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.

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?

Why I Write: About Tattoos

In the second book of the ‘Once Upon a Reality series, To Dwell in Dreamsone of the most physically unique things about Lyn is the giant tattoo on her back. Besides being one of the more fun tie-ins to the original fairy-tale the novel is based in (Sleeping Beauty), Lyn’s tattoo is central to the story in how it highlights her state of mind and eventually facilitates her healing process.

This was definitely a case of ‘write what you know’. Tattoos can mean many things to different people, sometimes positive and sometimes not. I currently have two tattoos and nine piercings. For me, body modification gives me a way to take control of my own body, of my own future, even when it feels like control has been stolen from me. As someone who has suffered through physical, mental and emotional abuse, this means a lot. It’s one thing for me to tell myself that I feel fine, that I think I’m okay and that I’ve healed from what has happened. It is another thing entirely for me to endure the pain of body modification, to ‘sear over’ the past and start truly cleansed. It takes a certain level of dedication, intention, and perseverance. It costs money, time, and (in some cases) the opinion of other’s. It requires a promise: that I will not go back on myself, and the progress I’ve made in becoming myself, as long as that tattoo or hole remains on my body.

When I write certain characters, especially those who have gone through a huge life experience or are exceedingly certain of themselves, I tend to write them as characters who have body modifications. In the ‘Once Upon a Reality’ series, Lyn is the first openly modded character. You’ll meet more as the series progresses, and even more when I complete my current fantasy projects. In my experience, body modification is an avenue through which to claim yourself for your own path. As a Catholic, this also means claiming myself for my unique purpose; for my own, special vocation.

So don’t be surprised if you see more tatted and pierced characters in my upcoming books. In fact, I’d encourage you to really analyze at what kind of modification they get, when, and where. It’s as important as any of their other characterizations, and I would be disappointed if readers just wrote them off.

If you’re an author, do you ever write characters with body modifications? If you’re a reader, how do you perceive body mods?

Progress: The Thing About Apples

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I’m sure celebrating, though not just for the holiday. After a rough writing period, I have finally finished The Thing About Apples. This draft has taken me the longest to complete, considering its length, and is in the most need of a thorough edit. I’m glad I pushed through it, though, as it’s easier to move forward with shaping this raw material than it is to try to bang it out right the first time. 

The schedule for now is that I’m going to leave the project for a week while I’m in Ireland, and then print out the typed draft to begin editing chapter by chapter. That’s thirty chapters to edit, many of them needing either a good bit more fleshing out or, in some cases, a complete overhaul. My plan is to finish the first edit by the summer, leave it for about a month, and then either edit it again myself or give it to my editor to see what edits he thinks should be made. Also waiting on my beta readers to finish their once overs on the project to add/act on their recommendations. So optimistically I should have The Thing About Apples ready for formal submission around the end of summer or beginning of fall. Wish me luck! 

Though I’ll be taking a break from this series after finishing this third book to work on more fantasy projects, I do have the next book planned. It will be a Cinderella story based around a teen mom, tentatively titled Walking on Glass.

What do you hope to see from either of these titles, readers? I’m always open to suggestions!

Becoming a Better Writer: Being Charitable

Charity tends to be one of those things that people think of as an ‘extra’ thing. Something one does after they’ve accumulated x amount of money or paid off y amount of debt; one of those extracurriculars for the holiday that makes you feel better about spending just a little more on you and yours. Especially with those in my age group, young professionals in their twenties and thirties, charity is something to do after marriage, after a mortgage, after kids… There are a lot of reasons, but they all tend to be ‘afters’.

In my opinion, this outlook doesn’t ever lead to genuine charity. The biggest lie we tell ourselves is the lie of tomorrow- that we will have one, that it will go as planned. When we get in the habit of putting off charity for ‘after’, we give ourselves that permission to continue building after upon after until we’ve wasted decades being hard of heart and uncharitable. Decades that could have changed the lives of innumerable people, blessed the days of those who needed it most and left the world in its broken state, complaining of it at the same time that we didn’t lift a finger to change anything.

‘But I don’t make much!’ Neither do I. I’m a twenty two year old young woman who writes novels and poetry, working fifty some hours a week as a full time nanny to pay off a car and save for a house as I live with my parents.

I used to have the mentality, back in high school, that I would begin to donate my money when I got a job. I didn’t. Then I told myself I would donate when I got in college. I didn’t. I went on the occasional mission trip, dropped a dollar in the red buckets at Christmas… But that was an afterthought, not charity. That was throwing money and time that I saw as mine, the smallest amount possible, at the first thing I saw to try to make myself feel like a good person.

Becoming a nanny and a published author has changed my perspective on a lot of things- my idea of charity, namely. When I was published, I decided that I would donate 10% (the amount of a ‘tithe’ in the words of my religion) to coo responding charities. I was filled with dreams of donating thousands of dollars right off the bat, doing good while getting mine at the same time.

Well, first royalty check came around and let’s just say it wasn’t exactly up to par. My excitement at the fact that anyone would read my work was soon eclipsed by the realization that donating 10% would mean donating only a couple dollars- which made me feel pretty bad. I ended up donating more than I earned that period. And I was glad for it.

My idea of charity changed from that point on. I didn’t just pledge 10% of my royalties- I now donate a half-tithe to my home parish every month from my paycheck. I volunteer my time every week as a mentor at my friends’ church for the high school youth. I came to the realization that once I looked at myself with the eyes of charity that I had so much more to give than I had ever imagined- love, time, resources, experience, patience… I keep waiting for the list to end but it really doesn’t.

When you stop thinking in terms of ‘after’, your whole world changes. I’ve become less attached to my things, more open to people. I’ve become more vulnerable concerning the places where I am suffering, more willing to ask for help, and better prepared to muscle through. I’m learning to prioritize, to feel a strong sense of justice and to nurture love within myself for all those I encounter.

And as I have always held, the better I become as a person, the more I become authentically ‘me’, the better I will be as an author.

How do you nurture your own sense of charity? How does it make you a better reader or writer?

On Budgeting and Schedules

January is a prime time for getting your life together, and for once I’m grabbing it by the horns and giving it all I’ve got.

Lately I’ve been dwelling more on where I want to be in five years- Namely married, in a home I’ve bought and with a paid off car. When I dream, I sure don’t dream small. With all of the work I’ve already done, these things are viable. But I need to work harder. Work smarter. I need to reduce my spending by almost half and get serious about saving. I need to manage my time even better in order to capitalize on what I can do. I need to become more efficient with my self-care so that I can achieve my dreams without letting myself go.

Easy, right? A large part of me wants to take a long walk off a short bridge just at the thought of all of this. If I get so stressed out just thinking about it, how can I ever manage it? My goals are worthy, but even the thought of what I can have with just a little more discipline is rarely enough to make me feel better.

That’s when I remind myself that this has never been about making myself feel better. This is about making me better, period. Parts of that are going to suck. It’s not going to feel good. It’s going to make me angry and sad sometimes. I’m going to want to give up and give in more often than not.

At the end of the day, however, I’ll be in a better position. More time to devote to writing. More time to devote to raising a family. Less worries about car payments so I can move on to mortgage payments and saving for my children in the future. Preparing for my family now, as a single young adult, will help me become a better wife and mother, which will lay the foundations for my spouse and my children having that freedom and peace within which to become people who can change the world. If I can make myself better, I can ensure that there are more opportunities for those around me to be the best versions of themselves.

So in reality, I’m not making stricter budgets and schedules just for myself. I’m making them to benefit all those I love, all of those I come in contact with. And if that doesn’t always make me feel good, I can at least find peace in reflecting on that.

On that note, Once Upon A Reality will be switching from a sporadic posting schedule to regularly scheduled posts every other Sunday. If you have a post topic you would like to have me cover, or have a guest post you would wish to submit, feel free to comment or e-mail me with your ideas. Otherwise, here’s to a rejuvenated discipline!