Since my last update, a metric hella-ton has happened. Hence the lack of updates.
The first thing...
was the November 24, 2013 release of the audiobook, HAVEN: A STRANGER MAGIC by D.C. Akers, narrated by me. If you're looking for a serialized middle grade fantasy, check it out!
The second thing...
was Smoky Writers 2014, which was the writing retreat in January, planned by Alex White (author of The Gearheart). I wanted to use the trip to get momentum back on SONG OF THE HERETIC, which I had not managed to get much done on during NaNoWriMo, and the trip absolutely surpassed my expectations. Hands down, it was the best trip I have ever taken. I've never felt so productive, so accepted, nor so well-fed. And the company could hardly be beaten (except, possibly, by the expanded lineup for next year).
We recapped on Episode #28 of The Shared Desk podcast (click below to listen - explicit language alert).
TL;DL? Let me tell you just a bit about it:
Eight writers and two cooks venture into the Smoky Mountains for five days. Our mantra?
FOOD. BOOZE. WORDS.
We had a couple of ground rules:
#1 - You MUST write.
#2 - Quiet Time until 5PM.
#3 - At 5PM, each person reads up to 10min of their day's writing. No critiques.
The schedule was...
8:00 - breakfast
9:00 - writing
12:00 - lunch
1:00 - writing
5:30 - readings
7:00 - dinner
8:00 - hot-tub/games/shenanigans.
When I tell you that I gained 5lbs on that trip, it's because I couldn't stop eating. Five days worth of amazing meals courtesy our two chefs. It was like being royalty...
On the way home, my friend Bryan Lincoln and I got caught in a snowstorm that caused us to take nearly 11 hours for what had been a 6-hour drive there. His flight got cancelled, and I ended up dragging him back to the farm with me.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU PUT TWO WRITERS IN A CAR FOR 11 HOURS, THEN GIVE THEM THREE DAYS TO HANG OUT?
They brainstorm and outline a pair of interlocking, independent stories about Steampunk Artificial Intelligence. (Listen to the madness and hilarity below).
So, after the retreat and subsequent mini-retreat, it was back to work.
The third thing...
was the change I felt to myself. Something shifted at that retreat--clicked in a way it never had before. Maybe it was realizing that I could be accepted in a group of other writers I like and respect, and treated as an equal and not as the impostor I feared. Maybe it was getting back into the swing of my writing and realizing I wasn't as tired, that I really could get back into the game.
Somehow, I knew after coming home from the retreat that 2014 was going to be my year, because I had decided to make it my year.
Last year, 2013, was really hard. I quit my job, moved back in with my parents, and was (finally) diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder I'd been battling since high school. I started medication, started a new job at Starbucks, and tried to reassemble the pieces of a life I'd felt had all but fallen apart.
Somewhere in there, I recorded two audiobooks, edited, formatted, and released EXORCISING AARON NGUYEN, outlined SONG OF THE HERETIC, and finally put THE MARK OF FLIGHT into a drawer indefinitely (ouch). By the time NaNoWriMo rolled around, I was exhausted, and then it was Christmas season at work.
Finally, on Christmas Eve, we welcomed my niece Peyton into the world - the first of a big string of great things to come.
A New Year...
Luckily, the medication was doing wonders for me. It really feels like night and day, comparing how I felt before to how I feel now. Suddenly, the person that's been lurking beneath that constant sense of dread and stress has come to the surface. I used to cry whenever I talked about anything even vaguely serious (even if it wasn't something I thought merited tears, I couldn't stop them). Now, tears are confined for really serious things. Like tornadoes and laughing while moving boxes up three flights of stairs in the rain and getting that first picture of my niece.
After the retreat, I knew I needed to continue with all the good the medication was doing. Luckily enough, I wasn't expending all my energy in incessant fight-or-flight. I had the mental and emotional capacity to take a good look at myself and realize that there were other factors in my life keeping me from being fully committed to my writing.
I wasn't healthy. I'm nearly 5'3" and, at roughly 157lbs, heavier than I'd ever been. I was really athletic in high school, and during my early 20s, fluctuated in weight quite a bit. My healthy weight--when I'm active and muscular and fit--is generally between 115 and 125, and while I wasn't expecting to get back to that, I set my initial goal to get past the 147lb-barrier I hadn't been able to break for over two years.
I'm up all night to get healthy...
J/k! I'm trying to get adequate sleep. That, and change my diet. I think changing how I ate was the most important step in losing weight. For four weeks, I didn't really work out that much, but my mother and I did the SUPER SHRED diet, and both of us dropped 10lbs. I moved on to the sustainable basic SHRED diet and started following Cassey Ho's workout calendar on Blogilates. I dropped another 5lbs, which I've gained back in muscle, and a total of 2.5" off my waist. The best part is that it hasn't been too difficult.
I also started running, which I used to think I'd only do in the event of a zombie apocalypse...
Progress on the book!
In addition to getting my life in order emotionally and physically, I'm getting my work-ethic together mentally. I'm up to about 40k on SONG OF THE HERETIC, a lot of which is hand-written draft at this point because my left wrist is sprained and--yes--I'm typing all of this with my right hand, which is cramping. Anyway, I'm trying not to worry too much about length (that's what she said?) and just letting the draft come out as it will.
Luckily, I've had excellent feedback from my alpha-reader Adryn.
I wrote two books before this one, and rewrote each of them at least once. I have to hope the fifth time's the charm. But I'm not hoping, because I'm hurling myself at this book with all the ferocity I have, because I believe in it. I think it's good. It's exactly the kind of thing I want to be writing, and I think there's a place in the market for it.
2014 is going to be my year, because I'm going to make it my year. SONG OF THE HERETIC is going to be the book, because I'm going to make it the book.