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.
It’s the end of February 2022 and a new season is coming. I’m referring to more than the annual change of seasons. It’s a new season personally and a new season world-wide. First, a reminder for those who are new to my progress reports.
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. For more information about intentions read “The Indie Author’s Three Hats.”
The making area was pretty neglected this month. I spent less than a third of my work time working on stories or blog posts. Instead of starting the outline for the next book in the series, I took a much needed break. But never fear, I also jotted down the many ideas that I will use in And When I Wake.
I published all but one planned blog post this month.
At the end of this month, I received my editor’s notes on If I Should Die. Commas and hyphens are my downfall, but she loved the book. YAY!
At sixty-eight percent of my total work time, managing the office and education took a big chunk of February. I’m tweaking the website, making it function better. I finally found some the hidden buttons in the theme. (Really? Was it too hard to clarify where to change the color of titles? SIGH.)
I’m continuing to clean out my office in preparation for remodeling my work space. I’ve got one more piece of furniture to arrive then I’ll have all the parts I need.
Learning on multiple fronts is blowing my mind. I’m learning to use Mailerlite, about marketing on various online sites, and I’m learning about author branding. Yup. Brain overload warnings are flashing!
I had a huge SNAFU with my online payment for this year’s 20 Books Vegas conference that took several weeks to iron out. Thank goodness, it has been resolved.
Another SNAFU involved software I purchased to download on my computer. The vender told me I had already downloaded it when I had not. It took multiple emails and phone calls to the store and the vender, but that too has finally been solved.
I placed learning about my business belonged in the larger bucket of Managing. So I spent less than five percent of my time on activities in the marketing “bucket” during February.
Right now, home looks like someone doesn’t know if she is moving in or moving out. There are boxes of books and electronic equipment in every room. Multiple boxes clog some rooms.
Don’t ask me where a specific book is. I might get the room right, but it’ll take a day or two to find the box that holds that one book.
Of course in the middle of all of this, my overhead light (the only light) in the kitchen go dark. I ordered and then changed the light bulbs. No joy. The light itself has failed. It’s old. It was bound to happen sooner or later. I would have preferred later, but that’s life. A new light was ordered and has arrived. Now I must wait for my son to have a day off so he can install the new lights. (There will be more than one in there soon!) In the meantime, thanks to a friend’s suggestion, I placed a temporary lamp in the kitchen so I can see to cook dinners.
My biggest personal event in February was the first anniversary of my dear husband’s death. I knew that would be hard. Planned for it to be hard. And it was. But I was able to go out to one of his favorite restaurants with the rest of the family. We had a delicious meal and remembered him with love.
If you follow me on Facebook, you know that Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine was upsetting. Miblart, the company that I hired to do the latest covers for the Fellowship Dystopia series, is based in Ukraine. I’ve grown fond of several people there while working together on those covers. I am worried for their safety. Please send good energy, donate if you can, pray for peace and their safety in whatever language or religion that means something to you. Thank you.
The big item for March is the next to last edit of If I Should Die. Once that’s finished, the book will go to my advanced reading team and to my proofreader.
I’ll continue my efforts to understand how to serve my readers better. My marketing education is a long range effort so that will be ongoing for the rest of the year.
After all the books and bookcases are removed from my office, I have a wall to repair. It will take another couple of months before the remodel of my office is finished.
What I Learned in February
In addition to the stuff I’ve learned about branding and advertising, I’ve learned more about personal loss than I ever wanted to know. As a nurse, I’ve stood beside the dying and their loved ones as an involved and empathetic caregiver. I knew their experience of their loved one’s death was many degrees different than mine. In this past year I’ve learned in a personal way that education, empathy, and sympathy are not the same as experience.
I thought I understood the experience of being “other.” I have learned that my otherness came from the inside which is bad enough, but it’s not the same.
There have been a few times in my life when I knew that my very pale skin color made me “other,” where people around me saw me, defined me, as “different.” This only happened because I traveled away from my home.
I have been afraid for my life before when I strayed into a place of danger. I have never lived in a place of constant danger.
As a woman, I have chosen my clothing with care for fear that my looks might invite unwanted and violent attention. It’s close, but it’s not the same as not being able to put the hood of your hoodie over your head for fear of being killed for “looking suspicious.”
There is a huge difference between my life and my Hispanic daughter-in-law’s life, the lives of my grandchildren, and many, many others whose skin color isn’t white-enough. Huge.
My empathy and support are tiny in the face of the discrimination people of color face, but I am here. I will do what I can.
I have felt a tiny, tiny piece of the fear of invasion of my homeland. I lived too far from New York City and the Pentagon to feel the fear on a more personal level. I watched in fear. I worried about friends and family in the area. But it’s not the same as watching invaders drive their tanks down your street, or bomb your neighbor’s homeor bomb your own home.
I don’t say these things lightly. From the loss of my husband, to my fear of wearing the wrong clothes, to my fear for my country…all of those were and remain significant in my life. Neither your nor my losses and fears are lesser than the fear or loss anyone else has experienced. And yet…
Some of us are lost. Some of us are floundering. Some of us have closed our eyes, our ears, and our hearts to the suffering of others. They deny that such suffering exists. Sometimes they deny “others” capable of feeling. Often, the deniers have the loudest voices. And that can be scary to the ones with softer voices and hearts.
If we cannot learn from those fears and losses, if we cannot empathize with fear and losses across the street or across the globe despite our differences, then we—the human race—are lost.
Am I saying we humans are lost? No. As long as some of us fight the deniers, we are not lost.
It takes a special kind of courage to keep our eyes, our ears, and our hearts open. Fortunately, there are a lot of you out there who have done that. You are making a difference because of your determination and strength and courage. Some make a difference with a whisper. Some make a difference with a shout.
While our eyes are on the Ukraine right now, and their crisis seems the most threatening right now (at least to many), theirs is not the only crisis in your neighborhood, your city, your state or region, or your nation. Theirs is not the only crisis in the nation next door or across world. No matter which crisis you face or choose to address, no matter how loud or how quiet, know that you make a difference.
It takes courage and determination and strength to keep going in the face of fear, in the face of loss. Thank you and God bless those of you who keep going with your eyes, ears, and hearts open and ready to lend a healing word or thought or a helping hand. And God bless the brave, the fearful, the loud, and the quiet voices of support and resistance in the Ukraine and across the world.
I have felt small, insignificant in the face of discrimination and the suffering of others, especially in the light of the war waged on Ukranians.
What lesson have I learned? I’ve received flowers, and words of comfort, and a warm touch (actual and virtual). I know that the smallest flower, the softest word of comfort, and the smallest hand offered in a time of need, does help.
I have learned that a story read by the right person at the right time can do more than thousands of angry voices and raised fists. Sometime that one person will become a hero to one or many.
I’ve learned that though I can do little, the little I can do will help someone. If each of us do the same, if each of us helps one person, it will make a world of difference.
A New Season is Coming
Looking forward may be difficult, but a new season is coming (Spring for the northern hemisphere, Fall for those in the south) and will come no matter how the crisis in the Ukraine works out.
I am moving into a new season in my career and my personal life. It’s an unsettling time, but change always is. In the meantime, I hope to spread make a difference, one small flower, one soft word, and one warm touch at a time.
I love being an independent author-publisher. Being in control of my business gives me a great deal of satisfaction. It also gives me a lot of responsibilities and a heck of a lot of things to know. In part one of this series, I discussed some of the big picture things I wish I knew before I published. This multiple part series of posts originated last month on the Writers In the Storm Blog with Part I. Part II continues with big picture things.
You are a writer. You already know how much self-discipline it takes to write a book from first idea to polished product. Applying the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair may not be a problem for you when you’re writing. That kind of motivation is a big picture motivation. But what about the other stuff that a successful author must do?
Motivation for the Traditionally Published
A traditional publishing company will create deadlines relayed to you by your editor. Revisions are due on this date, approval of copywriting is due on a different date. Motivation to complete those tasks cannot be the money or the hope of publishing fame. It takes a distinct set of self-discipline skills to finish creative tasks in a certain time frame. Your publisher may dictate other things as well. Your contract may dictate where and when you make appearances. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like it. It’s part of your contract.
These situations and time-frames do not have to be negative. Many authors have very pleasant and lucrative relationships with traditional publishing. Educate yourself on what to expect. Ask authors published by that company what their experience has been like. Know what your contract obligations are. Understand yourself, your self-discipline, and your expectations. Be prepared and you won’t lack motivation.
Motivation for the Independent Author-Publisher
When you’re self-employed, no one will yell at you if you’re late to work or even skip a day. You have no boss to remind you of your deadlines. You must be self-motivated enough to glue your butt to the chair to get the work done.
Winging it isn’t the path to success. Have a plan. Have tools ready to help you stay on track. You also will need tools to get back on track when you’re depressed or after a hurtful review or an illness. When you are self-employed, you have to be worker bee, cheerleader, and taskmaster, sometimes all at once.
What I Wish I Knew About Motivation
I do not lack motivation to write. I love the entire process, from idea creation to rough draft to editing and polishing. What I wish I knew from the beginning…
Find out what I wish I knew about motivation, about copyright, protecting your rights, and on knowing your reader over on the Writers in the Storm Blog.
Keeping track of my progress, reporting my progress to you every month is an important part of my process. The year, 2022, is galloping away from the starting line. It’s the end of January and this is my progress report. After a very long and difficult 2021, I’m happy that there is actual progress in this progress report.
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.
In order to track activities accurately, I divide my intentions into four large “buckets:” Making, managing, marketing, and home.
Making is the process where words get on paper or the digital facsimile. I spent 68% of my work time on making. That’s not quite back where I’d like it to be, but it’s much closer than it’s been. Happily, I put more words on paper this month than any of the previous 15 months.
My intention was to be done with this beta-reader driven revision of IfI Should Die by today. I came very close. Two or three days of double-checking punctuation and spelling, and If I Should Die will fly to my editor.
This bucket is huge in scope. It covers anything that is not creating words (blog posts, stories, or newsletters) or marketing. There are two big news items in the managing area this month.
First is that I finished the first stage of redesigning my website. It takes a lot of time to design and implement that design. Though most of the redesign time happened in December, I spent many hours on it this month as well. There’s still much to be done, but I can do it in smaller bites.
The second big news item is the new covers for the books in the Fellowship Dystopia series. Haven’t seen them? You can see them on my home page or on their individual pages. And of course, changing out the covers isn’t complete either. Having new book covers means new bookmarks and webpages and loading the new covers on all the bookseller sites and social media sites. Of course, I’m not quite finished with this either.
Out of necessity, marketing got the short end this month. However, that will change over the coming months.
I’m in the middle of way too many projects around the house. A little progress here and there means the upheaval can be ugly to look at and difficult to live with. Remind me, please, that the tortoise won the race.
New and Renewed Intentions
February will be a busy month. When I receive my manuscript back from my editor, I will turn my focus back on If I Should Die. Once I’ve incorporated recommended changes, I’ll set up a preorder, send the manuscript off the proofreader, and send the ARC to my team of advanced readers.
In between editors, I’ll start work on the third book in the series.
Redesigning is in my blood these days. In my *spare* February moments, I will remove everything in my office, install new shelves, tops, equipment, and a new sit-stand desk. I’ll be taking pictures and sharing them with my newsletter subscribers. Yes, newsletter subscribers, you will get a newsletter soon.
I’m taking a marketing course for authors, an area where I need lots of help.
There’s cleaning and rearranging planned for the “Home” bucket, too.
What I Learned
My focus for January was to finishing the book, so I only attended three short webinars this month.
Two webinars I attended taught new ways to use some specific web tools. The third one was on using touch in my writing. Not only did I learn new ways to write, I enjoyed learning from one of my favorite teachers, Margie Lawson.
My biggest lesson over the past year hits home again as I mark the first anniversary of my husband’s death.
If you’ve loved someone deeply, you will grieve deeply after that person is gone. But gone isn’t forgotten and love is not fragile. Love’s embrace may change, but it endures—always.
What do you think of my actual progress in this Progress Report? Did you make actual progress this month or are the pandemic or other stressors weighing you down?