Goodness How the Time Has Flown

May, June, now most of July.

We made it through the end of the school year with not too many tears and decent grades. My daughter is not cut out for online learning and there is no way I could homeschool her. I think my son could do online learning if he didn’t have to put up with his sister. His biggest issue was compartmentalization – school was for work, home was for play, so working so many hours a day at home messed with his head.

We’re nearing the end of our renovation adventure. The drop ceiling is done, all the painting is done (except the front door which we’ll do this week). All the repairs are done and the first load of gravel is down. Now we have to do the details on the landscaping and get the top load of gravel, the nice stuff that will make the yard look finished.

We’ve got a real estate agent and the house will be listed before the end of the month. It was a wild ride. We hit a lot of unexpected bumps. Jobs that should have taken days took weeks.

My grandparents are in the final stages of getting ready to move out to their new apartment. We’ll be “caretaking” their house while ours is on the market. When ours sells we’ll buy theirs and the next stage of our lives will officially begin. It’s exciting and a little scary and so SO stressful. I can’t wait to have routines in my life again. And to sleep in a real bed. In a real room. With a door.

With everything else going on, writing has been slow. I’m hoping to have more time come fall – though it looks like I’ll be driving the kids to and from school. I may have one show in September and one at Christmas. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to do a few more. But things will be busy for a while so I’ll be taking it easy on events for a while yet.

I will be writing though. And sending Thelara off to agents and publishers as soon as it’s ready. And finishing my memoirs. And … and … there’s just so much to do.

Best get to it.

End of May?

Where did April go? Where did May go? We’re in one of those weird time-space loop thingies, I just know it. You know, the ones where a day lasts a month and a week lasts a minute and a month lasts a day? Yeah. I swear it was the beginning of May yesterday. End of May. Huh. Go figure.

Looking back at some of my 2020 blog posts I found one from the beginning of March, back with this whole pandemic thing was getting off the ground. 3-4 weeks. That’s what they were saying back then. Stay home for 3-4 weeks.

We thought we’d be getting a 3 week spring break and that the kids might have to stay a week late in July, or that they’d cancel a few inservice days. Nope.

3 weeks quickly became 6 and now we’re at 10+ and counting. Here, schools are shut to regular classes for the school year (opening only for summer day programs like camps and community programs). We’re only just opening “non-essential” services now. Our social bubbles can now include 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors – just no hugs or handshakes or sharing water bottles.

But everyone knows all that. It’s all the news talks about these days.

I’m on week 9, give or take a half week. My kids are mostly into a routine of school work, online classes, screen time, and outdoor time. Chores are mostly getting done. Renovations are slow but steady. I’m managing a few hours of creative time each week.

Tensions are high and tempers are thin. It’s getting harder to deal with the other adults I’m quarantined with. We’re all looking for freedom and space and normalcy, but for us, that won’t be coming any time soon. Living with extended family means all sorts of compromise and this living arrangement could stick around until December. Hopefully the house we’re moving out of is sold by then.

We’ve all got our stories, our troubles, our stresses right now. Stupid people at the stores. Tech issues. Children underfoot. Annoying work habits our spouses display.

This too shall pass.

Maybe.

Eventually.

Sigh.

Stronger Together

Stronger Together

A poem – I wrote this today, it is a free verse poem and may come across best if you read it aloud, or imagine me or someone reading it aloud. I’m not looking for hugs or well wishes. I just … just check on your introverts and ask them, honestly, what they need. Because chances are, if they have kids at home, or extended family in the house they’re stuck in, they’re frazzling just as bad as the extroverts.

—  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —  —

Stronger together until the ties that bind us becomes the rope I hang by

Until the fabric of our close-knit society becomes the blanket that smothers me

The funeral shroud

And even then

Even dead

I’ll know the peace and quiet

Of honking horns

Stronger together until I just can’t take it and I’m screaming until my throat is bloody and raw

LEAVE ME ALONE

Alone to think to dream to learn to BREATHE

But it’s easy you’re an introvert you like staying home

Until home becomes full to overflowing and I am tired of swimming and I drown

There is no quiet

There is no peace

There is no alone

And everything exhausting about the world the outside the TOGETHER has come home

My home

My space

My heart beating too fast too often as I struggle to maintain composure

Too many feelings to silence too many toes to avoid stepping on too many buttons to avoid pushing

Silenced

Self-censored

Don’t tell them you —- their —– or wish they’d —– their —- and —— you —–

You might offend someone

Stronger together until I’m ready to move to the tip top of a mountain and stay there wrapped in my tears and my thoughts and my hard won peace until my mind and heart finally reset and I can come down and deal with together

 

March Update

I know it’s late. Everything’s been crazy lately. The whole damn world. Sigh. 

Covid-19 is on everyone’s mind lately. Here’s what it means for me. 

First, we were planning to move in with my grandparents at the end of March/beginning of April. So, we did. We pulled the kids from school half a week before they closed and moved them and myself in with my grandparents. My husband is still living at the house since it needs major renos yet. He’s essential so he’s still working. With this arrangement, my grandparents (79 and 84 years old) and my children can stay in one place, keep each other occupied, and be kept safe. I run the errands, or I get my husband to do it during his shifts. We follow extensive washing up and contamination prevention measures. I go between the two houses to help. 

Unfortunately, my grandparents don’t have great internet and that means the kids have to come to the house 4-5 days a week to access their remote schooling features for the foreseeable future. With the extra precautions my husband takes coming home from work and the extra hand washing everyone else in the family is doing we’re staying safe. 

Renovations are coming along slowly. Every time we think we’re picking up steam we hit a roadblock. But they are moving forward. Plan is to list as soon as the house is presentable. Don’t know what the listing will look like given the current isolation period – online viewings only? I have no idea what this means for the real estate industry. We’re hopeful that it will sell quickly since it’s an easy drive to the city and people will be looking to get away from neighbours in light of this virus. 

Stress levels are high across the board. My daughter is coping by hyper-fixating. She’s trying to control what she can (like what goes on her salad or when things happen during the day) because there is too much she can’t control. Understandable, but there are many meltdowns when things don’t or can’t go the way she has imagined or planned. My son is stressed about the schoolwork. His teacher sent him a massive work packet and an intense schedule. From March 23-March 26 and from April 6-9 he was supposed to do 7-10 pages of science, SS, ELA, math, and French DAILY plus 2 pages of music, 20 minutes of reading, practice his recorder, and get 30-60 minutes of physical activity. It’s way too much. I spread it out over the weekends and spring break as well, cutting his workload down to a total of 4-6 pages per day and he’s still freaking out. It’s too much. I don’t know what’s going to happen going forward, but I’m going to have to watch his mental health. 

My husband is focused on renos and keeping us all healthy. The uncertainty of … well… everything is making him anxious. There’re too many questions, some of which have potentially expensive answers.  

I’m trying to keep it together so everyone else keeps together. I’ve barely written since the middle of March. By the time I finish being contractor, chef, maid, teacher, mother, therapist, and personal shopper, I’m exhausted. I don’t have the brain power to write in the evenings. Yes, I am managing some self-care but not a lot, not enough. Good news points: the transition to living with my grandparents has been smooth in spite of everything and I’m maintaining my target weight, so there is that. 

A lot has been cancelled or postponed. I was supposed to test for my 2nd Dan black belt today but that didn’t happen. Tae Kwon Do is postponed until further notice. They are doing some online classes but with my difficult internet situation I’m unable to attend those. KeyCon in May has been cancelled, they were unable to find an alternate date. The soft-launch event for the Dawson Trail Arts Tour at the end of April was cancelled, though the main event for September is still a go, we hope. The steampunk convention in June is waiting to see what the venue will say about the booking – they can’t cancel until the venue cancels them or they’ll lose a lot of money. In all likelihood it will be postponed or cancelled until next year. No spring arts show at the school (my son will be happy he doesn’t have to go on stage and sing though).  

I celebrated my birthday in family-isolation. My daughter made me a necklace and a crown from pipecleaners and pompoms. She baked me a cake and cupcakes. She made a banner too. My niece missed her birthday too – no friends, no party. My sister filled her bedroom with balloons while she slept so she woke up to balloons everywhere. We’re doing the best we can.  

My husband and my dad are both essential (my husband works on the trains; my dad works in grocery). My brother-in-law is working from home. My husband’s parents are farmers (goats) so life goes on as normal for them. One brother-in-law works on the trains with my husband so he’s essential. One brother-in-law (sister’s hubby) is working from home. One brother-in-law is a grain farmer so business as usual once this snow is gone. Not sure what my husband’s other two brothers are up to. My sister-in-law is home with her kids while her husband is still working. My sister is a stay-home mom. We’re all holding on the best we can.  

I have a lot of friends who are high risk and I worry about them. I check in on social media because that’s all any of us can do right now. And so far, this virus hasn’t struck too close to home. The numbers in Canada are rising, but not at a horribly scary rate. I limit my exposure to the news to keep my sanity.  

It is hard to maintain motivation when everything is in limbo. It’s hard to stay energized when stress levels are so high. But we are lucky in so many ways. So, we will hold on and do our part and hope life can go back to normal soon. 

You’ve Written a Book, Now What?

Completing a book is a big deal and the work that went into the project from the first word to “the end” is nothing to be sneezed at. But the work doesn’t end there. For beginners, the next steps can be intimidating or confusing. Whenever I go to a con, a retreat, or even a NaNo wrap-up event, I meet writers who are finishing up their first book, or looking into self-publishing for the first time, and I get drawn into long discussions about the industry and how to safely navigate it.

Obviously, this is information people are looking for.

I got all my thoughts on the matter together and wrote them down. I came up with a cute 100-page handbook. It covers the basics, answers the beginner questions, and is designed to alleviate the confusion and stress and set writers on the right path.

There are 4 chapters.

Editing and Revisions covers how to find an editor, what order to tackle your editing and revisions in (because there’s no sense fixing all the commas if you’re just going to rewrite the scene later), the difference between editors, beta readers, and proofreaders, and how much a professional editor should cost you.

Choose Your Own Adventure looks at how traditional and self-publishing work, the querying process for traditional publishing, and the pros & cons of self-publishing. Most importantly, I go over how to spot those scammy presses that pop up faster than we can report on them.

If you’re going the traditional route, your journey is fairly simple after the querying process. The publisher takes care of cover art, final edits, layout, printing, shipping, distribution, all of it. So, chapter 3 looks at the basic mechanics of self-publishing. I go over what each step should cost if you choose to hire someone to help you with layout, covers, or illustrations as well as some basics for if you want to tackle it yourself.

Lastly is the chapter on Marketing and Promotion which looks at what you can do before, as, and after you publish. I go over how to set up a blog or website, and a Facebook author page, and what you can post on each. I also touch on launches and readings and on conventions and craft sales.

You’ve Written a Book Now What? is available for e-book pre-order (with a March 31 release date) from Amazon. The paperback should be ready around the same time (just have to add the page numbers and edit the ToC). Of course, with the current global situation I strongly advocate you order the e-book (and e-books of anything else you’re looking to buy for the next few weeks). Let’s help keep warehouse workers, the printing staff (because it’s print on demand), and the delivery folks as safe as we can by minimizing our online orders during this time.

And while I’ve got your ear (or your eye as it were), if this shut down has put you in a financial bind and you want something to read, please reach out to me. I have some coupon codes available for Rose Garden, my stand alones, and even my middle grade series The Underground if you’ve got avid readers home from school.

Stay safe out there.

 

Keeping Kids Busy At Home

With the Corvid-19 outbreak and the variety of social distancing measures being put in place, a lot of us are going to be stuck at home for 3-4 weeks with our children. Now, I love my kids but their 6 hours a day, 5 days a week at school is the only reason I’m sane, especially in this weather. See, in the summer, they go out the door and they run and jump and be noisy out there where there is lots of space and lots to do.

It’s still below freezing here. That makes this harder.

Add to that, the libraries, play zones, malls, pools, and movie theatres are closed. So, all those things I was doing with my kids during school breaks to keep them busy? Nope. Off the table. Health care professionals are advising no playgroups/playdates either. Stay home.

There’s always screen time, but at some point you need to charge batteries and do we really want our kids playing video games or tapping away at their tablets for 8+ hours a day? So, I’ve been brainstorming a list based on past snow days, school breaks, etc. of things that will entertain my kids, at home, for the next three week.

  1. the school is sending home a work packet. We’re going to aim for 1 hour each day, wherever it fits in, for school work. This may include recorder practice (save me)
  2. screen time – yup, they’ll get it. Generally we limit to 30 minutes video games on the weekends and 20 minutes on school nights (about 1 campaign mission on Halo: Reach on weekends or 1 firefight on a school night). They’ll probably get a full hour each day. Plus a lot of movie nights since bedtime won’t really matter. Also, there’s a coding website for kids called Scratch and some free video editing apps for stop motion animation that we might check out.
  3. Arts and Crafts: my kids have fairly free access to the basic colouring stuff. It’s going to take a little more than that after the first few days:
    1. Finger painting – why not? we have to wash up more often anyways
    2. I have a giant roll of paper so I can just cover the floor and let them paint, colour, whatever on it
    3. STICKERS – bring ’em out and let them go crazy (just not on my floors or furniture)
    4. Bring out the special crafts like painting Christmas ornaments, the wooden picture frames I have saved for emergencies, etc.
    5. Dye eggs for Easter. Heck, don’t wait for Easter. Hard boil some eggs, let the kids draw on them, then eat them (or make egg salad). Bonus – get them to draw villains and monsters on the eggs then they get to smash the bad guys
    6. Make your own puzzles – get them to draw a picture, fully coloured, minimal white space, then glue it to an old cereal box for rigidity and cut into pieces. If you have more than one kid get them to put together the picture made by a sibling
  4. Bath time – bath bombs, tub toys, bubbles. Try extra bubble bath mix and glow sticks then turn the lights off. There are other recipes online for types of slime baths and for tub safe paints. I might have to give those a try.
  5. Chores – mostly, get them to clean up after their activities (if it’s day-to-day stuff like toys or crayons they do it themselves, if it’s a big activity get them to help you). Also invite them to help with the dishes and then load the sink with extra soap and all the plastic stuff and let them play, or play match the socks. Sometimes you won’t be able to make it a game, or your kids are like mine and are too old to fall for that anymore. Chores are important. Work alongside them, model a good work ethic, talk about how knowing how to keep the place clean is an important life skill, use that time to talk about stuff, let them watch videos on your phone while they wash dishes.
  6. Cooking/baking – whatever you’re making, they can help. Teach them to measure and read a recipe. Make an old family recipe. Make fun stuff. Make “we need to eat” boring stuff. Turn snacks into something fun (celery becomes ants on a log). Make meals like tacos or subs or pizza where the kids can build their own (mine like pitas and burritos too).
  7. Read to them. Have a quiet reading time where everyone gets cozy on the couches or in mom and dad’s bed and reads their own stuff. Check out some audiobooks from the online library and listen while you do chores. There are some celebrities reading kids books on Youtube already and others who will be live streaming at various times of the day for the next few weeks. Scholastic books (the book fair people) have special online resources right now.
  8. Play outside when you can but practice responsible social distancing.
  9. Design a comic book

Stay safe, stay sane, and take some time for yourself too.

January 2020 Recap

I barely wrote anything in January. I did some editing, and some timeline work, and some brainstorming, but not a lot of physical writing.

I also got the kids back into the school schedule after winter break, got back to teaching taekwondo after the break, and started in on the long list of things to do before we can move.

With the house work and renos this spring, writing is going to be slow and Lost Light is not going to be ready for Keycon or the Kraken Tea. I have to accept that. Maybe, with a little luck, I can have this little surprise side project done – maybe. Would be nice to have a new title out.

Good news though – I had a short story accepted for the KeyCon chapbook competition. The book will be available for pre-order on the KeyCon website soon and for sale at the convention. You’ll likely be able to order online too if you’re not local to the area.

 

November Recap

A few days late, but it’s been that kind of month.

On the personal front, I did 7 shows in November, and one on the 1st of December. 2 of those shows were 2-day events. That’s my Christmas season done. My next for sure show is KeyCon in May. I might make it to KeyCon Lite in January. I’ll have more about that in the “looking ahead to next year” post in a month or so.

November is also National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo for shorter). I do it every year, since I’m writing anyway. I did not make it to the 50,000 words this year. My November total word count was 24,749 (which brought my 2019 word count up to 481,260).

I hit a roadblock on Zoedar #3 at the end of October/beginning of November which slowed me down a lot. Instead of finishing off that novel, I worked on a few short stories I had on the docket and the outline for Lost Light (which doesn’t count towards total words). I’m pretty sure I know what’s going on with Zoedar now but I’m going to leave it on the back burner a bit longer.

My goal right now is to finish off my “520,000 words in a year” goal before Christmas (as of writing this I have about 14k to go). Lost Light is my next book-length project as I’d like to have it ready for KeyCon and the Kraken Tea in the spring. Once Lost Light is done I plan to do the revisions on Zoedar #1+2. I think having those two books closer to finalized will help me with #3 (which may be split into 2 books making it a 5-book set instead of a 4-book set).

I guess the next time I touch base with everyone it will be the end-of-year wrap-up post. Have an awesome month and a blessed whatever it is you celebrate. I hope you had a good NaNo (for those who participate). See you soon!

 

The 2020 Supportive Creative Challenge

I have a challenge for you. Yes you. You artists, photographers, novelists, poets, playwrights, actors, sculptors, potters, creators of all stripes. I have a challenge for you.

When was the last time you gave another creator a shout out? Why? How many? On what platform? When was the last time you recommended a fellow local creator? A small-timer? An ‘I’m just starting out’ friend? An indie?

It’s late fall and everywhere professional organizations are releasing best-of lists and honouring folks with awards and accolades. Best photos, best art installations, best novels … are they really? Or are they just the best ones to be noticed? The best ones with lots of financial backing? The best of the ones with professional distribution and media attention?

I belong to a non-profit author’s collective. We’re supposed to support each other. We’re supposed to offer each other advice and assistance so new authors don’t get scammed, so we don’t publish with horrible blurbs or ugly covers, so we can split the costs and risks of promotional ventures. We’re supposed to shine a light on each other so more readers can find us. And too often I feel like I’m holding all the candles.

I’m burning out.

It’s my job to find events, pay the fees, find authors to split the costs, coordinate people coming and going from events, set up times, displays, and so on. It’s my job to post people’s readings and launches to the public page, to say “hey, there’s a new release here, check it out”, to add people’s covers and links to their albums so their books are visible. I share events. I invite people. I walk from table to table at conventions and invite new authors to join us.

I love my job. I signed up for this. I volunteer to do this. And everyone I work with is full of thanks and gratitude, and for the most part, they are polite, cooperative, and on the ball. (And since I know a few will pop over to read this, I honestly have ZERO complaints about the work I have done on the group’s behalf these last 5 years).

I’m not saying any of this to complain. I’m not. I do my job and I don’t expect others to do it for me. What I’m talking about here is the above and beyond. I’m talking about the Tweet that went across my feed today asking for #canlit recommendations, the one I retweeted with my own list of local 2019 releases attached. I’m talking about the threads in writing groups asking for favourite authors, new release recommendations, favourite book you read this month, etc., the ones I respond to ONLY with the names and titles of local indie authors, or indie authors I chat with online on a regular basis. I’m talking about having a reader in front of me at a convention and writing SOMEONE ELSE’S NAME on the back of my business card so they can check out an author who isn’t me. I’m talking about loading every new release by every author friend I have onto my grandmother’s tablet every other week because she’s a voracious reader and a random $2.99 ebook sale on someone’s dashboard might be the difference between them writing the next book or giving up.

So, when was the last time you did something like this? When someone asks you to recommend a photographer, do you pull out the big-business’s information or the up-and-comer? When someone asks you for reading recommendations do you repeat what Oprah said or do you suggest someone local, someone self-published? Do you buy your friend a mass-produced print from Target for their house warming or a print by a local photographer?

Maybe it’s just the way I grew up. We had paintings and prints and art in our house, the majority of it by local artists we found at flea markets and street festivals. The giant oil painting in the living room was done by my friend’s father. It’s brilliant. I don’t think he ever got a gallery showing. He deserved one. We bought locally authored books from small presses long before self-publishing started. We frequented small, locally-owned stores over chain stores long before #buylocal got a hashtag. We went to indie muscians’ CD release parties and stopped to talk to authors sitting at the book store with a table full of books to sign. I grew up valuing local, and indie, and handmade. I want to share that with others.

So, what’s the challenge?

I want you, Dear Creator, to boost other creators. I want you to spend 2020 lifting other people up. I want you to seek out “what should I read next” posts and list self-published authors as recommendations. I want you to tag your artist/photographer/crafter/maker friend in every post that might land them a client. I want you to review local short films and local music videos and locally authored books. I want you to visit local coffee shops and shop at local Mom and Pop shops.

Challenges are supposed to have a number, right? Something catchy? 20 in 2020?

I honestly don’t care about a number or a catchy title. I want you to put your favourite creators and artists and authors on blast. I want to start word of mouth wildfires. I want you to push yourself. Do 20 in the year. Do 20 every month. Do 20 every week. Do what your time and energy and budget will allow for. Help as many people as you are capable of.

We’re all awesome at sharing #shoplocal memes. Now lets support local in more active ways – share, recommend, review, buy when possible, show up when possible, and help shed some much deserved light on as many awesome creators as possible.

Who’s with me?

October Recap

What a busy month! My sister-in-law was in town for some work training and brought her kids (who stayed at the farm) so we had multiple visits with them while they were here. Plus Thanksgiving for two sides of the family, a family brunch for my son’s birthday, and a school-friend party for my son’s birthday. I worked the federal election (which meant 3 evenings of training plus a 16 hour day). The kids had 3 no-school days this month. And of course, Halloween.

Phew.

I managed just over 60,000 words this month (making it the fourth month I’ve topped 50k in 30 or 31 days, plus June where I knocked out 100k in 30 days for a double Nano). My annual total to date is 474,000.

I’ll be slowing down now until the end of the year, taking lots of days off for sales, birthdays, and the holidays. My goal is to write 1500 words every available day until December 19th. That will put me over my annual goal with enough to spare to cover sick days or surprise commitments.

I’ve also started a program with Strongest Families to help me learn to deal with my daughter’s outbursts better. That should wrap up early in the new year. It’s a distance thing (online and phone) so it’s not physically taxing but it is emotionally powerful. Lots of digging. Lots of reflection.

Only 2 months to go. Whatever happens, 2019 will be my most productive year to date (as I just topped my 2018 annual total!)