short, long, and other fictions

I apologize for the general lack of bloggery last month. I probably should have mentioned that I was doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, writing of 50,000 words during the month of November), as I have done every year since 2003. Between that, the day job, and lots of family time, writing blog posts kind of got put on the back burner.

First: did I win NaNo? Yes, I did, with the amazing feat of writing 17,607 words on November 30 to both finish the book (middle grade book, first in a projected series of five) and win. I’m fleshing out the outline for the next book in the series already. Very happy with how this is shaping up.

Second: what about Touching Time, my Mayan novel? That’s been indefinitely back-burnered, as Moongypsy Press has been temporarily closed. I may still work on finishing it up over the next couple of months, but it’s not a priority right now.

Third: any new short stories coming out? I haven’t sold anything recently, and the two anthologies I have sold to (Assassins: A Clash of Steel anthology and Spells and Swashbucklers) have had changes in their publication status. Spells and Swashbucklers has had some contract revisions, and I’m hoping to hear soon that there’s an actual release date (hoping, not expecting). Assassins, along with other books from Rogue Blades Entertainment, will be published in a joint venture with Black Gate, and further details on that are forthcoming.

Fourth: what’s up with “no excuses” in writing? Well, I haven’t done very well with that this year — managed less than 30,000 words total January through October, I think. Part of it was Touching Time, actually. I sent my entry off, not really expecting anything to come of it, and then discovered I was going to have to deliver a complete novel. So that moved to the top of my “to do” pile, and any time I started to work on something else, I’d tell myself I should to the Mayan book first, but it wasn’t coming together . . . so nothing got done. Excuse after excuse, but no writing.

I added another 10,000 words to Touching Time at the beginning of the month, realizing there was a whole subplot that would make the story much richer. I’m now feeling more like this is something I want to get done, but not yet.

When I switched to the MG book, though, and especially at the end, when I knew what was happening and what was going to happen and how disaster was going to strike and I kept typing and typing, it reminded me of something I’d read in a comment on Dean Wesley Smith’s blog recently, that we make our own speed limits (a phrase he attributes to Nina Kiriki Hoffman). Thinking about this as the slightly altered, “The only limits on my writing are the ones I put there,” I felt incredibly liberated. I’m excited by the writing and the projects I’m hoping to get done over the next year. I also found great inspiration from Rachel Aaron’s post on going from 2k to 10k a day.

(I know that there are limits that we don’t put there, really. My friend Dawn recently broke her hand, which makes typing hard and slow. But the hand will heal, so taking the time to try to learn and implement Kevin J. Anderson’s dictate-a-story method probably isn’t worth it for the time she’d be using it. I mean this phrase in terms of when I say things to myself like, “Oh, I’d never be able to write 10k two days in a row,” or “I can’t write in that genre,” or “I don’t know how to do this, so I won’t.”)

Fifth: what’s up with “no excuses” outside of writing? I did the Couch-to-5k running plan earlier this year, then fell off the band wagon with a foot that hurt, sick kids, son out of school for the summer — and other excuses. Then we went on our family vacation, and despite packing my running shoes, I didn’t run once. Then there was the disastrous 5k in September, which I completed in just barely under an hour, and left myself feeling unable to do most anything for a week or so afterward.

Since then? No exercise, and lots of eating the wrong kinds of foods. I’ve put back on a chunk of the weight I lost earlier this year, and I’m feeling tired and drained all the time.

Solution: Today, I started over. Back to basics, week 1 of the Couch-to-5k plan. I’m also going to be reading the book Chi Running, which Dawn recommended to me. (Due back at the library today, and I’ve got a hold on it, so I should get it later this week.) I don’t know how long the weather’s going to hold, leaving it reasonable for me to keep running outside three times a week, but I’m going to go as long as I can, and if I have to switch to running in place in front of the TV downstairs, then that’s what I’ll do. I liked being in better shape.

Last (What am I up to, sixth?): I’ve set my goals for next year. They’re simple and easy to track:

  • Finish something each week. (Novel, short story, article for Vision, drabble, haiku, paying work project)
  • Have something new up for sale each month.

So that’s it for this update. I’ll be trying to blog more frequently going forward. How are you doing as you wrap up this year and prepare to move into the next?

What are you so afraid of?

Before I get into the meat of this post, just a quick note about the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. It begins Friday, July 1, at Alex’s blog. I’ll be blogging on the second of each month, so look for my post on Saturday. And you can always find the listing of posts on the blog tour site itself.

Now to today’s topic — fear. I recently read Whoever Makes the Most Mistakes Wins, by Farson and Keyes. They talked about fear of failure and fear of success — and how sometimes fear of success was a fear of failure because we’re afraid that we can’t maintain or repeat the success. They also talked about how fear of failure could actually be fear of appearing to be a failure — fear of humiliation. That gave me a lot to think about.
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P is for perseverance

Otherwise known as, why quit when you’re behind?

No, really. If you haven’t reached your goal yet, and you quit, you’ll never reach it.

Perseverance is the art of creating a goal and focusing on it — either on the long-term goal or on each step you need to take along the way — until you’ve reached it.

Sometimes, the goal is something like making it through another week. Sometimes, it’s writing a novel. Sometimes, it’s running a race, learning a new language, or raising a child.

Perseverance gets us through. Take it one day at a time, one step at a time — in my case, literally. Perseverance helped me relearn to walk, more than once. Perseverance is helping me relearn to run. Perseverance keeps me going.

What have you persevered at recently?

N is also for No Excuses

You didn’t think I’d forget my mantra, did you?

What am I not making excuses for now?

  • Running — I’m two-thirds of the way through the Couch-to-5k running plan, and I’m contemplating entering a 5k race on May 7.
  • Paperwork — Not only does it have to get done now, but I’m spending time tweaking my system so it’s easier to deal with papers as they come in (at least once every week or two, when I’m paying bills), rather than letting them just pile up.
  • Planning ahead — I’m thinking about a five-year plan. Not in detail of what specific projects I want to have done when, but in more general terms of where I want to take my career and its different aspects over time.
  • Writing — Not a lot done on that this week, but that’s because (to refer to Tuesday’s post) I’m juggling, and those balls are in the air while I deal with taxes and so forth. They’ll come down again, though, when it’s their turn, and I’ll write. That’s not an excuse; it’s the reality of how I work.
  • Family — My work day is limited by the time I spend with my husband and kids, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What about reasons, instead of excuses?

Well, the water transmission main that broke this week put a crimp on housework, with dishes and laundry stacking up for an extra day. (That was a little problematic for the boy, who needed a clean pair of sweats for his gym class. I figured a little dirt in the water wouldn’t hurt the wash for those, so he had them, and then they were washed again after the water was clean.)

What about you? What commitments are you holding yourself to?

As always, thanks for reading!

Running on empty

Empty of excuses, anyway.

Those of you who don’t follow me on Facebook (Hi, Mom!) may not know that I’ve started a running program, the Couch-to-5k. This is a nine-week program designed to take people from being couch potatoes to running for 5k (about 3 miles or 30 minutes). This is accomplished through interval work — alternating jogging and walking — while gradually increasing the total amount of time jogging or running. I’m now in the second week.

Physically, I’m doing better this week than last week. My first run (in the pouring rain) I could barely finish, even walking two of the running intervals. My legs felt like rubber, and my entire body was sore on Tuesday. I’m now managing to complete all of the intervals, and the only portions that tend to stay sore are my hips.

That’s probably not going to change, even at the end of the program. I am handicapped. My left ankle is fused, and I’m missing most of the calf muscle for that leg. I can’t push off with the ball of my foot, and I can’t land properly either — so most of the work is coming from the hips. Yesterday, my ankle felt sore all day, and my foot hurts.

Let’s be honest. My foot almost always hurts. I can’t walk barefoot around the house because of the pain. That’s just life. Even if I can run for 3 miles, 5 miles, or 20 miles, I’m always going to be handicapped.

Which is okay, as long as I remember it’s no excuse to stop trying.

No such thing as a healthy excuse

Today, I had a physical — just a normal, general physical, the kind I should get on a regular basis. Should being the operative word there. The last time I had blood work done was when I was pregnant with my second (who is now a toddler), and that was at the behest of the obstetrician. It’s been even longer since I had an actual physical and answered questions about my eating habits (well balanced, but I snack — a hazard of working at home), concerns, family history, and so forth.

I saw the same person I saw for my second round of bronchitis this winter, which was nice because we’ve already established a baseline rapport. She also followed up on my cough (lingering) and sent me for a check X-ray because my lungs still didn’t sound clear. Should know how that came out in a day or two.

Then there’s the blood work. I was thinking of putting it off. I’ve got a proofreading deadline, and between power outages and late delivery of half the book, I’m not exactly ahead of schedule here. But then I start looking at next week: more snow possible Monday and Tuesday, and who knows what after that. I’m not guaranteed a good time to do this.

So, back to the mantra. No excuses.

Tomorrow, I go in to the lab so they can take the necessary samples. I come home and get to work. Total time lost? Probably less than I usually spend puttering around with e-mail and the like. And then I get back to work.

Who knows? I may even get a Q&A posted tomorrow.

Winter weather gives me an excuse

Dogwood after January snowstorm.

Dogwood in our front yard, January 12.

Lovely day to wake up to. Unlike a lot of my friends farther east and north, I saw the sun shining when I got up this morning — much to the dismay of my son, who really wanted another snow day.

Of course, all that snow on the ground meant the only time I went out of the house (other than barely stepping out the door to grab pictures) was to check the mail (never know when I might get an acceptance or rejection). No walking. No driving to the doctor. Nothing that involved stirring away from the warmth of my computer monitor.

Yes, I know the monitor’s not warm.

The “no excuses” isn’t going as well this week. Haven’t walked. Haven’t written. Haven’t quilted. Spent some good family time, though, and started reading an excellent book that I should have read years ago (The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss). Also, paying work is going well.

I’m not quite hibernating, but part of me wishes I could. This blog post is a step toward doing something more, stretching out. I’ll work on an outline later, after dinner. Tomorrow, I call to make a doctor’s appointment. I can’t move forward if I’m standing still.

Even if “still” is lovely and pristine, like a tree covered with fresh-fallen snow.

Any excuse . . .

No excuses.

That’s my motto for 2011. No excuses for frittering away time I could be writing, playing on the Web. No excuses for giving up on exercise. No excuses for not spending time with my family. No excuses for holding on to stuff I don’t use and have no idea if I’ll ever need.

Let’s be clear, here. Some things are reasons, not excuses. If I sign up to run a 5k race, and I get a broken leg or I’m in the hospital — well, I can’t run the race. That’s a reason. If, however, I then stop running at all, don’t try to schedule a different 5k run, and give up — that’s letting a setback become an excuse.

I’ve done that. Just looking at the exercise — well, after my accident, I tried. I tried running, wound up with blood poisoning in my foot, and spent another couple of months on crutches. I sporadically tried again, but with each setback, I stopped longer. It didn’t help, perhaps, that I had “drop foot,” meaning that my left foot twisted to the side because of uneven pull of the remaining muscles in my leg. (It’s very hard to run on the edge of your foot.) However, I got my foot straightened out and my ankle fused to fix that problem — in 2004.

What’s been stopping me since then? Habit. Laziness. A toddler at home. Heat and humidity. Ice on the road, making me unable to balance. Cold. Rain. Too busy.


I can’t change my entire life overnight, and I really wouldn’t want to. I love my family, I love my home, I love my work. Overall, I have a very good life. I just think I can make it better if I focus on changing the habit of making excuses.

Over the course of this year, I’ll post once or twice a month about specific areas I’m working on, an excuse I caught myself in, or progress I’ve made. I’ve added a new “No Excuses” tag to the blog, so if you’re interested, you can follow along.

What about you? Do you have a motto, a mantra, or a guiding word for the coming year?

As always, thanks for reading!