My kid didn't graduate with his class in May, and I’m okay with that. After all, in order for me to proud he has to be alive. For a while I thought he was going down a road where that was looking less likely. I’ve had too many friends whose children have died too young (one would be too many, but it’s sadly more than that). In 2013, we had two Solders die from suicide in our battalion, and a few more on post.
The pandemic hit my sensitive kid hard. It didn’t make sense to him, and there was nothing I could tell him; it didn’t make sense to me, either. He was sad and angry at the world because the grown-ups kept doing mean, stupid shit that guaranteed more people would die. Smart people’s expert advice went unheeded, and government put money and property over lives, again and again. He saw people who didn’t look like him get beaten down and murdered and didn’t understand why those lives mattered less than his.
We’ve tried to raise a compassionate kid who uses his many privileges to better the lives around him. His brain just couldn’t handle the higher order thinking of his math class this past year. And since he’s my son, he didn’t reach out for help until he’d already dug a deep hole. So we said, “Fuck it.” In ten years, it probably won’t matter much or at all that he graduated in June, or July, or December, or that he got a GED instead. But it will mean everything that he’s still here in ten years, so I can hug him and tell him I love him.
He’s getting the help he needs, and the rest he needs. He’ll get that last half credit of math one way or another. And then he’ll be here so we can all find out what this amazing kid will do next.
I’m good. Celebrate your kids’ successes. I will celebrate his when the time comes, and I’ll be doubly grateful that he’s good, too.
Okay, so I haven't updated the blog in *checks website* twelve months! What can I say, people? It's been a Dumpster fire of a year.
Those of you who follow Romancelandia know the RWA shit show peaked just before Christmas last year. Bad decisions made. Dirty laundry aired. Structural racism exposed. Board members resigned. Special elections held. All before COVID shut down the in-person annual conference.
Thoughts on that – I'm glad this shit came to light. As a new member, I was unaware of RWA's history. I should have done more research before joining. That is my privilege at work. I decided to stick around so the good work RWA can do wouldn't be left to the racists. I'll stick around next year, because I got suckered into volunteering to be President for our local chapter. I think RWA is heading in a better direction. I hope my presence ensures it continues to do so. If it becomes obvious that not enough is being done to work on past ills and toward a better, more inclusive future, I will tender my resignation. Totally understand those who threw in the towel. I hope we make RWA an organization they can return to in the future.
Thoughts on the rest of 2020 – Nope. Nope. Nope. All kinds of phrases have been used over the past 9 months to describe this mess of a year. What I know is that as a nation we are at a tipping point, a situation mirrored in smaller institutions like RWA. Where we go from here matters, but unlike RWA I can't just resign if I don't like where our nation is heading.
I am happy the Biden-Harris ticket carried the day. It means we have a chance to form a better future that includes all Americans. It does not mean things will instantly get better, and it doesn't mean we won't squander that chance. I will do some soul-searching to determine how I can increase the odds of that better future coming to fruition. I am working on my knowledge-base, trying to question what I've been taught and make the changes necessary to my thinking and behavior to be a better ally to both BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities. I encourage you to do the same.
I have a marketing plan now, and part of that is updating the blog more regularly. I'm planning on once per month, that way it's at least once per quarter. Also, sign up for my newsletter and encourage your friends to do the same. A free short story, early notification of sales, maybe a chance to win an Advance Review Copy of a future book.
Oh, and if you've never heard of it, look up the song "What a Year for a New Year" by Dan Wilson. I've found comfort in listening to this song over the past 18 years during difficult years, but none has been worse than this one. I hope you enjoy it, too.
I haven't posted in a while due to many factors. Start of school, which meant ramping up PTSA's at both kids' schools, as well as getting them settled into this year's routine. I thought I was going to work on one story for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this year, but it was done percolating, so I started writing. The writing went well enough that I knew I could finish it before November, so I buckled down and did it. Then November hit, and here we are.
I finished my 50,000 words on November 18 and finished the story I wanted to tell a few days later. The draft came in around 64k. There are holes that I need to fill, and I need to braid the story together better. It's a paranormal romance with a murder mystery. The mystery is clunky, but the romance is working okay. This is why we revise.
Last year, I managed about 35,000 words. Family business kind of took over my life the last half of November last year. This year, everyone remained healthy, and I've developed better discipline with my writing over the course of the last twelve months. Participating in NaNoWriMo last year helped a lot, so did revising and rewriting the last two books in my Magic & Monsters series. I also signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo in July to help me revise Brimstone & Silver before the school year started.
NaNo may not be for everyone, but it is a challenge worth trying and worth trying more than once. It gets your butt in the seat and your head in the game. There's a lot of support from the writing community. Successful writers make themselves available to cheer you on, pass along tips, and answer questions. There are thousands upon thousands of people attempting the same thing at the same time and talking about it across social media. For a solitary occupation, it's good to know you're not alone.
One of the things that helped this year was going to IRL Write-Ins, joining fellow authors in the real world and writing together. Sometimes in silence, sometimes sharing what we wrote or what we're struggling with. Again, writing is a solitary experience, except when you take the opportunity to make it less so.
If anyone out there is thinking of writing their own book, consider using the community, resources, and motivation that NaNoWriMo provides to begin. However, if you're a person who gets anxious with deadlines and external goals or will feel like a failure if you don't make it to 50k, it might not be the best fit for you. The coaches and fellow writers are good at pointing out that any writing is progress, but for some people ambitious goals can be anxiety inducing and your continued good mental health is important for writing.
The idea isn't to have a perfect book by November 30th. The idea is to have a draft: clay to mold, pages to fix, ideas written. After that comes the really hard part. Editing, revising, taking your clay and making a beautiful vase.
It hit me today, as the Facebook memories photo popped up on my feed. First day of school pics from two years ago. Yesterday, it was the first day from last year. Thursday, I posted this year’s pictures. Today, it will be from our first year in Tucson. Later this month, Virginia and Texas will pop up.
I only have one more first day with my oldest. This year, he is a junior. Next year, he’ll be a senior. He’ll get his license before the month is out, and we are prepping our old Toyota for him. I have complicated feelings.
It’s not exactly sadness, though a strong ribbon of that runs through whatever it is I’m feeling. There’s a surprising element of joy to it, too. Joy in the young man he is, the adult he’s becoming. Joy as he flexes his wings and takes his tentative steps on his own out of the nest. I feel relief, too, both from some of the mundane obligations of parenthood, as his transportation will fall more and more under the “not my problem” category, as well as knowing he is gaining confidence and maturity. That I, as a parent, have done “a good job”.
It’s that sadness that I want to poke and prod. My mother once told me something to the effect that “Parenting is the only relationship where the end goal is to create distance, not grow closer.” I’ve tried to keep that in the forefront of my thoughts throughout the adventure of parenthood, but it has become more relevant since my boys hit adolescence. But today the idea has hit me like a two-by-four to the head. Before too long, that last first day will be in the past.
He will have other first days, but I won’t be photographing them. First day of college, first day of a new job, first day in his own apartment. All too soon, his room at home will be empty, and a part of my heart will forever be somewhere else. I won’t be able to knock on his door just to make sure he’s there.
The bundle of wriggling newborn that scared the cats when we brought him home from the hospital is long gone. Bit by bit, school year by school year, he has been replaced. Now a young man with keys in hand stands ready to fly, out our door and into his own life.
I only have one more first day he is obligated to share with me. The rest belong to him. If we’ve done our job well, he will invite us to share in them. So, I’m allowed to feel a little sad, and I’m allowed to feel joy, and relief. And I hold tight to the fact that I get one more. Next year, I’ll be a mess.
These are not reviews, just explanations of why certain things make me happy. Everything has flaws, and sometimes I might point them out, but let me have enthusiasm for the things I like. If you find something I like particularly problematic, please feel free to politely comment here or send me a message. I am always willing to learn. Also, if you wonder why something you love isn't here, I'd love to start a conversation on what's making you happy. I've found so many things I love via recommendations.
TV & Movies
Avengers: Endgame – Spoilers! Spoilers! Spoilers!
The movie was a very satisfying end to a long arc in the MCU. It held my attention for all three hours, entertained me and my family, and closed the loop on many of the original characters. I loved how I thought I was going to see one type of movie but ended up seeing an amalgam of many kinds of movies. I laughed, and I cried.
The very odd thing was, we kinda knew or could guess at some of the major plot points. It was even odds on whether Tony Stark or Steve Rogers was going to die, but one of them had to. We all knew that those who'd been snapped out of existence were coming back. And yet, the Russos still managed to surprise us with how exactly these things happened and hit the right emotional beats so it meant something. Wow.
The one disappointing event for me was Black Widow's death. As soon as I realized where she and Hawkeye were heading, I knew how it was going to end. I kinda liked how they fought over who got to sacrifice themselves and kept us in minor suspense, but it ended how all they all seem to end. Letting Natasha live would have been a more interesting choice.
Good Omens (no spoilers)
Based on the book by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman that I read twenty years ago. Or more. It's been a long time, and I'm starting to feel old. If you like Monty Python, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and/or Neil Gaiman, you'll like this. I did, a lot. It was funny and sweet and wicked, all wrapped up in a dry British humor bow.
I can't compare it to the book because I read that before kids. I don't remember much other than the basic plot outline and that I liked it.
Lock In by John Scalzi. Described this to my husband as "Traditional murder mystery with Sci Fi elements". Not as funny as Redshirts, but a good read. I liked the world he built and some of the existential questions he raised.
The Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman. Highly recommend this for anyone interested in becoming a writer. It really is about the business side, not the art side, and covers commercial fiction, literary fiction, and non-fiction. Very thorough, surprisingly readable.
My oldest son got me to listen to the Into the Spiderverse soundtrack. I love it. Not my usual choice in music, but I love this. That is all.
Kasey Musgraves The Golden Hour
I like her wordplay and her beautiful voice. Her songs make me smile.
The British History Podcast (BHP) and Pop Culture Happy Hour (PCHH). These two will always be up. I'm always listening to them and love when they release new episodes.
Linda Holmes from PCHH inspired me to finish my first book, and they have a weekly segment called, drumroll please, "What's Making Us Happy". See? See what I did there? It's a roundtable discussion of pop culture, including TV shows, movies, music, books, comics, and theater.
The BHP is an in-depth history of Britain, starting from the very beginning. It's been going for eight years and he's almost to William the Conqueror. It's not just a recitation of what the kings were doing but also giving social context to why things happened the way they did. He tries, as best he can given the sources available, to tell the stories of the common people and women. And, weird compliment, when I have trouble sleeping, I'll listen to old episodes. Jamie's voice is very soothing.
The Allusionist is a great podcast if you like language and the history of language and words. And it's funny and punny.
Budget Bytes is my go-to whenever I need cheap, easy recipes. I haven't had a bad recipe from her yet.
Since I've had kids in school, May has become a complete blur. Between my birthday, Mother's Day, and end of school year activities, May passes by like a Porsche on the freeway. This year we added a trip up to Phoenix to visit the mommies and Phoenix Fan Fusion. And extra work with the PTAs of both kids' schools.
I think, when they are grown and gone, I will miss how May passes. It will be too quiet.
We don't have much planned this summer. Thing 1 has an online Health class that's required for graduation and a one-week class at the local community college on car repair. Thing 2 will be headed to Scout Camp. Me, I'll be publishing Book 2, Devil's Claw & Moonflower, in mid-June and working on Book 3. I hope to have a draft by the end of the month, so I can publish in the fall (preferably October).
I will be focusing some effort on figuring out the business end of this author's life. I have some books on the subject I've been meaning to read but haven't had the time. Should I find one or two to recommend, check out the Making Me Happy section of the page.
Hope you enjoy your summer. I know we're planning on plenty of drinks by the pool.
Remember how I said yes to too many things? April is when that bit me in the ass. I could see it coming, a train in the tunnel. Thankfully, the tunnel was wide enough for me to safely pass through, and now we’re looking at the last few weeks of the school year with only a few more obligations to see through.
Three pieces of good news. Found a replacement for my work with Haven Totes. I have truly enjoyed working with this organization for the last two years, but it was difficult to balance it at the same time when my kiddos most needed me. I will continue to support the Haven Totes mission in other ways, but I am turning over my day to day responsibilities to someone else.
Annual testing is done at my younger son’s school. The PTA helped with testing incentives this year. If the kids took their test that day, they got a treat. Although exactly zero students looked forward to the test, they did look forward to the reward after. The testing coordinator is brilliant
Last bit of good news (and I’m burying the lede on purpose). I’ve sent Book 2 to my editor, and I’m already working with the cover designer. Tentative title is “Devil’s Claw & Moonstone”.
No bad news to report at the moment, just exhausted after a hectic month. Happy Passover and Happy Easter. We’re more of an eat-candy-and-hang-out family when it comes to holidays, but however you celebrate, enjoy!
Working with Word is okay, but there were a lot of early formatting errors when I uploaded it to the publisher. Also, Word has some serious limitations when you're writing a very long document. I bought Scrivener, a program designed specifically for writers, to work on Book 2. There are a couple of things I find vaguely annoying, but I've only had it a month now, and haven't learned everything yet, or broken my old Word habits.
Even with my twenty-plus years' experience with Word, I'm finding Scrivener much easier when dealing with this length of material. I will soon find out how well its exporting features work. I had some issues getting the beta version to convert, but it was my first attempt, and I found an easy work-around. I still use Word for shorter things, like this blog.
When reading reviews of the program, they kept mentioning the cost. That had me worried it would be super expensive. It's not. Plus, there's a free 30-day trial, so you can see if it works for you before you buy it. And that's 30 days of using it, not 30 days from download (so if you don't write every day, the actual expiration date is longer).
As you can see from the home page, I've had a very busy month! I finally have my work up where the rest of the world can see it. Now, just marketing, marketing, marketing.
Don't worry about Book 2. I'm making progress on that front, too. The revised, revised draft is out to some beta readers, so it should be ready for the editor in a couple months at the most. Hoping to publish by the end of June (but we all know how that worked out last time).
Some thoughts on self-publishing:
Goals for the next two months:
New Year's Day. Balanced between the old and the new. Time for some reflection on the year gone by and some goal setting for the year to come.
2018 was a year of growth and change in my family. I watched my teenager struggle with school, anxiety, and depression, but also work to overcome it. He is much more healthy now than he was at the beginning of the year. My youngest son started middle school and struggled with his ADHD. Together, we came up with strategies to help him cope. My husband switched jobs, again, but may have found his next calling. As for me, I finished my first book, as of December 31. I believe it is complete (unless I find a formatting error along the way). It's a hell of an accomplishment, to finish an 80,000+ word book, in addition to finishing a first draft on a second book. I also said yes to too many other activities, which took away from my family and my writing. And I closed out the year with not one, not two, but three, count 'em, three major surgeries in my family.
What I'm looking forward to in 2019:
Self-publishing my first book! And hopefully my second.
I will hand over at least one of my volunteer jobs and balance my life a little better.
Driving lessons and having a teenage driver in the house. Yes, I know most parents dread this, but my oldest is so excited that it's rubbing off on me.
A better learning experience for my middle-schooler now that we've found an organizational system that works for him.
A happier husband as he continues to explore and develop his new career.
Healthy family members (no emergency hospital or vet visits).
I think I'll take a page out of Pop Culture Happy Hour's book and revisit these goals next year.
Best wishes for the New Year. I hope you have loving people in your life to help you cope when the bad outweighs the good. And that the bad doesn't stick around for long.