Getting that Word Count While Traveling – How Do You Do It?

I’m delighted to announce that THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE is up for preorder!! A few others will be coming soon, but – as with many things – Amazon is fast and efficient, making us both love and loathe them. Smashwords wants me to promise to upload the final doc ten days before release and I … just can’t. Ten days is forever in my world, regrettable as that may be. But, hey! The book is coming along really well, and I’m tentatively thrilled with it.

~knocks on wood~

~tosses salt over shoulder~

~pets black cat and gives it extra treats~

Want to see a little snippet? Okay! But you have to click over to the SFF Seven, where our topic this week at the SFF Seven is Writing On The Road: How to stay on task while traveling. See what I did there? Tasty, tasty click bait! 😀

Living the (Scary) Dream w/ Jeffe Kennedy (and GC #Giveaway)

Coc2bk2VIAAXYMt

If you’re in the New York City area, I’ll be reading at Lady Jane’s Salon on Monday, August 1. Would love to see you there!

Today I’m over at Suzanne Johnson’s blog, kibbitzing with her on the uncertainty, scariness and utter thrill of writing full time. Already a good conversation going, if you’d like to chime in with making your own dream come true – and there’s a gift card, just saying. 

Asking for Help

Red 2015 Starbucks cupDid I show you all one of my very favorite Christmas presents? Yes, I’m easy to please. And I love, love, love my ceramic red 2015 Starbucks mug. It makes me happy every time I use it. David even suggested my coffee ritual for my discussion Sunday on Word Whores on a vice that helps my writing

Coffee, however, is a vital nutrient, not a vice.

The other day as I was running, a song I’ve long loved came up in the rotation. Are You Out There? by Dar Williams from her End of the Summer album. Here it is, if you care to listen.

At any rate, the lyrics struck me hard when she says:

Are you out there, can you hear this?
Jimmy Olson, Johnny Memphis,
I was out here listening all the time
And though the static walls surround me
You were out there and you found me
I was out here listening all the time

She’s referring to DJs on radio stations she listened to as a teenager. She talks about them some here, though I think the live version isn’t as strong as the studio one. I found myself wanting to reach out and talk to her about this song. I’ve often felt this way about singer/songwriters like her, that I’ve been out here listening all the time. I wonder if she ever got to meet or talk to those guys in person, to tell them that, like I’d love to talk to her. 

Maybe what we mostly do is write these things down and send them out into the world, and hope that someone’s listening. 

Speaking of hope and making contact, I’m taking a bold new step. (Well, it feels bold to me!) I’ve started a Patreon. Two of them, actually.

What is it? It’s a website interface that allows people to support creators of all types. You can look at the overall here. Basically the way it works is that we can pledge a certain amount of money – $1, $2, $3, etc – that we pay every time an artist produces a “Thing,” whatever their thing may be. In my case, I’m offering two kinds of Things – stories for readers and focused mentoring for writers.

This will be a terrific venue for us all, I hope. For me to reach out to you for help, and for me to give you, my most passionate and loyal advocates what you want most from me.

Ever since I left the Day Job – or, as a friend puts it, since the day job left me – I’ve been piecing together ways to try to make it writing full time. One of the greatest challenges is the lack of steady income. I get pulses of income, but nothing like the steady salary I once had. Also, I have new expenses like paying for my own health insurance. We’re adapting, but the more sources of reliable income, the less scary things are. 

This is where the Patreon comes in. Every time I produce a story via Patreon, I can be assured of a certain amount of income in return. Every time I produce a writing lesson or provide assistance via Patreon, I’ll know I’ll get money to pay the utility bills. In return, you all get access to exclusive stories and conversations with me that it would be difficult to get to you any other way. 

Also, I really appreciate all the offers of help and support – this is a way for me to accept that. Asking for help can be a scary thing and not something I’ve ever been particularly good at. I’m working on it.

Are you out there, can you hear this?

Indeed.

Thanks everyone – it’s so wonderful to know that you ARE out there!

Support the Ripped Bodice!

2506b2effb8552ba4429a45551e90e05_originalFirst of all, I’d like to thank everyone for the outpouring of love, cheering, congratulations and general pom-pon waving in response to last Friday’s post on me leaving the day job. You all overwhelmed me, sending me messages of support across all social media – and it’s so very appreciated. If I missed replying to you directly, it’s because I simply couldn’t keep up. Good problem to have! You all are awesome and wonderful and I couldn’t be taking this leap without you.

Special love to those of you who jumped for joy at the prospect of this meaning more books to read. *MWAH*

I’m settling into a new writing routine and catching up on other things – like cataloguing my teetering TBR pile so I can catch up on my reading! One new feature here, if you look to the right —->>
you’ll note that you can now sign up to follow my blog. No onus. A couple of people requested the ability to do so. There you are.

The other thing I want to mention today is this terrific Kickstarter I’d love to see everyone support. These two gals in Los Angeles are aiming to create a romance-only bookstore called The Ripped Bodice. Their taglines are “Smart Girls Read Romance” and “Purveyors of Fine Smut.” There’s been some debate on Twitter that both “ripped bodice” and “smut” hearken to romance cliches, tropes and stereotypes people aren’t proud of and would like to ditch. I enjoy the wry irony of it myself and backed at the $40 level, just so I can have the tank. 😀 Right now they’re over halfway to their funding goal with 22 days left. But the way Kickstarter works is that they don’t get any funding if they don’t meet their goal.

If you haven’t ever backed a Kickstarter campaign, it’s dead easy, totally secure and super fun. So I’m encouraging everyone to back this puppy! I’d love to sign there someday and I’m hitting up you people to help make that happen.

Cheers!

Leaving the Day Job

001This is a pic of my Cadmus and EPA colleagues in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2011, the same week my first Carina Press book, SAPPHIRE, released. Environmental consulting for The Cadmus Group has been my day job/primary career for 18 years, as of October 1.

Today was my last day.

Talk about a huge life change for me!

I originally took this job for what I thought would be a year or two until I could support myself as a writer. Guess THAT took a little longer than expected, huh? Eighteen years later, I’m finally taking the leap into writing full time.

However, I want to be honest with you all, because it greatly bothers me when writers represent themselves as “being a full time writer” without disclosing other sources of income. It’s a badge of honor in the writing world, to say one writes full time, as so few writers are able to make a living wage at it. Many “full time writers” are people who’ve retired and are able to live on their pensions, or those who have a salaried and benefitted spouse to take up the income slack. I feel it creates an unfair expectation in aspiring writers when people claim the badge of honor without admitting to those other income streams that allow them to pay the bills.

So, my reality is that I’ve been laid off. I’ve known about the possibility for a long time. The major project I worked on, my niche expertise in drinking water that took me to Puerto Rico, was axed right after that trip. Since then I’ve been scraping for work. Environmental consulting works much like law does – if you don’t have billable hours, you are SOL. I’ve been working on a whole variety of projects over the last few years, but nothing consistent. EPA’s priorities have shifted with money going to different and fewer projects.

Though I was originally hired in an office in Wyoming, I’ve worked from home since 2004, when Cadmus closed that office because the principal there was finally laid off for lack of billable hours. That’s been a great gig for me, as it allowed us to move to Santa Fe so my husband, David, could go back to school after early retirement and have a second career as a doctor of oriental medicine. It also allowed me a flexible schedule to write.

Over a year ago I went to full-time hourly at the company, due to lack of work. As long as I averaged 24 hours per week, I could retain my benefits. If I fell below this for more than two months in a row, then I would lose those benefits. Some months I had more work, some months less. But overall, my day job income has decreased dramatically. This hasn’t been easy as David is still building his practice (he’s about three years in) and his income varies also. Because he took early retirement, his stipend is pretty meager. For the last six years, I’ve been the primary wage earner.

After a very lean August and September at Cadmus, it came as no surprise when I got a call from one of my higher-ups. She said that I could be laid off with a severance package or go to part time hourly, with no benefits.

All these years, with the writing income gradually increasing, I’d always thought there would come a day when the writing money exceeded the day job money and I would give my notice. It never once occurred to me that I could be laid off with severance.

(A big part of me figured I’d be fired for screwing something up, frankly. I managed multi-million dollar contracts and there were so many ways to do something wrong.)

Reader, I jumped at my chance to be free.

It’s been a great experience, in all truth, with people referring to my “sterling record” and the desire to “keep me close as a valued alum.” I may subcontract back in the future if they need my niche expertise again. Because it’s a no-fault layoff, I get the severance money, plus I can cash in my stock options and also file for unemployment. A number of very smart people have advised me not to be too proud to take that last. David has had health insurance via COBRA from his retirement and I can insure both of us through the Affordable Care Act (SO glad we can do this now!) for less than the extortionate sum he’s been paying.

I’m hoping I can pull this off. If it doesn’t work, I can always look for another day job. But I’m tremendously hopeful. I’m going to try to write 5K/day, which will allow me to get some more things in the pipeline. I’m greatly looking forward to having one career and the increased mental energy of focusing on one pursuit. I’m planning to read more books, too. Maybe get some projects finished around the house.

Mostly, I feel joyfully free!

Cats and Oklahoma Weather

005I’m so happy that (new) cat Jackson and (old) cat Isabel get along so well. It doesn’t always work out that way and is so lovely when it does.

This evening I pick up my boss/colleague Laurie and we’re driving over to Oklahoma City for some meetings tomorrow. Then we’ll drive back tomorrow night and she’ll spend a couple of days here in New Mexico. Should be quite the whirlwind!

Otherwise, I’m over at the Contemporary Romance Cafe tomorrow (May 1), talking about where I write. Which, of course, involves treadmill desks. 🙂 If you’re a regular reader here, it won’t be anything new to you. Except to say that I figured out I’ve walked over 150 miles in April and have logged over 61,000 words. It’s been a busy, productive month for me.

Which is good, because Ursula’s book is being kind of wrenching to write. It’s due June 1, so I anticipate May will be another 60K+ month.

Think No-Tornado Thoughts for me!

Why Corporations Aren’t Good at Social Media

elephant butteA few weeks ago (time flies!), David and I drove to Tucson for my mom’s birthday. On the way back, we stopped at Elephant Butte Lake for a couple of nights. It’s a huge, man-made reservoir on the Rio Grande River in southern New Mexico. The landscape is often stark and desolate – and also full of amazing color and unearthly views.

We haven’t been doing much in the way of vacation lately – particularly time that’s not connected to work of some sort, like conventions – so this was a peaceful stop to make.  The inn we stayed at was a simple place and we ate mainly at the restaurant there. We spent some time gazing at the view and talking. This picture brings that feeling back for me.

So, many of you know I have a day job. The company I work for had about 150 employees when I started, lo these 17 years ago, and has now cracked 500. We’ve also gone to a shared technology system, with a newsfeed we’re all encouraged to post notices, too. Our internal version of social media. I’ve been trying to overcome my baseline grumpiness about the changes and become more active with this shared site.

Because I work from home (euphemistically referred to as a “satellite office”), I decided to post my cover for THE MARK OF THE TALA. After all, if I worked in one of the offices, I would have dragged my ARC in and passed it around like a newborn baby. Also, since this book is not erotica, I figured it was safe to share.

I didn’t want to take up a lot of the feed with information about my book though, so I just posted the cover and a note saying people could look on my website if they wanted to see more.

WELL.

Last night my supervisor emails me and lets me know that they took the post down. There’s no fall-out for me and the powers that be figure I showed only a “rare lack of judgment.” See, my website contains offensive material. Or, rather, provides access to it, which is against our Information Resource Policy.

(Doesn’t the Entire Internet provide this access???)

So, thus my wrist was slapped. Nobody is mad at me, but I feel oddly chagrined nonetheless. It’s been some time since I had any shadow of feeling that what I write is somehow unsavory. Yet, there it is. 

(Amusingly, I linked to my website instead of oh, say, Amazon because it seemed wrong to post anything reminiscent of a buy link. I suspect that would have passed muster, even though Amazon ALSO provides access to all those selfsame offensive materials as my website does.)

It’s interesting to me, however, in a broader perspective, to watch companies like mine try to cultivate the opportunities offered by social media while simultaneously attempting to enforce policies that control it. Social media is social, not corporate. It’s about people interacting, not soulless, sexless workers. What my company is trying to accomplish isn’t *really* about social media at all, but something dressed up to look like it. Kind of an Office Space-style version of Hawaiian Shirt Day, where we’re encouraged to relax – but not too much.

At any rate, consider me duly chastened. And more unwilling than before to post to the company newsfeed.

Fortunately, no one expects me to participate in Hawaiian Shirt Day.

A Concatenation of (Mostly Unfortunate) Events

day jobYou ever had one of those mornings?

You know, where one mishap leads to the next until it begins to feel like everything is happening at once?

Yeah. So, this was my morning.

1. Get up at 5 am for important day job conference call with East Coast people. Discover Jackson has brought in a mouse. It’s under the treadmill part of my treadmill desk and cannot be gotten. I decide a shower and coffee-acquisition should take higher priority.

2. Have call, hoping mouse isn’t grinding up in treadmill motor

3. Post call, and post post-call, get more coffee, feed cats, who are no longer interested in mouse

4. New daybed is arriving between 8:15 and 9:15. Assist previously procrastinating man with moving futon couch bed out of guest room/office to make room for day bed delivery

5. Man decides we should take pics for Craigslist ad. Easier to just agree.

6. Movement of furniture gets cats excited, renewed interest in mouse. Suspect it’s in treadmill motor compartment (has happened before)

7. Get screwdrivers and vacuum to open compartment and clean-out while open, which has to be done every few months anyway.

8. Plug vacuum into APC power supply, which blows, taking monitor and day job VOIP phone offline.

9. No mouse in motor compartment!

10. But is now clean.

11. APC is dead.

12. Rearranged cords and outlets, back online.

13. Daybed guys arrive.

14. Jackson pretends mouse never existed and investigates new day bed (above).

All of this before 8:30 in the morning.

Send chocolate.

Fact-Checking Those Resolutions

1_7_14I’m over in the Darkest Cravings Author Cage today answering their Only the Brave questions. Also, Allison Pang blogged today about finding an easter egg I left for her in Rogue’s Possession. Pretty funny! (Okay – WE think it’s hysterical anyway.)

Last year, I did a post on Word Whores on a new way for me to set goals in the new year. I borrowed someone else’s idea and put my resolutions in sealed envelopes and did not reveal them until the end of the year. So here’s how they looked: 2013 goalsI sealed them up and didn’t open them until December 31. This is what they look like now.

006

Very interesting experience to do it this way.

Most significant is that I didn’t remember what I put in them. This was part of the point of the exercise, to test how much I internalized my goals.  That is, would I stick to them without having them stare me in the face?

The answer: yes and no.

Also, REALLY depended on the category, which is illustrative right there. Of my three categories – weight/health, writing and financial – guess which I did the best on? (“Best” qualified as coming closest to achieving – I wasn’t 100% on any of them.)

Writing.

This doesn’t surprise me because it’s really my top priority. Interestingly, it was also the goal with the most points. Eight of them. They were (updated for what titles became, not what I thought they were then):

  1. Write Negotiation to submit to Tuck’s anthology
  2. Write Master of the Opera
  3. Write Five Golden Rings to submit to Carina anthology
  4. Turn in revision of Mark of the Tala
  5. Turn in revision of Rogue’s Possession
  6. Write Blood Currency #3
  7. Write Tears of the Rose
  8. Write Rogue’s Paradise

It’s notable that I kept these writing goals all within my direct control – something I’ve learned over time! So I didn’t include getting #1 & #2 accepted to those anthologies. They were, which was awesome, but my responsibility was to write the stories. Of all of these, I did not do #6. That was a conscious decision to pare that away for at least the time-being. Also, #8 got shifted at my publisher’s request because they wanted a different book first. Fair enough. I call this one a WIN.

Weight/Health

Okay, I didn’t make my goals, but I did pretty decently. Enough to pat myself on the back. I’d set a goal that required a 16-pound weight loss, including a 15% reduction in body fat. While I only went down by 11 pounds (damn those nearly-impossible-to-lose last five pounds!!), I did make a 14.8% reduction in body fat. Thank you new treadmill desk!

Of course, post-holidays, I’m a bit up from that but nowhere near where I was last year. I still want to hit that goal weight. PARTIAL WIN on that one.

Finances

*sigh*

Okay, so this one really wasn’t within my direct control and it shows. I had an ambitious goal for my writing income and fell significantly short. As in, I hit 38% of what I wanted to.

However.

I set that apart because I think it’s a big “however.

However, my writing income was over five times more than the previous year. I set a stretch goal – one that would let me at least reduce time at the day job – and, while I’m disappointed I didn’t reach it, I’m not sorry I set it. I suppose there’s a lesson in that. Reaching is part of it.

So, my overall assessment?

I liked this. It helped me focus myself on goals for the year, particularly for writing, and seeing where my head was this time last year gave me particularly good insights. Many of those writing goals were stretches and I’m really pleased with myself for hitting almost all – with excellent results. It’s also good to see how much I really did accomplish, where otherwise I might think I hadn’t. Like with the weight and money stuff. I tend to dwell on not being where I want to be yet, but now I see how far I came.

Which is important.

Otter Delight

BXywbg2CAAAa6FQI just returned from a conference for the Day Job that took place in Long Beach, California. The highlight was the private event at the Aquarium of the Pacific. We arrived at 7 and were able to tour all the exhibits with just our group – and have drinks at the same time! Then we had dinner with a view of an enormous, floor-to-ceiling tank. Just extraordinary.

BXymn2eCUAARSOuThe jellyfish exhibits were just excellent. In the one below, the beating of the jellyfish’s cilia were highlighted, giving this super cool neon effect.

 

Also, there were Garden Eels! They plant their tails in the sand and pretend to be grass, letting their heads wave in the current, mouths ready to catch hapless fish passers-by.BXypEDzCQAEjmX4But possibly the very best part was the otter exhibit. Beautifully designed, the tank puts the otters right at eye level. And the lack of crowds let me get this great sequence to start your weekend off right.

 You’re welcome.