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Making Mistakes

"The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way." -Dale CarnegieI’m not actually much of a Dale Carnegie fan, but something about this quote from him struck me as appropriate for any writer facing edits. I now have all three edits back from Liana, and actually began work on book 1 this week. The good news: Liana reported significant improvement in my writing between books 1 and 3. The bad news… there’s a lot of work to be done on all three books. I had hoped to churn through edits on the first before the end of the month, but neglected to take into account my work load.

Last week was heavy with reporting and oodles of other activities, so I don’t have much time before my promo effort kicks off July 1–especially since we have plans both of the next two weekends. And because we seem to be entering another phase of illness and hospitalization in the family. Worse, they’re happening in other states, so all we can do is sit on the phone to gather and disseminate updates, providing what moral support and spiritual encouragement we can from a distance.

Oddly, this week seems to have been the week of considering travel. It kicked off with hubs sending an article about a student who had visualized the major roads of the Roman Empire as a subway transit map. Then he forwarded a “bucket list” of Virginia spots to visit (a few of which we have already seen). And today I discovered that a friend from what feels like a former life has started up her own blog… focusing on travel.

In between I got sucked down the rabbit hole of research for my books, and learned more about Yakutia, the largest “statoid” in Russia, or the world. I also learned more about journalist Anna Politkovskaya via a review of her posthumous book “A Russian Diary”. The latter plays into why the long arm of the KGB (which Liana keeps pointing out to me no longer exists… except that it was the source of training for the most senior Russian politicians and leaders of the FSB) is such a bogey man in my Red Slaves books.

And then there was the link to visual art as social commentary that hubs sent. The author of that post starts with the quote, “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable,” but doesn’t attribute it to author Cesar A. Cruz. However, that quote in the introduction is perfect for the kinds of think-pieces presented. While all the images spoke to some level of truth, the one most ironic to me was the commentary about Facebook feeding the ego. Potentially that ego trip trap exists for all authors.

Which brings me back full-circle to the need to focus on editing for the next while. Strip my ego from my words and make the stories sing for my readers.

Meantime, we keep walking. Through what feels like a swamp, since the average humidity in the area has hovered in the mid-70 percent region. (One night, our household weather station reported 96% humidity… but no rain and 71 degrees. It felt like we were walking in a bathtub.) Still, my phone says I averaged 5,490 steps per day, which is another jump for me, and I hope represents some improved conditioning for both of us.

For some silly reason, I’ve also gotten active on NetGalley again, picking up three books there in the past week. I’m about a third through one of them for which I’d had high hopes, but so far it hasn’t actually grabbed me enough to make me want to finish it. Still, each of the books has a deadline for a review, so those are now part of my goals, too.

I’ll be back next week to report on my progress, but in the meantime, encourage you to see how the other ROW80ers are finishing up this round.

Conversations

Deep conversations with the right people are priceless.I’ve been broadening my supporting cast of author services recently, deepening my relationship with my latest editor (the fabulous Liana Brooks, if anyone is considering a content editor), adding marketing support (via Chelsea Author Promotions), and a new cover artist (Kelley York with X-Potion Designs). This weekend I saw the first results for Dust to Blood and was all of a sudden excited to broach the book 1 edits I’ve been sitting on since Liana sent them to me a couple weeks back. Especially since she sent me book 2 edits this weekend too. I’m going to have to do a cover … re-reveal soon enough, because Kelley’s work so captures the intersection of intrigue and paranormal that reflects the story I tried to write. And it’s beautiful.

As for the story, apparently I needed more experience as an author to understand the ways my conflict aversion IRL make for a deadly author trap. Sorry-not-sorry to all my future characters who will have to wade through the issues I was likely to have glossed over previously.

😀

Along those lines, hubs forwarded an interesting article about things people with anxiety experience but have difficulty talking about. Then I found an article that talks about neuroplasticity in relation to Buddhism, and puts a more universal spin on what scientists are learning about the impermanence of self. These put a new twist on a potential sequel to The Builders, and give me a certain kind of support for optimism about humanity.

Of course, this week we also watched Wonder Woman. It was excellent. It was so refreshing to see a woman’s perspective front and center, and the scenes with the rest of the Amazons… the director aimed for a female version of the 300, and blew me away with grace and strength and dexterity and power. It’s sad that cadre of performers haven’t been featured in the marketing for the film. It was a vision of female centricity I don’t think I’ve ever seen before in that kind of film. The subtlety of the transformation of all the main characters, who mature from the callow every-youth who’s sure she knows enough to face the realities of the world, to adults who make hard choices that validate their original sense of purpose. It was moving on so many levels, and we will be buying the Blu-ray to watch it over and over again. I’m glad that despite choosing a different marketing path than what fans had hoped for, the movie is proving to be a box office winner.

Contrasting that is Paulina Porizkova’s recent op-ed about feminism. Women still have a long way to go in America.

As for other goals, summer heat struck this week, so we didn’t spend as much time walking as we had last week. Still, my phone says I averaged 4,304 steps a day. Tashie had her final underwater treadmill session yesterday, and we took the other two along for a fun swim. Except that they experienced the pool as a terror trying to kill them, and I have the nail scratches and bruises to prove it. Santino started us off with a major laugh with his slow-motion pratfall into the pool, but once he was secure in my arms, he was content to float. KouKi, on the other hand… she was certain she was going to drown even with her flotation jacket. There was much hilarity and cursing. And they slept all day yesterday after their swim, as well as all day today, so whatever else they got out of it, they got enough exercise despite the heat.

This week will be full of long days at the office, but I plan on really diving into edits. If I’m lucky, I’ll find a fast pace to do so that lets me re-release book 1 and release book 3 both in July. We’ll see. We still have a week and a half in this round, so we’ll see how far I get. In the meantime, check out how my buddies are doing, and I’ll report back next week.

Cha Cha

Optimist: Someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it's more like a Cha-ChaWhat was once cause for panic and dismay, this week was more of a sense of accomplishment and celebration: I wrote no new fiction words. It’s always an odd place to be at the end of a project. Should I start right away on something new? Should I wait to get into something new until after I’ve heard back from my editor? Maybe I just need a break.

Actually, I definitely needed a break. We had fallen behind on our shows, so we caught up with both Designated Survivor and The Expanse. We had wanted to see Guardians of the Galaxy 2 while it was still in IMAX 3D, and enjoyed it so much we managed that not only once, but twice. And I had been sequestering myself in my office for so long, pushing so hard against the noodle that wouldn’t cooperate before, all at once, it did and I was done, that it was important to take some time to enjoy each other’s company. Appreciate the fact that I have a partner who values creativity so much he lets me disappear into my writing cave like that. Enjoy the company of someone whose story is as endlessly fascinating to parse and revisit as my favorite written stories.

So this week’s quote is appropriate both for its acknowledgment that I totally let go of one of my goals, but also that I had a lot of fun filling my creative well again, dancing with life. Accordingly, my phone says I averaged 4,285 steps per day, so we beat that goal, at least. I also discovered that there’s a special kind of hammock available in Germany that would entice me to spend a lot of time outside looking at the sky. Maybe someday.

On the other end of the maybe someday spectrum, a friend is currently visiting South Africa as part of a class trip for her degree, and one of the tours she took was of the one square mile town of Alexandra. Trying to imagine a population of over a million crammed into that space, and the variation between the slum and the more commercial areas was stretching my brain in unusual ways. It was an odd echo of an article I read in The Atlantic of the perpetuation of slavery in very recent Philippine customs. The article is written in first person by an award-winning journalist who died the day before the magazine decided to run it as their cover article, and is a profound view into the differences in culture and expectations that exist across the globe. Even in the US, human trafficking has seen a massive uptick this year, so the inclination to view some humans as disposable is still a despicable thread in many lives.

On a related note, fellow author Alicia Anderson wrote another great piece on “being average” this week. She points out the historical context of where averages and statistics come from to make the point that these numeric constructs really have no place in defining humans. Finding and holding people to some fictional norm thus creates a different level of misery.

It’s hard not to want to write a story that gives voice to some of these issues.

Or maybe I’ll take some friends suffering from kidney stones on a few roller coaster rides.

Either way, there are other writing-related tasks I need to finish dealing with this week. As regular visitors might have noticed, I gave my blog a facelift last week, and am now looking into adding the necessary bits to build my in-house mailing list. I’m also participating in a multi-genre party to help introduce readers to new authors this week. (If you’re interested in participating, it’s all online, via Facebook, so easy to check in to and out of as time permits.)

We’re also still a month out from completing this round of ROW80, so the whole group is busily chipping away at goals. I’ll keep reporting on mine, and continue soliciting feedback on which project I should pursue next. Until next week…

No Rush, But Done Now

Don't try to rush things that need time to grow. @ForSelfSuccessIt was the week that felt like a year. It started very well with an intimate evening of music, listening to Eddie Jobson and Marc Bonilla pay tribute to prog rock greats John Wetton and Keith Emerson by telling stories about them and interpreting their songs rather impressively for a two-person gig. An actual date night with hubs, so one of my weekly goals met immediately in an environment entirely conducive to getting the creative juices flowing.

🙂

By Wednesday, though, the cold I thought I was getting over morphed into laryngitis with a burning sore throat. So I spent two days sleeping. Thursday, I began panicking: I had four days to write 7K words to meet my editor’s deadline. Thursday night, I managed 400. Friday night, I reconnected with my #wordmongering buddy and managed 1,810 words. It was the first time I’d been that productive since I’d begun my MBA in September 2012. Last night… I blew that effort out of the water and wrote 3,052 words. I woke up this morning knowing that I could finish the story I’ve been promising my readers for at least four years.

I did it.

😀

The story only needed another 1,393 words to reach its end, and then there was much rejoicing. I’ve had finishing Fire to Dragon as a ROW80 goal for longer than I care to admit. I did a cover reveal for it almost exactly two years ago. The second book in the series came out in March of 2013, so it’s taken more than four years of teeth-gnashing to get myself to a completed manuscript.

I’ll tease you with the page I had open to spur on my creativity to blast through the final stretch.

(Pro tip: Finish what you start when you start it, and don’t go chasing after plot bunnies. I’ve released five other stories in the interim.)

That I would manage to finish on Mother’s Day, when a component of the transformation Anne undergoes includes becoming a mother, is bittersweet to me. (It’s not a coincidence that the three Russian dragons she meets have the initials IVF.) I ran across a reference to artist Martin Hudáček, a Slovakian who created a memorial to the child who was never born. It blew the scab off of my recent sorrow, and reinforced the irony that the woman who campaigned for the creation of the holiday died hating how commercialized it had become.

On the other end of that spectrum, I learned about Brene Brown this week, and the quote from her book: “We are the brave and brokenhearted. We are rising strong.”

Which leads me directly to an article hubs shared about the current American psychiatric dogma that labels anti-authoritarian folks as mentally ill. It makes a lot of sense when you consider how hard it is to follow a herd when there’s an outlying voice drawing your attention away from the common conclusions of your society. So I’ll pour fuel on that fire and point you to a link that helps you submit a comment to the FCC to advocate for a free and open Internet.

For my final weekly goal, I still kept my average daily step count over 3K–despite two days of barely leaving my bed. It’s a testament to how much Tashie has improved that she races out the door with as much enthusiasm as the two younger ones these days, and has the stamina to keep going for well over a mile. On one of our walks this week, we learned that one of our neighbors is originally from Tibet. When she heard me calling Tashie’s name (because Tashie was DETERMINED to be the family ambassador and meet this lady!), she told me that in Tibetan, Tashie means “joy”. A nice congruence for how much happiness she brings our family.

I’m at such loose ends having completed my major goal for this round I’m almost light-headed. I’m not sure which project I’ll pick up next, either. (If you want to vote, I have an idea for another in the Katarr universe; I have the trilogy that builds on Wytchfire; I have the option of a follow-on to Dementional; or even follow-ons to The Builders; or a story based on a dream about sentient caves that needed humans to give voice to their needs; or some more nebulous, entirely new ideas…) This week, though, I think I’ll give myself space to breathe. We’re talking about a date night to go see Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which has me entirely too excited. I have a number of big deadlines at the office, though, too, so it will be good not to be worrying about personal deadlines for once. In the meantime, here’s the link to the rest of the ROW80 crew. I’ll be back next week to let you know if I’ve come to any decisions.

Made It

It's been a rough week, but I made it...How about you?I’ve been worrying about my latest dental procedure for so long, it’s odd to be on the other side of the experience–and it wasn’t nearly as terrible as previous extractions have been. Except that my niece was kind enough to share her cold virus, and it kicked in about the same time as I was getting used to the new holes in my jaw. While I was right not to count on a lot of time being coherent, I was wrong about the reason. So when I saw this week’s picture on Facebook, I laughed, which was enough reason to share it here.

While I was imagining myself elsewhere, I discovered there’s a hotel in Germany that has tree houses for its guests. Visiting is now on my bucket list–though with the distance to shower and toilet options… I’d be picky about time of year and duration of visit.

😀

Fellow blogger Alicia Anderson wrote another thought-provoking piece this week regarding the subtle differences between complaining, whining, and venting. In circumstances where the status quo is shitty, most of us stop talking about the same old problems on yet a new day, with the unintended consequence that we shut each other out from the experiences we’re suffering. While my affliction over the past month is obviously nothing on hers, it was interesting to note in my life how easily others were able to forget the baseline of pain I was working through–mainly because I was doing what I could and didn’t want to be anyone’s Negative Nelly. It makes for a useful take on the old truism against judging others, as we have no way of knowing what tribulations they suffer.

An article about a woman raised in a fundamentalist cult and The Oatmeal’s recent piece about beliefs pushed that thought further for me. In both cases, perception guided decisions and reactions. In the former, a woman repudiated her family for forcing her into the Quiverfull movement, based on the first step of having read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. In the latter, we’re introduced to our own emotional barometers, the amygdala, which “makes us biologically wired to react to threatening information the same way we’d react to being attacked by a predator.”

It’s ponderous to imagine (and witness!) how experience can calcify thoughts in such a way that we literally can’t accept truth because of our emotional reactions to threats to our core beliefs.

Ironically, during our stay-at-home date night this week, as we were watching Designated Survivor, Kiefer Sutherland’s character trotted out the fallacy about George Washington’s teeth being made of wood–a statement I wouldn’t have laughed at a week ago, not having previously read about that research before The Oatmeal introduced it to me.

Together, all these bits of information provide some interesting fodder for those of us in the business of building characters that somehow need to come to life in someone else’s imagination: What is it that prompts a person to ask for or accept help? What is it that allows a person to imagine they are solely responsible for fixing a given problem? While I completely blew my word count goal this week, producing only 211 new words, my protagonist is at that point in the story where she has to confront who she is and how she’s changed. She has to face her own blind spot and figure out what is actually important to her. So understanding why that’s such a visceral process is helpful to me and has sparked my imagination in ways I hope to actually write this week.

Since my editor’s deadline is next week, I’m down to crunch time.

As a public service announcement, I’m also sharing the link regarding the Google docs phishing scam that has been spreading this week, since many of the authors I know and work with use these Google tools.

For my final weekly goal, somehow I managed to stay over 3,000 steps per day despite the oral surgery and the miserable cold. Part of it may be due to the fact that Tashie is feeling so much better she sits by the front door when the other two go out back to get her own special walk time. I’m beyond grateful that she is healing up so well, so am happy to indulge her request for exclusive treatment.

Given my deadline, we’ll see whether I have the time to blog next week, but if not, the ROW80 group will still be plugging away and reporting. Wish me luck, meantime.

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