Tag Archives: Live the life you love

Advice and perspective from my younger self

One of the best things about Facebook is the “On This Day” feature. This week, my memories included a bit of irony from a previous post two years ago. I was deep in the throws of a serious pity party about how much time I hadn’t gotten that week to write while I was deep in the first draft stage of my latest novel. I gave myself the permission to be too busy that week of life getting in the way, sharing the epiphany that every week is not the same and sometimes you aren’t productive. And it’s okay.

Today I look back and laugh at how silly I was and what I thought the picture of “busy” was back then. That was before I was in leadership in the League of Utah Writers. Before I planned large conferences for hundreds of people in my spare time. Before I had returned to school full time. Before I had two kids on a dance team. Before I was a manager at the day job. Before I had an hour commute each way to work every day…

The lesson is the same now as it was then, just the perspective has shifted. If I could go back in time to those blissful days full of all the time in the world to write if I didn’t have anything else scheduled I would be hard pressed to turn it down. But when I’m being honest with myself, I have a much fuller life now thanks to all the things I have added in the past couple of years and I likely wouldn’t change a thing.

Doing all the things is also much easier with a solid support system. I’ve added a level of insanity while I finish my degree but I have traded away the cooking, grocery shopping, laundry and house cleaning to others in order to do it. Most of that now falls on my children and my ever-indulgent and uber-supportive husband who is my biggest fan cheering me on while he takes up the slack. Today, I remind everyone who’s watching that you never know what you’re capable of until you stretch yourself to the furthest limits in pursuit of your dreams. Just protect yourself from burnout and maintain balance in all things. Once that’s achieved, you’re unstoppable.


Lessons Learned: The Adult College Life, Overachiever Version

If you’ve been with me on this journey of mine for any amount of time, you know I pride myself in being an overachiever. I’ve always been driven and when I find something I want, I make it happen. I don’t know how, it’s just the way I’m wired.

A current glimpse of the large things I’m juggling include full time job where I daily get handed new processes to develop from nothing, motherhood/parenting/spouse duties otherwise known as adulting, full time college, League of Utah Writers chapter president and state board duties including developing a new position for conference committee chairman, finishing my current novel. This is my baseline as I like to think of it.

I’m halfway through my second term of college – the one big thing that I’ve added and arguably the biggest thing I’ve taken on in a while. Terms are 9 weeks long, with one class at a time considered part time, two classes full time. The first term I eased in with a single class – English Composition I. It took a few weeks to figure out how to adjust my schedule and allow enough study time to complete the assignments on time but the material was easy-peasy. Because it was writing. By midterms I was feeling like a pro and I sailed through the rest of the term.

Arguably this probably gave me a false sense of how “easy” it was going to be to transition to full time the next term.

Second term (the one I’m currently in the middle of) I took the planned leap and committed to full time. Honestly I don’t know if I can maintain this load, but I also don’t want to have to deal with school for longer than I have to so I’m sucking it up and dealing with the insanity in order to get it done as quickly as possible. What did my counselor and I determine would be the best options for me? The only things left in my first year requirements, of course. What were these two classes? English Composition II – how hard could it be given how easy the first one was – and Applied Finite Mathmatics – the one and only required math class I have.

You can see how I was lulled into a false sense of how easy this term was going to be, can’t you? What I have found is that it is NOTHING like I thought it would be. My second English Comp class is a research paper – which doubled how long it takes to do every assignment compared to last term. And math? Math that was touted as the easiest option for me is like having to learn a foreign language. And has lectures that doubled the amount of time I had anticipated I would need for each week.

All this gave me a level of stress the first week that I’m sure you can imagine. I thought I knew but I didn’t know and it took a couple of weeks to adjust – again – to what my expectations were compared to the reality that I had.

Which is when my inability to say no came back to bite me in the ass. Hard.

Ten months ago – long before I ever dreamed I’d be back in college – I said yes to something and then promptly forgot about it since it was a future project. Plenty of time to think about it later. In other words, perfect storm perfectly set up.

Week three of this, my first full-time term, corresponded to the deadline of this project I’d committed to last year. In a week of school insanity, I had to also read 500 pages of writing to judge the submissions most worthy, in my opinion, to be included in an anthology. In fairness, I had two weeks to complete this reading but I burned the first week suffering from my annual fall-allergies-feels-like-a-cold sickness that had me completely unproductive.

I got through it but not without missing many of my deadlines. Two of my assignments were late and I blew the deadline for my selections to the editor by almost a week. But I got it all done. I had many a meltdown and felt completely overwhelmed on too many occasions that week, but I got it done. My children and husband survived, barely, despite the raging stress-ball of crazy that the uber-sleep deprived version of me turned into.

Lesson learned: don’t put off thinking of the future projects that are looming when you’re operating this close to the upper limit of capacity every day. I’m now pouring over my memory banks for other time bombs of “yes, I can do that and I’ll think about the ‘how’ later” that might be waiting for me up ahead.

For now, I’m afloat, and optimistic that I really can do all of this, even though – for the first time ever – I wake up in the morning and wonder if I’ve bitten off more than I am capable of this time. Stay tuned for updates!

 


Bittersweet Priorities

It was exactly a year ago I was making official appearances at events like Steamfest and gearing up for Comic Con – approaching now in three weeks. Instead of being at Steamfest this weekend with many of my writing friends, I was fulfilling commitments to family and friends. It’s tempting to look at a small snapshot – this time last year vs. this year – and be sad that I’m missing out.

In the past year, I had another story published, became highly involved in the League of Utah Writers, and continued writing. I was promoted at my day job, returned to college and now have two competitive dancing daughters instead of one. But I’m not at Steamfest and I’m not scheduled as a special guest at Comic Con.

It is tempting to wallow in all the fun that I’m missing. Fear that my absence at these events this year will look to the public like I was some kind of flash in the pan that has already faded away. All very human nature reactions.

I’d be lying if I didn’t have moments of these kinds of fears.

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However, I’m also a realist who is very good at pulling myself up by the boot strings (or putting on my big girl panties if you prefer that cliche over the other) whenever those moments creep up on me.

No, I was not a guest at Steamfest this weekend. No, I am not a scheduled guest at Comic Con this year.

BUT…

I AM almost done writing one kick ass novel – if I don’t say so myself. One that at least one acquisitions editor already wants to see when it’s finished. It isn’t my first novel, but it is the first I’m proud enough of to find an agent and a publisher for. This alone is epic.

I just successfully facilitated one of the premier events of the summer for the League of Utah Writers – an advanced workshop on querying that brought together professional agents and editors to give inside secrets to others like me ready to find homes for their work.

I am on the planning committee for the League of Utah Writers Fall Conference coming up next month. It will be a two-day conference unlike any the organization has put on before. Two full days of presentations from industry professionals with new and exciting content that no one has seen before in the Utah writing community.

My chapter of speculative fiction writers is still growing and folks who come to check us out seem to stick around. It’s a sign that we are offering all the things that I was looking for in a local community group several years ago, back when I was at the cusp of being published and needing to leave my solitary writer existence. This writer gig is a lonely life but it doesn’t have to be. I’m thrilled that, for some, our group is a beacon in the dark while on their own journey.

I’m going to attend Comic Con, helping represent both the League and our local chapter of the Horror Writers Association, but I have to pay my way in the door. So what. I’m also not obligated to dress up in cosplay which was never my thing to begin with.

My husband, who is not only supportive but exceedingly indulgent when it comes to all the time I take away from our family to make my dreams of being an author a reality, is also my voice of reason. Recently, while I was lamenting that I wasn’t going to be at all the events this year, he reminded me that I’ve been doing more important work that none of the rest of it would matter without: I’ve been writing. And I need to keep doing that more than I need to go to events.

The life of a writer is a mental exercise of self-motivation, full of more rejection than success. The drive to keep going when the odds are stacked as highly as they are against every one of us is enviable. If you have it, even a tiny inkling of it, it must be nurtured.

Instead of worrying or obsessing about all the differences that this weekend has over last year, I’m focusing on what my main goal is: novels with my name on the cover. As long as what I do every day, every week, puts me further down the path that leads there, then I’m doing the right things.

As bittersweet as it is, I know that not being at Steamfest or Comic Con doesn’t mean I’m not still doing the things that matter. Without having written books that people want to read, there’s no reason for me to be there anyway. So I’ll keep plugging along. My fear of missing out be damned!


World Horror Con 2016 Schedule

Here’s my schedule of appearances at World Horror next weekend.

Thursday, April 28th

2:00-3:00pm – Utah Horror (Come see how the horror scene has grown in Utah and where it’s going.)

8:15-9:15pm – Steampunk and Horror: A match made in hell (What is Steampunk Horror, how do you write it and how do you twist the two effectively.)

10:00-Midnight – Utah Horror Writers Party in the Con-Suite – Welcome to Utah!

Friday, April 29th

7:15-9:45PM – Book Signing

10:00-Midnight (Co-Hosting) League of Utah Writers Party in the Con-Suite – come mix and mingle with local authors

 

When I’m not making official appearances, I’ll be around – either manning a table for registration, selling books and talking about Utah Horror Writers Association, or answering questions about The League of Utah Writers.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to have an official schedule of appearances at an event of this magnitude. It’s almost unreal but then I remember that I’m living my dreams… Hope to see you there!


World Horror Con 2016 – I’m a panelist!

World Horror Con is just around the corner – two weeks away now. I’ve been excited about this Convention for a long time. Horror is really my home and this is the first World Horror in my backyard. I’ve know for six months that I would be attending both to help promote the Utah Horror Writers Association chapter and the League of Utah Writers. This week I learned that I’ll also be a panelist. Proof that the answer is always ‘no’ unless you ask. This is the year of putting myself outside my comfort zone as a professional author and it’s paying off all over the place. I don’t have the final programming line up but I’ll share it when I do.

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The convention is closely associated with the Horror Writer’s Association so, thanks to my membership, I’ve been heavily involved as a volunteer on the convention committee behind the scenes. It’s fascinating to see how something of this magnitude is planned and how many people it takes to pull it off. There are some amazing folks giving a lot of their time to make this a fabulous event.

I’m also a party organizer with The League of Utah Writers. If you’re attending, make sure you pencil in the Friday night party to mix and mingle with local authors. It’s going to be great fun.

If you’re planning on attending World Horror, make sure you say hello. I’ll be the extroverted writer talking to everyone!


My First Royalty Statement

I reached another milestone today in my journey as a professional author: my very first royalty statement! Proof that I’m earning money from my writing. The first story I published has all proceeds going to charity so this milestone is a bit late in coming, but I am still thrilled at its arrival. Of course the money I’ve made in the six weeks since the release isn’t enough to warrant the publisher cutting me a check yet. But I’ve earned money, and that’s what really counts. Especially in this business where getting published is often easier than getting readership, which is the most important part.

If you’re a reader partially responsible for this milestone, because you bought and read my story in It Came From the Great Salt Lake, I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Part of me wants to stop the hard work of novel writing and pump out another couple of instantly gratifying short stories for upcoming publications. I’m refraining. If I ever want to take the next step: a novel with my name on the cover and no one else’s, I must stick to the hard stuff. Current stats put me at forty percent complete on my first draft (assuming I can tell the story in sixty thousand words). If you need me, I’ll be writing!


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!


Learning to Say No

I believe I’ve found the next lesson the Universe is trying to force feed me.

I cannot do everything as I have always done. My days feel shorter, my nights more jam packed with activities and commitments, and I’m consistently bombarded with new offers and new projects. My first reaction is to say yes immediately, then figure out how to fit whatever it is into my project plan that somehow, amid all the chaos, resembles a satisfying life.

I’m impulsive that way. I always have been.

Here’s the reality: The project plan is full. Constraints cannot be overcome by throwing more money or resources at them. There are no more resources in reserve. Unless someone has invented a time machine that automatically doubles the hours available to me every day. In which case, I haven’t heard the news yet.

Which means I have to start prioritizing, balancing all the things I want to do and would love to do with realistic expectations of what I am capable of doing without losing my marbles.

Is my volunteer work within a professional writing organization paying the right dividends to justify the time spent away from my actual writing?

Is my time away from my family pursuing my writing career being spent in worthwhile ways?

Was I completely insane when I thought I could have a full time job, be a wife and mother and be a professional author on top of it all?

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I wish I had a crystal ball!

I don’t know the answers, I do know that summer has been hectic. I’ve got a couple of short stories to show for all the insanity but the novel is still not finished. Time to ramp up the efforts and get rigid with my time. ‘I can sleep when I’m dead’ has become my mantra.

It’s time to learn how to say No.

The closer I whittle the things that make up my life down to the things that matter most, the harder it is to cut away without damaging the gems underneath. At the end of the day, I’m left with knowing that just because I’m capable of doing anything I set out to do, that doesn’t mean everything I attempt will make me happy. Sometimes it’s too hard to fit it into what I’m already doing and the right answer in that moment will be No. No matter how cool it sounds, or how fun I imagine it will be.

In related news… watch for upcoming announcements about the next big thing I’ve got cooking and currently taking most of my free time. Hint: it’s happening at Salt Lake Comic Con.


Living vs. Surviving

Survival is one of those instinctual things. Most people find a way to do it every day without thinking about it. Some are more resilient than others and some take more effort to grab at the bootstraps before pulling themselves up by them. My most recent epiphany is that there is a difference between living and merely surviving day to day. Sometimes, you don’t realize you’ve slipped into survival mode and assume you’re still in the land of the living.

For safety reasons, I’ve been intentionally quiet in the public domain about how for years Hubby has worked a night shift job. Eight years, in fact. The first four years it was only every other month, which made it seem far less invasive on our everyday living arrangements. Shift work being what it is, we’d get completely fed up with being ships crossing twice a day to hand off parenting responsibilities. Usually right about that time he’d rotate and get a month of reprieve on the day shift. Four years ago, when the economy took a downward plunge for the entire country, his company had layoffs. We felt lucky – even grateful – at the time. Even though he had the least seniority, they chose to keep him on. But part of that meant there wasn’t an extra day shift to switch off the schedule with and he had to be on dedicated night shift. Six PM to six AM, four days a week.

We had a baby, but we had an amazing nanny with a flexible schedule which made it easy to roll with the punches. We had an older kid with a full dance card, pun intended, but we could still manage. I took on the role of single parent during the week and was grateful that Daddy was home all afternoon for quality one-on-one time with the kids after he woke up. We all had to figure out how to be extremely quiet inside the house at all hours of the day because “Daddy is sleeping”. As the years wore on, slowly our nerves started fraying. We didn’t notice, it was just how life was. And one day we knew it would get better. It had to.

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We combated the separation of schedules by setting aside one night a week devoted, without fail, to family night. Vacations became about reconnecting with each other rather than just relaxing and seeing new places. Night shift and the accompanied sleep deprivation ate away at all the normalcy of life as we knew it. Did you know there are studies about nurses who work the night shift that prove it takes years off of your life? As you might expect, the stress of attempting to maintain a normal life started to eat away at both of us. One day, I realized this wasn’t a life we were living but one we were merely surviving; and immediately started planning for a way out.

Planning, after all, is what I do.

Those plans have paid off with a switch to day shift and a new job. The results were immediate in the level of happiness and relief that washed over the entire family. Having Daddy home at night, instead of kissing him goodbye just as Mommy got home from work, is so much better for the girls. Getting to sleep at the same time all week long without one of us either having to stay up super late or go to bed super early is a novelty I didn’t realize I’d taken so for granted before. A full night of sleep, at night, when the rest of the world is asleep, and your body is programmed to do it, makes a huge difference for health and happiness that I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t seen it for myself.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of surviving instead of living. Even me, the girl who is so focused on making every day count, found myself there. Another cautionary tale about how important it is to stop once in a while and take stock of your life. In the words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.”


Kids, unscripted

I took a couple of weeks off from everything for a family vacation in paradise. Trying to get back into the swing of things after a Hawaiian vacation that ended in a nasty cold has been challenging. Yesterday, I saw something fun going around in Facebook land and thought it would be an entertaining glimpse into my life. My children did not disappoint…

Instructions were this: WITHOUT any prompting, ask your child these questions and write down EXACTLY what they say. It is a great way to find out what they really think. I asked both of them alone so they couldn’t be influenced by the other person’s answers. It was funny what they got right, what they had no clue about and what they were completely wrong about. Enjoy!

Baby Sister, 5

  1. What is something Mom always says to you? Um… that I’m cute
  2. What makes mom happy? Um…when she is sick I always hug her and make her feel better
  3. What makes mom sad? Um.. I don’t know
  4. How does your mom make you laugh? Tickling me!
  5. What was your mom like as a child? I don’t know
  6. How old is your mom? 43?
  7. What is her favorite thing to do? Um… I don’t know
  8. How tall is your mom? I don’t know
  9. What does your mom do when you’re not around? Work
  10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for? For your kid
  11. What is your mom really good at? Yoga
  12. What is your mom not very good at? Um… watering trees
  13. What does your mom do for a job? Writer
  14. What is your mom’s favorite food? Bananas
  15. What makes you proud of your mom? When she does stuff I want her to do
  16. If your mom were a character, who would she be? Um.. Snow White or Ariel
  17. What do you and your mom do together? Um… go to the park?
  18. How are you and your mom the same? We have the same skin
  19. How are you and your mom different? We have different hair!
  20. How do you know your mom loves you? Because she always tells me!
  21. What does your mom like most about your dad? They married (giggles)
  22. Where is your mom’s favorite place to go? I don’t know – where is your favorite place to go?
  23. How old was your mom when she had you? I don’t know!

Big Sister, 13

1. What is something Mom always says to you? Clean your room
2. What makes mom happy? Getting good grades
3. What makes mom sad? Not getting good grades (chuckle)
4. How does your mom make you laugh? Telling me I’m a stinker bear
5. What was your mom like as a child? Um… aggressive.
6. How old is your mom? 43
7. What is her favorite thing to do? Write
8. How tall is your mom? 5’ 3”
9. What does your mom do when you’re not around? Write
10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for? Writing
11. What is your mom really good at? Writing
12. What is your mom not very good at? Um.. dancing
13. What does your mom do for a job? Works in IT
14. What is your mom’s favorite food? Pasta
15. What makes you proud of your mom? That she believes in me
16. If your mom were a character, who would she be? Ariel
17. What do you and your mom do together? Sing in the car
18. How are you and your mom the same? We both have thick hair
19. How are you and your mom different? Hmm… hmmm… how are we different. (taps chin) We are different because I got to dance when I was younger and she didn’t.
20. How do you know your mom loves you? She tells me every day.
21. What does your mom like most about your dad? His attitude
22. Where is your mom’s favorite place to go? Hawaii
23. How old was your mom when she had you? 30

So while Big Sister accurately knew my day job, Baby Sister only knows the job she sees me doing at home. I asked them why they both thought I would be Ariel because that surprised me. Big Sister said it was because I was determined, Baby Sister said it was because I had red hair. I guess they are both right. Surprising moments included when Big Sister knew that I was aggressive as a child and that I had always wanted to dance when I was younger. She must have been paying attention a lot more often than I think. I think it is a personal victory that I have embraced celebrating my age number ticking up every year when they both knew exactly how old I am. I have no idea why Baby Sister thinks I’m not any good at watering trees but I love that to her “I don’t know” is a valid answer to any question. I hope she never loses that. Very favorite answer from both of them? Knowing that they both know how much I love them because I tell them. Every. Day. On tap as we head into summer? More trips to the park and singing in the car together.