Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Resetting

Lately, I've been having a hard time writing. Or sitting down to write, one or the other. Perhaps both. My mind just doesn't feel energized. I feel fuzzy-headed instead of clear. I'm tired.

So I've taken a break from minimum word counts. I need to adjust my goals. Because doing Crossfit 4 to 5 times a week, plus preparing for backpacking trips, plus work and additional workouts 2 to 3 times per week is apparently taking it out of me.

Whatever "it" is.

Motivation? When I first felt this way a few weeks ago, I tried sitting down and typing even though I didn't feel like it. The words came slowly and I didn't enjoy it. That was the key - it wasn't fun. And I want my writing to be a time of fun, because I want it to be fun to read. The passion needs to be there.

So I'm going to catch my breath, see if this fog passes and then refocus and get to writing up my solo trip. I do think of it often, things I want to include, the way I felt out there, when the wind was driving into my face, icily cold, while the sun beat down its heat, no one around, not even trees for company...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Sucks

I'd like to introduce you to my pain.

This is the pain that the doctors assure me they believe is real, but they can find no cause for it. The pain that dances along the left side of my abdomen wearing spikes, almost a pressure, tingling and burning and seething. The pain that leaves a while and then comes to visit, an unwelcome guest whose unpredictability is at least as troublesome as their baggage.

It's a throb at times, a strum at others, rippling through my abdomen like a dissonant chord.

It makes my sleep restless. It brings me close to tears.

I know what gas pain feels like and this is not it. Sure, what the doctors call irritable bowel syndrome, code for "something's wrong, but heck if we know what," does include gas pains at times. And they are horrible, filling me to bursting, making my stomach feel like an over-inflated basketball ready to pop and I so wish that it would just pop and give me relief from the pressure squeezing my insides. The gas is not a good feeling, but it's not the pain that I want you to meet.

This pain is special, it doesn't stick around to be examined or codified or classified or rectified.

The doc tossed some pills in my direction, give these a try, they might help. And, to be fair, in a situation that isn't, they do help with the pain. They lessen it, but they create complications. When I work out, I sweat a lot - except when I'm taking these pills. And more irritatingly, because, to be frank and honest, it is unlikely that the FDA approved these drugs after testing them on a group of women, let alone a group of women that included women with nipple piercings, I discovered a side effect unknown to both my doctor and my embarrassed local pharmacist. They cause my well healed piercings to extrude crystalline gook that stinks, gives me an itchy rash if it stays on my skin too long, and cuts up the inside of the piercings. Fun!

So I don't take those pills for the most part. I take a mint/ginger/fennel oil pill, which has its own travails because I intensely dislike the taste of mint, but also seems to help keep me stable once I get there.

But I'm not stable right now and I haven't been for a few months. I was managing from about the end of December to the end of February, but I was on antibiotics for a while and then I went to a conference and everything kind of fell off the rails. On and off, the pain has been back, unpredictable. I can't fix it. I can't do anything with it unless I want to invite the side effects back into my life (along with not really fixing things). And I don't. I just don't.

So I'm getting to know this pain. Adjusting myself to it. Working around it and through it. I make adjustments in my diet, my sleep, my exercise routine, anywhere I can tweak to try and solve this puzzle and be pain free.

But just when I think I've solved it, the pain comes roaring back for no reason that I can determine. It frustrates me and frustrates my husband, who doesn't like to see me in pain. I waver between acceptance and the fight, because I don't know which will work better at any given time.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Shifting Goals

Last summer I had a good run of writing fiction by committing to writing fiction every day. I wrote a good deal and succeeded in my goal.

This summer I decided to do the same thing without considering the factor of my solo trip.

Last year's solo trip was at the end of the hiking season. Once I finished it, my fiction writing challenge was almost over. I could get right on to writing the nonfiction book easily.

Having already completed my solo trip, more than a month ago now, I have come to realize that I do not have time in my day to simultaneously challenge myself to write fiction and nonfiction to a word count every day. I don't want to sleep less; I can't work less; I choose not to work out less.

So I'm making a shift in my priorities. Writing will remain a priority, but it will be nonfiction that I focus on to a word count. For starters, I'm going to keep the word minimum at the same 600 words for at home and 300 when out camping/backpacking, but I might revise that because I typically do find it easier to write my solo books than to make up stories.

Just like "only" hiking 92 miles instead of 100 was not a failure, but a reframing of the goal, so too do I not see this as a break in the streak or cause for sadness. I'm consciously refocusing so that I can achieve my goal of having the solo book ready. Once it's done, I'll go back to fiction able to focus on stories without worrying about the fact that I haven't done my solo book yet.

And I think I'm going to manage to get this year's solo book out in time for Christmas gifts.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Writing Writing Writing

I finished up all the stories that I started when I was doing the Depth workshop. Most of them are fairly short. I think one of them is not bad. But I have no idea how to market them or where to put them up for sale. If to put them up for sale. Still, that is one thing that I've managed so far with my summer writing challenge.

The other thing I've managed is to build a streak. I didn't find it very difficult to keep up my writing over the long weekend when I was out camping, even though I increased the word count from 100 to 300 for those unconnected days. Actually, with car camping, it's much easier because I bring my cell phone and use it as a word processor. Backpacking and writing 300 words a day will be much more challenging.

I've almost finished a story that I started years ago. I'm going to be going through it a bit to make sure it hangs together, but it is long enough that I think I'll just publish it. Too long to submit to magazines to sell. Too short to submit to traditional publishing, though I don't think I'd do that even if I had a suitable piece.

It's a story that I tried to finish at the end of last summer's challenge. I didn't make it then, but it will be finished. I'm going to finish what I start.

Which means I need to get cracking on the write up of my solo hike. I've decided that the name of it will be: Hike with Me: Idaho Centennial Trail Nevada to Hammett. Now I just need to write it. Which means making sure I get butt in seat not only for my fiction words but my nonfiction words as well. And if I get that finished up before fall, then I'll be continuing with fiction through the slow time of winter. Maybe this is the year I get serious about this writing stuff.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Happier Together

I got my husband back last weekend!

He was out of town for a whole week and I can't really express how much I missed him. I mean, the week was fine. I got through it. I did everything that I planned on doing and wasn't late for work or Crossfit. I ate my meals and went to bed on time. I kept up with my writing challenge.

But the apartment was so empty without him. And my bed was so cold.

My whole routine was off, because I had to make my own dinner instead of coming home to something hot and ready. I felt mechanical, as if I were just going through the motions to make it until he came back.

I held my emotions in abeyance, because to acknowledge how much I missed him would mean a long session of crying and I just didn't want to do that. Not without him there to comfort me - and if he were there, then I wouldn't need to cry!

Seems like it's always like that, no matter how long he's gone. I miss him terribly, but I do get through to the other side.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Butt in (New) Chair

It has not been easy to make the time for my 600 words a day. Again and again, I feel like I've run out of time by the end of the day. But again and again, I've put my butt in the chair and started writing.

This has actually gotten a little bit easier since last Friday, when the new chair I ordered online arrived. See, my old desk chair was a metal folding chair that I had put a little inflatable camping mat on for a seat cushion. It inevitably lead to my butt going numb, sometimes within half an hour. Lately, it also exacerbated the back pain, which made sitting at my computer to write somewhat less than fun.

The new chair is one of those ergonomic kneeling ones (this one). I opted to assemble it myself because it was a lot cheaper that way. I only got a little help from my husband in assembly, and I'm sure I would have figured out my problem eventually even if he hadn't said anything...

It is taking some getting used to, but it does not impact my back pain like the old one. And it forces me to sit with better posture. The cushioning is not the best, but the main weird thing about it is my shins tend to get sweaty.

So I'm writing to my goal and working long hours and still getting up for 5am Crossfit. It's all about setting priorities and committing yourself to keeping them. I made the choice again and again to make my goal instead of sleeping or relaxing or trying to attack some of my huge pile of work from home.

I'll get this writer thing down yet.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Writing Challenge 2017 Begun

I'm still recovering from last week's backpacking trip, but that's no excuse not to start up my writing challenge as planned. Monday night, after I had a chance to unwind a bit from work and eat dinner, I settled into my writing desk and stared for a few moments at the blank screen.

I had no idea what to write.

But I was determined, so it only took me a few minutes to remember that I had several story starts from the depth workshop that I could continue. I picked one at random, copied it into a new document and began to continue the story.

It did drag for a while, but by the time I had finished my 600, I actually wanted to keep going.

Tuesday I tried to think about getting started earlier, perhaps before work or during lunch, but that's not quite as easy as it sounds for me. I tend to be distracted in the morning and lazy during my lunch hour at work.

And so I was working hard to get the words finished before my 8pm 'get ready for bed' time rolled around. I did it, but it wasn't easy. I'm having to fight hard against critical voice on this story. I feel like I don't know where it's going or what it's doing. But I'll keep pushing and see what I can do with it today.

The start of a challenge is the hardest, because there's no momentum built up. Skipping a day doesn't feel like a big deal. Once I've got a few weeks under my belt, it will be easier to roll. And I've got a few more story starts to work with as well as the story that I had started just before the depth workshop to finish. I don't lack things to write, and I don't really lack time. I'm even ordering a new chair for my desk so I won't have the excuse that sitting at the current one makes my butt go numb.

Writing is important to me. Now is the time to make it a priority again.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

On the Road

When this blog posts, I hope to be about two fifths of the way through my solo trip for the year.

The sun would have risen by the 8:15 posting time. I'll be already an hour or so on the trail if everything goes according to plan.

And I'll be heading to the rendezvous with my husband at the halfway point of the journey. Maybe I'll make 10 miles by 10 am, a feat often desired by long distance thru hikers.

Or maybe it will take me a little longer.

I hope to wash my hair when I meet up with him, because I tend to get headaches if I go for more than three or four days without washing my hair. Leaving the shampoo with my husband and the resupply allows me to save a little weight.

I spent Saturday finalizing my packing. I had been working on it in a piecemeal sort of way that I'm pretty sure drove my husband to distraction in the last couple weeks, but Saturday is when it all came together. I checked everything on my list and weighed the pack.

On Sunday begins the drive. On Monday begins the hike. Today will mark the halfway point.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Lings Have Arrived!

We knew that there had to be some lings on the way, because the ducks were visiting in smaller numbers and tended to be separated by sex - males coming in bunches and then females coming in bunches. What we didn't expect was that our sole pair of visiting geese would be the bringers of the season's first set of lings.

We've learned caution from the ducks, so Ambrose's first picture was through the blinds. 

But the geese have always been a bit bolder, less inclined to run from scary things happening inside the apartment. 

For once, I'm glad the geese were not easy to scare away, because I wasn't here to witness the cuteness. 

If I had been home, I would have tried to get some up close zoom pictures of the adorable little goslings. 

Alright, I suppose Ambrose did a pretty good job getting those lings. So cute!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Rejection and Challenge

At long last, the rejection came in for that story I eventually inquired on. I'm not surprised that it was rejected. The surprise would be actually selling a story at this point. I know I have to improve as a writer, but I also have to consider that what I write, my style, isn't what the editors of the magazines that I've been submitting to are looking for. That doesn't make the stories bad, necessarily.

Of course, I do need to continue to get stories out for sale, and to write stories. I haven't been devoting time to writing because of prep for my solo trip the first week of May and because there's a lot going on at work. Busy at work is better than bored at work, but I'd like to find a happy medium some day.

I'm glad that I didn't have as much of an emotional reaction to the rejection as I usually do. My skin must be thickening up. I mean, I did have hope for this one. From another magazine, it actually got a personal rejection instead of a form letter. So there was something to it that appealed to more than just me.

I'm letting what I learned in the depth workshop percolate, but I need to get some practice in as well. There's a story that I started before the workshop and then started tearing up because I thought I'd written past the ending. I want to go back and re-do the beginning with better depth and then figure out the ending and be done with it, though I haven't a clue what market it would be good for. I might just publish it standalone for sale and see how that goes. But it needs to be finished first. And I have the starts from the depth workshop to continue off on.

After my solo trip, I need to get back to writing, back to the challenge. 600 words a day from May 8 through September 8, 300 on backpacking days. I know I can write that much or more in a day if I carve out the time for it. So I will.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Duck Fight!

Sometimes I think my husband spends too much money on bird seed and critter feed. And also that he sometimes spreads it too indulgently and on perceived demand.

But we have been getting quite a diverse crowd of birds. We'll see doves and redwinged blackbirds. Squirrels, including a momma squirrel with two growing little ones. The occasional pair of geese and plenty of ducks, of both the mallard and wood varieties.

Just watching them feed can be a calming experience.

But then come mornings like yesterday, when we can spend a quite moment together enjoying the antics of the ducks.

video


 na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na duck fight!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Gotta Laugh

My in-laws were visiting Boise, driving my husband and I to a restaurant so we could eat dinner and catch up. I often forget to leave my phone ringer on, because I get in the habit of silencing it at work, but on this particular evening it was on. And when it rang, I saw the call was from my mother and only hesitated a moment before answering.

She had called to ask me what my phone number was.

Not some other phone number, like a home phone or work phone. The phone number that she had just called.

I was taken aback by her request and had to repeat it enough times that everyone in the car realized what she was asking (no one ever figured out why). When I got off the phone with her, we all had a good laugh.

There's really no other option. My in-laws understood that my mom has problems with memory and common sense; the laughter wasn't malicious. It was the kind of laugh that stops you from thinking about things that would otherwise make you cry.

The other night, she called me again - only this time, she didn't mean to. And in the days following, I found myself relaying the conversation we had to several people in social situations. Because I found it highly amusing. The conversation went pretty much like this:

"Hello?" I said.
"Hello?" she said.
"Hello?" I said.
"Hello?" she said. "Who is this?"
"Whoever you called."
She laughed.
"I don't know who I called. That's why I asked. I was trying to get Peter, but I guess I didn't."
"Well, you came close. You got his daughter. How are you, Mom?" I said.

When she asked who it was, I could have just answered her straight. I mean, I did know who she had called. A part of me thought she would recognize my voice if I just kept talking long enough. But I also wanted to make a joke of it. A funny story to tell myself so I wouldn't cry on the phone when she ultimately couldn't recognize my voice.

I prefer to laugh at these things, to repurpose tragedy into comedy as a coping mechanism. It helps that my mom is a pretty good comedic audience, by which I mean it's really easy to make her laugh. The words don't even need to be a joke as long as the tone is right.

She laughs. I laugh. I tell the story enough times to make it more a story than something that actually happened. It's just a funny story, a tale, a legend, distant and unconnected to my life except by laughter.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Prioritization

In just over a month, I'm going to be hiking over 100 miles of the Idaho Centennial Trail from Nevada border. The Owyhee Desert.

And so, while I want to make sure that I use what I've learned from the depth workshop going forward, I am putting less priority on writing than I am on preparing physically and mentally for the challenge of the early season desert hike. It's been a snowy winter, and a wet spring, so I have hope that there might be decent water supplies. But the truth is I'm likely to encounter less water than would be ideal.

I'm increasing the amount of running I'm doing to try and prepare my legs. This weekend will be the start of hiking conditioning where I'll seek out trails if it's dry and go for the incline treadmill at the gym - with boots and pack - if it's wet.

Writing is still important for me, but it's not a high priority at the moment. I'll be keeping up with my blog entries and there's two stories I really want to finish along with three more from the workshop that I really ought to start. Plus there's the nonfiction project of writing up a kind of guidebook for the Chamberlain Basin Trail and there's also work to do putting some works into wider distribution.

There's plenty to do. And I know I need to set goals if I want to get it done. But I'm not setting any strict ones until after this solo trip - and, of course, after the solo trip I'll have a write up to do. I am thinking about another fiction writing challenge for the summer, along the same lines as last year, but more words. I could start May 8. Go for 750 words a day on home days and 250 words on backpacking days. Fiction words - I won't count the work on the solo trip.

But for now, it's all about conditioning, training, mentally preparing for a dry, desert hike with little water access. Planning the meals, planning the meet ups with my husband. Getting the maps I need and figuring out the places I would want to camp. Solving the puzzle of my journey.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Querying as Directed

I did finally send that email query regarding my story that had not received a response within the magazine's specified time. At first, nothing happened. There was - surprise - no immediate response of REJECTED. Nothing, really, to be afraid of after all.

A response came, about a week after the query, letting me know that they were still considering stories submitted around the time mine was, thanks for the patience, etc...

So, it wasn't actually that scary of a thing to do, and I'm glad I did it. Still pretty sure the story is going to be rejected, in part because I've learned a lot in the depth workshop that I did and I know that story has room for improvement. Though it is one that got secondary consideration from another magazine, so who knows? Maybe it will have appeal to an editor. As the writer, I can't really judge.

I learned that lesson again when completing assignments for the depth workshop. The last assignment was challenging, and I really didn't think I'd done well on it. But my reply from Dean revealed that I had fulfilled the requirements of the assignment, even though I didn't think that I had. Looking back, I think that my critical voice was complaining about the prose even though I was doing the right things.

Now that the workshop is over, I need to set aside some time for writing. I have three great starts that are begging to be finished. Of course, the solo trip preparation takes precedence, but I think I can find some time. It's all about setting the goals and holding myself accountable.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Adding It All Up

I joke about math and how difficult it can be when I'm at cross fit. To be fair, that's because when you work out at 5 in the morning, and you work out hard, numbers can get a bit more complicated to deal with. I joke about it, but I actually keep pretty good, some might say obsessive, track of my numbers.

I like math.

I always have. I was the kid in 2nd grade who got pumped when the teacher announced we'd be taking a "mad minute" math quiz (one page of problems, one minute time limit - go!).

Recently, I talked with my brother and had a realization. He said that he didn't try hard at school, and that's why he didn't get the best grades. He put his energy into sport. Implied, though not stated, was that I tried hard at school. From my perspective, I didn't. I put my energy into reading, but I didn't read textbooks beyond what was assigned. I excelled at school with minimal effort (for the most part - I do still remember how I almost failed vocabulary in 6th grade because I refused to memorize and regurgitate the exact definitions in the book).

For him to match my grades would have taken effort he didn't wish to expend. For me to approach his prowess at sports, I would have had to give an effort I didn't even know I had when I was young. Our perspectives were just so different.

And so, when I encounter people who aren't "math" people, who have a genuinely bad relationship with numbers, I have a hard time understanding. I think it's an important perspective for me to understand, as a writer, but it's also hard to grasp. Algebra makes sense in my brain; it's simple, consistent, and intuitive. To imagine that not being true is foreign.

Even after a hard workout, summing a column of numbers is a relaxing exercise for me. I do have problems with counting sometimes, mid-workout, but burpees do have a way of jarring numbers out of my head.

In my mind, the jokes about not liking math, or numbers, were just jokes. Sure, we say math sucks, like we say Monday sucks or burpees suck - wait, no, burpees really do suck. But the funny part is that math doesn't suck. Isn't it?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Busy Is Good. Right?

Work is getting extra crazy for some reason. Just when things should be slowing down... 

Usually, this time of year would be a lull, but the lull has been filled with new project development. I attended a conference last week, which took nearly my entire work week. This week, I've got three full days of solid meetings, and everything else needs to get squeezed in wherever it will fit. 

I'm working on being "documentative" when it comes to everything I'm doing. I demonstrate a technique, I document it, I follow up on meetings, I make records here, there and everywhere. 

In some ways, it feels like I'm doing two or three times the work that I need to, but I know it will all pay off in the long run. Having processes documented increases the ability of everyone in my unit to do the required work without struggling. 

On top of my intense meeting schedule, I think I'm getting some cold/crud thing - headache, body ache, too hot and too cold at the same time. I probably shouldn't have worked out today, but I guess I'm glad to have experienced the infamous 12.1 open workout. Anyone can do it - it's just 7 minutes of burpees to a six inch target! 

Ideally, next week should be less full of meetings, but I'm not entirely sure that will be the case. This week's set of meetings is the start of a build project, and I'm pretty sure I'll be the main contact for follow up work. Just a feeling that I have. 

My bosses do at least know that I'm in this situation and doing my best to keep my head above water, but I'm frustrated that I don't have the time I want to spend on projects that have been on hold for nearly a month. (I had four out of five days in meetings the week of 2/13, a four day work week for the 2/20 holiday, the conference, then this week. I'm feeling a wee bit behind.) 

Oh, and I'm also doing an online writing workshop. And preparing for a 100 mile hike the first week of May, which includes physical training, research and prep work. 

I am not bored. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Learning Cycles - Setting

One of the things that I learned from doing the 2nd workshop assignment is something that I already knew, but that I hadn't revisited. I mean, I guess I thought I'd fixed it, but now I know that I haven't. The fact is, I'm not very good at describing setting. I fall back too much on details that are generic on the page even though I have a good picture of them in my head.

A few years ago, I tried to refocus on describing places. I took pictures and tried to describe them in words to practice. But I still ran into the fact that I will use a word and assume that it means to everyone what it means to me. It doesn't. A noun alone is rarely sufficient. I need to consider that I could have readers from all over the world, with experiences that cause their word definitions to differ from mine significantly. A house is not a house is not a house.

I'm going to blame Hemingway for my spare setting descriptions- not the writer himself, but the way that his writing is taught in classes. There was a certain fawning admiration on the part of several instructors in my writing classes for the simplicity of his prose. An emphasis came about that a story should have the fewest words possible to convey what it needed to convey. The problem was, no one taught which words were the necessary ones. It was just - cut! cut! cut!

Too much description would bog the story down.

Less is more.

Simplicity!

In a way, I can't blame instructors of writing for having that attitude. When faced with the prospect of reading 20 student written stories, an emphasis on shorter probably saves their sanity. But it doesn't do the students much good.

With my backpacking books, I focused less on describing setting in the first couple because I was leaning on my pictures. I didn't need to place the reader in a setting - that's what the pictures were for! But starting with The Wild Coast I began to try and use those little black marks on the page to put the reader in a place. A very specific place, with a specific emotion. And I continued that with ICT: Sawtooths, writing the reader into the scene more often than pointing them at the pictures.

So now I need to bring that attitude into my fiction writing. Define the place as the character sees it. Make the reader see what I see in my mind, using the magic of little black marks on a page.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Workshopping

Yesterday my husband asked me about how my writing workshop/class was going. I told him that I'd turned in my assignment, and he asked if I got a grade for it.

"I get feedback," I said.

I realized then that I hadn't explained exactly what this online workshop was about. For the last several years, I'd been working on a writing degree. That kind of learning, my husband understood. I read things, wrote things and received grades. Clear metrics.

This online workshop with Dean Wesley Smith is something entirely different. I'm taking the class to learn specific new writing skills. The "assignments" aren't required, but the more I do of them, the more I'll get out of the workshop as a whole. The Depth workshop that I'm taking is all about learning how to write better.

That's not something I ever got out of the workshop classes I took at school. There, we read stories, wrote stories, critiqued each other's stories and ended up with no better idea of how to improve them than we'd started with. Everyone had a dozen critics with a dozen points of view and re-writing to please any one of us would undoubtedly fail to please every other.

The last class I took at school was such a workshop class, because I couldn't take the class that I wanted to take (work schedule conflict). I went into that class with a different kind of attitude, because I'd been reading Dean's blog for years by that point. I wrote to please myself, and re-wrote just enough to get a satisfactory grade (okay, satisfactory by my standards is an A, so I re-wrote substantially, while treating the whole thing as an exercise).

The Depth workshop has no grades. I'm not going to get a certificate of completion or even a pat on the head for turning in all the assignments.

The proof of the value of this workshop is going to come out in what I write after I'm done. I know my writing has improved (now I get some personalized rejections) and I know it has room to improve more (they are still rejections). So can I take the information from the workshop, absorb it and let it loose in my writing? Can I make my writing better because of understanding this technique? Will my husband notice the difference?

That's the evaluation, the proof of worth. Once the workshop is over, he'll have to let me know.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Story Submissions

I've got a story out on submission that has been out for long enough that the magazine recommends querying. But a part of me doesn't want to query. I have this hope that they're considering it, thinking about it, and waiting for me to demand an answer so that they can say no.

Wow, writing that fear out makes it look pretty ridiculous.

Because it is a fear.

The three other stories I've submitted to this magazine so far got quicker and quicker rejections. First 42 days, then 22 days for the next one and a mere 19 days for them to decide my third offering was not the story they were looking for.

But this one. 93 days and counting. Longer than the 3 months after which it is recommended to query. So I wonder, is this a good thing? Are they on the fence? Looking for a place where it might fit? Or did it slip through some electronic crack and they just forgot to fire off the rejection?

I'm pretty sure it's the latter, and I don't want to query and get that rejection in return for my effort. It's so much safer just to wait and hope that it's being held because they want to place it.

Of course, the real solution is to get more stories out for submission so I don't keep obsessing over this particular one. I haven't run out of venues for other stories yet. I just need to take some time to give that project some dedicated focus.

Which probably won't happen this week, because I'm in a training at work that is sucking all of my mental energy. It's a good thing, because I'm learning a lot, and a horrible thing because it's very concentrated learning. My head feels full after two days of it and there's two more to go. Ah, but this weekend is a long weekend. There will be time there, as long as I make it happen.

And the first thing I should do is write that query!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Learning Excites Me

I'm starting an online writing workshop through WMG Publishing today. I was so excited about receiving the pre-workshop, getting started email on Sunday morning that I sat myself down and wrote over 6600 words on a new story over the course of the day. (There was a football game that day, right?)

That's actually kind of bad news in a way. Over the summer, I had a goal of writing at least 500 words per day (100 on days I was backpacking). That felt, at times, like an insurmountable challenge. There were evenings when I would write, check word count, sigh, play Spider Solitaire, write, check word count again and the number just went up so slowly! I had some good days, reaching over 1000 words several times, but I never thought I actually had the ability to write 5000 words in a day.

And now, here I am, proving that I can write over 6500 words in one day. And the words weren't difficult. I'd write for a time, get up and do something else to ease my poor butt and wrists, then back to the story. The bad part is I've got myself into a situation like my husband's forgetting to remember that he's supposed to be forgetful.

See, it's to my husband's advantage to have me think that he's forgetful. But lately, he's been especially prone to actually remembering things, like dates and even people's names. So is his memory worse because he forgets to act forgetful or better because he actually remembers things? I'm leaning towards his memory getting better, based on the evidence thus far.

It's funny. I had some strange dreams on Saturday night, and I knew there was a story to tell in them. Not the exact story of the dream, because the dream only made sense inside itself. Dream logic. But there was a spark of something interesting in it, something I wanted to explore. I let it simmer while I made breakfast, and after my husband went to the gym I watched the introductory video for the online workshop.

And then, the combination of the excitement over the workshop, the strange dream I remembered and the lack of distractions afforded by an empty apartment compelled me to sit at the computer and start writing. I truly doubt that I would have started it though, without the impetus from the excitement.

The story isn't finished yet. I don't know where it's going. But I'm excited to find out - almost as excited as I am to start the workshop.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Fear

Dean Wesley Smith is spending some time digging into writers' fears over on his blog. The fear of success, the fear of injury to reputation, the fear of putting a story in the public eye, the fear that it really can't be this easy - just write and sell/publish? That's not what they say to do!

Overall, the fears are of the made up variety - not surprising for a group of people trying to make a living by making things up.

It's almost as if we get so involved in telling stories that we can't stop. When we aren't writing - especially when we feel "blocked" from writing - our minds continue making stories. And when our moods are down, those stories are sad and destructive and our creative energy, no longer harnessed to fun and joy, runs wild towards the downward spiral. We imagine the terrible consequences of writing and publishing a bad story, the derisive laughter of our critics, the humiliation of knowing we created something "worthless." The consequences grow vivid in our minds.

We create layers upon layers of fears, because we are so good at creating.

When I find myself in a situation that has actual things to fear, I have a choice. I can make more things up to fear in addition, or I can take responsibility for what I can handle, plan for the worst and hope for the best.

I go solo backpacking in the Idaho wilderness. There are bears, mountain lions and wolves out there, as well as elk that wouldn't mean to harm you but could easily trample you to death by accident. Wildfire is always a risk, especially in late summer. I could fall down a cliff, break a limb, slip in a stream and drown OR get hypothermia. There's altitude sickness, exposure, heat exhaustion, allergic reactions, landslides, sinkholes... heck, a tree could fall on my head.

I have some fears when I go into the wilderness alone, but I don't feed them. I don't give them more energy. I acknowledge them, plan for them if necessary, but there is so much more that needs my attention out there.

I used to get scared at night backpacking. I would be afraid to go out in the dark when I needed to pee. Afraid that animals were out there, ready to pounce on me. Afraid of really nothing at all.

But when I went on my solo trip in 2016, I had no fear at night. Waking with a full bladder didn't give me pause because I didn't want to venture out into the dark. The only hesitation came on the third night, and that was because of how cold it was outside my sleeping bag.

I had been expecting the night fears. Dreading them, even. I was afraid of the fear to come. I noticed when it didn't. I could feel how leaving my tent in the night was different. The possibility of an animal attack was still present, but I wasn't afraid of it. Cautious, aware, yes. Afraid, no.

That trip had so much more that I needed to think about than being afraid of the dark. My planned trip had me covering distances I'd never attempted before along trails that I'd never walked before. I had no room in my mind for fear.

I think that's where writing goals can help. The focus is placed on something else, something external. Reach a word count. Reach a story count. Finish what you start. I wrote more and better when I challenged myself to reach a daily word count last summer. I started some days without knowing what I was going to write, but the challenge got my butt in the seat and the words followed.

If you can't stop telling stories, then either you take control and write them or the fear takes control and writes you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

To Book or Not To Book

I'm not happy with the amount that I have to charge for the paper version of my latest Hike with Me book. It's long, and therefore costs more to print with the full color interior. I could print it in black and white and reduce cost considerably, but that's never appealed to me. The photos are just so much more striking in color. Sure, an ereader might not be in color, but someone who buys the ebook has the option of opening it with a device that does do color, such as a computer.

The other option for reducing page count, and therefore cost, is to create regular size print versions. Now, since the originals were created as large print, the photos were placed in it to correspond with the story as closely as possible that was going on in the text. Shrinking the text means that there are suddenly a lot more photos compared to the amount of text I have to place them between.

In the past, I've considered this, even started the project, but turned back because it didn't seem like it was worth the effort. I felt like it wouldn't be the same book, because the pictures would be presented in a different style. And, in redoing this most recent book with smaller print, I've ended up with three and sometimes four pages of just pictures in a row in order to keep each picture at least in the same chapter/day where they belong.

I'll leave it to my husband to decide whether or not it should be made available for sale. I think getting the cost down to a reasonable price would be a great boon for all the Hike with Me books, because part of the fun of them is in holding them and seeing the printing of the pictures. And it would increase the number of sales channels, which is a good thing business-wise.

After my husband gets a look at it, I'll either put the project to rest for good or get cracking at the other books in the series to make each one a normal sized print edition.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Physical Books!

Now my book is real. The copies that I've ordered have arrived and I'll be getting them in the mail soon. A little late for Christmas gifts, but I think the spirit will be understood.



There's nothing quite like holding that physical book in my hand. Paging through and looking at the pictures. I put a lot of sweat into that hike and a good deal of time into the book itself. I'm happy with it. Excited to set it free in the world and share it with my family.

Now, of course, all my excuses are gone. I've finished this book project. It's time for the next projects. It's time to get back to writing fiction and see if I can improve on my rejections-with-comments to actual story sales. There's still one pending right now, and it's been out there for a while. I'm taking that as a good thing, but I don't expect a sale at this point. I am hoping for another rejection-with-comment though.

And then there's the guidebook that Ambrose wants me to write about the Chamberlain Basin. Nothing too fancy, but something that gives more of the scoop on the current state of those trails than anything we found. I like that project as something that will be more straightforward to write, get my butt in the seat and the words flowing.

And I still have to finish that story from over the summer. Time to get back in the habit of writing fiction every day. That's where my improvements came from over the summer. Practice, practice, practice. Just like the process of getting these books out improves with practice, so does my fiction.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Book!

The book is done!

Hike with Me: Idaho Centennial Trail Sawtooths is finished. The large print softcover is available through CreateSpace and Amazon. The ebook is available from Amazon right now, additional retailers soon.

I use Smashwords for distribution to additional retailers and unfortunately, I stuffed this book so full of beautiful pictures of the Idaho Sawtooths that the file is too large for processing. There's a way to get around the larger file size, I think, so I'm going to give that a try. But for now, it's available, if not as available as it will be. The work is almost done.

I'm happy with the amount of time that it took me to produce this one. It was a longer trip than in previous years, but I think the main reason that I took longer with it was that my attention was split between doing well in Spanish class and writing this book with a good amount of thought and style. The one year that I finished my book relatively early was the same year that I was taking a creative nonfiction writing class. The class itself helped me focus on the work of my book. The Spanish class took away from focusing on the book, simply because it was a very different type of learning.

Every one of my Hike with Me books is better than the last. It's not just that I'm having bigger and better adventures, though that is part of it. It's also practice and experience and the fact that my husband has become less hesitant about giving me critique that can help improve my writing.

I'm excited to put this book out into the world, and I'm excited to move onto my next projects. There's another nonfiction project in the works, and I still have a story to finish from last summer. I'm finally going to do an online writing workshop that I've wanted to do for years and I'm going to keep writing, keep publishing, keep improving and keep enjoying sharing stories.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Almost Book!

Maybe I could have gotten more work done on my book over the break, but I'm satisfied with what I got done. I'm on the last steps now. Proofreading. Final adjustments. I've got all the words written, all the captions set, all the picture plates placed in the text.

And, as if I needed to sneak this other project in while I was fussing around with getting ready to publish my next Hike with Me book, I went ahead and put out a short book. Or a long short story. It's one of the ones I wrote over the summer, and I put some of it on this blog back in August. I'd been meaning to put it up since August, but I somehow never found the time.

I put it off, because, to be honest, I was afraid to put it up.

Afraid it wouldn't sell. Afraid it would sell. Afraid that it wasn't the right kind of story. Afraid that my effort at cover creation was too amateur - although, I kind of wanted it to look a little silly. The cover I ended up with, I hope, conveys the lightness and fun that I think is in the story.

Putting this book up had the additional advantage that it allowed me to test out the KDP paperback creation system. I'd been creating my hiking books through CreateSpace, but I always had to manually contact Amazon to get them to link the paperback and the email. There is an option to publish an ebook through CreateSpace, but it doesn't allow for much reformatting of the text - I'm not going to publish an ebook with a table of contents that has page numbers, thank you very much.

I've tested out the system by creating a paperback for the other story, Kicking the Desk Job, so I can move forward with more confidence in using it for the Hike with Me book. Unless there are issues. I could always go back to CreateSpace for the Hike with Me if I don't like how this small book turns out.

Though the tools seem nearly identical to CreateSpace, just in a different layout. The cover templates leave something to be desired - who, I ask you, creates a template for a 6x9 trim book that is actually less than 3x4 inches? Other than that, so far so good. The paperback will be available soon.

And Hike with Me: Idaho Centennial Trail Sawtooths will be coming right behind it. Soon. This week - if I can keep my proofreader motivated!