I’m not shy with my world views. Check my Twitter feed and you’ll see what I mean. As such, 2018 has been a hard year. The attacks on our environment, on people and our communities, they drain me. Looking through the wide-angle lens, it’s been a hard year to be empathetic and yet feel powerless. There have been a few brilliant wins, but so many losses.
Zooming in to a personal level, we’re privileged to have enjoyed many successes among the challenges. I’m writing this recap of the year because it isn’t easy for me to look past the things I didn’t do and shine a light on the things I achieved. I’d like to start a tradition–just for me–of stepping into the new year focused on what I accomplished, rather than what I didn’t finish. So here we go.
Though 2018 was supposed to be my year of fiction writing, I published more non-fiction articles for the welding industry than any previous year. In fact, in 2018 I published more pieces than the last three years combined, and all of my business revenue came from writing. I guess that makes me a professional writer, yeah? 😎
I’ve interviewed company CEOs, YouTube celebrities, and entrepreneurs who are building their dreams. I love meeting these wonderful people and telling their stories. An article I wrote about the basics of welding was named to the top 5 most read content of 2017 for The Fabricator website. A first for me. In another first, two different articles were published internationally, and one of those stories was published in three different magazines. This year I’ve enjoyed a lot of success with my copywriting.
On the fiction side, my brain keeps telling me I’m slacking, which is why this review is important. I’ve actually accomplished a decent amount this year. I’ve written and submitted five stories, two of which were short stories for anthologies. Neither were accepted, but I can honestly say that I know why, and I’m a better writer for it. Later in the year I submitted the longer of those two stories, Truth Revolution, to a writer’s workshop at WindyCon. More about that in a bit.
Three of those stories were flash pieces for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction contest that I like to compete in every year. My genres so far have been romance, drama, and suspense. I say so far, because I still have a day before I find out if I made it into the final round. (Fingers crossed!)
The story currently under consideration is a suspense story set in an actor’s dressing room. I wrote this one while at a convention and I have pretty high hopes for it. Of the three flash pieces, the drama story is closest to my heart. The point of view character is a senior woman dealing with dementia. I used to work with seniors in this situation, so this one fits the writer’s adage of “write what you know.” The necessary Guest came in 2nd place for that round. I’m looking forward to getting them all published, but this one specifically.
Many people ask, “How’s the book going?” I finished a polished draft in August. The current working title is Unraveled: Book One of the Vargen Chronicles. I submitted a query letter and the first five pages to an online contest called Pitch Wars. Authors chosen from this submission package are mentored for two months by professionals in the book world to polish the manuscript and query package to submit to agents.
I wasn’t chosen. In fact, I didn’t get a single request for the full manuscript.
Yeah, so where’s the positivity in that? I FINISHED THE BOOK.
After three years of world building, and revising, and whining, and hard work, the Pitch Wars deadline gave me a fixed time I had to finish by. There were days I wrote more than 5,000 words– proving to myself that I’m capable of that. While I would have loved to secure a mentor, I knew I just needed a deadline, and damn it I met it. And in the process, I found out what it feels like to be my version of a ‘real writer’. (Don’t look too closely at that. We all have our self-doubts. Remember that “professional writer” comment above?)
So where is the book now? Back in revisions. After the rush of Pitch Wars, I had to catch up on other work. I set aside the book to let it “rest,” a common idea for both writers and cooks. The announcement of winning mentees was in mid-October, and I had to set it aside until then. When September went by and none of my four chosen mentors had requested the full manuscript, I knew I wasn’t going to be chosen. But life was full, and I was riding the idea of being DONE.
I rode that high a little too long. 🙂 Then one night in November, I had an epiphany. I was trying to fall asleep, but my brain was rambling as usual. Then WHAM! I had an idea. I pondered that “What if…” for a bit, then had to get up and write it down. That idea has since reshaped the book. I’m working through plotting out the changes which I believe will fix my concerns with the story. I’m excited about the big change and all that it represents, even though it means I’ll have to rewrite many scenes and revise 90% of the book.
Welcome to the writer’s life. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Speaking of the writer’s life, my version includes conventions, traveling, and of course meeting other authors. We tried out a new convention at the end of June. Steve and I drove down to Chattanooga, Tennessee for LibertyCon, a smallish science fiction convention with an author’s track. Overall it was a good con, but as two progressives amongst mostly conservatives, there were a few times we felt of place. Any other year this wouldn’t even be noticed, but times are difficult.
In August we made our annual trip to GenCon in Indianapolis. This year I volunteered with the Writer’s Symposium. I had a blast seeing the inner workings of that part of the con. What a great group of people. As always, the seminars and workshops were interesting, and useful to people at every level of writing. I always recommend GenCon and the Writer’s Symposium.
Steve had to travel for work to Mississauga, Canada in September and I went along. Mostly I stayed in the hotel and wrote while he worked. I love Canada, and it was great just being there. It’s so much easier being gluten-free there.
Last month we tried another new convention. WindyCon is a smallish science fiction and writer’s convention in Chicago, practically in our back yard. Again, the networking was excellent. I love the smaller cons for this. They offered a writer’s workshop for a small cost. I would go back next year just for this, but the whole con was good. The month before, I sent my short story, Truth Revolution to the organizer. I revised it since the beginning of the year, but I knew it still wasn’t “done” so I used it as my workshop story.
That Saturday morning me and two other writers met with 3 industry professionals and an awesome moderator to go over our stories. Each of us writers got to share our feedback of the others’ work as well as receive feedback from all present. It was a great learning experience and the feedback I received on my story was very encouraging.
Well… except for the one person who told me I know nothing of grammar and my very first task after the con was to go buy a grammar book published between 1965-75 and learn how to construct sentences. At first, I was completely shaken because I’ve always considered myself a bit of a grammar nerd. But by the time she was done speaking, I realized that, though my piece wasn’t perfect, she had more issue with my STYLE of writing. I asked an editor on the panel if my assumption was correct, and overall, he agreed. **whew!** It was a great reminder of how speculative art can be and how our backgrounds inform our opinions. I still have to polish the piece before I submit for publishing, but I think it will do well.
Our next trip will be back home to Michigan in January to celebrate a late holiday with family before attending a convention in Dearborn. We’ve been to ConFusion once before and it was excellent. I’m looking forward to it.
Health and Personal Notes
I started 2018 in so much pain I couldn’t sit at my desk to write. I’ve suffered from back and neck issues for years, but November 2017 started something new. By mid-December last year, I couldn’t type, sit at my desk, or sleep in my bed. It took three months of pain medication and physical therapy before I could do those things again. By March 2018 I was still seeing doctors about it, but luckily the neurosurgeon ruled out surgery.
I still have bad days where I can’t be at my desk long. The pets join me in the library on those days where I relax in the recliner with my Macbook. On a good note, I learned how to use dictation software, and when it benefits me most–usually for non-creative writing. I also learned different ways to stretch and manipulate my joints when the pain gets bad. Of course, I should be doing stretches and such every day, but damn do I find keeping a schedule hard to do. 🙂
On a personal note, this year is the 5th Anniversary. Of what? Two things actually. Five years ago, on October 13th, I married my soul-mate, constant companion, and love of my life. We’re still very much in love, and we support each other in the best ways. (Ok, we also enable each other in some of our bad habits, but all the best friends do, amiright?)
December 20th celebrates the 5th anniversary of my business. The focus has changed over the years, but it’s still going strong. I incorporated my business on my dad’s birthday in 2013. He’d be 78 this year but we lost him three years ago. I miss him. He always told me to chase my dreams. To be who I want. Hey Dad, I listened. <3
What does the future hold? Submitting, publishing, and lots of writing. Plans include finishing revisions on Vargen One and getting an agent to sell the series. I’ll be working to get several of my flash pieces published in magazines. My plans also include publishing more blog posts, but they’ll be a bit shorter. 🙂 I started drafting a new space opera book this fall. I’d like to finish that and plot out the rest of the Vargen Chronicles. There is so much I want to accomplish next year. I’m working on a specific plan to achieve these goals.
I’ve always had more than one hobby, and this year I focused on painting, jewelry-making, and collecting fountain pens. I finished several paintings and was brave enough to share a few on social media. I really enjoy painting. Neither painting nor jewelry-making are easy on my back or shoulders, but jewelry making is the hardest. It is very detailed work and puts a lot of strain on my neck looking down all the time. I can’t do it for long periods at a time, but I do enjoy it.
Fountain pens have become my guilty pleasure. Writing long hand with a beautiful pen with a wide nib and snazzy ink is a lovely experience. I now own a couple very special pens, have found a pen store within driving distance, and even featured pens in one of my stories. I write stories on my Mac, and probably always will, but journaling is usually long-hand.
For the rest of 2018 I’ll be making plans, finishing a few projects—including site updates, writing two short stories for anthologies, and spending time with family. I hope your year has been full of blessings, and the new year holds many more successes, a lot of love, and much joy. Happy Holidays.