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Month: October 2017

What I’m Currently Reading

Starting a writing career involves a lot of sitting down and well…writing, but one must also keep the well fully stocked with new images and new ideas.  I do this in a few ways – movies and TV shows (because I’m visual like that), listening to music (because music feeds my soul in a way that other things do not), and reading books.  Here are a few of the books I’ve either just finished or are currently reading in both the Fiction and Non-Fiction categories.  Note about the non-fiction though, these are writing related or personal development type books, not the non-fiction books my husband likes to read, which are usually about a founding father or a war of some sort.  


I just finished two amazing books recently.  Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy and The Order of Omega by Kirsten Martin. Both are YA books but one is a coming of age story and the other is sci-fi/fantasy.  Julie Murphy’s book is becoming a movie soon (with NEW Dolly Parton music!!!) and Kirsten Martin’s book is the 2nd in a Trilogy called The Alpha Drive.  I actually just started the 3rd book (Restitution) the other night.  Dumplin’ was traditionally published, while The Alpha Drive trilogy is being self-published.  I follow both authors on various social media channels and, actually, Kristen’s YouTube channel has been an amazing help to me during my own writing and publishing journey over the last few months.  

Lately, I’ve been trying to read more indie published books, especially other YA (Young Adult) books but Dumplin’ caught my eye (and I believe was in a BookBub special) because of the mostly black cover. The only thing in the very middle is a plus-sized girl in a red dress and big blonde hair (this is small and in cartoon form) and I was like – who is this character?  Since the next step after finalizing revisions of my own novel is choosing and working with a cover designer, I’ve been paying more attention to covers.

I recommend both of these books – and I would highly recommend reading Dumplin’ before seeing the movie.  If you like sci-fi/fantasy books then The Alpha Drive is a fast-paced trilogy with a complex protagonist who is trying her hardest to save her friends and family from an evil organization.   I have quite the long list of To Be Read under this section – most are already on my Kindle, but if something pops up in my inbox (I get a lot of author’s newsletters) or in a BookBub special I’ll most likely add it to the pile.  


I just finished Prosperity for Writers (along with the workbook) by Honoree Corder and I’m currently knee deep in Write. Publish. Repeat by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant.  Prosperity for Writers was very eye-opening in terms of mindset, which I talked about a few weeks back, and how I view money and the process of making money, spending money, and the whole myth of the starving artist.  This tied in quite nicely with Write. Publish. Repeat as the authors of this book are also of the mindset that writers can make money, in fact, can make good money, as long as they are producing quality products (books) and lots of them.  I’m barely 1/3 of the way through and it can be quite overwhelming because they give you a ton of info so I put it down quite often and read other things and then come back to absorb some more.

I consider my writing a career, a new career sure (and very young) but I am trying to think of this like a business and myself a businesswoman.  This is not easy for me, it doesn’t come naturally so reading these books are helpful, but they are also filled with new decisions, new ideas, and new ways of thinking. I’ll be honest, I get burnt out or down on myself so I like having a few different books in slightly different categories to bounce around in. So, in that vein, I also have quite a big To Be Read pile under this category as I have books about publishing, marketing, and some health&wellness type self-help books too.

Do any of these sound interesting to you?  What have you been reading lately?  Do you use an eReader or tablet to read on or do you like what I call Dead Tree Books? (I call them that because I personally detest the REAL book label – I read a real book, even if it wasn’t printed on paper and I’m currently writing a real book even if my readers read it on an eDevice of some sort – a small pet peeve of mine!)  Do you like self-help type non-fiction or more of the civil war/Benjamin Franklin biopics type non-fiction? Let me know what you’re currently reading and give me some ideas for my ever-growing reading list.  Thanks!

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How I Got Out of My Planner Funk

At the beginning of the year I bought a new planner and was so excited to start using it, but around the middle of the year, it had lost its luster for me.  It wasn’t working….for me.  Now, this has happened in the past, I have tried all sorts of planners and types of planning systems and I’m all gung-ho for a while then it peters out.  Usually, this happens after the newness wears off, but also because I realize that the brand new shiny planner won’t actually do my work for me – it’s just a device to keep track of my things.  My tasks, my goals, my daily to-do lists, etc.  It’s a device, not a robot that’s going to write my blog posts, my novels, my short stories, do my day job work for me.  It’s not going to grow legs and clean my bathroom or do the laundry.  That would be awesome though, but it’s not going to do that so I get in planner funks when I realize that I’m still me – just with a new planner.

So, this time I actually realized that and instead of just jumping into a brand new shiny planner without thinking, I stopped and researched and did some reading and came to the conclusion that a new planner wouldn’t necessarily help me, but that I had chosen my current planner without doing some thinking about what I actually needed a planner to do.  I read an article called Being in a Planning Quagmire (which, btw – awesome word!) and this basically gave me some insights into why I was having problems with my current planner and why I had such issues in the past.

The questions at the beginning of that article helped me realize that I wanted a bullet journal type planner but I hated having to write out the monthly calendars vertically like the original bullet journal concept and I didn’t want to draw the calendar grid every month like I had seen on Pinterest.  I  knew a larger planner wouldn’t be a big deal because I rarely carry it out of the house. I also knew I wanted good paper and bright colors.  Then this question hit me: Are you in a Planner Quagmire because what you REALLY want is too expensive or otherwise out of your reach, and nothing else will do it for you?


This was the mother lode question because I had been pinning for an Erin Condren Life Planner for years but they were pricey so I kept finding other things, other workarounds. I wanted the bright, colorful, sticker-filled fun that was the Erin Condren life planner, but on the other hand, I really wanted a more simplified Bullet Journal style.  So I started googling and low and behold – Erin Condren had released a new version of their Deluxe Monthly Planner style that was monthly calendars in the front (mine runs August to July because it’s an Academic style – works for me as my son is in school and I like starting a new year in September when school starts) and then a boatload of lined pages in the back.  


In between the monthly spreads are planning pages for each month too.  All of a sudden I had these ideas running through my head of exactly what I could do with each section.  This was the bullet journal I was looking for.  Monthly grids all laid out and colorful, planning sections for monthly tasks lists and goals, and blank pages for my daily to-do’s and lists.  I added a smaller dot grid journal for collections (plans, larger lists, year goal matrix, ideas, etc. And so forth) and my system was complete. Side note:  If you’re in the market for a new planner, click HERE for my referral code and save a little bit.

The beauty – once I made the decision and signed up for an account, I got a discount code right away and then because I had linked from a planner girl YouTube friend of mine I got another discount code and then…I discovered the planner was on sale!  It was like the Universe said, okay – you’ve done the work, you made your decision – here’s a gift.  It took awhile to get to me, but it was so worth it.  I’ve been using it for a few months now and I’ll be honest – I still catch myself getting upset that my planner is not doing my work for me, but not as much as I did. HA

Let’s dive in shall we? Get ready, because I’m about to hit you with a ton of pictures!

This is my monthly spread.  

I use color-coded stickers to mark events and birthdays.  I use washi tape to mark vacations. I keep my monthly spread simple.  I realized that the stickers that come with the planner are going to run out, but luckily Erin Condren’s website sells them separately so I’ll be doing that soon.   I like being able to get a large overview of the month before drilling down to weekly and daily tasks. 

This is the page before the monthly spread.

I use this blank dot grid as my Monthly Task List.  I will add to this throughout the month as things come up that I know need to get done that month but aren’t time or day specific.  For example, my son’s Halloween costume.  We needed that by the middle of October but otherwise…it was a pretty open task so it got added to the large monthly task list. I’ve also checked this off as my son chose a very cute, Jack O’ Lantern costume for this year (he’s 6!).

After the monthly spread is the planning pages.

The first page has five sections.  I have divided my life up into sections: Writing, Family, Health and Wellness, Apartment, and Misc. and I write a few goals for each section or tasks that I want to complete that month in each part.  I like this fine, but I am also thinking about using these boxes for each week and writing my Top Goals for the week here.  I might try that one month and see which I like better.  

The next blank page has my social media stats so I can see growth (or lack thereof) and I’ve given myself note space to write down goals, things I need to work on, or things I want to touch on during the month.  The little side column is where I write down my tasks for the Rising Heroes health and wellness online game that I am a part of (and talked about HERE). For now – I really like this page and don’t see much changing.

In the back of the notebook is lots and lots of lined blank pages.  

This is where I (currently) write my Weekly Top 5 tasks (Blog posts, Novel, Short Story, Apartment projects, School stuff, etc.) and then start my daily bullet journal style to-do list with boxes, triangles, and arrows to mark various tasks, appointments, and notes.  I like to use stickers to add some extra color and flair but those things change weekly.  I am Team Blue when it comes to pen colors but I can also see myself using color-coding at some point, but that involves always making sure you have the pens with you…and right now, I’m keeping it simple.

This is my collection book.  It’s matchy-matchy, but not exact and has dot grid paper inside. You can see from my Index page what kinds of things I keep in here, but I’m also hoping to add a page for Fiction Books to read, Non-Fiction books to read, online course tracking (I’m currently in one about Self-Publishing but am getting confused as to which modules I’ve watched or ones I need to re-watch), and I’m thinking of adding a Monthly Habit tracker to this as well- but I also have an app on my phone I like so we’ll see.

So…what do you think? Are you in a planner funk (or quagmire?) – are you strictly an app/phone/digital person or do you like paper and pen and stickers and washi? What do you track in your planner? What ideas do you have for me on how I can utilize my system better?   I have another post planned where I’ll be talking about my favorite writing tools and I will be talking about the apps and software programs I use, but my planner will also be listed so if you want to know more about anything I’m using or want an update – let me know.

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Newsies vs. Newsies

One of my favorite movie musicals is the 1992 Newsies with Christian Bale, Max Casella (Vinnie from Doogie Howser, MD), David Moscow, Bill Pullman, Ann-Margaret (!!!), and Robert Duvall.  I must have seen that thing at least 3 times in the movie theatre. I won a copy of the soundtrack on tape by entering a trivia contest. I knew all the words to all the songs and even some of the dance moves.  Is it a perfect movie?  No, it’s silly and melodramatic and although Christian is dreamy his singing and dancing are less than stellar, but he tried.  So when I heard they were making a Broadway version a few years back that didn’t surprise me at all.  It’s flashy with cute dancers, catchy songs, and girls my age LOVED it so it had a built-in audience.

Now, even though I live right here in NY I never made it to the actual show on Broadway, so when I saw that it was now available to watch on Netflix I was pretty excited…until I watched it.  Now, don’t get me wrong – I didn’t hate it, it just wasn’t the 1992 movie.  I felt like they had changed too much – some made sense and some had me yelling at my TV, wondering what Harvey Fierstein (who wrote the book for the Broadway show) was thinking.

Let me preface all of this by saying two things.  If you’ve never seen Newsies (the original movie) – you’re missing out.  Cute boys, singing and dancing in period costumes, little guys going after big guys, union talk, love and family – it’s got everything!  2nd thing – if you loved Newsies and Broadway, watch the show on Netflix.  It’s not terrible – the original songs are great, the leads are all really talented and can sing and dance (circles around most of the big name actors in the movie) and overall it’s fun and was filmed live during an actual performance so you get the awesomeness of Broadway and live theatre while sitting in your PJs on the couch.  Also…there are major spoilers in this post so if you do plan on watching the Broadway production and don’t want to know anything beforehand – stop reading, turn on Netflix, enjoy a good show, then come back.  

Okay, with all of that out of the way…here’s my Newsies vs. Newsies account.  Right off the bat, with the Broadway production – they start off with Jack Kelly, our hero, singing about Santa Fe, which I thought made absolutely NO SENSE unless you’ve seen the original movie because the show takes place in NYC – entirely in NYC.  Why do we open a show about NY newsboys singing about a whole other city that’s not in the show?  Yes, the song Santa Fe is in the original movie, but the placement here – of moving a song that’s what 2nd or 3rd on the soundtrack, to the number 1 slot made no sense.  That made me shake my head for at least the first 20 minutes of the production.  

The one change that they made, that I at least understand, was they made the love interest and the news reporter the same person in this show.  In the original movie, Jack falls in love with his new best friend’s sister while having dinner at his house one night – there’s also an older reporter, played by Bill Pullman, that writes their story and gets the news about the newsboy strike out to other people.  If you count the parents, that’s four characters that would need to be cast and paid for – so, sure, turn the reporter into the woman – give her more to do (bonus!) and have her fall for Jack while they’re on the “job” basically – again, bonus, I love it!  It did make the song King of New York a bit awkward (as she’s a woman) but I could look past that honestly.

Now…here comes my big complaint and my biggest spoiler.  In the original movie, Jack and his friends sneak in and use an old printing press of Joseph Pulitzer’s to create their Newsboy union paper and get the word out about child labor.  It’s my absolute favorite song of the movie and I swear, I want to get up and dance and sing full out every time I hear it. So…maybe this is me just being protective – but in the Broadway production, instead of Jack knowing where the press is, the reporter woman knows the press is there because…hold the phone…she’s Pulitzer’s daughter.  What?!?!  Come on, is that even historically accurate?  And then…out of nowhere, all these other newspaper kids come in – William Randolph Hearst’s son is there and knows exactly what to do and he’ll fix everything.  I wasn’t a fan of this.  At all.  Like…I even went and looked up reviews to see if I was the only one annoyed by this and apparently I was because this little tidbit wasn’t mentioned in any review.   So…I digress there.  But seriously, the YouTube clip below is the original number – watch it, love it, be it! 🙂

It left an odd taste in my mouth for the rest of the movie, but…overall, I enjoyed the production.  I would watch it again – and probably will because the songs are catchy, the dance moves are fun, and the Broadway actors are top notch performers.  They made me root for them, laugh with them, cry with them (poor Crutchy!), and want to dance around my apartment singing for days.  They did their job!  I just wish they would have left out the weird…oh, by the way, I’m your enemy’s daughter and now it’s Romeo and Juliet thing.  No!

The other thing…and I just realized this yesterday after re-watching the 1992 movie, but Ann-Margaret’s songs are completely gone and replaced by a whole new one.  It’s a good song, and the Broadway performer is really great – but I’m wondering now if Ann-Margaret owned those original songs from the movie or if Harvey just decided they were too familiar with Ann-Margaret because of the movie and the Meadowlark on Broadway is very different.  Not sure…but both work, the character isn’t seen as much in the Broadway production and I had wished they would have left the big rally number in, but again, this is a change that made sense for time and energy – they would have needed a whole new set piece, a new song, more dancing and a fight sequence which would have cost time and money.

So it seems like I’m totally ripping on the Broadway production, and I swear I’m not – the original movie is so much a part of my teenage years and I hold a special place in my heart that it’s hard to see something new and different with the same general pieces.  I love the original movie, but I also liked the Broadway production.  Would I have enjoyed it more seeing it live, maybe – maybe not, I might have been more pissed off that I spent good money and was disappointed at the changes.  Or maybe I would have looked past the changes made because live theatre is so immersive and fun in and of itself.  We will never know.  I’m just thankful that people are filming live theatre and making it accessible to everyone.  That’s always a good thing in my book.

What’s your favorite movie musical?  Or favorite Broadway musical? What show are you hoping they film and make accessible to everyone?  My hope is Hamilton (of course) and Wicked – although I heard a movie is coming..anyone else hear that?  Do you love Newsies?  Did you see the Broadway production, either live or on Netflix, what did you think?  Let me know in the comments and remember to keep Carrying the Banner!

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What Would a Pro Writer Do? Part 1: Mindset

A few months back I joined an online writer’s mastermind called “The Bestselling Author Mastermind Group”.  We communicate mostly through a private Facebook group, but the leader – Jennifer Blanchard also has a very full BAM website for us with so much useful information: video courses, audio courses, and worksheets galore on everything from mindset, writing (both Fiction and Non-Fiction), publishing, selling, and everything in between.  It’s been an amazing group and I can say, without a doubt, that joining has turned my entire writing career around.


If you read that last paragraph and stopped at mindset – you are not alone.  When I was looking into a mastermind or similar type of group earlier this year it was because of a writing book I was reading that talked about leveling up and getting very clear about your goals and your mindset.  And I stopped reading and thought – what? What does mindset have to do with a writing career?  It turns out…everything.  What you think you create.  If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you are correct.  These are phrases and quotes we’ve heard over and over and they sound totally woo-woo and weird, but I’m going to tell you – they are very true.

Back around April I spoke at my son’s elementary school on Career Day and talking to those kids gave me a much needed kick in my butt to resume the revisions on my novel and get it out into the world.  I’ve since finished those personal revisions and sent the manuscript to a professional editor and I am now working on her editorial revisions and notes in preparation for self-publishing in early 2018.  But I really could not have gotten this far without my daily mindset practice and I’m going to give you a little insight into how I do this.  

Step 1: Morning Pages

Most books about mindset or morning practices, in general, will tell you to do them first thing in the morning.  That’s good advice, but when you have a 6 year old that needs to be up, fed, dressed, and out the door to the school bus fairly early (7:15 AM) well – first thing in the morning won’t work (at least for me – I don’t really want to get up at 5:30 AM to do these things) so I do them as soon as we get upstairs from saying Good Bye to cutie as he gets on his bus.  This works for me so don’t feel like you have to “follow the rules or else” – make things work for you and your schedule.

Okay…so that’s out of the way.   My little rebel disclaimer I guess.  Once I’m back upstairs I go straight to our bedroom and work-out – either bodyweight circuits or yoga – then I grab my cheap wide ruled notebook (usually one I’ve bought during Back To School sales) and do morning pages.  If you’ve read any book by Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way being the most famous) you know about morning pages.  If not, it’s basically 3 pages of long-hand free-form stream-of-consciousness writing.  You put the pen to the paper and don’t stop until you get there.  Here’s my other rebel disclaimer – I usually only do 2, so front and back of one notebook page.  Now that’s not a hard and fast rule for me.  Some mornings I’m short on time and do less and some mornings I need to write more and I do…but usually, it’s 1-page front and back. 

Morning pages are where I vent about the fact my kid isn’t eating or some douche’s car alarm went off at 4am or how I desperately need coffee – literally, anything and everything goes onto the page.  This morning I was working through some limiting beliefs (things that are holding me back, those negative tapes we all say to ourselves about various things) surrounding my daily schedule and my need to Get All The Things Done! I worked through some old feelings of perfection that are not serving me or my writing anymore and I even created a new affirmation (we will talk about those in a minute): I will listen to my mind, body, and soul in relationship to my passion work and make mindful, conscious decisions about breaks, pauses, and much needed rest periods without guilt.

Step 2: Mindset Practice – Daily Intentions and Affirmations

Next, I grab my prettier journal (I bought mine from Staples – it’s this one HERE) and write Daily Intentions.  These are things I intend to do that day, written in present tense. For example: I will write the first draft of my weekly blog post or I will make time to read and journal today.  I usually write 3-5 of these and they can relate to my writing, health, or work goals.  Then I skip a line and start writing my Affirmations.  You’ve heard of Affirmations, most likely you think of Stuart Smalley’s character from Saturday Night Live – I’m smart, I’m pretty, and doggone it – people like me!  They seemed so cheesy to me when I first heard about them and secretly – I thought I would hate them.  And honestly, I did for awhile. For a long while – about a month, but then I started realizing that the things I was writing down were making it into my daily mental tape.  I was actually replacing negative thoughts with positive ones – without much effort.

I’m going to give you a real-life example of some of the things I personally write down.  I usually fill up a page or two with these and sometimes I divide them into sections (writing, health, work, life, etc.) but usually, I just write a long list and everything melds together.  I tend to divide them once a month for clarity and goal setting purposes.

  • I am a full-time writer.
  • I am a multi-book self-published author.
  • I am a trusted member of the writing community.
  • I am surrounded by smart, creative, professional women that are helping me become the person and writer I am meant to be.
  • I know the Universe has my back!
  • I am an idea magnet.
  • Words flow easily and first drafts simply fall onto the page.
  • I have an abundance of energy.
  • I have thousands of loyal fans and readers.
  • I create entertaining and informative content that my readers love to receive and share with others. 

Step 3: Visualization

Lastly, I spend 2-5 minutes visualizing everything I write down.  This is new for me, maybe the last two months – and it has really helped me carry over all the good feelings I feel when writing the affirmations into the rest of my day.  I’ve been carrying myself more confidently, talking with more people while out and about, smiling more, engaging more in life and my surroundings, writing more, taking the necessary action steps to complete my goals, and live the dream life I want and deserve to live.  It’s been eye-opening and a game changer.  I just start feeling what it would feel like if each of the affirmations were true, right now in this moment.  I hold on to those feelings while playing a mental movie that moves from writing to my health and fitness goals to my apartment projects and to life in general with my family and friends and I come out of the movie with just so much energy I almost literally jump up and get started!  

Once I’m done with my exercising and my journaling/mindset practice I usually have breakfast, drink my coffee, go over my daily schedule for both personal and work, check emails, and then schedule in my fiction writing time, work time, blogging time, and downtime to read and rest.  

So…what do you think?  Could you incorporate something like this into your life?  Do you think it would help you (I say YES) – would you like to learn more about the writing group I’m apart of?  Would you like to know more about the other items on the What Would a Pro Writer Do index card in my title image? Let me know in the comments!

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