplot about a small-town bad girl who gets her feelings hurt and seeks revenge by kidnapping the love interest and the daughter. This is a pretty good story. It’s like nothing that I’ve ever read in the Cowboy genre before.

   But if you’re stuck without an idea to write about research is always a good place to start if you have a grain of an idea already. You research and expand or reduce your idea appropriately.

Here are ten ideas to get you started if you don’t have any idea at all, what to write your next book about.

  1. Write about what pisses you off most. Think about the things that set your hair on fire and write a book about those things.
  2. Do something remarkable then write about it. The hard part here is doing the remarkable thing.
  3. Start a blog and write chapters one post at a time. For example, in a cooking blog, each blog could be one recipe and then in a year, you have a book.
  4. Create a podcast and then write a book about what you’ve learned from your podcast. If you interviewed lawyers about social justice once a week for a year at the end of a year you could write a book about what you learned from your Social Justice podcast or What you learned from your lawyer podcast.
  5. Ask your friends what they like reading most, and write something for them. If your friends are into a love triangle between humans and extraterrestrial vampires and werewolves then write them a book like that but give it a new twist.
  6. Jot down everything that makes you laugh for a week and write a story about that.
  7. Write about what makes you laugh hardest.
  8. Write about the most upsetting experience you’ve ever had.
  9. Write about the person who’s had the most impact on your life.
  10. Take photographs of your city and write about that.

   Some of these ideas will give you enough to write a book others you will have to carefully choose your angle to have enough shareable information to write a book. For those of you who would consider writing a magazine article, blog post, or other publishable work this is an easy list for you to dig into and write to your heart’s content. To always have something to write keep a notebook of your ideas as they come to you. Always be prepared to have an article or book idea ready you never know when an opportunity may present itself.



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WEEKLY SHINANIGANNS

Meet the author anna michael

  • Have the main character of your last novel introduce you to our readers.

So this lady acts like she’s the boss, but absolutely nobody bosses me around, except my kid. And that’s mostly because I like to win and I like to be able to give that to my little girl. But if Anna thinks she’s in charge of anything that I do, she really needs to reconsider. Look, she has enough on her hands with two little kids, a rescue dog, and her idiot cat. She doesn’t need to be in charge of anybody else, especially the hot guys she’s imagining.

  • Without giving us spoilers introduce your latest and greatest novel or work in progress and let us know which it is and if it’s a WIP let us know when it goes live.

My next book, Big Boss, is scheduled to release on October 13th. It’s an age gap workplace romance featuring a former rockstar billionaire who is definitely going to fall in love with his assistant.

  • What do you like best about your main character in your latest and greatest or WIP from above?

I like that my heroine is learning to embrace her differences and live her most authentic life. The way she shows her boss how to embrace who he is has a significant impact on their friendship and love story.

  • Tell us a little about one of your side characters from your latest and greatest or WIP?

The heroes of this series are a group of billionaire best friends who play poker together. You’ll meet the hero of the next book in this one, but he’s in a rough place and not at his best, so be gentle with him until he gets his own book.

How did you come up with your idea for the above story?

I loved Lyssa Kay Adams’ Bromance Book Club series, and wanted to write about a group of guy best friends who take care of each other even though they are all different types of men. In the first book, the hero was a single dad athlete, and in this book, he’s a former bad boy rockstar who’s trying to overcome the ghosts of his past reputation.

  • What was your writing plan for this book or WIP?

Panic, procrastination, and lots of caffeine/DoorDash delivery.

  • How do you handle writer’s block?

Work on a different book. When I’ve been stuck in this one (book 2), I’ve been working on book 4 (I can’t WAIT for the last book in this series).

  • Do you have a secret writing ritual and what is it?

I do like to leave home during the last pre-deadline push and stay up all night and eat weird snacks.

  • What is your writing snack?

I like salty snacks like Veggie Straws or cheddar popcorn. I’m also really into energy drinks when I’m working hard.

  • What do you do when you’re not writing?

I’m a mom and a lawyer, so I’m usually running my kids to different places or at the courthouse for my day job.

  • What is your favorite season and why?

Autumn is the best. I like the change of colors with the leaves and cooler temperatures, bonfires and s’mores, and my favorite holiday (Halloween).

  • What is your favorite genre to read and what do you like about it?

I read almost entirely romance (mostly contemporary and mostly queer/sapphic) and YA fantasy. I love happily ever afters and make believe, and I have loved both of these my entire life, so it’s not a surprise that these are still my two favorite things to read.

  • Do you have a writer’s mission statement? What is it?

My author tagline is “escaping reality one page at a time” and this is what I always want to give my readers. I know regular life can be difficult and even depressing, and if I can give you a break for a few hours or a day, then I’m grateful to be able to do that.

  • What do you listen to when you write? How does it help to put you in the mood?

I make playlists for my books, but usually, I just listen to brainFM or Endel (programs that play sounds/music that is supposed to optimize brain activity for work and creativity) when I’m writing. I can’t listen to lyrics or it messes up how the book sounds in my brain.

AUGUST QUESTION OF THE MONTH

What was your biggest failure that you turned into a success?

Last year, I truly struggled with depression, and it was extremely difficult to get back to writing. I was so sad all the time that it was hard to go to a place where people could be happy and fall in love, and I was honestly worried that I couldn’t do it. So I started small by taking care of my health first, and that helped me to get through finishing a manuscript. My last release was my best yet and has more reviews than any of my other books.


For all those writers who are struggling. I wanted to let you know that I believe in you. YOU CAN DO IT.


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Cowboy’s Secondhand Heart Chapter 3

Lisa grabbed her coat close around her. It was a cold day for October, and the drizzle made it miserable. Today, Joseph and Lisa were going to paint the inside of the two-bedroom cottage about a mile down the road from the big ranch house so she could move into it. The house was beautiful, with a big yard, and it was October, but you could see the outlines of flower beds that Lisa was certain in spring would be beautiful.

When she went inside, she found Joseph in the kitchen painting it a sunny yellow color. She could smell coffee over the smell of the paint.

“Mmm, it smells good in here. Do you have another cup? … I can’t thank you enough for helping me, Joseph. It really means a lot. The place looks terrific.”

“No problem. There is a cup over there. Are you ready to get in here?” He didn’t wait for an answer but went on, “Well, everything is up to code. Mom and Dad redid the plumbing and electricity. You’ll have new appliances once we get the painting done. It’ll be like getting a new house. You’re even getting new floors.”

“It’s the best. I don’t understand why they would do this. I mean, I’m not one of their children, yet your mom treats me like I’m one of the other girls. It’s kinda nice. After I graduated, my mom and dad moved to Tucson, so I don’t get to see them very often.”

“Are you gonna stand there and talk, or are you gonna get busy and get this place painted?”

            Lisa took one more sip of coffee and grabbed a roller, a paintbrush, and a can of eggshell-colored paint, and went to the bedroom. She shook the can, opened it, poured it into the roller pan, and began to cut in the corners of the room. Soon she was rolling and giving it a second coat.

Joseph came in and looked at her face smudged with paint and thought she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He picked up the paint rag and started wiping her face with the cloth. The electricity between the two was unmistakable. Joseph dropped the paint rag and grabbed Lisa by the shoulders so tightly it almost hurt. He pulled her close to him. Their faces were so close Lisa could feel his breath on her lips and almost taste the remnants of his coffee. Then suddenly, there were voices in the kitchen. It was Sarah and James. They had brought lunch. Joseph turned and went out the front door of the house, slamming the door and avoiding his parents, leaving Lisa to explain.

I’m not about to explain what I can’t explain to anyone, and I don’t want to share this with anyone but Joseph.

Lisa took a deep breath and went to greet Sarah and James.

“What do you think?” Lisa asked as she stood in the middle of the bright, buttery, sunny kitchen.

Sarah knew something had happened and asked, “Are you okay? You look upset. Is there anything I can do?”

James scolded his wife and said, “Leave her alone, will ya. Give her some privacy.”

“No, I’m fine. It’s just the paint fumes.”

“Well, of course. Let’s open this window and get some fresh air in here. How much painting is left to do?” Sarah wanted to know. “Where did Joseph go?”

“He headed to the hardware store to get some stuff to help us clean ourselves up.”

            James ended that conversation with a harumph.

Joseph

 Chloe was having a sleepover at her friend Christine’s house. Joseph was free to be unusually self-indulgent, and that’s what he was. He went to the Niwot Tavern, grabbed himself a table, and settled in. He wasn’t going anywhere until he felt better or felt nothing at all. He ordered beer and shots of whiskey and waited for the numb to fall over him.

What was that? Why did I do that? Was I just about to kiss her? I haven’t kissed anyone but Jennifer since I met Jennifer in college. I can’t be this man. I can’t be this dad.

Just then, Heather, one of the local girls, came up to him, “What the hell are you doing down here in town, Joey? Are you slumming?” she asked. Heather was a petite blonde with big long hair and short shorts. She wore cowboy boots and a tight T-shirt rolled up and tied in a knot at the back.

            Joseph doesn’t answer her question, “Can I buy you a drink, Heather? How the hell have you been? It’s been a long, long time.”

Heather said, “Well now, that’s downright friendly of you.”

            Heather and Joseph sat at the table drinking until it was closing time, then Heather said, “We could go back to my place if you want.”

“I really should go home, but I’m tired of my mother pulling my strings. So let’s go to your house.”

Joseph was a little taken aback when they pulled up to a motor home parked next to where Heather’s parents lived. Joseph remembered a cheerleader disappearing from high school, but it was never proven that Heather had anything to do with that. Joseph was still drunk, however, and didn’t realize the danger he was in. He followed Heather up the stairs into the Coachman Catalina Summit. He watched his step and ducked his head—it was quite the feat getting inside and not hitting his head. The place smelled of hairspray and plastic.

“What can I get you to drink?” Heather asked. She did not want this party to stop.

“Do you have any Jack Daniels? That’s what I like, but I’ll take anything.”

“Great. I’ve got some beer in the fridge. Do you wanna grab a couple, and I’ll change into something more comfortable.”

Heather went to the back of the camper, and when she appeared again, she was wearing a short red silk robe with a dragon painted on the back, and that’s all. Joseph could see her various piercings and the tattoos on her thigh and stomach.

It was when he noticed the pierced labium that he felt he was in over his head and needed to go home. “Heather, I can’t be here. I don’t want to be here. I still love my wife.”

“You don’t still love your wife. It’s been years since she died. I’m just not good enough for you.”

“Look Heather, you caught me at a bad time. I was hurting and wanted to hurt someone else, and you don’t deserve to be used that way. … Goodbye, Heather.”

“If you think this is over, you’re wrong.”

With that, Joseph headed straight for his truck, the barn, and Jasper, counting his blessings.

Lisa

The next night after dinner, Julia suggested a game of Cornhole, “Let’s play after Mom and Dad have gone to bed. We’ll play out in the barn, so we don’t disturb anyone. It’s Friday night, and I am so bored I can’t stand it. I need to howl at the moon.”

“Two things, Julia. I have never played cornhole before—never even heard of it, and I get weirdly competitive. I can’t help myself.”

“Do you remember the game Toss Across? It’s kinda like that, only different. We’ll teach you how to play.”

“Okay. I’ll stay up and play with you.” Lisa said, leaning forward in excitement at being asked by Julia to do something.

“What about you, Joseph? You look like a guy that needs to let loose.”

“Look, I am not a guy that needs to let loose. Just because tomorrow is Saturday does not mean that I don’t have a shitload of work to do. We have pregnant cows that are going to calf any day now.” Joseph ran a brush through Chloe’s hair.

Lisa was embarrassed she had assumed that a Friday night was a good night to get a little loose for everyone. “I didn’t mean to offend you, Joseph. I just thought everyone went a little crazy on Friday nights.”

“Oh, come on. Please, brother Joey. I do stuff for you all the time.”

“Fine. I’ll meet you out in the barn after Chloe falls asleep. Who is bringing the refreshments?”

“I’ll send Stephen. Any requests?”

            “Jack and Bud.”          

            This is my chance to get to know Joseph better and to show him that I am just a regular person. Not that I care one way or the other.

            The four headed to the barn for a game of Cornhole.

            Julia gets the bucket out with the Cornhole bags, “Let’s play girls against guys.”

            “That’s fine, Julia. But I want to play with you at some point tonight,” Stephen said, and then he blushed. “You know what I mean.”

            Lisa wanted to get a little teasing in. “Yes, Stephen, we do know exactly what you mean.”          This caused Stephen to turn bright red and turn his face away from the three. Lisa worried for a moment that she may have gone too far.

            Joseph poured drinks for everyone—shots of Jack Daniels—and then he opened bottles of beer for each of them.

            These guys make drinking into a sport, at least sometimes. I hope I can keep up without getting sick.

            Lisa did what everyone else did. She chugged her shot and took a drink of her beer.

            Joseph took the bags and handed a set to Lisa, “Ladies first.”

            Lisa threw first, and then Stephen. Next Julia and Joseph. In the end, the girls won the round, and the boys needed to drink a shot. The boys won the next round.

            Lisa pitched her bags. “Julia, will you teach me how to ride?”

            “I’m honored that you asked. Sure, we can do something after school.” Julia pitched and missed. Her bags slid off the board.

            “Come on, Julia. You gotta do better. I don’t want to wake up tomorrow with a headache.”

            Joseph and Stephen pitched their bags, and it was Julia’s turn again “You guys are going down. I hate losing and losing getting drunk. No way.”

            “How were things on the ranch today, Joseph?” Lisa pitched her first bag.

            “They were fine, but we have a young calf with a bacterial infection over in the other barn. We had the vet out to give it antibiotics. Now, all we can do is watch and see if it takes. How were things at the school?”

            “They were okay; we had one little kid I think may be on the autism spectrum. I am going to suggest to his parents that we have him tested.” Lisa pitched her last bag.

Joseph

            There was a terrible ruckus out in the cow pen. Joseph, Julia, and Stephen looked at each other and knew immediately what it was. Lisa was out of the loop.

            “Have you ever seen a baby calf be born?” Joseph grabbed Lisa’s hand and pulled her through the horse barn out into the cool night air and into the calving shed. There were lots of cows and newborn calves. The four walked along until they came to the cow that was in labor. Joseph put his hand on the cow’s stomach.

            “This calf is breech. … We need to help her. Stephen, grab some rope. You know where we keep it. Julia, your arm is long and slender. We are gonna have you put the rope around the calf’s hoof. Just tie the end in a loop, like this.” He demonstrated. “Now you reach in, Julia.”

            “I know how it’s done. I just don’t know why you think I need to do it. Have you ever seen the size of an erect bull?” Julia grabbed the rope from Stephen and got down on the ground and put her hand up the butt of the cow.

            “Do you got it, Julia? Do you have the calf’s feet?” Joseph was almost screaming at her.

            “Yeah, I’ve got it.” Julia was down on her knees.

            “Okay, Stephen. Let’s show these ladies how it’s done.” The two men sat down in the dirt and pulled the calf out. First, the back legs appeared, then then a little body, and finally a little head. The calf lay on the ground next to Joseph for a second and didn’t move.

            Julia said, “Damn it. I put my arm in a cow, and the calf dies.”

            Joseph grabbed the calf and gave it CPR of sorts. He held its mouth closed and blew into its nose as hard as he could. The calf started to move. Joseph stood up and grabbed the calf around the middle and helped the calf stand up.

            Julia sniffed her arm, “I am never gonna get this smell off.”

            The calf started to nurse, and Joseph clapped his hands together. He picked Lisa up around the waist and twirled her around. “Now you know why being on the ranch is so special. If you didn’t know before.”

            The four didn’t go back to the Cornhole game. They just sat in the barn and watched the baby nurse like it was the first time they had ever seen anything like it. It was the first time for Lisa.

            Lisa

Lisa grabbed the last of her boxes out of storage at the Thomson Family Ranch and moved them to the cottage down the road, then waited for Adam and Joseph to bring over her furniture.

I wonder if Joseph and I will have another one of those moments today. Another embrace. Another chance to hold each other. What was that all about? I want to know. I want to look at it. I want to dissect it and do it again, only better. But what did it mean? Was there a deeper meaning behind it? What kind of feelings did Joseph have for me? … Here they come.

“Hey guys, thanks for helping me out. I’m glad you came too, Chloe.”

“Hi, Miss Lisa. Daddy said I should come, that there might be a job that I could do.”

“Hey, it’s not a problem,” Adam said. Adam was young, with dark, curly hair poking out from under a John Deer hat, which set off his blue eyes. It made him look younger than he was.

“Where do you want this stuff?” Joseph asked.

“I thought I’d put the couch in front of the window right here. And the chair over between the dining room and the living room doorway.”

The couch was a light gray color and had big puffy pillows on it. The chair was yellow, with an abstract pillow that went on it.

“I don’t have a dining room set, so I was thinking I’d set it up as a library—get some Ikea bookshelves or get an Ikea dining room set, I don’t know. What do you guys think? Do you have any opinions, Joseph? Adam, what do you think? While I decide, we can go ahead and set the bed up in the bedroom. When we’re finished, I thought we could go into town for a beer and a sandwich at the tavern.”

“Ok, we can watch the game there,” Adam said.

They worked at a fever’s pace to get everything done in time so they could go to town and watch the Broncos game.

Lisa and Chloe started in the kitchen, unboxing and unwrapping all her dishes so they could be washed and put away. The two guys carried in all the furniture and boxes and put everything in the correct rooms, and then they put the bed frame together.

“I’m finished in the kitchen and the living room. Adam, I need some picture-hanging hardware stuff. Could you go to the hardware store and get that for me?” Lisa asked.

Adam cheerfully agreed to go. “Any excuse to go into town, and I’m all over it.”

“Chloe, would you go with him and make sure he comes right back?”

Chloe was very excited to be going with Uncle Adam and to be having some real grown-up responsibility.

“Well, I appreciate it very much. I forgot to get the hanging kit when I was there yesterday.”

The two left for town, and so Lisa successfully maneuvered the situation so she could talk to Joseph about that embrace last weekend and his current attitude toward her.

“Joseph, what happened last week? What was that all about?” Lisa asked as she lay across the bare mattress in her new bedroom. Joseph was putting together her makeup table. He stopped and looked at her in horror.

“Look. I do not ever want to talk about those few seconds ever.”

“I want to understand why you did it. I think I deserve at least that.”

“Are you really that naïve? Or are you that stupid?”

“I don’t know. I have never felt that way before. I have never had a man touch me like that. Your feelings—explain what’s going on.”

“I can’t get you out of my mind, and I can’t do anything about it. I’m still in love with my dead wife, and I have a daughter that I am very protective of.”

“Not that it matters, because I couldn’t do anything about it either. I can’t date a student’s parent. It would be unethical. But more to your situation—I would never try and replace your dead wife. I think the more you love, the more room you have for love. … Exactly what do you think I would do to Chloe, who I have already gotten quite close to?”

“Well, Lisa. It’s a good thing neither one of us has to worry about it,” Joseph said, hoping that would put an end to the whole conversation.

“Why did you grab me like that and hold me and look into my eyes with such intensity that I thought you could see right into my soul? Why did you get me so wrapped up? It does matter to me that you did it.”

“I was tired, and I just lost my self-control.”

“You need self-control to keep your hands off me? That’s hard to believe. In fact, I don’t believe it at all. We were about to kiss. That’s what we were about to do. …”

 Joseph grabbed Lisa by the shoulders again and looked into her in the eyes with that same intensity. “Lisa, you’re incredibly beautiful in your innocence. That makes you beautiful. You’re strong. That makes you beautiful. And you’re accomplished. That makes you beautiful. You are just incredibly sexy. I could also say it’s your auburn hair or your gorgeous green eyes, but it’s more than that. I think you’re sexy the way you are with Chloe, and then in an instant, you’re making Pop-Pop laugh. You are so special. But neither one of us can do anything about it. That’s that.”

“No, I can’t do anything about it. You can do something about it. You just choose not to.”

“It doesn’t make any difference. You can’t do anything about it if I choose.”

“You’re only my student’s father for another seven months.”

“This is a small town, and word is going to travel fast if we get caught, and we will get caught.”

“Let’s think about it. I have more to lose than you do. … What would we do about Chloe? It doesn’t feel right to keep a secret like this from her.”

“I don’t know if I have the courage for this.”

“We’ll tell everyone we’re just friends. That way we can see if we like each other enough to take it to the next level.”

Joseph

Adam and Chloe arrived with the picture-hanging hardware. With the bedroom all set up, all that needed to be done was that the sheets and blankets needed to be put on the bed and the house would be livable.

“Someone said something about sandwiches at the tavern so we can watch the Broncos game for a while. I’m starving,” Joseph said.

“We’d better get your dad some food, don’t you think Chloe? Should we make him wait while I make the bed, or should we just go?” Lisa said teasingly.

“Let’s go. I’m hungry. I want wings.”

Everyone loaded into the pickup truck and headed for the Niwot Tavern. It was very busy, so they had to wait for a table in the bar. Adam and Joseph each had a beer, and Lisa and Chloe had Cokes.

They had just settled into their seats and gotten their drinks when a little blonde who was very drunk came over to the table, “You’ve got some balls coming back here and bringing your family. You don’t think I’m gonna tell them where you were the other night—after you helped that school teacher paint her house. That’s right, little girl, your daddy was fucking me. Or rather, fucking me over. You see, he came to my place to do the deed, and then Mr. High and Mighty decided he was too good for me and left me there with two open cans of beer,” Heather spoke in a slurred montage.

The manager came over and apologized, “Someone get her outa here. … Heather, you can’t come back here to drink anymore.”

Lisa looked shocked but didn’t say anything.

Chloe said, “Is that where you went when we couldn’t find you after you painted Miss Lisa’s house? What is fucked?”

Adam said, “Man who Heather WOW! You must have been drunk. I won’t tell Dad. Chloe, you don’t tell anyone either, okay? This needs to be a secret.”

Joseph just sat there in total disbelief. “Man, I’m really embarrassed I’m sorry you just witnessed that tirade. Hey, Chloe let’s not mention it at the house, okay?”

“I’ll get him something a little stronger to drink,” Lisa suggested, as she left for the bar. When she came back, she was clutching a Shirley Temple and three shots of Jack Daniels.

“Word at the bar is she’s not through with you. You got her thrown out of the bar where she likes to drink. Now you’ve made an enemy,” Lisa said.

“Oh, everyone in this bar saw. By the time we get home, Mom and Dad are gonna know what happened,” Joseph buried his head in his hands. “At least she won’t be able to do another one of these surprises.”

The food came, and everyone ate and enjoyed themselves as much as they could. Chloe chattered away about Halloween, which was coming up, and Joseph and Lisa sat quietly listening to her exuberance. Adam was totally into the game. Finally, the food was gone, the game was over, and it was time to go home.

Joseph drove with Lisa sitting next to him and Chloe and Adam in the back seat. I have to talk to her again. I have to know what she thinks? How does she feel now that she knows about Heather? I have to explain Heather and my mother’s matchmaking. I’m not sure that Lisa will understand, but I have to try.

Lisa said, “I always hate the first night by myself in a new place. All the strange noises that you have to get used to.” She was hoping that Joseph might pick up on her hint and come by and keep her company.

When Lisa got out of the truck, she reminded Joseph that he was on the Harvest Festival committee and they had a meeting tomorrow after school.



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Twelve Signs Writing is Your Vocation

Writing is a sacred calling that pulls at your soul. Writing is a way of life. Isac Asimov said that writing was simply thinking through his fingers. Writing it pulls at me in the morning. It whispers my name long before the first light. It is in these hours that I know my vocation is to be a writer. Not a suffering writer but a joyful writer thankful that I have found a vocation in my life before I was too old to do anything about it. How do you know if you have the vocation check these out and see how many of them fit you?

  1. Daydreamers, writers are often daydreamers on an epic scale. It’s that exercise of the imagination that is important. So do you daydream?
  2. Was writing a childhood passion. Many times writers began their writing careers as children. I began my writing career by dictating my story to my aunt who wrote the story down for me I then illustrated it and we glued it together with flour and water paste. I was 4.
  3. Reading is a forever hobby. I didn’t learn to read I’m a reader. I read as much as my eyes will let me and then I listen to audiobooks. Reading is a way to learn new words and see how someone else puts them together. It gives you a chance to stretch your imagination.
  4. No writing glory no problem. If this is your vocation you aren’t in it for the money, or the fame, or the accolades. You do it because you have to write.
  5. Do you can’t stop writing once you start, or if you can’t stop writing journals because you have too many to choose from. You finish one journal and you get another one right away, so you don’t skip a day?
  6. Do you have a story you can’t help but tell and you have ten stories to tell writing may be your vocation?
  7. Do you believe Virginia Woolf when she said you need five hundred dollars and a room of your own to write so you’ve been making your own writing space since you were seven and now you’re twenty-five and you have a good job that lets you write after work regularly? You’ve planned your life around your writing.
  8. Do you hear a word and can figure out the meaning from the context, but you want to know the exact meaning, and if you find the exact right word to use while writing you consider that a good day. Then you might have writing as your sacred calling?
  9. Do you enjoy a good game of Monopoly, but go gaga over a game of Scrabble?
  10. Do you make time for writing even with a hectic schedule, and when you write do you lose track of time?

These are the signs that make you a kindred spirit with Jane Austin, Shakespeare, and Stephen King. The answer yes to these questions means that you have a vocation as a writer. God bless you it means that you are willing to make sacrifices to write. To write poems, and short stories, screenplays, and novels you are a writer you write blogs and you write magazine articles. You write in journals and notebooks and on the backs of napkins. Congratulations you are among the rare but don’t write for the adulation write for the joy of it.

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What To Do While You Wait for Your Writing Goals to Come True

Originally published on September 7, 2021

Setting goals makes me feel better than a therapist and three bottles of antidepressants ever could. I mean literally and scientifically. Setting goals makes us feel positive about the future it’s important for our happiness.

Goals are a way we can turn our values and dreams into reality. Happiness doesn’t just happen it comes from thinking, planning, and pursuing things that are important to us. Research shows that setting goals can contribute to happiness in various ways

  • Being a source of interest, engagement, or pleasure
  • Giving us a sense of purpose
  • Bringing a sense of accomplishment

Goals help focus our attention.

Goals are most successful when they’re something we want to achieve and when we set for ourselves.

When I set goals, I allow myself to dream big. I visualize myself accomplishing my biggest dreams, and then I put my idea to work. So, as I wait for the Big dream goals to come true here are some things you can do to make the time go by faster and keep yourself engaged in your dream.

  1. Make a plan with a clear sequence of steps. Writing goals do not come true overnight and will remain unfulfilled until you make a plan to fulfill that dream.
  2. Identify helpful resources and systems. One of the easiest ways to begin fulfilling your dream is finding reaching out to support systems and resources like professional organizations that you might consider of which you might consider becoming a member.
  3. Set a timeline to review your goals progress. There is no set-in-stone deadline for checking in with yourself or how you choose to check-in. But I do suggest early and often rather than late and rarely that way you can make adjustments as needed. If you are writing a novel you may want to check your word count daily but your editorial page counts weekly. If your goal is to grow your blog you may want to check that quarterly.
  4. Establish a system of evaluation. You need a system to evaluate your self will you check in with a friend or mentor? Will you just look at your statistics and see where things are? Whichever you choose just remember celebrating with a friend makes the victory twice as sweet.
  5. Be active in the writing community. Being active in the writing community can mean any number of things. It should include belonging to one of any number of professional writing associations. It can also include attending write-ins and critique groups.
  6. Celebrate progress and accomplishments. Big dreams are made of small accomplishments and we need to celebrate those small victories when they happen. Otherwise, it could be a long slog to your dream.
  7. Reevaluate and set new writing goals. You can have more than one writing goal. While you wait to make the New York Times Best Seller List have another goal being published in the New Yorker.
  8. Be gentle with yourself as you go.

I NEED HELP

hey guys,,

Yes, The Cowboy’s Secondhand Heart will go live on September 6th but will be available to ARC readers and my Street Team on August 12th. I am so excited.

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