The Things You Forget

Something that I would love to have, as a person, would be to have some kind of built-in check off list that either flashed in front of my eyes or was built into a watch or something. Because here’s what currently happens: I have a list of bajillion things to get to. Write a blog post, edit a chapter, write a chapter, clean the bathrooms, bathe the puppy, get a surprise for the fiance, meet up with a friend, work out, tan, make sure my social profiles are up to date, etc. I do maybe three of those and my brain suddenly goes “List done!”. I end up doing something unproductive, like watching my k-dramas, scroll around Facebook mindlessly or lounging about on my butt for several hours. And then a couple months later, I do something like log into my writing Tumblr and go “Sweet Moses! I haven’t had the queue updated here since January?”. And the thing is is that I actually wanted to be up to date on that. I wanted to be engaged in that community because it’s something I enjoy, it’s something I find useful and/or good for me; I just let it fall off by the wayside because I forget in the mess of everything else I wanted to get done.

And it’s not like I don’t have time to do that stuff. I wasn’t happy mindlessly scrolling Facebook. I honestly feel dissatisfied if I have nothing to do, if I don’t have a task. I think that this happens because I currently have this process of prioritizing- a list of things from one to one hundred about what needs to get done first, and so on down. And when I get done with the things that were top priority I just forget about the rest of them. Maybe because they are all of an equal importance? Maybe because after the first couple it just becomes overwhelming because there no actual organization?

So to avoid this problem from continuing on, in the next couple of weeks I’m going to set out a schedule for myself. Monday- refresh queues on Tumblr, Tuesday- refresh boards on Pinterest, Wednesday for contributing to conversations on Goodreads, for example. Basically parcel out each day for some kind of social media maintenance so that I can make sure I’m keeping up without having to feel overwhelmed. Because a lot of this I could even do from my mobile devices while I’m at work, during my lunch hours and whatnot, so even if I were to have a busier night schedule than usual, I wouldn’t fall off the wagon. Hopefully. Because we all know what I’ve said about best laid plans before. I think the important thing here is me trying out new strategies until I find one that really works for me, so that I can be more involved and engaged with you, my readers, and the world at large in a way that is beneficial for all of us.

That being said, is there anything you would like me to talk more about or do on social media that I haven’t? Less updates, more ‘Why I Write’? More writing tips? More publishing tips? More promotional things? More news on projects coming up? I’m always here, and I love to talk to people about my writing. Just send me a message through thisthis, or comment below!

Becoming a Better Writer: LARP

Sorry for the lack of postings in the last couple of weeks. I have been busy moving in and settling down in my new house with my fiance- which turned into a bigger, messier ordeal than originally planned. With that and the Easter holiday out of the way, I have more time to get back to focusing on my writing. Which is something I tend to say anytime a big change happens, isn’t it? And those happen a lot, it seems. I’ve come to terms with this reality: I can plan for all the little things I want, and that doesn’t mean I’m going to be capable of following through. But that doesn’t mean I have to give up, either. So here we are, blogging again, promising again to get back on track and plug through. All I can give you there is the promise to try, try again. And sometimes, that’s all we can do.

Something else that has been taking up my time recently is LARP. For the un-nerdy readers I have, that stands for Live Action Role Play. The game I am involved in lies in the World of Darkness: Changeling setting, and is more character-and-story based than the sword-battles-in-the-field stereotype of LARPing would have you believe.

And as much as me and my fiance’s new commitment to LARPing twice every month, and doing the writing work for the downtimes in between sessions has definitely taken out some of my free time (that could be editing or marketing time), it’s been immensely helpful in my writing. It’s not just the making characters and the writing scenarios, either. It’s the coming up against other people’s characters, and their writing. It’s the figuring out how a character would react versus how I would react. It’s the realizing what kind of choices other people enjoy or few as feasible in a character arc, as compared to what I view as entertaining or a good plot twist.

As an author, there’s this huge temptation to turn inward. To reject criticism, to protect one’s projects like you would a small infant, to edit and perfect according to one’s own taste. To a point, that’s good. You want your writing to be yours, not anyone else’s, and you don’t want outside influences to tame your unique vision for your work. At the same time, any writing that is published is a cooperative between the author and the reader- and, in writing that coop, it is more effective to have that in mind than to write for an empty room. That’s not changing your vision to fit the whims of other people- that’s allowing yourself the space to learn and take value from others. To honor their time and their sensibilities.

My LARP experience has forced me to really recognize that. But you could find the same thing in a writing group, online or in person. You could do paragraph roleplaying on an online forum. You could swap critiques with an author you admire. Find the way that fits you best- and let that change your writing for the better.

Happy New Year!: 2016 Resolutions

So I didn’t do all that well with my 2015 resolutions in the past year. I ended up making about half of them, and failing the other half. I did good on keeping with my blogging schedule (having a schedule really helped), and I ended up losing a full forty pounds over the year. I did finish and submit The Thing About Apples, but not until about a week ago rather than the projected fall deadline. I got so busy in my personal life that I didn’t even match last year’s Goodreads challenge, much less the increased 10 books for the year. I didn’t submit any short works, having entirely focused on finishing bigger fictions pieces and starting new ones. I am glad for having an otherwise great year growth-wise, however, so I’m not going to beat myself up too badly for falling behind on these. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to try again, though!

In 2016 I will:

  1. Marry my best friend
  2. Edit through Painting the Roses Red and re-commit to submissions
  3. Do work on my current fantasy project once at week at minimum
  4. Continue keeping up on the blogging schedule
  5. Maintain weight loss until the wedding
  6. Work harder on promotions

How about it, readers? How did you manage on your resolutions in 2015? Any new ones for this year?

Thank You Blessings

I am often struck by the way in which the biggest blessings tend to come at just the right time. Fiance and I have been hard at work in buying a house- we’ve made a ton of offers, and were even under contract at one point but it fell through because of some concerns in the inspection. We’ve been so zeroed in on house hunting and initial marriage prep that I have felt lately that I don’t have any time to write. That writing almost isn’t the priority that I’ve made it out to be.

And then I got a package in the mail- a handful of thank-you notes from Pomona High School students that I had visited a couple of weeks ago to talk about my short story, Wanakufa. Many of them mentioned my ‘positive energy’ and said that I had been a funny, interesting presenter. One of them said that I had inspired her to become a better actress, and to write more. Another said that I had solidified her dream of going into publishing. All of them talked about how much they had truly enjoyed Wanakufa and my writing.

Now I know that they probably got a little extra credit for writing these notes, but what they wrote felt genuine and man, did it feel good. This is what I write for, after all. Not for fame or tons of money (though enough of that to support a family would be nice), but for the way it can change people’s lives- or even just bring a small light into lives, even for a little while. All of my tiredness in terms of writing went away in reading these thank-yous, and I am rejuvenated for this next year to write better, write more, and keep on becoming that writer that I want to be.

Don’t forget, this Christmas season, that writers really do enjoy seeing how their work affects others. You can send a thank-you or a letter to your favorite author. Another great way to show authors you enjoy that you care is to write reviews- let them know what you liked about their work, let other people know about them. I am always thankful for reviews, good or bad, as they help me decide where next to go, or improve, with my writing career.

How will you support your favorite authors into the next year?

Entering Advent

The past couple weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. Since getting engaged, we’ve been working through every weekend making sure that we get everything ready to send out Save-the-Dates, setting up all the wedding preparations, and figuring out everything that needs to get done, and when it needs to get done, in 2016. On top of that, the fiance and I have been looking for our first house together. As of right now, we are under contract on a house, but the inspection didn’t go as well as we had hoped. Pending whether or not some of our issues can be fixed by closing, it looks like we might have to start the whole process over again and our dream of closing on a house before the end of the year goes out the window.

It’s easy at times like this to become discouraged. You build up all of these expectations for yourself and the moment that something goes wrong it feels like nothing will ever go right again. It happens in my writing career all the time- a short story I love doesn’t get published, a book release doesn’t have me reach any best-sellers lists, a beta reader tells me that they hate my favorite character in one of my projects-in-progress, I get stalled in my edits. It’s so easy to let myself take these things as proof that I’m not cut out for these kinds of things- to be an author, to be an adult.

As a Catholic, I’ve just entered in to the season of Advent. These four weeks before the Christmas season begins symbolize the period of waiting before the birth of the Savior. They symbolize desire, waiting, patience, preparation and readiness. I feel like I could learn a little from Mary, here, to apply to my own unease- as a consecrated virgin she was suddenly told she was going to have a baby that no one had planned for, that she was going to have to rely on Joesph to protect her, and then because of the census they were going to have to travel a long distance, while she was pregnant, so that she could have birth far from her family. And in between that she even went to visit her cousin who was also pregnant. That’s a lot of ups and downs in preparation for a pretty big up that wouldn’t come until nine months of anxiety and suffering.

So this Advent, I’m going to practice my patience. I’m going to pray for the Virgin’s help in calming the storms currently raging in my heart. I’m going to pray that she helps me both stick to my plans as best I can, but also be able to let them go when I need to.

Whether or not you are Catholic or Christian, I do think that this time before Christmas, before the end of the year, is a good time for this kind of reflection. Take a look back at all the plans you made for 2015. How many of them worked out for you? How many of them fell apart, only for better things to fall together? How many were you unable to recover from? How could you better enjoy the moment in the coming year? To go with the flow both in your daily life and in your career? The truth is that we can make all of the plans we want, and life is still going to go the way it’s going to go regardless of whether or not it fits into your plans. To be prepared without being unmoving, to be patient but not overly stubborn is a gift. One that I think is imperative to both living as a good, well-centered person and to having a good, healthy career.

What do you think, readers?

Becoming a Better Writer: Making Time for Reading

It’s easy for me to be hard on myself for not making enough time for writing new material, or for editing material that needs a ton of workshopping. With a busy lifestyle, it’s easy to let my ‘personal’ work fall by the wayside while I get distracted by other things. But I’m good at reminding myself that I am behind on my writing. I’m good at punishing myself for it by doing twice as much work the next day, and I usually only get behind by a couple of weeks at the maximum. It’s more of a healthy cycle of slowing down so that I have more energy to pick things up again than it is me falling off the wagon.

Reading on the other hand? It’s hard to keep at it. Which, it shouldn’t be. I love reading. It’s one of the major reasons why I got into writing in the first place. I should be devouring new novels at a chapter an hour, lovingly pouring over each one and cataloging all of the useful plot devices and characterizations that I can use to strengthen my own writing in the future.

I don’t, though. I go to the bookstore and get discouraged because it’s either a new book or a bag of treats for my puppy, I choose to watch k-dramas with my little sister instead of getting through more chapters, I do a couple of Irish lessons on Duolingo instead of going forward, I do the laundry instead of going out to get more books, etc. And it’s easier to convince myself that it doesn’t matter. Reading someone else’s work isn’t as important as adding another paragraph to my own manuscripts, right? Besides, I’ll have plenty of time to continue reading later.

A good writer is a good reader. When I’m 10 novels behind on my Goodreads challenge for the year, I’ve starved myself of a valuable resource. I’ve denied myself 10 new perspectives, 10 new opportunities to support new authors, or marginalized authors, 10 new ways to see how plots can come together, how characters can relate, how different cultures, religions, time periods, etc. can interact with each other.

As a writer, I must be an intentional reader. I’ve talked before about how that means being intentional about what I read. Lately it’s dawned on me that this also means I must be intentional about reading in the first place. I need to save time nearly every day to read. It can be an hour, it can be twenty minutes. The dedication is what is important, and keeps me out of ruts. When I’m low on funds, I need to allot time to visit the library, or the local thrift store. (If I can’t support other authors with my money, I can at least support them with word-of-mouth recommendations!) I’ve been picking up the slack lately, and hopefully I’ll get better at this.

How about you? How will you become a more intentional reader? Or, if you’ve always been one, how do you stay encouraged?

Becoming a Better Writer: Nerding Out

I feel like it might almost be a given that if you are an author, you’re probably a nerd of some sort. I think some of my favorite author interviews or posts are of authors geeking out about all these different kinds of fandoms: sci-fi, music, anime, pop culture, classic lit, etc. I’ve always seen that as an author’s passion just leaking out into everything. Authors love to absorb, they love to experience, they love to try out new perspectives and make themselves uncomfortable.

I would definitely call myself a nerd. Proudly, I call myself a nerd. I’m a huge fan of Sailor Moon, Harley Quinn, shipping Rogue and Gambit, Alice in Wonderland, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. I have prints all over my rooms, collectors books all up in my shelves, t-shirts and bags and shoes all splattered crazy with their faces and logos and quotes. I know stupid amounts of obscure trivia and I don’t find that weird. I love to talk to other nerds, to dress up with other nerds and congregate with other nerds to celebrate the awesomeness that is a shared love of  imagination and creativity.

So, of course, this past week I went back to Denver Comic Con. This was my third con, and it was also the second time I got to meet one of my favorite authors, Frank Beddor, of The Looking Glass Wars series. If you remember my last post about Frank, I cannot begin to explain what he has meant to me as an author. Pratchett may have made me love stories, and make me want to write, but Beddor taught me what a person could do with fairy-tale re-tells. With female warriors who weren’t part of a satirical world. He got me legitimately interested in trying out my own stories, knowing that it had been done. Could be done.

nerding

And this time, I didn’t nearly pass out on him (If you remember, last time I didn’t recognize him and so humiliated myself by fangirling about the series right to his face before almost breaking into hysterics and making a crying face at the camera). I was able to thank him, properly. I got another two(!) signatures and a picture to add to my little Wonderland wall (which is the featured image, also has a bunch of framed Kevin Eslinger art along with it, and the Alyss and Redd from Beddor’s series). Without him, ‘Once Upon a Reality’ wouldn’t have happened. And after seeing him again, and enjoying all of the amazing artists at DCC’15, I’m even more fired up about my upcoming projects.

I can’t wait to make some reader, someday, as excited to see me as I was excited to meet Beddor. That’s my new goal, going forward. Wish me luck!