Staying organized (and nostalgic)

I used to blog a lot more than I do now — I blame Twitter, of course.  It’s easy to jot down a quick message in 140 characters, and then I hate to repeat myself here:  it’s a bit redundant.  But today I was flipping through my first blog, Web Petals, which I started writing waaaay back in 2003.  Remember Livejournal?  I mean, Livejournal still exists and plenty of folks use it, but it’s been a while for me — and I’d forgotten some of the features I loved.  Like those fun icons that would go with my posts.  Here are some of my favorites that were always showing up at the blog.  Some of them I made, others I picked up from sites where designers posted icons for public use.

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Anyway, so there I am feeling nostalgic, and I stumble upon an old post of mine, back from 2009 — a New Year’s resolution. To get more organized.  It made me laugh.

My own organizational skills are notoriously bad. Dreadful. Pathetic. Crummy. Maybe sad. I do, however, have a yearly planner, because there’s too much going on not to make an effort. I make a list of all the things I have to write for the year, and then go through and mark the dates. I’m good at marking dates and making lists. I love lists! So much fun. I feel very productive. Especially when I get to cross something off. Give me a gold star for effort, baby.  Seriously, though — I need whatever structure I can give myself. I write a lot.

Not much has changed. I still love lists.  The difference after all these years, however, is that I’ve learned how not to be overwhelmed by my lists.  You can see above — I’d make lists for THE WHOLE YEAR.  I’d set deadlines for myself that I wouldn’t meet, and then get disheartened.  It was all with good intentions, but it wasn’t actually productive.

Now?  I make teeny bite-sized lists that are all about the present, the immediate future, no more than a week or two out — and it’s all part of a conscious effort to not feel overwhelmed.

This is my calendar (see below).  I’m not showing a page with actual lists because there would be way too many spoilers on it (sorry), but what I love about this calendar (a Lena Corwin Deskpad) is that it allows me to see the full week,  every day, all at once — and the columns aren’t big enough for me to go crazy with too much work.  I keep it small, I keep it essential.  Monday?  Maybe there’s a dentist appointment, an interview, and a certain number of pages I need to write.  Tuesday?  Could be more pages, plus a few emails I need to address.  You get the drift.  A little bit each day.

Some people have digital calendars — that’s cool.  I like writing things down.  Whatever works is fine, but keep it simple, especially if you’re someone who gets overwhelmed (like I do — and it doesn’t take much, trust me).  The hardest part about this job is that as writers we have to stay self-motivated — all the time.  Especially when deadlines are always around the corner.  Organization is part of that process, knowing what needs to be done, and when; trying to manage all the moving parts of being a writer.  I don’t always do a great job with it, but I keep trying to improve — and this calendar and my little teeny manageable lists are part of that.

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Guernica

The poet Lauren K. Alleyne interviewed me for Guernica, some time back in November, and we had a long, lovely conversation about everything from race, romance novels, Marvel, and more.

“I wanted to reverse that and tell a story with five women for every one man, and not comment on it. There’s no virus that eradicated men; the book is just not about them. Instead there are a ton of women running around, ruling the world, making war, having adventures. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but what’s been interesting is seeing how surprised people are at the amount of female representation in the book. I knew there would be some commentary that Monstress has a lot of women—I wasn’t actually being deliberately naïve—but readers have been really taken aback. They keep saying it’s “bold territory” that men aren’t the focal point, and this says to me that the only feminist stories we’ve been able to consume and tell are ones in which the patriarchy is still front and center. What has been made clear to me after seeing the response to Monstress is that we’ve basically accepted this civilizational lie about women that we don’t have agency, that women on average don’t make an impact on the world, that women aren’t really that important. That’s the great lie of patriarchy—and patriarchy won’t accept that the average woman has made this world just as much or more than its greatest men.”


 

Also, Fizzgig is my spirit animal. giphy1

#myfavoritethings: Bunnies + Sharks

I am an absolute professional when it comes to staying comfortable.  My dedication to the art of pajama-wearing is matched only by my rigorous attention to pie, tea, and cat pictures on the internet.

My need for comfort, however, doesn’t end when I take a break from writing, and venture out into the world.  Oh, NO.  I am committed, friends.  Especially when it’s cold out.

Lately, though, I’ve been getting a little bored with my winter sweaters.  Comfortable, yes.  But I’ve been wearing them for the last couple years, and even though they’re perfectly sturdy and warm,  I really needed to liven things up.  Which is why I sort of lost my mind when I found a sweatshirt company in California that makes the MOST comfortable cozies I’ve ever worn — and in the CRAZIEST designs.

Yo, BUNNIES RIDING SHARKS.

Who even comes up with that?  I applaud you, mysterious individual and/or team.  You are a mad genius. I love you forever.

The company is called All Things Fabulous.  They don’t have an online store.  You can scrounge the internet for their cozies (Revolve and Nordstrom have some), or just call their store directly and place an order over the phone. That’s what I did (that sales clerk was heroically patient with me).  I found their Tyrannosaurus Rex sweatshirt online, and one where kittens are riding parrots (yes, that exists, I adore it), and after that the hunt was on.  I am now officially obsessed.

They’re not exactly cheap, but I don’t splurge often — and for a comfort-hermit-writer like me, it’s worth the extra cost to wear a sweatshirt that is covered in BUNNIES RIDING SHARKS.

AHHHHH!

(and Bambi with butterfly wings – AHHHHH!)

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Dirk & Steele

Some months ago, Victoria asked: “Have you stopped writing your Dirk & Steele novels? If not when will the next book be coming out?”

The Dirk & Steele novels, for those unfamiliar with them, are part of a paranormal romance series that I wrote from 2005 to 2011. There are eleven novels total, and they’re about shape-shifters, mermen, psychics, gargoyles, witches — solving crime, falling in love, finding acceptance.  All set in our modern, contemporary world.

I loved writing them. And I would love to say that I haven’t stopped writing them, but the truth is that the publisher wasn’t all that interested in continuing the series.  They wanted me to do something new.  Which was about to happen, back in 2011 or so, but then my life turned topsy-turvy, I quit writing novels for a couple years (burned out, exhausted), and in that intervening time I moved on to other things.

Every now and then I think, “yes, let me return — there are still characters I love, ideas that I never was able to explore,” but realistically, I don’t know if that will happen.  I’m working on a novel, but it’s very different from my other work, partially because I’m different. I’m not the same person I was five or six years ago.  My voice as a writer has changed.  Also, I’m swamped.  I’ve got four different projects I’m working on, all near and dear to my heart. There just isn’t space right now to go back.

Sometimes, as writers, we have to let go — even when there’s unfinished business.  Maybe one day I’ll find the head and heart-space to return to Dirk & Steele, but if I do, I suspect the series will look very different.

Oh, but for fans of the first novel, Tiger Eye, check out the video game that was made, based off the book.  Part 1 is Tiger Eye: Curse of the Riddle Box and Part 2 is Tiger Eye: The Sacrifice.  I know it sounds crazy, but I always forget these exist, so when I do remember I’m very proud of myself for recalling the obvious.

Oh, and years ago Kalman Andrasofszky (we worked together on NYX) created some amazing illustrations for a few of my novels.  Here’s the only one he did for the Dirk & Steele series; specifically, The Fire King.

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One book enters, another must leave.

Right, so here’s a little confession: I’ve been having a really difficult time reading.  It wasn’t something I was entirely conscious of — deep down, it wasn’t even anything I wanted to think about, though I’d sometimes glance at the growing stack of books on the coffee table and think, “Wow, why haven’t I started in on these treasures?”

For me, that’s crazy: my life has always been 70% books, 10% breathing, and 20% some-other-necessary-to-life act — like eating.  But in the last year, I just haven’t read all that much.  That didn’t stop me from buying books, but they sat there like broken promises.

There’s a side story to this. There used to be so many books in our small apartment that we began having trouble walking.  I mean, it’s not like we had actual book tunnels, but we had a book fort — towers of books in deep layers pressed against the bookshelves — books underneath tables, books stacked along the walls, books in the kitchen (there are still books in the kitchen), books stacked against chairs — you get the idea.  Books, everywhere.  For book people, that should have been heaven, but we came back from a two month trip to Japan and couldn’t get our luggage into the living room without causing an actual avalanche that set off a chain reaction book slide that you don’t want to imagine, and that’s when we decided that something had to change.

In one week, we packed fifty boxes of books.  Fifty.  Cleared up the floor, finally saw the walls again, were able to move some chairs — we found ourselves with more square footage, certainly.  And there were still plenty of books in the apartment. In fact, removing fifty boxes of books and taking them to storage only made the slightest of dents. But it was enough.

We also instituted a “one book in, one book out” rule.

That was difficult for me.  I won’t lie. I had a moment when I felt emotionally weak, like a security blanket was being ripped away from me…and I thought, “Wow, what’s that about?”  Books, being surrounded by books, buried by books, swallowed by books — words, paper, story — has always been a safe space for me.  But there are other ways to feel safe, I realized, and I was finally able to let that go. More or less.

Still, the “one book in, one book out” rule has meant a more thoughtful approach to buying books (and going to the library).  One book enters, another must leave.  You find out real quick what your favorites are (and we’re cheating a little, because some of the books that “go” end up at the university office where there’s still a lot of shelf space).

But what does that have to do with not reading?   Well, all this book drama aside, reading was making me tired.  For the last year or so, I found that I could not sustain the energy needed to be in a book. Which, again, was REALLY strange and disturbing. That’s not me.  I told myself I was distracted, had too much work on my plate, stress from launching Monstress — pfft, you get the drift.

Well, a week ago I was on Amazon and saw some recent romance novel releases that I was into — but getting the books would have meant shoving some out the door, and I honestly didn’t know what could go next.

Handily, there was also a link staring at me for a Kindle device . And I thought, “Okay, why not?”  Years ago, I had a Kindle — years and years ago — and I used it for a while, but paper was better.  And since then I’ve used the Kindle app on my phone, iPad, computer — but sometimes it would crash and staring at the screen for all the hours I like to read was headache-inducing.

But here was an updated Kindle with some interesting-sounding-technology, and better yet, the books wouldn’t take up any space.  So I got the damned thing, it arrived two days later, I uploaded Sarah MacLean’s The Rogue Not Taken

…and I read the book straight through in one day.  Which hasn’t happened in a long, long time.

Now, The Rogue Not Taken just happens to be a very, very good historical romance. But I’ve read very, very good historical romances and still have had trouble finishing them because of this whole, “I’m tiiired” feeling that sweeps through me.

What I realized, however — as I was devouring this book on my Kindle — is that I’m getting old.  Like, for real.   That was my actual come-to-Jesus-moment.  I realized, suddenly, that I was becoming all worn out and discouraged (poor me, the terrible effort) while reading physical books because (and here, I simply theorize) the print was too little, the light too poor, my weak feeble writer’s wrists were too frail to hold a tiny paperback…

…but on the Kindle, none of that was a problem. The print was comfortable, evenly spaced — light wasn’t an issue — the device was barely-there and fit in my hands.  I more or less curled up around it, and never once felt distracted.  I never had to squint.  My arms, fingers, hands, didn’t start to ache.  I read while blow-drying my hair (you can’t lose the page when you let go), I read while in bed (no need to turn on the side lamp), I read and read and read.

I felt like a new person, afterward.  Amazing, how that happens, when one reads.

I didn’t particularly want to be a someone who reads on a device — I love holding a book, I love seeing books — I don’t feel as though a book is truly mine unless it’s a physical object in my hands.  But man, I gotta read.  And if this is the way I can finally bring that back into my life again, so be it. Because my head was getting pretty dusty and empty without the joy that books bring me. I just couldn’t enjoy them anymore. My body was distracting me from the mental space needed to be fully engaged and present in the story.

This, by the way, is not an actual endorsement of the Kindle — I have no interest in pushing anything.  It’s just me, being very happy to discover that I haven’t been suffering from some terrible mental infirmity that was preventing me from enjoying books the way I used to.  Apparently, I’m just not the spry young thing I used to be.

Of course, I still have a pile of physical books I need to read, but maybe I’ll just have to bite the bullet and put them on my device.  I’ll worry about that later.  For now, I have a Larry Brown novel to devour.

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