Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Pledge

I love writing.

I also love National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

Correspondingly, I love the non-profit that hosts NaNoWriMo, The Office of Letters and Light. Please read more about the fabulous programs they provide for young writers, teachers, and grown-up writers here, here, and here.

 As such, I'm making a pledge for the month of November:

1) All royalties from sales of my book, On Her Own Two Wheels, in the month of November, shall go to the programs hosted by The Office of Letters and Light. You can purchase my book either from CreateSpace at this link or from Amazon at this link.

 2) I have 25 promotional copies of my book that I special-ordered for NaNoWriMo. If you make a $10 donation, I will give/send you a copy of my book as a donor gift. I can collect the donation and send it for you, or you can show me your donor receipt via email if you donate directly at this link. First 25 donors only. U.S. shipping, 48 contiguous states only. You can send me your donor receipt via email at stacyxavier7 at gmail dot com.

 3) If you don't want my book, fine! I see how it is. :-) But you can still feel really good about yourself and do something nice for the holidays by either donating directly at the link above or through the secure StayClassy Page at this link.

 However you do it, please consider donating to this wonderful organization so they can continue offering their programming to thousands of children, and even a few of us adults, around the world.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Oh Yeah! I Published a Book!

I'm doing this all kinds of backwards. I mean, really, I didn't have months of anticipatory build-up before my release date. I mainly just told people I know - "Hey! I'm releasing a book in a few weeks!" (that was back in August; it's now November; gosh am I glad I didn't post an official release date way back then). And last night, after going over my most recent proof, I was half-delerious from exhaustion, half-giddy from FINALLY being ready to pull the trigger, that I hit "Publish My Book" on CreateSpace... and then collapsed into bed.

I'm certain I'll do this right next time around. I will do a blog tour and host other writers on my blog that I manage to network with so I can be a good member of my community. I'll set an official "Release Date." I'll hire a real editor. I'll do some other awesome promotional stuff.

But this time around - I learned the Process. And it was really good. I feel about 75% smarter than I was in January and the bulk of that I learned since July. I have a realistic idea of time frames; I have a realistic idea of how much time I  have to designate to this project myself. I see what it takes; and I can't wait to take it on again. Bigger, better, and unplugged. (or something)

That said - I'm still insanely excited about this book. I'm excited that I've dipped my toe in the water; I'm excited to learn what I can do better next time - writing-wise, cover-design wise, everything-wise. But I'm also just excited that this fun little story has a place to go other than on my hard drive. I hope it is good for a smile, a relaxing little foray into another person's world for a few hours, and maybe even a little bit of inspiration.

cover art
Purchase Now on CreateSpace

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What it's like to get a physical copy of your book

Today marks another milestone: I received my physical review copy of my novel via CreateSpace.

It was a rough day today overall for reasons I can't really get into. Suffice to say I got home from work a little before 8pm, and I think that will be the norm for the rest of this month.

Husband lectures on Tuesday and Wednesday nights for his online courses, so getting home this late was a bit of a problem - we live in a small condo and he lectures in the dining room, so I have to tread softly around the kitchen to get dinner for myself before hiding in the study or the bedroom. But he held off on starting his lecture right on time today to show me what was waiting for me at the bottom of a tall stack of junk mail: a slim package from CreateSpace.

I used my fingernails to break through the tape holding the cardboard pieces together, and there it was. My book, in print. With my name on it and everything.

So I know what I'll be doing with the 15 minutes per day I'll have after work and before bed for the rest of this week: picking over this review copy with a fine tooth comb. It's my last shot to make it as perfect as I can get it. I already know a few things thanks to my dad's keen eye taking a last-minute look over everything.

Then, finally, it will be go-time.

It's so close I can almost feel it!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cover Reveal: On Her Own Two Wheels!

Without further ado, I present: The cover for my first self-published novel, On Her Own Two Wheels! I incorporated as many suggestions as I could from my test subjects, so thank you so much to everyone who gave me feedback! I am extremely excited; this was one of the most difficult decisions to make, since all of the ideas I got were phenomenal, but I went with what I felt would show up best on Amazon, since that will be my primary outlet (until I make it big in publishing, of course! teehee!).

Friday, October 12, 2012

CreateSpace: The waiting is the hardest part

So, as of today, I've done the following:

Picked my cover; like, 100% settled on it

Submitted and approved the interior formatting

Received my promotional text

Corrected my cover when the wrong text was put on the back of it (I guess this was partially my fault though)


Filled out the questionnaire for my promotional items (which now I'm wondering how long it'll take to get them and wondering why they didn't give me the questionnaire to fill out a little sooner).

Suffice to say, I'm getting a bit frustrated. Somehow, I had it in my head that this would be something like a 6 week process. Well, I started this process at the beginning August and we're now half-way through October. I kind of feel like my physical review copy should have been here about a week ago; and the last cover revision, which was really just fixing some text, somehow ended up taking over a week before that.

One thing I will say: My. Cover. Looks. Awesome. I really can't wait to show it off to the world. I'll be posting my cover reveal within the next day or two so stay tuned!

Another thing: I'm really glad I hired people to handle a lot of this stuff for me, because I think I'd get massively annoyed trying to figure it out myself. Sitting around toying with a word processor and other crappy software for hours is not my ideal pastime.

But on the other hand, I feel like this would be going faster if I were more involved. Maybe not? I don't know.

I have been feeling pretty antsy over the whole thing, though. I have barely written anything while I've been waiting for this process to move forward - I guess I kind of have target fixation. I have a kind of annoying habit where I like to work on just one thing at a time and give it my full attention. No grand multi-tasker am I. I feel incomplete if I start on something else before my original project is done. Plus, I feel like I'll forget something if my attention is too divided. But, then again, that's why I hired people to do these parts for me - so I'd have more time for other things. It's a conundrum that I need to work out.

So, now I just obsessively check my mailbox each day to see if my physical proof is here yet. I think I need to go check again just to be sure.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CreateSpace: The Next Steps

So, it's been a while. Sorry about that. Truth be told, though, there hasn't been tons to tell. It's tough being in the "hurry up and wait" phase, but I've found ways to pass the time (that haven't involved hitting "refresh" on my CreateSpace page every 5 minutes; no, really).

Well, we left off (I think) with me hitting "submit" on my questionnaire and specifications. I also uploaded my manuscript - that was a bit of a project, though. I write my novels in Scrivener, and to use the CreateSpace services, they recommend you upload your manuscript in Word. So I had to convert it over, which is an imperfect process, and then add some formatting elements to ensure the translation worked well. This leads me to a caveat: if you plan on using CreateSpace, it'd be a good idea to write your novel using Word to begin with, or at least use a program that converts to Word pretty easily. I love Scrivener, though, so I think I'll just build in the conversion to my expected workload in publishing a book with their tools (and work on learning how to do it right; I think I figured it out, but it took some fiddling and I still had to go through and double-check everything).

So, after all the submissions had been made on my end, I cooled my heels until the best day ever: my cover concepts came in.

I cannot tell you what an emotional experience that was. I know it's a little silly, but getting to see the cover ideas for my book, with the title and my name and everything, was one of the most exciting moments in this whole process.

Until I then had to agonize over which one I was going to pick.

I polled several people in my target demographic before making my decision. I got a lot of great input from folks, but ultimately I had to make a very tough choice. I can't wait til it launches and I can show it off!

CreateSpace uploads your cover concepts to your project toolbox, where you can view them and then select which one you want to use. You're allowed to request a certain number of changes or a third concept if you don't like either one. I requested a few changes to my chosen cover design, which I'm supposed to get back in another few days for final approval.

In addition to my covers, I also received the internal formatting file so I could review and make sure the page layouts were done correctly and looked good. This includes things like chapter headers, spacing, the little symbols between separate sections of the chapter (what're those called again?), etc. I got mine back and it was also AWESOME. It wasn't just a few random pages off of a PDF - it had my name on each page and the title of the book on each page, just like a real book. These are things that make me go "squee", people. It's things like these you don't even probably notice when you are reading, and it just tickles me.

I had to send in my initial approval of the internal formatting and will get a final review of it when they send me my physical review copy.

Finally, they also sent me my promotional text. This was something I really debated about doing - after all, I'm a writer, how tough can it be to do promotional text? But the truth is, I can't do stuff like that without feeling campy and ridiculous. It felt about 100% better to have someone do it for me, and I'm glad I did it. I didn't like all of the choices they made and I edited a few parts pretty heavily, but just having that launching point saved me hours of time agonizing over it myself. They did a pretty good job, though the concise-writer part of me just had to tweak it (srsly, there were quite a few run-on sentences, be on the lookout).

Sooo. My promotional text is all approved, my book cover is almost done, the internal formatting is completed. Next: Physical review copy, and then onward to my final approval and marketing products! Gah it's so exciting I just can't stand it!

Friday, August 10, 2012

"The Book of Love" by Magnetic Fields/Covered by Peter Gabriel

I am a loser and am staying in tonight watching old Scrubs re-runs. Husband is chilling with his friends but I'm just tired and wanted a night to myself. So, as any good Scrubs fan knows, during JD's final episode, the song that plays at the end is Peter Gabriel's cover of the Magnetic Fields song "Book of Love." This isn't that poppy, "well I wonder, wonder, wonder, wonder, who, who wrote the book of love!" song, but rather a slow, thoughtful tune that made me curious. I wondered what the original writer of the song must be thinking. So, of course, like all good people of my generation, I Googled it. Sadly, there's no explanation out there that I could readily locate.

Due to my innate fear of copyright infringement, I'm not going to re-post the lyrics or video here, but I assure you, if you Google this song and listen to both versions (and perhaps follow along on a handy lyrics website), your ears will be well-rewarded.

I'm curious what other people think this song is about. The song lets us know a few times that "the book of love is long and boring." It also goes on to mention things within the book of love - music, charts, facts, figures, instructions for dancing. Even though the singer seems mildly irritated by these things - perhaps not a big fan of music, reading, or dancing - he reassures his beloved that he loves to hear her sing, or read; and that she could read or sing him anything. Evidently, the book of love also contains things such as flowers, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, and "things we're all too young to know."

My thought is that this song is about people who grow old together.

Anyone who has been in a marriage or long-term relationship for longer than a few years will tell you - love is work; marriage is work. It isn't all dancing, flowers, and chocolates, although that is part of it at first. There are times where a relationship, if it's gone on long enough, will become, in fact, "long and boring." Think of those you know that have been married for years and years - grandparents celebrating their 40th, 50th, or even 60th wedding anniversary. I would bet you that they will inform you that many times, their book of love seemed long and boring. But there are certain things that help you hang on - the fact that, even though you may grow angry with one another, and sometimes things get hard (sometimes the facts and figures don't add up, for example), there are things to still love about each other - hearing their voice, hearing them sing, or just being together. And once you've built a life together - it's important not to throw that away.

Hopefully the book of long goes on for a while; but eventually, loss does happen, and finally, the book of love has endings - the things "we're all too young to know."

It's an interesting love song. Not like the typical impassioned love songs used to woo women or to express some kind of short-term lust; this seems more about enduring love, after you realize it's not all optimism and sunshine but also come to know that marriage is more than that in the long-term.

Anyone else heard this song and have any insights?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Camp NaNoWriMo!

May and June snuck up on me. I am pretty sure they were in cahoots. Plotting all throughout April to ambush me and catch me unawares. Before I realized it, July was here. And boy, did July drag.

While May and June flew by with the speed of a thousand irate wasps, July has plodded along, kind of moping, really, like an uninvited guest that has overstayed its welcome, that cannot just take the hint and seriously you need to leave before I throw you out of MY HOUSE. Ahem.

August comes as a bit of a relief. August, I think, will be An Improvement.

One reason is the very title of this entry: Camp NaNoWriMo. The very title makes me want to parody the theme song from that old Nickelodeon show, Salute Your Shorts. (Y'know... "Camp Annawanna, we hold you in our hearts, and when we think about you...")

Camp NaNoWriMo is basically NaNoWriMo in the summer. Rather than having to wait all the way til November to recklessly go where few novelists have gone before, though, you can pick the summer month of your choice - June or August (or both) - and use your novel as an excuse for not having more of a tan and avoiding the life-threatening rays of the sun during these sweltering times.

I tried to do Camp NaNoWriMo last year but failed kind of miserably. I had a major surgery a couple days into it and never quite recovered the word count (though my health recovered quite nicely, it just took longer than expected). I've successfully defeated NaNoWriMo: The November Version on a few different occasions, including with the book that I'm currently editing to publish by the end of the summer, which I wrote during my first NaNoWriMo back in 2007. I'm hoping lightning will strike a second time as I plan to write the sequel over the next 31 days.

If you're interested in taking on the challenge yourself, hop on over to the Camp NaNoWriMo website to sign up. You'll get assigned a cabin, which will be your support group for the month, and the tools to track your noveling progress. The goal is the same as traditional NaNoWriMo: write a 50,000 word novel in the span of one month. In August, which is a 31-day month, that equals 1,613 words per day, which is roughly two and a half pages, depending on font/font size. This entry is currently about 400 words at this point. And now it's more. And more. And more. And more. And...


Are you doing Camp NaNoWriMo this year?

CreateSpace: And then...

So Sunday night I pulled the trigger and requested the package I wanted from CreateSpace, including some basic cover design, some publicity materials, a book review, some layout help, etc. On Monday, the consultant I'm working with put everything into my CreateSpace account shopping cart and I logged in last night to purchase and set up the logistics.

That part was fairly simple - you just log into your account, go to your cart, pay, and there you go. What happens next is a change in your Member Dashboard. Backing up a second, CreateSpace has a certain process for setting up books. You create your "project" (i.e. one of your titles), upload some files, select some settings, etc. When you sign up for the extra features, you have to go through one of their publishing consultants to get them activated, but then it just expands your dashboard for that project so you have more options.

I had to fill out a questionnaire with details about the options I picked - things like what I envision for the cover, what I want the tone of my promotional materials to be, summaries of my book, etc. I also selected my internal formatting templates, fonts, and how I wanted my front matter to appear (those are the first few pages inside any book stating the author, title, dedication, copyright, etc).

This has all been pretty intuitive so far, so I'm looking forward to the next steps and seeing what my project team puts together. After making your selections and filling out the questionnaire, little clock icons appear next to those segments of your project dashboard to show that your project team is working on their different elements and will notify you when you need to do something else. So now it's just some hurry up and wait.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

CreateSpace: the next step

A few weeks ago I sent my wish list to CreateSpace of what kind of package I wanted for my upcoming novel (which is really more of a novella). This includes cover design services, formatting, some promotional odds and ends, etc.

It took them a while to get back to me, and since then, the email containing their suggestions and pricing has been sitting in my inbox. Taunting me.

The truth is, the price tag is pretty high, at least for someone like me. It'll be tough to recoup my entire investment, and I've been waffling back and forth, weighing the pros and cons.

Well, tonight I finally decided to go for it. 

To be honest, the reason is that I am really looking for a more turn-key operation, and I can't think of a better way to do it. All of the successful projects I've ever started have usually involved me hiring someone to take care of the parts that I know I just don't have the time, patience, and inclination to do myself.

Example: I wanted to start a Facebook app. I thought about it for a year. I bought a book about Facebook app programming. I made sketches. I tried to learn about design work. Finally, I just bit the bullet and hired someone to program and design it for me. I launched it. It didn't do too badly; but it wouldn't have even launched if I hadn't had somebody else program it for me. Once all I had left to do was the marketing, I actually enjoyed it. The same is true here. I could try to learn about cover design, how to do the artwork myself; I could mess with my manuscript software until I manage to successfully export a properly formatted document; I could find a way to outsource printing properly branded bookmarks, business cards, and other materials; I could agonize over promotional text for hours.

Or I could have some of those tasks done for me, and focus on the parts I like to do.

Granted, I understand I have lots of work ahead of me. But it's nice to know that at least some of these details can be taken care of by people with (hopefully) better taste and more experience than me.

So, I'll report back once I really get the ball rolling and let you know how everything goes. I believe my next step will just be selecting each option that I want as I go through the setup process on CreateSpace, but I may get a few extras for buying the package I want to buy, so it's worth speaking with the consultants to get suggestions and a few little perks here and there.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

In defense of getting fat

I am considering making the conscious decision to let myself get fat.

Just hear me out for a second.

I understand the health implications. Being overweight puts you at risk for, well, many things. But I also have to ask - why do I know smokers that are likely to live til their 90's or beyond? I bet anyone reading this knows people with bad habits - smoke too much, eat too much, drink too much - that have lived longer than others who've done everything right.

Furthermore, I'm not interested in becoming morbidly obese. I'm thinking a comfortable 190 lbs or so (I'm tall for a woman, a bit over 5'9", so that's not too terribly fat). Yes, I'll look a bit heavy, but not to the point where people will make beeping noises when I back up.

Aside from the health implications, though, I'm having a tough time thinking of any reason not to completely embrace being on the heavy side.

First of all, it's not like I'm limiting my clothing options. The main thing that pisses me off about gaining weight is that my clothes feel tight. But if I were prepared for it, I think I could probably find a way to dress that would still look attractive. Fashion has come a long way. Am I going to be able to wear the same styles as the supermodels? No. But curvy women aren't limited like they used to be. Hell, I can think of three stylish places to shop right off the top of my head. Plus-sized these days doesn't need to equal frumpy.

Secondly, it would save me lots of angst. I spend a lot of time worrying about what I should or shouldn't eat, and whether I've exercised enough recently, and if my butt looks big, or if my thighs look too jiggly. If I just let myself go, I wouldn't really have to worry about any of that crap. Does my butt look big? Why, yes, it does, thank you for asking! Have I exercised enough recently? Who the hell cares, we can go for a walk while we search out some cake!

Third, and this is a really big one: I. Love. Food. Going back to the angst for a second, you don't understand what kind of thought process goes through the typical woman's head when going out to eat at a restaurant. "What can I eat? Well I don't want another salad. But everything else is deep fried. And really, the salads aren't much better with all the crap they're loaded with. So I may as well indulge and get the burger. But I've been eating so much crap lately, it's all going straight to my thighs. Why don't they have some plain broiled chicken or something? Wait, we're getting appetizers? Deep fried mozzarella? Aw, hell. Well maybe just one." And on. And on. And on.

Followed by the ensuing guilt. And don't get me started on the internal monologues associated with whether or not to get dessert. Really, it'd be great if I could just look at food without arguing with it.

Food is an experience. I love it. And while I've had some success, it's pretty tough to find food that's satisfying without also packing on some pretty hefty pounds. I just ate a dinner roll covered with garlic butter. Don't tell me I can replace that with romaine slathered in a low-cal balsamic. I'm sick of having to settle for cardboard just because I'm on some frivolous, pointless, never-ending quest to have a six-pack. Particularly when other things in life are going wrong, it's nice to know that at the end of the day, you can go home, settle in with the libation of your choice, and devour an entire plate of pasta smothered in Alfredo sauce, and it will be delicious. Food is always There for you.

Plus, I don't have to stop trying to have good nutrition. I like veggies. I prefer them covered in ranch. Or drizzled in olive oil. Maybe it's better to eat them like that and enjoy them, rather than to agonize over whether I've shoved enough raw carrot sticks in my mouth for the day.

Fourth, I can still exercise. There's no ban on exercising just because you've decided to stop worrying about your weight. There's yoga. There's gentle resistance training with elastic bands. We're getting an elliptical soon. I like going for walks with my husband around the neighborhood. Really, I think I'd enjoy exercising more if I wasn't always concerned about whether it's narrowing my waistline. I mean, it's not like I'm consciously trying to get fat. I'm just going to stop trying to prevent it from happening. But exercise makes me feel good and have more energy, and it's fun, so why not?

So, really, what's the big deal about being overweight?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

That downright horrible, no good nasty week

It has been a toughie. Note that this won't be a "writing" post - I am in need of a good venting. This should perhaps explain my lack of recent progress on my book. Or perhaps not. Either way, I need to get it off of my chest. I will return to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.

It actually started on Friday the 13th. Figures, huh? How utterly cliche. I got a traffic ticket in the mail for one of those video cameras that catches you running a red light. So that's $100 I'm out. Truthfully, I brought it on myself, but that doesn't make it less annoying.

That day, I also got some very bad news for one of my clients. It was a combination of factors I can't really go into, but all of it boils down to me not being in control of everything or even anything when it comes to this client. The complete lack of professional courtesy from the other side's attorneys also did not help.

The weekend was actually fantastic - I got to be with my family for my grandmother's birthday, and it was so incredibly good to see them. I even stayed in a hotel like a grown-up or something. I got the room to myself (hubs had to stay home) and just kind of spread out, made a mess I wouldn't have to clean up (ok, don't worry, not THAT big of a mess), used the gym facilities, etc.

But then I came home on Sunday to find my husband nursing our dog. Our poor, poor old boxer. He has been bed-ridden for over a year now as he aged to the point where he could not walk. He's been on various pain medications due to arthritis. Well, on Sunday he couldn't keep any food or water down, and he gradually got to the point where we could just tell it was time. None of the vets were open, so I had to call around and find someone who could make a house call. We sat with him and petted him and told him what a good dog he was as he went to sleep for the last time.

I can't tell you how unbelievably sad it is to watch the dog who has been such a good friend to you for years slowly stop breathing and grow still. But to other dog owners out there: do not let your own sadness get in the way of you being there for your pet. Your voice is the only thing that is good and familiar to them, your presence is the thing that they understand. The fact that you are there with them is more important to them than anything else in the world. Be there for your pet if you have to put them down - it is the least you can do for them. They love you more than anything else; only you can make the transition easier on them as they leave this world.

Compared to that, the events of the week following seem fairly trivial, but it all just served to create a low-grade nastiness that followed me around the entire time. Our home is grieving. My work was stressing me out and exhausting me as I attempted to fix this problem for this poor client all week, struggling to find guidance and help. Another situation also deteriorated for another client - it was over quickly, but certainly didn't help my outlook. (Isn't it great reading a lawyer's blog? We're always so specific.) My rotten attitude has also triggered some physical symptoms - exhaustion, soreness, a feeling like I'm slightly sick. It's amazing how the cycle perpetuates itself. You feel bad mentally, so you start to feel bad physically, which only makes you feel worse mentally, and so on. It's a hard thing to kick.

Yesterday was better. We gave a free legal seminar in the community, and people really appreciated it, which felt good. I came home and slept some more - I think I'm suffering from some really mild depression and the sleep has helped. Then we went out for sushi and bought some goodies at Trader Joe's. Nothing exploded. It feels like things have settled down a bit. In the off-chance that karma is real, I'm contemplating buying a lottery ticket to cash in on all the crap that happened last week.

Today has also helped. Singing at church was uplifting and I really felt moved for the first time in a while. Other than the beer I'm currently sipping (what?? it's 5:00 somewhere), I've eaten pretty healthy so far. I feel well-rested. I'm thinking of making it to the gym later today. Recovering from a crummy week is a weird thing - it's not like I've been seriously injured, but I'm approaching life gingerly as if I had been. How do you cheer yourself up when you've had a rough patch?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Maybe it's the holiday

Well, with my own multiple rounds of editing done on my novel, I don't have much to do at present while I await my fabulous volunteer editors to send me feedback. As such, I decided to try and make some progress on other areas of the self-publishing process, namely familiarizing myself with how exactly to publish an eBook, make a book available for print-on-demand (POD), cover art, a little publicity, etc.

Given my unpredictable work schedule and my lack of patience for technology when I can't seem to get it to work properly, I decided it might be a good idea to pay somebody to do some of this stuff for me. In particular, I'm pretty sure I have no idea what constitutes good cover art. I can barely dress myself in matching colors every morning, let alone design something visually pleasing for an entire demographic. So I looked around, but the easiest services seemed to be with CreateSpace, given that I'll be targeting Amazon mostly with my first go. I don't know how they compare price-wise and I haven't been able to find too many reviews on the quality of their work. I'm hoping to document some of my experiences just so other people navigating their services might benefit from knowing what to expect.

So, I went on the CreateSpace website, which was pretty easy to navigate, and I started looking at what they offer. They provide services in various categories from marketing to editing and other miscellaneous tidbits, so I compiled a list of what I was most interested in. A few areas indicated you can get favorable pricing if you bundle services, so I then hopped on over to their "contact us!" link and composed my inquiry. I explained a bit about my book (genre, small synopsis, etc) and listed the services I was interested in.

The next morning, I received an email from a CreateSpace Publishing Associate thanking me for my interest and attempting to put me in contact with a Publishing Consultant that would work with me to determine which package would be best for my needs. The Associate also left me a voicemail on the phone number I provided with pretty much the same information. This was Tuesday, the day before the 4th of July. I didn't get any contact from the Publishing Consultant that day, so on my day off on Wednesday, I sent her a quick email to see how we could coordinate a phone consultation (obviously not anticipating a same-day response due to the holiday).

Well, it's now Saturday. They work M-F 9-5 EST. I haven't heard anything back since that initial email. My guess is that the Consultant I was paired with is probably out for the week on vacation for the 4th of July holiday. It's just odd that for a big company like Amazon they wouldn't have to put up an email auto-responder if they are out of the office. My plan is to give it til this coming Tuesday before I get fussy (I can give it a day for someone to catch up on emails after being out of the office).

Sadly I don't really have anything else to report. Looking forward to getting the ball rolling. If CreateSpace doesn't pan out and anyone knows of anything comparable, at the very least for book cover & formatting services, please let me know!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Diets and Discipline

I'm one of those people.

I decide to try to start losing weight. I eat right for a few days and lose a couple pounds. Then I think, "Gosh, that was easy! I don't have to try so hard! It's OK if I slack off just this one time for some cake, because it'll be so easy for me to lose the weight again!" So I have some cake. And then some ice cream. And then some ribs. And suddenly I've gained those couple pounds back, plus a few more.

I do the same thing in other aspects of my life. I'll clean one room of the house before getting distracted and meandering off to play on Facebook (after all, it's not that dirty!); I'll start too many projects at once while I'm at work and get distracted by the least important one; or I'll look at how little I have left to edit and think "gosh, it won't take me that long at all! I think I'll read some more articles about the origins of lint online..."

Really, isn't the Internet a beautiful horrible vast gaping hole of time-wasting crazy thing?

Well, fortunately I haven't quite slide into the depths of life-wasting apathy yet. I still want to weigh 135 pounds. I still want to be a writer when I (manage to not) grow up. I still want to live in a condo that doesn't resemble a crack den. So stuff gets done.

Today, for example. Today I hit "send" to a couple folks who were kind enough to offer a bit of editing input. This was a big step. Honestly, I was getting worried I wouldn't let anyone else read my book unless they either hacked it off of my computer or pried it out of my cold dead hands. Which would be weird, given I'm not famous or anything yet.

I still have a lot to do. I need a cover. I need to edit again. I need to decide how on earth I'm going to market this thing. I need to decide if it's really interesting enough to publish. Then I need to get over it and just go for broke. Also, I need to stop fantasizing about cake.

But now, I need to sleep. Good night friends.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

New Day, New Blog, and Pen Names

June 8th has come and gone. I've been fortunate to receive some offers from some supportive friends to help me with the editing process, which I'll shortly be taking them up on. I'll be making some tweaks to this site now that I'm setting out on my official journey as an indie author. It doesn't quite feel real yet, but I know I'm headed towards something exciting.

My first step has been to pick a pen name for myself. I think this is essential, even if the trail back to my real name isn't exactly well-hidden (No, seriously, I know you all know who I am; I'm OK with it... for now...bwhaha... ahem). Given my other job, though, it's probably for the best for the time being.

I have agonized over this decision for a long time. I've been playing around with different names, reading lists, bouncing ideas off of my hubby, Googling likely combinations. The trick is to pick something that doesn't seem too hokey but is still relatively interesting and uncommon. I'm already cursed with a first name that can be spelled way too many ways - Stacy, Stacey, Staci, Stacie, take your pick. But there had to be an option out there that would work.

Let me just say, though, there do seem to be a lot of shady creatures out there with the first name Stacy/Stacey/etc. I mean wow. Google is really a blessing for inspiration. Or finding scary people that you may or may not be related to.

So, I'm proud to announce that my official writing name from this day hence shall be: Stacy Xavier.

One of the reasons this sprang into my brain has to do with X-Men. No, not really, although I do like X-Men. Alright, really it had to do with the fact that I kept NOT finding a pen name I liked, so I started thinking of my name as "Stacy X" with X being an unknown variable I had yet to define. The rest was just a logical progression from there.

Do you have a pen name? How'd you pick it? How do you pick names in general when you write? I keep a baby book by my desk for quick inspiration, but are there other resources you find useful?

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Pact: Did It Work? And, A Request for Recommendations

Well, for those who were paying attention to our "Terms" page know that today should be the day that three novelists each finished the first drafts of their books and exchanged them for editing and critiquing purposes.

I will be finished with my final round of self-editing tonight. I have 8000 more words to edit and one more scene to add to round out the story, and since I know where I'm headed, I'm about 99% certain I'll have it wrapped up before midnight (barring some unusual catastrophe).

Unfortunately, I don't think my compatriots are quite in the same spot. And I understand. Half the posts I've written on this blog have been about how life is tough, and it's difficult to be a writer + something else and succeed at both. Usually it's the writing that ends up suffering. Which, when you have a life, a job, a family, bills to pay, etc, it's hard to ignore the fact that it tends to come across as a leisure activity, and is therefore less important.

I am a lucky woman. While I have an exceptionally time-consuming job (introduce me to a lawyer that doesn't), I also have a husband that believes in my writing. He has picked up the slack for the last several months, keeping our place clean and letting me have my space so I can plough on towards this goal. He tells me time and again how much he thinks I'm going to succeed at this, that I need to make it a priority, that it is going to pay off in the long run. I want a family, but I don't have one yet, and when you're pursuing an endeavor like writing-on-the-side, that tends to work to your advantage.

So. I'm almost done self-editing. Sadly, but understandingly, the writers I started this challenge with probably aren't in a position to take up hours of their time with critiquing my book while getting nothing in return from me. It's a little bit of a quandary. I know I'm not ready to hit "publish" yet, I don't even have a cover, but I think I need some editing services. Or at least a couple people to read my book and provide an opinion (and maybe a couple typo corrections).

I'm aware there are tons of editors out there that I can hire. And I'm more than willing to do so. But not without a suggestion. If anyone has any recommendations, I'm all ears.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Where have you built equity?

This is not a blog post about investing money. Well, at least not directly. Investment often requires some kind of monetary expense. But really, what I'm contemplating is the more important investment - how you invest your time. In other words, how you've invested in yourself.

Money is a great example of what I'm talking about, though. I think everyone dreams about a bigger bank account, in some way or another. But to do that, you have to start with that first few bucks that you stash away.

The same is true with your career. There are the people we envision have made it big overnight. Some people may even have that good fortune. But take any successful person you wish to emulate, and if you really listen to their story, you'll find that they had to spend some not insignificant amount of time building equity in their chosen calling. The kids who made it big at 18 spent most of their teen years learning programming languages, watching their peers set trends, or just generally putting time and energy into what they wanted to do instead of engaging in under-aged drinking or other teenage antics. By the time they were ready to graduate from high school, they'd perhaps spent 2 to 4 years already taking action on what they wanted to do in life.

It takes a special kind of focus and drive to do that at a young age. It takes a really special amount of focus and drive to do that as you get older. You take on responsibilities - a family, a mortgage. What you wanted to spend your time on and how you earn a living have become two entirely different things.  After all, you write because you love it, not because you want to earn money off of it.

But what if we realized that we could build equity in a career writing, or making art, just as we can in any other career, and that it could potentially end up paying off? One trap I've fallen into time and again with any business idea I try to create is that if I don't get an immediate payoff, I'm a failure, it didn't work, it's time to start over again. How many people might end up feeling that way about their first book? I know that's something that terrifies me. What if I publish this novel that I've been putting my time, heart, and effort into, and it doesn't go anywhere? 

And that's when it helps to remember that this is only the first step in a longer journey - a bigger career. It isn't a matter of clicking "publish" but what happens leading up to that, and what happens following that, which determines where you'll end up. It's the same in any career. There are a few people I know of that got the office in the sky with the six-figure salary after graduating law school (which may or may not be the blessing it seems), but most of the attorneys I know that are making the money and getting the cases in the fields they want to work in are those that stuck with it through the grunt work in the early years. The writers that are successful - whether Indie or not - are those that stuck with it after a flop, or have been writing for years and improving their craft until they got to where they wanted to be.

So, where have you built your equity?         

Monday, May 21, 2012


Things I will conquer this week:

1) Second edit of the first 1/3 of my novel
2) Walking and Yoga 5 out of 7 days
3) Stick to Weight Watchers Points
4) Clean something each day, even if it's small
5) Take my vitamins each day

The yoga is already making a difference, I think. I felt more energetic today. I've managed to plow through my to-do list, and physically my body is not resisting me as much. My mind is still a bit sluggish, but when I got home from work today, I felt like I shook off my cobwebs and got down to business with what I needed to accomplish - cleaning a little, cooking a little, exercising a little, editing a little. It's a nice feeling after walking around in an unproductive haze for who knows how long.

I'm looking forward to seeing how my yoga improves my riding experience. I noticed my back muscles were feeling really fatigued after riding on Friday and Saturday, probably because I've just let my core become so weak and now I'm re-adapting to balancing on a motorcycle. Hopefully I'll notice a difference if I get a chance to ride again on Friday!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

I Did Yoga!

I've completely fallen off of the health wagon for the past year or so. And by that, I mean I just haven't been exercising or eating particularly healthy. I've had bouts where I'll try to eat less, but I still eat bad food, and then I just decide to dive in and eat whatever I want and the cycle starts all over again. I've done a little walking here and there, but I haven't done any weight lifting or running or anything of that nature. I just find that I'm frequently tired due to stress at work, so I stress-eat bad food, which is just self-defeating, as it causes me to have even less energy.

I keep meaning to do things - like start walking outside a bit each morning, or pick up some healthier choices at the grocery store - but somehow the time doesn't ever seem right, or I'm not in the mood, or I'm too tried. Or I want to exercise, but I didn't plan a good routine, and I don't feel like planning a routine, so I may as well just not do it. After all, if I'm going to do it, I should do it right, right? And instead, I end up not doing it at all.

Well, today I decided to just skip to the exercise part of my Yoga book. I get it - Yoga is a lifestyle. Be gentle with yourself. Don't get wrapped up in ego. Relax, balance, focus, etc. But the fact is, I really want to increase my flexibility and overall health right now. And if I have to read through the additional 100 pages of philosophy before getting started, I know I'm going to continue to get bored and eventually forget about it and move on to something else.

So, I very gently dove into yoga this afternoon.

I selected some fairly basic, easy poses, most of which I've tried before in other fitness classes. I focused on my breathing and easing myself into each pose to where I felt comfortable. I took my time in adjusting my position until I felt like I was in each pose correctly, and tried to maintain my balance and focus in each one. And, afterwards, I felt pretty good!

I feel liberated, in a way. I didn't need to make sure everything was perfect. I just wanted to make sure I did something. I've always been one of those people who always has to have everything in order, list made, double-checked, plan in place, etc, before doing anything. Which is ridiculous, because being like that tends to stall me out mid-execution. It's tough being a detail-oriented planner-type with what I suspect is a mild case of ADD.

It's a good reminder for me, though. Not everything has to be perfect; in fact, it's pointless to try and make it perfect. Sometimes it's better to just start with what you have, and go from there. I need to remind myself of that when I'm editing. It's great to want to put the best novel out there that you can. But it's never going to be perfect. Not everyone is going to love it or agree with what you did. But taking that first step and putting it out there will mean a lot more than sitting on it indefinitely until "the right plan" is in place. It's OK to make some stuff up as you go. So maybe it's time to take a cue from yoga and be kinder to yourself and your writing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why I Ride Motorcycles

Most people who meet me don't picture me as someone who would ever ride a motorcycle. I'm either fairly geeky-looking or fairly girly-looking, depending on which day you meet me, and in general I don't have the kind of attitude you'd expect from a typical biker chick.

The woman who sold me my motorcycle later told me she thought I was a secret shopper at first, because I was really not the type. We later worked together for a year and a half or so when I was the marketing coordinator at that same Harley dealership.

I fully confess it: I got into motorcycles because my now-husband was into motorcycles when we first met. He took me for a ride. The first time, I was terrified. It was a very uncomfortable ride for the both of us. The second time, though, I really relaxed and enjoyed it. That was when I got hooked.

That summer, he let me zip around a vacant lot by the river on his dirt bike, just learning how to shift gears, keep my balance, and get a feel for what it's like to be on two wheels. Then, in October of 2006, I got my bike, a 2007 Harley-Davidson XL50 (aka 50th Anniversary Sportster XL1200).

Long story short, I didn't really learn how to ride it until the following summer (it was the end of riding season anyways) when I got the job at the Harley shop. I took a five-day class, which I chronicle at my old blog here.

But the reason I ride is something I have a really hard time explaining without lapsing into the typical "independent woman" platitudes. It's not that I'm a hardcore feminist. Anyone who knows me knows I'm meek as milk and fairly awkward. But there's a part of me that takes pleasure in female competence. I don't run around trying to surpass all of the men in my life, but I like the fact that I can do something that a lot of men view as a male activity. I can connect on a level that doesn't involve sex and flirting, sort of like women who actually enjoy, and are conversant in, sports. But I can also do what I'm talking about. I'm not great at it. But I can ride a motorcycle; I rode one around Sturgis, and I even enjoy a few favorite local riding spots.

Riding still scares me sometimes. I look at people who commute on a motorcycle during the summer months and wonder how they do it; I frequently find myself in situations in my car that I don't know how I would've handled if I'd been on my bike instead. But on the other hand, when I do ride, I just love that I'm doing something for the pleasure of it. I ride so I can take in the scenery, look around, and meander without a particular goal in mind. I ride for the sensation of being on a motorcycle, and for the challenge of it. And there's a weird feeling you get after being on a motorcycle. You walk with a certain kind of pride. On anyone but me, I'd refer to it as a badass swagger. For me, it might just be that I successfully managed to ride another 50 miles without dying (go me!). I imagine it's the kind of relief you feel after managing to not kill yourself. But it's also just an appreciation for life - what you get to see and do in your limited time here on planet earth. And some of that might include an adventure on your own two wheels, if you're lucky.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Funny moment of the day

Hubs: Amazon just recommended that I buy "50 Shades of Grey"
Me: WHAT!?!? What did you order?
Hubs: A soap dispenser for the kitchen, air freshener, and water filters.
Me: (realization dawns)....Amazon thinks you're a housewife.
Hubs: .... you're so right.

I am officially creeped out by Amazon's targeted marketing system.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The results

So, despite my mild case of ADD yesterday, I did manage to get something done this weekend. In fact, I got quite a bit done. I'm more than half-way through my first round of editing on my novel, and I think I'm going to set a release date for sometime next month. I still have some larger kinks to work out towards the end, but I remain cautiously optimistic.

I have an idea for a sequel already. I really didn't intend to turn this book into a series, but I can see it being a duo. What's that called, actually? Three books is a trilogy. But two books can't be a bilogy, right? That's a bit too much like biology. Plus Auto-correct says bilogy isn't a word, and I'm pretty sure it knows everything.

I'm not looking forward to the end of the weekend. It's not that I really hate my job or anything. I just really prefer writing. I like my isolated little bubble, where I can drift off on a tangent and it's actually a good thing, and I don't have to worry about whose time I'm supposed to be billing. Plus there's time to cook. I like cooking.

If you know the technical word for a book duo, please enlighten me in the comments. I'm far too lazy to Google it for myself right now. Thank you.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Editing Day

Think I'll keep a time log just to see how I spend the day I intend to use to edit:

7:30 am: Wake up. Realize I don't have to go to work. Try to go back to sleep. Yell at husband for snoring. Eventually doze off again.

9:00: Wake up. Recall that husband promised to make coffee and breakfast for me today so I could focus on my novel. Stare at him creepily until he wakes up. Engage in some witty banter. Realize he isn't getting out of bed.

9:45: Trudge to coffee maker. Prepare bowl of cereal. Stare out of window. Check how my mutual funds are doing.

10:05: Walk to where husband is still sleeping. Harass. Lose interest. Clean office up a little bit.

10:20: Husband gets up. I go to study. Set up computer. Run out of office screaming because there's a FREAKING WASP BUZZING AROUND IN THERE.

10:22: Husband valiantly slays wasp. I feel mildly guilty but stay away just in case it comes back to life and insist he flushes it. Begin editing a chapter, keeping an eye out for additional wasps.

10:45: Feel paranoid that wasps are lurking about, waiting to interrupt my creative genius. Check the storage closet for a fly swatter. Do not find one. Husband promises to take me out to get one during lunch break.

10:59: Edit two chapters.

11:30: Husband interrupts to tell me birds are nesting in the herb garden. I go oohhh and ahhh.

11:33: Edit half a chapter.

12:00: Begin writing blog entry.

12:15: Edit a paragraph

12:35: Wander off and change clothes. Think about motorcycles.

12:49: Edit a sentence.


3:48: Return from lunch+errands (good pizza, Target, petting rescue dogs at PetSmart, check on real estate investments) Check Facebook.

3:49: Edit.

4:30: wander off and get a spiked cider.

4:45: Resume editing. Believe I'm obviously far more talented with spiked cider as my muse.

5:09: Watch baby moose video on Facebook.

If ever I wondered why it's taken me five years to edit this novel, now I know.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Diversify or Concentrate?

I have been bombarded with choices my entire life. It's really defined me as a person in many ways, mainly because it's left me virtually incapable of making a decision.

I still remember when I was growing up, my parents took me out furniture shopping for a new bedroom set when we moved to Richmond, VA. I can't tell you how many different furniture stores we went to, how many different sets of beds and dressers I looked at, how many different styles there were to choose from. It was exhausting. It was frustrating. I hated every second of it.

In retrospect, I know I was lucky to even have the option of going furniture shopping for my own room. But at the time, I really could not have cared less. I was fifteen, I had no taste whatsoever (and still don't), and every time I actually made a decision about something I liked, my parents would remind me of my dozens of other options, as if I'd somehow made the wrong choice. Granted, one of those choices involved zebra prints and lots of reflective surfaces, but hey -- they asked me what I wanted. We fortunately ended up with a very tasteful set of furniture. I, of course, had nothing to do with selecting it. Which is probably for the best. I was kind of resentful of all of the fruitless furniture shopping trips, though.

Years later, I take the experience as a lesson in a theory I've been developing lately. There is something to be said for a lack of options. It's efficient. It focuses your attention away from all of the fluff, and hopefully puts you in a position to make the best choice out of what you have to work with.

The same is true of selecting a profession. I once had a dean at my undergraduate college explain to me why he hated approving credit overloads for students - he felt like people were spreading their studies too thin, perhaps in hopes of covering just enough ground that they'd be employable to someone, somewhere. He kept having to approve credit overloads for people who were double- and triple-majors, with additional minors in underwater basket weaving as a fall-back. But looking around at the job market these days, it seems like more opportunities are available for people that focused themselves - they picked something, and just went for it. All or nothing.

I think the same can be said for writing. More success is available to those who focus.

Think about it. If you decide that all you want to be is a writer - or a singer, or an actor - what would you do differently? How would you spend your time? You could focus on your craft AND work on the business end of things. Could you think of ways to make ends meet while you focus on your dream?

But then consider how things might be going now, while you're trying to "diversify" - working another full-time job, writing during off hours, squeezing it in when you can. I think this describes a lot of people who are trying to get by financially while holding out some hope of pursuing their dreams on the side.

It doesn't bode well for me, either. I'm not gonna lie - I diversify all over the place. I split my time over a gajillion different projects. My writing performance is spotty at best. I'm not even going to admit to you how many times I haven't gone to the gym lately. I take on so many goals at once, all of them end up suffering in the long-term.

Don't take this post as a ringing endorsement to go out and quit your job immediately (although I wouldn't blame you if you do). But it's food for thought - if you could focus, and concentrate, and just do what you want to do instead of diversifying over several different things, what could you accomplish? Do you see the value if only doing a few things well instead of doing many things at a mediocre level? Can you work towards that now?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Cliffhangers: is there a double-standard?

I was looking for some books to read on my new Kindle this evening when I noticed some interestingly condescending reviews referencing an author's decision to use the literary device of a cliffhanger leading into a future installment in a series. Note: I haven't actually read this book, as I just recently purchased it, so I'm not sure to what effect this device was used, but I'll let you know.

Regardless, it got me thinking. In perusing the many self-published selections available on Amazon, I've noticed many authors do tend to work in trilogies or even series. Typically the first book is discounted, or even free, and the second and third installments are priced slightly higher - perhaps a dollar or two more.

And, personally, that's just fine with me. The books are still discounted compared to their mainstream counterparts, and making up a dollar or two after gaining a reader with a discounted price is just good business sense that places value on the author's hard work.

Yet, I do see the reviews that criticize this kind of practice. A book ends without a full wrap-up of the remaining issues, and suddenly the author is accused of just trying to sell more books with the next installment.

My response to this: Well DUH.

Let me back up a bit. I am all for "write for the love of writing, not for other people." I think that's a great philosophy. But I'm also a fan of being able to feed myself, pay my student loans, and, OH YES, support myself so I can write more in the future! I'd love nothing more to be able to support myself on writing alone. And in order to do that, I need to sell books. And I'm sure many authors feel exactly the same way. It's tough to be an author + something else; so turning it into a self-supporting system is often highly ideal. There aren't many other industries where people get accused of the crime of trying to make a living.

Furthermore, it's an interesting double-standard. Is there criticism out there of mainstream authors that are accused of just trying to sell more books when they write in a series format? I'm sure there's some, particularly with the really big names, but I haven't heard that about the stories I like to follow.

I'm sure this post sounds far more defensive than I mean it to be. Part of that is a product of PMS. But regardless, I think my main point is this: even if you love your craft and you write for that primary reason, writing is still a bit of a business. And that's okay! Better to be in business for something you love than something you don't.

Monday, April 23, 2012

"I'll do it later" syndrome

My fatal flaw is that I am the ultimate procrastinator. I procrastinate because I'm constantly overwhelmed by the amount that I have to do, and it's easier to ignore it and do something else.

For example, when I'm about to start cleaning, I will survey my condo and note all of the things that need to be picked up, wiped down, vacuumed, and tidied. I then realize that doing all the things I need to do will actually take me a few hours, rather than the 20 to 30 minutes I wanted to dedicate to the project. So, instead of rolling up my sleeves and diving in, I stress and fret for that 20 to 30 minutes, then wander off and find something else to do.

The same is true of my writing. I am editing right now. As a result, my condo is very clean, and I have a fridge stocked with all of the food I cooked yesterday for the week. Because the amount of editing I have to do is intimidating the hell out of me. So of course I'd rather do anything but that.

So. This here is some smack talk to my subconscious.

Do you REALLY think you are going to become a writer if you keep waking up miserable in the morning because you got nothing done the night before? And then it's time to go to work, right? And you spend the entire car trip with knots in your stomach while you go to a job that - let's face it - you don't hate, but you just don't have the passion to do for the next 40 years of your life. So to pep yourself up, you go right ahead and picture yourself as a successful writer. What kind of lifestyle you'll have, how you'll get to spend your time. As if it's possible to dream yourself there. When really you know what's going to happen - you're going to sit at your desk and pray to God no one finds out you're as incompetent as you feel. You're going to exhaust yourself with stress and worry, because that's what being a lawyer is good for. And then you'll go home, have a scotch, sulk, watch lame-ass TV, and write it off as just "not feeling inspired enough" to work on your novel.

And then you'll do the exact same thing again the next day.

And the next.

Well, guess what? I'm really sick of that whole mess. It's time to stop pouting and feeling sorry for yourself. There is no magic gadget that is going to make writing easier when you actually, God forbid, sit down and really work at it for once. But you want to do it, so it's time to actually do it. Stop making excuses, stop procrastinating.

You edited for all of an hour tonight. Just one hour, but look at the progress you made! The first five scenes of your novel, the first 8000 words of your novel - edited! Not to perfection. No, we are working in layers, because that's what we do. But you cut a lot of chaff you were fretting about. You tightened up some language. You corrected some crap grammar. AND you thought of some new things to add to replace the 700+ words you ended up cutting! And they're good things. Good ideas.

Can you commit to doing an hour tomorrow night? I know you'll probably get home late. You're going to have to make up for sneaking out a little early this evening. But there is a plus side - the kitchen is clean. The fridge is full of food that you just have to heat and eat.

And, OK, hell, you can use your new voice dictation device thingy you bought for your car. So instead of fretting, maybe you can actually do something useful with your time while you drive.

Now if only you could actually get your fat butt to the gym once in a while.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Recent Soundtrack

Here are the songs I've been in the mood to listen to all day:

"Feel Like a Rock Star" - Kenny Chesney & Tim McGraw
"Born This Way" - Lady Gaga
"Big Star" - Kenny Chesney
"I'll Be" - Edwin McCain
"Would You Go With Me" - Josh Turner
"Hell Yeah" - Montgomery Gentry
"I Will Buy You a New Life" - Everclear
"Make No Sound" - Gomez
"Movin' On" - Good Charlotte
"Good Riddance" - Green Day
"Smooth" - Santana feat. Rob Thomas
"Kiss This" - Aaron Tippin

Clearly I am schizophrenic. At least I'll always have company.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Savoring Reading

This past weekend I decided to start reading another set of popular books that I heard about on the radio, 50 Shades of Grey. The people that talked about it said it was pretty graphic, but I got through the first 60 or so pages and was starting to wonder what on earth they were talking about. Then I found out.

Then I found out even more.


My foray into reading books containing such graphic descriptions of sex has usually been in the romance genre; and then, it's usually two or three scenes in a 400ish page book. I've lost count of the amount of sex these people have had in the 6 week time span that the first and second books cover. And each scene is depicted in great detail.

I don't know if this is a romance book or not. Are there specific guidelines to follow in defining a genre? This series is probably better defined as erotica. I've just never seen erotica go so mainstream.

But, back to the topic of this post (which, incidentally, is not about savoring erotica) - I find myself sprinting through this book. And it's made me think that I tend to sprint through a lot of books. Once I start reading a book that actually holds my interest (regardless of quality), I simply can't stop until I'm done. I've seriously contemplated calling in sick just to finish reading books that I'm currently working on. Twilight was a problem for me - I started reading it in the midst of final exams during my first semester of law school. I still did well, but I wonder if I'd've pulled off straight A's if it hadn't been for Stephenie Meyer and her sparkly vampires. Harry Potter almost decimated my GPA.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I think it's a bit of both. In some cases, the subject matter has managed to hold my interest, but then I find the story lagging, so I skim, just because I want to know how it ends. In other cases, I'm just that enthralled in the book. In many cases, I'll end up re-reading them over and over again.

I don't think Shades of Grey falls into that last category. I'm finding it entertaining and interesting, but I'm not sure if I'll re-read it. Parts of it have become pretty redundant. Really, I just want to know what happens? But don't ruin it for me - I plan on finishing out the trilogy.

Do you like to savor books a page at a time, or are you a sprinter?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Thought of the Day: 4/14/2012

 n serving the wicked, expect no reward, and be thankful if you escape injury for your pains.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Thought of the Day 4/13/12

It's Friday the 13th. Did you know this year has four Friday the thirteenths?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

From beyond the grave...

OK, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration. But, yes, I've been inactive posting here for a while. I got a new job back in March and I've been working some very long hours. I'm writing this as I prepare to scarf a Jimmy Dean D-Lights breakfast sandwich and some coffee on my way to court. Yes, I'm a lawyer.

And the one thing I've started to learn about this job is that, to be a lawyer, really, all you have to want is to be a lawyer. You can't really want to be anything else, because there is no time for it. So you'd better love what you do.

I don't know many people who feel that way about their work. And it makes me wonder what will happen during other phases of my life. My husband and I plan to have kids some day. Will I be able to be a lawyer at the same time? I'm not really sure. 

I'm still trying to maintain my writing aspirations, a little bit at a time. After spending all day at a computer, the last thing I want to do is sit down at one again to write, so I got a notebook and I'm just scribbling away before bed each night. It's actually been pleasant. 

But the one thing I've really done is made a decision. I'm currently working on my dream book. The One Idea that I've had since I was 14 years old, that I've been imagining and jotting things down about for years. 

It breaks my heart to say it, but I don't really have the time or energy to dedicate to my dream book right now. When I do it, I want to do it right (write?). 

But that's not going to stop me. I wrote another book a few years ago that I love. It was a crazy project for me - way out of my usual genre - and I loved every minute of writing it. It's been sitting on my hard drive since 2007, waiting patiently for me to finish editing. Yesterday, it made a huge demand. I was nonchalantly driving to work, thinking about motorcycle season, when WHAM. The title came to me. And, honestly, I love this title. 

Clearly, this book wants to get off of my hard drive. And, lawyer or not, I need to make that happen.

I wish I had some more fanfare or a cover to share or something like that. I'd like to sit on the title for a bit until I have something spiffy to go with it and give it the presentation it deserves. But the book itself is just fun. It's a chick lit. And it's about the softer side of motorcycles.

More to come soon!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Highs and lows

So, my last post was about the "constructive layoff" my law firm did on February 24th. Since then, life's been pretty hectic. I was trying to decide what to do as I went about my week and worried about my loss of income.

My week started with a general feeling of vacancy and failure. I went about business as usual, thinking that some kind of activity under the commission-only pay structure was better than nothing. I met with another attorney from my firm in the area and did a ride-along with him. I came home, did my own thing, and fretted about what to do. I went to networking events; instead of promoting my law firm, I let people know that I was an unemployed attorney looking for work.

By the end of the week, I was facing the inevitable: it was time to dip into my dwindling savings and start living off of that again until I either started making commission or found a new job. On Friday morning, I went to a networking event at the Chamber of Commerce of a nearby town. It was a good event, but I was fretting and stressed. When it was over, I checked my cell phone. One missed call, and a voicemail.

It was an attorney I had spoken with at a networking event earlier that week, and he wanted me to call him back ASAP. I obliged; his office was less than a mile away from where I was, and did I want to come in for an interview? Um, yes.

Long story short, I spent a grand total of 7 days on a commission-only pay structure - i.e. effectively unemployed. My new job starts Monday.

Good: I get to be a lawyer. I get to get paid. The commute is pretty good, and it's in the opposite direction of traffic.
Bad: We probably have to put our dog down.

He requires pretty much round-the-clock care due to his age; he can't walk, and he is on an incontinence bed. He cannot flip himself over or anything.

It's a mixed bag. I'm happy that I'm moving forward with my career, but it's always sad to lose a pet. Plus, I have no illusions about the kinds of hours I'll be working henceforth.

Something else that was a little unexpected is that I am sad to say goodbye to my (now former) boss. While working for that law firm was tough due to all of the uncertainty and pressure that goes with being part of a start-up, the one thing I will say about my old boss is that he was a kind person. He genuinely seemed to care about his team, and he wished me nothing but the best. That's not something that can be said often about people working in the legal industry. In fact, I rarely ever see it in general.

I wish circumstances had been different. If finances weren't a concern, I'd want to stay with that firm indefinitely, just because working for a kind person is important to me. Sadly, I have six figures of student loan debt to worry about. For now, I need some kind of steady income coming in while I build my empire.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Well. That's not too great.

I've been trying to focus on posting blog entries that have at least an iota of general interest lately, but there's really no getting around some recent events that are occupying my brain. In a nutshell, I've been constructively laid off by my law firm, and it's creating a pretty mixed bag of emotions.

Essentially, this is what's happened: I was hired among a group of almost 20 other attorneys back in November/December. We were put on a base-plus-commission compensation plan to help establish an expanding legal practice; the partners had been practicing in the South for about 25 years or so and were looking to create a nationwide law firm, utilizing online tools to help us run an efficient practice across about 20 states. The firm's revenue goals were extremely aggressive, but it was giving me a chance to:   a) work from home, b) work in estate planning (my preferred area of law), c) establish my own law practice while providing me with a small safety net of income and some experienced support.

The business plan for the firm evolved as they realized the immediate revenue potential was less than they'd hoped for. I think part of the problem is that they don't really remember what it's like to be building a practice from the ground up, which is what we're doing in Chicago (where no one has ever heard of my law firm before). The investment capital started to dry up because they were too aggressive, and ultimately became unsustainable.

I have been offered a commission-only position with the firm that I'm considering taking as a part-time endeavor, as long as it doesn't end up costing me anything, as I can't currently afford many expenses. My path isn't very clear to me right now, and I want to be careful about making a decision so I don't end up in this same position all over again in a few more months. I know I'm going to have to do something else to earn money in the meantime, I just haven't decided exactly what that is, or if I'll change fields entirely.

I'm not as devastated as I think I should be, probably because I started suspecting a few weeks ago that something like this might happen. Also, I have other things on my plate at the moment - I'm writing, I'm working on real estate projects, and I can always go back to freelancing to make a little money if necessary. While I am feeling a bit frustrated and off-balance, I also feel a bit of hopefulness too. This job hadn't been panning out exactly as I'd planned - I wasn't making as much in commission as they'd projected, I wasn't getting to do very much legal work, and I wasn't enjoying the high-pressure sales aspect of it. I think this change is helping me avoid complacency by keeping me from settling for a position I wasn't thrilled about.

It's also made me think about how much things have changed. The general consensus always seems to be that you can be successful if you have a job. But relying on jobs as a sole source of income is something my generation probably shouldn't do; these days, it's just as unstable and unreliable as any other way of making money, including investments, the stock market, starting your own business, etc. The only real way to achieve financial security is through diversification - having multiple sources of income that don't all rely on the same source (e.g. the job market, the housing market, the stock market).

Anyways, that's about it. So, for now, here's my shingle: "Will Write For Food!"

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Do You Read Your Writing Out Loud?

I had a very brief chat with another writer via Twitter the other evening who was working on that dreaded portion of any piece of writing: The Ending. I always struggle with ending anything - papers, essays, stories, novels. I find it difficult to balance between giving my piece the overly dramatic, grand finale it deserves versus being way too under-stated to the point that it ends up lackluster and disappointing. When writing blog posts in particular, I never quite know what to say at the end. "The question" is always a good wrap-up, so I've started utilizing that strategy, but before that, I'd always kind of meander off and hope no one noticed my awkward closing rambling. I often feel like I should tack on a "ta daah!" or a "that's all folks!" or some other cheesy tag line, just for a sense of finality.

Something that's always helped me, though, is to step back and read what I've written out loud. I'm always amazed at how much better it makes me feel when I read something out loud and am able to derive a logical conclusion from it. I think it's something we all subconsciously do when we read, anyways - if you are nearing the end of what you're reading, the tone you start interpreting is one of wrapping up, and it isn't nearly as odd as you think it is (being the one immersed in writing it).

For fiction or narratives, though, I think reading something out loud can make you feel even more self-conscious about the sometimes grandiose language you want to utilize to really drive your message home. That's when I take a deep breath and remember the ultimate test of melodrama: the movie announcer voice. Think about it - announcers use some of the most overly-dramatic, cliche, theatrical language we could possibly imagine. And yet, when we watch some of our favorite previews, we still get drawn in, hook, line, and sinker. We don't care that "these people are about to change the course of history" has been used countless times, because it sounds awesome - in context. 

I think this test is part of the reason my husband thinks I'm moderately insane. He'll often wander in and find me reading something enthusiastically out loud to myself. That's usually his cue to back away slowly and see if there's anything car-related on television to drown out my psychotic ranting. Possible mental illness aside, though, I do recommend this test if you are feeling self-conscious about your ending and want to see if it really sounds as ridiculous as you think it does. I've found it's often the set-up that matters more than how you ultimately phrase your ending, so lead into it a bit. Start reading from one or two pages before your problem area, and see if your dramatic ending is warranted, or if it sounds completely different from the tone building up to it. And if it still sounds utterly ridiculous when you read it in your best movie announcer voice, you may want to go back and edit a bit until it sounds right.

Do you read any of your writing out loud to yourself? Is talking to yourself crazy, or is it only crazy if you start answering back? Yes.

.....(ta daaah!)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dream Interpretations

When I was younger, you could always tell what was trendy at my school by what kinds of library books were missing from the shelves at a given time. I'm not sure what it was, but the reading awareness program in my school district was highly effective. We fought over who got to check out the "cool book" this week. Granted, half of my 4th grade year, I went book-less because I made the cardinal sin of losing a library book. Fortunately, I recovered from this trauma and was eventually able to wrestle for the right to claim one of the cool books again before moving on to middle school.

One of the trends I do remember is when we all discovered the books about interpreting your dreams. We always skipped the beginnings of these books; the authors would always go on some 200 page diatribe about the history of dream interpretations, how they tie in to spirituality, and whatever hocus pocus was trendy at the time the author was writing (usually sometime in the 60's). The real treasure trove was at the end, where there would be a list of things that might appear in your dreams, and what each thing means. There was a point where we discovered some clever author completely did away with the preface and just jumped straight to the list, hence creating a comprehensive dream dictionary.

A few lucky people would manage to race to the shelves and snag these books to check out for the week, and they became the official dream gurus at the lunch table. We'd all discuss the dreams we'd had that night - whether real or made-up - and they would consult their various dream interpretation dictionaries, giving us valuable insight into our inner psyches. Or just providing fodder for us to make fun of each other even more than usual.

My dream from last night had a few odd components to it, from dreaming that I was actually taking sleeping pills (isn't that a bit redundant?), to my childhood home, to wolves, and even a sloth (yes, the actual animal, not a lazy person). I decided to check it out with the first legitimate-looking dream dictionary I was able to locate via Google:

Sleeping pill: Choosing to be ignorant about a situation, or deciding to make a fresh new start

Childhood home: Desires for building a family; unfinished feelings; outdated thinking

Peephole: Looking through a peephole in a dream suggests narrow perspectives and requiring facts to make an informed decision, or a non-reciprocating situation

Nightgown: Acknowledging aspects of yourself you were previously uncomfortable about

Wolf: Survival, beauty, solitude, mystery, self-confidence, pride; being a loner; aggression or sneakiness, an uncontrollable situation

Sloth: Passivity in a situation; need to be assertive; gentleness, laziness, lack of ambition

Airport: Births and deaths; desire for freedom, ambition, and hopes

Do you think dreams have meaning? Have you ever incorporated your dreams into your writing? Are your dreams as incoherent as mine? Or, check out the dream dictionary and post some of your interesting interpretations from a recent dream in the comments!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dishonesty May Not Be Your Best Strategy. Just Saying.

I'm an estate planning attorney. I don't hide this fact from people, but I'm also not pushy about asking people if they need my services. I feel that this method works best for attracting business, and I'm honest about what I do and what I charge for what I do. That's why it bugs the hell out of me when people don't extend me the same courtesy.

I was at a church function last week, and one of the members I met was someone affiliated with a financial institution. I often network with such people, because we often work well together in providing holistic services to our clients. He invited me to an event that took place yesterday morning across town, explaining I'd get to meet several people in his industry and get to hand out business cards. It sounded like an expo or a networking event, so I agreed.

Saturday morning, I woke up early, drove an hour across town, and ended up sitting through a 2 hour presentation about why I should sell life insurance to people. I then explained I wasn't really interested, got a condescending facial expression that suggested I wasn't "all there" mentally, and drove an hour home.

To be fair, I did get to hand out a few business cards and possibly made a few connections, but if I had been told the real nature of this event, I probably wouldn't have gone. In fact, I feel grossly misled. If I run into this individual at church again, I intend to be civil, but not particularly friendly. I have sat through these kinds of presentations before, back when I was exploring a career as a future CFP, but was turned off due to how incredibly condescending they are. First of all, I had been effectively lied to to get me there and take up 4 hours of my precious free time. Second of all, I didn't like the implication that I was some kind of chump if I didn't take advantage of an "awesome part-time opportunity to earn lots and lots of $$$$!" Just an FYI, if you are a successful person and prefer doing what you currently do versus selling insurance, WFG/TransAmerica thinks you're dumb. And they'll take 2 hours to tell you so.

What really grates on my nerves is how someone who effectively misled me about this event can then act surprised and mildly offended that I didn't want to join his sales group. And that he and his branch manager would try to argue with me about it. I'm familiar with the importance of "overcoming objections" in sales. It's a necessary skill and it's a good one to learn. However, there's a huge difference between engaging in a discussion meant to overcome an objection versus arguing with someone who honestly isn't interested and is pretty miffed about being there in the first place.

Please note: I don't have anything against people that sell insurance. In fact, I think insurance is a very important thing to have. In my line of work, we actually emphasize to our clients that they should have comprehensive insurance coverage if they can afford it - it should be an absolute financial priority, along with retirement planning. It's like estate planning - I never want people to have to USE it, but if they have it, it can make a HUGE difference in a bad situation.

Have you ever sat through a bad sales pitch? Are you painfully polite or can you stomp out without batting an eyelash?

Friday, February 17, 2012

How do you get organized?

I have a lot going on at home -

1) I work from home as something resembling an attorney
2) I write from home as something resembling a novelist
3) I live at home as something resembling a wife
4) I occasionally sing and dance at home as something resembling a crazy person

As such, I find it a little difficult to stay organized. I accumulate a LOT of paper, much of which I digitize under password and then destroy, but it doesn't keep it from piling up. Just an FYI, it's true that lawyers tend to be after money. That's because being a lawyer is freaking expensive. Between leftover loans from law school and the bar exam, licensing fees, bar association fees, and subscriptions to all the crap we need  in order to stay informed about our particular areas of law (not to mention any other office overhead we need to maintain), I always marvel at anyone who manages to actually be profitable as an attorney. And it's no wonder that it's expensive to have all of that stuff - because everyone involved in the legal industry in this state is always sending me paper!

Then there's the writing. I thank NaNoWriMo on a daily basis for introducing me to Scrivener. I bought it the first time I participated in NaNo back in 2007 and haven't looked back. I think part of the reason I like to escape into noveling is because it's actually one area of my life that it's not too difficult to organize, and I keep it all on my computer (except the occasional map I draw out when I need to visualize something - I have no skill as a graphic artist on the computer; printer paper and a #2 pencil all the way, baby). If so inclined though, I do have the ability to scan those bits of paper and then stick them in Scrivener so I don't have to freak out if I lose track of my physical copies.

I'm also going to admit a dirty little secret: I kind of like being a little housewifey. I like cooking. I like cleaning. I don't really like doing laundry, but I'll do it, and I like the sense of accomplishment I feel afterwards. That is the one area where I don't feel completely scatterbrained and out of control - I know I can bring order and sense to my household without so much as batting an eyelash. 

The one place where my writing really suffers, though, is due to how I organize my time. I've been trying to make good use of the technology available to me - I use iCloud to synchronize my work calendar and my personal calendar. I bring my iPad everywhere so I can do small tasks while I'm stuck in waiting rooms. I maintain to-do lists, I have a whiteboard that lists all of my long- and short-term goals. But somehow, I have a hard time deciding what I'm really supposed to be doing at any given moment. 

Perhaps it's because I work from home, leading to a blending of my personal time and my work time. Even when I'm "off the clock," I feel a bit guilty for doing housework or writing at home. I've actually been contemplating going to the coffee shop nearby to write so I have some separation from my work space, except that kind of cuts into my personal time with my husband, and adds an extra step when I want to get up and start cleaning. I sometimes wonder if working from home is the best arrangement for me, when I have such a hard time distinguishing between how I spend my time. Sometimes, I literally stall out, and end up getting nothing done for a few hours while I try to decide what I should be doing. 

How do you compartmentalize your time? Do you maintain a rigorous schedule, and if so, do you manage to stick to it? 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Spiritual Musings: The Throw-Away Pile

I've been attending my church for about 3 years now - ever since my husband and I selected it to be the place we ended up getting married. I've always been Christian, except for a brief stint from ages 12 to 15 where I decided I was into wicca, and I was feeling pretty adrift because I hadn't found a church home since I'd moved to the Chicagoland area a few years beforehand. I'm not 100% sure what drew me to this church in particular - I wasn't immediately welcomed with open arms, and it actually took a while before people would start coming up to me and saying hello. I was on my own, because my husband was bar tending at the time and would be up until 4am on Saturday nights, leaving me to venture out on my own on Sunday mornings. And I'm painfully shy, so it was hard for me to take that first step and walk up and say hello to someone. But I toughed it out for a few months, going and sitting alone, awkwardly smiling at people during the greeting of peace.

After several months, a turning point happened. Someone had heard me singing along with the music and told the band about it, and the guitarist approached me about singing with them at the contemporary services. I've been singing with them ever since, and it's my favorite part of being a member of the congregation there. However, my church is facing some trouble. Our congregation is shrinking, and attendance is down very low from where it was just a few years ago. Our congregation is also aging; my husband and I are some of the youngest people there (other than the youth group, which is also very small). We are going through some tough times, because fewer millenials are attending church, and those that are do not seem to be attracted to us.

In this time of difficulty, our pastor made a very inspiring series of sermons about Joseph that is not only applicable to my church's struggles, but to several personal ones as well, which have all led me back to writing. If you don't know the story of Joseph, I'll summarize: Joseph was one of many sons of Jacob, and he was Jacob's favorite. Even though he was the second-youngest out of 12 brothers, Jacob intended for Joseph to be his heir. Joseph was also blessed with the ability to interpret dreams, and whatever he interpreted, came true. He arrogantly told his brothers about his predictions that he would one day rise above all of them. All of this compounded to make his brothers very jealous, and they ended up secretly selling Joseph into slavery. He was later falsely accused of attempting to rape his master's wife, and ultimately ended up in prison, where he was forgotten for many years - ending up on the "throw-away pile."

Throughout all of these struggles, Joseph still retained his ability to interpret dreams. But these humbling experiences had an effect on him. When he finally emerged from prison at the behest of the pharaoh to interpret a dream (this one foretelling famine), he knew: his gift was not his ability to interpret dreams, but that God worked through him to interpret the dreams. All he was, he owed to God. But this realization never would have happened if he had not suffered first - if God had not ground the arrogance out of Joseph, inspiring humility and the realization that he needed to let God lead and not his own arrogance. As my pastor put it, Joseph needed to be in the throw-away pile for a time in order to become what God needed him to be (later, saving his people from the famine).

My church is currently in the throw-away pile. I am currently in the throw-away pile. We're feeling abused, tired, down-trodden, and a little hopeless sometimes. I'm in a job that I struggle with on a daily basis. My church is trying to find a new identity so it can remain relevant to young generations. But I don't think I can become the writer I want to be, or the person I want to be, without first learning the empathy I'm learning right now. And my church can't be the loving example of God's family that it should be without first coming to the painful realization that we're shrinking, and if we don't do something different to help young people find the answers they are looking for in life, we may disappear.

Even though this seems a little depressing, it isn't. Change and growth is always painful, but I feel lucky that I was able to be in the pews on Sunday and hear something that made me realize it has a purpose.