The Smallest of All Steps

Happy New Year, friends! I think the world in general has had quite enough of 2016. Here’s hoping for better things in 2017.

On a personal writerly level, I had a very mixed year. I released my first published novel (co-authored with Kit), which was amazing, and then dove into a months-long promotional campaign for it, which was interesting and educational and sometimes fun, but not so amazing. (Except the two book launches. Those were pretty neat.) One of my co-workers at the day job bought my book recently, and today she walked past and waved it at me with a bookmark in it. That was also pretty neat.

But the promo campaign has been over for months, and I’ve written almost nothing since.

You may or may not be a writer, but I’m sure you know this about habits: if you let them drop, the longer you’ve been away from them, the harder it is to pick them up again. They start to feel big and scary and insurmountable.

I’ve fallen into that trap before. For months. And writer who are not writing? Not the most pleasant people to be around, let me tell you. For starters, they tend to mope around and complain of existential angst, while their family members (and sometimes, the writers themselves) wonder why they can’t be content with normal diversions and enjoyable things like regular people, or alternatively, how it can be so hard to make stuff up with one’s brain. …

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Budgeting for Better Living

This Christmas, for the first time in a long time, I really got into the spirit. I played Christmas carols, I shopped (online), I stashed gifts here, there, and everywhere, and I splurged on the best tree in the lot that would fit in our house. We decided to give up at last on tinsel because the dumb cat WILL eat it any chance he gets and then throw up everywhere, so I got more ornaments. Then we needed more lights. Twinkling lights!

I got a little too far into it, from the perspective of my bank account. So I decided it was about time I got a handle on my money once and for all, and wandered around looking for something I could actually use, and found YNAB–You Need A Budget.

YNAB really seems like something I can do. I can only budget money I have–so no pie in the sky dreams of what I’ll do next paycheck, in order to have irresponsible fun this paycheck. It also encourages me to have whatever fun I want on my money–just as long as I recognize what I’m not paying when I do that.

I like it because it’s super easy to use on the fly, but it’s also easy to go in depth and see what happened when I go back to figure things out.

Because of YNAB, I know that I wiped out my savings for car maintenance, and another big bill coming up next month.

Oops.

I’m …

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Holiday Wishes: Remember to Love

Here we are, five days till Christmas, and it feels like time has just flown by. I can remember sitting at work on December 1st thinking, “wow, twenty-four days till Christmas. It will be forever before we get there.” And now, here we are, twenty-one days later. The mind boggles. (I have a conspiracy theory that time is actually speeding up and it’s not just our perception of it. Why, I couldn’t tell you. But it’s real.)

Last night, my accountability group was discussing people we’ve lost, and how it’s been affecting our holidays. And it made me think back to my childhood. And this morning on the bus, I tried remembering my grandparents’ old house.

Because when I think of Christmas, I am always hurtled through time to when we had Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house. It was a small, two-bedroom house with a basement, a dining room, and a small kitchen. My grandparents had a beautiful tree with these antique ornaments on it (some of which grace our tree now) and a Santa on a sleigh that actually spun around the tree. It was neat. There was always mistletoe hanging from Grandma’s kitchen doorway. And, of course, there were other decorations as well. But that tree sticks in my mind.

So we’d all go to Grandma’s for Christmas Eve — my aunt, my uncle, my cousins, and of course, the four of us — my dad, my mom, my sister, and me. Usually, they’d be someone there who didn’t have anywhere …

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Stop and Listen to the Music

Last Thursday my husband and I went to a Sonata Arctica concert. We’d snagged tickets on Black Friday ($12–and only $18 even with the ridiculous ticket fees) and so we made the fairly last minute decision to go.

And, oh, it was glorious. Small, intimate venue, music so loud I couldn’t hear properly for approximately 12 hours afterwards, a small crowd of music lovers who braved the below freezing temperatures to come hang out in a tiny venue without proper parking…

But it was really the music that made it great. Sonata Arctica is a Finnish power metal band, and they were touring with Leaves’ Eyes (multi-national symphonic metal band) and Omnium Gatherum (Finnish death metal band).

(My husband: Is all music in Finland metal?
Me: Probably.)

(For those people who are like “There’s genres of metal music?” here is a description of the various ones.)

Omnium is not really my taste, so we missed the beginning of their set, but there was a point during Leaves’ Eyes’ set where I came back into my self and realized–that probably for the first time in a long time–that all my stress had fallen off, that I was content, that all the things that I worry about day in and day out had, for at least the moment, disappeared.

As you can imagine, it was quite freeing.

Symphonic metal is my favorite music genre, and I’ve found it to be very useful writing music as well, especially when I’m doing …

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Mental Health for the Holidays

I think November’s been tough on a lot of us, and December isn’t necessarily any easier. Personally, besides the obvious stressors, I’ve also had a truly hectic month at work and came down with two colds in quick succession. Seems like a good time to review self-care. So here are some reminders, for myself as much as for you all…

1. Take the time to do something you love.

I was lucky enough to attend not one but two contra (folk dance) weekends away from home in November. Lots of exercise, friends, wonderful live music, the state of flow, and a natural high, not to mention the excitement of a road trip. (Of course, that’s probably also where I picked up both of those colds. Argh.)

2. Do something creative. If you’re a creative professional (like a writer), do something else creative.

I’m a big believer in “creative cross-training”. We writers love to talk craft and work on improving our craft, which is important. But it’s also important to go and try something else — something that doesn’t have the same stakes and expectations attached. For me right now, it’s Instagram, contra dance, and occasionally tinkering in the kitchen.

3. Try something new.

At one of the aforementioned dance weekends, I got to try English Country Dancing (a cousin to contra) and swing dance, both new to me (swing dancing has footwork, ack, but the music is so much fun…). At the other, I got to try dancing …

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Clearing the Decks

My daughter has more than fifty stuffed animals. As far as I can recall, she has never willingly parted with a single one.

She’s eighteen and she has clothes that last fit her when she was twelve. You can’t tell her she’ll never wear them again–she is quite certain that she just needs to lose a little weight. Those clothes are absolutely not lost to her wardrobe forever.

Her room, as you might guess, is a bit of a mess.

Of course, I’m not innocent. I have nearly every notebook I ever wrote in. Every file of course, but also at least one printout of most of my stories. Some of the book-length manuscripts have multiple copies. And, of course, just about every book I ever loved.

I have a similar issue with furniture–especially handed-down furniture. I like it. I like possibilities. I hate to let go of something so useful (and expensive to replace!) as a decent piece of (free) furniture. I move desks around, change shelves, rearrange rooms, trying and trying to find the best configuration… For years, my entertainment center was a baker’s rack someone gave me. It worked! Ugly as hell, but it worked. It’s still ugly, but at least it’s in the kitchen now.

This past weekend I had a much needed clearing-out. As I argued with my kid about a box of stuffed animals she hasn’t opened since we carried it off the moving truck nearly three years ago, I told her, “You have …

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The Perils of Technology

Every year I do a post on thankfulness, but after the day I’ve had today, I’ve decided to do something a bit different.

I am a lover of technology. I got my first computer in 1998 (and that was late), a Compaq Presario laptop with a 13″ screen, 32MB of RAM, and a 2GB hard drive. $1,500. I did so much on that thing. Designed my first website (with the now-defunct Geocities — stop laughing), did a ton of digital photography using a very old version of Photoshop, wrote countless poems, and more. I loved that little laptop and believe it or not, I could turn it on today and it would still run (but not go online, obviously). It was my first leap into the computing world, and it opened up so much more for me. Those were the days.

I’ve had 10 computers since. I went to desktops for a bit, then decided they were too bulky and took up too much space, so I switched back to laptops. I had the fun experience of Windows ME. I spent $1,700 on a Toshiba laptop with a special graphics card and 1GB of RAM (which was a lot back in 2006) for gaming purposes (now? I can’t even run it. Sad). My computer prior to the one I’m using now had a monitor failure 2 years in that completely sucked patootie. And this one had a fan malfunction and was gone for 11 days and I nearly went nuts …

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New Release: To Rule the Stars

To Rule the Stars coverNew Release! To Rule the Stars: A Space Princess Anthology, by us!

In it, three of us wrote stories around the theme of space princesses. We thought it’d be fun to put princesses into space, and we ended up with a really great selection of stories.

Here is the official blurb:

Meet the princesses.

A trained diplomat, kidnapped by an alien race desperate for justice, and its dashing leader…

A political pawn, on her way to meet her betrothed, who stops in the asteroid belt to answer a call for help, and finds a princess both beautiful and brave…

A captive raised to believe that the greatest evil is magic, when it–and the handsome ship’s engineer who wields it–are the one thing that might save her…

For this week only it is on sale for 99c! Then the price will go up to $1.99. Grab the Kindle edition here.

(No princesses were harmed during the making of this anthology.)

This anthology also includes a sneak peek of Ever Touched, our May 2017 release, third book in my Fey Touched series.

All proceeds go to UNICEF, as always.

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Just Keep Swimming

When Siri reminded me that it was my turn to blog today, my immediate thought was, Awww, I don’t want to do that!

I, like many people, am not in a good place today, and the thought of pulling out something reasonable just seems like too much. I make it a point to not be political on the Internet, so today has been hard, and I’d actually told myself I was just going to not touch the Internet at all.

But alas, responsibility, so here we are.

It’s easy to assume the worst, but we don’t know what’s coming in the days ahead. Worrying about it is unproductive. We just have to trust ourselves to do what is right when the time comes, and hope that others do as well.

(I mean, that might be a bad hope, seeing the situation we find ourselves in, but what else can you do?)

My coping mechanism for the day is just to keep busy. There’s a ton of things I need to work on, not least of which is finishing up the final touches on To Rule the Stars, which will be out next Tuesday the 15th. If you haven’t seen our awesome cover, take a look at Siri’s post from last week.

I’ve also got to do the business end of the aftermath of our weekend at MileHiCon. Alas, taxes and whatnot. I probably should also do some related networking, decide on our plans for next year, and look at …

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The Makings of a Princess Story

Hello, Turtleducklings!

Today I am super excited because I get to unveil…

THIS!

To Rule the Stars cover image

 

What is it, you ask? It’s our next release, an anthology of longish short stories by three Turtleduck Press authors, plus a sneak peek at our next novel. (Never fear, KD Sarge—our fourth author—hasn’t gone anywhere. Look for her next piece right here on December 1!)

And yes, each story features outer space. And at least one princess.

To be honest, I had a lot of trouble with mine. I didn’t want to go the route of Star Wars, with a grand space opera, since I only had the length of a novelette to work with. Next I ran through some classic Star Trek rip-off ideas and abandoned those as well.

But then what? How to reasonably put a princess in a space setting and give her an adventure…oh yes, and a romance?

Luckily, I already had a space setting—the steampunk ‘verse featured in The Haunting of Heatherbrae Station. It’s based on an alternate nineteenth century where a powerful source of energy, called ether, enabled humans to invent space travel more than a century early. Lots of fun…but I still wasn’t sure how to use …

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