Friday Update: Conspiracy Theories, ARGs, Novel Update and Weekend Plans

Happy almost-weekend, friends! We made it all the way through the week without any frightening historical events taking place, at least as far as the U.S. is concerned. It was kind of nice to get a little bit of a respite, although something tells me this is merely the calm before the next big storm.

Despite my resolve and best intentions, I was terrible at staying away from the news this week, but at some point yesterday I started to burn out on it and realized that everything at this point is speculation and rumor and propaganda and nobody really knows anything. What a crazy, turvey-topsey world we’re living in. Interesting times, indeed.

I’ve also been keeping my ear to the rumor mill, partly just to be ready in case any of it turns out to be true and partly out of the fascination you get when you drive by the scene of a bad accident, and… wow. If I ever decide to write a political thriller I’ll have no shortage of fantastic plots to choose from.

Which brings me to my theory about Q and QAnon (if you don’t know what those are, count yourself blessed). I’ve been a casual observer of this whole movement since they made it onto my radar shortly after the lockdowns began. One thing that struck me right away is the similarity between Q and an ARG.

ARG stands for alternate-reality game, a type of game that operates in the real world but is set within a fictional universe, in which the players follow clues and bread crumbs dropped around the internet–and in some cases real-life locales–to solve a mystery. JJ Abrams popularized these games in the late ’00s, starting with games set in the LOST-verse and later expanding to the entire JJ-verse.

For those who are unaware, Q is supposedly a military operation run by a person or persons high up in the government with access to the president, and they are all working together quietly behind the scenes to expose and drain the swamp and all of their corruption, which includes but is not limited to profiting off of child sex trafficking. This entity, so they say, wanted to start a movement and get this information into the hands of the public, and they do so by leaving “drops,” i.e., breadcrumbs and clues, on a message board for its followers — who call themselves QAnon — to parse and act on.

There’s quite a bit more to it than that — like the almost cult-like devotion of QAnon members to Q and the president and their absolute belief that they are our saviors, including a lot of Christians who ought to know better. In spite of all appearances, these true believers are trusting in a Plan that will result in a second term for the current president, busting child trafficking rings wide open and rescuing thousands, if not millions of abused children, and in mass arrests of the corrupt government leaders behind it all, followed by military tribunals to bring them all to justice.

As an admittedly casual observer, I’ve developed a strong suspicion that all of this is, in fact, an elaborate ARG, the players of which are intentionally led to believe that it’s all real and not in actuality an elaborate fiction. Why? I can think of a few reasons. Maybe the actual deep state set it all up to dupe and discredit Trump supporters as crazy and paranoid conspiracy theorists and stir up those within that group who have a less firm grasp on reality combined with a propensity to carry things to the extreme. Or maybe it’s just a group of bored hackers who enjoy screwing with people for kicks.

Or maybe I’m wrong and it’s real and Trump is going to pull off a second term with the help of Q and save freedom and democracy and thousands of children from the clutches of the satanic globalist cabal.

I don’t think so. Mostly because I’m a student of prophecy (and I also read Fate of Empires, and I recommend you do, as well), and these things that are happening in this country seem to be right on schedule. Both Jesus and Paul, as well as Peter and John, told us things would get to this point, that people would be the way they currently are, and also there is no America in end-times prophecies, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that its time has come. And from a Biblical and spiritual standpoint, I believe the true author of this Q phenomenon is the author of lies and confusion, that this is ultimately a spiritual deception designed to distract believers from putting their hope and trust in Christ and, as I fear will happen for some when the “plan” doesn’t pan out, cause them to fall away from the faith.

Again, maybe I’m wrong. I hope I am. I guess we’ll all find out on Inauguration day.


I didn’t plan to write all of that when I sat down here. I was just going to tell you how I spent too much time this week glued to the news, which is one of the reasons I didn’t make much progress on Revolution 2 this week, but not the only reason. Part of it is also because it always turns out that I need a few days off from writing after a long run of article writing. The rest of it is that I just need to let this story simmer a bit and allow time for the movie of it to play out in my mind so I can get some clarity on exactly how to tie everything up and get to the end.

So I didn’t feel like a total slacker, apart from blogging here, I spent some of my non-writing time switching this site over to a new theme and redid the home page. It’s still a work in progress as I ad some more pages, including a page dedicated to my sweet romance pen name, and update outdated info, but I’m pretty pleased with it so far.

I’ll try to get back to the novel on Sunday and get some momentum going again before the Inauguration happens and whatever drama occurs along with it. I’m truly hoping and praying that there will be none, and that things will be peaceful, and that all of the anticipation of something big happening fizzles out into a big nothing. I just want people to be safe, for as long as that remains possible.

In the mean time, I’m going to do my best to turn everything off and take a real break. Outside, the sky keeps spitting snow, and it’s going to be a cold weekend, so I’m going to stay cozy, maybe read a book, and watch the rest of Fellowship of the Ring.

So what do you think? Sound off in the comments. And have a safe, peaceful, restful weekend.

Do What You Can, and Trust God for the Rest

Image by Bohdan Chreptak from Pixabay

Yesterday was a full day, and I was also very tired, so I gave myself permission to not blog. Right on schedule, apparently–I heard a statistic this morning that January 12 is the day that most New Year’s resolutions die. Not that I’d made a NYR to blog every day–that was just a goal for this month, to get me back in the habit. And since the purpose was to build a blogging habit, and here I am, picking back up today, it’s all fine. Anyway, carrying on…

The weather turned sunny and warmish yesterday, so we headed outside and into the woods. We hiked to the bottom of the big hill on top of which our house sits, and then back up again, which was quite a workout, and it turns out I needed that as much as I needed the sunshine and time in the woods. I was wheezing a little by the time we made it back to the top, which shows how quickly I’ve gotten out of shape after only two weeks of neglecting my daily walk. At any rate, that little outing was as good for my body as it was for my mind and soul.

With the rest of my day, I finished the big article I’d started on Monday. The thing that took me so long with it was coming up with a thousand words to say on the topic. I tend to write with brevity, which can be a good thing with fiction, but it’s not helpful when I have a minimum word count, especially when that minimum is a thousand words on a topic that can be covered in only 500. After padding the article with as much tangentially-related info as I could come up with, I was still falling short, so it was time to haul out the adverbs. Want to know how to prevent bloat in deep-chested dogs? Ask me, because I’m an expert on it now. Or you can just wait for my unusually verbose, adverb-laden article to come out in a few months.

(But seriously, if you have a deep-chested dog, look into that whole preventing bloat thing, because that’s a serious and potentially deadly problem, and we’ve had quite enough of dogs dying around here, thank you and good day.)

Moving on to something that’s been on my mind lately: after a few years of flirting with homesteading, we’re really wanting to give it a go this year. January is a tough month, because there’s not really much you can do, although we’re doing the things when we can. It’s tempting to get frustrated and worried, because in light of current events, there’s this sense of urgency that everybody’s feeling to get started, and even if you’ve already gotten a good start, it’s easy to feel like you’re behind.

This is not helped by influencers in the homesteading and prepping community, particularly on YouTube, who basically come right out and say that we’re all going to die if we’re not already fully established farmers and field medicine experts and expert marksmen with fully stocked larders who are also experts at canning food and baking bread. I get where they’re coming from — the proverbial S has already HTF, and it’s past time to prep for it. They want to motivate people to get serious and get started. But a lot of times the result of this messaging is that if you’re not moving to the country or starting a prepper commune or growing substantial crops or raising your own livestock and producing your own dairy products or filling your entire basement with canned and dry goods and etc., then it’s hopeless, so why even start?

So I want to encourage you that it’s not hopeless. Should you be prepping for hard times ahead? I believe that would be prudent. Do you have to make prepping and homesteading your life and pour your entire life savings into it? Nah, child. Do you have to get out of the city and do whatever it takes to move to the country? I don’t think that’s a bad idea if you actually can, but it’s just not feasible for everybody, and that doesn’t mean you’re doomed.

A few years ago when I figured out that I can’t do everything and trying to was making me exhausted and sad, I developed a philosophy: do what you can and trust God for the rest. I think that applies here as well. Nobody can do all the things, but everybody can do some of the things. I believe that prepping for hard times — be it illness or job loss, natural disasters, bad weather, a cyber attack on the grid, the government turning on its own citizens, whatever — is wise and responsible and also a Biblical concept. I think doing nothing and hoping to get by on the kindness of strangers or the provision of the government is misguided at best and irresponsible at worst. But I also know that God is my provider and protector. He set things up so that we participate in that provision as much as we’re able, but we don’t have to fear when we lose the ability or our contributions fall short. He’s not going to let us starve to death because our attempts at growing and preserving our own food were insufficient for the challenges we’re facing.

Do what you can and trust God for the rest. Don’t let the influencer scare tactics scare you right out of even getting started. Start with the basics you need to live — clean water, food, and a way to cook said food and stay warm if you lose power. Mary’s Nest is a great YouTube channel for this — she has a very encouraging, very soothing, and very doable playlist of videos showing you how to get started stocking your prepper pantry on a small budget.

It’s another warmish day, so I’m hoping to get outside some more this afternoon, and also to make some substantial progress on Revolution 2.

Any good prepping or homesteading resources to add? Tips for getting started? Drop them in the comments — or just leave a note to say hi and tell me how you’re doing.

 

Monday Check-in: Hobbits, Writing Plans and Bracing for What’s Ahead

Image by Christoph Schütz from Pixabay

One of the problems with committing to blogging daily is coming up with something worthwhile to blog about eacy day. This problem is compounded when, immediately after making said commitment, you get handed a slew of articles to write. Not that I’m complaining about the paying work — far from it. But it’s kept me from being able to give as much thought to these here blog posts as I would have liked.

I’ve got one more article to finish, and then I’ll be able to put some real time and thought into these daily posts. Until then, I’m afraid you’re stuck with bland life blather, if you’re actually here to read this. Of course, if I wanted to start writing about politics and current events, I’d have a whole litany of things to say, but considering the current political climate, now doesn’t seem like a prudent time to start delving into all of that.

Anyway, I got the rest I needed this weekend, although I wasn’t able to keep myself away from the news as I’d intended. But I did get a lot of prayer in, and spent a lot of time in the book of 1 Peter, which I highly recommend if you’re a Christian who is worried about the state of the world, as it’s basically a field guide for Believers living in a hostile and perilous culture.

We also finished Battle of the Five Armies and then started Fellowship of the Ring. I’d never seen Five Armies, so it was nice to finally complete that trilogy. I also confess that I’ve also never actually read all of The Hobbit, which I’m sure loses me significant geek cred, but my husband tells me that the book and the movie trilogy have very few things in common. At any rate, I enjoyed Five Armies once it got past the middle lull following the (spoiler alert) death of Smaug and picked up again, and as endings go, I thought it had a stronger ending than Return of the King, although overall I think the original LotR trilogy is far superior to the prequels. In any case, I’ve moved The Hobbit up to the top of my TBR list for this year.

Now that we’re faced with another Monday, and life and work must both go on despite democracy dying in darkness, I’m turning my attention to what I hope to get done this week. That includes finishing and submitting the previously mentioned article and then turning my attention to this blog and coming up with some more thoughtful content. It also includes devoting more time each day to Revolution 2 and building momentum that will carry me through to the end. I may send out an update to my author mailing list later this week, and I’ve been wanting to sit down and come up with a plan for Facebook that will let me engage more there without it eating up too much of my time.

I’ve got just enough time in my work day to squeeze in a quick word sprint on the novel, so I’d best get to it. While I do, leave a comment and share what you’re tackling this week.

Let Me Re-Introduce You to Restless Spirits; Going Silent for NaNoWriMo (Halloween Eve Update)

It’s hard to know how to categorize my first traditionally published novel (which is why I think my publisher still doesn’t really know what to do with it). It’s one part clean romance and one part legit horror. It’s a ghost story with heart. It’s also about the everlasting bond between sisters and the power of forgiveness. It’s got all the fun, flirtatious banter and kissing of a romantic comedy and all the chills and thrills of a haunted house.

Basically, it’s like if Dean Koontz wrote a rom-com.

If you enjoy a walk on the spooky side but like your horror like you like your romance — clean, comedic and with a happy ending — then check out Restless Spirits for your next great Halloween read. Click here to learn more, or click here to see where it’s sold.


In other news…

This week was a freelance writing week, so not a lot of progress happened on either of my WIPs. I’m using today to tie up some loose ends, and tomorrow my husband and I will be having our entirely grownup Halloween celebration that entails eating junk and watching scary movies all day until we can’t keep our eyes open.

Nanowrimo (that’s short for National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated) begins Sunday. And while I’m not participating in an official capacity, I am going to be taking a break from blogging and pulling way back on social media so I can hunker down and try to finish both of my novels-in-progress in November. Can I actually do it? That remains to be seen. But I’m going to give it my best shot.

I’ll still probably pop in from time to time on Instagram (although I’m really going to do my best to curtail the time I spend in that app), but here and everywhere else, expect me to be scarce until these novels are finished.

I hope you have a fabulous Halloween and may all of your candy be free of sharp objects and viruses. And since you probably won’t hear from me again before then, I also hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

See you on the other side!

♥ Jean

 

Monday Update: On looking for an easier world, loving poetry, and a progress report

“…don’t waste time
looking for an easier world.”

~ Mary Oliver, Dogfish

In a poem that already spoke to me, to a lot of what I’ve been dealing with over the last couple of years, this line jumped out and hit me square between the eyes.

I’m so guilty of this, of constantly looking for an easier world, and easier life, and it really is such a waste of time, isn’t it? It’s a distraction that keeps me from just getting on with it and living my actual life.

I’m pretty sure this is a 9 thing (that’s my Enneagram number, for those not keeping track). After all, the sloth is our spirit animal, and our besetting deadly sin. We 9s just want to float through life without much challenge, and when we are challenged we get angry and resentful, except anger is too challenging, so we deny it and just get sleepy instead.

But I know the truth, that challenges are good for us, or at least for me. When I’m in a healthy place, the right kind and amount of challenge and hardship pushes me to get up and shake off my complacency and perform like a 3, and this is when I thrive.

But it’s so tempting, always, to embrace my inner sloth and go to sleep and numb myself with entertainment or distract myself with work, to seek out the path of least resistance, to not simply deny but resent the hard work that needs to be done to get where I want to be.

These Monday morning musings are brought to you by the numbers 9 and 3 and the Enneagram and my reignited love of poetry and not enough sleep over the last few nights.

I’ve always had an on-again, off-again love affair with poetry. I wrote a lot of it back in my twenties and early thirties. I even did the occasional live reading. Yes, I, who hates public speaking and am struggling to work up the nerve to start my own podcast because I feel so goshdern awkward, actually stood up in front of a coffee shop full of people on poetry night at Borders and read my poetry aloud. I can’t really believe it, either, but it happened, more than once. A long time ago.

Poetry kind of fell off my radar about a decade ago, when we got hit with a long string of hardships, the kind of challenges that don’t spur you on to greatness but that instead break you and force you to rebuild your whole identity and worldview. Fun times.

But lately I’ve been jonesing for poetry. I feel like my life is better with poetry in it, and it makes me feel a little more like my old self, back before the breakening, when I was full of daydreams and possibilities. I’ve been writing poetry again, too, but I have no plans to get up and read it, or share it anywhere. It’s something I’m doing just for me, and there’s healing in that.

What I’m Working On

Deliverance edits are continuing apace, albeit more slowly than I’d like. With several days of rain in the forecast, we spent most of last week busting our butts to rake and burn as much of the remaining leaves as possible. We’re on a break from yard work thanks to the rain finally arriving this weekend, but when it passes there’ll be more leaves to deal with, because they truly are never ending, and we’re quickly running out of time to get them out of the way before mowing season starts.

At any rate, this weekend I also started the second novella in my upcoming Mae Bishop series, because I felt inspired, despite already having a backlog of stories that need editing. I’m trying to write at least 1,000 words a day on that before switching to editing my novel. At this rate, I’m piling up finished first drafts a lot faster than I can edit them. I might have to stop writing for a while and just focus on getting all of these manuscripts edited and ready to publish, but I want to get at least two more Mae Bishop novellas done as quickly as I can, and also the third and final book of Trilogy of the Damned. I might also need to switch up my methods and stop fast-drafting and start editing as I go.

This would be a lot easier if I could just write full time. As if I’m not the billionth writer to say that.

Newsy Bits & Sharing

If you’re the sort of person who actually leaves book reviews, I’ve got free digital ARCs of both Dominion of the Damned and Women’s Work up for grabs at Booksprout. There are a limited number of copies available of each, so be sure to grab yours quickly if you want one.

And please remember, a book review can be as simple as “I enjoyed this book” or “I didn’t enjoy this book.” Nobody’s asking you to write a book report.

Over on my writing and publishing blog, I shared four ways to hone your story instincts and become a better storyteller.

If you’re a chronic illness sufferer, you might want to check out this blog post series from Kristine Kathryn Rusch about writing with chronic illness. Even if you’re not a writer, I think it has broader applicability for how to manage your life and work around your illness. Here’s part one, part two and part three.

This thirsty squirrel might be the most precious thing you see today.

And now I must get back to work, but I’ll leave you with a photo of my dog Pete sharing my blanket cocoon (which, in my completely unbiased opinion, might give thirsty squirrel a run for his money).

Edits pile up like leaves

Deliverance of the Damned revisions are well under way (that’s the sequel to Dominion of the Damned,, my Walking Dead meets True Blood post-apocalyptic zombie/vampire mashup, in case you’re new around here). I’ve got six chapters all cleaned up and shipped off to the editor (still a.k.a. my husband).

The good news is that he shouldn’t have a whole lot to do, so his edits shouldn’t take long. The bad news is that there are 36 chapters plus an epilogue (38 if I end up splitting up two extra-lengthy chapters), so at the rate of two chapters a day I’m currently managing, this is going to take a few weeks.

Oh, and thanks to all the rain we keep getting, we keep having to spend all the pretty days like today out in the yard cleaning up the never-ending supply of dead leaves, so that’s slowing things down, too.

all-the-leaves
SO many leaves

I tried to convince Mr. B. that we should just get a leaf blower and blow them all into the woods and be done with it, but he thinks that would just make the fleas and ticks worse by giving them more places to hide and breed, so he’s determined to gather and burn them. At least it’s good exercise and an excuse to spend my days outside.

But one day soon I shall get through these edits, and then I can get busy drafting Desolation of the Damned, which I’ve already begun to sketch out. Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could get this entire trilogy done and published this year? I sure think so.

Spring is in the air and I have so many plans

Our first bloom was lying on the ground, battered by a recent storm.

We’re already eleven days into March, and I’m finally feeling better, Daylight Savings Times’s attempts to rob me of sleep notwithstanding. It’s been a slow journey getting here, but I realized yesterday that I’ve had more energy lately and it’s been a while since I’ve had to battle brain fog.

A few things are responsible for this development. Back at the start of the year I cut way back on sugar and also started doing yoga regularly, and I’ve stuck with those things. Getting out to help rake leaves a couple of hours at least once a week has also helped to build up my stamina. I’ve lost about ten pounds, which is really amazing, considering that A) I wasn’t actually trying to and B) I’ve had to work really hard at losing weight my entire life. So either, God forbid, I’ve got some kind of wasting sickness I’m not aware of, or my body has actually finally healed to a point that I have a healthy metabolism and just eating healthy most of the time and doing a normal amount of activity can actually make me lose weight like a normal person.

But I think the real turning point came when I started going to bed earlier. Ever since our dog got sick, I’ve been making myself stay up until 10 PM so I can give him his last heart and seizure meds of the day, only for him to inevitably wake me up around 5 AM, if not earlier. So I’ve started setting an alarm for 10 and turning my light out between 9 and 9:30. Usually, when the alarm goes off, I give him his meds and then go right back to sleep, and I’ve actually been managing to get almost 8 whole hours of sleep more often that not, and I feel tons better. I don’t know why it never occurred to me I could do this sooner. At any rate, it sure is nice to have energy again (something I suspect I wouldn’t have if I actually had a wasting sickness), and I expect that will only get better as the days get longer and warmer.

With increased energy comes increased productivity. As much as I try to separate my productivity from my self-worth, it still feels great to be getting stuff done. Starting today I set a goal of writing at least 2,000 words of fiction a day, and in meeting that goal this morning I came very close to finishing a novella I started back in January. I’m also planning to write 2,000 words of nonfiction every afternoon, so watch for this blog (and my other one) to get a lot busier in the coming months.

I’m gearing up to do all of the stuff I’d put off until spring, when I knew I’d have more energy. I had dedicated this first quarter of the year (and man, I cannot believe the first quarter of 2019 is almost over already) to finishing all of the stuff I started last year, and I’ve accomplished two-thirds of that goal in getting both Broke Author and Dominion of the Damned published. The only thing left from last year’s list is Deliverance of the Damned. I’m about halfway through my dry read of the rough draft, and so far I haven’t found any significant changes that need to be made, other than the prose needing a good polish. When I finish reading it, I’ll give it a polish and then I’ll be ready to seek beta readers, so give me a holler if you’d like to volunteer for that. Deliverance won’t be ready to publish by the end of this quarter, but if I can get through the first round of revisions by the end of the month, I’ll be satisfied. After that, the speed with which I can get it to publication will depend on how fast my beta readers and then my editor can turn it around. But I’m really hoping to get it out there by summer.

As for my second quarter plans, in addition to revising and editing Deliverance, I’ve got two novellas in the editing queue, counting the one I’m about to finish, which is a standalone, and I’m planning to write two more to complete the new series I started with the other one. I’m also planning to write a short story set in the Damned ‘verse, about the prison riot mentioned in Dominion, and what happened to Phyllis. I’ll be giving that one away to everyone who signs up to my newsletter, including those already signed up, so head here to sign up if you want to read it. Or just enter your e-mail address in the form below. The March issue will be going out later this week, so you’ll be just in time to get that in your inbox.

On the non-fiction side of things, I’ll be putting together a course or two, and I’m also planning to launch a podcast, but I’m still figuring out what that will look like, so I can’t say too much about that yet. I’m also trying to decide if I want to go ahead and tackle the next book in my Broke Author series, or put that off until fall.

Anyway, considering how everything always takes way longer than I think it will, even when I allow extra time, I’m sure these things will keep me busy well into summer.

What about you? Are you coming out of your winter hibernation and starting to feel alive again? Have you got big plans for spring? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Writing and Self-Awareness and General Adulting FTW

This picture has nothing to do with anything. I just want to show you my dog.

Last week was not a good week, y’all. Terrible weather, terribly unhealthy food choices and not nearly enough sleep all conspired together to leave me trapped in a morass of brain fog and lethargy. No writing got done, but I did manage to cobble together a potential cover for my Dominion sequel, so it wasn’t a complete loss. And the week before that I finished the first novella in my new supernatural horror series, so I didn’t feel too terrible about taking a writing break.

I mostly spent my time and what little brain power I could muster doing a deep-dive into the Enneagram, which was incredibly insightful. If you’ve never heard of the Enneagram and have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s a personality framework that delves way deeper into your psyche than Myers-Briggs. Where MBTI focuses on how we take in and process information, the Enneagram gets down to the nitty-gritty of the core beliefs, fears and desires that drive our behavior. It’s a great tool for both increasing self-awareness and gaining a better understanding of the people we love, and I’m kind of obsessed with it right now.

If you’d like to check it out, it’s not as simple as taking an online quiz to find out your type. It takes a bit of reading. The Road Back to You is a great primer (and its available to read for free on Hoopla)–it’s faith-based, but full of great info. If you’re averse to reading about it but are still curious, prefer a more secular angle and are also NOT averse to foul-mouthed hostesses dropping F-bombs, I recommend the podcast Enneagram for Idiots. If you like the faith angle and don’t so much like the cussing, then the Typology podcast might be worth your while.

After a weekend of rest, sunshine, yard work and a couple of Benadryl-enhanced nights of sleep, I’m feeling back to normal this week, and managed to get a couple of pages of another WIP written this morning. This week is going to be mostly full of more yard work and fun grown-up chores like doing our taxes and insurance paperwork, but I’m determined to write at least a page or two on that WIP each day. And I’m also getting very close to finally being able to make an announcement about Dominion. So stay tuned!

On an Absence of Rhythms, a Season of Interruptions, and Trying to Make it All Work

Happy February! Groundhog day has already come and gone and while January seemed to drag on forever, now that it’s gone it’s like, wow, where did that month go?

I’m still struggling to get my rhythm back with any kind of consistency. A big reason is that we’re still getting used to having a larger-than-we’re-used-to home and property to care for, and figuring out how to juggle that with writing and everything involved in running an indie publishing business alongside a freelance business. It seems like something always crops up that needs to be taken care of now.

Case in point: some largish critter (like, larger than a rat) has been nesting inside our walls, and so we’ve been setting out a live trap every night in the hopes of catching and removing it. For the first couple of weeks the trap caught nothing, but it still required regular tending. And then this week we caught three(!) ‘possums.

 

The first two (shown) we relocated to a creek many miles from here, and then after the third (not shown) we had a talk about how we don’t want to get rid of all of the ‘possums on our property since they’re beneficial to have around (not to mention ridiculously cute), so we let the third one chill in the trap while we plugged up the hole where they’d been getting into the house (praying as we did that we weren’t trapping any inside), and then let that one go. But dealing with all of that ate up three mornings this week, which is the time of day that I do all of my fiction writing.

We’ve also got a ton of yard work to do. My husband’s been doing the bulk of that himself, bless him, but if we’re going to get the property cleared of leaves and limbs before mowing season starts, I’m going to have to step up and start helping. I spent an afternoon last week (in between ‘possum-relocation excursions) helping to rake and haul leaves and the next day I was so sore and exhausted I wasn’t good for anything.

So, basically, Real Life Makes Writing Hard. News at 11.

Actually, I wasn’t good for nothing during that recovery day. I used my time to revisit my author brand and ideal audience and all of that necessary marketing stuff. After a day of researching and thinking, I feel like it’s all starting to come together. I think these last several years have been mainly about figuring out who I am as an author and a writer, and now I’ve got a a better handle on that and have a lot more confidence to write the kinds of books I really want to write. And I think you’re going to be seeing that emerge over the course of the next year or so as I make some changes.

I know y’all don’t really care about changes to the web design or my visual branding, but that’s coming, eventually. More pertinent to your interests is the slightly new direction I’m taking with this horror novella series I’m currently writing. It might not be that wildly different, but it’s definitely got a harder edge than anything I’ve written before.

Ironically, though, this series is probably thematically also the most Christian story I’ve ever written. Not that that means it’s clean and safe. Far from it.

Anyway, there’s also the Southern Gothic YA novel that’s still simmering on my back burner, and I’m also ginning up ideas for the kind of spooky Middle Grade stories that I loved so much when I was a kid.

But those are mostly just seeds I’m sowing for the future. On a more immediate timeline, I’m also still thinking about how all of this applies to my newsletter, and how I want that to be a gift — something fun that you’ll look forward to every month — and not a sales tool. I had wanted to send out a new issue in January, but I feel like I need to put more thought into it first.

So this brings us full circle back to the problem of how to juggle all of this with the day-to-day responsibilities of living and care-taking a large property. As much as I thrive on rhythms and routines, I think I’m in a season where I’m going to have to release any expectations along those lines and just fit my work in where I can. As for example, it’s Sunday morning as I’m writing this post. I don’t normally do any work on Sunday mornings, but I’m squeezing this post in between a Bible study and the pre-spring cleaning I want to get done during this wonderful warm spell we’re having. And later today I may try to squeeze off a few paragraphs of the novella in between laundry and vacuuming.

Ultimately, I just need to suck it up and recognize that I’ve been spoiled and that having entire days and weeks to devote to my writing and business is a luxury and not actually a necessity. I just need to let go of the notion that certain tasks need to happen during a certain time of day.

I’ll let you know how that goes.

Meanwhile, I will be sending out the new-and-improved newsletter soon–and it will likely include the first peek at this novella I keep talking about. If you’re not signed up to get that in your inbox, you can remedy that by clicking here, or just enter your e-mail below.

How did your January go? Are you fully back in the swing of things or are you still struggling to find your way in this new year like I am?

 

2018: Not a roller coaster. More like a pinball machine.

(Image by Steve Berry via Flickr Commons)

This year did not go as planned. I mean, they never do, do they? But this one really went off the rails, starting with my mother’s stroke back in January, one whole week into what until then I thought was shaping up to be a pretty good new year.

I thought that was a glitch and that I could get things back on track once she recovered. But it turns out that that event was simply the plunger being pulled back before sending us careening around the rest of 2018 like an Atomic Arcade pinball (’80s kids represent).

Here are a few of the highlights of our year:

  • We spent a month caring for my sick mom, and let me just say that I’m so deeply grateful that it was only a month and that she made such an incredible recovery in what is really practically no time at all where these things are concerned.
  • We moved. To a travel trailer. Way out in the country…
  • Which kicked off our 8-month experiment in living tiny–me, my husband, our dog, cat and two turtles crammed into a 25-foot trailer. Did I mention my husband and I both work at home? And are both introverts?
  • We got to chicken-sit–and rooster-wrestle–on multiple occasions. Chickens are stressful, y’all.
  • We looked at a lot of real estate, and made a lot of tentative plans, only to see them fall through.
  • Some relationships fell apart, and that’s all I’ll say about that. But we also made new friends and new family who we will always cherish.
  • We moved–AGAIN! To a whole ‘nother state this time, and to a fully house-sized house WAY, WAY out in the country–more precisely, in the middle of the Ozark wilderness.

And that is why we’re ending 2018 plum exhausted. And a bit mystified. If you had told us a year ago that we’d be living in the middle of the Arkansas woods on top of a small mountain by the end of the new year, we would have thought you’d done lost your mind. And yet, here we are–and I’m ridiculously grateful to be here, where it’s beautiful and calm and peaceful and I can hike and introvert to my heart’s content.

With all of that happening, it’s probably no surprise that so much of what I’d wanted to get done this year, particularly publishing both the new edition of Dominion of the Damned and the sequel, Deliverance of the Damned, ended up not getting done. But really, it’s amazing I got anything done at all–and I did. While it’s my usual tendency to focus on my failures and ignore my accomplishments, in the interest of being kinder to myself and focusing on the positive, here’s what actually got done this year:

  • I managed to get through three rounds of publisher’s edits on Bound Spirits despite all of the chaos in my life those first few months.
  • I managed a whole revision of Dominion AND made it through most of my editor’s edits.
  • I wrote an entire first draft of Deliverance.
  • I helped launch Bound Spirits at the end of July.
  • I wrote my first non-fiction book!
  • And I put together my very first online course.

I still feel disappointed that I didn’t get as much traction as I wanted on the Damned trilogy, but I realize that a sane person would think that’s a lot to accomplish in a single year, so I’m going to go ahead and let myself feel proud about that. And put Damned high on the priority list for 2019.

Because I am so worn out from living through 2018, I’m going to tie up some loose ends and then take some time off until after the start of the new year, when I’ll be back to tell you all about the plans I have for 2019. Or should I say hopes, because if there’s one thing this year taught me, it’s that it’s useless to make long-term plans.

How was your 2018? Tell me all about it in the comments.