Do Authors Ever Go On Vacation?

Short answer is…no. At least I don’t. Getting away from my desk is a relief and something I look forward to, but my laptop is never left behind. What if the urge hits me to knock out a few thousand words? I can’t pass up that opportunity.

Although many authors recommend having a set schedule when they write, there is something refreshing about giving yourself a vacation from that “must perform” timeframe. I seem to get more accomplished when I am not writing under the pressure of a deadline. It makes me happy to write “ahead,” almost like I’m cheating by not really taking a break when I have allowed myself time to take a break.

The head-games authors play with themselves are maddening. Or is it just me?

If you are feeling the anxiety of writer’s block, a vacation may be called for. Get away for the weekend. Put yourself in a new setting. Use this time to do writing exercises rather than working on a set project. I love the exercise of people watching. Go to a restaurant, park, or coffee shop. Observe the people around you and make up a conversation that your fellow patrons may be having. Are they arguing? Do they seem suspicious? Who knows? This exercise may make its way into your next story.

Use this “vacation” to sit outside and describe all the sounds you hear. Do you hear animals? Insects? Cars rushing past? Come up with as many adjectives as you can for each sound. Save these for later use in your writing.

Use your nose. How does the rain smell? What about the heat? Yes, heat does have a smell if you open your mind to it. What other items can you describe by smell that you usually take for granted?
For ideas on more exercises, check out The Writer’s Little Helper by James V. Smith, Jr. I enjoyed this book very much and still pull it out from time-to-time when I need motivating. It’s an easy read with fun activities.

My Blog Confession

Kruse, Brotherton, blog, time, management. ready. learning

I have a confession to make.

I've been cheating on this blog page by writing blogs for Blue Dragon Publishing. Ignorantly, I didn't even bother cutting and pasting them into this blog. Please forgive me. I'll try to do better. In the meantime, if you want to catch up, you can read what I've written at

I've been reading a lot about time management, and I found a book I really like by Kevin Kruse, 15 Secrets of Successful People Know about Time Management. That's what I have been blogging about lately. I highly recommend you take your time and work on implementing the recommendations he has made as you go along. Try reading only one chapter a week.

I'm going to highlight my favorites here. To read my comments on all 15, please check out the blog on the Blue Dragon site.

Determine what the most important thing is that you need to get accomplished for the day. Some people have called this technique “eat the frog first.” If, first thing in the morning, you knocked out the thing you have been putting off, your day will feel successful and everything else will be easy by comparison. Sounds logical, right? But harder to implement than you think.

You put things off for a reason. Perhaps it’s something you don’t like to do. Or you know it’s going to take a lot of time. But the longer you put it off, the more it grows in your mind and looms over you like a dark cloud. That sense of dread can follow you and weigh you down, even if you don’t realize it. Wouldn’t it be nice to get rid of that negative feeling? The only way to do that is to get it over with.

It might not even be a negative thing, but a hot deadline that you need to devote time to. Don’t open your email, don’t check your phone. Start your day, when you are freshest, with the item you have determined is the most important thing to accomplish.

Before I leave the office for the day, the last thing I do is check my schedule for the next day. I give special consideration to what I put on my schedule for first thing in the morning as the most important thing, and I let my brain churn on it. The next morning, I go through my routine as usual, but when it’s time to work, I start with the first thing on my calendar. I don’t even open my email.

Email is a necessary evil, and it does make life much easier in many ways. It can also be a terrible distraction. Author Kevin Kruse has a whole other chapter on email. For now, suffice it to say, once you open your email, new things will pop up and distract you. Your email waited all night; it can wait a little longer.

Sometimes the project is a big one that will take several days. I just split it up into several blocks of time, but I still put it first every day until it’s complete. Once that task is complete, I allow myself to open my email and knock out the other tasks on the list. But I always have a feeling of satisfaction, having completed something important to me and my business.

So let me know what you think!

A Time to Write

November is National Novel Writing Month. This year, I think I'm ready. I've blogged about my quilts in the past. I love the puzzle of putting them together and creating something wonderful, albeit not always aligning exactly. It's another part of my creative side.

During my last quilting retreat (2 of 2), I wrote a story when I took my walks to stretch my legs. Looking back on my past blogs, I see that I mentioned before that a quilt cozy mystery was definitely a possibility. This year I expanded on that thought to actually outline the story. I heard the dialogue in my head (sounds better than saying I hear voices). As I walked the grounds of the retreat center, I could picture the ladies as they ran through the woods in the rain, trying to find shelter. The story came alive, and I was excited.

That was two months ago.

I have yet to get anything on paper. But I will this year. Tomorrow is the beginning of November. I pledge to write 1,667 words a day toward my cozy mystery. Maybe I will reward myself by making a quilt to complement it.

What are you going to write about? Put some thought into it and get excited. Who knows what wonderful story you may create. Need motivation? Check out the website. If you are near Williamsburg, VA, stop by on Saturday, 4 Nov from 10-5 for our kick off at the James City County Library. Talk to other authors at various stages and get some pointers. We are also gathering every Monday night in November from 5-9 for dedicated writing time.

Good luck and happy writing! (that’s 280 words so far…)

Making Book Signings More Comfortable

Do Book Signings make you uncomfortable?

It is sabook signings, talk, author, write, marketingid that many writers are introverts. (I’m an exception to that rule.) That makes it hard for them to do direct marketing. They tend to rely on the safety of hiding behind the electrons on the internet, or better yet, behind a person that will DO the marketing for them with electrons–a double layer of protection.

It is inevitable as a writer that you will have to do some public appearances. So start where you are comfortable. I love softball. You may have noticed from the 4 books I’ve written so far on the subject. I’m comfortable on and around a softball field. A natural place for me to set up book signings is at the ball park. I have a canopy, table, and sign. I’m ready! After getting permission from the park, of course, I set up shop where I can watch the games in between talking to readers. It makes me feel less vulnerable. I can talk to the folks that approach my tent, not just about my books, but about the ball games. It gives them a chance to talk about what they’re interested in, rather than just listening to a sales pitch.

When I do book signings at a store, I prefer to have another author with me. It’s more encouraging and you have someone to cover your table when you need a break. Some stores don’t like this, but with a little work, you can probably convince them. If someone approaches your table, looks, but doesn’t purchase, give them an easy escape. Don’t make them feel bad. I start by asking what they like to read. If they say history books, I say I don’t have any but have you tried such-and-such author? Even better if your table partner has a different genre than you do. You can cover more ground. I’m surprised how many people purchase my books as a gift, even after they tell me they aren’t interested in mysteries (or softball, etc). If you skip the hard sell, folks feel more comfortable talking with you. If they like you, they may buy simply for that reason.

Nothing seems to draw people to a table more than a giveaway. Create a basket filled with goodies that compliment your book. Romance? Try candles, a music CD, and lotion. You don’t necessarily want to put a copy of your book in the basket though. You want folks to BUY your book, not wait and see if they win it. Make it free to enter, but perhaps they get an EXTRA chance to win with a purchase. You can use the emails you collect for your own advertising, but I would HIGHLY discourage selling your lists. It’s poor form. Make sure to put it on the sign up form that you won’t share their information–then DON’T!

Do you have any ideas for book signings or marketing that you would like to share? Please do!! As authors or consumers, your input could really help a struggling introvert.



Strictly Business is a lot of fun!

Last night I attended Strictly Business, a networking event presented by WYDaily, 107.9 Bach FM and 92.3 The Tide at the Williamsburg Winery. What a classy event! The food was great, the wine fantastic, and the people loads of fun.

I met the owners of a new, custom furniture store called Lock & Key (3705B Strawberry Plains Rd). They have only been opened 6-7 months, but are excited to share their story. I can’t wait to go see the shop.

Chesapeake Bank was out in full force with a fun group that really knows and cares about their customers. I was pleased to find that I had Montessori in common with a few of them (one as a parent and others as bankers).

Learning about the Peace Operations Training Institute opened my eyes to another side of serving (vs my own Air Force experience). Many countries take advantage of the skills offered with POTI to prepare them for Peace Operations around the world. Keep it up!!

The Melting Pot of Peninsula is having ladies’ night on 24 and 25 April. It should be worth the drive to Newport News (12233 Jefferson Ave) to try their fondues.

I have worked with Williams Landscaping and Design in the past and have always been impressed with their professionalism. This gentleman was so kind that he emailed me today because our conversation got cut off yesterday and he wanted to hear the rest of what I had to say. That made a great impression!

Near and dear to my heart, I met the special projects coordinator from the Williamsburg Regional Library. I love to talk about books anytime, but I especially love to hear about new and exciting plans to get people interested in reading. Make sure to sign your kids up for the summer reading program! My girls looked forward to it every year.

I never knew there was so much that goes into making the Williamsburg Farmers’ Market such a huge success. I will look at it with a whole, new appreciation when I attend the next one–tomorrow, Sat, Apr 15 from 8-noon. And now I have been challenged to come up with a story that involves a farmers’ market. I’ll let you know how that goes.

The point of this post is to encourage you all to go out and meet someone new. Exchange cards. Don’t do it just to buy or sell something. It’s a great way to meet new people in the community and learn what wonderful things Williamsburg has to offer. I can’t wait for the next one!

Attitude is Everything…in Many Cases

attitude, softball, Brotherton, teamwork, Atiitude is everything, play, coach, teach, learnAttitude is everything. At least I think so. My husband and I are helping coach a softball team. We are a small school so we don’t have a large pool to pick from, hence we have a lot of first time players. I don’t mind that. Really! What I struggle with is when the girls aren’t interested in learning or getting better. I will work all day to help someone improve. Coaching someone that doesn’t care to get better is like talking to a wall.

My husband laughs at me because I get all worked up about it. I can’t understand NOT trying. It is beyond my comprehension. What will these girls be like in the workforce? I would never consider hiring them. Yes, I realize they are still young. These are their formative years. I would like to be part of FORMING them–teaching them that having the right attitude and trying is essential in this life. If you commit to something, you need to give it your all. Other people count on you! Some would say that’s the military in me talking. I would respond, it’s how my parents raised me. I’ve always been like this, as far back as I can remember.

It’s not competitiveness I’m talking about. It’s attitude. The positive attitude of wanting to improve, learn a new skill, and be part of something bigger. Supporting your teammates when they’re down with encouraging comments. Just the basics, like learning the rules of the game and following the coach’s direction. Run when you’re told to run. Stop when you’re told to stop. Basics.

These are the things I would love to explain to the girls on the team, but many of them don’t get it. They look at you as if they’re listening, but then they go about doing whatever they want to do. They don’t have the right attitude.

Thankfully, we raised our daughters so that not trying is also beyond their comprehension. But they have some frustrating days ahead in the “real” world.

College Applications

college, graduate, diploma, degree, Brotherton, money, application‘Tis the season for College Application results to come in. I think my high school senior is taking it better than I am. She has a logical mind, which will serve her well in life and engineering. She is realistically expecting NOT to get in to all the top colleges she applied to. She has been accepted in to a few so far so she is comfortable knowing she is going SOMEWHERE to college.
I know all the great things my daughter has done, her academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and sports accomplishments. But she is competing against other kids that have also done WONDERFUL things…and she knows it. The competition to get into the top schools is so tight; I wouldn’t want to be the judge for who makes it and who doesn’t. I find comfort in the fact that American does have these bright and shiny students to offer up out of high school. They will enter the work force ready to contribute and help our society create new and greater things.
I’m not sure what I think about all the reports that kids are coming out of college and unable to find a job. It makes me wonder if they can’t find a job, or they can’t find THE job they want. I wonder if it part of this generations attitude toward “I want it now.” Many graduate college and expect to be living in a house the size of their parents’ house. They need to set their sights more realistically. Part of what you learn in college is planning and responsibility. Would be nice if they could also teach patience.

I do believe college degrees are very important to keep educating our society. Part of the problem is that it has turned into such a business that it’s about the colleges making money. To make money, they need students. To attract students, they need have up to date facilities and top professors. To pay for those things, they need to increase tuition. Horrible circle.

A prospective college student needs to do homework and choose his/her college carefully to get the best return on investment. It’s not a logical decision to dig yourself into debt so far that you can’t make enough money to pay off your student loans, but many chose that path. Remember, it’s about what you are learning in college–not the name of the college you attend. Some of the local, smaller colleges offer great courses and professors. And if that’s what you can afford, then that is the best college for you.

If students work hard enough and get good grades, the larger schools often offer a debt-free graduation. Meaning, AFTER the student is accepted (needs-blind) into the college, an assessment will be done to determine the student’s ability to pay. The alumni association (or other entity) offsets the difference so the student is debt-free when they graduate. That means the student investment is upfront–in high school–where they concentrate on being a great student and community leader in order to get accepted into college.

At the same time, when the student graduates, starts work, and has a family of his/her own, hopefully they will be forward thinking enough to start saving right away for college for their children.

Creativity Comes in Many Shapes and Works

quilt, contest, creative, pink, artQuilts on Display at MidAtlantic Quilt Festival

MidAtlantic Quilt Festival was this weekend in Hampton, VA. I was overwhelmed with the creativity and talent of the many quilts on display. I’m so motivated to try new patterns and color combinations. I could easily spend the rest of the year holed up in my sewing room. Of course, my husband complains that we don’t need more quilts. But that isn’t the point!

As I cut the fabric and start to piece it back together, I can’t fathom how it will ever turn out the way it’s supposed to. Watching the patterns emerge is exciting. When I can finally see it, I’m driven to finish it. It’s like an addiction. I can easily stay awake all night…just one more piece.

I bought the pattern for this quilt, but I’m holding off starting it. It’s going to be my treat to myself after I finish “Nicole’s New Friend,” the third book in the Lady Tigers’ Series. Incentives work for my kids. Now I’m using the same logic on myself.

I also checked out the different long-arm machines. The computerized versions take the guess work out of quilting top to bottom and give you a beautiful finished product. My husband cringed when I mentioned it to him. Spending money on something like a long-arm would mean a new business investment. They can cost more than a mid-sized car. Not to mention, that “car” would take up a 12-foot span of a room in your house. I promised him that this decision was years away; I’m only now starting my research. Maybe he can distract me with more travel!

If you have some great quilt patterns to share, feel free to post them. I’d love to see. They are truly a work of art!

Lady Tigers Come to Life

Lady Tigers, logo, softball, fastpitch, sports, team, girls

Go Lady Tigers!

Over the past week, I have seen the characters from my Lady Tigers’ Series come to life. My 14-year old daughter is writing from each of the characters’ view point as they introduce themselves to my web-audience. She has six done so far. I am always amazed at how talented she is. Her writing is fun and full of life, and she has a great imagination. I would like to say she inherited it all from me, but I think she’s even better!

I have a great intern that is building softball cards (not baseball cards!) for the girls and built them each a page on my website. I’m a little behind on the illustrations, but that’s because my illustrator Vineet is working on the pictures for my next book, Nicole’s New Friend.

It is wonderful having a group of supporters to help bring the Lady Tigers to life. Now it doesn’t feel like just my project. They have a team working for their team!

I would love to hear what readers think good topics for 11-13 years would be. I have a few story lines in the hopper, but am always interested in picking up more. I’m working with the Girl Scouts of Colonial Coast now, and hope to get some good ideas from that group. I’m excited about sharing the Lady Tigers with them and getting feedback. Adding more people to the team that make these girls come to life!!

Giver, Taker, or Matcher: Which Are You?

Giver, Taker, Matcher–which one are you? On Ted Talks (, Organizational Psychologist Adam Grant gave a talk about Givers, Takers, and Matchers in the work environment. Givers are the type of people that spend so much time helping others that their work may suffer. Takers take–obviously–and that can hurt an organizational greatly by making the others feel used. I have to admit, I think I fall in the Matcher category.

Matchers believe in quid pro quo. They want things to be fair. They don’t mind helping, but they expect you to help in return. Thankfully, according to Adam, I’m not going to hurt an organization and will excel in a group of givers because matchers tend to follow the norm. If they are surrounded by givers, they give more. If they are surrounded by takers, they will keep to themselves.

Check out his talk to learn how to be on the lookout for takers when you’re hiring. Let me know what you are!