Time to play!

Here’s more evidence that 2019 did not go as planned.

That’s from my very cluttered personal Goodreads profile, which I keep separate from my author Goodreads profile so you don’t have to wade through the clutter of my 51 custom bookshelves. (Yes, there really are 51…I just counted.) But because I can’t help being an optimist, I’ve just signed up for another lofty goal!

Here’s to never giving up! 🙂

Speaking of never giving up, Jasper is now signed up for regular physical therapy visits in town. He has some issues with his back, as well as hip dysplasia. For a while we were worried he’d need a hip replacement, but the orthopedists decided his pain is from his back, not his hips. He’s also been compensating for pain for years, probably for long before we even realized anything was wrong, so he puts more weight on his front legs than his back. Right now we’re doing stretchy exercises, acupuncture, and yesterday his new physical therapist also did ultrasound and laser therapy (we all wore protective goggles, even Jasper!).

Jasper getting laser therapy, wearing special dog goggles!

Jasper is doing a LOT better than he was a month ago, when we had two days where he couldn’t lie down on his own. Literally—we had to pick him up and put him down on his side. We still aren’t totally sure what he did at that point (he did see two vets at the time), but we’re happy to be back to where we were in the fall. This is not, however, where we were this time last year. Jasper took a turn for the worse this past August, which is why he saw the orthopedists and started his initial physical therapy program at Colorado State University. We’ve switched physical therapists only because it’s almost an hour and a half drive to CSU. We can’t fix everything that’s wrong with him, but hopefully we can help make him feel better!

I’m currently working on my schedule for 2020, since this is The Year of the Schedule. 🙂 It’s a little overwhelming because there are a zillion things I want to do, so I’m trying to focus on categories of work instead of look at the big (and panic-inducing) picture. The high-level categories are:

  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Publishing
  • Audio
  • Marketing
  • Organization

Looks pretty straightforward, right? 🙂

There are obviously a lot more details involved in each category, but it definitely helps to think of these as separate chunks of work. For example, I can put together my writing schedule separately from my editing schedule, then look at both together and adjust as needed. But if I think about all my deadlines at once, it’s hard to focus are there are just way too many details.

The other thing I’m trying very, very hard to do is to plan in buffer time AND stick to my schedule and not allow myself to procrastinate because I know there’s buffer time. 🙂 Instead, my intention is to get ahead on everything and use the buffer time for surprise events that pop up, like when Jasper couldn’t lie down on his own for two days.

And, of course, I need to factor in time to play!

Early morning play time.

2020: The Year of the Schedule!

I like to do an annual end-of-the-year review in which I look back at what I intended to accomplish writing-wise, and compare it to what I actually accomplished. Sometimes my plans change throughout the year because unforeseen opportunities (or complications) arise. Sometimes I’m overly optimistic about how much time I’ll have. And sometimes I just change my mind!

I didn’t write down my goals for 2019, although I did find a document from last April in which I cheerily declared I’d write drafts for the first three novels in a series by the end of the year. 🙂 So rather than reviewing what I’d planned to do, I’ll go over what I actually did instead.

I read from my story “The Other Side of the Portal” (which appears in A Fistful of Dinosaurs) at a reading in Denver in January, was the guest host for a reading by authors Travis Heermann and J.L. Forrest in July, and had a super fun time listening to Jeff Wood, Rebecca Hodgkins, and Shannon Lawrence read from their Monster Road Trip stories. All of these readings were part of the Denver Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Series, which was started by J.L. Forrest. I signed up to be part of Group 43, a new non-profit science fiction and fantasy organization, which is taking over management of this reading series. And I joined a team of co-editors to put together the first ever Pikes Peak Writers anthology, which will be released in 2021.

Then there were all the non-writing-related things…a bathroom remodel (started in September and still not done…), family health issues (including my dad having to stay in a hospital in Iceland for a week and a half…yes, Iceland), dog health issues (including Jasper being unable to lie down on his own for two days—seriously, we had to pick him up and put him down on his side), and other assorted things.

2019 was a busy year. 🙂

My lessons from 2019 were:

  • My writing skills have improved even over the past few years! This became very obvious in July, when I started editing the manuscript for my (now published!) novel Entangled by Midsummer, which I’d last worked on in the summer of 2016. The original manuscript wasn’t bad, but I found myself making a lot more modifications than I’d expected, and they were all because I’ve become a better writer. Hooray!
  • One of my superpowers is multitasking, but I hit my limit when I’m trying to multitask across too many categories. Writing + family health + dog health + remodel + other life stuff = 5 categories, which is apparently one (or two) too many.
  • I need a schedule.

While I can’t control the number of categories of things I need to deal with at any time, I can create a schedule—and I can factor extra time into my schedule which will (hopefully) make it easier to deal with those times where there are just too many things going on and my writing, editing, etc. ends up being the last thing on my to-do list.

A few weeks ago I had a 5.5 hour business meeting with DeAnna Knippling. DeAnna is my business partner in Borogrove Press (which publishes the anthology series Amazing Monster Tales), as well as my editor, as well as a very, very good friend of mine. 🙂 We talked through what we want to do with Amazing Monster Tales in 2020, and decided to publish issues quarterly. We’re both very, very busy, so in order to make this happen, we need a schedule so we can plan our tasks and work our other projects around the tasks for this series. In the short-term, our schedule is pretty tight (since we just came up with the schedule). But once we get on track, we’ve added in buffer time so if something comes up (like a family member being stuck in Iceland…) we should be able to stay on our publication schedule.

Even after only a few weeks of having a schedule for Amazing Monster Tales, it was clear to both me and DeAnna that having a schedule was AMAZING. (No pun intended.) And after another week or so, I thought: this is what I need for my own tasks!

Not that I’m anti-schedule. I’m very organized—which you might question if you could see my office, but hey, I’m also very, very, very busy. 🙂 (Writing and publishing comes before office cleanliness, as does dog happiness, doing laundry, and various and sundry other things.) I’d thought about a schedule before, and even created a semblance of one, but up until now I’d always focused on end dates. Like: “story X is due by day Y.” My argument for doing more than that was that I have a day job, two border collies, and other life things, so it was “too hard” to plan in a detailed way. Instead, I created a prioritized list of story deadlines and anthology publication deadlines. This worked at first, but the more projects I committed to and the more complicated my life got, the less useful my prioritized list became.

The schedule DeAnna and I made for Amazing Monster Tales had publication dates, which I was used to working with. The new part was that we set end dates for a number of tasks required to complete each anthology. This was not rocket science—I’ve done things like this at various day jobs over the years. But until trying out this approach with DeAnna, it hadn’t occurred to me to go to this level of detail with my own publication schedule. Once I saw how well it worked for us, I realized it would be a HUGE help for me with my own projects as well.

And so 2020 is now the Year of the Schedule. 🙂

I don’t actually have a schedule yet… I’ve made a first pass at anthology due dates, and have other tasks in a probably somewhat unreliable calendar in my head. In spite of being off from the day job for the past week and a half, I’ve been super crazy busy with both planned and very-much-unplanned tasks. Right now I’m heads-down, trying to wrap up edits for two anthologies—but as soon as those are out of the way, I’ll finish working out the details of my 2020 schedule.

My goals for 2020 are:

  • Write 12 short stories.
  • Write and publish 3 novels in a new series.
  • Publish 4 issues in the Amazing Monster Tales anthology series (co-edited with DeAnna).
  • Publish 5 anthologies on my own.
  • Publish a collection of my own short stories.
  • Get 4 more of the short story bundles I curated into anthology format, and re-release them (and release in print).
  • Curate a bundle on StoryBundle.com (this is planned for next fall).
  • Experiment with audio. (What exactly this means is TBD, but I have some ideas I’d like to try out.)

There are other things I’d like to do as well, because I like to think big! 🙂 But if I finish 2020 having accomplished just the things I’ve listed here, I will be very, very happy.

That said, I’ve learned that the one thing I can count on every year is unpredictability…so we’ll see what 2020 brings! 🙂

Midsummer at Midwinter!

Entangled by Midsummer has been released! It’s currently live on Amazon and Kobo, and will be up on the rest of the sales channels within another day or two, it has a page on Goodreads, and it should show up on my BookBub profile soon. It actually went live on December 21st, so while Amazon is showing it as published on the 20th, I didn’t submit the files until the 21st. 🙂 Print will be available soon—I’m trying a new approach there that will take a little more time, but I got impatient and decided I’d just publish the ebook since it was ready to go.

As often happens to me, this book began as a short story assignment (ha!) in a writing workshop. After much fretting, procrastinating, and chocolate, I finished the book in 2016, sent it to my editor, got her initial comments…and then did absolutely nothing with it for three years. The delay was partly because I’d started putting together short story collections (initially ebook bundles, then anthologies), and as I only had so much time, something had to go by the wayside. But it was also because novels are scary. Not only are they quite a bit longer than short stories, they take a lot more time and energy. Plus if you write a short story that’s good but not great, it’s just one of a bunch of stories you’ve written—whereas if you’ve only written one novel, your second novel is going to stand out a little more to potential readers, so you want it to be the best book possible. This all apparently requires a lot of fretting and procrastination, and I certainly did plenty of both with this book. 🙂

So in the summer I finally buckled down, got back to work, and finished the book! It was originally released in November as an exclusive title in a bundle of books on StoryBundle, so I couldn’t publish it anywhere else until that bundle ended. DeAnna Knippling, my friend and co-conspirator on many things (as well as my super awesome editor) interviewed me about my novel for that bundle. The fabulous Adriel Wiggins did continuity editing on this book—among other things, she caught a few eye color changes, as well as a few time inconsistencies since I made a few changes to the timeline. Thanks, Adriel!

The one complication with this novel that I did not expect is that my writing skills improved quite a bit over the past few years, and since I’d set this manuscript aside for three years, I had to do a lot of work to tidy up a few spots. That took more work than I’d anticipated, but it was also really neat to see that I’m a better writer now than even just a few years ago. I’m also a lot more focused, so while I do still procrastinate, I don’t do so nearly as much as I used to. I’ve learned that even though sometimes writing a story (or a novel!) feels hard, I will get to the end.

It’s good that I’ve learned this lesson, because I’m taking the last two weeks of the year off from my day job, and have set a goal of finishing the first draft of a brand new novel. 🙂

Rosie and her pig.
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