Around here

September was a little bit crazy ….

Kevin

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Monday morning  golden

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My brother moved back to the mainland from Hawaii. Long story.

My working hours for Maggie essentially tripled. Will likely quadruple in October and November. Do your favorite local photographer a favor and book your holiday sessions EARLY.

This is MY TIME. I love the fall. So very much. I even really like waking up before the sun. I set my alarm for 5:52am every morning. Hit snooze once. Get up about 6am, feed the cats, start the coffee, then settle in to work. I’ve been writing ~1500 words of my current work-in-progress before 8am lately. LOVE IT.

I’m still on a bit of a creative high from my weekend in Austin (post 1, post 2, post 3) … likely because I am smack dab in the middle of the book I started that weekend. I think about the book (and by extension the series and the world) constantly. I’m trying something new where I listen to the same record every day while I write. I think I may be turning it into a creative trigger, but we’ll see.

Andrew and I have been eating (drinking?) homemade chicken broth nearly every day. So tasty, healthy and super cozy on a fall morning.

I have a couple products in the works to release. Mostly rewrites and simple repackaging of older material. All part of my year to NURTURE and getting everything organized.

Andrew has his new studio space in working order! I know there is still a lot he wants to do, over time. But as long as it works. As long as he can get bands in there to record, that’s the main thing. I am so proud of him!

Once again, 30 Days of Lists has come and gone, leaving Kam and I to wonder where all the time went!

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Review: Fiction Unboxed World Building Summit

To catch you up, I posted photos of my weekend in Austin here and a more specific breakdown of what we did here.

September 12-14, I was in Austin, Texas, at the Fiction Unboxed World Building Summit. The weekend was essentially a mastermind group (read: amazing) where we all got together to brainstorm rules and details for a whole fictional world that anyone can write in.

In a nutshell: My weekend in Austin was life-changing and career-making and could never be duplicated.

I know that is a GIANT, sweeping statement, but I stand behind it … for so many reasons.

The people: Johnny, Sean and Dave (authors behind Sterling & Stone, the Self-Publishing Podcast, and this live event) are some of the most generous people I’ve ever met. Every step of the way they were very careful to make sure we all had our questions answered and our voices heard. The ways that they have planned to support our books and our work in the world is so much more than I could have hoped. They even went out of their way even to pay for coffee every morning and surprised us with a big stack of autographed paperbacks to take home (completely unexpected).

Summit  125I feel personally closer to these three than I expected and feel like I could email any one of them with a question about anything and I’d get an answer (I’ve already started thinking about books to recommend to Sean for his daughter).

And that isn’t even considering the other attendees (Garrett, Monica, Matt and Kalvin). There were only 5 of us total … so, yea, only 8 people in the room. So intimate and personal. Such great senses of humor. Such professional story-telling and problem-solving skills. I am beyond excited to read what everyone writes. There are some amazing ideas that came up and all our skills and strengths really fit together well. I can’t believe we got so lucky as to have so many smart people in a room.

The conversation: I do not remember when I have ever laughed so hard (especially dinner Saturday night when I sat across the table from Dave and Sean’s incredibly sunny 12-year-old daughter). We talked about so much more than world-building stuff — marketing plans, series vs serials, cover art resources, dealing with negativity, and so much more. Professional challenges. Five-year plans. Human nature. Big ideas. Flower metaphors (Sean’s favorite). Again, I love being in a room of smart people.

The tasks: We were literally creating this world almost from scratch. Totally ground floor up. The map and history and lore and global politics all the way down to the nitty gritty of what the homes of my characters look like. That will never happen again (I cannot imagine they will every want to maintain a second huge shared world). Total once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to not only create a world from the beginning but also get built in promotional benefit from full-time authors.

There is such a benefit to being there from the beginning, to being one of the very first. Just another reason it was so important that I attend this event (instead of wishlist-it for the future). The books that I will write count as canon in the world. Someday other writers might write fan fiction about my characters or my setting…. which is crazy to think of but not impossible.

 I can’t stop thinking about the whole weekend. I need 40 more hours in every week just to do all the work stemming from that weekend that I am so enthusiastic about.

All that to say … admittedly, future events will be different: The combination of people, the number of people, the amount of development that needs to be done in the world, even where each attendee is at in their career. September 13 and 14, 2014 were very special in a way that no other weekend could be.

Summit  018That said …. if you are interested in writing and have the opportunity to attend a future event with Johnny, Sean and Dave, I would for sure recommend it. I am tentatively planning on attending the Colonists’ Summit in the Spring, simply to see these people again and spend 2 days talking about books.

Even if you don’t go to a Sterling & Stone writing event, definitely think about attending a live event in your industry. I know so many of us are introverts and like staying behind the screen, but it makes such a difference to be there in person. But, that’s a post for another day.

As I mentioned in my earlier post …. this weekend was a lot about trust for me. I was putting forward a huge investment (for me) financially — much more than I am comfortable spending on almost anything. I could not have gone if it were solely up to me, but Andrew saw the benefit too and helped push me.

In deciding to attend the World Building Summit, I am trusting these guys for their whole career. Trusting that they would continue doing great work and continue doing it the right way. I am not just writing a book series — I’m writing a series that both supports and is supported by their work. And I personally have an even bigger leap, since these will be my first published work.

It was a huge step and now after spending that weekend with them I know I made the best decision. They gave more and did more than I could have ever imagined.

Now it’s all on me*

*(and Sean already told me he has every faith in me, so I even have that)

 

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Fiction Unboxed Summit: How it worked

Yesterday I showed you photos of my weekend in Austin; today more specifics (especially for those of you thinking about going to the spring Colonists event).

Please note (of course) that the spring event WILL be different simply by nature of the fact that there will be more people and the broad world story strokes will already have been established.

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A month before the event, we had a Google+ call when all 5 attendees and all 3 hosts jumped online to ‘meet’ each other, talk about the weekend, and more. That was extremely helpful! Partly for establishing a base of what we all wanted to get out of the weekend, but mostly (for me) for diffusing a little of the anxiety in meeting new people (I am such an introvert).

Then a week before the event, we got a 12-ish page pdf with a very rough agenda for the weekend. We were mostly planning on directed brainstorming about our individual stories, but also about character arcs, marketing, pre-production and other what-you-need-to-publish concepts.

However, once we all got there and got started, we did not stick to the agenda too rigidly. For starters, we all happened to get together in the hotel bar the Friday night before, so we got our proper introductions out of the way then.

We also did not do any real ‘breakout sessions’ where Johnny, Sean and Dave worked with anyone individually. There wasn’t really a big need, since there were only 5 attendees. For example, the agenda set aside an hour and a half to talk about series and serials…. but 4 of the 5 of us were planning on writing a series anyway, and the 5th was thinking about a serial instead of series. There was no real cause to spend that long discussing it.

I will say that I did NOT leave the Summit with a completed outline as I had hoped to, but A) I’m not certain that would have occurred with an hour of one-on-one attention from Sean or anyone. And B ) I think the bigger world brainstorming we did was far more helpful to more people, and I’m not going to be selfish about it. Plus, on the flip side, I 100% feel like I can email them in a month or two and just run over some of the story plans/problems I might have if applicable (I plan on doing that anyway, since my series is going to take place ~20 years before The Dream Engine in Alterra, so I want to make sure tiny details match).

Instead, we as a group brainstormed big world events, how they would effect The Dream Engine story in books 2, 3 and 4, how those events intersect with other events in the world (that Garrett and other authors will be writing about). We came up with a map and some basics of inside-Alterra (which helped me a lot) and we came up with some world-rules that I think will help other writers a lot.

I feel like without the rigid schedule, we were able to relax, be ourselves more and become better friends. I love this video from Monica – about the humor and personalities at the Summit

Again, I’m sure the spring event will be different. I would assume simply because of the number of people (about 5x as many attendees if it sells out), there will be a distinct need for more structure. If I were guessing (or if I were planning) I would say the Colonists summit would include more structured teaching, and small groups for brainstorming.

I was *definitely* aided by having a rough premise/story idea. Two of the attendees came with a story idea and changed partway through the weekend, and I’m sure that will work for them too. But for me (I am a planner), I loved having my basic idea and just figuring out details with Sean, Johnny and Dave.

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To be honest, the biggest surprise of the weekend was how un-teacher-like Johnny, Sean and Dave were. They totally have that ability (and again, I’m sure it will come out at the Colonists Summit), but that is not what this weekend was about. It was much more of a mastermind, brainstorming, shared ideas, being open to being wrong and collaborative. As an example (and I’m sure you will hear about it on a future SPP episode)  I know for certain that one of the ideas I came to the Summit with Johnny is excited to weave in to future Dream Engine books.

So gratifying.

I had never worked on fiction collaboratively — other than asking my husband if my ideas were ok. Obviously he says yes :) But in all seriousness, when I was brainstorming ideas for a series in this world (over the summer), I was tentatively thinking about a Ruddermouth story, because they travel a lot and I thought it would be a fun adventure and excuse to travel all over Alterra. But, then I started editing short stories for an upcoming anthology and there were several (very different) Ruddermouth stories, so I started to rethink it.

I just didn’t want to have to worry too much about making sure my Ruddermouth matches someone else’s Ruddermouth if another attendee came with a similar idea.

As it happened, there was no reason for me to worry. Of the 5 attendees, 3 of us are writing outside of Alterra altogether. Monica and I (and Dave, I believe) are writing IN Alterra, but nothing really overlapping. It worked out perfectly. There was no worry about anyone ‘stealing’ ideas because we just had a bunch of moving pieces that we could make fit together however we wanted.

As I mentioned above, I came to Austin with an idea about how the Ministry of Decorum works that will feature heavily in my books, but that Sean and Johnny can weave in behind the scenes in their books. Dave was the only one who even joked about ‘don’t steal my ideas’ … but since everyone there is/wants to be professional writers, to be honest we all have plenty of ideas of our own.

In fact, I was more concerned about stealing my own ideas than I was about anyone else stealing them (I have an idea for another series that is percolating and my main character was starting to look a little similar).

If we didn’t have the open collaboration (again, hours and hours of broad world building), we would not have been able to come up with some of the fantastic ideas that are growing. One of the attendees came with an idea for a story set in Africa, and the bones of that informed the ideas for 2 other attendees. The basic plots of Dream Engine 2 and 3 helped shaped the plot of Garrett’s series that is happening on the clear other side of the world and has no overlap.

The creative work that we did as a group could not have occurred without the open brainstorming. The entire world would look different, and likely not be as rich, if Sean and Johnny had tried to come up with all of this themselves.

I could not be more excited to read all the books the other attendees are writing! I would definitely recommend attending the Colonists Summit in the spring if only for the exposure and access to the brainstorming. I love meeting smart people and being in a whole room of them was amazing!

What I am working on:

My young adult series will take place ~20 years prior to The Dream Engine and it is about a boarding school training future employees of the Ministry of Decorum. Totally cliche YA, which I love. You’ve got the recognizable elements of fish-out-of-water main character, but with all the specific details to Alterra. I actually think hanging my story on such a common structure will help bring in more readers who may not love The Dream Engine for various reasons, but can get behind the world as a whole.

Right now it is tentatively 7 books long, and inspired by books like Etiquette & Espionage, Little Women, Lemony Snicket and others. If you have any other steampunk, YA or Victorian-era books you think I should read by all means leave them in the comments!

Over the week+ since the Summit, I have been ‘location scouting,’ collecting inspiration for fashion and other details for the school on a (currently private) Pinterest board. I have been thinking about the overall series conflict, and my book 1 conflict, and I have started writing already. It’s amazing what you can discover just by starting.

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I have a rough idea of what happens in all the books (more so in books 6 and 7), and am about ~8,000 words into the first draft of the first book. Once I get farther I will know what questions I need to clarify with Johnny and Sean. Once I get to the end of book 1 I will have a better idea for books 2 and 3.

I am planning on going to the Colonists Summit if I can, just for the experience of collaborative brainstorming again. I would be honored if someone read my book 1 and decided they wanted to write their own book around the boarding school, and I think meeting in person with those kinds of people would be so beneficial for me.

One more post tomorrow about the Summit. Mostly just a glowing review.

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Fiction Unboxed Summit: Photos and video recap

I have a lot to say…. 3+ blog posts worth of stuff.

Just over a week ago, I was in Austin, Texas, at the Fiction Unboxed World Building Summit. It was hard for me to describe to people what I was doing ahead of time because I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect. Would it be more like a workshop? Instructional? Like a retreat? Impossible to say. This was the first time the guys (from Sterling & Stone) were running the event, too, so there wasn’t very much specific info ahead of time.

The whole weekend ended up being more like a mastermind group (read: amazing) than anything else and I loved it so much!

But not just me — the other attendees are putting out their own videos and social media posts. In fact, Garrett recorded a TON of video and will actually be putting together some kind of documentary in the coming months/year. I cannot wait to see it all, but here’s some little peeks:

One other quick aside before I share photos …. now that I am making more friends with writers, I am (once again) finding myself the only person who has a proper camera. The only person who makes an effort to document. It’s so funny to be in both this scrapbooking, memory keeping world AND this totally different fiction world. I think from the whole weekend there is only 3 photos that I am in (other than mirror selfies in my room) and I think only 1 of those is flattering. Oh well.

We stayed at the Renaissance Arboretum Hotel in Austin. Well, technically suburbs of Austin. But there was plenty of food (and ice cream!) within walking distance so it ended up working out perfectly.

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Friday night was totally casual. No agenda, nowhere to be. But I got to the hotel ~6pm, checked in and some of the guys were just hanging out in the lobby bar. We ended up sitting around talking, drinking and just getting to know each other until about midnight. Yea. Look at me being all social :)

Sean and Johnny left for a couple hours in the middle to say goodnight to their kids, but otherwise it was Friday night social hour.

Saturday morning the officially official weekend began — 9am. We met in a small conference room off of the center atrium-area with a little coffee shop right nearby. The door to our conference room (Colorado room) is one of the open doors on the bottom-left of this photo:

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Saturday was … mentally exhausting. About 4 hours of world brainstorming, lunch, and then another 4 hours of brainstorming. We talked about marketing and plans for the coming year, as well as huge backstory ideas to flesh out the world. I was SO tired by the end of it.

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Saturday night we went to dinner with Sean and Johnny’s families. At one of those Brazilian restaurants with swords of meat carried around? Yea. AMAZING.

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Only problem is Dave only eats chicken … and won’t eat from a salad bar. He had a rough time food-wise. But he also sat next to Sean’s super-happy, adventurous, enthusiastic 12-year-old daughter, so I think he enjoyed himself despite the food.

I laughed so hard! There were 14 of us at the table. I’m fairly certain we were WAY too loud for that restaurant.

Sunday morning bright and early at 9am again. Only this time without Matt who had to go home for a family emergency. We *definitely* missed him. It breaks my heart that he had to miss half of the weekend.

Sunday itself was more productive in terms of world details that actually help MY personal story. I don’t know if that is why, or if I was just used to it, but Sunday was not nearly as mentally exhausting as the day before.

Still a lot of laughing though …

JSD

We put together the map of Alterra (essentially alt-Britain). My story will take place in alt-Wales, a little bit south of that red island you see in this image:

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We talked about characters and fashion and steampunk weapons and rules for the whole world. Since there are so many writers interested in writing in the world, we are responsible for putting together the basic architecture so they can.

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Lunch on Sunday — more laughing, teasing Dave and our only group photo. I told Sean I need the next event to be in a garden with full shade at mid-day so the photos will all be prettier :)

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I think everyone was so happy by the end of the weekend. I can’t speak for all the attendees, but the whole experience exceeded my expectations so much.

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Any questions about my weekend?

(more posts to come)

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A year to NURTURE: Spending money on my future

nurture

This year, I am focusing on making the small choices to bring my One Little Word into my life on a weekly-or-so basis.

This year I want to NURTURE my life and the things I already have, rather than fall into that rat-race-style trap of more, bigger, further, etc. I want to cultivate my existing business rather than stretching myself too thin. I want to take care of ME and all the little pieces that make up me.

Recently:

I invested A LOT of money in my yet-to-be-launched fiction writing career. I have been writing all year (3 first drafts finished so far in 2014) and this opportunity came up that I had be be brave and take.

Here’s why this is remarkable: I am terrible at spending money. On myself.

I am overly cautious and constantly in planning mode and can always find a logical reason why I don’t need something. I don’t actually have that big of a problem getting treats for Andrew, or spending money on good food when we host guests or picking up the tab when we are traveling with friends.

It’s just that I much prefer to save money than to spend it, so when I am the beneficiary of said spending I talk myself out of it. Every time. I literally need to let Andrew make the decision for me.

But now, for the first time in years and years, I have decided to spend money on my future. I let Andrew talk me into spending the money that will help NURTURE my potential new career.

So … this weekend I will be in Austin, Texas, at a writing summit that I believe (if I put in the necessary work) could jump start my fiction-writing career. I spent weeks and weeks (and weeks) talking it over with Andrew. I put off actually registering as long as possible. Even now when it’s too late to do anything about it I wonder if I made the right decision.

But this is something for me, that 100% fits into both last year’s word BRAVE and this year’s word NURTURE.

Spending this much money doesn’t bother Andrew in the slightest and I am so lucky to have him on my team. There are so many things I would not do for myself if it weren’t for him.

I will report more on the weekend when I return. I really am excited, even though I am *super* nervous.

P.S. We also just bought tickets to see Wicked in December, even though we can’t really afford it. Because we both believe that experiences are worth spending money on. I can’t wait!

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August Book Report

Oh my goodness! SO many great books this month!

Here are some of them…

Eleanor by Jason Gurley: Lovely kind-of-time-travel story, but I would have edited it down a bit more. I read the kindle version, so I don’t know exactly what page, but the first 15% or so of the book should have been cut out and redistributed as flashbacks or exposition delivered in another way. It was all beautiful writing, it is just not where the story really began. I enjoyed the writing itself (I especially liked some of the water descriptive passages), but overall the book just not quite tight enough for me. There was a whole character that kept showing up that I didn’t really understand the point. It was not clear at all and if Gurley thought he was planting little hints at all, I didn’t pick them up. I just trusted it would all tie together (it did. Mostly. Eventually).

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith: I really loved Cuckoo’s Calling (and want to add a bunch of mysteries to my to-read), so I checked out this one from the library as soon as I could. I read it in 2 days — and I probably could have read it faster if it hadn’t also been the weekend before #30Lists registration opened. It turns out I really like Rowling’s writing style. I spent much of the reading vacillating between making notes to myself about how to improve my own writing and wondering who the hell the killer was. (sidenote: I have a seed of an idea for a mystery series to write, so I’m going to use that as an excuse to buy every Galbraith novel and re-read them)

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz: I love books like this with very distinctive, unapologetic voices (The Magicians and Jonathan Strange and Jonathan Safran Foer’s books come to mind). It’s a fantastic combination of slang/street plus untranslated Spanish plus nerdy allusions plus Dominican history. Ex: “Don’t misunderstand: our boy wasn’t no ringwraith, but he wasn’t no orc either” (p 119). The book is written from the P.O.V of a family friend, but you don’t actually learn that specifically until about halfway through the book. It’s not really about this friend — it’s more a coming of age about this adorably nerdy Oscar and how all of his family for generations kind of came together to make up who he is. Reminded me a little bit of The House of the Spirits in that way. I really liked it.

Crash by David Wright and Sean Platt: Another from the guys at Sterling and Stone, but this is just a simple stand-alone novel so more my style. It’s a heart-breaking ghost story. Rather short; I think it is more of a novella, but I can’t be sure. One of the best 5-star reviews on Amazon says something like ‘This book will ruin your life’, but it is also the best I’ve read from this author so far so there’s that. I wasn’t able to guess the ending. I got it on kindle for $1 during launch week – deal and a half.

Random by Tom Leveen: I love Tom (knew him when we lived in Phoenix) and I will buy every single one of his books (contemporary Y.A.). That said, Random was a bit too spot-on-after-school-special for me. It’s about a girl who is being accused of cyber-bulling and gets a random call from someone about to kill themselves. You can probably see where this is going. Maybe I’m just used to “YA” books that are plenty complex for adults, or maybe I’m just cynical, but this was not my favorite (even though I read the whole thing in 2 hours). Start with Party or Sick if you’re just checking out Tom’s books.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer: I adore books like this. Ensemble cast, lives interwoven over years, very subtle details and observations realizations. Wonderfully real and complex characters. Feels a bit meandering until it all ties in together. GAH! I want to write books like this. Loved it (reminded me of The Art of Fielding and The Marriage Plot). It’s just beautiful.

The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman: The final book in this trilogy. I LOVED them all. I can’t wait to make Andrew read them. From the first chapter: “It didn’t matter where you were, if you were in a room full of books you were at least halfway home.” I mean, really. I’ve heard people describe these books as ‘Harry Potter for grownups’ … but they are not exactly. They’re much to close to literary fiction to be Harry Potter-y. But I love them. Literary fiction through a filter of fantasy.

(and others… )

This is a note for a totally different post, but if you are a voracious reader try following/making friends with self-published writers. SO many of them give away books in exchange for reviews (like here and here and here and Brush with Darkness in June). Eleanor was sent to everyone on Gurley’s email list. For free. OR at the very least, you can get on their mailing list and learn when sales are going, since indie authors have way more control over that stuff. Just sayin.

I also spent a lot of time this month editing short stories for an anthology I am part of! It should be free on kindle when it gets release so I’ll tell you all about it.

Read anything good lately?

P.S. I’ve added all of your recommendations to my To-Read list. But since there’s 1800+ books on there, please forgive me if I don’t get to them all right away.

P.P.S. I recently tried out Overdrive App at the recommendation of my friend Jessica and HOLY COW! I can now borrow ebooks from my local library so I may never do anything productive ever again! The 1 deterrent is I don’t have a kindle, just a laptop and it’s not exactly snuggly.

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Around here

thursday 3

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Last week we *finally* gave up and hired a gardener for our front lawn. I feel a little bit guilty and a little bit exhilarated.

We are trying to conserve water, but I can’t figure out how to reset my sprinkler system, so instead I just have an alarm set for me to do it manually.

I want nothing more than for it to be about mid-September. Not because I’m dreading anything in these next few weeks, but because I want so badly for the weather to cool off so I can sleep in my own bed comfortably again.

I am nervous about how much money we have spent lately, even though I know it’s worth it. I mostly hate spending money on myself.

I have been reminded why I love literary fiction so much. I want to write books like The Art of Fielding, Middlesex and The Interestings. I want to re-read all my Henry James, F. Scott Fitzgerald and E.M. Forster.

I could not be more proud of my husband and where his career is going. I have always been the ambitious one in our relationship, but he is so much more focused and hard-working and it is totally paying off. I can’t wait til I’m allowed to tell you all about it!

I’m excited about all the TV show seasons that are coming available on Netflix now (previous seasons of Parks and Recreation or The Walking Dead, for example). I just may watch them without Andrew.

My cats are just cracking me up. Fang has learned what it sounds like when I take the lid off ice cream (vanilla to go in my iced coffee) and comes running because she wants some. Khaleesi has learned I don’t like it when she plays with the cords behind the TV so she goes back there only when she wants something and to get my attention.

We had some plumbing issues over the weekend and Monday and I am so very grateful to be married to someone who is happy to take care of it all for me.

Once I have finished this rough draft I am currently working on, I’m not going to start any new novels until mid-September (when I go to a writing weekend in Austin).

I am excited to be moving forward in my U.S. History class. I’m getting a book about James K Polk this week.

I’m a little nervous to be doing my #30Lists digitally this time. I haven’t actually started them yet which is WAY behind schedule for me.

I have been immersing myself in the business of blogging. Both for myself and to prep for this weekend’s live event.

What’s new with you?

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NURTURE: On 6 months of saying No

My One Little Word for this year is NURTURE. I think I’m doing OK with it.

At the beginning of the year I decided I needed to slow down, cut back, get to know my new life without a cubicle job and so much more. I wanted to spend more time saying No than saying Yes. I wanted to see what I could do with the products I already have than just launching a new one.

I’ve been backing away and keeping to myself and doing more or less the bare minimum I needed to do to keep up with everything.

I had more ideas of what I wanted to do this year, but I needed a break. I needed to stop looking forward and start saying No.

At about 6 or 7 months of not looking for the next big thing I feel…

  • Behind. Like everyone else is moving forward and I am being left behind.
  • Relaxed. Mostly.
  • Poor. Made far less money this year than last.
  • Lazy.
  • Productive. But only in writing fiction. L&R feels stagnant (to me).

Finding a common thread? It turns out when I don’t give in to my ambition and extreme work-ethic I feel bad about myself. <sarcasm> That’s healthy. </sarcasm>

To be honest, it IS good that I had planned on pulling back this year. Because Andrew has been working so very much, I need to be available for the house and to do things for him that he just doesn’t have time to do (when he’s only home 20 minutes out of a 6 day period). Also, I did finish some things, like my Scotland Blurb book and a few novel drafts. But overall when I look back at 2014 so far I feel unproductive.

So, that settles it. Not pursuing goals is bad for my self-esteem.

I’m going to be spending the next couple weeks going over my goals and my direction and what I want to accomplish before the end of the year. I’m really excited about setting up a new little niche site on Friday! It’s going to be a fun project for me that can also benefit you all.

I’m going to say Yes to a new opportunity. I’m going to say Yes to taking a new risk. I’m going to say Yes to growth and planning and working hard.

I want all of it to remain in the NURTURing vein, but I need to be working. I need to DO stuff and not just relax.

I can’t wait!

How do you feel about 2014 so far?

SHIFT_free creativity guide

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What it means for me to work from home

When I tell people I work from home and I rarely leave the house they look sympathetic. But I love it. The solitude and the comforts of home and not having to commute or wear make-up. My house is the second best part of me quitting my day job.

The best part is the flexibility.

Friday night I was alone at home, camped out in our living room, minibook stuff all over the coffee table, halfway through Friends Season 9. Plus, I am totally counting it as ‘work’ because the minibook was in preparation of the minisite launch this Friday.

I know, I know. You all want my life.

So Friday night … I’m sitting alone, minding my own business when there’s a knock on my door. We live in a quiet suburban neighborhood and it’s almost dark out. Who on earth would be knocking on my door?

Even better? We don’t have a peephole, so I have no way of checking without opening the door.

“Who is it?” I called.

“mmsoudoiin” someone mumbled. Maybe not mumbled, but I didn’t hear what was said.

I open the door and there stands my cousin. Who lives a whole state away. He just appeared on my doorstep.

I love my family. They are awesome and crazy. Turns out he had gone to our uncle’s house (close to me), and they had all hopped in the car and dropped him off on my door step before they went to dinner. And then my uncle drove around the corner so it would appear as though my cousin had appeared from nowhere.

He asked me, “Maria’s or Presidente?” No idea what he meant so I questioned him and harassed him and finally figured out what was going on.

cousins

Here’s the kicker: Because I was able to quit my day job and work for myself, I just had to change out of my at-home-for-the-night clothes and then I could join them all for dinner with zero notice.

I texted my husband (he was jealous) and I grabbed my purse and I was out the door for the night. Total spur of the moment dinner and ice cream with my aunt, uncle and 2 cousins. I suppose I kind of invited myself, but, hey. It’s family.

We talked about Matt’s recent trip to Europe and about what Lucas would be doing in college and about my aunt’s plans to redo her floor and about how I had a bell pepper for dinner just before they arrived so I wasn’t really hungry. You know. Normal stuff.

And the only reason I could even be there was because I had built myself an online platform that let me design my own life. All because I had quit my day job to work for myself. 14 months earlier I would have been at work on a Friday night when Matt showed up.

That is us in the back of my uncle’s car. Matt (in the left of the photo) is an engineer in Phoenix. Lucas (on the right) will be leaving for college in NYC in just a week or so.

Other things I can do now that I’ve built my online platform and work for myself?

  • Take an afternoon off for a micro-adventure with Kam
  • Be available at any time of day for Andrew. Bringing him home-cooked meals or clean clothes to work because he hadn’t been home in 4 days.
  • Work from wherever Andrew is. I’ve blogged from the control room of a recording studio, recently.
  • Make conference call or meeting scheduling easier on other people because I’m totally flexible
  • Get back to my early-morning schedule and work before Andrew wakes up
  • … and lots of other little things that make my every day so much happier

Are you BUILDing your online platform?

Don’t forget I’ll be setting up a site live this Friday!

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July Book Report

Much fewer books read this month — mostly because I started writing a new first draft and because 2 of the books were big, thick, SLOW books.

I’ve adjusted my library list a little to get some fun, faster reads for this next month. And (as always) lots of U.S. History. I am finally moving on to John Tyler this month!

Some of my reads from July:

The Magician King by Lev Grossman: The sequel to The Magicians. I was reading the first part of this book, trying to explain to Andrew why I like this book so much. It has such a clear, entertaining voice that I feel like I could turn to any page and find a sentence I just love. A character described as “almost alarmingly short” or describing the Middle Ages as “some point between when Jesus was alive and when Shakespeare was alive.” At one point the MC mentions feeling like he’s in a Monty Python sketch, and also at different points quoted both Friends and Die Hard (I texted Andrew immediately: ‘I genuinely love this book’). I love this. I want to write like this. The third book in the series comes out this week (I think) and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: I somewhat enjoyed this book, but I’m kind of surprised it is a best-seller. It’s rather long and slow. Kind of Meh. Good, yes, but rather overdone. I didn’t really care about the characters much or what was happening to them. A good book I think about in between reading and can’t wait to get back to. This one I had to make myself read. It was rather dense and detailed. Not to say that is bad, but it doesn’t strike me as the kind of book that the masses would read. I would be interested to find out how many people bought the book for the hype and never finished reading it. There are plenty of people who love it but you should know, by the way, if you get to page 100 and still don’t like it just give up. It is not any different in the other 600 pages.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan: I read this as part of Kristin’s NovelTea Book Club and really really liked it. I love books. I love the idea of mystery. I love totally normal people finding themselves on a quest of some sort. It’s hard to talk about this book without spoiling it – so I’ll just say that I immediately added it to Andrew’s to-read book pile.

(and others…  including MOST of a John Quincy Adams biography. I love him)

Read anything good lately?

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