Articles

Resolutions, Goals, and Rough Starts

I was planning to post this Monday (the 4th), which tells you how my year has started off so far. I’ve had all sorts of issues, both organizational and mental, so I’m off to a bit of a slow start. That said, the “mental” part of it was mostly trying to decide on my “big three” resolutions for the year. I wanted to choose things that would really positively impact my life over the long term, but were well within reach without straining too much.

Given those parameters, these are the three Resolutions I chose:

– Get 5.5 hours of sleep daily
– Write 12 flash fiction pieces and publish as a collection in December
– Read a minimum of 12 books this year.

The first and third will take some time to…well, set aside the time on a regular basis. Routines need to be redone, and honestly, I’d prefer six hours of sleep, but I made the resolution for what I thought was actually doable. Getting enough sleep is really the resolution that will have the most impact on everything else I want to do, simply because when I’m rested, I make better decisions, I manage time more wisely, and I perform better no matter what I’m doing or trying to do. Sleep is the cornerstone of everything in life, but it’s also the one thing I’m most willing to give up when I want to do something else. Sleep is boring and feels ultimately unproductive. But it’s vital, and I need to give it much higher priority than I do.  

I haven’t been making time for reading at all – whenever I get a quiet moment, I’m generally either decompressing or writing. Quiet moments are unfortunately hard to come by. But I have a ton of books I really do want to read, and I just need to set aside time to do that. I want to make it a priority. So I shall.

As for writing…man, I feel like I’ve been drifting in this story wasteland/dreamscape for the last several years. I lost confidence, I lost ambition, and while I’ve been writing all this time, I haven’t bothered to publish anything in way too long. I knew I needed to learn and grow in order to gain confidence, but a lot of writing “instruction” tells you what to do, but not exactly how to execute it. This leaves people like me, who need things broken down to base elements in order to learn, floundering.

But I recently took a chance on a writing class called Depth in Writing by Dean Wesley Smith, and he broke things down in such a way that I got it. And my writing improved dramatically in a short time – noticeable even to myself. That was a huge confidence boost, and I bought several more of his online classes to take throughout this year.

Sometimes with learning, it’s not the subject matter so much, but the best match in teaching styles and learning styles.

So now that I have some confidence back, I need to establish a writing workflow that’s conducive to daily progress. I also need to come up with some deadlines, so that those twelve short stories aren’t the only things I work on all year. They need to be strictly flash fiction (1k words max) so I have time to work on the longer novels and short stories I’d really like to publish this year.

In addition to these “big three” resolutions, I also have some other goals I’d like to work towards. Things like cleaning my makeup brushes more often, and losing ten pounds, and keeping my kitchen sinks cleaned out better. And definitely writing and publishing more books.

I’ve also decided to do a journaling project of sorts. I bought myself two journals, one small, and one a more comfortable writing size, though still not too big. The small one is for a word-of-the-day. Instead of picking one word for the whole year, I’m picking one word for the day, and writing it down in the small journal each night. No commentary, no explanation, just the day’s date, and the word. It takes very little time at all (though I’ll admit I have not hit everyday just yet – creating new routines takes time), and at the end of the week every Sunday, I’ll go back and grab all the words for that particular week and put them in the larger journal. I might write a story, I might write an entry that includes them, I might just right down the list of words and close the book. I think it will be interesting to follow my daily whims and moods, and see what becomes of the practice at the end of each week.

So that’s the plan for the year so far. Three big resolutions to sleep, write, and read, some smaller goals that I’ll get to if I get to, and a word of the day journaling project.

I know we’re starting out on a bumpy note, but I have a feeling it’s going to be a very clarifying year overall. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Do you make resolutions or goals? Or are you just winging it and hoping for the best? Either way, I wish you luck, good fortune and good health.


Support your author:
This House of Books (my local bookstore!) | Bookshop.org
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks | Audible

Year in Review – 2020 (Ugh)

I kind of feel like we’re all at the same point with the year right now…which is:

“Goodbye and good riddance. Go ahead and let the door hit you on the way out – you deserve it.”

Something most of us can agree on in a mostly disagreeable, disjointed, and socially schismatic time…yay!

Personally, my year started pretty well. I had a plan, I was ready to go, I was writing regularly, reading again, and feeling good about things.

Then I got sick (like, sicker than I’ve been in a long time) at the end of Jan/early Feb. Work was crazy, I couldn’t get rested, I wasn’t writing or doing anything else…and then just when I was finally starting to recover…pandemic! Civil unrest! Election year! Seriously. The crazy just wound right up and spun out of control and that was that.

Needless to say, many of my resolutions were pretty much left in the dust with my personal motivation and focus this year. Which sucks, but sometimes that’s the way it goes. I have been starting to claw my way up from the rubble, and I feel like I’m in a pretty good place at the moment. I have some health issues to address in the new year, and some book business decisions/issues to address, but nothing that seems insurmountable, at least not at this point.

Some good things actually did happen this year though, including a new fridge and stove, curtains instead of blinds for the living/dining room windows, and the promise of new, easy-care landscaping first thing in the spring. I’m writing again, and I’m taking a writing class at the moment which I think is really helping me to improve as a writer, so that’s exciting.

I’ve discovered new ways to grocery shop, including our local food hub, which is great. I discovered a few more local shops that have become favorites, and I started using Instacart, which doesn’t work for everything, but does work for main grocery shopping and saves me a lot of time each week. I will probably have to go back to shopping for myself next summer, just due to the amount of box and bag waste that not taking my own reusable bags creates. But at the moment, I’m enjoying having that time to do other things. If reusable carrying media was an option, I’d probably keep getting my groceries delivered indefinitely.

I’ve gotten a much better handle on my finances, and feel pretty good about being able to control them going forward. That was one of the goals (in a more specific way) that I did meet, and arguably one of the more important ones. I am stalwart in my weekly budgeting now, which is a very good thing. There are a few other things I need to get to that point with as well. One thing at a time.

All in all, aside from ten extra pounds I don’t need (and five more I should lose just for good measure) and the aforementioned health issues, I don’t feel like I’m in too bad of shape going into the next sun-cycle, but…time will tell, I suppose.

I’ll be setting my goals for next year later this week, and will post them next Monday to start the new year off on a hopeful note.

Until then, I hope your Christmas was bright and merry, and that the first day of the new year will bring feelings of peace and hope.


Support your author:
This House of Books (my local bookstore!) | Bookshop.org
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks | Audible

Humbug

I don’t really understand how the first couple months of this year flew by, and then time pretty much stopped from March until December 1st, and now, this month is flying by in some sort of weird warp speed as if even the calendar has given up and said, “screw it, we’re all done here.”

I wouldn’t mind so much if I was actually ready for Christmas, but I’m not, so…a pause button would be appreciated while I figure out how to catch up. I’ve had a hard time getting in the mood (that’s not a new or abnormal thing, it’s just…me), but I need to get there and fast, or…well, there is no “or”, I guess. I just need to get done what needs to get done. Like finishing my gift shopping and figuring out which cookies to make and how many this coming weekend.

I need to get my cards sent out too…this week. I need to call a plumber about a minor/slow leakage situation we have going on, so I think I’ll take whatever day we can get someone over for that off work, and work on catching up and getting organized then.

I have new curtains coming for the living/dining room and kitchen this week as well – thicker velvet thermal curtains to keep the cold air more at bay than our current fancy window dressings do. It would be nice to at least get the front curtains swapped out, since those are at my back when we’re relaxing in the evenings.

Did I mention I’m taking an online writing workshop in the middle of all this? There was a sale, I feel like I really need to work on adding depth to my writing (which is the very focused topic of the workshop), and that’s how I ended up doing a writing assignment for the second week of class this past Sunday night instead of writing a blog post (well, that and not reading the calendar correctly – I had one more day before that assignment was due, so…my bad). It’s already straining my brain, which is both good and bad – good because I obviously need it, bad because…well, it’s yet another thing to sort of stress over at the moment. But at least it’s a stress I *chose*, rather than one that was just flung at me. So there’s that. And hopefully I’ll be a better writer afterwards, which is the main/exciting goal.

All this to say…I’m not really overwhelmed, just unmotivated and uninspired for the holiday. Maybe (hopefully) as I get my cards out and get closer to finishing my gifts up, I’ll feel a little more holly-jolly. We’ll see.


Support your author:
This House of Books (my local bookstore!) | Bookshop.org
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks | Audible

Thanksgiving & Historical Hair

I’m not sure if “Happy” is the correct word to put with “Thanksgiving” this year. I think many of us are so tired, beaten down, depressed or angry for one reason or another that while we’re thankful to have survived this far, a lot of us probably still aren’t all that “happy”.

That said, we have survived this far, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel, so while it may be a ways off yet, we can make it. We just have to keep slogging along, and do the one thing that seems to be the most difficult for humans to do – stay away from each other for a little while longer.

Admittedly, I don’t really have an issue with that like a lot of people, so it’s really not a hardship for me to eschew family gatherings and such. Honestly, it’s kind of a convenient excuse. I’ll be spending Thanksgiving with just my husband this year, and making a nice dinner tailored to our own tastes. Nothing to complain about as far as that goes.

In other news, I’ve recently become fascinated with historical hairstyles/styling. The thing about growing your hair out is, if you don’t focus on the goal, you are pretty constantly tempted to chop the whole thing off again during the awkward “in between” stages of growth. I’ve been buying fun hair accessories and even pony tail holders in anticipation of my hair being long enough to use them, and one day a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon a YouTube channel of a historian demonstrating how to care for hair during…the Edwardian period, maybe? I can’t remember really, but it started my spiral down into the world of historical hair care and styling, and I’ve been watching similar videos every since. Here’s a different hair video I watched this weekend…fun and fascinating, methinks!

Needless to say, the wait for long enough hair to braid (or “plait”) again is even more excruciating while I watch because I want to “play” too, but also something I’m really looking forward to. A few more months and I should be able to do quite a bit more with my own mop.

I got very little writing in last week, and that’s something I’d really like to change. So along with a really good ham, scalloped potatoes & sweet potato pie dinner this week, I’d like to get some words in consistently. With any luck, I’ll hit four mornings out of five, and have another fun something for Friday.

Until then, I do wish you the happiest Thanksgiving you can possibly have.


Support your author:
This House of Books (my local bookstore!) | Bookshop.org
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks | Audible

Storytime: The Reset Button (excerpt)

Welcome to Storytime Friday! Unless otherwise noted, everything posted here will be largely unedited draft work, just for fun.

It’s November, and National Novel Writing Month, so today, I thought I’d share an excerpt of the novel I started for that challenge. I’m not going to make the challenge, but I will keep working on the story! Here’s the beginning. Enjoy!

The Reset Button

Lexi sat on the edge of the old Heberly railroad bridge, her feet hanging over the edge to flirt with the swirling eddies in the Meadowlark river below. A wireless electric razer buzzed in her left hand as her right followed it over her scalp and collected the long black tresses as they fell.

        She’d been thinking. That’s what had started this whole chaotic night, and she knew she should stop and find someone to talk to, but it was too late. She’d done too much, said to much, and tomorrow, everything would be different. She’d pressed the reset button on her life, and there was no going back.

        The buzzing stopped and the last of her hair fall into the black, turbulant water. It wasn’t her hair though, not really. She’d been dyeing and cutting it for so long she couldn’t even remember what her natural color was, much less if it was wavy or straight.

        All that stopped now. Tonight.

        “Need some help?”

        “No. Leave me alone.” Lexi twisted just enough to see a woman in designer-torn jeans, purple converse and a black leather jacket stop beside her. Her long blond hair was curled and styled, and her makeup was impeccable.

        None of which matched the distinctly male voice that had offered “help”. She frowned, and then looked the other way, wondering how the normally deserted spot had suddenly gotten so crowded.

        That same male voice chuckled, and Lexi turned to see the woman…or was it man…grinning.

        “I get that look a lot,” he or she, or was it they, said. Lexi wasn’t sure what to say, so she said nothing.

        “It’s ‘he’, if you’re wondering, and I’m not gay or transgender – not that there’s anything wrong with anyone who is, I just like makeup and think women’s clothing is so much more interesting and fun than men’s. Don’t you?”

        “I guess. I never really thought about it that way. Clothes are…” just another thing I don’t want to think about, she finished in her head. “I really don’t want company right now. Please leave me alone.”

        “I can do that, but can I just-” he tentatively reached out a hand toward the electric shaver. “You missed a hard to reach spot back here, and I can finish it for you, if you’d like.”

        Lexi ran a hand over the scratchy stubble she’d created to the back of her nape, where she could feel the offending section still attached. Without a word and half expecting him to cut her head off, she handed the razer over and tilted her head forward to give him better access. The buzzing started again and she felt him gently grasp the leftover hand and use short, quick strokes to clean up the back of her head.

        “There now.” He turned the shaver off and returned it, along with the last hank of hair. “Have you shaved your head before?”

        “No.” Lexi could sense he wanted more, but she wasn’t feeling much like sharing.

        “Well, my name is Max Harris. I own a salon and boutique over on 5th and Madison, called The Harris Experience. If you need help or a touch up, come in and ask for me personally. I’ll be happy to help, and I’m a good listener too. And now I’ll leave you alone, but do me one favor – don’t jump, so I don’t have to feel guilty about walking away.”  

        “I’m not going to jump.” Lexi stared out into the night. “I’m just hitting the reset button. I’ll be fine.”

        “Good for you. I think we all need to do that sometimes.”


Support your author:
This House of Books (my local bookstore!) | Bookshop.org
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks | Audible

New Tool, New Focus

For anyone who missed the news on FB, my covid test came back negative, so yay! I’m back at the office for work (well, not today, since it’s a federal holiday, but generally speaking), my friend is also back at work, and…life goes on.

Today is undoubtedly one of the most important and pivotal elections in US history, so I hope if you’re a US citizen, you have voted or will vote. Yes, I did vote, early and absentee, as I always do. It’s convenient that I work at the county courthouse, so I just have to bring my ballot to work and drop it in the box.

Being a government employee does have its perks, one of which is getting Federal Election days off. So I have today off, and fully plan on *not* watching any election news or results. I’d planned to finish fixing the toilets, but…with the way my day started this morning (not exactly “good”), I decided to scuttle that until the weekend.

Instead, I spent the morning emailing a friend and frittering too much time away on Facebook. I also finished taking the rest of our Halloween decor down. And after I finish this post, I shall grab my new, beautiful writing tool, the Freewrite Traveler (which I ordered off a Kickstarter campaign around 2 years ago – it just arrived in the mail yesterday), and get a belated start on a NaNoWriMo novel. I haven’t done NaNo in a few years (not seriously, anyway), and I’m not terribly serious about it this year either, but I need something to grab my focus and hold it for awhile. Something that’s not work, and not politics and not covid and not…well, any of the other “2020” themed chaotic rabble.

The whole reason I ordered the Traveler is because it has something my laptop will never have – an e-ink screen. Like a traditional Kindle or Nook and my reMarkable tablet, the Traveler doesn’t have any backlighting at all to burn my already-stressed corneas out. I can stare at the screen for hours, like a print book, without any discomfort (other than, you know, that general “eyes need sleep” thing).

It also has a beautiful full keyboard that I do wish was a little more “clicky”, but it’s better than average, and it’ll do the trick. I also really wish the keyboard was pretty much any color but white. The oils in my hands are going to make that look dingy very quickly, unfortunately. But, as long as it works well, I’ll be happy. I wrote 56 words on it before bed last night, and it was comfortable, for the most part, so…I’m excited.

This year has been one of the oddest, most chaotic years I’ve ever lived through, and I find myself with the perspective that since everything is in a period of change, I should take this opportunity to make some personal changes too. From how I look (I mean…hair!), to what I wear, and how I structure my days, it feels like it’s time to just sort of flip everything into a giant Yahtzee cup and shake it up. Some things will come out the same, and other things will be vastly different, and this year, that feels okay. Maybe that’s exactly what’s needed.

In any case, more on that later (along with a rant about appliances and my new microwave). Until then, don’t forget to vote, be polite and civilized to those you interact with during and after, and be kind. The world (or our country, at least) could use a return to kindness and civility at the very least, in my opinion.

Now, a story is calling me….


Support your author:
This House of Books (my local bookstore!) | Bookshop.org
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks | Audible

Confidence Amidst Chaos

Something very interesting has happened this year, amidst the chaos and change. I finally reached a fascinating milestone that I’d heard some women hit in their 40’s, but others don’t, so I wasn’t sure if I would or not.

That milestone? Not being so self-conscious of myself. Literally not caring what other people think of me, just because I am who I am and I don’t need to make any apology or excuses for that.

For example: before this year, I would have been extremely nervous about people seeing the interview our local bookstore did with me recently. I may have shared it, but with apologies for any number of things I did or didn’t do, and I would have shared it at some obscure time of night so less people would see it, etc. When I was interviewed by our local paper quite a few years ago, I did exactly that. I wasn’t happy with how my picture looked, or how it turned out, and that was all just a lack of self-confidence and extreme anxiety about being in the public eye.

This year, totally different. Were there things I could have done differently? Sure. Am I worried about them or how they affected the final product? Not at all. Because this year, when I’m watching the video, I just see me. That’s who I am, and who I would be if people ran into me randomly on the street. So it’s all good. Some people will relate, some won’t, and it’s no big deal. I wasn’t nervous for it to come out, and I’m happy to post it here for anyone else who wants to catch it. It was fun! Which isn’t something I would have said even a year ago.

Something else happened last week while I was preparing for the interview, and it was something I’ve needed for a long time. I’d chosen to feature The Biker’s Wench, because while it isn’t my latest book by any means, it is available in print at the bookstore, and it’s also just a fun escape, which I think we could all use this year. I opened a copy to a random spot just to refamiliarize myself with it, and…I got sucked in. I wanted to keep reading. It was entertaining and engaging and rather than finding a million things I wanted to pick apart and redo, I just got pulled back into the story and kept reading longer than I had planned.

This may not sound like anything major, but it really, really is. I often suffer from confidence issues with my writing – “imposter syndrome”, as it were. I often feel like I’m a “talentless hack”, so to speak. So getting sucked into a book I wrote quite a few years ago was a really affirming thing for me. I *liked* it, and I was worried I wouldn’t (that’s a more “normal” reaction when reading older works, and not just for me, for a lot of authors).

I needed that, and it infused me with a fresh motivation not only to produce, but to start publishing again. I’m still fighting with my schedule to find time for editing, but I’m determined, and I have a renewed sense of purpose when it comes to my writing that I haven’t felt in quite a long time.

It feels good. Really, really good.

So strangely, this chaotic year has been one of the better ones for my writing, and my perspective on it.

I suppose that makes sense, in some karmic-balance sort of way.


Support your author:
This House of Books (my local bookstore!) | Bookshop.org
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks | Audible

A Kick in the Head

Things that have happened since I last posted:

– I’ve established a daily writing habit before work (I know, I’m as surprised as anyone to be writing productively in the *morning*)
– I have a fairly extensive mask wardrobe
– Two new tote bags that are lighter than my leather bag was, and I think it’s affecting my shoulder/neck issues for the better
– I’ve actually finished a draft, and started a new one
– I’ve been reading before bed again – finished two books and am working on another

I’ve written a bunch of posts since the “Toast” one, and deemed all of them unfit for whatever reason. Mostly because I felt like posting about mundane stuff might appear tone deaf or inappropriate given the state of things and all the civil unrest. I’ve been “escaping” in Animal Crossing and walking the dogs in the evenings, and generally just staying in my own little work/life “bubble”. Think of that what you will. It’s how I’ve been dealing.

But it’s time to get moving again, and my “kick in the head” came from a rather unexpected invitation by our local bookstore to do a virtual author interview. I agreed, and in prepping for the experience, I realized something important about my writing and myself that made me want to get out of my fog and back into productivity in my writing life (work life has been incredibly productive all year, but also incredibly draining, which hasn’t helped the writing life thing).

The thing I needed most was confidence. I got that – just a little shot, and it’s enough, I think, to get me moving again.

My main focus this week is figuring out the time aspect. I need time to update covers, update social media pages, update blogs, and do various publishing & maintenance tasks. But more than anything, I need time to edit and revise. I have several drafts in the edit/revise phase, and they’re “stuck” there due to my lack of making time to work on them. I could release all of those drafts as finished manuscripts within the next six months if I could just set aside some time for “marking up” and time for “typing in”.

So, that’s my goal for the week. Find two 20-minute time slots that can be “set” for each weekday and dedicated for mark-ups and type-ins. It’s really not all that easy, because I need quiet and headspace for those time slots. But, I’m determined. There has to be a way.

If I can do that early enough in the week, then my secondary goal is to set aside one more time slot for writing blog posts. Will I be successful?

You’ll find out next week!


Support your author:
This House of Books (my local bookstore!) | Bookshop.org
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks | Audible

2020: All About Words

Ah, a new year. Is there anything so soothing to a brain that craves organization than a logical place to take stock of where we’ve been and then make a plan for growth for one more year? I think not, even though I am necessarily starting from behind where I’d like to be. Unfortunately I can’t just drop everything and start over, as much as I’d like to.

But, whereas last year was pretty much all about getting finances in check, this year’s focus is completely different. This year is all about words. Reading them, writing them, publishing them. Steeping in them, as it were.

As always, I have a long list of goals I’d like to work on over the coming year, but three of them have been elevated to “Resolution” status, which means that they get both first priority and my focus even if everything else has to be left behind. Resolutions are the most important goals, as they are the ones I believe will most likely change my life for the better if I complete them.

That said, here are my resolutions for 2020:

1. Set “office hours” for a weekly BSB overview and keep them for at least 45 weeks of the year.
2. Publish a calendar in December 2020 for 2021 that includes 12 flash fiction pieces – one per month
3. Make reading time a priority

The first and third I’ve tried before, and eventually failed at. The second was inspired by a project some other writers are doing coupled by a mass mailing the realtor up the street did for everyone in the neighborhood (I assume – otherwise she really wants us to move) just before Christmas. She’s sent us a calendar for the past few years at Christmas, and next year, I am going to send her one right back. It seems only right to return her kindness, don’t you think? It will make a nice gift for family members too, and of course a good addition to the BSB catalog for sale.

As an added bonus, in order to publish a calendar of flash fiction, I have to actually…you know. Write and edit fiction. So, it’s a good way to motivate myself with a weekly flash fiction piece every Monday to “warm up” after a weekend off writing.

As for reading time…well, I’ve let other things encroach on that to a point where even the 15 – 20 minutes I was doing before bed last year has been “eaten up” by my trying to get more wriing/editing time in after the house is quiet. I haven’t been reading comic books in the morning so they’re piling up again, and my “TBR” (to be read) list is insanely huge, both in print and digital backlogs.

The thing about writing is, you really do need to be reading too, in order to keep that creative well topped off. I’ve let things like writing/editing time encroach, but also gaming time and other times when I have a few minutes and I could be reading, but I scroll facebook or something instead.

I love reading. I miss reading. And I’m getting back to it, starting asap. I have a definitive plan for reading times and will make it a point not to let those times be co-opted for other things. I do not have a specific number of books or list I need to stick with, because it’s not about how many or which books I read, but rather just that I keep reading daily.

Which leaves us with the dedicated office hours. This sort of thing was so much easier when we only watched network TV. I can’t even tell you how much work I got done durimg commercial breaks, whether it was writing, editing, cover art, blurbs, uploading…it was a *lot* of work. Without commercials most nights (we still watch some network TV, just not nearly as often), those “work breaks” are gone, and I think I’m possibly the only person to actually miss them.

In any case, in order for this to work, I knew I needed to define “BSB Overview” specifically, because without concrete, actionable tasks to complete, I will flounder for what I need to do when I sit down, and not do things that really need to be done (which defeats the whole purpose of the weekly overview). So I made myself a specific list of things I need to do during my weekly overview. After those tasks are done, I can keep working or not, but that list is my bare minimum to count as “one week” of office hours. The tasks include things like checking sales numbers, updating accounting, scheduling a minimum of one social media post per account for the week, making a list of potential blog post topics (not writing them, mind you – just coming up with topics), and picking a book to update over the next week or so. A lot of my books are older, and the covers and blurbs need to be updated (the covers were done when size requirements were different, so I really do have to completely redesign those, per the distributor I use – it’s not optional if I want my books to stay available for sale).

That is the biggest, and possibly hardest resolution I have, but it’s also going to be the most important, as doing that will keep the business moving forward and also force me to stay engaged with the business side of writing – which is important if I want to actually keep publishing. I’ve given myself a buffer – I have to hit 45 weeks out of 52, so I can miss 7 weeks out of the year. Vacation, being sick, major holiday….whatever. But only seven. I think that should be easily doable.

So that’s what I’m focusing on this year, and I’m optimistic. I know for a fact that if I can do all three of these things this year, I will be both a better writer and a more engaged publisher by the end of the year, and I’ll have established some excellent habits to take forward with me (much like the financial habits I established last year).

And now, it’s time to go read before bed. Happy New Year, and if you have goals you’re trying to reach, I wish you motivation, determination and perseverance in the coming months!


Support your author:
This House of Books (my local bookstore!) | Bookshop.org
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks | Audible

2019 in Review

Ah, the end of another year. No, I’m not going to do an entire decade in review, because frankly, my personal timelines tend to get all tangled up in my head after a year or so, and something that happened 20 yrs ago feels like it happened last week, and another thing that happened a month or two ago feels like it’s been over for years. Honestly, I wouldn’t even know how to get 10 yrs worth of “life” straight in my head, much less on paper. Things happen. We learn stuff, do stuff, and hopefully keep moving forward.

I do know that I published my first book and established Brazen Snake Books in 2010. So that was pretty significant, I guess. Speaking of which, I really need to update that cover and blurb…

In any case, last year, I had three major resolutions to work on (and a lot of smaller goals). The big three were:

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

Finances were very much at the forefront of my mind because I’d just done some major overspending, I was way behind on my “normal” bills, and I was very much aware that I really needed to get a handle on both my spending, and the lackadaisical way I’d been handling money.

I’m happy to say, I did get myself in gear, got tough with myself, did my weekly budgeting whether I wanted to or not, and completed those first two resolutions. It was frustrating and annoying a lot of the time, and as soon as I finished paying off those particular credit lines, I was hit with a whole host of dog-related medical bills I had to pay, and then dental work I had to have done, so that was even more frustrating/annoying (because I was on a roll, dang it, and wanted to keep paying stuff off!). But, even though I’m operating closer to my personal margins than I’d like, I’m in a much better financial place this year, with money set aside to be invested when I have the time and a tiny bit of savings (which I haven’t had in a long while), so…those were very worthwhile goals, and I’m still very much motivated to pay several more credit lines off this next year. Which should be interesting because we’re actually taking a vacation in the fall (like, a fly-out-of-state vacation), but we’ll figure it out.

The last goal was an ultimatum to myself to either “publish or perish”, so to speak. I really, really struggled with writing time for the first three quarters of the year. At the moment (and by “moment”, I mean “moment relative to the rest of my life”) my schedule…my life is just not really conducive to sitting down and composing/typing a bunch of words late at night (and there is no other time…oh man, did I try to find another time). I can’t think well enough early in the morning, and my brain was done being creative about three hours before when I sit down late at night after everyone else has gone to bed and the house is finally quiet enough that I can think.

I really thought I was going to have to consign this one to the “perish” bin, as in, don’t bother publishing anymore until after I retire. If I can’t get a first draft down, there’s nothing to edit, and ultimately, nothing to publish. It all starts with the draft.

Late this fall, I decided to try one more thing: dictation. I figured I’m awake and alert in my car, I’m alone, I can have it quiet, and I’m often thinking about story lines or things that would make a great story while I’m driving. I honestly didn’t think it was going to work, because while I talk to myself, I don’t generally “dictate” stories or tell them out loud, and it was exceedingly weird the first couple of times I tried it. But I reminded myself that no one else was listening (and who cares if the other drivers think I’m nuts), and that no one else ever needed to listen to the audio version – the whole point is to dictate and let the program transcribe the dictation, which I can then edit into something readable.

I can edit even when my brain is tired. Editing is much easier than drafting – it’s all critical voice, and that is what my brain is best at – being critical and fixing things. It can do that sort of thing in its sleep (and often does). So the more I dictated, the more comfortable I got with it, and I found that while I struggled hard to come up with even 250 new words late at night, I could dictate a thousand or more in the car just in 2-3 fifteen minute trips to work and back! And then when I uploaded the transcripts at night, I could sit down and edit, a task that wasn’t nearly as much of a struggle late at night after a full workday.

It’s a lot more work to write this way – because the transcription has to be edited into a “first draft”, and then a second round of actual editing to get it ready for copy-editing. But I can do it with the time and energy I have available, when I have them available, and it feels good to be making forward progress on stories again. I’ve written more in the last quarter of 2019 than I have in a long time, thanks to dictation.

So no, I didn’t publish any books this year, though I did write and edit a flash fiction story to send off with my Christmas cards. But I am going to keep writing and have a goal to publish some books next year, and maybe get this whole writing business back on track. I’m optimistic, to be sure.

As for my smaller goals, I got a few of them done, but I never put in place the infrastructure I needed to really be successful with them. I need to make calendar reminders and routines and in some cases, buy something small to make the goal easier. This year, I’m doing that.

More on that in tomorrow’s post on resolutions and goals for 2020.

Happy New Year’s Eve!

Support your author:
This House of Books (my local bookstore!) | Bookshop.org
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | iBooks | Audible