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Plan with Me | November 2020 Planner Design in MS Publisher

Saturday, October 31, 2020

As I struggle to find the creative juices to return to writing regularly, I have allowed my creativity to flow in other ways—and in ways that also indulge my left-brain/analytical side, such as designing and keeping a planner. And since I’m doing it, I might as well share it. So…

Come along on my graphic design journey as I set up my November 2020 planner pages (in high-speed, of course!).

The page layouts are my own design, created mainly in MS Publisher (the software used in this video), with a little help from Word and Excel. If you’re interested in purchasing these (as printable PDFs – without the artwork, just the grid designs), let me know.

The artwork is “Fall Digital Scrapbook KPaper Washi Tape Clip Art Pinwheel Banner Pendant Flag Watercolor Crisp Fall” by PrettifulDesigns on Etsy

The font used in the header is “Autumn in November” by Misti’s Fonts.

Video Music:
“Our Big Adventure,” “Storybook,” “Upbeat Party,” and “Ukulele Whistle” by Scott Holmes

Design with Me | October 2020 Planner Design in MS Publisher

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Come along on the journey with me as I design my October 2020 planner pages. I use MS Publisher for this process, with a 2-page spread layout to enable printing front-and-back to put into my three-ring binder.

Let me know if there are any parts of this design process you’d like to see done slower/with explanation!

Etsy Graphics Packages purchased/used:

FALL FEELINGS Printable Planner Stickers/Fall Weekly Planner Sticker Kit/Functional Stickers/Digital Sticker/Silhouette/Cricut Cutfiles by PaperCrownPlanner on Etsy:…

FALL MASQUERADE Printable Planner Stickers for Erin Condren Planner/Travelers Notebook/Autumn Weekly Planner Stickers Kit/Pumpkin Stickers by KatkaCreaPlanner on Etsy:…

Sometimes You Eat the Carrot First

Saturday, September 12, 2020

As you all may remember, my last book came out in 2013 (An Honest Heart) and I haven’t really been able or motivated to write since then. Every year, I say I’m going to get my writing “mojo” back. And each year, I jotted down a few ideas for stories or characters. But everything just fizzled away.

This year, I dangled a carrot in front of myself: If I could get back into a habit of writing regularly and actually write a story, I would reward myself with a reMarkable e-ink writing tablet, which I’ve been obsessed with since I first saw it advertised on Instagram a couple of years ago. But even that wasn’t enough to get me motivated.

In a late-night (or, really, early morning) whim a couple of weeks ago, I made a very financially unwise impulse purchase (because I hadn’t budgeted for it, not because it broke the bank or anything like that). I ordered the first-generation ReMarkable tablet. Why the first-generation? Because it was on sale since they’re currently rolling out the second-generation device for a couple hundred dollars more.

      (Please note, this is not a sponsored post, there are no affiliate links, and I’m not making any money off of this! It’s just me gushing about something I purchased for myself and absolutely love.)

On September 2, a remarkable box was delivered to my house.

Even the packaging is wonderful!

What had I done to “deserve” this little treasure? Nothing. I hadn’t been writing. Sure, I’d done a little creative work on a new fictional setting over the past couple of years, but I had no real story ideas.

But then I had this thing, this new toy, that I wanted to play with.

Actually, back up a couple of days… Three days before I ordered, I woke up dreaming/thinking about a specific character and her story that would fit perfectly into my new fictional town. As I was lying in bed, I grabbed my phone and dictated the idea off the top of my head into the notes app.

The Android InkPad app is great because it emails the notes to me automatically.

So, I guess this was actually the catalyst for my impulse purchase. But other than saving the text of this note into my OneNote notebook for Gossettville (my new setting) on the computer, I didn’t do anything with it.

Then the tablet arrived.


I have been using this thing every day since I pulled it out of the box! And because I needed an “excuse” to use it, I transferred my story idea notes to it to play around with.

Ten days later, I have SIXTY handwritten pages of background work for this story idea, including seven pages of a potential opening scene!

I love that the file structure works a lot like a OneNote notebook!

With my handwriting, each page holds about 150–180 words. And some of those pages are diagrams, charts, or messy notes. But my longest file is 44 pages of almost solid line-by-line writing, which works out to over 7,000 words of character development and backstory!

      And … I can’t believe I almost forgot…

      It converts my handwriting to text that I can email to myself. Sure, it needs some editing/formatting once on the computer, but that’s so much faster than having to type in everything that’s handwritten.

Unlike the other ideas I’ve jotted down over the past several years that fizzled, every day I’ve been eager to pick up the tablet and keep working on this one. Every day for almost two weeks! I’ve even been thinking about it and having ideas for the story or characters randomly throughout my days, and staying up way past my bedtime writing those ideas down—something that hasn’t happened to me in close to a decade!

This coming week, one of my RWA chapters is holding a week-long writing marathon. Tomorrow, I’ll be spending the day prepping for it, and you’d better believe that I’ll be doing that prep work on this little beauty. My goal for the week is to write at least as many pages of story as I currently have of ideas/background (so, at least 7,000 words of story). I’ll try to remember to post updates either here or on my author Facebook page.

So, sometimes eating the “carrot” first can be the greatest motivator of all!

First day with the reMarkable—it’s about the size of an iPad, but much thinner and lighter.

You can learn more about the reMarkable tablet here:

Do you have an e-ink writing tablet? Have you or would you consider getting one?


Plan with Me – September 2020

Friday, August 21, 2020

I create planner pages every month, but after a two-month study (at work) of the Enneagram personality typing system, September is about DOING (my repressed area) rather than just THINKING (my strength area). So making sure my planner is pulled together and ready to go is part of that!

Come along on my graphic design journey as I set up my September 2020 planner pages.

The page layouts are my own design, created mainly in MS Publisher (the software used in this video), with a little help from Word and Excel. If you’re interested in possibly purchasing these (as printable PDFs – without the artwork, just the grid designs), let me know. I’m thinking about opening an Etsy store!

The super cute planning artwork is Colorful Llamas Printable Planner Stickers” by KatkaCreaPlanner on Etsy:

The font used in the header is “Janda Apple Cobbler Solid” by Kimberly Geswein:

Video Music:
Clip 1 & 5: “Roll Jordan Roll – mix – Full Band, No Vocal” by The Joy Drops:

Clip 2: “Pine Apple Rag” by Scott Joplin:

Clip 3: “Not Drunk – mix – Full Band, No Vocal” by The Joy Drops:

Clip 4: “Music Box Rag” by Heftone Banjo Orchestra:

Possible Paranormal Prologue | #amwriting #writingchallenge

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

In the aftermath of all that is and all that was. When the devil comes to collect his debts. When those good and true in society determine the time has come. That’s when we will be free. That’s when the veil will be lifted, the lamp lighted, the scales removed from their eyes.

Until then, we live in the shadows. Becoming as one with them, hiding our differences, harnessing our powers. Denying the nature of our ancestry lest these good people around us decide we come from too dangerous a lineage to deserve to breathe their air, live in their towns, eat at their tables.

We hide ourselves so well that many of our number do not know they are one of a multitude. That there are others—scattered by necessity unwillingly—who share their secret. Their shame. Their power.

Now is not the time. Not yet. Not in the midst of so much turmoil. But until the right time comes, we work. We gather. We teach. We practice.

We live.

Just a little something I wrote tonight as a 60-second, don’t-pause-the-pen challenge.

#WritingTips from my Bookshelf: Write What You Know

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Excerpt from Naming the World: And Other Exercises for the Creative Writer by Bret Anthony Johnston (Editor)


Though “write what you know” is perfectly sound advice, I always encourage my students to live other lives in their fiction. I think one of the main reasons new writers don’t finish short stories or novels is because most adhere too closely to “what really happened” and burn out during the increasingly arduous task of rehashing the scenes and emotions. Also, no matter how talented the writer, fiction can never life up to the richness and texture of actual experience. To expect it to is to set yourself up for major disappointment, which may lead you to unfairly question your skills as a writer.

. . . Jot down all the things you remember about the [first-time or last-time] experience, focusing on the sensory: sights, sounds, smells. Now write the scene but change something fundamental about the experience. For example:

  • The gender of the main character.
  • The time period in which the experience occurred; for example, make it happen in the 1920s or the 2020s.
  • The outcome of the experience. If, in reality, you got away with it, show what happens if the main character gets caught.
  • The basic situation. Instead of stealing a Milky Way from CVS, maybe you stole a condom. Or maybe a tie from Saks.
  • Switch “first” with “last” in the statement and then change something else. For example, “The last time this person shoplifted a tie from Saks . . .”
  • Combine one of your firsts with one of your lasts: Maybe the last time the main character saw her father was at a Grateful Dead concert. Or the first boy who broke your heart did so the night the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series. To me, this option has the most exciting possibilities.

This exercise works because the author is confidently grounded by the actual experience but still forced to stretch his or her imagination. The more drafts you write, the further from “real life” you will get, and yet the entire piece will likely still retain a sense of authenticity.

Work Cited:

Johnston, Bret Anthony. Naming the World: And Other Exercises for the Creative Writer. New York: Random House, 2007. 13–14. Print.

Guess what? I WROTE this weekend! #amwriting (again)

Sunday, April 19, 2020

You guys! It actually happened. I wrote fiction this weekend! I challenged a small fellowship of writers that I’m in to a weekend writing challenge—not competing with each other, but just setting our own word-count goals—and I set a modest, attainable goal for Friday evening through Sunday evening of 1,500 words.

And I ended up writing 1,853.

Now, I still had to “force” myself to write. In other words, the driving passion/desire to write still isn’t there. But both sessions, as soon as I made myself sit down (first with pen in hand, then transitioning to the computer, since I can type a lot faster than I can write by hand), I was actually able to fountain forth two scenes. They’re out of chronological order, and probably neither one is anywhere near the opening of the story. But that’s actually huge step in the right direction of reclaiming writing as something I do for me, for fun, rather than something I have to do “the right way” because it was work.

And here’s my other creative endeavor update:

I just finished off my last loaf of store-bought country bread (I like it toasted for breakfast), so I’ll be doing something this week that I haven’t done in a couple of decades—making bread. I have a bread “bible,” full of recipes I’ve either tried or want to try. I just have to make sure that whatever recipe I choose works in my tiny galley kitchen!

What’s up in your quarantined part of the world?

Hi . . . Um, Hello Again, I Guess

Thursday, April 9, 2020

In Hollywood, reboots of older movies are pretty popular. So maybe I should call this a reboot instead of a reintroduction?

TL;dr: I’m posting again. What’s up with you?

Anyway, hi. You may not remember me, because I haven’t been around in quite a while. Lots of stuff happened after the last time I posted, and there was a lot to sort through, both personally and professionally (day job). And because I’ve been struggling with writing/being “a writer” over the past half-decade or more, anything publicly connected to that fell way, way back in the list of priorities.

It used to be that in times of upheaval and massive stress/anxiety, writing was the first thing I’d turn to. Some of my most prolific streaks of word-count production happened when I had so much going on in my life that it now seems impossible that I was actually able to do all of it and write thousands of words every day. But, frankly, I probably wouldn’t have made it through otherwise.

My plan for writing this year started out with the idea of working on my own form of fan fiction. I’ve never been a traditional-fanfic reader/writer (is there anything such as “traditional” fanfic? LOL), but many (most) of my stories were inspired either by storylines or characters I emotionally attached to in books/TV/movies and started forming my own stories around. Plus, I figured if I consider what I’m doing “fanfic,” I’ll be able to approach it as something fun and entertaining to do rather than the “work” my writing turned into back when I was writing for publication.

And so far it’s worked!

While I haven’t really been publicly talking/posting about the characters/story ideas that I’ve been working on over the past couple of months, I’ve been delving into it deeply enough that I’ve actually already purchased a few research books about the setting/era I’m thinking about for it (Gold Rush California!).

I don’t want to share too much about it, because I want to keep this as a personal project as much as possible in order to keep the correct mindset about it, I will say that I’m taking character/worldbuilding/story inspiration from TV shows and movies such as Criminal Minds, the Marvel movies, Supernatural, Grimm, Charmed (the original version), FBI: Most Wanted, and Legends of Tomorrow.

Character-development notes with photos of actor templates

Here’s a teaser of what I’ve been working on.

So far, I’ve just been doing character development and worldbuilding, with tiny bits of historical research thrown in here and there, but I do plan to start actually writing soon. I started writing out backstory for a couple of characters the other day, and it turned into the start of a story synopsis. So I stopped writing that. Now that I have an idea for where to begin a story for some of my cast of characters, I don’t want to get too “in the weeds” with the details (as my boss likes to say in our daily team video meetings) lest I lose sight of the purpose of this creativity exercise.

I’ll be checking in at least once a week with progress posts, writing revelations, tantalizing teaser tidbits, and totally non-writing-related crochet progress updates, since that’s my other creative outlet right now and much easier to share progress of:

What have you been up to recently?

It’s #NaNo Prep Time! What Will You Be Writing? | #nanowrimo #nano2019

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Is it time yet? Is it time yet? Now?

Yes—it’s time to start thinking about and prepping for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, or NaNo), which starts November 1.

I went to an informational meeting for my local group (we’re too small to have an online group, we’re stuck in a greater regional group for now) last night and set my goal—to write a 50k novella that’s both a sequel to the Ransome Trilogy and a kickoff of my new Ransome’s Legacy series. Right now, it’s tentatively entitled The Pirate’s Ransome.

Are you participating in NaNo this year? Do you have your story idea yet?

August 2019 #Challenge: Morning Pages & Evening Story Time | #amwriting

Monday, August 5, 2019

I’ve been saying for a couple of years that “someday,” I’ll get Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way and work through it to see if I can regain my love and passion for writing. As Karamo Brown taught us in an episode of Queer Eye: Today. Not someday.

Because of the way I have my planner set up, my “months” go by weeks (Monday — Sunday), which means that for me, August started today (Monday, August 5) since days 1-4 of the month were included in my July weekly planner spreads. So my August challenge will run from Monday August 5 through Sunday September 1.

I have two main goals for these four weeks:

  1. Work through The Artist’s Way.
  2. Spend at least 30 scheduled minutes each evening working on a story (writing, developing story or character ideas, etc.).

The main thing I’ll be doing daily from The Artist’s Way is the practice of Morning Pages. And, although I did mean to start morning pages today . . . well, you know what the say paving roads with intentions leads. But I do have the book sitting here, staring me in the face, reminding me all day that I have a date with it tonight.

What Are Morning Pages?

Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*––they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.
(Cameron, Julia. “Morning Pages.”)
[See also, “Why By Hand?”]

Evening Story Time
While the exercise of coming up with a fiction-related idea for each day of last month was a great exercise, it still didn’t motivate me to actually start writing. So this challenge will be broken down into a few goals that will, hopefully, lead me to actually start getting into writing a story. The first goal is to narrow down my multitude of ideas into two or three that really interest me (one day) and then spend the rest of the week fleshing out the ideas: writing a longer story summary, creating/casting characters, doing some research if warranted, and other foundational tasks. Then, by the end of this first week, I will decide which story idea I want to work on for the rest of the month, and I will focus on it during my scheduled creative time each evening (currently scheduled for 9 PM Central each evening, but that may be adjusted on evenings when I have events/plans). This may mean actually writing scenes/chapters, it may mean writing character backstories, it may mean world building. It doesn’t matter what the task is, as long as I spend at least thirty uninterrupted minutes focused on it.

A Return to Regular Blogging
While I didn’t mention this above as a goal for August, since it’s not fiction-writing related, it is writing-related in general. Another goal I’ve set for this month is to blog at least twice each week. So be sure to keep me accountable on that one!

What’s Your Challenge for August?

Works Cited:

Cameron, Julia. “Morning Pages” Julia Cameron Live, 2019,

Cameron, Julia. “Morning Pages: Why by Hand?” Julia Cameron Live, 4 Oct. 2012,

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