Remembering Amanda

I feel a little strange writing this on Amanda’s page from Amanda’s laptop. It should be her posting this… something about her cat, or her latest read, or whatever it was she happened to be working on at the time. But she’s in a place where she can’t do that, so here i am posting in her stead. I’m sure most of you know by now what’s been going on, but here it is again for those who don’t. Amanda passed away unexpectedly on July 5th in the hospital. I don’t really like saying that Amanda was my girlfriend, because she was so much more than that. We spent the last ten years together, and I miss her more than words can express. We will be celebrating her life on Sunday afternoon, August 21st. If you happen to be in the Seattle area and would like to attend, please email me at a.jenkins24@gmail.com so I can provide you with details. If you can’t make it, perhaps raise a glass in her honor and remember the interactions you shared. She was an incredible person who had a special way of brightening the world. I will forever cherish the time I got to spend with her, and I hope you all will do the same.

In My Toolbox: Wunderlist

I like lists. I like making them, and I love checking things off them. I confess to being guilty of adding things to lists that I’ve already completed just so I can feel like I’ve accomplished something.

With seven (!) releases scheduled between now and January 2017, I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed, especially when I look at everything that needs to be done for my self-pub releases. I needed something to keep track of it that would give me a boost at the same time.

I’d been using Google Calendar to track things like blog posts, deadlines for various pieces, and the like. It’s been sort of handy – it emails me reminders, and I can color code things so I know which items are for my own projects and which are promised spots for others – but it was lacking something. I had a difficult time accessing it on my phone, and I didn’t like having to look at the calendar view just to see everything.

Enter Wunderlist.

Jo, the reviews editor for Vampire Book Club, uses Wunderlist to keep track of all of the reviewers to-read-and-review lists, enabling her to cross check who’s got which book. I asked her about it, and she loves it. So I decided to check it out myself.

Now, I know there are programs designed specifically for writers, but I wanted something simple and streamlined. I didn’t want to have to tab through a bunch of shit just to find what I was looking for. I figured if Wunderlist didn’t meet my expectations, I’d just delete it because, hey, free app!

I’m kind of in love with this thing. Wunderlist lets you install it on multiple devices, and it syncs up so everything’s on the same page. I have it on my laptop and my phone.

Here’s your starting screen (laptop view). Lists you’ve created are on one side:

Wunderlist 1

Once you’ve started making your lists, you can view them all at once:

Wunderlist 2

Or you can view them one at a time. Subtasks help you keep track of all the steps you need to take to complete something. The notes isn’t the most robust for a writer, but it works for my purposes. If you’re looking to remind yourself of something – need to research blah, had an idea for blah – it’s just fine:

Wunderlist 3

I wasn’t looking to Wunderlist as a tool to organize my writing, but I did need something that would remind me, like Google Calendar does. Ta-da! You can set due dates:

Wunderlist 4And reminders that something’s coming due so you remember to do it:

Wunderlist 5

When you set up Wunderlist, you’re essentially creating an account, so those due dates and reminders get sent to your inbox. Thanks, Wunderlist, for reminding me formatting was supposed to be done by the 15th:

Wunderlist 6

Now if only it had a way to negate the guilt you feel when you haven’t completed a task by your appointed deadline…

If you’re low-tech like me, or just hate a bunch of frills you won’t use, Wunderlist is a pretty good bet. You can star important items so they’re always on top, and you can share lists with others (handy if you’ve got a writing partner). Plus, free. I like free. It works on both iPhone and Android platforms, though I don’t know if it works a bit differently on Apple products (I’m an Android/PC gal), and I’m not sure how it’ll work if you’ve got one of both. I imagine it works just fine. Want to try it yourself? You can download Wunderlist here, or just go to your phone’s app store and search “Wunderlist”.

How do you organize your authorly tasks? Do you ever feel so overwhelmed you want to curl in a ball and cry for mommy?

Review: Jennifer Coburn’s WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS

A friend of mine has a thing for travel books. She’ll devour them and add about a hundred new places to her travel list.

Within the first few chapters of We’ll Always Have Paris: A Mother/Daughter Memoir, I knew she’d like the book.

Jennifer Coburn has a fear of dying young. So when her daughter Katie is eight years old, she takes her to Paris for the first time, determined that her daughter will have a thousand wonderful memories to look back on when she’s gone. Every couple of summers, the pair repeat their travels, through Spain, Italy, and Amsterdam before returning to Paris. In between Katie and Jennifer walking through plazas and piazzas, we get JJ and Shelly and the root of Jennifer’s fear.

See, Shelly is Jennifer’s father, and he passed away when she was in college after a hard-fought battle with lung cancer. He wasn’t old, but he wasn’t all that young, and Jennifer started worrying that the same thing would happen to her. It didn’t matter that Jennifer wasn’t a smoker herself or that she was perfectly healthy. Sometimes fear isn’t rational, and this was one of those times.

Katie strikes me as a remarkably well-mannered and enthusiastic kid. Eager to see everything, glad to be spending time with her mother, and nudging said mother into disrupting her carefully planned schedule just enough that it makes the trip that much more fulfilling. When Jennifer decides for their second trip they’re going to take an entire month to explore rather than the ten days of their first trip, I nodded my head. Yup, that’s gotta be the way to do it. No rushing around and cramming things in, like Americans are wont to do.

The book is stuffed full of funny and quirky bits, like Katie’s need to buy the new Harry Potter book in the train station even though she’d pre-ordered it before the trip and it was waiting at home, or the Americans who thought they were natives and asked for directions on the subway platform. I wanted to sit on the balcony with them in Venice and drink the hot cocoa and enjoy the ballet in the plaza (I really wanted to watch the ballet with them. Outdoor ballet? YES PLEASE.)

You get the sense that the book was a way for Coburn to work through her lingering  feelings over her father’s death. He wasn’t a perfect man, not by any stretch of the imagination, but you can tell there’s real love (and exasperation) between them. Despite his poor health choices, Shelly Coburn struck me as a good man, and a good father, and reading her memories of their adventures together made all the snapshot moments with Katie stand out in Technicolor.

By the end, I had dozens of things I wanted to experience for myself (except climb the Eiffel Tower; no thanks) and Jennifer had gotten a better grasp on her fear. I don’t know that she’s let it go completely – something like that can take years to overcome – but with all those trips and her intrepid companion, she’d learned to let some of it go. We’ll Always Have Paris is a fun and touching picture of a mother and daughter, and a daughter and a father, and all the wonders of the world, wherever they happen to be.

Copy of We’ll Always Have Paris provided by the author in exchange for review.