All posts by Robert W. Oliver II

Be Efficient With Your Time

American poet Delmore Schwartz said that time is the fire in which we burn.

We are all given a fixed amount of time on this wondrous blue marble floating about in a seemingly insignificant corner of the galaxy.  So it’s our duty to make the most of it.

One of the benefits, and curses, to working for yourself is that the time you do have isn’t structured for you.  It is incumbent upon you to either set a schedule or devise a system that works for you so that you can get things done. There are lots of systems out there – too many to count or even reference, and its unlikely that you’ll find one to perfectly suit your needs or situation.  Given that, I will explain my process and time management methodology and hopefully you’ll find something in it that works for you.


I used to use Microsoft Outlook, but I find Gmail a far better mail management system, especially if you’re used to the ticket workflow like I am (an email comes in, you deal with it, then archive save it when done).  I don’t believe in relying on free email accounts, so I pay the paltry (and well worth it) $5 a month for my own custom domain email.

For note-taking I use Microsoft OneNote.  While I generally shy away from using proprietary software, I have to admit – OneNote is the best.  It’s free, or a free part of Office 365.  That’s another $10 a month, but certainly worth it.  I get 5 copies of Office and a lot of space on OneDrive that I never use.  But OneNote alone is worth the price of admission.

To-Do List

I don’t really keep a to-do list anymore.  Instead, I use email as my primary task list.  If someone gives me something to do, I will ask them to send me an email.  It lets them provide all the details that are needed, and then it inserts directly into my preferred method of keeping my tasks straight.

I keep my inbox as clean as possible.  Anything more than 20 emails in my inbox means that I’m not filtering things as well as I should be.  When an email comes in, as long as its not SPAM, I try to follow the 2 minute rule.

The Two Minute Rule

I use the two minute rule on tasks – can I do it in 2 minutes?  If so, then I do it right then if at all possible, even if it isn’t super important.  By quickly clearing small tasks out of my way, it lets my mind stay focused on the larger ones.

Larger tasks are generally contained in emails, but sometimes they are so large that they become a OneNote folder.  I still try to tie it to an original email, though.


For tasks that require ongoing consultation with a client, email sometimes isn’t the best choice.  If items don’t require time-sensitive input, or messages are just between two people, email can do fine.  But when you start adding multiple people or have some real-time communication, email begins to falter.  In that situation, I use Slack.  Slack is like an IRC channel for the web that also has attachments and other neat features like in-browser notifications, guest invites, multiple channels, and more.  It’s perfect for business users, but some freelancers might find it valuable as well.

Other Software

I use Google Docs quite a bit, as well as Telegram for chatting.   I find that Notepad++ makes a fantastic text and code editor.  WordPress is great for keeping a blog, either public or private for internal notes that you want to share.  I know you can share notes with OneNote, but if the user doesn’t have a Microsoft account or isn’t familiar with OneNote, it can be quite difficult to integrate with them.

I hope that some of these tips and tricks will help you manage your time more efficiently and be more productive.  If you have any questions, let me know in the comment section below.

Managing My (Writing) Sex Life

Since humans are so naturally obsessed with sex, you would think that writing a sex scene would be quite easy.  I mean, we all fantasize about various scenarios – why not put one of those down on paper (with a few modifications, of course)?  Why is it so difficult to write a good sex scene?

Some have it easier than others. For me, writing a sex scene has always been difficult – not because I didn’t know what to say, but rather for me it’s always about going to far. Giving too much detail. Almost two decades of corporate technical writing and marketing copy will stiffen you up, and not in a way that is conducive to writing sex scenes, I assure you. When your sex scenes start to sound like a technical whitepaper, you know there’s something wrong.

Throughout my trilogy there were numerous sex scenes. In the first book, The Bravest of Souls, the one sex scene that did exist was so passive that the two characters involved could have just as easily been sanding a hardwood floor. I love the story that I wrote, but I fully admit that that the sexual tension in the beginning between the two characters was sorely lacking.  I made up for it in the next two books, but even then, my wife and a female editor had to coax out more detail and emotion from my technical sex scenes.

My fourth book involves some sex as well. I’ve repeatedly pointed out that I do not write romance novels, but romances do happen in my stories because they are just a natural part of life. And so yet another boundary must be shattered – calling my scenes romance is difficult for me. They are not erotic, but they CAN be erotic if I allow them to be. Any good sex scene is erotic, but it doesn’t have to be the focus of the book. Then it would be a romance novel, and that’s just not my interest.

So what is the secret to writing a good sex scene?  I’m still learning the answer to this, but I want to give you some things I’ve learned:

Drop Your Inhibitions

Writing a sex scene is extremely exposing. Even if the scenario you are writing is complete fiction and is not based whatsoever in reality, you are still bearing your most private thought processes to the world. This is intimidating, but you must let this go. By freeing yourself from the stigma that you, and only you, place upon yourself, you will not only write a better scene but you’ll also be more free in other aspects of your writing.

Be Realistic With Clothing and Avoid Anachronisms

Unless it’s a planned event, most people are not dressed for sex. Your female characters likely have mismatched underwear and your males have not been working in a field all day with oiled muscles. It isn’t necessary to divulge that your female characters’ legs may not have seen a razor in the past 3 months, but keep the realities of life in mind when staging an unexpected scene.

Nothing will break a period piece narrative like an anachronism.  If you are writing in a time period other than today, it’s important to adjust the sexual attitudes of both your male and female characters for the time in question. Don’t ruin your medieval tromp with a porn-inspired scene riddled with modern terminology.

Don’t Be Afraid of Detail

This is my biggest problem – detail in sex scenes.  There are limits, of course, but in general: the more the better. Don’t be afraid to elaborate on something interesting. Since you don’t have the benefit of a screen to project your story, you have to fill in the dots so that your reader can have a good mental image of what is going on.

Sex is Emotional, But…

Your sex scene should have a large dose of emotion.  If it doesn’t, then it truly is erotica. Which is fine, if that’s what you’re going for, but even good erotica is going to have some level of emotional involvement between the characters. If you’re heavy on the details but light on the emotion, then your narrative is going to feel hollow. Consequently, if you focus entirely on the emotion and sacrifice details of the physical actions taking place, you will end up with a very sweet, romantic hardwood floor sanding scene.

Learn from Others

There’s always someone that has more experience in something than you. My wife forwarded me I Give You My Body… How I Write Sex Scenes by Diana Gabaldon and I instantly snapped up the Kindle edition. Anytime you can get advice from someone for $2.99, take it! There are numerous other articles on this subject and a quick Google or Bing search will yield plenty of results. I wouldn’t recommend doing this from work, though.

Now Go Write Something

Remember, everyone has sex.  It’s how you got here. Even if you were born in a test tube, there were people who really tried hard to bring you into existence. Don’t shun this vital part of being human in your writing!

Welcome to the Jeweled Woods

Thanks for stopping by!

First off, I should formally introduce myself.  I’m Robert W. Oliver II, writer, blogger, programmer / IT guru, and amateur musician.

That’s where the formality ends.  I promise!

I have spent so much of my life as an entrepreneur that it’s been difficult for me to open up and show a more personal side to my public existence.  I started my primary business in a day where the personal connection was shunned.  Putting your best corporate foot forward was considered essential, and the intimate detail that is now so common for, and frankly expected, by millennials in the brands and businesses they consume was shunned. Now all of that has changed, and I am faced with the choice of being the curmudgeonly old man at the ripe age of 36 who says “Get off my lawn!” at these whippersnappers, or roll with the flow and connect with the public in a more personal way.

I’m not just doing this because its the in thing to do.  Those that know me well (and if you stick around for a while you’ll gradually move to that category) know that I do not do things because they are popular.  Sometimes something being popular detracts me from doing it (just ask my wife about my overwhelming meh about Game of Thrones).  No – I’m doing it because I think I’ll like it, and I hope you will too.

So what’s with the name, Jeweled Woods?  It’s from the book trilogy I wrote, The Bravest of Souls. It’s a fantasy forest where the trees are stuck in a sort of permanent autumn, casting a beautiful array of colors ranging from the typical yellows and reds to more vibrant purple and blue hues. The light that trickles through the canopy creates a surrealistic, stained glass tint to the air that puts any Instagram filter to shame. Nearly everyone who has contacted me about the book talks about how they’d love to visit the Jeweled Woods, so I thought it’d be an appropriate name for a blog.

I am so thankful that my readers take the time to open my books and dive into the universes that I love to create, so I feel that  I owe it to them, and myself, to open the book that is me a bit more and let the world inside.

Yes, I ended that last sentence with a preposition.  I’m already starting to be rebellious!  This is going to be fun.