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A Little Announcement (CAMP NaNo)

It’s a little after six in the morning here and it’s just me and the cat and the one crow I’ve heard call before sunrise alive in the apartment building. I love the early quiet of the morning and how it allows me time to reflect and get grounded for the day before the rest of the world starts running in circles. It’s also the best time for me to write. I’m not writing this morning, though. Well, unless you count this blog. I haven’t written for a week. Even when I have a book in editing that’s unusual for me.

I’d like to say 2020 left me raw, but I was raw going into 2020. I was raw from 2019 and now sitting here in 2021 I alternate between my skin feeling like stone and parchment paper. It took a little longer for me to feel the effects of not going out (I’m still not going anywhere if I can avoid it. I live in a big anti-masker area and my anxiety doesn’t deal well with it in general.) and the effects of what my friends and I have started to call COVID economy. I go to bed thinking about the future and wake up thinking about the future -usually full of dread. I know it’s not sexy or whatever, but it’s where I am. I’ve always been honest about mental health, because too many times it gets swept under the rug. I always figure, if I let one person know that they’re not alone in their struggles that’s enough for me.

My friends have been incredibly awesome during all of this. Some days I feel like we take turns between freaking out and being the voice of reason. I love them to death and would be lost without them.

I’ve received a lot of advice about writing and words of encouragement that go every which way. For me, not writing isn’t a choice. When everyone says to take a break or try something else, I’ve done that before. Writing suits me – it’s solo for the most part. It enables me to put ideas into words that I couldn’t otherwise. So, all their well meaning advice about doing anything else goes out the window, because I can’t give up. Burnout is part of the process sometimes and anxiety/CPTSD makes it worse when it does happen.

And throughout my lifetime, I know the one thing that combats anxiety – keeping busy and sometimes switching things up. We’re going into storm season here which means maybe I am crazy for what I’m going to do. Though, all the best people are bit crazy, if you ask me.

As many of you know Camp NaNo is next month. It’s the baby sibling of November’s NaNoWriMo. I usually avoid writing camps, because I write so much normally. I always feel like maybe they weren’t meant for me. With my current lack of motivation (not inspiration. I know what the next book in my series is about – I know who and what and why. Hell, I have a short from a dead character with something to say that needs to go into editing soon.) I just lack motivation – or the ability to turn off dread of the great WHAT-IF? So, I’m going to participate in Camp NaNo. I’ll probably (hopefully) start writing on the book I’m planning to use it for ahead of time, but since I’m aiming for somewhere in the neighborhood of 75-90k words, I think that’s fair. Camp Nano is all about finishing up projects anyway.

I think going into Nano will give me my motivation back and give me a reason to blog more. Switching things up just enough to get me moving again and I need that. I need something to focus on and I think it’s time for me to do Camp again.

If you haven’t heard my latest novel launched yesterday: Book 6 of Love by Glitter Bomb: To Save a Sidhe

To Save a Sidhe by [Maggie Hemlock]
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Writing, Creativity, and Anxiety

DISCLAIMER: YES, I’VE BEEN ASKED BEFORE WHY I FEEL THE NEED TO DISCUSS MENTAL HEALTH ON MY PROFESSIONAL PLATFORMS. MY ANSWER HASN’T CHANGED. I DISCUSS MENTAL HEALTH THROUGH MY OWN EXPERIENCES, BECAUSE MENTAL HEALTH NEEDS TO BE HIGHLIGHTED AND TALKED ABOUT AND BROUGHT OF THE DARK. I ALSO WANT EVERYONE TO KNOW HAVING ANXIETY DOESN’T MEAN THEY CANT CHASE THEIR DREAMS. IT JUST MEANS THEY’RE GOING TO WORK A LOT HARDER TO GET THERE.

Okay, time for some real talk, guys. It’s no secret that I have anxiety and CPTSD. I talk about it everywhere. On purpose. I always think if one person reads something I say and doesn’t feel alone I’ve found a little purpose in my discomfort. That’s important to me.

Since the beginning of 2019 I’ve felt like I’ve been ‘living between the anxieties.’ Basically, meaning I shove as much as I can of the good stuff in between all the crap. Yes, 2020 was crap for everyone. Extroverts everywhere have told me so. Introverts too – but not always because of the lockdown. But it’s been a little over two years since the last time I had a period of time where life was on the level and it’s starting to wear on me in ways I can’t hide. People notice – long droughts from posting on Facebook. Blogs that are sporadically scheduled at best. Some days, I think it’s never going to change. Some days I know it’ll never change. The world will keep revolving, but I’ll always have anxiety and big triggers. I’ll always have to live in between them. That doesn’t mean I don’t have good days – because I do. But I also have nights like tonight:

-Sales are down. Covid economy. Other writers are experiencing similar things. I know a few indies who have thrown up their hands at it all in the last few months. I’ve considered it too. I’m not to that point yet. I am doing side jobs again, though. More work for the same amount of money leaves less time for self care. It can’t be helped. It is what it is.

-I’m behind on work because of lost sleep last month before I could find a vet willing to fix my cat. More lost sleep as cat had difficult recovery.

-Storms – with a possibility of isolated tornadoes in my area Wednesday – Friday morning. So, yeah I’m already feeling the sinking feeling in my stomach.

-My editor and I are in the middle of editing a book. We live in 2 different states. We’re both in areas possibly effected. If the net or power goes I’m more behind.

-People telling me not to worry about being behind in a ‘creative career’ art takes time. Yeah, those same people have never finished a massive artistic project and made a living off of it for the most part. See my point up there about sales being lower and me on the brink of saying ‘Oh, enough’s enough. I give up.”

-I miss people who I’ve lost to covid. I miss so many people and don’t believe the world will ever be the same.

So, the next few days belong to anxiety. Mostly, storm anxiety. It’s not going anywhere. I’ve done therapy. I’ve done everything. Living in Missouri ruined me for any thunderstorm. Alongside anxiety, needs to live someone able to answer e-mails and put in edits and stay positive on social media and not ride the doom spiral. We’ll see what happens.

What does this have to do with writing and creativity? Everything! Every writer friend I have – has anxiety. Mostly, major anxiety filled with triggers and panic attacks and everything that comes with it. It’s as if imagining the worst is good fuel for novels. Sometimes, fixing ‘the worst’ in fiction soothes the soul. As a writing I believe I write to fix all the things I can’t fix in the world. Bad guys eventually die – the good guys mostly win. People fall in love and have a chance to live their lives without hell raining on every side.

Some days, it’s all I can do to wait until after my coffee kicks in to get to the keyboard and hammer out the details of the lives of fictional people. I’m thrilled to do my job. It’s the one part of my life I know for sure I enjoy – the writing part that is.

So, what is anyone to take from this? Live between the storms. Live between the bad times. They’ll always be around the corner, but the time in between belongs to us.

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What I Inherited from My Estranged Mother

I’m taking a day off today from writing. I’ve said it was to take care of filing my taxes online. I said it was because Saturday I wrote emotionally challenging scene. Both of those things are true, but there’s something else too.

Mother’s Day is a bitch for me. My mother never really was a mother even when she was around. I mean, in my early years she was there physically, but a combination of mental illness and drug addiction left her anywhere but actually there.

Full disclaimer: At the time my father wasn’t much better. He’s somewhat better now, but we don’t connect. Not really. This coupled with various drama throughout my family leaves me making my own family with my friends. I love them.

It also leaves me feeling lonely. I spent years wondering why I couldn’t connect with my father? We have nothing except blood and a caffeine addiction in common.

So if I’m not like him or any of my aunts or uncles where did I come from? I mean, yeah, I partially raised myself. Sometimes I joke that books raised me and they did in someways.

Where did those books come from? My mother. It’s a mixed bag. I remember her buying me books during her clean periods. I remember her reading them to me sometimes. I think this is why I don’t remember learning to read like a lot of people do. I think it’s wrapped up in my early childhood abuse/neglect memories and my PTSD programed mind protects me from it.

But the books were there. I remember one traumatic reading experience. We were reading Disney’s Aristocats (Spelling?) I loved those stupid cats and watched the movie and read the book a lot. Sometimes she read it to me. By the time of this memory I was probably 5 and preferred not to be read to, but I mean I was 5 any attention was good attention, right?

Well, she was reading it to me and she skipped half of the middle. I wasn’t going to stand for it. So, she went back and read it inserting her own crude language. I wasn’t having that either – this was my book. My story. I often imagined myself an extra kitten in the story. Well, that went over about as well as you expect with an addict. She whacked me across the face, ripped the book apart, and continued to beat me with it. Gone was my favorite book of the time.

After that I hid my books from her. I hid a lot of my things from her. Hell, at some points I hid the baby from her. The literal baby. My brother.

I continued to read, though. At school. At my grandma’s. Anywhere I could find books. Then we didn’t talk about reading again until I was 9. We were snowed in and I ran out of library books. She tossed me a book of mommy porn – basically one of those romances from the civil war era. I can’t remember the name of the book and I’ve tried. I’ve searched and even asked around Reddit, but apparently I don’t remember the right details.

I don’t know that my love of reading came from her. During her short clean periods she did read her romance novels. What I gained from her was the ability to escape into books – I had to. And sometimes in there I wrote my little stories. The first one was writing an episode of Flintstones to add myself in. Yep. Seven year old Maggie wrote fanfiction for The Flintstones. Yep.

So from all the things I inherited from her – trust issues, relationship complications, PTSD, scars, years of therapy, and more. What can I take away from all of this?

I became a writer and a book lover. They were my friends when she and her long line of abusive boyfriends chased off real people from my life. That love of story telling and immersing myself in a good story was the sole thing I snatched and kept for myself.

I’ve been asked why there’s not more moms in my stories. I usually answer with ‘Well, I write Mpreg!” lol And that’s part of the truth. The other part is I’m afraid my own mother would creep in there. I mean there are obviously some mom’s in my stories. (RIP Miriam)

I’ve always wondered what my life would have been like if my parents supported me during my early years. I got good grades until my last year of high school when I just stopped trying for the most. I’d sleep through class because sleeping at home wasn’t an option for me. I wondered what would’ve happened if my mother had read the book and hadn’t torn it to shreds.

I don’t know honestly. Maybe I would’ve still become a writer. Maybe my stories would be LGBT lit mainstream. I dunno. I love what I write now. I don’t think I’d be the person I am today. I loved stories because they were all I had. As an adult my life still circles them and I wouldn’t change that for anything.

 

 

Readathons

My Quarantineathon Readathon Week 1 Wrap Up.

Howdy again! Welcome back to my little neck of the woods full of books. Literally full of books. If this is your first time dropping by I’m an indie author (Check out the Hemlock Wolf Pack Saga on Amazon.) and a book worm.

I’ve chosen for many reasons to remain in self-isolation through the month of May. This means I still have plenty of time to read. I mean, I always make time for it, but reading is the perfect distraction for when I’m not writing.

Last month I participated in the O.W.L.s Magical Readathon and this month I’m participating in #Quarantineathon. It’s a lot shorter than the O.W.L.s, which I really appreciate. One book a week. That’s it. Good thing for me too, because for the first week I choose an almost 600 page book. I started it on the 5th and just finished it about an hour ago. I thought I might not get through it tonight and almost regretted reading a shorter unrelated book earlier in the week.

The prompt for the readathon this week is to read a book about humanity’s hard times to remind us that we will get through this.

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I read a lot of WWII fiction and non-fiction when I’m in the mood. This whole book is just haunting. It’s beautifully written but that adds to just how haunting it is. The story follows the fictionalized lives of children in a Nazi hospital and some of the staff too. So many parts of this book broke my heart.

Part of me wishes I would’ve chosen a shorter book or a book about a different hardship, because this was a difficult read for me: in length, subject matter, and the translated language. It was worth it, though. I won’t be forgetting the images from this book any time soon.

I’ll be back to talk about the readathon next weekend. The prompt for this coming week is to read a book about someone who would be high risk for COVID19 and to stay home for them.

I love these prompts. I was searching out May readathons to participate in and found this one on a new Youtube channel. Well, new to me. Getting Hygge With It is freaking fantastic. I’ve watched so many of her videos this week. If you’re into the BookTube Community of Youtube you should definitely check her out.

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Self Care for Writers (7 Self Care Tips I Learned From Living Alone)

Before anyone says it: Yes, I should be working on my novel. I’m 30 chapters into a 42 chapter holiday novel. I just need a little change of pace today. I’m tired. I’m brain dead. (Probably from my attempt to cut the soda. That will be remedied soon.) In the mean time, I thought I’d share some self care tips for writers. Though, most of these will be useful for everyone.

1. Do Helpful Things for Your Future Self

Yeah, you don’t want to wash those dishes tonight. Or maybe you don’t want to put the laundry away tonight. Whatever it is you’re putting off doing before you go to bed – do it now. Future you will thank you. There’s no worse feeling than waking up with chores waiting for you.

2. Make Your Own Stress Measuring Scale

Mine is based on those silly little face charts you see in hospitals when doctors ask you how much something hurts. I measure stress the same way and provide appropriate care. If it’s below five I carry on with the day as normal and just make sure to squeeze in some downtime to myself that day. 6-7 I stop right then and do whatever I can to fix the problem (sometimes there’s nothing. It’s just what it is.) If I can’t fix the problem I take some downtime. For me usually half an hour of reading will level me out enough to get back to work. I know this isn’t the case for a lot of people. You can’t just stop working and take a break whenever you like. I write full time at home and have this privilege. Anything above a 7 and something has to change big time. Honestly, since moving I’ve only hit a 8 once and just needed to take a step back and get a new perspective.

3.Schedule Your Goals

I know this one might belong more on a success guide, but for me having a schedule of what I need to do every day to make my goals happen keeps me level headed. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll enjoy every step or even want to do that piece everyday, but with everything outlined it’s easier to remember why I’m doing it. The why is what makes the world go round.

4. Meal Prep

I recommend this to everyone, but if you live alone and work a lot of hours this can be a life saver. Cook a lot on day and eat on it over the next few days or longer. Your freezer is your friend. Some days I’d skip lunch if I couldn’t throw something in the microwave and chow down quick and get back to work. I know, mindful eating people, that’s not good, but it’s better than not eating at all.

5. Set aside ‘headspace’ time and stick to it.

There’s this meme all over the internet about spending more time ‘imagining’ or thinking about your story than writing it. This is a healthy part of writing and creativity. Though, if you want to do it long term you really need to get a handle on it. Sure, if you’re laying in bed thinking about your story as you fall asleep you’re probably fine.If you sit down at the keyboard and imagine instead of write you’ll only be frustrated with yourself later. Set a time limit on this and write. For me this is a self care tip, because I write to pay the bills and if I’m not writing the bills don’t get paid. If they don’t get paid there is no such thing as self care in my life.

6. Track your time.

I write professionally. Well, full time and it’s my sole source of income. After I moved, I started tracking my time. No, not limiting my activities, but tracking my working hours to see where my time was really going and what wasn’t working for me. As I’ve perfected the schedule I get more writing done than ever. Last week I wrote for 12 hours and 22 minutes and came in at around 26.5k words. Yes, I write faster than some people and I’m not saying you should aim for any certain time. Before that I was writing about 15 hours a week and pulling in about the same in word count (15-17k.) Tracking my time and making sure I had enough time to do all parts of my job (writing, editing, rewrites, marketing, social media, cover work, etc) allowed me to focus on my writing during my writing time. This has allowed me to have a lot more free time to unwind by focusing on one task at a time instead of being in the middle of a sentence and remembering something else I needed to do.

7. Sleep. Seriously – Get Some!

Before I moved work was my number one priority. I’m a classic workaholic and I’m not happy unless I’m working. BUT I’m not happy while I’m working if I’m dragging ass and brain dead. So now, sleep is my top priority. Sure, it annoys my friends that I disappear so early in the evening and turn my phone on do not disturb, but me and my pillows have improved our relationship. Also, from time and word count tracking I’ve discovered the better sleep I get the more I write the next day.

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Reader Q&A

It’s that time again! I love getting questions and comments from readers. Interacting with all of you really makes my day. Writing is by nature a solo profession. You have to sit at the keyboard and ‘see’ and then translate what you ‘see’ into words and sentences that make sense to other people. It’s not always easy. Some days getting words on the page is like getting blood from a turnip. Other days it’s like I get to play with my imaginary friends all day and they’re nice to me. At the end of the day , though, it’s  about the stories I tell and how they can touch my readers. Without you guys, I’d be a kook with a wild imagination. Okay, maybe that’s exactly what I am, but you guys help me make a living from it. lol

I have three questions I’m going to answer today,. They’re simple questions, but the answers may be long and winding. I’ve touched on some of these in other Q&As, but I think I can expand those answers and really give you guys a look into how I started writing my Hemlock Wolf Pack Saga.

Question: How did you come up with the names for your shifter families?

Answer:

This one depends on which family/pack/flight you’re talking about.

Hemlock Academy came to me before the pack did. It started in a dream I had, but was nothing like you’ve read in the books. In the original dream it was an all girls boarding school where I taught that had been invaded by zombies. I’m a huge Walking Dead Fan and my dreams often get zombies if I watch the show too much. The school in the dream was not Hemlock Academy. It has a name that sounds sort of close, but I’m not disclosing here. I always knew I was going to turn that dream into a book. I still might. Not in Mpreg, because I don’t think babies and zombies mix. Maybe I’m wrong. Let me know in the comments if you think Mpreg and the zombie takeover go hand-in-hand and would make for a good read. The pack ended up named after the school once I got to know Darian in Omega Studies.

I’m not saying what the school was called in the dream, because who knows. If I ever switch genres in the future I still might write the book in the original way I saw it.

The West Appalachian Wolf Pack were just named after the area they come from. I was born in West Virginia and just sorta tacked on West because of that. I love the nature and mountains of the region. Yes, Monta’s pack in part is based on some people I knew growing up. No one was killed from their crimes against their families. So, it’s really loosely based, but it’s there.

The Moonscales are the tricky ones. The name just came to me while I was writing a standalone which is yet to be released or finished. I’m hoping to finish it one day, but it won’t be until after the Hemlock vs. Raven Hallow War. It’s given us the characters of Clarence and Medwin and all of the Moonscales, though. They first showed up in that book that’s half finished. One of the MCs of that standalone novel is still a hatchling at the moment. So, for the sake of the timeline I won’t be worrying about that book just yet.

The Raven Hallow Wolf Pack is a bit more complicated. I could say it just came to me, because a lot of them do and it did. It came from their lore of being connected to ravens and crows. Though, they have heavy elven influence too despite it not being represented in the name.

I think I’ve covered all the main ones I’ve actually introduced this far. There are others on the map, because I needed to mark them because I knew they were there. If I’ve left anyone out drop me a message on FaceBook and I’ll include it in the next Q&A.

Question: What got you into writing MM?

Answer:

Do you want the short answer or the long one?

The short answer: Harry Potter.

That doesn’t make sense unless you were part of the 2000s HP fanfiction communities. The first story I ever wrote to completion on a computer was when I was 14 and it was a  Draco/Harry slash fanfic. Yep. The real reason I turned into a writer was because my young teenage self thought Harry and Draco should get together. I guess I liked tension even back then before I could explain it.

It probably has something to do with my gender identity too, but I’ll touch on that in the next question.

Question: What made you decide to write MPREG?

Answer:

This one’s complicated too. I’ve touched on a lot of these things in my previous Q&A, but I’ll expand here since the question is what made me decide to write MPREG. I’m nervous about this one, because though a lot of my friends know and are super supportive I’ve never really talked about it in a professional setting. This is very personal to me and it’s taken me a long time to be comfortable talking about any of it in a public forum.

Since I was little gender has confused the hell out of me. Not just gender stereotypes, but gender itself. It’s like umm…. so there are two boxes and I have to stand inside of one?  It’s not that I don’t like the boxes. It’s that neither box is for me. I identify as gender non-binary despite being born AFAB (assigned female at birth.)

What I love about Mpreg is being able to explore different ideas about gender roles and gender expression. Being able to not have to write inside those boxes. Yes, some of my omegas are what my dad and uncles would call ‘pretty boys’ (Hence, why the Appalachian Wolf Pack got it’s name and attitude.) but I’ve always admired men who are softer and gentler and love things that aren’t inside that box we’ve labeled “Masculinity.” And of course, vice versa. One of my favorite characters from the series is one who has only been mentioned. I hope to get her on screen soon.

I’ve been accused of having inadequate female representation in my books. I don’t think that’s quite true. Sure, male characters out number female characters, but I write gay romance. I need a pool of side characters to pull from and play matchmaker with.

I’m also very aware of how strong women can be perceived. I didn’t have my first female Alpha on screen until The Sleeping Omega Prince. Mostly, because I wanted to avoid the question of ‘How do female Alphas get their mates pregnant?” Many people have given their thoughts on this and if you don’t understand it, want to know, and are old enough to read my books – send me a message. I’ll tell you in the cleanest way possible. lol I write sex scenes, but I’m not that comfortable discussing anatomy publicly.

What actually lead to me writing Mpreg was a number of things. First, as I mentioned in my previous Q&A my early roleplay years had a lot of mpreg in them. Then mpreg fanfiction. I never knew it was a thing until two things happened very close together. A good friend introduced me to the genre on Amazon. Then an old ghostwriting client (yep that’s what I did before I went indie) e-mailed me and asked if I’d be interested in ghostwriting some Mpreg for her. I don’t do ghost work anymore and didn’t at the time. But I was mind blown that this was a thing in actual books now.

So, my little fanfiction heart had some original characters of its own to share with the world and on December 9th, 2017 I penned the first few chapters of what would become Omega Studies.

Thank you so much for submitting your questions. If you have more feel free to send them my way on Facebook to be included in the next Reader Q&A blog.

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Writing, Book Covers, and the death of my last nerve

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Because I should be working on the book cover for Omega Rebellion ((AKA Cody and Micah’s story), but my last nerve has just died.

If you haven’t caught up with the Hemlock Wolf Pack Saga they are all free on Kindle Unlimited. If you haven’t checked out the program they’re always running some first month free or some sort of promotion. If you read a lot and haven’t checked it out yet, it’s a great source to save you some money on your reading habit. I swear by it which is why my books will remain in it for as long as it works.

Like a lot of people, my adult life has been one big ball of anxiety. Not always the normal sort either. Today is the two month mark since I was attacked by my intoxicated brother. That’s not what killed my last nerve, though. It wasn’t moving across the country while recovering from injuries or the mental aspects of recovery that are still ongoing.

It was tornado sirens last night. Here I was getting ready for bed thinking about what sort of cover Omega Rebellion called for and the next thing I know I’m in a closet pretty sure I’m going to die. Sure, the city I live in is rarely affected, but it only takes one. I see another move in my future, because I have no nerves left. Just none. Zilch. Zero. I know life is never 100% peaceful. I lived here before and knew it was a possibility, but I didn’t know how bad my nerves had gotten.

So, today I’m running way behind schedule and feel like crap. As a writer, I’m pretty good at filling in the blanks in life of what could happen. It’s great for storytelling, but sucks when my brain tries to apply it to real life. I haven’t asked other writes, but I can’t be the only one who thinks like this. lol

Either way, the coffee is ready and I need to go stare of screens full of sexy stock photos to make the cover for Omega Rebellion.

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I’m Bad at Taking Time Off: Confessions of a Workaholic

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I don’t identify as the classic type-A workaholic/perfectionist personality, but I’m a self professed workaholic. In school, I was the kid who actually used study hall to do homework. I loved the proficiency and having my afternoons and weekends free.

This habit didn’t always carry into my adult life. Before I started freelancing (and eventually transitioned into indie publishing) I’d put in just enough effort at jobs not to be noticed in good or bad light.

Now, I wake up on a morning I was planning to sleep in with a thunderstorm raging outside. I’m annoyed with mother nature and sit down at the computer to work. Then it hits me I finished the first draft of Claiming the Shaman yesterday. It’s now off with my editor for the first rounds of edits. I planned to take today and tomorrow off before starting another book or to work on the cover of the one I just finished. Sitting down this morning annoyed and ready to work I realized that somehow over the last nine years of being a a professional writer first in freelance and then in indie publishing I’ve become a tried and true workaholic. (See this blog as proof. I needed to write something this morning or my routine would be broken. Not working makes me antsy.)

I started freelance (and some ghostwriting) writing when I was 21. A weird set of circumstances brought me to it at a time of need. (That’s a story for another blog.) Then, I got addicted. I mean, I always wrote or had a story running in my head for as long as I can remember. In high school, I thought I’d eventually publish if I could. That was back before indie publishing was what it is now. But life went on and eventually I wrote less and less until I started freelancing.

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Eventually, after years of freelancing it wasn’t enough to write what others wanted me to write. No, I needed to tell my stories. I’ve written under a few different pen names over the years until I found a genre I really loved and didn’t get bored of. I’m a Gemini so bored is my number one enemy. Is that why I’m a workaholic? Maybe. Likely at least partially.

Now, almost everyday I write. I have to. It’s like breathing. In fact, it was my lack of writing over the fall/winter of 2018 that let me know something was indeed wrong with my health. I was always too tired to write. Friends told me it was burnout. Others said I was depressed. They were all wrong, but it wasn’t until my random exhaustion kept me away from the keyboard that I told my doctor about it. I figured with my luck I was probably dying. Morbid? Nah. Practical. Or so I thought. Mostly, I need to quit smoking (something I”m still struggling with) and my vitamin D was super low. I should have guessed given the symptoms, but there was a reason I became a writer and not a doctor.

Recently, I took my last medical dose of vitamin D. I’m feeling better than ever even if I’m still smoking about a pack a week when people piss me off. Why didn’t I go to the doctor sooner? Well, two reasons really. Okay, three: The first, the circumstances that led me to freelancing also left me with a distrust of most doctors. Two: I have an over active imagination. I was sure he was going to tell me I was dying. I had some sort of rare disease eating away at me. Probably related to smoking. The third: I needed to work. I didn’t want to take the time off my schedule to call and make an appointment. Then have to keep the appointment and take a morning off. Then take another morning off for blood work results and a follow up. I probably lost more time by not calling the doctor, but hindsight, you know. Eventually, I did, but not until writing 1k words a day was a problem for me. Yeah, that’s the reason I thought I was dying. Moral of the story is get your vitamin D checked before you need to. lol

Now, I’m starting a daily vitamin and made a few lifestyle changes to assure that’s not going to happen again. But it also made me realize I’m a workaholic. I write most days of the week. I am for 3k+ on those days now that I’m back to myself. I usually end up somewhere between 4.5-6k words a day. I take Tuesdays off for errands, but usually squeeze in some work anyway.

Now, with all of that said: I don’t hate my job. I love what I do. I love sitting down at the keyboard and pouring my heart out into a story. Sure, some days are harder than others. Some scenes more belligerent than others. But at the end of the day, I want to write. I want to write more than I want to play video games or have that extra time to do whatever it is people want me to do. The thing is I probably work about 4-5 hours most days. Even if I worked everyday I’d be working less than a traditional full time position. So, when people tell me I work too much I always roll my eyes. Yes, I’m a workaholic, because I don’t know how to start the day by doing nothing. No, I’m not a workaholic because I work too much.

Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’ll be off writing a few more blogs to schedule so my brain believes I squeezed in a decent word count.

 

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Self-Care For Writers

At the time of writing this I’m having a bad writing day. I’ve only written about 1,300 words on book 6 of my Hemlock Wolf Pack Saga. I’ve written a few blogs to save for later. (I’ll likely save this one for later too.) Today, I’ve realized something, though. I’ve fallen into a self-worth pitfall about word count goals.

My writing days usually end one of three ways.

  1. Met my goal: Meh. That’s pretty good. I did my job anyway.
  2. Beat my goal: Go me! You’re getting ahead.
  3. Didn’t reach my goal: You are the worst writer on the face of the earth. You’ll never get this book written or published. You should never write again.

I have some ongoing external conflicts in my life at the moment that are definitely affecting my mood, but this is my pattern all the time. And let me just say I thought I was the only one until I sent out some text messages to some writer friends. I’m not the only one. That made me feel better for maybe two minutes. Then I realized how mean we are to ourselves. Yes, word counts and plot point goals are uber important to our chosen careers. They’re like 50% of our job. (Rewriting, plotting, marketing, etc. take up the other 50%.) But at the end of the day they don’t define us as people. A bad writing day doesn’t make someone lazy or horrible or a complete failure. It’s one day. One writing session. Sure, if it’s an ongoing problem we should examine what’s going on and see what the best way to work through it would be. I’m not giving all of us free reign to never pursue a writing goal again. What would we read if we all quit writing? What would you read, person who’s reading this?

So, what am I saying?

Simply that when we get caught up in creating other people and worlds and epic plot lines and romances we shouldn’t forget about ourselves. Sure, we maybe people with universes of stories living inside of us, but we’re still people. Besides, if we don’t take care of ourselves where will all the stories live until they’re born into books?

So, for all of my fellow writers and creative spirits out there here are some self-care tips to help you birth new worlds into existence.

  1. Be realistic about your goals and leave room for slower writing days.

Not everyday needs to be a writing day. Even if you’re a full time writer. I don’t know where this myth came from but I wish I could summon a dragon to eat it. Think about the other professionals of the world. Sure, some brain surgeons are on call at all hours, but they do have down time. So, sure, if your main character wakes you up at 2am to finish a scene. Go for it, but that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve days off.

Using a word count tracker and planner. I use PaceMaker. When I’m planning out how long it’ll take my to write a novel I make sure to include every upcoming appointment date that will hinder me. I take into account everything from errands to meal prep. Then I add three days to the end of when I think I’ll finish it.

2. Kill the negative self talk before it kills your story.

This just isn’t about word count. It can be about any part of the writing/editing/publishing/marketing process. Tons of information exists out there on how to do this. The same method won’t work for everyone. As I said at the beginning of this blog I still struggle with this.

3. Don’t forget to celebrate victories.

If you totally kick butt on your word goal it’s okay to celebrate. When you finish a first draft (even if you’re behind on your timeline) you should still celebrate. Do something nice for yourself.

4. Make your work area comfy and nice to look at.

If your chair is hurting your back replace is ASAP. If every chair hurts your back talk to your doctor or other medical professional. Hang up inspirational quotes and photos. I like redecorating my wall space with each new novel. Yeah, I pin up a lot of notes about things to remember for the rewriting process, but I add things that remind me of the setting or my main characters. I also have a longstanding love affair with scent candles. Aromatherapy for the win!

5. Get up an move!

As tempting as it may be to sit and stare at a blank screen when you’re having a bad writing day don’t punish yourself like that. Get up and move. Take the dog for a walk. Go for a bike ride. Do a yoga workout video. Do something to get your blood moving and get out of your own head for a minute.

6.Remember writers are always working.

A lot of my friends lift a brow at this one, but it’s true. When we’re planning or writing a book we’re always thinking about it and that’s okay. Today, while having a horrible writing day I figured out a major plot point for the middle of Claiming the Shaman. My brain needed time away from the keyboard and screen to say “HEY! I KNOW WHAT HAPPENED!”

7. Alternating word sprints with other activities is a life saver!

Some days I wouldn’t get a thing on the page if it wasn’t for this method. Most writers will be familiar with the concept of a word sprint. If not, it’s basically setting a timer for a per-determined amount of time and writing your heart out until the timer goes off.

On bad writing days I’ll try alternating this with doing household chores or playing quick little games on my phone. This one has really turned around some of my bad writing days.

8.Relax your shoulders or treat yourself to a massage.

Sitting at a desk all day writing can be hell on your neck and shoulders. Remember not to scrunch your shoulders up like a turtle trying to hide in her shell while typing. I’m 100% guilty of this one.

Also, if you have the time, cash, and inclination treat yourself to a massage! Maybe you could do a massage swap with your SO!

9.Chat with other writers.

If you’re new to publishing speaking with other writers can be down right scary! But if you can make a few good writer friends you’ll have someone to shoot weird questions to. Most of which will include “Is X normal?” or “Do you do X too?” It’s a great way to feel a little more connected despite working in a career of solitude.

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Writing Through Chaos

Sunflower during Sunset

I should be working on Claiming the Shaman book 6 in my Hemlock Wolf Pack Saga , but my mind is too scattered this morning. It’s one of those days most writers are familiar with. Everyone has them at one time or another, but when chaos erupts they’re more common.

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Some of my books have been called wholesome. I don’t mind that label, because I’m the most old fashion about sex in my friend group. I like writing happy endings where the good guys win and the bad guys get their just desserts. That doesn’t always happen in real life and I believe we need it in the places we escape to.

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With all of that said I wanted to warn my long time readers that this blog may not be as wholesome as most of my books are. I’ll be covering difficult subjects and messy situations to which there are no easy answers. Real life doesn’t tie up as neatly as a book, unfortunately.

Recently, a friend told me I needed to connect with my readers more and perhaps people in general. I’ve always been introverted and keep a lot of things to myself. The older I’ve gotten the more I find myself surrounded by more words than people. Most days I like it that way. No one can write full time surrounded by people demanding their attention.

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As someone who’s always kept my problems to myself in large groups I find it difficult to write about the chaos my life has become this year. Two family members have passed away. Another family member is dealing with addiction and he’s not who he used to be. Most of my other relatives are enablers and think I’m the asshole for not doing the same. I understand that addiction and addiction treatment is a hot button topic these days, but my message to anyone dealing with a similar problem is that it’s fully within your rights to kick anyone out of your life for any reason. You are important and you deserve to be happy. You don’t have to put up with bullshit.

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With all of that said how do we write through chaos? These tips may be more aimed at writers who write full time, but even if you don’t write I hope you draw something from them. I’ve always been the sort to ask “How can I turn this bad thing into something good for someone?” It’s my hope that voicing these problems and tips will not only soothe something within me, but help someone somewhere who reads them.

Please note these tips don’t replace seeking therapy or other professional help. If you’re in need of help please reach out to someone trained to help you.

  1. Accept Some Days Suck

Everyone everywhere has bad days now and then. Sometimes they politely wait in line behind a bunch of good days. Other times a bunch of them push their way to the front of the line and compete to be first. There’s a big movement that real writers must write everyday. That’s bullshit. Writing is required to be a writer and if you plan to publish you’ll need to spend a lot of time writing. It doesn’t have to be everyday. If a bad day pops up and you can’t get words on the page don’t sweat it. Tomorrow will come. Take time for self-care and work on other parts of the process: Planning, plotting, cover work.

2.Take Advantage of the Days That Don’t Suck

If your life has whirled into a chaotic mess the days that are less chaotic are to be taken advantage of. Maybe you have the house to yourself and you’re feeling okay. That’s the day to get the words on the page. Even if you hit your normal word count goal see if you can get more onto the page. These days are your secret weapons against the chaos. Extra words help make up the difference.

3.Don’t Wait For Inspiration or Motivation

This is common advice for all writers, but where chaos rules you might not find motivation easily. Tack up your long term goals for you book or series or whole writing career somewhere you see them everyday. Focus on them. In a lot of cases, they can be the lighthouse in the storm. We all need those lighthouses.

If you’re life is particularly chaotic you may want to make sure you set aside time to plot your novel. I know pantsers everywhere are rolling their eyes at me, but bear with me while I explain why you need a plot to write through chaos. Being creative can be hard if things are upside down for whatever reason. With a plot you know what you’re going to write each day. You can tweak it as you go, but it gives you something to focus on.

4.Tell Haters to Shut Their Mouths

There’s nothing worse than going through hell and having everyone else point out why they think your writing, story, book, or whatever is useless. Tell them to shut up. Seriously, I know everyone says keep your head high and ignore them, but honestly if someone is really toxic in your life you need to kick them out if you can. If they’re generally okay in most situations, but still tear down your dreams – that’s toxic. I’m talking about the friend who worries about if you make enough money to live. I’m talking about the haters who just run their mouths for whatever reason. Maybe they think they’re not good enough or that if you do great at something they’ll have to do something too or they’ll look bad. Just cut to the point and tell them to shut their mouths. I don’t mean go online to reply to bad reviews or anything like that. This is in your personal life. Bad reviews happen to everyone. Don’t even react to them. Once your book is in the public people can think whatever they want to about it.

5. Prioritize Your Goals

Maybe the chaos in your life isn’t brought about by other people. Maybe it’s your health. Maybe you need to pick up healthier habits or quit smoking to improve your health. I’m not going to lie these things take time and energy, but the good thing about them is that you can quit smoking while writing a novel. You can find time to write between working out and meal prepping. We find time for the things that are important to us. Sure, maybe we have to cancel that Netflix subscription or uninstall our favorite game for a while, but if you want writing to be part of your life it needs to be in your top 5 priorities.

6.Work Out Your Issues

While we can’t make anyone else do anything (get clean, get healthy, be positive, etc.) we do get to make choices about ourselves. If you need help getting someone out of your life or letting go find a therapist. That’s literally what they’re there for. If you need help getting healthy ask your doctor or join a support group.

If you have fear of failure or are haunted by imposture syndrome figure it out. Everyone has their issues, but if you want to move out of chaos you have to understand and work with your demons.

7.Don’t Turn Your Novel into a Journal

It’s okay to leave pieces of yourself behind in a novel, but not your life story event for event. Have an addict family member and you want a side character to give your beloved MC hell? Sure, they can be an addict, but don’t make it a journal. Let life inspire you, but from personal experience making a novel based too much on your own life never works out. Yes, there are exceptions, but not everyone is an exception.

I’ve read first drafts by fellow writers and my own that are just too journal-like for publication. When we write about something we’re too involved with emotionally it’s hard to create likeable characters. Sure, everyone character doesn’t have to be likeable, but your main character should more or less. If you’re living vicariously through your main character and torturing another character, but the motive isn’t plain for your character (it’s more yours than theirs) it doesn’t make sense in your book.

It’s okay to succeed out of spite. It’s okay to kill off a character named after your ex-fiance or evil aunt, but don’t let your personal feelings override the logic, character development, and plot of your book.

8.Please, Please, Please Finish Your First Draft Before You Start Editing It and Picking it Apart

You can polish up a bad first draft, but you can’t publish half a book. When things are hard it’s easy to pick apart everything we do including our writing, but please don’t fall into this trap. There’s no need to torture yourself. Get your story onto the page and then clean it up. Find a plot hole? Start a separate document and record it there. Name it something like “Draft 2 notes” and move on.

9.Lean on Your Support System

It’s easy to hide under the blankets and not talk to anyone when all hell breaks loose and it’s okay to do that for a while. Sooner rather than later you need to reach out to your real friends. Let them know what’s going on. If there’s something reasonable you need help with ask them. If 2019 has taught me anything is that your friends want to help you more than you think.

10.Remember Nothing Lasts Forever: Chaos Included

There will come a day where you look back and are amazed at what you’ve overcame. Seriously, think back to other hard times you’ve went through. Sometimes you need to make hard changes, but you’re going to be okay.

Keep writing. Write out of passion, desperation, love, hate, or hell, write out spite to show the bastards they can’t keep you down. Whatever reason you find, if you love your craft, please don’t quit writing. Someone out there is waiting to read your book.