Confessions of a Workaholic

I have a confession to make. I like my work. No, I love my work. I am obsessed with it. And I’m beginning to think that’s not such a good thing.

But I love it. I really do.

Since July 2015, when Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing, LLC was born, (and even months and months before that, actually, as I was building my team and doing market research) I have been obsessed with perfection.

That is, after all, our motto: “Where Fun and Perfection Meet.”

My work is such fun! I get to sit down with some of the most talented authors I have ever met and listen to their dreams. Then I get to read their prose and fall into each unique world created out of love, passion, and hope. Then if they find a home for their manuscripts with L2L2 Publishing, I get to work with them for months, perfecting their stories through editing and gentle suggestions to continue to build their story worlds (and platforms, if we’re being honest). Then I get to work several more months with my team, creating the perfect cover, writing up ad copy and back cover copy, deciding on the best marketing plan for their book, and letting my team have at it.

Then the author and I get to hold the finished product in our hands. A perfected product, thanks to my perfectionism tendencies. It is the most inspiring moment of my job.

See? Best job ever!

I love it. A little too much.

The hardest part of this for me is to find balance between owning a publishing company, freelance editing (which I have slowed way down on since the business has taken off), writing my own beautiful words, and being a wife, mother, and friend to those I hold dear.

You see, I’m the teeniest tiniest bit an introvert—okay, an extreme introvert—and people scare me. I’m terrified of saying or doing the wrong thing. I’ve actually woken up in the middle of the night, sat straight up in bed, and freaked out over something unfeeling I said or did in high school, for crying out loud! (I actually apologized one of the times this happened—and yes, it happens all the time—and the person didn’t even remember it! Thank you very much, Miss Introvert and Perfectionist Self. Sometimes I don’t like you…)

Wow, tangent! Back to the point.

Balance is hard for me. I want to work all the time. Books are my friends. They don’t judge, backstab, or fight like my darling children whom I adore but cannot understand how their screeches can reach such decibels at times. (Or should I say, all the time? Does this happen to anyone else, or is it just me?)

Monday I received a wake-up call from a well-loved resource, K.M. Weiland’s blog. (Here is the link in case you want to read it for yourself: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/protect-creativity/) She experienced burnout this past year, something I am beginning to feel the effects of. And I desperately need to do something about it.

I have already put several things in place to combat this, but I need to up my game. Ensure I can do this for the long haul.

One, I take one rest day a week. Saturday evening to Sunday evening, I can’t be found online. I’m hiding. 😉 No work, nothing. If it involves my business, it sits until 24 hours have passed. God created Sabbath rest for me because He loves me and wants me to enjoy His beautiful world, not keep me from the things I want to do. (Ahem, my work. Because it calls to me. Constantly.)

Two, I try to only work during naptimes, playtimes where my children are engrossed and do not need me, or after they go to bed and I have spent time with my husband. In other words, five minutes a day. (Just kidding!)

Three, I try to take time for me, not just my job. And yes, that’s usually reading a book (though it really should be some form of exercise, right?), but it is something I want to read, not something I have to read. There is such a lovely difference.

So this is me, publisher, editor, author, combating workaholism, perfectionism, and introvertism (Is that even a word? Lol!) to enjoy all God has given me in this precious life. Seize the day, my friend! Follow the lead of the Holy Spirit and make this day the best one yet!

In Him,

Michele Israel Harper

Author, Editor, Publisher

www.L2L2Publishing.com

www.MicheleIsraelHarper.com

 

Bio:

Michele Israel Harper, acquisitions editor of Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing, LLC, is on a mission to discover and publish professional, gripping, and wholesome speculative fiction. Currently obtaining manuscripts for their 2019 production schedule, Michele and her team seek stirring tales from both new and established authors. Her company strives to create an exquisite publishing experience for their authors and to produce quality fiction for their readers.

L2L2 Publishing is a small traditional press, dedicated to clean or Christian speculative fiction. The L2L2 Publishing team tackles every new project with relish, and their goal is an uplifting company where each author, reader, and team member puts others’ needs before their own.

Michele now leads the Heartland Christian Writers’ group and is treasurer for ACFW’s Indiana chapter. Author of Wisdom & Folly: Sisters, Zombie Takeover, and the soon-to-be-released Kill the Beast, Michele prays her involvement in writing, editing, and publishing touches many lives in the years to come.

Visit www.MicheleIsraelHarper.com or www.L2L2Publishing.com if you wish to know more about her.

Confessions of a Music Junkie

by H.A. Titus

Music has always been around me. As a kid, I grew up with the sounds of Petra, Michael W. Smith, DC Talk, the Newsboys, and Steven Curtis Chapman mixing alongside Kansas and Rush. As a teen, I discovered Skillet, Relient K, and Kutless while playing flute in an orchestra and singing in a classical choir. So it’s no surprise that music has played and continues to play a large part in my writing process.

I don’t remember when I first started listening to music as I wrote. I used to listen to it a lot when I was brainstorming or before I wrote certain scenes. I have a very strong memory of being fifteen and listening to a song from the first Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack before writing a pirate scene. I do remember the summer I was seventeen, I received my first laptop and my first mp3 player, and from then on, every time I was writing, my earbuds were glued to my head.

I recently went back through one of my old stories that I wrote as a teenager, HalfBlood, about a guy who became a dragon rider. There are still scenes in that book where I remember exactly what part of The Lord of the Rings soundtracks I was listening to as I wrote them.

In 2013, as I began to seriously revise and worldbuild my very first series, I sometimes found it hard to get into my story. I’d just become a new mom, and every time I snuck away as my newborn was sleeping and sat down at my computer, guilt would start nagging at me. “You should be doing the dishes, not working on a hobby that brings in nothing.” “The apartment’s a mess. Why are you sitting on your butt doing nothing productive?”

Despite my husband’s assurance and support, those voices were loud. So in order to shut them up, I took to blasting music with lyrics in my earbuds. That had some really funny results at first–sometimes I would forget what I was doing and begin writing down the lyrics of the song at first. It definitely took time to get used to writing to music, but after a while I discovered that I could get into a zone where my guilty thoughyts and the music would kind of fade into a background noise, and my brain was free to spill onto the page. It also had an effect I wasn’t anticipating…sometimes, if the scene and the song worked together, it ramped up the emotion in the scene dramatically.

About the same time, I began watching the TV show Supernatural. Not only did it renew my love of classic rock, but I started noticing how the songs would fit with the scenes. Between watching it work on a TV show and watching it work in my own writing, I knew I had to leverage this. I began YouTubing and Googling artists that writing friends suggested, then moving on to the artists suggested by those lovely Internet algorithms once they figured out I loved Audiomachine and Skillet. Nowadays I’m on Spotify, and I often given their suggested playlists at least a onceover, even if it’s not necessarily my genre.

These days, I rarely write without music. One of the first things I do when I begin to brainstorm and plot a story is to build a playlist for it. The playlist, just like the storyline, is allowed to evolve and grow as my vision for the story solidifies. Sometimes I find songs that surprise me–I had no idea I’d be sticking a dubstep song into the classic rock and symphonic metal playlist I’d built for my urban fantasy series, but it just fit. I usually end up with an eclectic mix, some of which reminds me of certain characters or iconic scenes, and some of which just sets the mood for the story, but the playlist generally becomes so necessary that I can’t write without it.

It’s fun to see that other writers occasionally do this as well. During a recent re-read of a Brandon Sanderson novel, I discovered he’d created a playlist for his third Stormlight Archive book. I immediately turned it on as I re-read those novels and enjoyed how well most of the songs fit into his words on the page. There’s just something so cool about snuggling down with a book and a playlist of songs specifically put together for that book–the author’s own personal soundtrack to their story. I love how songs can help set me into the tone and feel of a scene, or how the lyrics can provide an even deeper meaning to a character’s feelings.

As a reader, do you ever listen to authors’ playlists while you read their books?

 

About the Author

H.A. Titus is usually found with her nose in a book or spinning story-worlds in her head. She first fell in love with speculative fiction when she was twelve and her dad handed her The Lord of the Rings. She lives on the shores of Lake Superior with her meteorologist husband and young sons, who do their best to ensure she occasionally emerges into the real world, usually for some kind of adventure. When she’s not writing, she can be found rock-climbing, mountain biking, or skiing. She is the author of the Celtic urban fantasy Forged Steel.

*Website: http://hatitus.com/

*Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HATitusAuthor

*Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hatitus/

*Forged Steel

Goals: November 2017

Another month has come and gone, and I’m standing her with a gaping look on my face. Cause … how? Like WHERE did October go? I vaguely remember something about Fall Break at the beginning of the month, then all of the sudden it was Halloween, and BAAM it’s November.

What happened?

I didn’t even have TIME to accomplish my goals for October. Okay, that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration, but it certainly didn’t feel like I had the time. And the Week of the Flu probably didn’t help either.

Seriously, I did nothing in reference to my goals set in October. I accomplished a lot, just not a lot of what I set forth to accomplish. So, my goals for November will look exactly the same.

 

November Goals

1. Finish 2nd edits on Armor of Aletheia. I was a little late getting the initial edits back to my editor, then she was a little late getting them back to me … And I actually did not even get them until about a week ago. Now I’m scrambling to get those done ASAP. Unfortunately, I have an edit for a client that must get done first. Hopefully that will be done tonight or tomorrow. Must. Do. All. The. Things!

2. Get caught up on marketing plans for AoA. So, in August, I sat down and mapped out the next few months of marketing plans in preparation for the release of AoA. I kept up for about a month … then fell behind. So, now I need to go through and get caught up on some 0f these. I’ve stepped back from some of my responsibilities in other areas in order to make some room in my schedule to do this!

3. I actually did start implementing a new schedule last month, and it seems to be working pretty well. I just need to tweak it a bit and be more consistent with it. The power hours for email and social media in the mornings are nice. Then being able to focus on school/family stuff the rest of the day until work time in the evening seems to work for me. However, we’ve started some new activities that are claiming Wednesday and Thursday nights …

4. I need to drink more water! Not just tea, but water. So, my goal is to drink at least 40 oz. of straight water in addition to my tea. The plan is to drink tea with meals and water in between. We’ll see how that works.

What about YOU? What are your goals for November?

Confessions of a Poop Wrangler

By Bokerah Brumley

 

Sometimes life seems a series of strange and twisty events. It wasn’t that long ago that we were a home-schooling family of seven, living in a rental house in small town, Texas, USA, across the brick street from the Mayor. Then a dream happened …

These days, I wake to roosters crowing before the sun crests the horizon and a flock of free-range turkeys that knock (peck) on the back door—the door nearest my bedroom—while it’s still dark out. On the odd days, when I’m coherent before coffee, I even toss a scoopful of feed to them. They have the sweetest purr-trill when they’re happy. Their enjoyment is my thank you.

I manage a 150-200 animal homestead. The numbers vary with the seasons, births, sales, and butchering. I keep tabs on the health of sheep, goats, livestock guardian dogs, turkeys, peafowl (peacocks), chickens (both broiler/meat and layer/egg), ducks, cats, and quail. We both want to work from a backyard office in our own version of a self-sustaining Eden. So far, it’s been a twenty-four month crash course of information until our eyes bulged with details.

As one would imagine, a big portion of our time is spent managing the waste of 150-200 animals. That part is not quite as glamorous as the last three paragraphs probably seem. I never post pictures of the mountains of excrement the creatures leave behind them or how we use the manure as we repair our depleted soil and “grow dirt.” I save the sharing for the tomatoes or kale we manage to grow because of it. In essence, some day, we’ll be professional poop wranglers, king and queen of a system where all waste is utilized in the production of something else, something useful.

 

It’s not been easy.

Through mistakes, I’ve learned that goats need copper and how to gauge parasite loads in them by how pink their eyelids are. I’ve learned the best way to tame a herd of wild, deer-like sheep is to pray twins on the ewes then take one of the babies. The whole herd now comes closer because I’m just another mama in the fold. I’ve learned how to butcher poultry, and I’ve grown confident enough in it that I know I can stock our freezer with food to eat, if our need calls for it. I’ve learned how to put chickens to work for me instead of against me. Now they scratch and prepare next year’s garden beds.

In the past two years, I’ve also learned some harsher truths that grow fruit in the other parts of our lives. I’ve held newly hatched quail babies in the palm of my hand as they’ve breathed their last. I’ve lost lambs to opportunistic coyotes, and I’ve had to make the heart-breaking choice to end the suffering of creatures in my care.

But my bottle babies still call for me when they see me trudging across the fields, hiding my weary tears from my children. Sweet Pea, Mountain Girl, and Butterscotch still follow me as though I’m the best thing they’ve seen all day.

I always watch the next sunrise. Then the goat nannies surprise me with triplets on a day that’s not circled on the calendar or the skittish ewe finally eats from my hand. Life can be unyielding, and unhappy things are often unwanted guests. Breathe through the hard. Plant again and again; something will bloom.

No matter how many times failure comes to visit, we get up, dust off, and try once more. 

The big picture isn’t shattered if a “no” or a “not yet” comes around for a time. Gentle hands turn wild things into four-legged friends, and treats make a difference. Persistence always pays off.

In the end, we keep on. It’s our dream. We’ve been gifted the opportunity to build it.

 

Poop Wrangler Funnies

 

Some of the weirdest things that I’ve said… 

“Do you think I could put the goat in a baby carrier? Would the organizers mind? I could pretend it’s cosplay.” 

“Don’t pee on the chickens.”

 

 

About the Author:

Bokerah Brumley is a speculative fiction writer making stuff up on a trampoline in West Texas. When she’s not playing with the quirky characters in her head, she’s addicted to Twitter pitch events, writing contests, and social media in general. She lives on ten permaculture acres with five home-educated children and one husband. In her imaginary spare time, she also serves as the blue-haired President of the Cisco Writers Club. 

In 2016, she was awarded first place in the FenCon Short Story Contest, third place in the Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest, fifth place in the Children’s/Young Adult category for the 85th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, and selected as a 2016 Pitch Slam! finalist. More recently, she accepted novel contracts with Clean Reads Press and Liberty Island Media. She also moonlights as an acquisitions editor for The Crossover Alliance. Follow her farm tales on Instagram.

 

Confessions of a Geyser Hunter

by Grace Bridges

 

There’s a city in New Zealand, where my father was born, where as a child he bathed in backyard thermal springs and steaming ponds in the public park. These days I live a few hours away. Imagine if you will, after a short roadtrip, cresting the rim of a caldera and coming face to face with a crater lake containing an island formed by later eruptions. Imagine descending to the town at the lakeside and blinking at steam that rises from the roadside drains and gardens. Imagine wandering a path by a boiling stream that leads to a grey pumice beach; dig your toes into the rough sand, encountering hot water that surges from just below. Imagine sleeping on grass warmed by thermal currents underneath it, to the lullaby of a blubbering mudpool. Imagine the inescapable scent of minerals weighing down the air. This is Rotorua. And this is why its utter strangeness has captivated me since I was small.

My country is full of thermal excitement, from the hot crater lake on top of snowy Mt. Ruapehu to the Coromandel beach where one is well advised to bring a spade and settle into a warmed sandhole for the day; from the Waiwera spa near my home, to Lake Taupo’s huge crater and nearby geothermal power plants. But nowhere is it so concentrated as Rotorua. Springs bubble all around its lake, on its island, through the suburbs, pockmarking Kuirau Park by the hospital, appearing and disappearing in yards and streets and concrete alleys. Several of the geysers are reliable, shooting off every hour or so – others erupt from the lake’s edge to frighten nearby residents with towering fountains at uncanny hours. Sometimes a hotspot in the park explodes, splattering the vicinity with ashy mud. Locals brag of boiling an egg in thirty seconds, when lowered into certain springs. Not far out of town there are strings of thermal arenas with jewel-coloured pools, self-combusting stones, pathways warmed not by the sun. Hot rivers, secret swimming holes in deep forest, myths and legends surrounding the spirits who watch over the springs.

I suppose it was inevitable that all of this should lead me one day to create a story where these thermal forces, these spirit guardians, bestow supernatural powers on certain humans when they come into contact with mineral-laden waters, gases, or mud. Each spring with its own unseen creature and its own flavour of gift for the initially clueless human. I took all of the most mysterious, most fascinating facets of Rotorua and made them into the story that I wanted to read. As someone said to me while I was working on it, the setting was totally begging for a superhero tale. Not of the usual kind; here we have no capes, no flying or immense strength, but a gentler kind of natural gift that helps our heroes use their minds more fully, connecting with nature, with the earth they live on.

When I had written three local stories for my gang of unlikely worldchangers, my thoughts turned to what else they could do. The answer was right in front of me: there are geothermal hotspots all over the world, along with volcanic and seismic action, all things now linked to the spirit world in my stories. The Pacific Ring of Fire, of which we are a part, where new islands even now rise from the sea as bare black lava. Tonga. Hawaii. Iceland. Italy. Yellowstone.

And thus I became a geyser hunter. It was Yellowstone that proved the next most attainable goal. I wanted to see how America’s primary thermal area compares to Rotorua, which I know so well. A few days was all we could manage; we signed up for bus tours, because we had no clue what to see and wanted to trust some expert guidance. I knew it would be different, but just how different…

Yellowstone blew me away. Not literally, thank goodness. But where we in New Zealand have planted a myriad of towns and cities over our live thermals, Yellowstone is empty of civilisation except for tourists and those who provide for them. Vast wild hills threaded through with only occasional roads; strict instructions not to touch the thermal waters. Some of the sights reminded me of home, like the coloured pools and terraces, the geysers and steaming rivers. Other times, it was all I could do not to let my mouth hang open, such as at the incredible Mammoth Terrace site – the biggest single thermal feature I’ve ever laid eyes on, dwarfing man and beast alike and set in a mind-boggling mountain gorge.

Wyoming’s thermal features are more dangerous than ours, which our people have used for centuries to bathe, to cook, to heal. Eruptions and earthquakes are the actual danger rather than the springs in most cases. The caldera in Rotorua is about one-third as big as Yellowstone’s rim, and Taupo two-thirds, although the active area is comparable in size, spanning from the mountains south of Taupo all the way up to Tauranga, Miranda and Ngaruawahia. Each caldera could erupt again at any time. Ours are smaller, but then, they say they heard it in China when Taupo went off.

They’re all only dormant, these volcanoes and faultlines of ours around the world. A perfect illustration of the fragility of life and just how dependent we are on their continued silence – but also a source for imagination. If the forces in the earth have such powerful physical effects on the land, why couldn’t the same be true for people?

I have many more geysers to hunt down and write about, all around the world. But for now, I’ll visit Rotorua again, imbibe its unique thermal urban atmosphere, and dream of the gifts that minerals might bestow.

Links & files:

Earthcore: Initiation (free story with video): http://www.gracebridges.kiwi/fiction/earthcore-initiation

Rotorua slideshow embed code:

Geyserlands

 

About the Author

Grace Bridges is not only a geyser hunter, but a semi-professional cat herder and kitten adoption facilitator. Indie publishing and freelance editing have been her focus for the past ten years, including 40+ titles in her Splashdown Books brand. She has written several novels in space opera, Irish cyberpunk, and in 2017 the EARTHCORE science mythology YA series set in New Zealand. Her short stories and non-fiction appear in various anthologies and online magazines. See www.gracebridges.kiwi for more information.

 

Confessions of a Lovelorn Romantic Novelist

by Kristen Stieffel

 

In the 1984 film Romancing the Stone, mousy Joan Wilder braves the jungles of Colombia to help her sister. After a bus wreck, she meets adventurer Jack T. Colton and introduces herself as a romance novelist. Later, when the villains come for her, he says, “Romantic novelist my —”

As much as I’d like to give the whole quote, Ralene runs a clean blog here.

The point is, without my intending to, I seem to always wind up writing romantic stories. I may start out with a science fiction idea or a fantasy idea, but the romance always winds up in there. One time I got an idea for a story that was just pure historical romance, and after I sketched out the plot, Jack T. Colton’s voice rang in my head. I never actually wrote that story. Still have the synopsis, though.

The romance in my first published novel, Alara’s Call, is one of my favorites. Alara and Dorrel are friends as well as sweethearts, and their relationship is built on mutual respect as well as affection.

I once wrote a novel that, for all I tried to make it science fiction or women’s fiction or something else, is honestly just a straight-up contemporary romance. It even won first place in the Inspirational Romance Unpublished category at the Florida Writers Association’s Royal Palm Literary awards.

“Hi, I’m Kristen, and I’m a romantic novelist.”

Hi, Kristen.

The crazy thing is, while I was doing all this romantic novel-writing, my marriage completely fell apart. My second marriage.

So now I’m trying to reconcile myself to the cognitive dissonance of being a romantic novelist who has two failed marriages on her resume. I’m not here to point fingers at my exes or dissect why my marriages failed—if I did, we’d be here all day. Besides, that’s what I pay my counselor for.

I told her I felt like a failure at marriage. She asked me to reflect on why I feel that way. I still haven’t come up with a solid answer. I mean, I did all the things I knew to do. I read the books and followed the advice and still came up short. But ultimately, what it really comes down to is that I somehow know how to craft lovely relationships in books, but I don’t know how to craft them in real life.

When I was trying to decide whether to leave my second husband, a friend who had an up close and personal view of our marriage was helping me talk it through, and at one point she said, “You’re young. You could marry again.”

I’m not sure I want to. I’m not sure I should. Because even though I could technically wear the label “award-winning romance novelist,” I’m apparently really lousy at the whole marriage thing.

One of the last things my second husband said to me before I moved out was, regarding our dysfunction, that “we will always be this way.”

I had no words for that.

Later—don’t you hate that it’s always later you think of the right thing to say?—I realized I should have said, Speak for yourself.

I don’t want to always be that way. I don’t want to shrug off my dysfunction as if it were an inescapable part of my personality. I want to overcome it. I want to improve in relationships.

Maybe, by experimenting on paper to see what functional relationships look like, I can get better at relationships in the real world.

 

Bio:

Kristen Stieffel is a freelance editor specializing in science fiction and fantasy and is associate editor of Havok, a flash fiction magazine focused on the speculative genres. She provides a full range of editorial services and has worked on all sorts of projects, but she is a novelist at heart. Her first novel, Alara’s Call, comes out September 19. Kristen is a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association and Christian Editor Connection and is a Word Weavers International mentor. Website: kristenstieffel.com.

Confessions of a Bridesmaid Author

The dream to be published is at the heart of most writers in their journey. But what happens when everyone around you sees their dream come true, and you’re still waiting for the right opportunity to come along?

I’m Jason, and sometimes I feel like the bridesmaid, but never the bride. I’ve been writing for over ten years building toward publishing, and I’ve been really serious for the last five years. There are so many awesome people in the writing community. It has been a joy to share stories, laughter, and sadness with my fellow authors on this road.

Many times I’ve been able to rejoice with a friend when they get a publishing contract. It has been a privilege to be part of a launch team for others when they release their books. I’ve seen a lot of dreams happen during this time.

But a thought dogs me at times. Like a stalker at night, it sneaks around and waits for the moment to strike. It hits when I’m vulnerable. Maybe I’m tired. Or it’s another rejection. Perhaps I’m stuck on a passage and I can’t see my way through. That’s when this dark thought tries to break in.

When is it going to be your turn? Maybe you’re just not good enough for this. Who wants to read what you write?

I hate it when that thought tries to worm its way in. It tries to steal the joy I have for friends who are having success with their writing. Sometimes it is a challenge though. Will I ever experience the excitement of a book contract? Will I have the satisfaction of seeing my worlds and characters in the hands of new readers?

What do I do then?

In my journey, I’ve learned the best thing I can is double-down. I do this in two ways.

First, I remember that my stories won’t write themselves. Even with all the awesome stories out there, no one will write this story, because it needs me and my experiences. King, Koontz, Sanderson, or Dekker can’t do it. It takes me.

Secondly, and more importantly, I look for ways to serve. I get back to helping my writer friends. Whether it’s supporting a friend in their book launch, or giving critique or advice for someone behind me in the journey, it makes a huge change in my attitude if I can get my eyes off of me.

Many people have helped me along the way. When it’s my turn, I’ll need even more assistance. But even if I don’t make it to my ultimate destination, I’m a part of everyone else I help. The attitude of helping others lets me share in the joy, and realize we’re all in this together.

 

Author Bio:

Jason is a physician assistant working in the high desert of Idaho. When he’s not treating patients, he loves telling stories that encourage the heroic in all of us. He’s been published in the Splickety group of flash fiction magazines, but he’s looking for a home for his novels. When he’s not writing, he enjoys sports, bacon, and hanging out with his family. He may have watched Star Wars one too many times. And he isn’t sure why he’s using the third person right now…

Find Jason:

www.jasoncjoyner.com/blog
Twitter – @JasonCJoyner
Facebook – @jasoncjoyner
Instagram – @jasoncjoyner

Confessions of a Master Perfectionist

by Zachary Totah

 

Everything has to be right. Better yet, perfect.

Or else panic, chaos, the end of the world.

Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration (emphasis on “slight”), but so much of the time it seems all too true.

Welcome to the life of a perfectionist.

Did you know Perfectionism is one of the leading diseases afflicting otherwise healthy humans? It afflicts young and old, male and female.

I fell prey to perfectionism at a young age. Through my formative years and now into young adulthood, I’ve become a master at demanding nothing less than the absolute best. Which leads me to today’s confession.

 

Pains of Perfectionism

Usually when somebody says they’ve mastered a skill, we consider that a good thing. After all, deep down I think we’re all jealous of the “masters” (Paula Deen, Gandalf, Yoda). However, when I say I’m a Master Perfectionist, it’s not really a badge of honor.

Let’s face it. Perfectionism is a bane on productivity, happiness, and most other useful things in life.

Sure, aspects of it can be helpful. For example, my perfectionism means I have a high attention to detail and am inclined to focus on quality. If you’re a fellow perfectionist, try nurturing those habits without letting the Big Bad Beast gain the upper hand. We know it’s there, lurking, eager to undermine our goals.

I’ve struggled with this in many areas. As a writer, I’m always comparing myself to other (and, without fail, more successful) writers, thinking I’ll never live up to the required standards, viewing my work through a lens tainted by the persistent demands of perfectionism.

It’ll never be good enough. Why would anyone want to read my work?

So the thought process goes.

Another huge problem with letting our perfectionism rule our lives is that it erodes our willingness to take risks, try new things, and get outside our comfort zones.

I present to you Exhibit A: my blog.

As a writer, I knew I wanted to start a blog to build an audience (because of course I needed a way to become a wildly successful author *cough* idealist *cough*). I’m going to be frank. I waited WAY too long to start that puppy. I researched, read other blogs, scoured the internet for options and choices.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

It took me two years to start. Even though when I finally began I felt more equipped to launch into the blogging world, that was two years I could have spent actually writing, learning, improving, building my audience.

Lesson learned.

If you find yourself nodding and thinking, “That sounds like me!” here’s some chocolate.

In all seriousness, I get it. I’ve been down the path more times than I care to remember. And the thing is, when you let perfectionism run wild, what happens to the opportunities that come your way, the hopes you have, the dreams you want to chase?

Chance after chance passes by because it’s not the perfect fit.

Hopes become jaded because your expectations are set too high.

And the dreams—they slowly die. Because with perfectionism whispering in your ear, telling you it’s never good enough, you never start chasing those dreams.

It’s all too impossible and big and scary. What if you fail?

 

Should We Fear Failure?

So many times, I’ve let that fear be the driving factor behind decisions I make. Fear of failure and perfectionism go hand-in-hand. We don’t want to fail, so we try to be perfect. At the end of the day, such thinking doesn’t get us anywhere. It’s like planning the perfect vacation (touring Europe, anyone?) and then never leaving because what if things go wrong?

That’s my default mindset, and it’s crippling.

I love how Seth Godin puts it:

If failure isn’t an option, then neither is success.

Think about that. You can’t succeed unless you’re willing to accept failure at some level. Which means we need to face this beast called perfectionism.

All too often, conquering it seems like an impossible mountain to scale. Mount Doom perched atop Mount Everest…on the moon. As I said, I’ve found perfectionism crippling. I don’t take risks, pursue potential opportunities, or follow my dreams as well as I could.

Let’s flip the situation around. Instead of considering the problems, focus on the possibilities. What would happen if you pushed aside your perfectionist tendencies and went for it, whatever “it” is for you?

Would you trip up? Yep.

Would everything go according to plan? Nope.

Would you learn and grow and do things instead of living in a try-to-be-perfect but boring bubble? You can count on it.

 

To all my fellow perfectionists out there…

Try new things.

Take risks.

Get messy.

Learn from your mistakes.

And most importantly, don’t let perfectionism keep you from following dreams.

 

Author Bio:

I wear many creative hats, one of which is to write speculative fiction stories. This allows me to roam through my imagination, where I have illegal amounts of fun creating worlds and characters to populate them. When I’m not busy with a thousand and one responsibilities, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, digging into a good book, and watching movies.

I live in Colorado and don’t drink coffee. The two aren’t related.

I love connecting with other readers and writers, so don’t be shy. I keep my superpowers in check. Promise.

Links

Website

Facebook

Twitter

 

 

 

Confessions of a Quilter Who Also Writes

by Pam Halter

I started quilting before I began writing. Both activities give me a creative outlet, but I have to admit, designing and sewing a quilt is much faster than writing a novel. I also write and have published picture books. They’re fairly fast to write, although can be tricky to revise.

I confess there are times when I enjoy quilting more than writing. Writing novels is hard work! Let’s break it down and compare:

TIME

Sure, there are folks who can hammer out a novel in a month, and maybe I could, too. Except then there’s the revisions, which can take the better part of a year. And rightly so. It takes time to know a real person when you first meet them, right? Same thing for your characters. Not so much with a quilt. The quilt I made that took the longest was the labyrinth quilt I made for a friend. I researched designs online, found one that was doable for a quilt, copied it on graph paper and started cutting squares. It ended up taking 10 yards of fabric, all in 3 inch squares. Then I had to sew them together! I sewed every day for about 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, for a solid 3 months! It ended up a king sized quilt, but it was fabulous! I also had researched labyrinths and their purpose. The center is called The Rose, so I put fabric with roses on it in the middle.

My fantasy novel, which will be coming out late next year, took me a good 10 years to write and revise, as I was learning about novel writing. I’m a picture book author! Writing novels is waaaay different. I’m sure the next novel will take less time.

PLOT

As you can tell from the labyrinth quilt, I like to plan and design most of my quilts, although it depends on what’s needed. And like the plot for a novel, things have to come together to make a pleasing design. One of my strengths in quilting is taking fabric that doesn’t seem like it goes together and finding a way to make it work. Plotting a novel is just like that – but it takes a lot longer. Still, it’s so satisfying when it happens! It comes down to what the quilt/story requires. Sometimes, a quilt requires a specific design and detail. Sometimes, it’s as simple as using a panel. And sometimes, it comes down to a delightful surprise. Like the Halloween quilts I make. I love quilting a spider web (free hand) over the quilt design. It shows up great on the black back of the quilt because I use white thread. So much fun! Stories need that, as well, but usually, it isn’t so easy to plan.

CHARACTERS

When I’m piecing a quilt together, it’s important for the fabric to be, at least, compatible. If I’m using fabric that has patterns or designs on it, they shouldn’t clash. If they do, and I’m determined to use them, I need to find fabric that joins them together in a pleasing way. And I’m even happier if it’s unexpected, but beautiful. Same thing when creating characters in a story. And just like a story has main characters, secondary characters, and cameos, I can do the same thing with fabric. Light, dark, designs, contrast. Squares, triangles, rectangles. Top stitching, appliqué, tie it off. Baby quilts, twin, double, queen, king. So much to choose from! My favorite size is what I call Back-of-the-Couch. It’s about 2 yards long and 45″ wide. Perfect for the back of your couch or recliner.

KNOWING YOUR AUDIENCE

Just like knowing and understanding the readers we write for, I also need to know my “audience” when I’m quilting. Well, most of the time, anyway. I pray as I sew. Each quilt I make is prayed over. If I know the person I’m sewing for, I can pray more specifically. If it’s for a fundraiser or someone hires me to sew a gift, I still pray. I’ve been told people can tell when they’re under one of my quilts. They feel peaceful. Blessed. Comfortable. That makes me ridiculously happy. When one of my best friend’s husband was dying from cancer last year, she told me he could only rest peacefully when covered by the quilt I made him. Yeah. I cried.

 

All this to say, it typically takes less time to design and sew a quilt than to write a novel and I confess I sometimes wonder if I should stop writing. But I get joy and satisfaction from both. And I believe quilting only serves to help my writing and writing helps me create more interesting quilts. So, I’ll still do both.

Any other fellow quilters out there?

 

About the Author:

Pam Halter was a home-schooling mom for nine years and has been a children’s book author since 1995. Her latest picture book, Willoughby and the Terribly Itchy Itch, released in March through Fruitbearer Publishing.

Pam is a freelance editor and the children’s book editor for Fruitbearer Kids. She was selected to attend the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop for Fantasy, May 2010, won Writer of the Year at the Philly conference in 2014, and Reader’s Choice for her short story at the Realm Makers conference, 2015. She’s in contract negotiations right now for a YA fantasy novel, and is waiting not so patiently to announce it to the world!

Pam lives in the farmlands of Southern New Jersey with her husband, special needs adult daughter, mother-in-law, and 2 crazy grandcats while her youngest daughter is traveling the country with the New Life Drama Company. She enjoys quilting, gardening, cooking, canning, crafting, playing the piano, theatre, Bible study, and looking for evidence of fairies.

www.pamhalter.com

Confessions from a Fictional (yes, you read that correctly) Author

by Serena Chase

 

My name is Serena Chase and I am not a real person.

I am an invention. A pen name. The secret identity of an author who, for reasons ranging from personal safety—due to a scary series of incidents—to shelf placement, chose not to associate her real name with her public career. But even though I’ve—no, she’s—ahem, we’ve coexisted for a long time now, it sometimes gets confusing. For both us.

More for her than me, probably.

Like now, when I realize I’m talking about the true me—the Social Security Number-bearing individual, the real me, the one responsible for the creation of “Serena Chase” and her associated products—in the third person.

Oh, boy.

When I (the real me) first made the decision to safeguard my work by writing under a pseudonym, I was revising my first two novels, The Ryn and The Remedy while blogging regularly for a popular Christian fiction blog . . . which soon led to becoming a regular freelance contributor to a USA Today blog. “Serena Chase” was gaining momentum, fast—not as an author of fiction, unfortunately, but as an influencer on behalf of other inspirational and YA fiction authors. (Ah, but that’s another “confessions” post.) The career wheels were turning, but it was becoming questionable as to whether I could keep both the pen name and my sanity. Every time I signed a blog post or an email with my pseudonym, I obsessively struggled with the idea that I was a BIG. FAT. LIAR.

Long had I bemoaned the absence of authenticity and vulnerability within the Christian community, but here I was, forming professional and personal relationships within the publishing world under an assumed name and, to some extent, personality. Through those early years, some of the authors I met became dear friends to whom I eventually stuttered through a pen name confession, but all the while, my natural leanings toward anxiety and depression screamed, “Liar!” like Miracle Max’s wife in The Princess Bride.

One moment I would be writing a draft of the apology post that would reveal my real name . . . and the next I would be deleting it, paralyzed with fear that the nasty people responsible for me actually considering a pen name in the first place would discover my secret and cause more damage.

I sought council from those who knew me by my “real name” and were aware of my situation. As a rule, the writers in that small circle saw the pseudonym as a career necessity, not a moral dilemma. My non-writing friends, however, while expressing understanding for why it felt necessary to me, either shrugged off or added to my fears and/or my feelings of being a liar. I was at a moral, philosophical, and business impasse.

Was my struggle, as one friend suggested, only a symptom of an overweening pride that wanted to claim the words I wrote under the name that was truly mine? Or, as another friend offered, was I a slave to fear, not trusting God with my family’s safety? Was I making a mountain out of a molehill? Was having a pen name a lie, and therefore sin? Or was it a solid business decision? Was it right? Wrong? A gray area?

It went on like that for a long time. I obsessed. I prayed. I cried. I hated myself for all of it. I hated “Serena Chase” for being cooler than me. I couldn’t sleep. When I could, I woke up in the middle of the night with panic attacks. I was a mess.

Sometime around the release of my third novel The Seahorse Legacy, however, there was a shift in my thinking. During a conversation with another author, we spoke about a newly released book, both us referring to it as an addition to “The (insert Famous Author Name) Brand.”

In the context of our conversation, we did not necessarily discuss the merits of the work produced. We spoke of a business model, a strategic campaign. Yes, it was Famous Author’s name—her real name, as far as I know—but we were not discussing it as a part of her human identity; we spoke of The Famous Author Name Brand as exactly that: a brand—a label attached to a specific collection of intellectual property and all connected marketing efforts.

It got me thinking . . .

As authors, we are told to “build your brand” and to “be brand-consistent across all platforms.” Could the “brand” concept justify the existence and proliferation of “Serena Chase” in the moral center of my mind? Instead of “Serena Chase” being the “big fat lie” I’d been losing sleep over, was she—er, it—, instead, a brand under which my creative intellectual property could safely reside?

Yes.  Yes, she—it—could.

It was a life-changing revelation.

Yes, it is still awkward sometimes, operating under one name in “real life” while using an entirely different identity when I need to be the human representation of “The Serena Chase Brand” online or at an event. Sometimes, I talk about myself in the third person and it weirds people out (including me, to be honest!) Sometimes, my worlds collide. Sometimes, it’s embarrassing. Sometimes, it’s scary. Sometimes, I just need more coffee so I can remember which name I’m using that day (*winks at Ronie Kendig.*)

But most of the time . . . I’m okay with it. I’m okay with building The Serena Chase Brand and representing it in the flesh when necessary.

Sure, sometimes I wish I could move far away from my hometown and legally change my name to “Serena Chase” because it would make life easier. I’ve realized I often feel more comfortable operating under my brand identity than the one I was born+married into.

Is that weird? Yeah, that’s probably pretty weird. Ah, well. Another confession for another day.

What do you think about the use of pen names?

 

Author Bio:

SERENA CHASE is the (pseudonymous) author of the critically-acclaimed Eyes of E’veria epic fantasy series and Intermission, a contemporary young adult romance. She believes readers expect a novel to be an immersive entertainment experience and seeks to provide that experience through her stories. When not writing, she can often be found assisting other authors with manuscript critique and marketing copy creation through her business, Reviewer’s Eye View, or teaching workshops on the art of crafting immersive, entertaining fiction. Connect with Serena on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and through her website and newsletter.