Journal

Settling In, NEON, and 12 Week Goals

What have I been working on this past week?

It has been SO. NICE. writing again. Oh my word, six weeks feels like a lifetime to not be pounding the keyboard, let me tell you. It’s like I’m breathing again for the first time, even though I really, really enjoyed my break and the time with my fam and traveling and (well, not COVID) all the other summery things we did from mid-June to end of July.

BUT I AM READY TO WRITE AGAIN. Four days this week I’ve hit 500 words or more, just making myself sit down for five minutes to get back into the groove. It feels wonderful. I’ve added some lovely progress to the novel-in-progress, wrote a chunk of a story I’ve been banging around in my head for a while, and even wrote a prose-poem (wha-?!). It’s been a great week. I haven’t gotten into the office yet (main reason: I have no furniture there yet), but I’m hoping to get my desk and office chair in there by tomorrow, and then it’s ALL GO. I CAN’T WAIT.

I’ve also settled into my notebook set-up, despite initial uncertainty–having one weekly planner for writing where I notate writing-only related things and my day planner (bujo) for the everyday things, and my hashbook for all the scribbly bits–it’s coming together. I’ve also gotten my sweet mini-stickers for tracking certain habits on a day-to-day basis, so hopefully that’ll keep me excited about staying up-to-date on habits. We shall see!

What’s inspiring me this week?

44 days. 44 DAYS. My latest run-through of THE LONG DARK ended on Friday afternoon at 2:03pm, EST, when a wolf attacked me and ate my face. I was doing so good, too! *sobs* For the time being, I’m not starting up a new game, as I need to take a step back. It’s been rather an obsession lately.

In my effort to read a short story a day, I’ve been picking up my copy of NEON Magazine lately, and gosh, is it lovely. I really love how it straddles the odd/fantastic and literature. If you haven’t picked up a copy (it ships out of the UK), it’s well worth it, and every story I’ve read has had something to recommend it. I’ve also picked up THE DARK, the ghost story collection by Ellen Datlow, and it’s wonderfully spooky.

I’ve also lately been thinking about screenwriting/playwriting, because dialogue seems to be one of my consistent strengths (at least in critique groups, that’s the skill that keeps getting complimented), so writing in a form that emphasizes that skillset might be an interesting adventure. We’ll see if this goes anywhere, but I’ve picked up a couple books on script- and play-writing to look into it.

Also, did I mention I had an office now? SO COOL!

What am I working on next week?

This coming week is continuing the trend of re-establishing good creative habits. I’ve set up my 12 Week Plan goals, which essentially boil down to:

  1. Finish the rough draft of DIRTY BONE.
  2. Re-establish healthy creative habits.
  3. Establish home maintenance (low-level system) habits.

Other than chipping away at those three, I’m just hoping to get some good reading in, and surviving Thing 1’s swim lessons.

Journal

Chasing Chickens, A Room of My Own, & Jumping Back In

What have I been up to this week?

Traveling! We went up to Upstate NY on Wednesday and spent an idyllic weekend hanging out with great friends who have a farm up there. It was lovely. Thing 1 and Thing 2 chased chickens and played with their dog and swam for hours in their pool. Andy and I enjoyed knocking back a few beers and enjoying some lovely catching up and relaxing. I also successfully hypnotized one chicken, so the old Taylor skill remains!

Really, it couldn’t have gone better.

But with the end of July, the writing-itches are back HARD, so I’m hoping to get back into the writing flow in August. I cannot tell you how excited I am to dive in to word-smithing again.

OH! But in other news! Andromeda Spaceways #87 came out today, which includes my short sci-fi story, “Dynamo.” What if a ruthless space bounty-hunter started poking around your ordinary life, convinced you were hiding his prey?

Check it out here!

What’s been inspiring me lately?

Whoo, boy. Okay. So a week ago, I was talking to my mom about some office space in town I’d seen advertised, and in the course of three days, we have a shared office rented! I AM SO EXCITED.

Quiet. Tidy. No kiddos. Walls of books. Wholly devoted to writing? YES PLEASE. It’s officially a room of my own! (Or, okay, a room of “our” own, but still! We alternate needed times, so it’s ESSENTIALLY a room of my own!!!) I’m so thrilled, you guys. And it’s really reasonable, price-wise, so while it lights a little fire under my butt to get producing and maybe make some of it back, it’s not so stressful that I seize up creatively. I still can’t believe it! SO EXCITED. More on that next weekend, after we’ve broken the space in. I need to move my desk in, among other things, and I’m still trying to figure out a groaning-couch (obviously, a couch you lay on and groan on, which is my usual manifestation of “thinking”).

Otherwise, I’ve been getting my assorted notebooks up and ready to go! I’m a little worried that having three notebooks I use regularly may make my brain explode, but I may end up leaving my writing related one at the office for documenting progress there, which might make it feel less overwhelming. I’ve also gotten my new Baronfig Confidant set up and ready to go for August, so I’m looking forward to kicking that off. Keep an eye on my Instagram account, where I post notebook shots.

My third notebook is what I’m calling my “hashbook”–a place to do writing exercises, Writing-Down-the-Bones practice, hash out ideas (hence “hashbook”), and generally write down the nitty-gritty thinking involved in writing. We’ll see how that goes!

What am I working on this coming week?

Jumping back into writing! Six weeks appears to be my max “down-time” from writing. It’s been great in that I haven’t felt horribly guilty about not writing, as I’d planned not to, and I’ve spent oodles of time just reading for fun and kicking back, playing outside, and enjoying some video games and chilling. It’s been incredibly refreshing.

But I am AMPED to get back to it. I’ve got a handful of healthy writing-related habits I’m going to start trying to ease into this next week (most notably: reading a short story a day), and I’m going to write at least 5 minutes every day for the coming week (maybe more if I can get into the office sometime during the week), just to reestablish the habit.

I’m planning out a new 12 Week Year set of goals, which are focusing primarily on habit building and producing a rough draft of my weird novel-in-progress, Dirty Bone. The premise? What if a man discovered a skeleton living in a dirt house attached to his basement, and ended up having an affair with her? BECAUSE OF COURSE HE DOES.

Yeah, it’s a weird one. But I’m having a lot of fun with it and just playing like crazy, so I’m going to be leaning into that hard. My other goal for the next twelve weeks is to get into the house-tending habits outlined in Simply Clean, because the less I need to think about keeping the house clean, the more space I’ll have in my head for writing.

Journal

Productivity Thoughts, Office Space, & Lag Time

What did I work on last week?

I’m still on writing hiatus for the month of July, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my systems for creating fiction and where I might be able to improve. The biggest hangup I hit is the fact that I often need a really long post-draft lag to get distance from something I’ve written in order to see it clearly. While occasionally I’ll write a story that just pours out and gets edited and submitted within a couple of weeks, most of my work requires a stupidly long cooling period (about 9-12 months, from my records) before I can think clearly about them. (This is certainly a luxury allowed by the fact that I don’t make a living writing.)

Whether or not I can shorten that period seems to weigh on how happy I am with a rough draft (rather than just wanting to set it on fire), and whether I’m compelled to come back to it sooner. If I can’t shorten that time, then I need to develop a system for creating work which I’m excited to get back to after 9 months, so that I always have a steady stream of work coming up for refinement and submission. There are still lots of thoughts happening about this process. 

I’m also setting up my weekly planner and my new bullet journal (see instagram for photos) and getting ready to kick off writing again come August (it appears 6 weeks is about as long as I can handle not writing before I get too itchy). 

What is inspiring me?

This week I’m knee deep in Secrets of Productive People by Mark Foster, which has some very interesting thoughts about systems. I like that he mentions how low-level systems (keeping your house tolerably together/getting enough sleep/exercise/etc.) is vital to having the mental space to think about creative work (I’ve been essentially doing this regarding my wardrobe, and finally feel like I’m where I need to be there). I’ve also been using the five-item list he recommends, and it is helpful in keeping my to-do’s for the day reasonable and trackable. Interesting stuff.

I got a bunch of reading in that book done while we were camping this past weekend. It was hot but I got some nice hammock lounging and reading in, so that was delightful. I think in the future, we’ll try camping post-bug season, though. Still, we had a lot of fun swimming off lake islands and making s’mores and all that traditional camping stuff, but it’s nice to be home in our own bed!

What am I going to work on this week?

We have another trip at the end of the week to see some old friends, which will be delightful, but otherwise same-old-same-old. My mother and I have been taking a look at office space to see if maybe we can split an office and have some private space for work. We’ll see if that ends up happening, but we’ve seen some nice spaces. I’d love to have a workspace that is all mine without LEGO on the floor! 

Otherwise, I’m focusing on setting up my new bullet journal and getting things organized to jump back into drafting the novel project starting in August! SO EXCITED! It’s been great taking the time off and just kicking back and reading, but I’m definitely excited to write again. 

Journal

Trains, Journals, and COVID

Once again, we are home here at Chez Slater. The last few weeks have been a rollercoaster, let me tell you!

What I’ve been doing:

Traveling! Back at the end of June, Andy and I packed up Thing 1 and Thing 2 and boarded The Lakeshore Limited train from Boston to Chicago, and from there, took the Texas Eagle down to Taylor, TX. We spent two nights on the train in roomettes, and it was AWESOME. (Yes, we are aware of the awful derailment that happened the day after we were on the train, but that was a different line and a different train, and still luckily a fairly rare event compared to car crashes.) The boys slept incredibly well, and I slept well on the Lakeshore and not quite so well on the Eagle, primarily because the Eagle is a smaller train and therefore the sleeper car is closer to the engine horn. There are apparently a LOT of train-road crossings in Arkansas. Nothing a pair of earplugs wouldn’t fix. Otherwise, it was surprisingly comfortable.

The food also was pretty good! I don’t want to oversell it, but it was solid. Think old-school airliner food in heatable tin containers. I had a lot of the Baked Ziti with Meatballs, because that’s what the boys would eat, but the Salmon and the Roast were good, too. Andy was not as impressed with the Thai Curry, which he said was spicy but not flavorful otherwise. The snack car on the LSL was actually astoundingly good for a snack cart/quick reheat meals. I actually really enjoyed the grilled cheese and Andy got the Chicken Street Tacos which were delightful. The breakfast omelet was also solid, as was the apparently well-lauded French Toast.

We arrived in Taylor, TX, and went with my MiL to a local McDonald’s Play Place, and three days later, we (me and the boys) all had COVID.

Yay. So needless to say, we spent the majority of the vacation isolating and feeling like crap. The boys both had high fevers (103-104–Thing 1 is vaccinated, Thing 2 was too young until just recently and hasn’t gotten his yet). Thing 2 also had stomach symptoms, though no congestion and no cough, and threw up regularly. Thing 1 had the fever, some congestion, and a cough. I had what I’m calling the “buffet of symptoms” in that I had a different symptom every day, and never the same one twice. I started off with a low grade fever, then the next day had mild body aches (kind of like pregnancy ligament pain–annoying, but tolerable with Tylenol), then congestion and sneezing and a gnarly, gunky cough that reminded me of when I used to have asthma as a kid, then sinus pain (manageable with Tylenol), and then extreme exhaustion (an all-day long sensation of having just climbed out of a pool). No symptom lasted longer than a day, and by a week out, I was feeling 95% myself. Even at my worst, I was still able to get up and move around and sit upright, so the congestion wasn’t horrific like the two colds I had in March. All in all, I felt crummy for a few days, and then it resolved, right about the time I tested negative.

Of course, because of this, we had to cancel the second leg of our train trip, since we wouldn’t be out of the travel 10-day restricted period by the time the train left Austin. So we flew back on Saturday, instead. Not as relaxing, but we were just glad to get home!

What’s inspiring me lately:

In other news and back home once again (thank goodness), I’m still on my summer writing hiatus, which is only driving me a *little* nuts. But I’ve been channeling that itch into journaling, which has been a nice change of pace. I’ve also been reading quite a bit, having just finished The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones, and having picked up Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata. I really enjoyed TOGI and so far am crazy about CSW, so we’ll see how it goes.

I just finished playing through I am Dead on the Nintendo Switch, which was charming and relaxing, with cute art and startlingly delightful world-building. We are also digging into Brooklyn 99 which we’ve been meaning to check out (as we’re always on the hunt for humorous 30 minute shows to watch after long days), and Only Murders in the Building is back for Season 2, as is What We Do in the Shadows for Season 4! We went from having absolutely nothing left to watch after finishing Stranger Things 4 and The Great, to having ALL THE THINGS. So we’re having a fine time in the evenings.

We just tried out the card game/dodgeball game THROW THROW BURRITO, which is a sweaty bundle of fun for the whole family. We were quite entertained, so now it remains to be seen if it’s a game we want to play regularly or only on occasion. Other games we discovered during the train trip: COUCH SKELETONS (good fun, very fast) and TRASH PANDAS (a little trickier, but quite funny). Someday Thing 2 will be old enough not to just grab cards off the table and run, which will make card games infinitely more enjoyable.

What I’m Working on Next Week:

Still on hiatus until mid-August, but I’m currently trying to build some housekeeping habits during my downtime that will hopefully help me keep the place a bit more reasonable, especially with both boys home. We’re also prepping for an upcoming camping trip, which will hopefully make up for our semi-dismal Texas trip and give us some much needed time in nature.

I also haven’t been posting much on Instagram lately, so I’m going to be picking that back up again. Otherwise, I’ll be reading, supervising the Things, refereeing the Things, and enjoying craft beer and journaling.

Hope your summer is going well and you’re being kind to yourself!

Journal

Summer is Coming…

What did I do this past week?

Well, I did an update not all that long ago, so not much new to report! Just chugging away at the novel project and trying to identify the best time of day to work (right now, looks like just after the boys go to bed for a few minutes before my brain shuts off–can’t do it right before bed, or my brain won’t shut off at ALL.) I’d love to get to 10k on this thing before June 15th, which I may bump to June 17th as the official START OF SUMMER.

Not sure I’ve mentioned this here before, but my plan is to take the summer off from writing. I may do some writing exercises for fun, but mainly I’m hoping that taking all pressure off “producing” during the summer months will help my mental health and also help refill my creative well. It’s not that I won’t write if I get a super cool idea I just *have* to get down, but I don’t want to have any expectations of productivity.

Partly, this is because summer is already typically a bad season writing-wise for me. There’s kiddos around all day. We have guests. We travel a lot. I want to get out of the house and do fun things with them, like camping, and not feel bad that I’m not sticking to a writing schedule. I want to get away from screens. I want to journal. I want to read like I used to as a kid during those long summer evenings. I want to play. And honestly, I really, really need to after these past few years.

So 2022 is the summer of play. Will writing happen? Maybe? Who knows! But I’m trying to get to a good stopping spot for any living projects by June 17th, so I can really relax and cut loose. If absolutely nothing else, I hope to read a bunch of fun stuff.

Oh! As a sidenote, I’ve also added a Support page to this blog, in case anyone feel the overwhelming desire to buy me a notebook (i.e. support the arts and all that fluffy stuff). So if you feel like contributing to my stationary habit (I don’t have a problem, you have a problem!), feel free to pop over and leave me a tip. I’ll absolutely, 100%, definitely write in the notebook you buy me. I won’t let it just pile up with all the other cheap blank notebooks I keep telling myself I’ll fill one day. Really. I’ll use it. Promise.

What is currently inspiring me?

I’ve been alive in The Long Dark for 42 days. Today could be the day I die. I’ve done so well, but I’m running out of limited resources in the area I’ve called home, and each time I venture out of my safe places, the risk of doom grows higher. I can feel it sniffing at my heels, trailing me through the dimming woods, its delicate paws leaving no mark upon the virgin snow to warn me of how very close it is to catching me. I’ve got deer skin boots and rabbit skin mitts, but all it’s going to take is an ill-fated blizzard at the wrong time, too far from home to take shelter, too windy to keep a fire going.

I’ve been a live in The Long Dark for 42 days. How much longer can I possibly keep this up?

So yeah, I’ve been playing The Long Dark in survival mode. 42 days is a record for me. I’ve also checked out Bad Writer by Riddlefox Games, which is HILARIOUS. It’s short, but it’s only $5.99 on Switch, and it makes me laugh as much as it makes my heart hurt. Also, I wish I could write a short story in a day. Just saying.

Also, Squid Game! Yes, yes, we finally got around to it. We needed something short but intense to keep us awake in the evenings, and this is just the ticket. It’s viciously fun and horrifying. We’ve been enjoying it immensely, especially since finishing Stranger Things 4 last week. It’s a solid follow.

What am I working on this week?

This week, I’m trying to focus once more on time rather than word count. I find when I focus on trying to write 500 words, I can get rather fluff-centric, simply trying to hit the count for the day, which I think makes more work for myself later. Today and for the rest of the week, I’m aiming for a measly 10 minutes. I may get more. I often get more once I get started, but at least then it’s time-oriented, not word-oriented, so I’m hoping that generates more thought and deliberate work rather than just word-scratching.

Got a rejection last week and so shot a thing back out into the universe. I must say, I really enjoy submitting, even if I really dislike the not-knowing aspect. I only wish I could crank out work like the author in Bad Writer.

Journal

Submissions, Charlton Heston, & Sticky Brain

Oh my goodness, so weekly updates now once a month? XD I’m working on it. 

In my defense, it’s been a busy few weeks. 

WHAT I DID LAST WEEK:

Travel dominated my past few weeks, as I flew out of state for my cousin’s wedding in Texas. It’s the first time I’ve flown since Covid, and it went surprisingly smoothly. I edited a ton on my latest short story (thanks in part to traveling alone without kiddos), and watched some movies I’d been hoping to see. 

When I got home, it was an all-out push to finish the short story and get it submitted, which I did! I’m thrilled that this weird specfic story gets to go hunt down a home. Who knows where it will land, but I feel like it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written, and that feels fantastic, even if it never sells. (*hopes desperately that it will sell*) 

It was a huge relief to get that story submitted, as I’ve been working on it, bit by bit, for months now. I wish I was faster at this, that I could turn a story around in a month, but I’ve come to realize that such speed is just not me. Slow and steady, especially with so many distractions around these days.

After getting that one out, I dove head-first into the novel project I’ve been nursing along for the past few months with a scene here and a sketch there. It’s a weird little monster, but I’m really enjoying just playing. Hopefully it’ll morph into something solid, but I’m keeping my hands open on it. 

Oh! And I learned I sold my short sci-fi story, “Dynamo”! No contract yet, so I can’t announce it fully, but keep an eye out here for details to come. I’m so excited that my ode to Charlton Heston (complicated as that man was, and with whom in actual life I would have probably strongly disagreed on most things) has found a home. And such a fun one, too! 

WHAT’S INSPIRING ME:

Inspiring me this week is the book The Elements of Eloquence, by Mark Forsyth, which has had me cackling and also going “Ooooo! I need to try that!” I’ve really enjoyed learning about all sorts of rhetorical tricks, and even used a few of them in the last story I submitted because it was just so fun. I’m no poet, but having a little more insight into what sounds good and why has been very intriguing. 

Otherwise, vaccines. Covid has finally landed in our home after two years, but thanks to the fact that everyone (minus Thing 2) is vaccinated and boosted, so far those who have it haven’t felt all that terrible. Fingers crossed it continues to be so. It’s a stressful thing, though, having Covid in the home (“Is it?” says Captain Obvious). Even without being infected, it’s like you have this sudden awareness of AIR, any bit of which could be carrying something that will make you and your loved ones feel like shit. It’s annoying. 

And of course, this week Stranger Things 4 came out, so Andy and I have been plowing through that and diving deep into the Upside Down. Is there anything quite so pleasant as a Stranger Things episode with an Old Fashioned in hand? (Well, aside from the whole kids/murder-school thing… That hit pretty hard.)

WHAT I’M WORKING ON THIS WEEK:

This week, it’s all novel, when I can squeeze it in. With Covid in the house, Thing 1 is home for the week to watch for exposure, so my timetables will be a touch screwy for the next few days. I’m aiming for 500 words a day, which is fairly reasonable/reachable for me. It feels great to open up the mental throttle and just write without obsessing over every word choice. Later. That comes later.

I think it’s finally occurred to me, with the genesis of this last story, what the difference is between writers and other people. Anybody can draft something. Anybody can get words down (not that it’s always easy). The difference between the writer and the general writing public is the writer’s ability to UN-write. To take out everything that isn’t necessary, to say as much as possible in the least amount of words, trusting the reader to fill in the gaps but giving them lots of subtle clues to guide them. Writing isn’t rewriting. It’s unwriting. It’s distilling. It’s cooking your words down to the absolute purest syrup of your thought. 

Now my brain feels sticky. 

Journal

Rabby, Giant Sharks, and an Animated Moose Being Super Mean…

I didn’t get quite as much focused work in this past week as I was hoping, though my trial run of evening work met with good success when I tried it. I’m ankle deep in the word-cutting pass for my latest short story, and I’m finding I really prefer having quiet, extended time to pick over it, rather than coping with interruptions during the daytime hours. I’d love to get this thing wrapped up before I travel later this month, so I’m hoping I can make some significant progress this week. The first few word-specific searches always take a long time (I’m a sucker for “of”), but they do get faster as I go. And I know once I get the cull done, I’ll be amped to get it polished and submitted. So that’s the goal this week: get the word-cull done. Maybe I can do the read-through over the weekend next Saturday/Sunday. 

But I did manage to build the storage bench (with a power drill!) for the dining room, and got the round eating table (aka: my desk) tidied up and my books all organized neatly on a shelf, so feeling quite good about that! We also finally got the rest of the soil dumped into our last two raised beds where we’re going to try for peas (though with the heatwave coming next week, WHO KNOWS HOW THEY’LL DO). 

Also, we have a baby bunny who lives in our garden. I’ve named her Iris, because she nibbles the irises, and she’s adorable. Thing 2 runs through the house to grab whomever he can when he sees her, calling “RABBY RABBY RABBY!” *dies of toxic cuteness syndrome*

#

This past week has been so busy! Aside from Mother’s Day today (which was lovely, and involved hanging out with my own mother, shoe shopping and book shopping and having lattes in peace and quiet, as well as homemade cards from my boys and a gift from both Andy and extended family-!), we’ve started Mommy and Me swim classes with Thing 2, in addition to our Nature Friends class mid-week. It’s always hard to incorporate a new routine, and this week was no exception, and probably contributed to some of the challenging attempts to get work done. 

Mostly, in my free moments, I’ve been burying myself in The Long Dark, though I’ve now frozen to death in a snow storm, been mauled to death by a wolf, and the day before yesterday I was trampled to death by a moose, so, you know, not doing such a great survival job. XD It is fun, though! Tricky, but fun. 

We also watched The Meg on Wednesday night as a treat, which was delightfully ridiculous in the way only giant sharks can be, but we had a fun trashy time. I believe Sharknado is on our radar next, because we missed it when it first made its big “splash” as we’d just had Thing 1 and were too exhausted to watch movies. 

I started Noom a couple of weeks ago, just to see if it could help me take off a few extra pounds that have been making my beloved jeans a liiiiiiittle too snug of late, and so far, it’s been really helpful. I don’t have a lot to lose (I like my shape, generally), but I was interested in getting ahead of my own bad eating habits (hello giant bowl of goldfish crackers… man, I love them…) before it was a “I need new pants” problem. (Especially after working so hard on getting a wardrobe I actually LIKE that actually feels like ME!) 

It’s been really interesting to see what my eating habits actually are. It’s so easy to not pay much attention (and honestly, I prefer not paying attention) and let not so healthy choices build without even realizing it. I’m already about halfway to my goal, and it hasn’t been especially bad (yes, some choices between having a whole beer vs. an ice cream mochi later… but overall, reasonable and not too difficult) so feeling pretty good about it. I doubt I’ll do it for more than the initial three months, but it’s nice to have it in the back pocket. 

#

This coming week is going to be busy again, with classes and a family birthday, though I’ll admit I’m kind of looking forward to the heat wave (a little—it’ll also probably get old FAST) if only because it means I can get the sprinkler out and let the boys run around and get muddy, which will entertain them for ages while I read in the shade. XD 

End goal: get the word-cull draft DONE. That’s it, that’s all. 

Journal

Rebuilding & Adapting Habits

The theme of this past week was disruption. Disruption due to school vacation. Disruption due to another cold passing through the fam (Thankfully, I didn’t get this one too bad, which I am SUPER grateful for after the last two awful head colds I’ve had, and everybody seems to be healing up well now.) Despite all that unusual schedule chaos, I actually managed to get through the retype pass of my latest story! 

Phew! That took so much longer than it seems like it should have, but it *is* a long story. But I got the retype with all the tweaks fitted in there, and now it’s time for the word-cull draft (which sounds rather ruthless. Maybe I should call it something nicer, like “the sculpting pass”—that’s kind of what it feels like: take out everything that isn’t the story). 

I’ve also started getting some pressure-buildup ideas for the two novels I’m toying with at the moment, which is exciting! Once this story is wrapped up and submitted, it’s novel-writing time! Wee!

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This week, because everyone’s been sick, it’s been a major “just hang around the house and be boring” kind of time, as is needed. I’ve been trying to fit in more reading time, which has been surprisingly hard, but probably accounts for some of my lack of creative energy. Need to refill the well with brain food. Still chunking away at Dread Nation and Do Nothing. Both are great, but my focus endurance is looooow. 

I’ve started getting out and about in the garden, getting things filled up with soil and watering a few things that seem to need a bit more rain than we’ve been getting. We’re going full cottage garden here this year, trying a lot of everything, and doing minimal planning—just stick a plant you like somewhere and see if it thrives. It’s the first year I’ve done roses and vegetables in I don’t even know how long, so we’ll see what survives! 

Had a great time yesterday digging up one of the bare patches in our yard and plucking almost-fat-enough-for-Bear-Grylls-to-eat grubs out of the soil and gently tucking the earthworms back in. Fed the grubs to the birds—at least someone was happy to see them! Went for a nice hike today in the amazing upper 60’s weather, and let the boys get out the hose for a major mud-puddle party, which was hilarious. 

Andy and I have been working our way through INVENTING ANNA on Netflix, which has been delightful. I was fascinated by the story when it first came out a few years ago—(if you need more con artist in your life after the docudrama, check out the excellent nonfiction book: The Confidence Game by Maria Konnikova). 

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This coming week, we’re getting back into the regular schedule (hopefully), which means trying to get back into the good habits that got dropped this past week (and let’s be honest, probably most of April…and a good chunk of March…). Honestly, my writing habit has taken a major hit of late. It’s like I hit this massive wall in March that just stopped me dead in my tracks. I’m clawing those habits back, but it’s been HARD. And the fact that it’s been so hard has made me look at the past couple of months and what’s changed:

1) I decided to start pursuing a slightly different direction in fiction, which is both scary and exhilarating, and I’m probably now out of my “honeymoon” phase with it, and just need to get to work. 

2) Things have started opening up, COVID-wise. One could argue whether or not that’s a *good* thing, but it does mean I’ve been trying to get out with Thing 2 a bit more, go to parks, go to the store, walk through PetSmart and stare at crazy fish. But that’s also meant my daily schedule has shifted a lot. Since I used to get my writing done in the morning, my mornings are often now busy with going to baby swim classes or baby nature groups. This has been GREAT for me feeling like a good mom, but SHITTAH for me feeling like a good writer. Gotta love that life-balance, ammiright?

3) Things are opening up, and therefore there are now social obligations that didn’t exist before. Friends want to meet up for lunch. Family have get togethers and celebrations that have been postponed for sometimes over two years, and I can’t lie and say I’m not excited to see people. I actually am, which is strange, given how gathering averse I usually am (even pre-COVID). 

4) The naps are a thing of the past. It’s official, I’ve got to let it go, but I’m still hooked on trying: Thing 2 is no longer napping regularly, and I have not yet figured out how to cope with that, time-wise. Because his not napping has two effects: 1. I don’t get quiet time during the day to do any kind of focused work or simply recharge my own batteries, and 2. Without a break during the day, by the time I get him and Thing 1 down to bed, I am FREAKING EXHAUSTED, and my brain doesn’t want to work at all. 

5) I haven’t been reading before bed. See above for why. 

So what do all these things mean? I need to make some concrete plans to overcome some of these snags. 

– I need to get to bed a little earlier so I can read for at least a half-hour before falling asleep. 

– I need to start listening to audiobooks during my quick morning walk/run. 

– I need to guard my tiny bit of writing time—even just five minutes—in the morning before we go out or do anything else, and I need to start inching that time back up to my original 25 minutes. 

That would at least start refilling the well and getting my feet back under me again. My numbers last month were awful, so hoping to improve on that in May… Despite travel, and classes… Ugh. Overwhelmed much? 

Small steps, right? 

Journal

Survival Games

And I’m back! Well, I haven’t really been gone, if you’ve been checking in on my Instagram, I’m fairly active over there. I think I’ve enjoyed just focusing on visuals and mini-posts for the past few months. Moving forward, I’ll be trying to post a check-in once a week and maybe occasional other things now and then. If you need to see more of what I’m up to, head on over to my Instagram account! I tend to post at least once a week, sometimes two or three! (WHA-?! I know!)

These past couple weeks have been somewhat challenging, I’m not going to lie. At the beginning of the month, I hit a major motivational speed bump, and I’m still clawing my way back to a normal routine. Some of that is due to changing kiddo schedules and just getting a bit busier out and about (moderately, anyway). Doing that kind of thing makes me feel like a great mom, but tends to make me a cruddy writer. XD 

Right now, I’ve dropped my expectations to just a measly five minutes of editing per day, which at least gets me touching my work in progress regularly. I’ve got two short novels in the works, but I’m focusing right now on getting my short story, “Catching College,” polished up and submitted. There’s not too much left to go, other than to finish the retype and then get it through a word-cull pass, so I’ll be trying to get that well underway this week. 

In terms of general news, the Apex Magazine anthology for 2021 (which includes my story “Candyland”) has officially funded, which means it’s going to happen! I’m so excited. I love the idea of a physical copy to keep on my bookshelf. It even has the cover of my issue as the illustration for the book, which I also love, because HOLY CRAP that cover is gorgeous! While it’s hit its initial funding goal, I’d LOVE for it to hit the 9k stretch goal (for purely selfish reasons—9k guarantees authors of the stories an additional $0.01/word payment for the reprint). If you’re so inclined, do check out the kickstarter!

Also, my ridiculous menstruating superhero story (“Any Day But Today…”) has been chosen for the Best Of Andromeda Spaceways Vol 5 anthology! Which means another paperback I can put on my shelf! (Giggles with tactile glee.) So I’m thrilled about that. More info/cover shots as I get it, but the proofs are in!

I’m also contemplating releasing a short story for tips on this site (“Tower’s End”), since it’s now available for reprint, and I may see if a friend of mine will do some spot illustrations for it. What do you think? Would you be interested? 

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I have been absolutely OBSESSED with the survival game, The Long Dark, lately. Every free moment I get (not many, but still) I jump on the Switch to chop wood, fight off wolves, avoid hypothermia, and try not to starve to death (not easy). It’s SO FUN. So far, my record is I think thirteen days, which is NOT GREAT, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. “Wintermute,” the story-mode, is also deliciously fun, and I’m plowing through that. 

I’m currently reading a multitude of things (as usual), but primarily Do Nothing by Celeste Headlee about our overwork culture, which is fascinating and informing one of the novels I’m working on. I’m also getting back into Dread Nation by Justina Ireland, which is such a fun rollick through zombie-infested post-Civil War times. I adore Jane SO MUCH. But all the characters are really enjoyable. 

In terms of TV/movies, we’ve finally cracked and started Ted Lasso, which is charming and cute in a Schitt’s Creek kind of way. We’ve also just finished Only Murders in the Building. I really enjoyed seeing Steve Martin in something new! (I’m a huge fan of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and OMitB pays some nice homage to Martin’s style in that flick.) Took a bit to get into (as not a huge true crime fan myself), but it was fun.

To cap off the entertainment for the week, we rewatched our epic fav Hot Fuzz on Saturday, and can I just say, that movie is a MASTERWORK of visual and auditory foreshadowing, as well as just an artwork in and of itself in terms of arrangement/strategic cuts/sound effects. 

I tackled mending my work jeans, and I love how it turned out! (Ignore the fleck of dirt—it was gardening-weekend!)

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This week, I’m focusing on pushing “Catching College” into its word-cull draft so I can plow through that and hopefully get it submitted in early May. My speed has been so lackluster lately, it’s been pretty disappointing, but I’m shifting my fiction focus a bit and still getting my feet under me. Plus, it’s school vacation week, so it’s a bit of a zoo here. I’m trying to be kind to myself and not expect too much. 

I’m also going to try to get back into the habit of generating one new story idea per day, because I think that’s a great practice and pushes me to think outside the box. 

Hope you’re doing well and that this week has lots of good things in store for you!

Journal

A December 2021 Update

Phew! I cannot believe that November is already gone, and that we’re knee-deep in December already. This is going to be an absolutely nuts month, with WorldCon from 12/15-12/19, and family visiting for the holidays, among other things, equally as important. I’m also wrapping up the novel rewrite for the Write Your Novel class at AWC that I’ve been taking this year, and hoping to get it submitted this weekend so I can kick back and try to find a way to relax in all the chaos!

If you’re going to be heading to WorldCon this year, come find me! I’ll probably be kicking around the Apex table periodically, and on Friday (12/17) at 7pm, I’ll be participating in a Rapid-Fire Reading hosted by BroadUniverse.

^^^

Boy, what a year it’s been. It seems strange to be looking back on it now, when there’s still so much to go, but as far as my writing year goes, December is always a shot month. So when I did my monthly goal review for November, it struck me that really, this is about it. This is what I’m getting done this year.

Truth is, though, that I’m pretty proud of what I accomplished in 2021, despite the pandemic and all the other complicating factors that presented. And while there’s always room for improvement, it was a solid year. In stats:

2021 Goals Review

New Submissions: 4 / 4
New Rough Drafts: 11 / 5
New Summary Drafts: 0 / 1

Total Word Count: 173,811 / 100,000
Books Read: 35 / 52

Submission Attempts: 28
Personal Rejections: 1
Stories Sold: 2

Summary & Thoughts:

It was a solid year for new drafts. I started splitting my weeks between novel writing (M/T) and short story writing (W/Th/F), and that worked like a *charm*. It gave me space from the novel, which meant I hit the ground energized to get back to work on Mondays, and then by Wednesday (or Thursday, depending on how long it took to hit 3k on the novel) I could totally switch tack and think about something completely different. My brain liked that structure, so I’ll be doing that again come 2022.

Another thing I learned: submitting during the second half of the year is HARD for me. I’m not entirely sure why, though I suspect some seasonal depressive dips that just make evaluating and fighting with logic problems in stories extremely difficult. So in 2022, I’m going to try to hit my submission goals by June. I seem to have a lot more energy to tackle that kind of work early in the year, and then it’s like the gift that keeps giving: even during slumps, I can always resubmit something that bounces back to me, and that gives me a little boost of “I’m doing the work”-ness that helps pull me up out of the slump. Win-win!

I was doing pretty well on reading this year until June hit and school let out in conjunction with Thing 2 deciding that he *could* in fact go to sleep and stay asleep at night without my hand right next to him. This was both a blessing and a curse: it opened up my evenings for adult conversation and TV with Andy and the occasional pool game, but it also removed that enforced two hour reading block I used to have. So reading dropped off dramatically after that. I may end the year with a few more books under my belt, as I’ve got a couple that are close to done, but I’m not necessarily counting on it. Quiet reading time is at a premium right now. Next year, I’m just setting a smaller goal.

The most notable thing I’m going to try in 2022 is a big break from writing starting in mid-June and ending in mid-August (so basically, all of July + 2 weeks on either side). A few reasons for this:

1) This coincides with the end of the school year, when my schedule normally changes a lot, and I often struggle to find a “new normal” during that period;

2) I want to be able to enjoy my summer–as noted above, summers also tend to be when we travel, have visitors, and generally have no regularity, which makes keeping my writing schedule incredibly difficult and usually a source of major frustration. What’s more, I want to do different things during that time. I want to play. I want to participate in the local library’s reading challenge. I want to take non-writing classes and go to the beach and more than anything, I want to NOT feel guilty about not producing as many words as I usually do during the school year.

3) The real reason: it’s becoming clearer as I get older and start seeing mood patterns, that summer often brings a major emotional dip for me. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s worse, but either way, the creative energy drops heavily during that period. Guilt about “not getting writing done” plays into that, but even when I *am* getting the work done, I struggle. I can’t see my work clearly and get very easily discouraged. I’m hoping that by allowing myself to just spend time recharging, reading, trying new things, spending time with family, gathering new experiences, and generally filling the well, I’ll be able to better weather that time more effectively, and allow myself to relax after the spring push when I have more creative energy. That’s not to say I won’t write if something REALLY strikes me and I need to get it down. That’s fine. But I’m going to try to remove all expectation of productivity during that time and let myself have a playful summer break, too.

Then, right about mid-August, when school shopping starts, my creative energy comes rushing back. So I’m going to try that this coming year, and see how it goes.

Bonuses:

+ I sold two stories!
+ I had a positive review in Locus for one of my sci-fi pieces*
+ I wrote ELEVEN new short stories drafts!
+ I actually managed to tackle the FROSTHAVEN rewrite draft
+ I kept up with my work for the WYN course
+ I wrote over 170,000 words!

As for goals, they’re not changing too much, because the whole point is to create reasonable, small-improvement goals. But that also makes it easier to set them!

2022 Goals

New Submissions: 0 / 5
New Rough Drafts: 0 / 8
New Novel Draft: 0 / 1

Total Word Count: 0 / 120,000
Books To Read: 0 / 32

Submission Attempts: 0 / 40

Nothing too crazy there. The biggest push is aiming to submit fiction 40 times. With the three stories I currently have out, and the hopeful five new submissions in early 2022, I’m hoping that’ll be a pleasant push, and not a ripped-muscle stretch.

But that’s all for me through the end of the year! I’ll update if anything REALLY exciting happens, but have a lovely holiday season and I’ll see you all in 2022!

*And another one in which editor Paula Guran calls my story (“Candyland”): “Cute, but cutting”! Woohoo!