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!

Journal

November is Here

Well, so much for monthly updates, ammiright? Ah well! You didn’t miss much in October, because I was mostly obsessed with creating Halloween costumes for Thing 1 and Thing 2:

They turned out pretty cool, right? So that was most of my October, as Halloween loomed and costumes took over my little free time (aka my writing time). However! I did manage to finish two new stories early on: one weird/ghost story, and one flash ghost story. I’m not sure the flash one will be all that great, but I do like the weird one. We’ll just have to see when I come back around to them next year.

In other news…

Today, I hit a milestone and I wasn’t even expecting it! I discovered that my sci-fi story (“Deadhead”) in last spring/summer’s Abyss & Apex was reviewed in Locus Magazine, and the reviewer chose it for their recommended reading list! *head explodes in star beams and glitter*

To writers who are regularly reviewed in Locus, I’m sure it’s a minor threshold to have crossed, but for me it’s a big thing! And they liked it! So that was a lovely surprise.

Otherwise, things have been pretty quiet around here. I’m feverishly working to finish polishing a short story for submission by the end of the month, and I’ve created an editing worksheet tailored to make me look at my craft weak spots. After this, I’ve got a few scenes to rewrite for the Write Your Novel course I’m finishing up through the Australian Writer’s Centre, and then it’s WorldCon in D.C.!

Oh, which reminds me! I’ll be participating in the in-person Rapid Fire Reading hosted by BroadUniverse on 12/17 at 7pm in the Cabinet Room (649) at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. So if you’d like to hear me read something and are attending WorldCon, come say hi! :D

Journal

“Candyland” at Apex Magazine Available for Free and Sale Update!

My sickly sweet short story about the torments of social media and comparing oneself to others is now up at Apex Magazine for free! Check out “Candyland” here.

In other news, I just signed the contract with The Cellar Door to have my spooky woodlands tale about ghosts and the ways community can hold us down appear in their Woodland Terrors issue coming sometime 2022! Woohoo! “Circles” is a story I’ve always really liked, but proved hard to place. I’m thrilled it’s found a good home with the folks at Dark Peninsula Press.

Journal

September Returns

Here is it, September at last, and I must say, the two-ish month hiatus has really helped. I think this quote from my last post (found here) really sums it up:

“I honestly hate trying to create “content” that will get hits and likes. It’s just not why I blog, and I think trying to do that has really drained my creative reserves.”

This is absolutely what was bothering me before, and it’s going to guide my posting here moving forward. Starting this month, I’m only going to post once a month with a general overview of what’s been going on, and any specific news. I’ll put my current reading pile into these monthly posts, as well as my goal reviews. I want a living site, not just a splash page with my bio and bibliography, but I’d rather spend most of my time writing fiction.

I keep a fairly regular presence on Instagram, with little glimpses of my notebooks, capsule closet, and random other things (like miniatures!), so if you want to see what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis, that’s the place to go.

After two months away, I feel like I’m back in a good spot. I finished the rewrite of FROSTHAVEN, and wrapped up a class, and am now ready to dive into editing, submitting, and planning for NANO this year. I haven’t done NANO since 2013, and I don’t know if it’ll work–kiddo-wise–but I’ve got a project I want to spend some focused time on, so I might as well try!

But thanks for your patience and understanding. I may pick up blogging more often someday, but for now, monthly is about all I can manage.


News

I do have a bit of news! My story “Candyland” is coming out in the September/October issue of Apex Magazine, which is quite exciting. This is my second story with them, and as always, it’s been a delight to work with the team. And the cover art-!

I’ve also just heard that I’ve sold my woodsy zombie-ghost story, but no contract in hand yet, so I can’t share much more detail than that.


Monthly Goals Review

New Submissions: 3 / 4
New Rough Drafts: 9 / 5
New Summary Drafts: 0 / 1

Total Word Count: 146,247 / 100,000
Books Read: 31 / 52

Submission Attempts: 20
Personal Rejections: 0
Stories Sold: 2


Currently Reading

Journal

Belated Friday Update: The Update

Well, this week was a conflagration of bad luck which only mostly threw me off my game. Naps went out the window for several days for no obvious reason (Toothing? It always feels like it’s toothing…), which meant no writing time those days. Then Wednesday, Thing 2 came down with a stomach bug. I did manage to write that day, but only the bare minimum of 500 words. Thursday, Thing 1 napped, and Thing 2 was back to his old self, but I was feeling weird, so I hammered out about 750 and crashed for a nap of my own.

Friday was actually the first good day in a while: Thing 1 napped, Thing 2 was happy, I had a game-plan, and I managed to jump right in and make some serious progress on this week’s short story. I hammered out 2k Friday, which felt GREAT after a week of struggling to get any time at all.

So in the end, it wasn’t as much of a wash of a week as I’d expect, but it wasn’t nearly as comfortable as I would have liked. It also highlighted a problem I’ve been sensing lately, but which really came to the fore these past couple weeks.

The problem? I don’t have the mental space to both write and regularly post content here.

Maybe it’s pseudo-post-pandemic slump. Maybe it’s the sudden uptick in socialization that’s draining my general energy. Maybe it’s just the combo of ages my boys are. Maybe it’s just the June-time slump I ordinarily hit around this time of year. It could be all of them, or none of them.

In truth, I’m not much of a modern blogger. I enjoy blogging as a public journal, a glimpse at my process, a place to keep up with friends and fellow writers, and a place to track my own progress. I like having a landing page for people looking for more info about me and about my writing. I love that this blog goes back to the very beginning of my career almost (if not more than) ten years ago.

But I honestly hate trying to create “content” that will get hits and likes. It’s just not why I blog, and I think trying to do that has really drained my creative reserves. I’m absolutely itching to write and submit some new short work. I’ve got a book rewrite to finish which is proving as challenging as expected. I need to start a new book.

It’s all taking chunks of that limited creative mental space, and given that even finishing a single thought without being interrupted most days is incredibly unusual, I’d like to spend that mental space creating fiction.

So, for the next couple months, I’m going to take a hiatus from posting. If anything really exciting happens–sales or new fiction coming out, I’ll do quick updates, but otherwise, I’m going to save my mental energy for writing. If you’d like to keep up with what I’m doing, feel free to swing by my Instagram account, which I update every weekday with little posts and thoughts on writing, bullet journaling, cutting back my closet, and occasionally other odds and ends.

Come September, I’ll pop back in and hopefully by then I’ll have a little better grip on what *I* need this blog to be. I really enjoyed using it as a daily writing progress check-point and documenting goal progress, so we’ll see.

In the meantime, be kind to yourself, set reasonable goals, and keep on keeping on! It’s been a weird, weird time, and however you need to handle it is okay. Find things that bring you joy. Hug your loved ones if it’s safe to do so. Enjoy the summer (or winter, if you’re in the SoHem). Read something. And if you write, write! :)

See you all in September!

Journal

New Story at Abyss & Apex!

Having quite a month here at Chez Slater, which I’m sure I’ll address here sooner or later, but in the meantime-!

My short story, “Deadhead,” is out in this quarter’s issue of Abyss & Apex!

What if a new life support tech could animate the comatose
and keep them healthy, while also training AI?

I also want to give a shout out to Lucy Snyder, writer extraordinaire, who critiqued this story early in its drafting process and whose comments absolutely helped me sell this story. Not only that, she has a sharp eye for general weaknesses that I’ve since applied to other stories with great success. Check out her website and her impressive list of publications sometime!

Journal

Friday Update: Word Counts, Summer Days, and The Sims

Not a bad week, though it was full of stressors in its own right! Thing 1 had his first in-person field day on Wednesday, which meant coordinating drop-off, packing lunches, and making sure he had everything he needed (Crap, where IS his mask?!) for the day. But it went really well, and I didn’t forget anything, and he had a wonderful time hanging out with his remote-only classmates for the first time.

Then it was also me and Andy’s 13th anniversary, which we both nearly forgot, but we’d decided early on to count the new bed as our anniversary gift to each other, so that was easy enough. We ordered take-out Thai which was…okay? Let’s just say we’re still on the look out for a fantastic Thai place.

And today is my bestie FIRST HUG SINCE THE PANDEMIC day! Can’t wait. I’m rocking some comfy hugging clothes, so I should be good to go. XD

Accomplished this week…

Finally managed to have what feels like a productive week. I hit my required word count for the novel thanks to a psychotic 3k day (WHA-?!), and wrapped up the edit on the first 5k I’ll need to submit for my novel writing course in a couple weeks. I also managed a first pass at a short story that I may try to get back out again, so we’ll see how that goes.

Inspiring me this week…

Oh, Sims, how you drag me back in. Okay, partly this is my fault because I happened to look on the Origin’s site and saw that a few of the expansion packs I’ve craved in the past were having a 50% off sale, so how could I not? Also, I haven’t played in weeks, so don’t judge me. XD It always strikes me as interesting how important connecting to a Sim ends up being in wanting to play. Like, you can create a houseful of people who are all moderately interesting, but it really takes that one specific Sim to connect to your heart and make you want to check in on them over and over and over again.

In unrelated media, I just want to give a shout-out to Zootopia, which Thing 2 just discovered this week, and which has become his go-to pre-nap viewing, as it usually holds his attention just enough to knock him out after about 20 minutes. THANK YOU Zootopia! Also,having rewatched it several times this week, I gotta say, it’s just a fantastic movie. That, and Wall-E, holy crap: masterclasses in plot and character development. And SO rewatchable, even after having seen them dozens (literally DOZENS) of times. XD

For next week…

I need to finish up a proofreading project this weekened/early next week, and keep chipping away at the novel (now, thankfully, back to 3k/week). Beyond that, probably just prepping this short story for submission in July, and hopefully not a lot else. School just got out, so I anticipate next week being a bit of a cluster as we all reorient to the new summer schedule. I need a vacation! XD