I Am Chidi

This past weekend I did a bullet journal-goalsetting style… thingy. I wrote down all the things I wanted to do: writing, podcasting, learning, knitting, omg-don’t-forget-about self-care.

I looked at all of it and said, out loud, to no one because I was the only one there: “I can’t do all of this!”

Now I have to decide what to do. Or what not do. Or maybe do some of it a lot, or none of it sometimes, all of it moderately, which I fear will lead to completing none of it mostly.

My stomach hurts.

Interview with Author Sofie Darling

Let bliss steal upon you.

Today I’m talking to writer Sofie Darling, the author of Three Lessons in Seduction and Tempted by the Viscount, her latest book, which will be released on June 27th.

We talk about what it’s like to be a newly published author, the weather in Iceland, and how a Krispy Kreme donut can bring on a moment of bliss.



This interview is available on iTunes! Please leave a review. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast.

The music you are listening to was provided by Jamendo and this is Ambient-M by Antony Raijekov.

Thanks for listening!

What's your idea of bliss?

Worldbuilding with Author Vivien Jackson

In this episode, I’m talking to RITA FINALIST Vivien Jackson author of Wanted and Wired which is, you guessed it, a finalist for the RITA Award in Paranormal Romance, the Romance Writers of America’s highest honor for a published novel.

Perfect Gravity, the second book in the Wanted and Wired series is out and the audiobook for Perfect Gravity was released yesterday. Yay!

Viv and I talk about what it takes to make a world feel lived in, the increasing popularity of science fiction romance, and how great it is that Vivien is a RITA FINALIST.


Stuff We Discussed

This interview is available on iTunes! Please leave a review. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast.

The music you are listening to was provided by Jamendo and this is Ambient-M by Antony Raijekov.

Thanks for listening! And let me know: What's your idea of bliss?

P.S. Vivien Jackson is a RITA FINALIST, y'all!!

Interview with Jay of Joyfully Jay

Hello! I'm so excited about my interview with Jay of Joyfully Jay!

I picked Jay's brain about the growing popularity of gay (m/m) romance, why I can't stop reading m/m novels, and my slight obsession with Alexis Hall's For Real.


Links to authors we chatted about

The music you are listening to was provided by Jamendo and this is Ambient-M by Antony Raijekov.

I've gone bigtime! This interview is available on iTunes!

Again, a big THANK YOU to Jay of Joyfully Jay!

What's your idea of bliss?

ETA: link to iTunes!

It's Been a While

What's going on? 

I took this productivity class in April, Write Better Faster with R.L. Syme. I highly recommend this class. I learned, for example, that I am not a "Distance makes the heart grow fonder" kind of person. I'm much more "Out of sight, out of mind" with a large helping of "squirrel brain." (Seriously I've looked up three different websites on three different topics since I wrote "What's going on?")

Today, I started getting up even earlier (5:05am) so that I can write and walk before work. (Remember when I wrote On Being a Pro? Yeah, I don't either.) And today I started using Streaks, which will track how many days in a row I write and walk.

And I moved! I live on a park now. From front door to walking in the park is about 90 seconds. Only a 15 minute commute from work. I am down from the mountains and better for it. 

The view on moving day.

The view on moving day.

More Iceland photos on Instagram

More Iceland photos on Instagram

Oh yeah. I went to Iceland! 

The stark, cold beauty blew me away, but I left feeling the rapid growth in tourism is unsustainable.

I would definitely go back.

I am the problem. 

Happy New Year! - The Julia Calendar

Happy Birthday to me.

I feel like that should be more exciting. 

Happy Birthday to Me! 

Yeah. That's more like it. Today is my new year. The day I start or restart resolutions. The first day - even the first month - of the Gregorian calendar year is too close the NOHS, so I start my new year now. On my birthday. 

Last year almost killed me: new (horrifying) administration, new (awful) commute, new (unfinished, constant construction noise) place of work, new (*&%#) hormones? 2017 just blew in so many ways.

What's happening in this new year? This, my birth day, was relaxing and without much celebrating. However, I'm going to Iceland in five days! And I'm moving in twenty days to a neighborhood I've wanted to live in for over a decade! 

So. There's that.

But I don't want to jinx 2018 by even implying that it will be better than 2018. I am not an optimist as I've said before. I firmly believe the glass is half empty, and there's a golf ball hurtling towards it. But this year... Hope is an action verb. 

Happy New Year.


On Never Saying Never (#NaNoWinner2017 Edition)

I wrote 50,000 words of a novel this month.


Things I can no longer say:

  • I would be amazed to get even 25 or 30,000 words for NaNoWriMo
  • I could never write more than about 2,500 words in a day
  • I could never write 5,000 in one day
  • I didn't write a single word for three days. I could never catch up
  • I didn't reach 1667 for 9 of the first 10 days of November. It would be impossible for me to catch up
  • I could never write 50,000 in a month
  • I'm a slow writer

On Obsessions

Thirst Aid Kit with Bim Adewunmi and Nichole Perkins is my new favorite podcast. I literally giggle like a school girl when I see a new episode is available. The latest episode is the Great British Bae Off. I'd never heard of a 'road man'. It might be worth a trip to the UK. Again.

They end each episode with their own fanfic, which has been, without exception, amazing. I really hope these women decide to write romance. I would buy it in a heartbeat. And dear god don't miss their Tumblr.

Knitpicks. They keep sending me e-mails. I keep obsessing on what I could make with what they have in their e-mails. It's give and take. Mostly me giving them my money and them taking it.

Which leads me to Ravelry. Because once you have yarn you have to figure out what you're going to do with it. My next project is the GAP-tasic Cowl with Billow from Knitpicks. This is how they get you. 

Rachael Herron - How Do You Write?, Petal to the Metal (with J. Thorn, a podcast of "short conversations dedicated to leaving the day job for your dream job"), the Business of Writing in Romance - All of her interviewees and conversations inspiring me for NaNoWriMo, and beyond.

I'm less than 1500 words from 30k. I've never written more than 25k for NaNo. Keep going...

On Being a Pro

For years I’ve gotten up at 5:30am to write before going to work. For years, this has worked for me. But not anymore. We moved into a new building at work almost a year ago and holy hell -the traffic and the commute.

I have flexible hours so I get in later and leave later, at 6:00pm. I don’t get home until 7ish which means by the time I eat dinner it's often 8 or 8:30. This is not working and for almost a year I’ve been fighting it, bitter and angry that I have to do it. Not taking time to workout or really take care of myself physically.

On The Petal to the Metal Episode 46: What’s the difference between being amateur and going pro? Rachael tells a story about when she realized she needed to be a 'pro' (yeah, I'm going on about another Racheal Herron podcast. Do not judge me! and there's even another one too).

Listening to her story I thought, "Yeah, stop fighting it." Get up at 4:45am and write. Get to work at 8:00am. Get home at 6:00ish in time to go for a walk or work out and have dinner at 7 instead of almost 9:00pm. I’ve been waking up at 4:30am anyway. So I might as well get up. 

Also, I’m moving as soon as this freaking lease is up. 

Keep Writing

I'm about 5k behind where I 'should' be for NaNoWriMo, but I'm determined to reach 50k. I wrote for 3+ hours this morning and got a little over 3k words. I'm now less than 500 words from the 25k badge but I can't do it right now. I have to do something else. Although for some reason I'm still online. When will I ever tire of electronic screens?

I've got to write about 2500 words/day starting tomorrow. That seems impossible, but I'm hoping during the week i can do it in sprints, then during the Thanksgiving weekend I can do longer sessions, and maybe get back on track.

By the way. There's a story here. It's an absolute mess and will continue to be during NaNoWriMo, but there's some good stuff here. It's not all shit.

It's after ten at night, but I reached my new daily goal of 2135 words a day. I went a little over, in fact. 

But of course it's me so I keep thinking of awful disasters that are going to get in the way of my writing every day. Actually there were no real disasters that stopped me from writing for three days before, that caused the daily goal to go from 1667/day to over 2000.

I spent one of those days writing my resume, the second one I was... tired? The third, a Saturday was taken up by Ikea (I had a coupon. I had to go) and The Five. And knitting.

But it feels like i'm on my way to 50k.  Shhh... don't tell anyone.

Virtual Pep

I’m here to beat myself up.

I’ve never wanted to finish the NaNoWriMo 2015 novel more than right now when I’m starting another novel in 2017. Why am I starting another novel when I haven’t finished the one I started two years ago?

I’m being very John Green with the half written books. “To finish a novel is to be disappointed.” This is true. But disappointment is not rejection and that’s what I got again last night.

Rejected again, but that’s the… {looking}. I’ve gotten fifteen rejections from twenty four queries. So I’m about a quarter of the way through being rejected the 'standard' 100 times. Great. That’s just fucking great. What kind of masochists come up with this stuff?

Also, Can We Talk is STILL in my head non-stop. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s something else. Just a pretty melody?

Now I feel stupid for starting a new novel. John Green. Damn it! He’s so ubiquitous and so right. Fuck.

With the pep talks I've been reading, I’ve decided I DO want to make it to 50,000 words this year. Why not? Why say that 30,000 is okay? Or 40,000 would be great? Why not go for the goal? I can do this. I’m tired of saying I’m a slow writer. I’m not. I’m an anxious writer. I’m constantly second guessing myself.

I’ve just added four hundred words of anxiety and feelings to this story. And by god – okay wait. It’s me god, Julia. I’m not challenging you. I just want to have fifty thousand words by the end of the month. Is that asking too much?


Can We Talk

For a minute?

I had Tevin Campbell's Babyface produced slow jam from the 90s Can We Talk on my mind all day. I went to Spotify at the end of the day found it and played it on a loop for the next hour. I'm listening to it right now. When I played it as I packed up to head home, it made me giddy. This song is beautiful. Gorgeous. It's perfect pop music.

Listening to it, I figured out the ending of my novel. Not the one I'm writing for NaNoWriMo this year. The one I started for NaNoWriMo in 2015 which I still haven't finished. I also figured out the end of a horror short story that I've been working on for longer than either novel. I don't know how that snuck in.

One more thing: When I got home I had another rejection from an agent. So, I have to remind myself to never give up.

I'm still listening to Tevin.

The Agony and the Ecstasy of NaNoWriMo

I haven't written a word for NaNoWriMo for two days. Wednesday morning I wrote 1200+ words in a 90mwc and I knew what I would write next. I was less than 100 words from that 10k Badge and I wanted it. I could have made it that night. 

However, I needed to apply for a position. I decided I hated my resume and I needed to start from almost scratch. I hate talking about myself. I hate tooting my own horn, putting myself out there. Whatever saying applies to me saying good things about myself, I hate doing.

My therapist suggested I try writing my new resume in third person. My therapist is awesome. It worked. I made statements - true statements - about my experience that I never would have said if I'd been using the pronoun "I". 

I write almost exclusively in 1st POV. There's no story that I've written in 3rd POV that isn't immediately cured of all its ails by my changing it to 1st. Why? What's underneath? How does this affect my writing?

Find My Darlings

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm currently obsessed with Rachael Herron's podcast How Do You Right?

  • "Breaking the seal" in Ep. 060: Rachael Herron with 3 Writing Tips You’ve Never Heard Before. There's a "holding your pee all day" analogy that makes the argument for writing first thing in the morning. It's genius. 
  • I've listened to Ep. 061: Olivia Dunn on What it Means to Do Two More Drafts multiple times now
    • Breaking the seal is again discussed. You can do a lot with a good peeing analogy
    • Also Dunn shared how she started a blog when she was "in her 20s at a boring office job." She wrote only a paragraph a day, which seems really insignificant, but with time she had a significant amount of writing. Even if the writing wasn't significant. (I've used some form of the word "significant" a lot in this bullet point. Its use is not significant.)

I go through periods of blogging but my perfectionism gets in the way and the whole process takes away too much time from my fiction writing. Or knitting. Or watching TV. Or Napping. 

So Thank you Olivia Dunn. This - one paragraph a day - I can do. I am not a wordy person. I never have to cut my fiction writing - kill my darlings. I always have to add words, scenes, characters. I have to... find my darlings.


On Never Giving Up

I've been inspired by so many random things in the past week. 

  • Anyone and everyone who's doing NaNoWriMo
  • The authors I heard speaking at the Texas Book Festival, all of them women
  • Rachael Herron's podcast/youtube, How Do You Write? which I've been listening to obsessively for the past week. I love the range of author's she interviews. 
  • A post It never gets easy. by Ilona Andrews (Gordon). Prompted by a question I asked at the last Austin RWA meeting.
    • "One question stood out, and it’s a question that comes up a lot.  Basically, Rules.  What are they, are there ones you never break, are there ones that you always break."
    • That was my question! And the answer was: It never gets easy.

All of them had one thing in common: Just keep going, keep doing it, keep moving forward, don't give up. Never give up. 


Interview with Janice MacLeod, author of Paris Letters and A Paris Year

I'm so excited to have an interview with Janice MacLeod for Monday Inspiration. Janice is the Author of Paris Letters and the upcoming A Paris Year. We talked about escape plans, staying nimble, and Paris in Autumn. 

I would get up, react, and repeat. - Paris Letters

Julia: I read Paris Letters between accepting an offer on my house and the closing date 20 days later. I knew the second I finished your book that I wouldn’t be buying another house or taking classes with the profits. I knew I’d be taking a year off from work. From everything. How often do you hear stories like this?

Janice's new book,  A Paris Year , will be released in in June.

Janice's new book, A Paris Year, will be released in in June.

Janice: Before Paris Letters came out, many friends talked about wanting to take a year off from work, but they never seemed to make plans on how to afford that year off. It seemed to be a lofty unattainable goal, something to dream about, not to actually do. And I see why. Taking off work for a year takes planning.

After the book came out, many of these same people came forth and told me how they were now saving up to take that year off. It’s as if it took reading the book for them to realize they needed to save up. The book also gives a slew of ways to make this happen faster, especially the list of 100 ways to save or make money listed at the end of the book.

Now complete strangers send me messages about how they have saved up enough to take a year off work, or afford the dream vacation, or just save up enough to buy a buffer of time to figure out what they want the next step to be. It’s a great honor to be the conduit and inspiration for all these bold moves, and to know that these bold moves are based on the wisdom to save up the cash to make it happen.

There were free snacks in the kitchen and as many Post-it Notes as I wanted. I should have been spending my time being grateful. - Paris Letters

Julia: After a year on sabbatical (it wasn’t really a sabbatical. I just quit my job), I am back in the cube. My approach to this job is like no other: I don’t try to make friends, no after work activities with colleagues, no telling them my life story and dreams. I go to work and I leave it there, not thinking about it at night or on the weekend. After 10 months I’ve avoided almost all the drama… And I still hate it. How do you know when “It’s not you (cubelife), it’s me (...me)” and time to get out for real, make good your escape?

Janice: This is an easy answer but not a popular one: You know it’s time to make an escape when you start making real, solid plans, to spring from cubelife. This isn’t just about saving up money. I remember stealing time in my office to study maps of Europe because I knew I wanted to travel there after I quit my job. I also wrote blog posts from the office (http://janicemacleod.com/ ). Those blog posts helped me build an audience. I didn’t realize at the time that this would be handy when selling a book. I wasn’t planning on writing a book. I was only planning on escaping cubelife, traveling and figuring out the next steps. Stealing time (billable time) also gave me hope during those dreary days when I was staying at my job to earn my way out of it. Some people have office affairs to add a little spark to their dreary day jobs. I blogged and dreamed of places I would visit around the world. It got me through the days.

I understand not wanting to fully commit to a life inside the office by not bothering to make friends. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, avoiding after work activities with colleagues probably helps retain energy (and spare change) that you can use doing what you love. I remember when I would save that $25 of after-work drinks by not going out with colleagues. I would imagine where I would spend that cash, hopefully at a rooftop bar in Rome. And when I finally arrived at that rooftop bar, I was so happy to spend that $25 on something that gave me great joy and a great sense of accomplishment.  

“Write to learn what you know.” - from a greeting card quoted in Paris Letters

Julia: I, like you, started journaling after reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I was living in Brooklyn at the time and hated it. Journaling helped me realize that I am not a big city person. So I moved to Austin, TX (which, after 15 years has become kind of a big city). Do you still journal? Does journaling still help you figure out what you want to do next?

Janice: Yes I still journal. It’s not as frequent these days as I had a baby in January. When I haven’t journaled for a few days, I feel a pent up energy. I also have a cluttered mind. Journaling helps me get all the ideas and plans out of my system. It also helps me figure out why I am or am not doing something, so it becomes a therapist as well.

Whenever someone contacts me and asks me advice, I always want to tell them to start writing a daily journal, or to recommence with journaling. The answers are revealed. Sometimes we need to write out pages and pages of boring nonsense to get to the answers, but I believe we get to those answers faster in a journal than without. That said, some people are just not wired for journaling. They are never going to pick up a pen and write in a journal. For these people I suggest walking. Walk without music or an audio book blaring in your ear. Silence and walking can also help you get to the answers.

October in Paris! from  A Paris Year

October in Paris! from A Paris Year

If you you want to hold water in the palm of your hand, you can’t grasp at it. - Paris Letters

Julia: I left anchors in Austin and Florida (my home state): a car, my favorite books, and 6 months away from 10 years of state service and full investment. I think those anchors made me feel safe. No matter what happened, I could (did) go back. You got down to one suitcase! Could you give it all up and take off for another adventure? Or are anchors different after you’ve made good your escape from cube life? Do you have an anchor in happiness now?

Janice: I could still pick up and go with one suitcase. In fact, I find this easier than the idea of staying rooted in one place. Not having so many things to manage is freeing. The lovely Christophe, whom I met in Paris, is a lot like me. Together we thrill at keeping it lean, of not accumulating too much, of having the option to take off to the next destination. We also both aren’t very sentimental about physical objects, though I must admit, seeing my new book in print makes me incredibly sentimental, so I’ll always have room in my suitcase for a copy of the books I’ve written. All this nomadic bliss may change by the time our baby is ready for school, but perhaps by then we will find that place where we want to anchor. Until then, we are staying nimble.

If Paris Letters is about BECOMING an artist in Paris, A Paris Year is about BEING an artist in Paris. - janicemacleod.com

Julia: If you do go on a new adventure you’ll have company. You have a new baby, Amélie. Congratulations to you and Christophe! 

And you have another new baby coming soon: your new book, A Paris Year. A Paris Year is GORGEOUS (yes, I’m using all the formatting!). Thank you for letting me see the proof. I loved everything about it. Your paintings, photographs, and your eye for color took my breath away! I’ve only visited Paris in the summer, but now I must see it in October!

I was struck by how different A Paris Year is from Paris Letters. A Paris Year really showcases your art. It’s art as biography… or, biography as art? How did you come up with the idea? What motivated you to make the switch?

Janice's Paris in Autumn from  A Paris Year

Janice's Paris in Autumn from A Paris Year

Janice: You MUST visit Paris in autumn. (yes, I’m using all the formatting!) A Paris Year is truly a thrill to have created. I received the advance copies a few weeks ago and I still marvel that this book is a real, bound book. The idea, like all my ideas, came from playing in my journal. When I first began journaling, it was all words and lists, but in Paris, and with all my sitting in cafés, the journals evolved. I began adding sketches, paints, photos, thoughts, things I learned about the city, and addresses of places I visited or wanted to visit.

Paris is generous to the curious artist. There is always something to sketch or learn about in this beautiful city. Some of these sketches and thoughts evolved to become Paris Letters… these are the painted letters I mail out to subscribers each month from my Etsy shop (https://www.etsy.com/shop/janicemacleodstudio). This book is a collection of the best of the best journal entries. I came up with the format from a myriad of random sources. One source was one of my journals that was actually a daybook that started in January and ended in December. It had a nice flow. I like the idea of starting the story of a year in Paris in January and observing the changes of season throughout the year.

Julia: The last question: What’s your idea of bliss?

Janice: So many things. Bliss is a warm coffee on a cool morning, a hug when I need it most, of a perfect patio seat at dusk, taking my shoes off after a long walk, coming across a beautiful stationery store full of pretty paper, an urban hike in a medieval European village, a tomato that tastes like it should, clean sheets, an entire rainy afternoon to binge watch Outlander, naps, popcorn, when a watercolor painting turns out better than I expected… and especially when I’m walking along trying to solve a sentence or paragraph for a book I’m writing and the solution reveals itself as if by magic. That, my friend, is bliss.

A huge thank you to Janice MacLeod!! A Paris Year, is available for pre-order (A | BN) and Paris Letters is available now (A | BN)!


I love the colors of these dead flowers

I love the colors of these dead flowers

Many of the Bliss Tours I've read (often with the words happy or happiness in the titles) start out as new year's resolutions. Their journey, literal or figurative, begins on the first day of the year. I don't make new year's resolutions anymore because...

January 1st is an insane time to start new year’s resolutions.

Seriously, we’re all bloated from the manic high that is the National Orgy of the Holiday Season (NOHS). The American NOHS now lasts a quarter of the year from Halloween-prep mid-October to MLK Day in mid-January. 

NOHS creates expectations and disappointments, pressures and stress. This is the absolute worst time for the quiet reflection and contemplation required for taking an honest look at your life and making decisions about what you may, or may not, want.

When is a good time? Now. Spring. With Easter, Passover, Holi, and every other holy day, the land in the Northern Hemisphere is waking up. Flowers blossom, trees that looked dead a week ago sprout fresh green. This is the time of year to begin again.

Renew, rebirth, resurrection, restart, restore, reboot. That’s what survival is, coming back.

Challenging Is Not Interesting

My favorite job ever was working at a bookstore. I was surrounded by books and talked about books all day. Someone would come in and say “I’m looking for that book by that guy” and I would lead them to the book they were looking for.

I would still be working at a bookstore if I could make a living wage at it. It was wonderful, interesting, and engaging. Thrilling even. But even way back then my slightly above minimum wage job barely covered my rent.

In Cube Land, where I can make more money, if I’ve had one manager tell me, “We want you to be challenged here,” I’ve had half a dozen. “You’ve got potential. You’re smart. We want you to be challenged here.” Challenged always feels like it needs to be italicized. It’s so special.

The assumption is if I’m challenged (see what I mean about the italics?), I’ll be more engaged and excited about your work.

Fellow cubemates, I now know that this is not true. For years, decades, I thought: “What is wrong with me? This is challenging work. Why am I so bored?” And not a little bored, but, like, Olympic qualifying levels of bored.

There’s nothing wrong with me. Challenging does not equal interesting. Challenging really means more complicated and harder, or as is often the case, just more work.

The opposite of challenging is not boring. The opposite of challenging is easy. The opposite of interesting is boring.

My favorite bookstore job was interesting and easy. Standing up at the register wasn’t my favorite, but it didn’t kill me with boredom the way sitting in the cube all day does no matter what I'm doing. (How being in the cube can suck the joy out of anything except donuts is another post).

I know what you’re saying, maybe even shouting: the job at the bookstore was easy for you because of your love of books, because you were so engaged, because it was interesting.

Yes. True. And that’s my point. A job you’re interested in can be easy or challenging, it almost doesn’t matter.

A job you’re not interested in, not engaged by? There’s no amount of being challenged or "leveling up" or "working to your strengths" that’s going to make that job interesting.

With challenging, boring jobs, the amount of time and life energy required to get the uninteresting work done exhausts me. Also, spending so much of my life force on something that my boss will look at for 5 minutes, then put aside never to be referenced again...

I will never get those hours of my life back.

Easy, boring jobs may not make as much money, but they do allow me some free mind time while in the cube. I need those hours, that energy, to write things like this.