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I’ll be at ConDFW in Fort Worth this Saturday, if anyone in the north Texas area is interested in stopping by. I’ve struggled with this convention in the past because it falls at a time of year when I really don’t feel too social. It’s hibernation season, and being around large groups of people is jarring. Plus, it seems like either the weather is awful (there was the year we had record snowfall the day before) or the weather is nice but spring allergy season has hit (like this year — I’ll have to carry a box of tissues with me). Last year, I said I’d skip it this year, but now this year is going to be the last year, so I figured I’d go one more time. I’m only doing Saturday since the crowd is so light on Friday that it’s not worth the drive, and I have obligations on Sunday.

But I will be reading a bit from the upcoming Enchanted, Inc. book.

I am leaning away from conventions for the time being, in part because I need to be focusing on writing right now and in part because I need to figure out a new way to make them work for me. I’m at the awkward in-between stage in which the people who are at the conventions I can easily get to already know who I am, so I don’t get much of a boost out of being there, but I’m not well enough known to get invited as a guest of honor to conventions farther away, and I’m not sure that attending a convention that I have to pay travel expenses for would pay off if I’m just there as a panelist. So maybe I need to get a little more famous some other way or have a few more books before I dive in again. At the very least, I need to let people miss me, though I guess there’s also the risk of them forgetting about me.

It is a little depressing when people who haven’t been around as long as I have and who have fewer books than I have are getting invited as special guests and workshop instructors. I’ve been a guest of honor at one convention, but there are also conventions where I can’t even seem to get accepted as a panelist. So, back into my cave to plot my triumphant return.

I’d thought I’d done most of the research I needed to build this world, but I picked up a book at the library yesterday on a whim, supposedly to research an aspect of this world, though it wasn’t something that I thought needed to be developed any further because it’s a minor part of the story — and then that book gave me the solution I needed to a plot problem I’d been wrestling with. So maybe I need a bit more research.

Happy Valentine’s Meh

Happy Valentine’s Day, to those who celebrate. I don’t, really. It’s not a militant Single’s Awareness thing. It’s more of a cynical apathy. If you need a multimillion dollar marketing campaign to tell you that you should be romantic on a particular day that may or may not actually be meaningful to you or your relationship, then you’ve got bigger problems than a box of chocolates is likely to be able to fix. I’m actually rather happy being single and suffer no pangs of envy when I see happy couples. I don’t really want a relationship and wouldn’t want to trade places with them.

What I celebrate is Discount Chocolate Day on Feb. 15. I may see if I can also score some cheap flowers so I can have fresh flowers in the house.

I do find it ironic that my books are seen as very romantic and fantasy publishers keep rejecting my books and suggesting that they might be better suited to romance when I’m not really a very romantic person. But I think it’s the hint of romance, the very slow burn, that makes the people who like them like them. There’s not much actual romance, more the hope of future romance. And that’s why the fantasy publishers are showing their lack of market knowledge because that’s definitely not something that flies in the romance genre. I guess you could say I write romance for people who don’t actually want full-blown Romance.

I’m the weirdo who considers The Terminator one of the most romantic movies ever made. I thought Aliens was also pretty romantic (and I have had my view validated by Michael Biehn, who said he played it as though Hicks was falling in love with Ripley).

When I have my rare moments of wanting romantic warm fuzzies, I tend to turn to Stardust, either the book or the movie (though the adventure and transformation are what I love about that story).

I think in general I like my romances to involve a lot of development of the non-romantic relationship, with just a dash of a hint of something more.

I’m afraid this is going to be a very non-romantic Valentine’s Day for me, since I’ll be watching documentaries instead of a romantic comedy. I’m researching a book.

I did get some valentines this year from my kindergarteners. Hand-drawn kid valentines are the best.

Wildly Flying Ideas

That new idea I got a couple of weeks ago has really taken off. I’ve started doing some research into the subject matter, and the whole thing is taking shape. The other night, I even found myself creating a character in my sleep. I’d been thinking about a role in the story and pondering what kind of character would fill that role. Then I woke up with a complete character in my head, right down to the name. I had his current situation, his personality, his appearance, and his backstory.

This one’s going to take a lot of research, including some in-person stuff. I’ll need to track down some subject matter experts and see if they’ll talk to me and let me observe some things.

I even have a general sense of what the plot/conflict are going to be, but that part needs a lot of fleshing out. I think some of it will come with the research, so I’m not trying to force it yet.

The tricky thing is that all of these wildly flying ideas are coming while I’m wrapping up proofreading on another book. I’m reading it out loud, and I find my mind wandering as I do it. It’s like the reading is on autopilot and although I’m reading each word, I’m not registering it because my mind is busy working on something else. I’m having to take the proofreading in chunks with breaks in between to write down the ideas I came up with while reading.

I’ll finish the proofing this week, and then I can really dive into the brainstorming and research.


I’ve hit a big personal milestone this week, plus it’s the anniversary of another milestone.

I paid off my mortgage yesterday (though the payment actually went through today because we just missed the cutoff time yesterday afternoon at the bank). That’s about 9 and a half years early. I’ve been paying extra on it each month, and I realized that if I kept up that pace this year, I’d pay it off by the end of the year. Since I had the funds in savings, I figured I might as well do it now, especially since the mortgage interest rate was so much higher than the interest I had in savings. Now my living expenses will be a lot lower, and I have no debt (aside from the credit cards that I pay off each month), but I need to rebuild my savings. That’s more incentive to write!

Tomorrow is the 15th anniversary of me first sending the book that became Enchanted, Inc. out into the world. On that day in 2004, I sent the initial query to an agent, pitching that book. A few days later I got a response asking for the first 50 pages. I eventually ended up signing with that agent, who still represents me.

The publishing world has changed a lot since then, and my career has gone in directions I couldn’t have imagined at that time. To be honest, I expected that book to be a bigger deal than it ended up being. It’s sold really well over the years, and people who do read it tend to love it. But I thought it was ideally positioned to be a hit if it was handled properly, and it sort of fell between the cracks. As successful as it’s been lurking in relative obscurity, I can’t help but imagine what it could have done if it had been given any kind of push. But that’s water under the bridge, and the publisher has continued supporting the series even after all this time. Better to do better than they expected and sell steadily over more than a decade than to be a flash in the pan. I can’t change the past, so I can only move on to the future.

My mortgage celebration will have to wait until next weekend, when I’m done with this book and letting myself have a little break. And then I’ll probably have confirmation from the mortgage company so it will be official (I just have the confirmation from my bank that the transfer went through).

Editing and More Editing

I have completed my copyedits. Now comes the fun of reading the whole book out loud to myself so that I can catch any errors. That’s also when pet words or awkward phrasing jump out at me, and I can see if putting in the copyedits introduced any other errors.

And then when I’m done with that, I’m going to indulge in a fit of pure creativity, since I’ve spent the whole month in editing mode. I’ve got a couple of projects to research. I may write a short story or two. I might even get wacky and take a day off to do something non-work-related. Then there’s some getting my house in order that needs to be done, and I want to set up some promotional things. It’ll just feel nice not to have a deadline hanging over me for a little while.

I have a new idea I want to play with, something that gave me the “ooh” tingle, and it keeps fleshing out in my head. I have a concept. I have a main character. I have what I think will be the central conflict. I have the beginnings of a world. It’s going to take a bit of research to flesh it out further, but I’m already falling in love with the main character, who is rather different from what I usually write, so I think it’ll be fun to see the world through her eyes.

But first, editing. Yay.

Back to Work

I gave myself a long weekend after getting that book turned in, sort of. I spent Friday and Saturday at a Choristers Guild workshop, which felt like putting in a whole day at work, complete with commuting. Then I gave myself the holiday on Monday because the next thing I need to work on is also editing/proofreading, and I need a break between projects. It wasn’t entirely a holiday, in that I did some work-related things, but I wasn’t doing actual writing.

The choir workshop was interesting, as always. Friday I focused on children’s stuff, with workshops on teaching music to children, considering their neurological development, and games you can play. Saturday, when I’d done all the children’s workshops I wanted, I went to some adult sessions. The clinician was the former director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and boy, did he put us through a workout, since he was making us do the exercises he was teaching for directors to do with their choirs. I was mostly there to learn things about singing and what to practice on my own, but I picked up a few things I might be able to do with the kids. Then there was a session about the history of the choir, with lots of behind-the-scenes tidbits about the 2002 Winter Olympics (apparently, Sting is a lovely person and even sent a thank-you note to the choir for singing backup for him) and how they put together the PBS Christmas specials. We’re seeing the previous year’s concert since it takes them nearly half a year to edit and produce the show. They’re taking bits from multiple performances and putting them all together to get the best version of everything. This year on PBS, we’ll be seeing Kristin Chenoweth as their guest artist.

Now I should be diving back into work with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, but I mostly want to nap. It’s that time of year when the hibernation instinct is strong. I think I could make myself write because sometimes I get my best stuff while in a sleepy haze, but proofreading is going to be hard. That takes focus, and it’s not that much fun, especially when that Shiny New Idea is kicking into gear.

On the Home Stretch

I need to turn in a book this week, and I’ve got the Choristers Guild workshop this weekend, so it has to be done on Thursday. That means it’s a busy week. I finished the latest round of editing last night, so now we’re on the reading aloud phase, which is especially important for a book being written as an audiobook.

Then I have to do copyedits on a book. And then rewrites on another book, but I may take a little time to write something short in between because I’m getting a bit burned out on editing and am itching to create. Ideally, I’d balance editing and writing, but I had several projects pile up in this way.

Meanwhile, I got yet another idea yesterday, a random whim that started developing, and I woke up this morning mentally writing the opening. It will take quite a bit of work before I’m ready to write it, and I suspect once I do my “write everything you know about it” trick, there will be a lot less than I think. But I am getting that tingle of “oh, this could be something,” which is exciting.

Now, off to read my book out loud to myself. Since I’m going to be doing a lot of singing this weekend, that means I’ll have to take frequent breaks, drink a lot of water, and not talk when I’m not reading the book.

The Year Ahead

I was all eager and excited to kick off the new year, but I have an appointment with a plumber to get a dripping faucet fixed and a showerhead replaced sometime between 9 and 11. At first, I was busy clearing out the tub space so he could work — moving all the shampoo bottles, etc. Then I went ahead and tidied the bedroom. And then the living room. Now I’m waiting for the “I’m on my way” call. I can’t really get much done while waiting when I may have to drop everything, so I guess getting started on writing will have to wait until after things are fixed.

I did a lot of goal setting for this year, and it mostly comes down to two themes I have for the year: Exploration and Intention.

The Exploration part is about learning and trying new things and going to new places. I had planned to travel last year, but the medical stuff got in the way. I’m hoping to make it happen this year. I also have a bit of the itch for change that seems to hit me every few years, and I caught myself looking up different kinds of classes over the holidays. So I may try to learn some new things, both work-related and just for fun.

The Intention part is what will make that happen. I learned last year that my life goes better when I’m conscious and intentional about how I spend my time. It’s way too easy to drift and get sidetracked and fall into inertia, and then I end up spending way too much time on things that aren’t productive and that aren’t actually that much fun, so I’m trying to really think about what I’m doing.

That’s harder on a day when I’m stuck waiting, but I am trying to be productive about it.

I’m hoping to spend a lot of time writing, a lot of time reading, to get my house in order (I made a good start last year, but I want to get it done this year), and to get back into music on a more regular, serious way (singing when I’m not at choir practice, going back to working more on the harp and piano, maybe pick up the flute again).

I’ve already got two books in the pipeline for publication this year and another one written that I hope will find me a new publisher, so I already know this is going to be a good year. Maybe it can also be a great one.

2018 In Review

Taking a break from my holiday to do a year in review …

This was a weird year for me. I didn’t have anything new published, so it feels like nothing happened. But, really, a lot happened.

On the professional side, I had to take over all my self-published books. I’d been working with my agent on that, and then she decided to get out of that part of the business, so in order for the payments to come to me, everything had to be unpublished and republished, which took a fair bit of time and effort. Now I’m having to deal directly with the various vendors, like editors, artists, designers, etc., which means dealing with paperwork and other business stuff. So, basically I started a whole new business this year without planning to. Meanwhile, I spent a lot of time working on a book that I ended up backburnering. I love the concept, but I don’t think I wrote the book the concept deserves, and I need to get well away from what I did write before I can fix it without just tinkering with what I’ve written.

On the up side, I sold a short story and a novel that should be coming out in 2019. After a slow start to the year, writing wise, I ended the year by writing three books during the fall.

Then there was all the medical stuff that happened. I’ve been reasonably healthy except for seasonal allergies and maybe one bad cold that turns into bronchitis every year. While I was trying to republish all those books, I developed a splitting headache that I thought was just from the stress and focus, but it didn’t go away. I couldn’t even seem to sleep. When I took my blood pressure, it was high enough that the device blinked the “call your doctor” symbol. So I did. The doctor thought it was likely thyroid related, but my thyroid levels were normal. That led to an ultrasound that found nodules, which meant a biopsy, an MRI, and a bunch of other tests. Fortunately, the biopsy came back benign, and no cancer showed up on any of the tests or scans. They did find that I have a thyroid disease that’s not causing problems now but that I have to watch (and some reading I’ve done suggests that the symptoms I had may have been thyroid-related in spite of the tests being normal). Meanwhile, I got a good workover to see what other health problems I might have and found that I’m really quite healthy other than the thyroid stuff, though I am supposed to be watching my cholesterol (I kind of fell off the wagon during the holidays). All of that was time consuming and stressful, but I did end up with some peace of mind to have it confirmed that I’m healthy. It was after all that was past that I really picked up on my writing, so I hope I can continue that pace going forward.

The other big thing this year was that I got rid of cable TV. That may have something to do with how I read 105 books this year. I really cut back on my TV watching, and I have to say that I generally don’t miss cable. Just with Amazon, the antenna, and the stuff you can stream for free, I have more than enough stuff to watch. The only challenge is when it’s something specific you want to watch that’s only on cable. For instance, I haven’t yet seen the latest season of Doctor Who, but that ends up on Amazon eventually. I’m finding that I’m mostly watching documentaries and PBS-type programs and my attention span for passively watching is getting a lot shorter.

As for those 105 books, one thing that’s unusual this year is that only about 5 of them were re-reads, and they were mostly work-related re-reads, where I was reading them again because they related to something I was working on. I’m a big re-reader, so it’s odd for me to spend a year without re-reading things just because I love them. I’ve been trying to broaden my reading horizons, so I’ve been reading things I normally wouldn’t that are on award lists or that were handed out at conferences. That’s been a mixed bag. I was looking at my reading log, and there were a lot of books I barely remember reading (or don’t remember at all just by the title). There were a few things I remember looking forward to but was disappointed in when I read them. I have very few favorites from the year, books that stand out for me that I would want to read again. I read a lot of non-fiction, most of it at least semi-work related. Some was specifically book research. Some was general education that may factor into my work. I read a lot about productivity, focus, and creativity.

I think my big discovery of the year was Robin Hobb, who was new to me. I don’t know how I missed those books, but I’ve read two of her trilogies and have started a third. The two books I read this year that I would like to re-read were Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik and My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows.

Now I plan to spend the rest of the day reorganizing my bookcases. We’ll see how long that lasts before I find myself sitting in front of the bookcase and reading.

Christmas Holiday

I reached the point in revisions where I really need to revise. I’m not entirely happy with what plays out at this point, but I’m not sure what to change. I like the ending, and I like a lot of what I have written, but it seems to be missing something, and I’m not sure what that something is. Maybe that means this is a good time to give myself a holiday to think about it. I have some brainstorming to do, and I usually get my best ideas when I’m not actively trying to have ideas.

I’ll be taking next week off, though I may do a year-end wrap-up post next Friday. I need to look back through my notes for my favorite things of the year. This year has felt very long, but then the end seemed to come quite quickly. I’ve already topped myself in writing time compared to last year, in spite of having a big gap in the middle of the year when I didn’t get much done. That gives me hope that next year will be even better.

But before then, there’s Christmas. I’m going to a get-together with friends Sunday night (I’m bringing dessert and need to decide what to make — there are a lot of new recipes I want to try, but at the same time, I really want some old, familiar things), then there are the two Christmas Eve services, and then I’m going to my parents’ house for Christmas day. I’m going to try not to work next week because I need a true holiday, but if an idea strikes me, I may not be able to help myself.

Now I need to make a trip to the library because I’ve got a book due today and a book I had on hold has come in. The rest of the day, I may do a little brainstorming, just to put the facts of the book in my brain for the subconscious to play with, and then it’s time to go into full Christmas mode.

So, a merry Christmas to all who celebrate!