Category Archives: Writing

Homework?

My therapist wants me to start blogging again.

Which, okay. I’m a writer, and the way I used to work things out was to write about what was going on. But something happened to me a few years ago that made that outlet impossible to use properly for a few years; it basically broke my ability to journal. And yes, it had repercussions on my mental health and cascaded into a bunch of other issues in other areas of my life.

So, I am to start again.

The kids are great. HRH is loving his part-time gig with the Navy. (See, I stop blogging and things happen. HRH joined the Navy Reserve two or three years ago.) It’s so wonderful to see him excited about learning and doing stuff with his hands. He feels valued and fulfilled and we are all so happy for him.

That medical leave that started in January went on for months. It turned into a full-blown medical leave with notes from my doctor to my employers, and the book I was writing was put on hold. I worked small part-time assignments here and there, but only occasionally. The medical leave was extended three times, for a total of seven months of formal medical leave. I’m getting back into full-time now, and the publisher has already asked me to write another book, to be released before the one that I wrote a third of in January. So that book is on hold while I wrote this other one. And they have promised to work on a delivery schedule together with me and be responsive to my needs, so that is very encouraging indeed. In the meantime, one of my books was released in a new updated edition this year, and another will be released in a new edition next year, too. It floors me to go through the book community on Instagram and see my books come up over and over again in gorgeous pictures, with people raving about them.

My health is not great. This year has been awful, quite frankly, and it’s directly related to overworking last year and part of the year before. I have to limit my work hours and be very, very forgiving of myself. It’s frustrating, because I am used to producing a large amount of content in a short period of time. I can’t do that any more.

I’m still spinning and knitting. In fact, I am knitting a shawl for Rhinebeck out of my handspun, and I’m really enjoying working with it. I spun the yarn specifically for another shawl, too. The designer randomly gifted me with her pattern because it was on my wishlist, and I was so excited that I spun the yarn right away. The Rhinebeck shawl has priority at he moment because there’s a deadline, but once that’s done I”ll be knitting the other one. I have one sock for me almost complete, knitted on two circular needles and toe-up, two techniques I’ve never tried before. I also have all but the last two inches of toe on the second of a pair for HRH. Those will need to be finished, too.

I have to finish expanding the proposal for that new book now.

Not Dead; Or, Making Sure Life Signs Continue

In short… I overdid it last year.

I wrote two new books for publication in the first six months. Also during that time I expanded a previously written book by at least 25%, a lot of reference material for which didn’t really exist yet. Over the rest of the year, I wrote the second half of my first video game script plus the accompanying in-game documentation. I revised two — no, three — previously published books for rerelease. And I wrote an issue of a collectible magazine every two weeks, all year long.

I was tired, and things were getting harder, and there were kid things going on at the same time. And about a month ago, I realized that if I didn’t do something, things were going to go Very Badly, Very Rapidly.

So I reached out to the people on my local team to say that I was sorry things were falling through my fingers on our project, and, in the interest of transparency, that it would be a while before I caught up. And the next thing I knew, they’d voluntarily arranged time off for me.

I didn’t realize how bad I’d gotten until I burst into tears and sobbed hard for about ten minutes straight when the email landed in my inbox.

So I’ve taken some time off. Ideally I would have taken a full six weeks, but I was in the middle of negotiating a new book, which had a series of deadlines that needed to be met. So I took as much time as I could, thinking about the book and casually reading stuff now and then to get my brain juice flowing behind the scenes, and have started the actual writing this week. The deadlines are still close, but I’m not as stressed as I was a month ago, so it’s easier to handle them. And I have a full month to focus on just that, before I pick things up with my other project again.

Even that single month away from my desk and computer has done so much good. For the first two weeks I couldn’t even go up the stairs to my office because I had such terrible associations with the stress and overwork. The third week, I flitted up every day or so to grab something from my desk or my fibre stash then went right back downstairs, or played cello for ten to fifteen minutes at a time. The fourth week, I sat down and checked email at the desktop, tidied my desk, and spent time in my rocking chair spinning some lovely fibre, just getting used to the space again.

During my stress leave, I spun yarn, read actual books, played mindless games on my phone, binged podcasts, and napped. I did nowhere near enough yoga. Sometimes I just cuddled with my cats, or brought the rabbit out and watched him run around the living room. I gave my mind a lot of time to heal and didn’t feel guilty about it.

I’m easing back into the saddle cautiously. I’m optimistic.

Five Things Make a Post

Or something to that effect. That’s how this used to work.

1. I have just signed a contract to work on a second edition of one my books that recently fell out of print after a decade. This is pretty exciting. It’s basically an update, tightening it up and refocusing it a bit for a new audience. It’s due back to the publisher around Easter, and will be (re)released this fall.

2. I am currently working on a different exciting project that I can’t say anything about because it Doesn’t Officially Exist Yet. It came about via networking (in other words, a series of instances where I was referred from one project to another and recommended back and forth); I don’t think I’ve written an actual CV in ages. Anyway, it’s forcing me to develop in a different direction, because (a) it’s scriptwriting, and (b) it’s not traditional scriptwriting. I’m learning as I go, and I’m so grateful for the support of fellow writer-friends who are also scriptwriting people. The scheduling is kind of blowing my mind due to the nature of the project; it’s… weird, and unlike anything else I’ve worked on. I can’t really explain without getting into specifics. This one is due out sometime this spring.

3. Things proceed apace on the three-year series project I’m writing for. A deadline every two weeks; it’s very steady. (If you can count to three you have just realized that I am working on three big things at once, and yes, if I think about it for too long I start to get panicky. For now it’s all balancing out very well, especially since the two most recent projects just revamped their delivery dates.)

4. I gave bullet journaling a try last fall and while it didn’t work for me in the popular trendy BuJo-ing sense, it does work in a simplified sense of keeping all my notes and to-do lists in one place. I just have to remember to take it with me when I walk around the house or go out. Also, it pleases my pretty stationery/fountain pen/office supply side.

5. Yesterday I saw my doctor for a follow-up to the increased dosage of my medication that she initialized a month ago. While I am generally feeling better, I told her that I wasn’t convinced this was the long-term solution for me because of other effects it was having. My doctor agreed; she said that those side effects wouldn’t fade, and that she’d been thinking of proposing a switch to a different, newer medication anyway. So three days of a half-dose of my current medication, seven days off completely to clear it out of my system, then two weeks of a half-dose of the new one, then increase to the full dose… it’s going to be a rough four weeks. And then it’s going to take four to six weeks for the new medication to settle, too. (For those of you keeping score… why, yes, this time period does overlap with working on three projects at once, two of them large and with Significant Deadlines.)

Thank goodness winter is almost over. Things will get easier in general to deal with as spring rolls in. WInter just takes so much energy to cope with.

Still In Moderate Disbelief

One of Sparky’s friends came up to him the other day and said, “Hey, hasn’t your mum written books?”

To which Sparky said, “Yeah, I think she’s written two or three.” (Six, kid. Not counting the anthology. Please keep up. The shelf with all of them is right outside your bedroom door.)

So the kid searched, and came back with huge eyes. “Your mum is on Google! She’s everywhere!”

Nice thought, but no, I’m not. Not the way you make it sound, anyway. An author’s name will pull up links to their books being sold all over the place.

This fall, something totally different will come out with my name on it. While I’ve mainly worked in commercial publishing as writer, editor, and copyeditor, I’ve also worked in the video games industry a few times. Names in game credits are harder point at. But this fall, a project that intersects my two fields is launching.

Right now I’m just really tired, because of crazy deadlines and schedule. But each day when I open my Work folder of bookmarks and click on this particular link for research, I still get a little cooled-out shiver of Is this actually my life right now?

And that is good. As long as I’m still excited about what I’m doing, then I’m doing the right thing.

I’m looking forward to sharing it with the world this fall. It’s probably going to confuse the heck out of people who only know me from my titles about alternative spirituality. But I’m allowed to have different areas of interest, and to apply my professional skills to those different subjects. It’s part of what makes me an interesting person, right?

Digging Out

Look at that, it’s been two months since I posted an update on, well, anything. (ED: I have since noticed there was a draft of an April 12 post sitting in the drafts folder for over a month, so that’s been posted.) I promised myself I was going to at least post one round-up a week, and yeah, that’s really not happening. There’s a reason.

Remember back in late 2004/early 2005, when I was contracted to write my first two books, and the deadline for each was three months? Good times. (No, actually, they weren’t. For the first book, I was in my first trimester of pregnancy, falling asleep at my computer, and I don’t remember much of that time because everything was either writing or sleeping. And for the second book, I corrected the page proofs in the hospital after he was born, then sent HRH to a FedEx outlet to courier them back. It certainly wasn’t boring.)

ANYWAY. I’ve done it again. Or rather, I’m doing it again. I love this project fiercely. I’m working with a company I’ve worked with a handful of times before, with a team who is phenomenal, on an intellectual property I enjoy. But wow, yes, again with the really super crazy deadline. I’m writing a book in about two and a half months. The publication schedule is insane — the target publication slot is November — and the IP team is already swamped with other projects. I have no idea how they do what they do without falling over dead. They’re superheroes.

My job is to read and absorb a truly terrifying amount of existing material, make sense of it, pull out the most important bits, and write about them. And history — so much history. I am not shy about saying that I’m really good at what I do. However, I do have an absorption threshold, and when I hit it, I can’t sort through all the information I have to condense and present it in an easily digestible manner. It’s like decision paralysis on several levels at once. And because I’m not fully fluent in the IP, having jumped on board only recently, I can’t easily pull out what’s actually important. Things that seem important to me aren’t necessary critical in the overall scheme of things; some stuff that doesn’t jump out at me is actually super important.

I’m learning. And it’s why the IP team reviews my stuff two chapters at a time to say, “Yes, no, we need to tweak this, drop this part, this bit needs a lot more exploration.”

So, that’s why I haven’t been around so much. All available writing energy is being used up elsewhere. The last part of the first draft is being handed in around June 1, so I may have more time then? But rewrites. So probably not.

Catching Up

[Good grief. This has been sitting in a drafts folder since April 12.]

I had a concert. It was brilliant. The Grieg piano concerto was fantastic, and the Schubert ninth symphony was better than I expected it to be. (It was also REALLY LOUD.) Right up to the week before the concert I was still thinking I should have dropped out at the beginning of this rehearsal session when I was having so much difficulty with the material; I’m glad I stuck with it. Next: my recital in June, and then the Canada Day concert.

Yesterday I had my second meeting with the team I’m working with on this project. It was just as excellent as the first one was. We reviewed the first two chapters I’d written, and the feedback was so positive. It’s really nice to be so comfortable. The packaging guy was in town for this one, and it was good to meet him too; he said a coupe of very complimentary things about how I was functioning in the meeting and how pleased he was that the team had coalesced so well. And he suggested that if I was interested, if there were any projects that came across his desk that he thought I’d be good for, that he could call me. (Yes! Yes, please do that!)

The team sent me home with swag for the family, too. It was heavy to haul home — there’s just over half an hour of walking involved in my commute to and from downtown for these in-person meetings — but everyone here was delighted. In theory the two huge hardcover books are for my reference use, but HRH buried himself in one right away because it was directly applicable to something he’s doing right now.

We outlined the fifth and sixth sections of the book, so now I have the second and third to cover and have these two on the horizon as well. I am hitting the right tone and level of detail they want, which is good to know; I wanted to have this review meeting of the first two chapters I finished rough drafts of before going into the next set, just in case I was really missing the point somehow.

In non-work news, I am finally going to get to Rhinebeck, which is an enormous fleece and fibre festival in mid-October. (The actual name of it is the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, but no one calls it that.) Ceri, Megan, and I and a bunch of my online mums group are going to meet there; we’re all renting a house for the weekend! (A few houses, actually; people kept saying they were going to go, too, and more houses had to be booked. It’s crazy, and so exciting.) It’s going to be a ridiculous amount of fun, and my phone already knows how to autocorrect Rhinebeck to RHINEBECK, all caps; that’s how exciting it is. For some reason I thought Rhinebeck was much further away. Google tells me it’s just about four hours. That’s not taking border-crossing times into account, but still — that’s closer than driving to visit my parents. And there’s a Rhinebeck thing; people knit sweaters to wear while there. So I am going to knit a sweater. An easy one, mind you, but a real sweater. Once this book is done, that is. I’ve already swatched two different yarns, even, and know which one I’ll be using.

Cello, work, yarn stuff. That’s a pretty decent summary of what’s been going on.

Ten Years

It’s been ten years this month since my first book came out. It seems only right that I use the icon that HRH drew of me taking a bow after a G&S show for this post, yes? I probably don’t take enough bows. I’m shy like that.

It’s been an interesting ride these past ten years, and I like where my career has gone along the way.

I’ve worked in the book business since my very first part-time job at the local children’s bookstore. I went from there to working at (and then managing) the local F/SF bookstore, then working in the local metaphysical bookstore. I ‘retired’ from the retail aspect and did writing, data entry, and ordering for the metaphysical store, until the owner forwarded me a letter from one of the large publishing companies we purchased from. They were looking for someone with an English degree who was experienced in writing, the book business, and the new age market. “They’re looking for YOU!” she told me with excitement, and encouraged me to send in my CV and an introductory letter. The publisher was astonished that someone out there actually existed who matched their criteria perfectly, and invited me to sign on as a consultant as they established a new age imprint. I got to help define the imprint’s mission statement, help develop a plan and schedule, help vet proposals, and do tech reviews of the finished manuscripts. After rescuing an unfinished manuscript that also featured plagiarism (longtime readers know how I feel about that particular subject), the editor in charge of the imprint asked me to write the next book in the series. I did, and then I wrote another right on its heels at their request.

I was pregnant when that first book came out, unknowingly only a couple of weeks away from giving birth to Sparky. (Ahead of schedule… gosh, a lot happened in those four weeks; we moved a week after it came out, too. I corrected the page proofs for the second book in the hospital. And I had a delivery deadline for my third book the next month, as well. Good grief.) I remember walking into the new age store after they’d called to tell me it had arrived, and seeing a full-sized poster of the front cover mounted on foam board proudly displayed on a table among piles of that first book. It was slightly surreal to see my name that large on anything. And then the second one came out only four months later.

In ten years I wrote about alternative spirituality, practicing nature-based spirituality in urban areas, home and hearth-based practice, edited an anthology of firsthand experiences of discovering alternative spirituality, approaching pregnancy from the point of view of earth-based spirituality, and the spiritual associations of birds. I oversaw the development and editing of two new age series. I worked with some wonderful, wonderful editors, one of whom introduced me to other departments within the publishing company who gave me rewriting/repurposing work, and, ultimately, my current position as a copy editor.

People ask me sometimes when my next book is coming out, and honestly… I like what I’m doing right now. Writing a book takes an tremendous amount of energy and time, and because when I do something I want to do it right, the per-hour fee ends up being below minimum wage when I take into account the number of hours it takes to produce a manuscript I am satisfied with. Copy editing is more lucrative, frankly, and more immediately gratifying. I am one of those weird people who adores copy editing. I like knowing why a comma is necessary, or why it should be taken out. I like being able to tweak the punctuation or syntax in a sentence to clarify its meaning. I take a stupid amount of pride in being able to use a hyphen, en dash, or em dash correctly. I love finessing a paragraph to focus the author’s point, querying to make sure I grasped what they were trying to say. (The answer is almost invariably yes, oh yes, and thank you.) I have the kind of mind that remembers how an author phrased or formatted something seventy pages ago, and I can make sure every instance of a phrase or instruction is presented the same way each time. I have a sixth sense for a wonky fact that needs to be checked. I have a not-so-secret crush on the sixteenth edition of the Chicago Manual of Style. And I really like being able to put it all out of my mind when I’ve closed the document and walked away to pick the kids up from school, which I was never able to successfully do while writing on a book contract, and that stressed me out a lot. Add to this the fact that the new age market really shrank about four or five years ago, and, well… at this point in time, I’ve said everything I want to say in a book. (Would I like to produce a book on parenting from an earth-based spirituality POV? Absolutely, but while I like how my kids are turning out, I still feel like I’m flailing around when it comes to parenting, and I couldn’t do it with enough confidence.)

I still get messages from people thanking me for being their introduction to alternative spirituality, for giving them a name to what they felt or believed, for letting them know they’re not alone, and they all mean a lot. I’m proud of what I’ve done. But I love what I’m doing right now, and I wouldn’t chose to do anything else at the moment.

This does not preclude writing on the side, of course. I almost had a new book gig this spring, actually, except they wanted me to write it on a crazy deadline, and my current contract with the game studio takes precedence. Not knowing how much work would be coming or precisely when, I couldn’t take on a book contract in good faith. I do have almost-finished novels lying about that I would like to poke at, finished ones that need rewrites, and I have started a new one for the first time in a few years, writing longhand with a fountain pen in a notebook. (It just felt wrong to try to start it on the computer, and if a story will cooperate in another easily accomplished way… well then, story, here is a Parker fountain pen and some J Herbin ink; come and play.)

Ten years. The traditional gift material for a tenth anniversary is tin; maybe I should buy a new fountain pen to celebrate. (I also see that the modern equivalent is diamond jewellery, which just makes me laugh a lot. Seriously? I’d prefer a new fountain pen.)

Thank you to everyone who has been around for this ride so far. To single a few people out (which is always dangerous because one feels dreadful if one misses someone important), I will name Ron, of course; Ceri, who kept me company on writing jams while I wrote that first book, and provided tea and sanity checks; Debra, who gave me the publisher’s contact request for the consultant in the first place; Silver, who told me I could do it, and to stick to my guns when negotiating for future titles and deadlines; Scarlet and Robyn and all the Melange Magique staff who were excited for me, stocked the book, and hand sold it; and all my lovely editors, especially Andrea, who fought long and hard on my behalf during her time as my last editor. Thank you to booksellers and readers, to reviewers and interviewers, and all my friends who encouraged me, came to book launches, and have my books on their shelves, even if they’ve never read them and never intend to. You are all wonderful, and there would be no point in doing this, if not for you all.