Tag Archives: writing

2016 Resolutions

You wouldn’t believe how long ago I started this post. What’s that thing they say, about starting things right away when they hit you instead of setting start dates in the near future? Yeah, well, I just knew I wouldn’t have time for some of these things, but I didn’t want to forget the desire either. And I figured if I wrote it down six months ago and it still felt like something I wanted to work toward by the New Year, it was meant to be on the list.

 

What am I hoping to achieve this year? More than last year, I’ll start with that. While I know 2015 wasn’t a total wash (I mean I did get married after all) productivity didn’t seem to be my strong suit last year. There were some legit reasons for that in 2015; death in the family, wedding planning, and an unexpected burst in the photography business, but I think another problem might be the looseness of the goals I set last year. I tend to do best with structure and detail and so by casually saying, “Oh, I’d like to write. Doesn’t matter how much,” I really just set myself up for failure because “writing” can mean a lot of things and while I did “write” things, like plenty more blogs than usual, none of them were the type of writing I really wanted to be doing, which was the storytelling kind. So, here are some specific things I’d like to achieve in 2016…

 
Study for and take CST1 & CST2 tests. In losing my old boss at the end of 2014 and gaining a new one ¼ of the way into 2015, I hit my 10 anniversary of working for the surveying world and finally found the strength to make sure my value (or lack thereof) was noted by the owners. While it saddened me to discover they were oblivious to all the hard work I’d been doing all this time, it made me realize I need to demand their acknowledgement more often if I ever expect to climb a latter of success and income in this business. Being a female surveyor in a world full of men is already against me, but apparently there are ways to make my intelligence and experience known other than by just performance and dedication alone in hopes that someone’s paying attention. My new boss (who’s not so new anymore) said there are several certifications he feels confident I would pass with ease because he sees the level of skill in me and knows that having those certifications only makes me a bigger asset to the company and my future in this field. I don’t think I could take them all in one year, especially since they cost $200 each, but I could probably manage the first two and I really want to make it happen. Not just for the job security it will help me have, or the bargaining tool I’ll have when it’s raise time again, but also just for the pride in an actual organization acknowledging what I already know about myself and my ability to survey.

 

(CST1 & 2=Certified Survey Technician, Level 1 and 2)

 
Read ½ a book a week. Maybe that sounds like a weird goal, but in years past I always said, read X amount of books and that’s become increasingly harder to achieve. And it doesn’t feel good. ½ a book a week should be doable. I should be able to find pockets of time throughout a week to squeeze in at least a half a book. And if I read more than that, great, but I need that half at least. I think part of the reason I struggled to write this year was because my creative well was bone dry. You need to read to write and I just didn’t read enough this year. If I only read ½ a book a week, my overall count of books read still won’t be that great at the end of the year, but the consistency of reading every week should help keep my creative well wet all year long.

 

Write 500 words a week. I missing writing like you can’t imagine. It’s been so long since new words poured from my fingers that I’m not even sure I remember how to write. There were a few moments last year when I felt compelled to write, inspired by music or books I did have time for, but for the most part my creative brain has been a desolate place, completely abandoned by all of my characters. I want to encourage them to come back, to be so loud I can’t possibly ignore them anymore. I want to still believe being a published author one day is an attainable dream I should still be having. 500 words a week sounds like so little. Heck, there used to be a time when I could put out a few thousand in a day. But it’s a starting place to get myself back into the habit of writing and it’s a small enough number that I should be able to find at least a handful of minutes a week to make it happen. Maybe I could try to get back into writing short stories first and then dive back into my novels. I don’t know, I just know I need to make it a priority again, even when photography threatens to steal all my free time.

 

StickerTracker

 

Learn Photoshop & Other Photography Related Goals. That sounds laughable, right? Even photoshop pros are always learning something new, considering the massive capabilities of Photoshop. What I mean is, learn to use it enough to ditch PaintshopPro and do at least the editing techniques I know how to do there in Photoshop instead. PaintshopPro has been good to me, it really is a decent program for the price, but as my photography wings continue to spread, I know that the edits I could make in Photoshop will be far superior to PaintshopPro and more in line with the level of quality in the pictures I’m already producing. It’s time to make the shift. To help me, I got a giant bible of a book on using Photoshop for photography and even though its size is intimidating, I’m hopeful it will guide me in the right direction so I’m not wasting too much time trying to figure out how to do relatively simple edits while I make the switch in programs.

 

In addition to learning Photoshop, I want to do a few other things this year where photography is concerned. For instance, take advantage of a magazine subscription for Popular Photography I’ve been getting for a year now, but have never read. There might not be actual education in them all the time, but it would serve me well to read about how other photographers do what they do, just so I’m exposed to other techniques I might not have discovered on my own. So, as a goal, I’d like to actually read this magazine every month.

 

I’d also like to test out other lenses and apparently you can rent them from places online to do just that. Last year I took a chance on a portrait lens for 100 bucks and I swear, it changed the way I shot and to this day is probably the best 100 bucks I’ve put into my business. It is easily my go-to lens now, but I know there must be others out there that will wow me; they’re just all too expensive to take the same chance on. I’m glad there’s an option like renting them for this reason and maybe by the end of the year I’ll have discovered a new “go-to” lens that is actually worth a real investment.

 

And lastly, I want to actually make this business more official, with standard rates and logo watermarking. Last year I was often under paid for the effort because I was too afraid to ask for what the work is actually worth and/or people were very quick to take advantage of my unprofessional or amateur outlook on the whole thing, like if I just call this a hobby, then why should they have to pay me for something I enjoy doing? Well, because it meant basically working 2 full time jobs for me and that can break a person. If I’m going to be exhausting every minute of my free time for this, it should at least pay the bills. And while I don’t really want to watermark my pictures, I think it’s a must after I found a few of my photos being used online without any link back or credit to the photographer. Perhaps people would stop looking at them as just pictures and more for the art they are if they’re stamped professionally. Plus, hello easy advertising. I’m still hesitant to do all of this because I’m not sure I can handle a workload much bigger than the one I had last year, but I do think it’s time I take this a little more seriously if I want to keep taking on the work.

 

Master T25 & Other Health Related Matters. To date, there are 3 series of T25 workouts: Alpha, Beta, and Omega, each of which lasts for 5 weeks. I currently have the first two in my possession and while I think it will take at least 2-5 week rounds of each to actually “nail it” I want to get through those first two series and have to buy the third one because my body will be demanding a new challenge by then. I’ve already said how empowering T25 was for me the first time I gave it a shot and I’m positive that will remain true with the other series as they’re designed to be increasingly more challenging and overcoming them will feel like such a huge success. I’m excited to see what kind of weight and inches I can keep losing with this regimen and how it impacts my sleep schedule and overall mental stability. I don’t know what I’ll do when I’ve successfully made it through all 3 series, but I hope by then to be in such a conditioned state that working out is just a part of my every day routine. Now that I’m married, and we’re hoping to be buying a house, making babies is something I have to get real serious about ASAP (since my age will start mattering whether or not having a baby is even possible soon). I want to be one of those women that already works out enough to keep working out throughout the pregnancy. Being older makes everything harder, especially losing weight. I don’t want to work so hard to get to a happy place only to put it all back on with a baby and then struggle to lose it again. If I just stay fit and active, the repercussions of being pregnant shouldn’t be as bad.

 

I also want to focus extra hard on my diet this year, for bigger reasons than just losing weight. About 6 months ago I started to make the transition to a gluten free lifestyle after coming to the realization that gluten had an obvious connection to my IBS and other gastrointestinal issues. During this transition I’ve noticed a huge improvement and comfort level with my stomach problems and just as a whole for my body too. But in cutting it out of my diet so much, it literally feels like I’m under attack if/when I ever give gluten a shot again, say in the form of bread and pasta. My stomach will literally swell to a pregnant looking state and the hours of discomfort that follow are not worth the taste of those once go-to foods. While GF foods are becoming more readily available, they’re not all suitable replacements for things I used to love and some of those things I love just don’t exist at all in the GF world. Those will be the hardest parts of completely cutting gluten out of my diet, but I want to work toward it. The more I read about gluten and our bodies, the more I know it’s just not for me. Outside of it being such a problem for my stomach, it also has a huge impact on people with thyroid conditions, which I also have. I hope by the end of 2016 I’ve successfully made the switch and I’m no longer missing the food of my old life, when I was slowly torturing my body without even realizing it.

 

Go Out & Live Life. I took some pretty significant hiatus’s from the internet this year, some by choice and others because of lack of time, but I learned something in those “vacations” from the internet and it’s that I miss out on a lot of life by devoting so much time to the internet. I spend more time admiring the way other people live their lives than I do living my own and there’s something very wrong with that. In 2015 Heath and I starting bowling once a month, which forced us out of the house and ended with eating out and toy hunting in the wild after. We actually went on vacation with my family to the beach for the first time, despite being offered the trip several times in the past decade. We finally took a bus trip to New York for the day, which is something I’ve wanted to do at Christmastime for as long as I can remember. And the best trip of the whole year was going to Disney World for our honeymoon (which I hope to finally write about soon). As someone who hasn’t traveled much simply because they were afraid to fly, I sure am happy I got over myself finally because traveling anywhere I want seems like a real possibility now. And in doing all these things, in getting out and living life, Heath and I seem closer now than we did even the year before, despite having been together for 11 years now. Clearly date night is an actual beneficial thing and I want to practice it more in 2016. I don’t know that we’ll have the kind of money to take vacations on the scale of Disney again anytime soon, what with trying to buy a house and all, but I want to make it a habit to get out at least once a month to do something with each other outside of our office. And I want to get away on occasion, even if it’s just over a long weekend, so we can escape the pull those computers in our office have on us. I encourage you all to do the same. :)

 
I feel like I’m forgetting a resolution, but this thing is super long as it is and working on these 6 specific things should keep me plenty busy this year so I should probably wrap this up. What are you hoping to achieve in 2016?

 

 

2015 In Review: Everything Else

 

Last year I had just five resolutions; that should have been doable, right? Not so, apparently, but let’s start with the ones I did achieve.

 

Get closer to God. I don’t know if it’s really right to say I nailed this one because I think this is something you should always be working on, but I definitely did work on it all year like I’d wanted to so I say it’s a win. I read my devotional everyday and even flagged the days that spoke the loudest to me to refer to later. I volunteered for the Sharing Table and enjoyed it immensely, so much so that it’s something I will always do when it’s my churches turn now. I was able to put some of my creative skills to work at my church during Vacation Bible School and hope to do that again this year as well. But even with doing all those things I set out to do, I missed a lot of church this year, for either being sick or bad weather or just because I was too tired/busy. I wish that part wasn’t true because it’s so much easier to drift from God without that weekly sermon to keep you grounded. I need to work on that for sure in 2016. I also didn’t write in my prayer journal nearly as much as I might have thought I would. In fact, praying as a whole is something that slips my mind all to often these days. I get it in my mind to, but instead of doing it right then and there, I collect my prayers and then forget to do anything with them. I really want to work on that in 2016 as well. Still, as a whole, I feel like my faith is definitely stronger this year than it was last year and even though I’ve got so much more room to grow, I feel like I’m moving in the right direction in my walk with Christ.

 

Get Healthy. This is another one of those resolutions that is always on my list and will probably stay on my list forever, but I definitely feel like I can call this one a success this year too, maybe even more so than years past. As I mentioned in my “Stuff I Loved” post, I got really into fitness in 2015. I had already been practicing the whole “clean eating” lifestyle from the year before, so that part wasn’t hard. In fact, once I started pushing my body past the limit, eating right seemed to get even easier – like my body was only craving the nutrients that would allow it to keep enduring all those grueling workouts. T25 is an amazing workout regimen and I’m so glad that I gave it a shot. In that first week, I keep starting an overly dramatic blog post about how I was basically committing suicide, but I’m glad I never finished it because I swear once I got past that first week my perspective changed 100%. Being the busy person that I am, it’s almost too easy to say I just don’t have time to workout, but I swear that somehow squeezing that 25 minute workout in everyday made me capable of fitting even more into my everyday schedule. I guess it just makes you more aware of your use of time? Something like that. I’m still disappointed I had to quit when I got pneumonia and that I haven’t been able to re-start it again because of my limited space/Christmas decorations, but I’m really pumped about killing it in 2016. And I’m really proud of/happy with the changes in my body so far as a result of the 7 weeks I already completed. By my wedding I’d lost 3-4” everywhere, dropped down 2 bra sizes and 1 size in clothing, and lost 15 lbs. total. Thankfully, despite my increased cookie/sugar consumption through the holidays, I’ve managed to keep it all off, too! I’ve still got a long way to go before I’m truly at a healthy place, but I feel like 2016 is definitely going to be the biggest year of success in this resolution.

 

Pay down debt. I don’t think I was able to pay off nearly as much toward my debt as I did last year, partly because I didn’t have the same amount of overtime and also because I got married/went on a honeymoon. But I did still put a significant dent in my credit with the help of another successful year of the Savings Challenge and in shifting my cards around to 0% interest rates so the money I was putting toward them was being used more effectively. I’m definitely not in the clear yet (or even close to be honest), but I do think I’m closer to being able to buy a house and am still hopeful that 2016 is the year for that. After we do our taxes and meet with the bank, we’ll have a better idea of what’s possible or not, but I’m still hoping for the best and I’m glad I’ve gotten in this saving/paying habit over the past few years because I’m confident I’ll be able to keep it up whether we can buy a house this year or not!

 

*Bonus: Get a Tattoo!* This was technically 2014’s resolution and I hadn’t achieved it by the end of 2014, but in reviewing those resolutions I felt confident that the day was right around the corner and I’d been right. I got not just one, but three new tattoos in 2015 (over 4 separate sessions) and gosh if it doesn’t make me want ALL the tattoos now. Seriously, it’s not even painful at this point and that’s when you know you’re in dangerous territory – lol. Thankfully the cost will keep my tattoo collecting in control, because boy is it expensive! Still, I’ve got a small savings started already for the next one and I can’t wait for more ink!

 

Tattoos2015

 

So for the things I didn’t succeed at….

 

Time Management. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to master this, not unless something major comes along to force me into it. Even then, though, I’m not sure. I really need to learn how to say no. Outside of all the creative pursuits I have on my own, I’m constantly saying yes to doing things for other people and thinking I can fit them all in my schedule together. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things I want and need to do. Once again, this year I found myself sick with pneumonia for the first time in my life, as a result of trying to do way too much. People even tried to tell me to slow down, but I didn’t listen. It didn’t help that I had a wedding to plan, prepare, and participate in during the height of my busy season. That’s all I should have been focusing on, but instead I was doing so much more. If I could go back and do it differently, I would, but since I can’t I really just need to learn from it. I hope that I won’t find myself making those same mistakes this year, but I also know how foolish I can be. :/

 

Try to get Published. What a laughable joke. And not the funny kind either, no it’s the sad, pitiful kind. The most I achieved this year in the way of writing was reading through and redlining my manuscript. Not the one that’s complete either, not the one I wanted to shop around. No, just a regular old work-in-progress. And then I set it aside and literally did not write even one single new word in 2015. Failure doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings over this. I miss writing. I hate that my other creative pursuits eat up all the time I’d usually have for writing. I hate that I don’t know how to balance the two and be successful in them both. I miss my characters; they’re almost never even around anymore. I feel so out of touch with writing at this point that I feel almost foolish for thinking it’s still a possible dream to have. Am I even a writer anymore?

 

 

Works-In-Progress (or maybe: Projects I *should* be working on)

It’s been a long time since I really talked about writing. I mean, sure, I’ve moaned about my lack of time for it and how creatively dead my brain has been, but when is the last time I really talked about the books themselves? I think it’s been ages, to be honest. Like, possibly years even. Perhaps you don’t even really know anything at all about my completed novel Dreamsters, except that it’s in the horror/thriller category. And so, with the help of some awesome art I commissioned artist and friend, Heather R. Holden, to do, I’m going to talk about my writing – what it’s about, what I’ve got, what I need, and where I’m going with it – and maybe it will not only intrigue you, but help me get back into, you know, actually working on them again. :)

 

 *Click the images to see them larger!*

 

Dreamsters (not an actual title – that is still undecided)

 

About: This story is about a creepy old lady, a girl with a nightmare curse, and a foolishly kind boy who feels compelled to get involved with them both. I consider this story a nod to one of my favorite horror films A Nightmare on Elm Street, though more thriller than horror, maybe. 😉

 

What I’ve Got: A completed manuscript at around 70K words.

 

What it Needs: A completed 2nd draft. I’d started on this a couple months after I finished the 1st draft last year, but there are still major portions of the book, particularly at the end, that need heavy rewriting to finalize a 2nd draft.

 

Where it’s Going: Publication? I hope. It was my intention to have this 2nd draft sharp enough to start looking for an agent this year, but so far this unfortunately hasn’t been the case.

 

2015_Commission_Dreamsters

 

Picture background: This comes from the end of Chapter 2. Milo’s stayed up late to get ahead on some homework and just before going to bed, glances out his window at Mrs. Womack’s house across the street. This is the scene he sees and the lines from the book look like this:

 

Illuminated by the street lamp is a girl in a red plaid, pleated skirt, with black tights and clunky boots, and a black leather jacket being destroyed by the rain. And a boy significantly shorter than her, holding her hand, in a hoodie and cargo pants that look too big for his small frame. Each of them carry just one bag, hardly large enough to hold any decent amount of personal possessions, and they stare at Mrs. Womack’s front door from her gate.

 

I don’t need to see their faces to know who they are.

 

 

Crack the Sky

 

About: I’ll let the main character tell you what Crack the Sky is about. 😉

 

My name is Tilian King and I found a girl in the woods one night. I sound like a fool for saying it, but I swear the lightning led the way.  She was covered in blood; I’m *practically* a saint for saving her. 

 

She claims she’s my guardian angel and that demons took her wings so she can’t protect me. From what, she won’t say.

 

She also claims my girlfriend and father are demons and that my dead mother is an angel like her. I asked her what that makes me, but again, she won’t say.

 

I think she’s f@$%ing insane. Escaped from the looney bin or some shit. It’s somehow both annoying and hilarious to me.

 

Still, and I’d never admit it out loud, it is sort of nice having someone to share the lonely mansion I call home with now, since my dad’s never around. Plus, who doesn’t love poking fun at naiveté? Leilani’s chock-full of it and I’m as rotten as they come.

 

If you’d like to see a few examples of scenes from Crack the Sky, I’d actually posted some when I started this book in 2011 for NanoWrimo. Click HERE! (Note: these scenes were roughly written and have since been polished so they aren’t the final product by any means.)

 

What I’ve Got: About 18K words, or just shy of 1/3 of the story.

 

2015_Comm_Torn_Small

What it Needs: The rest? About 50K more words? No, in all seriousness, it needs the meat of the story. Crack the Sky is an intense sort of story, with a great deal of tough decisions and bloodshed. This first 18K has been the introductory phase, the buildup of backstory, and the planted seeds of character growth. Next, things get crazy. 😉

 

Where it’s Going: Oops, I think I sort of answered that above? I guess I could add that it’s not going to have a happy ending. Okay, so it won’t be super awful, but not the happily ever after type of ending that’s all too common these days because life doesn’t always work that way so why should make believe? 😉

 

Picture background: I’d told Heather that if this picture were titled I’d call it, “Torn,” because that’s the feeling I wanted to come across for Tilian. So that it’s not too spoilery, I won’t tell you much about what’s going on in it outside of TORN, but I will tell you who you’re looking at! (L) Mackenzie, Tilian’s Girlfriend (M) Tilian King, POV of the book (R) Leilani, Tilian’s Guardian Angel.

 

 

So, those are my current, big works-in-progress. I have another novel idea that springs up every summer, but never produces much words and another that I hope to eventually return to one day, as it was the first story I ever wanted to make into a novel, but both require a lot of world building and I’m just not sure I’m a good enough writer for that just yet.

 

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If you’ve enjoyed the art accompanying these descriptions and think you’d like some of your own, head on over to Heather’s site for commission guidelines and prices! Or if you’re just a fan of the art and don’t need any for yourself, give her web comic Echo Effect a shot. She’s an excellent storyteller, too!

 

The Necessity of Routine

I’ve fallen out of it, in more ways than one.

 

I used to be a list-maker, an alarm setter, a strict scheduler. In some ways I still am, that’s how it all starts out at least, but I’m struggling with keeping these to-do lists and schedules. I can blame some of my scatterbrained life these days on the terrible way in which 2015 started off, weighed down by death and depression, but the time to move on is here and I can’t seem to figure out how to get back into life’s routines.

 

For instance, I JUST deconstructed Christmas last weekend. Anyone who’s read this blog long enough knows that I struggle with releasing Christmas every year, but I’ve never let it get past the end of January before I finally say goodbye to it. This year, I just couldn’t do it. Granted, January was sad enough without making myself sad by saying goodbye to Christmas, but what was February’s excuse? I don’t even know. I had to force myself to make it happen last weekend, torn between being sad to see it go and also disgusted by it’s disorderly state after being up so long. My living room is depressing now, lonely and devoid of any sort of cheer it held just a couple of months ago.

 

I also joined the gym this year, but do you think I’ve stepped foot in it even once? The answer is no. And it’s not that I don’t want to, I’m excited about getting in shape and finally having the right resources to do that, but I’m either too busy to stop there for an hour on my way home or too tired from being busy the day before. They’re both awful excuses. I need to make this a routine, that I make a part of my life no matter what’s going on at the moment. I’ve gotta take this seriously and not waste 20 bucks a month like I’ve done so far.

 

The biggest reason I’m reflecting on my lack of routine, though, is because I miss writing. You have no idea how much. I miss having that creative release. I miss my characters talking to me instead of to each other, just making my head a loud, lonely place. Last night I tweeted about this frustration and overall disappointment in how unproductive I am these days and my friends encouraged me to “free write” and “make it a routine.” They’re absolutely right, but I just don’t know how to make it happen anymore. Today I made myself sit in front of the computer all day, rather than read on the couch (which is what I really wanted to do), trying to will my fingers to make the magic happen again, but all I ended up doing was reading through every story idea I’ve ever had and feeling even more disappointed in myself over how great all those ideas were and how they never went anywhere.

 

I’d like to thrust myself back into GRAPEMO for March, set some goals and try to regain some sort of hold on the routine I used to have where writing was concerned, but I’ve been ignoring the group for months now and, honestly, I feel a bit ashamed about my lack of participation. I’ve become that writer that talks about being a writer, but doesn’t actually write anything. How can I show my face among all those real writers again?

 

This post is getting too whiny to continue; I’m just hopeful that saying it out loud (or writing it down in this case) will give me some sort of accountability to guilt me into figuring this routine stuff out again. I used to be so good at routine, the makeup for that has to still be a part of me, right?

 

Wish me luck.

 

2014 In Review: Everything Else

Last year, I made myself six resolutions. Relatively easy ones, really, and for the most part I achieved all except one. Let’s review them with a little more depth…

 

1. Have more Moxie: I think this is the one I’m most proud of because I made such an effort that things that used to terrify me, now seem so easy it’s weird imagining myself ever afraid of them before. This year I met my favorite author twice (the second time without an ounce of fear), chopped off the long hair I’ve been hiding behind for 10 years, went to a day long writing conference with a bunch of strangers, took on strangers as clients without making my sister tag along with me to the photoshoots, etc… Sure there was probably a lot of other ways I could have shown moxie, but I’m glad I made this resolution because all year when I was faced with something that would normally scare me, I felt compelled to prove the fear wrong.

 

2. Get another Tattoo: This is really the only resolution I failed at and it wasn’t because I didn’t have enough moxie, it was mostly because I didn’t have enough time. I have four tattoos planned now, all of which I can’t wait to have, and I’m pretty sure I’ll have some sort of new ink any day now. 😉

 

3. Write: SEE – 2014 In Review: Writing

 

4. Live a Healthy Life: Well, I did and I didn’t. I’m still overweight and out of shape, maybe even more so than last year because all that overtime at work bit into my workout time. And I still haven’t taken myself to the eye doctor, despite my quickly declining sight. But I did get myself on a better sleep schedule and my skin has never been healthier thanks to a daily H2O+ skin cleaning regimen. I also went to the dentist twice and they couldn’t even yell at me for not going in so long because they said I take extremely good care of my teeth. I’ve definitely still got some things to work on next year and I plan to, but I don’t call this one a total failure.

 

5. Give More: This one is also a yes and a no. Sadly, my biggest contribution last year, Sevenly, ended up being my smallest contribution this year. They’ve stopped carrying cuts suitable for a girl my size/shape and so I didn’t buy nearly as many cause shirts as I might have liked to this year. But I did give in other ways like: cookies to all delivery type people (mail and food) during the Cookie-Thon. That was one of the most rewarding acts of giving, seeing their unexpected appreciation and entire demeanor change over such a small gesture. I helped out at church for the big events – Valentines Day, Easter, etc…, I donated some books to the library. But I think the thing I did most was giving of myself this year. To anyone that needed me. Sometimes that meant missing out on my own life and sometimes other people’s burdens were super hard to carry, but I feel like being there for them was necessary and I’d gladly carry the burden any day.

 

6. Save More: SEE – 2014 Savings Challenge

 

I know some people aren’t fans of resolutions and I can see how they’re not for everyone, but as a list maker who is too busy for her own good, making a list of things I’d like to work toward really keeps me guided in the right direction. They’re like little reminders all year long to keep me on track and I’m happy for it.

 

So, what’s on my to-do list for 2015? Just wait and see! 😉

 

2014 In Review: Writing

Oh, writing. :/

 

Work, both my real job and my side jobs, kept me so incredibly busy in 2014. So busy it hurt my brain. So busy that when I did have free time, work had sucked all my creative juices dry. That means this years word count is a sad number and there were no short stories this year, even though I had two I wanted to work on. I literally went months without writing a single word. MONTHS. In fact, it’s been so long since I’ve written something new, I’m not even sure how to throw myself back into it. Like Victoria Schwab says, “I’ve forgotten how to book.” But I will figure it out again and soon, I promise you that.

 

And it’s not all sad news to report this year. Even though I’m disappointed in only writing 29,415 words this year, I can proudly say that I actually finished my first novel in 2014. And I don’t hate it. In fact, I like it so much I hope that 2015 is the year I shop it around and publishing becomes a real, achievable dream. Another thing worth noting is the writing workshop I attended this year. Even if I couldn’t be producing new words, I still made sure to finally start learning what it takes to be published. Prior to my novels completion, I’d sort of avoided it like the plague. You know, no sense in learning about a future that can’t even be a possibility without a finished manuscript. I’ll be facing 2015 with some valuable information now!

 

Last year, I only promised myself I’d write and that’s all well and good, but this year I really do hope to achieve more and so as a guideline or reminder when I’m starting to drift from it again, in 2015 I’d like to:

 

  • Start looking for an agent with a finalized version of Dreamsters
  • Write at least 1 short story
  • Move Crack the Sky towards completion 

 

If I try extra hard and track my progress with the sticker method, these could be feasible goals. Just so long as work doesn’t steal my life again. *Fingers Crossed*

 

What’s Happening

I realize I’m pretty bad at this blogging thing. I go months between posts and I say that it’s partially because no one reads this blog, but maybe if I wrote more they would.  Anyway, it’s October and fall has arrived, which means I’m busier than ever and yet somehow far more productive than ever too. I don’t really understand the power the weather has over me, but in the exact moment that fall shows it’s face, everything about me changes. There’s a peace hovering around me in everything I do and my creative juices start flowing in excess, making me want to do ALL the things.

 

I’m not complaining.

 

I am, however, far busier than I’ve ever been in years past. And it’s strange because I hadn’t even planned to be, it just sort of happened. It started in September with shooting a vow renewal, a wedding, and a sunflower field. I also attended a writing conference (my first ever) and learned quite a bit about querying, finding an agent, and publishing in general. It was hosted by the Harford County Public Library and the classes were taught by published authors, agents, and small publishing houses (so, you know, people who actually know what they’re talking about). There seemed to be a heavy emphasis on self-publishing, which was a bit of a disappointment for me since I don’t intend on going that route, but overall there was a lot to be learned. I would definitely sign up for the event again. I would say, though, that the facts about publishing were a bit discouraging. I’d say it was a good way to weed out the people who are actually interested in putting forth the effort from the people with pipe dreams because the facts about just how many people try to get published vs. how many actually do is alarming. I wish I’d been brave enough to connect with a few local writers, since all of my writer friends live states away, but my introverted self was too nervous by just being there to step further outside of my comfort zone. Maybe next time.

 

Neff Family || Fall 2014

October’s wasting no time with the busy. Yesterday I did my first fall shoot and there are five more already scheduled. There’s also Abel’s 1st birthday shoot & party on Halloween, new cookies to bake for all my friends with October birthday’s, Halloween gifts to wrap and send out, Trunk or Treat to help with at church, a pumpkin patch to take my nephews to, and meeting Maggie Stiefvater for the second time this year at my local library (I’m far less scared this time)! Somehow, writing has to fit itself into this schedule too, because my characters are louder than usual, begging for some horror fueled attention that I really want to give them!

 

I have to be honest, I’m the most shocked by how heavy my photography schedule is lately. In addition to all the October shoots on the schedule there are five more scheduled for Christmas Cards already in November and December. When I made a resolution to shoot more in 2013, I was happy with the handful I did that year – with those few Christmas cards hanging on the back of my door, but I had no idea I’d more than double that in 2014 without even trying. Now I go into people’s houses and my work is actually framed on their walls and it’s a form of flattery I never imagined feeling. It amazes me that people trust me with their memories like this.

 

I’m sure I’ll blink and October will be over already, because that’s the unfortunate thing about my favorite time of the year. It moves too fast. But I’ll try to record the memories and report back before the month’s end. I’m going to have some cool things to share (like custom art my BFF Heather Holden is making me!) and I want to make sure I post it all while it’s still relevant.

 

What happening around your way these days?

 

On Moxie & Meeting Maggie

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I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere between my teen years and adult years I lost the ability to be social. When it comes to interacting with anyone (but strangers are even worse), I am basically crippled. It’s an especially frustrating thing because it’s not like I want to be this way. In fact, it’s the opposite. I want to do all sorts of things I never end up doing out of fear and then I’m left with regret.

 

This year, you may remember, I made a resolution to have a little more moxie. Because my life is slipping away from me fast and I can’t accept being old with even more regret for all the things I’d wished I’d done. So I told myself that if events came up this year around me (concerts, book signings, etc…) I would make myself go, no matter how afraid I was. This promise I made to myself was finally put to the test today and I’m happy to report I passed. But it wasn’t easy.

 

The event I’m referring to is Maggie Stiefvater’s Sinner Tour. For those that don’t know, Maggie is like my writing hero. I’ve never really aspired to be like anyone, ever, but if I could be even a percentage of the writer Maggie is, I’d be happy with life. Her writing ability, dedication to her craft, and overall brave attitude about life is admirable and it encourages me. It seemed fitting that the first author I’d meet be one so important to me.

 

In the weeks leading up to this event, I asked as many people as I could to go with me, thinking it’d be less horrifying if I wasn’t alone. Because it wasn’t just being at this event that was scary, it was actually getting myself there since it was located in the city – the city in which I never wander and certainly not alone, but no one was up for the trip and I couldn’t be mad about that. For a minute there I almost talked myself out of going, but I held onto that promise I made myself. This morning, in preparation for this event, I mapped my drive there on Google Earth, put a bunch of music on a CD for Maggie, and got myself so worked up over going that I almost made myself sick, but I refused to back out. For one, I’d told her on FB that I’d be there and she even replied and two, I’d promised a friend something from the event. I’m not good at breaking promises, especially promises to other people.

 

The drive there was less terrifying than I pictured it. Either that, or I’d gotten myself so worked up before even leaving that I’d exhausted all my nervous resources before it was really time to be nervous. I got there a half hour early and was the 14th person in line inside a bookstore smaller than my entire apartment. It already felt packed with just the 14 of us and then about 100 more people showed up. At least. To make the closeness of so many strangers a more uncomfortable thing for a person like me, the A/C was ancient and nearly useless and it was 90 degrees outside. At one point I was so hot I started to feel faint, like I might pass out of throw up. Thankfully neither happened. I met two lovely ladies (Ashley and Shana, both book reviewers you should check out!)  in the line who nudged my social anxiety aside and helped the heat seem more tolerable. And after some parking space drama, Maggie finally arrived.

 

She parked her Camaro, Loki, right outside the bookstore and a couple of the younger girls squealed which was cheesy and adorable at the same time. Maggie strolled in wearing her signature outfit: a black tank top and boots, removing her sunglasses with one hand and carting a skateboard in the other. She had this air of coolness that made her seem even more famous than she actually is. I was shocked by how much it intimidated me for a minute. She talked for a while before signing, telling stories of her youth and why she wrote Sinner, and then took reader questions and immediately revealed just how regular she actually is. Awkward even, in that perfectly good way. She’s animated and excitable and I watched her in a bit of awe because I can’t even imagine ever having that much confidence speaking to a crowd if/when I ever do get published. I wonder if she was always that personable or if it’s something she’s developed throughout her career. 

 

The wait in the heat once she started signing was rough, but thankfully I was number 14 in line. Actually meeting her went by too fast. I’d only taken my Shiver series, thinking it’d be selfish to take all my books and waste so much of her time, but I wish I’d just brought them all now. She was really friendly, the kind of person you instantly feel comfortable around like you’ve known them forever, and totally understanding of my awkward anti-social self. I told her I was the one that had predicted WhitePantsNovel was actually about Cole on Tumblr so many moons ago and she did that whole, “That was you!?” surprised reaction. Felt pretty cool to come out of my anonymous status finally.

 

I left in the middle of a thunderstorm, never happier to drive in the cool rain. I still feel a little high over the whole experience. Partly because I met someone so significant in my writing dreams and partly because I told myself I’d do something terrifying and I didn’t back down. As lame as it might seem to some, I’m proud of myself and meeting Maggie was the reward for overcoming my fear. All-in-all, an awesome day.

 

Note: You can click through the pictures below. Sorry for the poor photo quality. Unfortunately, my camera wasn’t performing at it’s best. :/

 

 

Weekend Full of Awesome

Lately, I can’t always count on my weekends to be fun or productive or much more than just zoning out and regaining my sanity after an insane work week. Because it’s the only time I get to unwind and do more than just work, it depresses me when it’s over without anything worth noting.

 

The past few weekends have been like these uneventful, over-too-soon breaks in my work life. But not this weekend. No, this weekend was made of awesome.

 

It started Friday, by having off for Good Friday, which by itself felt like a much needed gift. I got nine hours of sleep for the first time in months, caught up on the internet a bit, and dove into a book for the first time since January. A book that totally rejuvenated my creative mind.

 

Saturday it took me a little while to get started and I worried I’d lost my prime morning productivity time, but I sat down with my nightmare novel Dreamsters just before noon, determined to finally reach it’s end and just over 2K later, I did! I FINISHED MY FIRST NOVEL! It’s probably not as exciting to most as it is to me, but I’ve been working on the same 4 novels for the last 5 years. For a while there I was starting to think I’d never reach the end. I’d never reached any of the ends of my scripts as a teen/young adult and while I have finished a handful of short stories, I was really worried I just didn’t have what it took to actually write a full novel. It feels incredible to have proved myself wrong. It’s was hours before I could get my heart to settle down over it so I set out to bake an Apple-Berry pie for Easter. I took photos of the process this time and posted the recipe in case you’d like to try it out.

 

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Click HERE for the recipe!

 

Today I had to be up early to help Mom at church all day for Easter breakfast/brunch. In the years past this has completely wiped me out and it definitely did this year, too, but it was somehow more fulfilling than in years past. More than 400 people showed up for service and there was a lot of great fellowship. I had intended on crashing when I got home, but I stopped by my Maw Maw’s and looked through old family photos (some of which I stole to scan for Throwback Thursday) and then headed home to do a little cleaning in the living room because I finally got a new bookcase! It’s not new as in freshly built from the store, but new to me. It still doesn’t house all of my books, but a heck of a a lot of them, freeing up the previously improper places for any new additions. The living room feels a little crowded now, but overall I’m happier with a proper home for my biggest collection.

 

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(New Bookcase all the way to the right!)

I’m yawning as a I write this and I’m not really ready to go back to work tomorrow, but for once I’m feeling really good about how I spent my weekend. And even though I know I’ll be sleepy tomorrow morning, I’ll be mentally sound and that’s worth a lot in my world.

 

How was your Easter weekend?

 

2013 In Review: Everything Else

At the start of 2013, I made this list of resolutions. Eight things I wanted to accomplish this year. And so let’s check them off….

 

1/2. See – 2013 In Review: Writing

 

3. See – 2013 In Review: Books

 

4. Photography – I’ve touched lightly on this already with that post about the Christmas Card Shoots I did this year, but I can expand on it by saying, I did in fact become more comfortable behind the camera in 2013. I still don’t have the confidence I should necessarily, or all the skills I could have where editing photos is concerned, but I have gotten braver and I have tried harder this year than I ever have before. In 2013 I did eleven scheduled photoshoots – shoots in which I got paid, even though I didn’t ask (and tried to refuse) compensation for. I also shot birthday parties and family gatherings and anytime someone asked me to capture a family moment. I shot a lot food, too (ha!). In 2014, I’d like to continue on this path of learning and finding the courage to continue to step outside of my comfort zone and spread my wings as a photographer.

 

5. Music – I didn’t go to even one concert this year and I regret it immensely. Some of my favorite bands came through Baltimore this year, prime opportunities for me to see them live, and I was too afraid to attend a show alone. I’ve really got to work on this because I can’t be afraid of going places alone forever. I can’t sacrifice something I love so dearly just because I’m afraid of enjoying it alone. I definitely need to work on this harder in 2014. (Also see – 2013 In Review: Music)

 

6. Weight Loss – Surprise, surprise, I didn’t lose 60+ lbs. in 2103. I think total I only lost 20 and who knows if that number still stands after consuming nothing but sugar since Christmas. But, I did generally stick to the “clean eating” lifestyle I set out to. And I did work out with more dedication than I ever have before, 4-5 times a week. I even participated in a 5K this year, the first of many more I hope. After working so hard for a few months and making no progress, I sought out medical advice and found that my thyroid was significantly underactive and have since tried a series of medications to get that where it should be (it’s finally in a good place) and that I was severely deficient in vitamin D (I’m working on getting that where it should be now). Both of these things could and did play a factor in my weight loss efforts and almost immediately after changing up the medication routine, I started to finally see results. I’m hoping that having this sorted out and keeping up with the lifestyle changes I made in 2013, I’ll finally have more success where my weight loss goals are concerned in 2014.

 

7. Baking – Boy did I ever! No, seriously, one month I tracked just how much “creating” in the kitchen I did and in the end it was a whole 7 days worth. That doesn’t sound like a lot in comparison to a 30 day month, but when you think I lost an entire week to just baking – that many hours spent solely in the kitchen – it actually is quite significant. I baked pies and cookies galore, with a few other interesting desserts on the side. I even tried my hand at a few dinners, which is completely out of my realm since I’m not much of a cook, but found myself successful with those dishes as well. Overall, I think I nailed this. My cookies this year were a HUGE hit and my pies were so loved by others that someone actually paid me to make them pies for their holiday celebration. It blew my mind.

 

8. Productivity – I’d say that I definitely made better use of my time in 2013, but it came at a cost, for sure. While I was able to squeeze in a workout regimen with my work schedule (a work schedule that involved more overtime than I’ve ever worked before) and be a writer, reader, baker, photographer, and you know, still spend time with the people I love, IT. WAS. HARD. Not just hard mentally, but physically. I feel like I was more tired this year than ever before (and partly that could have been the medical issues weighing me down, too). I found myself really regretting using the phrase “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” because what good was I to anyone and myself if I felt dead already anyway? None at all. So while I definitely did make the best of my time, I think this year I’ve gotta find a better balance of that use of time and remember that it’s perfectly okay (and necessary) to take a day off for nothing sometimes. I saw Sevenly post the quote, “If you’re too busy to smile, you’re too busy” at the peak of my busiest moments and it hit me hard. I was miserable because I had too much going on, like ready to break down and cry. I don’t want to reach that place again in 2014.

 

I’d say as far as resolutions go, I’m pretty pleased with my achievements in 2013. Sure, they could have been better, but they were already worlds better than anything I achieved in 2012 and I’m proud of myself for mostly sticking to my goals. I know resolutions aren’t for everyone, but they are a good way to guide me and so I’m sticking with them!

 

Now… what exactly do I hope to accomplish in 2014? 😉