Muse-Inks: My day at Graphic-Con and the struggle for balance

Greetings, writerly peoples!

Before I get to the meat of this post, I’ll give you a little update on the writerly happenings of the week.

This past week, there was just one. The Sudbury Writers’ Guild booked a table at Graphic-Con, which was held at the Sudbury Arena, Saturday, June 10th. While it’s not a huge event as comic cons go, it was big for Sudbury.

Fandom was well-represented. There were cosplayers, LARPers, gamers, table top gamers, RPGers, comic fans, art fans, and television and movie fans (Degrassi actors were in attendance). And there were readers.

SWG co-chair, Andy Taylor, committed to be present for the full day as this was our first year booking a table and he wasn’t sure whether it would be worth it or not. Liisa Kovala helped out from opening to noon. I helped out from noon to 6 pm, Clay Campbell walked over after his CKLU radio show and stayed through to 7 pm, Liisa returned to finish off the day and help Andy pack up the table, Kristan Cannon had her own table (right beside the SWG table), and members John Jantunen and Sabine Gorecki stopped by and hung out for a while. It was a team effort 🙂

GraphicCon

Andy took this picture just after Clay (Rincewind) and I arrived and before Liisa left (noonish).

We had on display various books by Guild members, including a few copies of my wee poetry chapbook, NeoVerse. We sold just about one of everything (well, except NeoVerse—I didn’t expect poetry to be a big seller, though there was some interest), sold out of Creepy Capreol, which our other co-chair, Mat del Papa edited, and sold five of the SWG anthology, Sudbury Ink.

Sales weren’t the purpose of our booking the table, however. Reaching out to the writing community in Sudbury was. In that respect, the table was a total success. We had 19 people sign up to find out more about the Guild. We’re going to try to get together in late June for a special meeting for these individuals. If the timing doesn’t work out, we’ll at least send them a copy of our June newsletter to give them an idea of who we are and what we do.

Which leads us to balance

When I got home from Graphic-Con, I was pretty much bushed. Phil had the moms over for BBQ, but afterward, I decided to forgo my usual Saturday post.

Work/home/creative balance is a recurrent issue for me.

As a writer with a day job, I’ve chosen to devote nearly all of my non-work, non-sleep time to writing. Thus, a lot of other things go by the wayside. Physical fitness, family and social events, friends, support of artistic and professional organizations and events. Still. I can’t shut all of that out of my life. So, I try to squeeze it all in. Therein lies the rub.

When I can drag myself out of bed early enough, I do yoga or other exercises in the mornings. When the weather and other commitments permit, I walk home from work. I spend time with Phil and with my mom. I volunteer for the SWG and for the Canadian Authors Association. I try to get out and do something creative and soul-feeding in the community.

I try to get out and garden, or use my summer office. I try to keep the house clean(ish). My standards have fallen significantly in recent years …

I also try to write or revise my novels and short stories daily, keep up with my blog posts, keep up with my commitments to DIY MFA, read, study my craft, improve, attend writing workshops in person or online … and it all takes its toll.

Add to that my persistent issues with depression and anxiety which I must manage carefully, and a myriad of aches and pains that only seem to multiply the older I get, and there are times when I have to step back.

Phil’s supportive. He does the cooking, the groceries, the heavier household chores, and the renovation on his own. He knows my writing time is mine and, except for the odd hug or kiss—we need a fairly steady supply—he leaves me to do my thing. He doesn’t insist on coming along (he hates travelling and would just be miserable) or that I stay home when I have a conference or convention to attend. He listens when I have to blow off some frustration about work or professional obligations. He’s learned, for the most part, not to try to offer solutions. I’m very fortunate.

The heady rush of positive feeling and energy that returns with the sunlight in spring gives way to my first bout of burnout around this time every year. The second battle with burnout usually hits in the fall. This is why I have usually tried to take a self-funded leave from work every 18 months or so, May into June and then October into November.

It’s how I’ve managed my physical and mental health.

It’s been two years now since my last self-funded leave and the continual issues with our pay system at work have meant that I’ve had to defer my plans to take a leave yet again. I won’t be able to manage much longer if I can’t get a leave this fall. I’ve pushed through before, but never longer than two years. I used to work part time when I was in the call centre. That’s probably a better long-term strategy, but this next leave will involve a new pup as well, I don’t have enough leave aside from the self-funded to house train a pup.

I’m hoping that the larger part of our pay issues will be resolved by then and that it will be a possibility. Even if it’s not, I can’t afford not to make the request.

For now, all I can do is take things easy for a few days, give myself a break, and then get back to it.

I’ve been listening to Brené Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability sessions on Audible. Vulnerability is at the core of a satisfying life, of contentment (which is always my goal, not happiness—I’m pretty sure that’s a mythical beast), and of achieving healthy goals. And self-love is at the heart (lol) of vulnerability.

Unfortunately, I’m kind of addicted to shame and I tend to wall myself off from other people so I don’t have to be vulnerable with them, one on one. Everyone else thinks I’m doing great. I’m that high-functioning person living with mental illness. I can simulate vulnerability on this blog because it doesn’t cost me as much as opening up in person can. All the self-hate takes place in private. I operate from a scarcity mindset. There’s never enough time, energy, you name it, and I am certainly never enough.

I know that none of this is true, intellectually. I know time can be managed, found. A healthy lifestyle can provide me with more energy. I can tell my friends and family that they are enough often, but I can rarely turn that compassionate lens on myself.

So I’m going to goof off for a few days, except for the absolutely necessary stuff, like blogging and housework, professional obligations, and, well, the day job. I’m going to try to be present enough to listen and be kind to myself and to others. I’m going to try to enjoy myself.

We’ll see how it goes and I’ll check in with you next weekend after the poetry walk. The post may go up on Sunday again, but that’s just my way of shifting things to give me enough intellectual and emotional space to recover.

In the meantime, be well, be kind, and stay strong.

And I’ll “see” you on Tipsday!

Muse-inks

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The next chapter: December 2016 update and year in review

My goodness, here we are in 2017 (!) and now it’s time for me to take stock of my year. Did I accomplish what I hoped to at the beginning of the year?

We’ll get back to that in a few.

First, I have to sum up (‘cause there is too much—I live by PB references) December 2016.

I knew when I decided to tackle Wavedancer, the third book in my epic fantasy series, for NaNoWriMo 2016 that I wouldn’t even come close to finishing the draft (it is EPIC fantasy, after all) in November. I was, however, foolish enough to think, initially, at least, that I’d write another 50k words in December and finish the draft by the end of the year.

I should have known better.

This is the fourth year I’ve done NaNo, and my third win. Each year, I enter December in a fog, still half-living in the world of my novel. I work a day job. There’s no way I could keep up the NaNo pace for another whole month.

Accordingly, I adjusted my expectations to 500 words a day and, though there were two days I didn’t write at all and a few assorted low-count days in the mix, there were also five days in which I wrote over a thousand words, so it all came out in the wash.

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To be more specific, of the 15,500 word goal for the month, I wrote 18,859 words, exceeding my goal by 3,359 words 🙂

Blogging 5,610 words brought my writing total for the month to 21,600 words.

Not 50k, but not bad at all 🙂

Back to my year-end review.

2016 was the first year that Jamie Raintree incorporated separate columns and totals for revision in her Writing Tracker, now called the Writing & Revision Tracker.

Though I’ve looked back at 2015’s and 2014’s trackers, the totals were skewed because in 2014, I didn’t track my revisions, and in 2015, I was tracking my revisions at one counted word for every two words revised. So there’s no real point in trying to compare.

What I set out to do at the beginning of 2016 was to go through all of my written novels to date and start to revise.

I’m happy to say that I accomplished this goal, but things didn’t go quite as I’d hoped. They never do. Quite.

For most of the novels, it was more of a getting reacquainted with the stories and the characters. I didn’t do a lot of revising, but now that I have the lay of the land, so to speak, the next passes will all be more in-depth.

I already mentioned that, having revised my goals post-NaNo, I did write two thirds of Wavedancer. To be specific, I wrote 71,157 words between November and December, and I will continue in that vein until the draft is done in my estimation.

I continued to query Initiate of Stone, but finally got it through my thick skull that it’s not the best project to use when trying to get a deal. So I’m changing gears and going to prepare another project for querying this year. We’ll see how it goes.

How did all this shape up as far as numbers went?

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Of my 138,100 word writing goal, between all projects, I wrote 169,288 words, or 123%. Considering all the revision I was doing, that’s a lovely total.

With respect to revision, I managed 359,114 words of my 375,000 goal, or about 96%.

Some things happened in the year that I didn’t plan on, however.

Though it didn’t happen until July, I wrote a new piece of short fiction. I hadn’t expected that with my focus on the novels. It was a good surprise 🙂

January through March, I participated in the first offering of the Story Genius course created by Jennie Nash and the story genius herself, Lisa Cron. It was something unexpected, but I couldn’t let the opportunity pass. I had to try to make space for the course in my overall plan for the year and ended up making some poor decisions that didn’t serve me well.

While my experience in the course wasn’t, overall, a positive one, I still love the Story Genius method (and book—go get it!) and I would recommend it highly to anyone who can devote 100% of their time to the work. You will reap the benefits.

I just learned, in the most ego-wrenching way possible, that I cannot learn on someone else’s schedule. Especially while I’m working full time. I also made the decision to use Apprentice of Wind, the second in my epic fantasy series, as the project for my work in the course. Story Genius, in the form I took it, was not intended for novels that are already drafted, or for books other than the first in a series. I understand that strategies and approaches for projects of this type have been developed since.

These issues were entirely of my own creation and should not cast any doubt on the excellence of the course, of Lisa or Jennie, or of their dedicated team of editors.

I signed up for K.M. Weiland’s Character Arcs course through the Digital Freedom Academy. It’s entirely self-paced and Kate has loaded her usual extras into the course materials. Her Creating Character Arcs book also came out in the fall, and I definitely recommend both. I am a fangirl, though.

In August, I signed up for another Nelson Literary Agency course on the first five pages. NLA courses are excellence sources of feedback from professional agents who know what makes a successful submission.

At the end of September, I enrolled in a Mary Robinette Kowal Short Fiction Intensive. Blew my mind.

Finally, as far as courses go, I signed up for a course by Kristen Lamb on writing query letters and synopses.

I also tried my hand at #PitchWars for the first time with Reality Bomb, and while I didn’t make the extremely competitive cut, I did have a positive experience thanks to the team who considered my proposal, Michael Mammay and Dan Koboldt. It’s quite an eye-opener, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to test the waters with one of their novels.

It was a lot of fun and another pleasant surprise.

As far as conferences and conventions, I attended Ad Astra, The Canadian Writers’ Summit, and my very first WorldCon last year.

I was also pleased to participate as a panellist at Wordstock Sudbury 2016.

And I had two stories published in the Sudbury Writers’ Guild anthology, Sudbury Ink, which launched in November.

Complicating all that, Phil had some significant health issues to deal with at the beginning of the year (now resolved), and, from August through to November, he renovated our living room after work and on the weekends.

We’re still waiting for the last pieces of furniture to be delivered, and he’ll be working on building wall-to-wall bookshelves, as the weather allows (he’s working in the unheated garage) throughout the winter. Pictures will be forthcoming in a future post.

Looking at all of that written out, I accomplished a helluva lot last year.

I think I’m going to have to ease back a bit in 2017, work smarter instead of harder.

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

What are my plans for 2017?

Well, you know I’m not one for resolutions. I have goals that I work steadily toward and amend as required.

First, I’ve nabbed my copy of Jamie Raintree’s 2017 Writing & Revision tracker. I’m setting up the projects in series this year, and will identify different novels in my Ascension series with different colours so I’ll be able to distinguish them and extract the numbers I need to feed my production geek.

I’ll continue to finish drafting Wavedancer, as I mentioned (way) above. At my current rate, I should be finished by the end of February.

Once drafting is done, I’m going to return to revising. I should be able to get through all of the novels in the course of the year. Again, as I mentioned above, I intend these revisions to be more in depth and to address some of the structural issues, as I see them, in the stories.

I’m going to be working with a coach to get Reality Bomb reworked. It’s something else I’m trying in my quest to improve my craft. My hope is that I’ll be able to query RB later this year.

With the short fiction surprise last year, I’ve actually had another idea I want to work on, and some other ideas for revising a couple of my other stories to improve them. Accordingly, I’ve made some room for these projects in my plan.

For NaNoWriMo, I’m going to tackle the fourth novel in the epic fantasy series, tentatively titled Playing with Fire.

I may also have a new, semi-regular writing gig to tell you about. I don’t want to let the cat out of the proverbial bag yet, but if it materializes, you can be sure I’ll let you know all the tasty deets I can 🙂

I’ve already signed up for the Story Masters Workshop in May. Donald Maass, James Scott Bell, and Christopher Vogler are coming to Toronto. This is a squee-worthy score, in my books. It was another opportunity I couldn’t let pass.

When I heard that the No Excuses cruise was going to be in Europe this year and timed to immediately precede WorldCon in Helsinki, I was seriously considering signing up. Unfortunately some non-writerly priorities make both the cruise and WorldCon impractical. Mellie haz a sad.

In fact, I may not attend any conferences or conventions at all this year. We’ll see how things shape up.

The reason for this dialling back is that Phil, who’s in his 50’s now, wants to proceed with renovations to the kitchen and bathroom this year. Though he will continue to do as much of the work himself as he can, these two projects will require a significant financial investment. And we haven’t paid off the living room renovation yet.

We also want to get another puppy. This will depend on whether my employer sorts out their payroll issues and I can apply for another self-funded leave. I will need the time to train our new dependent, furry quadruped. Again, deets will be forthcoming as I can share them.

On that front, if the payroll issues at work are sorted, I’ll finally see my acting pay from mid-February to the end of September last year, less about a thousand dollars outstanding from my last self-funded leave.

We’ve heard that union negotiations have resulted in an offer, the terms of which look reasonable. If we vote to ratify the new contract, it will mean about two and a half years of retro pay and a signing bonus, again, dependent on when the payroll issues can be sorted.

Our car loan should be paid off in late spring, as well, and so, between it all, we’ll have a little extra money to use to pay down our debts.

Phil got a promotion and raise last year from his employer, so we figure this will be the year to finish the renovations.

As you can see, this is going to be a different kind of year, but I’m hopeful that everything will work out.

Besides, come the end of February, it will be the Chinese Year of the Rooster (I’m a rooster!) and I think the powers that be might finally be aligning in my favour 😉

Here’s to a fabulous and productive 2017 for everyone.

Love and light and loads of good words to you all!

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: October and NaNoWriMo 2016 update

I’m baaaa-aack!

Didja miss me?

Let’s just get right to the good stuff.

October

As was the case with September and August before it, October was a month in which I was focused on non-word-count-y stuff.

I finished off my read through and note-taking on Apprentice of Wind and the rest of the time I was making notes in preparation for tackling Wavedancer (book three of the epic fantasy series) as this year’s NaNoWriMo project.

I knew that I’d likely be writing the novel into the New Year. 50k is only half the length of any epic worthy of the name 😉

I had some trepidation, however, as I knew I’d be out of town, training for the day job for the first week of November, and I had Wordstock Sudbury upon my return, the launch of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild anthology, Sudbury Ink, the weekend following, and my own, belated birthday celebration the weekend after that.

And I was only able to use two days of vacation leave in November. Otherwise, I was working.

I fully expected a repeat of 2014, during which I was also working. That year, I didn’t even crack 30k, but I went on to finish the draft over the next months.

So, zero words revised in October, but, amazingly, that still puts me at 96% of my revision goal for the year. Yup. I’m just that awesome 😉

And I have my work cut out for me with regard to some additional amendments to Initiate of Stone (one more run through, methinks), as well as a whole slew of revision notes for AoW. As the series arc progresses, I get further insights into what I’ve already written. It’s all good.

I think, more than anything, it was good to immerse myself in the world and characters of the story. It put me in a good place, mentally, to tackle Wavedancer.

As for the writing done in October, all 7,939 words of it were written on this blog.

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NaNoWriMo 2016

I’m a traditionalist. I work on a new novel each NaNo challenge and, this time, I was tackling a work I knew I wouldn’t complete in November, even if I could achieve the word count necessary for a NaNo win.

As I mentioned, above, I had my doubts I’d even manage that.

As a result, I made some decisions, one of which was, with the exception of the curation posts I had prepared for the first week of November (960 words between the two of them), I wasn’t going to blog.

Working around professional and personal commitments, I fought for my writing time.

Here’s how things shaped up:

While I was out of town, I didn’t even manage a thousand words a day, and I didn’t write one word on the day of Wordstock Sudbury. I was out, manning the book table, participating in a panel on commercial genre fiction (specifically SF&F), attending a book launch, and reading my poetry. It was a full day.

I started to gain ground on the weekend, though, and though there were still a number of days on which I didn’t achieve the average 1,667 words, there were more days on which I wrote 2,000 or more.nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_winner

And . . . drum roll please . . . I reached November 30 with 52,298 words written.

Flailing Kermit arms! Yaaaaaaaa!

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I also don’t hate what I’ve written, not even during those hard slogging early days. That is, in itself, a triumph 😀

I continue to draft at a more reasonable pace. I’m aiming for 500 words a day, and so far (a whole three days in) I’m exceeding that goal.

Other stuff

I received a very kind rejection for one of the short stories I’d submitted to an anthology call earlier in the year.

Phil finished the renovations on the living room. We’re now, very slowly, cleaning up the house and purchasing our new furniture.

My love isn’t getting any younger, and had decided that next year (after a winter of building bookshelves and stocking them) he’s going to renovate the kitchen, bathroom, and side entry.

I’m happy to report that Phil and I are in good health.

The regular blogging schedule will resume, starting with this post. Tipsday and thoughty Thursday will also be returning. Next week, I’ll be moving on with the next session I took notes on at WorldCon.

I tried a new system for my curation posts in October, leading up to NaNo, that I’m going to return to.

In the past, I spent several hours every Sunday, reviewing my social media shares for the week and linking them with a brief framing sentence in my curation drafts in Word. Then, on the day, I’d copy the text into WordPress, format the links, add the picture, post, and then share to my social media accounts.

I’ll still have to do that this week, but now, I’ll be working smarter, not harder.

Every day, I’m going to spend a little time reviewing my posts of the day and copying them into the curation draft in Word. Then, on Sunday, I copy the text into WP, format, add the pictures, and schedule the posts, so that all I have to do on the day of is share it to my various social media accounts.

Much easier.

If I weren’t so paranoid about hackage and losing work, I might choose to draft right in WordPress, but once bitten, and all that 😉

I just thought I’d share in the event that this might make sense for you.

Next month: It will be another double update. I’ll be reviewing December’s progress and 2016 as a whole (goals and other gorgeous stuff). W00t!

Have yourselves a wonderful week.

Until Tipsday!

The Next Chapter