Ink-Stained Scribe

Write-Life Balance

Holy crap, y'all.

I'm working on getting a balance between work, school, and writing this semester, which has been just as challenging as usual. This semester I have twelve hours of coursework, which includes Anatomy and Physiology, Conceptual Physics, and Statistics. *shudder* Statistics.

These are three classes that are not in my usual area of comfort, so it's twelve hours of brainhurt.

So, it's a mixed blessing that my hours at work have dropped significantly. That's good because it leaves me with more time to focus on studying. ON THE OTHER HAND, I'm most likely going to lose my insurance at the end of the quarter.

Through it all, I'm still trying to finish the rough draft of Song of the Heretic. Later this month is the Smoky Writers retreat, where I had hoped to write the second novella in the Millroad Academy Exorcists series. I'm still planning to write that at the retreat, but I'm also uncertain whether I'll be able to get SOTH finished beforehand.

It was hard in January to get myself to sit down and write as often as I wanted to--partly because of school stress, partly because I was brain-tired, and partly because I prioritized different things.

This month is all about getting those priorities balanced. Fitness and social life are other factors that affect the organization, particularly given that socializing requires me to drive an hour away from home.

So, who's with me? Who else is going to use February to sort out their writing-life balance?

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Goals for 2015

I love setting goals. Like, I love it a stupid amount. Big goals that break down into little goals with smaller steps that have little check-boxes next to them. I'm a To Do List junkie--the type of person who spends probably a little too much time scheduling and creating those pretty little check boxes (which I still draw in proper kanji stroke-order, because Japan). I browsed amazon for the perfect day planner (it has a to-do list section) and I have a gigantic desk calendar to help me keep track of important dates and monthly goals at a glance.

That said, I'm not that great at sticking to these schedules, but I like to have them anyway. They remind me where I'm going and give me something to set my sights on in the distance. They're my way of dreaming about the future, of showing myself that dreams are within walking distance if you're willing to take the steps, even if you take them slowly, or out of order.

2014 was an interesting year. I remember telling Abbie at our writing retreat in March what I hoped to have done by the next retreat: SONG OF THE HERETIC drafted, the second Millroad Academy book drafted, and a good start on my next novel-length work.

I'm about 20 scenes from the end of SONG OF THE HERETIC, which is, surprise-surprise, about the length of two books, and while I have the next Millroad Academy Exorcists novella outlined, plus two other novel-length works outlined, I haven't started writing anything else. I have had about three more novel ideas, though. Someone stop me.

Writing isn't the only thing I've been up to, though. This year's goals have several categories, so I'm going to do what I do best. I'mma make a list.

Writing Goals for 2015

  • Finish SONG OF THE HERETIC's rough draft
  • Edit SONG OF THE HERETIC
  • Query SONG OF THE HERETIC
  • Write rough draft of Millroad Academy Exorcists, novella 2
  • Edit and release the second MAE novella
  • Write rough draft of HELLHOUND
  • Release Case of the Copper Condor on Tales from the Archives
  • Don't suck as an Assistant Editor

School Goals for 2015

  • Get an A in Anatomy & Physiology
  • Don't fail Statistics
  • Don't fail Conceptual Physics
  • Get into Echocardiography program
  • Don't fail at Echocardiography program
  • Study regularly
  • Find the awesome

Narration Goals for 2015

  • THE BEST KIND OF THIEF by Amy Sparling
  • THE BEST KIND OF PROM DATE by Amy Sparling
  • SHADOWS ON SNOW by Starla Huchton
  • MAE book 2
  • [redacted] for Abigail Hilton

 

Personal Goals for 2015

  • Continue journey for optimum health
    • Paleo diet
    • Exercise regularly
    • Chill
  • Make an effort to go more places and see more people
  • Remind self that dates are not a totaly waste of time
  • D&D/Pathfinder
  • Be more awesome

I think that covers it. Notice that "blog regularly" wasn't in there. Hah. I know better.

What are your goals for 2015? If you had goals last year, how did you do? Did you achieve them? Leave a comment below!

2015 Updates and BIG NEWS!

Last year kicked off with the inaugural seven-day Smoky Writers Retreat at the end of January and ended with a nearly finished fantasy manuscript, a short story, and a whole bunch of audiobook contracts. I also went back to school for another degree. This year is either going to be awesome or make me cry. Possibly both.

Though the second Smoky Writers retreat isn't until February this year, 2015 started with some really awesome news. Are you ready for it?

Are you sure?

As of this week, I'm the newest assistant editor of Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show Magazine!

Get it, boys.

Get it, boys.

I've been writing "Lady Lauren's Panacea", the magazine's fantasy book review column for the past year and a half, and I received the offer in the midst of my promotion for EXORCISING AARON NGUYEN's KDP Select Free days. For the foreseeable future, I will try to do both.

So what's this Smoky Writers Retreat?

So glad I manufactured that question! It's a retreat started by Alex White, author and podcaster extraordinaire, which takes place in the Smoky Mountains and was created for us to have several days of focused writing time, broken only by several delicious meals that we don't have to cook. The evening holds readings from that day's work, followed by games, drinks, and long soaks in the hot tub.

It's like being a writer and a rockstar at the same time. Is it February yet?

Back in School

Yeah, so living with mom and dad is more and more acceptable for millennials like me, and when you've got an English degree and no desire to go back to answering phones, you're basically stuck with Starbucks and house rules. To be fair, the house rules include wine o'clock and no rent, so I'm okay with them.

So I'm back in school for a degree in Echocardiography, which is ultrasound on the heart. THAT'S RIGHT, I'MMA MAKE THE BIG MONEY. Or at least enough to get my own place and, like, feed myself properly.

Anyway, I'll finish by Summer 2016. Then I'll be singing that Roxette song nonstop. "Listen to your hea~rt..."

Meanwhile, Back in the Jungle

I bit the bullet, folks. I'm back in school.

I'm still slinging espresso for the morning crowd at my local corporate java joint, but in the afternoons, I'm balancing my time between writing, narration, and 9-12 course hours worth of classes. If that sounds like a lot, it is. Don't worry, though, I'm now at nearly 120k for the rough draft of SONG OF THE HERETIC, which isn't anywhere near as close to being done as I had hoped for that sort of word count, but I'm hoping to finish by the end of the year.

"But, Lauren! What are you studying?"

Oh, fine, I'll tell you. (These conversations with myself make me feel so important).

I'm going into a field called Echocardiography, which is at its most basic, ultrasound for the heart. It's an interesting field and there are jobs in it everywhere around the US. Half the people I know have had echocardiographs done. In that line of work, never want for a job.

The coursework itself starts this coming fall, but I have a few prerequisites to fulfill, since the course requires a Bachelors degree. While I have the former, my English/Classics double major didn't require me to take college algebra, conceptual physics, or A&P, so I will be taking those in the spring.

JOY.

If you had told me in undergrad that I would be taking A&P, Math, and a Physics course with a lab all in the same semester, I probably would have lit myself on fire. Strangely enough, I feel pretty good about it--mostly because the physics classes are conceptual. What changed?

I realized that, if I'm going to support myself while writing, I need a career.

I quit my job last year so I could get my head on straight, and I'm glad to report that my Jedi Training has been going well. (For those not keeping up, "Jedi Training" is code for my battle with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.) In fact, it's been going well enough that I feel open to a lot of things I've not felt open to for a long time. I'm going out. I'm writing consistently. I'm dating again. I'm gearing up to build a lightsaber...

No, I am actually going to build a lightsaber. (Who else saw the trailer for Episode VII? DAT X-WING SCENE.)

I feel at peace with myself enough to admit I need a career to support my writing, not just a part-time barista gig or a soul-sucking phone center job. I need something I can do for the rest of my life that affords me the lifestyle and experiences I want in life, but that leaves me the time and energy for writing and a life beyond.

Wookie balls, that was hard to admit. It took my parents voicing their worry that I won't be able to support myself when they're gone for me to really step back and think about a career in addition to writing or narration.

The biggest road block was my own belief that I wasn't good at anything else.

I can't say how long I've felt this way, but it's so deeply internalized that I had trouble figuring it out. Once I did, it sort of pissed me off. I was putting up roadblocks for myself because past experience had me believing I couldn't apply myself consistently enough to do well in math or science. But all that was before my Jedi Training. All that was before I even really learned to apply myself to writing, and you know what?

Writing taught me discipline that I have been able to apply in other areas of my life.

But in chair; hands on keys; words on page. It's the mantra of writers. It means you have to do the work if you want to be good. After realizing that talent and youth alone wouldn't get me published, I spent years learning craft. I'm still learning craft. I don't think I'll ever stop learning it. That was my weakness in writing, and did I put up a roadblock because past experience told me my books were too long and my pacing was problematic? Hell no! I applied butt to chair and brain to book. I studied.

And so it has proved this past semester with Medical Terminology and Psychology. I'm doing very well in both, and I'm actually looking at the upcoming classes as a challenge rather than something to fear. I'm not going to let my own past experiences hold me back.

Besides, I'm visualizing all the awesome things I can do with an actual grown-up salary.

Like visit Prague or Scotland or Greece. Like rent a Winnebago with Abbie and spend a month traveling around the US, writing, eating, and podcasting. We could call it Tales from the Winnebago. I could afford to get my kitty all his shots. I wouldn't have to worry about whether I could afford to go to conventions.

But I don't plan on working 9-5.

That's never been me. I don't think it will ever be me. Some hospitals will actually me longer shifts on fewer days--10 hours 4 days a week. That's a whole extra day of writing per week. Which means I can guiltlessly take one of those days off to relax, which is something I don't really do at the moment.

Life's not scary anymore. The fact that I have a goal, a concrete job ahead of me, has given me the sort of peace of mind I never really expected to have. Knowing I will have the safety of a career to keep me afloat has taken the pressure off me to make money from writing. At least, for the moment.

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  Skrybbi and I have assumed the names of our cats and started a new podcast called Fandom PhD! You can listen to episode one below or find us at fandomphd.com!

 

Skrybbi and I have assumed the names of our cats and started a new podcast called Fandom PhD! You can listen to episode one below or find us at fandomphd.com!

A Friend in Both Camps

It's really cool to know other writers. It's really, really cool to know writers who are good enough friends for me to visit, or invite to stay at my home. This month, I did both!

Pee and Tip!

(Two things that happen after too much Viking's Blöd.)

At the beginning of April, I visited Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences), friends I made through podcasting. In addition to being successful podiobook authors (indeed, Tee helped create podiobooks.com and had one of the first podiobooks out there), they then published with a small press (Dragonmoon Press), and are now traditionally published by an imprint of the Big Five.

They have the agent, the book deals, the awards. And they still have a foot in the DIY camp.

On their podcast, The Shared Desk, they talk about writing, their projects, and general tomfoolery, and they run short stories written by fellow authors they've invited to share in their traditionally-published story-world on their Tales from the Archives podcast. Think of it as a "Tales from Mos Eisley Cantina" for their own series.

It was really cool to stay with them and get a glimpse into the lifestyle of not one, but two career writers, and also be around for their new book's Facebook launch party.

Annual Harris/Hilton (Roach Toaster Tour - 2014)

After coming home from Tee and Pip's, I had a couple days to catch up on writing and...er...clean the house before my friend Abigail Hilton (The Prophet of Panamindorah; The Guild of the Cowry Catchers) arrived for our annual retreat. Last year, I visited her in Florida, which was fantastic. This year, she came to visit me!   (Listen on the right.)

Abbie and I also met through the podcasting community. Like Pip and Tee, she has a few podiobooks out, the second set of which is a five book full cast labor of love that aired its final episode while she was here! Guild of the Cowry Catchers was actually how I found out (and became a fan of) Abbie.

Funny thing is, Abbie started out trying to traditionally publish Cowry Catchers, but never really found a home for it. I guess when you write 250,000 word novels about anthropomorphised gay pirate animals fighting oppressive dragon priestesses, it's a little hard for publishers to figure out where to shelve you (I am oversimplifying the story, obviously, for the sake of the lulz, but you can get the first book on the right for FREE).

So Abbie self-published her work as a full-cast podiobook and, like, actually paid people. As a traveling nurse anaesthetist, she also had the means to commission beautiful illustrations for her books.

She showed me her excel spreadsheet and explained how she keeps track of her expenses and gains (which was all very businessy and intimidating-looking because, as we see from my blogging schedule, I am not consistent).

What was evident, however, is that between Cowry Catchers and her other self-published works, she's making enough per month to perk up my ears. Of course, with the amount of money she's thrown at the books' illustrations (which even she says are probably unnecessary), she's just starting to break even on the Cowry Catchers books.

Still, after self-publishing, Abbie doesn't seem likely to look back at traditional publishing, and she was actually one of the folks responsible for my decision to self publish my novella EXORCISING AARON NGUYEN.

Ultimately, my goal is different from Abbie's--she is happier having a job that can support her, and writing during her breaks between work. She likes the stability of that, and never intends to make writing her primary paycheck-bringer.

I, on the other hand, want to be able to support myself (at least mostly) on my writing, which is getting harder and harder for strictly-traditionally published authors to do.

Learning from Both Camps

Tee and Pip entered the business a couple of years ago and have been building their audiences through both traditional and independent venues for more than five years. Hard times or good, they are examples of the kind of author I want to be--capable of both being traditionally published and still having fingers in the DIY scene, splitting their time between writing and having a blast as a family.

I'm entering the publishing game in the middle of a shifting of rules, and what hanging out with them taught me is that I still believe in traditional publishing and want that to be my primary form of publication.

What hanging out with (the far more organized and practical INTJ) Abbie taught me is that I need not only look at self publishing as a plan B, but do that while putting a time limit on my submission of novel-length work to agents and editors. That way, I won't be letting work I'm proud of founder if the traditional folks don't think it's right for the market.

A few times, Abbie told me, "If you keep knocking on [the publishing house's] door, they will eventually let you in." Which is what I'd like to believe as well. All the same, she's convinced me to start building a summer home in indie publishing.

 

WIP STATS

PROJECT: SONG OF THE HERETIC
WORDCOUNT: 47k (ish)
FEELING: Still excited. It's getting easier to write the scenes at a good pace.
PROJECTED COMPLETION: July

$7.19
By Pip Ballantine, Tee Morris
Does Gollum have any dependents? YES: PRECIOUS.”
— Gollum (Lauren) - Click above to listen
By Abigail Hilton

"Abbie taught me is that I need not only look at self publishing as a plan B, but do that while putting a time limit on my submission of novel-length work to agents and editors."

We’re about to sexually harass some podcasters via phone. It’s going to be awesome.
— Lauren (click above to listen)
Abbie, Dave Robeson, and Bryan Lincoln

Abbie, Dave Robeson, and Bryan Lincoln


Slinking Back After Blogging Hiatus

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.

Some background...

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.

Exclusive Comic

Rough draft of page one of my comic about the Bishop.

Rough draft of page one of my comic about the Bishop.

A few weeks ago, I polled the folks on my Facebook Fan Page about which Millroad Academy character you'd like to see a 5-10 page comic on and the results went something like this:

  • Georgia: 1
  • Amanda Barnes: 1
  • Hiroki: 3
  • The Bishop: 4

I was a little surprised by the Amanda Barnes write-in, but she does actually have a fairly well-developed back story. I actually thought that Hiroki was going to win, but the Bishop one-upped him. Well, I guess he'll be glad to have won something. (Too soon?)

If you haven't read Exorcising Aaron Nguyen yet, the comic will contain some spoilers. Luckily, the book is on Smashwords right now for $0.99! I've informed Amazon, but as of right now, the price there is still $2.99. I'll keep you posted over the next few days. The sale ends Sunday, so BUY, YOU FOOLS /gandalf.

I've decided to make this comic an exclusive freebie for folks who subscribe to my new releases mailing list, which you can sign up for below. I only send out mail when I've got something new out, or something free to give you, like the comic or a short story.

In other exciting news:

  1. I got a part-time job at Starbucks! Yay, money and free coffee and still enough time to write and do audio.
  2. I finished the final edits on my second audiobook for Audible.com today, called HAVEN: A STRANGER MAGIC, which should be out in a few weeks. 
  3. I'm training for a 5k? No really. I hate running, but I think this mini marathon called "Run or Dye" looks like fun, so tomorrow is Week 1, Day 2 of my training with the "Couch to 5k"  app.
  4. I started a low-cholesterol diet with my parents, because my mom's cholesterol levels shocked us at her last checkup. Cutting out as much saturated fat and cholesterol as possible. Seirously? Today I said "hold the bacon" for, like, the first time in my life.

Have you started anything new recently? Which of your characters would you create a comic for? Do you like running? 

A Beachin' Wedding

This past weekend I watched my second youngest cousin, Caroline, get married. It was a fantastic ceremony, with one of the most memorable father-daughter dances I've ever seen. She's basically a Disney Princess, so when they started out waltzing to a song called "Cinderella", I wasn't shocked (except that her dad, who has two left feet, wasn't tripping over her massive dress). Her hairdresser handed me tissues and we both sniffled together. Just as the song seemed to reach it's tearful climax, it stopped.

 ...and dropped the beat. "Brick House" started playing, and my Uncle was doing the Robot while Caroline busted out her best dance and cheerleading moves.

Epic.

The best thing about the wedding besides the part where Caroline got married (and maybe Uncle Doug's sweet new moves) was being in a beach house with my extended family. My dad's side of the family is huge: he is the eldest of four siblings, and though many of my cousins were not in attendance, there were still between 13 and 18 people coming in and out of this massive three-story house.

For me, I learned that my problems with Darth Metus are not unique to me. It seems this Sith Lord has plagued the women in my family from my grandmother, Nana Jean, down the line to me. My aunts, my female cousins - almost all of us have had to deal with the Dark Side, and the encouraging thing is knowing they faced down the Sith and won.