Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Something's Gotta Give: Tips to Make Time for Writing in a Busy Lifestyle

by Zee Monodee

Hello beautiful people!

Lucky me landed herself a monthly spot on this blog - look out for my posts every last Wednesday of the month. LOL, I can hear the groans, too, because, of course, Zee is prolly go long-winded on you! :) I'm trying to curb that natural tendency; it's one of my 2014 resolutions.

Anyhow, back to the topic at hand today. It's January (can you believe it's the last Wednesday of the month?) Where did the time go? I'm sure you're asking yourself this, and then you're looking at your progress report/meter for this month and going, Drat! Yes, it prolly looks like you got nothing done....

Why? If you're like me, you'll say you're busy. Mum, wife, chauffeur, day job, the heat wave in the southern hemisphere, getting back into the groove after the kids' summer break (or winter break in the North - we all had our kids home for the Christmas/New Year period), etc, etc.

How does anyone expect to fit writing in there? How, huh? Anybody know? (No, I shouldn't have become a teacher; I got absolutely no patience with kids, even my own!)


Well, peeps - you MAKE time!

How is that possible, you ask? Well, something's gotta give....

My resolution for 2014 was to be better at all I did (shades of Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan's dialogue in the second Star Trek movie - he is better at everything! I digress...)

How could I get writing, edits, exercise, R&R time, chauffeur duty, housewife load, exercise, and sleep (let's not forget we all gotta sleep!) into every single day?

I crammed everything into my daytime schedule in 2013, and this led me nowhere. Actually, more like frustrated, because I got next to nothing done. It just didn't seem to work. I vowed 2014 would be different. How? Here's what I did...and these tips can apply to you, too. Trust me, they work!

1. Cut one hour of snooze time from your routine

I know this sounds hard. Trust me, I know - there's very little I value more than my sleep time. I get chided all the time for my propensity to sleep through the loudest thunderstorm ever (it happened, yes).
But here's what I also knew - I needed more time in the day, and the easiest way to get this would be to cut 1 hour from my sleeping time. Just one hour. Of course, if you already survive on barely 4 hours of sleep every night, this is not for you. I'm speaking for everyone who gets an average of 7-8+ hours of sleep a night. You don't need that much sleep, trust me. One hour can make a whole world of difference.
Since January 6 this year, I've been waking up at 5 am instead of my regular 6 am-hit-the-snooze-button-repeatedly routine. What am I doing with this extra hour? I'm exercising, then I have time for a leisurely shower afterwards before going into the kitchen for breakfast and the school rush.
Previously, I would stop work (when I could!) at 1 pm, wolf down some quick lunch, rush through exercise, then have to shower at lightning speed all to be out of the house by 2.15pm to go pick the kid up from school.
Waking up one hour early? Not only do I get my exercise in daily, but I save myself that unhealthy rush during the day (and get 1 hour extra to work, too!)

2. Find a schedule

Need quiet to write? Need your me-space to get in the zone? Find out when this is most probable.
For me, this amounts to those hours between 8 am and 2.15 pm when my son is at school (and his dad is at work, too). "Free", me-time to do with as I please.
Remember, I've already fitted the exercise and long shower in during the morning, before everyone else got up. I have this day time in a huge chunk of time available to work - be it edits or writing. Heck, I can even split it and work about 2 hours of writing first thing when I get home from the school run, 1-2 hours of social media presence, then about 2 hours of editing, if I have edits to do that day. Or else, I can use those 2 hours to write more.

Other thing - what can you do when you've got people in the house, and what do you need to be alone to do?
For me, I need to be alone to write in the zone. I can cook and clean and read when the rest of the family is home, but not writing. So I make writing a priority when I'm alone. I don't go into the kitchen to start the food, or go do laundry, or plonk down to read, when I have my free me-time. I write, or I work. Prioritise your time!

3. Use every opp!

Learn to write everywhere, at any time!

What do we all have grafted to us nowadays? Mobile phones. Everyone and their granny has a smartphone that allows you to download an app like Word or a clone of the program where you can write down notes or even more lines/paragraphs into your ongoing story.
So whip that trusty phone out and write, everywhere you find yourself with some time on your hand.
I easily 'lose' 30-45 mins every afternoon when I go pick my son up from school - got to get there that early to nab a parking space. So what do I do during the minimum-30-mins wait time, in my car? You got it - I get the phone out and I write. Sometimes it's notes when I'm plotting out a story, sometimes it's new lines in the WIP, sometimes it's just me reading a book I downloaded on there. Point is - I don't let this 'idle' time go wasted - you can do it, too.

Take your phone out and write some notes when you're stuck in the grocery line, for example. In traffic jams? Set the voice recorder on and come up with some lines that you say out loud (and you'll transcribe those when you get home).
Fear looking silly doing that? Get a Bluetooth device and keep it off when you put it in your ear - no one need know you're "talking to yourself". Or else close all the windows and power the A/C on - no one's gonna hear you then.

4. Spot Clean

In 2013, I was acquainted with every dust bunny in my house (and trust me, there were a lot of them. Much like Gru's yellow minions in Despicable Me, I had a whole horde of them!) Needless to say, I never found the time to clean.

Change in 2014 - I now spot clean. When I'm in the kitchen, I wipe down the counters. How much time did I 'lose'? Less than a minute.

I keep a brush and pail handy and when I spot a dust bunny anywhere, I get the brush and wipe the dust out. Time lost? 2 mins, tops.
If you suffer from allergies, like me sometimes (I never know when it's gonna be triggered!), then invest in a cordless handheld vacuum cleaner. Who has the time to go lug out the big hoover, attach all the extremities and cords and brushes, then find a power outlet and then cart the big thing all over the place while you're killing your back with the too-short rods? No one, certainly not me! The solution is a small, cordless vacuum cleaner. See some dust? Power it on and get it to work. Time lost? 3 mins, tops.

When you're in your tub, shower cabin, or even brushing your teeth at the sink, take that sponge you keep nearby for cleaning and give the tub/cabin/sink a good wipedown. Time taken? 1-3 mins.

You've thus earned yourself about 2-3 hours every week that you would've lost with a big, spring-type cleaning. Use this gain to write more!

4. Cook/make easy food

And while you're at it, get rid of the junk food in your life!

Don't go planning elaborate menus. A lamb tagine, for example, needs the meat to be marinated 24 hours in advance, then the whole dish cooked over very low heat for 2 hours minimum. That ties you in your kitchen unnecessarily!

Go for easy and simple. Fish fillet, or even a slab of beef fillet. Slice thinly and place into the pan where you've tossed a little butter or olive oil; season with salt, pepper, and herbs. Cooks in 5 mins.

Accompany this with a salad - how long does it take to wash some lettuce leaves and shred them into a bowl? 10 mins, max. You might even get pre-washed and shredded salads at the store (check the packaging date, though - if it's been packed the same day, you're good to go. If more than 24 hours, you stand better chances of nutritious food by grabbing that lettuce head and cleaning it yourself at home).

I'm a proponent of real food - none of that processed crap for me, so I won't tell you to go stock up your freezer with all those frozen convenience foods that seem to overwhelm our grocery stores everywhere. Go for real produce - veggies for salads, fresh (or even frozen - in this case, it's simply frozen, not processed!) meat/chicken/fish, some brown rice (I eat gluten-free so that's why I'm not mentioning bread, organic or otherwise. I'm also quite scared of the effects of gluten, esp wheat gluten, on the human system - you can find out why here and here - so bread is no longer part of my vocab).

Eat fresh and real and not only will you save time, keep dreaded preservatives and other processed crap out of your life, but you'll also feel and look better because you're not putting all that chemical rubbish into your system! Your writing will thank you for that when you see your productivity go way up because you have a clearer brain and your body feels less sluggish.

5. Call for help!

Yes, this is not a desperate resort! You have to ask for help, especially around your household.

Got a mountain of laundry to fold? Rope in the kids and tell them the one who folds the most clothes in 1 hour gets to win - I dunno! My boys love to eat, so I use food (real food, mind you!) as bribe - say a new set of Hot Wheels cars, or a new Barbie dress, or 1 hour more with the iPad every week. There's so much we can dangle over our kids's heads nowadays!

Same goes for cleaning - get them to clean their rooms. Build their sense of responsibility, too, all while it eases your workload.

Your mum/MIL/bestie/neighbour/auntie wants to help? Easy - tell them to send dinner one night. You don't have to cook! That's at least 1 hour out of the kitchen and that you can use to write.

6. Have marathons

No, not the 10K type runs (I'd die after barely 500 metres!). I mean, all the TV stuff you just have to catch at such and such time every week. Delay your instant gratification, and record your TV show/reality programme and let it accumulate on the DVR. Then, say, during the weekend, clear a block of hours and sit down to watch your recorded stuff in one long go (you can forward the commercial breaks, too! Yay!)
That time in the evening when you would've watched TV? Use it for R&R. Have a long soak. Give yourself a mani-pedi. Read. A little me-time every day is better than a huge day at the spa every month - you have less stress and are less prone to blowing up from the littlest aggravation.

I'm curious now - these all worked for me.

What worked for YOU? Chime in and let me know!

From Mauritius with love,


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Excerpt from Love, in writing (Escape Publishing)

A hardcore Science Fiction writer and a soft-hearted romance novelist clash on the sunny South African coast...
Margaret Parker is a hopeless romantic whose fantasies fuel her writing. For Graham Connelly, science fiction is the perfect genre to express his cynical world view. A chance meeting in a lift leaves them both interested and aroused — with no clue as to the other's identity.

Margaret has been looking for a face to match her new fictional hero — and Graham's is it. Graham has been looking for proof that innocence and optimism still exist — and he's found it in Margaret. But fantasy isn't reality, and both Margaret and Graham are used to controlling their fictional worlds. Can they step off the pages long enough to find their own happy-ever-after?

A link to Escape Publishing where you can find a link to all the e-book retailers:

‘Details, my dear, details,’ Jen called out as soon as Margaret walked through the door of her bookshop.
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Margaret said and with her chin held high, tried to squeeze past Jen. Unfamiliar feelings had kept her up most of the night and when she’d finally fallen asleep, erotic images of her and Graham making love woke her up. Now all she wanted to do was to try and occupy her mind with something normal so that these constant thoughts about a strange man could vanish.
Laughingly, Jen grabbed her arm. ‘Oh no, you’re not getting off so easily. The last time I saw you, Graham Connelly had you in his arms and you looked blissfully happy. What happened?’
Margaret winced. ‘He actually carried me out?’
Jen nodded.
‘I was sleeping?’
‘Snoring. You, my friend,’ Jen said and pointed towards Margaret, ‘were completely and wonderfully sloshed. You did it with style, though, I’ll give you that. No loud singing or dancing on the tables, you just passed out gracefully. A good thing, considering some of the esteemed guests we had.’
Margaret opened her mouth, but then closed it again. She stormed down the corridor to her office. She should find a hole where she could hide out for the rest of the day. Jen’s peals of laughter followed her all the way into her office.
She sat down and cradled her head in her hands. Two glasses were her limit. What was she thinking? And to be so out of it that she didn’t even know Graham of all people had carried her. What must he be thinking? A groan escaped her lips.
Her fingers touched her mouth. She could still taste him, feel him. Who was this man who had, within the short span of a few days, thrown her completely off balance? And why couldn’t she stop thinking about him? Stop dreaming about him?
‘Black coffee?’
Margaret opened her eyes. Jen stood in the door with a cup of coffee.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Announcing the ROSA Conference

You may have heard the whispers, but now it's really true: ROSA will be hosting its first ever conference for South African romance writers in 2014.

We took a vote (via the Yahoo loop, email and here on the blog) on whether to hold this first ever conference in Johannesburg or Cape Town. The votes are in, and Johannesburg has three more votes than Cape Town, so the City of Gold it will be.

We're planning for a weekend in September, and are focussing our attention on venues in the northern suburbs. We will let you know venue and dates (and costs) as soon as we've locked these down, so watch this space for more information!

This conference will have something for everyone. It is open to both English and Afrikaans authors, both published and aspiring. We'll have talks on the craft of writing, on how to promote your books and tackle social media, on what options are available to romance authors embarking on a career.

If you have any ideas, suggestions, or would like to be involved in the conference, please leave a comment on this blog or email me on

You can also subscribe to the conference newsletter here:

I'd like to thank the volunteers who have agreed to be the ROSA Conference Committee: Rebecca Crowley, Clare Loffler and Mandy Verbaan. I appreciate the time you're taking out of busy schedules to view the venues and help plan the event. Thanks!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Excerpt from 'The Trouble with Mojitos'

This week's excerpt is from the ideal summer holiday read, The Trouble with Mojitos.

For those headed back to work tomorrow, this light-hearted romance will help keep that holiday vibe going. For those of you still on holiday... Shush, I don't want to hear it!

 * * *

Juan brought two big earthenware platters to their table, filled with huge grilled lobsters, shelled and fresh from the barbecue, served on a bed of rice.
Kenzie licked her lips. “And what are these?” she asked, pointing at her plate.
“Plantain chips. They’re like bananas – sweet.” Rik lifted one off his plate and held it to her lips.
Her gaze held his for a fraction of a second before she opened her mouth and took a bite.
“Are you flirting with me?” she asked, once she’d swallowed it down. He was right, it was sweet. Better than plain old potato chips back home.
“Of course. Isn’t that what one does when on a date with a beautiful woman?”
She choked on the plantain chip. “This isn’t a date!”
“It isn’t?” His eyes held that dangerous glitter again. “Dinner, moonlight, pretty woman...sure looks like a date to me.”
“Yeah, but I’m leaving in three days.”
He grinned. “What difference does that make? It’s just a date, not a lifelong commitment.” The way his face pulled at that thought, she could guess what he thought of lifelong commitments.
“I don’t do one-night stands,” she said, as haughtily as she could muster.
No, she had a tendency to throw herself into long, complicated relationships and lose her heart and a piece of herself in the process.
And pick up a reputation.
She concentrated on her lobster and pretended that the idea of getting down and dirty with Rik wasn’t giving her hot flushes.
He leaned back in his seat and eyed her. “I’ve never had a one night stand either, but there’s always a first time for everything.”
A man who’d never had a one-night stand? Yeah right, and pull the other leg.
Her mojito glass was empty. She chased down the last of the lobster with Rik’s untouched drink.
Perhaps it would be different if she just indulged her body for a change, and kept her heart out of it. Perhaps a one-night stand was exactly what she needed.
Three days...that wasn’t enough time to lose her heart. Right?
The hot flush headed south. She pressed her thighs together, but that only made it worse.
No, she couldn’t. She’d sworn a vow. And that mischief in Rik’s eyes definitely put him in the ‘off limits, avoid-at-all-costs’ category.
“I think you should take me home,” she said. Her voice was hoarse. She cleared her throat.
“That was easier than I expected.”
She choked again. “I mean...I need to work tomorrow...”
He grinned and rose. “I know what you meant.”
Rik dropped cash on the table, then moved to hold her seat for her to stand. Such old-fashioned manners did nothing to ease her erratic pulse. Why couldn’t he be a straight-forward jerk and make it easy on her?
Juan waved them out the restaurant with another beaming smile, and then they were back on the boat which suddenly seemed even more intimate than their table at the restaurant had been.
While Rik guided the boat out of the harbour, Kenzie lounged back on the bench, no longer caring that her dress rode up and flashed way too much thigh. She was rewarded by his lingering gaze on her legs.
Good. She hoped his pulse was just as affected as hers. She hoped she drove him just as crazy as he drove her.
The coastline of Los Pajaros shimmered with magic in the dark, tiny fairy lights glittering between the trees, the beaches edged with dancing phosphorescence.
But the real magic show was above. She leaned back on her elbows and looked up. She’d lived close enough to London all her life that the sight of the Milky Way was still a treat. That was one of the best perks of her job – it took her to places where she could escape the light and noise pollution and actually see the stars.
This night sky was a hundred times better than any she’d seen, and she’d travelled enough to have seen a lot of impressive nights.
A balmy breeze stroked over her bare limbs. Her skin felt more alive, almost electric.
Los Pajaros had awakened her senses. Every colour seemed brighter, every experience deeper. The lazy heat that caressed her skin, the rich scents, the tastes…sweet and tart melting together.
And she definitely felt hungry for more. Of everything.
It was as if she’d been only half alive before, and here she was awakened, a new person, a better person.
This sense of possibility was familiar, it was that feeling she’d had as a child, that sense that she could have anything, do anything, be anything. She closed her eyes and breathed it in. She wasn’t a screw up. She was a young woman with the world at her feet, and a future, not just a past.
Today could be the beginning of a whole new life.

* * *

Turquoise blue waters. Sandy white beaches. Mojitos... Film location scout Kenzie Cole has found herself in paradise. Working in the Caribbean for a week is just what she needs to escape the long line of exes in her closet. Though the last thing she expects is to be picked up at the resort bar by a disgraced former Prince!

Luckily for Kenzie, exile is suiting the man formerly known as Prince Fredrik very well. And it’s not long before his rugged, pirate charm is proving hard to resist.

But Rik’s been spending his time in paradise exorcising demons of his own and he has danger written all over him. If Kenzie was sensible she’d run a mile instead of lose herself to lust - although, they do say sometimes you have to get lost before you can be found....

The Trouble with Mojitos is published by Harper Impulse, a division of Harper Collins, and is available from the following online retailers: Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes and All Romance eBooks.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Welcome to 2014

2013 was a great year for ROSA. We had more members make their first sales to publishers and more books out than any year previously. We've grown in numbers, and grown closer. This was also the year that saw many of our members start new jobs, as well as the birth of babies and grandbabies.

All in all, 2013 was a year of new beginnings.

In 2014 we plan to build and grow on this foundation. I predict a whole raft of new books by South African romance authors, several new sales, and even more members. Yay for the new year!

Even better, is that we plan to make this the year for ROSA's first ever conference.

Nothing is as yet set in stone, so if you'd like to make suggestions, volunteer to help, or would like to vote on whether this first conference be held in Cape Town or Johannesburg, now is the time to have your say. Leave a comment on this post or email me on

(PS:  This conference will be open to both English and Afrikaans authors, both published and unpublished. While most of the events will be in English we do plan to actively involve Afrikaans speakers).

From everyone at ROSA, we wish you health, peace, prosperity and loads of time and inspiration for writing in 2014. Happy New Year!