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Audio Posts and Making Room to Edit

I’ve been thinking about making these blog posts available in audio format as well, since I’m recording them anyways. I’m dictating them basically so that I can transcribe them back. But as we were discussing earlier, some people prefer to listen rather than read. So I was curious if there’s any interest in me making these available as audio files as well.

I don’t have the time or the inclination to do any editing on the audio files (or making them “pretty”). So it’s just going to be raw audio with all my hemming and hawing and rambling and occasional double sentence structure. It’s not going to be like a professional podcast by any means, though I did download Audacity so I could cut out the long silent beginning to the recording. I typically start the app recording before I start driving, and then don’t start dictating until safely out of my parking space and on my way. Safety first!

But if there’s any interest, I’d be happy to post it, so you can listen to my ramblings rather than reading them if you prefer. I’ll post this file (see above – it’s an mp3, so should play on pretty much anything), and you can let me know if you listen to it. If you prefer to listen to the blog posts instead of reading them, please try to leave a comment somewhere – Facebook, Twitter, on my blog, whatever. Let me know if it’s something that you find useful, or if it’s just extraneous.

One more quick note – I’m speaking slowly due to wanting the transcription process to be as accurate as possible. So it’s much slower than I’d normally speak. You might want to speed it up a little for listening. ūüėČ

In any case, last week, you may have read my ultra whiny blog post about my frustration with not being able to do as much as I would like to do. And that is a huge issue for me. But more so when I’m really tired. And last week, as I said, I had a couple of nights where I made bad choices. I got to bed late – really late. And I got very little sleep.

I’m not used to that anymore. I guess until I started getting 6 hours of sleep a night, I never realized just how how much my brain was not actually processing as well as it could have been on four and a half hours of sleep. It’s kind of one of those, “you don’t know what you’re missing until you get it” sort of things. In any case, being tired makes me whiny, frustrated and a lot more pessimistic about everything, really.

So I got some sleep.

And I checked out my schedule and did a lot of math. Well, I didn’t do the math – I used a calculator, because that is still one of the premier functions a computer can do, so I don’t have to. Anyways, I did some math – added up some word counts and some dictation counts. I looked at the time I have available, and I rescheduled a bunch of my routines. I made a scheduled plan for my dictation times, because they’re pretty set in stone, for the most part: going to work in the morning, going home from work at lunch, going back to work after lunch, and then going home at night after work.

So unless I have the day off work, I have four 10 to 15 minute segments where I can dictate something. That leaves my late night writing times free for editing or scheduling blog posts or doing social media stuff or formatting books or whatever.

I will need more time to edit, because I’m writing a lot more with dictation, but it requires more editing as well. I’ve been doing my budgeting on Friday nights, and I usually don’t get started until around midnight. It takes me a couple of hours, because I don’t just budget – I also pay bills and plan for the future by doing more math (because I love it. Not!).

But the thing about the budgeting is, I can do it amidst distraction. I have it set up now in a program, and I’ve got recurring payments scheduled and my bills all in there. It’s highly automated now, so I can do it with distractions – I don’t necessarily need that hyper-focus I needed in the beginning. So what I’m going to try is doing the budget earlier on Friday nights, after I walk the dogs. And if I can get that done before 10, 10:30-ish, then I will have that late night time on Fridays free. I’m going to schedule out three hours from 11 o’clock at night till two o’clock in the morning, just for editing fiction. I’ll go through the first edit of just cleaning up the transcript files and making them into a first draft, basically.

I guess you could argue that I could write during that time too, and not have to clean up so much. The thing is, it’s harder to be creative late at night when I’m already tired from the day. I’m tired, and my brain isn’t working as well as it should be at that point in time. So it would take me longer to write from scratch than to just clean up a wonky first draft. Also, I can’t type as fast as I can dictate. But I can edit pretty quickly if the words/ideas are already “on paper”.

I’m going to try that, and then my late night time will be for editing and scheduling blog posts, and working on formatting, cover and publishing minutiae. We’ll see how that works for a couple weeks.

It’s gonna take me probably two weeks to get into the new groove. But I’m excited that I have a plan. And if it doesn’t work, I have a couple other options that I think I can try that might be effective.

I think it’s gonna work out pretty well one way or the other.

Now if I can just figure out how to clean my dining room table off so that I can use it for something other than storage. But that will be my next project. I need to get this writing stuff figured out first.

Thanks for joining me, whether you’re reading or listening!


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2019 Goals Check-Up

As a reminder, these were my three goals elevated to “Resolution Status” this year:

1) Pay off one major and 2 minor lines of credit
2) Institute a one-paycheck waiting period for all unnecessary, un-budgeted purchases
3) Publish two books

The first one is nearly done, and it would already be done if not for some unexpected expenses that came up this summer. I’ve paid off two minor credit lines, and the third will be done in October. I was actually really hoping to pay down more on several larger credit lines, but…well, we do what we can. As a side-goal to this, I’ve been paying very close attention to my finances and budgeting every single week. It’s been a little tough here and there, but overall, I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to pay down the outstanding debts faster, and start saving a decent chunk every month as well.

The second resolution has been more difficult, mostly just because several things came up that were time-sensitive right at the start of the year, and…well, I needed to act quickly, or forgo whatever it was. I opted to “do the things”, and they were fun, but they did cut into the budget and set me back, which was the whole reason for the “rule” in the first place (to avoid being set back). And then of course I had several un-budgeted but necessary things come up this summer, so…yeah. The finance thing isn’t going as well as I’d hoped, but it is still moving in the right direction. I am trying to stick to the resolution for the rest of the year, but we’ll see how well I do budgeting ahead of time for things like Christmas gifts. I should start thinking about that…well, yesterday. Hmm.

As for the third thing…so far, it’s a complete and total bust. I keep trying to reclaim my writing time, and life just…happens. I really have no guaranteed quiet time at home until after midnight, and then it’s almost too late (depending on whether I want time to read as well, which is important – you really do have to be a reader to write, and I haven’t been reading nearly enough lately). As far as working on edits and rewrites and all the various stuff that goes with actually publishing (formatting, cover art, etc)…wow. I’ve not been making the time I need to for that, and given the time it takes to publish one book (much less two), I’m not sure I’m going to make it. Which is, frankly, quite depressing.

I do have a plan for more writing, and that started today. I’ve got some new routines in place that should help, and some new “rules” for myself that will hopefully reset my priorities to “writing before fun” in my off-day-job hours. I don’t really know what to do about the publishing side of things yet, but…getting back to a very regular writing routine would help a great deal on the writing side.

I do have a couple of books that are published in ebook format, but not in print yet. I think I’ll work on getting the print copies of those done and out first, and then maybe that will be enough to establish routines for getting those types of tasks done. Both books are good Halloween/creepy type stories, so those would be good to have available by October. A tight time frame, but maybe that’s exactly what I need.

There are four months left in the year. *sigh* Writing and publishing are definitely going to be my top priorities for that time. Even if I don’t make the goal, I want to put as much effort into it as possible. So…onward.


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So It Begins Again: Resolutions 2019

Happy New Year! Or I’m cautiously optimistic that it will be, anyway.

Today, I’m doing a little knitting, a little library house-keeping (boxing comics and cataloging books) and maybe playing a little Pokemon here and there as well. I have some Christmas gifts to put away yet, and I’m making a pork roast for dinner. Should be a relatively quiet, relaxing day, which is my preference over spending the first day of the year with a bunch of family and chaos.

But before I get to any of that, or even sleep to start it all off, I finished my resolution and goal list. For the uninitiated, my resolutions are priority goals – the ones that get the most attention and focus during the year. The other goals are just that…things to work on when I get to them, or when they’re needed to make the resolutions happen.

Like last year, I decided to focus on three main resolutions this year, with a larger list of goals to work on when I have the time/inclination. And since my “money matters” got more than a little out of hand last year, I’m making them my top priorities in 2019. It’s important.

Here are the goals I upgraded to “resolution” status this year:

1) Pay off one major and 2 minor lines of credit
2) Institute a one-paycheck waiting period for all unnecessary, un-budgeted purchases
3) Publish two books

The first one is pretty specific, and even more so in the extended goals list – right down to how much I need to budget/pay each month in order to achieve that goal and keep everything else paid up as well. It’s not going to be fun, and it’s going to require some serious willpower, but it’s necessary and important. If I keep that resolution, it’ll be a serious chunk of debt paid off by the end of the year.

The second one is obviously an attempt to rein in my impulse-spending. I get paid on the 7th and 22nd of each month, so waiting until the purchase is budgeted for in the next paycheck isn’t asking too much. Will I miss out on some sales? Maybe. Will I miss out on some things entirely? More than likely. Is that okay? Absolutely.

Nothing in this category will be something necessary – if I wear a hole in my shoes and need a new pair, fine. If I want a new pair of boots because they’re on sale and I’m bored with my old (perfectly serviceable) pair, that purchase needs to wait, even if I have to budget full-price for it at a later date. Need and want are too completely different things, and by the end of the year, I hope to have retrained the emotional part of my brain to respect the difference and act accordingly, rather than giving in to the impulse to order/buy it right that very minute. I used to be far more practical when it came to purchasing “things” and I need to get back to that mindset again. For my bank account’s sake, among other things.

As for the third…well, it’s time to fish or cut bait, so to speak. I gave myself a lot of leeway when our Lucy-dog was sick, and again when we had to put her down, and again when we adopted the Murph. I’ve gone far too long without releasing anything book-wise, and it’s because I lost my writing confidence somewhere in all that “leeway”. So my third resolution is really more of an ultimatum to myself. Either get something done enough and publish the damn thing, or consign the business side of writing to the trash bin and quit pretending you’re actually trying to make something of it.

I’m not cut out for full-time writing (not until I retire, anyways), and I know that. Mostly because I don’t care to live without a steady paycheck if at all possible. But writing isn’t just something I do, either. No matter how good or bad I am at it, I can’t really stop, because writing stories is very much a part of how I process the world. So the question isn’t whether I should stop writing or not, but whether I should stop bothering to publish what I write. And that is what will be answered at the end of this year, depending on how I do with my third resolution.

So…a pretty hefty “big three” this year, but I feel very strongly that all of these will make my life better in the long run, even if I have to take a hit (or several) in the short term.

Other things on my list include incredibly mundane tasks like brushing my teeth and emptying the basement garbages as well as somewhat more interesting projects like starting a genealogy database for our family histories and continuing to catalog my collections. No matter what I get done (or don’t get done), it should be an interesting year with at least some forward progress by the end.

Here’s to a good year with a lot of determination and willpower. And maybe a few fun surprises along they way, too.

2018 Year in Review

It’s that time again, to take stock in last year’s resolutions and goals, and figure out what worked, and what didn’t. As a reminder, I only set three hard and fast resolutions for 2018, and then had a longer (unpublished) goal list I wanted to work on.

Here are the three resolutions:

– Get at least 6 continuous hours of sleep 6 nights per week
– Eat at least one egg per day, 6 days per week
– Read through my goals list once per week, and note any progress or lack thereof. Adjust as necessary.

Of those three goals, the first is the only one I had real success with. I may not have managed exactly 6, but I’ve gotten a lot more than 4.5 (which is what I was getting before) a majority of nights last year. Getting to bed is still kind of a major hurdle for me, but I did pay very close attention to how many hours I was getting based on when I went to bed and set my alarm accordingly so that if I went to sleep 15 min. late, I got up 15 min. late.

Tuesdays are still an issue for me, as I have to get up an hour earlier for work, and I can’t go to bed an hour earlier just because my routines are so ingrained. But I have been getting 6 hours of sleep on Friday nights, and I’ve made a point to work things around so I can get 6 hours some Saturday night/Sunday mornings too.

All in all, that goal has been a success, and it won’t be difficult to keep going with that.

As for the second goal…well, I had to give that up a few months in because all the eggs were aggravating my gall bladder. Once I stopped eating eggs every day (I still eat them, just not more than a couple times a week), my gall bladder quieted down and all is still well so far. That was a fail, but only because my body made it so. Can’t help that, unfortunately.

The third goal was a partial fail. I tried, really I did, but my reminders kept not working (I’ve since gotten a better reminder system), and by the time I’d remember it was late and I was tired, and I rushed through and didn’t really give my goals list and progress analysis the attention it deserved.

I did go through the list occasionally, I tried to pick a new “top three” goal and never really settled on a good one, and I did modify the larger list a few times to give myself a better chance. One of the items on my list was to read a comic book every day (trying to catch up with a little over a years’ back-log). I achieved that goal with flying colors, and I’m caught up on a few different series, nearly caught up with my Harley Quinn’s, and still have quite the stack of Spidermans to get through.

I worked a lot on getting healthier this year, which sort of backfired in that my body threw a bit of a temper-tantrum, but the doctor I established as my first “primary care doc” told me not to worry about it, so I shan’t. I lost five pounds, a lot of that doing intermittent fasting. Even though that doesn’t seem like it will work for me long-term, it still had the great benefit of showing me just how few calories I actually need during a day. So I’m eating less, and have managed to keep the 5lbs off. Go me!

Most of the other goals on my longer list are household and financial goals, and I simply spaced most of the household/cleaning goals, and as for finances…well, yeah. No. Finances were more than just a fail – I wanted to pay down debt, and ended up with more than I had at the beginning of last year. It was a combination of not following through with my budgeting goals, lack of impulse control, and using the wrong budgeting system for my personality type.

Needless to say, finances are at the top of my priority list next year, and I’ll discuss that more tomorrow.

It was an odd year, and I’m kind of glad to just be leaving it all behind and moving forward. Writing was…not even close to what I wanted it to be, and left me wondering if I should even keep trying to write. I did finally start establishing some good writing habits over the past couple of months, and in just the past week, I’ve started blocking out more time for that as well (by shifting nightly routines up a bit). So, maybe next year will be better. I hope so. I need to either publish stuff, or close down the business side of things and just write for myself. By the end of next year, I should have a decision reached in regards to that.

Tomorrow, the new year begins, and a new resolution list commences. Stay tuned…

Fall, Activities & Writerly Angst

Don’t you just love fall? It’s been colder than normal here, but the leaves are all kinds of gorgeous, and the crisp air on the more normal temp days is invigorating and inspiring. I must not be the only one thinking that way, as it seems that far more of the neighbors have put up Halloween and fall decor already. I put some up myself this past weekend, though there’s a lot more to do later.

Last weekend was busy, what with the concert Friday night (which was incredible), and ghost stories and drinks at the Moss Mansion Saturday night (which was fun…it’s their first year, so kinda bumpy, but I bet next year everything will be squared away). It was a nice way to kick off the Halloween season, and also a good refresher on the mansion and it’s layout. One of the books I’m working on now features a mansion that is laid out very similarly to the Moss, and I may contact them and see if they’ll give me a tour of their offices on the third floor, which were the maid’s quarters. Just so I can have the general layout in my head for reference while I’m creating/describing my Mardeaux Mansion.

Nothing special going on next weekend, but it’s time to put up the Halloween fence in the front yard and plan the layout for our yard haunt. So, decorating, mostly. The library book sale is next weekend, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to go or not. Mostly because I just did my budgeting for this paycheck, and due to some unexpected auto repairs (and being more responsible with on-time payments…*ahem*), the coffers are pretty well empty (or spoken for, I guess…same diff, really). Dammit. *sigh*

I’ve been floundering with writing time and head space – trying to find both at the same time is often rather difficult these days. It’s frustrating, because I know that if you want to do something, you figure out how to do it, and I’m not doing that. I’m letting life intrude, letting writing be pushed aside. Letting my own lack of discipline and boundaries dictate how much I get done.

And of course there’s the business side of things…all the things that need to be done outside of writing the initial draft. Editing, formatting, cover art…that all takes time too – time I need to block out to actually focus on just those things, rather than procrastinating and getting distracted doing other things online. Distraction is a big issue for me. It never used to be, but it’s gotten worse over the years. I think perhaps because when I had that big mid-life crisis/crisis of faith and self-doubt blow-out, I let all my habits and discipline go, and still haven’t gotten them back.

It’s incredibly hard to re-establish habits after letting them go. Especially when other things have already expanded to fill the voids they left.

I find myself constantly thinking that when I retire, I’ll have time. I’ll make writing my full-time job. That’s when I’ll be able to start making progress, and be a “professional writer”. But that’s still over 20 years away, and it’s not feasible to even think about waiting that long. I can’t “not write”. It doesn’t matter whether I’m good, bad or mediocre at the task, I need to write. I’ve needed to write since I was 16 yrs old. I don’t know why, and I can’t say what drives me, just that I’m driven to do this, to tell stories, even if they sit unread and dusty on the shelf. My mind has this need to create that will not turn off, and while I wish I were a prodigy of some sort who could write one bestseller after another and make enough money to allow me to do this full time, I know I’m not, and it’s unlikely that I’ll ever be good enough to make that sort of money.

But I still need to do it. It’s just…who I am, for better or worse.

I have a new plan – the latest of many in an attempt to give myself the time and space to write. I’ll give it a week or two, and if that doesn’t work, develop another new plan, and another, and another, and someday, I’ll stumble over the plan that works, if only for a little while. And that will have to be good enough.

Such is life, eh? One “new” plan after another.

Speaking of which, I actually did check in with my goals list this week (and changed days/times for that, so I have no excuse for not doing that now). See below for the “report”.


Resolution Check-In
Sleep 6 hrs: Definitely doing better with this – I think I only missed two nights last week.
Goals check-up: I didn’t need a better alarm – turns out, I needed a better schedule. I switched things around so that Monday evenings I do goal and budget check-ins instead of hobby stuff, and I think that’s gonna work much better. The hobbies just shifted down a night, so no harm done.
One push-up per day: I’ve replaced this with a set of things designed to help me meet my overall weight/health management goals, and I’m doing well with those so far. I deliberately stalled the weight loss while getting my hormones back on track, and now that they seem to be, I’ll try to gradually start working my weight down again.

No writer’s notes this week

Resolution Six-Month Checkup

I had to break one of my resolutions for the year (the one easiest to keep at the top of my mind), so I figured this would be a good time for a six-month “checkup” of sorts to see how I’m doing. As a quick reminder, I did make a long list of goals for the year, but only three actual resolutions:

– Get at least 6 continuous hours of sleep 6 nights per week
– Eat at least one egg per day, 6 days per week
– Read through my goals list once per week, and note any progress or lack thereof. Adjust as necessary.

Needless to say, things aren’t going well. *sigh* Until a last week, I’d been fudging the 6 hours of sleep thing for a few weeks, pushing it later and definitely not getting to bed on time, which makes my mornings suck (not to put too fine a point on it). Granted, some nights this year I just haven’t slept well. That’s partially because we bought a new, much firmer mattress that my husband loves, but it’s taken me a good couple of months to adjust to, and partially because the weather was so weird for awhile, and finding the “sweet spot” for the A/C with all the humidity we’re really not used to was very much a trial and error thing. Another issue was gallbladder discomfort, which I’ll get to in a bit.

But part of it is that I’m just trying to do too much at night, and not getting it done frustrates me, so I stay up later to try to compensate, and then get up tired in the morning which means I’m even more tired/less productive the next night, and it’s a cycle that hurts me more than it helps. I just really need to scale back on the things I want to do and take care of myself by…getting to bed on time. I’ve done that very purposefully the last several nights, and woke up rested, before my alarm, and ready to start the day (except Sat night, but that doesn’t count).

So, I’m relaxing and reorganizing my late night schedule, admitting that I can’t actually do eveything I want to do, and getting to bed on time. Because it’s important.

The Sleep Resolution stands.

I mentioned gallbladder discomfort above…it’s been worse than normal this year, and I couldn’t figure out why after it’s been so calm for several years. I was almost resigned to finally going to the doctor, but still dragging my heels, so to speak.

I decided to try Chanca Piedra again (stonebreaker herb), which worked great last time I had issues. I was also reading up on intermittent fasting for health, and stumbled on a research study that found that eating more than three eggs a week was highly likely (ie, happened in 93% of the test group) to cause gallbladder discomfort.

I’ve been eating 10-13 eggs per week since January, faithfully, per my resolution. And my recent gallbladder issues have been going on pretty much exactly that long. *sigh*

I finished off the eggs I’d already hard-boiled for last week with the help of my husband (egg salad sandwiches are yummy), and cut myself back down to only having eggs occasionally. *One day* after I quit eating eggs daily, my gallbladder inflammation went down and the discomfort all but disappeared. It’s been five days now, and the discomfort is still there (because the eggs probably caused more gallstones to form over the months), but barely noticeable. I think a round of chanca piedra to break up the gallstones will probably get me back to where I need to be in regards to gallbladder health. If it doesn’t, I will go to the doctor, but I’ll definitely try this first, since it worked so well the first time.

So – The Egg Resolution is dead. Turns out the one resolution I was actually keeping was hurting instead of helping. Dang it.

As far as the third resolution goes…well, I think it’s probably obvious that I have *not* been checking in with my goals list once a week, and I’ll be totally honest and tell you that at least several of them have been either ignored or derailed by other things. Which isn’t good. But, I have six more months to work on that, so I’ve set an alarm for myself on Monday nights to do that weekly check-in, and a few other check-ins I need to be more diligent about as well (things like budgeting, meal planning, etc). Right at the first part of the week.

Way back in the “dark ages” before digital assistants were phones, the whole reason I started using one (palm pilot!) was to keep track of my schedule and remind myself to do things. I still do that, but not as much…and it’s a great tool to keep me moving in the right direction. I need to make better use of that particular feature again.

The Goals Check-Up Resolution stands.

I think I need to make one more resolution so I’ll still have three to work on (because every creative person knows that odd numbers are better than even). In that light, I’m adding another health-related resolution:

The Push-Up Resolution is a goal to do a minimum of 1 push-up per day/6 days per week for the rest of the year. Yes, it sounds insignificant, but much like the dead egg resolution, the purpose isn’t just to do one push-up, but rather to do one healthy, resistance training thing per day which most days will end up being 5 push-ups, or 1 push-up plus 10 bicep curls, or 20 push-ups, or 10 push-ups plus 10 squats…

You get the point. Taking the time to do 1 push-up per day will force me to think about working out, and if I have time to do one, I can probably do five or ten, or even twenty, or if I’m downstairs by my weight set I might decide to do a few other exercises just because I’m there. Or, I might be busy or sick or just not feelin’ it, and I’ll just do one push-up to satisfy the resolution and that will be that. It’s still something, and something that will affect positive change in the long run.

That gets us back to three resolutions for the rest of the year.

How are your own resolutions (if you make them) going? What about just basic goals? Have you done your own check-in lately?


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When I Grow up…

There’s a meme going around social media to the effect of, “When you grow up, no one asks what your favorite dinosaur is anymore.” Which is true, sadly, and an indication that adults have more weighty things to think about than extinct creatures, I guess. Still, I loved dinosaurs as a kid, and triceratops was always my favorite, for the record. Still is. I think they are the cutest, and I love their armor. That big shield is just an awesome sight to behold, even if only in museums now.

When I was a kid, we used to go to the drive-in theater occasionally too, which was always fun. At the one we used to go to, the screens would face each other, so us kids could lay in the back of our huge boat of a car and watch whatever was on the back screen while we were supposed to be sleeping, and the parents watched the front screen (with sound, of course). There were lots of rides to play on, and benches out in front of the cars where you could sit too, and with a speaker for each car window, you could easily hear the movie outside the car.

Movies had intermissions then, and singing hotdogs, and that’s when you’d get up, stretch your legs, get a treat and see who else had come out for the night. It was a great time, and a special night out.

So it’s fun to go out to our local drive-in now, as an adult, and see that though much has changed, so much hasn’t too. We went and saw Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom this weekend, mixing dinosaurs, complex ethical dilemmas and the overall drive-in experience. A natural progression, it would seem.

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing lately too…the craft itself, specifically, and how I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 16 or so. When I was young, people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grow up (another thing no one asks anymore), and for a long time, I would answer “an astronaut”, because I was obsessed with space, space travel, and convinced that there was a scientific way to make Mars inhabitable (Issac Asimov may have had a little to do with that belief).

When I got to high school and actually looked into what was required of astronauts, I was pretty disheartened to learn that fighter pilot experience was a big plus, and I would never qualify with my incredibly poor eyesight. Not for fighter pilot school, and not for an astronaut program. So I started thinking about what it was I really wanted to do with my life, and the only thing that ever truly appealed to me, an avid reader, was writing. Writing fiction, specifically.

My parents are inherently practical people, and upon hearing my new vocational goals, they both promptly asked, “so what are you going to do for money?” and when I frowned and said “I’m going to be a writer,” they both looked at each other, looked back at me, and said, “you need a backup plan, because you need to be able to take care of yourself in case you can’t get published.”

Back then, self-publishing wasn’t an option. Ebooks weren’t even around yet. And when I said I’d publish my books myself if no one would publish me, my parents reiterated how important it was to have a job that would pay the bills because writers are “creatives” and they’re always poor.

I never really wanted to be anything else, but when I went to college and took my first formal english classes, I failed to see how those would help be become a better fiction writer. I decided to get a history degree, because I enjoyed my history classes more than anything (other than philosophy classes, which I discovered later), and I figured I could teach (until I took a semester of student teaching), or I could go get a law degree (until I looked into exactly what it would take to go on to higher education).

Long story short, I have a history degree and an inherited proficiency in IT. The latter ended up being more useful in the long run as far as supporting myself goes. But of course I was so busy in college working to pay for it that I didn’t write – I thought about it all the time, but never had the time or energy. After college, I dabbled in writing, but by that time, I had bills and a house payment and writing is, unfortunately, not one of those things that I’m just inherently quick at picking up.

You would think I’d have given up on writing by now. I have a good job that I like, and I’m pretty decent at doing it, if I do say so myself. Writing is hard, it takes a lot of time that could be spent on other things, and my brain is naturally skewed more toward the technical/realistic worldview rather than a fictional/dramatic/”creative” one, so writing is always going to be a challenge, and I’m constantly trying to figure out what’s missing in my stories (which is extremely frustrating, though I do take a baby-step forward here and there). My life would be a lot simpler and less stressful if I just gave it up, honestly.

Thing is, I’ve tried. I’ve stopped writing for months and years on end, and I always come back to it. I can’t stay away – there’s something magnetic about it that I just can’t resist, even though it slaps me down and frustrates the heck out of me on an almost daily basis. Maybe that’s why – maybe it’s the challenging aspects of it that draw me in. Or maybe it’s just that I can’t help thinking I’ll be able to “crack the code” one of these days, and end up writing something people want to read (even if it’s just by accident).

In any case, watching the movie this weekend actually got me thinking about this, because I found myself enjoying the show thoroughly, but also kind of pulling apart the story structure (which is normally something I refrain from doing) in order to see what I could learn and use to apply in my own writing later on. And I had an epiphany about structure and depth in plotting that made me very happy – not that I’ll be able to apply it right away (because figuring out how to apply it is often more difficult for me than just recognizing it), but it made me feel like another piece of the writer’s puzzle finally fell into place in my brain. A piece I’d been ransacking the whole house looking for for ages, it seems like, and this weekend I finally found it in a dark corner underneath a heavy piece of furniture (or pile of dinosaur bones, as it were).

And I wonder, as I muddle through this whole “learning to write” process, slowly, if it would have been easier to stay focused and learn these lessons when I was young. To worry less about money and more about learning how to do what I really and truly wanted to do professionally, instead of being so very practical. My life would have taken a very different path, to be sure, and I’m not all totally convinced it would have been a better one, but would I have become a better writer at a younger age? Would I have been able to make a living from writing earlier, instead of waiting until retirement (which is when it looks like I’ll have the best chance at being good enough to make money)?

No way to know now, I suppose, and I’m not unhappy that my life has gone as it has so far. But it does make one wonder. Or it makes me wonder, anyways…

So…what’s your favorite dinosaur? And what do you want to be, now that you’re all grown up?


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Nailin’ It…Slowly.

So far, its been pretty easy to eat an egg once per day (see this year’s resolution post if you have no idea what I’m talking about). Getting six continuous hours of sleep a night? Not so easy. Especially on Saturday nights, which is when you’d think it would be the easiest, since I can generally sleep in on Sundays. Alas, no matter how late I can sleep, I still have to be up by 7:30am or so to feed the dogs, so my 6 hours has to happen before then (anything that happens after is just a bonus, and one I often take advantage of).

This is because Saturday nights are “nail nights”, or more properly, manicure nights. So I wait until the dogs and husband are settled for the night around 11:30pm-12am, and then I get out my nail “stuff”, pull up whatever show(s) I’m currently watching, and start the process of removing my old nail polish, filing, shaping, buffing, and re-polishing. I also soak my feet and do a simple pedicure at the same time…re-polishing my toenails every 4-5 weeks or so. I generally get done around 3:30-4am, but then I have to wait for the new polish to dry before I can go to bed, which is another hour or so. Even then, I often end up with sheet prints in my polish or scrunched up tips just because the polish wasn’t *truly* dry.

In any case, I decided to try a new method of doing my nails this week, to see if I could speed up the process a bit, and even with a somewhat steep learning curve, I shaved an hour off my normal time. I still need practice, but considering I spent an hour or more just reading instructions, watching videos and being extra-careful, I think I can cut at least another hour, hour and a half off next time. And there are other things I can do to speed things up, like setting up my “space” and picking out colors, etc…earlier in the day, so it doesn’t take that extra half hour in the evening before I can even start.

Could I just skip all this and go to the salon for a couple of hours? Sure. But I really don’t like having someone else do my nails. I did once, because I got a gift certificate for a manicure, and I didn’t like anything about the way she filed, shaped or polished my nails. I didn’t like the touch from a stranger on my hands. And doing that every two weeks holds no appeal to me whatsoever, much less every week.

More importantly though, nail night is “me time”. Not “me and a stranger’s time” or even “me and a friendly acquaintence’s time”, but time for me to be alone, recharging my introverted little batteries, watching shows my husband has no interest in, and just generally enjoying having a few hours to myself. I still fully intend to take 3 hours every Saturday night to relax, do my nails and watch my shows. I’m just cutting that time down from 5 hours to take better care of my brain (such as it is) by sleeping more.

I think by mid-February, I should have it all down to a science of sorts, and I’ll be in bed by 1:30am on Sunday mornings. I dare say that will make Sundays more productive as well. Which would be really nice. We’ll see.

Now, back to the grind. But only for a week – I’ve got next week off work, and I intend to enjoy it to the fullest. Five more days…

Resolutions 2018: What Kind of Person Do I Want to Be?

This year, it’s not about what I do, but who I am. Am I the kind of person who puts things off and lets them go just because the time isn’t optimal, or due to rigid social/societal structures? Or am I the kind of person who treats life and time as fluid and finds creative solutions in order to meet her goals and stay mentally balanced and healthy? I’m sure you can guess which kind of person I’d rather be…but I’ve been slipping on that a bit lately. Or a lot. I’ve let a lot of good habits go by the wayside just because I can’t do them on the schedule I want to or because I’m tired and not making good use of my alone-time to recharge, and I’ve let some stumbling blocks in my daily life completely derail me from things I really want to do.

I’m a creative thinker. The things that have been derailing me just…shouldn’t, because I’m perfectly capable of figuring out different ways of getting things done. I’m also perfectly capable of finding a compromise point when necessary, and that’s where the flexibility comes in. Often to get things done or change a schedule, the only person I need to compromise with is myself and my own rigid thoughts and routines.

When it comes to resolutions, I’m changing my thought patterns a little this year. I normally have a fairly long list, with several resolutions and then a detailed plan for how I’ll accomplish each one. A “resolution” for me is just a very strong goal…something that I really want to focus on and work at making happen. The thing is, I don’t remember those long lists, so I end up only accomplishing one or two things instead of a good chunk of the list. And I’m not good at remembering to check the lists every so often and remind myself what I’m supposed to be doing, which is something I need to work on.

So, this year I’m doing something different. I still have my longer list with the detailed plans, and I’m going to put monthly reminders on my calendar to look back, take stock and see what kind of progress I can make on that list. That’s the yearly “Goal List”, and those items are important, but they take a back seat to the “Resolutions List”.

The Resolution list is the highest priority, has three items on it, and only a few ideas on how I could possibly implement these “major goals”, rather than a detailed plan that may or may not work. This is to leave my mind room to work on creative solutions so I can find the one that will work best with what I’m trying to do through trial and error, rather than locking myself into something that may prove untenable in the long run.

The resolutions are deceptively simple, but will require a ripple of changes to multiple routines, schedules and mindsets to meet them on a regular, daily basis. They’re seemingly small things that will have profound impacts on my life…hopefully for the better.

So, my resolutions for this year are:

– Get at least 6 continuous hours of sleep 6 nights per week
– Eat at least one egg per day, 6 days per week
– Read through my goals list once per week, and note any progress or lack thereof. Adjust as necessary.

And that’s it. Those are my three hard and fast priorities for the year – the things I want to do no matter what else happens. Why these three in particular?

Sleep is something I hate wasting time on, but it’s incredibly important for a lot of things, not the least of which is overall long-term brain health. I read a study last fall (and mentioned it here, so apologies for the repeat) on how if you get less than 6 continuous hours of sleep per night, your brain can’t properly perform basic “cleaning functions” it needs to keep the pathways clear of amyloid deposits (among other things). These deposits have been linked to causing dementia and Alzheimer, and the more often you go without that minimum amount of sleep, the more your brain actually loses the ability to perform those important “scrubbing” tasks no matter how much sleep you get.

So why make it a resolution? Because for me, sleeping for 6 continuous hours means completely redoing both my night and morning routines, and becoming more efficient at what I need to get done before and after work just so I can have 6 hours free to do…brain maintenance. This resolution affects a very large swath of my life, and while I’ve been working on it for a couple of months now, I tend to “fudge” the schedule here and there, and I’m still working to find a good way to handle my manicure nights on Saturdays (when I’m often up until 4-5am doing my nails).

Focusing on getting 6 hours of sleep will force me to adjust and change (improve?) a plethora of other things in my life, which makes it a good resolution, methinks.

As for the eggs – I’m working on getting healthier (a constant thing). Losing weight, getting strong, eating healthy. Lots of recent studies have de-villified the egg as a cholesterol issue, and they contain a lot of really great vitamins and minerals that support healthy thyroid and metabolic function. Plus, good protein! And very versatile/easy to incorporate into daily meals.

Focusing on eating one specific food every day will force me to think about my meals in advance, and also keep me in the mindset of eating foods that support my overall goals of getting healthier and getting back to a healthier weight.

Lastly, the checking in on my major goal list once a week will help keep those fresh in my mind, and give me a weekly opportunity to think about what I could do to make progress on them, or go over what isn’t working and adjust the goal accordingly. This also will require that I adjust my weekend routines to make time for this weekly check-in. I’ll probably need an hour, at least.

So, that’s the resolution list and plan for this year. I’ve already started moving things around in my routines to get to bed on time, and planning out how to fit a daily egg into my diet (this week, cupcake-sized egg muffins for breakfast…made this morning and cooling for the freezer). Just need to figure out when I’ll do my first goals check-in next weekend, and I’ll be off to a good start.

Here’s to a year of focus, flexibility and forward progress!

2015 – The Resolutions Post

If you’ve been hanging with me long, you know I’m a pretty devout resolutionist (and if you didn’t, now you know). I don’t get all the backlash with regards to making resolutions…because resolving to do something is merely making a goal to do that thing, nothing more, nothing less. I’ll be successful with some of them, and some not so much, but even those I’m not successful at will give me something to think about at the end of the year, and help me to refine my goals going forward.

I spent the better part of December working on my list for 2015, mainly because I always over-reach, and while that’s fine, I wanted to really refine the list this year and only include things that are definitely doable. So I’ve been going back and forth among my daily/weekly to-do lists, my proposed writing/publishing schedule and my proposed resolutions, refining, re-organizing, paring back, and in some cases, adding in. It’s not something I take lightly – I ultimately want to give myself the best chance possible for success, and to do that, I need to make realistic goals that will fit with my schedule and the time/energy I have available.

At the same time, I do *want* to overreach a little, just to push myself and make it just a little challenging. If you’re not being challenged, you’re not growing…and stagnation is the enemy of life.

All that said, here’s the list I’ve come up with for this year, with a few explanatory notes added as to why/how I plan to work on certain items.


Personal 

– Journal¬†weekly:¬†To get anything I might be stressing/obsessing over out of my head, so I’m less distracted overall (mental health).
РMonthly mail exchange: To further my stamp collecting hobby, and rediscover the more personal connection of snail mail and short, hand-written notes.
РGo hiking (summer): For better health, and to broaden perspective/stay connected to the natural world.
– Dedicated weekly hobby time:¬†I’ve learned to do this over the past year, but with the higher emphasis on writing/publishing this year, it needs to be on the list so I don’t let that part of my life slide. Important for mental health.¬†

Writing

– Write better books:¬†By which I mean, keep working consciously to make my writing better with each draft I start (don’t let myself fall into a rut just because my writing schedule is quite challenging this year)
РMaintain a more disciplined writing/working habit: 2k words per day, 5 days per week, or at least 10k words per week, no matter how that shakes out (my normal output is around 800 Р1200 words per day now).
РRelease a book or collection every other month: I had very few releases in 2014, and my sales reflect that. One of the best ways to stay visible is to publish often. 

Publishing/Sales

– Monthly newsletters:¬†Often touted as the absolute best way to keep in touch with readers and keep book sales steady, this is something I’ve been incredibly lazy about, because I feel newsletters should have some content other than just “hey, I have a new book out – go buy it!”. Yes, this is perfectionism, but I think in this case, it has merit. So I’ve devised a plan to give newsletter subscribers new, original, exclusive content every month, which will add to my release list at the end of the year.
–¬†Weekly blog posts for author blogs & writing blog:¬†I’m already doing this for two of my author blogs (this one and my Alex alter-ego), but I’d like to get a weekly post going on the Trinity blog as well, and also at The Drafting Desk for writers/writing-related posts).
– Adopt the donation/patronage model for web site downloads for the whole of 2015:¬†All books except new releases will be available at the BSB site for whatever price the reader wants to donate, or nothing at all. This is a carrot, both to draw readers to the BSB site regularly, and also to give those who may not be able to afford regular price for my books a way to get them for what they can afford, even if that’s free. Also, to entice people to try my work in the hope that if they like it, they’ll pay for the next one. This will be the *only* place to get my books for free or discounted prices, and I’ll be revisiting my pricing structure through the other distribution sites (ie, prices will probably be going up on the other sites). I’ll revisit this at the end of the year to determine whether it was a successful experiment or not.¬†


If you peeked at¬†last year’s list¬†from yesterday’s post, you’ll see that this one is quite a bit smaller…and that’s by design. There are more things I’d like to work on throughout the year, but only those that I’ve given top priority are actually included as resolutions. I have a few day job resolutions too, but those aren’t relevant here (and don’t need to be online).

So those will be my priorities this year…and with any luck (okay, more just a lot of hard work and focus), my book sales will be on the rebound by this time next year, and I’ll be a better writer, as well as in good shape physically/mentally. A lofty goal, to be sure, but certainly worthwhile.

Are you a resolutionist, or do you prefer to just see where life takes you and call it good? If you do make goals/resolutions for the year, what is your biggest one for 2015?