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This year…

Today is the 29th of December, just a few short days to go. While social media is a buzz with yet another celebrity death, and all the terrible things that have happened, I am going to look back on the good things. You don’t need me to remind you of anything bad that happened, I’m sure. Just read Facebook or Twitter for that.

On the good front…

My daughters moved out a few months ago. That has been a huge change in our lives. It’s quieter around the house, less arguing (though my son still likes to try and push back against us.) I can wake up most mornings to an empty house, and it’s marvelous!

Gregg has been doing such an awesome job with his leather work that he started getting commissions. He also started streaming on Twitch occasionally, which has made for a few changes around the house to accommodate that. But it’s worth it!

I got a new job six months ago, which was great for my piece of mind, and our house fund. Not great for my time schedule. I had been writing consistently for a while, and after the new job happened I had to figure that out again. Six months later I have (mostly) got it under control again. Now it’s just a matter of prioritizing things.

mirrorminiSpeaking of writing, I just published a new book. The Mirror. Judy inherited a house, and she found a mirror in the attic, but there’s something dark and sinister lurking inside the silvered glass.

I actually wrote this a while ago, and sent it out to my mailing list at the time. I have since rewritten it, adding parts, removing others, and generally making it better. At least I hope so.

All together I published a novel and three short stories this year. The Mirror, The Scarab Necklace, Witch’s Stand and Witch’s Sight. Also the boxed set for the Witch’s Trilogy. I also wrote nearly a quarter million words this year. No a bad year. I’d like to see what I can do with this coming year. I have a bunch of almost complete projects that I’d like to finish, and publish…now to put action to thought.

I also took my first flight. Looking down on the world from 39,000 feet. Everything seems so small and far away. It makes you feel a bit more insignificant. And then you’re landing, making your way through the airport, and realizing just how insignificant you really are to the other 7 billion people in the world.

In among all the good things, there were a few bad ones. And I mean the personal ones, not the ones listed on social media. Those are for better pundits to exam. For now I’m going to focus on the good, and remember that things have been worse. Things have been dark and bleak and at one point I really had no hope. But life changed, and I changed with it. And the same thing is happening with everyone else around me.

Here’s to 2017, the new hope. And the good, and bad, of 2016. May we learn from our experiences, and keep moving forward.

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2016 in On Writing

 

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Thankful

It’s 2am the morning after Thanksgiving. I have left over turkey in the fridge, and my children are all safe and sound in their homes. It was a beautiful day with family, and I am forever grateful for it.

Thanksgiving is an odd holiday who’s origins aren’t exactly pleasant. I know a lot of people choose to not celebrate it, and I can understand why, but I think today, above all days, I was thankful for something approaching normal.

For the last few months things have been ugly in many places. Friends and family fighting and bickering over politics, a subject that use to be taboo. Even disowning, or refusing to speak to each other because they didn’t agree with each other. I know a few people have cut me out for similar reasons, which made me sad.

So having a family tradition were we sit together, enjoy good food, and talk about the pleasant things in life was an invaluable experience. We remembered that we had each other, no matter what happened outside the walls of our home. We could rely on one another, and be there for each other. We could be thankful for having that hope. Even in the darkest times you need that lamp post that guides you through the dark. Some visible sign that helps you keep on the path you choose for yourself.

I don’t know what the future holds. But I hold onto the light, and try to hope for a better tomorrow.

I am grateful for the people I hold dear, and hopeful for the future because I know there are so many of us out there who just want the best for our fellow humans. Even if we can’t always agree what “the best” is.

Maybe I’m a bit naive. Maybe I’m simplifying things. But the world has become very complicated in some ways, and a little simplification can help us understand our part in it all. I am one of 7 billion people in the world. My path is my own, and I can’t let anyone else choose it for me. Nor can my small thread make a huge impact on the billions around me. At least not yet.

Wherever you are, and whatever is happening in your life, I hope you find that light to help you down the path of your own life. A lifeline to keep you afloat even when the world is trying to pull you under. And I hope you find a way to see the good in those around you, even when you disagree.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2016 in Personal Notes

 

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Almost done, and scared

I’m close to finishing book three in my Witch’s Trilogy. This has taken me almost a year and a half to complete. What started as a simple 80,000 word stand alone novel has become a 230,000 word trilogy, something I never thought I could write. I mean the first novel I wrote (which was terrible) took five years. This took 18 months for all three! That’s crazy.

And yet as I get closer to the end I find myself getting scared. Scared to finish. Scared to succeed. But mostly terrified that it will fail. It makes it difficult to write sometimes, but I do it anyway. A few words here, a few sentences there, trying to get to the end even though a big part of me is afraid of doing so. And I know it’s stupid to be afraid.

For the last couple of years I’ve made some great friends, watched them write novels and make a small (or sometimes big) following for themselves. And they’ve done well. I’m happy for them, and I’ve tried to learn from their examples but it all seems to come back to “write more good books. Eventually something will get through.”

Oh, they do other things like ads on facebook and book bub, but mostly they just write good books and keep putting them out there. No wonder they have lots of readers.

So I’ve been telling myself that with the third book I can finally have a trilogy out, three complete novels, and I might be able to do a bit of advertising. But as the time gets closer I realize that… it doesn’t work like that. Oh sure, I could do some advertising (and I will) but really, in the end it might not even matter. Sometimes getting people to pay attention to what you made is just a matter of the right time at the right place.

So I’m afraid that I’ll put up the third book and I won’t sell a single copy. I shouldn’t be afraid of that, not if I really just want to write. But there it is. That gnawing fear.

Here’s the truth: whether I sell a thousand books, or one, or even zero…I’m going to keep writing. I love telling stories, and building worlds. I love seeing what happens to my characters. So I know I shouldn’t care if this book sells anything since I’m going to keep doing it anyway.

But I also know it’s nice to have some validation that what I say matters to someone. And I don’t know where to get that validation. I suppose I should figure that out soon, because it probably won’t come from sales any time soon.

After this last book in the trilogy I’m going to go back to making my own covers, and probably shorter works because editing can get expensive, but I will continue to write. And I won’t feel the pressure to finish them like I do with this one because I won’t have invested so much money into them… just time, and me. I think I’d rather invest myself in my books then money anyway.

Anyway, time to get back to the writing. Fear or not, I want to finish it. Even if no one ever reads it I need to say that I finished it.

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2016 in Commentary

 

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Creativity and Depression

I was listening to the recent Author Strong Podcast where Nancy talks about her battle with getting the words out now that she quit her day job. She took a leap of faith, and now she has to deal with her depression trying to assert itself.

I listened as she stumbled, trying to explain to Matt (a very cheerful and go for it type of person) why it was easier to say “do this to work around it” then it was to actually do it. And I saw myself reflecting back at me.

I’ve dealt with depression for as long as I can remember. As a teen I had school, and sisters to help pull me from it. When I got married I had the children to help. In the last six years I’ve been happier then I’ve ever been with a new life, a great boyfriend, a supportive family, and an outlet for my creativity. And yet for the last month I’ve had that old beast, depression, rearing it’s ugly head.

I know what’s causing it. I know what I need to do to make it shut up and stop all the self doubt and whispers in my head that I’m not worthwhile. But that doesn’t make it easy.

For creativity, this is horrible. Every time I sit down to write I have to talk myself into it. Not just the act of writing, but the act of sitting at the computer for anything other than playing a game or checking email. Just opening the files so that I can read through them is a huge stress when depression starts whispering to me, and it’s not always easy. When I do start to clunk away at the keys sometimes I can write, other times I will put down a few words before the whispers in my head telling me I’m not good enough, I’ll never get anywhere with this, I’ll never finish, get too loud for me to write anymore. I’ll get up, do something else, change perspective, but I simply can’t continue on with that work…yet.

I sent a tweet out yesterday that said “Depression is a lying bastard.” It’s a common refrain now, a reminder that all the whispers in my head are wrong. I am worth it, I will finish, I am stronger than I seem. All those things and more.

Someone replied “I don’t believe in depression.” I don’t know if he meant it as a joke, or he honestly doesn’t believe in it. It really didn’t matter why he said it. I looked at the tweet and all I could think was: “Man, I’d love to have the luxury of being able to dismiss depression as nonexistent.”

In some ways knowing what’s wrong, and why my creativity is floundering, helps me get through it. I can write a blog post, or tell Gregg about the things going through my head, and things tend to die down for a little bit. Sometimes. Other times I can’t seem to break free from the cycle. Even while writing this blog post I had a moment where I could not pull myself from the destructive thoughts.

If you think of the brain like millions of chemical reactions going off all over the curves of your cerebellum then it is easier to see how one miss fire could trigger a cascade effect that can run out of control sometimes. Thoughts that keep repeating themselves, destructive thoughts that keep cycling over and over, a lack of will because it is simply easier to avoid new things than deal with that destructiveness.

We do have some control over the chemical processes in our minds. There are techniques and medications we can use to lower certain hormones which cause the more harmful problems. But not all of us have access to medications, and the techniques aren’t effective 100% of the time.

How do you explain depression to someone who doesn’t have it, or someone who thinks it’s “all in your head”? I don’t know. I have trouble describing it to myself some days.

But I will continue to sit down at the keyboard and try to write, even when the chemicals in my brain don’t want me to, because this is important to me.

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2015 in On Writing

 

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At the bottom…

This morning I got a very big reminder of where I came from, an how much farther I still have to go.

One of my customers at my day job came in and confessed she was homeless and struggling just to try and keep her things from being auctioned off. She’s been struggling for a while, and you can tell from talking to her that she’s frazzled, and losing hope. I don’t know how she got to her situation, or if there was anything she could do to stop it. But I did see how other people reacted to her, and I can’t even say I’m that surprised.

I hate selling customers units most of the time. I’ve had them on the phone with me crying their eyes out, begging for me to stop the auction and it really sucks. But I also know how freeing it can be for a person. After the lose, after the heart ache, they lose a huge chunk of stress from their plate, and they don’t have to worry about that bill that’s been keeping them behind every month. It doesn’t feel like a good thing when it’s happening, but eventually, I hope, they realize that it was a good thing.

This particular customer in her frazzled haze reminded me of me. I was in her situation once. We were evicted from our apartment, lost our car, and were down to two hundred bucks a month to just try and sustain a family of five. We couldn’t even get food stamps or health care for a while because we “made too much.”

And they were right. We did make too much. My ex had a job, and the total on that pay check should have paid all the bills. But when the courts garnish your wages for medical bills due to life saving surgeries, and  child support, there isn’t much left for the family living under your roof.

We were homeless. We had a tent that we pitched in his sisters front lawn and let the kids have a camp out. Slept on couches. Showered in someone else bathroom. Ate out of cans. Eventually got a tiny airstream trailer to stay in out on his mothers property with no water, no electricity, and no septic. And we made it work for two years while we got a bankruptcy for the medical bills, and tried to make things work.

No one understands how hard it is to come back from being homeless. “Get a better job” they say. Hell, the case worker for his child support told him to get a second job since the first one wasn’t paying enough to live off and pay his child support. They failed to take into account that if he made more money the state would take more each month for child support. Some people suggested that I get a job, and failed to realize that any job I had would go into paying for child care and there would be nothing to take care of the house with. Basically I’d be out at a “real job” instead of spending time with my children so someone else could care for my children. It was pointless.

Once we finally got all the court issues taken care of, and finally got our finances stable we tried finding an actual place to live. One with running water, a fridge, and a toilet that flushed. You have no idea how much those things matter until you don’t have them. Just being able to buy and keep fresh meat, or fruits and veggies for longer then a few hours saved us so much money. Being able to soak in a tub instead of a quick solar shower made me feel so clean. And AC! It was 120 degrees for a lot of the summer and we had no AC. It was amazing to finally get it again.

But I jumped ahead a little bit. I said we were looking for an apartment, but the apartments were too expensive. Most of them wouldn’t even let us live there because we had an eviction on our record. They didn’t care how we got it, or what happened, they just didn’t want to risk having to evict us too. We searched for a while, trying to find anyone that would take a chance on us. Eventually we found a little RV place that let us rent an RV from them. With a large down payment. I think the manager let us move in because she felt sorry for the children.

Every step of the way out of homelessness took help. We did eventually get some food stamps. I hated using those things but it was the only thing that made feeding ourselves without a working fridge manageable. It was expensive to buy food every day. Not to mention the fact we lived an hour from town down a tiny dirt road that flooded in the winter.

The point was… it took the kindness of people who didn’t know us to get back on our feet. Someone helped us. Someone offered a place to stay. Someone else offered a little gas. Someone else took us in when the worst of the heat hit so we didn’t get heat stroke. Someone else helped us make sure the children got home from school walking down the mile long dirt road. We made it.

And that’s what I told my customer today. That I made it, and so can she. I encouraged her to take help from anyone who offered it, and try whatever she could to get ahead. I told her that losing her storage wouldn’t be the end, even though it felt like it, and that she’d overcome it.

She thanked me. I hoped it helped knowing someone else had been there, and she could do it too. I know it helped to remind me of where I’d been, and how far I’d come.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2015 in Personal Notes

 

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Some days you’re the bug

LiesThere’s a song I use to listen to when I was younger… Some day’s your the windshield, someday’s your the bug. That’s how I’m feeling tonight.

Depression is this weird thing that we all know about. We just don’t talk about it. It’s anathema. Are we afraid we’ll catch it if we acnoledge it? It’s like we’re afraid that if we are broken then we can never be fixed again and no one will ever love us. But it’s mostly that way for mental illness. If you break a bone, or cut your arm, no one bats an eye. You get a cast, and people sign it. You tell awesome stories about how you rolled  your bike down a hill and had this awesome, amazing adventure.

But depression doesn’t have amazing stories. It has heart wrenching hurt filled stories. Sometimes it has no stories at all, it’s just there. Then it whispers in your ear and tells you how worthless and useless you are. It circles around your, slowly squeezing out all rays of light and leaving you in a dark passage trying to find your way.

I’ve struggled with depression for most of my life. It started when I was a teenager unable to find that basic thing we are all looking for: love. I wasn’t battered or beaten. I wasn’t called horrible names very often. Mostly our parents just left us alone to fend for ourselves. No matter how good I was I could never get their attention. Not even after I moved away and got married. They just weren’t that interested in me.

That crushing burden of being alone, it eats into you. Add to it the lack of friends, the complete awkwardness of a general teenage girl, the fact that I always wore hand me downs and no one ever noticed me except when they teased me. You’re set adrift in the world, lost, and no one to catch you.

Just before my divorce I hit rock bottom. I lost everything, including my children, and I almost jumped off a building. Oh I thought about suicide lots of times. The earliest I can remember was 14 drawing pictures of myself falling off a cliff onto rocky outcroppings. Then during my marriage to a husband who treated me as an inconvenience most of the time and liked to remind me constantly of how useless and worthless I was it just got worse.

Getting divorced saved me. I was able to get out of the depression, and the suicidal thoughts left. I had hope. Hope was all I ever needed. Being alone was a blessing after that marriage.

But now and then the depression creeps back in, whispers in my ear, and reminds me how worthless and useless I am. It’s been whispering for a few weeks now. That I never finish anything, that I never get anywhere. That I’ll never be good enough or concomitant enough. That no matter how hard I try no one will ever respect me or care about me.

I hate those whispers. I usually curl up in Gregg’s lap and he reminds me how much I am loved and wanted, but he isn’t home right now so I am writing a blog post and I am reminding myself. Depression is a lying bastard! I am worthwhile. I am creative. I am a wonderful person. And it might take a while, but by damn someone is going to love my books.

If you’re in that spot now I hope you know… Depression lies. Whatever it’s whispering to you in the dark, it isn’t true. Tell someone, let them know what it’s saying and they will tell you the truth.

It’s hard to feel worth while when everything is falling down around you. It’s hard to believe in yourself when life has been so hard. I know. I’ve been there. Life has kicked me and punched me and left me lying on the ground bleeding. All we can do is get back up, and say Depression Lies.

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2015 in Commentary

 

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When Hobbies become Jobs

I started writing a blog post and I realized I had a whole other thing on my mind, so I needed to write about that.

I’ve been following the Self Publishing Podcast for a while now. Long enough to watch Garrett go from fan, to writer with a day job, to full time writer, to writing full time and making a full living. It’s been an interesting thing to see. And Garrett is my friend, so I might be privy to things that aren’t necessarily on the podcasts we do.

What’s more, he isn’t the only author I’ve watched go through this transition. It’s a long hard road to go through. I’m hoping that I’ll start down that road myself soon.

At the moment my day job doesn’t interfere with my writing. I write mostly at night, and jot down a few notes every day at work. It works well. Part of me is actually afraid that if I quit my job I will lose my momentum to write.

Today was my day off. You’d think on a day off I could write more. But instead I played games, watched some youtube, and created some more resin charms. I did my hobbies, in other words, instead of what I am increasingly seeing as my “job”. Not working at the storage place, but rather writing my novels.

Many of us have this idea that if we could just do our hobby for a living we would always love our job and it wouldn’t be work. Maybe for some people that’s true, but there is also a great deal of work to go into it. And if you are self publishing, or creating your own store, then you have even more work. Marketing, packaging, analyzing, distribution.. you name it. It’s work.

It doesn’t make it less rewarding. Writing a novel is infinity easier on my body than digging a ditch, or power washing a gas station parking lot (both things I’ve done.) But writing a novel can be tough. Sometimes it’s emotionally draining to write emotional scenes. Some days you just want to give up when the words don’t come. Sometimes you’re frustrated because it seems like your words are falling on deaf ears. Maybe it doesn’t hurt you physically, but it can break you emotionally.

When writing started to become my career path instead of just a hobby I started taking up other hobbies to replace it. Crafting, gaming on twitch, reading more. Things I’ve always enjoyed, but things that require less brain power to accomplish. Sometimes you just need a break.

making your hobby into your career isn’t a magic button. It does not make you instantly happy, though I bet it’s an amazing feeling to tell your boss you quit (something I won’t be doing for another year or three.) It’s probably wonderful to be free of corporate pressures to produce, sell, achieve. But you’re replacing it with your own pressure to produce, sell, and achieve.

The real difference, the thing I want more then anything, is that instead of working for some nameless corporation that doesn’t give two nickels about you personally, for a job you aren’t even sure will be there next year or next week, you are working for yourself. When things get bad you have no one to blame but you. When you don’t work no one will complain but you (and maybe your readers.)

Making your hobby into a job is still a job. But it’s your job. Your business. You control it. If that sounds great then go for it. Otherwise… maybe don’t quit your day job.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2015 in On Writing

 

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