Finding Balance and Accommodating Change

Today is the last day to grab the SFWA Fantasy Story Bundle! It goes away at midnight US Eastern time tonight, November 2, 2017, never to be assembled in this grouping at this great price again. The response to this has been fantastic – earning money for the authors and for SFWA grants, so thank you all for supporting this effort! I did a post about my contribution, and how being in SFWA assisted with my worldbuilding, so you can check that out here

I had coffee with my stepsister Hope the other day. I was in Tucson to give a workshop, so we met up at one of our favorite Starbucks before I headed to the airport Monday morning. (We share no genes in common, but are identical in our Starbucks love.) She mentioned that she rarely reads my blog anymore because she’s not so interested in writing stuff.

For the record, this was not meant to be guilt-inducing. She said it in passing by way of talking about a post she DID see and enjoyed, the one on why I think people should enter RWA’s RITA contest. She thought it said a lot to non-writers, too, about how it’s easier sometimes to fall into the habit of not trying for things, for fear of failure or disappointment. The result then, naturally, is that you don’t win, either. She drew some parallels with her own life, which I found interesting.

And it made me realize how far I’ve drifted from how I used to blog, which was more about these kinds of thoughts and daily minutiae. So, I’m going to try to get back into that. A lot of it, of course, will still be about writing, since that’s a huge part of my life, but that’s not ALL I do. Not most days anyway…

I’ve been doing some schedule reassessing and rearranging in general, anyway. On October 23, I passed my two-year anniversary of leaving the day job to write full time. It’s funny that I still feel like I’m adjusting to that new reality after two full years. In fiction we condense time so much that I think I forget sometimes how long real human beings take to really change. When I was in Tucson, I chatted with Frankie Robertson, a member of that local RWA chapter, the Saguaro Romance Writers. She’d been reading THE TEARS OF THE ROSE and commented on the heroine Ami’s character transformation. 

I should mention at this point that Ami is probably my most disliked heroine – by readers, not by me. In contrast, of the entire Twelve Kingdoms and Uncharted Realms series, this is the only one to receive a Top Pick GOLD from RT Book Reviews, their highest possible rating. 

Frankie mentioned reading one of the one-star reviews on this book – and how the reader just hated Ami for her vanity, selfishness, and shallowness – and how she felt that person read a different book than she did. Because yes, Ami starts out that way, and then she *changes*, which is really the whole point of the story, and what Frankie loved about it. Then Frankie also pointed out that Ami changes really fast, over the course of a few months, and we both laughed about compressed fiction time.

That’s all a bit of an aside, but goes to how in real life, changes take a long time to accommodate. So, here I am, two years later, and still discovering how it works for me to write full time, what kind of daily word count I can sustain, and how to best both use and enjoy my time.

Because that has been one effect of my change in schedule – I have more time off, sleep more and according to a natural calendar and I do recreational things. But I’m still figuring out how to balance my traditionally published work with the self-publishing projects, which produce different sets of deadlines. 

I’m not quite sure why blogging began to feel like too much to keep up with, but I’d like to change that.

For you reader types out there, I know that I’ve been bumping deadlines around a lot. Much of this has come from the new traditional publishing projects edging out the self-pub projects. I have legal contracts with them, and outside expectations, which tend to trump take precedence over (will we ever be able to use that word again???) my internal deadlines.

At any rate, THE SNOWS OF WINDROVEN is completely done! That will be in the holiday anthology AMID THE WINTER SNOW with Grace Draven, Thea Harrison, and Elizabeth Hunter. We’re looking on track to have that release December 12, 2017, with preorders live in a couple of weeks. 

I’m also working on the third Missed Connections book, which is Amy’s story. A different Amy – I didn’t realize I did that! My other Ami is Amelia and this one is Amanda, so… hey, it happens! This one will be called SINCE LAST CHRISTMAS and it *will* be out before Christmas.

I do hope to get book four of Sorcerous Moons out in early next year, but I have a book due to my traditional publisher that I have to write before that. This is for my new high fantasy trilogy, THE LOST PRINCESS chronicles. I’ve turned in the first book, PRINCESS OF DASNARIA – which has been declared “fantastic,” so I think you all will like it – and I need to write the second book, EXILE OF DASNARIA. But I really do promise to get back to Lonen and Oria! Thank you all for bearing with me on that.

Speaking of change, some of you may have seen on Facebook that my mother-in-law, David’s mother, passed away on Halloween. It was not unexpected, as she’d been in a nursing home and had been declining. Still, David’s father and older brother also died in the past several years, so there’s been a lot of loss in the family. I’m hoping this makes three and we’ll be done for a while. So, we’ll be heading up to northern Wyoming for the funeral, and to spend time with family.

This is my favorite photo of Leona. I’m big on showing people how they were in their prime, not as they were when death came to claim them. The daughter of French and Irish immigrants, Leona grew up on a ranch in Montana next to the Crow Reservation. She was ever a tough and determined woman, and she leaves behind a large family of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

 

Creating the Ideal To-Do List

Middle Sister WineMy stepsister brought this wine over on Christmas, by way of celebrating my three-book deal. Isn’t it great? Just love it! Thank you, Hope!

You all know how much I love my lists. And spreadsheets. Over the holiday, I was comparing To Do lists with Stepdad Dave, who shares my Virgo inclinations and loves a good To Do list. We discussed the merits of various approaches – the long-term To Do list versus the short-term one. We gave him a Boogie Board a while back – an electronic listmaker – and he complained that, because of the way it erases, that he has to write down important tasks that he won’t do later (like after the holidays) over and over again.

What? This is so interesting!

Plus, there were cookies.

At any rate, I’ve been thinking about my lists and how I have them set up. The long-term vs. short-term thing can be an issue. Especially when a long-term task is something like “write this novel.” Of course, that kind of thing one breaks out into daily word counts, but it’s still on the list, at least mentally. Hovering out there, like a grinning hot air balloon on the horizon. Other long-term tasks are things I’ve been meaning to do – like contacting certain bloggers for reviews, or putting tax information together. No deadline (yet), but needing to get done.

My big problem is that I tend to load too many tasks onto a single day. With an entire day ahead of me, I become flush with ambitious optimism. I truly believe that I will accomplish All The Things. The problem then is that, if I don’t, I get all sad. It doesn’t matter that I finished ten tasks, those two things still lurking on my list, undone, taunt me. Worse, I have to move them to the next day, or back to my long-term list.

What I’m thinking of for the New Year is making a tiered list, one that reflects priorities. I might make a Must Do list, followed by and optional list. I wonder, though, if the stuff on the optional list will *ever* get done, if they’re not prioritized enough…

What – you’re still reading? If so, you might be a listmaker, too. What are your secrets for prioritizing tasks??

Frosty the Snowmom

This is my mom, inside the Frosty costume, with one of my nephews. (Thanks to Hope for sending the pic!) And yes, that is a big dent in the side of the Frosty head. I asked my mom if she got in a tussle with a traffic cop and she said, no, it was from all the hugging.

See, my mom has been learning to be a docent at Tohono Chul Park in Tucson. This is no show-up-and-volunteer gig. She has to take classes for something like six months, to learn about the regional flora and fauna. This involves homework, even. It’s been so fun to hear her tell us the names of birds and how to distinguish the different types of cholla. David and I have always been the biologists/naturalists in the family, but now she’s far surpassed us, especially on the botany end.

So, when the Tohono Chul people decided the old Frosty costume was getting ratty (see aforementioned dentable head), they purchased a new one, which the director would wear for their Holiday Nights festival. Then they thought, hey, why not get more mileage out of the old one, too? This is how my mother ended up dressed as Frosty.

Because, of course she volunteered to do it. Just like she’s memorizing how to tell a cardinal from a  pyrrohuloxia. (I just asked her on IM what the false cardinal’s name is again. And she reminded me the main way to tell them apart is the beak.)

She’s always embracing life, learning and growing. I admire that so much.

Now she’s telling me about the phainopepla that eat mistletoe in the park and how mistletoe gets a bad rap.

Let me count the ways that I love her.

Hope, Faith and Summertime

This photo is for Hope, who sent me this amazing and beautiful iced tea maker from Teavana, in celebration of continuing summer enjoyment. That’s a strawberry-lemonade herbal blend that’s just delicious. Note that my morning glories are climbing right up the post now, too.

I love when an act of faith is rewarded. Gardening is very much an act of faith. We put the seeds in the ground and hope they will eventually bear fruit. We can water and fertilize, trim and coax, but ultimately whether the plants flourish or wither is up to the vagaries of the universe.

Writing is like this, too. In some ways, it feels like an even greater act of faith to me, because we spend so much time and effort laboring alone for something that may never see the outside of a drawer. Even a really excellent book may never be well-received, for any number of reasons. And yet, we continue to hope, to believe. It’s like that old saw that went around a while back about women over forty having a greater chance of being killed by a terrorist than of getting married (which turned out to be completely fraudulent data, by the way) – we look at the statistics and resolve to be one of the lucky ones. (It helps to know that those statistics are often damn lies, to paraphrase.)

I think this is part of it though. In gardening, writing and other works. It’s good for us as human beings to invest faith in the universe. To express hope through effort.

Perhaps it’s what we’re here for.

Blog Comments and Worms

David took this picture. It might be my new favorite. Even my mom – the blonde behind the camera next to me – will like it because her glasses aren’t showing. She’s been having to wear glasses instead of contact lenses for the last couple of months, so her eyes will return to their natural state before her cataract surgery. Which is today.

Send good thoughts, please!

We had a lovely weekend in the mountains, up at Snowmass in Colorado. Friends have asked what we did and I don’t have much to tell them. We sat on the deck. I got to read a lot. We drank wine and hung out. There were presents – and then tech support for the presents. Mostly I just enjoyed being with my family.

My stepsister, Hope, and her hubs and boys called and sang me Happy Birthday. Then she explained that the fabulous iced-tea maker she sent me from Teavana is in homage to my blog post about there still being more summer. It’s funny that she mentioned that post in particular, because it was one of the ones that no one commented on. Now, I’ve said many times that I will never be one of those bloggers who begs for comments. I read a lot of blogs and I don’t always comment. Usually I just don’t have anything in particular to say. But – every once in a while – it’s because the blog post annoys me in some way. So, of course, when no one comments on one of mine, a little niggly voice starts suggesting that everyone hates me.

Which leads to the eating of worms. Never pretty.

When I learn, then, that someone did read and even better, took that thought away from her, I feel the opposite way. Like making iced tea and guzzling it so that sparkling drops fly everywhere.

Writing is funny that way. Even blogging, which is more interactive than most writing media. It often feels like talking to an empty room. When someone answers, it can be astonishing. My long time friend, Kev, sent me a birthday email, just to catch up his end of the conversation – because he can’t always think of snarky replies to my blog posts. A little while back, this gal, Rachel, said something very nice to me about my writing and we chatted a bit on Twitter. In an attempt to convince me that she’s not a stalker (much), she mentioned that the fact that she’d planted cactus in her Kansas garden and was wearing a Cat Woman costume meant nothing.

Yeah, she cracked me up.

But more – it made me realize that people do listen. Even when we think they don’t. When they’re off being too busy to think up clever comments.

It’s a good thing to know.

Now I’m going to make some iced tea.

Surprise!

I’m in Tucson this morning. This photo is from my early morning walk around the golf course.

Me being suddenly in Tucson is why I didn’t post yesterday. I left early and flew here to surprise my mom for her birthday. My fabulous stepsister, Hope, who’s forever lurking on this blog and never saying anything, picked me up at the airport. She’d invited my mom to lunch, so when we met up at the restaurant, I just happened to be along, too.

Big surprise. Very fun. All went flawlessly.

I did try to post to the blog yesterday, anyway, but all I could think about was the impending surprise. I imagined it would come out something like this:

That’s right [birthday!]: write every [Tucson!] day. Write at [no, no – I’m not flying anywhere today. Ha! Ha! Yes, I am!] the same time every day [Surprise!] if you can. Set your rituals and follow them, ahem, religiously. [Oh, boy! I can’t wait!]

And then my mom would have read it and, well, all that subtext would have given it away.

So, today we’re off to play. Hope you all have a lovely weekend!

Wonderful Christmas

So, my stepsister, Hope, told me that they tell the boys if they don’t behave, they’ll turn up on my blog.

I think that makes me the Bloggyman.

But no one is bad on Christmas. Therefore, here is everyone on Christmas morning, enjoying Santa’s bounty. Except for Hope and Galen, who were in the kitchen making mimosas, like the lovely hosts they are. And David, who must have been standing next to me, always by my side.

Christmas was lovely and wonderful. I cooked and baked a whole bunch. We saw family we rarely see and met little Tabitha for the first time.
Time flew by and I can’t really tell you what I filled it with. I wasn’t on the interwebs much and, after a couple of days, didn’t turn on my computer at all. It feels like a slow unwind from my usual life of keeping up. My days are full the way I like them to be, but I run a pretty good pace to do it. To get the blog post done, to get my writing done, to do my day job, to read the blogs and books I try to keep pace with.

At first, it’s hard to relax, to let go of the keeping up. Then, when I do, I let go of everything it seems. One world falls away and only the immediate becomes real.

We writers talk about living in our heads, in other worlds. A lot of the time I’m thinking about what I’m writing, about ideas for the blog or dream-thinking about whatever story I’m immersed in. Over Christmas, I didn’t at all. I think this is as much a part of the writers life as any other – the letting go of it for a space of time.

Now I’m back and trying to keep the ramp-up slow and gentle. There go the important emails answered. Bank accounts checked and reconciled. Here’s a blog post. Now I’ll work on Sapphire. Later I’ll cruise the information galaxies of Facebook, Twitter and the Blogosphere.

But for now I’ll pour another cup of tea from the fabulous cat teapot Hope gave me and gaze out the window.

Happy Holidays, indeed.

Oops, We Did It Again

We really didn’t plan it this way. There might have been an element of “oh, this was so fun last year, we should do it again.”

My mom, Hope and I went shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. We go to La Encantada in Tucson, which is this lovely outdoor mall that isn’t crowded. We don’t go for Christmas shopping, either, but more to screw around and enjoy ourselves. We had Italian for lunch. And really, Hope did the most shopping, which is a major reversal.

All was well until we hit the Black/White store and found these great tops that were neither black nor white. My mom loved the sweater and went to try it on, while Hope and I waited in the dressing area. We’d previously spotted and admired the tops with the roses, but left it there. Then this young gal came out of a dressing room and looked so fab in that selfsame top, we felt compelled to try them on, too.

It was meant to be, don’t you think?

I got Hope’s for her as a birthday present. She promised to put it away again after Mexican food night, and re-open it on her special day. We’ll see if she does.

This was our Thanksgiving. Nothing profound. Nothing earth-shattering. We did silly things and ate great food, drank a lot of wine. We slept in, sat in the sun, took walks, read.

Perhaps a happy life gives one little to report of interest.

Still, I’m thankful.