Thursday, December 28, 2017

Another Year Over . . .and What Have I Done?

A writing life is a lot like a teaching life and a mom-ing life, in that there isn't really an end to the work.

Sure, you finish things, but there are more things. It's never really done. I'm bad at stopping to celebrate my successes sometimes, just swinging to the next trapeze and holding on for dear life instead.

So, here's a look back at 2017 with an eye to what went well in my writing life. I gotta say, looking back on it feels pretty dang good.

First some statistics:

  • I wrote 324,751 new words as of December 27. I'm hoping for a few thousand more before the calendar flips. 
  • I revised 434, 532 words. I'm pretty sure some of these words were revised multiple times :-)
  • On December 31st, my daily writing chain will be 1,556 days long.
  • I read 58 books. 
  • I attended 6 conventions as an author guest.
  • I judged 5 writing contests
  • I taught 1 new college course
  • I had 3 new releases: a novel, a collection of short stories, and a short story in a multi-author collection
I spent most of this year finding my joy in the words again, after three years straight of nose to the grindstone had left me blistered and grumpy. And I can definitely say I am loving my life of words again, so that's the most important win of 2017 right there. 

Here are some month by month highlights from my writing life in 2017:

January: Illogicon! This is my backyard convention, held only a half hour away from my doorstep in Cary, NC. I love being a guest author at this welcoming and friendly convention. I'll be back again this year. It's always a good sign when you get invited back :-)

February: I finished first round edits on Face the Change, the third of the Menopausal Superhero series, keeping on track for my scheduled release date. This was especially important as I'd had to do a revise and resubmit after sending in a rushed draft that wasn't ready for prime time. 

I also go to Mysticon as a guest for the first time. It's exciting to get new opportunities to meet with
readers and get my geek on in a new venue. (I can look forward to returning to Mysticon in 2018, too). I took my sister with me and found out she's a wonderful companion for convention fun. 

I hosted and provided feedback for the Son of a Pitch contest, which is always great fun and lets me help other writers along their journey the way I was helped and continue to receive help. It's a lovely little circle of the writing life thing. 
March: Yay for finishing edits! Face the Change made it through second round edits and I didn't hurt anyone in the process. (Even a non-traumatic editing process is still kind of painful, though necessary and helpful). 

April: I got a convention for my birthday! Ravencon invited me to be a guest author and I had a wonderful time. It was on my birthday weekend, too, so I took my husband with me and we had a geektastic romantic weekend together. (And I'll be back for more spring geekery in 2018).

I also got to try out a new event: a science fiction and fantasy festival at a library. 

May: I began writing something completely new, at the prompting of a writing friend who was putting together a book bundle of post-apocalyptic, young adult, romance novellas--for the record I'd never written any of those things, let alone the three combined, and I *adore* trying new things in my writing.

I didn't finish it in time to be included in that project (hoping to finish by the end of January, and it'll be a full-length novel), but starting it was a joy, and a first step on my road to recovering my joy of writing. With luck Thursday's Children, will be available for you to read in 2018.

I also got to sell my books at Atomic Empire during Free Comic Book Day and judge the Lune Spark contest for young writers. 

June: Another first time convention for me: ConCarolinas! This is one of the bigger cons in my geographic area, and I was super excited to be included. It was in a lovely venue and let me meet in person some writers I only knew online, fellow members of Pen and Cape Society

I also served as a judge for the Women's Fiction Writers Association Rising Star Contest and taught a course on the speculative fiction short story for Central Carolina Community College (I'm teaching a novel writing course there this spring). 

If that weren't enough, Curiosity Quills also released Friend or Foe and Other Stories, a collection of side stories from the Menopausal Superhero series. 

July: Hurray! Book release month! Face the Change came out just in
time for Con-Gregate, for which I was a return guest. I got to bring my sister again, and we celebrated my new book release with a great group of friends and fans.

I was invited to be on a panel about Love stories at my library.

I finished out the month with a three day writing retreat with my critique group in the mountains. A few days freedom from my other responsibilities where I get to be "just a writer" and leave my other hats on the rack is a luxury I wish I could offer to all the writers in my life. I'm so fortunate to have my husband and family who are willing to give me that space and time to pursue my other passions. 

I finished my short story for our group anthology and made some serious inroads into Thursday's Children

August: I began this month at the beach, thanks to my generous parents who rented a condo for a week and invited us to come share it with them. It was a productive month despite being the one in which school starts and balance of where the hours of my day shifted back to teaching over writing. My third release of the year came out: The Love Unlimited anthology included a short story for Jessica "Flygirl" Roark, "Flygirl's Second Chance." This one is still free on Amazon for a few more days if you'd like to check it out. 

September: Another round of Son of a Pitch during a month with huge family and professional (teaching) obligations reminded me that I needed to keep control of my time and balance or I was going to crash and burn. I made it through and lived to tell the tale and that's something to be proud of. 

October: Halloween is my family's favorite holiday and I was thrilled to be invited to tell my real life ghost story at the Burwell School, a local historical site. If you want to hear about my spooky sleepover, you can watch the video here:

November: I finished out my year's conventions with a trip back to Atomacon. Atomacon was the first convention to accept me as an author guest, so they have a special place in my heart and I was happy to be back (and not just because it's a quick jump to the beach from there, though that is a perk). 

I tried out a brand new event: a book fair in Charlotte. Given the chance, I'd do it again. I judged another writing contest, this one for Legendary Women

I tried NaNoWriMo, but 50K just wasn't in the cards. I can't complain too much about that, though, given all the blessings of friends and family that filled my month. My parents visited for Thanksgiving and our annual Extra Life fundraiser/gaming party was a success. 

December: I finished out the year with a sale on all my Menopausal Superhero books, which has already netted me a few new readers and newsletter subscribers. Just today, I had a planning meeting with another writing friend about a nonfiction book we're going to craft together. 

With just a few more days left in 2017, I'm hoping to finish the chapter I'm on in Thursday's Children, and maybe one more. I'm looking forward to another busy and productive year in 2018 doing what I love. Here's hoping it's the same for each of you. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Sending my Baby to College

My eldest daughter is a senior in high school. Almost eighteen. Almost a college student.

She's nearly as freaked out about that as I am. It's exciting and scary all at once.

We've got one more semester with her at home and then shoom! off she goes.

We've been smart about this "leaving the nest" thing in some ways: we visited colleges last year, she's had a checking account for a couple of years now, we met the application deadlines, she has a good amount of driving experience, she's holding down a job and still making good grades, she can cook something besides peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We must have done okay, because she got accepted where she wants to go and we're already seeing some scholarship love.

In other ways, it feels like I'm running out of time to make sure she's ready. I've never made enough money to have significant savings, and I'm out of time now to put aside dollars for her schooling. We're just going to have to figure out how to make it work with what we have. She's never really done her own laundry. Will she go to bed at all if I'm not there to tell her that she has to stop and get some rest?

The oddest feeling, after planning for her to go to college her whole life, is wishing she just wouldn't go. Maybe that's the part people mean when they talk about "empty nest." My nest will hardly be empty. I have a younger daughter, a husband, and a very needy rescue dog, plus 150 or students each semester. Plenty of folks to take care of.

But still, I won't be taking of her, at least not in that day to day basis kind of way.

And it's like:

I know she'll love college. I remember how much I did. It's a wonderful opportunity, having four years to focus on what you love and learn how to make that into a way of making a living. Four years of having your mind and world expanded daily. She'll be awesome. She was made for this. 

Yeah. She's ready. 

I'm just not sure I am. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Joys of Re-Watching

What do you do when you need to let it all go a little while? What shuts off your brain and takes you to a happy place?

A bubble bath? Cuppa? A run? Drawing? A good book? A night of dancing? (had to throw something in there for you extroverts out there)

Me? I'm a comfort TV watcher.

I don't actually watch much TV, though there are plenty of shows I enjoy. Most weeks I'm lucky to fit in a single episode of anything at all--there just isn't that much unscheduled time, and I've got other things to spend it on when it comes. So, I've started watching all the stuff the cool kids watch, and finished almost none of it.

It has taken me as long as three years to watch a single season of a show, especially if I want to watch it *with* someone, because then *both* of us have to be available. It gets to the point where even watching TV, which should be passive escapism, starts to feel like an item on my to-do list, another thing I'm behind on.

So, when I get a chance, I'll go back and pick something I've already watched over and over. Something I know by heart. Buffy. The Quiet Man. The Monkees. Scooby Doo. Old Musicals.

There are a lot of advantages to re-watching something I already love.

  • I can follow it, even if I zone out. If I miss something, I can remember it. 
  • I notice new things about an old love.
  • I get that ratty bathrobe kind of feeling of stepping into something that fits me right and makes me feel cuddled and calm. 
  • Sometimes I forget something, and it surprises me again, or hits me differently than it did the other times, because now I'm a mom, or have had my heart broken, or just see things differently now
  • If I don't get to finish it, I'm less frustrated. I knew what was coming anyway. 
  • If I sucker the husband or the daughters in, I get to share something that's special to me with someone who is special to me. 
  • If I get to watch it with someone else who remembers it, too, we can go tripping down nostalgia lane together.

How about you? Any other re-watchers out there? What draws you back to things you've already seen?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot? Looking Back on 2017 with #IWSG

It's the first Wednesday! Which means IWSG Day. Today's question: As you look back on 2017, with all its successes and failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

After you see what I have to say, be sure to check out other posts and our lovely and generous co-hosts: Julie Flanders, Shannon Lawrence, Fundy Blue, and Heather Gardner!

2017 was a bit of re-set year for me in my writing life. I've been driving myself pretty hard for the past three years, putting out a novel a year, promoting my work by participating in author events, judging contests, keeping a social media presence, writing short stories for anthologies and magazines, maintaining my daily writing habit (now over four years in a row!) and keeping up my weekly blog. 

Of course, I was doing all this without having stopped doing anything I was already doing, like teaching six Spanish classes to 137-158 children each day, raising two children and a dog, maintaining a marriage and a home, reading a book every week, preparing our family's meals, and occasionally playing a board game or seeing a movie. 

It's obvious now, looking at that list, that I had written a perfect recipe for burnout. Luckily, I know
the signs, and I staged an intervention with myself. 

I was losing the love for writing. So it was time to remember why it's fun. 

I did that by giving myself permission to step away from the Menopausal Superhero series I've been writing since 2014 and write something different. I wrote a lot of short stories, without worrying about whether I had anyplace to publish them or not, ranging in length from 100 word micro-fiction to flash fiction to near-novella length. I rediscovered my love of poetry by reading a poem every single day and writing about it. I began a new novel that I'm nearing the end of, something completely different than anything I've written before.

This hiatus is going to mean that there will be longer than a year between book three and book four of my series. But, it's also going to mean that when I come back to those characters and that world, I will do so with a feeling of reuniting with old friends. The book will be the better for it. I'll trust to forward momentum to help me find readers for it when I get there. 

So, I feel like my 2017 was spent well. I'm definitely getting my mojo and playful enjoyment back, while still feeling like I'm taking it seriously and making progress. That's the balance I'm always seeking. 

The only thing I would change is that I would give more attention to the release of Face the Change back in July. The poor thing is still struggling for reviews because I didn't put my marketing machine hat on and send out enough ARCs and such. It didn't help that Amazon's mysterious review policies resulted in some of my reviews just disappearing :-( I'm working on that now, slowly, but I feel like I did the work a disservice by not getting the word out enough. 

Looking forward to hearing about how all of you did with your goals and plans in 2017 and how you feel about it now! Please comment below. 

If you're not already following #IWSG (Insecure Writer's Support Group), you should really check it out. The monthly blog hop is a panoply of insight into the writing life at all stages of hobby and career. Search the hashtag in your favorite social media venue and you'll find something interesting on the first Wednesday of every month.