Time to Edit

Time to Edit

A spot of joy in my crazy little world occurred last night when I realized I had written the last words in the last chapter that still “needed something.”

Schicksal Turnpike is now ready for editing!

I will accomplish this in several steps…

  1. A read-aloud edit. This will include my husband, which accomplishes the dual purpose of letting him hear it audiobook style (something he prefers over conventional reading) and the act of editing it on the fly. Saying it out loud really helps get any awkward word combinations out of there.
  2. Beta readers who will also edit. I’ve got three lined up, ready and willing. I’ll ask them to read through it, note anything that is misspelled or awkward sounding, any conflicting information, and also ask them to write a few descriptive sentences. What was it about? What did they like about it? What did they not like?
  3. After I’ve updated the manuscript with any fixes they have found, it will be ready for content and line editing.
  4. Then a cover letter and prep for packaging.

Yep, I’m going shopping for an agent. You hear that, Casie Blevins? I’m going shopping for an agent!

A couple of weeks of reading out loud and edits and it will be off to my army of beta readers.

Prepare yourselves!

And if you are interested in joining my army of beta readers extraordinaire, volunteer by commenting on this post or sending me a message through Facebook. You can find me here: Facebook Author Page

Tick Tock, With Copious Amounts of…

Tick Tock, With Copious Amounts of…

So I’ve been experiencing no small amount of pain recently. I clean houses four days per week – writing doesn’t pay like cleaning houses does, so until it does…

Anyway, it has been building for a while.

Back pain, hip pain, knees and joints and what I have surmised is plantar fasciitis in one foot.

I’m a hot mess.

This, combined with the onset of planting and working outside weather, led to a dearth in writing.

But I hope that is about to change.

I’ve been tackling this in phases:

  • Phase One – Change my diet to a diabetic-friendly one

This has meant learning plenty about how starchy vegetables and high-carb foods affect my blood sugars, altering total serving amounts, and more. It also has included, take a moment to mourn with me here, removing most sources of sweets from my home.

  • Phase Two – Less is More

Reducing the amounts of food I eat, eating slower, and drinking plenty of water. I’m a “go, go, go” person – so I tend to inhale my food quickly and then look for more. Food has always been a form of solace for me, so giving up the two big bowls of homemade ice cream has been a tough one. That said, I’m still working on this phase, still attempting to slow my eating down, and eat less.

  • Phase Three – Body Care

All of this is body care, it really is, but I have made the commitment to seek medical care in the form of Direct Primary Care with Dr. Allison Edwards of Kansas City Direct Primary Care. I met with her yesterday and will see her again next Wednesday. I’m going to get the necessary labs so we can ascertain where I’m at – am I diabetic or still pre-diabetic – is my cholesterol still high?

I’ve also bought several massage packages. Thanks to messing up my knee quite effectively when I was young, my entire body seems misaligned and some days are worse than others. Recently, they have been pretty bad. Muscles are overly tight and sleeping or waking, I’m in a significant amount of discomfort.

  • Phase Four – Sweat (and Hopefully LOSE SOME WEIGHT)

As if I don’t sweat enough cleaning houses or dealing with hot flashes and night sweats, my ass needs to be on a treadmill, moving, for at least 30 minutes a day, preferably 60. I hope to also incorporate some yoga/flexibility poses into all of this. I can’t stand walking on a treadmill with nothing else to do, so thankfully I have a “treadmill desk” that Dave built me years ago. I set the laptop on it and do my best to type away while walking at a steady pace.

At nearly 220 pounds, I need to lose around 40-60 pounds to be at a “healthy” weight. I don’t buy into those ridiculous standards that say a woman of my height needs to be no more than 130 pounds – that’s fucking nuts – but I do need to weight less than 200, by a long shot.

So I’m hoping that the exercise, combined with the exercise I get when cleaning, combined with better food choices, combined with LESS food, all lead to a significant weight loss. So far? Nada. But a girl can dream.

And that leads me back to writing. Because in case anyone is confused at this point, IS the point of this particular blog.

Last post I outlined what still needed to happen:

Chapter 17-Breathe You In – Still need to write this entire chapter

Chapter 18-Painful Memories – I have some significant fixes to make here as well

Chapter 29-What Has Gotten Into You – Needs minor fleshing out

Chapter 34-Welcome to Amsterdam – Is around 2/3 complete

And I have now begun in earnest on Breathe You In. While walking on a fucking treadmill. While hurting and feeling grumpy and overly warm.

Feel for me here.

Which is all a longish, roundabout way of saying, “Due to other pressing issues, I haven’t been writing as much as I would have liked.” Which is, unfortunately, the story of my life.

So Close!

So Close!

After my prime writing time this morning was spent looking up faux stained glass techniques, and other sundry work avoidances, I took a look at my current manuscript.

Schicksal Turnpike currently has 37 chapters – most of them completed and is currently at 83,596 words. I think I’m looking at another 4,000 words at most.

I identified what chapters are an issue right now.

Chapter 17-Breathe You In – Still need to write this entire chapter

Chapter 18-Painful Memories – I have some significant fixes to make here as well

Chapter 29-What Has Gotten Into You – Needs minor fleshing out

Chapter 34-Welcome to Amsterdam – Is around 2/3 complete

After I finish these, I will begin my basic read-through. I read each chapter aloud to my husband, stopping and starting as I catch grammatical errors and more.

Then it is off for the first round to an editor to look at.

So close!

I’m out of time for today. It’s 8 a.m., time for the kiddo to get up, me to fix breakfast for that old guy living in my front parlor, and a dozen errands, housecleaning and homeschooling to get done.

Aieee!

Moseying Along

Moseying Along

There are pros and cons to having my dad live in my front parlor.

I’m on a more regular schedule – it is strictly controlled by three meals a day, doctor’s appointments with a myriad of specialties, and other general care duties.

I’m more scheduled, but I’m also still trying to plug in all of the components. Homeschooling is a big one and my cleaning clients are increasing in a couple more weeks.

It’s also spring.

Okay, yes, I’m making excuses for why I haven’t finished Schicksal Turnpike yet. Some are good, others are rather…specious.

Current Projects

When God Laughs is at 51,569 words – 6,927 words written for the month

Schicksal Turnpike is at 80,466 words – 4,068 words written for the month

Mondays are remaining good writing days for me. The rest of the week is still under adjustment.

Dementia Sucks

For those of you who have not seen dementia in action, let me tell you, it sucks. It is small, odd little moments of suspicion, or confusion, and I have quickly realized that all I can do is let those moments pass by, and wait for my dad to regain the here and now.

I had hoped that if he had a healthy diet, proper medical care, and was here living with his family, that things might improve. And his health has certainly improved. But the cognitive impairment? Not so much.

It has forced me to examine what is important and what is not. What can wait, and what should not.

I’m trying to focus on the important and let the rest go. Sometimes that means I don’t write as much as I should. I’m sort of okay with that.

I’ll leave you with a quote to ponder on…

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”

But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

-Kahlil Gibran

Taking Time for Learning

Taking Time for Learning

I listened to a great TED talk the other day by Eduardo Briceno. He was discussing how we tend to stagnate if all we are focusing on is performance and not taking time for learning or additional practice.

This hit close to home, especially since I’ve caught myself looking at all of the books on my shelf about writing and making the decision to not pick them up.

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Ignore the handful of business books in there!

Why?

I told myself, “You can either read about writing, or you can write. Choose one, because you don’t have time for both!”

After listening to the TED talk I realized that is not entirely correct.

Recently I’ve set down a lot of activities to focus on a few exclusively. Teaching was one of those activities I set down and I’m glad I did it.

Teaching classes took up a lot of brain space and time and it was often an emotional drain. I loved teaching, but it was a lot, and I was constantly having to change up my offerings, adapt to new ones, and shift with the seasons. It also meant time away from my family in the evenings and on weekends, the typical times that folks could attend my classes.

And most of my crafty, artsy, decorating stuff has fallen by the wayside as well. There will be time for it later. Perhaps between books when I’ve had it up to here with writing and editing. Or on the rare occasion that I am stuck in a car or waiting for someone.

As I look at those shelves of books on writing, on marketing, I can’t help but think I need to do something with them. The magazine markets book can go. I haven’t cracked that sucker in over two years. And I’ve got some business books in there – but I’ve also got some GREAT books that I should be reading. Books on marketing, but also on the art of writing, such as The Tao of Writing or The Artist’s Way. Even Robert’s Rules of Writing or [dear god in heaven, save me] the Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition books that have dogged my steps since high school…

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Ten or fifteen minutes a day. That’s it.

In any case, I urge you to check out the TED talk and listen to what he has to say.

And now I’m off to write again…or edit…or record…hell, I’m just going to READ!

 

Like a Taxicab Ride in Panama

Like a Taxicab Ride in Panama

As I write this, I am sitting in a rented room in Bethania, a section of Panama City, Panama, listening to my dad snore peacefully behind me.

And if you had told me two weeks ago that this is where I would be today, I would have told you that you were batshit crazy.

For a summary of the complete story, you can read And…I’m in Panama at my other blog The Deadly Nightshade.

And as for my writing projects, let’s just say that they now resemble something similar to a taxicab ride in Panama.

If you have not been to Panama then I will describe it. The taxis, as well as the rest of the cars, weave in and out of traffic in incomprehensible ways. The drivers laugh when I squeak in terror. They find it amusing. However, most of the cars I’ve been in are in varying states of damage, including one that had a spiderwebbed front windshield from an impact on the passenger side. Not terribly reassuring. It is also isn’t reassuring that THEY have seatbelts but I usually don’t.

But I was talking about writing projects, wasn’t I?

Sometimes your goals get to take a major weave and shift from what you planned. From the moment I answered that phone call on December 19th, I’ve been weaving in and out of shifting priorities in all facets of life.

In the end, I’ve found myself keeping a log of all of my Facebook updates as well as starting an actual manuscript that details this “beautiful mess.” (Thank you Jes, for that apt description). The manuscript is titled When God Laughs and I hope that it will serve first as memoir, but also as inspiration and even a cautionary tale.

I have called it this because, less than five hours after announcing, “Today is a WRITING day!” I received the call that would change all of our lives and send me 2,000 miles to the south, to my father’s side in the hospital. And ever since the saying, “Want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans,” has been repeating in my head.

What would you do when faced with a terrifying challenge? I found myself tasked with leaving the USA for the first time in my life, traveling to a foreign country, and learning to get by without speaking more than maybe 30 words in Spanish. I had to find my father’s hospital, assess the situation, and then work on getting him back out of the country with an expired visa.

It has been a wild ride, believe me.

I’ve also been very, very lucky. Dad has good and generous friends here who have helped out in a myriad of ways. They have been lifesavers.

I have a couple of days left here in Panama. We fly out first thing on Sunday morning. And my dad is not well. He is frail, malnourished, and faced with multiple medical issues.

When God Laughs will be a story that nearly all of us can relate to. At some point our bodies will break down – either through natural use or abuse. There will be a time when we might not be able to do the most simplest of actions – cook for ourselves, clean ourselves, or maintain a house.

And what do we do? How do we structure our lives in a way that allows for a smooth transition from independence to dependence? What are our expectations for that day?

When God Laughs will detail our own journey – mine, Dad’s and our immediate family – as we learn our way, find our footing, and learn to thrive within this new paradigm.

And I’ll keep working on Shicksal Turnpike too.

For as long as I am able, my father will always have a place with us. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

December Update

December Update

What Do I Have to Lose?

Back when I was preparing Gliese 581: Departure for it’s final revision and upload to Amazon, a friend of mine said, “Wait! Why aren’t you sending this to a publisher or agent?”

I thought about it for a few minutes and replied, “I’ve just never had luck with traditional publishers. And I guess the idea of going to an agent and asking them ‘pretty please’ to take 20% of any potential income just seems silly to me.”

My friend was concerned for me, though. “It’s a good story, it has such potential. Aren’t you limiting yourself by self-publishing?”

And, as much as I would like it, the chances of me becoming a female Hugh Howey (author of Wool, which went viral and ended up earning him a publishing contract) are pretty small.

So I told myself I would give it six months.

My first fiction book, War’s End: The Storm, sits at six reviews. My second work fiction, the sequel to The Storm, A Brave New World, sits at five reviews on Amazon.

So in terms of total reviews, Gliese 581: Departure, now at 21 reviews, has been a screaming success. And I’ve made about half of my investment back (not counting hours put in writing and editing) so that’s something.

But it is time to push it out into the bigger world.

I bundled it up and mailed it to a potential publisher today. They may look at it and say, “Wait? It’s already self-published? Forget it!”

And if they pitch it into the circular file and move on, I’ll try again. After all, the postage was right at $3.00 when you include the SASE. They may say “no” – and the next guy might say “yes.”

Being self-published, having the book up on Amazon, might be a death knell. But then again, it might not. The times, they are a-changing and self-publishing is slowly becoming less of a bad thing.

We will see, I guess. What do I have to lose?

Two Weeks of Writing Immersion

I have declared us done with homeschooling until after the New Year. Specifically, nothing but fun and relaxation from now until Tuesday, January 3rd for the kiddo.

And that means I get to write!

I am hoping I can knock out a good chunk of the needed parts of Schicksal Turnpike in the next two weeks. I would love to have it edited and some advance reader copies out there and ready with reviews by the time I upload the book to Amazon in the spring.

A Special Present – Just For You

A few years ago, long before I finished Gliese 581: Departure, I wrote a short story titled Forward Reach. It is set approximately 30 years after the events chronicled in Departure. It has been sitting there, unloved, in a file folder on my computer for far too long.

Earth after the devastating plague is a very different one from the Earth of today. The image of families, of mothers and fathers raising 2.4 children is a thing of the past and Forward Reach offers a glimpse into that world, and the effects of the planetary breeding and repopulation program.

On Christmas Day, as my present to you, you will be able to read the story here.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Schicksal Delayed

Schicksal Delayed

I had really hoped to get Schicksal Turnpike finished and published by the beginning of this month. Obviously, that has not happened. The reasons for this are two-fold:

  • Edits are taking longer than I had hoped
  • I need a very specific cover photo for the book – which means waiting until spring

As far as the edits go, I’ve been looking at the timeline of the chapters and realizing I was rushing through some areas. I need to add more detail and slow things down a bit, explain parts better. And when you combine this with my ridiculous daily schedule that is filled with:

  • Homeschooling the kiddo
  • Keeping house (making all meals etc)
  • Running my housecleaning biz (b/c writing still doesn’t pay the bills)
  • Identifying/preparing/teaching new classes (b/c writing still doesn’t pay the bills)
  • Renovating The Cottage (mainly on the weekends, but still)

It doesn’t leave much of a window for writing. At the moment, I’m limited to around one hour per day, although I’m looking at ways to increase that to at least two hours per day.

I’m one of those weird birds who wakes up early in the morning. Lately it has been at the late hour of six a.m. because of menopause-induced night sweats, but I’m hoping to get on a more even keel soon. Five a.m. is often some of the best writing time for me. Weird but true!

As for the photo of the book – I need it to be Cliff Drive, at night, in the rain, in the springtime. And no, I’ve seen zero photos that fill that requirement. So guess who will be up at Cliff Drive with camera in hand, some future rainy spring evening? My heart is set on it and nothing else will do.

But that’s fine. I will finish the edits on Schicksal, which include writing at least two more chapters and editing the other half of the book. I will probably send it through a couple of beta-readers after that, allowing for any errors my proofreaders and myself missed, and when spring comes, shoot the perfect picture and publish the book on Amazon.

I hope to follow it with the first book from the Chronicles of Liv Rowan shortly after that, possibly by August at the latest.

The plans of mice and men…

Which reminds me of the quote, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

Here’s to a very literary year in 2017!

Catch 22 and Other Tales of Woe

Catch 22 and Other Tales of Woe

So this morning I saw this offered for free…

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And I immediately saw something like this, only full size…

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Don’t freak out, I wouldn’t paint it quite that colorful!

So I showed it to my husband who promptly poo-poohed it.

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And then I posted it on Facebook where someone else laughed, and another was like, “Don’t you have enough on your plate?”

And I simultaneously KNOW he is right and yet wrong at the same time.

You see, it is all a big huge Catch 22.

I want to write. Equally, I want folks to read what I have written.

But right there, in the middle of the room, is that nasty dose of reality. We cannot survive on one income alone. As much as I would like for it to happen, even if I were to stop spending every spare penny on renovating The Cottage, we still would be faced with only a pittance of savings, no health insurance for Em or me, and ZERO plan for retirement.

I have spent my entire adult life either putting out fires (metaphorically speaking), pulling money out of my ass (again, metaphorically), and running in circles trying desperately to find a place where I can stand steady and stop having to come up with money-making opportunities.

I want to stay home, homeschool the kiddo, write books and blog, and run a little Air B’nB paradise.

And I’ve got my husband, my eldest daughter, and good friends all saying the same thing – “You’re stressed, you have too much going on, you need to slow down/take one thing at a time.”

So I have this choice in front of me. I can keep cleaning toilets until i get too tired or my body breaks down. Or I can work my ass off, tear my hair out, and stress myself beyond measure for another year, possibly two…and possibly, just possibly run my little Air B’nB empire and no longer have to clean houses for a living.

It is a Catch 22 – stay the course, or pull back?

All I know is, I’ve got a book to edit, a cottage to renovate, a property that desperately needs a fence enclosing it (because yes, the local folks STILL walk through it), and a very full life.

Time to go strip some paint from doors in The Cottage.

A New Perspective

A New Perspective

Six weeks have passed since my altercation with my neighbor. I wrote about it here.

Since that time I’ve managed to say “Hello” to him twice. The first time he just stared at me like he was waiting for the other shoe to drop. The second time he actually answered and said, “How’s it going?”

So, despite my dour prediction that he would cuss me out, he has not.

It has all been extremely uncomfortable for me. I am in uncharted territory with this neighbor and I fear I’m about to step off into the deep end.

I will explain.

On Wednesday, I returned home from a cleaning and Jay (my friend and contractor) and her truck were missing. I walked inside and learned from her wife Michelle that there had been an incident and that my neighbor had collapsed and needed to be rushed to the emergency room.

Yes, this is the very same neighbor I have been so challenged by. The one who has called codes on us (and us on him in retaliation), the one who has caused me time, energy, money, and no small amount of indignant fury and angst.

This is the very same one who I, when slapped with two parking tickets I would not have gotten had he not called to intentionally harass us, marched over to his house and told him to “do us all a favor and just drop dead because no one would miss [you].”

Yeah. I said it. It was mean, and over the top, and wrong and I said it when I was angry and resentful.

So here is my contractor and her wife loading up this stinky, drunk, hot mess of a guy into their truck, driving him to the hospital, and staying with him. Jay especially, since she stayed there for hours, talked to nurses, and talked sense into my neighbor (and got him to admit to personnel that he had downed multiple beers before accidentally ingesting an overdose of a medication at ten in the morning). Jay, amazing human being that she was, who then returned not once, but two more times over the next day and a half, and then drove him back home on Thursday evening.

She gave me, and consequently my husband and children, a new perspective as well.

We want to see people in black and white terms – good or bad, black or white, kind or mean, asshole or saint.

We want to justify our own actions – to somehow make it okay for us to say, “Fuck you too, dude, you just cost me $135 in parking tickets. I hope you drop dead.”

But in the end, no one is two-dimensional. God, it would be so much easier if they were. I could label him so neatly and easily.

Asshole. Misogynistic prick.

I could say, “He harassed us. He sicced codes against us left and right.”

And it would be true.

But I would be remiss to leave it there. To say, “He’s a jerk, no one likes him, and he’s been a pain in my side.”

Because that is one-sided. There is more to this story. For the past few months, and especially the past few days, I’ve been getting a crash course on the other side of things. And the picture I have been getting is that my neighbor is lonely and alone. Aside from two dogs, my neighbor has no one to love him or care for him in any way. I learned about his medical issues, and his fear of his own mortality, and how that might impact the lives of his two best friends, who both have fur and walk on four legs. I came to understand that his situation is one of abject poverty and that he is afraid of everyone – how they look at him, interact with him and judge him.

A human being who has, like all of us, faults, shortcomings, and fears. A human being who un-like most of us has no one he can trust, depend on, or who cares for him.

I listened to Jay describe someone who has spent years without another human being to care for or love him in return.

I listened, I thought about how that would feel, how it must be for him.

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t like this man. I don’t want to be his friend. And perhaps I never will.

But I mixed up a batch of bread dough, let it rise, and shaped it into loaves for us, for Jay and Michelle, and for our neighbor who has been such a thorn in my side. I baked it in the oven until the crusts were a deep golden brown and the smell crept out of the oven, filled the kitchen, and made my friends smile as they fixed my creaky old dining room table. I wrapped up one of the loaves, and my young daughter wrote a short note to him, wishing him well and hoping he felt better. She drew two dogs on the card, his dogs, and signed her name. I added a short note, wishing him well, and signed my name, and Michelle and my daughter walked over to his house and delivered the bread, still hot from the oven, to his door.

Call it a peace offering. Call it being a good neighbor. Call it what you like. Michelle described the look on his face, the wonder on it as he felt the bread, warm, in his hands. She said he teared up, and that he called out to my daughter, waiting on the sidewalk outside of his front fence, and said, “Thank you.”

I can’t expect it to instantly fix the bad blood between us, but I hope that it is a start in the right direction. I have often said that a great deal of loyalty can be bought in this area simply with a few farm-fresh eggs or fresh tomatoes. Perhaps in this case it will be home-baked bread.

If so, it will be a small price to pay for peace.

I know that I am blessed with a loving family, a beautiful home, and more opportunity than most. I have so much to be grateful for. A few short months ago, two women came into our lives that have changed the atmosphere, and possibly the future of that “one bad neighbor” into something that could change, could improve, and could even blossom into something far better. All it took was being open to it.