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Progress & Health Check

I think I’m probably the worst person in the world at following my own advice, which means I have to “check in” with myself often and sort of wag a finger in the mirror to set myself back on track. One of my biggest problems is being that person who gets so wrapped up in accomplishing a goal or fixing a problem that I let such things consume me, and pretty soon, I’m making excuses as to why I’m not taking care of myself anymore. From simple things like forgetting to brush my teeth, to willfully looking at the clock and thinking I can just work for “ten more minutes” instead of getting ready for bed, I am the ultimate self-saboteur. It’s not a healthy quality.

If this post isn’t done and schedule by 10 minutes to midnight, I have to wait until tomorrow, no ifs, ands or buts. Because after a good week/week and a half of ignoring my bedtime and other simple self-care to-dos, I need to make that sort of boring, mundane thing a priority again. *sigh*

It’s no fun. It’s annoying. I wish I could just work myself into the ground now, while I’m young-ish, and not have to worry about being cognitively sharp and physically healthy when I’m older, but that’s not who I am, so here we are, caught between a personal goal I want to accomplish, a work problem best worked on while the rest of the world sleeps, and not enough super-human strength to make either a priority for long. Dammit.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve had a priority of writing 500 words a day, no matter what, and before anything, including sleep. Honest-to-God, you’d think I put that out to the universe as a dare, because if I told you all the things that happened to derail/sabotage that goal (all out of my control), you wouldn’t believe me. It’s insane. But I can’t live like that, with all that angst and frustration over my daily word count that clearly isn’t meant to be. I hate that, because I want, more than anything, to write for an hour a day (even half an hour!). But man, I tell you what. It feels like an impossibility when every writing session feels doomed from the start.

In any case, this week’s priority is healthy habits, and those other two things when I can work them in without jeopardizing the whole healthy thing. I still want to write 500 words per day (1/2 hour), but if I can’t, I can’t. No stress, because stress is unhealthy, and we’re done with that, at least for a few weeks.

We pushed things way too hard this past weekend too, which is part of my weariness tonight (Monday around 11:30pm, for reference). Saturday we did yardwork, put up a new mailbox (which is now the prettiest, coolest on on the block, thankyouverymuch), and then went mattress comparison shopping (which is exactly as tiresome as it sounds, honestly).

Sunday, we got up late, drove out to get the mattress we’d decided on, brought it home, went bed frame shopping (we’ve just had a regular metal frame for eons…it was time for a nice wooden one), brought that home, hauled out the old, put together the new, and collapsed in another fit of weariness.

Monday (a holiday here in the States) I did the bare minimums for weekly housekeeping that I normally do on Sundays, and we had dinner with the BIL for his birthday. By that time, we were so worn out from running all weekend we were not very sociable company, I’m afraid.

We ate out once on Saturday and ordered in, then ate out again on Sunday and ate the leftover Chinese from Saturday, and then Monday ate out for BIL’s dinner. Way, way too much restaurant food, which didn’t help at all, even though it tasted good. My body is more than ready to get back to healthier, home-prepared meals without all that added salt and far lower carb counts.

And all throughout, I was monitoring my work problem, taking notes, finding patterns, making discoveries and trying new things to fix it (none of which worked) all while checking my email at intervals due to someone asking me to be available in case needed (special situation). I’m glad I did all that, because I have a good idea of where the problem is and what to work on next to fix it, but it did take a lot of time and energy that I don’t normally put into work stuff on the weekends.

It was a lot all in one fairly small time frame, and I may take Friday off this week just to sort of relax and recalibrate for a day. We’ll see. That would make an already short week even shorter, which isn’t always a good thing, but it may be exactly what I need to keep the mind and body both healthy. So, I’m keeping it as a possibility.

When was the last time you “checked in” with yourself, as far as health and self-care priorities go? Are you doing okay, or is it time to step back and revisit some of those goals you have/had to be healthier, no matter how small?


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The Chair, Assigning Value, & Fear

The Thinking Chair

I’m a member of the local online rummage sale group on Facebook, which is a great way to get rid of unwanted stuff in a hurry, but it’s also a great way to find/buy stuff you never knew you needed (and really, you don’t). Like the old Red Robin booth I got for my writing desk. And the old fabric and wood rocking chair I bought this past weekend. I didn’t/don’t need it, had to rearrange a bit to make room for it, it doesn’t match the rest of our furniture or the decor, and according to hubby, I don’t look like I “fit” it when I sit in it. Apparently tattoos, a cap, and a superhero shirt clash with beautifully carved thick wood and faded tapestry fabric. Who knew?

Whatever. My personal style may not match the chair, and the chair may not match the rest of the house (though it does blend well with the tapestry and wood dining room chair that it’s close to, and the antique sewing machine behind it that I still haven’t put back together), but I love it. I love just looking at it – it’s calming and reminiscent of past lives and lifestyles that I sometimes wish we could incorporate into today’s world, even if just in a small way. It’s not the kind of chair you’d spend hours in…it’s comfortable, but not plush. But it’s the kind of chair you could sit in when you need to noodle something out, or deal with something that’s been on your mind, maybe with a crochet hook or knitting needles in hand.

I have a wingback recliner in the office that I use as a reading/writing chair. I think I’ll dub this new rocking chair the “thinking chair”.

The Reading Chair

And perhaps look for a small, tapestry-covered footstool to go in front of it since I can rarely reach the ground to rock when I’m in a rocking chair (relatively short legs, I guess).

I’ve been thinking a lot about value lately, and how we assign value to things – including how much we’re willing to pay for something. A week ago, I was raising the price of my alter-ego’s new book to “normal retail” online, and I decided to raise the prices on all of my other books too. Previously, I’d priced books by what I thought they’d sell for – the value I expected others would put on them. I determined that almost exclusively by page count/length, and genre. I was trying to get them to sell based on price alone, and sales generally trickle at those prices for me.

Here’s the thing. It takes a lot of time for me to get a book written – even a short one, and even more time to edit, check the formatting, write the blurbs and create the covers. It takes money to get the formatting done (I’ll probably go back to formatting the digital versions myself…more time!), and money to buy cover art images. And even pricing for the lowest-spending reader, I still get only a handful (sometimes not even that many) of sales in a month.

Does this mean I’m not a stellar writer? Possibly (I’m certainly not a “bad” one, considering some of the incredibly/inexplicably popular messses out there for sale). Does it mean I’m not good at marketing? Absolutely. Does it mean that my admittedly possibly mediocre books should be priced at bargain basement?

No. No it does not. $3 is nothing for a story, even a short one. Some people spend more than that on coffee in the morning or lunch during the work day. I spent just shy of that on a cup of tea at the bookstore last night. $3 for all the hours and work I put into that story is a pittance. And if people won’t pay that for one of my short stories (and $4-5 for a longer novel), then I’m really not doing a very good job with either writing or promoting them, and don’t deserve the sale.

With that in mind, I raised all my prices. And sales went flat. And that’s okay. It is what it is, but I’m done with bargain-basement pricing. I’m assigning more value to my work, and my time, and readers can decide whether it’s worth that to them or not, but at least I feel like I’ve shown some confidence in my abilities, and that I’m not undervaluing what I do (or try to do, anyways).

I am going to be going through and redoing cover art and blurbs on some older books, to bring them up to date. And I’ll be working on some promotional things as well, just to draw attention to them and let people know what I have available. I have one book I’ll be going back through and re-editing too, but that won’t be a normal thing. most of my books are already well-edited, this particular one sort of slipped through the cracks and it won’t take me long to fix the minor nits within.

So, I’m assigning more value to my work, and whether it deserves that valuation or not will depend on each individual reader. And my mission/goal is to make sure that what I put out is worthy, in my own eyes, of the value I assign to it. Fair enough, I think.

As far as that whole promotion thing goes, I need to be more “forward” (aggressive?) about letting people know that I write. I don’t know why it’s such a difficult thing, but somehow, it seems stranger and uncomfortable to talk about being a writer (and even openly acknowledge it) locally than it does to say I’m a database administrator for the county. Probably because I make a good wage as a DBA, and there are measurable activities that tell me I’m fairly decent at my day job. But because I make very little money as a writer, and that’s really the only measurement I have for that particular “job”, it’s harder to acknowledge/admit to. I feel like people will think I’m a fraud, or a “wannabe” writer (even though I’ve published around 40 books now…it’s only the ones people have heard of that matter).

And we all get annoyed by those people who claim to be writers and never write or publish anything, don’t we? Even though I have written and published quite a few books, a lot are under pen names, and none are popular, so I feel like I come off like the wannabe, even though I do actually write and publish (okay, so I took a couple years off, but I just published two stories this year, and I’m working on a couple more). Gotta love “imposter syndrome”, eh?

In any case, I went to the annual shareholders meeting for our local bookstore co-op last night, and beforehand hubby was looking at the site and asking why my name wasn’t on the author/shareholder page. My answer was that I guess they overlooked me, or that I haven’t really pursued getting my books in the store yet (I don’t currently have any that meet their “criteria”), but really, it’s probably just because I haven’t emailed them and said, “Hey, I’m an author/shareholder – would you add me to the list, please?” Because it’s probably just that easy. And I’m just…not that forward. But there’s no reason not to be.

Aside from fear.

Fear is why I priced my books so low to begin with – I was afraid no one would see the value in them and pay a higher price. Fear is why I don’t talk about being a writer with people I know personally – because I’m afraid of all the negative connotations that might bring, and also the “oh, I’ll read your book” or “I’m reading your book this weekend” statements that never result in feedback.

Incidentally, if you’re going to read my book(s), be kind. Don’t tell me you’re going to. Just do, and then if you liked it, tell me (or just leave a review wherever you got it). If you didn’t like it, we’ll both be happier (and things will be less awkward) if I don’t even know you read it.

But seriously. I’m more afraid of what people will think if they know I’m an author than what they think when they see my tattoos. Even I know that’s seriously messed up and backwards. Especially when I’ve devoted an entire arm to tough, resilient animal tattoos reminding me to be bold and strong and fearless. I really need to work on taking my own advice.

And yes, I got the bookstore manager’s card, and will follow up with that whole “will you add me to the author page, please?” thing. And getting my books into the store.

Do you have a “thinking” chair? What are you afraid of? Post a comment – as Red Green says, “We’re all in this together!”


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Full Speed Ahead & Business Planning

The thing about newly (re)discovered skills is, there’s a certain amount of excitement in seeing just how far you can take them. The whole budgeting thing (and subsequent successes) have reawakened my love of building plans and organizing routines to help execute those plans, which is what I spent some time on last week.

My side-business, Brazen Snake Books (BSB), needs to make money. Or more than it does now, anyways. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, and how I could best spend my limited free time making that happen (without burning out/going nutso). There has to be a balance of producing new books and keeping the names producing those books visible, so I took a couple of hours last week and broke down some things I need/want to do in order to refresh old work and make it more visible/attractive, and also all of the tasks I need to do just to keep things churning business-wise. I went through and rearranged my before & after work schedules, and my late night free time to accommodate those tasks in the most logical and efficient way I could think of, and I built in some time for education and motivation too – at the beginning of the week when I need it most.

I made sure to leave enough time for writing – without new books, none of the rest really matters. And I took some time to think about what kind of books I want to write too, and which alter-egos/genres I want to focus on building. Those aren’t really market-driven…in fact, the main ones I want to focus on are the ones least likely to sell, so I’m making things hard on myself there, but I need to enjoy writing or there’s no point. So the trick will be making those not-so-great selling genres at least sell “enough”, to break even. Though I do have a few stories in the works for a more saleable genre as well.

I feel like I have a solid plan now, which is a good thing, and I’m starting to implement it this week. Adjustments will need to be made, of course, but I feel good about the overall outlook.

Now I need to email the city and throw myself on their mercy for letting my business license lapse several years ago. We’ll see what kind of fines they stick me with. Maybe it’ll help that I haven’t been making (or claiming, for that matter) any huge profits. We’ll see, I suppose.

So…budgeting: check. Meal “budgeting”: check. Business planning/organization: check. If I could just carry all of this over into the yard and gardens this summer, that would be awesome. Though I do tend to lose motivation to work outside very quickly when it’s hot.

Part of this week’s activities include finishing up the front cover wrap for the new release I have coming out on the 20th. It’s a kids book, which is so far out of my comfort zone to write it’s not even funny, but I decided to release it anyways just because I find myself wanting to write the rest of the stories in the series and see how it eventually ends up. I’m releasing it under a new alter-ego, Marie Yoch, and I spent most of last weekend putting up pre-orders for the book and an online presence for her (still not completely happy with the web site template and that banner is way, way too big! But it’ll have to do for now – marieyoch.com). I should get the formatted print file back later this week, and then I’ll need to upload it to CreateSpace so it will hopefully be available on the 20th as well.

It’s gonna be a busy week, but satisfying too, I think.

Oh, and did I mention over here that April is National Poetry month? I can’t remember, but if you’re interested, I’m reading a poem a week, and posting a short analysis of it on the BSB blog. If you read a poem and mention it and the author in the comments over there, you can request one BSB book for free. Join us, if you’re so inclined!

Finding the Calm

It’s late Monday night as I type again, but this week, we finish the mid-life crisis. Note that my head isn’t all that great with keeping dates and timelines straight, so all of this might not be strictly in the right order, but it’s all true, which is what matters, really.

In any case, we left off with my tattoo sleeve, and the story it started churning around in my head. The sleeve was finally finished late last summer/early fall, and by then, I was ready to start writing up that story. I was also coping much better with some of the feelings I’d been dealing with. I’d taken up archery (a year ago last month, actually), and faithfully went to the range once a week or so, and I’d also taken steps to ensure I could take care of “me” – which sounds so cliche, but I think that’s because we have to remind ourselves to do it so very often.

I started sleeping more hours at night (after reading a study basically condemning my brain to dementia or worse if I didn’t), and taking time for myself when I needed it. I was still doing a lot of thinking…some of it on paper, some just in my head, about the feelings and…”loss”, I guess, is the best way to describe it. Things that I simply can’t have or do because…well, because I chose/choose to prioritize other things. I acknowledged that I built the life that I have now, and I choose to stay in it for all the reasons that I am who I am.

There are things I still don’t want to accept not having/doing, and experiences I’m choosing to go without, and that’s just something I’m going to have to live with. But I’ve made a sort of uneasy peace with them that allows me to move on. To not dwell and obsess and drive myself insane trying to make it happen no matter the cost…because obviously, I’m not willing to pay that particular price.

Vague, I know. Like I said, some things are too personal for the cold light of public scrutiny. I suspect most who have gone through this same sort of process understand just what I mean.

And of course, I was writing again. Finally. Making time for one thing that I truly needed to get back to. I’ve since restarted Misty’s story, because part of this process was figuring out what kind of a writer I wanted to be, and where I wanted to go with my stories. I started Misty over because I figured out (20k words in) what kind of “presence” I wanted the book to have, and for once, I have an inkling of how I can give it that feel. So far, the rewrite is coming along well.

I decided to release the young reader’s book, under a different pen name (it’s coming out in April). Partially because I’m curious to see how it does, and partially because I’m still curious as to where my young treasure-hunter will end up, and I actually want to write the rest of the series.

Which brings us to the present. And me, on the other side of what’s commonly known as a “mid-life crisis”. But is it, really a “crisis”? It’s definitely uncomfortable and painful and there’s a certain sense of “mourning” that goes on, but now that I look back on it, it seems more like a growth period. A period of redefining myself, and balancing the “self” I was in my youth with the “self” I grew into as an adult. Part of that was stripping off some of the armor I’d put on for protection, and parts of that were embracing my “quirkier” aspects. Yet another part was acknowledging things I’d wanted for a long time but was afraid to really examine, and deciding if I was willing to give up other things in order to have those long-held desires. In some cases, yes, and in other cases, no. And for the latter, accepting my own decisions. Which is admittedly, the hardest part, and there are still parts of me that want to throw a temper tantrum like a child because I can’t have what I want…but that was a big part of the last few years. I’m over the whole tantrum thing. I’m increasingly able to just accept what “is” and move on, though I don’t think I’ll ever quite give up those desires completely. They’re part of me. A good part.

Which is okay. Accepting that there are some things I want and will never be able to have was a big part of this whole experience. I won’t say it’s all “good”, but it is “okay” now, and I can get past it.

Recently, I’ve completely switched up my supplements too, with the idea that perhaps something in my body isn’t “processing” quite right. I’ve been doing my best to lose some weight and its been doing its best to hang on tight, and after some research and reading, I picked out some super-supplements that I hoped would give my thyroid and adrenal glands some help in balancing everything out. I knew they would affect my hormones (any little thing does), but I wasn’t really expecting how much they’d affect my brain. In a very good way.

So, if you’re up for a little “better living through vitamins” talk…that’s what we’ll discuss next week.

For now, you can all be as grateful as I am that the “crisis” is over, the sun is out, and things can only get better from here!

Less Talk, More Action

This post is going to be late. I know that, because as I start typing, it’s after midnight on Monday night/Tuesday morning, and I need to get some sleep. Normally I can blame a late blog post on household chores or family sabotage or what-have-you, but not this time.

This time is all my fault, for getting distracted by Jennifer Lawrence being interviewed on Steven Colbert, and having a pretty good time after a few shots of rum. Yum. And good for her, for being so…personable and down-to-earth even when she’s nervous and tired and has a million things going on in her head.

Also, I really want one of those green velour shirts she was wearing. I mean, not that exact one, which is probably far outside my budget, but a knock-off would be awesome. It looked cozy and comfortable, but still casually elegant.

I have a “thing” for shirts. Never realized that until this crisis thing, but I do. We all have our quirks…

In any case, we have a mid-life crisis to crawl out of today (or tomorrow, depending), so better get back to it, lest the blog post series stretches out as long as the crisis itself (ugh)…

The year after I got my rattlesnake tattoo was a year of major changes. The boss left and the new one took over (and is good at it, thank goodness). A few other people left, and that meant extra work and stress all around until people could get caught up and up to speed on training and such. One of my dogs went blind, which is how we found out she had diabetes, and then finally had to have a tumor-ridden ear flap removed. We put her down a couple of weeks later when she just wasn’t recovering and it was pretty clear she wasn’t really going to thrive ever again.

After a month or so, we adopted Murphy, which was kind of a drawn-out process in and of itself (but worth it, of course). By that time, it was April, and the summer brought more work stress with no real end in sight.

I’d been trying to write that whole year, and aside from a few bits here and there…nothing. A common thread through this whole process had been the refrain that I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t selling, I sucked as a writer so why even try, and those negative thoughts just kept swirling around in my head, whispering in my ear every time I sat down at the keyboard. I knew I wasn’t good enough, but I was struggling to figure out what I was doing wrong, and I was never one of those writers with absolute confidence in her work (I envy those people, I tell you what), but I never really thought I was terrible at it, until those years. And I was left wondering why I kept trying, when clearly I had no natural talent for storytelling.

I’d written a young adventure novel for a baby press, and I pulled that just before it was due to be published because I figured that none of my other stuff was selling that well, and I didn’t want to be known as a “children’s author”, and if it did sell by some miracle, how was I going to get the rest of the series done (five-six books planned)?

Like I said, my head was a mess.

The thing about being a writer is, you tend to do it whether you publish or not. I mean, I know writers who say they wouldn’t write without publishing, but I think for a lot of us, writing is a way to connect with and make sense of the world in a “safe” environment (our heads). And when we can’t do that, it doesn’t do good things for our own mental health. We get crabby and sullen and depressed, and add those negative thoughts above to the other feelings and “things” I was dealing with…it was not pretty.

I admit…part of what I like about getting tattooed is the big dopamine hit you get when your brain has to deal with prolonged pain for a period of time. I’m lucky enough to have a pretty high pain tolerance, so tattoo pain is mostly just an annoyance for me, where someone else might be truly miserable in the chair. At the end of that summer, when stress levels were starting to go down, the dogs were getting along better, and I was able to get a little better perspective on life in general, I made several tattoo appointments, one after the other. A horned toad. A barn spider. A grasshopper/lady bug pair. All of which have their own meanings and reminders, and comprise the half-sleeve on my left arm (yet to be finished).

Then I did something completely out of character, and decided I wanted a skull cameo tattoo with lace on the inside of my right forearm. It was the first time I’d picked out a tattoo that didn’t have any sort of particular meaning to me before I had it done. I’ve always loved cameos in general, and the skull cameos are so “Gothic Victorian” that they appeal to me on many different levels.

I generally give my tattoo artist an idea of what I want, and some general photos of similar images I like, and then just let him design a custom piece based on that. When I went in and he’d designed this cameo motif to fit the entire inside of my forearm, I was a little reticent. He explained that he thought the lace would make a nice wrap around the outside, and I wasn’t really visualizing what he had in mind, but I trust him, and I love his artwork in general, so I went ahead and got the cameo done, and scheduled the lace for a month or so out.

The day after I got my cameo, she started whispering to me. Now, I know you’re thinking that I really am crazy, but obviously, the tattoo wasn’t “actually” whispering anything. The creative part of my brain was churning, telling me that the girl in the cameo’s name was Misty, and that she died under mysterious circumstances in an old abandoned mysterious gothic mansion in…the middle of nowhere, Montana.

And just like that, for the first time in *years*, I was excited to write something. Even though I was working on bits and pieces of other things as I could, the story forming in my head and giving life to my tattoo was writing itself even thought I hadn’t put anything on paper yet. And I had to finish some of the things I was working on, so I purposefully didn’t let myself start writing it either. I just let it mull around in my head for the next year or so, and every time I thought of a new character or important plot point, I added that to the tattoo sleeve on my right arm.

It’s now late Tuesday night, and I really do need sleep, so this story will go one more week, wherein I find peace, if not total contentment, and a way to deal with my extraneous emotions in a more productive manner than previously.

If you’re still with me, we’ll wrap up this whole mid-life crisis thing next Tuesday.

Moving Right Along…

Last week was kind of like a bad thriller – mostly unbelievable with a few redeeming scenes here and there. Even this past Sunday pretty much sucked when I discovered a pinhole leak in a hose under the kitchen sink (all I wanted was a garbage bag, dang it!), and then couldn’t get the connector off so I could replace it. It’s currently covered in electrical tape, which is covered with a layer of duct tape to keep it from leaking this week, since we won’t have time to get back to it until next Saturday. Fingers crossed that will all hold for the next 6 days.

So, now you know why this post is late. That whole little discovery, from finding water, to figuring out what was leaking, to a trip to the hardware store (the dogs enjoyed that, at least), to spending an hour or so trying to disconnect things without breaking them took way, way too long. And of course I was tired, due to being up way too late again Sat. night because of the stupid gel polish that, once applied, refuses to let go of my nails.

Apparently some of us just have that problem, and the only way to deal with it is to either not use gel polish, or to get a good electronic file, file the color off (which does work – yay!), and backfill the base coat before polishing again (instead of removing the base, so you don’t damage your natural nails). I learned that by surfing several out-of-the-way nail tech sites and youtube videos while waiting for my regular polish to dry after pitting my own gel polish base coat with my very old e-file to remove last week’s manicure.

A new electronic file, and better technique thanks to youtube videos, and that should solve my gel polish problem. As soon as the mess I made of my nails grows out and I can try again, anyways.

There were a few good things that came out of last week though. My alter-ego’s draft is all finished and ready for formatting, and the cover art is done for the ebook. It feels good to be on the verge of publishing something again. Good, bad, or ugly, the writing cycle doesn’t really feel complete until you put it out there to sink or swim, as it will.

I also caught up on a writing motivation lecture series I bought awhile back and never finished, and came up with a new plan for nightly scheduling to hopefully get more done as far as studying writing craft and keeping up with publishing business goes.

Provided this week is more…cooperative than last, I should be able to get a fair amount of writing done, at least one newsletter out, and some editing done on another draft that’s nearly ready to release. Here’s hoping.

And with any luck, back to nightly workouts as well. I didn’t get a single one in last week, which sucks. I really do need that to keep the stress levels and weight down.

So. New week, new motivation, same ol’ optimism that things won’t be *too* bad. Forward, ho!

Progress, Set-Backs, & Movies

Vacation is over, and it’s back to the office today. Last week was phenomenal as far as vacations go. I relaxed, but I also got a lot of stuff done (that in and of itself was relaxing to me – because it was all stuff I wanted to work on). I wrote nearly every day (only missed one), I got a draft edited up and ready to send to the formatters, I picked out some potential cover art images for that story, and printed out another story for a last read-through/edit before getting that ready to publish.

I also started the clean-up/restoration project for my antique sewing machine, which is still in progress, but it’s been a fun learning experience. I’m working on polishing the metal at the moment, which is proving more difficult than I thought it would be. One-hundred plus years of grime and etching aren’t all that easy to get off, and I started thinking I needed to make everything shine again before I put it back together, and then realized that really…I don’t. The marred spots and matte chrome are part of this machine’s particular story, and while the rust really did have to be removed to save the metal, the rest of it really is just fine like it is. It’s an antique. It shouldn’t look new. It should look well used and loved, and mine definitely does. I’ll replace the belt (already have a replacement ready to go on) and needle, but otherwise, everything else will be original, stained and faded though it might be.

I’m kind of bummed that I didn’t get it all put back together this past weekend, but I still don’t have a new needle, thread, or any fabric at all, so it’s not like I could use it anyways. Next weekend, I’m going shopping. And I’ll put everything back together and finally get to try it out.

I still didn’t get six hours of sleep this past Saturday night – gel polish is no joke to remove! Unfortunately, the steamer appliance I bought really isn’t working well at all for this, and I don’t know if it’s the polish I’m using, or the steamer or what, but I think soaking the polish off in a more traditional manor might solve my problem. I’ll try again next weekend.

The UV-cured gel polish itself is awesome, and it’s so great to be able to just pick up and go straight to bed after the last cure time with completely dry nails. I hope I can find a way to make the polish removal quicker though, or it’s kind of pointless for getting to bed earlier.

While the nail polish steamer hasn’t worked all that well for me, I got another steamer that is just *excellent*. I found one of those tiny little egg cooker/steamers on sale on Amazon the other week, and it is just the handiest little kitchen appliance ever! Poke a hole in the eggs, put them on the tray, add water measured by the included cup, put the lid on and press the button. I’ve made soft and hard boiled eggs so far, and both are incredibly easy. No pan to clean up, no paying attention to when the water starts boiling and setting a timer, no real clean-up necessary. It’s wonderful, and I love it. It took very little effort to get ten hard-boiled eggs all cooked, peeled and ready for breakfasts this week.

The hubby took me to dinner and a movie for my birthday – we went to see the new Jumangi, and I tell you what…it was *hilarious*! It looks kind of cheesy from the trailers, but we laughed all the way through. So funny. Well worth the watch, IMO.

Then yesterday I got sucked into watching Sunset Boulevard on PBS, and it was mesmerizing on several levels. If you haven’t seen it and you get a chance to, it will especially appeal to us writerly and creative types. Worth the time, even though it did put me behind on housework for the rest of the day.

I had a great vacation, and I feel rested and ready to get back into the normal workday routine. There are a few things I need to work on, time-wise, but I think I can do better going forward. It was a good, much-needed break.

Oh…and if you ever consider reading Chuck Palahniuk’s Doomed…well…it’s weird. Interesting in an odd way and amusing, but weird. Just sayin’.

Vacation! Older! Motivated (sort of)! Tattoo!

For the one or two of you wondering, no, I did not get 6 hours of sleep this past Saturday night. Or most nights last week, actually. It was just one of those weeks where not much went right, the world was chaos, and I just kind of hung on and made it through. Some weeks are like that. No avoiding it, unfortunately.

I made a mistake with the nail gel polish application last week, and that’s why Saturday night I was up way later than I should have been trying to get that polish back *off* my nails. Learning curve, nightmare, chaos, yadda yadda yadda. Lesson(s) learned and noted, next week should go much faster. Hopefully.

As you might have noticed when you tried to go to the bank or mail something, today is a federal holiday (Martin Luther King Jr. Day). Which is why I’m hanging with the dogs and having lunch with my parents/grandma instead of toiling away at the office. Because I have extra vacation hours to use or lose this year, and because Wednesday is my birthday (always take my birthday off), I went ahead and just took the whole rest of the week off too. Which fits in nicely with one of my non-resolution goals this year, which is to get my butt in gear and publish some more books.

I have at least two drafts that just need some editing, formatting and cover art before they’re ready to go up for sale. They’ve been in that state for a long time now, and I just haven’t had the…well, chutzpah, I guess, to get them out there. Issues with confidence, directional issues, mid-life-crisis sort of issues…it’s been a crazy few years. But it’s time to get back in the game. I’m writing regularly again (thank God), and it’s far past time to start putting stuff out there too.

So this week is all about editing. I have a 500 new-word minimum to meet every day, but after that, it’s all about getting those two drafts cleaned up and in publishable shape. I’ve set release dates for both of them, mostly just to give myself a deadline (I work best on deadline and I haven’t been setting many of those for myself lately), and meeting those release dates means absolutely finishing the edits on the first draft this week, and the second has to be finished by mid-February (but the sooner the better). I’m going to spend a fair amount of time (several hours) on each of them in the afternoons this week, and see how much I can get done.

I’d also really like to get that antique sewing machine I bought last fall up and running. I have a new belt for it, a bottle of oil, and some new bobbins…and I can’t remember if I bought a new needle for it or not yet. It needs to be cleaned and oiled, and then the new belt put on, and that should be enough to get it running. I want to make Murphy-dog some new leggings, which will be a super-easy first project for someone who hasn’t sewn in ages (just tubes with casings on each end for elastic). I don’t have any fabric or thread at the moment (details, details), but payday is next Monday, so once the machine works, I’ll head out to the craft store.

The sewing machine will be a “break project” – I can’t sit on my butt all day, every day (well, I could, but it would hurt and not be all that healthy). If I work on it for an hour or so a day, I should have it in good shape by Saturday, I’d think. The scrubbing decades worth of grime off will probably take the longest amount of time.

Wednesday afternoon, I’m treating myself to a new “Smurfy” tattoo on my left ankle. I doubt he’ll have time to do the whole thing (it will wrap around), but I have an appointment at 1pm to get it started.

It was three years ago on the 16th that I started getting tattooed again, after a very long haitus. Allowing myself to indulge in something I enjoy despite the negative opinions of others is kind of like the middle-aged guy who buys a sports car in/after a mid-life crisis. It’s helped me to feel more like “me” again, instead of someone I made myself appear to be for the comfort of everyone else. There are consequences, of course (there always are, for being openly yourself), but I’m more equipped to handle them now than I ever was as a younger person…probably much like that guy takes better care of the sports car as an adult than he would have as a teen. Being married to someone who supports that need in spite of personal objections is a rare and amazing thing, indeed.

So, writing, editing, sewing maching restoration, birthday, tattoo. It’s gonna be a good week, methinks. I hope yours goes well too!

2017 in Review

Well now. That was kind of a bumpy year, wasn’t it? Mercifully, it seems like it flew right by, but man. I had such high hopes and…well…I didn’t accomplish nearly as much as I’d hoped to.

I basically have three sections to my resolutions every year: Personal, Writing/Publishing, and Work. Out of all the items I had for those three sections, I accomplished exactly 1 item on each list. Like many others, I got caught up in watching politics, work was busy, writing was…moving forward, but it took most of the year to find a daily (nightly) “flow” again, and I ended up not publishing anything and slightly behind on my bookkeeping, though not as bad as in years past.

The three things I “accomplished” were really only partial accomplishments, but it’s something. In my personal resolutions list, one goal was to give myself a pedicure every week along with my manicure. This goal stems from the fact that my toenails grow insanely fast, and the bottom of my right foot is crazy dry, cracked, peeling, etc (so not nice). And I’m really not good at foot-care, which doesn’t help.

I don’t do a full pedicure every week because it takes forever, but I do soak, file and moisturize my feet every Saturday night now, which means I notice when the nails are too long and cut them before they can start causing problems. I’ve also started moisturizing them more often on other days, which means that while my right foot is still pretty messed up, it’s far better than it was. At least when I don’t pull strips out of the callus like I did last week (ouch).

The point being, I am taking better care of my feet, and the fact that this “better care” hasn’t solved the problem completely has led me to look at other potential issues, which will play into next year’s resolutions. Healing from the inside out, so to speak. But I’m also taking better care of myself in other ways, and much of that has stemmed from just focusing on better foot care.

As far as writing/publishing go, the one thing I actually sort-of accomplished was setting aside time for business-work: bookkeeping, promotion, site updates, etc. I haven’t been good about keeping up all year, but I did a heck of a lot better than in years past, and that will make doing my taxes next year less of a chore. I still need to work on refining this over the next year…a lot of things have changed with my schedule and what I want to accomplish in that area, so it’s a work in progress. But I feel like I did pretty well, considering the business work is my least-favorite part of writing/publishing.

I don’t post about work goals online, for obvious reasons, but I did accomplish one of two goals for last year, and I feel pretty good about that.

The other thing I did wasn’t even a goal, but it was the simplest and also hardest thing to accomplish, and it took me all year. I finally got back into the daily writing habit, and have been writing just about every weekday for the last several weeks. It took me *so long* to find habits and routines that would support that after losing the habit a couple years ago. But I’m back on track now, and it feels really good. Mentally stabilizing as well.

So, definite progress forward this year, and I’m actually quite looking forward to 2018. It’s gonna be a good year, methinks.

Monday, I’ll post my resolutions for the new year, and my plans for making them happen. Now it’s time to take down Christmas, restore my house to its normal state, and shovel about a ton of snow…

Vacation Report, Entertainment & Free Books

Back to “normal” life today, after a nice week of alternate reality. I didn’t completely stick to the schedule I’d hoped to, but considering I had a couple of wrenches thrown in the works, as it were, I think I did pretty well. No writing toward the end of the week, but I got a fair amount done the first couple of days. Had a nice visit with my grandma (and a nice drive out and back), finished a crochet project for a friend and started a gift project (it’s half-done), and fixed our leaking bathtub faucet. I visited the tattoo shop and made an appointment for my birthday next month, and I attended my husband’s annual work holiday get-together.

I should have gotten a few more Christmasy things done, like…say…cards. But, it’s all good. I’ll mail a few out this week and maybe do better next year. I can’t believe Christmas is one week away! How the heck did that happen?

The rest of this week is going to be busy catching up at work, and busy frantically finishing last-minute gifts and shopping (I get paid Friday, so…yeah). So I guess calling it “normal” is kind of an overstatement. But I’m looking forward to the whole Christmas family thing being over (because…way too social for my tastes, thanks), and I always look forward to a new year beginning.

So really, two more weeks before things really get back to normal, I guess. Hopefully they go by fast.

I watched a lot of cheesy Christmas romance movies last week, and while it really is all the same basic plot, it’s nuts how acting and writing can make all the difference in the world. I’ve seen *so very many* really bad movies lately where either the acting or scripting or both were just completely horrible…and only a couple that I really enjoyed. I have to say, I’m really impressed with the quality of Netflix’s original movies this year. Amazon’s…not so much. And God save me from yet another Ion (new broadcast TV channel to us) romantic tragedy. Wow.

We did go see Justice League (hubby’s work Christmas thing), which was better than I thought it would be. I like Christopher Nolan films though. I also like Jason Momoa and Henry Cavill without shirts. So there’s that. I still don’t like Ben Affleck as Batman, because…seriously? No. Just no. He doesn’t do the suit justice, so to speak. Can we have Christian Bale back, please?

We’ve also been watching Godless on Netflix, which is really quite good (intense), and have not had time to watch Guardians of the Galaxy 2 yet. Dang it.

And we did not get to go watch a late night showing of Die Hard at the Art House Cinema downtown this weekend, which I really wanted to do. *sigh* Next year, hopefully.

If you’re looking for a little reading respite for your holiday interlude, three of my holiday-themed short stories are free for the next couple of weeks over on the BSB site. One romance, one horror, and one erotica, so you can either download whichever alter-ego you’re most interested in, or the whole collection if you’re feeling a bit adventurous. Good for those short “disappearances” that are necessary to survive family functions.

No post next week, for obvious reasons, but resolutions posts will go up on Friday the 29th and Monday the 1st. I hope you’ll join me!

Happy Holidays!