New Year, New Projects, New Goals

As we prepare to welcome 2019, it’s time to sit down and take stock of 2018, and look ahead to what the new year could hold.

2018 was full of turmoil for me. For those who don’t already know, I decided to close Schreyer Ink Publishing a the end of this year. All of our anthologies are going out of print. We will not be accepting anything new. The blog and email will close as well.

I took a chance on a lot of new shows and learned a lot about the market, and about different show organizers.

I learned a lot, about myself, about my desires, about running a business. I learned that I have a bad habit of undervaluing my time, my services, and my product. I learned that I have a few amazing friends who will come through for me every time and I hope that I can be there for them as consistently as they are for me. I learned that stretching myself too thin was a good way to fail at everything. I learned just how important my husband, marriage, and family are to me – and that my mental and emotional health, and the health of my family relationships, need to come first.

2019 is going to look very different. It has to, in the face of so many changes.

For one thing, I will not have to put aside time for reading submissions. Part of me is saddened by this as I really enjoyed all the stories that came my way. I don’t have to put aside time for layout, design, and marketing either, not for the anthologies. I can just focus on my own works.

I sadly underestimated my goals in 2018 so I’m upping the bar for 2019 and I hope I’ve landed on a good solid basis for my writing – one that challenges me without being so hard to achieve that I burn out.

This is my tentative schedule for 2019:

C4 Winnipeg Horror and Sci-Fi Convention in February – probably

Spring Craft Sales – I’ll only do 2 or 3 and only with a few trusted and liked organizers

C4 Winnipeg “Manitoba Comic Con” in April – maybe

KeyCon over May Long Weekend – already booked

Summer Street Fairs – Only doing 1 in Steinbach, and possibly 1 in Ste Pierre

C4 Winnipeg in October – probably

Christmas craft events – I’ll do half a dozen or so in November and early December, again, sticking to events with good organizers in good locations.

And, here are my writing goals for 2019:

Total Word Count Goal for the Year: 520,000 words (the equivalent of 10,000 words per week, or 2,000 words per day for 5 days each week)

Rose Garden: Book 4 is done. I need to finish book 5, get everything on the shelf, and host a massive series launch at the Jake Epp Library in the spring. (Approximately 65,000 words)

Underground: I need to write books 6 & 7 to finish off the series. There is also a spin-off book that needs to be written. (Approximately 24,000 words per book, or 72,000 words)

Underground Graphic Novels: I have an artist (I hope). Now I need to collect my thoughts for what I’m looking for in a graphic novel and sit down with the potential artist to get this project rolling.

Contract work: I have 56,000 words outstanding on a contract. When it’s done, I’m done. I will not be doing any further ghostwriting.

So far that’s 193,000 words, or roughly 19.5 weeks of work. (That only takes me to mid-May).

After that I will start on a massive 4-book project, my baby, my long-time backburner project, the one I’ve been dying to write for years. I’m looking at 350,000 words over four books (which takes me over my 520,000 word goal by about 25,000 words). My plan is to finish the four books by the end of January 2020 and then attempt to find an agent and a traditional publisher for them.

After that? Well, that’s 9 entire books in a single year (though I’ll only be publishing 4 of them) plus the graphic novels. I don’t think I want to plan past that point, or commit to anything past that point. But there are ideas. Lots and lots of ideas.

There will never be a shortage of things to write.

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How Long to Stick Around

It’s a tough call to make. How much do you give? How hard do you try? How long are you going to stick it out? What are you willing to do before walking away?

I’m talking specifically about support groups, networking groups, writing groups and such. As creatives and entrepreneurs, we’re often invited to these types of groups. We join hoping to find like-minded people to discuss the trials and tribulations of our passions. We join looking for people to help us through the rough patches and support us in some way.

I’m a part of several writing groups. The ones I like best are groups for writers to just chum around in. We can ask for a bit of help with research or brainstorming, share neat stories and plot bunnies, and talk about the process of writing. These groups have zero focus on sales or promoting. It’s just writers hanging out. And it’s nice.

I’m in more promotion-focused groups too and I quickly lose interest. It devolves into “buy my book” and everyone shouting into the void. Everyone comes to sell and no one is there to buy. I don’t stay in groups long when they become sales groups.

I’m in handmade, craft, and local sell-stuff groups. Sometimes I’ll comment on a “looking for a gift” thread but most times people aren’t looking for books, even locally authored ones. They don’t equate books with crafts or with handmade. They don’t view books as good gifts. I like to hang around these groups anyways because I like to buy, and I like to support other local makers by tagging them in posts that might net them a sale.

The big question for me is how long do I stay in “networking groups”?

I joined a local networking group for local women who ran businesses or worked for themselves. Seemed like a great fit. I’m a writer. Not everyone is a reader, and not every reader enjoys the type of books I write. But I didn’t join the group looking to sell stuff. I went into this hoping to make connections that I needed. I need to connect with locally owned businesses in the small local towns who would be willing to stock some books. I need to connect with business owners who are looking for a proofreader or editor for their various materials. And yeah, I was hoping to connect with other people who understood the pains of marketing who would help me spread the word about some of my events.

I got none of that.

I’ve shown up for events, even events that cost me money to attend. I’ve bought from businesses promoted by the group. I’ve shared and liked posts. I’ve passed contact info back and forth. I held a contest and not a single member of the group entered. I have asked for help in promoting events and had zero shares.

So, when is it time for me to pull up stakes and leave? I mean, this obviously isn’t the community for me. None of the members actually care if I succeed or fail. I’ve done my bit, I gave and gave and tried and participated, but I see no returns. How long do I have to pay in? How much of my time and energy do I have to give to the group before the group will give back to me?

And this isn’t the only group. I’ve dedicated myself to multiple groups, over and over again, giving time and energy to wind up being the only one trying and everyone expecting everything of me. I’ve left critique groups because I was the only one actually reading and critiquing and I could never get a comment on my work. I’ve left promotion groups that were really about promoting the work of one or two people (who were not me) and the rest of us were only there to be the audience.

Maybe it’s time I leave this networking group too. Because I’ve asked for support. I’ve asked members to swing by my friend’s quilt shop but no one ever does. It has become a group run by a few for the benefit of their closest friends, and that’s fine, but then don’t advertise it as a group to help everyone. Because that’s not what you’re trying to do. It’s a group set up to help the in-crowd, and I’m not the in-crowd, I’m the awkward nerdy girl who gets stuck doing all the work for the in-crowd.

I’ve got my own projects that need my energy and if people aren’t going to help me, then I do not have the time and energy to help them either. Giving has to go both ways or givers end up burning out. And I would gladly help promote for these amazing women. I just don’t see anything in it for me except another drain on my time and energy.

It’s almost the end of the year. We all start talking about “next year’s goals”. My goal is to work on my priorities. Maybe it’s selfish, but I’m burning out. You want a piece of me this coming year? You want a piece of my time, my talents, my energy? Show up and help out. Otherwise, I won’t have the time or the energy to spend on you. And I won’t regret it one bit.

Toodles.

A Mother’s Pride

I am so proud of my daughter right now, but I am also hurting for her. She has come up against one of the hardest tests of the world, and she handled it amazingly well – unfortunately it cost her a lot.

On Friday at school a little girl, “T”, was poked in the eye by one of the known “mean boys”. My daughter was making paper snowflakes for her friends and decided to make one for “T” as well. Now, “T” is moderately high-needs, she has some pretty obvious symptoms like stimming, and she is 6, going on 7 (like my daughter). I know many of the kids, including my daughter, find “T” annoying. That didn’t stop my daughter from feeling mad that “T” had been bullied. My daughter knows what it feels like to be bullied so she was ready to cheer “T” up with a pretty paper snowflake.

Her friends were not impressed. They tried to talk her out of it, and even tried bribing her with a piece of gum. My daughter gave “T” the snowflake anyways.

On Monday her friends excluded her at recess and free play and sat at different tables from her. Same again on Tuesday.

On Tuesday my daughter did a nice thing for her friends, she sharpened pencil crayons for them. She then asked if she could borrow a marker and was told no. This resulted in an exchange of little notes. The one I saw said “I am never giving you gum again you are not my FRIEND”. On the back was a drawing of four girls, one on one side of a table, the other three on the other side. The lone girl was labelled with my daughter’s name, the other three were just labelled “us”. It was from the girl my daughter considered her best friend.

We were just making plans for my daughter’s birthday and this was the one girl my daughter wanted to invite to go out for a special day. This was the one girl my daughter has named her best friend since Kindergarten.

This afternoon my daughter exploded at me. She did not want to do her home reading. After an hour long temper tantrum she calmed enough I could do some prying and I got this story out of her. It turns out she was excluded again today.

I wrote a letter to her teacher explaining the chain of events. I’m all for children learning social interaction without major adult interference, and I think kids need the space and time to learn how to act towards each other on their own, but this concerned me deeply.

My daughter wrote a letter explaining how she was feeling. “I don’t want to go to school right now. I don’t want to be bullied anymore. I am afraid I won’t have any friends anymore.”

She was begging me to homeschool her. She said, “All the girls picked her side and I’m left with all the bullies” (she has a bit of a history with a few of the boys in her class).

I am so proud of her. She made the choice to do a compassionate and kind thing, even though her friends tried to talk her out of it. She’s had to learn the hard way that choosing the right thing can sadly cost you everything. These are the girls she desperately wants to be friends with, that she desperately wants to spend time with, and they’ve shunned her. I only hope when they dangle “friendship” in front of my daughter with some cruel or dangerous conditions (we’ll be your friends if…) that she’ll choose the right thing again.

Until then, all I can do is tell her I’m proud of her and help her build the emotional language to deal with the fall out.

Oh, and she grew up right before my eyes during dinner this evening. She said, “I know before I was yelling at you about my reading because I was mad but I want to apologize. I’m sorry for yelling. I was sad and I let it out as mad.”

She continues to amaze me and I think, road bumps aside, she’s on her way to becoming one heck of a young woman.

My Birthday Wish

As a lifelong reader and published author, there is a cause that is close to my heart. I’ve been an advocate for many things, but this is special to me. Literacy. Children’s literacy, community access to books, little free libraries, public libraries, authors in schools, authors in libraries, family literacy day, writing workshops, poetry slams … We feed the body, we defend against abuse and neglect on every front, and that’s all so important. Books feed the mind and the soul, they empower people with representation and with knowledge.

My birthday is on April 2, and this year it lands over Easter weekend. I won’t be doing anything special this year, just spending time with family for the holidays, and I’m content with that. I’ve been spending a lot of weekends doing sales and shows so a quiet weekend with my kids is a treat. I’ll be turning 31. I’ve long outgrown the need for birthday gifts, aside from the trinkets my kids buy me, or the next season of my TV show on DVD which my husband grabs me each year because birthdays are a good excuse for the little luxuries. Still, I am blessed with a large extended family and a large network of friends so I will make this one concession.

If you would like to celebrate my birthday, if you would like to get a little something to commemorate the day, please, buy a book. BUT there’s a catch. Buy a book and donate it somewhere – to a daycare center, a school library, your local public library, the local women’s shelter, foster child group home. Or give it as a gift to a friend or friend’s child who you feel would enjoy it. Maybe you know a family that is going through hard times and a new book in the house would be a real treat for the kids. (Feel free to read the book first, if you haven’t already, or buy a copy of one of your favourites to share)

If you are donating to a daycare or school please make sure the book is for the appropriate age group. If you are donating to the public library consider checking their website for a “wish list” or ask a librarian if there’s a new release they’d love to have an extra copy of. If you’re gifting to a friend or family member’s children, ask the parents first if there’s anything the child is interested in or refuses to read. (My son HATES Five Nights at Freddie’s or anything scary like Goosebumps, some families do not like books with monsters, even cute ones)

Consider buying from a local author – local to where you live. You’ll be helping to support local talent, and often a library’s budget gets eaten up keeping the big-demand books coming in and they can’t afford to support local as much as they would like to. Or support your favourite indie author. You can even grab one of my books to share with someone.

If you do any of the above, please, take a picture of the book and share with me where you’re sending it to (if gifting you don’t have to include the person’s name).

If you need shopping inspiration, here is a list of some of the Manitoba authors and indie authors whose books I’ve enjoyed (in no particular order):

Theo Ashford, Geralyn Wichers, Marianne Curtis, Alex McGilvery, C.A. King, Debbie Manber Kupfer, Steve LeBel, Jeffery Cook, Sherry Peters, Celesta Thiessen, Alyssa Thiessen, Christine Steendam

Empowerment

I am empowered to exist.

I give myself permission to take up space. I am allowed to stand my ground, stay the course, and let others move around me. I do not have to make myself smaller, not by losing weight, not by slouching, not by looking down, to make others feel more comfortable around me. I am allowed embrace my identity, whether it conforms to the current norms of society or not.

I am empowered to exist.

 

I am empowered to speak.

My voice is important. My story, opinions, and experiences are valid and have merit. I do not have to speak more softly, or more politely. I do not have to laugh more softly, or less often. I can share my story, in my own way and in my own time, even if it makes other people uncomfortable.

I am empowered to speak.

 

I am empowered to take care of myself.

Asking for help is not a weakness. I am allowed to close the doors and take quiet time to myself. I am allowed to go out and have fun, just for me. My physical and mental well-being are important. Self-care does not make me conceited.

I am empowered to take care of myself.

 

I am empowered to empower others.

I will stand with you and boost you up when others seek to push you down. I will listen, and demand others listen, when others seek to silence your voice. I will listen and respect your privacy when you open up to me in trust. I will support and validate your experiences, even if they are not the same as mine. I will help you, whatever you ask, whenever you ask, if it is in my power, I will help. I will do these things for you, no matter your gender at birth, the gender you identify as, who you love, where you or your ancestors come from, or what you believe in. Together we can change the world – but only together.

I am empowered to empower others.

 

My Trip To Calgary

This is the first in a series of entries about my recent trip West. This post will be about the flight, my in-Calgary transportation experiences, and my hotel. I will also be doing one on the When Words Collide conference in general, one on the panels I spoke on, and one on the sessions I sat in on.

I left home mid-morning on Thursday August 10th and arrived in Calgary around 2pm local time. It was a fairly empty flight and West Jet was clean, prompt, and professional. Their staff was friendly, and while I had no special needs (wheelchair, children, etc) I watched them handle all their customers with care and respect.

I had done some research before leaving and planned to take the bus to my hotel. The signs in the airport made it easy to find my way out and I ended up right where I needed to be to buy my bus pass. I caught the next 300 BRT and was on my way. I got off the bus a few stops early so I could walk a few blocks, stretch my legs, and take in a little of downtown Calgary, then onto the C-Train (201) which was so easy to use. I’m from a little big-city so we don’t have anything like the C-Train, no subway either. From the C-Train station I wandered down to the bus stop and asked one of the drivers which bus I needed to get to the intersection I was looking for. They pointed me to the right bus (Transit drivers are amazing people) and I was dropped on the hotel’s doorstep. Took me close to 2 hours instead of 40 minutes but it was cheaper than the cab and super easy.

I stayed at the Delta Hotel, the Calgary South location. Checking in was a breeze and they upgraded me to a king-room. The room was clean and had all the necessary comforts. I settled in, got myself some snacks from the Wal-mart across the street, and spent some time at the pool. They have a great water slide with a pool and hot tub in the Tower building and a second pool and hot tub in the Atrium building.

The Delta is actually two buildings with a road between them but there’s a skywalk on the third floor. There are signs pointing to all the conference rooms and back to the elevators. I got turned around a few times but only because I was texting and not looking up!

The lunch bar they had available for conference attendees was delicious. And I had dinner at the pub next door the one night (Boomtown Pub), their pizza is fantastic.

My only complaint with the room, okay, there were two things. One, there was a shower but no tub. I’m assuming this is because I was in a king room and if I got a double with my husband and kids there would be a tub to bathe the wee ones in. 2 – my room was freezing and adjusting the in-room thermostat seemed to do nothing. Considering how little time I spent in my room it was a small complaint.

Checking out was just as easy and there was a cab on hand so off to the airport I went again. Security at the Calgary airport was slower than at home but it is a bigger airport. Still, wait times were not unreasonable and the staff was efficient and friendly.

I was on a full flight headed East but again the staff was friendly and the flight was clean and on time.

I was nervous going on this trip. I was travelling alone to a city I’d never visited before and I wasn’t there to stay with family or friends. Everyone I dealt with at the airports, on the flights, and at the hotel, including house keeping, was polite, friendly, and helpful. It made the trip much easier, and far more enjoyable.

Separation Pre-Orders

When writing both a fantasy series and a science fiction series do not try to edit one while writing the other. Switching gears between genres and styles like that was hard.

Rose From the Ash was released this past spring and once that was out of the way I could focus on finishing the drafts for Separation – book two in the Underground Series.

Focus is definitely what this book needed. I had started and stopped so many times the different pieces did not fit together at all. So much of it had to be rearranged and rewritten.

But it got done. And now the e-book is available for pre-order. We will officially be celebrating the launch of the ebook at the Twilight Madhouse Launch party on August 1 (the book goes live on August 8th so there will be a week yet of pre-orders). We’ll be launching the paperback at C4 in October. And with a little luck I’ll have book 3 completed by then as well.

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Saying Goodbye

Today we are burying my grandfather.

He passed away quite suddenly towards the end of January when it is cold and icy here and the ground is too hard and too covered in snow to bury anyone really. So he was cremated and the lovely wooden box has sat at my grandmother’s since then. The service has been held.

Today we gather together as a family – his nieces and nephews, his children and grandchildren and great grand children – to lay him to rest, to say one last goodbye.

It’s been six months. It’s still surreal.

I had to tell my children in January that he was in the hospital. A few days later I had to explain to a seven year old and a five year old that their Poppa was gone. They cried but seemed to handle it all right.

After the funeral we went to the apartment for dinner and visiting. When it was time to go the kids wanted to say good-bye to Poppa. Only it wasn’t Poppa they’d seen around all day, it was his older brother.

We went to visit about a month after the funeral. My kids still call it Nana and Poppa’s apartment.

In April or so my son started crying and he set my daughter off. They missed their Poppa. Out of the blue. He must have remembered something and the missing hit him again. I told them it was all right to cry.

In June a TV show I was watching made me cry – the old man in the hospital bed looked too much like my grandfather. All of June my daughter has been missing her Poppa. She told my husband she wished she could have had one last piece of cake with him.

I can call to mind his face and his voice as clear as day in my mind. I should be able to call him up, invite myself over for lunch, and hear him say “Well, let me just check with Nana first,” before telling me to “Come on over”.

When we go to visit he should just walk out of the office and offer my kids juice and cake and their favourite TV shows.

And when it doesn’t happen I remember. Then it feels real. Then it hurts again. But sitting at home most days, it’s not real. I don’t think about him in past tense yet.

Will it feel real now?

Somehow I don’t think so.

Intermission

I apologize. There was supposed to be a new review up today and there won’t be. I’ve been swamped with personal things for a week, I’m behind on sleep, my kids are behind on sleep, and I’ve got too much to do and not enough time to do it.

So, I would rather the reviews be bumped back a week so I can give the books the time and attention they deserve than try to rush them. As such, there will be no review on Saturday either. There is a post scheduled for Sunday and hopefully next week we’ll be back to reviews.

Thank you for your understanding.