Category Archives: indie

Correcting My Mind

"If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into place." -Lao TzuSomehow I thought I’d be productive this week, but we hosted dinners twice and I attended an after-work Agile meet-up Thursday. This kind of Agile relates to project management, especially in software development, but actually had a key take-away for my writing life. Jeff Sutherland co-created Scrum as a way of answering all the difficulties traditional project management faced in “getting to done“. If I look at my current writing paralysis, I wonder if I haven’t been psychologically beaten down by having blown past too many of my self-imposed deadlines over the past year plus. So I’m considering Lao Tzu’s advice this week. If I can correct my mind, maybe that’s what it will take to return to writing productivity. And slides 11 and 12 of that Getting to Done presentation are my inspiration: Sutherland’s research shows that teams that finish early accelerate faster. I may be a team of one for my writing, but it’s still a project to be managed, with an easy set of milestones that can be chunked into obvious definitions of done.

My test for this will be to see whether I can finish my short story this week. I have the day off tomorrow in recognition of the U.S. Memorial Day holiday. If I can finish one thing, my hope is that will break my creative log-jam.

Of course, that one day off will mean work scheduled for five days will be crammed into four, and I’ll be attending the Human Computer Interaction Symposium Thursday, which means a whole week’s worth of day-job work will actually happen in THREE days. So this may be the wrong week to test this theory.

Nonetheless, I’m starting where I am. Sort of a gut instinct situation. And enjoying the fact that when we walk the doggies at night these days, we’re seeing interesting alignments of Venus, Jupiter, and the moon–symbolically (whether you’re into astrology or not), an alignment of the perception of beauty, benevolence/good times, and feelings. It seems right to embrace the symbolism for what it’s worth. On the more logical side, honoring Dr. Nash for his game theory perspective and my incentives to “win” on the day his death was publicized to the world is another reason to forge ahead.

On the other goals… Well. One app on my phone says I averaged 1.2 miles of exercise-rate walking per day this week. The other one only recorded walks Monday and Tuesday that totaled three miles. Between those two measures, I’m still not over 2 miles a day, but I’m walking a lot more days than I planned. With all the other activity of the week, there wasn’t any stay-at-home date night, either, though I’m grateful we have made Sundays ours and continue to avoid having to go anywhere or see anyone on that day of the week. It really does make all the difference in handling the high intensity of traffic and activity in this region.

I’ll be back next week to report on my success. See how my ROW80 compadres are doing in reaching their goals in the meantime.

Expanding Heart

"Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love. They depart to teach us about loss. A new dog never replaces an old dog, it merely expands the heart."It was another week of mourning because one of my mom’s furbabies departed. Ingrid had come through surgery to remove cancerous tumors a few months back like a champ; in the end, she couldn’t survive a necrotizing spinal cord. I couldn’t even be there for the final goodbye given the crazy at work. I’m grateful my three continue in good health, and remind myself every day to appreciate the joy they share in their simplest interactions with us. I hope it is many years before we face the heart-break and further expansion of our hearts when the next one passes and we open our home to a new generation of furbabies.

I also spent a lot of time this week making sure Gayla’s latest was as thoroughly edited as possible. Black Magic Shadows went live in the early hours of this morning, and by this evening already has its first five-star reviews. I’m really pleased with our teamwork on this one and am crossing my fingers that the series continues to support her income needs–even as she moves on to her next set of plotbunnies.

Between the joy of the latest Discord book and the pain of Ingrid’s loss… Somehow another week has slipped through my fingers. The deadline I’d set for myself for revising Red Slaves #1 has come and gone. I haven’t even had time to look at the relevant files. I’m beginning to wonder whether I’ll ever get my writing groove back.

I may be a strange kind of burned out. Gotta love hubs, though, for sending links to articles like this one, which remind me that as long as I continue to take one step at a time and retain my discipline, I may eventually get through my overly long to-do list and find the energy I need to face off with my story ideas.

We walked most nights again this week, though my phone only recorded 3.5 miles of our exercise. With everything going on in the family, though, we didn’t get our date night–though I was able to enforce a not-going-anywhere day today at least. I’m also becoming at least slightly more serious about studying for the PMP–and am certainly getting an extra work-out toting the PMBOK study guide to and from the office.

So I soldier on. If you check back next week, maybe, finally, I will be able to share news of new words. In the interim, check in with the other ROW80ers to see where they stand in relation to their goals.

Facing Fears

"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek." -Joseph CampbellIt’s been a hard week of long days, lots of work, and knowing I have to start buckling down for the PMP. The exam is scheduled to last four hours, and reminds me a lot of the AP exams I took in High School (how many decades ago!) for its ability to test the prospective certificant on any aspect of project management. Given that that includes some of the more arcane earned value and cost return calculations, I’m having to work at not freaking out over how much I have to memorize. Given that there are some literal dollar value increases (in salary and bonuses) tied to earning the credential, Joseph Campbell’s quote this week holds some literal truth for me at the moment.

I’m also facing the quote’s figurative truth. I’ve spent the weekend beginning the process of de-listing my books for distribution via Smashwords and listing them for distribution at Draft 2 Digital (so… if anyone is actually looking to buy my stuff now… be patient. It may or may not be at your vendor of choice for the next week). I had the brilliant idea that this would be a great opportunity to re-edit my work to make sure there were even fewer errors in my stories. And to see whether I still like them. Basically, I do, and can see my style/voice emerging more clearly in my later work. But I’m having an odd echo-experience of what Carrie Vaughn blogged about on Friday: Writing short. Comparing myself to a New York Times bestseller is obviously the height of hubris. Or hope. But as fiction authors, we’re driven by word counts. It’s the main goal of all my ROW80 cohorts and author friends. I’m holding Gayla’s hand as she pushes herself to keep adding words to her WIP and grouses similarly to Vaughn.

I wonder if, in my case, my “writing short” has as much with me racing to the finish line of a story to find out how it ends (I totally had no idea I was writing scifi when I started out writing fantasy with Wytchfire), and then being done enough with the story idea to not feel like pulling myself out of my writing happy place and into my writing working-hard place, tired and cranky place. In short, not facing that cave of Campbell’s fears.

And the revisions I’m contemplating on books 1 and 3 of Red Slaves… those will require that tired and cranky place of looking for all the missed opportunities for character development and world-building that had my crit partners yelling at me last month. Given how tired and cranky I’ve been for other reasons, piling it on… Well. Yeah. There’s some avoidance happening. I’m going to guess that revising and re-releasing book 1 and finishing book 3 per my stated goals–especially with the PMP studying… Not gonna happen. Which adds to the tired and cranky.

On the other hand, hubs and I have made great progress on enforcing weekend activity boundaries–and enjoying each other’s company for a weekly date night. This week we got to see Avengers: Age of Ultron. In an actual theater. And shared a huge number of fanboi moments. I cringed at Natasha’s “moment of weakness” along with other feminists, but here again, more strongly echoed Carrie Vaughn’s review. We’re also doing a lot better with the nightly dog walks–yeah, some are just 10-minute half-milers, but we’re going every night.

So the cranky I’m anticipating in my creative life should at least be somewhat mitigated by family togetherness.


Especially when hubs shares links like the one to Aristotelian wisdom he forwarded this week.

So I will soldier on. (And so will he–at least he’s past halfway through the hell of an intensive series of continuing ed classes to reinstate his national certification status.) And I will check in again next week to report on my progress. In the meantime, check out how the other ROW80ers are doing.

Review: Write Draft Critique Virtual Writer Workshop

Write Draft Critique: Virtual Writer WorkshopAs you are no doubt sick of hearing by now, I was privileged enough to be accepted into the virtual writers’ workshop MJ Kelley founded a little over a year ago for this year’s spring session. For all my experience as a professional editor and literary arts magazine editor, as well as with other critique partners over the past almost 30 years, this was my first experience with an open forum run under strict rules and guidelines dedicated solely to fiction development. It was at once a fantastic growth experience for me as well as an almost overwhelming amount of work. Because I loved it so much, I’m the newest in what appears to be a group of evangelists, so am immortalizing my connection and proselytizing for other writers. (Check out Nillu Nasser Stelter’s thoughts on the workshop, too.)


The explicit expectation-setting from the outset, as well as the moderators’ participation within each of the groups we were divided into, allowed us to almost immediately bypass Tuckman’s stages of group development to reach a level of trust and intimacy with each other that is not only rare, but the only way to truly develop on our creative paths. I don’t know if this was also partly driven by the selection process, but I was told that not everyone who applied made it into the workshop, so suspect that contributed to our success. Not to say we were all in the same genre, but we did all appear to have met a certain standard of professionalism–however we reached that mark.

The workshop took as much time, dedication, and attention as any of the Master’s level classes I’ve taken. This is not for the faint of heart. The payoff for that investment was feedback thatโ€™s helped me expand my view of the elements of my storytelling I need to improve on. I would highly recommend this to any author whoโ€™s interested in expanding their circle of connections to additional, motivated writers who will support their growth with honest feedback couched in a safe environment.

I’m looking forward to taking advantage of the privilege completing in good standing gave me: Returning to future editions… But I’ll be sure to plan around the time commitment involved–both on preparing new texts for my group members to vet, as well as reading 5-7,000 words for both line and developmental feedback each night. I suspect I’ll only ever manage the spring version, given those constraints.


However, entries are open for the fall version already at the Write Draft Critique page, so I urge any serious writers to consider applying.

Finding Silent Moments

"It is in the Silent Moments We find our Inner Strength. Be Still... and find peace."As crazy as it is to witness the swift passage of time, attending a 14-year-old’s birthday really hammers home how fast days become years. It was great to be able to celebrate with our nephew yesterday, but also reinforced our new edict about having a day at home with no intrusions or excursions today. Hubs has been overloading on CEU classes to reinstate his standing with the NCCAOM as the final step in the process of attaining Virginia licensure, and he’s about as burned out as I’ve become at the mention of further studying. We’re both introverts and need those silent moments to find peace with the next steps on our paths.

Not to say I haven’t started making baby steps of progress on studying for my certification. But here, again, I’m nibbling around the edges, not yet entirely ready to dive in to the memorization necessary to think like a successful PMP test-taker.

It’s been a week since my writing workshop ended, and I kept thinking I’d have the focus to start tackling revisions and reformatting for Red Slaves 1 for the new distributor. Instead, I enjoyed a string of nights at home with hubs, catching up first on Agent Carter and then an episode of Agents of SHIELD. Peggy Carter is my new high-water mark for a character with personal agency–and my personal hero. One of her final lines is: “I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.” It hit me where I live. It’s a message I’ve struggled to articulate over the course of my career, and it’s helped me live the classic statistic of 78% of a man’s income for similar experience and education. Not just once, but at every job I’ve ever had. I’ve tolerated it because I’ve felt lucky to have A job in the variously bad economic situations I’ve lived. I’m starting to think I may be the problem. I don’t know my own value, despite almost three decades of evidence that I’m a worthwhile hire. Finding out sometime down the road with a company that I was brought on at the minimum level possible for my position classification has always been sold as “but you have up-side if you stay.” The problem is, it hasn’t actually materialized. I need to find Agent Carter’s strength, my own inner strength, to articulate my value. I’ll be working on that.

I’ve been working on getting back on the walking track, too. I walked every night this week, for at least a mile; last Sunday for 2.2 miles, and yesterday for 1.5 miles. So my total for the week was 7.3 miles. A lot closer to my goal. Unfortunately, I had an invisible spider encounter on Wednesday night’s dog walk that had my jaw swell to chipmunk-impressive proportions. It actually started constricting my throat enough that I decided staying close to home was not only important for finding peace and inner strength (per this week’s quote) but also for my good health. I’m a lucky gal that hubs has the skillz to fix these issues, so I was back to 90% of normal by Friday already.

So I have things to work on, but with the good break of today to refresh myself, maybe I can take bigger steps. I’ll report back next week with my progress again, but in the meantime suggest you check in with the other ROW80ers on theirs.

One Step at a Time

"No matter how high the climb... Steps were designed to be taken One at a Time..."It’s been another long week, but my first goal of this round is complete: I met all the writer’s workshop deadlines and finished in good standing. The feedback I received on my Red Slaves stories will undoubtedly make them all stronger–though first I needed a break and a breather this weekend. Based on the goal of one stay-at-home date night… hubs and I have agreed that really, the goal needs to be one day at home together with no running around or socializing. It’s so powerfully rejuvenating to have had this day two weeks in a row, now, that I almost feel fully human.


The next step in the ladder of my goals for this round is to begin integrating the workshop feedback and to go through the re-release process with all the books I had previously distributed through Smashwords. Gayla has highly recommended Draft2Digital as a replacement that seems to be generating both better sales results and more reliable reporting for her, so we’ve been talking about me following her footsteps for almost a year. While it feels like a big process, I know mostly I’m making it that way because of the revisions I’m envisioning for Book 1. Book 2 won’t get the same treatment. Then it’ll be on to Book 3. I’ve been promising that to readers for over a year, and I’m not sure how long it will actually take me to finish the current draft once I incorporate the suggestions from my workshop colleagues, but I’d like to have it done this summer. I need that head-space for some of my other stories, and I know how frustrating it is to have to wait forever for the conclusion to a series I’ve enjoyed.

The re-release will have new cover art, though, too. Gayla has some exciting ideas, and we both want the covers to align across all three books as well as more clearly reflect the Urban Fantasy genre conventions and expectations.


This week I also got an unexpected chance at an ARC of Liana Brooks’ latest book (coming out Tuesday), so I’m ready to go with the first review of this round. Walking… well. Again, I seem to have mostly left my phone at home this week, so I only tracked 2 miles across three walks. But we’ve been doing a lot of quarter- and half-mile walks with the babies as 5- to 10-minute pee breaks. The up-side of that is that KouKi seems FINALLY to have grokked coming to find me to lead me to the front door to take her out to pee. (Hence: QUICKLY out the door and no phone tracking setup!) I’m happy to be spending less time cleaning up house-training mis-fires, but am really wondering how long before she can hold it for long enough for me to do more than finish a paragraph… The other next thing I need to be paying attention to is studying for the PMP. I’m supposed to be dedicating 30-45 minutes per day on that, and with the workshop requirements am two weeks behind. We’ll see how well I catch up.

Mostly, I’m elbow-deep in fantasy and sci-fi in my mind–and hubs is egging me on, sending more Oopsart and other supernatural stories to entice my brain to chase those ideas–so I’m happy I’ll be leaning into more of a reliable schedule over the coming weeks. I’m also on the look-out for 10 toxic habits that drain our energy. Marc & Angel Hack Life is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs and the suggestion that pretending things are okay when they aren’t is an energy-suck is both logical and apparent… in hindsight. I’m going to avoid that in the future, now, too. Meantime, check out how my ROW80 friends are doing on their goals. I’ll return again next week with my latest report on my progress.

The Little Things

"Enjoy little things in life... For one day you'll look back and realizeI’ve been reveling in a quiet day at home today. Unplugged. Out of touch. They’re rarer than they should be and remind me why I have the goal of a stay-at-home date night on my list of Things To Do. There’s something uncommonly nourishing about not facing crowds of people, endless errands, and a to-do list or social obligations a mile long.

Of course, part of the reason for the quietude is that our trip to the eastern shore last weekend landed an unexpected, unwanted visitor. First hubs, then I succumbed to a nasty flu that has meant extra sleep was no longer a nice-to-have option–but was also that much harder to come by with the massive headache/body ache that came with the virus. We’re lucky it seems to have been of the 24-hour variety that is making me overly grateful for being mostly healthy again today.

I’m also down to my final few critiques for my writer’s workshop. By some miracle, I am still on target for finishing everything on time. And I’m really grateful for the insights my peers have shared with me. (I’ll be weeding out all the distancing “I feel”, “I think”, etc. from my first-person narratives in the very near future.) But this also means I need to be pulling up my big-girl panties and facing the remainder of my story in the very near future. I’m not sure why, but it certainly seems that finishing up all the story arcs I’ve built out over the course of the trilogy feels more overwhelming than when I was just enjoying the story for its own sake.

So it was with high interest that I read a future-is-past piece of a story from one of the other authors in the group, and started re-exploring the Berlin Wall again. It’s odd to think that monument to the Cold War was built–at least symbolically–in one night in 1961. That’s how little time it took to lay 30 miles of barbed wire to enforce the boundary between east and west–and entrap a population to ensure a self-declared country’s economic survival. This past November saw the 25th anniversary of the fall of the wall already. (Another sign of how quickly time flies!) Ironically, a Russian-based news and opinion site has one of the best collections of 25 things people most likely don’t know about the Wall that I’ve seen. It’s a good reminder that history has some valuable lessons we would do best to pay attention to–by way of avoiding a repeat. It certainly contributes to the plotbunny possibilities of the future in ways I hadn’t anticipated for myself.

This week hubs also forwarded another useful article listing 18 spiritual teachings to remind me to focus on the Now. As the author says: “The past brought me here, but it is over. The future is totally uncertain.” All I can do is enjoy the moment I have, revel in my furbabies’ flourishing, and love my family and friends.

So I’m okay with another week short on walking (by way of social duties, rain, and flu derailment–for a total of 3 of just over 2 miles), and short on PMP studying (though the class Monday night gave another few key tips that make that mountain seem not so daunting). At least I met two other big goals. And I can build on them. So go, see how the other ROW80ers are doing this week, and know that I’ll be back again next week, crossing my fingers for not quite so many social obligations or health issues that I can make more progress on the other goals.

Having Fun

"When you stop doing things for fun you might as well be dead." -Earnest HemingwayIt’s hard to believe how often weeks fly by in a blur; we’re almost halfway through the fourth month of the year already, and it feels subjectively like the year just started. Certainly, I’m finally settling into the sense of being at home with the house a little more reliably settled. Between that and the sudden blooming of the trees in the neighborhood, it feels right and appropriate to be having some fun.

We had friends visiting from Wisconsin, prompting some additional home clean-up efforts this week, and then last night we got to see some other friends in concert. The venue was an intimate theater on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, so we decided to make it a real date night and check the furbabies into an overnight stay at Affectionate Pet so we wouldn’t have to worry about their well-being for an unknown stretch of hours. Turns out our worries were well-founded. Though we left with plenty of time, we experienced our first run of parking-lot-style traffic on the Capital Beltway, and kept finding our way onto smaller and smaller byways to try to keep moving. So our leisurely evening turned into quite an adventure–that barely left us time to grab a bite to eat. We did stumble onto a gem of a locale, though: The BBQ Joint is worth visiting if you’re in the region. Date night was thus a success and we thoroughly enjoyed The Slambovians for their latest. (If you’re into eclectic folk rock with punk and bluesy elements, look them up to see whether they’re visiting near you–they are MASTERS of enforcing a GOOD time!)

The Grand Slambovians, Easton, Maryland, April 11

As for meeting any of the actual goals I set last week… I’m still on top of the critiquing deadlines. However, I appear to have forgotten my phone for the majority of the half-milers I took KouKi and Santino on over the course of the week. My phone says I only walked three times for 2.8 miles, but I’m pretty sure that’s a huge underestimation of my actual steps. ohwell. I obviously also managed a date night, but the remainder of my goals … they’re still in development. I’m okay with that for the moment, since my study class for the PMP kicks off officially tomorrow and catching up on the backlog of reviews I have to write isn’t something that will stress me out. And the other goals are upcoming, anyway.

Hubs’ emailed reminder of 11 life lessons to keep us on track also reaffirmed the importance of remaining focused on appreciating the life we’re living.

So I’m in a pretty good place, feeling myself blossoming with the allergies of spring, but enjoying the extra sunshine and the peace that comes with slightly more routine–and a good dose of fun. I’ll be back again next week, but in the meantime check out how the other ROW80ers are doing with their goals.

Love All Around

Happy Easter! May the Angels Protect you, may sadness forget you, may joy surround you, with love all around you.I’m not a big fan of holidays, as they’re generally manufactured by people with social control agendas… On the other hand, I love holidays for the excuse they give us to hang out with the people who are special to us, spreading a little happiness and love in a world that keeps insisting on giving reminders of how twisted humanity can be. So: Happy Easter to those who celebrate–sharing blessings is always worthwhile, and Zen to Zany came up with a good one for today, that’s appropriate across denominational divides.


In keeping with the inspirational nature of sharing blessings, hubs also shared a good post that collects as diverse a group of thinkers as I’ve ever seen to list 20 transformational quotes. The theme of contrasting fear and love is consistent, as is the necessity of finding the inner path to openness. Which makes the article I found about why playing it safe is a bad idea all the more pertinent. (Not that I will be changing my mind about a motorcycle–I like my two Priuses too much.)

With those injunctions in mind, and recognizing that my ideas about planning seem to inspire the gods to grand hilarity, I’m still going to go out on a limb and set myself some goals. As this round takes us to the end of June, there will be two distinct phases of my goals, since I have the firm commitment to the writers’ workshop through the end of this month.

  1. Complete critiquing requirements for writers’ workshop (final = 4/25);
  2. Complete re-write of Red Slaves book 1 for re-release 5/15;
  3. Complete Red Slaves book 3 for release by the end of June;
  4. Continue walking at least 5 times per week for a minimum 10 miles;
  5. Study for and pass the PMP exam;
  6. Carve out at least one stay-at-home date night with hubs per week; and
  7. Post 3 more book reviews.

As I look at that list… It seems audacious in the extreme. Yet I have to say the critiques from my fellow workshop participants that I’ve been able to follow so far on what I’ve done in the Red Slaves series have been meaty, useful, and inspiring. I suspect they may be the prod necessary to push me across the finish line. At the same time, I see big changes on the horizon at the day job, and Gayla has also committed to releasing Discord Jones book 5 in less than two weeks, so I’m up to my eyeballs with those editing duties as well. Hubs has also submitted the last of his paperwork to open up his acupuncture practice in Virginia, so we’ve been feverishly developing all the necessary marketing collateral, too.

So I’ll keep reminding myself to count all my blessings and enjoy each of the moments I’m given, understanding that I have made these choices based on that classic Constitutional right (injunction!) for The Pursuit of Happiness. (Remind me of that, when life overwhelms me again…)

May we all come out on the other end transformed by our experience, and deeper in love with the lives we’ve chosen for ourselves. In the meantime, check out the other ROW80er’s goals, and I’ll be back again next week recounting what successes and failures I’ve faced.

Time to Breathe

"We think we need so many useless things when all we really need is time to breathe."This is the middle of my “break” week for my writer’s workshop–and between Round of Words in 80 days rounds, strangely enough. It really couldn’t have come at a better time–though I wish I’d been able to get more done this weekend. Again. Seems like mostly my weekends these days are all about getting caught up on sleep. Then Sunday night is the night to cram in all those last-minute things I’d thought I’d do earlier.

Vicious cycle, there, much?

The surprise of the week was that hubs took a major load off my shoulders by unpacking, organizing, and re-arranging all the remaining boxes cluttering the downstairs. Technically that crosses off one of my goals for this round, even though I wasn’t the one who ended up doing it. Hubs is DEFINITELY a keeper!


(The downside: He tweaked his back enough to keep him up two nights running, so he may need some of my lessons learned about when to say enough is enough…) It really is amazing how a little organization helps energize a whole house. And reveal all the useless things you can declutter. Which, coincidentally, is one of the 50 habits for a happy life hubs forwarded to me this week, too. Along with mental health days.


Another one on that list is walking or daily exercise. It was a cold, wet week here, so we didn’t do as well on that, though we still managed four days for a total of at least 5 miles–though I kept forgetting my phone for the shorter ones, so I know it was more than that.

Technically, it’s the end of Round 1 on ROW80 for this year, so next week will be another reassessment of goals for Round 2. In the meantime, we’ll see how well I do with incorporating the critiques from my workshop into what I’ve already written–and whether that spurs me on to additional new words. One of the kewlest spurs to my imagination recently, though, was an article speculating on what future morality might look like–in other words, what our grandchildren might condemn us for. I’m still chasing plotbunnies on that one, even as I try to stay focused on what I need to finish first. I’ll be back next week, letting you know how it goes.

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