The End of the Year

It’s the end of 2020. It’s been an… interesting…year. I might write a blog post about the world later, but right now I’m going to focus on my personal journey this year.

Usually for the end of year review I look at numbers, trends, and how I’ve improved year over year. However, 2020 has been an unusual year. It wasn’t the numbers that matters as much as pushing through even when the world was falling apart around me. So, I’m going to focus less on numbers, and more on just what I accomplished, and the setbacks I had.

But before I get to this year I have to go back to the end of 2019 for a minute.

At the end of 2019 I wrote a large chunk of the 4th book in my litRPG series. It is currently standing at 40k words, which I feel is about half finished. (I also had half of Vertigo, a side quest in the series, done.) This will put book four at double the length of the others in the series. When I saw that, and realized I had added a bunch of lore to the world, I decided I needed to go back and redo a lot of the first three books, and possibly combine them to make two books instead of three.

Because of that indecision about the series I decided to take the books down in December. I was going to rewrite them, and then finish the new books afterward. But I still wanted another book to finish while I was doing some updates to the old stuff. That meant December of last year wasn’t very productive as I was editing, traveling for the holidays (remember when we could do that?), and going through files and old books to decide the best course of action.

In January of this year I settled on book two of my Half Blood Sorceress series. It had a good foundation, and I already had an outline, so I got to work. Around January I also started paying way too much attention to the news as reports started rolling in. The more I saw in the news the more depressed I became and while I was still writing…it wasn’t as much as I should have been doing. I was worried about my family back in the Seattle area, and…well I’m sure a lot of us were obsessing about the news this year.

I kept working away getting another 5-10k words a month on Dragon’s Blood, while also putting in more time editing the old litRPG books, and a few other projects here and there. In May I decided I just needed something short to finish and went to /r/writingpromps for an idea. Impology came out of that. I wrote the bulk of it in May…and then…. June arrived.

Towards the end of May, and more in June, I started getting sick a lot. I thought it was allergies at first. I popped some allergy pills, turned on the air purifier, and still kept plugging away at the writing and editing. But during June I got sicker and sicker, sometimes sleeping an entire day. I was hungry but I couldn’t eat. My stomach was swelling. And we were getting worried.

June 30th, from my journal: I don’t feel good. My body is betraying me. Stomach swelling, unable to eat. So hungry. Hard to move or sleep. What is it? Dr Appointment tomorrow.

The doctor took an ultrasound and said “you need to go to a specialist” but didn’t tell me what it was. For June and July I was so concerned with my health. I looked like I was 8 months pregnant suddenly, so much so that people were starting to comment on it when we went shopping. I could barely eat because whatever was swelling my abdomen was putting pressure on my stomach. I had no energy because I was getting less than 1000 calories a day. So sick… I slept a lot during June just trying to function.

Even so….in June I managed to put down another 7000 words for the new Dragon’s Blood. I would lay in bed with a laptop, or my phone, and pluck just a few words at a time between sleeping.

In July we made the decision to go back to Seattle for medical care…and I’m so grateful we did. Grateful that we had family to stay with, medical insurance to pay for it, and the ability to drive there even during a pandemic. What started as me just thinking I was tired because of bad allergies, and swelling because of the food I ate….it ended up being a tumor. A very large tumor that had to be removed ASAP.

The second week of July was spent in a hotel waiting for covid tests, cancer screening, scans, and blood work. And during that time I slept…a lot. But I also managed to finish the last few paragraphs of Impology, and I had a rough draft.

On July 19th I sat in a hotel waiting for my surgery the next day and I decided I had to finish the edits for Impology and get it published before I went in. I would get up and write a few words at a time, then lay down when I got too dizzy. Then try again. It took the rest of the night but I managed to push send on KDP.

The next day Gregg dropped me off at the hospital. He wasn’t allowed to go in with me, or sit in the waiting room. He had to go back to the hotel and pack up, waiting for the doctor to call and tell him if I made it okay… and if the tumor had spread. (Thankfully it didn’t.)

I was in the waiting room trying to sit in a chair and slowly becoming more and more distressed….the tumor was 17 inches, and pressing right on my veins so sitting up for more then a few minutes made me faint. I finally got them to get me a bed. One of the nurses came back to take my vitals and when she saw me she smiled and said “Oh are you in for delivery?” She paled when I said “no, it’s a tumor.” At least I could giggle and tell her it was okay, Lumpy was being evicted, and I was all good.

The surgery went spendedly, and I woke up 25 lbs lighter. Between the tumor, and not being able to eat for a month or two, I lost 50 lbs this last summer. So there’s that.

The rest of July was all about recovery, sleeping a LOT, and just getting back on my feet. I was in the hospital for almost a week and finally able to have more than a pudding for lunch. It was amazing!

We stayed in Seattle until Aug 15th. But an amazing thing happened at the beginning of August, though. I was able to stay awake more. I could concentrate. I was in pain, because I had surgery, but I could still function. That month, even while recuperating, I did another 10k words, the bulk of it in Dragon’s Blood. And I FINISHED the first draft! I was so thrilled!

We drove back to Texas in the middle of Aug. That was an interesting drive. A lot easier than I thought it would be. I slept a lot less than I did on the way north, and we managed to stop and see my daughter in northern CA. It was, in general, a much happier trip. Gregg and I were able to just spend time, laughing and singing, and enjoying the drive this time.

The end of August and the month of September I got through the edits for Dragon’s Blood… except for the major fight scene at the end. Now…Because fight scenes do not come naturally to me they take me a while to write. I have to plan them out, then write them a bit at a time. I will often avoid them because I do not enjoy them as much as I do the rest of the story. And when I got to the edits for this scene I realized how bad the first draft was, and how much rewriting it needed. Ug.

So October I avoided writing.

Back in the hotel while waiting for surgery I started watching a lot of devlogs from indie game designers. I also tried learning a bit of code in-between writing. It was a nice break from the rest of what was happening to me. So in October when I needed a bit of a break I decided to actually try to make a game and made my first one… then…..I joined Ludum Dare.

Ludum Dare is one of the biggest game jams out there, so I decided if I was going to make a game why not make it for Ludum Dare and be courageous. It was so much fun! I dove in both feet first and finished my second game in a weekend. It was a lot of fun, and those who played it seemed to enjoy just driving the ball as fast as possible down the pathway. They also said I made a really pretty game.

That encouraged me to make another… and another. By the end of October I had done three game jams, and four games. But that also meant I didn’t write much.

November I did a lot of art for a different game, and some writing, but I really just focused on re-centering myself. I had been through a lot in 2020 and I never allowed myself to just… take it all in. So I did so then.

That brings us to December. I decided I needed to get Dragon’s Blood out no matter what, so I put my nose to the grindstone and got it out on the 18th of this month!

Since then I’ve been looking at the books I have ready to be finished to decide which one to complete:
Half Blood Sorceress 3
LitRPG 4
Vertigo (litRPG sidequest)
Eternal Tapestry Prequell

I am about 40k words into each work, and all of them are worth publishing. I think for 2021 my goal is to publish all four of them. Now to get started on that…

I’m glad 2020 is over, even if the end of a year does not solve the problems it does encourage us to try again. To make the next year better. Here’s to that.

After ask of this year I think I’ve learned that family is very important to me, and that life isn’t infinite. We could die any day from some random thing. Hiding away in your house isn’t going to save you if it’s your time.

But everyone had to do what’s right for them.

A journey to the stars…

September is almost over. I’m back in Texas and I’m already hoping for winter, and miss the rainy days in Seattle.

But I’m healing. We just drove another 3000 miles south from Seattle, down through LA, and over to Texas. It took four days this time because I wanted to see my daughter who lives in CA. Worth the extra time.

Also, I’ve finished the rough draft of Dragon’s Blood. I’m working on edits, but I should have it out next month. Now is a great time to read Dragon’s Flame if you haven’t yet. 

If you’re looking for a shorter read I have two books free this weekend. An anthology, and a short story. 

 
Stars End : Four short stories about life, and death, in the future. 
The Camera : A tales from the crypt style short story.

I can’t wait to get Dragon’s Blood out there. It feels like it’s been a long road to the end, but it’s more about the journey than the writing, I think. This year has been filled with crazy things, for all of us. The world has changed, and only time will tell if it’s for the better or not. And because of a lot of these changes (some personal, a lot global) things got slowed down a bit. 

 

Slowing down isn’t always a bad thing. Taking your time to enjoy the smell of the roses, or really savor that meal, or enjoy spending time with the ones you love…all of it is important so that life means more than pushing buttons. I hope that part of all the craziness moves forward with us. 

Until then, keep on reading!

Back to work…

It’s been two weeks since my surgery, and I’m feeling more myself. I can breath, I can eat, and I can walk around comfortably for a bit.

I still have a ways to go. My staples get removed tomorrow. I’ve started the process of building up my stomach muscles again but there’s only so much you can do at first. Better to be safe and not tear anything. But I’ve made a lot of progress, like finally being able to sleep on my side again, and able to sit up in bed without help.

You never realize how important your stomach muscles are until you can’t use them for a while.

But, since I’m feeling better I am back to working on my writing, art, and a few other things.

First, the next installment of the Half Blood Sorceress. Dragon’s Blood

I was finishing up the very last chapter and rereading some of it, and realized I need to just take the last five chapters and re-read them all, and fix them. There are some plot issues, and pieces that are out of order. A few things happen twice. Time to redo it and make it better. But that means once I get that taken care of I will be done and ready to send it to an editor.

I’m drawing on a lot of my memories from North Dakota in the snow this time. She’s a fire mage, she hates the snow, and it seems to hate her too. But that’s what’s so interesting about writing it.

I’m also challenging myself to do some drawing over on my new instagram. Life for the last two months has been pretty consumed by medical issues (rightly so) and I need to get back into the swing of things, so this little challenge should help bring out some creativity.

I’m also trying my hand at learning programming. I always wanted to, and now I have an excuse. I would love to use my story telling ability a little differently.

But the book is the most important thing. I want to finish that before anything else. It’s just nice to have the art and game dev as something to do when I need a break.

Oh, and before I forget, I do have a new short story out. Impology.

2019 Writing in Review

It’s the new year, and it’s time to look back at what happened in 2019, and see where things will go in the future.

2019 was a year of change. First, I quite my job and we moved from Seattle to Houston. That was a huge change for Bjorn and I, but so far it was definitely been worth it. It was also the first year I have been writing full time. That’s taken some getting used to, and I am finally starting to get into the swing of making writing/editing/etc a priority, but I have a ways to go.

In 2019 I wrote 209k words. (Red line on graph is story writing, blue line includes newsletters, blog posts, and other projects.) This was double what I wrote in 2017 and 18, and a lot closer to what I was writing before that dip happened.

 

With all that writing I published three books. Steel Heart, and Steel Line which are the second and third books in my  litRPG series, and an anthology of scifi short stories, Stars End. I also started working on Vertigo, which I have uploaded six chapters of for free. It’s available on RoyalRoadWattpad, and WebNovel.

I am disappointed that I didn’t keep up with the chapter a week on Vertigo. To be fair, the reason I stopped was because of NaNoWriMo, and getting the 50k done on my Half Blood Sorceress, and book four in the litRPG took up a large part of my time. Then December I spent most of my time hand making all of my Christmas gifts. I forgot how time consuming crocheting hats could be. And a final trip back home to Seattle rounded out the end of the year, so I didn’t get much writing done in December, but I did spend some quality time with family and friends.

Going forward for 2020 I told my family I would be looking to complete, and publish, four novels. That will include book two in my Half Blood Sorceress series, book four in my litRPG series, finishing up Vertigo and publishing that on amazon, and …. I’m not sure what the final book will be yet, but I have a few ideas.

I have been scheduling time to write, read, and edit for this year. Three things I need to do more of in order to get my goals. I’ve also been making some plans to do something more with my art because it makes me happy, and is a nice break from writing when I need it. It also gives me something to do while listening to podcasts.

We’ve also committed to taking better care of ourselves, Bjorn and I. We’ve been eating more salads, going on walks, and getting to the gym more. It’s making him feel better, I’m still struggling with the exercise part, but I can be pretty stubborn, so I haven’t given up yet. I would just like to get to the point where it doesn’t feel awful every time I go… Don’t treat your body badly for years on end, folks, fixing it sucks.

Overall I have high hoped for 2020 going forward. More writing, more art, and more creativity in general. Lets see how far I can go with this.

NaNoWriMo: I Cheated

Okay, cheating at a self imposed deadline is basically cheating yourself. In most cases I would say cheating yourself is a bad idea, in this case it was an accomplishment I had to complete.

Five minutes till midnight on the 30th I was 1100 words short on my NaNo project. I managed to write TEN THOUSAND words that day. That is a feat that usually takes me two weeks, and I did it in one day. When midnight came I decided to give myself an hour to finish, and declare myself a winner.

I put in my numbers, and continued writing. At 1:03 am I hit 50,011 words.

Each year when I do NaNoWriMo I set out with one goal, learn something new about my writing, or myself. Win or loose the actual challenge I have always learned something. This year was no different. This year I had no excuses to “lose” the challenge, so figuring out the secret to winning made all the difference. And it was such a simple thing, and yet so difficult, to figure out.

Time management.

I’ve had a love hate relationship with time management. For most of my life my time was dictated by a job, or school for my children or myself. Things like doctors appointments, shopping trips, and even sleep revolve around the schedule dictated by someone else. When I was free of all that I thought “now I have time to write,” but it wasn’t as easy as I thought.

There are so many things to distract us. Sometimes we get bogged down in those things, turn on the tv and sink into episode after episode of whatever we’re interested in, or loose hours in a game. It’s easy. It’s fun. It makes us happy. And when you don’t have that daily thing like a day job to set your schedule to it’s so much easier just to say “I’ll get to that later.”

So this year during NaNoWriMo I learned that I have to find some balance to my schedule. It doesn’t have to be strict, and it can change when necessary, but I had to find something that worked for me so I could prioritize the important things.

The first thing I did, which worked fantastic to get me through the end of NaNoWriMo, was download Toggl. With this app I was able to track what I was doing, for how long, and actually get a good look at how much time I was wasting. Once I logged things into the app I could click a button to easily toggle tracking for specific things. Items can be lumped in to projects so you can easily see where time is spent. For me house care includes cooking, cleaning, and taking care of things for the home. Admin includes marketing, blog posts, and research. Writing is….writing. And me time is all the gaming, reading, and everything else I do just for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the last three days I only tracked 24 hours. It’s going to take some time to get used to using it, but the app is going to help me increase my productivity by allowing me to see where all my time is going. It takes away all the excuses and shows you exactly what you’re using your time for.

I want to track everything for a few weeks to get a base line of where my time goes, but once I have that base line I expect I will only track work and household related time.

Of course this has a second consequence… I had been using the excuse that I was “working up” to 2k words a day. I learned that when I am writing well I write 33 words a minute, that’s about 1k every half hour. Of course editing, and certain tough chapters, will be slower, but the more I think about it the more I realize I should be writing a whole lot more every week. I will have to see how far I can get if I work harder to put in the time.

Expect more updates as I get this time management thing under control, and hopefully that means new books as well. After all, I just wrote 50k words in one of them.

Stars and Cards

I’ve published TWO things this weekend!

First, Stars End. A collection of science fiction short stories that you can read in bite size pieces.

The four short stories contained inside explore what life might mean in a distant future when space travel and longevity are things humanity take for granted.

Second, I’ve been working on Vertigo, a card based litRPG, for a while. I decided I wanted to publish it on Royal Road and Wattpad as a free title. So you can find the first to chapters there right now.

New chapters will be uploaded every weekend.

This is an experiment to see if it encourages me to write more. I’m hoping that writing in such a public way will force me to stay accountable to myself.

It also makes me happy that my daughter drew the figure on the cover. I gave her a basic idea of what to draw and she went with it.

I already have several chapters of Vertigo ready to go, I’m just editing and cleaning them up before posting every week. That doesn’t mean the other writing stops, it just means fora day or two a week I am devoted to one chapter from Vertigo. But it’s been fun, and I can’t wait to hear what you think about it.

Short or Long?

Sometimes when you’re working on novels you can get to a point where progress seems so far away, and sometimes you can get disheartened. Even want to quite, or procrastinate.

There was a talk Adam Savage gave once where he said at some point in every project he feels like he has no business making. A man who creates amazing replicas, props, and cosplays that the world loves. A man who does one day builds that many would struggle to do in a month. Someone who has working on major motion pictures, and The Mythbusters. And he feels like he has no business making.

And that’s how I feel writing a novel. I am sure that many creatives feel like that, like they are an importer and shouldn’t even bother trying to create whatever it is you are creating. I get so far into a novel, hit that wall, and it feels insurmountable. But I keep going, a little at a time, pushing to get to the end because I know once I reach it I will have something awesome.

I’ve picked up little tricks here and there to help me get through it. One of them is writing short stories when I’m really stuck. At the moment I have been editing a few of the finished short stories I have, and trying to finish four other short stories. Since they are shorter I can usually finish one much faster than a novel, and that little boost keeps me going for the larger projects. Plus the stories I am working on currently are science fiction, while the novel I am working on is fantasy. This allows me a change of scenery, so to speak, and take a breather before going back to the novel.

Speaking of the short stories, I think I’m about ready to publish some of them. Another pass of the editors wand, and they should work well as an anthology. Oh, and a cover. The other four short stories I am still completing I already have a cover for, I just have to finish three of the shorts.

But the novel is still my priority. I’ve been working at a (mostly) steady pace trying to get through the second half of the book. I’ve hit a few snags with the plot, but I think I’ll be able to untangle them. Plot holes, they are my nemesis! Funny, it used to be fight scenes. Now I have a system for the fight scenes and I have more trouble with the time line. I think that’s because the story is taking place over the course of a year and I want it to reflect that.

My daily word count goal dipped a little in august, so I’m working hard to get them back up to what I consider a good pace. I still want to hit 1000 words a day by the end of the year, which means pushing harder and making fewer excuses. But I’m working on it.

By the way, here is a really good video about why many of us procrastinate, and some great ways to fight against it.

Now… off to write about dragons.

One Million Words!

I just broke a million words written. At least officially.

They say to be a good writer you need to write a lot, and read a lot. Somewhere along the line someone said “You need to write a million words before you start to get good.” I’m paraphrasing of course, but since I heard that it has been my goal. To write 1 million words worth of stories.

Of course I’ve been writing since I could form sentences, so I am sure that I’ve written well over a million words in my lifetime, but I haven’t been tracking them the entire time. I also didn’t think it was fair to count the words that I end up throwing away due to grammar/spelling/etc issues. I count them in my daily word count goals, but not when it came to the big number, the million words written.

In the million words I count the stories that I have finished and published, as well as the current projects I’m working on. I have another section just for ideas, dead stories, and anything that probably won’t get written any time soon.

I found that keeping track of what stories I am working on, how far along they are, and which ones are finished and waiting to be published has helped me keep on track a lot. Before I started doing this I had trouble finishing anything. It’s too easy to chase the shiny new thing instead of finishing the project in front of you.

Of the million words I have in active and published projects I have published just over half a million words. That means my next goal is to publish the other half a million. That could be six novels, or a whole lot of short stories, but I think I can get there. The question is how fast. Let’s see, shall we?

Progress….

Quick announcement: I will have a short story free every weekend for a while, so if you follow me on Amazon, or here, or join my newsletter, you can get information about the free short stories. I will be trying to get a few new, never before seen, short stories out soon as well, so look for those.

Now on with the regularly scheduled blog post:

I decided to catch up on some files today and see what I’ve been doing. It’s the middle of the year, and the third month into my “writing for a living” adventure, so it seems fitting. I think I’m doing more check ins since going full time, but this helps me gauge how well I’m doing with the word count and keep things in perspective.

Sorry but this is going to have a bunch of numbers. There will also be a summery at the end.

Since 2012 I have published 33 short stories, 6 novellas and 5 full length novels. (Novella is 10-49k, shorts are less, novels more.) That’s just over half a million words published. Of course many of the short stories are in anthologies so I only have 24 books out, but… that’s a lot of stories that I’ve completed. It’s hard to see how many things I’ve completed since I am often working on a single book for months at a time with no end, so it’s good to remember that I can, and have, completed stories.

This year has also had it’s busy moments with moving twice (in Feb and May) slowing me down a bit. But I’m still getting a steady stream of words out, and so far this year I’ve written 79,000 words. April has been my best month to date with 22.6k words written, and of course Feb, the month we moved to Texas, was the worst. Considering we packed for two weeks straight then drove for five days I’m glad I got any work done at all in Feb.

For a little bit of comparison, in 2017 and 2018 I wrote a total of just over 100k words each year. That’s all twelve months, including my attempt at NaNoWriMo which I failed both years. This year, and it’s only the first week of June, I’m already at 80k, and I should hit the 100k mark by end of month. Most of that writing has been since March so I’m on track.

My average daily word count has gone up from 300 to 900 words a day. It fluctuates, of course, but I try to get at least 500 on the days when we’re busy with things, like moving. So far it’s worked. The goal is to get to 2k a day by the end of this month. Eventually I’d like to get to 5k a day, but that’s going to take some stretching of the muscles.

These averages are written words on days that I write. I try not to skip days, but there are always days when you’re inundated with other things, like doctor appointments, travel, sickness, or the like. That is why I want to keep getting that average word count up, because I know days off happen and I want to offset them. I’ve set a monthly goal of 20k words at the moment, but I want it up to 30k soon. I’ve got to keep stretching. Keep working harder.

I haven’t done a lot of marketing. Right now my boyfriend and I agree that I just need to complete novels. Marketing can be so much easier if you have that back log of books to go through. Plus my strongest suit is in writing, not marketing, so if I have a lot to work out I will feel like I can take some time off writing to figure out the marketing bits with less issue.

I’ve also been posting a lot of artwork over on Redbubble as stickers, mugs, and things like that, as well as posting a bit more on instagram. Drawing has always been a way for me to relax and have fun, so I will be continuing to do that. I even have a coloring book out.

Summery: I’ve written a lot over the last few years, but this year has been a great increase and I’m working to get even more done. Also look for those free short stories on the weekends going forward, and a few new ones to be added.