A Month of Changes with More to Come

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.

image of a chalky, chalk board with the words "Time for Change" written in white chalk. We all are facing changes

Intentions

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.

Making

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.

Managing

Very little done in the managing area, not even keeping up with routine business chores. 

Marketing

Even less was done in the marketing department, but I have plans… oh boy, do I have plans. 

Home

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:

Changes are happening at my house. This photograph shows a floor littered with shreds of paper, boxes to be made, empty boxes and a box full of books with a book titled the Fantastic Art of Boris Vallejo on the top of the pile.

“It’s a mess!”

Grandson J

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. 

Going Forward

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.  

Everything Changes

This black and white illustration shows the scales of justice out of balance with one hanging very low and the other very high. Sadly, this is what our justice system looks like post roe v. wade.

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. 

What positive changes are happening in your life?

Image Credits

Top image by  Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Middle photo by Lynette M. Burrows

Final image by kalhh from Pixabay 

Progress Report: Moving Forward in May

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.

Intentions

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.

Making

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.  

Managing

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?

Marketing

My limited efforts in marketing on Amazon and on Facebook are encouraging. I marketed and sold books in person.  

Home

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.

Events

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. 

Going Forward

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. 

Final Words

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. 

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Published: Part II

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.

Photo taken from above a manual typewriter looking down on a man's hands on the keys symbolic of things I wish I knew before I published

Motivation

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.

Your Creative Mindset Two Years into the Pandemic

Your creative mindset two years into the pandemic may differ greatly from before the pandemic. Are you still creating? Are you more focused or less focused? Some of you may have encountered pandemic-based stressors like loss of income, concern about the health of family members or your own health, and the shortage of necessary supplies. For some of us, the stress has been more distant and less personal. There are those who are suffering from long-haulers symptoms, continued loss of income and associated losses. And there are far too many have lost loved ones either to COVID or for other reasons. No matter how distant or personal, the stress of two years of pandemic life is real. Let’s make an assessment so we can make realistic goals for the new year. How is your creative mindset after two years of pandemic?

Image represents your creative mindset two years into the pandemic shows a woman's thinking silhouette with a line drawing of her brain and three lightbulbs each with line-drawn brains and the words "what's your mid-pandemic creative mindset?"

The Creative Mindset

I believe everyone has some creativity. Those who doubt their creativity, or whose focus isn’t on their creativity, may deny they, too, have a creative mindset. There are some people who have very little creativity or choose a non-creative path. There is nothing wrong with that way of living, with that choice.

If you know you are creative, you have at least a gut-level understanding of what creative mindset means.

Having a creative mindset means you are open to opportunities and possibilities. You allow yourself to think “outside the box,” make fresh connections, and discover innovations or creations. A creative mindset can be limited if you doubt your abilities or cannot focus on creativity because of you are focused on other things, often life responsibilities. If you embrace your creative mindset, it can encompass many skills and become an attitude, a way of thinking, and a lifestyle.

The Assessment

Erman Misirlisoy Ph.D. posted There’s a Way to Actually Measure Your Creativity on Medium. The tests he’s suggests measure general creativity. They do not measure how you’ve managed through the past two years. I would like to suggest a more practical measurement. Answer the following questions. There are no right or wrong answers and you don’t have to share your answers with anyone. Be honest so you can assess yourself. 

Have you made connections (Zoom, email, Skype, etc.) with your peers through the pandemic?

How many projects have you finished during the past two years?

Did you learn anything new about your chosen creative outlet?

How many new projects have you started in the past two years?

Did you finish any projects you started in the past two years?

How many days a week did you practice or work on your creative endeavors in the past two years compared to before the pandemic?

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions.

If Your Answers Disappoint

Image represents your creative mindset two years into the pandemic shows a quarter of a woman's face with overlays that say stress, delay, pressure, time mangement.

Give yourself one day to be disappointed. Then reframe your disappointment. What do I mean by reframing your disappointment? 

Cognitive reframing is a psychological technique of identifying thoughts or feelings, then changing the way you view them. 

How do you cognitively reframe something? First, record your thoughts or feelings. For example, you might say, I am so disappointed in my productivity that I state: I was too lazy and too depressed to do anything creative in the past two years. 

That’s a negative and self-destructive, creativity killing kind of thought. So let’s turn it around, reframe your thoughts. For example, you might say, my creative mind took a break so that I would have enough energy to survive these past two years. Or, my creative mind protected itself by taking longer periods to recharge, since I needed time and energy to deal with how the pandemic changed my life.

If Your Answers Satisfy You

If you are saying to yourself, I did pretty well for all that was going on. Congratulations. You have been creative and during the pandemic. Good job. I hope you are being supportive of both experiences.

If you’re saying, I did okay. Do you secretly feel as if you could have done better? You may also benefit from the reframing technique. Try reframing it something like, I was strong enough to deal with all the pandemic stressors and even though that was difficult, I was still creative.

If Your Answers Please You

Congratulations. You’ve sailed through the pandemic with your creative mindset intact. Answer a couple more questions. 

Did you use your creativity as a coping method to get through? 

Did you use your creativity to hide or ignore the stress of the past two years?

Again, there are no right or wrong answers. These questions are so you can be self-aware. You might suffer some creativity burnout or fatigue as the pandemic marches on. Or you might need to take time to face and deal with the stressors in your pandemic life. Be aware that you might need professional help. If you are telling yourself needing professional help is a sign of weakness or a person defect, reframe your thoughts. Getting professional help is a sign of self-love and a desire to survive your stressors and be your authentic, creative self.

Your Creative Mindset Going Forward

Image represents your creative mindset two years into the pandemic shows a hand with thumb up. A smiley face is drawn on the thumb and word bubbles say confidence, courage, motivation, success, creativity, and intelligence.

Unfortunately, we are still dealing with a pandemic. There will continue to be stress and shortages and adjustments we must make. Review techniques that may help you and your creative mindset going forward. Do you have a mental health toolkit? Have a plan. Reach out to a creative friend and agree to support each other every day, once a week, or on an as needed basis.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. It provides 24/7, free and confidential, support and help from trained counselors.

If you or a loved one are in immediate danger of self-harm, call 911.

Your creative mindset two years into the pandemic is naturally different from it was two years ago. That’s okay. You’ve survived. No matter how much or little you’ve created in the past two years, your creativity is surviving, too. Be kind to yourself. Recognize that you are, that we all are, in survival mode.

What have you found helpful for maintaining your creative mindset during the past two years?

Image Credits

Title Image by motihada from Pixabay 

Top Image by chenspec from Pixabay 

Second Image Image by David Bruyland from Pixabay 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Gambling on an Opportunity I Found Permission

I took a gamble and went to Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago. No, I didn’t gamble on slot machines or baccarat tables or any of the hundreds of games of chance there. The gamble I took was on myself and my writing. I attended 20Books Vegas 2021: a 20Booksto50k® educational and networking event. By gambling on an opportunity I found permission.

image of slot machines on a casino floor because I gambled on an opportunity I found permission at a conference in Las Vegas

How it Started

The 20Booksto50k® Facebook group is a social learning group created to share knowledge and best business practices for indie-publishing and selling more books.

Michael Anderle, founder of 20Booksto50k®, and Craig Martelle, group leader and organizer, host the conference in Vegas every year(except 2020 when COVID-19 closed Vegas). They keep costs as low as possible to make it affordable for all writers. 

This summer, generous donors created a scholarship fund for writers with limited means. Interested people answered essay questions. Awards ranged from covering all costs to partial scholarships to attendance fees only. Need and those essays determined who won what. They awarded more than 100 scholarships. 

I took a gamble and answered the essay questions. Figured if I didn’t win, I’d lost nothing. And if I won, it was a sign I was meant to go. 

They awarded me attendance fees.

Planning For 20Books Vegas

Even with free admission, going to Vegas was going to be a financial stretch. I needed clothes, suitcases, and more. I won which meant I had to go. Right? So I made a plan to make some extra money.

Besides more money, I looked for ways to cut costs. Especially hotel and food costs. Vegas is ridiculously expensive these days.

And money wasn’t the only thing I had to plan. It’s best to go to a convention like this with some goals. Otherwise you won’t know whether it was worth it. Of course, the goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time sensitive. 

My goals were quite modest. I am an introvert’s introvert, so I wanted to meet at least 6 people in the field (Science Fiction & Dystopian fiction). 

There were two learning goals as well. My weak spots are productivity and marketing. 

I studied the program and identified several presenters I wanted to talk to. I even prepared some questions.

Working the Plan

Photo of my new, royal blue hard sided suitcases with the tags still on them, waiting to be packed.

For extra money, I reached out to two of my husband’s friends. They had offered to help me sell off my husband’s business assets (products, supplies, etc.).

Caring for my medically fragile husband at home for so many years was expensive. I needed more than money for airline tickets. 


My husband’s friends exceeded my wildest hopes. The sales they made provided me with money to buy everything I needed (and that was a lot). Plus, there was enough money to give me an ample cushion for nice dinners or entertainment.

A post in the 20BooksVegas Facebook group invited attendees to arrange sharing a hotel room. In a comment with a little about myself and what I write, I asked for a roommate. I found pretty close to the perfect roomie.

Precautions

Airlines required all passengers to wear masks in the airport and on the plane 100% of the time. Plus, Las Vegas required masks for all indoor activities. That meant I would spend a minimum of eight hours per day in a mask. I bought more reusable masks. They irritate my face less than paper ones.

I had received the original two COVID vaccinations several months ago. So four weeks before my departure, I got the booster and my flu shot. 

Vegas

If you’ve never been to Vegas—it’s party city 24/7. Everything is LOUD. People are drunk. I had the pleasure of observing two young women (on separate occasions) vomiting because they were so drunk. Walking… walking… walking. Everything is at least twice as far away as it looks. 

Everyone needs/wants a tip. 

But there are also delightful surprises. 

Photo I took of the Cake Vending Machine in my hotel. The Red machine has a red and white awning and is titled Carlo's Bake Shop.

Yes, that’s a vending machine that sells cakes from the Cake Boss. 

The Conference

Authors of dystopian fiction had three meetups. I found my tribe. I had a couple of great conversations at a meetup for science fiction authors. And I attended a meetup for Wide for the Win authors (another Facebook group). 

Unexpectedly, I met a dystopian author (who writes for young adults) from my neck of the woods. She lives less than 20 miles from me. We plan to get together soon.

Many of the presentations were inspirational. Those focused on helping new-to-writing folk. Some were full of actionable information.

During each of the presentations, I learned a few tips and techniques worth trying. The organizers and many of the presenters repeatedly said—the value of the conference isn’t in the presentations but in the contacts you make. 

I did not take part in the book signing and sale, but it did well.

Business Lessons Learned

I took a business card with me. On the back of it, I have the new covers for my books. It was reassuring to have all the dystopian authors admire the covers (one even wanted the name of my designer.)

Lots of industry professionals attended the convention. I hadn’t prepared for that. That is something I will plan for if I go again. 

Photo taken over my shoulder shows my face, the empty seats of the main presentation room with the back half of the gigantic room filled with vendors hawking their wares to independent authors.

For my first professional show in many years and my first after the death of my husband, I think things went very well. I didn’t take advantage of the big name authors whom I had the chance to meet, didn’t ask presenters the questions I had… I didn’t have the spoons for that. And this time, that was okay. However, next time I will take that opportunity.

Travel Lessons Learned

It was hot. I should have brought more short sleeved outfits, and no long sleeved ones. I used a lightweight Pashma once. But used nothing heavier.

I forgot my second pair of shoes. That was unfortunate since I walked an average of 7,150 steps per day. Because of some issues with my back, I avoided longer walks.

If I go next year, I will take part in the book signing and sale. That means I’ll either drive or ship the books there. Why do I say if? It depends upon how my books are selling, how my finances are, and what my goals are. All those things may change over the next year.

I brought more “extras” on this than I needed. Since It had been a decade since I last traveled, I give myself a pass on that one.

My Favorite Presentation

With 10-12 presentations each day, there was no way to attend them all. Of the ones I attended, my favorite was Six Productivity Myths And Why You Should Stop Believing Them Right Now by Becca Symes.

Her primary tip? Question the premise. Not all methods work for all authors or creatives. Anytime some industry leader says you SHOULD do something or that their technique ALWAYS works—don’t get sucked into thinking you failed when you try the should or the thing that works anti doesn’t. Always question the premise. 

By the way, many of the presentations were recorded and are available on YouTube. Search for 20Books Vegas 2021.

My Biggest Take Away

When I first got home, I didn’t think I’d gotten a lot out of the conference. Some tips, yes. But I never felt an ah-ha moment. Didn’t know I was expecting one, but when I got home, I felt let down because I didn’t have one.

Then, a friend asked me what my biggest take away was from attending the conference. At first, I couldn’t say. I didn’t know. But as I told her about what I had been doing after I got home, I had my ah-ha moment.

My biggest take away was permission. In different ways, every presenter stressed how important it was for a creative to take risks and how most of us are our own biggest obstacles. We tell ourselves we can’t do something and we have lots of reasons we can’t. 

Take a Gamble and Give Yourself Permission

By gambling on an opportunity I found permission. Listening to them restate the idea of giving ourselves permission to take risks, to do the thing, to scare ourselves… gave me something I didn’t know I needed. It gave me permission to take next steps. Gave me permission to move forward. To invest in myself and my writing. To be my best creative self.

Many of us have difficulty giving ourselves permission to take care of ourselves, to be who and what we are. Often, we aren’t aware that all we need to do is give ourselves permission. 

I want to pay it forward. To all of you who are creatives, I encourage you to gamble on yourselves. Give yourself permission to take the risk, gamble on an opportunity, scare yourself. Be the genuine creative you. If you need it, I give you permission to gamble, to give yourself permission. Go forth and be your best creative self. 

Image Credit: Top Photo: Image by Bishnu Sarangi from Pixabay. All other photos by Lynette M. Burrows