My Official #ROW80 Round 3 Goals Post

Compared to the last time, when I didn’t know what to expect, this will be easy. Most of what I say I’m going to do has been laid out for me elsewhere.


  • Successfully complete Fast Draft. It starts this Saturday and I’m waiting until then to see what the requirements are.
  • Successsfully complete Camp NaNoWriMo during August. The rules are the same as for the big one in November, a 50K-word novel written entirely during the month.
  • Post to the blog twice a week, not counting my Wednesday check-in. You might have noticed last week that I picked themes for Tuesday (Two For Tuesday) and Thursday (The Thursday Ten). I’m going to continue with those two themes. I might add a third day (either Free-Form Friday or Facts on Friday) in September.


  • Read one craft book a week. I have a whole shelf of them, and that doesn’t include the Kindle. It’s been a few years since I read the books, so it’s time for a review.
  • Read one non-craft book a week. I have tons on my Kindle and half a dozen paperbacks that I keep saying I’ll read. Now would be the time to do that.

I want to make sure that the goals are simple and measurable, because, well, them’s the rules.

Good luck to everyone doing the challenge! I’ll be around to check on you…


The Thursday Ten: Georgia authors not named Margaret Mitchell or Flannery O’Connor

1. Joel Chandler Harris: Born in Eatonton, GA in 1848, he was an associate editor of the Atlanta Constitution, and is best remembered for writing the “Uncle Remus” stories that formed the basis for the movie Song of the South.

2. James Dickey: Poet and novelist, Dickey was born in Atlanta in 1923. Probably best known for Deliverance, his 1970 novel that was made into a movie starring Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox and featuring the tune “Dueling Banjos,” making banjo music popular and giving Martin Mull the idea for “Dueling Tubas.” He died in 1997.

3. Iris Johansen: like me, a “damn Yankee” who moved to Georgia from St. Louis and hasn’t gone back. From what I understand, we’re practically neighbors in the northwest suburbs of Atlanta. She started with contemporary romance, switched to historical romance, from which she moved to suspense and crime fiction. Didn’t start writing until her kids left for college.

4. Margaret Johnson-Hodge: Author of African American romance novels who also lives in the suburbs of Atlanta. I had the good fortune to meet her and asked her about rewrites. She pointed to a table with her books and said “Each one of those books has been written and rewritten eight times.” A really lovely person.

5. Terry Kay: From Royston, Georgia. He’s probably best known for his book To Dance With The White Dog, which was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie starring Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy. His most recent book is The Mirror Man.

6. Anne Rivers Siddons: Currently lives in Charleston, SC, but born in Atlanta and raised in Fairburn. You can’t get any more Atlanta than Peachtree Road, her 1988 novel which Pat Conroy calls “the Southern novel for our generation.” Her first book, Heartbreak Hotel, was made into the movie Heart of Dixie, with Ally Sheedy, Virginia Madsen, and Phoebe Cates. Stephen King considers her The House Next Door as one of the finest horror novels of the 20th Century.

7. Diana Palmer: One of Mary’s favorite authors, Diana was born Susan Eloise Spaeth in Cuthbert, Georgia. A romance author, she’s written numerous novels as Diana Palmer, Susan S. Kyle, and Diana Blayne. She has a number of series, many of which are set in the West. (Those are Mary’s favorites.)

8. Karin Slaughter: Born in a small town in south Georgia, she lives in Atlanta. She became an international sensation with Blindsighted, one of her Grant County Mysteries that feature pediatrician/coroner Sara Linton. A more recent series features FBI agent Will Trent and his partner, Faith Mitchell. She brought both series together in 2009’s Undone (called Genesis internationally). Widely known as the person who invented the term “investigoogling,” meaning “to research something deeper than just a quick search.” I started reading her books when I was recovering from the stroke. If you haven’t read her, you should.

9. Stuart Woods: I was surprised to find out that Stuart was born in Manchester, Georgia, and graduated from the University of Georgia. He started out as an adman in New York City before moving to England. After three years there, he moved to Ireland and started writing. He has numerous series, including the Stone Barrington, Will Lee, Holly Barker, Ed Eagle, and Rick Barron novels. He is a yachtsman and an instrument-rated pilot.

10. Mary Schmich: A columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of the comic strip Brenda Starr, which she wrote from 1985 through its end in 2011. It came as a surprise that she was born in Savannah, Georgia. in 1997, she wrote a column called “Advice, like youth, probably wasted on the young,” which started with the advice, “Wear sunscreen.” It was widely and erroneously reported as being the MIT commencement speech delivered by Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut himself enjoyed the column, saying “What she wrote was funny, wise and charming, so I would have been proud had the words been mine.”

(Thanks, as always, to Wikipedia, and more than a little investigoogling.)

Two for Tuesday: The Monkees

The Monkees. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, they were a band formed specifically to star on a TV show, most of their music was performed by studio musicians, blah blah blah.

The Monkees premiered on NBC in 1966. The show was a hit almost immediately. I, being a little jaded after The Beatles, was a little too cool for them, but there was nothing else on, so I watched.

My father went into the hospital and died in January, 1967. A few weeks later, Mom and the three of us went on a ski trip along with her cousins and several of her sisters. That weekend, we must have worn out the hotel jukebox’s copy of “I’m a Believer” and “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone.” I was hooked. And they got better as they went along, as these two songs from the second season prove.

The show, and the band, lasted just two seasons. I probably shouldn’t say that; the reruns are probably playing on a cable channel, and the remaining members (Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, and Micky Dolenz) are no doubt off doing oldies concerts.

#ROW80 Round 3: I’m In!

Kait Nolan wants to know if I plan on participating in Round 3 of ROW80. I really had to think about it.

Just kidding. I’m in.

It’s going to be a busy three months. Fast Draft starts on July 7 (I get the sense that it’s already started for some), and AugNoWriMo (or Camp NaNoWriMo, August session) starts August 1. I might need September to recuperate from July and August. Those will likely be the goals that I set for myself. I’ll have others as well; I have a week to tell you what those will be, so watch this space.

Here are Ten Things That I learned From ROW80, Round 2:

  1. I don’t need to do everything I’ve been wanting to do. A couple of goals is fine. Leave some for next round.
  2. No one cares if I don’t do it all. I’m not sure that anyone does everything they set out to do.
  3. Take it in small chunks. It’s like eating an elephant: one bite at a time.
  4. I don’t need to put life on hold for this. That’s the whole point, isn’t it?
  5. Progress is progress. I noticed that a lot of people set very small goals. A hundred words doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s progress. Doing it every day for a week is almost three pages. That’s three pages you didn’t have last week. Go you!
  6. There’s no need to make excuses. There is no Sister Antagonista asking me “Why didn’t you do the assignment, Mr. Holton?”
  7. At the same time, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I need to take my goals more seriously. Intending on doing something and actually doing it are two totally different things.
  8. Make sure the goals are measurable. There were too many that weren’t this time around.
  9. It’s okay to change goals halfway through. It turned out that I had tried to swim in the deep end of the pool before I was ready. When I saw that others were scaling back, I did the same.
  10. This isn’t contest. Have fun. The only person I’m competing against is me. And the only reason I’m doing this is to have fun.

So, see you soon.

Multitasking is bad for you

When I start hearing the same thing from a couple of different sources on the same day (or pretty close to the same day, I know that I should pay attention.

A couple of days ago, James Altucher posted an entry to his blog called, “Multi-tasking Will Kill You.” In it, he observed that, when you try to do two or more things simultaneously, you don’t do well at any of them. He used the example of the bad habit he developed of playing chess online while talking on the phone. He observed that

When I’m playing chess while talking on the phone, not only am I barely able to focus on the phone conversation but my chess rank goes down by about three standard deviations. In other words, the non-phone version of me can beat the phone version of me 95% of the time. That’s a big jump down. And this is a result of doing just two tasks that I’ve done for tens of thousands of hours since I was a kid.

Three standard deviations, if I remember statistics correctly, is a lot. Even if he’s the best chess player on the face of the earth, three standard deviations makes him nothing more than average. That’s a hell of a drop.

I knew that there was a drop-off in performance when you try to do more than one thing at the same time, but seeing it on his website really drove it home. What made me think that the Universe was trying to tell me something was reading essentially the same thing in Jeff Goins’ book, You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One).

Our brains don’t work well when we try doing too many things. Though we may have eclectic interests, we can only do one thing at a time and do it well. Multitasking is a myth. You can either create or react. But you can’t do both. Choose wisely.

Now, it’s easy to shut off the external noise. You can turn off the TV, radio, Internet, iTunes, and tell everyone in the house to shut up and let you write. It’s not quite as easy to shut off the internal noise. My big bugaboo is what Altucher calls “time travel.”

Regretting the past or worrying about the future is AUTOMATIC bad multi-tasking. It means you’re not focused on right now. Your brain is somewhere else and then by definition less productive right now. It’s all filled up with no extra space.

When it comes to time travel, I’m a regular Doctor Who.

Opening from Doctor Who, circa 1973

In my case, it’s going back in time. I’m still mad about things that happened in high school and at people who are dead. They don’t care. Neither should I. It’s taking time away from the things I want to do. I would rather write than deal with all the unresolved anger. And it’s going to take time. But I’ll do it.

I have to.

How many of you find yourselves doing the same thing? If you do, how do you get it to stop?