Early Summer Musings

The fact that it is already summer break just astounds me. It feels like it was only yesterday that it was Mother’s Day.

Me and my kiddos

May went by in a flurry of tornado warnings, band concerts and banquets, color guard contests, kids’ auditions or testing for various activities, and all the sayings of “goodbye” to people and places we’ve loved spending time with.

I started helping out the worship team at my local UU church, both developing services and speaking during services. I also agreed to serve as vice president of the church board next year.

My eldest child acquired a car, passing his old one to his younger brother, who just started driving solo, and just like that *snap* life changed overnight. I no longer have to drive anyone anywhere unless there’s an emergency.

I spent a couple weeks preparing for a speaking engagement for the Open Door Writing Group at the Tyler Public Library about writing lyrically. I read or re-read so many books on writing poetry. Two didn’t arrive on time, so I still have those to look forward to.

Unfortunately, all that activity sent my diseases into overdrive. I got a sinus infection, then my joints flared up and I spent the last half of the month in too much pain to think, let alone set down words. It took me an entire month to finish a short story that I’d had outlined and ready to go. *sigh*

Last week my father was in town, so we spent time indulging in watching “Only Murders in the Building” (while I did cross stitch, since my hands had finally returned to normal) and taking time to look over his house here and make lists of future maintenance needs.

He went back to his primary residence yesterday afternoon and now I am back at my writing desk today, updating all the social media things, preparing for my two speaking engagements that are coming up later this month, and trying to sneak in a few new words in my next novel. Hope all of y’all are having a wonderful start to your summer! Let me know in the comments if you plan to join me at any of my events this month.

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.

All the Appointments!

It’s Doctor Appointment Season! Since I have a billion and one health issues, I see a lot of specialists. One year I decided it would just be easier if I saw them all in February – who knows why at this point? Since they usually are 6 months or a year apart, I end up seeing at least one doctor every week through February and into March. So far I’ve seen the neurologist (my brain is apparently fine, even if it doesn’t feel like it), the ENT (my sinuses are still gross), and the rheumatologist (oh so much wrong with me). The rheumatologist referred me to the orthopedist (is that a word?), and I see him on Monday.

In between all that, I’ve been:

  • dog-sitting,
  • teaching lessons at Open Door Writing Group (who had a fantastic turnout this month!),
  • writing ALL THE VILLAIN SCENES for Caro’s Quest,
  • critiqued an entire paranormal romance novel for a friend (I’m so excited for that one to come out!),
  • drove my youngest to work and back about 30,000 times,
  • chaperoned a winter guard contest,

The awesome mascot statue at the winter guard contest

  • attended my kid’s pre-UIL concert
  • figured out that I’m way ahead on my word count compared to last year (thanks Sprint Club!),
  • painted the hallway bathroom, then painted the backs of the built-in bookcases the same color because I loved it so much,
  • got a fun haircut
  • started repotting plants and tidying up my yard for the spring,
  • and spent far too much time troubleshooting iPad woes.

That’s it for the end of February and early March.

What have y’all been up to? Let me know in the comments below. ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s been a doozy of a year so far!

Y’all. I thought I was going to be so on track with my writing this year, having made a decent schedule, with lots of breaks for fun family times, illness, injury, and whatever. What I didn’t plan for was for all of that to happen in the first month of the year.

My year so far has included a totaled car, a busted dishwasher pump, mysteriously broken microwave, and wonky electrical system all in my house, plus a flooding under the kitchen floor, worn out electrical outlets that weren’t working, and a leaking hot water heater in the house my college kids live in, there was a major ice storm in my area, so we were without power for almost five days, and then the van we borrowed while we are looking for a new car had it’s battery die. So eight major crisis’s in a six week period.

Oh, and my college kid rescued a puppy that had been dumped in his friends yard, so there’s been puppy babysitting as well.

Obligatory puppy picture. Meet Indy! She’s sweet and feisty all at once.

Needless to say, I’m a little behind on my word count. I have, however, figured out all the plot holes in the current novel, have made a list of all the scenes needing to be written, and put it all into a handy-dandy word document that I can access from any device I own. So now I can write literally from anywhere. Which is good because the puppy cannot come here to my house, so I must go to hers. (It’s the puppy’s house now. Bwahahah.)

Also, Indy has been a welcome inclusion in my life because my current novel has a little dog in it, a puppy only a little bit older than her, so I’m using my time with her as inspiration for dog-related comic relief in bleaker parts of my story. ๐Ÿ™‚ Plus puppy kisses! Win-win!

Hope y’all are all doing well. Let me know in the comments below. ๐Ÿ™‚

November, November

So you’ll probably see two posts from me today because apparently I got busy and never hit “publish” on the last one. Thanks for being patient with me!

Let’s just start out with me saying that I did not win at NaNoWriMo this year. November was just a bit too full. What did I do in November instead?

Well, the first week was all about World Fantasy Con. I was supposed to actually go out to Louisiana in person, but a) I didn’t have anyone to share my room, which was part of how I was being able to afford to go, b) I didn’t know anyone else going, which makes for a lonely conference experience and c) I just can’t drive that far on my own these days, not with all the ongoing weird health issues. Since most of the conference was going to be online, I drove down and spent the weekend with my accountability partner and college BFF, Stephanie Leary. She had to work during parts of it, so she was up in her office, but the rest of the time, we got to lounge around, eat good food, take a really long walk, be silly, talk about writing, and listen to some spectacular writers talk about writing. It was a fantastic four days. ๐Ÿ™‚ I regret nothing.

I did get a few things done, writing-wise, that week, though. I wrote my President’s Corner column and several thousand words on Lady Air Pirates, plus some background bits for that story.

The second week of November was half ETWG work, half beta reading/critiquing for a friend. This was actually my second go at the beta reading, as computer issues the month before had caused a large chunk of my work not to save, which was horrifying. But a promise is a promise and I fulfilled it. I got pretty much zero of my own writing done, not even outlining work.

In the third week, I did organizing work for ODWG, mainly working on the calendar for speaking next year. I’m pretty much always the speaker the fourth week of the month next year and I have my entire speaking schedule filled out and outlines started for most of those planned lessons. I did some writing for memoir stuff, and prepared material for an extra Spiritual Discussion group that had been delayed during the summer and was finally finishing up. I wrote about 2000 words on Lady Air Pirates, and also met with the incoming ETWG president and told her about all the ups and downs and behind-the-scenes things from this year and let her ask questions about any of it. I also helped revise the ETWG survey that had confused some people the first time it went out. As a bonus, one of my kids found my 2006 Pregnancy Journal in a box somewhere, and after doing a dramatic reading from it in front of the other kids, handed it over to me so I could run away and die. (Instead I scanned it in, used Google Photos to transcribe it, and dumped it into my 2006 All Writing Scrivener File.)

The next week was Thanksgiving break, so I took my younger two kids down to visit my dad and sister and other assorted family. We got to tour my sister’s new house, wherein my midkid found a French horn and wandered around playing it for days afterwards. We watched movies and rearranged my dad’s entire book collection and put away all the vases that were still sitting around the edges of the dining room from two years ago. Then we drove back home and rearranged my writing studio so our Thanksgiving guests could stay here. The next day we got up and cleaned up our house, then checked on the big kids house (which is my dad’s, and where he stays when he visits) for cleanliness (they did great!), and then I collapsed into a heap of exhausted Lisa. I went to bed at like 6pm and didn’t wake up until 6am Thanksgiving morning. Thanksgiving was a whirlwind of people coming and going, or not (one set of potential guests got in a car accident on the way here – everyone that wasn’t the car was fine). I took a new friend on a tour of all the other Lisa H’s art because she liked it so much (this happens a lot when new friends visit) and showed her all my other BFF’s art as well (she doesn’t have a website for it, but does sell it from time to time, and now I feel like I need to prod her about it again, despite her not having time to set one up).

The last little bit of the month was equally chaotic – my youngest had training at his very first job on Sunday and we had to shop for slip-free shoes and fancy black shirts for that, my dad stayed through Monday, so we played a lot of games over at his house, got the holiday decor organized, etc, and then wanted to spend all Monday working on what he called a “scrapbook” for my mom (it was a binder with accordion-style sheet protectors that he put photos and cards and bits of her writing in). I spent Tuesday morning catching up on stuff for ETWG & doing research for my ODWG lesson, then spent the afternoon having tea and chatting with my writer friend Ilenya. That was lovely. Wednesday I spent writing lesson notes, a script, and some prompts for ODWG, then went and set up tables for that, since the library moved us downstairs for a couple weeks while they have a program up in our usual space. Then I ran around like a crazy person, getting my eldest a car battery, taking my youngest to find somewhere to change clothes and then over to his first official work day, then scooping up the midkid, talking to the eldest again about important things, etc. By evening I was feeling like I’d been hit with a truck and my spouse said I felt hot, so we checked and I was, indeed, feverish. Yesterday he woke up feeling unwell, so he stayed home and we both worked in separate rooms, him on engineering, and me in here writing my ETWG President’s Corner column, re-working my ODWG lesson as an article, and cleaning up an older poem for the ETWG newsletter. After lunch, I rested and snuggled cats, and talked again with my eldest, who came over looking for a package he’d inadvertently had sent here and got lured into cat snuggling. Woke up today less feverish, but feeling more run down. I’d intended to go lie down after my accountability time, but the coffee kicked in right then and I went over to look at my word counts from last month instead, realized I’d never posted about that, and I’ve been writing here ever since.

So, overall, not just Lady Air Pirates, but everything put together, I wrote about 30,000 words last month. If you count just the Lady Air Pirates draft and outlines, I’ve got about 15,000 words there. If you count just the draft, it’s down to about 7,500 words. Ah well, I tried. I’ve always said NaNoWriMo in November was a lousy idea. Why isn’t it in a quiet month like January, where nothing ever happens? I have always wondered that. If you know the answer, drop it in the comments below.

October Catch-up

I really don’t know how other people keep up with all the social media, blogging, etc, AND do actual writing. I can’t juggle that many things and still arrive sanely to the end of the month.

Here’s what October looked like:

Week 1: I took my midkid to the East Texas Fair and heard the TJC Jazz Bands play, spent many hours watching marketing videos with Marsha, screwed up my courage and went to the post office to mail things to my sister and my best friend, go set up to do business as Wee Little Dog Publishing with Marsha (more about that later) and got a post office box together so we can both have a non-home address for our newsletters, wrote a couple thousand words on Caro’s Quest, and did all the usual things I do (ETWG, ODWG, UUFT Spiritual Practices, driving kids everywhere.) Started working on NaNoWriMo Prep with my Lady Air Pirates story idea from a couple years ago (the one that I started outlining, but only got two scenes written for), and went to my youngest’s football game marching show on his birthday and took him out for ice cream afterward.

Week 2: Attended Writers in the Field, which deserves a post of its own. It was fantastic! ๐Ÿ™‚ Also went to the pulmonologist for lung testing, which after all the craziness turned out that my lungs are just fine. Started tearing all the romance out of Caro’s Quest because it just felt shoehorned in, no matter what I did, and I really hated it. Taught a class for Spiritual Practices, read “The Invisible Wall” for book club, added dangly sparkle lights to my writing studio, and added another couple thousand words to Caro’s Quest to make up for the scenes I’d taken out.

Week 3: I didn’t do too much writing. I made a Scrivener file for the marketing class notes, organized my ETWG files some more, and spent hours trying to re-outline Caro’s Quest now that the romance was gone and I could re-focus those portions of the story on more magical stuff. I wrote a bunch of magic related fluff for my files so I understand the magic rules better now, but none of that will go in the novel, so it doesn’t really count, right?

Week 4: I realize this was just last week, but my brain is gone and I can’t remember what I did yesterday, much less last week. I do have a spectacular bruise on my right forearm, though, from where the phlebotomy tech thought he knew my veins better than I did and he didn’t just blow my vein, but absolutely collapsed it. It’s about the size of a business card right now, but it keeps spreading, so we’ll see. (I was there for more lung testing, to see if I had hidden blood clots. I did not.) Honestly, I probably just worked on Lady Air Pirates, locating all my old files, which were everywhere because I’d done a little bit in Word, a little bit in Plottr, a little bit in yWriter, and a little bit in Scrivener. Oh, and the link dropped for the podcast that I was on over at Authorpreneur’s Unleashed. Click here to go have a listen.

Last little bit of October: Wrote about 1,000 words on Caro’s Quest, exported my church membership database into my personal address book, and talked about joining my church’s worship team because they need more people and I’m good at standing up and talking in front of people now. ๐Ÿ™‚

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow and usually eats my brain, so at this point, I’ll probably just see you at the end of next month. Hope you have a happy November! ๐Ÿ™‚

September catch-up post

It’s been a hot minute since I last posted. I’m torn between telling you all the things that went on in the background that kept me busier than usual or just sticking to the writing related things. What do y’all want more of? Comment below and let me know.

Week 1: Outside of mopping up all the cat pee in the universe, I worked on making my own mystery beat sheet that covers the kinds of mysteries that I like, which are cozy, no sex, a little romance, and a quirky town, with a smidge of magical goings-ons. I’m sure somewhere out there is a specific genre label for them, but my brain said “no, let’s make up our own beat sheet” so we did. (me and my brain = we sometimes. I don’t make up the rules. I just follow them.)

I had all my kids home one day, which was wacky, and I got to drive my friends foreign exchange student around, as well. I also had a wacky project that involved making clean copies of all the lessons taught at the library writing group, which no one asked for, but I couldn’t get out of my head until I was done. Want copies of them? I will send them to you. Just comment below and let me know where to send them.

The spouse and I started watching The History of Imagineering, which was fascinating and a little bit frightening all at once. I’d not given a lot of thought to any of that behind-the-scenes stuff at Disney. But also, my heart beat was going super fast for no reason at all on and off all week, so that accounts for the frightening, I think.

Week 2: The cheap, magical 2012 MacBook arrived and I played with that all week. I had to rework my writing schedule because I spent too much time on that, but I just love setting up a new laptop, don’t you? So many options to change and things to try out. It’s just fun.

I also tried out the new coffee shop/wine bar that’s opened up close to my house. Besides the friend I was meeting, I ran into two others from different parts of my life while there. It’s always trippy when that happens. My writing peeps don’t generally know my art peeps who don’t generally know my PTA peeps. The chai latte was fabulous, but my sandwich was not quite what I wanted. Next time I’ll try the breakfast sandwich because the other Lisa H said it was fantastic. ๐Ÿ™‚ Also, I went to a genealogy conference over the weekend and they encouraged me to look into the fact that the other Lisa H’s family (who has a last name that coincides with one of my family names) has ties to Wisconsin as well, and maybe some of my Wisconsin birthfamily relatives are related to her Wisconsin relatives. Stay tuned to find out.

Week 3: My spouse’s birthday, which he likes to ignore. Writer’s Guild stuff, Open Door stuff, genealogy stuff, getting new phones – which took three hours in store – and setting up an old printer in my studio and figuring out how to make a TikTok video rounded out my technology craziness for the week. I also worked on setting up my Lisa Holcomb Literature business stuff so that I can do business as that and have a bank account that’s separate from family finances, etc.

Week 4: I rearranged my studio again because I just was unhappy with little things. I attended far too many meetings for things, helped one of my kids dye his hair a weird red color, tried out the new fall themed Blizzards at DQ, and freaked out over the fact that Scrivener has secretly not been able to make updates and wasn’t giving me an error message about it, so I have no backups for any of my projects. After many hours of looking things up and changing settings and figuring out why all my drives kept saying they were full, I finally figured it out and got back-ups started, but that took additional hours to do that I would have been happier to have written during.

Last Week: Sent off some submissions of poetry, a recipe, and a short story to different venues. Also wrote my President’s Corner column, an article about Preptober, and a poem for the ETWG newsletter. Went through all the writing lessons I’ve taught so I can make a list of what I can offer other groups, should the occasion warrant it, also made a spreadsheet of all my other time commitments so I can see where I’m losing so much time (answer: I say “yes” far too often to tiny things that sound like they’d take five minutes that end up eating an hour or more of my day).

I’ve also been meeting with another fantasy writer and doing brainstorming sessions, making How To files for the next ETWG President, and trying to not go crazy driving my kids all the places they need to be. Wheeeeee!

Back to School, Back to Work

This whole summer was one big logistical nightmare. We got the kids all moved, got my writing studio space all finished, and I mostly sat around and tried to breathe like a normal human being. I couldn’t, so I started seeing all the doctors and having x-rays and heart testing procedures. I ended up not doing any teaching at the library at all and quit a couple of other volunteer board positions that I just couldn’t physically handle as well.

I spent a lot of time just sitting and scanning or taking photos of my old journals, digging through and purging old files of art and school notes from when the kids were in elementary school, and making Scrivener files for all of the random writing I found within every stack of paper I touched. It was all very interesting to me from a “I’m always writing something, even when I shouldn’t be” perspective. I enjoyed that project a lot, even though my family got sick of me asking them to lug boxes around or to take another stack of papers to the recycle bin or “Can you read this thing that I wrote a decade ago that I can’t quite make out?” In the end, I counted 76 used notebooks and planners, plus two giant 3 inch binders full of loose-leaf paper and page upon page of stuff written on the backside of something else.

The floor plan of the house for one of my stories written on the backside of a page of PTA notes from 2013.

Summer band started a month ago and I’ve spent all of my time either taking two kids back and forth and back again between high school and college campuses for band practices and student orientations or in doctor’s offices letting them take yet more of my blood or more pictures of inconceivable places inside my body.

Now everyone’s back to school. My youngest started his sophomore year in high school last Monday and I thought to myself “Oh, I’ll get so much done!” But our black cat had other plans. I ended up taking him back and forth to the regular vet and then the emergency vet and then his regular vet again. Once he was better, my youngest slipped on the band field and had to go to Urgent Care for a sprained ankle. So this very wet Monday morning my midkid started his freshman year of college, but I was walking my youngest into school, carrying his enormous amounts of stuff while he swung in on crutches. My eldest took the midkid to his first day of college. I did get a “first day of college” selfie via text, so there’s that.

After that, I had nearly four hours to myself. I checked in with my Accountability Partner, and then I got to work. I made myself a more reasonable schedule of writing and writing related work (for those non-writers among us: finding short story and poetry markets, matching already written work to those submission guidelines, editing those pieces to fit word counts or to play up a theme, then writing cover letters and packaging my work so I can send them off, communicating with publishers and/or editors, doing edits for the places that bought my work, looking over proofs before things go to print, making images for new things and updating my webpage – hahaha – and my social media with images and links to the new books that have my work in them, etc.). I put everything into my Google calendar and Tasks list, but also wrote them into my paper planner, which helps me remember things better than the online stuff does (but the online versions keep me from getting too paranoid about losing a planner again, like what happened 5 years ago).

The Goals corkboard above my writing desk. I have two corkboards, but the other one is filled with things I like to look at, which I do not own the rights to for posting purposes, so we’ll leave that one just for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

All of the planning now out of the way, I can get started with the first goal on my list: make a list of markets currently buying the kinds of stories I write. Off I go!

I also worked out weekly goals for the last six weeks of this quarter and all of the final quarter of the year. I’m hoping that I added in enough rest and recuperative time. I basically doubled the amount of time that I gave myself for similar things last year. We’ll see how that goes.

This Week’s Word Count

I don’t know if I mentioned my wacky word count project before or not, but I made a Google workbook that has a spreadsheet for every current writing project I’m working on, plus one for the blog, ETWG related writing, ODWG related writing, journaling, etc. It was insanely intricate and I nearly lost my mind making it, but it’s done and it’ll let me figure out my word count across all my projects in one glance of an Excel file, as long as I remember to update it every day. Which I totally will, right? *dies laughing* In any case, this weeks word count was a palty 954, mostly because I spent all that time making the workbook. Here’s to hoping next week’s word count is better!

Several Quick Things

  1. I am not dead, just super busy – still teaching at the library, running the ETWG, on the church board, etc – but also we had all the visitors in March, then Easter and now all the birthdays, too.
  2. I also have pieces in three books coming out all at once this week.
  3. Go look at my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more info about all that – posting there is quick and easy from my phone, but the blog? Not so much.
  4. I have also been writing this week, finally, after months of drought.