Reflections on the one-year anniversary of being published

Last month marked the anniversary of my first published work. Well, my first published work in over two decades, I should say, not counting unpaid blog posts and articles for local area newsletters. I had a few small bits published right after college, but then I had children and did not get back into writing for many years. Even then, I was too scared to send anything off to see if it was good enough for publication. Two years ago, I finally had enough positive feedback from other writers to get my courage up, and I got the ball rolling on submitting and by May last year, I had pieces published in four anthologies.

It’s been a good year, all told. I’ve had the chance to experience an anthology being built from the ground up, worked with several personalities of editors, set up Amazon Author Central and Goodreads Author pages, met a lot of fantastic and helpful new people, learned thousands of things about writing and marketing, attended my first book festival, changed my logo, and also discovered what the difference between people who had my best interests at heart and those who didn’t looked like.

2023 has been a hard year for me, logistically speaking. A prodigious number of things have gone wrong between the two houses I help maintain, my little family has had some big trials I’d rather not mention here, people and pets I love have passed away, my best friend had her whole life overturned, and groups that I help run have all had their own wacky disasters as well.

My word count is still really high compared to most years. My connections to other writers have grown stronger, and the number of writing opportunities I’ve had have multiplied exponentially, but I’m still struggling with time management. There’s just not enough of me to go around dealing with all the disasters and to get all the writing related activities done (so many of which are not, in fact, actually writing). Which is why my number of published works remains low – I just haven’t had time to submit anything anywhere with everything else that’s been going on.

That changed this morning. Despite a looming writing deadline for a short story that’s going in the back of someone else’s book, I sat down and made sure that I’d submitted at least a few poems and stories for publication in literary journals, anthologies, and zines. Just that little effort was enough – I’m feeling positive about writing again for the first time in a couple months. I can’t wait to see where my pieces end up. I’m looking forward to a fruitful second year of publishing.

Weird Projects that relate to Writing

Starting last Friday I finally had some time to myself again. I made a list of all the writing things I accomplished last year, which is below:

2022 In Review โ€“ Writing Life

  • Led Open Door Writing Group 16 times
  • Attended Open Door Writing Group 24 times
  • Led East Texas Writers Guild meetings 23 times
  • Attended writers conferences โ€“ 1 online and 2 in person
  • Attended one writing retreat
  • Submitted the first three chapters of my current novel to a respected writing coach in my genre and spent two sessions discussing my writing style, my writing flaws, my writing strengths, and potential plot holes for this particular novel
  • Worked with two critique groups, covering five months of the year
  • Worked with an accountability partner all year
  • Mentored a new-to-writing fantasy writer for 3 months
  • Created outlines for two full novels
  • Learned to set up newsletters and mailing lists
  • Set up my newsletter and mailing lists
  • Redesigned my website
  • Had professional portraits taken
  • Submitted five stories to magazines and journals
  • Wrote around 125,000 words total
  • Read 6 books on writing and implemented their suggestions
  • Started taking a marketing class
  • Wrote alternately on two different novels
  • Had 3 poems, 3 personal essays, and 1 short story published in anthologies

Whew! That’s a lot, especially considering how many health woes I had, moving three kids to different rooms (sometimes in a different house, painting, moving into my writing studio, a kid graduating high school and starting college, and all the family stuff.

I also updated all my reading lists from the last few years. I thought Amazon was automatically updating them for me when I purchased a book or read one as an e-book or listened on Audible, but it hadn’t been. So I went back through my paper lists, Library Elf and Circulation Desk emails, old blog and FB posts, etc and added books back in. I’m sure it’s still not all I read, but it’s much closer to reality now. Looking back, I realized that most years I read about a book a week, some years more than that, and a couple years way, way less than that. I re-read some old blog posts and realized that one of those years I was PTA President and had two part-time jobs, so that made sense and the other time I was just crafting all year long and I hadn’t discovered audio books yet. ๐Ÿ™‚ It was very informative to delve back into those lists of the books I loved or hated and see how they influenced the things I wrote those years. It was interesting to see the ebbs and flows of my interests, some years reading great swaths of neuroscience and other years mainly mysteries, but always, always a ton of fantasy and science fiction.

Now that I’ve processed all of that in my journal, I’m back on track with writing my own novels. I’ve got a schedule worked out for the rest of the month on what I’m writing for one and worldbuilding for another one. In the past, I’ve tried to plan out by quarters, but I’ve discovered that I get discouraged when one quarter bleeds over into a second one and that’s where I tend to fall down the rabbit hole. So I made a big general plan on what I hope to accomplish for the year, but I’m only doing detailed planning a month at a time and plan to regroup at the end of the month to rework the schedule for the next month. ๐Ÿ™‚

Working on two different projects helps my brain have something to bounce back and forth between when I get stuck on one, so this month, I hope to finish the Caro’s Quest re-write and flesh out new characters for a YA novel I’m working on in a friends universe.

What are y’all working on this year? Leave me a comment about it and I’ll start cheering you on! ๐Ÿ™‚

Next Chapters Unleashed available now for pre-order

https://books2read.com/nextchapters

I am so excited to announce that my first published short story is available as of today as a pre-order. You can click the link above to order from any of those fine establishments right now. Seeing the book here was really nice and pretty and I clicked each one of those links to see the book in each of the stores, because I’m extra like that.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60422120-next-chapters-unleashed

This is the image that made me cry. I have been shelving books I read into Goodreads for 15 years now. Read a book, shelve it. Read a book, shelve it. All this time I’ve been scribbling away all these little stories of my own in the background, but I was too scared to do anything with them. Last year I decided that I wasn’t going to hide my words any more. And now one of my stories is there on Goodreads. Goodreads! I’m crying again, y’all. It is a wonderful feeling.

Boy Mom anthology news

Last year was a kind of a banner year for me because I finally took charge of my very large folder full of unpublished writing and started submitting my work various places. I’d never done it before and it was hard and scary to get over just the fear factor of it all. The banner part came because publishers started accepting my works.

This morning I head back from the Boy Mom anthology people, who accepted my memoir-style essay about raising my boys sometime last fall. They revealed the cover and told us that it will be going out for sale in time for Mother’s Day!

I’ll let y’all know when I know more, of course. But for now, rejoicing! ๐Ÿ™‚

Here’s the silly mock-up I made for myself one day. The photo really encompasses the essay I wrote for the anthology.

The Overachiever of Illness

“The Overachiever of Illness.” That’s what the ER doctor called me two weeks ago when I went in, unable to breathe. Turns out that not only did I have Covid, but also bronchitis and Flu B. I’ve been mostly in bed ever since.

Am I really sick?! Yeah. I’m sick.

Fortunately, I have long been a person who forgets to pack pajamas on trips, so I have a full drawer of them. I have a solid week’s worth at this point, from lightweight beach themed summer wear to heavy duty pink snowflakes, and everything in between. I can change into new pajamas every day! It’s been great. (A kids friend said she aspires to that lifestyle and I laughed too hard.)

Boring!

I’m not going regale you with all my temps and oxygen levels and liquid intake and literally nineteen new medicines (the real literal, not the fake one) and all that because it is so very boring, even to me. Just know that I’ve been checking levels every hour or so for two and a half weeks now.

So to keep myself entertained in between taking down data for nurses, I’ve been in bed reading and watching movies and catching up on Netflix series. Here’s what I’ve been up to….

View from my window. Sitting up helps me breathe, but all I want to do is lie down.

Books:

First I finished “Project Management for Parents: Engage the Family, Build Teamwork, Succeed Together,” which I really need to post a review of. It was a good book for the left brained parent, or maybe for the right brained parent who wishes they were more left brained? That might be a better descriptor. In any case, a good book if you like parenting books.

I finished all the Practical Magic books, which were lovely, as expected. A bit more repetitive than I’d hoped, but that’s what I get for reading them back to back to back. It was good to see the whole story from beginning to end like that and really take in the whole of the way the curse changed the family as time went on and how each generation dealt with it in unexpected ways.

Then I read a new book by Freya Marske called “A Marvellous Light” that I loved so much that I immediately tried to buy the sequel to, only to be told that it was pre-order only until November and I’m dying over it. I really need the next one because this gentle Victorianish man romance/mystery/magical thing is my jam, apparently. Who knew? Steph. She always knows what I need to read.

So now what I’m reading is “Dear Writer, You Need to Quit,” a title which cracks me up. One of my writing groups suggested it as something I needed because I’m always needing to quit things and sometimes I don’t choose the best things to quit.

Sometimes I put the kindle down and stare at the fake fireplace. Greg can hear it through the wall and yells at me to keep it down. Hahaha.

Movies:

“Unicorn Store” was the first one I started. It took me forever because I couldn’t watch more than 10 minutes before I was overwrought. I don’t know why. It was just too cute and embarrassing, but I couldn’t not watch it, either, so I watched it in 10 minute spurts.

One day the kids were horrified to realize that I had never watched “Ponyo” all the way through, not even once, given that they had each watched it approximately 95,000 throughout their childhoods. So we watched that. It was really good and now I know what Ree’s t-shirt means. Ponyo Loves Ham!

Like everyone else on the planet, I couldn’t get “We Don’t Talk About Bruno, No, No” out of my head, so I watched “Encanto” multiple times until I could sing all the songs. When I feel better I will learn the dances and then my children will be really embarrassed. It will be great!

I thought I’d seen “Cloud Atlas” before, but apparently only the same few sections a couple times, so I watched it all the way through and it was more violent than I’d expected, but I liked it and I’m still thinking about it in that way that you do with weird movies like this.

Netflix Series:

I’d started watching “Locke & Key” with Greg when Season One came along and we both loved it. By the time we got to Season Two, Greg thought it had gone off kilter and “too relationshippy” and he didn’t want to watch any more, so I finished this off while he was at school.

Greg and I also would watch “Good Witch” together, which we’ve been watching since practically before he was born at this point (TV movies first, of course, then the show). He stopped watching at the beginning of this season because he hated the new intro and wanted Grace and Nick back in the story. So I’ve watched this last season alone and I don’t know if it’s the missing Grace and Nick, the missing Greg, or the missing soul of the show, but this season was just not what I wanted. Taking the emphasis off of helping others and putting it all into minding their own magic threw me off and I was just glad that it ended, I guess, because it was breaking my heart going on the way it was going.

Here’s something more cheerful. The Other Lisa H brought me tiny art and potions for healing and eggs from her own chicken ladies.

So then I got on the bandwagon and started watching “The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window” because a) Kristen Bell and b) the title is hilarious. But the show? Not so hilarious. Slow. Suddenly sexy. Slow. Slow. Huh? Slow. Slow. Oh wait, what??? Slow. Suddenly sexy. Confusing. Suddenly violent. Is it over yet? Maybe? I hope so. But wait, maybe not. I don’t know, y’all. I watched it all day long and now that it’s over, I just wish I’d used my time better that day.

After that we had snow days and the kids and spouse were home to entertain me, so I stopped doing anything that wasn’t staring at their faces, unless it was staring at the Olympics. Figure Skating is my favorite. I could watch that for hours.

In any case, I hope you never, ever become the “Overachiever of Illness” because it’s terrible. But I hope if you do, you have friends to help you along and access to all the books, movies, and series your heart desires. ๐Ÿ™‚

Some more goodies from friends. They really helped when both my spouse and I were sick at the same time. (Nick naturally got better in two days. I’m still sick. *sigh*)

Spiritual Practices: Liturgical Library

This week for our Spiritual Practices class, we were encouraged to make a library of spiritual or sacred texts. I wandered the house for hours, picking up books here and there, and piling them all up next to my bed. Nick and I had a long conversation about what we each thought should go in a spiritual library. His definition leaned towards Christianity, naturally, while mine was wider reaching and included not just spiritual practice manuals, but also covering mythology, fairy tales, and books that weren’t necessarily about religion, but changed my views on it. Then I realized that my library also includes things on my kindle and on my hard drive that I do not have physical versions of, so I made myself a little collage of all those books to put alongside my “new” spiritual library. It was an interesting thought experiment, over all. Now I just have to figure out where to put all these books now that I’ve gathered them and people refilled their spots with other books.

What books do you consider Must Haves in your spiritual library aresenal? Please leave me some comments below. I am always looking for more books.

Holiday Weekend, now back to writing

My dad came up to spend the July 4th weekend with us. He arrived Friday and we thought he was going home on Sunday, but he extended it to Monday to make some much needed repair calls for his house up here and now he’s extended it one more day to meet the termite people in person. All of which to say that I haven’t gotten any writing done since last Thursday.

So today, I’ve got some time and my brain says “nope.” I am not letting that deter me. For my birthday in April, I got several of those books in the writing thesaurus series and I have not managed to look at a single one until this morning. So I looked up my notes about the scene I was supposed to be writing – “Edward & Minerva talk in hotel room after meeting Sharon. E’s POV, also show how he is more like Stephen/Walt in tenderness towards wife, but how that is a magically manipulated response.”

So then I looked up these key words: “adoration” “apprehension” (both from the “Emotion Thesaurus“) “hotel room” (from the Urban Settings Thesaurus) “manipulative” (from the “Negative Trait Thesaurus

Then I made notes about each key words and dumped those into my scene document et voila! Half the scene is already done. The part I consider the hard part, usually. Now to add dialogue.

Was it quick? Not really. But it’s a scene started rather than the two sentence outline I previously had. ๐Ÿ™‚

Book Binding Weekend

One of my best friends and I made books this weekend. She took a four-day workshop on it and graciously offered to have me down for the weekend and teach me her new skills. I forgot to take a picture of the book press, which is large, red, and dusty from having sat in someone’s workshop area for years.

Things I learned:

1. Glue is the foundation of all books. That and more glue. With some glue here and glue there. Also some paper.

Photo of a workspace that includes a teal cutting mat which has cut paper and a rectangle of cardstock on top, a wooden 12-inch ruler, a black Sharpie marker, an awl, a white plastic storage container, a box containing a brayer, a bottle of fancy white glue, a yogurt cup containing glue and a a foam paintbrush covered in glue at the tip, a blue bowl with a wet, blue paper towel wadded up inside of it, a pair of green-handled scissors, a red stool, another work area across the table from the main work area (but without the teal mat), and front-and-center a hand which is coated in glue holding a cardstock spine that is also coated in glue. So much glue.

2. I cannot cut the cardstock. Not at all. My friend ended up cutting it all. BUT she has a Cricut and we’re going to cut down some of her huge cardstock sheets to run them through the machine later. I folded all the paper in half, though.

3. Stabbing little holes in paper is fun! So much fun!

4. Sometimes you forget how many holes to make, so you have to improvise. We accidentally put in 5, but you need an even number in this style of book binding, so we put in another one at the bottom. We used variegated thread for our inner binding, which made it super festive.

5. Beeswax smells just like when you smush your face really deep into your cat and then try to breathe, but without all the fur up your nose.

6. There is no 6. 7. Waxing thread is also addictive. I don’t know why.

8. Sometimes you have the wrong sized paper for your interior. So then you need to cut it, but it is hard to do without the guillotine. You may try many things, like sanding the paper, cutting it with box cutters, or even using the dremel wood cutters. They will not work. They will also make the house smell weirdly burnt. Then you will go out to Wal-Mart really late at night and buy a guillotine. They are CHEAP. Start with that last step.

10. Bookbinding has a lot of waiting time while the press does its work. We watched irreverent feminist comedy specials on Netflix while we waited. You can watch whatever you want. ๐Ÿ™‚

11. When putting the endpapers in, use the tiniest line of glue. We thought we had. We were wrong. Also, don’t use thin paper for the endpaper. Mine was a little too translucent. Steph’s was fine (a nice sage green, not pictured.)

12. Make a feature of a little error. My error was cutting the paper too close to a little signature spot on the paper. I ended up putting it on the front, where it looks like a cute little frill. We also learned that if you don’t like one side of your book, flip it the other way and make the back the front (my blue was crooked on one side. This side is much better.)

We had such a fun time making these little darlings! ๐Ÿ™‚ 12/10 would do it again.