Anna Questerly

Anna Questerly
Bookseller and bibliophile turned author, Anna Questerly writes medieval fiction and fairy tales for smart kids and young hearts. For adults, she creates Utopian fantasy as A.J. Questerly.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I Love Writing!

I've always been amazed at how authors like Nora Roberts and James Patterson can put out so many books. Now, I think I'm starting to catch on a little as to how they do it.  I don't think I'll ever be as prolific as they are, but at least I think I can get more than one book a year published. 

Right now, I have three new books in different stages. The Book People & Other Tales just came out and is available at Dog-Eared Pages and on Amazon. Although The Book People is new, most of the other stories had already been written and were included in various anthologies in which I was asked to participate. It's kind of nice to have them all rounded up and in their own book. 

Meanwhile, Pangaea is with my editor. I can't stand the waiting to hear back. You might say I'm a bit impatient which, of course, causes everyone within whining distance to want to strangle me. Not to mention, how much my editor dislikes my nudging texts and emails, (okay, she says nagging and

I thought I'd take the time to work on different aspects of writing. You know, working on getting emotions right in different types of scenes; really nothing more than exercises. 

I certainly wasn't planning to start another book. I've been living in Pangaea for the past year. I'm fully involved in that world. How could I possibly set it aside and start a new project?

Here's the thing; fictional characters can become pretty rude and demanding if their writer ignores them. So now, #rkbam is in the process of being written. This story is practically writing itself and I can't wait to get my first draft nailed down. 

What surprised me is that I didn't think anything could pull me away from Pangaea, yet this story did. I'm really loving where it's going. Sorry, I can't tell you anything else about it yet.  Be patient. (Yeah, I know pot...kettle.) 

It's actually working out rather well for me and for my editor. I'm fully involved in this new world unfolding in my head, and I'm not pestering her to get my edits back to me.  Plus, my friends don't have to listen to me complain about how long it's taking. Everybody wins!

My theory is that Nora and James are just as impatient as I am and they have to keep writing or they'd have no friends left. They just have a lot more experience at it than I do--so far.  

Friday, May 9, 2014

7 Simple Tricks to Save Time

It never fails, at every workshop, signing, or event at which I speak, two questions are invariably asked: the first is; “Where do you get your ideas?” Since I have an entire workshop devoted to that topic, I’ll answer the second question here; which is, “Where do you find the time to write?”

It’s a great question. I work over 40 hours a week at Dog-Eared Pages Bookstore. I love to create delicious homemade meals for us almost every night. I teach writing workshops for kids and adults. I’m frequently a guest speaker at schools and writing groups around Arizona. I attend many events such as the Glendale Chocolate Affair, the Tucson Book Festival, Arizona Dreamin’, Building the Dream, and Comicon. Like most folks, I don’t have a maid to take care of housework and, although my children are grown, I have two adorable Border Collies who love to play.

When do I find time to write? In the space between the minutes. Every effective shortcut adds minutes to my day. The more chores I can get out of the way, simply and quickly, the more time I have for my writing.  It may not seem like much, but those precious seconds and minutes add up.

I’d like to share with you my favorite seven time-savers. Even if you don’t write, I’m sure you’ll be able to find a more pleasant way to fill your time. Please know, these aren’t all my ideas, but things I’ve read or heard about, tried and then, once I realized how well they worked, incorporated into my life.

1.       Bacon! I know it’s not the best source of protein, but I do love bacon. However, I hate to cook it. Grease splatters are a pain to clean, and I hate the greasy feel of raw bacon. When I buy a pound of bacon, I immediately cut it into little pieces about ½ inch long by ¼ inch wide (about three times the size of bacon bits). I freeze the pieces in small plastic containers that stack neatly inside my freezer. You can pick up these little containers at a dollar store, (10 for a buck). They’re about one inch square and, when packed full, hold about three tablespoons of bacon.

Take one of the little squares out of the freezer, dump the bacon into a small skillet, and fry over medium heat until it’s done the way you like. You don’t even need to thaw it out, and it cooks much quicker than strips with barely any splatter. Add to eggs, green beans, baked potatoes, casseroles, grilled cheese, or whatever you like. Savings: less calories and fat and all the taste of one of my favorite foods. Less waste from throwing bacon away that I forgot to cook, less cleanup, makes meals more interesting with not much hassle.

2.      Another great use for those tiny containers is to freeze pesto. (My friend Gordon gave me this idea.) I add pesto to almost everything: grilled cheese sandwiches made with mozzarella, veggies, potatoes, steak, burgers, shrimp, chicken and, of course, homemade pasta. However, it’s a pain to make, and cleaning the oily food processor is something I don’t enjoy doing either. When I make a batch, I make a large batch at once (My food processor works better with the larger amount too.)  A little pesto goes a long way, so these tiny plastic squares work great for storage and, after an hour of thawing, this pesto tastes  as good as the fresh. It’s even the same beautiful shade of green!

Tip: instead of buying the fresh herbs at the grocery store, just buy an entire plant and replant it. (Usually costs about the same amount) After a couple of weeks, you should have enough leaves for a large batch of pesto and, by the time that’s all gone, your plant should be ready for another trim. Savings: preparation, clean up time and money.

3.       The Pampered Chef square brownie pan. This pan has replaced my casserole dish and loaf pan, becoming my go-to pan for the oven most of the time. Not only do we enjoy more brownie edges, but I use it for meatloaf, egg casseroles, macaroni and cheese, muffins, and I’m always finding new uses for it. I can make a dozen portion-sized meals at once and freeze the rest for breakfast or lunches. The only drawback is because of all of the crevices it does take longer to clean than a loaf pan or regular brownie pan, but, being able to throw the leftovers into a freezer bag and be done with it, makes up for it in my opinion.

4.       Have you noticed that your dishwasher doesn’t clean your dishes and glasses very well lately?  I found out a few years ago that a new law was quietly passed, banning detergent makers from using phosphorous. Once the current supply of detergent was sold out, sometime in 2012, people began trying new detergents, adding rinse agents, even going so far as to replace their dishwashers or installing water treatment systems. (It would have been nice if they’d made an announcement or two about this and saved us all a bit of money and aggravation.)

Anyway, I’d heard about this particular idea before, but it wasn’t until my friend, Karen assured me it worked and my home wouldn’t reek each time I ran the dishwasher that I tried it. Adding ½ cup of vinegar to your dishwasher really helps and it’s much cheaper than using the expensive detergents and pods. Have you seen the prices on some of that stuff!? Savings: money and time spent rewashing dishes and polishing glasses.

5.      Let’s move out of the kitchen now. Take a piece of aluminum foil and crunch it up until it’s about the size of a golf ball. Throw it in your dryer along with your clothes. Works better than dryer sheets to completely eliminate static cling and it’s reusable! Savings: no longer remembering to buy dryer sheets, very inexpensive, and I no longer have to fish panties and socks from inside shirt sleeves every time I do the laundry. Plus, we no longer shock each other or our doggies!

6.      While we’re in the laundry room, don’t worry so much about how to fold that damn fitted sheet. (Mom showed me many times, and I still can’t do it!) Fold it as best you can, and slide it, along with the folded flat sheet, into one of the pillowcases, add the rest of the pillow cases and then fold the flap over and stack it in your linen closet. When you’re ready to make the beds, grab the pillowcase and go. Everything is already in there! Savings: time searching for matching pillowcases (it’s almost like socks the way they disappear into the bottom of the closet or the corner of the fitted sheet) and less frustration trying to get that fitted sheet right. Plus, my linen closet almost looks organized.

7.      Working in a bookstore and printing out manuscript pages to edit, gives me more than my share of paper cuts. Thom read about this trick somewhere and it really works well. Instead of trying to find a tiny bandage, just rinse and swipe medicated Chapstick across the cut. It seals the edges together and stops the bleeding instantly while numbing the cut. Within a day, the cut is pretty much healed. (If it isn’t, make sure to use a triple antibiotic ointment. You might have picked up a nasty germ. If that doesn’t work, go see your doctor.)

Please feel free to comment on which of these you've tried. Also, I’d love to know what tricks and tips you’ve picked up over the years to make life easier. Happy writing and reading!