Notes to Myself

Depression is a horrible thing. I’ve struggled with it all of my life. I shouldn’t complain. My mother and both grandmothers had schizophrenia so I’m really fortunate. But that’s not the topic of this missive. Notes. I make a lot of notes to myself and I put them where I can find them. Yeah. A year later! So writing is a very creative thing and ideas don’t always pop up exactly when I have time or the enthusiasm to write them down. This creates a lot of notes which are specifically about whatever I’m working on at the time I wrote them. I’ll find these notes months or years afterward and realize I’d had that idea but forgot about it – because I lost the note – and moved the story in another direction. The importance of storing notes where I can find them obviously needs to be a priority for me.

I haven’t written for so long that my arm aches as I’m writing this but I believe I have officially come out of the dark tunnel I’ve been in for so the last few months. I can think better. I can see better! I can drive safer than I did when I had that reaction. I’m also working again, not only on the renovation but also on my writing. I’ve also been working on the cover for Dorian one and actually started to gather ideas for Dorian two. I like to stay ahead when I can!

I came up with a novel cover idea and worked with it and, after watching a couple of Youtube videos on how to use the shape builder tool, I came up with a cover that is not exactly what I had in mind but that I actually like. I changed the cover on Joanna 1 several times because I just really had no idea how to do a cover. Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot since then. Dorian 1’s cover has more of southwest feel to it than I’d planned but it has all the elements I was wanting and it looked nice as of last night. I’m letting it rest so I can view it with fresh eyes today and see what I really think of it, remembering my epiphany of quilting. I’ve taught myself over decades to be more compassionate in some of the areas where I realized my inner critic was absolutely merciless! Creating artwork in Illustrator is going to be another one of those areas.

I’ve had to learn how to break down creating the cover into a series of smaller tasks which are easier for me to handle at this moment instead of one huge sit down where I conquer the world, end world hunger and bring about world peace. I’m still sometimes a type A person, especially when it comes to learning new tasks.

Which brings me to the subject of this post. Notes. I’m certain when I was reworking Dorian 2 that I saved a certain character who was killed in the rough draft. I ‘remember’ rewriting it and then journaling that I’d changed the story line and would need to remember to continue that change throughout the following books. But when I went to read through it, I noticed it wasn’t done. That character still died.

I had to stop a moment and wonder if I’d dreamed it. I do have complex dreams about things I’m thinking about in real life and often about concepts and realities I don’t want to think about in real life. So it was entirely possible I’d dreamed about saving this character. The other option was that I’d made a note about saving him but then lost it. That is also a very real possibility. The third option doesn’t bear consideration because it’s too scary – the possibility that I’ve lost a version of a book I’ve written and all the changes and character development I’d worked on. That was a horrifying thought!

So I saved him. It’s a moment where Dorian is on the precipice of staying the same or vowing to bring the change that he saw in Crestival into his own world. While he really believes Joanna is the only one to create the change, really and truly the only one who can create that alteration is himself. We can only change ourselves and no one else. So it’s an important point in Dorian’s character path. Also, randomly, I’m certain it means something to Olozcho, the character being saved. He’ll go on to participate in future stories and have more life. I know it may sound crazy to think about my characters as if they were real people but for me they kind of are.

I’m not a a great artist at all. I’ve done a lot of things but I know people who can do them all better and prettier than I can. Still, I have to say I’m proud of my quilting start. Bees were the topic since bee lives and all the benefits (of pollination) they bring are so important. I’ll add honey to that benefit since, when I got MRSA when I was caring for my Dad in 2007, they just really had no idea how to treat the resistant staph. A microbiologist came up with the idea of using honey, specifically Manuka Honey, to treat MRSA and it worked! So while bees do pollinate great things for us like coffee, there are other benefits they offer which are also worth preserving.

Bee Quilt Top.

Developing a Strategy

This blog has been less of a writer’s blog and more of an author’s blog. To recap, I got sick a few weeks back and visited the doctor, the first visit in a long time due to Covid. She put me on a medication my father took for years to prevent or slow disease progression, specifically heart disease. That medication made me very sick. So, here I am today, with nothing to show in the way of progress. Everything I had set up to make progress on for the last month is still sitting there waiting for me to get it done. I’m off that medication and my life is running more smoothly now. Ironically, my cat Joey got sick about the same time and is now on medications which are making him feel better. Definitely a trying time having us both feeling under the weather.

It’s all made me very frustrated. I’ve produced three which aren’t bad but when I look at them as book covers my inner critic refuses to allow they’re good enough. So I’ve come to this point in my life, a point I’ve visited several times over the years I’ve been writing or crafting any thing: When do I decide my work is good enough? When I do approve of what I’m producing? It’s so easy to look at something I spent hours creating and believe it’s no good. It’s harder to do that over time. Something I crocheted at the moment I finish is “okay” but if I fold it up and store it away for cold weather, once I pull it out and look at it anew and with fresh eyes, it becomes “beautiful”.

My desire to punch out books covers as fast as I can crochet granny squares has not manifested itself in reality so I’ll fall back on what I know to be true. An hour a day can accomplish great things. When I first started writing, an author I was corresponding with told me that her secret was to write one page a day. At the end of a year, all the pages equal a book. That is a strategy which works on many things from home repairs and remodeling (just spend an hour a day when you get home from work and before you know it the big project will be done), writing, crafting, and housework. I’ve spent so many hours in front of Illustrator crafting a well done image only to throw it out the next day and all I’ve actually accomplished is getting sick of the whole thing. So I’ll fall back on what I know to be true. Strategy wins the war.

Oddly enough, during this whole ordeal with the medication reaction, the only thing I kept thinking is that I wanted to start quilting again. I haven’t quilted in decades! I used to do it a lot when I was caring for my grandmother when I was in my late teens but put it aside as requiring too much attention when I was caring for my schizophrenic mother. Now I’m only caring for myself and Joey so I’ve pulled out the new Singer sewing machine I bought three years ago and set it up in the only space I’ve got room, which is the recently renovated laundry room, and I’ve been quilting. I kind of went crazy at the fabric store but the lady at the fabric cutting station told me if I quilted for an hour a day, I’d get it all worked up and finished. Amazing how that strategy is embraced by so many others on so many different projects.

Concept and Confidence

I got sidelined which is really quite easy to do. Writing is hard. Oh, the first stirrings of a story are easy. They fill me up and make my inner being buzz with energy and enthusiasm but then I find myself in a place where I have to solve a problem for the characters and that – that gets complicated. Solving problems forces me to put my aluminum foil hat on and really think. It’s bad enough to have to solve my own personal issues but then I’m solving problems for someone who only exists in my mind!? It’s easy to understand why it often takes a back seat.

I’m not NOT doing anything! I’m writing a bit but I’ve been sick and still recovering from that. Plus my Joey cat has also been sick and is still being evaluated by the vet for the best care scenario. Aging is no fun. But I’m also running into that rundown place where I’m just not interested in things. Some call it writer’s block. Some call it burn out. I personally call it reboot time.

I sat down yesterday and read a whole book all the way through. Not one of mine, mind you. One of Pedro Urvi’s books, The Traitor’s Son. I liked it! It was so nice to get away from a story I’m all too familiar with and relax with a story I don’t need to craft or edit. I hadn’t done that sort of thing, just spending a whole day reading, in years!

As I sat down with my green tea this morning by the window, watching my neighbors mow their yard, I opened the laptop and faced off against that inner demon all writers face which basically said, “I got nothing.” Not that I have absolutely nothing. I keep extensive notes of where I’d like things to go. Often, if I go back and read a few pages before where I stopped, I’ll get an idea of where the story needs to go next. But this morning, I’m still reeling from the joy of reading all day yesterday and the reality that I can’t do that today. So I changed gears and started thinking book covers.

It sounds so romantic to write and it can be but, when you get a book done, you have to edit and proof it and get it ready for copyright. There’s a process to that. The form is interestingly more difficult than it really needs to be. And in the middle of all that is the cover art. Many authors who publish the traditional way have the cover art done by a professional hired by the Publisher. For those who self-publish, that’s a chore the author has to take on. Again, there are professionals who will do that for a fee. I wanted and took classes so I could do that for myself but the issue is my demonic inner critic. I’ve been working on a cover for Dorian 1 for – I don’t know! Months maybe?! I’ve produced three creditable designs which probably would have worked but my Inner Critic tells me they’re not good enough! So what to do?? I’ve spent a lot of time looking at book covers (which is how I ended up with Pedro Urvi’s book) but my confidence in book covers isn’t the same as my confidence in writing. I’ve been writing for decades off and on. With book covers, I’m just getting started. So I’m being way more harsh on myself than usual.

In such a situation, my Inner Critic, devoid of any pride of accomplishment in any work I produce, will shut me down and I sat this morning watching my neighbors mow and wondering if that’s why I’m not writing today. I learned over time to muzzle that Inner Critic when it came to my writing and I may need to do that for my book covers too. I need a book cover for Dorian. Producing it myself means I’ll need to copyright it as well. Which tells me that I need to be working on covers at the same time I’m editing to speed up the publishing process. But I’ve only been in print for a year and I need to shut up my demonic Inner Critic (which is oddly telling me I need to start quilting again) and get back to work.

Each successful book cover is a mark in my favor. Granted, both Joanna books are stock photos I manipulated to become a cover and the cover for Million Dollar Challenge is a picture I took in Michigan in 2019. That being said, they were still covers I liked a great deal. And that’s the rub. I need to like the book covers I design. That’s a confidence issue, I think. Or maybe it’s just that I need to step back from my work for a moment and reassess my creative process and what I’m producing. It’s all a learning curve and humans are learning every day of their lives! Nothing is wasted.

Back on the Tracks

I cannot believe it’s been a month since I last wrote a post. Time hasn’t passed by me fast but it has passed by me like a whirlwind.

I don’t talk about my experiences with mental illness a lot but often after having a bout of physical illness, I’ll have an issue with mental illness as everything is thrown off balance by being sick. With mental illness in my family I was unlikely to escape it. I have been fortunate to have the tools of a modern world with which to learn to cope and to care for myself, therapies and doctors and phone numbers I can call for help, much of which was unavailable or in it’s infancy just twenty years ago. My mother had doctors thirty five years ago but they never really did anymore than prescribe medications which didn’t completely help. My grandmother had doctors she refused to see, electroconvulsive therapy which only led her to forget things and medications she refused to take. It’s odd how mental illness is still in the dark ages while so many other diseases are leaping ahead at a time warp speed to be more understood and preventable.

The story which won’t let me go is still calling my name. I’ve been jotting down notes and taking time to think about the plot and conclusion. My counselor posed an interesting question a month ago which is still going through my mind. What ending is the right ending versus what ending is right for that character? That was a complicated question I still ask myself today, a month after being asked. I don’t want too much of his input. I’ll have to give him partial credit!

My days while writing often meant staring at a screen for up to 10 hours a day. I’ve had days this week where I haven’t even picked up the laptop at all. As I navigate where I might want to further my education and what direction I want to seek that furtherance, my AC breaks. It’s a weird kind of broken which I’m sure has something to do with a very expensive computerized part. Fortunately, it’s been pretty mild in Texas this month.

I also made some progress with the household renovation, including some painting and also some planning for the next project I want to tackle. Right now, prices for all home renovation and repair items are skyrocketing. Flooring which cost under $250 for two rooms in 2019 cost almost $500 for one room and still hasn’t shipped! I hope they didn’t run out! The housing market in Texas is insane! Plus, it’s been raining for like two weeks straight. I’ve been so depressed not being able to see the sunshine but I know I’ll be grateful for this rain in August when it’s a hundred plus degrees out.

It’s odd to not be writing and it feels more and more odd every day that I don’t do it so I know that I’ll be back on the tracks very soon. Probably this weekend. There is a three day weekending coming and I’ll spend it at home with my sick cat who went to the vet Tuesday. He is feeling better now but the vet called to say they found something. They’re waiting for more test results to come in.

Life has a way of pushing and shoving us and that always prompted me to write. As the excitement of the story and the idea that I only have two months until the next semester starts, I know I’ll be writing very soon because all of that energy and enthusiasm will propel me to the keyboard because I can type faster than I can manually write. I put Joanna aside several times, frustrated with the story, with the characters, and with myself. But a character kept calling me and begging me to write more. That character was Chandler. It’s because of that character that I kept on writing Joanna’s story. In contrast, Makeja doesn’t speak to me. She’s too angry. But the investigator does. More than anything, what speaks to me is the fact that those who are often only trying to defend their right to exist are the ones who often wind up in prison (or worse) for just preserving their right to not die.

Nada

I haven’t really had downtime since last summer since I took classes in the Fall, over Winter break, and then this Spring. It kept me busy and my mind off of things during a pandemic which trapped me and millions of others at home where I didn’t really want to be.

I live at home where I grew up and I’ve been dealing with the rubbish my father left behind. I’m sure it was great stuff back in 1973 when he stored it away for safe keeping. Fifty years later, it’s trash. The pandemic not only changed where I could go and when, it also dictated how I could throw things out. I’m making slow progress but the stress of no downtime, always being alone, and being in this house which needs so much work (I found a hole in the ceiling!) means I’ve been stressed. Just like every other person on the planet.

I found out yesterday that my kidneys are not happy so I’m having to take some time to focus on me and be self-compassionate. Which means that I’m getting nothing done. All my goals for getting another book out in the summer are being pushed back. I know it sounds stupid, but one thing I’ve learned over the years is just how important self-compassion is. My father was a diabetic too and, because he was a former foster child, he always had to push, push, push and get things done and earn the worth he didn’t feel like he had. His diabetes was a monster because he never slowed down. I saw him go through that and the impact it had on his health and I’m privileged to have learned a lot from his journey so I can make different choices for myself.

With that being said, I’ve already jumped ahead to the Fall and registered in two classes. I’ll be taking the summer off so I can practice what I’ve been studying these last three semesters and focus on the house while the summer months are here. But when the Fall comes, I hope to be 100% again (Hopefully, I’ll be feeling my old self long before the Fall!). But, for today, I think I’m taking a few days to step away from everything and just breathe. Getting my mind and body back in gear will allow me to get Dorian book one out sooner while also working on the preliminary preparations for two others, Leslie and Machine Planet.

Because I am my father’s daughter, I’m disappointed I won’t get Dorian out sooner but that just means there’s more time for great ideas for the cover which I’m still working on. Also continuing to take KDP classes and revisit my knowledge on how to navigate the self-publishing. It’s exciting which makes it kind of disappointing that I have to take downtime just now.

Busy Aprils

I’m not sure exactly why but April and October are always busy months for me. Of course, this is a weird year in that there’s a pandemic but I was offered the vaccine by the state hospital in my state, to which the clinic I go to is attached, and when offered I gladly and gratefully accepted. Still, I like to exercise caution and, after all this time alone, my natural introversion has blossomed and the idea of people is a little scary. But spring break is over and Easter has come and gone. Back to classes and back to work since there are only five weeks left of this semester so I’ll be very busy with that. Especially after the homework I missed turning in over Easter weekend.

Despite the fact I have a tendency to focus more on what needs to be done than on what I have accomplished, I am still in awe. I’ve learned so much in a year. In May of last year, my first book was published. I’ve published three so far and have just now figured out how much I still have to learn! I’m so looking forward to what this next twelve months can teach me and how much fun it will all be! And, as if to celebrate that, I got my author copies of Million Dollar Challenge!

My friend bought one and wanted me to sign it this weekend. That was awesome! I can’t believe the joy I have when I hold my book in my hands, something I’ve dreamed about for years. I will say, however, when I dreamed that dream of holding my work in it’s physical manifestation, I wasn’t thinking formatting, book cover design, typography, image creation and choice, copyrights and software to do all of the above! I’m so excited and while I have several more I’m eager to publish, my classes will have to come first. Even as I say that, the eagerness is still bubbling over since my Illustrator 2 class is just really starting to get interesting! So much to learn and so willing to study! I can’t wait for year two. It can’t be better than this first year!

When a story won’t let go

I’ve been writing off an on for 22 years now. I will say my writing has improved a lot! That first novel I finished – the trash can cringed in horror. But over time, rereading my own work then reading a cherished novel by one of my favorite authors and comparing the two helped me to edit to what I considered to be the best it could be. Problem is, my inner editor never turns off!

When I say I’ve been writing for so long, it’s not to brag. I really fell into writing as a way to cope with trauma and the after-effects of trauma. I don’t talk about my mental illness much. Not much new to say about it. It’s mental. But I can say there are times when a story just won’t let go.

The first book I wrote occurred to me as a story line fifteen years before I actually wrote it. Joanna was that book and while it was always intended to be a one and done, guy gets the girl, world goes back to normal romance, Joanna had other ideas. Yep. Still figuring out book 8.

I don’t watch a lot of TV. I tend to watch old series I know I enjoyed before. (I’ll catch up on WandaVision in a couple of years, after the hype has died down.) Story is the same. I have the favorite story lines I like to explore but lately I’ve been watching a lot of MidSummer Murder. There are 22 seasons encompassed by three different viewing apps. I used to sleep to Midsummer Murder when I was caring for my Dad. That means all the episodes are new to me! I like to watch the same ones over and over. Vera is a huge favorite and I’ve seen all the existing episodes some five or more times. I like how they stay the same, comforting me that the story doesn’t change, not even if I’m having a bad day. So for me, story is important. I built most of my trauma work on story. If I could put it all down in a story then I could make something good out of it, no matter how bad I felt that particular day.

Romance. Space opera. Christian Fiction. Those are my favs so when a murder mystery started stirring in my mind, I was cautious. I’ve never written one before and I know writing a good murder mystery can be challenging. First, you have to make it hard to guess who done it. Oddly enough, that’s the second thing I got, was the who done it. The first thing was the investigator. I get my story lines in various ways but most of this came from half asleep, half awake dream segments.

I dismissed this story at first as not really being my thing. I could post it on a forum or something and just give it away to someone who can do it better. But though I continued to think giving it away would be best, the story won’t leave me alone. It is building itself in my mind so the only thing to do is to write it out. Seven pages so far. Set on a space station orbiting a planet featuring in the Machine Planet series, I’m not sure where it’s going, but I recognize trauma fiction when I see it.

That’s what I’d call it. When I was upset or having a really difficult time, I’d start to pour my mixed emotions and confusion and anger into prose and create what I called trauma fiction. Sometimes I’d borrow characters from other stories already published and write fan fiction. Machine Planet was born that way and I really enjoyed the companionship of those characters while I was caring for my mother during her vascular dementia. This murder mystery is different. This murder mystery is a mystery even to me. I know who done it. I know what evil they did and why. I even know the history of the man who will solve the crime. The best part, the absolute best part comes as I walk through the story with the characters, discovering the story for myself. Editing creates the plot and substories. Editing makes things get in line and behave. But for now, I just get to have fun and write!

At the same time, I’m also proofing Dorian 1 and considering Dorian 2 while also trying to conceptualize three book covers! I am so privileged that I get to have this much fun!

Million Dollar Challenge

I just finished uploading Million Dollar Challenge to KDP. It’ll be a day or so before it’s available for sale but I’m excited. This isn’t the first Christian book I’ve ever written but it was one of the first in the timeline. I know. The timeline shouldn’t matter but I’m a little OCD. I like to publish in the same way I like to read. If I pick up a new series, I have to google the correct order in which to read them!

So thankful to be able to design this cover myself and excited to see the reception. If you spot any errors, please let me know. Amazon does make it pretty easy to go in and fix errors and typos.

Completion

Nothing delays progress like a monster of a storm. Losing one week from my semester-long class really didn’t affect anything. However, losing a week from my 8 week mini-semester made a huge impact. In such cases, choices have to be made. Thankfully, that is now behind me. I have completed my 8 week mini-semester class in Marketing and continue with Typography. After Spring Break, another 8 week mini-semester begins where I’ll study the continuation of Illustrator.

Today’s Typography lesson included the movie Helvetica which documents the birth, design and usage of the font in the 1950s and the history of its usage in the next 7 decades. I was interested in how it wasn’t even available for me to use in typing up my essay after watching the movie. Microsoft Word doesn’t include Helvetica in my version.

I might have learned more from the movie on Helvetica if I hadn’t been sketching ideas for future book covers and also mentally reviewing a story I’m writing right now, a cross over novella from Joanna’s story line with another story, the first book for which I just got the certificate of copyright. That is one thing I can say for the storm of the century. Being in my house, no power, cold, and alone really did become sort of like a retreat to stimulate my imagination. Before the power even came on steady in my house, I was jotting down ideas in a notebook. Not that I could do anything with them. The fingers don’t move as nimbly over the keyboard at 40 degrees as they do in 70 degrees!

Completing Marketing gives me a chance to catch up in all the other aspects of my life. First, I’ve got a book to Publish! Million Dollar Challenge should be available by the end of the week. Second, another copyright certificate arrived today for a book I’m so ready to see in print. I have yet to design the cover for it. With all these classes behind me, I’m starting to move away from images purchased for the book cover and toward the idea of designing the cover myself. The only drawback with that is there’s not someone grading my creation or prompting me to change this or that to make it better. Still, with time, there is an accumulated learning which allows me to decide for myself what kind of design I like best.

After the Storm

Things are finally back to where they were before the storm hit Texas. I listened to the weather broadcasts but none of them said I’d be without electricity for nearly two days. Fortunately, God took care of me and I had expert advice from a plumber who helped me avoid bursted pipes which so many friends and neighbors had to deal with. Give me hundred degree days! I’ll hate them but I know how to handle those. Handling single digit temperatures isn’t something I’ve had to handle before so it was definitely a learning experience.

In the middle of that, I was waiting for my author copies of Joanna 2: Prince of Thieves. Thankfully, I got the corrected cover and not the one with the error. It looked good when I first uploaded it but once it had been converted by Amazon, it had a white halo around the addition which just didn’t look good.

I’ve already started to edit and put together Dorian Book 1: Witch’s Brew and the sequel Secret Asasssin. I’m also hoping to get my next book, not in the Crestival series, uploaded and available before the end of February. With the storm and the catching up in housework and cleaning up the landscape, I did get a bit delayed.

No one may ever feel the same way about the books as I do. I wrote them primarily for myself. For that reason, having printed copies is really nice. I enjoy looking at them and learning a bit more about the publishing process with each one I put out. This is so much more fun than I imagined it could be!