Looking Back at 2014

Nesting Season
[ photo: Nesting Season by Pat Gaines CC ]
It’s been a busy year over here, but writing wise, things have been a little slower than normal. It was back to book research and editing for the first 6 months. I finished another two drafts of the historical novel I wrote a couple years ago, and sent it off to beta readers. I haven’t had the chance to do the last round of revisions it needs quite yet.

In the meantime we started looking for a house, and that ate up most of our weekends until we finally moved into a new place in the summer. That also meant renovations, and shopping for furniture.

As soon as we moved in, I also found out I was pregnant. It was rough for the first 5 months, and included a brief stint in the hospital, and complications from medication. It’s really hard to find motivation to write when even water makes you throw up (morning sickness is a misnomer – it should really be called all day sickness).

But life never stops, does it? A short story of mine came out this year, and I was a panelist at my first SFF con.

I’m feeling a lot better these days, with only the normal complaints of pregnancy (which are surprising and numerous), so I’m happy! I’m taking it a lot easier than I usually do that is a strange adjustment to make, but my body is thankful for it. Right now, nesting instinct has totally taken over, and I keep wanting to clean the house. LOL

Next year, I expect I’ll have to play it by ear. I’m not sure how things will go or if I’ll have time to write at all. It will be different, that’s for sure, both exciting and scary too.

What were some of the highlights of your 2014?

And before I forget… Happy Holidays! May you have a holiday season blessed with good food and good company. See you back here in the new year :)

Things Change (in the blogosphere)

I’ve been blogging for about 8 years now (though this one hasn’t existed that long) and I’ve noticed how advice around blogging has changed over the years, and so has the medium. It’s probably a result of maturity, people figuring out how to leverage their blogs the best way, and the proliferation of new types of social media.

Here’s a random list of things that I’ve observed:

  • Fewer personal blogs, and diaries/journals. Maybe this is a result of people losing interest, or that people are more cautious these days? They might also just not attract as much attention as more instant forms of communication like Twitter.
  • (Outside of the fiction writing world) Many blogs have high production quality, professional photos, commercial polish. Popular ones have gotten non-fiction book deals, advertising sponsorship, or are built in conjunction with an existing/new business. Blogging is full time work for many of those folk.
  • Many agents no longer advocate that you must blog regularly, but only to blog if you enjoy it. I think this is likely because audiences are dwindling. If everyone has a blog, how do you have time to read them all? On the other hand, it’s still a good idea to have at least a website where people can find links to all your work, or find out more about you.

Times are a-changin, but that’s always been true. Maybe it just seems faster now that technology changes so rapidly, and there’s always the next big thing around the corner.

I’ll still keep blogging, because I enjoy it, but probably not so frequently with the baby coming and all. Honestly, the best thing about the blogging is you guys :)

What’s changed for you lately?

Life Lately

The nesting instinct has kicked in big time, and I’ve been trying to get organized for baby’s arrival. There are so many things to do and think about (some of which I’ve been avoiding), but in between, I’ve been baking, and had a chance to go on a couple of short adventures.

Pan de Sal recipe via Gourmeted. Grew up eating this and  the taste is exactly right. This recipe’s a keeper.
Parliament buildings in Victoria, BC. It didn’t rain, but the sky was ominous. 
Rare sunny day in the city. Sometimes it’s fun to just take a random bus and get lost…

There isn’t much action on the writing front, but a novel is simmering away in the back of my brain and characters are fleshing out. I’m excited to get started on it, but I’m not sure when I’ll be able to. Just taking things one day at a time for now.

Oh and I also joined Tumblr, mostly to browse beautiful artwork and find some inspriation. If you’re on it, let me know so I can follow you!

777 Challenge

Casey Blair tagged me in a game of 777, and I’m happy to play along. The rules are to start on page seven, seven lines down, and post seven sentences of your work. So here we go (An excerpt from the bronze age fantasy I worked on last):

“We have wintered here for five generations. We will not leave.” Her mother stood stiff as a rod, and threaded her arm through Tama’s so that she could not run. “Patience, child,” she whispered softly.

They were near enough to Qin lands that they encountered the foreigners often and spoke their language passably well, but never had Tama seen Qin dressed for war. Their black lacquered armour was not much different from their own, but the soldiers wore their hair in elaborate braids, or topknots, tilted off center. Several soldiers displayed ribbons of red and blue pinned to their breasts.

I’m tagging anyone who wants to play. Send me links to your juicy writing tidbits. You know you want to.

How Not To Feel Overwhelmed By Social Media

Stress
[ photo: Cracking Under Stress by Bernard Goldbach CC ]
It sometimes seems like these days social media can be a constant flood of bad news, and it can be both very tiring, depressing, and can cause real anxiety.

You’ve probably heard the advice to get away from it all for a while, but social media and public life on the internet part of the new reality we live in. Some people depend on it for their livelihoods. Getting away isn’t always a viable option.

So what can you do? Here are some things that have helped me. Your mileage may vary, but if you’re already feeling overwhelmed, it’s worth a try.

  • Limit the social media you participate on. You don’t have to be on every network, and easier to engage if you’re focused on fewer. I’ve heard the advice to pick 4 networks at maximum, but I’m down to just Twitter and blogging for now.
  • Stick to the social media you enjoy the most.
  • You don’t have to follow everyone. I weed out my Twitter feed and blog list regularly, so that the people and things I follow mostly make me happy.
  • There’s nothing wrong with giving someone a temporary time out (even if they don’t know it) to give yourself a break. A temporary muting can save a your sanity if you don’t want to follow a particular subject. So can turning off re-tweets on Twitter.
  • Make peace with not having to be caught up with everything. The world won’t fall apart if you missed a few blog posts, or neglected to comment.
  • Use lists. You can choose when to view certain feeds or people, rather than automatically displaying them. This way, you can check on them when you feel that you’re able to / have the energy to, and not have them forced upon you. For example, authors, publishing industry talk, or agent chats.
  • For big more popular sites / news / big media, don’t read the comments. I make an exception for friends blogs of course :)
  • Take care of your real life relationships, and try to cultivate a healthy social life offline. Sometimes the real world can be a lot more civil than the internet.
  • Also, fuzzy bunnies!

My experience online is a lot more zen these days, and it’s nice to know that I can control a little of it with effort. Never everything, but some things.

Do you have some tips to add? How do you stop from feeling bummed out by all the bad news?

Note: This is not about coping with online harassment. That’s a different beast entirely.

And That’s a Wrap

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending VCON39! I’m still exhausted, and writing this in a half-bleary state, but overall I can say I had a good time at my first SFF Con. I can totally see why some people go every year!

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[photo: The ‘Best Writing Advice Panel’]
For a small con, there were plenty of writing panels scheduled the entire weekend, and I spent most of my time flitting from one to the other, and saying hi to people who I recognized from Twitter. I completely forgot to bring my camera, but a friend forwarded me this slightly blurry phone photo. That was my first panel ever. HISTORY, folks.

I’m sure I shoved a foot in my mouth more than once, and rambled a little, but I did learn a few things. I actually enjoyed the public speaking.

Tips for nervous panellists:

  1. It may help to view a panel as just a conversation about writing among friends.
  2. Bring notes with a few related things to talk about in case you blank out. (I had to refer to my cheat sheet a couple of times).
  3. Write down the names of your co-panellists, so you can refer to them by name instead of pointing (I’m terrible with names, so this helped).

Actually, if you can swing it, even if you have just one short story published, do volunteer to speak on a panel the next time you’re at a con, or propose one. It’s a great way to meet other writers, or introduce yourself to them without being super awkward.

I had a good laugh with several new acquaintances, and even a shy gal like me ended up in the bar (drinking soda), because we got a little too loud in the hallway. Writer’s… they can talk about writing all day.

Hopefully that was the first good experience of many!

VCON 2014 Schedule

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This year I will be at VCON (Vancouver’s science fiction and fantasy
convention). I’m super excited because it’s my first ever con, but also nervous since somehow I’ve gotten myself on two panels.

Friday October 3
12:00 pm – The Best Writing Advice I Ever Received

Sunday October 5
11:00 am – Diversity in SFF

I’ll probably be around on Saturday for part of the day as well, just wandering :) If you see me around, please do say hi! If you won’t be there, I’ll have a post con recap posted here for you afterwards.

Click here for the full VCON schedule. It looks like there will be some really interesting panels this year!

New Standing Desk Setup

You may recall my previous work station involved balancing my laptop precariously on an open dresser drawer. Now that I have a little more space, I’ve got a proper standing desk set up. Bonus? It was cheap. I scored an adjustable non-tilt overbed table (hospital table) for $50 on Amazon.

New standing desk setup

This table can only support 25 lbs, but a laptop is light enough. I pulled a monitor stand off a free desk we got from Craigslist and added it on top. Unfortunately, with the monitor stand in place, my keyboard juts off the front edge just a little, but it’s not unstable. I could always  get a new stand that takes up less space on the narrow surface.

My only real peeve is that it tilts a little to the left because of the weight. I’m thinking of adding a piece of wood or an extra table leg for some support to the left hand side.

This was the most economical solution I could find, cheaper than making my own desk, and it’s adjustable too. I’m very happy with it.

Note: I haven’t switched to exclusively standing all day. I sit when I’m at the office, so its a nice change to stand when I’m at home writing or surfing the internet. I also have a cushioned bar stool I can pull up to the desk if I get a tired, but standing has done wonders for my back and neck pain.