Things I Achieved in 2015 And What I Learned From Them

Better a little late than never. It’s still January. It counts :P

I published 13 Conversations Between Writers. 

  • I wish I’d done more of them, but I’ve found that people are more likely to accept an invitation than to volunteer themselves or others. I’m going to have to get better at inviting people to do them as well as reminding people they can volunteer themselves or suggest someone. (Hint: You can do that here)

I did 5 Fountain Pen Reviews

  • This has largely tapered off as I haven’t gotten a lot of fountain pens because I’ve got more than I can actually use at this point. I have I think, three, I own now but haven’t reviewed.
  • Also I did a lot less handwriting in 2015 because I was mostly doing revisions and edits on The Shattered Ones.

I applied for and received a major collections grant at work.

  • As many of you know I work in Museum Collections. We’re working toward upgrading all of our collections storage and this is the first major grant relating to Collections we’ve gotten in the 8 years I’ve worked there. It is A Big Deal. Also, as I am now implementing the plan that won us the grant, it is the first time I can show real demonstrable changes. My job is a lot of whittling away at a glacier, so it’s nice to hack off some icebergs and uncover new ground.

I made my short story reading goal for the year.

  • My goal was to read 365 short stories during the year. I read over 411 (I’m still sorting out my notes and things, when I count podcasts it might be closer to 450) without counting slush.
  • However, I feel like I read basically nothing for the year and all of the important stories I still have yet to read.
  • I am starting to realize that I will never feel like I am caught up on my reading, which makes it hard to focus on because it feels a bit of a pointless exercise.
  • I know it isn’t, but I feel really discouraged and I’m still trying to figure out what actionable things I can do to make my reading work more for me rather than feeling like I’m working to read.

My very first novel, TAKE ON ME was published in September.

  • The weird thing about hitting milestones is that the goal posts always move. I spent all this time writing and making the book, but it’s very much out of my hands and I’m in the throes of the next goal, the next problem, by the time it gets read by readers.
  • I’m really happy that many readers are enjoying it and indications seem to be that more people will discover it as each book is released and I think there will be a big jump in March when the third one comes out. *fingers crossed*
  • Going over copyedits was a lot more stressful than I thought it would be. I am VERY VERY lucky in that I get the same copyeditor for all three books, so the process dropped in difficulty by a huge % for the second book as we now knew a lot more about what the other was doing.
  • If you are publishing a book involving vampires you should probably find out when the 10th Anniversary of Twilight is and not release a book on the same day if you didn’t mean to do so. …Seriously it did not even occur to anyone to check this.
  • Also, if you are using song titles for book titles it helps to not release a book the same week of a major anniversary so that your book is extremely hard to search for on all platforms. …another thing no one thought to check, cause… what are the odds?
  • Getting reviews (both good and bad) doesn’t take up as much of my brain space as I thought they would. A lack of people talking about it or reviewing hurts more than any bad review. Also, no review is ever going to be as mean to me as I am inside my own head.
  • Getting a book publishing seems a bit like getting married. Bear with me… ultimately getting married didn’t change my relationship as it was between us, however, it did change how the government and other people treated our relationship. Getting a novel published didn’t change anything about how I write, how difficult things are for me, the speed I write, the insecurities I have- it just changes things that are external to me.
  • I wrote a good chunk of an unrelated novel and one short story outside of The Shattered Ones in 2015. I managed two submissions but zero sales. The novel business sucked up well over 2/3rds of the writing year even with completed manuscripts (there were a lot of rewrites and I did have to add a large chunk to Book 3, plus edits and copyedits)
  • A lot of people still don’t buy ebooks. Many of them are my relatives. :)

My second novel CRUEL SUMMER was published in December

  • Some stuff gets easier with books coming out closer together, a lot of marketing gets more difficult. How many reviewers will read Book 2? Do you promote Book 2 over Book 1, or do you just push Book 1 and mention Book 2? There are a lot of best guesses along with trial and error going on.
  • Putting books out closer together is better for readers but harder on writers and publishers. We knew it was ambitious, but yeah… it wasn’t any of the big things, it was always the little things that just added up and wore us down.
  • I am proud of TAKE ON ME, but each progressive book makes me feel so much prouder. I can not wait for Book 3 to get out there. It is slowly killing me that it isn’t out yet, because I can not wait for people to read it and see things really hit the fan.
  • Hey, you know all those people you mean to thank in the thank yous when you write a book? I should totally have a document where I write those down as I go, otherwise I’ll forget a few and have to put them in Book 3 which would be really awkward if there wasn’t already going to be a sequel. Cause the moment my editor asked for them my brain totally threw a cog and a document would have been great.
  • Copyeditors are your friends. Copyeditors you get to keep for sequels make everything so much better. It is the difference between a 1st and 2nd manuscript date. Copyeditors who call you out on messing up a geek thing that you swore you checked but clearly didn’t are SUPER HELPFUL even if it means having to cut part of a scene that would otherwise leave you looking foolish.

After I turned in the manuscript for RUNNING DOWN A DREAM, I took the rest of 2015 off.

  • Mind you this was a few weeks, but it was over the holidays and it made all the difference in not having a depressive episode.
  • Do not underestimate the need for rest and relaxation as it relates to writing.

 

Well, that’s not 100% comprehensive, but I think it’s a pretty good overview. I feel better for having written it down. Without qualifying what I actually did, I always feel like I did nothing. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. I focus so much on what remains to be done rather than what is done. So while this post might not have been made in the first week of 2016, I think it is just as valid and useful, at least for me.

Be kind to yourselves and focus on where you are and what you’ve done before planning what still remains.

 


Too Many Links (about Bowie)

15 years ago, David Bowie turned up at Berklee to give the commencement speech — and it was hilarious

Brian Eno on final email from David Bowie: ‘I realise now he was saying goodbye’

Micro SF/F Fiction

Something Happened on the Day He Died: A Tribute to David Bowie

David Bowie Answers the Famous Proust Questionnaire

The Return of the Thin White Duke – Neil Gaiman 

Huge list of remembrances and links to articles

Peter Gabriel’s haunting cover of Heroes 


You Don’t Have To Choose

David Bowie underwent his final transformation yesterday. He was 69 and his last album just released. In his last music videos it is painfully clear in hindsight that he knew the end was coming. Many have keyed in on Lazarus, but the imagery of the skull of Major Tom literally becoming a holy venerated relic in Black Star is equally haunting. He knew what would likely come after and that the things we would hold up weren’t actually David Bowie the person, but the relic of an old persona. I haven’t tried to rewatch either video since I heard about his death. It will likely be a little bit before I can steel myself for that experience.

I was 15 when I first discovered David Bowie. The specifics don’t really matter. All you really need to know is that it was at the height of grunge, I was really into Nine Inch Nails and industrial music, and I became increasingly obsessed with Bowie’s music as I explored his back catalog. Life On Mars? Is a personal anthem for me. So many of the songs seemed to speak directly to my experiences and perfectly encapsulated a way to safely express difficult things.

I remember going to a friend’s house to watch the music video for The Heart’s Filthy Lesson. Outside and Eart hl ing are hugely important albums in my life. Here was this individual I adored who was now doing new types of music I also loved. I couldn’t find out enough things about him. My obsession was inspirational and affirming. Bowie became something I could use as a touchstone to find other weird people.

He was an actor, a musician, a songwriter, a painter, a sculptor, a mime, – his identity, gender, and sexuality seemingly fluid and unimportant.  He became the voice in the back of my head that said “It’s OK not to pick one thing. You can be whatever you are and chase after anything. If something doesn’t fit anymore, set it aside and find something new.”

Do you have any idea how freeing it was to realize I didn’t have to pick an identity. That being me was enough, and I didn’t have to define myself for anyone else. They’d find a way to define me in their head no matter what I did. The critics tried to define Bowie every time he changed, but none of it changed him.

Bowie helped me realize the labels of others didn’t matter to the person I was internally, and the fact that my own identity tends toward fluid and changing just makes me weird, it doesn’t make me wrong.

I like weird. There are lots of people who like weird. We’re all weird, and life is about finding the people you can be weird with.

I realize that I have exactly as much Bowie in my life today as I did yesterday. I never knew the man, I’ve only ever had his work. But, without him, I wouldn’t be who I am and so I grieve. I grieve deeply and unashamed. I hold aloft my relic of him and let tears fall down my face.

Steely resolve
Is falling from me
My poor soul
All bruised passivity

All your regrets
Ride rough-shod over me
I’m so glad
That we’re strangers when we meet

Strangers When We Meet – David Bowie

 


Too Many Links

A bunch of cool things I’ve found and bothered to save the links for now listed here for your clicking pleasure and for me to find later when I’m like “What was that thing again?”

Writing:

Writers on the pain of hindsight in publishing

In search of a more nuanced discussion on women and gender in SFF

Chuck Wendig – Welcome to the midpoint of your novel

Delilah S. Dawson – 25 Hacks from a Hack Writer – This was a particularly good post IMO

Halsted M. Bernard: Critiques, Counts, and Quests: Motivational Tools for Writers

Ryan Macklin – How Destiny Made Me Rethink Setting Details

Kameron Hurley – I was never in this for the parties

Brandon Sanderson Lectures

2016 Tools For Writers – a color-changing word count spreadsheet,  submission tree, goals, career bingo. Super handy and easy to modify to your own needs

Recipes:

Swedish Cinnamon Star Bread – holy cow look how pretty this is and not hard!

Sima – a Finnish fermented lemonade-ish drink

Baked Red Cabbage

Tahini Cookies

Chocolate Granola

Chocolate Caramel Tart

Science:

Tardigrades have DNA from outside sources – omg neat

Cancer cells can’t proliferate and invade at the same time

Where do Seattle area crows go at night

New fingerprint powders can show fingerprints on ivory for up to a month

Pollution cleaning water-walking robot

What outer space does to your body

Plague is still alive and well in the American West

Stories:

The first Best of 2015 Short Stories lists I ound – I know I am using this to see what good stuff I have missed and need to make my own list soon. Please send me your lists if and when you make them.

Feels:

1998 profile of Mr. Rogers – Fair Warning this will punch you in the feels.

Chewbacca comic – Also a feels punch. Also spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Misc:

Crochet Mesh Bag Pattern

NYC Library uploaded 20o,000 public domain images

Traffic Camera Catches Snowy Owl in Flight

Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

Creepy Skull Landscapes

NASA posts huge library of free-to-use space sounds. !!!!!

 


I don’t need a whole new me.

Last week was pretty crappy. I totally blew a submission deadline I wanted to hit, am still behind at work, and had some personal stuff happen that I didn’t handle in the best way. I choose to believe this was all for the best and better things will come due to these failures.

The story I am still working on and didn’t submit wouldn’t have been ready no matter what I did and I’d have been shoving something half-assed out the door if I’d gotten my dates right. It will be a better story for not sending it.

I’ll catch up at work. I’m not REALLY behind, I’m just behind where I want to be.

I had a great opportunity to work on my interpersonal communication and strengthen a relationship.

I can not change what is already done. I can only control my own actions. I wouldn’t magically be happy if I lost some weight or a magical organizing fairy sorted out my entire house while I slept (though I wouldn’t complain if either happened). I don’t need to be FIXED. I need to be aware of what I actually do and make decisions and actions that reflect my actual needs and wants.

I have a tattoo of a feather and a ribbon of water on my left shoulder to remind me to go where the wind and water take me. I got it, because I succeeded my way into misery. I managed to start my own video production company with my first corporate client… and found out I absolutely HATED it. I scraped and clawed my way to where I was… and never thought about if it was what I wanted or where I SHOULD be.

If you’d asked me a few months ago if I’d learned the lesson I needed to from that, I’d have said yes. I realized I’ve never fully learned that lesson, and maybe never will.

There’s a monthly section in my planner titled “Not To-Do List” and for January I wrote:

  • Judge
  • Compare
  • Worry
  • Blame
  • Criticize
  • Self Doubt
  • Shame

And I’ll be honest those are really hard not to-do to myself. Applying them to others is a lot easier. Also, it seems like the universe is trying to test my dedication to sparkle motion.

I don’t need an all new me in 2016. I just need to be more aware of me. To support, love, and forgive myself as much as I do to others. One of the things I’m doing is to use my planner to write how I SPENT my day rather than plan out the next day. I take some time throughout the day and before bed to record how I used my time and color code it. Doing things I enjoy and generally resting are green, writing or working on projects is blue, chores are yellow, work is orange, time with Aaron is purple, and appointments are pink. After doing this for two weeks now, I feel surprisingly better about a lot of things. I can see that stuff generally evens out and that planning to spend all of my waking hours doing things I feel I “SHOULD” do is not just unrealistic, it’s impossible. Also just the act of tracking it causes me to make better or at least more conscious decisions.

My goal for the month is to declutter my life. Clutter = anything taking up space I need for something else. Sure some of that is cleaning and getting rid of physical stuff, but most of it is mental. I have a lot of “shoulds” and “supposed tos” and internal expectations that are just taking up mental space and don’t do me any good.

I feel pretty good about how that’s going so far. I don’t feel particularly great about this last week, but I’m going to let a bad week just a be a bad week and keep going.


Resolutions

I’m not big on resolutions. I don’t usually make them. However, I do have one for this year.

I am going to forgive myself for not being the person I think I should be and learn to better appreciate and support the person I am.

All of the changes I want in my life are most likely to happen if I succeed at this. The only person I am consistently an asshole to is myself. I wouldn’t put up with anyone else treating me this way, why do I do it to myself?

So, I’m going to forgive myself for not writing my 2015 in review blog post, or upcoming things in 2016, yet. I’ll get to it, and it will be soon enough.

/smile

More to come.


Continuing Adventures of the Debut Writer

 

Cruel Summer

Shattered Ones Book 2: Cruel Summer is out today!!! 

KindleKobo – iBooks – Nook

I am super excited that people get to read the next installment in Hannah and Alex’s story. In CRUEL SUMMER we meet more of Hannah’s family and find out a bit more about Alex’s past. Meanwhile, Zachariah is trying to survive the rage of a vampire he can’t kill and the affection of one who wants to be with him — forever.

I’ve always known this series will be slow to build a buzz. People have to discover and talk about it. I’m not a well-known author, and it isn’t an established series. I anticipate it will have the most buzz in March when Book 3 publishes, completing the story-arc. I have more stories planned, but I like to think of them as as mini-series in an overarching world. This is partially because the thought of writing one long running series for umpteen books doesn’t really appeal to me. It’s also because I have no idea if the series will pick up enough fans to sell subsequent mini-series or stand alones to my publisher (I really really hope so because I adore my publisher and would love to continue writing books for them). It’s also because I know I haven’t read more than 3-4 books in any series myself in the last 10 years or so. I just want readers to have a manageable chunk to complete a story arc while still having lots of room to tell lots of stories with the same characters in the same world. For example, one of the stories my editor would like me to write in the future, is a stand alone novella about how Michel’s plans went horribly awry during the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and why Alex was even there at the time.

I can’t wait for you to meet Hannah’s extended family, and I hope you enjoy CRUEL SUMMER. Please tell people about it and leave a review somewhere if you feel inclined. The more people find out about it, the more stories I get to write.

 


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