Friday, May 18, 2018

Missing Miles Releasing the Deadline Demons

If you know me then you’ve likely heard how much I’ve struggled to get the next book in my Shaw McLeary Mystery Series down on paper. It all started after finishing Reckless Mind. Two years ago this August.

Yes, we really have to go back that far.

Because, after finishing and releasing that book, I had a great idea for a story and I thought maybe Shaw could fit into the plotline. I worked on other books and prepared to write Shaw into that story in 2017.

Now, many, many months later, I know how silly of an idea that really was.

I can’t fit an already existing character into a plotline not specifically written for her. That’s like trying to live someone else’s life. Sure, maybe it’s fun for a couple days but eventually you’re going to get to the hard stuff. Stuff that doesn’t fit the character.

But, I threw caution to the wayside and decided to finally start work on Missing Miles.

Writing that fatal plot started back in November last year. I not only took on the NaNoWriMo challenge, I actually won with that steaming pile of goo. Maybe someday in the future I’ll revisit that scene and idea and see what shakes out. Who shakes out. That day is not today.

Unfortunately, all that writing in the wrong direction for Shaw left me cold and empty.

After November, Shaw took a place on the shelf and I tried to write something else. Anything else. No dice. She just kept trying to tell me things weren’t over. Though, she wasn’t as clear on what that meant.

Stupid characters.

I hemmed and hawed over the book for a couple months. Knowing it wasn’t right. Stressing over what to write if that wasn’t a winner.

I watched a lot of TV. Read a lot of bad books. Tried to write other stories. Got back into blogging. Anything to keep my fingers moving.

Then like usual, one random day, probably when I wasn’t even thinking about it, an idea for the opening came to me. So I wrote it. And there was something about how it was all sifting into place. Like, I finally had the right place, right time.

There was something that felt like it could breed great tension, intrigue, personal-struggle character development. There was something right about the plot. The story as a whole.

Then we had a bunch of company, started our next phase of home improvement, and I promptly lost most of my mojo on the book.

Not on the story, I lost the desire to write. Thankfully, that only lasted for a minute.

When my dad left, that was our last scheduled houseguest for a while, plus we took a staycation to get a healthy level of stuff done in the backyard. Since all that? I finally put my fingers back on the keyboard over the past few weeks and to be honest I'm still struggling to write this book.

I literally can't get the story out. Not in a writer's block kind of way. Just in a "this isn't what you should be working on right now" way.

After sharing my struggles out loud (for the first time) with one of the writer's groups I belong to I finally realized all those brilliant people are right.

Stop writing.

Not forever, and not everything. Stop writing this book. Because I'm not enjoying the process. I'm not feeling the book right now. And I totally know why.

It's because this isn't what my business needs to focus on right now.

Like I said, the business nothing else.

This writing thing can be a real struggle but I finally just understood my issues. I put the stupid cart before the horse. I tried to sell my books, garner fans, find readers before I knew how to really run this business.

Well, it is high time I go back to the start and do a lot of learning. Because, in this industry, things move fast and furious at their snail's pace.

That might make no sense if you aren't a self-publishing writer and I apologize but it is the absolute truth. Technologies, companies, issues are all based on the current climate of need-it-yesterday but building a brand, a name, can take a very long time.

I have the books written, ten of them in fact, and that (as I've explained to some family and friends) makes me feel like a professional.

But I'm a professional flailer because nobody is reading other than those family and friends. And, let's face facts here, I didn't establish a publishing house and throw all my time and money at this thing to reach the people I already know. I desire, require, a broader audience.

In the spirit of that, I'll be working on a lot of changes to my general business  model over the next couple months, joining organizations, and doing shit-tons of research about how to run a successful writing business.

Because, the creativity is a great thing to have but if I only wanted to write for "myself" I'd still fill countless journals with scribbles and words, not publish professionally produced books.

So, I apologize to anyone who looked forward to Missing Miles because as of now that book is on hold. I have a strong belief that Shaw might return after I know how to really share her story.

Or not.

Either way, I'll never stop writing. But for now my total focus is shifting to reading, research, connections.

Time to revisit the old marketing and business plan gathering dust in a folder somewhere. They're both in need of a ten-ton shot of reality.

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Adventures in Home Improvement Day 9,452,761

Or at least it feels that way. Thing is though, I’m not actually complaining about doing all of this stuff. We brought it on ourselves on purpose. Maybe we didn’t anticipate the scope within each phase, but the number of projects, yeah, we wanted this life.

There are benefits to spending so much time and money personalizing our spaces, like keeping a few middle-aged pounds at bay and being able to make our home a personal reflection of who we are as people.

As a girl who briefly spent a lot of money on a degree she never got in Interior Design, I appreciate the beauty in a personally functional space. It works for us, how we live, what we enjoy, and I love that. I spend a lot of time in this place.

Life and work happen here.

Conversely, I’m not kidding when I say the end (of projects) is almost upon us and my instant reaction:

Woo-freaking-hoo!

Only a couple things to finish inside the house, and the yard is getting closer to the final phase. For now. Because, of course we have more plans for the yard. But this phase gets us our one newly remodeled space and a little more organized everywhere else.

And we are so close to finished with this I can’t even stand it! Like I did with the last couple updates, I’m telling the story with photos.

But before we get there, speaking of past updates…

If you’re new here and haven’t read about our yard adventures you can start here: Our Journey to a Sparkling Clean Pool, or the first part of the yard re-do: Backyard Landscaping like a Boss.

Or, keep reading to see where we are now.

All brick moved by yours truly.
This is about half what we have stacked all over the yard in brick, retaining blocks, and rocks.
You'll see...

Matt moved the stack of retaining bricks in the background,
then I had a great idea: create a riverbed out of all the large
stones strewn around the yard.
Okay, to be fair we thought of that together but it was my
brilliant idea to do it now. Like we don't already have enough to do.

This isn't even the final tally of brick and blocks we moved.
Also, note the gravel because that gets raked and moved later...

We're trying to eliminate lawn in all but the 2 locations on the other side of the yard.
Matt tilled over here then I got to digging/turning/raking.

Oh look, more huge rocks! AKA: places for weeds to hide.
And ground bees. Matt moved all on the nearside due to that,
I moved all on the far side into our new dry creek bed.

We raked back gravel where we planned to put rocks, then worked around
the existing pile of rocks until it freed gravel.
Which we raked out as well. And filled with more rocks.


Full disclosure, this isn't even finalized, we just needed something
"good enough for now" because the other side is the priority.
When finalized we're adding a water feature and weed block.


I finished raking out gravel, digging out rocks (yes MORE large rocks) and
grass. Next step: add dirt to level out the spot and tamp into place with a 12 lb tamper.
Again, no weed block yet. Frankly, there may never be block here.

It rained earlier in the day (well, hail and rain but we'll get to that)
and I didn't want to track that around the house. Improvise.

After two full days of moving dirt and rocks and grass I think she
looks freaking incredible (if I do say so myself, pat-pat-pat)!

Finally finished brick removal over here as well.
Now Matt can get his half of this project done.


Once again, the before picture.

His second round with the tiller helped get even more grass out.

Tilled, loosened, raked, and ready for plants!

It looks like a tropical jungle, with Matt hiding out in the back.

After returning home on day 1 with the load of plants we realized things were sparse.
Also, unbalanced. So back we went for more.
Day 2:
We added other species that will bring color and all are on the same water schedule.
As we checked out and loaded up the plants in the back of the car I noticed the sky getting darker...

Traditionally, Phoenix's dry months are May and June.
Of course, we planned to landscape on the one weekend where temps
weren't supposed to climb out of the mid 70s so obviously
Mother nature decided to give us Phoenicians "spring" for an hour.
Deluge. (Not complaining though, the backyard flooded just enough so I
knew where we were light on dirt and gravel and it made my job much easier.
Plus it all ended as we pulled into the garage! Perfect timing!)


If you look really close, yes that's hail outside and on the floor at Harbor Freight.

First plant in the ground!

Matt watering the first planted plant!
A little out of order here, this is actually end of day on day 1.
Plants placed so we could see what gaps to fill in on day 2.

Action shot!
Yes, this is day 2. Yes, that is Matt's favorite landscaping outfit.
It makes an appearance in just about every post about our yard re-do.

All plants in the ground and irrigation lines run.
All that's left now is weed block, sand, gravel, patio pavers, and a fire pit.
The weather likely won't cooperate like this again now that summer has arrived.
Slow and steady is the name of this game now. We have until September.
But it's time to get out of here because tired is an understatement...

Thankfully, I pre-schedule posts so Matt and I are already gone to (and back from) a four-day weekend in California. We earned that mofo. And it was awesome.

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Is the Book Always Better?

The other day I pulled into the parking lot at Ulta. I was off to get a haircut. I waited for a few minutes until the store opened then gathered my crap to make my way to the front door. Not more than two parking spaces from my car, I stopped when I saw this on the ground:


My jaw dropped open just like Kristen Stewart’s natural expression in every scene of this movie.

Can we all just take a moment to be sad for the untimely, tragic death of this movie disc?

Okay, since I’m the only one shedding a tear (other than maybe my sister), I guess I should explain. Or, maybe I shouldn’t, but I’m going to anyway.

Hands up for all the Twilight fans out there!

If I wasn’t still typing this post right now, my hands wouldn’t only be up, they’d be flailing about like I was being chased by a bear. Or a werewolf. Preferably one who looks like Jacob when he’s not furry.

But I digress…

The series has certainly garnered a healthy level of fandom as well as vitriol over the years since Stephenie Meyer first published the four book series (starting in 2005) featuring sparkly vampires and the battle for love of a human.

But when I saw this broken disc part in the middle of a strip-mall parking lot, I started wondering, did the owner toss the books too? Just like that, out the side of their car window while driving down the road.

Or, did they even read the books before their brutal assault on the visual adaptation of the series?

I’ll admit, I’ve yet to read these books (but recently borrowed the series from my sister because it is high time). However, I love the movies.

Yeah, I said it. I love the Twilight series.

I mean, it’s a happily ever after love story centered on a tomboy lead character. Of course I love it. And, you know, vampires.

I own them all and have binged all five in a day more times than I care to admit.

Yes, I’m a writer and should be hip to all the wordy pursuits first but sometimes I’m just in the mood for a movie, made-for-TV movie, or television show (can we say Vampire Diaries anyone?) without feeling the pressure of getting to the book before it becomes a visual medium.

But I got to thinking about all the books I’ve read and loved that have been made into movies I didn’t like. As well as movies I loved based on books I’d never read because I didn’t even realize that the production was a book to begin with until I was sitting in a theater viewing the credits (Practical Magic, Confessions of a Shopaholic…).

That happens a lot to be honest.

Especially since the invention of eReading. Most of the books I read these days are indie productions. A good majority written by colleagues or writing friends from social media. None of which (to my knowledge) have been turned into movies.

There are a few books in particular that I didn’t like (that were revered) but I read before they were turned into movies. For example:

Gone Girl. Sorry to the Gillian Flynn fans out there but I figured out the entire book by the end of the first chapter so, continuing to read another few hundred pages was a challenge. (I released a book with a similar theme to Flynn’s so maybe that’s why my brain immediately went to that place?)

Eat, Pray, Love. So, what you’re really telling me is it’s actually all about a man in the end? Got it.

Sense and Sensibility. Let the flaming begin but I don’t like old books and never got into Jane Austen despite numerous tries. Love this movie and I tried to read the book but it just isn’t for me.

On the other hand, some movies I loved as well as the book(s) include:

The DaVinci Code. I finished the book in two days, less than a week after it came out. Tom Hanks is basically who I cast as Robert Langdon in my head. I love a simple conspiracy theory and twisty plots with plenty of adventure.

The Bourne Series (mostly through the first three, they did fall off after that). Tension and mystery unfold on every page. Loved the movie adaptation and casting was perfect.

Lord of the Rings. I mean, you knew it would be on this list.

Girl, Interrupted. Both excellent.

Then there’s always the last category, the book is always better. For me, that includes:

Every Stephen King book/novella ever written with the exception of Different Seasons (Shawshank, Stand by Me/The Body)

Flowers in the Attic. V.C. Andrews was robbed by every visual adaptation of this creepy, terror-filled book.

Interview with the Vampire. Anne Rice is a master, Kirsten Dunst was the only character worth seeing in the 1994 movie.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to start reading the 2,444 pages across four books of Twilight sitting neatly stacked on my living room side table. Finally time to put those books into one of those categories above.

I wonder which one it will be?

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.