Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Do One Thing.

Right now, it's feeling like I'm on the cusp of something new. Sure, I have a lot of fallout to deal with, but for now at least, it's not looking like I have any new curveballs coming my way.

This is great, of course.

But at the same time, it's feeling a lot like I'm emerging from a bomb shelter after a nuclear winter has passed.

I mean... where do I even begin?

It's daunting to face the task of rebuilding something. Of trying to regroup and get back on even footing. Especially when your somewhat traumatized mind keeps whispering that things are going to go back to hell any second now.

Did I ever mention I'm not an optimist? Can you tell?

Seriously, though, I do realize that I have to believe that my five years of famine have come to at least some sort of an end. Which means I should be looking forward again and moving my way in that general direction.

But man. Moving forward is a lot of work. At the moment, the work is physical, emotional, and psychological. Physically, I have a ton of unpacking to do. Emotionally and psychologically, I'm working toward letting go of five years' worth of crap so I can heal and move on. While dealing with a mind that very much wants to jump into fight-or-flight mode at the smallest opportunity.

Still, the past few days, I've... started feeling like my old self. By this I mean the person I was about three years ago where I felt battered, but firmly believed that I'll still be able to achieve something. I'm hoping that, if this was an action movie, I would be getting up around now to kick life's ass after it gave me a pummeling.

Time will tell whether this is indeed what's happening, but in the meantime, I'm sticking to the one thing I've learned by necessity.

Do one thing. 

Even if that's the only thing I manage to do in a day, at least I did that. (Instead of... you know... curling up in a corner and crying the whole time.)

When things were really shit, I did this. It meant I mostly worked and got very little else done. But the result is that I built a new career out of thin air. One that makes me happy and helped things settle down to the extent that now I don't have to be at panic stations the whole time.

The other interesting thing is that now that things are calming down a bit, I can do one thing much quicker and easier... And then I can do another. And another...

Which means that, after focusing on only doing one thing, I can look back at a day like today and be shocked at how much I actually ended up getting done. It becomes as simple as keeping track of what I've done, and actually doing something instead of fussing about it.

Et voila. My semi-inspirational thought for the day.

How are you doing? What are you busy with at the moment?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

IWSG: A Fresh Start

More information here.

After about three months of drama around finding a house, we're finally moving to a new place. In fact, I'm writing this on Monday because I know that I'll be about knee deep into packing, loading, and moving things by the time this post comes live.

Maybe I'm overly optimistic, but it's really feeling like this move will mostly bring to an end five years of chaos that I've had to cope with every day. To that end, I'm really excited to get moving, even if the amount of stuff that needs to be dealt with would have other people pulling out their hair.

But at the same time, this new start also involves a ton of processing of another sort. Emotional. If this move is to be the first day of the rest of my life, I have to cut some stuff out and leave it right here in this house. 

I've been so locked in survival/defense/fight/flight mode that it's become my go to. The thing is... it's exhausting. Except for hopeful, my other single-word emotional status is currently drained. So in a lot of ways, I haven't felt like myself for at least three years... which is also why my fiction-writing productivity took a massive hit. 

I'm not a person hoping for a certain set of perfect circumstances, but when negativity and the accompanying anxiety hits often and at random, making you lose any small amount of momentum you might have gained literally the day before... It's heartbreaking. 

So the fact that I managed to get Book 3 of War of Six Crowns to any stage of completion despite this is something for me to be proud of. 

But despite this and despite my growing success as a full-time writer... I'm feeling a growing sense of discontent. In a sense this is a good thing. I'm actually calm enough and able to not be at panic stations for long enough to allow me time to miss certain things I had left by the way-side to just allow me to get through. 

See, I've been cutting back to the bare minimum so that I could keep going while dragging such a huge amount of drama with me. But now I'm very much to offload the drama right here. Which should really leave a lot of space for other things. And right now, that space feels like a void. A void of writing where I took over two years to finish a rewrite and revision because I hadn't been able to write consecutively for more than two days in a row in over two years. A void of art because I never felt secure enough to actually commit to an art project. 

Here's the thing though, I've been so used to... not... fitting everything in that the thought of moving furniture around in my head is pretty daunting. It feels almost like too much of a challenge to work and write and focus on my health and do more art (other than writing) and read more and resume my French practice so I don't lose it again and be more active on social media and... and... and... 

But the thing is that I just have to find a way. My thinking is to spend maybe the rest of the month evaluating my life and everything I want to do, and then decide how I'm going to start bringing those things in. 

Do you also find it daunting to make things fit into your life? How do you approach it?

Friday, September 28, 2018

Update Day: Celebration Time

Today is the last Friday of the month, so it's time for another Update Day for the Got Goals? Bloghop, where a few of us writerly bloggers share updates on our (lack of) progress towards our big and very important goals. If you're curious or want to join in, click here.


September was a hectic month for me. The first few days was filled with panic and anxiety. The few weeks after that were filled with good times because one of my oldest writing buddies came all the way from Seattle to visit. At the same time, I had a major work function, major work deadlines, and... just general chaos around moving house. And I haven't even physically moved house yet. Long story.

In short, most of my goals for this month fell by the way-side. But on the positive side, I had another record earning month despite all the chaos and I missed one of my major stepping stone goals by a relatively tiny amount. I was a bit peeved when I realized how close I got. But then I had a bit of a think and realized: Bloody hell. Two years ago, I started with starry eyes and an impossible goal. People told me not to even try this full-time writer thing. But here I am.

Full. 
Time. 
Writer.

Was it easy? No.

Was it fun all the time? Hell no.

Yet, despite all the challenges and the impossibility of what I was doing, I managed to build a thing. So yeah, a lot of other things took a knock so I could get here. This includes my writing and blogging, etc. But once we're settled in our new house, I'll be in a better place to actually write my own stuff than I've been in five years.

So all in all... Not bad.

I'm going to celebrate this month. And uh... move. Wish me luck.

How did your September go? Anything you're celebrating?

While we're on the subject of celebrating, an anthology I'm part of is now available for preorder. 



Enter our mysterious realms where the stories are as varied and rich as the types of soil on this and other planets. Enchanted forests are knotted with roots and vines. Dreaded paths take us through strange, unexplored places.

Investigate new worlds and houses frequented by ghosts. Come across witches and wizards and an assassin tasked to kill Death.

Meet hot robots, hungry winds, and the goddess of chaos. Explore alien lands, purgatorial realms, and a shocking place where people bury the living with their dead.

Encounter paranormal detectives, imprisoned dragons, dark demons, cursed jewels, and handsome prophets. Search shifting worlds trapped in mirrors and a disturbing future where a president aims to rid the world of Otherkind.

Experience a haunted journey on a riverboat, water sprites borne of pennies, preternatural creatures, ancient serpents, and the Lady of the Lake who lurks in dark waters.


From USA Today bestselling and popular science fiction and fantasy authors comes Elements of Untethered Realms, a supernatural compilation of the anthologies Twisted Earths, Mayhem in the Air, Ghosts of Fire, and Spirits in the Water. These forty thrilling tales feature authors Angela Brown, Jeff Chapman, Cathrina Constantine, Julie Flanders, River Fairchild, Gwen Gardner, Misha/M. Gerrick, Meradeth Houston, Graeme Ing, Simon Kewin, M. Pax, Christine Rains, Cherie Reich, and Catherine Stine.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Hello Darkness My Old Friend... And Good Riddance for Now.

Guys... Just ahead of time, my words are going to be a bit sparing today. The explanation will be forthcoming in a second.

But yeah.

I know that this is somewhere that people don't want to go all that often, but I felt this is the best place to put this because today is time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, and this is basically the mother of all of my insecurities, and I feel we have to go there. Even if it probably won't be that well-written.


Even as I'm writing this, I'm feeling a certain level of self-censoring, because man, people do not like to talk about this... thing. This shadow of darkness that, whether we like to admit it or not, follows us all.

The world puts such a premium on everything being awesome that they don't even like to hear when something isn't. Unless, of course, it feeds their biases.

Think I'm lying? Next time in a social situation, if someone asks you how you're doing, tell them you're not doing well. I kid you not. Recently, I had a situation like this in church. Which... if you go, you know this is not the way things are supposed to go.

Other person: "How are things going? Did you get good news yet?"
Me: "Nope."
Other person: "Oh, that's awesome. Do you want earl gray or rooibos tea?"

But I digress.

We're not all awesome all of the time, and sometimes, that darkness waiting in all of us wakes up to say hi. For some of us, it's addiction, for others, rage issues or depression, for others (me included), it's anxiety. Everyone has something. But no one really likes to talk about it because good God we can't let others realize we're not infallible!

The truth is, though, that we are not infallible. We're all vulnerable to the dark corners of our mind. Most of the time, we just don't let that side of us win. The thing is that sometimes, we're just not on favorable grounds to win a battle against the darkness.

Take me. 90% of the time, I manage my anxiety and I do so without medication for a variety of private reasons. Which isn't to say that I'm saying everyone should manage their issues without pills. (That would be irresponsible.) I'm just blessed in that I can.

But then my dark side shows up like an unwelcome guest and it feels like my world gets turned upside down. For me, it's like trying to write/work/do anything with a 100-pound toddler throwing a tantrum right next to me all day long. I can (and do) still get stuff done, but I feel dulled down and less effective than I want to be and it drives me mad. And I know that if I pay too much attention to it, I'll be useless.

At the same time, I have to process all that input and remember to put things into context. Like remembering that it's almost certainly a neurochemical response to my environment. And remembering that it's as much a case of my drive feeding my anxieties as it is my anxieties feeding my drive.

What do I mean by this? Part of why I'm good at the things I do is because I have anxiety (albeit in lesser concentrations) around achieving something to a certain standard. I hate failing and I hate being out of control. So my anxiety around both makes me take measures to ensure my success at the thing I'm doing as far as possible. So really, anxiety in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing.

The issue is that I'm not perfect, and some things are not and will not ever be in my control. And its those imperfections and situations that make my dark side throw tantrums. And when that happens, my self-censoring and/or self-criticism is at its most destructive.

I was there from Sunday until last night. And honestly, it was the worst case that I ever experienced. But as bad as it was, I still feel proud because I feel like I won something. Because I fought back. Did I do so perfectly? No.

But did I let it make me miss an important deadline? No. Did it make me back out of any of my commitments? No. It was harder for me than usual, much much harder, but I made allowances the same way I make allowances for deviations from my normal expectations when I have house guests. And then I took steps to get back to normal.

Am I completely normal? Nope. I'm a bit tired. But I'm here, and I know that if I keep doing all the things that are in my control, things will keep improving and my dark side will remain in its own little corner, waiting for me to maybe do something positive with it like write.

How do you deal with your dark side?

Friday, August 31, 2018

Update Day: Mad Month

Since today is the last Friday of the month, it's time for another GotGoals Bloghop update. If you're also chasing down goals and want a healthy dose of monthly accountability, please click here to join in.



Well. August was a bit nuts. 

Not counting the trip to France (which was awesome, by the way), some crazy stuff is happening, including, but not limited to: 

1) The farm we're living on being sold and us needing to find a new house. This is actually an old development, but I didn't mention it before because... well... how hard could it be? The answer is... very. Long story as to how or why, involving politics which I'm contractually obligated to refrain from discussing in public (yes, really)... but right now, everyone is trying to sell their property and no one's buying. But it also means that no one is renting out. 

2) A business idea I've had that has been languishing on the back burner for almost two years suddenly came back to life after a few things simply fell into place. 

3) My ganglion cyst basically requiring me to learn to type again so I would stop flexing my wrist. 


Despite this, I didn't do too bad with the goals I set for August: 

1) Prepare for my upcoming trip to France.
Obviously done.

2) Find enough CPs for Book 3.
Done for now. Got four CPs, which I think will be enough for this revision round.

3) Start working on another manuscript while I rest Book 3/wait for CPs.
Not done for two reasons. 1) I simply didn't have time. 2) I couldn't type for most of early September, which means I was behind on everything when I came back. (See point #1)

4) Clear as much as possible from my contract work to-do list before I leave for France on August 9th.
The ganglion shot this one clear to hell. Along with the fact that prepping to go to France was a lot more involved than anticipated.

5) Finish two more bookmarks before I leave.
Didn't do this. Same reasons.

6) Have a great time in France.
Done. It was amazing.

What I want to do in September:


This is tricky for me. I thought things would be calmer once I returned from France, but instead it feels like my mind is being torn in twenty directions at the same time. 

1) Sort out my schedule so I don't fall behind on my contract work again this month. 
2) Complete the tasks required of me for the above-mentioned business. 
3) Move house. 
4) Critique the manuscript I received from one of my CPs. 
5) Workshop a story idea that I created with a buddy years ago. 
6) Continue to actively change my lifestyle to be healthier. 

Yeah. That last one needs some explanation. The one less than awesome thing about my France trip was when I noticed that I no longer look like myself in my photos. I was bloated, mostly ashen despite makeup (Not pale. I'm always pale because I have a very fair skin. No... I'm talking about the fact that I look slightly gray.) And... well. Let's just say it. I'm overweight. Dangerously. Class II obese. 

So yeah. Last time I talked about this, I got more than a few well-meaning comments that I'm not fat and I shouldn't call myself that. But. 

At 29, I shouldn't be thinking that at the rate I'm going, I won't be able to move. Also. I have heart disease, diabetes, and cancer risks as well as back and hip problems because of my family history. In short, I've ignored my weight issues for as long as I possibly can.

I'm approaching the whole thing a bit differently, though, since the other times I tried to lose weight obviously don't work. The main thing that this is going to rely on is self-awareness and accountability. To maintain both, I'm using a dedicated tumblr blog to keep track of my goals and progress. If you want to follow the process, you can check out the tumblr here. 

One More Thing!

I almost forgot to mention this, because I keep forgetting. But September 6th is the two year anniversary of my five-year goal reset, and my decision to throw everything into the writing/publishing/freelancing thing. 

So for the purposes of my record-keeping, today is also the end of Year 2 for me. 

And you know what? All the crap going on in my life aside, it's going swimmingly. In year 1, I basically made the same amount of money as I now make in a month and a half. So... yeah. It's almost staggering to think how much my business has grown (and how much God has blessed me in this business, because I wouldn't have landed the contract I did without some miraculous intervention.) 

How did your August go?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

IWSG: Learning to Write Again

It's the first day of the week, so time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting!


Friday, sometime after my rather victorious Update Day post, I felt a sudden pinch on my left wrist and noticed that the small bump I had, had swollen and was now bigger and aching.

I went to my doctor and... yeah. As I suspected but didn't want to really admit, I have a ganglion. Which is... annoying to say the least when you literally cannot afford the eight-week recovery time to cut it out. (And have a needle phobia. It's enough to stand still to be injected. But to let someone put a needle into this thing to pull the fluid out--NOPE.)

That means one thing: Changing my habits to make things easier on my wrist.

And a big one is in the way I type.

See... I'm a self-taught typist, which means I've learned all sorts of bad habits over the years that pretty much came back to bite me in the ass seventeen years later. Because while doctors don't know what causes these little buggers, hurting muscles does contribute, and... well... I've been straining my wrists for weeks, spending anything between twelve and fourteen hours per day on writing. The one that had the lump already was just the one that said "ENOUGH!!!" and called it a night.

And here's the thing, for as long as my wrist is inflamed and the ganglion is being a pain, touch typing, as in that skill I never learned, is probably going to be the safest way for me to write. And I know it will be good for me. But damn it all if learning touch typing while suffering from a ganglion and with work needing to be done doesn't make me feel stupid. 

Why? Well. I've been working on a computer for years. Years. I've been writing novels for seventeen, but I've been typing... well since I've learned to write. So we're talking about 22 years' worth of muscle memory I'm retraining on short notice... without being able to really practice for prolonged periods of time and OH BLOODY HELL I'M USING THE OLD WAY AGAIN.

Ahem. 

Yeah. It's really irritating, but I'm hoping the ganglion will go down ASAP. If the touch typing doesn't do it... I guess I'll finally be caving and getting dictation software.

Anyone else get ganglions? Any tips for me? Anyone else think it's stupid of a country's curriculum to not make typing compulsory when most employment requires typing for long periods of time? 


Friday, July 27, 2018

Update Day: Still Hectic, but Getting Stuff Done.

This is the last Friday of the month, which means it's time for another GotGoals? Bloghop update post.


Sorry if I'm keeping this a bit short, but like the title says, it's hectic here at the moment.

At least I can say I got some important stuff done in July: 

1) I finished my own revisions to Book 3.
2) I got my visum.
3) I'm at a level with my French where I think I can call myself conversant again. (How's that for a crash course of two months?)

Also, I won Camp NaNo with more than a week to spare.


What I want to do in August:

1) Prepare for my upcoming trip to France.
2) Find enough CPs for Book 3.
3) Start working on another manuscript while I rest Book 3/wait for CPs.
4) Clear as much as possible from my contract work to-do list before I leave for France on August 9th.
5) Finish two more bookmarks before I leave.
6) Have a great time in France.

That's going to be it for me for today! I'm most likely going to be back for IWSG, but if not, I'll see you guys when I come back on the 20th. How did your July go? What are your plans for August?

Friday, June 29, 2018

Update Day: Gosh I'm Busy

Last Friday of the month means it's time for another update day. In case you're wondering what I'm talking about, a group of us have set some crazy/very important goals. Then on the last Friday of the month, we post updates on our progress. You're welcome to join, if you want. All you have to do is click here for more details.


As you guys might remember from last month, I got a major contract that's really a massive jump forward for me. This was the first full month I did this, and guys... I just really love it. More than that, though, I'm proving myself to be more and more inexpendable by being able to understand economics, write articles, and read French. That last one seems to be especially handy, since the company I'm writing for is active in Africa, which has large francophone portions. As a result, the source documents I have to use in creating my articles are all French, and it looks like no one in the comms department (which is what I'm contracted to) can read it.

At any rate, this job has proven to be basically the only one I've ever done that has my brain firing both hemispheres. So yeah, it's awesome. Also awesome is that it totally does count as using my writing skills, which means that as of this month, I'm just under halfway to my five-year monthly earnings goal.

Overall, though, I can say that my life is the best it's been in... about four years. Although there are some major unresolved issues, it just becomes so much easier to cope when you're making decent money.

But there's a bit of a storm brewing, namely a massive and growing frustration at the fact that I'm not able to work on my own stuff as much as I want. See, when I was beyond stressed out 90% of the time, a lot of my creativity just... vanished. Now I'm unstressing and it wants to play. Don't get me wrong, it's loving the day-job right now. But let's just say my muse is a bit pissed that I'm not making massive progress on my own books.

For this, though, I can't blame the job. I'm just super busy all of a sudden. A lot of new opportunities are opening up for my family so, as the only one who's "accounting literate" (as in able to tell the difference between debits and credits), I have to pitch in a lot and help. On top of this, I'm making a seriously concerted effort to brush up on my French.

One reason for this is the French reports I have to read. The other is that I got sponsored by someone to go to France for ten days in August. (!!!) We're going to a rural area up north, though, and will be living with people who really aren't all that good at English, so I'm doing as much as I can to be conversant in French. I've kept up my vocab for years by reading French, but because I don't have a lot of access to French speakers, I'm seriously rusty on the speaking part. You know... just having the ability to spontaneously convert your thoughts into speech that the other guy understands.

This meant that I had to put even more of an effort into immersing myself, so more reading French, more French TV series (thanks, Netflix!) and just practicing on Duolingo. Oh and narrating almost everything I do to myself in French so I can get used to verbalizing thoughts. Most of this takes up a chunk of time, though.

The French trip also meant that I had to renew my passport (because of course it would expire the one time I really don't have time to renew it), and will mean that I have to get my visum. Sigh.

So all in all, my life is still getting in the way of my writing, but just in a good way. This month, though, I really really want to finish revisions to Book 3. It's been languishing long enough. I'm just going to make that my goal for July.

What about you guys? How are you doing? Any goals achieved, since we're at the halfway mark?

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Rolling Back the Hours

On the first Wednesday of every month, a sizable group of us writers take part in the Insecure Writer's Support group. We share our insecurities, because in the end, it helps us to realize that we're not the only ones feeling the way we do. If you want to check out the bloghop or sign up, you can find information here.

Also, if for whatever reason you prefer Wordpress, you can find this same post here.


As I mentioned on my Update Day post, I actually had an amazing month in May, and although there are still quite a few things up in the air, I think June might end up being a big one too.

One of the major highlights of May was that I signed a contract with a major company to help create their content. It actually suits me perfectly because I'm using my degree and my writing skills together.

For now, the contract is basically a test run until December, but given how happy the lady in charge of my work is, I'm starting to feel secure in the fact that an extension past that is probable, even likely. It's really strange to think that I'm this excited about the job, because it was so not what I had in mind when I started freelancing, but my brain is really enjoying the chance to use both hemispheres at the same time, since I have to be both analytical and creative, reading reams of reports and pulling all that information together into articles that people that haven't read those reports can understand.

Best of all, assuming this is a long-term kind of gig, it actually gives me the level of financial security I need to allow me more writing hours.

So where's the insecurity?

Well. In the fact that for the past two weeks, I've been sleeping through those writing hours, which means I'm still struggling to fit everything into my schedule.

See, when I was working fixed price gigs instead of hourly like I do now, my hours drifted. It didn't matter what time of the day I did something as long as it got done before deadline. And I was "filling" my writing hours with freelance work because for the past few months, I was in no shape to be creative. The stress and anxiety from my life exhausted me emotionally, and since freelance was paying my way, I put the emotional reserves I had into that so I can keep racking up the good ratings. (A strategy that paid off in a big way because it directly led to this contract.)

The overall result was that my sleeping patterns shifted to hours inoptimal to my writing. I went to bed at 2 a.m. and woke up at 8, maybe 9. Then I'd work from about 10 a.m. to as late as 11 p.m., and veg out until 2 a.m.

Bad bad Misha.

Because a lot of the stress points in my life have lifted, which leaves me wanting to work on my own stuff. Thing is, if I want uninterrupted writing hours, and I do, I need to wake up at 6 a.m. It's a simple thing, really. In theory, I should get to bed at around midnight and set my alarm.

Phht. Uh huh.

I did that.

Now I have the lovely sounds of my alarm as backdrop to my dreams.

As I sleep right through it to 8, maybe 9.

So now I'm going to move my hours some more and get to bed by 10 p.m. but it remains to be seen how that works out.

How do you guys on Daylight Savings Time manage to shift your sleeping patterns? It shouldn't be that different from what I'm trying to do. 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Update Day: Boy Do I Have Good News!

It's hard to imagine, but this is the last Friday of May, which means, for those of you who don't know, it's time for me to share my update for the GotGoals? Bloghop.

Cohosted by me and JEN Garrett, this bloghop has its participants set some crazy or just crazy important goals, and then update on the last Friday of every month. If you want to join in the fun, please click here.


So how did May go? You'd think from my prolonged silence this month that it went horribly, but actually, something happened this month that was nothing short of a miracle. One day, I will be able to publicly talk about it, but because of the nature of my original problem that this miracle solved, I can't really give too much detail.

But yeah. On 3 May, someone basically walked in out of the blue and offered to solve one of the biggest problems that was threatening us. Just like that.

And then, something else amazing happened. So late last month, someone wanted to hire me as one of five people who would write articles for a project she was working on. Since the project deals with female entrepreneurship (a subject dear to my heart), I accepted the offer and started work.

It's only a short-term job, of the kind I usually do, so I thought nothing more of it, but then when I started submitting my articles, the lady let me know that I was the only one of the five people who wrote the articles the way she wanted. (She wanted stories, which worked for me. ^_^) So awesome. I'm basically going to write all those articles now.

But then last week or the end of the week about that, she said she'd referred me to the company she works for as a communications consultant, and they wanted to hire me as a contract worker, because they needed someone who could do the work I'd proved to her I could do.

So I said yes, because yay extra work.

And then I got the contract.

Guys... It's flexible and dependent on how much work they send me. But... We're talking about jumping to almost halfway to my monthly earning goal, assuming I fill the allowed hours.

And having started this week, I have to say I love the work.

So yeah. I had a super exciting month.

It's really great to be able to share some good news, I have to say.

Does that mean I'm going to set myself short term goals for June?

Not quite. See, because this is a major and new job for me, I want to keep everything as open as possible and settle into a routine. And once I do that, I'll be able to turn up the throttle on my personal goals again.

How are you guys doing? Anyone else have good news? 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Probably the Most Damaging Insecurity I've Ever Had

Gosh, I can't believe it's time for another IWSG post again. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, the Insecure Writer's Support Group is a bloghop where we share our fears, doubts and insecurities once a month. The idea is for everyone to see they're not alone in what they're feeling, and also for everyone to encourage each other, or to give advice if you've been there and made it through. If you would like more information or to sign up, just click here.

Also, I have this exact blog post up on Wordpress in case you prefer to read there. 


I actually considered skipping today, because man, I've been having some serious troubles writing. 

But here's the thing. I realized earlier that the major insecurity I've been suffering from for the past two or three months is a lie. 

So I thought I'd share a bit of what's going on with me. Finally figured out a way in which to put my feelings in a publishable format. 

There's a bit of a challenge, because I can't really explain why I felt this way. I did explain on my Patreon page, since I wanted my patrons to know where I am in my life, but I couldn't make it a public posting, because I have quite a good reason not to want to put everything up in public unfiltered where a Google Search can pick it up. So. If you want to see a full picture, I'm afraid it's going to cost a dollar. If not, no pressure. I think you'll be able to get by without the full picture. 

Why? Because I'm a writer, damn it. I'll make it work. 

Right. 

So. 

*Deep breath.*

Basically from the beginning of March, I stopped feeling like I had a future worth living for. 

Man. That sentence was harder than I thought. Already in tears. 

Okay. I can do this. 

From the beginning of March, I stopped feeling like I had a future worth living for. Basically for the past ten years, I've been keeping myself functioning by relentlessly chasing down my dream of becoming a writer, and then later of making a living off my writing skills. 

And that was great, because there was always something to work towards. A book to write/edit. Marketing to do... And so on and so forth. 

But then partly thanks to a very close relative and some supposed "friends," my life started to unravel in 2014. 

And it kept on unraveling. 

And kept on unraveling. 

To the point where in March, I stopped being able to even hope that one day it would be okay. It didn't help that I was already earning my living from writing and it just wasn't enough to stabilize the shit storm that my life has become. 

That was the worst. Because if I wasn't happy now, what was the point of building toward the future anyway? 

It started as a single thought that multiplied and multiplied until it became a belief that simply wouldn't go away. 

But here's the thing. 

It's a lie. Or worse, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Because if I believe that my future is dead in the water, I'm going to stop trying to fight for it. And if I stop trying to fight for it, all hope is lost, and my future as I want it really will die. 

And today I had the blessing of being given a chance to step back and evaluate. And to remember that although I have a grand future planned, I also have a closer, smaller, more short-term future. One where I have a new book (or two) published. One where that book acts as a stepping stone to what I consider to be my empire. Also, one where after two years of putting it off, I have an actual proper author website and stuff. 

That smaller future is something I want. Badly. And it doesn't matter whether my life wants to fall to pieces. I have the skills and tools at my disposal to make that smaller future happen. 

But to do that, I have to stop lying to myself. I have to stop thinking that I'm going to be trapped in limbo forever. 

Maybe you're in the same boat as me. In which case, I want to remind you to stop lying to yourself as well. There is a future you want, and there is a way for you to get there. Once you remember that, it becomes easier to to figure out what you need to do and how to do it, regardless of what's going on in the present. 

Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 30, 2018

I've been self-censoring a lot lately. And really, I hate it. I always told myself that the day I could no longer be honest with myself and others on my blog would be the day I stopped blogging.

And really, whether it was a willing decision or not, that's what's been happening.

I'm sitting with multiple ideas for blog post topics, but the truth I'm having to stare in the face is taking up so much real estate in my mind that the instinct I try to write about something other than the truth, I get blocked.

But the instant I face the truth, I realize it's hardly publishable online.





I just deleted half my blog post again.

And... again.

Yeah. Stuff it. I'm packing it in for today.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Update Day

It's the last Friday of the month, which means that's it's time for another Update Day post. For those of you who don't know, a group of us set some crazy or important goals, and then, once a month, we post updates.

If you would like to join in, you can click this link for more information.



So how April went for me...

Sigh.

I'm just really glad I didn't set any specific goals for this month.

At the same time, though, I'm annoyed by how everything seems to conspire to prevent me from achieving anything I set out to do.

Still alive though, so that counts, right?

Monday, April 2, 2018

Update Day

This post is for Update Day, which is our once-a-month update for the Got Goals Bloghop.



I'm a few days late in updating, and I have two reasons for it. Firstly, Update Day fell on Good Friday, which I had decided not to post on, and then I got majorly side-tracked on Thursday, which was when I was planning to write and schedule my update post.

Secondly... I got easily side-tracked because I had been procrastinating on writing this post. And... you know... blogging in general.

Why? Well... the thing with a monthly update (and blogging as a whole, really) is that it requires a certain amount of introspection.

Usually, it's the case that I would feel like I achieved little, and would end up being surprised at how much I actually did get done.

March was another beast. One that I did not, and still don't, want to face.

...

...

....

................................................

Okay. I just faced it and it's just making me feel nihilistic (and like I'm going to jump from somewhere high in the near future), so let's not post that on the blog, even though I doubt anyone will see this thanks to A to Z. (She says after deleting about half the post she's written.)

Suffice it to say... I didn't achieve anything of not last month. And odds are there's not going to be much in the way of improvement in April. On the contrary.

So I'm not going to set any goals, because I'm just going to hopefully let myself be pleasantly surprised in a few weeks.

I'm probably not going to blog much until the next Update Day either. So if I'm quiet this month... don't worry... I'm probably around somewhere... But April happens to be a good blog break time if you're not taking part in A to Z. (I'm not.)




Wednesday, March 7, 2018

IWSG: Thoughts and Prayers Appreciated

Since it's the first Wednesday of the month, it's time to do another Insecure Writer's Support Group Post. If you'd like to join in or just see more information on what this bloghop is about, please feel free to click here.


Today's title deals with neither writing nor an insecurity per se, but I thought I'd take a moment to ask those of you who pray to shoot a quick prayer up for me and my family. 

As some of you might know, I live quite close to Cape Town, which is currently facing something of a dystopian-level event in July, namely where the water levels in our dams will be so low that the city will be turning off the water supply to homes, and people will be required to queue for water at a few hundred water points. 

Well... what you guys don't know is that my family business (and me) have basically been quietly but slavishly working on offering the City a possible band-aid to help stave off Day Zero. I can't give you guys precise details just yet, but to tell you guys it's been a Hurculean effort on the part of our small business is a bit of an understatement. 

But people said we wouldn't be able to approach the City... But we did. They said that we wouldn't be able to get the resources together to make the business work, not even on paper. But through God's grace, that's done too. 

Today, we submitted our pitch to the City government at their request, and now we have to wait to hear whether or not they give us the Okay Go. 

At the moment, my fingers are shaking as I type this, as we have literally done every single thing we could do to make this happen. It all depends on a yes or no from the City of Cape Town. But I can definitely say that if we get a yes, this will by far be the biggest thing I've ever been part of in my life. 

So if you pray, please ask God that His will is done, and that if it is His will, that He would continue to supernaturally intervene in this business in order to help us pull it through. 

Okay... Bringing it back to the point of IWSG...

Given that this business thing has basically consumed my thoughts lately, I'm a bit low on writing right now to even think about being insecure over it. So... Today I'm going to answer this month's question:

How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal/ finish a story?

Usually, I just dance around a bit and brag about it on social media. Overall, though, I don't see this as a major achievement yet. The big celebration is for when I actually publish something. 

What about you? How do you celebrate finishing a story?

Monday, March 5, 2018

I just don't feel like writing.

I really can't believe that more than a week has passed since I last posted. I kept thinking that I'd at least post once more, but somehow, that never materialized.

There are a few reasons for this, like the major freelance job I got and the major development in the family business that kept me busy.

But then there are other reasons too, like how I've just been having this urge to play on Photoshop. (The results of which I'll probably be revealing over the next few weeks on Wednesdays.)

Thing is, I didn't have to do those things. I just wanted to. It never even occurred to me that I was procrastinating from my writing until I actually had to sit down and write this post.

See, I have about a month's worth of posts planned, so I have about 12 interesting topics to choose from today. Buuuuuuuut.... I just don't feel like writing.

So here I am, writing about not feeling like writing.

On the plus side, at least the words are flowing naturally here, so I'm not in severe burn-out territory.

I'm just feeling like my creative urges have shifted gear into visual forms instead. I'm still going to edit, though, since that mostly uses a different part of my brain.

But for today, I decided to give myself a pass, and just wanted to let you guys know why I was so quiet last week.

How are you doing? Do you also sometimes find your attention unexpectedly pulled to another art form? 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Update Day: February

Well that was somewhat annoying. I missed my own bloghop, thanks to internet gremlins getting into my internet connection just as I wanted to write this post.

Anyhow. The Got Goals? Bloghop is a group of us who have set some crazy or some seriously important goals. Once a month, on the last Friday, we post updates on our progress. For more information or to join in, click here for more information.


Last month, I set some goals for February that are aimed at bringing me closer to my goals for the year. So let me take a look at each goal and how I did.

1) I want to finish this revision round of Book 3 by month end, if I can. 
I don't think I'm going to get there before the end of the month, but I am through 70% of my chapters.

2) I want to make a final decision with regards to whether I'm going to use my old system of CPs for each round of edits after this point, or hire an editor. 
Because of me not finishing, I think I'm moving this decision out to next month.

3) I want to post regular updates to my blog and vlog, and also update the content that goes to my other networks. (The two are related.) 
I'm not quite happy with my progress here. Although I did much better than I did last year, I still missed days thanks to my unexpectedly hectic schedule. We'll have to see how I do next month.

4) Maintain and further improve the healthy habits I've started to establish in January.
I actually took this a step further. So now I'm drinking large amounts of water every day. I'm also exercising more and finally, I've cut all refined carbs from my diet. This decision has been a while in coming. See, I love love love bread and other baked goods, but I just don't like how they make me feel. But it's really hard, basically impossible for me to just lower my carb intake, so in the end, I decided to cut out basically everything but healthy carbs like those in fruit and veg.

5) Read for an average of 15 minutes per day. 
This month was a bit hard for me. I was really busy, and because of my prioritizing my editing, I'm currently closer to 10 minutes per day. I might still get to 15 minutes if I get a few hours' reading in over the weekend.

So because I still have to do all these things, I'm just going to set the same goals for March.

How did February treat you? Have you been making progress in February? What would you like to achieve next month? 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Ellen G. Goldman on Health Tips for Writers

Hi guys, today, I would like to welcome Ellen G. Goldman to my blog. I met Ellen when I did the editing, cover design and formatting for her book Mastering the Inner Game of Weight Loss: An Easy-to-Follow Guide to Permanent Weight Loss Without Going on a Diet, and since I think she's got some awesome advice, I thought I'd ask her to share some health pointers for us writerly types. Take it away, Ellen!



Have you ever muttered to yourself, “This job is killing me!”? I know I have.

It is usually at times when I am feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and time-pressured. They are fleeting moments and pass quickly.

But a few years ago, they took on new meaning.

I was in the fitness industry for years, running my small, private personal training business. Most hours I was on my feet, working side by side with my clients. Coupled with my own workouts, very little time was spent sitting at my computer, or seated at all.

Once I shifted from training to coaching, my daily habits changed as well. Coaching by phone, writing blogs, newsletters, social media content, plus managing the marketing and other tasks related to running my business had me sitting at a desk for more hours than ever before.

It was a problem. Not used to sitting still for so long, I had to adjust. I was also reading the new research that said extended periods of sitting are bad for our bodies and our minds.

According to the studies on this, sitting on our duffs for most of the day takes a serious toll on our health and well-being, despite daily exercise.

Most working individuals average at least eight hours of sitting each day. For writers, it may be even more. It’s hard to walk away, especially when on a creative roll. However, inherent problems that come with hours of sitting without breaks aren’t easy to ignore.

Individuals with sedentary lifestyles, coupled with frequent prolonged sitting, have shown an increased risk for high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.

Although the reasons are unclear, studies have linked excessive sitting with colon, breast, and endometrial cancer.

Being slumped over your computer in your chair all day leads to tight hamstring and hip muscles, weak abdominal muscles, and flaccid glutes. Together, that’s a recipe for postural problems, neck and back pain, and increased risk of lumbar disc degeneration.

If the distraction of being in pain and taking time off to attend to disease and illness isn’t enough to make you rethink the way you work all day, don’t discount that extended sitting also impacts your brain.

If you can relate to staring at a blank page while trying to come up with creative prose, feeling as if you can’t think straight, it is probably because foggy brain is setting in. When we are sedentary for a long time, everything slows, including brain function.

It’s hard to write inspiring words when your brain isn’t getting the proper fuel it needs. After 60 or so minutes of sustained focus, the mind begins to fatigue. Just like our bodies tire when working our muscles for extended periods, we feel sluggish and have difficulty thinking when we are fuel deprived. The brain needs a constant source of oxygen to perform optimally. Once it is used up, it needs a break.

Moving muscles pumps fresh blood and oxygen through the brain and triggers the release of all sorts of brain and mood enhancing chemicals. Pretty essential if you want to do creative, meaningful work.

Here are some easy to implement ideas you can incorporate starting today to improve your health, decrease your risk of injury and illness, and increase your creativity and productivity.


  • Set a timer to go off every 55 minutes, reminding you to take a five-minute break. Stand, stretch, walk around, and grab some sips of water. 



  • Consider investing in a fitness tracker. Not only will it record your total daily steps—to optimize health the recommendation is 10K—but many have a built-in reminder to go off when you’ve been stationary for too long. 



  • Set a rule—no eating in front of the computer. Mindless eating leads to over-consumption and weight gain. If you desire a sugar treat to “wake you up,” it is a sure sign that it's time for a break.



  • Commit to a daily lunch break, and enjoy the time off. You’ll come back to work rejuvenated. If hunger strikes mid-morning or afternoon, stop working and take a few minutes to enjoy a healthy snack.



  • Eat a combination of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. This mix keeps you satiated and gives the body and the brain the energy it needs to stay focused and be productive. 



  • If you feel sluggish, take a movement break rather than depending on caffeine or sugar.



  • Keep a water bottle on your desk. Sip often.



  • Schedule exercise breaks. Remember the most creative ideas come when the brain and body are being flooded with oxygen. Keep a pad by your side or record thoughts on your phone to capture those that come to you while working out.



  • Although adherence to exercise seems to be better for those who work out first thing in the morning, that might not be the best time for us writers. If your most creative time is in the morning, leave exercise for the afternoon when you need the pick me up. However, if you are a slow starter, and later in the day is when words flow for you, a.m. exercise would be a better time. 



  • Create a 10-minute stretch-and-strengthen routine for the end of the day. Stretch your back, hamstrings, and hip flexor muscles. Strengthen your spinal and abdominal muscles.



  • Consider purchasing a standing desk or, if your budget allows, a walking treadmill desk.



  • Use wireless headphones when on the phone, and walk while you talk.


Try out a few, or all, of the above tips and see how quickly you positively impact your energy levels, mood, health, and happiness as well as turning on your creative brain. Who knows, you just might write your next masterpiece.


Ellen Goldman created EllenG Coaching to help overextended business professionals and entrepreneurs who are worried about their health and happiness, and are either exhausted, burnt out, out of shape, overweight, or all of the above! Through her coaching programs, motivational talks and online courses, she shows clients how to integrate health into their busy lifestyles with simple, small steps that lead to massive change, resulting in greater energy, focus, productivity, and happiness every day. With 30 plus years' experience in the health and fitness industries, working as a personal trainer and certified wellness coach while raising her family, Ellen knows firsthand that you do not need to sacrifice your health and happiness to have a successful career. Her mission is to help others thrive both personally and professionally. Ellen is the author of Mastering the Inner Game of Weight Loss: An Easy-to-Follow Guide to Permanent Weight Loss Without Going on a Diet. To learn more about Ellen and her wellness programs, visit www.EllenGcoaching.com.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Social Contracts, The Prestige, and the Subtle Art of Mind-F*ckery


As I mentioned on Wednesday, I recently read a book that had some... let's call them issues. I'm not going to name names, but you guys will probably be able to track it down if you follow my social networks, or if you're patient enough. But if you do track the title down, keep in mind my comments can be seen as spoilers once you have the context, so choose wisely if you want to find out what book I'm talking about.

At any rate, I mostly did enjoy this book. It had an interesting voice and rapid pacing that did serve to keep me immersed in the reading.

But will I be reading this book's sequel, which is coming out soon?

No.

I could blame some of the plot issues this book had, but if those were the only ones, the book had entertained me enough to encourage me to (eventually, maybe) pick up the sequel. But no. The issue was a bit more serious.

The issue is that the writer broke her social contract with me.


Some writers seem to be completely unaware of the fact, but all works of fiction come with a reciprocal, unwritten social contract.

The reader agrees to suspend disbelief until the end of the book, trusting the writer's ability to tell a good story until the very end.

On the writer's side, there's the promise of a good story being told, and that any leap of faith taken by the reader will be either explained or rewarded in some way by the end.

I always talk about the plot and characterization in a book being its foundation. Well, taking this analogy further, this social contract of trust and reward basically stands as the reason why the foundation had been laid in the first place. The writer wants to entertain, and the reader wants to be entertained. The social contract makes it possible for both sides to both get and deliver what is needed for this transaction to occur.

My problem with this book is that I spent 90% of the book trusting the writer despite some logic issues in the story, only to be rewarded at the end with "Oh well, the conflicts, the stakes, the choices, and even the supposedly devastating sacrifices as the result of those choices never actually mattered and were all undone by the end."

While it had been foreshadowed from the start that this was the case, but nothing had prepared me for how little it all mattered in the end.

And so, at the end of it, I, being a reader, felt betrayed. So much so that I'm simply not willing to get back onto that roller-coaster again for the sequel.

So How Do Writers Deliver Their End of the Contract?

The main step, of course, is to tell a good story, which revolves around all the techniques you guys already know. 

But if you were to want to write a book that is designed to completely screw with your reader's minds, it basically comes down to one thing: 

Don't put the mind-f*ck ahead of the story. 

In other words, if you're putting so much effort into blowing the mind of the reader at every turn, you're actually harming the story, either by making it predictable, or by unraveling all the meaning you'd put into it.

Or in still other words, put the mind-blowing events into your plot, but don't make your plot about the mind-blowing events.  

This is such a difficult thing to explain without naming examples, so I will name two examples in movies. And to make the point I'm making clearer, I'll even make the main characters have the same vocation. 

I present to you: 

Image result for the prestige

and

Image result for now you see me


Before we continue: SPOILER WARNING!!!

Of the two, I think the book I'd read was trying to be The Prestige. And why wouldn't it?

In The Prestige, the pacing was tight. The conflict was no-holds-barred and take-no-prisoners. The stakes kept climbing. But here's the thing. The conflict centered around what two stage magicians were capable of doing to each other in the name of revenge. The mind-f*cks started coming when the understanding the viewer had of the events in the story took on a new meaning, once they realized what the magicians were willing to do to themselves in order to win in this revenge game. (Let me just say that those things are more horrific the more you think about them.) 

Everything in The Prestige is established, shown, and explained, peeling back layer after layer until the viewer is given clear sight of what they had been seeing all along. In other words, nothing was hidden, save for the meaning of what they had seen, and even that is revealed by the end as the huge twist. If viewers rewatch the movie, they will have a different experience, just because they understand all that's going on in context. But even knowing the context and twist, The Prestige is still a movie worth watching, simply because the characterization was excellent and the plot in itself is amazing. (Brilliant conflict. Huge and ever-increasing stakes driven by character motivation.) 

What the book ended up being was Now You See Me. This movie sets up a conflict, only to reveal it's a diversion, then sets up another thing, only to show it's fake. And another, and another, none of which is real. By the third time there's a plot twist (and I use the term loosely), the viewer's mind isn't blown, because the viewer knows that literally nothing that's happening is actually happening. So stakes? Nada. Conflict? Meh what conflict? We don't even know what the goal is yet. (If we don't know what the goal is, we don't know what is standing against the goal.) 

Plot twists are thrown in with little to no real ground work, all to "generate interest." And in the end, it is revealed that the one thing the viewer thought was real—in other words, the heist and the conflict with the detective—was all fake and that the whole time, there had been an entire other plot that the viewer had not been allowed to see on purpose, and that gets jumped on the viewer from left field with little more than a "ta-da!" in the third act. 

This in a nutshell was exactly what had happened in the book. Literally in the third act, we're not only introduced to this whole other unseen plot, but said plot literally undoes everything in the book, including the relationship between the two leads that had been developed as the story progressed.

So what happens is that once this other plot becomes known, the plot we readers had read—the one we had known and spent time on—doesn't gain a new meaning. It gains non-meaning. As in, if I reread this book again, I'll never be able to commit to the story again, because this story literally means nothing now. Nothing I had been shown in the story actually meant anything. The story is defined by what I hadn't been shown, and in short, by how much the writer had taken my trust without giving me anything of substance in return.

And instead of being mind-blown, I'm just really upset and let down. 

So if you are working on a book that hinges on some major plot twists, please do ask yourself: 

If my readers reread this book knowing the plot twists in it, will they still be presented with a compelling plot?

Or will everything I set up fall apart because of the way I resolved the story? 

If you answer yes to the latter, you failed to hold up your part of the social contract. It really is that simple. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go rewatch The Prestige. 

Anyone else love The Prestige as much as I do? Anyone else feel as betrayed as I do when plot twists basically undo entire stories? 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Reviewer's Dilemma

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post.


This month isn't about a writing insecurity per se, but more... an insecurity surrounding being a writer online.

Recently, I changed my posting strategy both for my blog and for my YouTube Channel. I realized that my blog content was more suitable for seasoned writers, while I could use my YouTube Channel to draw in new readers by posting tips for new writers (most are readers, no?) and by talking about books I've enjoyed reading.

The latter does have the extra benefit of encouraging me to read more, but it's coming with a huge potential landmine:

What if I don't like the book? 

In all the years I've been blogging (eight this year, btw), I've consistently refused to post reviews, simply because I never know what to do in the event of having a meh reaction to a book, or worse. I can't lie and call it okay, because meh is not okay to me. Especially if I paid for said book.

Also, if people requested me to review the book, especially if we've built a relationship over the years, I could foresee that me just not being subjectively into their book would do damage to said relationship.

All in all, the issue of a writer reviewing other writers' books felt like swimming in shark infested waters, and I had always refused to wade in.

Until now.

So why did I change my mind? 


Short answer is I want to attract readers and grow my following, and my lurking for two years on YouTube and Tumblr has revealed that talking about books to readers is the way into their hearts. Also... really... I just really want to talk about the books I've read. Especially when I liked them. And since this year I have a goal of reading every day, knowing I need to whip up some content around my reading is doing a lot to act as an incentive so I don't move my reading down my priority list the way I've done lately.

And I guess I thought that it'll be okay. I read so many books that I love that I didn't really think I would bump into one I didn't enjoy.

And of course, I did just that in this first week after deciding to post my opinion on books I read.

Which means I'm firmly in chum-filled waters now. Do pretend I didn't read it? Do I acknowledge reading it with a meh, moving on attitude?

I'm kinda thinking of going with the latter. Especially for this book. It wasn't bad. It just had flaws. Explaining those flaws would make readers cry with boredom, though, so that's not an option. Writing a post about those flaws for this blog without naming names, however, is.

Thing is, I still don't know if acknowledging a book as being mediocre is a good idea. So maybe if I did a quick "what I liked, what I didn't like" segment on it...

Sigh. 

I need to stew on it. Three more weeks before I have to make a call.

Any suggestions? Do you review the books you read? What do you do with the ones you don't enjoy?

Monday, February 5, 2018

Eef Lenaerts on Writing a Book About Traveling through Africa

One of my first freelance jobs was to do the editing, formatting, and cover design for a book about traveling through Africa from Egypt to South Africa. It was a great book for me to read, because the idea of traveling over Africa has always intrigued me. (Although I'd do it in reverse from how the writers Eef and Dries did it, seeing as I am in South Africa already.)

But because I enjoyed working on the book so much, I thought I'd invite Eef to do a guest post about what it was like for her to write it.



Hi all,

Like many of you here, we wrote a book! But we’re no writers, we’re travelers and we had absolutely had no idea how the hell to write a book, so we got some help from Misha.

The book is finally finished (thanks to Misha) and she asked us to write a guest post about the process of writing a book while traveling, so here we go!

Four years ago, we left Belgium with our car. Two years later, we reached South Africa. It was an adventure, with many ups and downs. We loved it, but at times we hated it. It was hot, it was cold, it was amazing, it was dreadful…but it was the adventure of a lifetime that no-one can take away from us.

We left as total dummies with our Toyota Landcruiser. We drove from Belgium to Turkey and took a ferry to Egypt to start our way down along the East Coast of Africa, with South Africa as our end goal.

We were total dummies. Young and eager to go, we couldn’t wait. We packed up our house, sold our belongings, and bought a 4x4 to go on the adventure of a lifetime!

We didn’t take enough preparations, so of course we ran in problems along the way, getting stuck in the dessert with a hi-lift jack, but no points to use the jack, having a spare battery for the fridge, but having a warm fridge, applying for a visa, but no USD to pay for it…

These were all small things that we could sort out, and they make some great stories now, but we could easily have avoided these issues. So after the umpteenth time of thinking “Oh really? Wish we knew this before!’ I decided to write a book for the other dummies in the world!

With a good mood, I started writing down things that were important to prepare before you leave home, ways to act in certain countries, hidden treasures along the road, etc. Gathering this information was easy, but making it into a book was way more difficult than I thought.

It took me two years to finish the book. One reason was because we were still traveling, so we had a lot going on. The other reason was simply that things change constantly in Africa! So the information about a border crossing from two years ago was absolutely out of date. This meant that apart from the actual writing, the book required A LOT of research. In the end, I had read the content so many times, I just couldn’t cope anymore.

So for me, it was a horrible experience. :P

I don’t think I’ll do it again in the near future, but the book is finished and I’m very proud of it!

So if you’re interested to have a look at what I made of it, or just need the final push to start an adventure (the big aim of this book is to give the people that push they need to get out the house and go and see the world), feel free to look it up! Part of this book’s profits will also go to the Rhino Fund Uganda, so the rhinos will thank you.

All the best,

Eef


Two years ago, Dries and Eef decided to throw caution to the wind. They packed up their house, sold their belongings and bought a 4x4 to go on the adventure of a lifetime, traveling over the African continent. It was a life-changing experience, filled with amazing sights and wonderful people, but it was also challenging because when they started, they had no idea about what they were letting themselves in for.

So to help others who want to share in this amazing adventure, Eef and Dries decided to share their experiences and advice learned the hard way, just to make things a little easier for new adventurers.

The tips range from what you should wear to what you should bring along, how to get through the borders to where you should camp and what you should do while you're there.

Which means that Into Africa is a fun read for armchair travelers, but especially useful as a guide for adventurers out to experience Africa for themselves.

A portion of proceeds from the sales of this book will go toward The Rhino Fund Uganda, an organization focused on saving rhinos from extinction.

Available on Amazon

Anyone else ever dream of traveling through Africa? 

Friday, February 2, 2018

I'm Honestly Tired of Literary Writers' Complaining

Lately, I've been reading a slew of articles featuring quite a significant amount of hand-wringing about and bemoaning of the fate of literary fiction everywhere.

The reason for this, it seems, is the fact that statistics have uncovered that fewer literary writers can make a living off their writing these days.

And sure, this is a cause for sympathy. I personally don't like that I don't make a living purely off my writing either.

But.

Every single one of the articles, featuring various literary writers, share a few commonalities between them, and these traits have been ticking me off beyond measure.

I figured, as this does fall under the industry/business side of writing, I'd write this post to give air to my feelings.

So here the biggest sources of irritation, plus my reasons why, in no particular order.

1) Every single literary artist bemoans how "inferior writers" like E.L. James, J.K. Rowling, and other genre writers can swim in money when the real artists, i.e. literary writers, don't. 


Ahem... Not that I'm an E.L. James fan (she's just not my jam, y'all), but how exactly can one compare apples and oranges and call the apple inferior, when the apple happens to be the one that's selling more?

How inferior, exactly, is a genre writer to a literary writer, if the former is the one so beloved by the masses that they can make a living off their writing?


2) They're bemoaning the loss of the art of storytelling as if genre writers aren't continuing in the tradition of some great literary classics like Oliver Twist, The Three Musketeers, Jane Eyre, etc. 


This point they're making makes me livid. Why? Simple statistics. This whole culture of "You must read this in order to be considered worthy/smart/intelligent/well-read/whatever" and then forcing readers to follow an arcane, often arbitrary approach to "appreciating stories" has turned away readers year after year. 

In school, when readers are supposed to be created, they're being told they're not good enough when they can't or just don't appreciate literary fiction.

When there is, in fact, absolutely nothing wrong with not liking any particular thing.

Especially when the most obscure amount of nonsense is touted as the truth, man, just so students can make sense of what's going on, instead of being told that it's okay to just enjoy a story for what it is... namely a good story... or... you know... not... simply because said student isn't into that sort of thing.

What exactly is the sign of a good story anyway? Some arbitrary gate-keepers calling a story a piece of art? Or readers wanting to read books that don't have the stench of elitism attached to them?

You can't hold your genre (and I hate to break it to you, but literary fiction is a genre) up as the standard of excellence, treat people as idiots for liking something else, and then expect those same people to turn around and buy your books as a reward.

I mean, what are we even supposed to do when you bemoan readers following trends and reading "inferior" genre stories, Mr. Literary Artiste? Clap our hands? Give you a cookie? Are we supposed to be sorry for you? Because right here, I personally can't even say I like you


3) They're bemoaning diminishing returns and the threatening implosion of the publishing industry. 


Both of which can in fact be blamed not on the reader, but on the decisions made by publishing houses themselves. Instead, literary writers blame the readers for (rightfully) following their tastes away from their books.

Here are two things I've learned when it comes to being in public as a writer.


1) You don't resent readers for not liking or not wanting to read your book.  
2) You don't resent readers for not liking or not wanting to read your book.

Why? Because it hurts your business Mr. Artiste. You're literally harming your book sales by coming off as a clueless, self-aggrandizing asshole. While you're bemoaning your decreasing book sales. I'm only a lowly genre writer, so I can't be expected to understand figures of speech, but is that ironic or just stupid?

4) The entitlement. 


This right here is what probably gets to me the worst. Everyone I've encountered as a writer, ever since I started writing fiction, told me that I shouldn't expect to be a bestseller, that I shouldn't even bargain on a lowly goal like making enough to buy food every month with the money I make from writing.

So uhm... why exactly do you expect it, Mr. Artiste? Did someone who was selling you something tell you lovely tales of fluffy bunnies and unicorns? Or is it because you think that it's just not right that you literary artistes don't make a living, while us genre writers do deserve to starve?

But let's talk about just desserts for a second. I admit that I know exactly two literary fiction writers (one of which is actually a poet and my Gran). I do however, know that the genre writers in my networks are busting their backsides, often doing at least one other job while writing, always learning, always thinking about what will make a good story, and in what ways they can deliver a story that will please their audience.

And so, they increase their chances of actually finding an audience that will enjoy what they did. Some don't, though, and I find that unfair, because publishing can be harsh on us all. Even those who did everything to deserve kindness from it.

But in none of these articles I read did I once see talk about the need to innovate, to learn, to inspire readers to want to read literary stories. Nope. All I saw was some form of, "Oh woe is me. I was born in a generation where people are too stupid to read my books, so they read inferior books instead."

Of course, you don't say that outright, Mr. Artiste, but here's the thing. You might not believe me, but genre readers are incredibly good at reading subtext. And they do not like being called stupid.

That's another basic of writing genre fiction, come to think of it.

Never underestimate the intelligence of your audience.
You might want to try it.

Instead of... you know... beating us all over our head with how little respect you really have for your potential readers, who might not have heard of you before, but who will now forever associate your name with "Ugh. No. Let me go find a writer who actually likes their readers."

In Conclusion

Look. I don't like to generalize, so I know all literary writers don't have their heads this far up their backsides. And if you are a literary writer of a different ilk, I really would love to hear your thoughts on the subject of earnings, the industry etc. same as everyone else.

But what I just can't stand is that in the past weeks and months, all the articles about literary fiction seem to focus on these arrogant prigs with zero self-awareness or even less respect for the people they were trying to address.

I don't want literary fiction to fail any more than I do the big publishers. But is treating everyone around you like they're stupid because you couldn't make them read your book the way to fix your problem?

No.

And really, the lack of logic to this approach is what irritates me the most.

Thoughts? Do you guys think that literary fiction will go extinct? If so, do you think there's any way to save it? 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Discussing Trello on the Womagwriter's Blog

I might have mentioned recently (or about a million times recently) that I switched over to Trello to keep track of my projects and tasks.

So when Patsy from the Womagwriter's Blog asked me to do a guest post on tracking projects and submissions, I decided to share some more info on how Trello works and why that works better than something like Excel. You can check it out here, if you're curious. 

Hope to see you there!

Misha

Monday, January 29, 2018

My New Content Plan and What That Means for My Blog

On Friday, I mentioned that I finally, after almost a year, figured out my content strategy for this blog. Honestly, it wasn't a minute too soon.

I'd been feeling like I just lost steam after my disastrous year in 2014, and my blog got lost with it. Sure, there are some of you die-hards (thank you!) who kept showing up and saying hi, but I definitely noticed a dip in my traffic. And to be honest, I really don't blame those of you who fell away.

Why? Because while I occasionally happened to post something that I felt was worth reading, it was mostly a reactionary, almost spontaneous process. Some things hit, some things missed. And because I was constantly behind on literally everything, I never knew what I wanted to write about most of the time.

My YouTube channel, incidentally, suffered from the same thing. I enjoyed writing for both this blog and for my channel, but often, I'd be at a loss and spending way too much time on figuring out what I wanted to write about. As a result, I more often than not ended up skipping altogether. Because let's face it. While blogging is awesome, it can't (and won't) be my priority. It will always come second to my books and job.

But.

I'm not one to give up, and when I saw this book by Meera Kothand, it seemed like my blogging muse was telling me something.

The One Hour Content Plan: The Solopreneur's Guide to a Year's Worth of Blog Post Ideas in 60 Minutes and Creating Content That Hooks and Sells by [Kothand, Meera]

The One Hour Content Plan is mostly aimed at bloggers who actually want to directly earn money from their blogging, as opposed to only partially augmenting my other earning activities. That said, I found this book invaluable simply because it put what I was trying to achieve into perspective.

And that perspective helped me realize why I had felt that my blogging last year was unfulfilling both to me and to the readers.

It basically came down to this:

I was aiming at the wrong people.

For example, I would share my YouTube posts here, and you guys would be completely unenthusiastic about it. And I didn't really get it, because the content on my channels was the exact same thing I had been writing about basically since I came to blogging in 2010.

But that's what I realized. Many of you guys have been with me since 2010 (THANK YOU!), but you, like me, are not the same people you were back then. We grew. We gained experience. We've learned lessons. We've become better at what we do.

And if I write something that's about "how to write a book," 90% of my audience here won't care, because 90% of you guys already wrote at least one book already.

So I could revamp my blog and change everything to recycle my audience and attract more new writers, but I happen to like you guys and I want you to stick around.

And so, I'm going to play to my strengths here in a way that you guys will hopefully find interesting. The best responses I get are to my goal-driven posts, posts about the industry, posts about making it as a person making a living at this writing/editing/publishing thing. The other good responses I get (and that I don't want to lose) are to my more personal posts, because I feel that blogging still is the best way for people to know me, and giving that up would basically be missing the point. And lastly, some of my most popular posts do have writing craft and technique advice, but not the basics. Instead, you guys enjoy posts that make you say, "Hmm. I haven't really thought about it this way." or, "Oh wow. I always forget this, thanks for the reminder."

Here's the thing, though, those kinds of posts are not the ones that are popular on my YouTube channel. So I'm going to split the two. My blog will be bringing you the content I think will be the most relevant to you guys, and my YouTube Channel will be aimed at readers and new writers looking for advice from an old veteran.

To sum up, this is what I have planned for this blog for at least the next year:

  • Survival Tips and Craft Advice
  • Advice on Goal Setting, Time Management, etc.
  • Lessons and thoughts I have regarding writing, editing, the industry, etc.
  • Advice and opinions on the business end of being a writer.
  • And then, because I enjoy doing it and would like to do more of it, I would like to regularly share some more graphic-design-y things I've been doing. 
I really hope that you guys will be as excited by these changes as I am about making them. If you have any thoughts, comments, or blog topic suggestions, please do leave them in the comments section below! I will definitely take a look. 

So what would you like for me to write about? Yes, I do have a plan, but the plan is flexible, so I'm always game to address something if you want me to.