Friday, February 22, 2013

Gamify Your Life

      I found an awesome app in the Google play store. It's called Task Hammer. Essentially, it's a to-do list, but with a twist. It exploits a loophole in your brain to keep you motivated and on-task. 
   Basically, a person will be perfectly happy to perform an annoying or monotonous task, if you can find a way to make it a game. I'm ashamed that for several months when I was 8, my mother used this little loophole to play a game we called "Cinderella". She would sit and watch soap operas while my sister and I put away our toys, did the dishes, and cleaned the bathroom, and whenever there was a commercial, my mom would come in and scold us theatrically for not working fast enough. I eventually got wise to this game and she created another one called "Fairies" which involved magic wands (feather dusters) and pixie dust (Windex). 

   But this app is WAY better than the Cinderella game. It's an RPG and in order to level your character, you  create a to-do list and then cross items off of it. You set the importance of the tasks, and the more important the task, the more XP you receive for completing it. I think the best part of it is that you can set a task to repeat daily, weekly, or monthly. You can also select "postpone" to move the task to the next day if you don't think you'll be able to finish it. the GUI is really cute and so far it is helping me get more crap done. . . Hence... three blog posts in one week. :)

Jimmie Hammel

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fads in Publishing


  Publishing seems to chase fads the way fashion does. One season it's vampires, the next it's apocalyptic fiction, then fairy tales. One season it's all about YA, the next, everyone's putting out erotica.
What's next? Fairy steam punk? That might actually be adorable.

  But my point is this... no one stopped reading YA when the 50 Shades series came out. People are still watching The Vampire Diaries, even though the Twilight craze has passed. Personally, I would rather read something new, different, and well-written, then a lame copy of whichever book is currently sitting at the top of the best sellers list.

  I think that's one of the biggest strengths of the indie publishing industry. No one is worrying about what's 'in' or 'trending'. People just want to read whatever looks good to them.

Jimmie Hammel

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fear of Failure

   "If you never try, you will never fail, but if you never try, you will never succeed."

   "Show me a person who has never failed, and I will show you a person who has never accomplished anything."

   "Failure is success if we learn from it."

   "Failure is nothing but an opportunity to learn from your mistakes."

   Why is failure so terrifying? Fear of failure is the number one reason that aspiring writers kill their own dreams. Some don't even realize that their writer's block or stalling tactics are a fear of failure. I recently read an article on the subject* and it gave a list of behaviors that could help a person recognize a 'fear of failure' in themselves. I looked through the article and then applied the traits and behaviors to the ways they might manifest in a writer.

Never Starts 
   For some this might manifest as telling themselves they couldn't possibly do it, even if they've never tried.
   There's also a common malady among genre writers that has killed many a young novel. We call that one world builder's disease. These writers might plan a novel for years without ever writing one word of it. Over planning can derail even non-genre writers however. Knowing your characters is good. Knowing that their third-cousin's cats eat Purina's 'Yummy Tummy Tuna Delight', and that her best friend's great uncle had a drinking problem and spent 6 months in the Betty Ford clinic, not helpful.Unless the third-cousin lives with her, and has 18 cats... that might make for a funny short story actually.
   Another type of 'never starts' is the person who sits down in front of a blank page and freezes. They want to write but they don't know WHAT to write.

Starts but Never Finishes
   There are a lot of this type.
   People who rewrite the first chapter over and over.
   People who get half way finished, decide it isn't any good, and start over.
   People who get half way finished, decide it isn't any good, and start something else.
   People who get half way finished, decide it isn't any good, and just quit.
   People who get writer's block.
   People who wait for "inspiration".
   People who procrastinate.
Finishes but Never Shows Anyone
   This type is rarer than the others. These people have finished a novel, maybe even several, but they're too self-conscious to let them out into the world.
   The over-editor falls into this category as well. This person finishes the rough draft but never seems to be done "fixing" it. They rewrite, change, and tinker to eternity. They just never quite seem to be able to let their work out of their hands.

Let's Rejection Become Truth
   This type can happen anywhere along the route to writing a novel, during planning, working, or upon completion. Someone says they can't do it, or they aren't good enough, and the person takes it to heart and gives up. It might be a teasing friend, a nagging spouse, a critical beta-reader, an uninterested editor, or even the writer's internal critic, but someone says something that destroys the writer's confidence... and they give up.

   I can't say that there's one universal fix. For some people it helps to imagine their goals. For others that seems to paralyze them. For some people it helps to set themselves 'rules' like... "Write for x minutes every day" or "Only do x number of edits" or "Only spend x number of hours planning a novel". But some people don't work well with rules or can't seem to follow them.
   I only know what works for me, and I have had almost ALL of these self-sabotaging problems at some point, so here's my secret... just write. Forget all the other crap. Forget about people maybe not liking it. Forget about how long it's going to take. Don't worry about the fact that you don't know what you want to happen in chapter 35 when you're still writing chapter 10. Don't stress over the AWFUL paragraph in chapter 2, you can fix it later. Because no one will ever like it if they never get the chance to read it. No matter how long it takes, a finished novel is still an accomplishment. Once you get to chapter 35 you'll find a way to fill in the hole in your timeline, just trust yourself. You'll get the chance to go back and fix those broken pieces but if you never finish, then it doesn't matter anyway, so just write. For now, at this exact second, don't worry about any of that, just write.

Jimmie Hammel

*Fear of Failure article at

P.S. I would also like to say that after scanning through several articles on, I actually subscribed to their Newsletter. It has been years since I subscribed to anything, ((I think the last one was for OfficeMax sales and coupons)) but Mind Tools offers loads of really helpful tips and tricks to keep yourself focused, and motivated.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Things You Learn

   I had to do a little research for my novel today. It's the first time since the initial planning stages that I really wasn't sure how to describe something, and whether it worked the way I thought it would. Today, it was the ocean.
   The question from my research was this... What are those long piles of rocks that jut out from the shoreline called and what are their purpose? Now, I thought I knew what they were for. In my brain those were called breaklines (they aren't) and they served the purpose of breaking waves before they hit the shore (which they do). My search turned up two terms, breakwater, and seawall.
   My next question was obviously... What is the difference between a breakwater and a seawall? And what did I discover, you ask. A line of rocks that juts into the ocean is called a breakwater. They are used to reduce the currents and wave heights in a harbor. A seawall completely encloses a section of ocean and prevents damage to the shoreline caused by high waves or tidal flooding.
   If you'd like to know why this was information necessary to my science fiction novel, my main character crashes a flying car into the ocean during a hurricane.

Jimmie Hammel

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Nose to the Grindstone

   I've been back to blogging for a few weeks now but I haven't mentioned my writing once, so I've decided to finally post an update. It's been over a year since I started my science fiction novel, which has had MANY titles, and I'm now calling The Immortality Gene. I shelved that project twice, and started it over twice, but I'm working on it again it now. There was something missing and it took me awhile to figure out what that something was. I didn't stop writing while that project was in limbo however. I started two other novels which are languishing on my hard drive half finished. One was a detective story murder mystery called Shackled. The other was an epic fantasy adventure story called Fate Lock.
  I think the number one thing I've learned from the past year that I haven't been blogging is that I am really good at getting to 40,000 words, and then I start to second guess myself. Both Shackled and Fate Lock were flowing along at a great rate, until I got to the 1/3 mark... and then I stalled out. I'm not sure if I'm not spending enough time in the planning stage, or maybe my outlines aren't detailed enough. I'm not getting bored with the stories. I even tried pantsing it on the fantasy novel. It did not work out well. The pacing in that story is incredibly wonked. If I ever decide to finish it I will have to cut my way through it with a machete.
  I tried moving on to parts of the novel that I felt confident about, but that leads to me feeling overwhelmed. What's done? What isn't done? How do I tie these pieces together? I HAVE to write the story in order. If I start working out of order then I get flustered and frustrated which leads to me being stuck.  All roads lead to me not knowing where to go next.
   I thought maybe I was getting stuck because the genres weren't right for me. That's why one is sci-fi, one is crime, and one is fantasy. (Though they all have a little bit of sex... A novel without some sexual tension is like eating pizza without cheese.) I thought maybe switching genres would help me stay focused, or perhaps I just hadn't found my true calling as a writer. I haven't tried my hand at suspense or comedy yet, and I do not write romance. I don't think comedy would be my cup of tea. I'm not funny enough to keep people laughing on every page. Spies, war, and politics are a snooze for me, so those genres are out.
   Anyone have any ideas for keeping focused when you start to feel stuck???

Jimmie Hammel 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


   I really didn't want to do it, and I was hoping that I wouldn't have to, but I've disabled anonymous comments on my blog. In the past two weeks I've been getting repeated and annoying spam comments, up to 80 per day. Maybe in a month or two I'll re-enable anonymous commenting and hope that the spammers have moved on to some other poor blog.

Jimmie Hammel

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Back in the Hospital... again.

   What prompted me to begin my New Years Resolution: Betterment! was yet another trip to the hospital. This one lasted for three days. Because of the smoking, (15 days quit!) and the asthma, when I catch a cold, it always turns into Bronchitis. This time, it didn't wait. I caught the flu on Christmas Eve and by Christmas Day I was running a 104 degree fever that wouldn't go down. Even worse, my asthma medication wouldn't work. I kept using my inhaler and it kept not helping. I would take cough syrup, same result. I got worse and worse and worse before I finally had to go in to the ER. During triage I got really confused about some of the questions they were asking me, like, "Why are you here?" and "What's wrong with you?" As it turned out, when they put the ET finger on me, my oxygen saturation was in the low 80's, so they hooked me up to some O2 and put a bunch of drugs in me. And none of them helped.
   They had to admit me to the hospital to keep me on O2 and I spent three days extremely uncomfortable and STARVING. They refused to bring me edible food. But I also wasn't allowed to smoke, nor was I given any kind of nicotine replacement. I was also assaulted by 19 year old sadists with butterfly needles. THIRTEEN shots, and that's not counting the ones that went into my IV. I was stabbed by 13 separate needles. Some of the bruises were so bad, they didn't even show up until I went home. One of the little miscreants actually used veins in my wrist to draw blood. That was after she stuck me in my forearm and proceeded to dig all around with the needle.
   Then a nurse's assistant took it upon herself to lower my oxygen from 5 liters to 2 and I nearly suffocated. And the day shift nurse actually chewed me out for my room being so messy. By that point, even with the oxygen on, I couldn't stand up without passing out. If I took the oxygen off, I had about 2 minutes before everything got very blurry and my hands turned blue. I was barely able to use the bathroom without assistance and she was reprimanding me for not cleaning up my room. They wouldn't even give me Advil to help with all the pain in my chest and back. (If you didn't know, gasping for breath causes you to pull muscles under your shoulder blades. Then every time you breathe in, you're treated to excruciating stabbing pains all over your back and sides.)
   Even after my fever was under control and the flu symptoms had subsided, my chest was still so congested and my bronchi were so swollen that I had to stay in the hospital another 24 hours. I wasn't even sure I wanted to leave when the doctor discharged me. I was still having trouble keeping my O2 levels up, but I went home, slept for a full 24 hours and when I woke up, I was feeling much better. Ha! Take that H1N1.
   I really learned something from this experience. #1 - Get an effing flu shot. #2 - Smoking is retarded. #3 - Prevention is easier than treatment. I am determined to lead a healthier lifestyle. I'm not in my twenties anymore. I can't eat pizza for every meal, smoke like a chimney, and pull all-nighters twice a week. I can't wait to get sick to start taking care of my body.

Jimmie Hammel

Monday, January 7, 2013

At Gunpoint


  Friday night I was robbed at gunpoint. Everyone keeps asking me if I'm alright, but I don't know how to answer that question. My store has always been a safe place where I am in control and now suddenly, it isn't. I think the weirdest part of it is that I wasn't afraid. I was confused, then startled, then my head was just blank, and when it was over, I was sort of manic.
  My husband is flipping out. My friends and family think I should quit my job. I'm upset because it isn't even the first time something like that has happened inside our store, it's the third time in 6 weeks.
   Oddly, the only thing I could describe to the police after the incident was the perpetrators underpants. Who robs a store at gunpoint with their pants hanging down around their knees??? If ever there was a time to make sure your belt was properly secured, that seems like it.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Sense of Taste

   People always tell smokers, "Oh your sense of taste will be so much better!" "Don't you want to be able to taste your food?"
   Turns out, the answer is no. It is true that your sense of taste improves, but it isn't an improvement. I have been smoking since I was literally a child, and as a child I was a seriously picky eater. Turns out, I'm not less of a picky eater now, I just haven't been able to taste my food in 15 years. Everything tastes terrible. Cheetos and Coca-Cola were my two all time favorite foods and now I can't stand either of them. The only thing I've eaten in the past week that tasted good was the Mexican food I had two nights ago for dinner.
   I'm having Indian for dinner tonight and if it doesn't taste good, I swear I'll cry.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Cold Turkey

   I didn't know I was going to be quitting before I did it or I probably would have gone another route, but I'm glad I chose to go cold turkey. I had used the nicotine gum when I tried to quit smoking the last time but honestly, that gum made me want to smoke more, not less. This time around, the physical withdrawal symptoms weren't that completely horrible for me. My bigger issue is with the psychological aspect of smoking. I AM SO BORED!!!!
   It's hard to be bored when you're a smoker. As long as you have a cigarette in your hand, everything is hunky dory. All the things I used to do to occupy my time are suddenly not enough to keep me entertained. I'm about to have my first weekend off of work since I quit and I'm not sure what I'm going to do.
   I heard that after about 10 years, you don't even want to smoke anymore. That's something to look forward to I suppose.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The hardest thing you'll ever have to do...

   So, although quitting smoking was my 'New Years Resolution' or, as I'm calling it, my first "Betterment Goal", I did actually get a head start on the process. You might say I prepped for it.
   First, I switched cigarette brands (Camels to Marlboro)  and went to ultralights from full flavors. Then I cut down on number I was smoking every day (40-30-20-15). Then I moved all my smoking associations. So for instance, I used to always smoke at my computer desk, but for the past 6 weeks I have been forcing myself to smoke outside on the porch.
   The last hurdle is always the hardest one of course. I got a head start on that one as well. I actually haven't had a cigarette since Christmas Day so, I'm on my 8th day of zero nicotine. It really sucks, but I will never, ever, touch another cigarette because I do not ever want to do this again. It's finally starting to get a little easier but the 3rd, 4th, and 5th day were SUPER HELL.
   If I could have done one more thing to make it easier on myself when I quit, I think I would have found myself a hobby, something to do with my hands, before I went cold turkey. Knitting, or cross stitch, or a little puzzle game; anything that would have occupied my hands and my brain. Also, I would have waited until after finishing the blog post before finding the clip-art picture of a cigarette.

Jimmie Hammel