Tag: contemporary romance

December Goals + Holiday Cookie Recipe ~ @AuthorKristina Knight

The calendar has rolled around again – and it’s time for a goals check-in! Here we go.

In November, my personal goals were to track meals and workouts Monday-Friday, to continue using time-blocking techniques in my daily schedule. These two goals both get a tic beside them because I succeeded in meal-tracking and time-blocking in November – and I’ve felt so good!

Work goals: finish and format the novella that is coming out in March: the novella is finished (tic!) but I need to tweak a little bit on the formatting, along with making a couple of more editing changes before it’s 100% finalized (partial-tic). All in all, I’m happy with my progress, which will make December goal-setting a bit simpler.

For December, my goals will be a little different because the holiday season means a lot more activities than usual, which will mean I need a bit more focus on the work/writing front. Here we go:

  • Set a daily writing goal on Sunday of each week (Sunday is my planning day); my minimum writing goal will be 1,000 words.
  • Finalize a partial/synopsis for my agent.
  • Finalize the novella edits and formatting in preparation for the March release (I just saw the cover and I canNOT wait to share with you guys!).

That’s it. It sounds like December will be a simple month, but with holiday parties and family trips and last-minute baking and shopping, Speaking of holiday parties and baking, I’ve got a fun recipe to share with you guys today! It’s my mom’s sugar cookie recipe, along with my sugar cookie icing recipe. We always take a couple of Saturdays in late November/early December to bake and ice and then we freeze the resulting cookies so that starting on December 23, we just have to grab a tin of cookies from the freezer when we’re ready to munch. Here we go with the recipe!
Cookie Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups butter (the real stuff, don’t use butter substitute, the cookies won’t taste right)
2 cups granulated sugar

Kristina’s Christmas Sugar Cookies!

4 eggs (medium sized works great!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (the good stuff, from Mexico, not the generic stuff off the grocery shelf!)
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Cookie Baking Directions: 
Put the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream them together until smooth; beat in the eggs and vanilla, again until smooth. Next, add in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Now cover the bowl and put it in the fridge, you’re going to chill this mixture overnight. The next morning (or afternoon), preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out your dough (finally! something to use that rolling pin Aunt Betty gave you at your wedding!) to about a half-inch thick. Use whatever cookie cutter shapes you like (we’re fans of stars, trees and balls because reindeer legs have a tendency to get too thin and burn…but you do you!). Cut out the shapes and place the cookies 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Back about 7 minutes and then let them cool completely. Ice the cookies (don’t worry, the icing recipe is below)!
The most important piece of a sugar cookie (in my opinion) is the icing. Some are fans of buttercream, but I like a lighter icing. One that adds sweet, and maybe has the hint of a crunch, but that stays soft in the middle…that is exactly what this icing recipe does!
Icing Ingredients:
3 teaspoons milk (I like 2%, but whole would also work well)
2 teaspoons KARO syrup (the white kind, not the dark)
1 cup of powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla (the good stuff, from Mexico, don’t just use that generic stuff off the Piggly Wiggly shelf)
Food coloring (I like gel coloring because the colors are more vibrant)
Any sprinkles or other edible decorations you want
Icing directions: 
Put the powdered sugar into a mixing bowl, add the milk, KARO syrup and vanilla and cream all of that together. You want the icing to be almost firm, not drippy, but it needs to spread easily. I always test it with a simple kitchen spoon — if I can hold a spoonful upside down without it dropping right off, the consistency is right. Once the icing is the firmness you want, divide into different bowls and add the colors of food coloring you want, mix and you’re ready to ice the cookies!

I’m going to need a lot of focus. How about you? What are you planning and goal-setting for December?

#WriteTip: How to Approach Editor’s Notes

I am asked – often – how to deal with editor’s notes. Whether they are big-picture, copyediting notes, or a mix of both. It’s a good question, especially because the first few times through an edit can be daunting. Do you change everything the editor asks about? Nothing? Somewhere in between? How do you know how Change A will impact the midpoint of the book? What about the Black Moment? 

The simple answer is this: every little change you make will change following aspects of the book in ways you can’t know. Some changes will improve your writing voice, some will alter the overall story, some will create stronger characterization. How you approach these edits is, of course, up to you, which is why I asked a few friends to weigh in on how they approach editor’s notes. Here we go:

Heatherly Bell, author of The Wilder Sisters Series

I approach my editor feedback like a big girl. Usually I will read through the editing notes first. Then I’ll read through the MS and all the comments which takes me about a day. I take a day to digest it. After that, if something still doesn’t ring true to me, I’ll make my own note in the comments next to hers. I’ll try to explain, for instance, why my hero has been deeply affected by such and such. Or I’ll explain why this or that makes sense to my heroine.

Occasionally, if I’m confused by a comment, though I’m always able to email and ask, I find I usually “get it” a day later. Most of the time, my editor’s notes are spot-on! Maybe I’m lucky, I don’t know. But they always seem to pinpoint those areas where I know I need to dig deeper. Why does this matter? Why does my character care so deeply about it?

Or in the instance of my latest proposal, when my editor said: this ending doesn’t work for me! To be honest, it didn’t work for me either, so it was just confirmation I needed to re-work that ending. My Harlequin editors are wonderful. They never try to squelch my voice. They just want to make sure I’ve gone as deep as I can and they’re right most of the time.

Nan Reinhardt, author of the Four Irish Brothers Winery series

After the initial feeling of overwhelm, I try to remember what my editor says, “Sometimes you just need to change or add a sentence or two, or even just a word or two. Turns out with the latest WIP, I ended up adding an entire chapter and an epilogue, but it did make the book better, no question.

Claire McEwen, author of Sleigh Bells in the Snow

I always find feedback a little bit terrifying. So as soon as I get it, I read through it once, then put it away. I’ll then spend a day or two just sort of processing the general ideas included in the feedback. Once I get used to them, I’ll go back through the feedback in detail and make notes about how I plan to address it.

I believe that my agent and editor know what they are doing, that they can see things I can’t because they have more distance

 from the story, and that their feedback will make my story stronger. I think it’s important to let go of my ego and really take their advice with an open mind and heart. I’m saying this because I have met authors who seem very suspicious of feedback and don’t seem to want to take it.

I would offer this advice. If you don’t agree with the editor or agent’s specific suggestions, try to think about what they are saying in general. I recently had an experience where the editor wanted me to strengthen the conflict, but her ideas about how to do that just weren’t resonating with me. They were good ideas, but they didn’t speak tomy heart. It took a few days of thinking really, really hard, but then I had a big ‘aha’ moment. I changed the entire backstory of my hero and heroine and upped the conflict significantly, in a way that satisfied both the editor and me.

Liz Flaherty, author of The Dark Horse

Here’s where I’m a Weird Person. I love the feedback even when I hate it, because then I know what he wants rather than guessing at it. If I’m hoping to sell the story, I have to be willing to share ownership of it. This isn’t always easy, and I’ve made changes that to this day I think were mistakes. However, at the end of the day, he’s the editor and I’m not, and the publisher still signs my checks.

There you have it, friends, a few new ways you can approach editor feedback – to make your book the best it can be. If you have another tip, share in the comments!

November Goals + Fun Holiday Event

November Goals

When November rolled around last Thursday I was floored. I mean, how did it get to be November already? And what happened to my October goals? And how am I going to get through the rush of the holiday season with my sanity – and my deadlines! – intact? Seriously, these questions stressed me out for almost a full day before I got hold of them, and my calendar, and came up with a plan. Before we get to the plan, though, how about a goals recap. For October, my four goals were:

  • Track my meals and workouts – I’ll count this as half a point because I did track my workouts – and averaged 5/week, yay! – but I wasn’t so great at tracking my meals/calorie intake. 
  • Finish an indie novella for a project that is releasing in March – This is not even half a point, because I didn’t finish by October 31, it took until November 2. But, the project is now with my proofer and editing will commence in a couple of weeks.
  • Themed planning days – this is a full checkmark! I started block-scheduling my days in October and I really like how that is working for me, although it also caused a planner hiccup which I’ll explain in another blog. What I like about block scheduling is that every task (errands, appoints, emails/social media, writing, etc) has it’s own box (or “theme”, which actually allows for more freedom with writing time. Block scheduling will continue! 
  • Finish revisions: also a full checkmark. I sent revisions for a brand new project to my agent mid-October and am waiting for her feedback and a final polish before sending that project out into the world.

All in all, October wasn’t horrible. I give myself 3.5 out of 4 checkmarks, which I think is totally great! For November, my goals will be a little different because, lets face it, Thanksgiving will eat into writing/editing/authoring time, as will preps for December. Here we go with that list: 

  • Edit and format the novella to prep for publication; start an initial publicity plan.
  • Do any last minute touches to the with-the-agent project before it goes out into the world.
  • Prep and send 2 proposals to the agent for new projects that I’m super excited about <– this is my NANO project. I know, NANO is for writing a book in a month, but that doesn’t work for me so I use it in a different way.
  • Continue with block/theme scheduling my days because that is really helping me to be more productive – and happier, too!
  • Track meals Monday – Friday and track workouts Monday – Friday, too.

What about you? Do you have a goal or two for November? Share in the comments and we’ll keep one another accountable! 

Several authors & I are hosting a fab holiday event – join the fun!

Oh, and Through Thanksgiving, some author friends and I are hosting a really fun event – filled with books and games and maybe even a holiday recipe or two. It’s happening over at our Facebook Group: Coffee, Cupcakes & Contemporaries. Stop in, join the group and see what we’re up to – I’m hosting on November 10 – that’s this Saturday! – and I have some fun stuff in the works.

5 Ways to Improve Productivity

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about productivity. Every year about this time, I start looking ahead to the next year. I begin to cull through my potential Word of the Year List and reflect on my word for this year. I look at my goals for the year and come up with a plan to make it through the holiday season with my goals still intact.

I like to be productive. I’m happier when I’ve checked off my to-do lists, when I have a plan for the day (or week or month or, heck, year). I feel better, not just in my headspace, but physically when I’m meeting my health goals and I feel better in my headspace when I’m making time for creative outlets. But it’s hard to be productive all the time – some days, no matter how many things are on my to-do, I just don’t feel like it. I don’t want to write or read or finish that craft or make those phone calls or pay those bills or fold that last load of laundry. I just flat-out don’t want to.

When those days hit, there are two choices: 1) don’t do anything and feel even worse the next day or 2) fight back against the don’t-wannas with a few tricks. Here are five ways I push through those blah days:

  1. I use a focus app called Tide:   I’ve been using focusing apps for a long time, but I switched over to this app in the spring and I am in serious love with it. There are several different settings (nap, meditation, focus, etc), with different timing options starting at 15 minutes. I usually set it for 45 minute writing sessions: write for 45, take a short break to fold that load of laundry or get a drink of water or play ball with Hazel-the-pup, then it’s back at my desk for another session. 
  2. Put the phone in another room:   This seems like a given but for a long time, I was working with my phone right next to me. Email would bleep or someone would call and wham! I’m out of my zone and distracted again. Putting the phone in another room (and turning off the notifications for my watch) is key to keeping my focus where it needs to be. Going along with this one: turn off the internet! Seriously, disconnect from wi-fi and if you need to check “just one thing” online, make a note in your WIP or on a piece of paper and keep pushing forward. Check that one thing during your morning routine or after you’ve met your word count for the day.
  3. Use a paper planner: There are a lot of digital options for planning and I think they’re great. For me, though, a paper planner is the best option (the Happy Planner is my jam! Love the flexibility/customization options of the disc system). My planner holds daily to-do lists (like cleaning and appointments) but it also houses my business plan, deadlines, quarterly goals (including action steps to meet said goals). Plus, there are stickers and stickers make everything better! There are a couple of different studies that have shown the physical act of writing down a goal or appointment helps us meet those goals. I’m a firm believer in paper planners for accountability and goal setting.
  4. Make a date with yourself: have lunch with girlfriends, go for a walk in the botanical gardens, or just head to the mall to people-watch. I like taking my writing notebook with me. Sometimes I brainstorm book/character ideas, sometimes I write down blog/social media post ideas and sometimes I just bring dump a lot of the stuff in my head or doodle. Here’s the thing: as much as I love planning, there are times that I plan too much for too long. Being unable to focus on my work can sometimes mean that I haven’t made time for *me*. When that happens, stepping away from my computer is crucial, even if it’s only for an hour. Creative dates help me clear my head so I can focus again.
  5. Sleep: I don’t mean a nap in the middle of the day (although a good 20 minute power nap can be ahhhh-mazing!). I mean getting a full 8 hours of sleep. Having a set bedtime and sticking to it. Along with eating healthy and drinking water, the best thing I can do for my focus is to make sure I’m getting enough sleep. Being rested is crucial for me to feel good, to feel like working, and to be able to focus on my work. 

When I’m having one of those days when I just can’t focus, I’ll think about what I’ve been eating/drinking, the sleep I’ve been getting or the schedule I’ve been keeping…if I need it, I’ll take an hour or so for me, and then I’ll go back to the basics of turning on my focus app, turning off the internet, and getting back to work.

What about you? How do you focus when your focus is gone?

Using Photo Boxes for Office Organization

blue, blue, and more blue!

Last week, I decided my office needed a little bit of a makeover. Okay, technically this is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time – I’ve had cube shelves for a while and the fabric boxes I’ve been using were getting old and a bit worn and … frankly, kind of boring. And they didn’t match how I wanted my office to look. Which led me to a Pinterest rabbit hole and then an IKEA rabbit hole and then Michaels…and you get the idea. 

aren’t these color combos great?

I liked everything I saw at IKEA and Michaels and the ideas on Pinterest were amazing as always, but there was nothing specific to my problem of the cube shelves other than *more fabric boxes* and I didn’t want fabric boxes for all of the reasons I listed above. I decided to hit Pat Catans (which is a kind of small town version of Michaels) to see what I could find. 

And I hit the motherlode. Seriously. They were having a huge sale on photo storage boxes – you know, the kind that are about shoe box size? I picked up 14 of these boxes for less than $20. 

Love the look of my cube shelves now!

My first step was to go through the fabric boxes I already had, separating and organizing the detritus of a home office. Supplies (paper clips, rubber bands, etc) in one area, extra cords in another, stationery over here, “author” stationery over there…you get the idea. Then, it was as simple as organizing how I wanted to store all the bits and bobs and labeling each of the boxes. 

bebe’s cabinet is much more organized!

I think it turned out great – and I even had enough boxes left over to update bebe’s bedroom cabinet that houses her supply of hair stuffs and tween makeup and whatnot. I couldn’t be happier with how my office turned out or her cabinet – and the bonus is that now I know where everything is again!

Do you use storage boxes in your office? How do you organize your shelves?

#WriteTip: Getting Into the Habit


Habit. It kind of sounds like a bad word…probably because for most of our lives we’re told we need to “break that bad habit”. Be that habit smoking or drinking too much soda or indulging in a candy bar once too often.

One thing I’ve learned over time: it’s much easier to learn a bad habit than it is a good one. I think because the bad habits can be so fun – I mean, who doesn’t want to spend a day in the pool rather than at the office? Who doesn’t want another slice of Chocolate Decadance or one more drink of that mojito? We’re human. We like the things that, in many cases, aren’t great for us.

According to Mr. Webster, an habit is “a behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary”. In other words, a habit is a learned behavior, and it doesn’t have to be a bad learned behavior.

I think the key to creating any habit is to begin by looking at it as a positive rather than a negative. Instead of “I can never eat chocolate again” look at it as “I’m going to enjoy one slice of the best chocolate cake ever and I’m going to enjoy every second of it”. Instead of “I can never laze in the pool on a hot summer day!” think “I’m going to meet __(goal)__ before I laze in the pool this afternoon”.

Y’all know I love my planner – it’s so much easier to have a list of to-dos and deadlines and expectations and family events all in one place that I can keep track of. But, another thing I do is track my habits – the good and the bad. Up above you’ll see the habit tracker I created for 2018 (feel free to download my Habit Tracker and other printables for writers here). I don’t fill it out every month, but I do find it helpful to use it every couple of months, just to make sure I’m doing the things I need to be doing – like exercise, like drinking enough water, like making my bed time. I’m happier, in general, when those things are going well, and I’m more likely to follow through on work goals when I’m also meeting my personal/health goals.

Here’s a copy of the tracker so far for August. Making those checkmarks is very satisfying…and as you can see, I’m not perfect. I haven’t been tracking my meals like I should (which is probably why, even though I’m hitting my bed time goal, I’m still feeling a little tired and “off”). But, now I can see where I’m not being the best me I can be (as bebe’s teacher liked to say in 4th grade), and I know how I can make a small change to start feeling better, in general.

Have you tried tracking your habits? Did it work for you? Share in the comments!

#NewRelease: Perfect on Paper

Perfect on Paper

Hey, readers! I have a new release out this week and I can’t wait to share it with you! Here’s a fun excerpt to get you started !

“I’m sorry I gave you such a hard time about finding the right guy. The partners will be so caught up in their own dates, no one will notice me.”

Nick had his doubts about that. From the way Howard put himself between Nick and Daisy’s door, he had a feeling her boss would keep a close eye on them. But Daisy didn’t need that kind of worry.

“Did you really send Joe back because he drove a Smart Car?”

“I don’t have a death wish, Nick,” she said wryly. “Other than the trip to the airport, when is the last time you drove on the San Diego freeway?”

“Point taken. And Andrew?”

“I need complete silence when I sleep, and his voice was very nasally. I thought he had a bad cold and offered him some orange juice, but he insisted he was fine. That leaves adenoidal issues.”

Nick chuckled. He’d never paid attention to Sam’s voice, but now that he thought about it, he did sound a bit stuffed up most of the time. Maybe he should set up a specialist appointment. “Mitch?”

“Mitch of the Callused Hands?” She raised her eyebrows. “I just had a manicure.”

“Right.” He bit back a smile when Daisy held up her perfectly manicured, blue-painted fingernails.

“And if you weren’t desperate, what would my crime against dating have been?”

Her brown gaze shuttered, but not before a little flash of something crossed her pretty eyes. A flash that made his stomach muscles clench.

“Nothing,” she said finally. “You’re perfect. On paper.”
About Perfect on Paper:
Nicholas Vega started ManServants as a way to make extra cash in college; five years later, his business is bigger than he ever imagined. And it’s in trouble. An angry ex-client wants to sue because one of his employees didn’t sleep with her. To keep things going, Nick takes on a client of his own – his best friend Daisy MacIntosh.

Daisy needs a boyfriend in a bad way. Her current boss – and ex-lover – has planned a retreat and makes no bones about wanting her back in his bed, at least for the weekend. Daisy wants a barrier between them, and an on-paper boyfriend seems like the best idea.
The problem? Once they’re playing at being in love, their fictional relationship might blow their real life friendship out of the water.

Buy Perfect on Paper: Amazon  B&amp;N iBooks KOBO
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