I like to think that I’m fairly laid back compared to most people. When I hear about celebrities that demand a list of items at every appearance, I wonder what makes them feel so entitled. But then I started to think about what I feel like I need in order to write and I realize it’s not entitlement as much as it is having the right circumstances in order to best perform. Like an athlete eating a proper diet to fuel a workout, there are certain things that put me in the frame of mind to work at the top of my game.
I get that this might not make a lot of sense to some writers who find themselves distracted by the constant barrage of social media but I must have an internet connection. If, for no other reason, than I always have a thesaurus ready. I don’t have time to keep flipping in a physical one. I want a quick suggestion so I don’t lose my writing “zone.”
2) A clean desk
I don’t demand an empty desk by any means but I do insist that I don’t have papers strung out across my work space. It needs to be tidy, dust free and, preferably, have a window nearby for natural lighting so that, when I get stuck in a scene, I can stare into space and figure it out in my head. Too much clutter makes me cringe so I do a weekly paper purge where everything is either filed away or thrown away.
It’s a bit cliché, I know, but I love my morning coffee. If I don’t have it, there better be a good reason (like Armageddon or a zombie apocalypse.) I like it strong, dark and with whipped cream. Hmmm, sounds like the hero of a romance novel. In my world, coffee is a hero!
With three teens, a husband, three dogs and three cats, we have a busy household. That busy-ness can get loud, rambunctious and chaotic, which makes writing difficult at times. My best writing moments are usually when I can shut out everything around me and focus on the story so once the last child leaves for school in the morning, I have the peace and quiet I love.
As much as I’d like to, my body doesn’t like to have coffee all day long. It does want to sleep at night. Once lunch time rolls around, I make the switch to water, and tons of it. I usually drink a gallon a day in the form of filtered water and seltzer water (coconut and apricot being my favorite flavored waters). And ice, lots of ice! I suppose I should add a bathroom to this list, as all of the water does make it a bit of a must.
6) Good chair
This is a recent addition for me. I love to sit and write on the couch, or in a recliner, but I’ve been noticing more nerve issues with my back lately and upgraded my chair in my office to a plush, ergonomic one. It’s made a world of difference and now, I’m spoiled. I want nothing less.
I know, I said I like quiet but I also like the option of music to fit my story. Most of the time, that means country music but having Spotify (I am in no way affiliated, I just love it) I’m able to set up several playlists and pick whatever tunes fit my mood. I also love the fact that I can add and subtract music easily so that I don’t find myself singing instead of writing.
8) Colored pens
Colored pens are my little guilty pleasure. Recently, I found several packs in my desk, unopened, because I just can’t ever have enough. I love writing notes in color. I’m sure there is some psychological reason for it but I don’t really care. All I know is I will use a black or blue pen if I must, but if you give me a purple, turquoise or green pen, I’ll write notes and plot all day long without getting tired or bored.
Yes, another guilty purchase but this one serves a purpose. I buy colored Post-its in various sizes but these are what I plot stories on. I keep a notebook nearby, labeled by chapter, and when an idea hits, it goes on a Post-it. Usually, one idea leads to several and I find I can plot entire chapters this way. Or, I take the notebook and Post-its with me on the road and plot while waiting in line. Each color will represent a different point of view (Hero/Heroine) or plot point (conflict/love) and the colors let me see if I have too much of any point of view, conflict or love scenes at a glance.
10) Melt Warmer
Who wouldn’t want their work area to smell nice? You know these things where you put a square of scented wax over a light bulb to melt. I have them in several rooms but I tend to keep scents to suit the seasons. Summer is vanilla or fruit, Fall is pumpkin or spices and Winter is some sort of peppermint.
I’ve come to realize that it’s not a matter of being an entitled diva to want these things but knowing they help me work better, faster and just make me a happier writer.
What are your workspace quirks and must-haves?
Learning the Ropes
Rule #1—Don’t lose focus…
Barrel racer Alicia Kanani has had a long road to the top – and she’s not quite there yet. Finances have always been tight, and in the glitz and glam world of professional rodeo, that means that second best is probably the best she can hope for. With the National Finals coming up, she’s certainly not looking for a pair of cowboys to distract her.
Rule #2—Don’t gamble what you can’t live without…
Playboy Chris Thomas is sure Alicia’s the perfect woman for his level-headed team roping partner, David Greenly. It seems like a match, until Chris realizes he wants Alicia for himself. The stakes have been raised; David and Chris are supposed to be a team, and this time, they’re on opposite sides.
Can Alicia rope this playboy’s heart, or will they find themselves too tangled up to let true love in?
“Remember that swimming hole off the highway, near Jackson Ranch Road?”
She laughed and nodded. “I haven’t been there in years. We used to go every weekend.”
“We need to go now.”
We? Was he asking her out? Or was this just a friendly outing, reliving old memories?
“You wouldn’t be trying to get me into a bathing suit just to see my tattoo, would you?”
Chris gave her a mischievous grin that made her stomach do a backflip. “So it’s something a suit won’t cover?”
She regretted saying anything and didn’t answer his question. “I could use a break and with Dad leaving this week for the show, there won’t be much to do that the grooms can’t handle,” she said, changing the subject.
“We can make a day of it. Take lunch and just hang out, like old times. I have to help Dad tomorrow. What about Tuesday?”
She nodded and heard the sound of a hoof hitting metal. “Do you think that’s yours or mine getting impatient?” She glanced at the trailers and saw Beast with his head hanging out the window. “Looks like it’s mine. I’d better get going.” She reached into her purse to grab her wallet.
“I’ve got it.”
He slipped his credit card to the waitress, signing for the meal and rising to walk out with her. His hand slid to her lower back and her skin tingled at his touch, lightning shooting from his fingers directly into her belly and down her limbs. She knew better than to make more of his simple gesture than it was but couldn’t help the pace of her heart. As she approached the trailer, she stepped onto the side rail to close the windows.
“Get your head in there, Beast. We’re going home.”
Chris moved behind her, with a hand on either side of her, and closed the window. She spun and found herself eye to eye with him, her breath catching in her throat as he stared at her lips.
“Um, thanks,” she whispered, surprised she could get any sound out at all. She laid her hands on his shoulders, prepared to step down when he moved.
Instead of moving backward, Chris’s hands found her waist and he lifted her from the side of the trailer and set her on the ground. She couldn’t get her bearings with his hands on her ribcage and her fingers slid down the muscles of his biceps to grip his forearms. His eyes were dark with longing and she realized what he intended only moments before his mouth met hers in a scorching kiss.
They moved backward until she was pressed against the side of her truck, with every inch of him heating her flesh, his hands buried in her hair. His lips tasted her, teasing, branding her, demanding a response. She couldn’t help herself as her fingers trailed up around his neck, drawing him down to her, closer. His lips moved from her mouth to her ear and down the side of her neck sending shivers of pleasure down her spine. His fingers trailed over her spine as she whispered his name, near frantic with yearning.
He growled and stepped away from her abruptly, leaving her trembling with longing. “Ali, what are we doing?”
She wasn’t sure what he expected her to say. Her mind was still spinning with the dizzy exhilaration of his touch. When her eyes met his, she could see regret. She wasn’t sorry he’d kissed her in the slightest. In fact, she wanted him to do it again, but she could see the guilt rising over him, drowning him with shame. Without another word, he turned and walked to his truck, climbing inside, leaving her standing beside hers with her hand over her kiss-swollen lips, wondering what just happened and how she was going to make it right.
You can buy T.J. Kline’s books at:
Learning the Ropes at Amazon.com
Rodeo Queen at Amazon.com
The Cowboy and the Angel at Amazon.com
Bio: T.J. Kline was bitten by the horse bug early and began training horses at fourteen as well as competing in rodeos and winning several rodeo queen competitions but has always known writing was her first love. She also writes under the name Tina Klinesmith. In her spare time, she can be found spending as much time as possible, laughing hysterically, with her husband, teens and their menagerie of pets in Northern California.
You can find T.J. at:
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