9 Ways to Reflect on the Past Year

Thanks to a little magazine I love, Daphne’s Diary, I didn’t have to plan out what I wanted to write for my reflection on 2017. I simply had to look at the page and follow the 9 Ways to Reflect on the Past Year guidance.

Here it goes:
1. I would describe the past year in one sentence as a stressful roller-coaster ride that has left me at the top of a hill and within the first week of 2018, I will know if I am going to continue the ride or finally get off of it and try a new one.
Metaphorically speaking of course. This all pertains to my day job. I have applied for a full-time position and if I get it, I will just have one place of traditional business to go to. As it stands, if I do not get the job, I will still be teaching at 4, yes 4 different colleges to piece together a full-time living without any full-time benefits.
One job means I can spend my non-work hours on myself, on my side hustle, aka writing! When teaching at 4 schools in a part time capacity, one class here, two there, four at another, it becomes a constant juggling act. It has improved my time management in ways I wasn’t even aware was lacking until I willingly boarded this ride. That is part of adjunct life, you can’t say no because you never know what the next semester will bring. Sometimes that means a full course load, sometimes it means a summer off, so all the stress of 4 colleges has to be spaced out in case one semester is empty. I already know that for one of my seated campuses I don’t have anything for the summer. Again, the full-time job eliminates this constant uncertainty. It provides stability in a way I have not known in years.

2. There were multiple events that were not so nice in 2017 to include multiple interviews for jobs that in not so many words I was told I was overqualified for and they didn’t think I would stay if another opportunity came along. This is the worst excuse an employer can give me. If I didn’t think I could spend some time in the job, I wouldn’t have applied for it. I see a relatively known schedule, job security, and a vision plan better than the one I currently have as amazing reasons to take a job that I can (bonus) earn a retirement from. My current retirement plan will have me well into my 90s at this rate. Between paying my student loans and saving for my future (ha!) the student loans tend to take the lions share of that. I’d work full-time at a lot of places right now and not feel like the job is below me. Certainly, a steady income is not a “step down” to my bank account!

3. The characteristic that has helped me the most over the past year and all the ones before it is resiliency. I am going to overcome obstacles. I always have. Sometimes that may mean turning around and finding a new path, others I can go around, climb over, dig under, or in some personal cases, cut loose the boulders truing to drown me, but each decision has to be made carefully and I have taken a lot of hits before I come out swinging, but when I do…It’s a fight to the end.

4. The events that gave me a good feeling over the past year were comments from my students, comments from my readers, comments from my friends and family, and none of those are in any particular order as they came from different sources at different times. I just like to know that I am making a difference sometimes. It helps when people confirm that for me.

5. The compliments I remember the most are the most recent book reviews on Amazon. My writing means a great deal to me and I am branching out into more territory. To get a good review on a book is a grand feeling, and I cherish that.

6. The two biggest challenges of the past year were time management (which I learned how to do in a whole new way thank you stressful life and crazy schedule) and personal health (which I failed at more than I want to admit thanks to not learning how to manage my time a bit better, and faster.)

7. In the last year, the thing I am most proud of is my research. I haven’t shared any of it, but I will be doing so on my Creative Writing Guide Facebook Page. I have been researching for a long time and this year I am finally going to share what I found and hopefully, it will add to what I am proud of in my life: giving something back.

8. The biggest lesson I learned in 2017 is that I cannot put me aside for others. I must make time to do the things I love to do or I will not be able to do anything else well.

9. My best memory of the year is creating the page to inspire others to write and to hopefully give them some free tools. Many writers, of all ages and for all purposes, need free resources. I hope that my page will give them some and inspire them to invest time and money in others as they can.

Thank you to Daphne’s Diary for the writing prompt!

Cara

Derby Pie and Holiday Lessons

Kentucky Derby Dessert

All Recipe’s will give you more than one option for making this dish. I haven’t made a Derby Pie since I was 17. This was the last year I spent Christmas or any other holiday at home in Kentucky. The following year, I spent Christmas in Okinawa, Japan at Camp Hansen, my first official duty station in the Marine Corps. So why does this pie have any significance to me? Because my Adopted Mom had all of us in the kitchen working on these for gifts that year. Our names were on the outside of the glass pie plates and the greeting was in the center. For me, this was a big deal.

I was the only child in that house not biologically related to either of the parents, but my name was on that pie plate as if I were the product of both of them. I felt like I was the product of both of them, and I realize now that I had a special relationship with this set of parents because I was their child together. The one they had no other parent partner to consult with other then each other. They each had 3 children from a previous marriage. I know right, then me, that made 7. They thought I was heading off to college when I graduated, but I took a different road and left for the military. I haven’t lived in Kentucky since and I left in 94. I do go in to visit from time to time, and I visit other family in other places that I have discovered over the years. My family keeps growing and I keep accepting that, fitting another name on a plate, because they belong there, no matter how they came to be a part of my life. Blood, marriage, choice, I am grateful for the hard lessons, the helpful hands, and the healing I have done because a lot of my youth was more focused on surviving not thriving. Now, I try to balance both. I don’t want to ever forget what it was like to not have, to not be, to not…

Writing was a way for me to cope, a way for me to process the world around me, and a way to escape when I needed to. It was a safe place in a dangerous world. This is about the most personal I’ve written for a public post, but it is the holidays. I think if one family out there is trying to deal with being a bunch of different sizes, shapes, colors, religions, and more, and not sure how that will all come together, I would tell them to make a pie, some kind of cake, something even those with dietary restrictions can enjoy when needed, just come together with something to share and something that says, it’s okay to be unsure where you fit in, just put your name on the plate. And for those struggling to accept people you were unaware of, you might find that some of the family you acquire will be closer to you than those you share common ancestors if you give them a chance. I’m fortunate that I have been given a chance by my siblings. All of them. I know this is a unique blessing, and I am grateful for that, for them.

As an author, I am also grateful for readers! I write in a variety of genres because I like to read a variety of genres and I go where the characters take me. Actually, I am constantly inspired by my Muse, Jake Gyllenhaal. Sometimes I can read or listen to one interview that man does and come out of it with 1-10 ideas for things to write about. If I could send anyone a thank you card, it should be him, but I haven’t.

If you’re interested to see what the man has inspired (and I do mean inspired, I don’t write about HIM, I just turn to him for ideas and for the past 9 years he has not let me down) you can check out my latest releases and my Amazon Author Page

If you are in the mood for some Holiday reads try: This Christmas or Festival of Nights (Hanukkah)And if you have never read my work before, well, I have a holiday bundle of the first book in multiple series at a special price and available only for a limited time called The First Time

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

Muah!

Cara North

 

New Releases by Cara North

For the Months of November and December I have 3 books coming out.

First, in November is the Carly Phillips, Dare to Love Kindle World story, When We Dare. When We Dare Link 

You can join the release party on Facebook by clicking this link: D2L Release Party

Then in December I have 2 releases.

The pre-order link is live for Pure Irish, part of the Suit Romance Collection. You can pre-order your copy here Pre-Order Link for Pure Irish

You can also join in the fun by participating in the Facebook group here: Suit Romance Project Party

Finally, later in December my Desiree Holt Omega Team kindle World story, Holiday’s Hostage will be available. More to come on that one!

Look at me, actually using this blog for what it is intended!

A Short Biography About my Best Friend, Miss Brittany

In The Writer’s Devotional by Amy Peters, there are several writing exercises. This is one of them. I’m sharing mine; you can feel free to share yours.

Miss Brittany is my Cocker Spaniel. When I first brought her home, I was working as a volunteer coordinator for an upstart museum in North Carolina. I was able to bring her to work with me every day and visitors loved holding and snuggling her.  Later, when I had to get a real job, I couldn’t bring her with me anymore and that transition was difficult for me. She didn’t seem as affected. She had two cats at home to play with and they would all be sleeping on the couch when I got in from work.

Miss Brittany is an amazing little creature. She is independent in a lot of ways. I think that is because she was raised by cats. She knows what she wants to do and she will make every attempt to do it. Even now, when her arthritis and other health factors try to keep her down, she insists on getting in the window to watch the squirrels in the trees. I’ve made a series of progressive steps so she can accomplish the task of getting from the floor to the ottoman at the window.

When she was a puppy, she slept right next to me in my bed. Curled up at my side, I used to sleep peacefully. The last two years, she has taken to sleeping on the ottoman at the foot of my bed. Sometimes she will start at the foot of the bed, but she seems to like her space these days. I don’t sleep nearly as well as I used to.

I know that she is fourteen and eventually she will travel over that rainbow bridge. I can’t even think of that day without getting emotional. She is my best friend. She knows me like no one else in this world does. I strive to be the person she thinks I am.

As you can see, she was one of my first editors. As a puppy she liked to steal the TP and run through the house with it. IMG_4511

She still sleeps on the back of the couch like a cat. She has lost most of her hearing and some of her sight, but she gets around well and still chases me, toys, and her 2 year old dog-brother, Thor.

Weekly Planner Pages for Writers

Cnwritingweekly  

I created this document because I am going nuts trying to find a life planner that is working for me. This is my first attempt at this, so it may be useful to you and you may have some ideas. I am not super tech savvy, but I am going to make more of these. maybe some with writing prompts. I don’t know. I just know I like this one better than my regular planner, so it is a start.

Exercise for the Author

The problem with the phrase exercise for authors is simple. It is confusing. Do I mean physical exercise such as stretches, do I mean mental exercises such as meditation, or do I mean writing exercise such as prompts? To simplify it, I mean all of the above.

Physical exercise is a growing concern for me as time just doesn’t seem to have mercy for me as I age. I could once sit down and type for hours on end. I could lose complete track of how long I had been at the keyboard. Now, I feel it when I sit down and start typing a few lines. I have invested in the naturally speaking software that allows me to get through some writing without the physical strain, but I am still best with my hands.

Some tips for physical exercise besides the things doctors always tell us to do: walk, stretch, etc., may include the use of a prop or two. A tennis ball is a great item to have on hand to roll under a foot, or to roll an arm along on the desktop. I also like the inflatable ball that I can stretch my back on. Plus it reminds me that I could still do a back-bend like when I was a child, but without the ball, I don’t.  I did see they make a chair frame for that particular item, but I haven’t used it so I can’t say if it is better than the desk chair I am currently in. I do know the desk chair I am currently in is not one I plan to be in next year. It sucks. Finally, I try to get up every 50-90 minutes and take a 10-20 minute break. On good days that is when I do the stretches, walks, yadayadayada. On most days I use that time to let the dogs out, snack, and daydream of all the things I will never actually make on Pinterest.

Mental exercise such as meditation is something I struggle with, but I do believe it is good for me and when I can get into the pattern of both yoga and meditation, my life runs much more smoothly than when I am not making that practice a priority. I am a much nicer person when I am focused on being positive and peaceful. Since my day job consists of teaching multiple college freshman English courses, I can get evil easier than I would like to admit. Seriously, one class actually estimated my seat at the desk and where my head would be and then drew horns and a tail for me on the board behind it. I’m sure I still have that picture somewhere. I’m the monster until they get a good grade three semesters later and realize they needed all that work. Mental exercise I obviously need is an outlet for the many roles I play in my life and others.

Writing exercises, such as the one I am doing now, are important. At least in my humble opinion, we have to find ways to work on our craft as authors that are not about the next plot. If I only write and focus on romance novels, then specific sub-genres within that, I will never know what else is out there that I may be good at. I try to write in a variety of genres because I have to write for myself, and that means seeking a challenge and improvement. It means finding new ways to express myself. This blog is a major challenge for me which is why it is so neglected. It isn’t fiction. It is non-fiction and that means exposing myself in a more private way than if I posted nudie pics (which I will not be posting). It means being brave and baring my actual thoughts to the reader stumbling upon this post. Which leads me to question: what is this blog all about anyway?

I’ve come up with an answer. It is about me, of course, you, possibly, and us, maybe. I’m looking to add structure to this blog, a purpose (other than just my digital footprint and inexpensive web-site option). Stay tuned to see what theme I come up with. Feel free to weigh in on what you feel is missing in the realm of author blogs and maybe that will help me give it a little more life.

~Cara

September 9th and Other Thoughts

Today is my birthday. It is the beginning of a new year, a new chapter, in the book of my life. Maybe, I’m being a little melodramatic. Maybe not. There are so many things I thought I would have accomplished at this stage in my life. This isn’t to say that I haven’t accomplished a lot of things. Overall, I’m pretty happy with where I am. I just thought my goals and achievements would have lined up a little differently than they have. I suppose this happens to all of us.

With this in mind, my 1st day of my new year is filled with ideas and opportunities. I have to consider that maybe, just maybe, the universe would rather I dedicate my full-time focus on something other than being a college professor. I can continue to work part-time; however, the stress of finding a full-time spot has been exhausting, frustrating, and a detriment to my writing. This year, my new year, I am going to let it go. If something works out, it does, but my focus will no longer be on chasing something when I have an opportunity to take hold of and embrace the current path in front of me.

As an author, I’m looking at new ways to challenge myself and to expand my readership. This is why I have decided to write a couple short stories for various series in the Kindle Worlds. In addition to these short stories, I will be releasing some original work in a variety of genres.

Thank you for taking this journey with me. I’ll keep you posted on the new releases.

Updates

Moving back to NC has proven to be an interesting journey. I finished my PhD and thought I would step back into writing and the author and reader community and find myself right at home. In the two years I had to set writing aside for school and work, I missed out on so much.

This past year of publishing one, maybe two stories, while seeking full-time employment and teaching at three colleges as an adjunct was overwhelming. I am now teaching at one college (online-1 class) and at my local college as an adjunct. I pray every night a full-time job opens up for me there, but I am not setting aside my writing anymore.

It’s not healthy. I am a better person when I write. I’m more creative in my classrooms when I am writing.

Writing was once a big chunk of my income and I had consistent sales. I’m grateful to those readers because moving every 2-3 years with the military meant constantly switching jobs. I don’t regret the time it took or the sacrifice I had to make to finish my doctorate. I think it is making me a better author because I have a greater appreciation for what I once had. Thank you to the readers reaching out and welcoming me back.

I don’t know if anyone reads blogs anymore, but this is pretty much my website for now, so here is what you can expect from me by the end of 2017:

  1. I’m writing for a few Kindle Worlds
  2. I finished Suicidal, it is a YA Paranormal
  3. I am in the process of finishing Veronica Grimm: Don’t Fear the Reaper, a Paranormal Romance
  4. The Marine Officers, I have the rights to those again,  will be released in an anthology with a new story added to it (look for it in November 2017)
  5. I am debating if I am going to republish my Hollywood Nights as stand alone or compile them into an anthology. I would have to compile more than one anthology as the first 3 books are novel length and the others are 20-45K. I hope to have the answer to that by the end of summer and either release them again as they were or in the new format.
  6. In addition, I have a few other books in the works and a couple teen short stories because my nieces and nephews seem to be angry that they can’t read my books and think I should write something they are allowed to read. No pressure there, right?
  7. If things go well, I hope to get to an event or two before the year ends
  8. Finally, I plan to continue to appreciate where I am, what I have, and embrace this opportunity to rebuild my name in this community.

Hugs!

Cara North

amazon.com/author/caranorth

Cara North Spring 2017

I almost forgot I had this blog. I considered deleting it entirely, but decided not to. I am in the process of completely re-booting the Cara North brand. I think this might be an addition to that strategy. I don’t know how many people bother to read blogs anymore, but I suppose I will soon find out. At any rate, it is always a great way to just talk about writing and possibly reach other authors. I don’t mind social media. Facebook is how I remain connected to distant family and people I grew up with. I think it is important to keep those lines of communication open. This blog may be the web presence I am not super interested in paying for as I don’t particularly visit websites unless I am looking for something particular.

Editing. Never ending PITA

I don’t want to use paper needlessly. I really don’t. However, what I realize is that edits do not get completed the same way on screen as they do in print. I mean it. I have had a book edited by 3 different people and I still find mistakes when it is published! How does this happen? Not little ones either, big-glaring-conspiracy theory type editing errors. Is my system haunted? Is the comma monster real?
It just sucks.
I suppose I need to rpint everything and hand edit it. That will take up a lot of paper, but I swear I have fewer moments when I want to scream whn I go through the last draft that way.