Sick Days and First Drafts

4k-wallpaper-adorable-blur-boy-1148998.jpg

I was sick this week.

No, not with a virus.

Just a cold. I promise.

But it meant that I was out of the office on sick leave. Mostly, I just slept on the couch. And watched Toy Story. And drank way too much water and downed vitamin C’s like candy, because who has time to be sick, anyway?

Thankfully, I seem to be on the tail end of it. For which I’m grateful.

Being sick messed with my writing schedule, both at work and in my personal projects. And lately, my personal projects have been anything but perfect. See, I’m writing the first draft of a story.

And first drafts are hard.

You know why? Because I don’t know what happens in the story. I don’t know who all these characters are. I write ten chapters, then half of it gets deleted because the story took a different turn than I expected and what I wrote doesn’t fit anymore.

Characters do things I don’t expect them to do.

Things pop up in the most unexpected ways.

Settings refuse to let me see them, so I have to feel my way around in the dark and hope for the best.

It’s all very confusing.

You’d think I would be better at first drafts by this time. After all, I’m a writer. A (sort of) professional. I get paid to write stories, and every story begins with a first draft. (Unfortunately.)

So I should have the process licked by this time, right?

Right?

Well, not exactly. Because the reality is, first drafts are hard. They don’t make sense. The characters wander in and out and change as you write them, and the setting never looks quite the way you imagined it would. Some parts are wordy and boring and others happen so fast that you forget to put any emphasis on the important bits.

For goodness sakes.

But, first drafts are not supposed to be beautiful. They aren’t supposed to be put together, or comprehensive, or elegant. They are supposed to exist, inconsistent characters, choppy dialogue, major plot holes and all. So I am embracing this new story in all its messy wonder, exploring this world without worrying about the gorgeous chaos I am causing. The characters can change and the setting will grow, and I will snoop my way through all of it until I have made a lovely, glorious mess of colors and lights and words scattered across the page in a completely incomprehensible muddle.

And when the first draft is finished and the last words are written, I can start completely over and make something understandable out of it.

When I get over this cold, anyway.

What kind of things are you allowing to be messy and beautiful in your own life? Tell me about them in the comments!

Milestones

On Thursday, my boss came back from California with two things.

A picture, and the first page of the studio script they had been recording, signed by the actors.

That’s right. My first script has officially been recorded. I have an Adventures in Odyssey episode with my name on it.

How crazy is that?

Now the page from the script is framed on my desk at work, the picture is being shared with all of you, and I am back at work developing my other pitches, scripts, and outlines, because life goes on and the world doesn’t stop for fanfare.

But that script page, for me, is a massive milestone. It’s a cumulation of nearly eight years of hard work and about seven months of the toughest writer’s bootcamp that you can possibly imagine. I had no idea what accepting this job would mean for my skills as a writer, or that I would discover just how much I really didn’t know within the process. I am learning from the very best in the business, and there is no scraping by with something half-done. The last seven months have been a lesson in intensity, but I have grown in leaps and bounds. This script is evidence of that.

Getting this job, despite all the other people applying for it, was a huge milestone in my career.

This first script is the next one.

Milestones are so important to celebrate and remember over the years, especially for the days when life gets discouraging. The script page, signed by the actors who brought it to life, is my celebration of this milestone. Whatever else happens this year, whatever else comes my way, I had a script recorded. One of my ideas worked out. That, for me, is a huge win.

The episode isn’t done yet by any means, but for now, it’s the sound guys’ problem, and I’ll be on to new projects and other things.

That, in itself, is worth celebrating.

What kind of milestones has 2020 brought to you thus far? Tell me about them in the comments!

The First Of The Year

closeup-photography-of-book-page-folding-forming-heart-1083633.jpg

The first book, that is.

That’s right! My book list for this year is up and running. I have two books on it so far. A Map Of Days, and The Hygge Life. Thankfully, I’ve had a bit of time to read and relax this weekend, because the last few weeks have been crazy and hectic and busy, and my books got the worst of it.

I didn’t pick them up. For days.

But I’m back into the regular swing of things, and the age-old question that every bookworm/adult asks is now knocking at my door.

“How in the name of bookmarks and sanity am I supposed to find time to read as an adult?”

What a great question!

I have no idea how to answer it.

Obviously, there must be an answer. I know amazing, fantastic adults who tackle so much more than I could ever dream of doing who read. And not just read, but read a lot. It is possible.

And now that I am entering a new year with a new set of pressures and deadlines and expectations, I am determined that I am going to find my own answer to this question. Because, of course, every adult who faces this question has to find their own answer.

Unfortunately, there is no universal key.

No one-size-fits-all.

No secret formula.

For me personally, I know already that a good deal of whatever books I plow through this year are going to have to be audiobooks. I have an hour’s ride to work in the morning and an hour home, and it’s amazing how many audiobooks I can devour with that time. For the rest—I’ll have to catch them in minutes. In the last half-hour before bed. During my lunch break—when I’m not trying to be social and have friends.

I am still convinced that bookmarks are the adult reader’s best friends.

I don’t have anything even remotely similar to a ‘to-be-read’ list for this year, but a few that will hopefully feature on my ‘read’ list are . . .

Nicholas Nickleby

Les Miserables

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry

The Lord of the Rings

The Girl in Cabin 10 (which I am reading now)

and Garden City.

I like to scatter old and new books through my list. Old favorites and new experiences. Since I always choose my books by what I feel like reading at the moment, none of these are certain. But at least I will have tried!

What’s on your to-be-read list this year? Tell me about it in the comments! And I’d love suggestions for my own list as well!

The Next Right Thing

blur-bokeh-bright-burnt-450301.jpg

New Year’s resolutions are hard.

Statistically, most of them end up abandoned a month or so after New Year’s. I myself have never had much luck with them. They put pressure on us for a huge amount of change in a very, very short time, and personally, I’ve never found that life changes that way.

The changes that have come in my own life, big or small, have come slowly.

They’ve come one page, one morning at the gym, one journal entry at a time.

In the last decade, I’ve traveled to eight countries, written ten books, moved into my own home, worked multiple jobs, started this blog, and finally made something of a start on my career. None of that came out of a New Year’s resolution.

It came from moments.

From working when I didn’t feel like it.

From people supporting, loving, and believing in me, even when there wasn’t a great deal to believe in.

From knowing what my dreams were every single day, not just the first day of the year.

And most of all, from prayer, and from knowing that God had something for me right where I was, whether I could see it or not.

I could not have predicted where I am today five years ago, or ten years ago.

I’ve never been a five-year-plan kind of girl. I know what I want, and I know what I’m passionate about. I love books, I love stories, and I’ve spent this decade pursuing that. I didn’t make a resolution to end up here, I never had more of a plan than to publish my books and to make my living as a writer.

But I took the chances that came my way. I treasured my moments and used them. And I focused on doing the next right thing. Whether that meant writing another page. Or attending another conference. Or seeking out the help I needed.

Or simply being able to appreciate where I was while I built to where I wanted to be.

So this year, I don’t have any resolutions, except to do the next right thing. To take the next step.

And to treasure where I am, no matter what the future holds.

Here’s to 2020!

What are some of your hopes for 2020? Do you have a Next Right Thing in mind?

Christmas Parties

merry-christmas-sign-1656564.jpg

I am not generally a ‘party’ kind of person.

Honestly, if you know anything about me, you know this. I spent my childhood hiding from parties. In my room, in the woods, in books, and in stories out of my own head.

Once, I hid in a rabbit hutch.

Someone found me.

I’m still bitter about it, if you were wondering. I think I should have been safe in a rabbit hutch.

But now that I’m pretending to be an adult, I go to parties. Apparently, that’s part of the deal. Of course, I’m still an introvert who needs time to recharge and hide away with my books, but when a party comes up, I don’t run. Usually.

This year, I hosted a Christmas party.

I was so proud of myself.

My writers’ group had our first ever Christmas party together this weekend. We ate awesome food, drank sparkling cider, exchanged gifts, and talked about books. It was lovely. These girls are my best friends, my mostly companions, and my support group. They understand my strange rants, support my flashes of inspiration, and keep me centered.

I love them.

I was also apparently preoccupied completely with our party when it happened, because I didn’t take a single picture. Not even one, although I meant to take a few, just to prove that I can, in fact, throw a party.

Oh well.

Next time.

I also had a work Christmas party this week. We played Whirlyball. Which is basically lacrosse with bumper cars. Since I’m not competitive, coordinated, or athletic AT ALL, I was a little worried that it would turn out to be an embarrassing experience. But bumper cars tend to level the playing field, and I had so much more fun than I expected.

Neither of these parties called for high extroversion or meeting a lot of strangers, but I’ve decided to count them as my quota this year. I have one more Christmas party with some younger siblings planned, then this introvert is going back into hiding. Until then . . . Merry Christmas!

Do you have any Christmas events planned? Tell me about them in the comments!

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!

FREE BOOKS!

blur-book-book-pages-2128012.jpg

It’s MONDAY!

Is anyone else ready for this week? Because I’m totally ready. I spent all last night prepping food for my week, which mostly meant making hummus, frying way more bacon than was strictly necessary, and dancing around my kitchen to celebrate the fact that I finally, finally have an oven again and can actually BAKE things! What an amazing feeling!

But, despite being so ready, I have a killer of a week ahead of me. So, since I won’t be around HALF as much as I would like to, I have a present for you all!

Not a Christmas present, though. Because Christmas is so, so far away.

And I have NOT been listening to Christmas music already. No way. Totally would be so crazy if I was.

Haha.

Ahem.

So! I have THREE FREE BOOKS for you all! Just because I love you!

The Birdwoman, a collection of short stories for all ages, is FREE on AMAZON until TOMORROW NIGHT! Which means if you want a copy, you’d better grab it quick!

Of Mice and Fairies, the first book in my fairytale series, is FREE on AMAZON until TOMORROW NIGHT! Which also means if you want a copy, you’d better hurry!

And finally . . . 

My newest book, Of Bullfrogs and Snapdragons, a charming, cozy story of a forest witch and a gnome and the trouble they get into when a snapdragon moves into their hollow, is FREE on AMAZON ALL WEEK! Which means you have until SUNDAY NIGHT to snag a copy!

I hope you love the gifts, reader! Enjoy them, and have a cup of tea for me when you sit down to read!

NEW BOOK!!! (And Freebies!)

Screen Shot 2019-11-01 at 5.51.43 AM

Of Bullfrogs and Snapdragons is live on Amazon!!

WOOHOOOO!

I am so excited to finally share this book with you all! In case the title didn’t clue you in, it is the sequel to Of Mice and Fairies – which, by the way, is FREE on Amazon today!!

This book is everything I love packed into one tiny perfect package. Fall, dragons, fairytales, and so, so much coziness! I can’t wait for you to read it!

As always, I would be so grateful to those of you who can leave a review on Amazon after reading it! Reviews are an author’s bread and butter, and it would mean a lot to me.

Love you all!

 

Wait… HOLLYWOOD??

Well, sort of.

This has been the craziest month for me, and the last week has reached new heights of surreality. I’m running on low sleep and lower caffeine, so bear with me while I try to make sense of everything that’s happened, okay?

Great. Thanks.

So . . . a week ago, I drove into work with a suitcase and got on a plane with my manager, my boss, and a coworker, and flew to California.

I have never been to California.

It is apparently very hot in California.

Who knew?

So, while it snowed in Colorado, I relaxed in a hotel room in California and took in the sights.

Ha!

That was a good joke.

Actually, I spent four consecutive days going to ten-hour-long seminars on story structure, plot, character design, and scriptwriting. By the time it was over, I had been screaming on mute for three days, had almost fifty pages of notes, and could see sounds. I was also molded into the shape of my chair.

But! I learned so, so much, and I’m excited to get back to Colorado (hopefully) today and begin to apply what I learned. If I make it through the snow and actually get home, which we are definitely rooting for!

Besides going to the seminar, which was a whirlwind and definitely adventure enough for little homebody me, I also had the chance to attend a session at the recording studio in Burbank and watch an episode of the radio drama I write for be recorded. I met some of the actors involved, watched another of the writers direct, and had the chance to start up a discussion with one of the original creators of the show.

So, yeah, I learned a lot. And it was very exciting.

After six days of nonstop rushing, however, I am ready to be home. I’m typing this in an airport in Las Vegas, NV, and my flight should (again, hopefully) be taking off in the next half an hour or so.

So wish me luck! Send up a prayer if you think of it! I’m excited to get home and hoping to beat a snowstorm back to my cozy cabin in the woods, where I will immediately curl up with some hot chocolate, my kitty (who I have missed excruciatingly), and my sister (who I have also missed excruciatingly). Colorado, here I come!

I have been so out of commission this week! What did I miss? Tell me about what’s been happening to you lately?

When I Leave My House

It’s Tuesday, isn’t it?

Monday was, in fact, yesterday. Not today.

I found that out last night. After I’d forgotten to write this blog post, or do any of my other Monday tasks.

But then, it wasn’t a normal Monday. So I plead confusion. I didn’t get up at 5 AM to write my blog post, I didn’t go off to work at 7, I didn’t have a meeting with my team or talk about my tasks for this week.

So, in my defense, my schedule was all messed up.

What I did do was unpack my bags—yes, I’ve been away—and try to get my life and a very stubborn book sorted out before I leave again on Wednesday on a very special trip. Which I am not going to tell you about. Until next week, after it’s already happened.

Okay, I’ll give you a hint. Just one.

Remember how I said I work for a radio program? Well, this particular radio program records in California.

But that’s enough about that! I promise to tell you all about it come Monday. Or Tuesday, if my Monday turns out weird and I forget about it.

Anyway, this has been a very busy month for me. I’ve been away from my cozy little house, changing up my whole routine—which never fails to discombobulate me—and keeping so busy with book releases, revisions, and my actual job that I haven’t had time to pause and figure out which way is up.

Thank goodness for long weekends to pack. And relax. And center myself. I’ve been learning in the last few days how important that is for me. I need time for long walks and quiet moments, especially if what I’m writing is going to be any good. I need time to be alone with my thoughts and to be still under the trees. Fall weather is perfect for reminding me to take a little time to pause and savor the nip in the air. The acorns are ripe, and I collected a whole handful of them on my lunch breaks and walks after work. They’ve all been tucked away in damp paper towels, sealed in plastic bags, and left to incubate in the back of the fridge until spring.

So yes, even amidst the busy, I am remembering how to pause. How to breathe. How to be.

I’m not always the best at it, but October seems intent on reminding me. The last few days have been so, so chilly, and from my office I have a perfect view of snow on the mountains and bare trees and blowing leaves.

To quote Anne Shirley, “I am so glad that I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

I may be flying off to California tomorrow (spoilers) and have a million other things happening in the next few weeks, but today, at least, I am doing my best to pause and appreciate my October.

What is fall like in your corner of the world today? Tell me about it in the comments!