Monday, January 7, 2019

The One With The Goals

Here it is: the post for which you've been waiting. The mother of all goal posts, AKA my 2019 To-Do list.

Usually, this is a two-part post. The first part is where I review the previous year's goals and tell you how well they went, but as I only managed to accomplish one thing on that list last year I didn't really feel the need to devote an entire post to it.

But here's the thing. The one 2018 goal I accomplished was to publish Second Nature, which was my number one writing goal for last year. And as that goal goes, so goes my year. So the fact that I didn't manage to do anything else I had wanted to do doesn't bother me as much as it normally would because I did this:

Which means my 2019 goal list will look awfully similar to last year's list...with one notable exception. I can't wait to find out what the new Number One Goal will be.

The Writing Goals

1. Publish the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Bad Romance Novel

I'm currently about three months behind where I wanted to be with this WIP at this time, so I may be setting myself up for a big, fat failure here but I'm going to attempt to do this all the same. Go big or go home, right?


In the plus column, I may have actually hit upon a possible workable ending. I know I've said that before, but I think I may mean it this time. Fingers crossed!

2. Publish Retail Rhapsody

This is the collection of sarcastic haiku I wrote about my day job. It fell by the wayside last year (too many other things going on) and that may well happen again this year, but I'm still going to try.

3. Complete the first draft of Full Circle

Full Circle is the third book in my fantasy series. It's kind of in a state of limbo right now. I feel like the original plan I had for it no longer works, but I don't yet have a new plan in place. Which means, right now, this is a big, fat mess. Anyway, I'd like to finish the first draft this year, but I think I would really be okay if I only managed to figure out what that first draft should be.

The Reading Goals

I would like to read 52 books this year. I was a good ten or eleven books short of this goal last year,  but I'm sticking with the same number this year. One book a week doesn't seem like it should be too difficult.

*gives self suspicious side-eye*

The Fitness Goals

 1. Log 1500 miles

This can be in walking, running, biking, kayaking, whatever. It will most likely just be walking, however, because despite my best intentions I never do any of the others.

2. Get back into the yoga habit

I firmly believe that yoga can help with my chronic back issues. I just need to stop being so damn lazy about it.

3. Attempt to establish a somewhat normal-ish sleep schedule

My sleep schedule/patterns/whatever was/were obliterated in 2018 because...reasons, and I believe it really screwed with my productivity. I know. Imagine that, right? So in 2019, I would like to attempt to correct this issue. Or figure out a way to just manage my time better. Whichever's easier.

And on that note, I'm outta here.

Happy Monday, everyone. Have a great week.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Asked and Answered (An IWSG Post)

Hello, everyone!

Happy New Year!

It's the first Wednesday of the month (and the year), which means it's time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writers Support Group.

I am assuming everyone coming to this blog already knows what that means, but if you would like more information or a complete list of participants, please click on the above link.

This month's awesome co-hosts are Patricia Lynne, Lisa Buie-Collard, Kim Lajevardi, and Fundy Blue!

This month's (optional) question asks, "What are your favorite and least favorite questions people ask you about your writing?"

I feel a ramble coming on...

Here's the thing. My social anxiety is at such a level that I pretty much live in fear of anyone asking me anything because I always end up feeling like Cletus the Slack-jawed Yokel when I attempt to answer. Only not nearly as eloquent. Then the person who asked the question is probably standing there, looking at me, and wondering if someone who can't speak in complete sentences could possibly have written a book that could possibly be worth reading.

(But I try. I know that jerk Yoda is all, "there is no try," but there is, Yoda, and I'm doing it. Trying, I mean. So there.)

In this regard, every question is my least favorite question. Because if someone takes the time to ask me some writing-related something, then I really do want to be able to answer them, but it's just so damn terrifying and I am so damn awkward.

But there is one question

My Least Favorite Question

"Have you considered breaking up your novel into three shorter novels?"

So, there's a little backstory that goes along with this question. There's an author I know who asks me this every single time we see each other. And every single time he asks me this, I answer as follows:

"Yes, I have considered that. Effigy clocks in at something like 580 pages. Second Nature is considerably longer. So a while back, before they were published, I did consider breaking up each book into three shorter books but found I didn't like it, so I decided to keep it the way it is."

Other authors/readers have asked me this, nodded at my explanation, and we go about our day. But this one author...I don't know. Maybe he forgets that we've talked about this many, many times before. Maybe he doesn't care. Whatever the reason, it wears on me.

(Bottom line: If someone doesn't want to read my books because they're too long, I fully respect that decision. I occasionally decide not to buy a book because I think it's too short. Goes both ways.)

My Favorite Question

"Why do you have to be so mean to your characters?"

This question has come in various forms and is occasionally just accusations of cruelty from my critique partners when they point out the tear stains they left on the page. However it's asked or presented, or however awkward I may be on the outside, this is usually what I'm doing on the inside:

Because if I'm getting that question/reaction, then I'm doing my job.

All right. That's going to be it for me today. I'm on a sort of mini vacation this week, as I have many friends visiting from away and I'm trying (TAKE THAT, YODA!) to pack in as much time as possible with all of them before they leave. Which means I may be slow to respond to comments and visit other blogs, but I will get there eventually.

Best wishes for a wonderful 2019, all!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Why Is A Raven Like A Writing Desk (an IWSG Post)

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writers Support Group.

For more information and/or a complete list of participants, please click on the above link.

This month's awesome co-hosts are: J.H. Moncrieff, Tonja Drecker, Patsy Collins, and Chrys Fey.

This month's (optional) question asks, "What are five objects we'd find on your desk?"

As this question is infinitely more interesting than my current spate of insecurities, let's take a tour of my desk, shall we? It'll be slightly less terrifying. Probably, anyway. There are knives involved, so it could really go either way.

The desk:

This is my desk, mess and all. I bought it when I moved here, and it's been a very good desk. The only problem is there are far too many places for me to shove random crap. I really need to go through and de-clutter the damn thing one day.

But not today.

Here are five objects one will find on my desk on any given day...

1. Toys

I really love those Funko Pop figurines. Wonder Woman, Buffy Summers, and Ygritte live on my desk, as does Baby Groot, Aragorn, Zoe Washburne, and Battle Cat. And, of course, my pewter pegasus is there at Wonder Woman's side.

2. Books

Is it weird to have copies of your own books on your desk? I feel like it is, but these two are here for reference purposes. Anytime I need to double check what actually ended up in a earlier book, I have them handy. There are some grammar books floating around (such as The Chicago Manual of Style) but they were in the last photo.

3. Notebooks

I may have a slight notebook addiction and, as such, there are roughly 9,000,000 of them in my office. But on my desk one will find my current notebook and the project organization notebook in which I write my weekly To-Do list. That list had spoilers in it (and not just how far behind in everything I am), so it's covered up.

4. Writing utensils

I may have a slight pen addiction and, as such, there are an endless number of pen cups and pencil boxes all over my office (and possibly the house). The two (fine, there are three of them) on my desk are filled with my current favorites and a few odds and ends. That decorated piece of wood in the bottom righthand corner is actually a stake my niece made for me so I can kill any vampires who come to interrupt my writing time. Because my niece is seriously awesome.

5. Weapons

I like sharp, pointy objects. Throwing knives are my current obsession, so the two sets pictured above currently live on my desk. (In the desk pic, they're in their cases beneath the monitor.) I may or may not play with them whenever I'm stuck for ideas. (Please note: if the cat is sleeping in my lap, I play with the slinky instead...)

And that will do it for me today. Possibly the whole damn year, too, given that I've done very little blogging lately outside of goals and IWSG. Should that be the case, I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season and end of 2018.

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Last Goals of the Year

At long last, we come to December. I'm not sure how it's December already, and this is terrible news for the goals I set for myself back in January because I am really far behind.

Which brings us to the end-of-the-year push where I attempt to make up as much of the difference as I can.

But first, here's how last month's goals went:

1. Win NaNoWriMo.

If you follow me on social media, you may already know how this turned out. It went a little something like this..

So yeah. I managed a win. I basically dragged myself across the 50,000-word line and called it quits because I am feeling as though the book went in the wrong direction, meaning the plans I've had all along for this story need to be reconsidered and revised. Possibly thrown out entirely and started over. Always a great place to be. But hey, even if I do end up throwing out everything I wrote this month, at least I got a NaNoWriMo win out of it?

2. Don't hide/embarrass myself during this month's book events any more than absolutely necessary.

I'm not actually sure how to judge this goal. I attended two events, made eye contact with a few people, and despite that, still managed to sell a few books. Not a ton of books, but then again, I never sell very many books. So...success?

3. Log at least three miles every day

This one I did. Yay for me not becoming part of my desk chair!

Now for December's goals...

1. Finish writing the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Bad Romance novel

Yeah, that's right. This book still isn't finished. I feel like I'm two completed chapters from the end, but I'm struggling to figure out how to end it. You know, besides happily. One of my critique partners suggested I just kill everyone off—like a Red Wedding kind of thing. Think that means she's sick of this project?

2. Read 11 books.

Yeah, that's right. I'm 11 books away from reaching my 2018 reading goal. According to Goodreads, I need to read multiple books a week for the rest of the year to complete my challenge. That's what happens when you literally don't read anything for two months straight. You know what this's graphic novel time.

3. Walk an insane number of miles that I'll never actually reach because that's how far behind I am in my 2018 mileage goal.

Yeah, that's right. I actually did the math, and in order to make my 2018 mileage goal, I will have to walk a good 15 miles a day, every day, for the entire month. So yeah. That's not going to happen. Still, I will attempt to log as many miles as I can. Or I will sit on my couch and binge watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

That's it for me today. What's on your agenda this month? Is anyone else in a end-of-the-year crunch?

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

You Need To Talk More (An IWSG Post)

Hello, all!

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another action-packed installment of the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

By now, I assume that anyone coming here is already well-versed in this group, but if you happen to be new (and welcome, if you are...), or would just like more information or a complete list of participants, please click on the above link.

This month's co-hosts are: Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Ann V. Friend, JQ Rose, and Elizabeth Seckman.

This month's (optional) question asks, "How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?"

But I'm going to skip that question in order to ramble on about something else. And it may not be anything more than a ramble because I am seven days into NaNoWriMo, meaning that I am now approximately 85% Dr. Pepper, 10% Pop Tarts, and 5% water, which may make me 100% more incomprehensible than normal.

So, okay. If you follow me on social media, then you may already be aware that last weekend, I took part in a local book fair, meaning I had my books (y'all, I have more than one book now!) on a table and I engaged (if you use the term loosely) with the general public (or, those who wandered by, anyway) in an effort to sell said books.

The woman at the table next to me had many more books to her name that had gone through multiple printings, as well as an agent and a publisher who wanted her to write more. (Interesting side note: she told me that writing was never something she had actually wanted to do. It was just something she ended up doing, unlike me, who has been writing ever since I learned how.) We were at the opposite ends of the spectrum as far as what we wrote, why we wrote, how we wrote, and how we sold what we wrote.

She went for what I would consider to be the hard sell. She approached anyone who came close enough to tell them who she was and what she wrote before asking what they liked to read and then handing them whatever book best fit their preferences. And it seemed to work for her because though I wasn't tracking her sales, she said repeatedly that she was selling more than she had anticipated.

Which, seriously, good for her.

I, on the other hand, took a more...laid back approach. In the interest of full disclosure, I honestly feel if I so much as say, "Hey, I wrote a book" then I am going for the hard sell, which is not a feeling I enjoy. Therefore, I very seldom utter that sentence. Or anything else even remotely close to that sentence. Instead, I followed my retail rules, meaning I greeted anyone who came into my zone so they would know that I knew they existed, asked how they were doing, then left them alone to browse as they desired, keeping an eye out for obvious signs of needing help. Or actually answering any actually asked questions (say that five times fast...).

This is an approach with which I am at least faintly comfortable. So much of the marketing/self-promotion side of writing just makes me feel awful—physically awful—that I truly struggle with it. For me, these events are really more an opportunity for me to put myself out there just a little bit, in the hopes that one day it may get easier and I'll get better at it.

But my efforts prompted my neighbor to declare, "You're too shy. You need to talk more."

Which prompted me to want to do this:

Because I do not want to talk more. The idea of doing so fills me terror on the same level as me taking a walk outside in the Florida woods (which is to say, pretty damn terrifying...).

I feel like I talk all the freaking time and sound like a complete idiot while doing it, and I literally feel awful—again, physically awful—for days following social interactions.

But I thought I did all right last Saturday. I had some good conversations with people at that event, and I actually sold a few books (as in more than one). I ultimately came away thinking that it had been a pretty successful experience overall. I didn't sell nearly as many books as my neighbor did—something of which she did make note—but I feel like that comes back to what I have said in previous posts (or at least one post).

That the only person who gets to define success in these situations is you. Me. However that works. (Have I mentioned the NaNo-induced sleep deprivation?)

Which prompts me to end yet another post with my favorite words to live by (that may or may not have anything to do with whatever the hell I was talking about):


That's going to do it for me today. Thanks for stopping by. And if you're participating in NaNoWriMo
this month, I hope it's going well!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

November Goals

Happy Halloween, everyone!

As you perhaps gathered from the title of today's post, I'm talking goals. First up is a brief-ish recap of how I made out with last month's goals:

1. Release Second Nature's ebook

This actually happened. It turns out that much of my frustration was due to the fact that I kept sending the wrong version of the book to my e-reader, so none of the changes I had made were showing up. Oops. Once I realized the mistake (really, I'm smart in other ways. Probably.), things went a lot smoother. So yeah. Second Nature is officially available in paperback and on Kindle, which means for the first time in years, I have no Second Nature goals on my To-Do list. I'm not actually sure how I feel about that. I hope eating my weight in peanut butter cups will help me figure it out.

2. Finish first draft of the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Bad Romance novel

As of the writing of this post, I have two scenes left to write. Of the four scenes I mentioned in my last post, I deleted the one on which I was undecided and finished the dreaded sex scene. Sure, the sex scene is about as sophisticated as a Dick and Jane story, but it's good enough for the first draft. This leaves me with the last two scenes in the book: the lead-up to the happy ending, and the happy ending itself. I absolutely have no idea how to actually end this book, but here's hoping I figure out something before midnight. Or before my peanut-butter-cup-induced coma kicks in. Which ever comes first.

3. Finish the first draft of Retail Rhapsody

Didn't quite get there. I was swamped with other projects this month, and this one fell by the wayside. But it is definitely taking shape. Shape-ish. It'll get there. Eventually. Ish.

4. Log at least three miles per day

Done, and done. I think I'm still slightly behind my year-long goal, but I have two months to try and make up the difference. Or at least some of the difference.

Here are my goals for November:

1. Win NaNoWriMo

I haven't participated in the November edition of NaNoWriMo since 2015, where I ended up with 35,000 words and a loss. I hope to do better this time around. My intended project is Book Three of my fantasy series (aka Full Circle). I will need way more than 50,000 words to complete this project, but I aim to get a nice jump on things. We'll see how it goes. I've been chomping at the bit to work on this book for months now, but I'm worried that I was only so eager to work on it because I had other things I had to do instead. But now that I have an entire month set aside to do nothing but work on this book? I'll probably just end up doing my very best Cave Slayer impression.

2. Don't hide/embarrass myself during this month's book events any more than absolutely necessary

This month, I am scheduled to attend two local author book fairs (details in the sidebar), which is making me feel a great deal of anxiety—this on top of the regular amount of anxiety I feel about everything everyday anyway. I may have to make eye contact with people. They may ask what my books are about. I may have to do the whole putting-words-into-sentence-doing thing, and I am really terrible at that. And everything else I mentioned. So the goal is to pretty much act as normal-ish as possible as much as possible.

3. Log at least three miles every day

I need to make sure I don't become part of my desk chair this coming month.

That's it for me today. Are you NaNo-ing this November? Doing something else exciting?

Tune in next time when I may or may not remember to post something at some point in November!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Four Scenes and Three Days

Before I get to the actual post part of this post, please allow me one small indulgence...


Okay. I'm done.

(Narrator: MJ was not done.) the beginning of the month, one of my goals was to finish the first draft of the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Bad Romance novel.

Now it's the end of the month, and I am four scenes away from accomplishing this goal.

(This sounds, perhaps, less impressive (provided it sounds impressive at all) if you know that at the beginning of the month, I was eight scenes away from the end. It's possible I didn't have a ton of time for writing this month...and not just because I was watching baseball.)

Of those four scenes, two are partially written. They just need to be finished. The other two have yet to be started. Of those two, one may be cut entirely because I'm not convinced it actually needs to be there. (And the more desperate I am to finish this book, the more convinced of this I become...)

But the thing is, I only have three more days to write those four scenes.

I mean, sure. If I don't get it done, it's not like the manuscript will self-destruct or anything, but it will put a serious cramp in my writing plans not only for the rest of this year, but the start of next year as well. I'd really like to avoid that if I can. I get so far behind so easily that I'd really like to not get behind in 2019 until 2019.

Dare to dream, right?

So, the bottom line is I really want to finish writing this book in the next three days. For a couple of reasons.

First, I'm planning to do NaNoWriMo this year, and that starts on Thursday. If you've ever done NaNoWriMo, you know what a time suck it can be. It's supposed to be my reward for finishing other projects (*coughcough* Second Nature *coughcough*), but I feel weird about doing it when one of those other projects isn't actually finished.

The other reason is I just really want to be done with this book. I honestly never thought I would finish this project in my lifetime, so to be so close to doing so now is making me anxious. More anxious, I should say. I'm pretty anxious about everything every day anyway.

But that's another blog post for another day.

Which brings me back to the main focus of the post—THE RED SOX WINNING THE WORLD SERIES!!

No, wait. Sorry.

(Narrator: MJ was not sorry. She was super freaking excited.)

I mean, writing four scenes in three days.

Which maybe wouldn't be such a big deal except that two of those scenes pose my greatest writing challenges: the dreaded sex scene (I seriously hate writing sex scenes) and the happy ending.

I mean, in my other stories, the characters have done well if, by the end of the book, they're not dead, dying, or bleeding from the head, so it's not like I've set the happy bar super high. Still, in a romance novel (even a terrible, horrible, no-good, bad one) it's probably best if I aim a little higher.

But that's totally do-able, right? I can just treat it like a little mini NaNoWriMo or something.

Just as soon as I come down from my World Series high. Which I'm sure will be happening any minute now.

(Narrator: It would not be happening any minute now.)

Tune in Wednesday to see if I can score a mini NaNoWriMo win before I take on the main event...

(Also, congrats on a terrific season, Boston!)