Working Mom Woes
I've been juggling work, writing, volunteer, and home duties for going on three years. Needless to say, I'm exhausted. Each area has its own rewards, and I wouldn't trade them for anything. But today, I have to raise the Working Mom flag.
My kids have fall parties at school. (Let's call them what they really are...Halloween parties.) I was able to take it easy with two classes by purchasing napkins for one child and forks for the other. But the mom in me wanted to bake something for someone, so I signed up for pumpkin cookies for my oldest. Before I had a full-time job, I would have made pumpkin flavored cookies AND pumpkin shaped cookies for those who don't like pumpkin flavored things. (Shout out to my cubicle pal at work who falls into that camp!) But I have a couple hours of multitasking email checks, book reading, dinner making, and cookie baking (can I get an "amen"?), so I'm down to one yummy batch instead of two Pinterest fails.
My husband recently took a new job that allows him to stay on our side of town. I thought that would help things, but his hours require him to head in early. (Before-I-get-up early. 5 happens only once on my clock. I'm sad to say I see 6 twice...) So I have to rely quite heavily on my mom when I have meetings, tapings, and other things that require my in-office presence. But I have an issue coming up that I just can't solve.
Once a month, we have an off-site staff meeting. It's a great time of fellowship and shop talk. We learn about each other's lives and projects. This coming month, my middle child is receiving an award at a school assembly...on that very same day at that very same time. Of course, my family takes priority over work. Thankfully, I'm employed at a place that champions that philosophy. But I'll miss that meeting, which is important to me.
I've been on both sides of the mom coin. I got to stay home with my kids when they were young, but I didn't exactly relish every moment. I often bemoaned not having a purpose in life, which prompted my writing career. I wished for adult interaction. I ticked away the days, longing for more. Now that I'm a working mom, I have more purpose than I can handle. I wish to retreat from all interaction. And the days fly by. I can't grasp onto them long enough to cover everything.
All that to say, wherever you are...whatever stage of momming (as I like to call it) you may be in...enjoy it. If you're a dad, same thing applies. (If you're neither, take a deep breath and go read my books!) Cling to those little family moments and cherish them. Life is crazy and complicated.
Make time for your passion. It will keep you going. Sometimes, my writing feels like work, but if I don't do it, I get frustrated and grumpy. It's my outlet, and I need it.
Be grateful for work. I know too many people who are underemployed or without jobs at all. I'm thankful for what I do and the opportunities it brings. And I adore the people on my team and our mission.
I'm speaking to myself as much as anyone. Sometimes, I just get a bad attitude about all the different calls placed on my life. I have to step back, change my perspective, and tackle the situation again. I have to resist the Supermom persona and let people help. I have to get on my knees, close my eyes, and surrender control to the One Who loves me. For in Him, I am strong.
Once Upon a Dream
Have you ever had those dreams when you wake up, you try so hard to go back to sleep to resurrect it? I had one of those last night. It was lovely!
In my dream, I was asked by my place of employment to rewrite a novel they had published years earlier. That alone would have been amazing, but they sent me to the beach to write it. Um, yeah...I'd be all over that!
I recall many dreams from my past that I would choose to live in. I wonder what magic is worked inside us as we sleep. (I know the science behind it, of course, but it's still fun to think about as magic.) I've actually incorporated some of my more memorable dreams into my writing. It's a fun way to use what I've been given.
I'd love to read some of your crazier dreams. Share yours!
(Extra points if you can name the source of that quote!)
I've been handed a challenge. A good challenge. One I'm looking forward to, actually. And you may laugh when I tell you what it is...
I'm writing two soft romance stories.
Who knew, right? Romance is certainly part of my sci-fi stuff. I enjoy stories with a love interest. I think most of us are wired that way. But I never pegged myself as a romance author. I'm not all that interested in the genre. I have good friends who are, and I'm happy for them. The world needs romance. Obviously.
I'm actually finding it to be exciting. I've created my characters, given them backstory as well as forward plot, and found those heartwarming moments that make us all sigh. Now, I need to take them from outline to story form.
I'm planning to use NaNoWriMo for this. (If you've not heard of NaNo, check it out. Loads of fun, stress, coffee, chocolate, and words.) It's good motivation for writing production.
I'll fill you in more about the stories as they develop. I don't want to give away too much. But I can say, it's just the beginning. I know there will be more to follow.
Go Forth and Plan
I've written about this before, but I have way too many projects going on at once. I have multiple manuscripts in various stages (good problem to have), and sometimes, I just don't know what I want to work on. I know what I need to work on, and the procrastinator in me tends to get easily distracted. Put this on top of a full-time job and full-time family, and I am scattered.
So I took inspiration from my work. I have a couple to-do lists in different formats there, guiding me to see what's next. While I've had writing to-do lists, I haven't broken it down weekly before. I chose my top three projects (my critique group manuscript, my latest book, and a new piece) to focus on. While my brain wants to drift toward other things, I can bounce between these three pretty easily.
I started by plugging in my writers' group meetings. Those are important to me, so they are a priority. Now, I have things to submit to those groups (the previously mentioned manuscripts), so I put those on my list. I'm working on those through the week, then brushing them up the night before. I also scheduled time for reviewing my critique group's submissions. I'm taking an online class, so that has a day. That leaves time for the new project and a day off!
I'm usually pretty laid back. This Type A kind of stuff aggravates me. But it's come to a point where I have to organize and plan my time. This kind of discipline can only benefit writing quality and production, and I'm dedicating myself to it.
What kind of system do you use?
The Value of Investment
I've lived alone in my universe for a long time. I wrote its stories for six years before readers were invited in through Asylum. And even then, that's just a glimpse. The following books, although not chronological, took you a little deeper, but still there's more.
It's difficult to get readers to invest. They not only spend money to buy the book, but they are committing at least three or four hours (maybe more depending on how quickly they read) taking in the pages. If it's well-written, they are investing emotion and thought. All in exchange for an exciting adventure.
Going beyond the reader, as a writer, we hope to find other people willing to invest in our work. Agents, editors, publishers, and the like. People who validate us and make us feel like what we're doing is worthwhile. Sure, we grow a thick skin through our many (many, many) rejections, but at the heart of every writer is that tiny child holding up his or her artwork in hopes of praise, but fearful of criticism.
I've been very blessed to find a group of friends willing to both read my writing and validate my work. It's a necessary thing in this business, and I am grateful for their support. Their input has made me a better writer.
If you don't have a critique group or a network of writer friends, I highly recommend it. You will get so much out of it. And if you're an introvert, just hold your breath and go for it. I've had to do that myself, and I'm so glad I did.
Asylum has been out for a couple weeks now, and I thought it might be fun to give you a little taste of it. Here, you'll meet the main character, Chase, and his best friend Seraph. I think it's pretty self-explanatory, but this takes place a little while after Chase's wife Trista has gone missing. She's presumed dead, but Chase can't bring himself to accept it.
Five days had passed since the disastrous rescue effort. As Seraph had guessed, Chase didn’t take lightly to the news of Britt and Cole’s unsuccessful mission. In fact, he wasn’t even acting like himself. He disregarded orders, ignored run assignments, and quit speaking to Seraph altogether, which was crazy since they had been best friends for so long.
He’d instead grown closer to his first officer, Nicodemus Church.
Seraph had no problem with Nic. But Nic went along with Chase and fed into the frenzy of finding Trista. They’d pirated a ship from the fleet and set off through Crenet’s orbit, trying to find any leads on her. Seraph had learned their journeys were as futile as the botched rescue, and they’d returned home empty-handed. He’d also heard Chase took out his anger on the ship and disabled it beyond repair. Redic was furious with the men, especially Chase. During the Crew’s last meeting—which Chase had blown off—the topic of discipline arose, and Seraph had begged Redic to let him be the one to talk with Chase. Redic’s anger could sometimes bury his compassion.
Seraph crossed the darkened operations room to the observation desk where Chase sat, staring at an array of computer monitors. Most everyone else was taking advantage of the sleeping hours. Chase, though, had just landed an hour or so ago.
He looked rough. His dark hair, normally kept neat, had grown shaggy. Add to that the scruffy chin and lost eyes. Seraph had cause for concern.
Obsession had taken hold of his friend.
Leaning on the hutch of the desk, Seraph glanced down at the screen that had captured Chase’s attention. He then turned to Chase, who wouldn’t look at him.
The silence between them was more than uncomfortable and had to be broken.
“What’s going on, Chase?”
“You’re here to tell me how much trouble I’m in with the old man,” Chase muttered, still concentrating on the monitor.
“I think you already know that. But actually, I was hoping you’d remember we’re friends. You can talk to me.”
Tearing his eyes from the screen, Chase bowed his head into his hand. He took a deep breath and released it in a heavy sigh.
“She can’t be gone,” he finally whispered with an edge of grief.
The barrier between them disappeared in an instant. Seraph knelt at his side, placing a hand on his shoulder. He wished he could offer encouragement, what Chase wanted to hear, but the realist in him just couldn’t do it. “Britt said she was different. She didn’t recognize him.”
“He was in disguise.”
“Not completely. If she had known him, she would have seen past that stupid moustache. He did everything but outright tell her who he was.”
Chase shook his head. “I should have been there.”
“You couldn’t have helped her. She’s not Trista anymore. And Brax, or Selah, or even I may not be able to change her back. You’re going to have to accept that.”
“No,” he said, turning to look at Seraph. “No, I don’t have to accept that. She’s my wife, and I love her, and I’m not letting her go that easily. You wouldn’t, were it Echo they sliced into. I seem to recall you going to all lengths short of ending your life to help her.”
Seraph sighed back into the silence. He was absolutely right. If Echo were captured by the Legacy, he’d take them on single-handedly to get her back.
He had done just that two years earlier.
“Do you think—?” Chase stopped himself.
“Do I think what?”
The question bothered him. He struggled to ask. “Blazes, Ser, do you think the Crown would deny her Eternity because of what the Legacy has done?”
Seraph’s heart ached for Chase.
“No,” he murmured. “She saw Ternion. She knew the Ruler Prince and believed. The Creed tells us once someone is in His hand, they cannot be taken away.”
“I’m being punished—” Chase’s brows knit into a somber frown.
“You’re not being punished.”
“—for not being faithful to the Crown.” Chase’s fist slammed against the arm of his chair. “For intentionally turning from Him to find her.”
“That’s not how it works, Chase,” Seraph said in a raised voice. He immediately softened his tone. “The Crown isn’t about punishment and bedlam. He doesn’t use events like this to hurt us. Even when we turn away. He wants you to cling to Him.”
“I’ve clung, Ser. I’ve grasped. I’ve clutched. I’ve held on until my proverbial fingers bled.” Chase covered his face with his hands. “But He didn’t bring her back.”
“Don’t give up on the Crown. He takes us to moments of complete brokenness sometimes, and we may not fully understand why. I’ve been there, Chase. I’ve forsaken Him, and believe me, you don’t want to go there. But we give Him that little extra measure of faith, and He accomplishes miraculous things through it.”
“If she doesn’t remember us, would it be more humane to…” Chase squeezed his eyes closed.
Seraph placed a hand over his mouth and rubbed it along his face. He couldn’t believe Chase was suggesting such a thing.
“We’re not going to kill her, Chase.”
“I’m not leaving her to the Legacy,” he said, his words full of pain.
Seraph’s eyes flickered toward the monitor. An image of Trista wrapped in Chase’s arms smiled back at him. On another screen, the death order and announcement blared from the LUM. His friend desperately needed a change of scenery. He also needed a shower, solid rest, and some good food.
A recreational run might tempt Chase away from his fixation.
“Come on, man. Let’s get out of here for a bit. Make a run to Serenata or something,” Seraph suggested.
A shrill beep interrupted him.
“What’s that?” Seraph slid into a chair next to his friend.
“By the Crown,” Chase murmured, his attention turning to a map of the system.
He leaned forward over the keypad and began to type furiously. “I ran a trace on her link.” He then sat back and pointed to a flashing red dot on one of the screens. “That’s her distress signal.”
Seraph shook his head. “It’s not her, Chase. Frisco used her link to contact us, remember?”
“But he dropped it on the floor before he passed out,” Chase explained, holding up a finger as he made his point. He opened his hand as he filled in the possibility. “She could have picked it up.”
“Or a Zenith could have picked it up. Or they confiscated it when they processed her. Or the doctors discovered it and turned it in. It’s been too long.”
“It’s her. She needs me. Don’t ask me to give up on her.”
A frustrated sigh rolled from Seraph. “It’s a suicide mission, Chase.”
“And what if it’s not?” Chase returned his focus to the map. The light flashed from near Crenet. “Assign me a run. I’ll take the Halcyon crew and check it out.”
Seraph again shook his head. “I won’t put additional lives at risk. And if you were thinking clearly, you wouldn’t, either.”
“They won’t be at risk. I’ll dock them and go myself. Alone.”
Pressing his lips together, Seraph growled, “Zoom in. See what we’re looking at.”
Chase’s fingers flew across the keypad as the computer zeroed in on a more specific location. “A Zephyr base on Soubrette,” he said. “Abandoned.”
Folding his arms over his chest, Seraph rocked back in his chair. “No way. And why would Trista send a distress signal from there, anyway? Think.”
“You look like the old man, sitting like that,” The old Chase surfaced, teasing Seraph. He quickly gave way to the fanatical Chase. “A number of reasons, Ser. She could have remembered something while she was doing a job. They could be holding her prisoner there. She could—”
Seraph stood, looking down at Chase. “It’s not her.”
“Please, Seraph.” Chase’s eyes, filled with tears, met his. “I need to do this.”
“You just came in—”
“I can’t sleep,” Chase confessed. His hands collapsed over his chest. “My heart…is out there somewhere.” He gestured to the screen. “I have to find it before it stops beating and kills me completely.”
After a moment of internal debate, Seraph returned to his seat with another sigh. “You’d better make it quick. And I don’t want you flying alone. I’ll send your crew, as long as you promise me you’ll try to rest along the way. They’re not too happy with you for getting them grounded.”
“I’ll talk with them.”
“And when you enter the base, make sure Church is with you.” Seraph brought up the orders menu on the screen, typing in the assignment for Chase and his crew. “It’s a ludicrous mission, and if my dad sees it, he’ll know something is up. You haven’t taken a single one of your assignments in a while. He’s going to think this is a waste of our time and resources…”
“It won’t be a waste. Thanks, man.”
“You owe me,” Seraph muttered with a scowl. “Big time.”
Asylum is now available for the Kindle or as a trade paperback on Amazon. Click here for more information.
What Dreams May Come
I woke up this morning, thinking about a story I've been wanting to write. It's separate from my series. In fact, it's pretty different, and I'm not really sure how I'm going to pull it off. I have some of the barebones of the plot outlined. The characters are in place, so I'll probably just let them work out all the details as I write. That's usually how it goes anyway.
Without revealing too much, I'm drawing on beloved literary characters whose stories could easily be explained away as dreams. They are brought together through unusual circumstances, and they have a battle to face.
Ugh. Just write the book, right?
The result will be a young adult fantasy titled Dreamworlds. And I look forward to sharing it with you...when it's finished, of course.
5 Reasons Why...
Do you ever lose your vision? Sometimes you have a goal, but you forget why you're stretching yourself...even overextending yourself? Today, I feel the need to remind my heart of why I write. Maybe you can get a little inspiration from this, too.
1. I write for my own joy and edification.
I love it. I love creating characters, settings, plots, twists...all crafted into story form. Sometimes, it's frustrating. Sometimes, it's heartbreaking. But most of the time, it's amazing fun. It doesn't pay much, so the reward has to come from the writing itself. I have a small, but mighty support team--my critique group. They encourage me and help me grow stronger as a writer.
2. I write stories I'd want to read.
I love the old tales of chivalry, honor, and do-gooding. King Arthur, The Three Musketeers, Robin Hood. Daring tales of strong, valorous men and gentle, yet equally as strong women. Why can't that translate into a sci-fi setting? Well, it can. And it does. And that's the basis for my stories.
3. I write to escape.
My former career in theatre was all about escape. A dark room where a person can disappear in the audience behind colored lights and live out two hours in a totally different realm. Sounds pretty near perfect to me. Writing...and reading, for that matter...does the same thing. I can sit at my computer and explore worlds of my own creation. I can delve into the hearts and souls of my characters and live out moments of tragedy or exhilaration or fear or overwhelming happiness. (I'm sure that's a mental condition, but at least it's relatively safe, right?)
4. I write to leave a legacy.
I've done some pretty awesome things in my life. I'm willing to acknowledge that. I chalk it all up to being fortunate. It surely was nothing I did. But who in my family is going to remember what it was like to rush down the stairs to grab Brave Little Tailor Mickey after he fought Bucky the Dragon and pull him into the mill before the pyro went off? Who's going to remember telling Carrie Fisher to get her mic on for the 10th anniversary rededication ceremony of Star Tours? Who's going to remember driving through Sleeping Beauty's Castle from Main Street USA to Fantasyland in a golf cart? Sure, all those examples are from my time at Disneyland and there have been other amazing moments, but my point is that life is a blur. I want to leave behind something my kids will remember. Something important. Something tangible. Committing the worlds of my brain to the page is one of the best ways I can think to do that.
5. I write to honor God.
This kind of goes back to point number two...and four. I've done a lot in my life on my own. I all too clearly remember years I spent without any moral compass or guidance in my life. I remember choosing to walk away from the faith because I felt like I didn't need God anymore. Now, though, I can't imagine getting through my next breath without clinging to Him. I could write junk that would sell. (I personally can't believe some of the stuff out there...and in the past, I used to read that.) I would rather honor God through my stories and have a handful of readers...or even just myself...than go that route. (To clarify...I'm not judging those who choose to write things of that nature. It's just not for me.)
There you (I) have it. My top reasons of why I write. Care to share yours?
This weekend, I watched a couple movies where the audience is made to sympathize...or even empathize...with the villain. I am a traditionalist. I like rooting for good and booing evil. Melodrama at its finest, right? But we're told in writing to give the villain facets to make him interesting...and perhaps even likable. It's a challenge, to be sure.
The movies, you ask? Maleficent and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.
This was my first viewing of Maleficent. I'm a fan to Disney's Sleeping Beauty (best Disney prince, hands-down), so I've been wanting to see this new version. When I found the DVD on sale, I snagged it. I wasn't 100% taken with it. I'm sure I'll watch it again, but I'd rather go back to the light, happy cartoon where good is good and evil is green and turns into a dragon. Besides, Phillip saves the day, and he can cut a rug on the ballroom floor. Maleficent's Phillip barely showed up.
Onto the real reason for this post...the brilliance of Dr. Horrible's.
I've been familiar with this short film since it came out...and I loved it that very first moment. (The YouTube link is posted below.) Oh, my goodness, Joss Whedon can do no wrong! He packed an emotionally-charged, gut-wrenching roller coaster into a short 45 minutes. And it's perfect. Sure, we could go more in depth to get to know the characters better, but the taste we have tells us everything we need to know. As I watched this for the sixty-seventh time, I picked up a little of Penny's backstory...and I'd like to know more. But overall, I am satisfied with what's presented.
The writing is tight. It had to be. The lyrics pack a punch. And of course, Neil Patrick Harris delivers a flawless performance. Told primarily from his perspective, we end up cheering for the bad guy. And in the end, we feel disjointed, pained, and helpless...but in the best way!
Seriously...watch this movie.
If it helps any, Nathan Fillion is also in it. Hilarious!
You're the Next Contestant on...
No. I'm not hosting a game show. I just thought I'd tell you what's going on now that Asylum has been released, and you'll never hear about that one again...not. I have a few tricks up my sleeve, and it's going to be EPIC! Okay, maybe not epic, but it will be awesome. Because I said so.
Reconciled (Book Three of the trilogy) is coming together, believe it or not. I have the first half completed. The characters are all in big trouble, and I just have to figure out how to help them. Fine family fun.
I am continuing to refine Outlaw with my critique group. That may be out by next year.
I already have some bare bones novels written. I just need to flesh them out a bit, revise, polish, and they'll be good to go. Shattered, Valor, and Excelsior to name a few...all part of the Crown's Call saga.
There are a couple unrelated stories I'm working on, too. It's all just a matter of time.
And brain power.
Award-winning sci-fi author * Christ follower, wife, and mom * broadcast content producer. And yes, I am a real duchess. http://amzn.to/2eLTlH3