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Incentivizing Your Best Employee

No, I’m not dead. I’ve been stuck in editing land and finally back with my head above water–for now. The good news is that the blog is all shiny looking and exciting, right??? So, there’s that.

So today’s topic is about incentivizing your best employee.

“What?” you may ask “How can a writer do that? You work for yourself?”

Now you’re getting it. As your own boss, you’re also your own employee. Simple philosophy of mine: ALL employees like to be appreciated from time to time. Especially when your boss is a jerk. Let’s face it writers, most of us would get away with a lot less work if we were working for someone else. We are a zillion percent accountable for the work we do. Pat yourself on the back sometimes. Just because the recognition isn’t coming from an external source, doesn’t make it less significant.

I’m not the only writer to feels this way. Many of the lady writers I know have nifty charm bracelets and treat themselves to a new bead or charm with each big accomplishment. Not precisely my thing, but I liked the idea. So what do *I* like? Fountain pens. But they’re expensive and not easy to find in person. Not something I buy every day. A perfect choice for major milestones like getting my agent, or–when the time comes–making my first book deal. Of course I can’t buy a new one for smaller accomplishments, like finishing a draft, but a bottle of OK champagne, dinner out, or even fancy ink cartridges are good substitutes. Here’s the first member of my collection:

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(Waterman Expert Steel with Gold Trim, photo from Waterman–and man does she write smooth.)

So find your bliss, writers. But here are some suggestions I offer when deciding what to gift yourself:

  • Make it special. Not something you do all the time. A $.99 Kindle book isn’t a good gift if you buy them all the time. A leather bound collectable book? Better. Especially if you only allow yourself to buy one for big milestones.
  • Make it work with your budget. Don’t buy yourself a $1500 designer handbag for every $1000 book deal. It doesn’t make sense.
  • Make it work with your lifestyle: Don’t burden yourself with clutter if you live in a small space, and don’t overspend on calories if you battle with the scale.

Do something nice for yourself, writers. You couldn’t ask for a more challenging employer!

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2014 in Writing Life

 

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Review: THOUGHT I KNEW YOU

Debut author, Kate Moretti, creates a fast-paced suspense right in the heart of suburbia with THOUGHT I KNEW YOU. Claire Barnes is hardly in an ideal marriage. She and her husband Greg, like so many of us, are busy with work and raising two small children. The relationship has become routine, and Greg’s business trips are almost a welcome reprieve from the monotony…except when he doesn’t come back.

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Claire is faced with keeping her family together while the days turn into weeks and months. Greg’s disappearance becomes more and more baffling as no one can trace his whereabouts. Is this a simple question of a bored husband, or is there something more sinister afoot?

 

Moretti creates memorable, if not entirely likeable characters (and thank goodness for that. Not every character can be Elizabeth Bennett!) and weaves suspense masterfully. This novel really packs an emotional punch and will strike a chord with anyone who has been in a long-standing relationship… how far can trust bend before it is broken?

 

I find this work to be a genre-twisting take on Women’s Fiction and Crime Fiction that may have very well broken some ground. I am very anxious to see what Moretti produces for us in the coming years!

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2014 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: BLADE OF THE SAMURAI

Susan Spann’s crime-solving shinobi, Hattori Hiro, and his Dr. Watson-esque companion, Father Mateo return to the pages in BLADE OF THE SAMURAI, sequel to CLAWS OF THE CAT. As before, Spann deftly transports the reader to 16th century Japan with a solid balance of world-building and storytelling that never lets the details of the former bog down the latter.

 

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This time, we revisit some of our favorite secondary characters–Ana the devoted housemaid, shifty merchant, Luis, and the enigmatic Kazu– as well as a host of other new and compelling characters. Notably, young Ichiro, son of the shogun’s murdered cousin, Ashikaga Saburo. Hiro is once again called upon to solve a murder. The complication is that his dear friend Kazu’s dagger is the one found at the murder scene. Can Hiro protect Kazu from the shogun’s wrath when there is such damning evidence against him? Does Kazu even merit the reprieve?

 

From page one, Spann hurls us through the action, but without resorting to the choppy writing we find so often when mysteries attempt to build tension. One of the things I admired most about CLAWS OF THE CAT was the well-crafted, almost lyrical language that Spann uses to weave her tale. BLADE does not fall short of its predecessor, and in fact surpasses CLAWS in both level of suspense and general quality of writing, just as every author would strive for.

 

Unreservedly, I recommend this book as wonderful company for a quiet evening at home during a summer thunderstorm, a lazy afternoon at the beach, or prime gate-to-gate airplane fodder for your summer travels when it’s released this July. You won’t be disappointed!

 

*Disclaimer: I received a free electronic advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2014 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: THE ASSASSIN’S HEART

So a fun week-long blog series about vacay…then nada? Blame the round of illness and the fact that my son had a snow day *during the last week of school*. I feel like we’ve moved from Colorado to Winterfell somehow. I’m making a public declaration that we in Colorful Colorado have *earned* a free pass on fire season this year. But I digress. What’s the best way to banish the “winter-gave-spring-and-summer-a-miss-and-went-striaght-into-autumn” blues? Beach reads! Summer reads! Fun books!

So I hereby dedicate my next several blog posts to reviewing books you can and should read this summer.

First up: THE ASSASSIN’S HEART by J.A. Kazimer:

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While action books are not my wheelhouse, every once in a while, I do love a great suspense novel to get my blood pumping. JA Kazimer’s THE ASSASSIN’S HEART did not fail to deliver! One reason I don’t read the genre more frequently is that a) Too often I can guess the mystery element far too early, and b) The characters are often more like caricatures.

Ms. Kazimer never comes close to falling into either of those traps. I was kept guessing until the final climax, which is a heck of a thing to do. Her characters, especially the protagonist lovingly dubbed “Six”, are larger than life. I love that Six is both tough as nails, but still believable as a woman. I’ve read more than one book where the attempt to make a “tough” female character produces little more than Robo-cop with boobs and less stubble. That wasn’t really an option for this novel because, as a romantic suspense, we have to relate to Six as a woman or the romantic elements will falter. It strikes the balance of being well-written and fast-paced which is hugely appealing for me when seeking out a great summer read.

So my advice?  Click the “buy now” button, grab a beach chair and a daiquiri, and curl up with THE ASSASSIN’S HEART. You won’t be disappointed!

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2014 in Book Reviews

 

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A Week in Paradise: Part 5

The final installment of my vacation mini-series!

As I mentioned yesterday, today’s post has to do with vacationing and writing. The one, most assuredly, helps the other.

My husband made it very clear that I was not to bring any work or writing on the trip. The logic was that I can work at home for free. He was right. I did bring my manuscript and tiny blue-tooth keyboard in case of emergency, but neither were used.

Writers tell you that one of the first keys to writing success is writing itself. Every. Damn. Day. They’re right. Except, not always. Taking a break for a day or two in between projects, or for a week or so during vacation, is good for the soul, in my opinion. It gives you distance from your project and gives your creative “muscles” a rest. My only caveat is that I would avoid taking a long break during the first draft of a project, but that where I find unbridled momentum is key.

The result? I got the inspiration for my 3rd book while snorkeling off Barbados. i knew I wanted the Ice Flowers books to be a trilogy, but didn’t have a vision for it yet. One flash of inspiration while looking at a school of bright-blue-and-black fish, and my vision for the series is much clearer. All because I wasn’t thinking about it. For one week, writing became like a background process on my computer. Not an active app, but still running in my peripheral memory, so to speak. The hardest part is that I have one book to edit and another to write before I can tackle this new project :-)

One thing I will urge the vacationing writer to do is bring a paper notebook, iPad, or whatever you prefer for note taking. You’ll definitely want to capture the ideas that pop out of your head before they flit away!

I hope you enjoyed this mini-series. I’d love to hear from you if you did!

~Aimie

beach

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2014 in Travel

 

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A Week In Paradise: Part 4

Vacation guilt. It’s a thing.

When I was planning the trip, I had vague feelings of guilt about spending our tax return on something as extravagant as a cruise when we have a mortgage, my student loans, and never-ending kid-related expenses.

When I was getting ready to leave I felt guilty about leaving my students for a week right after their Spring Break. I felt guilty about having another teacher covering my classes.

I felt guilty about spending money on bathing suits I wouldn’t have the chance to wear again for a long while.

I felt guilty about not working on my book for a whole week.

And the big one: I felt guilty about leaving my kids for a week and imposing on my parents-in-law to do it. I felt even worse after we go back and they clung to us, very much like the monkey in my post 2 days ago.

But you know what? Misplaced feelings of guilt are a waste of precious energy. My work and my book were still here when I got back. My kids will forgive me (I did bring back toys and t-shirts, after all). My in-laws (amazing people that they are) enjoyed the time with their grand kids.

And I came back rested and (mostly) ready to face the second onslaught of Colorado Winter. (Seriously, though? Snow in late, late April???). It was worth the money and the inconveniences to recharge a bit.

I think too many people, especially mothers, feel like they are being selfish or greedy by doing something in their own self interest. The occasional time away makes you a better employee, parent–and especially a better writer. More on that as I conclude this series tomorrow :-)

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Posted by on May 1, 2014 in Travel

 

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A Week in Paradise: Part 3

So now you know all about the trip… the exotic ports of call, the beautiful ship, the sun soaked afternoons by the pool/ It was fantastic. This is my second cruise/organized vacation and they definitely have their benefits. Limited decision making, eager staff, plentiful food and drink–it’s relaxing. It’s also a great deal less adventurous than the travel I’ve experienced in the past. There is something to be said about showing up to a city in a foreign city armed with nothing but your trusty backpack and perhaps reservations at the least-manky youth hostel you can afford. It’s not relaxing, I’ll grant you, but it’s a great way to learn about yourself.

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I made the effort to attempt a few new things on the trip, however, because I think that no-one should ever outgrow self discovery. Here’s a small sampling.

Snorkeling: Never had the opportunity to try it before, other than in our four-foot deep swimming pool with my parent’s gear they’d brought back from Hawaii. It was too big, of course, and leaked terribly. I was convinced for years snorkeling simply didn’t work. since my childhood I’ve only had one or two chances to go to the ocean. both times I mostly stuck to the beach with a good book and a lot of sunscreen. Twice on the trip, I had the chance to snorkel and swim further out in the ocean than I’d ever dared. It was addicting and I’d go again tomorrow. Of course, I’ve rarely heard of anyone who can swim who dislikes snorkeling, so this “risk” was a pretty mild one, but one I’m so glad I took. Things I’ll do differently next time: bring my own mask and snorkel tube, better sunscreen including the kind you spray into your hair, and a waterproof camera or waterproof camera case.

Food: To say the least, I am not an adventurous eater. My mom could have her own blog about it. I find comfort in familiar foods and am weary to branch out. It’s almost as though my psyche thinks that if I don’t enjoy the meal, I’ll starve. On a cruise ship. this isn’t a problem. Two meals a day, we ate in a buffet, so there were no consequences for trying a scoop of the weird looking pasta. Just pass the plate off to the waiter and start again. Dinner in the formal dining room was trickier. There were always familiar options like steak or seared salmon, it was easy to stick to the stuff you know. The appetizers were more exotic though. One evening, I decided to try bouillabaisse. Didn’t care for it, but I’d try it in another venue since I’m sure  recipes vary wildly. One night I had a tougher decision: go for the Japanese-style shrimp dumplings that sounded interesting or the baked fish I know I’d like. At the end of the day I opted to try the new dish and really enjoyed it. This may not seem very adventurous to many of you, but for a burger-and-fries, girl, it’s a big deal. My only regret food-wise was that we didn’t have much opportunity to sample local food. Next time. I bet the flying -fish sandwich in Barbados is awesome when it’s freshly cooked. Not so much when it’s been kept warm for a couple hours on a catamaran.

Being social: As a writer, I am very comfortable in my own company. Many of my friends would be surprised to know that I don’t consider myself very social, but that’s mainly because I’m much more comfortable with my established friends than trying to strike up conversation with complete strangers. The biggest difficulty that we had in this area was that our ship left out of Puerto Rico and a larger percentage of the boat spoke Spanish amongst themselves. While I’m confident that most of them spoke excellent English, it felt rude to try and strike up a conversation in English, and sadly my Spanish is too limited to join in theirs. We did have a nice conversation or two with strangers, but not as many as we had hoped. Next time we’ll oped for a fixed dining time with a mixed table so we are forced into a few more social situations. 

Body Image issues: I’m not thin. I’m not obese. I spent a huge amount of time in public in a bathing suit. Left to my own devices I’d have chosen a boring black one-piece like my grandmother always insisted was the prettiest and most flattering. My husband insisted on bikinis and one funky one-piece. Flashy ones. With things like sequins, leopard print, and black lace over magenta fabric. Ya know what? I looked just fine. I certainly wasn’t the worst-looking person by the pool or the beach. Truth be told, a woman my age would have probably stood out more in the frumpy one-piece than in a nice bikini. And without going into too much detail, my trip to the naked beach in St. Maarten was really good for my self image. No Victoria’s Secret models there, I assure you.

So if I have any advice to impart it’s this: When traveling, or even when you’re not, make an effort to step outside your comfort zone. You’re likely to surprise yourself!

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2014 in Travel

 

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