If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our April author interviews: Perennial author Susan Wittig Albert--4/5, Sasscer Hill, horse racing insider--4/12, English historical, cozy author, TE Kinsey--4/19, Debut author, Susan Bickford--4/26.

Saturday Guest Bloggers in April: Heather Baker Weidner (4/1), Christina Hoag (4/8), Susan Boles (4/29). WWK Saturday bloggers write on 4/15--Margaret S. Hamilton and on 4/22--Kait Carson.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th. In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

Linda Rodriquez has two pending book publications. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel will be released by Scapegoat Press on November 29th. Every Family Doubt, the fourth Skeet Bannion mystery, is scheduled for release on June, 13, 2017. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with Linda here in June!

Cross Genre Publications anthology, Hidden Youth, will contain Warren Bull's "The Girl, The Devil, and The Coal Mine." The anthology will be released in late November 2016. The We've Been Trumped anthology released by Dark House Press on September 28th contains Warren Bull's "The Wall" short story and KM Rockwood's "A Phone Call to the White House." KM writes under the name Pat Anne Sirs for this volume.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Bringing Order to Chaos

By Julie Tollefson

Our house is a crazy mess of conflicting schedules and looming deadlines right now. The other day, in a fit of emotional overload, I told my husband that I feel like I'm trying to hold so many things in my head, I can't add another thing to the mix. Between our son's imminent high school graduation and almost-as-imminent move to college; my day job, freelance work, and fiction writing; and my husband's high school teaching and coaching responsibilities, it's so easy to let things that are not the emergency du jour slip away undone, unnoticed.

But I hold to this idea (fantasy is probably more accurate) that I am always in control, always organized. Consequently, my search for tools to help me stay on track is never ending. A few months ago, thanks to a tip from a friend*, I replaced my laughable "system" of writing to-do lists and reminders on sticky notes and random scraps of paper with Trello, a web-based program that is especially helpful in organizing projects, like my Writers Who Kill blog posts.

Within Trello, I've set up a "board" for each project I want to track. Here's my Trello dashboard, with projects divided into color-coded boxes.

Purple boxes represent family "projects," dark blue is for the day job, light blue/teal boxes are related to fiction writing, green is for freelance work, and pink boards contain book lists for a couple of book clubs. Clicking on any box brings up the Trello board for that box. This is where the real organizing takes place, and it's probably easiest to understand by looking at an example. Here's my Writers Who Kill board:

​I've created four columns, or lists, for WWK blog posts. When I have an idea for a topic, I create a Trello "card" and park it in the Topics and Due Dates column on the left. When I click on an individual card, it expands to allow for the addition of more detailed information, including a comment feature that I use to add sketchy notes to help me remember in a few weeks or a few months why I thought this topic would make a good blog post. I can return to the card and add more notes any time inspiration strikes.

When I begin work on a post, I change the label color to purple, which I've designated as "active," and I move the card to the In Progress column. I also add a checklist to the card.

After the post is written, peer-reviewed, polished, and scheduled for publication, I move the Trello card to the Scheduled column.

When the post is live (and I've finished the last few items on its checklist), I drag the card to the Posted/Finished column and change its label to green. I also change the name of the card from "Topic: ..." to the title of the post and add the date it published so I have a record in case I ever need it.

One of the advantages of Trello is that because it's web-based, I can access the boards wherever I am: at work, at home, or on the road.

Another benefit is that I can customize the columns on each board, add multiple checklists to each card, and keep track of all of the moving parts associated with each project. The cards and lists can be as simple or as complex as needed. The WWK board shows a simple progression through four columns. My Short Stories board, in contrast, has seven columns: Titles, Writing, In Review, Editing, Submissions, Published, Rejected/Abandoned. A glance at a board shows the status of each component.

Trello has become my master to-do list, replacing the scattered paper notes that are so easy to misplace. I like the peace of mind that comes from knowing that, even when my head can't hold another thought, the important stuff is all in one place on the web.

How do you keep track of all of life's demands? Do you have any neat tricks I can steal?

* Thanks to my friend Aaron Sumner for recommending Trello. He describes his use of the software to track learning and research goals here.


Margaret Turkevich said...

I manage our lives on a kitchen calendar, all due dates noted. I use a stack of clear plastic file folders, one for each project, with a time line as the first page of each file. I review those files once a week when I make up a list of weekly goals.

I see the value of accessing your current projects on line, and keeping all your notes and ideas in one electronic source.

You'll get through graduation with mixed emotions ("It's too soon" v. "I can't wait to have him gone"), and life goes on, as it should.

E. B. Davis said...

I'm organized and keep lists. If there are long-term projects, they usually don't end up on lists, which are more task planners. I'm a short-term planner perhaps because I get satisfaction out of crossing items off my list. I plan by the hour. On occasion, there are things that don't get crossed off and get relisted on the next task list, but usually they don't get transferred more than once. I need to get things done. The longer term things go on my computer calendar where I can get a visual of the months/years. Day tasks on lists, longer on calendars. I like your program, but it sounds as if you juggle more than I do. I get rid of one before taking on another. My time is limited so I try not to take on too much in one time period. Hope your system works for you!

Julie Tollefson said...

Margaret - I like your clear folder idea! One of the problems I've had with folders in the past is I really need to SEE my projects. If I put a list in a folder, it's out of sight and out of mind. Clear folders solves that problem. Thanks for the encouraging words on the boyo's graduation!

EB - I love to mark items off my list, too. The Trello checklist feature gives me some of that satisfaction, but not as visceral as taking a Sharpie to a written list!

KM Rockwood said...

Wow. Am I the only one who kind of drifts through life, hitting the things that are my top priorities and letting the things that are less important to me go?

I gave up the notion that I'm in control a long time ago (actually, I don't think I ever really thought that) and am reactive to things that happen and need to be addressed at the same time I am proactive about things that are important to me but aren't "necessities." Writing falls into that category.

Due to health issues, I retired a few years earlier than I had intended, which gives me more time, but also less control as I doctors, therapy, etc. take up a lot of time & energy. And juggling meds which can interfere with both cognitive and physical abilities takes more time & energy.

When I've tried to organize things with lists & folders, I've discovered I spend so much time organizing that I get less work done.

My husband claims that the empty nest syndrome is one of the most underrated social phenomena in our society.

Once the kids are off to school or whatever, it frees up a whole portion of energy. My daughter may still be out until 4 AM, but I'm not aware of it, since she doesn't live here, and since she lives in California, it's hugely unlikely she's going to call and tell me that the person who drove her to Baltimore is now drunk, and would I please come get her?

Warren Bull said...

Bravo, KM. I was feeling left out of the loop before I read your post. A calendar for me.

Margaret Turkevich said...

poly project folders, in a 5 pack at Staples in the file aisle

Shari Randall said...

Julie, I wish I had had Trello when my girls were in school. That was in the infancy of apps and computers, so I relied on a VERY LARGE and color coded calendar - a prehistoric version of Trello. I think you have probably sold many units of Trello for the company today, so I hope they give you some credit.
Right now I'm still relying on the good old calendar, but thinking about trying something new. Trello may be the way to go.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

Google Calendar and Wunderlist work for me (both free and in the cloud so I can access them from computer or phone).

~ Jim

Julie Tollefson said...

KM - My husband is more of the drifter type and when something is important to him, it gets done. Sometimes I wish I could be that laid back, but most of the time it just drives me crazy. :)

Thanks, Margaret!

Shari - You bring up a point I should have mentioned. Trello has a free version and an enhanced version for a fee. So far, I'm using the free version and it meets my needs. (And I'm not affiliated with the company in any way.)

Jim - I'm going to take a look at Wunderlist - love the name!

Gloria Alden said...

Julie, you're far more organized than I am, although I do keep a list of things to do on a long legal pad, and write things on my calendar. I do like using a colored marker to mark off things I've done. Other than that, I'm more with KM and Warren.

Julie Tollefson said...

Gloria - I do sometimes miss the very real feel of striking through an item on a paper list. Clicking a computer button is just not as satisfying!