Category Archives: Looking Ahead

2015 In the Rear View

I am not one who makes resolutions with the changing of the calendar. Instead, I’m continually analyzing, taking stock of where I am and where I want to be, making course corrections as I go. As the year rolls over to a new one, I do like to look back at the last year and note the lessons learned.

2015 was monumental in many ways.

In terms of my writing career, this was a banner and extremely noteworthy twelve months.  My first publication Secrets & Doors released in February. In May, I sold my first short story to an online magazine. All while I revised my second novel. In August, I submitted to my first writing contest, where the old adage of “you cannot please every reader” was proven, and got valuable feedback from professionals. In September, I submitted to my first open call for submission and edged out thirty other writers for a spot in a new collection releasing next month.

That last one was the writing highlight of the year for me. As much as I love focusing on the successes along the way, I am also secretly worried that I don’t really have what it takes to make it as an author. That no one but my friends and family will enjoy what I read. I shrivel and give in to self-doubt often and have to remind myself that just putting my work out there is a step many artists and dreamers won’t ever take. While my first publication was traditionally published, I didn’t have to submit as part of an open call once I joined the collection of authors that eventually became the Secret Door Society. My self-doubt always whispered in my ear that if I had to go up against an open call of other professionals I may not be worthy. By taking that step and proving myself wrong, I have been able to quiet some of those internal fears that seem always lurking.

On the other side of the coin, this was a very eye-opening year for the more disappointing side of writing. While I sold a short story to a magazine, it was not published. What was to be a print magazine with a broad readership potential turned out to be a fledgling idea prone to delays. The format changed to an online magazine instead and then put on hold until further notice. I got the rights back to my story, but it was a sad disappointment all the same.

The most difficult lesson I took away from 2015 was the value of time. Time as a commodity has been a consideration for years. Each time I decide to do something new, like pursuing being an author, means I have to give up other things, like television. This year I got caught up in activities that took a lot of time, too much time, time I didn’t have, to be part of a writing organization. At the end of the year, the organization had ultimately failed and all I had to show for the time I’d devoted were months where I’d spent all my writing time NOT writing. Because of this, I’ve decided to devote 2016 to producing rather than associating. I can aspire to be on writing panels and making appearances at writing conferences when I have more publications under my belt. If I’m a writer who doesn’t spend the majority of my time writing, I’ll never get to where I want to be as an author. Bottom line, it makes no sense to promote yourself to potential fans until you have something for them to read. I lost sight of that for a few months this past year. Months I won’t get back, which makes me a tad bitter when I let myself dwell on it. Which I don’t very often.

The other areas of my life were overall positive this past year.

The flip side of the time coin came with the improved family dynamics as a result of Hubby’s new job. Having him on a day shift schedule and home with us all the time has made a huge difference in the quality of our family. I can’t wait to spend as much time together in 2016 as we didn’t in the preceding eight years of dreaded night shift. Every day that we get home from work together and spend the evening taking turns running the kids around and cooking dinner together is a gift.

Financially, 2015 was also noteworthy. We achieved our ten-year goal of being debt free except for our mortgage. Which was also why Hubby had the luxury of quitting to find a day job. Of course, it didn’t last long since the cars are all old and paid for (aka time to die!). I leased my first brand new car and I love being part of the Volkswagen family. 2016 will see a massive remodel to our house, which will be fantastic – when it’s OVER. During will be another story…

My health this year has still been a bit of a roller coaster but more like the kiddie coaster with baby hills and far easier to manage than years past. I still struggle with things like how much is too much fluid to drink every day – enough to stave off a flare-up of gout but not too much so I retain water and have to take diuretics that give me massive charlie horses and require yet another drug to counteract the effects. I’m still in remission and according to my doctor that means I have an indefinite number of years ahead of me. I’m far luckier than a lot of people and, considering all the insanity I’ve been through in past years to get here, I can deal with monthly blood draws and relatively few medications. Even being a vegetarian has become somewhat routine after two years.

I’ve struggled the past year where it came to fitness. Two years of focusing on survival and treatment of my disease relegated fitness to the back burner. I consider it a win that I’ve been able to maintain my weight overall, minus the water retention fluctuations of course, for the last couple of years. However, I’m ready to get beyond the mere survival and 2016 is the year I get back to being strong and fit, which has suffered since I had to give up running. The last half of 2015 has been off and on for yoga with my new, more demanding day job schedule and I’m feeling the effects. I’ve recommitted to my twice a week yoga practice and have started incorporating more cardio in the other days of the week. I may never run a Ragnar again but I can be strong and fit again.

This year brought three weddings within our immediate families – my sister, Hubby’s sister and Hubby’s brother – and the birth of a new niece who I adore. So much joy to counteract another year I had to spend without my Mom who I still miss every day. Life is a balance like that and what we’re left with overall is up to each of us as individuals.

I didn’t read as many books as I wanted to last year – but I still read a lot of great ones. I didn’t write as much as I wanted to – but I still wrote 84,966 words over the course of the year. (Yes, I track it to the individual word. Don’t judge, you know I’m a data geek!) I didn’t travel as much as I wanted to – but I got to go to Hawaii with my entire immediate family. Overall it was a fantastic year simply because I got to live it. And because I am the master of my fate and the captain of my journey, I can make 2016 an even better representation of my hopes and dreams.

May 2016 treat you well. Live in the moment, surround yourself with positive people who contribute to the achievement of your dreams rather than pulling you down, and take risks to live the life you love. That’s what I’ll be doing! Thanks for joining me on my journey and thanks always for reading.


Book List Archive 2015

Time for the yearly round up and archive of my efforts to remain a well-read person. This year I did not reach my goal but I did read a lot of really great books. Here they are, all summed up, for your reading pleasure. And in reverse chronological order because my OCD did not win that fight – this time.

  • The Innocent, Harlan Coben (Book Club) – a light yet entertaining whodunit perfect for the beach or a long weekend. The ending was satisfying although pieces of the story were a tad predictable.
  • The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt – one of the best books I read all year which definitely lived up to all the hype I had heard about it. There are very bleak elements that leave you feeling grateful for the life you have since they are painted so authentically through the characters. A truly phenomenal book that everyone should read!
  • The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Laroux (Book Club) – a classic that I hadn’t read. I probably would have put it down had it not been a book club pick. I just can’t get into period pieces that old but still I’m glad I read it.
  • The Good Girl, Mary Kubica – also a good read but only because of how it was written. I found myself trying to solve the mystery of “before or after WHAT” all the way through. The ending was very satisfying. A great read for anyone who likes a whodunit.
  • The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins – one of the best reads of the year. Finally a smart, adult novel with twists I didn’t see coming and characters with real depth. It kept me guessing to the end and I recommend it now to everyone who asks.
  • Birthmarked, Caragh M. O’Brien (Book Club) – a light and easy read that left me wanting far more details than were given since it was written for the superficial YA market who doesn’t demand it. Such a shame!
  • All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr – had so much potential but, just like most novels set in the WWII era, left me feeling bleak and unfulfilled. I think it’s safe to say this is not one of my favorite genres.
  • The Fold, Peter Clines – I picked this up because I recognized the author’s name from the best scifi book I’d read the last year or so. Little did I know it was a continuation of that story which had stuck with me so much. Very enjoyable read!
  • The Paper Magician, Charlie N. Holmberg – I disliked this book so much. It was very clearly written for a YA audience who cannot think critically for themselves. The concepts were intriguing but not enough detail was given for anything to be plausible and the whole thing left me feeling insulted. My daughter probably would have liked it when she was eleven. To be fair, that’s probably the intended market so there’s that.
  • Warbreaker, Brandon Sanderson – a great stand-alone read from the master of epic fantasy. He is still one of my all-time favorite authors.
  • Mao’s Last Dancer, Li Cunxin (Book Club) – it was interesting to see how poor Chinese live but the book overall was not a very compelling one.
  • Mr Mercedes, Stephen King – a good old horror novel by one of my favorite authors.
  • Being Mortal, Atul Gawande – a fantastic book about living on our own terms and dying the same way. Every person everywhere should read this book. I expected it to be a social commentary about the current hot topic of Physician Assisted Suicide or The Right to Die which I was also expected to hate. What I got instead was one of the best books about one of the hardest topics any of us will ever face. I wish I’d read this book before my Mom passed away…
  • Celeste, The Unseen #2, Johnny Worthen (ARC) – the much anticipated sequel to Eleanor which did not disappoint. Except for the fact that the third is not released yet and so I must wait.
  • The Wise Man’s Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2), Patrick Rothfuss – a much anticipated sequel that fell short for me and felt disappointingly like a setup book for the third one.
  • Altered Perceptions, short stories to benefit mental health – I bought this as part of a crowd fund campaign to benefit a local author suffering with a mental health disorder. It is a collection of well-known authors with either deleted scenes or unpublished works. I got it for the Brandon Sanderson early draft of The Way of Kings. And THEN…. It was by far one of the BEST books I’ve read in a long time. Not because of the stories themselves, but because every author included a personal essay about how mental health had touched their lives in some way. Every person everywhere should read this book! Better yet, they should just publish the author essays and that is what everyone should read. Seriously, go read this book.
  • The Brand Demand, Johnny Worthen – FABULOUS social satire set in Salt Lake City so it felt like all the politics and struggles were real. One of my favorite books of the year.
  • Bog Child, Siobhan Dowd (Book Club) – a novel set around the time of the IRA in Ireland with some interesting facts about archaeology.
  • ITIL Service Strategy – a brutal course but I passed the exam and am now certified!
  • The Dovekeepers, Alice Hoffman (Book Club) – an interesting novelization of ancient Christianity with strong female characters. I wanted to hate it but it was a good read.
  • The Archangel Agenda, A.K. Alexander & Jen Greyson – this was a light and semi-steamy read but felt like a serialized novel where just the first act of the story was included and you had to buy the second (and probably third) to get the entire story. Apparently that’s the “in” thing now for Kindle readers?
  • Cutting For Stone, Abraham Verghese (Book Club) – a very slow burn but a fantastic read with a killer ending.
  • Firefight, Brandon Sanderson – much anticipated sequel to Steelheart which Hubby and I both loved.
  • Pretty Things, Christine Haggerty – a novella retelling of a Grimm Fairytale. I’m not a huge fan of the fairy tale but this was not a bad read. Not as Grimm or as dark as I had anticipated and it was very short.

It was disappointing to count and realize I only finished twenty four books of the forty total I set out to read this year. That’s an average of two books a month which is better than years past when I struggled just to finish the book club pick each month. I consume most of my books on Audible which means this small list represents the amount of time I had over the year where it was possible to multi-task. Because of that, it still feels like an overall accomplishment for the year. Here’s to bettering it next year!


The Next Step on the Publishing Path

My latest contract pays royalties. Pays. Royalties. My first publication had all proceeds being donated so I didn’t have to worry about accounting for money coming in, or all the other intimidating things I’ve been ignoring. Like paying taxes. But now the game has changed again. It’s time to get legitimate beyond a website address and some business cards. A step that felt enormous last year when I took it.

What's Next

Now I need a business license and a business account. At least I think that’s what I need. In truth, I’m guessing on that. I know I need to figure out how to file taxes as an author before I have income as one next year. It’s amazing the things I didn’t know that I didn’t know until I got here… Time to consult the professionals who can tell me how to navigate through this uncharted territory.

I can’t wait to see what next year brings!


Back on the roller coaster – why my kidneys can kiss my a$$

It was December 2014 and I was looking forward to getting off all of my medications after a year of remission under my belt. I gleefully said goodbye to immuno-suppression drugs mid January and hoped never to look back. But the Universe is a nasty bitch and it appears I do not get my wish. Within two weeks my symptoms returned and I had to start back on maintenance drugs. Drugs which I have had to increase the dose of already hoping it works. Today my doctor laid the ground work for the potential of going back on immuno-suppression if the higher dose doesn’t keep things at bay.

I know it could be so much worse. I could be looking at chemotherapy (which she still has on the back burner just waiting for me, I fear!). I could be in renal failure looking for a transplant or facing dialysis. Instead, I’m taking a drug that has only one side effect of lowered blood pressure and won’t damage anything if I take it forever. But I’m back to living with the roller coaster of sodium restrictions, fluid restrictions (bye bye proper hydration, it felt amazing while it lasted!) and daily water weight insanity where I gain a pound a day of water until my clothes don’t fit and then take damaging diuretics for a couple of days and start the cycle all over again. I love roller coasters but this one I could do without, thanks.

People, do not take your kidneys for granted. While I’d like to tell mine to kiss my ass on a daily basis, I really would be happy if they just worked the right way every day. Can’t we all just get along inside this body of mine? It’s been two years since I’ve eaten meat (well, there was that one indulgence, but it was only a bite!), I’m a pseudo vegan who just eats cheese and butter occasionally, and I don’t eat eggs or shellfish except on extremely rare occasions. Why is that not enough? Because I’d probably have nothing to bitch about if everything worked fine, right? I can’t imagine the shape I’d be in if I wasn’t willing to go to such extremes to take care of my body the best way possible. And I can’t help but be envious of others in my gene pool who couldn’t care less about what they eat or drink and still have perfect numbers in their blood work. You know who you are. And yes, I secretly loathe you for your perfectly working kidneys that I’d give almost anything for.

If you need me, I’ll probably be asking a million questions at every meal that I don’t prepare myself to insure I’m meeting with all my dietary restrictions, or doing yoga so I don’t lose what’s left of my mind. Oh, and writing. I’ll still be writing!


Business versus Craft – the 2015 conundrum

There are only so many hours in every day, no matter how effective you are at using them wisely. I’m not sure whether it was a funk I was in over the holidays while I grieved celebrating without my mom, or a mild case of burnout. More than likely a tad bit of both. I spent the last week making a conscious effort to get myself refocused. For the first time, I wrote down writing goals for the year. Measurable ones with dates and everything. Which someone said makes them far more concrete. I’m not really a written goal kind of girl but yearly goals are part of my corporate job which shapes my efforts over the course of the year. It was not surprising to find myself in the same kind of mind-set thinking about my writing. I have taken my hobby to a professional level and it just flowed naturally to set yearly targets for productivity.

I have some lofty goals for 2015: two novels and several short stories by the end of the year.

The reality is, if I want to achieve these goals I am going to have to step things up even further this year. I’m going to have to start saying ‘No’ to things… I’ve been involved in creating a new non-profit organization the past few months and it took a lot of time. Time I could have been writing. (No surprise that I’m also on the pro tempore Board of same, right?) But it was because of my involvement with that group that my first story will be published so I have to believe it was worth it. I’ve been trying to juggle so many things that some of the balls I’ve got in the air are bound to fall on the ground, try as I might to catch them. Gone are the days where I could say yes to everything that I spontaneously thought sounded fun and then find a way to work out all the details. Now, it’s called prioritizing and I have to do it before the fact. Instead of lamenting, I’m thinking how great it is to have these business-related problems. It means I’m a professional which will help in getting to the next level. A level I can’t fathom at this point but which I welcome nonetheless.

I’m working on a new ITIL certification at my corporate job called Service Strategy (it’s an IT thing, it’s okay if you don’t know the reference, google will). One of the principles I thought fitting for my current situation is: ‘Strategy is deciding what not to do’. Basically putting what your business plans to do in perspective of what you have time, money and resources for, and what you don’t.  I never thought I’d be using my corporate job skills in my writing career but here I am, doing exactly that. Hours of time to allot for writing is the most precious of commodities right now for me. I can either use them for writing or networking or marketing or creating new and exciting ventures that benefit the community and advocate literacy. But I won’t have the time to devote to each of them that I want. Maybe I’ll win the lottery and I won’t need the corporate job anymore. I find myself day dreaming about how much I could get done at work if my only job was my writing. But I can’t dwell on things as unlikely as wining the lottery.

As a result of my introspection, you won’t see me at FanX, probably not at ComicCon either. Plus, I’m being selective on which writing conferences I attend this year. Because that gives me three more weekends to devote to marathon writing sessions where I practice the craft that helps me excel in my business. Truth is: without my craft, there is no business. If I’m not writing and producing products intended for consumers, all the rest of my networking and marketing efforts will be fruitless in the end.

Now, more than ever, if you need me I’ll be writing. I’ll sure miss watching football, since I’ve already given up the rest of television. Perhaps I should buy stock in a coffee supplier just for safe measure? I will certainly need my share of caffeine in the coming months while I watch 2015 unfold. Stick around, there’s always hindsight when we can’t have a crystal ball!