Category Archives: indie

Necessary, Possible, Impossible

"Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible' and suddenly you are doing the impossible." -Francis of AssisiThis week was all about prioritizing the necessary. Mostly, that meant I spent half of my evenings in editing mode, making sure Gayla’s latest was good to go for a Thursday release date. The Wolf Fount is very different from her Discord Jones series, dealing with adult situations and the damage that can come from a lifetime of neglect/disconnect from helpful parental influences, as well as a reflection on the archetype of a hubristic leader. One reader told me today it seemed almost like the modernization (with werewolf/vampire elements!) of the Arthurian legend and his entanglement with Lancelot and Guinevere. I can see that parallel as well as other interesting themes. When I point them out to Gayla, she laughs and says her story brain is smarter than she is–she didn’t intentionally put that there. But her writer’s experience is an interesting reflection on St. Francis’ quote above, too: She has practiced and honed her various story-telling skills over time to make it possible to write well-crafted tales. Now she’s layering in depths on subconscious levels that make her characters spring from the page and reflect timeless themes in new ways that leave the reader deeply satisfied. Hugh Howey wrote a blog post about this process about a month ago. I can verify the template he laid out via what I have witnessed of Gayla’s experience, because the level of effort and commitment she puts into her writing career means that each new manuscript I see of hers is better than the previous one.

In other words: I have a lot of fun editing her work.


On the other hand, between that work and working make-up hours at the day job, I only managed slightly fewer than 400 words on The Builders this week. And we had a work event yesterday that meant my weekend wasn’t really my own either. So while hubs and I got to spend some time together, and we certainly enjoyed ourselves last night, all our rhythms were off kilter. He still found the time to send me some thought-provoking articles. The first was by musician David Byrne, who was reflecting on the polarization in our political lives. He makes some compelling points about the way we lock ourselves into echo chambers of self-reflective affirmation–and, in fact, these are some of the worries Gayla and I kick back and forth… do we like each other too much to find the objectivity to see the true strengths and weaknesses in our work? I think in Gayla’s case, the market has spoken. In mine… well. I’m several years behind her in the experience curve, but am happy to follow the template she and others have lived, and will assume that with enough work, revision, and breadth of feedback, I’ll get there, too.

This week is going to be as full, for different work reasons, so I’m not sure whether I’ll make my writing goal again. But the other article hubs forwarded, about cosmic and spiritual laws, is a handy reminder that there is balance in all things, so eventually I will resume my efforts. In the meantime, check in with my ROW80 cohorts to see how they’re doing on their goals.


It’s always a good day when I get to help out my writer friends. Today, Ciara Ballintyne announces:

The cover art for the upcoming epic fantasy, In the Company of the Dead.
InTheCompanyOfTheDead_300dpi_1842x2763 FINAL
Genre: Epic Fantasy/Romantic Fantasy
Release Date: 25 April 2016
Credit is due to the cover artist, Sam Keiser.

About the Book

Only a fool crosses a god, but Ellaeva and Lyram will do anything to get what they want.

Chosen as a five-year-old orphan to be the Left Hand of Death, Ellaeva has nothing to call her own—nothing except a desire to avenge her murdered parents. Her duties leave her no time to pursue the man responsible, until both her work and revenge lead to the same place—the lonely castle where Lyram Aharris is serving out his exile for striking his prince.

Lyram is third in line for the throne, and when the castle is unexpectedly besieged, he fears his prince means to remove him from contention for the crown permanently. Ellaeva’s arrival brings hope, until she reveals she has not come for the siege, but instead she hunts the castle for a hidden necromancer dedicated to the dark god of decay.

Within their stone prison, Ellaeva and Lyram must fight to save themselves from political machinations and clashing gods. But as the siege lengthens, the greatest threat comes from an unexpected quarter.

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About the Author

Ciara Ballintyne grew up on a steady diet of adult epic fantasy from the age of nine, leaving her with a rather confused outlook on life – she believes the good guys should always win, but knows they often don’t. She is an oxymoron; an idealistic cynic.

She began her first attempts at the craft of writing in 1992, culminating in the publication of her debut work, Confronting the Demon, in 2013. Her first book to be published with Evolved Publishing is In the Company of the Dead.

She holds degrees in law and accounting, and is a practising financial services lawyer. In her spare time, she speculates about taking over the world – how hard can it really be? If she could be anything, she’d choose a dragon, but if she is honest she shares more in common with Dr. Gregory House of House M.D. – both the good and the bad. She is a browncoat, a saltgunner, a Whedonite, a Sherlockian, a Ringer, and a Whovian… OK, most major geek fandoms. Her alignment is chaotic good. She is an INTJ.

Ciara lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband, her two daughters, and a growing menagerie of animals that unfortunately includes no dragons.

Twitter: @CiaraBallintyne

Quarantined Anniversary

"Real love is not based on romance, candle-lit dinners, and walks along the beach. It is based on respect, compromise, care, and trust."I felt the plague of this cold coming on a week ago, but apparently didn’t take it seriously enough… It settled in with such a vengeance I spent most of my week at home, and several days with such an extreme sinus headache I couldn’t see straight. This, the week of our 18th wedding anniversary. In fact, forget the flowers and chocolates, I learned this week the true measure of my hubs is his ability to care for me when I feel like death. Regardless of the milestone we were supposed to be celebrating. I owe him big-time–and apparently get to repay him sooner than anticipated, as he’s had the bad luck to pick up the Dread Cold baton.

Luckily, he has the needles, herbs, nutraceuticals, and whole-food nutrition knowledge on hand to allow us at least some amount of productivity while our bodies go into overdrive on mucus production–and the coughing rejection of said goop. That meant I was just three words shy of my 1,000-words-a-week goal this week. And I somehow got into a blogging zone that inspired me to write about fantasy (my favorite genre) as well as write and schedule two book reviews. I’m toying with making the whole “literary term” thing a more regular feature on my blog since it seems many of my friends hadn’t known that “easy” set of writer’s lingo. Beccause I bandy these terms about on a regular basis, I might as well make sure everyone understands what I mean.


Adding weight to my decision is the news report that Sherrilyn Kenyon is suing another (successful) author writing in her (my!) genre. I’m glad to see Cassandra Clare’s lawyers fighting the claims of copyright infringement, since nowhere in the original complaint is there any evidence of actual plagiarism named or listed. Which would be another case entirely–and would actually have my support. No. This case seems to be arguing that many of the common conventions urban fantasy authors use–that humans don’t know about the supernatural, that the supernatural nonetheless exist, and that there are frequently secret wars waged to keep the hidden world… hidden–could be governed by copyright law and enforced by this kind of legal maneuvering. Romance author Courtney Milan summary-tweeted what’s been made public to this point, and pretty well summed up my feelings on the issue. I rest my case by pointing out the fact that there is a wiki called TV Tropes with a huge segment dedicated to all the common heritage references in fantasy alone. (Naturally, there are tropes for romance writers, mystery writers, and the like, in case anyone thinks there’s any genre exempt from walking in previous storytellers’ footsteps.) As the maintainers of the wiki explain: Tropes are storytelling tools, a kind of shorthand to help audiences understand and connect with whatever it is the writer is trying to convey. It’s worth understanding that nobody tells a story without relying on these to some degree; the skill comes in applying tropes in such a way that they feel new to the reader.

Aside from all that heavy stuff, we had another week of very little exercise (in deference to Dread Cold), but made up for it with more Agent Carter and snippets of the various Thor movies, since there appears to have been a Marvel Universe-themed rerun weekend here. Maybe all the superhero thoughts will see us through to health. (Carrie Vaughn had an interesting blog post this week about how the MCU movies have far outgrown the boundaries of what one normally understands as a movie experience, and lends some credence to the thought that the community is one of the enticements to enjoy the feature.)

In the meantime, I’ve gotten new words to edit from Gayla, so I’ll encourage you to go check out how the other ROW80ers are doing with their goals. I’ll be back again next week to report on my progress.

Sitting at the Keyboard

"This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it's done. It's that easy, and that hard." -Neil GaimanI’m building up my keyboard habit in alignment with Neil Gaiman’s advice: In the past week, I managed 1,981 words–nearly doubling my goal, and getting me to the 72% mark of The Builders. It’s helped that it’s cold and dreary here, and we’ve continued with just the several short walks sufficient to let the dogs do their business, but not so much driven by our fitness goals–aside from at least minimal daily movement. Plus, I’ve had hours to make up at the office for the pesky snow/sick days of recent weeks, meaning extra time at the office and a corresponding shrinkage of time at home. Finding the balance between work, exercise, word-herding, and family time… I suspect that will be my ongoing life challenge.

But I’ve also been seeing news this week that reminds me of some of the reasons I started writing my stories. First was a list of story issues pointing to underlying sexism. I remember reading several Heinlein stories in high school and coming to the conclusion that he really didn’t know women that well–or intentionally wrote his characters to meet his own wish fulfillment issues. And then there was a post about characterization and story weaknesses specifically from a romance editor’s perspective. Some of them parallel the sexism issues–and others point to why there’s a perception that all romance stories share the issues of the poorly written ones as outlined in that blog. This was all capped by a scifi author recently new to me documenting her experience with the NYT Bestsellers list.

The three together highlight the different ways women have typically been invisible in both storytelling and storyteller accolades. In the first instance, returning to my high school year memories, I ended up having to actively seek out female authors to get real satisfaction from my fictional heroes. In the second instance, while Anne McCaffrey, Madeleine L’Engle, Ursula Le Guin, and Marion Zimmer Bradley were certainly widely lauded beacons pointing to fictional worlds where I could expect at least equitable participation from female characters, for a very long time they were also the only ones shelved in accessible book stores for easy access. Or I had to turn to romance novels, where I ran the risk of inadvertently humorous love tunnel descriptions if I weren’t equally careful in finding competent authors.

Now in the midst of working on my 8th, 9th, and 10th stories, I’m finding those past frustrations have played out in my creation of a series of female characters who are each flawed, but working on themselves. And are trying to carve their own places in worlds where experiences similar to those frequently listed at #everydaysexism and #yesallwomen (at least, when those hashtags aren’t being trolled by mansplaining. [For a longer history of that term, Salon has a good article.]). My brother commented a while back that it was a uniquely female author choice to have my female protagonist go shopping at a critical point of one of my Red Slaves books. It’s true, I’ve never read a male author write such a scene, and it’s not that I particularly enjoy shopping myself, but in this story, it was the perfect way for women to fade into the background of a safe crowd while they anticipated being stalked by the new version of the KGB, as well as contribute to the overall world building. There can be power in playing to expectations–and using them to find an unexpected way forward. These are stories I’ve never seen anyone else tell, but reflect a particular experience of the world that is too often either negated or avoided entirely. I don’t expect I’ll ever have the problem my female author colleague above did with the NYT Bestseller list–I’ll be plenty happy with a reliable mid-list readership who are interested in stories that highlight the magic available in a recognizable world we mostly don’t know. My target audience is probably mostly populated with women like me who want a realistically flawed adult female heroine who nonetheless has agency and has to overcome her own insecurities to find that place in the world where her talents can shine.

From that perspective, our choice to watch the second season premier of Agent Carter for our at-home date night seems to fit this week’s theme in retrospect. That story reflects a different era, and a different set of world-building rules that include much more overt sexism and misogyny, but the woman drives the action and the woman finds the answers. It’s refreshing and continues to be well-done at the start of season 2.

This week Gayla also found a variant on Earthships that are now my new dream for a sustainable retirement. Since writing income is part of that equation, I’ll be working hard keeping my butt in my seat and my fingers on my keyboard this week, to return again next week to report on my progress. Until then, I recommend visiting my fellow ROW80ers to track theirs.

Training My Mind

"Train your mind to see the beautiful in everything."I’ve been fighting my inclination to go full-snark on VDOT this week, as that shiny web application kept reporting plowing underway or completed… when, really, there were entire lanes randomly missing on major thoroughfares–and the spaces plowed meandered across the median and didn’t seem to care that cars were being encouraged to drive down the wrong side of the road when their side abruptly became impassable. Luckily, my office has a generous work-from-home policy, so the beautiful part of my week was a lot of extra time with my loves. Kou has mastered the “through the armrest hole” arm nudge for attention, while Tashie was just happy to hang out in my office on the fouton. Tino remains the International Man of Leisure and keeps an eye on me from the hall, while I get to listen to hubs rehearsing in his office.

Less commuting also meant more time for writing and blog duties. I finally finished setting up the two WordPress plug-ins Gayla recommended, so now my books page includes easy buy links for everything I’ve published, and the right sidebar has more colorful word-count trackers that come with a bunch of other functionality. In fact, if you click on the heart icon, you have the option of sending me a nudge to keep adding words. The “i” icon, on the other hand, takes you to an in-process book page with the blurb and any other information I’ve pulled together about a particular WIP. The best part: the MyBookProgress plug-in has a similar kind of mental button-pushing impact for me as the NaNo tracker… so I’m strongly motivated to keep adding words. This week I started to make up for my recent slow poke ways and added 1,558 words to The Builders. According the tracker, at my current pace, I will easily beat my April 2 deadline for finishing.


Mostly, I’m encouraged that I’m finding a rhythm to writing fiction again. Hubs sent a link to ten sentences that help keep one’s perspective properly adjusted, which also helped focus me appropriately. Particularly, “accepting your limitations is the best chance you have of surpassing them”. He also found a full explanation of the Laws of Karma, which includes the notion that all reward must come from initial toil. The article that really caught my attention today, though, was a book preview for a German forest ranger‘s explanation of the biological network among trees–how they feed the old and dying as well as the young, and how they have friendships and increase their strength through their mutual connections. In a simplistic fantasy, that might have driven some of the fiction behind Avatar, but on an emotional level, for me, it’s another reflection of the nature of our interconnectedness. That there are ties between us–even between species–that we fail to recognize to our own detriment. Of course these thoughts are making their way into my fiction-building, which makes it all that much more fun to explore how my characters choose to play to their strengths and weaknesses.

From a fiction-writing career perspective, then, I ran across a blog post pointing out the MANY pitfalls in standard Big Publishing contracts. I’m more and more satisfied with my decision to avoid all that–even if it has meant that I’ve had to work through finding, contacting, and negotiating with rights holders for elements I’m interested in using as part of my stories. In the latest instance, I don’t think the actor’s agent had ever been contacted by an indie, and priced an image freely available online as if I were a big house able to afford the crazy license fee she suggested. So despite its perfection for the cover of The Builders, I will be continuing my search for cover art elements. But I’m still proud of the licensing agreement I was able to arrange for a few years back for the Elvis lyrics quote that provided such perfect and subtle insights into Ivan’s character in Blood to Fire.

The connection I most enjoy honoring, with hubs, is coming up on the 18th year of its official existence in 9 days. Finding my stride with writing–and more specifically, stepping away from the many distractions I’ve allowed to become bad habits–has also freed up more time for enjoying our handful of shows together. This week we caught up with both The Expanse and The X-Files in an epic evening of cuddlesome togetherness. The combination of mystery and action with shadowy antagonists makes both compelling in similar ways. I’m anxiously awaiting further reveals.

Another consequence of the terrible plow job (and/or the huge snowfall, depending on where your inclination to lay blame lies) is that we’ve been pretty well house-bound–i.e. no long walks, and our short walks are in the late hours of night when it doesn’t matter so much that we’re in the middle of the road. My phone has been staying home for our minimal walks, too, so it thinks I’m averaging fewer than 500 steps a day. I’m crossing my fingers that the ongoing temperatures in the 50s and predicted rain this week mean we’ll be able to reclaim the sidewalks and step up our family exercise.

As usual, I’ll be back again next week with my latest progress report. In the meantime, check out how the other ROW80ers are doing with their goals.


"Stuck? I'm not stuck..."We got lucky with the snowstorm this week, though I wasn’t so lucky with the 36-hour flu bug that kept me company earlier in the week. Both together meant there wasn’t a lot of productivity. However, I am now caught up with most of my friends and family and colleagues as we were all checking in with each other to make sure we each still had power and the essentials to survive almost 30″ of snow delivered in one fell swoop. And the Huskies…? They were in heaven. I’m still not sure what the whole “burying head in snow up to shoulders” thing was about, but they were so funny making their race tracks around the yard, it was easy to spend way too much time laughing at their antics. Avoiding computers. Pretending like the rest of the world didn’t exist. Like the way physicists recently confirmed the findings that observing atoms affects their reality. From the more personal perspective, observing both the shadow self and our best intentions helps us grow.

Which I really need to do (as a writer) because now I have more stories competing for my attention. I’m officially part of the Hotel Paranormal series, with my book slated to launch January 4, 2017. It will be a tie-in to my Red Slaves series, with one of my dragon shifter characters tripping across a portal in Moscow. Hijinks ensue. The series synopsis is:

The Hotel Paranormal is the place for supernatural beings looking to get away from it all, existing in a plane separate from our mortal world, but connected through doorways in all major cities. Beings like werewolves, vampires, elves, sprites, djinn, and more check in for business and for pleasure — and sometimes for both. The Hotel has unparalleled style and is equipped to meet its guests’ special needs.

At last count, 27 authors have agreed to participate, and the first book will drop August 17th, then weekly thereafter. It’s a new path for me, and should be an interesting experience.

But the logistics of that, illness, working from home, dealing with blizzard… Well. There were no walks this week. We did watch the next episode of The Expanse, and we’re seeing very clever additions of new antagonists, so I’m definitely hooked. There are just… So. Many. Movies. (With so many more coming this year!) And then we tripped across the second half of E.T. I cried again. It was bizarre to see all the early-80s sets and the cheesy, blue-screened, quintessential scene of the boys flying their bikes through the blue skies of their Southern California neighborhood, and yet still have the visceral reactions of my first viewing. That scene as E.T. lays dying and Elliot says he can’t feel anymore…? Yeah. I hope someday I write well enough that readers are so deeply invested in my characters they will clamor for those emotional roller-coaster rides.

I’m in the middle of one of those with The Builders, and still only managed 193 new words this week. More than last week, but not to plan. I need to step up. At least I’m keeping up with my ROW80 host duties. On which note, check out how everyone else is doing, and come back next week to read about my progress.

Mourning Heroes, Artists

Let's Rock!It was a different kind of week of sadness, more global, more visible, and at the same time more introspective. We lost two influential artists: first in David Bowie, who timed his goodbye album to drop two days before his death, and then barely had time to catch our collective breath before Alan Rickman passed. Both at the same age. Both of some form of cancer. And then we heard the stories about Celine Dion’s husband and brother dying of cancer two days apart, also in this week. There were so many reasons to feel empathetic heartbreak it was hard to do anything other than wallow in memories and remembrances. Ache for the children left behind by their fathers’ too-early passing. Part of how I worked through it was reading many of the tributes written about the two. Max Gladstone had a powerful essay at Tor about mourning that concluded:

Mourning is a tribute. Mourning is an affirmation of self. Mourning is a battle against the end. Someone passes, and yet remains, and returns, through memory, through work, through fingerprints left on clay.

The interesting thing about honoring these specific two men’s lives, though, is that they left such strong signposts of hope. Rickman said, “A film, a piece of theater, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world.” Bowie, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” I’ve saved those quotes as images for the future because they are useful reminders, in the same way Anne McCaffrey’s passing was to me, that the people who mashed up two of the iconic ways I’ll remember these men were on the right track. We can remember, but we must move forward. Let’s Rock!

I’m toying with the idea of a multi-book review based on Bowie’s Top 100 Books list, of which I’ve already read a startling number… and have them in my book shelves. I also read an interesting article about habits neuroscience has confirmed make people happy, as well as an article that affirmed the value of decluttering as a path to de-stressing.

None of these things led to much progress on my stated goals for this round. I started fiddling with plug-ins for my blog to improve my book listings. I found a group of authors who are poking my brain in different ways to produce a story that would be part of a new series in a new world. I spent more time editing Gayla’s latest. I wrote 100 words on The Builders, and averaged about a mile a day walking. These are all micro-movements in the direction I want to be heading, but for a week that was emotionally exhausting and included a heavy work load… well… I’ll see about getting back on my writing horse tomorrow.

In the meantime, I encourage you to see how my fellow ROWers are doing with their goals, and I’ll report back next week.


"The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new." -SocratesThe weather has been schizophrenic this week, bouncing between almost 70s and low 20s so my lungs have been complaining to me. Odd news, like the fact that a) labiaplasties are a THING and b) that they’re one of the fastest-growing forms of plastic surgery in the English-speaking western world makes me respond with a SRSLY?? WTF?? and ARE YOU SICK?? But then there’s news that my most recent home is now recognized as the most segregated city in the U.S. Or that Michigan tried to save money by changing Flint’s source of drinking water to one recognized as having been toxic. Or that there’s a lawyer who’s uncovered evidence of serious culpability by Du Pont and is stuck in decades of legalese as that corporation tries to weasel out of its responsibility for having inflicted terrible suffering on humans and animals alike by spewing its effluvia across multiple states.

Of course we’re sick.

Several of these things have now made their way into my latest WIP because this news is all at once not surprising, horrifying, and self-explanatory. No wonder so many suffer depression, PTSD, and their related issues. So it also makes sense for my latest protagonist to be aware of them as she tries to put her personal suffering into some greater context.

I’ve reached the point in the book where the blurb has crystallized for me too, so I’ll share it with you now:

Earth’s alien progenitors have returned. For Tara Shifflet, abuse survivor and meeting planner, that wouldn’t be as big a deal as getting home to her therapy cat, except that getting anywhere in the U.S. is dicey in the wake of public uproar about first contact. For Navenah, a short-term assignment with vague directions to find generators to save her dying race leads to frustration and misunderstanding. The two women find unexpected pleasure together, but will that solve the galactic die-off?

I’ve also been digging through stock photography looking for images that might rightfully represent these two characters on the cover, so I feel like I’ve been making progress with the story. Revisiting the beginning of it after a few months and some critique feedback and I can see it’s not bad… it’s just not your classic first contact/scifi tale. Nonetheless, I managed to beat my weekly goal and added 1,135 words to the story. This feels like a crazy slow pace to me, but for the moment appears to be what I can manage. I really hope this picks up soon, because I’m now tentatively planning for a July release… which means I need to finish both the writing AND revision processes well before then so I have a well-edited document at the end.

Luckily, I have hubs, who offers both unstinting support and some very nice distractions. We finally went to see Star Wars this week. (My semi-spoilery review: It was great–though just a better redo of episode 4 with new characters… And I appreciated the debunking of the 40 plot holes story that had run in the Huffington Post, too.) He also created a new, burning desire in me for a unique art form: Lamps made out of African gourds but carved to create amazing light shows. (Though… the day I have $5K to spend on a lamp… well… My books will have to be selling MUCH better to make that possible.) 😀 And a reminder to watch the skies for all the planets that are now visible.

We also kept up with the walking goal. We’re definitely still shying away from the long ones we used to take, but that feels appropriate to me with my breathing challenges and the uncertain weather. I still owe a blog post to Kait for ROW80, but otherwise managed my commenting duties, and continue to blog.

I’m pretty happy with my progress so far, and am challenging myself to follow Socrates’ advice: Focus on what I want rather than fighting the status quo. I’m liking how that’s working out for me. Until next week, then, check out how my fellow ROWers are doing.

Sabbatical with a Side of Love

Love is when you sit beside someone, doing nothing, yet you feel perfectly happy.I was blessed with a week off in which I didn’t have to go anywhere I didn’t want to, do anything aside from rest and fun things, or spend too much time being a social butterfly. Although, for all that, the week kicked off with an annual family Christmas Eve gathering and some errands to prep for one of our rare just-the-two-of us road trips. Hubs and I had front row tickets to see the Slambovians perform their 10th annual New Year’s Eve Eve Eve concert in Philadelphia. We found a great adjunct service from Affectionate that allowed our babies to follow their normal routine at home, and we didn’t have to worry about leaving them at loose ends for 12 hours.

For all that, we knew the time off would fly by. It was relaxing in the way that makes it challenging to do anything because you’re just enjoying each other’s company. Though I did pull an all-night reading marathon for the first-time in a while. Kait Nolan put the first book in her Wishful series on sale, and I was surprised that To Get Me To You kept me up until 4:30 to finish it because I’m not normally a southern or small-town fan.


That means, too, that I’m back to way-too-late-to-bed habits and will undo my well-rested week pretty quickly if I don’t get to bed very soon…

This being the goal-setting week of the current ROW80 round, then, here are mine:

  1. Write at least 1,000 words of fiction per week.
  2. Keep up with ROW80 Sponsor duties weekly.
  3. Blog weekly.
  4. Post three book reviews.
  5. Walk at least a mile at least 6 days a week.
  6. Continue the habit of one stay-at-home date night.

Given that this round is roughly 12 weeks long, that doesn’t get me to the end of any of my WIPs if I just stick with the minimum goal. I’m hoping setting a small goal gives me the space to build my fiction-writing muscles so I’m able to meet my big goal:

  1. Complete at least one WIP. (Likely The Builders, since that has the most momentum behind it at the moment.)

I spent more time editing that one over the weekend and actually crossed the 31K mark on it, so managed … a whole 400 new words during my week off. eyeroll Then I spent time exploring Bigstock with Gayla trying to figure out an appropriate set of cover images for a first contact story. We have some ideas, so stay tuned.

I feel like I’m starting the year off on a good foot, having taken my break from the working world, and having found a Buzzfeed article that just has all the warm fuzzies you could ever want… So I’ll leave you with the link to my ROW80 cohorts to see what their plans are, and get ready for a little more productivity in the coming weeks from myself.

Motivation and Inspiration

"Your friends should motivate and inspire you. Your circle should be well-rounded and supportive. Keep it tight. Quality over quantity."This week I read an article that outlines the severe under-representation of women in positions of power in the arts. It’s written in the style of a year-in-review, but includes some singularly disturbing stats:

“Only 25% of the 178 songs in the Top 40 were sung by women, and there was only one song of the 178 written entirely by women without a male somehow involved in the process. No woman produced a song in the Top 40 by herself (and only 3.2% were co-produced by a woman and a man). … This year, women directed only 5% of all studio films and directed only 16% of all television episodes (in the 2013–14 season, 70 shows hired no women at all). The number of women writers on TV staffs dropped from 30.5% to 29%. The numbers are even more condemnable when it comes to women of color; in the 2014–15 television season, for example, women of color directed only 3% of all episodes.”

The article concludes with the call to ensure women are paid and recognized for their contributions to the arts without reference to those incidental male colleagues who may have contributed, but at this point are being granted the public recognition for the women’s achievements. And for women to seek out (and create, as necessary) collectives that support this goal.

While this all is fodder for my inner feminist, it also made me recognize how extraordinarily lucky I’ve been in finding a group of women writers who are willing to cooperate, collaborate, and support one another. First among equals is, of course, Gayla. She’s a generous, frank, imaginative, and down-to-earth mentor who’s willing to give honest feedback and guidance about things that work and things that don’t for an indie author. Kait is the brain behind the ROW80 support group, which has been an outstanding source of ongoing cheerleading and accountability for me for a few years now. Dionne is giving back to the writer’s world by developing and supporting Booktastik. And, naturally, the other ladies in my blogroll made it there for a reason: They’ve answered questions, volunteered their time or support, or otherwise facilitated my path down the author’s road.

I hope I’m as generous as they all are, and will be looking more actively for ways to pay it forward this year. To start, I’ll be back again next round as a ROW80 sponsor.

All of this, as well as the traditional holiday whirl of parties, though, reminds me of a different mantra of mine: “Introverts Unite! Separately. In your own homes.” Hubs probably understood that when he sent me an article of 50 quotes geared toward our introverted tendencies. Or why I’ve been thinking about dog facts (hubs forwarded interesting Husky facts) like those being researched as part of a collaboration between GE and Mic. There are some elements of human/dog relationships that just aren’t available through other domesticated species’ partnerships, and the comment that both humans and dogs treat the interaction with the same level of dedication, focus, and intensity as a standard human parent/child relationship certainly rang true from my experiences with my huskies over the past almost 18 years.

As for actual progress toward my goals… Well… I added about 900 words to my WIP. We walked daily for short stretches and took one longer walk. Our stay-at-home date night(s) introduced me to The Expanse, a SyFy production both gripping and gritty. We’re up-to-date on the episodes released so far and I’m anxious to see what happens next. The science parts of the fiction are understated, but conspicuous throughout–the rules against torturing people using gravity itself being but one minor example (i.e. for folks born in low-gravity circumstances, the burden of full gravity is literal torture). After the more cerebral tensions of the series of British stories we’ve enjoyed recently, it’s strange to see blood and gore and action in classic American style. But since the story (as far as I can tell three episodes in) has an arch about the progression of a cold war to a hot war, it’s also appropriate. And a sad testament to the fact that even if humans could unite under a global banner, our territorial possessiveness incline us to want dominion over even remote habitations.

I’m not sure whether it’s the time of the year for all things to slow, or if I’m being unusually laggard in finding my footing in regaining my writing muscles, but I missed on the majority of this round’s goals. As I said before, though, I’ll be back and continuing to push forward. Mainly because my circle has succeeded in motivating and inspiring me. (It helps, too, that all of a sudden my book sales are picking up through no discernible action on my part… I can’t leave new readers hanging as long as I have the old ones!) In the meantime, I’ll continue posting next week (even though technically it’s an off week for the ROW80 crew), and you can check in on how the rest of them wrapped up their round this week.

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