June has been a busy month of changes. Those changes come at a cost of my time and energy. That means that despite my best intentions, not much writing is getting on the screen. But positive changes can be a good thing.
Instead of goals or resolutions, I use intentions. You can miss a goal. You probably break most resolutions. But an intention is a focus. When life gets in the way of your plan, take care of that event or disturbance, intending to return to your primary plan. Every morning begins with a renewed intention.
There are three more days this month, but I doubt I’ll get any more making done. Somehow, I got my newsletter out and five blog posts written and posted. Beyond that, there’s a lot of thinking while doing other things and some note taking on two separate but related projects.
It will probably be September before I can make any real fiction writing progress. SIGH. Read on for the why.
Very little done in the managing area, not even keeping up with routine business chores.
Even less was done in the marketing department, but I have plans… oh boy, do I have plans.
Home has been where almost all of my focus and energy have gone. I am finally going to have my worn and stained and poorly patched wood floors repaired and refinished at the end of July. However, that means I have to move every stick of furniture, clothing, and anything else out of the main living areas.
My two-year-old grandson, J, visited recently and voiced his opinion of this:
“It’s a mess!”
Me: Yes, it is, J. It’s a huge mess right now.
My late husband and I may have been related to pack rats who fill their nest with all kinds of things. After almost thirty years in this house, the accumulation of stuff is overwhelming. Fortunately, my grandson, C, and son have been helping—a lot.
C and I held a garage sale during 95˚ F weather. We stayed in the shade, under a fan as much as we could, and drank a lot of water.
Cleaning out my late husband’s art studio has been… challenging and a long, slow process.
After I finish sorting and clearing out things I don’t use, need, or want any more, my son and grandson will help me move everything else into the garage or basement. Then I will attempt to paint all the walls in this three-bedroom ranch before they refinish the floors. Wish me luck in getting all of this accomplished in thirty days.
Writing time will continue to be minimal until the end of July.
While the floors are done and drying, I’ll start writing again. Halfway through August, I’ll begin moving everything back to the main level again.
Big and small changes happen all the time. Some changes are more than not good. The SCOTUS decision to strike down Roe v. Wade is the worst. I am a Christian and am horrified at this outcome. Outraged that some states are taking it so far as to declare that they may prosecute a woman taking care of her personal physical and mental health. It’s terrifying how closely this resemble the religious totalitarian society in my series, The Fellowship Dystopia.
Taking away freedoms is NEVER the right thing, the Christian thing, to do. This SCOTUS decision will lead to more changes. We who believe in the right of free choice must make certain the next change is a positive one.
When bad things happen, we must commit to changing what we can, but we need also to lighten our load by looking for the good. Some changes are good for us. I choose to look at my long process of home improvement as a positive change for me. Ultimately, it should save me time and and make my environment more comfortable.
It’s the end of the month and time for my May progress report. After the mass murders at Rob Elementary School in Ulvade, Texas, it feels small and unimportant. Compared to the grief of so many, my report is small and unimportant. My heart breaks for those families forever changed. But a comparison like that is wrong, worse than comparing apples and walnuts. Eventually, those families will move forward the best that they can. In the meantime, it’s up to the rest of us to move forward. And for me, much of my report is about moving forward in May.
Instead of goals or resolutions, I use intentions. You can miss a goal. You’ll forget or break your resolutions. But an intention is a focus. When life interrupts your plan, take care of that event or disturbance, intending to return to your primary plan. Every morning begins with a renewed intention.
It was an incredibly busy month. The making portion of my writing business was not the focus. However, I made notes on two stories in development. You’ll see more from the world of the Fellowship Dystopia in the future.
Being a launch month, book production and marketing consumed me for most of the month. Happily, If I Should Die is now available everywhere they sell books online.
I had the pleasure of being interviewed by host Alex Greenwood on the Mysterious Goings On podcast again. Have you listened to it?
My limited efforts in marketing on Amazon and on Facebook are encouraging. I marketed and sold books in person.
My newsletter readers got a glimpse of the unwanted surprise I experienced the last of March and affected the entire month of April and into May. I started rearranging my office to make room for my new sit-stand desk. Surprise! I discovered an exterior wall covered in mold. That led to a rapid move of the “working parts” of my office into my living room. Everything else got packed up. (I had an incredible amount of books and stuff crammed into that space!)
Bids for mold remediation delayed book production activities. It was not the dangerous mold.
They removed the moldy walls and treated all studs. Then the drywall installers came. After all of that, I decided I wanted the floors re-varnished. Turns out that’s better/cheaper done for the entire house. I put that off until after the book launch.
If you follow my tweets or Facebook posts, you know I attended ConQuesT, my local science fiction convention over this Memorial Day weekend. More low-key than usual, it was delightful to be at an in-person event. The volunteers of the con did a great job, especially considering that for the prior two years they’ve prepared and cancelled.
Moving forward, I have many plans for my writing. Writing the third book in the Fellowship Dystopia is a top priority. Growth of my readership through this blog, my newsletter, and my street team remains a priority.
Speaking of my newsletter, join the Reading Rebels to receive a free book and more up-to-date information and snippets from my works in progress.
When the world feels unstable, frightening, and incredibly sad, moving forward is difficult. Be empathetic. Keep your head on your shoulders. Remember, tough times don’t last. Tough people do. Don’t let the crazies, the hateful, the tyrannical make you act like them. Rise above. Be strong. You can be the change you want to see. Be the light in these dark times.
From the behavior of certain politicians to the war in Ukraine to the leaked draft of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe vs. Wade, the real world and the fictional world of The Fellowship Dystopia series are moving closer and closer together. When I started writing this series, it was fun shifting reality into fiction. Today, it appears we are shifting reality again. History became fiction and now fiction appears to be shifting into reality. You may see it too when you know the actual history that I shifted and sifted into a fictional world for my books, My Soul to Keep andIf I Should Die.
World War I, often called the Great War, began when a Bosnian Serb nationalist assassinated Franz Ferdinand, the Archduke of Austria, and his wife, Sophie, on June 28, 1914. Back then, most Americans believed the nation shouldn’t get involved in foreign affairs. They watched the conflict uneasily but weren’t concerned because the war was an ocean away. Then On May 7, 1915, an Imperial German Navy U-boat sent a torpedo into the passenger ship, the RMS Lusitânia, sinking it and killing 1,198 passengers, including 128 Americans.
This unprovoked attack on civilians raised the concern of some Americans. In addition, news reports of atrocities perpetrated by Germans against Belgian civilians reached American papers. Some reports were accurate, some were exaggerated. They stirred anti-German sentiment in the United States. A sentiment that concerned President Woodrow Wilson, who believed the nation shouldn’t get involved.
On August 4, President Wilson gave a speech about how he felt the nation should react to the growing conflict in Europe.
The United States must be neutral in fact as well as in name during these days that are to try men’s souls. We must be impartial in thought as well as in action…”
During February and March 1917, the Germans resumed their aggressions at sea. German submarines sunk several US cargo vessels without warning.
On April 2, 1917, President Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war. On the fourth, 82 of 88 U.S. Senators and 373 of 423 members of the House of Representatives voted to declare war.
The first US infantry troops landed in France on June 26, 1917. And so the U.S. entered the Great War.
The End of the Great War
World War I, the Great War, ended on November 11, 1918 (now called Armistice Day or Veteran’s Day in the U.S.)
Some experts estimate that military and civilian deaths on both sides combined reached 24 million people. Of those, about 117,000 were Americans. The numbers are arguable, but the fact is a massive number of people died and the property loss was tremendous.
Many veterans and survivors of the war suffered disabilities or were “shell shocked.”
It should be no surprise that by the 1920s, many Americans swore their nation should never enter another foreign war.
In 1928, the United States signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact renouncing war as a part of national policy.
The Isolationist Movement
During the 1930s, the losses of the Great Depression (1929-1933) and the physical, mental, and emotional scars of the Great War visited most Americans. Many of them vehemently advocated non-involvement in European and Asian conflicts and international politics. Called Isolationists, they felt the US needed to focus on issues at home like rebuilding the nation’s economy. By 1941, they held America First Rally’s across the nation.
The Isolationists had historic precedence to bolster their position. America’s founding fathers saw the ocean separating them from Europe as an ideal situation to create a new nation. Even President George Washington had advocated for non-involvement in European wars and politics.
The Isolationists also had the support of many powerful Americans. Pilot Charles Lindbergh strongly and vocally supported isolationism. Former Presidents Herbert Hoover and James Monroe each voiced support for isolationism. As the Isolationist movement grew, another movement was sweeping through America.
The Third Great Awakening
The Third Great Awakening (1850-1920s) was a period of religious activism in America. Dwight Moody (1837-1899), Billy Sunday (1862-1935), and Father Charles Coughlin (1891-1979) were some of the major players.
During his 1932 bid for the presidency, Franklin D. Roosevelt welcomed Father Coughlin’s support and influence over urban Catholics. But Father Coughlin soured on FDR after the president did not give Coughlin a position on the president’s cabinet.
In 1933, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany and Dachau, the first concentration camp, opened.
FDR worried about the rise of fascism and totalitarianism and wanted the US to be more involved in Europe and Japan. Most Americans were overwhelmingly against such action.
In 1935, Congress passed the first of a series of neutrality acts to protect the United States from world problems.
Father Coughlin began expressing anti-capitalist, anti-banker, anti-Wall Street, and anti-Semitic views. He blamed those ‘forces’ for America’s entry into World War I and worried those same forces would involve America in the turmoil in Europe.
Shifting Reality to Create a Fictional World
In the Fellowship Dystopia’s history, Giuseppe Zangara assassinates FDR before he can take office. This empowers the Isolationists and the Third Awakening. They join and become a religious-political machine, the Fellowship.
In tents and on the streets, a preacher’s sermons are full of the message that the Great Depression is punishment for America’s sins. People desperate for relief flock to his revival tents. The Fellowship seizes the idea and opportunity. They declare the preacher a prophet and “the way” to peace and prosperity. The Fellowship becomes a source of solace, a source of rules guaranteed to bring relief. With each passing year, more and more laws remove the people’s power and freedom.
America never enters World War II. Europe struggles valiantly, but the Federation of Germany assumes power. Japan rules Asia and the Pacific. And in America, the Fellowship and its Councilors grow more and more powerful.
Miranda, daughter of America’s premier preacher-politician, lives a charmed life as one of the Fellowship’s elite. Until she faces a life that will rob her of all rights.
The story of the Fellowship Dystopia is a story of a fight against tyranny in all its forms. The fight isn’t easy. It ranges from tiny and very personal to national to global. Miranda’s fight starts small and grows in My Soul to Keep. But it frightens her, so she chooses another path and in If I Should Die, events force her to choose different paths. And every path is a test that costs her dearly.
At first, the changes in American sentiment over the past handful of years surprised me. I was shocked by how we seem to be on the way to creating a theocracy in reality. Reviewing my notes, reviewing our actual history… I am no longer surprised. I am saddened that we can’t seem to learn lessons bought with blood and tears.
The Pendulum Swings
To anyone who studies history, it is apparent that human behavior and belief systems, especially political ones, swing from one extreme to the other. It’s a pattern we follow to the detriment of us all.
Perhaps that’s where we are in today’s shifting reality. Perhaps we’re being tested. Will we pass these tests?
What choice will our nation make? What choice will you make?
Illustration of a torpedo hitting the Lusitania: Winsor McCay, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
The more you practice creativity, the more you realize the blessing and curse of research and inspiration. It happened again while I was planning and writing my Fellowship Dystopia series. When we left Miranda at the end of My Soul to Keep, she had sworn off shooting to kill and taken to the water to help rescue fugitives from the tyranny of the Fellowship. So I had an obvious place to start book two… on the water. But the inspiration for her yacht, the Lady Angelfish, came from writing a completely different book.
Blessing and Curse
The blessing and a curse, research and inspiration come hand-in-hand for me. I can dive Marianas Trench deep down some of those research rabbit holes. When I do that, I lose time… days and days… All right, not days, but I definitely lose hours.
Some of you may have read a sneak peek at another novel I’ve started,Paladina. I needed information about life in Greece told from both natives and non-natives. While researching that, I came across blogs and vlogs of expats living on boats as they explored life outside the U.S. Life abroad and aboard a boat fascinated me. Their blogs gave lots of details about the benefits and challenges of that life. Their vlogs added to those details.
The Great Loop
I ate up those blogs about life on boats, and that led to a revelation. I discovered that there are boaters who take a year-long epic boating adventure in the U.S. They call it the “Great Loop.”
The Great Loop is the name of a continuous waterway that allows boaters to explore Eastern North America using the Atlantic and Gulf Inter Coastal Waterways, the Great Lakes, Canadian Heritage Canals, and the inland rivers of America’s heartland. Anyone who completes the journey becomes an official ‘Looper.’ Boaters can travel all or part of it.
Research Stretched into Inspiration
You know, with a name like Looper, I was hooked (wordplay intended.) I didn’t know it then, but that the blessing and curse of research and inspiration had hit me for a book I hadn’t even outlined yet. That rabbit’s hole took me on vicarious journeys via blogs and vlogs. Some shook loose memories of short boating trips I took as a kid. And boy, some of those blogs and vlogs were super educational.
A Little More Research
I learned about locks and I learned the rules of boating etiquette. Previous to my research, I hadn’t thought about who policed the waterways. I learned that, too. (Do you know which U.S. Agency patrols our inland waterways?) I used as much real detail as I could.
I also researched what size and type of boats travel the Great Loop. Then, I had to factor in the alternate world of the Fellowship Dystopia and determine what Miranda’s boat looked like. Fortunately, there are a ton of online marinas that sell boats with lots and lots of pictures and details. At the time, sYs International Yacht Sales had exactly what I had hoped to find.
Here are a couple more of the photographs I used to help me plan Miranda’s yacht. Some of these details appear in If I Should Die. But for the story, Miranda’s boat has more interior space and a few special features.
The protagonists from My Soul to Keep, Miranda and Beryl, return two years after their battles in book one. Although the rebels didn’t uproot the tyrannical Fellowship Council, Miranda kept her promise to herself and hadn’t picked up a gun to shoot another person. She’s piloting the Lady Angelfish through the inland waterways of the U.S. and rescuing fugitives from the Fellowship. She never expected to have to make a choice between sister and brother, peace and war.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll give you a taste of locations and characters from book two. You can read If I Should Die as a stand-alone novel, but you’ll enjoy it more if you’ve read My Soul to Keep.
Research and Inspiration
No matter how much research I did, I could not get my poor brain to remember nautical terms. In early drafts, I used port and starboard as if they were interchangeable. SIGH. Inspiration doesn’t mean you don’t have to work at it. To avoid confusion, I kept a cheat sheet beside me during revisions.
If you are a Looper, and you read If I Should Die, know that the book takes place on a very small portion of the Great Loop. I hope I did enough research I didn’t make any glaring errors, but whatever errors I made were mine and mine alone.
A writer’s life isn’t a comic book. We don’t get cartoon bubbles of lightbulbs above our heads. But we have the blessing and curse of research and inspiration being linked. Linked and a possible “waste of time.” A waste of time that often brings inspiration.
Had you heard about the Great Loop before? Are you a Looper? Even if you aren’t a Looper, I’d love to hear about your boating or inspiration experiences.
It’s the end of March and Kansas weather is teasing us with a day of spring followed by several days of winter with a spring storm to top it off. This is my progress report for the month of March 2022. It was a speed up-slow down kind of month.
I began the month with the copyedited manuscript for If I Should Die and scrambled to make corrections and rewrite passages that needed clarification. As soon as I finished, I sent the manuscript to my proofreader.
With the manuscript out the door again, I stumbled around as if I had nothing to do for a few days. Then I got my act together—sort of.
I’m in the beginning stages of creating some fiction content for my newsletter readers. (I know… What newsletter? It’s coming. Honest.)
I completed only ten out of fourteen blog posts this month.
This wasn’t a very creative month… at least not in producing fiction you’ll see. You’ll never see all the background and behind-the-scenes work went on and is difficult to quantify. It’s all part of my process and it doesn’t feel very forward-moving.
I spent about thirty-seven percent of my work time on Making.
Learning more about managing this business was a big part of this month’s activities. I won’t bore you with the details.
I tweaked my website to get all the features looking and working in a pleasant and useful way. And I’ve been fine-tuning the integration of my new email service. That should be finished in a week or two.
I also spent a fair amount of time physically moving things around. Funny how small a house can feel when you put boxes of books on the floor in every room! SIGH. It will be worth it. The challenge has been to find places to put things and to put things where I can find them so I can continue to work. It will be another month before the office will show much improvement.
The new lights I had my son install in the office were way-way too bright to work on the computer. My son moved that overhead light to my kitchen and installed a new, much dimmer overhead light in the office. Thank you, son!
I spent sixteen percent of my time on Managing.
Marketing took a huge chunk (forty-seven percent) of my time this month. Rather, learning and adjusting marketing strategies and tactics took most of the time. Yeah, no boring details here either.
If you are interested, I can recommend Mal Cooper’s Facebook Ads class based on my experience in her free class. Also, based on the few classes I’ve completed, I can recommend Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors class. Both of these are not currently open for new students, but watch their sites or subscribe to their newsletters for the next open enrollment dates.
Housework is never done, especially when there are boxes everywhere. But having lights in the kitchen again is a blessing. Added to that blessing, I got to babysit my youngest grandson while his father installed the lights.
What I Learned
Oh, my gosh. I have enough pages of notes that I could write a book! There were several times during this speed up-slow down month of learning that I thought my head would explode.
On a personal level, I’m working hard to be a healthier me. I’ve never been a physically active person, but over the past few years, I’ve become too sedentary. And I’ve paid a price in flexibility and comfort. It has taken some work to get the kinks out, but I am seeing results and those are keeping me motivated to learn how to make exercise a habit.
It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.
I will spend most of April finalizing the manuscript and producing the ebooks and print books for If I Should Die. Advance Readers will get your copies mid-to-late April. If you’d like to be an Advance Reader, please sign up.
The preorder will go up on May 1. the release date will depend on the response time of the copyright office. It’s likely to be in late May.
March was a speed up-slow down kind of month because I’m betwixt and between. It’s frustrating. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not in a race and that things are moving forward despite the fact that the movement feels slow and isn’t easily measured.