The Things You Do as an Author

Over the weekend, we had some family in town. In the quiet times, when one member was reading, and another was Facebooking, I was trying to squeeze some editing in. I grabbed my 3-ring binder with Launching Justice in it, made sure I had my spiral-bound notebook inside it for making notes for its sequel, grabbed a water bottle, and plopped down in the chair.

Only to burst from my chair a minute later.

You see, I had opened up my binder to where I was editing and thought, “I wonder how Jupiter would look from the surface of Mars.”

Now, for some of you, you may be thinking that that’s a really strange question to ask. But the thing is: my character was looking at Jupiter, not from the surface of Mars, but not from far away from Mars, either. So very relevant.

I’m pretty sure I startled my family who was in the room with me when I jerked to my feet quickly, dropped my binder on my chair, and crossed the room to my trusty laptop, stood over it for about three minutes as I Googled my question, then returned to my chair as though nothing had ever happened.

But I got my answer. And it was exactly what I was looking for.

Sometimes, as an author, you startle people.

For the record, this is what Jupiter–and Earth!–looks like from near Mars: earth_jupiter_i1The round dot at the bottom–that’s Jupiter. Depending on your screen and how good your eyes are, you may be able to pick out three of its moons surrounding it. From left to right, you can see Callisto, Ganymede, Jupiter, and Europa. (Callisto, I think, is where I set some of my action in Launching Justice. It may be Europa–I can’t quite remember.)

At the top are visible Earth and our moon. Makes someone feel very small to realize how truly vast our solar system is, and to think about how small it is compared to the galaxy, and the universe…

The Last Laugh

I have a big problem with what I watch on TV or Netflix: it’s almost exclusively dramas.

It’s not that I don’t like comedies.

But far too often, comedies are difficult for me to watch. I identify a little too much with a character, or maybe I don’t, but when I watch, and a character is in a sticky situation, I’m embarrassed for the character. I can feel what they’re feeling a little too much…and it’s uncomfortable.

I noticed this over a recent weekend. I was busy knitting, and needed a half hour more of TV time after binging on Marvel’s Daredevil so I could finish the row I was on. So I flipped through Netflix, decided I didn’t want to start anything long or involved, so I turned on The Andy Griffith Show. I recently started letting my kids watch it because it’s wholesome, I don’t have to worry about them hearing words I don’t want them knowing yet, or worry about the situations being too graphic. At 1 AM, probably a pretty good choice to accompany some knitting when I’m just trying to get to a stopping point.

The episode was really sweet. We’re still in the first season, and Andy & Barney were on a double date with Ellie May and Thelma Lou. The power went off for a couple minutes at Ellie May’s house, and when the power came back on, it was obvious Andy and Ellie May had taken advantage of the situation. (Get your head out of the gutter, this was the late 1950s, after all!) But Barney and his date had sat through the momentary outage with their hands in their laps.

As the episode went on, Andy teased Barney about not getting a kiss from Thelma Lou, and eventually Thelma Lou turned things on their head by trying to make Barney jealous by suggesting that Andy was after her now. Things progressed from there, but as the episode went on, I couldn’t help but feeling badly for…really, all of the characters at some point.

I don’t know if all people react to comedies like this. It could just be me. But I watch very few of them as a result. One of the few I’ve glommed onto is The Big Bang Theory. I do enjoy it, but probably because there are references to most of my fandoms throughout. And I can identify more with the characters than probably any other show on TV, at least as far as comedies go.

But still, it doesn’t make it any less painful to watch most comedies.

Maybe the old adage about laughing with someone, rather than at him, holds some truth?

I know for me, it does.

Goodbye to a Season

Last week, I boxed up about 20-odd books, slapped a shipping label on them, and sent them on their merry way to the southeastern U.S.

All the books in the box were books I was supposed to read and review for Christian Children’s Book Review. Many of them I’ve had for two years. Sitting. Collecting dust. Some went from Kansas City to Seattle and back again with me. I feel a little sorry for the woman who will open the box this week (maybe today) and find dust on many of the covers.

I first started reviewing for CCBR when my daughter wasn’t yet a year old. The founder and managing editor I count as a friend, and we were both delighted to meet each other when I went to the Pacific Northwest two years ago for my son’s bone marrow transplant.

Since transplant, it had become increasingly obvious that the time I had for CCBR was basically nil. During transplant, my son spent 70 days of the roughly 160 days we were there in the hospital. After we returned, my time and energy was devoted to putting out the fires associated with his care, growing more determined that my books were publishable, and reestablishing a normal relationship with my daughter and husband.

But I wasn’t ready to declare defeat.

I tried putting weekly reminders on my phone to do reviews. They were ignored by yours truly, other than having a guilt trip every week, at least once.

I tried moving the books so they were accessible, only to have my husband gripe about the piles of books everywhere. (Admittedly, we live in a tiny house, and there’s just not enough room for everything.) So back to the bedroom they went, where I only really saw them when I went to bed around midnight, or later.

Until a couple weeks ago, when my editor asked me what was up, and I admitted I just couldn’t figure out how to fit CCBR in with everything else I had going on. I’ve published three books in the last eight months, with a fourth in the works, and three more in the pipeline for (hopefully) by the end of the year. I’m a homeschooling mom. And my son still sees multiple specialists and therapists, with appointments at the minimum of once a week. We both agreed that it was probably best if I passed along my books to another reviewer.

You can’t imagine the sigh of relief I had. A burden had been lifted.

I’m incredibly grateful for the time I spent with CCBR. Kristina, the founder, has helped me figure out a few nuances in grammar that I, admittedly, still screw up a lot. And she has been a truly good friend throughout the last several years. I don’t regret the time I was there in the least, although I do regret that my pride kept me from throwing in the towel much earlier.

It’s a New Year!

Anyone who regularly reads this blog knows just how crazy my last 12 – 18 months have been. Being told my son needed a bone marrow transplant pretty much threw everything askance since August of 2012. However, now the light is starting to show at the end of the tunnel. As of January 1, he was 8 months post transplant, and doing AMAZINGLY well. All of his doctors seem very pleased with his progress, and while we have a follow-up planned in Seattle, when we return from that, he should return to treatment with his regular hematologist for Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome.

Even though clinic appointments are far too regular still, with no end in sight until mid-late spring, that light at the end of the tunnel is starting to shine a glimmer on the future.

While I’m not going to guarantee I’ll be posting here regularly–even pre-transplant, it was beginning to be a gamble–I’ll post as much as I’m able to. But, this is what my goals are for this year where my writing is concerned:

  1. Write five days a week for at least an hour. To accomplish this, I’m going to try institutiting an early-morning writing time. Between appointments, and the fact I’m a stay-at-home mom (and my daughter will be starting homeschool Kindergarten sometime this year), early mornings are about the only time I can guarantee I’ll have uninterrupted time, five days a week. I instituted this early morning time on the 30th of December, and so far, I’ve gotten up four of the five days, and wrote/edited for three of the four.
  2. Publish. This one should go without saying, but I have a very aggressive goal to publish several short stories/novellas/novels this year. I’m not going to specify my exact number (partially because I’m not 100% certain of the exact number, but also because I don’t want to have life happen and not be able to follow through), but when I say it’s aggressive, it is. A body at rest tends to stay at rest, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion. I’m trying to put myself into motion so that it becomes just part of it that I’m constantly writing, editing, and publishing. Listening to the Self-Publishing Podcast since May of 2013, and reading “Write. Publish. Repeat.” (by the same guys behind SPP) in December really motivated me. I can do this. It just takes momentum to get started.
  3. Set a production schedule. The only way I can stay on track is to know what I expect myself to do. Listening to Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn podcast (also started around the same time as I started listening to SPP–I think I learned of one from the other) has helped me see that a production schedule will help me stay on track and on purpose. I’m apt to take rabbit trails, and distractions are very easy, so knowing I’ve GOT to work on this project rather than that one may help keep me on track. I say may because who knows. 😉

I have other goals, like getting my feet in order where I can begin exercising again (I was told I had a very bad case of plantar fasciitis in my arches in December, so I haven’t been walking the dog at all) and sticking to a gluten-free diet (I’ve lost about 5 pounds since Thanksgiving just by going gluten-free, and 99% dairy free!) But, I’m really mostly focused the writing goals. Hopefully, on January 1, 2015, I’ll be able to look back at 2014 with a smile.

How about you? Do you have any new goals you want to accomplish in 2014, writing-related or not?

Until next time,

Liberty

P.S., if you haven’t done so already, be sure to pick up a copy of CSI Effect

Goals Make the World Go ‘Round

I disappeared again.

Sorry about that.

But, it was for a good cause. About the time I did my last post, I had started in on a short story–and I blew through 21,000 words in about 3 weeks, including having two days straight where I wrote 4,500+ words (one of those cleared more than 6,000!) I’ve been working very hard on the project, hence the absence. My focus was just really intense there for a couple weeks.

Photo by Kazarelth

As I’ve been moving forward in these writing goals, I’m really finding how much I’m solidifying my long-term goals. I’m pretty sure I mentioned when I got back that I’d shifted my goal towards self-publishing in the next 18 months. It’s hit home that that number has now dwindled to 15 months!!! That means I have a lot of work ahead of me.

So, I’ve also been getting some critique partners reading, thinking about others I’d want to ask to read some of my projects, and building up the nerve to ask them. (I do have that problem–I lack the nerve a lot of the time to simply ask for help!)

And, I’ve also been thinking about how to handle certain aspects like cover design. I do not have any formal training as a designer, but I love to play around with programs. (Several years ago, I asked my husband for a home design program for my birthday. I love opening it up now and then and playing around with it, even though I’ll probably never be able to design a house that we’d actually live in!) So, I did spend a significant amount of time playing around with GIMP to design some mock-ups. That’s been a lot of fun, and I’m improving my skills. Not sure if I’ll ever be able to do a full-blown cover without Photoshop and a couple of classes at my local junior college (which I am contemplating for writing and non-writing reasons, like being able to get student-priced tickets to the opera!) But, I can at least make mock-ups and point someone else in the right direction!

A lot of this has been pushed by the fact that one of my acquaintances locally who works in the hematology office where my son goes is a self-published author… and he has his next book releasing in a couple of weeks. That, and all of the self-publishing podcasts I’ve been listening to lately. All of this has really motivated me, and I’m practically chomping at the bit to get something, anything up on Amazon.

Even though I’m eager to do so, I know I need to wait. My stories are not ready yet. They need to be polished. I’ll get there, and maybe sooner than the 15 months I’m targeting now (maybe as soon as next spring!)

In the meantime, keep watching this space for updates.

Until next time… well, you know. 😉

Welcome Back! — an Update and a Re-Evaluation

Tap, tap, tap! Does this thing still work??

Ahem.

Yes, I’m back after a much extended break. So, let me catch you up on what’s happened in since I did a serious post back in January.

My little man +121 after transplant, feeling great!

In early February, we were told that we were ready for transplant, and March 1 found my husband and I driving from Kansas City to Seattle, WA, where we proceeded with my son’s bone marrow transplant. It  was slated to happen the last week in March, but he got a virus (which he wasn’t symptomatic for!) and forced a delay until May 1. From May 1 until July 23, we were outpatient for only 2 weeks, 14 hours! My little boy kept getting sick for various reasons, so we never got more than a week and a few hours out the two times we were outpatient.

However.

He has done AMAZINGLY well, and we were able to leave on his day +101 to come home!! We arrived home on August 12, which ended up being a bit of a whirlwind for us. We got home at 12:45 AM, rushed to make an appointment with our KC BMT doctor, then went to see my grandmother who was dying… and who passed away while we were with her.

I am so glad I got to come home and see her one last time.

___________

So, whirlwind 5 1/2 months means no writing, right? 

Nope. 

While I didn’t do near as much writing as I’d hoped to do in those five and a half months, I did more than I think many people expected I would. I finished the third draft on my suspense-in-the-future book, Reprisal, and moved further along with the first draft of my police procedural with a Sci-Fi-y twist, Dead Before Arrival. I also began drafting a short story that will be a prequel to Beyond Dead and Dead Before Arrival–and am actively brainstorming ideas for a series of shorts that could very well lead up to the publication of both books, plus the third book in the trilogy, which I’ve yet to name or do more with than have a few ideas for scenes that could or should happen in them. 

Which brings me to the re-evaluation phase of this post.

Something in me snapped last fall where publishing is concerned. Most of you who regularly read this blog will remember I’ve said repeatedly that I’m only interested in getting an agent and going the traditional route. I’m not sure what changed, but something has. Maybe it’s watching so many of my friends succeed in self-publishing, maybe it’s the further success of e-books, or the fact they’re now outselling physical books, but I’ve been re-evaluating what my desires are for publishing.

Over the last several months, I’ve been listening to podcasts like Self-Publishing Podcast and Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn with regularity–maybe even being on the brink of being a bit obsessive about it.  In the many hours of listening while driving or doing house chores, the things the hosts and their guests have said struck a chord with me, and I’m beginning to see how it’s possible for lilol‘ me to be successful in self-publishing. I’ve got a few hang-ups I’m working through, but thankfully, I’ve got friends whom I can pick the brains of. 

Currently, I’m formulating a plan to begin publishing in the next 18 months–maybe even sooner. We’ll have to see how that goes. I’m starting to chomp at the bit in order to make this happen, so if I can keep up that level of enthusiasm and have things come together, you may be seeing my name in print very soon!

As for this blog, I’m going to keep trying to plug away at it, though as I think I’ve said in the past, it’s going to encompass more of what interests me besides writing, so you may hear about kitchen disasters, anecdotes about my kids, or whatever else floats my boat. I’m also considering doing a non-fiction book about my experiences during transplant, although I’m not really sure about the direction of the project yet.

Until next time,

Hypno-what?

I ran across a word in the Dictionary.com app on my phone last week that intrigued me, not so much because it was a new concept, but because I’d never knew there was an actual definition to something I experience frequently.

The word?

Hypnopompic.

Definition: Pertaining to the semiconscious state prior to complete wakefulness.

I, by nature, am not a morning person. About once or twice a year before kids was how often I was out of bed on a weekend before my husband. And, truth be told, I love to linger in bed whenever possible–even with a preschooler and toddler in the house. So, I have a pretty lengthy hypnopompic period almost daily.

An interesting thing happens, however, when that period intersects with the alarm going off on a weekday.

I am also a self-admitted news junkie. Despite multiple efforts by TMOTH to dissuade me, my bedside radio is tuned not to music, but to a news-talk station–the one I typically listen to for several hours a day before switching to a different one to catch a different program. And what do you hear on a news-talk station at 6:30 in the morning? News, of course!

Now, usually, this doesn’t cause too many problems. I learn about what’s gone on in the world before I get out of bed, what the traffic’s like (for my husband, since I’m a stay-at-home-mom), and what the weather is supposed to be like… provided I’m awake enough, of course.

When I am in a deeper hypnopompic state, however, there’s no telling what could happen. Sometimes, my dreams are just a bit crazier than normal and I dream of people I know–all of which are usually vivid and just crazy enough for me to remember for hours, sometimes days or weeks later. Or, they can take the course that happened this past week.

Photo by DavidsonScott15

Crime is, living in a big city, not unheard of. Heck, being a mystery writer, I thrive on hearing about crazy crime scenarios on a daily basis. Last week had an interesting incident, however. A police chase on the opposite side of town from me, which resulted in a cop shooting and killing someone who was wanted on an arrest warrant. But, just imagine what hearing about this happening–repeatedly, because it was happening near-realtime to my alarm going off–would do to a brain not quite awake?

All of a sudden, I’m in the MIDST of a standoff and shooting, complete with car chases, lots of cops, and seedy areas of town. (Although, the incident didn’t happen in a horrible part of Kansas City, it’s still not the best.)

How’s that a way to wake up again? To me, it’s a little startling. But, things like this, and even more far-fetched incidents are regular play in my brain during the hypnopompic state.

Two questions this week:
First, are there any new words you’ve learned which have special meaning once you learn them?
Second, have you ever had anything bizarre happen during your own hypnopompic states? Please share here (for both questions) or blog about them and post links. 🙂

And, yes, for the record, since I disclosed my own alarm time, I will acknowledge that I wrote this blog post a few days in advance for publication today. While I love all of my readers, I’m barely coherent before about 9 AM, so I usually save you from that lack of coherency. Usually, but not always. 😉

Until next time,