Spring Pinterest Board

I am itching for spring! Itching for it, I tell you. We’ve had a gloriously mild winter. But…winter is still gloomy. Overcast skies, chilly temperatures, dead grass, no leaves or pretty flowers or any color to look at. So I’m sharing my Pinterest board with all things spring today.

 

Spring Pinterest Board

 


 

If the board doesn’t show up, here’s the link to it. http://www.pinterest.com/jillkemerer/spring/
 
I can’t wait to walk outside without wearing gloves, a hat or a winter coat. And I love it when our grass turns green. And when our flowers start to bloom. Well, you get the idea. I am DONE with winter!

What says spring to you?

Have a terrific day!

{Movie Romance} Inferno

My husband and I have been watching a lot of movies at home lately. Last weekend we watched Inferno, the third installment of the Robert Langdon film series, loosely based on Dan Brown’s books. I haven’t read the books, so I can’t tell you how the movies compare, and I’m not reviewing the movie. Instead, I’m focusing on the romance elements in the film.

SPOILER ALERT!! If you haven’t watched Inferno but plan on doing so, do NOT read further! I give away several key plot points in this post!!

 

Dr. Robert Langdon (played by Tom Hanks) is the main character, and he interacts with two women throughout the movie. One is the ER doctor, Dr. Sienna Brooks (played by Felicity Jones), who looks to be in her late twenties and is thrust into a dangerous situation when she treats Langdon for a head wound. She’s a prodigy, a former child genius, and knows Dr. Langdon (he’s a professor) from reading his books and attending one of his lectures. The movie takes place in Italy. After a police officer tries to kill them in the hospital, they’re forced to go on the run, searching for clues to prevent a deadly plague from being released.

They are being hunted by several government agencies, and they don’t know who to trust. Langdon has few memories of the previous three days due to his head wound. He recalls meeting a mysterious woman but he doesn’t remember if he can trust her or not. Later, he remembers the woman was Elizabeth Sinskey, a World Health Organization agent and former girlfriend.

As the movie progresses, Sienna double-crosses Langdon, and we learn she was the lover of the man who invented the deadly plague. We also learn that Langdon and Elizabeth were in love when they were younger, but neither wanted the other to give up their life’s work to be together.

While the movie was action-packed and not a romance by any means, I was struck by the fact the writers never gave in to the temptation of letting an attraction blossom between Langdon and the much-younger Sienna. A decade ago, these two would most likely have made googly eyes at each other and possibly shared a kiss or, at the minimum, an embrace. Personally, I’m glad we were spared that. The only time a romantic connection was hinted at was by another character, and Langdon seemed appalled at the thought. It was very refreshing to have the older-man/younger-woman element off the table.

On the other hand, Langdon does  have a romantic past with Elizabeth, and the race to find the plague draws them closer together. Elizabeth is played by the talented actress, Sidse Babett Knudsen, whom you might have seen on the new HBO series, Westworld. She’s a fantastic actress–and get this–she’s in her late forties. Yes, Tom Hanks just turned sixty and that is still a sizable age gap, but the romance felt spot on. These are two mature people who shared a past and deeply cared about each other. It was very believable, and one of the reasons was because they shared common goals. They were both dedicated to helping others and willing to sacrifice their personal lives to achieve this.

The movie was entertaining and action-packed, if confusing at times, but the romance element was my favorite part. 

What movie have you watched recently? Was there anything about it that struck you as inspiring?

Have a terrific weekend!

{printable} Weekly Progress Spreadsheet

{printable} Weekly Progress Spreadsheet

2017 has been a year of changes for me. Most of the changes have been little, but hey, small steps equal steady progress. One of the things I’m doing is tracking my progress in two areas. I created a year-at-a-glance spreadsheet that can be used for any goal. I’m tracking my exercise habits and how many hours of “important work” I accomplish each day.

Below is a snapshot of it. Notice there are spaces for each day of the week as well as notes. For my health spreadsheet, I use my own code. FY stands for Foundation Yoga. BC stands for Boot Camp. GS stands for Green Smoothie. 2W stands for two miles I walked. Obviously, the number changes with the miles. This allows me to see my consistency over the course of an entire year. It’s been motivating!

 

Weekly Progress Spreadsheet

For my Important Work spreadsheet, I printed the exact same form, but each day I simply jot a number in the slot. The number represents the amount of hours I spent doing things on my Important Work list. (You can see my list below.)

By important work, I mean tasks that directly contribute to my income, which is based on writing and selling books. I got this concept from Cal Newport’s excellent book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. I don’t track my “deep work” hours because some of the things I consider important do not fit the Deep Work philosophy.

Your list will look different than mine. We all have our own concept of the most valuable tasks in regards to our work. The things I don’t include on my Important Work list are necessary parts of my job, but I place less value on the because they don’t directly contribute to my income based on writing and selling books.

Things I track as Important Work:

  • Doing research for a book
  • Plotting a novel
  • Outlining a nonfiction book
  • Creating a synopsis
  • Writing the actual book
  • Revising a manuscript
  • Any editorial tasks required
  • If Indie publishing, any cover research, formatting, uploading
  • Setting up promotion for a new release

What I don’t track as  Important Work:

  • Reading and responding to emails
  • Being active on social media sites
  • Administrative tasks (income/expense report, etc…)
  • Volunteering to judge contests, help writers, etc…
  • Writing blog posts

Again, the things I don’t track are necessary to my job, but I don’t log the hours I spend doing them.

If you’re interested in tracking any aspect of your life, feel free to print your own Weekly Progress Sheets. Just click on the link below! I’m also including this pdf file on my For Writers page if you’d like to print more out in the future.

Click for the printable PDF Weekly Progress Spreadsheet.

I find this especially helpful for reluctant writers. If you find yourself going days on end without writing, try this. It’s evidence of how much or how little time you actually spend working on a manuscript.

If you’d like to track your Important Work hours, spend a little time determining what equals important work to you. Enjoy!

Does charting your progress motivate you? Have you ever tried a year-at-a-glance weekly spreadsheet?

Have a terrific day!

Cover Reveal! Hometown Hero’s Redemption

Cover Reveal! Hometown Hero’s Redemption

Happy Friday! It’s an extra exciting day for me because I get to share the cover of my fifth book!

Hometown Hero’s Redemption is the final book in the Lake Endwell series. I’ve loved this fictional Michigan town so much. It’s hard to say goodbye! This story is dear to me, and I hope you love it as much as I do. It will be available June 2017!

Without further ado…

 

Hometown Hero's Redemption

A Temporary Father 

When he becomes guardian to his friend’s troubled ten-year-old boy, firefighter Drew Gannon knows he needs help. But before he can get former social worker Lauren Pierce to agree, he’s got to prove he’s changed from the sports jock who gave her a hard time back in high school. Returning home, Lauren wants no part of her old profession. She only wants to forget the unspeakable tragedy she left behind. She can’t take responsibility for another child. Or a reunion with Drew—no matter how generous he’s become. But a desperate boy and his handsome guardian may be more than Lauren can resist…

 

***

What are your weekend plans?

Have a great day!

When You Can’t Focus

Two weeks ago I was pushing hard to meet my daily and weekly goals. I had a book due, and I needed every minute to finish it. I had a three-hour window on the weekend where I was in another town with nothing to do, so I decided to revise a hard copy of my manuscript. I found a corner table at a coffee shop, took out my printed book and red pen and…stared into space.

 

 

The coffee shop was crowded, conversations were loud and I struggled to concentrate. No problem, I’ll just work in my car for a while.

But the car, while quiet, brought no productivity either.

I simply couldn’t focus on the pages in front of me.

Come on, you’re on a tight schedule here. If you don’t get this done today, you’ll be behind. Do you want to meet your deadline or not?

Well, that little pep-talk didn’t help. I grew anxious. Called a friend. Tried to revise again. Failed again.

The little worries started zapping at me until I took a deep breath and told them to stop. Forcing myself to revise wasn’t working, so I read another chapter of a nonfiction book I’d been enjoying. I still had an hour before I needed to pick up my son. Rather than trying to free up brain cells that didn’t want to cooperate, I prayed. I prayed God would bless my upcoming writing week, that He would help me get my work done and guide me to make the book the best it could be.

The following Monday, my focus returned with a vengeance. I worked hard all week, and I was able to turn in my book a few days early. It felt really good!

Sometimes our plans don’t work out, and the situation is made worse when we can’t focus on what needs to be done. If you’re distracted, try the following:

  1. Take a break. Brew some coffee or tea, eat something yummy and just relax for a while.
  2. Go somewhere else to work. If you’re home, go to the library or a coffee shop. If you’re at a coffee shop, go home. If you’re home and can’t leave, go to a different room.
  3. Take an hour (or afternoon) off and don’t worry about what isn’t getting done.
  4. Pray for God’s favor. Pray for your work to be blessed.
  5. Rest, drink plenty of water, and take care of yourself physically. Sometimes we’re rundown and we don’t know it.
  6. Read for fun. All work and no play can sap the focus right out of you!

Do you ever get so distracted you can’t focus? How do you handle it?

Have a terrific day!

 

Healthy Living Motivation

Healthy Living Motivation

Wow, January 20, 2107! How many of you are trying to improve your health this year?

Me! 

To be fair, I’m always trying to improve my health. Last fall I started a regular workout regime. There were weeks I skipped a few workouts, but overall, I stuck with it. This year, I’ve made weekday workouts mandatory. I have no excuse–none–not to fit 30 minutes of exercise into my weekdays. But…sometimes I lose my motivation and have to force myself off the couch.

 

Healthy Living Motivation

 

I saw a quote on Pinterest this week, and I thought how true.

“In two weeks, you’ll feel it. In four weeks, you’ll see it. In eight weeks, you’ll hear it.”

It’s been about two weeks since sticking with my weekday workouts, and I do feel it. It’s easy to get discouraged when you don’t see big results though. I’m just reminding myself this isn’t about big results. It’s about daily habits that add up to strength and health.

In four weeks, I’ll see it. My jeans will no longer feel tight when I button them. I believe this.

In eight weeks, I’ll hear it. Eight weeks of consistent exercising is noticeable on anyone. But if I don’t hear it, that’s fine, too. For me, investing in myself three to four hours each week is the reward I seek. Every time I get off the couch and do the workout, I win.

What does a win look like to you in regards to healthy living?

Have a fun weekend!

Scheduling Creative Sessions {Writer Wednesday}

Scheduling Creative Sessions {Writer Wednesday}

Creative Sessions = Dedicated time to problem solve, plot, explore ideas.

In the past two weeks I’ve read two nonfiction books that made a big impact on me. The first was The Wright Brothers by David McCullough and the second was Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. Although very different books, they shared a common theme–focus. The Wright brothers devoted much of their free time to solving the dilemma of human flight. Their passion helped them focus, and they spent hours, weeks, months and years experimenting and problem solving. In Deep Work, Cal Newport puts forth a compelling argument why anyone who wants to excel in their field needs to be deliberate about what they’re spending their time on. In other words, excellence requires focus.

 

Scheduling Creative Sessions

 

Writing, like inventing, involves a LOT of creativity. And creativity is a form of problem-solving. Fictional characters don’t always behave, and plots get off track. And then there’s the issue of what to write next.

I have many ideas I’d love to explore, so many books I want to write. Time always feels like the deciding factor. But over the past couple of years, I’ve broken free from my belief that producing a higher volume of quality books requires putting in massive overtime hours.

Last year I was tired of constantly setting aside a pet project to work on my contracted books. It hit me that if I didn’t schedule time for it, I would never finish the project, let alone publish it. I had to figure out how to work on it while fulfilling my contracts. I sensed that I could accomplish far more than I thought possible, but I didn’t know how. So, I read several time management books, prayed, talked to trusted writer friends, and finally decided to go for it.

Through trial and error, my beliefs shifted. I reworked my daily schedule, limited the frequency of social media breaks, silenced my phone and pushed myself to meet daily and weekly goals. I also added more time to studying the Bible and praying each morning which had a direct impact on my day by giving me the boost necessary to believe I could meet my goals.

In 2016, I plotted several books, wrote two category length books, a novella and a nonfiction book, promoted two novels, and organized my writing business. This was far more than I’d produced the previous year, and yes, sometimes this meant working overtime, but overall, I fit these projects into normal working hours. How? By deciding in advance what I would work on each day, devoting 30-60 minutes to my nonfiction book (the one that kept getting neglected), and limiting distractions.

The great thing about revising my schedule? My writing continues to grow. I’m confident about the books I’m writing because I’m making the time to thoroughly plot, write, revise and polish them. If my only goal was to publish more books, I’d be tempted to use shortcuts and skimp on the quality. My goal has always been to write the best book I’m capable of and that means no skimping.

One thing I’m adding this year: scheduling regular creative sessions just to think and jot notes. These time blocks will be used to plot, work through a current book problem, explore ideas for new books, and creatively solve any business issues. Setting aside 2-3 hours a week, or even 30 minutes a day, to just “sit and think” seemed absurd until I realized my brain does so much heavy-hitting for me beneath the surface of my consciousness. Scheduling regular creative sessions is another tool to get more work done in a limited time frame. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Do you ever sense you could accomplish more in the limited time you have? What strategies do you currently use to make the most of your hours?

Have a lovely Wednesday!

Reading Goals

Do you set reading goals for yourself each year?

I’ve always been an avid reader, so setting goals for reading books comes naturally to me. Last year, my goal was 50 books, and I ended up at 53. I added more Christian living books as well as several business/productivity books to the mix. I’m glad I did! They were terrific additions to my list.

 

 

 

The first book I read in 2017 was The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. What an inspiration! I learned so many things from this one. Dayton, Ohio was a hotbed of new ideas around the turn of the twentieth century, and many inventions originated in Dayton. Wilbur and Orville Wright fascinated me–how in the world could two brothers work together constantly, not to mention live together, and not drive each other bonkers? The book does mention their tempers and stubbornness, but I’m impressed by their dedication to the pursuit of flight.

Right now I’m reading Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. This book isn’t for everyone, but it IS for me. I love data and theories and trying different ways to get more done. It’s really helped me think about how I structure my day.

I’m still debating what my first novel of 2017 will be to read, but I’m guessing it won’t take me long. Fiction is delicious! The bulk of fiction I read is Christian romance, but I throw a classic or two in and sometimes I even try a new genre. Last year I read my very first cozy mystery. It was a fun read, and I plan on trying another author this year.

Here are a few titles I added to my Must Read in 2017 list:

If by Mark Batterson (Christian living book)

Their Surprise Daddy  by Ruth Logan Herne (Love Inspired)

Still Life by Dani Pettrey (Christian Romantic Suspense)

True to You by Becky Wade (Christian Contemporary Romance)

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (Classic Literature)

The Regional Office is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales (General Fiction)

Additionally, I always read several Love Inspired novels, a few random novels from the library, a handful of business books and any nonfiction that catches my eye. Fifty seems to be a good number for me, so I’m sticking with it!

Do you always read the same genre? Do you add non-fiction to the mix? Any reading goals this year?

Have a terrific weekend!

Self-Discipline and Meeting Your Goals

Although I gave up New Year’s resolutions years ago, when January rolls around I usually take some time to think about my life. What worked well the previous year? What didn’t? In what areas have I slipped into poor habits? What habits are improving my life?

 

Self-Discipline and Meeting Your Goals

 

I also think about my goals, professionally and personally. Did I meet my goals? Exceed them? What allowed me to gain momentum? What halted my progress on goals I didn’t meet? Is my current schedule supporting my goals? Am I wasting time? What needs to change?

If I hide away to a quiet place, this reflection period comes easily. I’m able to identify what habits are hurting me and which ones help me.  The solution to my weak areas is usually self-discipline.

When I consistently exercise and eat more fruits and vegetables, my clothes fit better and I don’t have a lower backache. When I automate both–setting a time each weekday to exercise, and prepping my fruits and veggies ahead of time–taking care of my body suddenly becomes easy. I know this. I’ve done it in the past. So why do I slip out of the habit?

It’s the same way with my writing tasks. When I take time each month to set weekly goals, then take a few minutes each week to set daily goals and review these goals each workday, I get a lot done, more than I think is possible. But when I leave each day up to chance, I tend to meet my goals, but I don’t always feel great doing it. And there’s never extra time to work on a pet project. I like pet projects. I must make time for them.

Self-discipline, for me, is a breath of relief. A sign I’m investing in myself. I trust I’ll see results when I stick to a plan.

So why is it so easy to stray from the plan? One day without exercising becomes two, and by day four, I’ve completely forgotten how great I felt on day one! I no longer believe I’ll achieve what I want. And for some crazy reason, I have this false idea that at some point the work ends while the results remain.

The work doesn’t end. I will always have to consistently exercise and eat more produce if I want to fit in my clothes and avoid the lower back pain. I’ll always have to carefully schedule my working time if I want to meet my professional goals.

You might be different. In fact, I’m sure you ARE different! We’re all individuals with unique habits, schedules and demands. But if you want to improve an area of your life, you will need self-discipline, too.

The biggest problem I face with new routines is not sticking with them long enough for them to become a habit. Turns out, I’m not alone and there’s a reason for it. In the Forbes.com article, “5 Proven Methods for Gaining Self-Discipline,” Jennifer Cohen states, “When a behavior becomes habit, we stop using our decision-making skills and instead function on auto-pilot. Therefore, breaking a bad habit and building a new habit not only requires us to make active decisions, it will feel wrong. Your brain will resist the change in favor of what it has been programmed to do.” This information is based on Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit.

It makes sense. When I’m trying to establish a new exercise schedule, I find myself questioning if I want to do this workout or that one, which, sadly, sometimes resulted in me not doing any workout. But when I decide in advance what workout I am doing on certain days and set the time for these workouts, I no longer have to make the decision. I just have to show up. This tells me I need to avoid having to make decisions about a new habit. I take as much guesswork out of it as possible, because my brain is already resisting the change.

As for my health goals, I automated my workouts in mid-November, and it’s working well for me. Sure, I skip a day here or there, but not having to think about when and what I’m doing each day has made a world of difference. And my writing? Scheduled well in advance. I’ve got this!

How do you approach new habits?

Have a terrific day!

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I hope you are enjoying this holiday season! As much as I adore Christmas, I can’t ignore the fact my Facebook feed tugs my heart. Not everyone is happy and jolly right now, and that’s okay.

 

Merry Christmas

 

You might be struggling. Health scares, job problems, relationship troubles, money issues, grief, loneliness–all hit us hard around the holidays. If you are less than jolly this year, I’m sorry. I pray God brings you comfort.

You might be overwhelmed. Yeah, I get this, too! Too much to do, too few hours to do it all. Hang in there and be kind to yourself.

You might be overjoyed. A new baby, great job, the love of your life, reconnecting with family–all are exciting, wonderful things to celebrate. I’m cheering with you!

Whatever you’re going through, I pray you find the peace that only comes through faith in God this Christmas season. As Philippians 4:7 states, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Eat a cookie for me and heat up some cocoa! It’s Christmas!

I’m taking a nice, long Christmas break, so I’ll be back to blogging in January.

Have a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year!!