Multi-passionate writer, author and solo-preneur

Month: September 2014 Page 1 of 2

Rearranging the Furniture

I spent some time over the weekend tweaking this here blog and making the theme look a bit more custom. I spent a lot of time and needless energy last week worrying that I needed to build myself a brand-new “profeshunul author” website and trying to envision something I’d be happy with that tied my personality/interests in with the type of fiction I write — which, let’s face it, are kind of unmeshy, as far as vibe goes. But I’ve since come to the conclusion that a) with a few more tweaks, such as replacing that big image at the top with a slideshow to prominently hawk my books and services, this blog will do me just fine for the foreseeable future; and b) I really like this theme and think it actually does a pretty good job of meshing both vibes, so why create extra work for myself?

Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World - Kristen LambThis is, of course, all stemming from finishing Kristen Lamb’s book, Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World, which has me all motivated to fix everything I’ve been doing wrong in marketing myself as an author. I also made some tweaks to my social profiles, and started developing a master plan to make this here blog more organized and professional and non-neglected.

In other news, this is day two of going gluten- and dairy-free. Well, mostly gluten-free. Last night I made stir-fry for dinner, and though I’d planned to use a pre-mixed, gluten-free spicy Thai sauce that needed to be used up, there ended up not being enough of it to flavor the whole dish (I made four servings, enough to feed me till the middle of the week), so I had to improvise and ended up using the gluten-containing soy sauce we had on hand. So I guess I won’t actually be free of gluten until that dish is all eaten up. Also, I’m not worrying about gluten cross-contamination so much as I am just avoiding it as an ingredient.

Anyway, I’ve felt pretty good all day. I had to write some content mill assignments this afternoon, and that usually leaves me feeling mentally wiped out, but check it out: I still have the mental capacity to write this blog post. If I’m already feeling this much better after only a day and a half, then I imagine this is all going to turn out to be a worthwhile endeavor. I really did miss the cheese in my spinach omelet this morning, though.

I also put down 500 words on the new new novel this morning. AFTER I walked a couple of miles and did some light yoga. So go me.

Have I mentioned here that I finally started writing the sequel to Restless Spirits? I can’t recall if I did. At any rate, I’m currently more than 1,700 words into it, so I guess it’s officially underway. If you care to track its progress, there’s a little word count widget down there in the sidebar.

So far it’s flowing really well. I’m not working from an outline, but rather kind of a vague idea of what needs to happen to get to the end. That’s how I wrote the first one, so it seems appropriate. If there’s time after posting this blog and checking in on my social networks, I might try to add some more words to it before dinner.

The new TV season has just gotten started and I’m already behind. It’ll be the weekend before I’ll have time to watch Once Upon a Time and Castle — though to be honest, I’m not in a big hurry to watch OUaT anyway. I just can’t work up any enthusiasm about what they had planned for this season. I’m probably the only person on the planet who still hasn’t seen Frozen, mainly because I just haven’t had the opportunity. I’d still like to see it, and I’m afraid this show is going to ruin it for me. I’m also really tired of the way they constantly pile on new characters while neglecting characters I already care about.

I haven’t seen the new Agents of SHIELD yet, either. Matt missed the last six or so episodes of last season, and for some reason we failed to get caught up over the summer, so we’re working on that now. I think we’ve got three more to go before we can watch the season premiere.

I have started Sleepy Hollow, as well as the new Ioan Griffuth vehicle Forever. The latter has promise, and the former is still my favorite show that isn’t Hannibal or Doctor Who.

And of course I’ve been following the new Doctor. Twelve is starting to grow on me. So is Clara, finally. They’ve done a lot to improve her character this season and I find I’m no longer pining for the Ponds, though I can’t really see myself missing her quite as much when she’s gone.

Oh! I also finally managed to retrieve all of my book cover files off of my old, defective laptop over the weekend, so expect a cover reveal for Midnight Snacks later this week, if I can fit that in around implementing suggestions from the beta readers and getting that book ready to publish.

Anyway, does the new TV season have you rejoicing? Tell me what you’re watching in the comments!

It’s Saturday! Let’s all sing for joy.

This was kind of a stressful week on the work side. Let’s perk up and celebrate the weekend with a highway sing-along:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fYqe3QeOqQ&w=560&h=315]

My plans for the next two days involve lots of yarn, Halloween crafts and putting up the decorations. Today will also be my last hurrah enjoying carbs and cheese as I eat up all the unhealthy stuff in the house that won’t keep. Tomorrow, the new PCOS-friendly diet plan begins.

How are you enjoying your weekend?

Goal Setting and an A-ha Moment

Since my last post, I’ve cut back some on bread and dairy, and I’m already feeling quite a bit better. Today I picked up some almond milk to see how I like it. We’ve still got bread and cheese in the house that we need to eat up so it doesn’t go to waste, then I’m going to do my very best to limit that stuff to the odd weekend cheat night and special occasions.

I’ve been working my way through Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World by Kristen Lamb — a book I HIGHLY recommend to any authors — any creatives, for that matter — in need of an effective audience-building platform. The first exercise is to take the time to write out your goals — 6-month goals, 1 year goals, 5 year, 10 year, etc. When you do this, you are encouraged to dream big and be specific. I found it to be an incredibly helpful exercise, not only for helping me to clarify what I want, what needs to happen with my career, and what I need to do to get there, but also for helping me realize that it’s not too late to achieve my biggest dreams. There’s still plenty of time, as long as I can stay focused and not let myself get sidetracked.

It also showed me how closely my dream of motherhood is linked to my dream of being a successful novelist. That might sound strange, but in my mind, our best bet for being able to afford the necessary medical treatments (and/or adoption fees, if it ever comes to that) — not to mention being able to afford to provide for a growing kid, letting me stay home and be a full-time mom, being able to home school and all that jazz — is me selling lots and lots of books.

This brings us back around to the dietary changes. And last night I had an epiphany. It dawned on me that I’m never going to achieve either dream if I don’t want it more than I want the temporary satisfaction of a cookie or a slice of pizza, or the convenience of a slice of toast. I have to want to succeed more than I want delicious food. If I don’t, my health issues will never improve and I’ll never be able to sustain the energy I need to accomplish my goals. This might seem like a no-brainer, but the realization that I’ve been giving food a higher priority than not only my health, but also my biggest lifelong dreams, was kind of astonishing to me. And also shaming.

I guess this is what some people might call one of those “A-ha moments.”

So tomorrow I’m going to make time to sit down and make a menu plan for the following week that doesn’t include any dairy, gluten or high-glycemic food. The biggest thing I’m stumbling over right now is a replacement for the toast I usually eat with my tuna or egg salad for lunch during the week. I checked out crackers at the health food store today, but couldn’t find any that were both gluten free AND low glycemic. I may compromise and try some rye bread. I think when it comes down to either/or, low-glycemic should probably win out. At any rate, maybe Pinterest will show me some decent alternatives. If you have any recommendations, I’d love it if you shared them in the comments!

PCOS, goal interference, and reluctant diet changes

Last week was just a bad week. I have those from time to time, and I’m growing more accepting of that fact — and better at extending grace to myself — now that I’m past 40. Still, it’s really annoying to have stuff that needs to get done and lack the energy or mental clarity to do it. On the bright side, spending last week feeling vaguely ill has finally helped to convince/motivate me to get my diet back under control, since probably at least 99% of what was wrong with me could be traced to not eating healthy enough.

Seriously, I’ve been doing some research on my various chronic ailments and diet, and basically I’m not supposed to be eating any of the stuff I’ve been living on lately. I already knew that PCOS causes issues with insulin resistance and that I should be eating a low glycemic-index diet and not nearly so much bread (I’ve been eating a ton of bread, y’all) or sugar (hello, Halloween candy!). But apparently the fact that I have both PCOS and hypothyroid means it’s highly likely that I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disease that’s been linked to gluten intolerance. Yet more reasons for me to avoid bread. Excuse me while I cry into my pumpkin spice flavored English muffin.

And then this short podcast offered compelling reasons why dairy is also horrible for anyone with PCOS. The gist of it is that any animal-based milk contains natural growth hormones that stimulate androgen production and make PCOS symptoms worse. Also, despite the fact that dairy is considered a low-glycemic source of protein, it actually causes blood sugar to spike about as much as bread or sugar.

So lately, this is what my diet has looked like: for breakfast, an English muffin with peanut butter and a glass of milk; for lunch, tuna salad with cottage cheese mixed in on two slices of toast; a cup of yogurt in the afternoon; and something involving meat, veggies and some form of cheese for dinner.

Can you see a few problems there? No wonder I feel like crap half the time.

Of course, this is the worst time of year to try and start a new healthy eating regimen, with Halloween and the holidays right around the corner. And I’m actually dealing somewhat better with the idea of cutting out bread and sugar than I am with giving up cheese. But I’m really tired of not feeling well and it would be nice to actually have the energy to go after my goals.

I like that the podcast I linked above pointed out that it’s not like I have celiac disease or anything, so the occasional indulgence won’t kill me. That’s good to remember, because so many of my favorite things have either gluten or dairy or both. Off the top of my head, that list includes pizza, egg rolls, cookies, breakfast toast, beer, grilled cheese sandwiches and ice cream. Sure, there are gluten-free alternatives to all that stuff, but it tends to cost twice as much and often tastes half as good as the real thing.

At any rate, I’m going to need to do some more researching and planning on all of this. If you follow me on Pinterest, don’t be surprised to see an influx of PCOS and health food related pins showing up on your home page.

I think I’m having a thought. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s a thought. Now I’m having a plan…

This has been a terribly off week. Despite a lovely, restful, craft-filled weekend, on Monday I woke up with a stomach ache and barely any energy, and my condition didn’t improve much throughout the day. Yesterday I felt better, but we needed to make a Target run in the morning, which threw off my routine, and by 4 PM my wrist was throbbing from tendonitis and I had to log off to let it rest.

I went to bed early last night, hoping for a good night’s sleep that would let me hit the ground running today and make up for the lost productivity of the last two days, but then I woke up around three o’clock this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep until almost six, only to be woken up again shortly after seven by my dog, who didn’t care about my sleep deprivation nearly as much as he cared about being fed and let out to pee.

So I’m a little on the zombified side today, and will most certainly require a nap before I even attempt any of my freelance work. Needless to say, it hasn’t been a good week for making progress on my fiction, although I did at least add quite a bit to the PANIC outline on Saturday.

One good thing, though — after I shut everything down yesterday afternoon, I decided to go for a walk. That isn’t the good part, although I did need the exercise.

I had a lot more written here about my freelancing journey over the years, but I was getting into overshare and way too much thinking out loud, so here’s the TL;DR version: I’ve been doing some soul-searching about what I really want to be doing for a day job (until my writing can become my day job), as opposed to basing my whole business model on “what can I do that people will give me money for?”

At the end of the day, the answer to that is that I want to take all of the knowledge and experience in writing and editing, web & graphic design, social media, marketing and branding, etc. that I’ve accumulated over the last several years and focus it all on helping other self-published authors succeed.

So the good thing that happened is that during yesterday’s walk I came up with some good ideas on how to go about doing that, as well as some inspiration for branding and promoting this new venture. So that’s going to add a whole lot of stuff to my To Do list that will probably take a while to bring to fruition, but even so, it’s nice to have a goal and a direction for my freelance biz beyond “what can I get people to pay me to do for them this week?”

And that, to me, is very exciting. Or at least it will be after I have my nap.

Now taking commission orders on Halloween knits, and other fall-related blather

Heads up: I’m currently taking orders for Halloween and the holidays for Marzipan Pie. There are a lot of great knit and crochet kid costume ideas on this Pinterest board, but you’re certainly not limited to those ideas. Or to stuff for kids, for that matter. Just let me know what you want and I’ll let you know if I can do it and quote you a price. And I promise not to use any of the yarn from the cat pee bag.

The new novel, which currently has the working title Panic, is still in the outline phase. The NEW new novel, i.e. the Restless Spirits sequel, is still in the germinating ideas and jotting down notes phase. And Midnight Snacks is still with the beta readers. I’m planning to do a cover reveal for that one soon, but I still need to move the cover file off of the old laptop, which is a PITA.

I’m currently working in my craft room, in the rocker which is more comfortable than I remembered (though not enough to make me change my mind about wanting to replace it). Lately it’s been easier to get the creative juices flowing in this room — another reason I’m glad I finally took it back from the cats.

This week, I’ve been working on decluttering the living room and putting out the fall decorations — of which I have pitifully few. But now that I’ve got my craft room back, I’ve got plenty of plans to make more. I’ve also started hanging pictures on walls — something we’ve done pathetically little of in the SIX years we’ve lived in this house — but my first go at that ended in tragedy when my attempts to straighten a picture holder I’d just hung caused it to fall and break a hand-painted ceramic egg commemorating our wedding that my aunt made for us. Don’t tell my Aunt Faye, it would break her heart. It certainly broke mine.

Anyway, there’s a stack of frames here in the craft room that either already have photos that I want to hang or that will be repurposed for photo collages and other crafty “art” so we can finally get stuff on the walls and look like we actually live here. There’s also a stack of awesome Serenity propaganda-style posters somewhere that I need to dig out and put up and stop waiting until we can afford to have them framed.

I’m hesitant to write this down lest I jinx it, but I think I have finally achieved a pretty good balance between freelance work/writing fiction/home care/self care/having a life. I’m at a point where I want to look for ways to “work smarter not harder,” i.e., finding more lucrative work instead of just more work. Of course, it would also help to be more diligent about marketing and selling my books, and sideline businesses like Marzipan Pie that help fund my yarn addiction certainly can’t hurt. To that end, I’m thinking about setting up a dedicated website for MP instead of just relying on the Facebook page (which needs a makeover, anyway).

I’m also thinking about ways to expand my fiction audience, like maybe getting audiobooks made, and submitting short stories to online markets. And, of course, writing more books. I really need to get around to finishing setting up my own book shop here on this site, too. Oh, and I also need to set up a separate website for my editing and publishing services, because just having a page for it here on this site isn’t working.

And that’s a lot of thinking “out loud” in that last paragraph. I need to remember that this is my most energetic time of year, and while I need to take advantage of it while I can, I also need to be careful not to write checks that my S.A.D.-afflicted future self won’t be able to cash.

The craft room is finished! And the RESTLESS SPIRITS sequel is begun! Sort of.

Well, my friends, the cat room is a craft room once again.

I spent yesterday first sorting through my yarn and then emptying out the walk-in closet. The good news re: the yarn is that I had it stored in four different bags, only one of which got peed on, so the majority of my stash was just fine. The tee-shirt stash fared worse, but it still wasn’t as bad as I expected. Everything pee-scented went into the washer to soak overnight in vinegar and laundry soap (the yarn first went into pillow cases), and then this morning I ran that cycle, then ran it again with baking soda. After that, the shirts went in the dryer and the yarn went out on the back lawn to dry in the sun. The yarn is still drying outside, but the shirts passed the sniff-test, and are now folded and put away where those jerks sweet kitties can’t get to them.

As for the kitties, they’re much happier, and reluctant to leave the room, which is kind of nice. I fixed up the closet for them with their litter boxes and crates and plenty of places to hide and sleep and climb. Nibblet’s loving it, but so far Boudica prefers the top of what’s now the yarn and tee-shirt cabinet, a.k.a. my only work surface. I laid a fleece blanket up there for her to collect cat hair and protect the surface from her claws, and I can just move the blanket (and her) when I’m ready to get my craft on, so no big.

The only thing that’s missing in there is a good work surface. There’s a small table, but that’s wobbly, and the previously mentioned cabinet, but that’s not a large surface and it’s tall enough that I’ll have to stand. It’ll do for now, but some day I’d like to get a dedicated sewing table. A comfy chair for sitting and knitting would also be great. We’ve got an old rocking chair in there, but it’s not that comfortable, and I’d like to consign it to the back porch eventually.

I’m terrible about remembering to take pictures. If you want to see some, I’ll post some to my Instagram later.

I was hoping to be able to include a word count on the new novel in this post, but I’ve been kind of distracted all morning and couldn’t get my head in the right place for it. I guess I need to spend some time cleaning something else to give my brain a chance to develop the scene. Good thing I’m ready to straighten up the living room and bring out the fall decorations. Yes, I know it’s not technically fall yet, but the weather’s supposed to cool off later this week, and that’s good enough for me.

One thing I did do, though, writing-wise, is jotted down some notes on a proper sequel to Restless Spirits.  People have been bugging me (in the good way) about a sequel for years now, but I just haven’t been able to come up with the right story to justify one. But yesterday I streamed a few episodes of My Ghost Story while sorting through and detangling my yarn stash, and apparently these true haunting and paranormal investigator shows are my muse when it comes to this series (I guess it’s a series now), because something finally clicked. Now it’s going to be hard to make my brain focus on the Satanic Panic story instead of this. I wonder how insane I’d have to be to attempt writing two novels at once. We might be about to find out.

Seeking beta readers, non-smelly yarn and time to veg.

This has been quite the busy week, what with doing a load of laundry AND working on the cat room every day, plus editing one book while outlining another, plus my freelance writing and marketing projects. I’m pooped. Thank God it’s Friday, indeed. I plan to plant myself on the couch tomorrow and avail myself of our free Prime membership trial and stream the heck out of Amazon videos.

But first, today I need to hurry and finish up my freelance writing for the week, after which I’ll hopefully have time to type up my edits for my story collection, MIDNIGHT SNACKS (I’m looking for beta readers, by the way. Holler in the comments if you’d like to be one). And then I’m going to try to finish up the room part of the cat room (saving the closet for next week) and sort through my yarn stash to see what can be saved.

Speaking of “saving mah yarnz,” this is the funniest post about cats peeing on yarn and trying to save it that you’ll probably ever read.

Progress All Around

The cat room is really starting to resemble a craft room again. I’ve only got one more corner to deal with, but I’ve been saving the worst for last, so that will probably take a day or two to conquer. Once that’s done, I should be able to set my sewing machine up in a permanent spot where my desk used to be (if I can find something sturdy enough to set it on, since Matt has co-opted our card table for the office), thus eliminating one of my (several) excuses for never sewing.

But then it will be time to tackle the walk-in closet, where I committed the error of trying to keep both the litter boxes and various craft supplies and other odds and ends. And despite having a perfectly good litter box right there, they still had to pee on a lot of what’s in there. I know I’ve got a basket of old tee-shirts in there that I was planning to do crafty things with at some point, so I’ll need to decide whether it’s worth it to try and salvage them. Really, most of what’s in that closet is old and broken things I’d planned to recycle into craft projects, so it won’t be the end of the world if I just toss it all so I can be done with it.

***

I’m already almost done with the first editing pass for the horror collection. I just need to type up my changes, then it will be ready for beta readers.

Also, working in the cat room without anything to listen to has indeed been conducive to developing the new novel. I now have several scenes mapped out, along with some snatches of dialogue written down, plus I now know the major beats of the story and how each act needs to end. This whole coming up with ideas while cleaning thing might end up being very good for my house.

Why finding time to write isn’t the same as finding time to type words.

I’m late to the party by several years, but I just discovered the Writing Excuses podcast. This morning I listened to the very first episode, Brainstorming, whilst folding towels [insert snarky comment here re: the glamorous life of the writer], and it drove home something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. Namely, the fact that working at home and freelancing are really not conducive to writing fiction.

This is the exact opposite of what I believed back in my days as a cubicle-dweller. I used to go to my job and sit at my desk and daydream about all the scads of free time I’d have if I could just freelance from home and create my own schedule.

I’ll just pause here a moment to let any freelancers who are reading this get done laughing.

See, back when I used to work at a “real job,” I had a 45 minute commute each way, I took long “wake-me-up” showers every morning, and I had a lot of busy-work at my job that didn’t require a lot of concentration. These times, strangely enough, are when most of my writing got done. Not the actual typing, mind you, but all of the parts of writing that result in having something to type up.

These days, I only leave the house to run errands, usually within a five mile radius, and my husband usually drives, so there are no long drives or time stuck in traffic to let my mind wander. My client work requires complete concentration, and the less said about the showering habits of the freelance writer, the better, methinks.

To compound the problem, as a Christian, I do my best to devote the quiet moments in each day to meditating on scripture and talking things out with my Maker. A lot of fiction writers advocate going on long walks to generate story ideas, but my morning walks are dedicated to prayer time.

So where does that leave me as a fiction writer? For now, I’m making it a point to schedule quiet time every now and then for brainstorming, but I’m finding it really hard to force it. This is why all of my novel WIPs are, well, still WIPs, and why I’m having a really difficult time filling in the middle bits of the new novel’s outline. I’ve managed to carve out time in the late morning for writing, but really, that time is for the typing. The magic part of fiction writing needs sufficient time to happen in between the typing bits, and right now I’m kind of at a loss as to what to do about it.

Ah, well. Maybe this task of reclaiming the cat room is just what I need. I’ve been spending that time listening to podcasts or music, but today I’ll try cleaning in silence and see if that jogs anything loose in the story plotting centers of my brain.

Speaking of the cat room, I’m going to have to stop calling it that soon, because it’s slowly starting to resemble a craft room once again. Yesterday I ran into a lot more brown recluses than on day one, and I’m proud of myself for only screaming once. I’ll only get to spend half an hour a day in there — if that — during the week, so progress will go quite a bit more slowly now, but the holiday weekend sure gave me a good start.

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