A Day In The Life

I am a full-time writer. I’ve mentioned that about a million times on this blog, along with noting that I run my own business as a freelancer. But today, I’d like to dive a little deeper into what that looks like on a daily basis.I’ll give you a hint.

I don’t actually spend my entire day writing.

Nor, strangely enough, do I spend my whole day in my pajamas, although I work from home and generally spend the majority of my time with my kitty and my newly acquired puppy. No boss checking that I’m meeting dress code here! Except for me, and I have my own policies about that. But, we’ll get into that. In short, this is what a typically day as a freelance scriptwriter looks like.

5:30 – 7 AM: My alarm goes off stupidly early. My husband sets it for me every night, usually because I’m already buried in my blankets and stick my head out to ask if he will. He’s a good sport. I like to get up before the sunrise to get a start on my day before the rest of the world is awake and jostling for my attention. It gives me some space. Now that we have a puppy in the house, I take her out on her leash to use the bathroom, then walk over to my parents’ house to jump on their rebound mini trampoline.

People always laugh at me for the jumping thing. They can’t seem to figure out why I do it, and it weirds them out. Simply put, this is my time. I stick my headphones in, and I work on my books. Stories don’t just show up, you know. You have to plan them. You have to make space for dreaming and talking with characters and imagination, and this is my space. If I don’t have this time, I don’t have books. Period. You might say this is one of the most important parts of my day as a writer.

7 – 8 AM: When I get home, I clean. Obsessively. I find it very hard to be creative if the dishes aren’t done or the floor isn’t swept, so before my day really gets started, I make sure that all the little chores are well and truly finished. This is also when I get dressed—no pajamas here. I’ve learned through a bit of trial and error that I feel 100% better if I’m dressed for work and have done my hair and makeup. It’s the little things.

8 – 9 AM: I study Spanish with Duolingo. This is one of my weirder habits—it has nothing to do with my career, probably won’t be relevant to my daily life anytime soon, and as much as I enjoy it, I probably will never become a fluent—or even competent—Spanish speaker. But it’s something new and different for my brain to do, and it keeps me sharp.

9 – 12 AM: This is my first big ‘chunk of work’ for the day. I generally have meetings during this time to discuss scripts, casting, story problems, or just provide updates for deadlines and revisions that need to happen. When I’m not in meetings, I’m writing. Depending on the day, I might be throwing together an outline for the team to approve for a script, or drafting a chapter for one of my two books in progress, or writing dialogue for a script. This is all usually accompanied by a cup of tea, trips outside with the puppy, and my kitty attempting to crawl into my lap to get the love and attention she deserves.

12 – 2 PM: Lunch, another trip outside with the puppy, and maybe if I have time, I’ll walk over to my parents house to see actual human people and jump. Another brainstorm session helps get me back in the game for an afternoon of writing.

2 – 4 PM: More writing. Afternoons are hard, y’all. This is when I start falling asleep. Music generally helps, and sprints with my writers’ group over text. When we’re all working, it always encourages me to get more words in. If I’m working on books that particular day, this is also where I will switch projects. 1000 words in the morning for one book, 1000 words in the afternoon for another. We don’t always hit that, but we try.

4 – 6 PM: I’m prepping dinner, listening to crime podcasts or an audio book, and taking the puppy out for a good romp before the husband gets home and we eat together.

6 – 9 PM: This is supposed to be free time. It really, really is. But if I’ve got a tight deadline on a script that I’m trying to meet, or if I happen to be feeling particularly inspired, I’ll curl up on my couch with my computer and get in a few hundred extra words. My cat usually sits on top of me, and my husband plays video games next to me, so it’s all very cozy. Or, if my writers’ group is up for it, we’ll toss out a few prompts through text and free write for a while—which is always good for creativity and opens up dozens of interesting doors.


There you have it! This is what a typical day as a freelance writer looks like—at least in my neck of the woods. This was an enormously long post, but if you’ve ever wondered what a writer actually does in a day, now you know!

A List of Lists

I got engaged last week.

Is that crazy or what? I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. Sometimes it amazes me how quickly life can change. All the sudden, my weekends are booked with wedding planning, engagement photo sessions, and attempting to figure out all the things one is supposed to do to prepare for a wedding.

Apparently there are a lot of them.

I need to make a list.

Two lists. I need two lists.

Okay, I need to make a list of all the lists I need to make.

Thankfully, my fiancé’s brother and sister in-law rescued us from wedding planning on Sunday and took us up to a reservoir about an hour away. We took their boat out on the lake, and my fiancé and his brother tried wakeboarding.

They offered to let me try.

I declined.

I’m happy to watch people get sprayed and dunked and yanked along behind a speeding boat while attempting to stand upright. Not so happy to do it myself.

Thankfully, they didn’t insist.

I’ll try next time. When we have a tube instead of a wakeboard. Tubes need less balance. And strength. And skill.

And basically all the things that I have in short supply.

However, watching is great fun, and so was sitting on the back of the boat when we stopped for lunch and fed the geese.

I got toasted in the sun.

Okay, I got toasted on one side. My arms are unevenly burned now. Red on one side, white on the other. Hopefully that doesn’t last long. I don’t want to add ‘uneven tanning’ to one of my to-do lists.

Any wedding planning tips for me? Tell me about them in the comments!

Marshes

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They left her to the marshes.

That’s the rumor, anyway. The women in the kitchens whisper about it when they mop the floors, and the men tell the stories in the stable. I’ve heard it both places.

It’s always the same.

She spurned a lord, and the marshes took her soul.

I’ve spurned my own lord. Time and time again. He’s told no one yet, but stories have a way of slipping out. When it does, they’ll do worse to me.

The marshes are calling, and I’ve decided to answer.

They’ll bring me here anyway, and I’m more afraid of their sharp tongues and hard blows than the brackish water and trailing willows of the marsh. I played in it as a child, always alone, always watched over by friendly eyes, and I feel their gentle watchfulness as I brush aside the willow branches and ease into the marsh.

Mud squelches to my knees, but I know the way through the marsh better than most. Better than any in the lord’s house, thank goodness. They won’t follow me here.

The mermaids hear me coming before I’ve gone two steps. I’m surrounded almost before I realize they’re here, and I trail my fingers in the water and pretend I haven’t seen them. Really, I only catch glimpses anyway. A rippling among the reeds on my left. A flash of silver and pink scales beneath the willows. Black hair trailing among the weeds.

I keep my eyes on the horizon and wait for them to come to me.

They do eventually. When they’re sure it’s safe. Startled mermaids are dangerous friends, but I’ve come to love them like kin, whatever our differences. They stroke my hands with their slimy fingers, tracing the bruises on my wrists and hissing in dismay when they taste the blood from my fingers in the water. I hum soothingly, swallowing the hitch in my throat. I’ve been banished to the marshes, like the woman in the old tales.

She spurned a lord, and the marshes took her soul.

How I wish they would take mine. They could wash it clean, rinse the bruises from my skin and the pain from my mind, and leave me with the kind of peace I’ve been needing.

Their hands tug me along, through thick mud and deep water, until the marshes have swallowed me completely and even the willows have faded into the night behind me. An island of thick moss and white sand rises out of the water, and I rinse the mud from between my toes and kneel on the bank, listening as their songs chase away the darkness in my mind. Their pale faces rise from beneath the surface, their strange eyes faded and dull as they smile at me.

Then the hounds begin the bay, away off at the edge of the marshes, and I know the hunt is underway.

The song of the merfolk changes, and their wide pupils narrow to slits, their gold eyes beginning to glow as they bare their spiky teeth in the direction of the barking and shouts.

The marshes have me now, and they won’t let me go again. Not without a fight.

Who Has Time To Read??

This week, I spent Friday night nannying at someone’s house.

Because I party hard, ya’ll.

I don’t normally nanny anymore, mostly because I work forty hours a week in an office, then get home and work on side hustle/personal career/books until I go to sleep. But this particular job fell into my lap, and I couldn’t say no. I mean, who DOESN’T need a little extra cash the month before Christmas, right?

At least, that’s what I told myself when I got home at 10 o’clock and realized I’d been awake for seventeen consecutive hours and really, really wanted to have been asleep a long time ago.

Not that I was counting.

But, aside from a little extra cash and an excuse to go out to dinner, this nanny job also gave me an excuse to sit on my butt and read for an hour or so. I mean, the kids were in bed, parents weren’t headed home for a while, and I had time.

And time, lately, isn’t something I have a lot of.

Actually, my reading has slowed down a little in the last few months. And by slowing down a little, I mean it’s fallen off a cliff into the ocean. I generally read a lot—in fact, I’ve read 96 books this year. But finding time to read when you work forty hours a week and run your own side hustle is a little—demanding.

So I listen to audiobooks in my car—with the volume all the way up, because due to personal reasons, my car sounds like a monster truck. Please don’t ask. And I sneak in a chapter here and a few pages there. I’ve started to bring a book to work with me, so I can read during my lunch break. That tends to have mixed results. Mostly because I do want to be social as well and hang out with my coworkers.

Because being social is definitely a priority in my life.

Wink wink.

Just now, I am working through Seven Years In Tibet. Actually, I’ve reviewed this wonderful book on my blog before, and I can truthfully say that it is just as magical and engaging the second time around. Despite having to read it in bits and pieces. I also have an audiobook waiting for me, which I WILL start today. Lately, the temptation in my car has been to turn on the radio and listen to music on the way to work, and several of my audiobooks have been returned to the library unheard.

Definitely not my proudest moment.

But today I am jumping back on the bookwagon, so to speak, and am determined not only to listen to this audiobook, but to fill up my queue again.

Soo… any suggestions?

What kind of crazy things do you do to find time to read? Tell me about them in the comments!

Tying Up Loose Ends

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I am leaving tomorrow on a super special, very exciting trip.

One last hurrah, you might say, before my job begins and I have to settle into a desk and learn a new routine.

Since I love routines, I am very excited.

But the fact remains that tomorrow morning, somewhere between Very Dark and Sleep O’Clock, I will be crawling out of bed like a creature of the night and setting off on a road trip with three of my family members.

We are going many places. I will tell you about them next week when we have actually been to these many places.

Since I haven’t left yet, and my job hasn’t started yet, this last week has been all about tying up loose ends and preparing for a whole new season. I’ve gotten new glasses, a haircut, overhauled my wardrobe, cleaned my house . . . 

A lot of stuff, in other words. All the things I need to do before I show up for that first day.

One of the things that I have accomplished is to finish the first draft of my book, Of Bullfrogs and Snapdragons.

*Trumpets blare, people—mostly me—celebrate, a duck quacks*

Wait . . . what? I have a job where I’m getting paid to write and yet I’m still writing my own books?

Yes. In case you were wondering, my life plans are still the same. This job hasn’t changed them. I am still an author, I still have many books to write and many I want to publish, and I will still have a blog to keep up with.

And I’m going to manage all those things if it kills me.

No, I’m kidding.

Actually, I’m going to take it slow, learn my new routine, and adapt my life accordingly. Things will slow down a little, but I will still post on my blog, I will still write, I will still be me.

And, since I am not quite twenty five yet, I have plenty of time. My goal has always been a lifelong career, not instant fame or ten books on the market as fast as I can produce them. So, if you ever wonder what Abigail is doing with her life, just know that I am still here. Building away. Creating my empire.

And right now, that means tying up all my loose ends. Which probably means I should buy some groceries and do some meal planning.

Eh. I’ll do it when I get home.

In two weeks.

Any advice for someone starting their first ever office job? I’d love some wisdom from people are more experienced than I am!

A Gathering Of Souls

I went to a writing conference this weekend.

The Young Women’s Writing Workshop, if we’re going to be technical about it. I’m just going to call it a gathering of souls.

It was the best thing I’ve done for my writing and my soul all year.

I think. I’ve done a lot of things for my soul this year. But this one was particularly relaxing and inspiring, so we’re going to say it was the best thing.

Or one of the best.

I’m going to shut up now.

Seriously, though, this conference was the most invigorating, inspiring thing I’ve done for a long time. When writers gather together, especially in small, tightly knit groups, things happen, man. Things. Happen. Ideas flow, people cry, books are built, fears are overcome, and dreams are realized.

I am not exaggerating.

The conference is held every year in Glen Eyrie, Colorado. And every year, I tell myself that I can’t afford it this time. Then I book a last minute room because I can’t bear to be left out when all my friends are gathering together. Oh, and the venue is a castle.

Like, a real castle.

I think it’s the only castle in Colorado. Certainly, it’s the most beautiful castle in Colorado.

So who can resist that?

The conference lasted for three days, Friday to Sunday, and the weekend was a kaleidoscope of classes, conversations with some of the most interesting people you will ever meet, and ideas. Our mentor, Nancy Rue, is one of the most brilliant and beautiful women you’ll find out there, and her love for her craft and zest for life is catching. When she gets excited about something, it’s impossible not to get excited about it too. More than that, she is committed to speaking God’s heart and bringing his spirit into the room while she teaches. Which accounts for how powerful this weekend was for all of us.

So, Nancy, I thank you for being your own wonderful self. We all needed it this weekend.

If I had to detail out everything that happened this weekend, I could probably ramble on for a few hours and never get to the point of it all. Instead, let’s just say it was a weekend of good food, beautiful scenery, tears, ideas, play-dough, dreams, books, tea, and good people. So, the best kind of weekend.

I can’t wait to go back next year.

(And, yes, I did say play-dough. I’d explain, but . . . I think I’ll just let you wonder.)

Have you ever been to a writing conference? Would you like to? We’d love to see you next year and include you in our gathering!

 

 

Herb-Woman

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Rose hips grow by the wooden gate, red fruit already wrinkling in the late-summer sun. I pause with my hand on the latch, gathering a few and storing them away in my apron pockets before I go inside. They smell of hot wind and dust, but brewed into a syrup, they’ll cure cough and treat strep throat.

Inside the sandstone walls, the air is scorched and still. The grass beside the path has withered and turned gold, and the gravel paths are hot beneath my bare feet. The sisters sent for me two days since. They said the dry weather brought a plague with it, driven in the wind with the dust and the pollen of the ash trees.

Plague or not, the disease must be severe. They wouldn’t dare allow me to tread within their sacred walls otherwise.

Abbess Duval comes to meet me across the grounds. Two of the sisters are with her, their gray robes and white headdresses too heavy for such unbearable heat. Her voice is harsher than I remember, more grating, as if age is catching up with her. Or perhaps I’ve been away too long, and I’ve forgotten more than I thought. “Myla. You look well.”

The greeting is formal, painfully so, and I don’t respond to it. My eyes drift around the grounds of the convent, lingering among the trees of the orchard, the well-tended gardens, the bleached linen flapping on the lines. Beneath the rigid discipline of the convent is an air of unkempt neglect that would never have been allowed under normal circumstances.

“How many?”

The abbess’s lips pinch. She’s always hated my impudence. “What?”

I look at her, hearing the steel in my own voice as I say hoarsely, “How many did you bury before they convinced you to send for me?”

Her face whitens, her thin, bony frame taut with rage. She stares at me for a long moment, her nostrils flared and her black eyes scorching me, but it has been a long time since I feared her wrath. At last, she hisses quietly, “Sixteen.”

Her voice is terrible, the number worse. I bite my tongue, resisting the urge to hit her in the face, to slap her as hard as she does the novices that sweep the floors outside her chambers. Instead, I step past her, gathering my ragged skirts in one hand as I cross the lawns to the infirmary doors. “It’s a wonder the lot of you aren’t dead by now,” I say over my shoulder, and the words feel like a curse in my mouth. One of the sisters makes a quick sign to ward off evil, and I laugh.

That’s all I am to them. The witch. The healer they threw out of their home for daring to understand herb and root, seed and bark better than they did themselves. Among the villages to the south I am the herb-woman, in the valleys I am the bone-knitter, loved and sought after and respected.

Only here do I get no respect. Only here do they call me a witch and wipe my dust from the stone floors.

The air is cool inside, protected from the hot sun by the stone tiles on the roof. I lived in this house once. Even loved it. Now the floor is littered with pallets, the sick twisted in their damp sheets as they toss and turn, their faces shiny with sweat. Novices pad quietly from bed to bed, sponging brows, spooning broth into mouths, coaxing a disturbed patient to lie back again. Easing death. Their faces are pale. They are too young for this, and the knot in my breast loosens.

I will not punish children for one woman’s sins.

They draw away from me as I cross the room to the empty fireplace. I can see the fear in their eyes—the hope too—and it makes me smile. “I need fresh water,” I tell them. “Elmwood and as much birch bark as you can gather. Lavender, willow wythes, sweet bindweed, and whiteleaf oil. Mother Abbess will show you where it is.”

Three of the girls scurry off. They are like mice, like shy, timid little mice, and they watch as I build a fire in the hearth and hang an iron kettle over the new flames. The smell of death seeps from the rafters, from the cool floors, but the lavender will sweep it away, and no more will die now.

The witch has come, and hated or not, I bring healing.

On The Edge Of Living

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All men die, I tell them when they ask me why the world ends the way it does. And when they die, they come here.

We’re not dead. Not yet. They ask me why that is, but I don’t tell them the reason. I don’t tell them that we’re the forgotten people, the ones sent ahead to meet Death before she was sent for them. Some know already.

The ones that don’t are happier not knowing.

We live in the cliffs. Beneath Death’s falls, on the edge of the world. The seventh sea flows above us, spilling over the black rocks, tumbling into the abyss below us. The dead follow the current, and they fall. Straight to heaven’s doors, the tales say, or maybe straight through hell’s gates. I’ve stopped trying to guess which. Maybe it’s both at once. Maybe neither.

Either way, I don’t intend to find out. We live on the edge of the world, in the span of breath between living and dying, and I have no intention of joining either side.

Instead, I watch the sunrise from the black rocks, the cliffs and ledges. The light passes through the falling water, glinting like jewels, gleaming like veils of gossamer and pearls. Rainbows dance across the damp stones, and mist hangs in the air, smelling of wet earth and sea air. The dead pass us by, hardly more than a flicker of pale light, a solitary spirit caught up by the falling water and the ocean currents.

I’ve been watching them this morning, mostly before the sun came up. They’re easiest to see by moonlight, and I find that I think clearer when I’m behind the falls. I’ve lost count of how many souls have gone by, some of them so thin that they’re nearly transparent, but I have to go back now. The others will be waiting, and if I don’t come they’ll worry.

I rise, climbing down from the ledge I’ve been sitting on. The rocks are slick with mist and moss, but I’ve been climbing these cliffs for a millennia, and it’s been a very long time since I’ve slipped. I know these rocks too well.

The ledges below are flushed with green, with tangled vines and waving leaves. The gardens are being tended already, and more people are awake than I expected. Fires are being lit, coals fanned to life and kindled again with driftwood and dried grass. I kneel beside one, helping the woman to blow the embers to life again. She glances at me, at my soaked shirt and wet hair, and smiles. “Been at the falls?”

I shrug. “Keeping watch, that’s all.”

She nods. Someone is always watching the falls, not for the dead, but for the living. Those who were sent ahead, meant to meet Death on her way rather than waiting for her. People like Mazia, whose uncles put her on a boat in the seventh sea and towed her into the current. She spoke with the wind, they said, and her smile belonged to the devil.

Personally, I’ve always liked her smile.

Ewan, too, came to us from his own family. His legs are crippled, and they were finished with him. Most of the others have the same story. A child that no one wanted, a baby that was an inconvenience, a grandmother who was a burden. They come to use one by one, and we take them in. The lip of the falls catches them, the rocks that allow the dead through but hold back the living. I hear them, or someone does, and we bring them here. Here, where the sun shines like liquid gold through the curtain of falling water, where the moon rests on her flight across the sky, and the stars seek shelter from the burning rays of the sun. Death doesn’t come looking for us here, and the nights are cool and still, broken only by the rushing of the falls. They are broken when they come, but they heal. There is peace in growing things, in gathering a harvest, in building a colony. We live on the edge of the world, in the span of breath between living and dying, and we are content.

Go To Sleep

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I come when the library closes.

The lights are out, except for the lamp Mrs. Wilfe leaves on just for me. The doors are locked, and the windows have been shuttered. Even most of the reading desks are cleared. No one is left.

Only me. Because I have to put the stories to sleep.

I start in the children’s section. I like it back there best, because I can still hear the murmur of little voices reading aloud, and the rustle of turning pages. It’s not so silent, not so lonely.

I switch on a desk lamp as I step inside, and pick up a book lying on the floor. The Biggest Bear. An old, old favorite. The pages are stained with fingerprints, and the cover is a little torn, but it’s happy. Its story has been told today, many times, actually. It’s a little out of breath, a little tired, and I set it back on the shelf where it belongs.

The books in this section are the rowdiest, but they go to sleep fairly easily. Their stories were told, and they’re worn out from being dragged from shelf to table, table to floor, and back again. I stroke their spines, set them back in order on the shelves, and they fall asleep when I turn the lights out and leave them. They don’t have trouble sleeping, not like some do. I’m never sorry to see them awake when I come.

The adult books are harder. I can hear them murmuring when I flick on the light, their voices rustling like burning paper. They sound angry tonight, and I wonder who has been woken this time. It’s hard to tell. The stories are being whispered from shelf to shelf, passed on, overlapping each other, desperate to be heard. Old forgotten voices, caught in the dust between the pages. I can’t tell one from the other, not when they’re all talking at once. Grief and love, war and hate, treachery, betrayal, reunions, mystery, and horror. They all have a story to tell, but for some of them, it’s been a long time since anyone bothered to listen.

I walk through the shelves, running my fingers along the weighty spines. Quite a few are awake today. Awake, stifled, and frustrated. Who woke them up, I wonder? Who yanked them off their shelves, pulling them so unceremoniously from whatever dreams they were having, to page through their chapters and silence them again?

I pick up a heavy volume from a reading desk. Nearly a thousand pages, and whoever woke it up read less than three of them. I pass my hand over the cover, blow some of the dust from the pages, and set it back on the shelf. Another day, I tell it, although I’m not sure if I’m lying. Some of them have only been woken like this, for a page or two and nothing else, for a long time.

Some of them have been silent for so long that I’ve forgotten what they sound like.

I switch the reading lamps off as I go, stroking spine after spine. Go to sleep, I tell them. Forget the stories you tried to tell, the people who woke you up. Rest.

For some of them, it isn’t so easy. They’re angry, and angry books are hard to settle. I spend a long time among these shelves, soothing them, quieting the arguments. I can’t listen to them all at once, and I certainly can’t be the one to read every book, although I try to give the loneliest a chance. They know when I’m humoring them, of course, but most are grateful anyway.

But I can’t read all night. They have to sleep, and so do I. They listen to me at last, and their whispers fade into silence. I flick off the last light and listen to them breathing. Someone will come to read them eventually. Every book has a story that someone needs to hear. Every book has a heart it needs to heal, a mind it needs to open. Someone will come.

Until then, I’ll do my best to coax them back to sleep.

Living Like A Writer

We are two weeks into January.

Almost two weeks.

What day is it again?

Basically, 2019 has been a whirlwind of activity, even in its first two weeks. I started coaching sessions, started the first draft of my sixth book, embraced this blog, sent out several resumes for freelance writing positions, and oddly enough, repainted and rearranged my mother’s pantry.

I also took a morning to chop wood.

Because I live in a tiny house. And the only way to heat this tiny house is with a wood stove.

And it is cold in Colorado.

The lovely part of gathering wood for my house has been the long walks through the woods, finding dead wood and fallen branches to chop up. I live on thirty-five acres of pastureland and pine woods, and out here, we don’t go to Walmart and buy wood.

Although Walmart does sell firewood. Which seems weird to me.

However, we also don’t chop down trees willy-nilly. Because trees take seven thousand years to grow in Colorado due to the lack of water. So instead, I’ve been collecting logs from neighbors who are clearing their land, dead branches and trees from our own property, and old lumber from a porch that we tore down a year or so ago.

My woodpile is a study in oddities.

The long walks to find all of this wood have given me, as a writer, so much time and space to think. They’re moments outside in the trees, with the blue sky and the deer tracks in the snow and the long, winding paths up through our property. I have loved every minute of it and found that, more than just giving me wood to heat my house, they have given me rest for my soul, inspiration for my writing time, and above all, a chance to pause and enjoy the beautiful place that I live in. I am a country girl heart and soul, and nothing feeds my spirit more than time in the trees.

And, if I can ensure that I don’t freeze in the middle of the night at the same time, it’s definitely a double bonus.