Adulting as a Writer, or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Chaos

Most people I know, particularly most writers I know, don’t enjoy adulting. I hated adulting so much I told myself I was happy with part-time service industry jobs for 10 years before I finally went to college. At the time, I thought I was going back to college so that I could get on with conforming to adulthood. By the time I graduated last summer at the age of 32, I’d realized, thanks to friends and most of all professors, that being a responsible adult does not mean a soul-crushing 9-5 job, and that my skills as a person are, actually, valuable in the “real world,” no matter what anyone outside my fields of expertise might tell me to the contrary. It has been an inspiring and revealing year for me as a young-30’s writer.

I got a degree in anthropology because I wanted to do archaeology. I got a job with a local archaeology firm before I graduated. I still work for that firm, and people still tell me there are no jobs in archaeology. When people ask if it’s full time and I say, “Not at the moment,” they often look smug, and I look smug right back, because here’s the thing: I never wanted to devote all my time and energy to one thing. The best way for me to go from loving something to being soul-crushingly bored by it is to do it all the time. Granted, archaeology has enough variety in itself that 40 hour weeks would definitely not be a problem. But I get to work in my chosen field with people I get along with, getting exercise and spending time in nature frequently as part of my job. My favorite pastime as a child was playing in dirt and finding stuff to put in my “museum” (i.e. playhouse).

The rest of my work week consists of researching and writing articles for the history website Clio, and doing freelance editing for other writers. Which makes for a nice triad of activities to keep me (1) paid and (2) interested in everything I’m doing. Physical work and research/writing for reports at Corn Island Archaeology, historic research and article writing for the Clio, and reading fiction and working through edits for my own business…it’s a good mix for me. It keeps me a little busier than I’d ever intended to be, and I work more than 40 hours a week, but I enjoy it all and I make a living! I get paid to do things I grew up doing for fun! What better way to adult??? Funny thing is, I still didn’t think of myself as a successful adult until my mother pointed this perspective out to me. (This is one of many reasons I am lucky my mom is also a writer and is awesome.)

Perhaps because I’ve learned to live in chaos and a perpetual state of having something I should be working on, I’ve rePerBastet_tallcatcently added to my agenda the role of Marketing Director for Per Bastet Publications, the house through which my own novel, The Life and Death (but mostly the death) of Erica Flynn, is now published. Strangely, taking on more in this case has made me feel more driven to work on my own fiction, something I’ve let slide far too much this year. The more I think of what the press offers (so far, a number of excellent speculative fiction novels and collections of short stories!) the more I find myself wanting to write more stuff, wanting to actively work to share more of the ideas that bounce around in my head all the time with readers.

So, you might be wondering, what am I writing these days? I’ve got two projects in the fire at the moment, both of which I’m actively working on (most days), as my schedule allows. 1. A sequel to Erica Flynn, which I have around 20,000 words on and no title for yet. 2. A series of interconnected steampunk/cyberpunk short stories featuring Penelope and Puddingfoot in post-apocalyptic (no zombies) adventures across America (the first of which was published in the Circuits & Steam anthology). I’m working on the second story now, with a four-story plot arc lined up.

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Week 1 of NaNoWriMo

The National Novel Writing Month challenge: Write 1,667 words per day, every day in November – and at the end of the month, you’ll have a 50,000 word draft. This year, I’m spring-boarding off NaNoWriMo’s challenge to get a rough draft of my sequel to The Life and Death (but mostly the death) of Erica Flynn written by the end of 2015.

Here’s how it’s going so far:

  • Nov. 1: I cheated! I already had about 10,000 words written. I posted on my blog instead of working on my book. But I did think about my book a lot! And any writer who claims that thinking time doesn’t count as writing time is not to be trusted. Yes, sometimes writing looks a lot like I’m playing a video game and eating popcorn. That does NOT mean I’m not writing!
  • Nov. 2: Wrote about 3,000 words, although admittedly roughly 1,000 of those were copied and pasted from my “parts” file – things I wrote and cut out of the first dozen times I tried to start the book, before I really knew how it started.
  • Nov. 3: Wrote about 1,200 words, which is under the daily word count, but was GOOD STUFF and really kicked things in the right direction with some momentum behind it on one of my two major story lines (my new character, Seth).boyscape quote
  • Nov. 4: About 1,000 words on the Erica story line, all of which I’ll probably cut, because it’s extraneous and I wrote myself into a corner. Still, knowing I’ve got to move forward tomorrow means I backed up and got the perspective to realize what needs to be done.
  • Nov. 5: About 1,200 words in what feels like the right direction for Erica.
  • Nov. 6: Was out of town on a 10-hour there-and-back research trip for my day job. Came home tired and had trouble concentrating. 291 words on the Erica story line, which is better than nothing, no matter how far below goal it is.
  • Nov. 7: At this moment, I’d rather punch myself in the face rather than write. I’m stuck on the Erica story line, and I’m not sure why. Obviously, I’m trying to do something that isn’t working, but I don’t know why it isn’t working. <sarcasm> My favorite! </sarcasm> So I’ve written around 300 words again (so far) today, and I’m going to take a chinchilla break to clear my head. My plan is to tackle this block when my frustration subsides, whether by sitting down and working on it some more directly or by freewriting or playing around with visual art to get my creative ass in gear. I’ll update about NaNo in another week to let you know how it works out!

 

Guest Post & Review

Head on over to Lisa’s Writopia to read Lisa Binion’s wonderful review of The Life and Death (but mostly the death) of Erica Flynn! The Life and Death (but mostly the death) of Erica Flynn: A Review

And while you’re there, check out my guest post/interview on Lisa’s blog: Mythology and the Character of Erica Flynn – Sara Marian Guest Post /Interview

The Pros of Cons

Last weekend, I attended the first annual Imaginarium Louisville – a convention for writers, readers, and cover artists.  This was easily the best-organized, friendliest, and best-programmed convention I’ve attended in the last 5 years or more.  And it wasn’t just the folks running the event who made it awesome.  I met some intensely creative, fun, and interesting people last weekend that I look forward to seeing at next year’s Imaginarium (if not at another event in the meantime!)  One of the things I’ve always appreciated about being around other writers is that 99% of all writers I’ve met are generous with advice, interested in everything, and respectful of others’ styles and ideas.

The only down side is, now I’m so fired up about writing AND I HAVE NO TIME TO DO IT!!!!!  School, much as I enjoy it, and work (lucky as I am to have two part-time jobs that I love) and all things related to school and work take up pretty much all of my time…and what little I have left is used on maintaining my sanity and doing things like, you know, sleeping, eating, and taking showers on a daily basis.  However, winter break will be here before I know it…  If I am never NOT insanely busy (and I hate being busy, so this is fairly likely), here are the things I want to work on:

1. The second edition of The Life and Death (but mostly the death) of Erica Flynn, which will be released through Per Bastet Publications as soon as I finish proofreading it and writing the new “director’s cut” scene in the final 1/3 of the book.  This will hopefully happen in early October!

2. The second book of the trilogy (yes, I said trilogy), which is partially underway.

3. A full collection of post-apocalyptic short stories, all set in the same world as “She Who Dines on Heavenly Food,” my cyber/steam punk crossover starring Penelope & Puddingfoot.  And yes, I want to write a second Penelope & Puddingfoot story…I’ve already written the beginning.

4. Another book of speculative fiction short stories (which I haven’t started) based on pieces of Russian history.

Now, all I have to do is graduate…

The Steampunk World’s Fair

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Steampunk Welsh Corgi

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This girl’s costume is beautiful! She’s already hooked on a kids’ supernatural book by my fellow author, K.A. Davur!

This weekend was a whirlwind road trip to the Steampunk World’s Fair in New Jersey.  Armed with 3 bags of snack food and 16 bottles of Powerade, Zak and I made the 11.5 hour drive through thunderstorms and hail and mountains, but arrived safely and met up with the rest of the gang at the 3 Fates Press tent.  Saw some incredible costumes, but unfortunately only got a couple of photos (including this fantastically cute and well-mannered steampunk corgi!) because I was otherwise too preoccupied with selling books!  I’m sorry, but the whole world stops when a cute animal walks by.  We sold out of our anthology, Circuits and Steam, before the end of the day (it will now only be available in electronic format), and Erica Flynn was selling itself by the evening.  Cutting up with my fellow authors, my cover artist (a.k.a. boyfriend), and my publisher was a blast!  My own costume was sadly lacking, compared to the other attendees, but at least it was comfortable!  Unfortunately, I didn’t take any selfies, so I can’t post my combat-boots-and-khakis style “steampunk lite” outfit.

Thankfully, the drive back contained no major storms or sliding down a mountain grade on marble-sized ice, so we actually got to enjoy the beautiful scenery through Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia on our way back to Kentucky.

Next weekend, May 24-25, Erica Flynn will be much closer to home, at the Howard Steamboat Museum’s Art and Antique Jubilee (a free event in Jeffersonville, Indiana!)  Whether I will be there in person or not depends on how far along I am with arrangements for my departure to my archaeological field school in Spain next week!  Even if I don’t make it to the Jubilee, 3 Fates Press will be there with copies of the book.  I can promise many pictures and stories about the field school experience will appear on this blog in June, after my return!

Somewhere gorgeous in Maryland or Pennsylvania, I’m not sure which

Events for May 2014

 

Circuits & Steam cover by Jordan Bell

From May 16th-18th, I’ll be in New Jersey, attending the Steampunk World’s Fair with 3 Fates Press!  3 Fates is releasing Circuits and Steam, a brand-new crossover anthology of steampunk & cyberpunk short stories at the fair.  My contribution features an opium-addled cocktail waitress and her slightly sociopathic automaton butler in post-apocalyptic Chicago.  There are likely several related stories forthcoming, as I had way more ideas than I could fit into one short story for these characters and this bizarre future setting!  I’ll also, of course, be selling copies of The Life and Death (but mostly the death) of Erica Flynn – and I’ve got some great Erica Flynn swag & giveaways for the table, too!  Plus, I’m putting together some pretty sweet jewelry on the theme of steam/cyber and/or death – and what’s better than shiny death jewelry???

 

May 24th-25th (10-5 / 10-4, respectively), along with 3 Fates, I’ll be attending the Howard Steamboat Museum’s Art & Antique Jubilee in Jeffersonville, Indiana.  It’s a free event!

 

Return from ConGlomeration

I spent the weekend blissfully away from the traffic associated with Thunder Over Louisville, at ConGlomeration Science Fiction & Fantasy Convention.  I’ve been going to conventions and writer’s workshops since I was fairly wee (9 years old on), but this is the first time I’ve attended such an event as a published novelist.  It’s been awesome to get to share my book with other people, but I have to say, there’s something about walking in to the Con scene with a book to show for myself that finally clicked a switch in my head that I’m a really real, for real, actual author, actually.  Maybe because writers at conventions and workshops were, aside from my mom and myself, the first people to take my writing seriously.  And I’ve been on panels before to talk about writing, even been a guest speaker for creative writing classes now and then, but having a stack of print books in front of me with my name on them  – that’s different.  And it feels great!

I was one speaker on a panel about Mythology & Folklore, which is a natural fit for The Life and Death (but mostly the death) of Erica Flynn, since (twisted, quantum-physics style) Greek Underworld mythology is a huge component of the book.  Since my follow-up Underworld novel will explore some Eastern mythology and folklore, it was fun to get to talk about some of that, too.  I also did a reading from Erica Flynn (Chapter 17: Bad God! No Biscuit! and Chapter 18: The Deadest Little Town This Side of the Styx).

Even with low attendance due to sharing the weekend and the city of Louisville with the largest fireworks show in the nation, I feel pretty good about this weekend’s book sales, the folks I met and talked to, and the shop talk with other authors, artists, and readers.  As always after these kinds of events, my brain feels chock-full of fresh ideas, excitement about my projects, and inspiration to take  on new projects and ideas.  Having brand-new books to read and love doesn’t hurt, either, and getting to spend time catching up with fellow 3 Fates Press authors T Lee Harris and Marian Allen (aka Mom) is always a blast

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This lady’s costume was awesome – but she was flamenco dancing so fast for her performance that every photo I took was blurred!

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http://www.thealleytheater.org/ – The Alley Theater crew performing “The Cliffnotes of Insanity” – The Princess Bride in 30 Minutes or Less! Hi-freaking-larious, the highlight of the convention!

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Steampunked Smartcar! ❤

Book Release Party

 

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Signing books like a boss!

Friday’s book release at University of Louisville:  I finally decided which chapter to read (Chapter Two: The Bright Side of Death), and had lots of excellent, fun questions from the audience.  I’m deeply grateful to the people who came to my first event as a published novelist – for being there, for showing their support, and especially for keeping the Q&A lively and interesting.  Some of those questions made me realize I need to be on my toes for future events!  Good questions also let me know what readers want to know more about, which is good inspiration for the sequel.  Oh, and not least…I’m grateful for the attendees’ purchases of books!

Next weekend:  ConGlomeration!

 

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I’m not sure what face I’m making here – maybe I was reading one of Erica’s smart-ass remarks?

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Reading Chapter Two: The Bright Side of Death

3 Upcoming Events

  1. Book Release FlyerNext weekend, March 28-30, 2014, is Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, Washington. Although I will not be physically present, I will be there in spirit – and in copies of The Life and Death (but mostly the death) of Erica Flynn – thanks to fellow author K.A. Davur.
  2. Friday, April 4 at 2 pm, The White Squirrel literary magazine will be hosting a book release party for The Life and Death (but mostly the death) of Erica Flynn.  I’ll be reading an excerpt from the book, followed by a Q & A session in the Chao Auditorium in Ekstrom Library at the University of Louisville’s Belknap Campus.  Other activities and goodies are a distinct possibility.  Check out the Facebook Event page for updates – the event is free and all are welcome!  Copies of the book will be available for $14.99.
  3. The weekend of April 11-13 is Conglomeration Science Fiction & Fantasy Convention at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky.  Along with fellow authors and the publishers of 3 Fates Press, I will be somewhere in the dealer’s room (or the Con Suite, pigging out) with copies of Erica Flynn for sale!