April 19, 2016

Shampoo that makes your hair thicker, saves you time, AND smells like heaven... Yes, please! #TryItTuesday #AmazonPrime

Try It Tuesday . . . Wherein I review things and stuff.

Losing a TON of hair in the shower? Feel like the hairline is on the rise? Yeah, me too.

Ever since a terribly stressful event in college, plus my seborrheic dermatitis (which I now have under control thanks to this product), multiplied by having a baby and my hair had seen thicker days. Until I started using this awesome shampoo!

Seriously. It was love at first scrub.

Today's product: Organic Argan Oil Shampoo (hair growth therapy)

Where to find: Amazon
Average cost: $26 (totally worth it)
Lasts: Until the bottle runs out, which will probably be a while for me because I only wash my hair two times a week and use a quarter-sized amount

Karen's rating: 

Why is this such wonderful shampoo?

Of course, I was skeptical at first--because I naturally always am--and didn't have very high hopes, but after about two week I could totally tell a difference. HOLLA.

1) It actually works. I can see new growth around my hairline, which I seriously never thought would ever thicken up.

2) It smells ahhhhmazing. Like, professional salon shampoo amazing.

3) I don't find clumps of hair on the shower floor after I've washed my hair. For real. I used to find gobs and wads and gunks of hair. Not now. It's staying firmly rooted to my scalp. Score.

4) Saves me time. I don't have to use conditioner anymore. The argan oil in this shampoo is rich enough to condition my hair.


Wanna see more red balloons go by? Thought so. Check out my previous reviews*
*Reviews are my own opinions, I am not paid to promote any items.


Written while waiting for supper to cook . . . karen

April 18, 2016

Deadlines. How to write with them. #MondayMotivation #amwriting #writeon

Monday Motivation . . . Writerly things and stuff.

So you think you can write?

Yes? Me too. Mix in the day job (for me it's keeping up with an adorably rambunctious toddler), family, friends, social life (what's that, right?), and just plain old day-to-day living and things seem--erm, a bit hectic. And still, writing somehow happens. Now, an exciting opportunity comes your way and suddenly *cues dramatic music* a deadline stares you in the face. EEP. 

You're totally stoked but also slightly--yeah, okay, definitely--terrified. All the words must be written by a certain date. For someone like me, a pantser who occasionally tosses in a timeline or rough one-chapter-ahead outline just for kicks and giggles, this is that moment. That moment where the snizzle gets uber serious and meeting those daily word counts is more than something I'd like to do . . . it's something I must do.

My current deadline project was for a historical fiction anthology. I had to come up with a one-sentence pitch, a synopsis, and the opening scene. Whaa?? Totally did it. Now the wait is on to see if my proposal gets picked. *fingers crossed*

So, let's get technical... How do you realistically make a deadline work while still living life? Excellent question.

#1 What needs to be included in your proposal? Or how long does the manuscript (MS) need to be? When is it due?

After you've determined these things, you can make a daily word count (WC) goal. I gave myself a day to write the rough draft of my proposal (pitch/synopsis); although, I'd been researching events/places and mulling over themes for a few days prior.

Let's say you're working on a MS that's 15k words (approximately 60 pages), and you want to complete it in 30 days. This means a minimum of 500 words a day must be written. You could break it down even further and write 250 words before work and the last 250 before bed. I find that making goals to reach for is extremely helpful for me.

#2 How do you find time to write? 

This is a tough one! For me I used to write before my day job and during my lunch break. Now that I'm a stay-at-home mom, I usually write before the toddler wakes up and during his naptime--if I'm on a deadline I'll write after he goes to bed. But I've found that writing after 7pm isn't my most productive time, because my brain is pretty much mush by then.

#3 To outline or not to outline...that is the question. 

As I've confessed, I'm a pantser by nature. For this particular project, it was a proposal, so plotting was a must. I found Jane Friedman's post on writing a synopsis very helpful. And this post on writing a book blurb really helped me refine my story idea, so that I could write the one-sentence pitch.

When I'm writing a MS, I always refer to Michael Hauge's plot structure for story structure guidance.

#4 Just write. 

It's as simple and as mind-blowingly (I'm a rebel, I take liberties with words) difficult as that. I have to constantly remind myself of this, but don't edit as you write. Spelling, eye color, names...all of those things can be fixed later. The important thing--especially while writing under a deadline--is to make sure words are being typed onto the page.

#5 Annihilate distractions. 

Yeah, so, erm, this is an extremely difficult one for me. I'm so easily-- Ooo, shiny thing. 

Turn off the social medias. Stop checking email. Don't watch TV (unless that's part of your writing ritual). And one that almost sends me into a tailspin...turn off the cellphone. It's not forever. Just for a certain allotted amount of time. Even if it's only thirty minutes. Every. Minute. Counts.

#6 Roadblocks in the Muse's fast-lane. 

Yup, they happen...to everyone, even if they don't talk about it. Something I have recently started doing: using the <insert thing here>. Get your mind out of the gutter. What I mean is, if I can't figure out a specific and it's really bothering me, I'll use a placeholder and come back to it later. I had several of these in the middle grade (MG) novel I recently finished. 

How about you? Are you writing under a deadline? Have you? What's your secret? I'd love to know.


Story prompt:

Want more motivation? Who doesn't? Check out more of my Monday posts.


Writing is rewriting is coffee is chocolate is rewriting . . . karen

April 15, 2016

Comfort zone. *smashes out* Words. *writes like the wind* Brownies. *eats them all* #winningcombo #TGIF

Friday Feed . . . Doing things and stuff.

Call me Karen. (writing words)

Me this week. Chuggin' coffee and bangin' out the words. I had gotten my historical romance pitch/proposal--you remember, the one I'm trying to get accepted into an anthology that's set to be pubbed next year--all shiny and sent off to my agent, when she let's me know that I need sample pages of the actual story. Written. Words forming sentences and everything. Eeeeeeep. Like, ASAP. 


I wasn't even sure I could do that. I mean, I don't normally write historical fiction, so I had planned to read a ton of it before writing the story. Anywho, I wham-bammed out FIVE pages. Got them all shiny, and now, they're in my agent's hands. Double Eeeeeep.

Current mood . . .

Even if my pitch doesn't get picked for the anthology, this was such a good experience. Pushing myself out of my normal genre and comfort zone has been intense, but extremely beneficial and worthwhile. 

Luke, I am your mother. (kiddo corner)

This week started out on a high note, Monday we went to an awesome new play place with friends and then out for donuts. Then, Lukey got a fever. We had to cancel our plans for Tuesday and Wednesday because he wasn't feeling well. So we just hung out at home. Read a ton of books, ate a lot of fruit, and chilled.

By Wednesday afternoon, he was feeling like a new toddler. So Thursday's playdate still happened. WOOT. Today we have another playdate, and then Saturday is our super busy day. 

Saturday morning is Touch a Truck. Whaaaa?! Lukey is gonna LOSE his MIND. Holla. Then, Saturday afternoon I'm going to a friend's house to work on my DIY fence post growth chart project. You remember, the one where I spent wayy more then what the blogger had spent on hers. Ohh well. Still super excited to see how it turns out.

Pix for your viewing pleasure . . . 

Just keep swimming. (all the randomness)

You're born with 300 bones, but when you get to be an adult, you only have 206. (Sited)


Enjoy my Friday Feed? Here's more to delight you.

Crayons: rainbow paste in my toddler's mouth . . . karen

April 12, 2016

One test kitchen. 40 slow cookers. 200 fresh recipes. SOLD. #bookreview #slowcooker via @TestKitchen

Try It Tuesday . . . Wherein I review things and stuff.

Ever bought a cookbook and only liked one, maybe two, recipes out of it? Yeah, me too. So for a while I stopped buying them, until my Hubs found this one. 

I've made about thirty recipes out of it so far, and I only disliked one of them. Crazy, right? I know.

Today's product: Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution Cookbook

Where to find: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Average cost: $9.00 to $17.00
Lasts: Until you break the spine or burn the pages--on accident, of course

Karen's rating: 

Why is this such a great cookbook?

1) It's healthy without compromising flavor--just be sure to add extra salt, cos the recipes tend to under-utilize the delicious food enhancer.

2) It's written by America's Test Kitchen. They're the boss, yo.

3) The recipes are easy to understand, and they use delicious ingredients.

4) Slow cookers (crock pots) are awesome. Throw in the ingredients and let 'em cook.


Wanna see more red balloons go by? Thought so. Check out my previous reviews*
*Reviews are my own opinions, I am not paid to promote any items.

Powered by coffee and Snickers . . . karen

April 11, 2016

It's okay. You can say it: Writing is hard. Here's a scoop of encouragement. #amwriting #BePositiveHour

Monday Motivation . . . Writerly things and stuff.

Has writing that work-in-progress lost its sweetness?

About to bite into a woe-is-me sundae? Never fear. You’re not alone. *raises hand* I too have (and do on a daily basis) give into the saccharine allure of self-doubt…only to find it bitter and completely useless. 

Seems like the Negative Nancy voice is always there to offer a non-encouraging word: You’ll never finish that project…You don’t know what you’re doing…No one will want to read it… You've never written that genre.

Even as I’m writing this post, those thoughts swirl in my mind like a dark rain cloud about to burst. 

And to that voice--after I wallow for a bit--I say: Who the heck does self-doubt think she is? Hm? *lifts eyebrow* Who has time to worry? Between friends/family, chasing after a rambunctious toddler on a daily, Twitter (yes, the blue bird gets its own category), writing a story proposal, revising another story, editing, thinking up a new work-in-progress, attempting blog posts, beta-reading and somehow experiencing life…well, for Owls' sake doubt has got to take a hike. 

Sylvia Plath once said, “And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” 

This is so true. As a writer, we are our own worst enemy. Writing is such a mental activity that if self-doubt wedges its way into the deep, dark crevices of our mind, then it’s a struggle just to see a hint of creativity. But the imagination is always there…just needs to be lured back out into the open.

On that note, I offer these three nuggets to help get you in the writing zone: 

Make a playlist. For each one of my stories I have about twelve songs that set the mood, remind me of the characters, speak to me about their personalities or just make me happy. I find this tool extremely helpful for discovery time and plotting. And goodness knows, I am not naturally a plotter, but that’s another post.

Edit at the end. If I edit as I write then I get caught up in unnecessary details that will most definitely change on the tenth or eleventh draft anyway. (insert maniacal laugh here) A tip that has helped me to stop editing as I go is to read only the most recent five pages before writing that day. Then I don’t stress over the inevitable plot-holes, bad spelling, poor grammar, etc.

Finish the book. We all get distracted by a new idea…it’s human nature. But I try to keep in mind that my current characters need their story told too. And if I don’t do it…well, who will? It’s that feeling of typing the last word in a manuscript that keeps me going. It’s pure euphoria, like seeing the heavens open and winged unicorns fly to earth, leaving rainbows in their wake. Seriously, it’s that fantastic. And if you’re like me, after you type The End you’ll high-five yourself, smile ridiculously, and clap like a giddy fan-girl.

Remember, your voice is unique and your characters need to be heard, so flick the self-doubt off the sundae and remember…

You. Are. Plucky.


Story prompt:

Want more motivation? Who doesn't? Check out more of my Monday posts.


I can knot a cherry stem with my tongue . . . karen

April 8, 2016

Procrastination is the mother of invention. #amwriting #FridayFeed #TGIF

Friday Feed . . . Doing things and stuff.

Call me Karen. (writing words)

Me this week...playing it cool. Um, trying. My middle grade novel is out to all my beta readers, and I'm getting nervous. LOL I've heard back from one so far, and she LOVED it. So that makes me happy. She had some great feedback, which I really appreciated. This book is sooooooo near and dear to my heart. Let's put it this way, if I ever split my soul into horcruxes, this book would be one of them. Just sayin'. I wait with baited breath for further feedback. Eeep.

My proposal for the historical romance anthology is written. WOOT. Finished it up on Sunday. Sent it off to my editor to get it edited and make sure it's a story worth writing. *bites nails* Even though this will be the 9th book I've written, nervousness and self-doubt is always there, lurking--been pursuing writing as career for eight years--sooo just part of the creative process. I'm learning to live with it.

Luke, I am your mother. (kiddo corner)

This week has been a very chill one. It was spring break for the schools in our area, so a lot of the activities Lukey does were canceled this week. We did go to a local farm on Wednesday, wherein Lukey said baaaaaa to all the sheep and pointed to every car in the parking lot, twice. Yesterday we braved the raindrops and ran errands. Lukey got to play in the mall's playplace. He was a bit intimidated by all the kids at first, and then he found his groove. Today we have a playdate, and we were promised baked goods. HOLLA.

Pix for your viewing pleasure . . . 

Just keep swimming. (all the randomness)

Did you know . . .

Melissa McCarthy WILL return for 'Gilmore Girls' reboot after all??? SQUEEE. Check out the USA Today post here.


Enjoy my Friday Feed? Here's more to delight you.


Procrastination is the mother of invention . . . karen

April 5, 2016

The perfect breakfast for peeps on the go. Quality carbohydrates. Talk foodie to me :P #TryItTuesday

Try It Tuesday . . . Wherein I review things and stuff.

It's a cracker that's like a cookie that's like a biscuit.

Basically, belVita is the Matrix--of cereal.
Oh yeah. Mind blown. I know, right? 

Today's product: Belvita Breakfast Biscuits

Where to find: Amazon | Walmart
Average cost: $3 to more (depends on amount, flavor, etc.)
Lasts: Until you finish eating them or the expiration date, whichever happens first

Karen's rating: 

Why is this such a great cracker/biscuit/thingy?

1) They're delicious. Yummy in your tummy.

2) They're SO convenient. Shove a pack into your pocket, purse, booksack, or bag . . . annnd, go.

3) They've got a ton of variety for a myriad of palates. Chocolate, blueberry, cinnamon, honey oat, etc. Plus, get them in the soft/fluffy variety or as mini bites.

4) They're totally versatile. Eat them alone or crumbled into yogurt or oatmeal. Slather 'em in peanut butter and honey. Do you.

Ohh, just thought of a fifth, they can be breakfast, second breakfast, or a snack for you and the toddler. Toddlers love crackers and cookies. Trust me. 

Buy in bulk from your big box store. That's how we roll. Holla.

Image result for belvita biscuits


How do you breakfast? Or second breakfast? What eat you?


Wanna see more red balloons go by? Thought so. Check out my previous reviews*
*Reviews are my own opinions, I am not paid to promote any items.


Cooking dinner, listening to Mozart, and trying to keep the toddler from climbing into the hot oven . . . karen

April 4, 2016

5 elements you'll need when writing a story, no matter the genre... #amwriting #MondayMotivation

Monday Motivation . . . Writerly things and stuff.

Stories can be simple or complex.

They can be about anything from small-town firefighters to alien invaders to princesses who shift into firefighting werewolves from Mars. You get the idea. 

But all stories have FIVE things in common . . .  

Plot. Characters. Conflict. Theme. Setting.

Setting sets the scene. Gives the where and when.
Plot is the action. A series of events. A quest for satisfaction.
Characters are the people in the story who carry out the action.
Conflict has something going wrong. A struggle in the plot (internal and external).
Theme is the main idea. The central belief. Usually something abstract.


Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out where you want your story to go, but if you break it down into manageable elements, it can seem less daunting. I'm actually using this process for a story proposal I'm working on at the moment. 

So if you're feeling a bit overwhelmed, go back to the bare-bones of the story. You'll work it out.

You got this.

Story prompt:

Want more motivation? Who doesn't? Check out more of my Monday posts.


Working it out . . . karen

April 1, 2016

Writing outside of my comfort zone + Toddlers x Pancakes = Madness #FridayFeed

Friday Feed . . . Doing things and stuff.

Call me Karen. (writing words)

Sooo, there's this anthology. And I'm putting together a proposal to see if my idea will be accepted. If it is, it'll be published next year. It's wayyy out of my normal genre--historical romance set between 1852 and 1912--but a challenge that I'm excited about. Cut to . . . 

. . . me this week, only without the make-up and still in my pajamas.  

After much staring at the computer and surfing the crazy waves of the interwebs, I have finally landed on a year, an event, and a theme. HOLLA. Or what did they say in the early 1900s? Good job-eth? Just kidding. Clearly, imma rock a historical. Now, extensive research needs to be done, and I gotta get crackin' on my pitch, blurb, and synopsis--normally, I write those things AFTER the book is complete. Erm, so, yeah. I'm kind of terrified all around. And with the proposal deadline of 18 April coming up, I have to buckle down.

Will keep you posted.

Luke, I am your mother. (kiddo corner)

My boy had his 18 month well-check at the pediatrician Thursday. He did great. His doctor said--after watching him carry things back and forth, read a book, eat all the snacks, and try to unroll an entire roll of that crinkly disposable paper that's on the exam table--that Lukey is a very busy boy, and she loved seeing that. Only had one vaccine this time, and he didn't even cry--until the nurse put the band-aid on. Clearly, the scariest part.

We also had playdates and story time at the library this week. And a friend gave Lukey a kid-friendly slide. So he's having a blast mastering it.

Over the weekend, he became a parrot. He's repeating so many words now. His latest faves are airplane (aewpun), giraffe (raff), owl (owwell), and elephant (laphant).

Pix for your viewing pleasure . . . 

Just keep swimming. (all the randomness)

This weekend the taxes must be done. Yiss. The deadline is looming. EEP.

I made a discovery. If you wash out deli meat plastic containers, empty cream cheese containers, etc...they make perfect disposable food containers for leftovers. Annnd, they're great to put cookies in to give to friends. That way you don't have to ask for expensive Tupperware back. Brilliant. I know, right? Also, washing out and re-using yogurt cups are the perfect sized bowl for toddlers to us on-the-go. 

Public service announcement: Lavender pancakes are delicious. If you've never had them, make them. Click here.


Enjoy my Friday Feed? Here's more to delight you.


Eating like a ninja turtle, dude . . . karen