Confessions of a Part-Time Teleworker

by Gretchen E K Engel

 

My name is Gretchen and I’m a part-time teleworker and a full-time mom. That makes me 1.5 people. Sometimes it seems like it. I’m married to my college sweetheart and have two school-aged children. We moved to a small mountain town in Arizona eight years ago for my husband’s job. When we moved, I became a teleworker.

Five years ago I began writing. My first manuscript was a speculative fiction story with a real-world setting and a supernatural twist. Since then, I completed two sequels, a manuscript for a steam punk story, as well as several short stories that have been published. Currently, I’m writing a steampunk deconstruction of “Beauty and the Beast”. I’m active in Realm Makers, a regular contributor for New Authors Fellowship and the Scriblerians, which stems from my young adult writing group.

By day, I’m a chemical engineer who works as an environmental engineering consultant for a large engineering firm. My specialty is compliance, and my job consists of preparing permits, reports, and plans to keep clients out of trouble with the EPA. Day-to-day I’m a technical writer and Excel spreadsheet ninja.

By night, I’m a wife and mom. We don’t over-involve our kids. It’s sports (one per season) for our son and piano, dance, and AWANA for our daughter. This year I hung up my soccer mom tag and became a football mom, which was a fantastic experience.

 

The Good

My life is ideal. My position is professional and is 20-40 hours per week. My company is very pro-teleworker and work-life balance. In the past eight years, I’ve been promoted and given some exciting projects. At the same time, the less than 40 hours plus no commute gives me time to be a mom, wife, serve in ministry at our church, attend performances/practices/games, and of course write. My schedule is deadline driven and consequently pretty flexible.

 

The Bad

Flexible sometimes translates to erratic by day, week, and month. The first four months of the year are “compliance season.” Federal, state, and local reports for the previous year are due during that window. November and December are sometimes slow. The first of the month is busier. Mondays and most Wednesdays my most structured days. Fridays are quiet.

 

The Ugly

I’m not a flake—really! However, I don’t commit to steady volunteer roles because of my work schedule. It has to be something really special. Lots of guilt when I offer to help friends but have limited availability. Honestly, my day job often has to take priority. Remember, I work for a large company with prominent clients. They don’t understand “I can’t turn in the report because I have to run a sick friend’s errands.” Callous maybe but real. The good thing is with time management, I can usually plan out my week to accommodate making meals, etc. but am not the best person to rely on in a pinch.

 

What does a day in my life look like?

0645-0900 (I prefer military time) – I get up in time to see my son off on the bus. Some mornings I get up earlier to make my son and husband breakfast others I sleep in until about 0700. Coffee is my first priority. Cattle prodding my daughter to get ready and eating breakfast are second. This is my Bible study time at our kitchen island, which includes homework for church leadership training. Occasionally, I write. Recently, I uninstalled Facebook and except for a quick check of work e-mail, I remain electronics free. My daughter gets on the bus at 0815. I continue Bible study or get ready and start my work day. Arizona doesn’t do daylight savings time; part of the year I have calls at 0800 but not until 0900 the remainder.

0900-1600 – The bulk of my work day. I run and exercise, so it’s not unusual for me to fit in a 3-4 mile run or yoga, etc. and a quick lunch. I try to not leave my house for errands. It disrupts the rhythm of my workday, which also includes housework like laundry and dishes.

1600-2200 –  Depends on the day. I work until about 1730 or when one of the kids has an activity. My iPad with Scrivener goes whenever I’m shuttling kids. Piano and dance are great times to squeeze in a few words. Tuesdays I go to the gym after my daughter’s dance class. Wednesdays it’s piano and AWANA. Other days it’s dinner, homework, piano practice, and sports depending on the season; occasionally I work in the evenings. My son is in bed by 2100, but my daughter is a night owl (Where does she get that?) and is hard to wrangle to bed.

2200-0100 – peace and quiet. All are in bed and I do the bulk of my writing. I read for a few minutes before bed.

“It’s complicated” describes my daily life. While not overly busy, I’m constantly “doing something”. Things that keep my sanity: coffee, Earl Grey or cold brew decaf for the afternoon, chamomile-lavender tea for nighttime, slow cookers, and audiobooks for housework multi-tasking. Scrivener is my favorite writing tool. I can write offline on my iPad with the iOS app while my daughter is at her activities, on the way to church, and other bits of time. I have Scrivener on my laptop for home.

 

Author Bio:

In high school, Gretchen E K Engel competed to write her English teacher’s favorite essays and earn highest marks in physics. Science won over the arts, and Gretchen became a chemical engineer. An environmental consultant by day and speculative fiction writer by night, she has authored hundreds of technical documents and several short stories.

 

Links:

https://www.facebook.com/gretchen.engel

https://twitter.com/GretchenEKEngel

http://gretchenekengel.com/

Also blogs at

http://thescriblerians.wordpress.com/

https://newauthors.wordpress.com/

Confessions of a Dreamer in Search of Wonder

by Patrick Carr

Most of my dreams are unpleasant. I don’t know if I’m alone in that because, frankly, I don’t want to know. Yet, I suspect that like a lot of people my brain goes to work at night trying to find solutions to the conflicts and confrontations we experience during the day. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a math teacher in an urban school setting, so I live, eat, drink, and breathe the pressure that comes with public school education every day. Naturally, some of that stress spills over into my sleep.

But there are times I have these dreams filled with wonder and I wake and it’s as if I’m a child again experiencing the world for the first time. This in itself would hardly be worth mentioning except to say I hope everyone has them because I think they’re a gift from God. But as they say in the commercials “but wait, there’s more.”

These dreams, the ones I long for, these rare respites from thistles and thorns aren’t unconnected. Weird, right? I don’t mean that I will have continuing dreams several nights in a row, although I wish “wonder” would visit me that often. It’s stranger than that. Years, sometimes many years, will go by and a long-forgotten dream will come back to me and pick up where it left off, like a favorite college-friend who drops in on your doorstep unexpectedly to say hello.

I had one of these sublime visitations last night, which is why I’m writing about it. My amazement and longing is still so fresh, I doubt if I could write about anything else. What fills me with wonder? That the answer is surprising to me perhaps reveals how little I know myself, but to understand last night’s dream, I will have to relate the details of its predecessor.

I find myself in a library. It’s not overly large and certainly not modern. There are no computer stations and there are all these old-fashioned card files to help the patrons find their books. The shelves are hardwood and they lacquer on them is dark with age. Though well-lit, the library has a bit of a dusty smell and the books are all hard-bound copies and the binding is the heavy duty type with embedded fabric without ornamentation. Only the titles are on the cover.

I love libraries, especially one with hardbacks and I’m browsing through the shelves when I find a series of thick books in my favorite genre by an author I’ve never heard of before. I pick up the first book in the series and I start to read.

Boom.

The story is perfect. I’m so overwhelmed by it that I’m completely captivated. Not only does the story enthrall me, it gets inside of me. It makes me a better person. It’s literally the perfect story.

I’m filled with wonder.

I’ve lived and breathed fantasy for years. Why haven’t I heard of this story and this author before? Here I am, holding in my hands huge volumes of the best writing I’ve ever read and I’ve never even heard mention of the author. I sit on the floor, so lost in the writing that I don’t want to move, half-afraid the books might vanish.

The dream ends.

Now, understand, this dream came to me decades ago, but last night I got the sequel.

I’m wandering in the countryside. I live in Tennessee so there are a lot of places even close to Nashville that are half-a-breath away from being completely rural. For some reason in this dream I’m walking and I come upon a hollow. For those of you who don’t speak the southern vernacular, a hollow is the fold between two hills. Unless you go right up and into the crevice in the land, you’d never see whether or not there’s a house there.

I enter the hollow using a dirt road of southern red clay – there are hills all around – and I see a house. When I look at the mailbox, I realize it’s the home of the author of these amazing books. He lives here! I’ve stumbled on the home of the greatest fantasy author ever to set pen to paper.

It doesn’t matter that he’s not home. It’s the middle of the day and I know he’ll be back before long. I settle myself to wait for the man who wrote the story that got inside of me and filled me with wonder on every page.

And that, fortunately or otherwise, is where the dream ended. I don’t know what the author looks like. I don’t know if he’s a nice old man or curmudgeonly with age. I only know that I’m filled with wonder and longing this morning.

I’m also resisting the urge to interpret the dream. I have no desire to explain the points in both dreams and their obvious symbolism. They’ve worked their magic on me and I find myself unwilling to reduce my wonder to the level of prosaic explanations.

However, I will say that I hope and pray you have a similar experience. I hope you get to read the perfect story and find the author, even if it’s just in your dreams.

 

Author Bio:

Patrick W. Carr was born on an Air Force base in West Germany at the height of cold war tensions. He has been told this was not his fault. As an Air Force brat, he experienced a change in locale every three years until his father retired to Tennessee.

Patrick saw more of the world on his own through a varied and somewhat eclectic education and work history. He graduated from Georgia Tech in 1984 and has worked as a draftsman at a nuclear plant, did design work for the Air Force, worked for a printing company, and consulted as an engineer.

Patrick’s day gig for the last eight years has been teaching high school math in Nashville, TN. He currently makes his home in Nashville with his wonderfully patient wife, Mary, and four sons he thinks are amazing: Patrick, Connor, Daniel, and Ethan. Sometime in the future he would like to be a jazz pianist, and he wrestles with the complexity of improvisation on a daily basis. While Patrick enjoys reading about himself, he thinks writing about himself in the third person is kind of weird.

www.patrickwcarr.com

Confessions of a Rail-Jumper

A few months ago I opened an Etsy shop and named it Jumping Rails. Part of that name choice came from an experience in which I’d jumped a fence to cross some train tracks despite the warning sign not to, but the deeper reason has to do with my path as a creative person. You see, I am constantly jumping rails from one pursuit to another.

Pretty much any time before my senior year of high school, had you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d have said, “Artist.” But after graduation, I honestly had no idea what direction I wanted to go. I still loved to draw, but didn’t like the idea of it becoming “work.” Art stayed a hobby for me, but it didn’t at all stay centered on drawing, even though drawing was the heart of what I considered true art.

Over the years, art has shifted from one thing to another for me. Some examples:

Drawing

Painting plaster figurines

Assembling a multitude of craft kits

Scrapbooking

Refinishing furniture

Building and sewing window treatments

More drawing

Writing

Making wands

Mixed media art

Acrylic painting

I’ve had to shed the strict “artist” label I’d held onto during my childhood and adolescence, but it’s come off layer by layer over many years. I spent a lot of time feeling guilty for not sticking to one art form, worried that I was abandoning certain talents. I have wondered off and on what it says about me that I am constantly changing direction and focus. I’ve thought, “I must not be an artist anymore because it’s been so long since I’ve drawn,” all the while not realizing that all creative things are art as well in their own ways. The guilt was never quite strong enough to keep me from jumping, though. I have never been one to force creativity. I found inspiration and it called relentlessly.

It wasn’t until after I started writing that I finally began to see the connection. It finally sank in that I was using the same creative force to write stories as I had to draw portraits. And that same creative force was at work when I scrapbooked, or sewed, or reupholstered a set of dining room chairs. I also accepted that painting didn’t have to mean masterpieces; I didn’t have to be Da Vinci or Van Gogh. I could paint space ships and fairy trees and it still counted as art to me. I could glue burnt paper and brass keys to painted canvas as long as what I created made me happy and counted as art to me.

All of those things, all those art forms, are part of a giant rail system, but for so many years I thought to be a true artist I needed to stay on one track. Now, I’ve had time and life experiences that have shown me all the branches of creativity cross each other. (As we get older, we are more able to see just how complex life in general is, so carrying that over to art makes much more sense.) I’ve gotten to know other artists and creative people who have embraced the different aspects of their own natures, and I’ve learned from their examples. Now I know it’s perfectly okay to jump the rails from one track to another as long as I keep the train moving.

 

 

Author Bio:

Kat Heckenbach spent her childhood with pencil and sketchbook in hand, knowing she wanted to be an artist when she grew up—so naturally she graduated from college with a degree in biology, went on to teach math, and now homeschools her two children while writing. Her fiction ranges from light-hearted fantasy to dark and disturbing, with multiple stories published online and in print. Her YA fantasy series Toch Island Chronicles is available in print and ebook. Enter her world at www.katheckenbach.com.

Amazon page for Toch Island Chronicles ebooks on sale for $1.39 each- https://www.amazon.com/s?ref=series_rw_dp_labf&_encoding=UTF8&field-collection=Toch+Island+Chronicles&url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text

Confessions of an Independent Woman

by Emilie Hendryx

Hello, my name is Emilie and I am an Independent woman … but sometimes I think I’m too independent for my own good.

That may sound funny—especially in the atmosphere of today’s world. Women are encouraged, even pushed sometimes, to be independent. The more independent the better! A common phrase I hear is: “I don’t need a man to complete me.” Well, of course you don’t! You go, girl! But, at the sake of sounding a bit countercultural here, I want to look at the other side—dare I say, the downside?—to independence.

Note: This is not a political post. Really. I promise—it’s not! Secondary note: This is not about bashing men or other independent women. I feel very strongly in supporting other independent women! If anything, it’s a caution to myself and others like me to see our independence as a blessing and to use it wisely.

I enjoy my independence. I like the fact that I can make decisions on my own, do what I want, and rely on ME.  >insert finger snap here< But … the flip side of that is the occasional presence of self-doubt, feeling alone when it’s just me in my one-bedroom apartment, lugging heavy boxes/groceries/furniture in by myself, or wondering what I’m really doing with my life when everyone around me seems to be getting (or already is) married or having their first, second, or third child. Most of my adult friends are at a different stage in life. That’s good … but it’s also hard.

I’m an only child, and I think a lot of my independent mentality comes from strong parents who raised a strong daughter (thank you, Mom and Dad) and who encouraged me to know my own mind. I wouldn’t have it any other way! But, if they had done that and also instilled a sense of single-minded heroism in me, the type of “Emilie, you don’t need anyone—ever” kind of thinking, I’m not sure where I’d be today. Instead, they encouraged me in my independence while they encouraged my faith and my friendships, gave me help and advice, and portrayed a strong marriage ethic for me. Yes, they really are rock stars.

As I’ve gotten older though, I see my independence both helping and hindering me. It helps me when I face new things in life, turning to the Lord with a confidence that can only come through His strength. It helps me when I remember that He has made me the woman I am. I know I have what it takes to make it through whatever I need to (through Him). And it helps me when I decide to go to the movies alone and I’m reminded that it’s okay to be by yourself—that I am not less-than because I’m single or a woman.

But, this sneaky, old independence has its downsides too. When my independence get’s in the way of community, there’s a problem. When my independence incites arrogance in my heart, there’s a problem. When my independence allows thoughts of control, there’s a problem. And when my independence overshadows who I am: a woman who loves God and loves people, there’s a problem.

I am more than my independence. I am a child of God, one of many brothers and sisters around the world, and I am called to love. Sometimes that means giving up some of my independence and allowing others to help me even if it makes me feel “less in control”. Sometimes that means forcing myself to take a step back and listen to what others are saying—is my independence stifling them and their gifts? And sometimes it means being alone and resting in Him and seeing myself as needy—I need my Savior and His strength.

I’m Emilie, an independent woman who is dependent on a strong God and an amazing community of believers.

_____

Author Bio:

Emilie lives in Dayton, Ohio and fills her time with creative pursuits. She writes, takes pictures, designs, reads, plays guitar, and drinks too much coffee. She’s a member of ACFW and currently working on a romantic suspense novel and plotting a YA Sci-fi series. She’s got a soft spot in her heart for animals and a love for the mountains of the Pacific Northwest.

 

 

Connect with Emilie:

Blog: www.eahendryx.blogspot.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/createxploreread

Twitter: www.twitter.com/eacreativephoto

Facebook: www.facebook.com/emiliehendryx

And check out her shops full of bookish things:

www.society6.com/emiliehendryx & www.etsy.com/shops/createexploreread

 

Confessions of a Closet Fanfiction Writer

“Please, please, can we have a Sega Genesis?” my brother wheedled. “I’ll buy it with my birthday money!”

Our parents hemmed and hawed. This was the 1990s. Focus on the Family had been cranking out anti-videogame propaganda for years–anything from it ruining a kid’s grades to being a gateway to porn. But finally they said that we could buy a Genesis on one condition: the approve the games we bought.

The light was green! We bought our first video game system (and every single system after that). We played Sonic the Hedgehog and Jurassic Park and the maddeningly difficult Disney games. Batman Forever became a fixture.

Then–horrors–one hot summer day, our parents decreed that we spent too much time on games. “One hour a day,” they admonished. “Go do something else.”

Mutinous, I stalked upstairs to my desk. As a homeschooler, I had a very nice desk where I did my school and drew pictures. I busted out a binder, filled it with loose-leaf notebook paper, and began writing a story that mixed my two loves at the time: Sonic the Hedgehog and Jurassic Park.

Fan fiction had entered my life.

It was years before I even knew the term fanfiction. I just wrote my Sonic stories and read them aloud to my siblings. I adapted the games into epic novels, mixed in elements from the cartoons, crossed over other games, Michael Crichton’s book on nanotechnology called Prey, anything I wanted. The story universe grew into a sprawling monster of a thing.

I taught myself to type so I could convert my terrible handwriting into neatly typed pages. I consumed every book on writing I could find. I learned HTML to build a Web 1.0 website where I could post my stories, and maybe even connect with other kids who wrote Sonic stories.

The 90s gave way to the 2000s. My crappy little website grew into a fair-sized fansite with a busy community of creatives. I kept writing. I really wanted to try to write something publishable, but I didn’t really know how to write outside the universe I had spent so much time building. I dabbled here and there with a few ideas, but nothing stuck.

Fast forward. I got married, closed my website, got a job, and generally moved on with life. But the writing bug never left. I just loved burrowing inside a universe and reconstructing it from the inside out.

After I wrote a few books in my husband’s Spacetime universe (note: still fanfiction), I finally figured out how to convert fanfiction into original fiction.

Spoilers: you don’t.

Your favorite character is still your favorite character, even with a bit of a facelift. Or even living in a different world. As long as you give yourself enough characterization hooks to constantly remind yourself of who this character really is on the inside, you can write something ‘original’ while still secretly writing your fanfics.

“Okay,” I said to myself. “I happen to love young adult paranormal romance. But I hate vampires. What if I used this one reformed villain from my fanfics, and the heroine thinks he’s a vampire, but he’s a different kind of monster?”

As I worked to translate my reformed villain from one universe to another, I had to do a tremendous amount of world building to explain how the magic worked, how he kept himself alive, and better yet, how the magic was killing the heroine. I wanted bees that collected magic, and I had to build explanations for that. Slowly my fanfic character became his own person–deeply flawed, deeply wounded, compellingly loveable.

I turned to my heroine. She needed to be just as interesting as the monster. In fact, the more opposite she could be, the better. I imported another of my fanfic characters, a spunky, spitfire girl whose attitude stemmed from her massive insecurity. She’s impulsive. She’s headstrong. She’s stubborn. And when she decides that the hero is a vampire, she’s bound and determined to prove that he is. Except that he’s actually something worse.

“And now,” I thought to myself, laughing, “which of my really bad guys can I bring in to make their lives miserable?”

The funny thing is, the villain of Malevolent isn’t from my fanfics at all. If anything, he’s inspired by Dr. Phoenix from N.D. Wilson’s Ashtown Burials series–gentle, kind, and utterly ruthless.

As the books went on, the characters really stood on their own feet. The fanfic template faded. But it jumpstarted the delight, that kernel of joy that kept me up late, typing words until I had callouses on my fingertips.

Better yet, the readers enjoyed the book, too. They had no idea who these characters were originally. Heck, even in my fanfics, these characters barely resemble their official selves. My character arcs had been that deep. And now, given new life in a new setting, these characters whom I had loved for years could charm new readers.

So, if you, like me, are having trouble switching from fanfic to original fiction, just do it like this. Trick yourself. Use your fanfic characters, but dress them up so that nobody recognizes them except you.

It also works for old projects that you would like to rewrite and publish. Take only the gold from those early drafts–only the things that you love, love, love. Toss the rest and start fresh. Your readers will thank you.

 

Author Bio:

Kessie Carroll is a second-generation homeschooler. When she’s not chasing kids, she’s writing, drawing, blogging, or playing Minecraft with her hubby. Catch her online at her favorite haunts:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kmcarrollauthor

Twitter: @netraptor01

Blog: kmcarrollblog.wordpress.com

Malevolent: https://kmcarrollblog.wordpress.com/malevolent/

Confessions of an OCD Writer

Confessionsof an OCD Writerby Mike Duran

In the summer of 2010, I began experiencing some weird medical problems. I am not a hypochondriac and, on average, see the doctor about once or twice a year. That changed in 2010. I began experiencing severe dizzy spells. Debilitating, occasionally. Sometime after that, it was compounded by tingling and numbness in my hands and feet. Eventually, my entire body. The icing was a visit to Urgent Care one afternoon where I was promptly given a sedative and exhorted to pay attention to my health.

What followed were batteries of tests: bloodwork, MRI, brain scan, etc.  During the process, I’ve seen a neurologist, audiologist, and a dietitian. Along with my regular doctor.  After these tests had rolled in, accompanied by significant head-scratching on the part of the professionals, my doctor asked:

Mr. Duran, is there anything that has changed this year in your life? Your diet? Your work? Your living arrangements? Your schedule? Your routine? Anything that may have triggered this?

And then it hit me.

I said, Doc, I am a writer. I have been contracted for two books, one which I am currently attempting to finish. I work 40 hours a week outside my home. I wake up at 3-4 AM every morning and blog or write until I leave for work at 5:30 AM. When I get home at 5 PM, I check emails, mumble at my wife, and attempt to resume writing. You might also want to know that I am obsessive compulsive, an insomniac, a perfectionist, and I feel guilty when I relax.

He leaned back from his computer and squinted. Mr. Duran, stress does strange things to people.

Stress.

It’s been a humbling admission for me. I’ve always fancied myself as the tough guy who could soldier through all kinds of adversity, pain, and difficulty. They didn’t nickname me Bull Durham on our softball team for nothing. So who would’ve guessed that it was writing that would break me.

Little did I know when I answered the “call to write” that part of the plan would be to help me confront … myself. Like Dr. Jekyll, I was forced to confront a “dark side,” a side of me that obsesses over doing things right, that nitpicks details, that lies awake at night futilely attempting to dot every “i,” cross every ‘t,” and tie up every loose end.

This admission—the admission that my obsessive/compulsive tendencies were killing me—was not that great for my writing. It forced me to slow down. It forced me to think about something other than stories and characters and plots. It made me manage something more important—my health. In the “age of indie,” where authors are repeatedly instructed to crank out novels and expand their back catalog, slowing down is, sadly, viewed with suspicion. But that’s exactly what I needed to do.

It’s led to several admissions and lifestyle adjustments designed to help me stay out of Urgent Care. It’s about juggling two careers without dying. It’s about realizing I have a life outside of writing, and that my literary canon is will never exceed my being. It’s about smelling the roses before I’m pushing up daisies.

It’s led to several significant changes that have helped me cope with my kneejerk instinct to over-analyze:

  • I gave myself permission to not regularly blog
  • I gave myself permission to not answer email in a timely fashion
  • I gave myself permission to write something half-ass
  • I gave myself permission to lounge on the couch and watch TV instead of write
  • I gave myself permission to read whatever I want and not just the stuff in my genre
  • I gave myself permission to turn down some writing and promotional opportunities
  • I gave myself permission to embarrass myself and be brutally honest whenever I need to (like I have here)

Yes, writing this “confession” has taken time away from writing my novel or blogging. Yes, some people may read this and think less of me and my professional advice. Which is fine.

Take that, Mr. Hyde!

 

11078075_1482267868700841_7310025605731169301_oAuthor Bio:

MIKE DURAN is a novelist, blogger, and speaker, whose short stories, essays, and commentary have appeared in Relief Journal, Relevant Online, Novel Rocket, Rue Morgue, Zombies magazine, and other print and digital outlets.

He is the author of THE GHOST BOX (Blue Crescent Press, 2014), the first in an urban fantasy series, the supernatural thriller THE RESURRECTION (Realms, 2011), an e-book fantasy novella entitled WINTERLAND, THE TELLING (Realms May 2012), and a short story anthology SUBTERRANEA (Blue Crescent Press, 2013).

Mike is an ordained minister and lives with his wife and four grown children, grandchildren, and assorted beasties, in Southern California. You can learn more about Mike Duran, his writing projects, favorite music, cultural commentary, and arcane interests, at www.mikeduran.com.

Confessions of a Shelf-Elf Mom

by Lindsay Franklin

 

My name is Lindsay, and I’m an Elf on the Shelf mom. This is where you all give a resounding chorus of “Hi, Lindsay!” and then we discuss the tribulations of recovering from shelf-elfdom.

Except I’m not in recovery. I love my elf. Her name is Wendy, and we have excellent adventures together. Like this one:

wendy-with-killer-bunny

That was the time Wendy hopped in my Rabbit of Caerbannog slippers and terrorized the boys’ knight figurines. Or there was this one:

steampunk-wendy

That was when Wendy wanted a steampunk costume just like mine.

Last year, Wendy got super lonely and joined ElfMatch.com (no, it’s not a real thing). She met some interesting characters during her online dating escapades.

wendy-on-elf-match

elf-match-screenshot

But then she met the love of her life, Josepher Twinkletoes.

wendy-and-josephers-first-date

And on Christmas morning, they made it official.

wendys-wedding

Not only do my kids have Wendy and Josepher’s antics to look forward to now, but Josepher’s little sister, Julee, moved in, too. Our house has turned into an elf party this December. Okay, so maybe I do have a little bit of a shelf-elf addiction. Either that, or I really love to tell stories. We’ll go with the latter.

So, what’s my confession? Aside from the fact that the whole world now knows I’m a little nuts … Shelf-elf haters bum me out. For every one social media post I see from a shelf-elfing parent, I see five or six people talking about how much they hate Elf on the Shelf. I’ve even seen suggestions that parents who “inflict” EOTS on their children are bad parents (see also: Santa Claus). Hopefully these things are said tongue-in-cheek, but still. It stings a little when you’re an enthusiastic EOTSer and your own friends loudly voice such opinions.

Here’s the thing: There are innumerable holiday traditions spanning most cultures across the globe. No one family participates in all of them. And that’s totally okay. It’s okay if going caroling is something you can’t imagine skipping. It’s also okay if you wouldn’t be caught dead singing to strangers in freezing weather. It’s okay if there’s that one cheesy Christmas movie that absolutely makes the season feel right to you. And it’s okay if that same movie makes another person want to take a nap.

There’s no single correct way to celebrate the fun, sometimes silly, traditions surrounding Christmas. There’s only what your family enjoys, and each family’s unique culture leads to gloriously different incarnations of the same traditions, as well as eschewing some traditions altogether. My EOTSing doesn’t look quite like my friends’, but I love to see what mischief their little guys get into. And I love to see my non-EOTS friends celebrate in their own special ways. Tree-cutting and trimming, outdoor light displays, candlelight church services, over-the-top décor, subtle décor, even no décor and a more solemn take on the season.

My Christmas wish? That we allow our friends (and strangers) the space to enjoy the holidays with their families the way they deem best. Because it’s all just fluff surrounding the core of Christmas—and that core has nothing to do with trees, tins of cookies, twinkle lights, or Toys R Us. So why hate on each other’s traditions? Ain’t nobody got time for that sort of Christmas negativity.

What is your family’s favorite Christmas tradition?

 

 

l-franklin-headshotAuthor Bio:

Lindsay Franklin is an award-winning author, freelance editor, and homeschooling mother of three. Her debut fantasy novel and first book of devotionals for young women both release in 2017. She managed the flash fiction mayhem for two years at Splickety Publishing Group as Senior Operations Manager, is a Bible college student, and has taught fiction to homeschooled junior high and high school students. She may or may not be addicted to organic coffee. Don’t tell anyone. Connect with Lindsay on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, or her website. You can also follow her wombat on Instagram. Yeah, you read that right.

Confessions of a Hybrid-Homeschooling Mom

goals-for-2017by Lisa Godfrees

 

I have two daughters, both of whom have been in public school until recently. Without going into the long story behind why, let me say that public school works very well for most students. In fact, my 7th grader excels in school and when given the option to be homeschooled, she decided to stay with her friends.

But some kids need a little more one-on-one time, or a different approach to learning, than a public school can accommodate. Such is the case with my 5th grader. While she misses recess, she is overall relieved not to be in the classroom, much preferring to be taught by Miss Mummy Pants (her teacher name for me—I have absolutely no idea why).

While I cannot claim to be an expert at homeschooling after less than a semester, I can offer some unique insights even in my short time. Feel free to add to it in the comments below.

 

Homeschool parents: Public school is not evil.

Some parents who have exclusively homeschooled have the biased view that sending a child to public school is inexplicably evil. And to listen to some of the people who speak at homeschool conferences, it’s no wonder parents hold that view. Homeschool associations that have fought for parental rights and seen the bad side of the system tend to have a jaded view of public education and its administrators.

Thankfully, I live in Texas which is still a conservative part of the Bible belt. In my experience, public school teachers and administrators do their best to offer safe and quality education away from the hot topics of gender and sex education. Many of the teachers/administrators my daughters have had are Christian. And thank God for that! Can you imagine what our school system would look like if no one involved in it were Christian?

 

Homeschool kids are not necessarily better educated.

I have several friends who homeschool their children. Depending on the child and the parent, their kids may be ahead or behind public school grade levels. What some of these kids learn is truly amazing, and what others don’t learn is concerning.

A child’s performance depends on what they are taught. If their parents don’t select a well-rounded curriculum, if they don’t take schooling seriously, if they don’t push, if they don’t monitor what their students are learning and retaining, then we can end up with high school students that can’t link countries to continents. They might place China in North America, or the Philippines in Greenland. (I’m not joking. I’ve graded tests.) Or students that don’t complete homework, or don’t come prepared for class, or whine when asked to do a more coursework than they are used to… more than can be completed the night before the class.

After teaching high school students at a co-op this fall, I’ve seen that some kids are directionless. Graduating seniors who don’t know what they are going to do next year. College, work, neither? Homeschool children need vision casting for their futures too. It might not be college, but it should be something. We all need a goal to shoot for.

 

To public school parents: Homeschool kids are socialized just fine.

If you’ve been around homeschoolers, you’ll realize what a laughable misconception it is that children who are homeschooled aren’t well socialized. You probably work or know people who have been homeschooled and don’t even know it. Don’t mistake children with special needs or learning disabilities (at home or in public school) with poor socialization.

Socialization can be a concern. Since it’s just me and my daughter at home, I try to make sure to encourage activities and play dates with other kids, but many homeschool families have a lot of kids, so this is more the exception than a rule.

 

To public school parents: History makes a lot more sense when the Bible is taken into consideration.

As a product of a public-school education, this one came as a surprise to me. I’m not sure why it should—I mean, I went to seminary. It’s not like I’ve not learned the history. But the thing is, when you start looking at world history from a biblical perspective and consider everything together, it Just. Makes. Sense. In a way that separating church and state from one another is fundamentally flawed. It’s enough to make me wonder what great disservice we’re doing to our kids. How are they going to understand God’s ultimate plan if they don’t learn a comprehensive view of history and the Bible? We can’t expect them to learn it at church/Sunday school once a week. The Bible illiteracy of our culture probably has a lot to do with the Bible being taken out of the school room. It’s a historical document, folks!

 

Moms on both sides of the equation feel guilt.

My public-school daughter is out in the world, interacting with peers, learning about due dates, tests, competition, and expectations. She has extracurricular activities that my homeschool-child doesn’t have, but she’s missing out on the comprehensive Christian worldview my youngest is learning. She’s spending time doing some ridiculous school bureaucratic things, because – hey, that’s public school, right? There’s a reason we make fun of it.

But I worry for my homeschool daughter, too. Am I teaching her my bad habits? Is she missing out on real-world experiences that she needs to turn into a well-rounded adult? Am I sheltering her too much? Am I ruining my kid?

 

Whatever the case, we can only live in the moment and make the best decisions we can at the time. And pray, pray, pray – for one another, for our kids, and for our country.

 

lisa-godfrees-lr-5Author Bio:

LISA GODFREES worked over a decade in a crime lab. Tired of technical writing, she hung up her lab coat to pen speculative fiction. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies and online. Mind Writer (Elk Lake Publishing) co-authored with Mike Lynch, is her first novel. Lisa is a member of ACFW, SCBWI, the Houston Writers Guild, and serves as the Production Manager for Splickety Prime. She currently resides in Houston with one dog, two cats, two girls, and a husband.

Website: www.lisagodfrees.com

Social Media Links:
www.facebook.com/LisaGodfrees
www.twitter.com/LisaGodfrees
https://plus.google.com/u/0/+LisaGodfrees
www.instagram.com/fictionmom

mind-writer-3

Confessions of a Reluctant Author

by Tracy L. Snyder

youre-invited-to-ababy-shower-forFriends drug me to my first writer’s conference a good ten years ago. While there I talked to an editor who advised me to enjoy the writing journey. “Have fun,” she said. “Make friends. Learn new things. Just don’t expect to be published. Accept the fact that the odds are so stacked against you that it will never happen.”

I loved this advice. It fit perfectly with the messages of my youth.

You’re good, but not good enough.

If you aim low, you won’t have to fall as far when it all goes south.

So I learned what a plot arc was, and how to describe scenes. I went to my critique group, attended more conferences, and was perfectly happy in my anonymity.

Then I started getting a new message. One that worried me.

This writing is good. It deserves to be seen. You should try to get published.

Last summer I sat across from the author Tosca Lee at a writer’s conference. She complimented my writing, then paused. “You seem hesitant,” she said.

My shoulders slumped in resignation. “I just feel as if I’m in so far over my head.”

She leaned forward until our noses were inches apart. “You’re not in over your head. You are a masterful writer. Getting published is well within your grasp.”

Wow, I thought. And then I froze.

For years I have been in treatment for PTSD due to childhood trauma. I’ve gone both inside and outside of the box in my determination get well. Acupuncture is great, and I haven’t shown a single sign of becoming a Buddhist. One of my favorite councilors met me at the door of her office with a fistful of burning sage leaves and proceeded to wave smoke all over me.

Fine. If it will help, then fumigate away.

I’ve worked hard, and have achieved a level of recovery that makes the specialists do Jazz Hands when they see my brain scans.

But when I think of being published, I still I feel the grip around my throat, and hear the details of my impending death should I speak.

I know that every author is dogged by a voice of doubt that whispers in the background. But for those of us who have been scared speechless at some point in our lives, the voice can be deep, and dark, and carry a threat.

Sometimes I grow weary, and I think about how wonderful it would be to stop hammering away at the wall of silence that surrounds me. How easy it would be to stay voiceless, and quit trying, and rest in the shadows.

And then I go get porcupined by the acupuncturist, and smoked by the councilor. I attend a support group at my church, join the Christmas choir, and play piano when no one is listening.

And I write.

I write not for fame, nor money, nor bragging rights. I write to reclaim my voice, which was removed from me with surgical precision.

I do know that I’m not the only author who has had to dig deep to reclaim my voice. And I believe that those of us who have done so, are left with a unique timbre and cadence to our words that others don’t have. I think there is grace to cover the pain, songs to banish the darkness, and laughter to stab the devil’s heart.

And so, I write.

 

tracyAbout the Author:

Tracy L Snyder lives in Salem, Oregon, the wife of one man, mother of two sons, and servant of two cats. She usually writes science fiction or fantasy, but occasionally pens a piece from the real world. By day she is a lymphedema therapist, in the evening she paddles on a competitive dragon boat team named the Angry Unicorns.
You can find her website at www.tracylsnyder.com

Twitter: @tracysnyder111

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Tracy-L-Snyder-204665353212426/

 

Books:

realmscapes-cover-websiteRealmscapes Anthology

https://www.amazon.com/RealmScapes-Science-Fiction-Fantasy-Anthology-ebook/dp/B01GZ5NEFQ/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

The Gold Man Review

Literary Journal

https://www.amazon.com/Gold-Man-Review-Issue-6-ebook/dp/B01MCY4CLG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1479876196&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Gold+Man+Review+Issue+6

Confessions of a Writer with Depression

by Victoria Grace Howell

 

confessions-1I’ve been creating stories for as long as I can remember, but I’ve been struggling with Depression since I was fifteen. I didn’t fully understand Depression until recent years when I finally started taking steps to manage it. For years, I didn’t know why I would feel sad for days on end or abruptly stop being motivated to do things I’ve loved or why I was just so darn sensitive.

Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. When I get depressed, my thoughts spiral into doubts and kicking myself over every little thing. It’s not just feeling sad. It affects my entire body. I’ve sometimes felt so “down” that it’s hard to wake up in the morning, my back and neck hurts, and I lose my appetite. Some of the things I do to feel better are take walks or drink tea with lavender, chamomile or chocolate or watch a favorite TV show. Sometimes writing out my emotions in my stories is therapeutic. All of this in turn affects how I handle life as a writer.

I know I’m not alone. A lot of writers struggle with mental illness. Perhaps some who struggle with Depression can relate to these confessions.

I Have to Take Breaks – I watch writers able to type out thousands of words a day or write every day for a year, and I think that’s fantastic, but having Depression makes that hard for me. I can get burnt out so easily if I do that much. I usually have to take a mental health day every week or that can make my depression act up and then I’m out of the game for days.

Sometimes I Have to Take Days Off on Down Days – Sometimes my Depression hits me at times I don’t expect. I get so down that I can’t concentrate and just uncontrollably think of anything that could possibly be bothering me on repeat. Therefore I need to take an hour or up to several days off to pick myself back up.

It’s Very Hard for Me to Develop a Thick Skin for Criticism of My Work – I’ve gotten so much advice on how to develop a thick skin for critique. Critique is a wonderful tool, but I still procrastinate for days before I read any feedback of my work, because I’m afraid it’s going to be bad enough to send me into a spiral of Depression. I usually have to spend a good five minutes or more psyching myself up before opening the document. Then if the critique is bad, sometimes I take a day off of writing to recover to make sure it doesn’t cause a down day.

Rejections Hurt A lot – When I see an email from a publisher or agent in my inbox, I feel a rush of cold go down my spine. Then I steel myself for a rejection. I’ve only gotten one acceptance, so this has happened a dozen or two times. Sometimes I can shrug off the rejection, but it usually sticks with me like a parasite for a day. More often than not I have the battle off feelings of doubt that I’m a good writer. Sometimes I have to take days off writing to make sure I don’t get a down day or sometimes because it incites a down day.

I Feel Things Deeper in My Writing – People with Depression feel emotions deeper than the average person. They are more sensitive to feelings of others around them. This in turn can be a writer super power.

This post isn’t to ask for sympathy. This post is to come clean about how it is be a writer and live with Depression. I can’t just eat some chocolate and feel better five minutes later whenever I start feeling sad after an agent made the decision not to represent my work. No matter how much I wish I could yank myself up from being knocked down as anyone not struggling with depression seems to be able to I can’t.

It’s not all in my head. It’s a real thing that affects me. Depression is part of my struggle, but it helps me relate to my characters who struggle with it. I don’t know how long I’m going to struggle with Depression. It could be my whole life. I may have to tweak my schedule a bit to keep it under control, but I won’t let it stop me from being a writer.

Have you struggled with depression? How does it affect your writing? What do you do to cope?

 

vicVictoria Grace Howell is an award-winning, author of speculative fiction, a social media manager, an editor for the non-profit organization, Geeks Under Grace, a staff writer for Geekdom House, and has been published in Splickety: Havok Magazine and Area of Effect Magazine. Since she was a child growing up in the state of Georgia, she’s always had a heart for stories. When not typing away at her novels, she enjoys drawing her characters, blogging at Wanderer’s Pen, practicing Kung Fu, cosplaying, and having a really good hot cup of tea. Connect with her on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.