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Summer 2020 goal review – ‘Ronaverse edition (again)

What is normal anymore? This pandemic has been going on for months. We’re adapting (kind of), but then what we’re adapting to changes. I don’t even know any more.

Anyways, here’s my quarterly review of how my progress towards my goals is going.

  1. Finish and submit/publish my Heartsbane series and 7+ related short stories.
    Still working on edits. Two short stories are done (.5, “The Maiden in the Tower” and 5.5 “The Fabiranum Town Thieves”). Edits are almost done for book 1 and I will FORCE MYSELF to get it to my editor in the next week. I need to get this done already.
  2. Publish to Medium at least twice a month.
    So far in 2020 I’ve published 16 stories on Medium, with one more submitted and waiting on publication. I’ve gotten at least 2 stories published every month since January, and 3 months I had 3-4 stories. Writing microfictions definitely helps with this.
  3. Continue to increase my networking.
    My goal is to comment on, clap for, and/or share at least 15 people’s blog posts or works, at least 4-5 times a week. I thought I’d be better with this since I’ve been mostly working from home the past several months, but I’m probably only meeting this about once a week. I’m doing a conference (virtual, unfortunately, due to the ‘rona) with Brian Cohen next month, and that should be great for networking.
  4. Buy a cabin on Lake Superior.
    Everything is still on hold with this. Craft shows are starting back up, but I don’t feel very comfortable being around unmasked people. Side counseling is also on hold due to the pandemic. AND the transmission just went out in my van; I’m fighting with my extended warranty company over fixing it, which could be very expensive if they won’t cover it. With retail and everything opening back up, I’m looking into maybe getting a part-time job, at least for the time being, because I really need this cabin for my mental well-being.
  5. Marie Kondo the shit outta my life.
    Living room is done and hasn’t really filled back up with clutter (other than the bags of stuff to go to Goodwill and my mask-making stuff all over the coffee table). Due to the nice weather I’ve switched gears to outside. My dad and I put in a retaining wall out front, with an herb garden in one bed and flowers in another. I added more vegetable beds and fruit trees outside too. It’s now super hot and humid here in the Midwest, so I’m back inside more than out. Time to tackle probably my dining room and my basement. One of the problems with the dining room, however, is that it’s filled with yarn and so every time I move a ball or skein I start making something with it. Oh well.
  6. Read 100 books.
    Right now I’m at 16 books for the year, which is 35 behind where I should be. I just haven’t been in the mood to read anything; work has been really emotionally draining over the past couple months, with lots of tough client situations, and when I unwind I don’t want to have to think. A few authors I enjoy have new books coming out soon though, so maybe this’ll pick up for me.

One thing I have done, that’s not reflected in the goals above, is knocked several travel destinations off my bucket list. My son and I drove out US Rte 6 to Boston in March (we drove the western part of it in 2016), so I’ve now driven the entire 3200 miles of it! We were supposed to go to New York too at the time, but our trip was cut short by the pandemic. I also finally made it to Carhenge on Memorial Day weekend, a place I’ve wanted to go since I was probably about 12 or 13. And I just got back from a road trip with my son to Delaware, which was the last of the lower 48 states we hadn’t been to. (For the last two trips, I camped most of the way, wore a mask when I was in public, and generally avoided people.) Google has this timeline thing where they put a dot on a map for every place you go when you have the location turned on for your phone, and my goal now is to fill in the missing dots. Upcoming possible destinations for camping road trips include southern Missouri/Arkansas and Michigan/Wisconsin/Minnesota, depending on how many vacation days I have and how stupid other people are being.

Carhenge

Carhenge is both stupidly awesome and awesomely stupid. Definitely worth the drive to see it.

Overall, I’m making progress on some goals, not so much on others. A large part of this is the pandemic; I have more time on my hands, and I’m always less productive when I don’t have dozens of things that HAVE to get done. I need external deadlines, not internal. If you have similar issues with ignoring self-imposed deadlines, please let me know in the comments below!

If you’ve set goals for yourself, what are they? How are you doing with them?

Spring 2020 goal review – ‘Ronaverse edition

Heartsbane Saga PromoHow is it that it’s already April and yet this year feels like it’s lasted a million years already?

I’m working from home right now, which is weird. I usually spend my work days running from the 3 area hospitals to the shelters and other places my homeless clients hang out, from the courthouse to the treatment facilities, and for the past couple weeks I’ve had to do everything by phone because I can’t have face-to-face contact with clients. It’s an adjustment, definitely. I’m trying to stay busy, but let’s be honest, I definitely have more free time now. So maybe I’ll make some progress on these goals?

Regardless, every three months or so I try to provide an update on how I’m doing with my annual goals, and it’s time for my spring update.

  1. Finish and submit/publish my Heartsbane series and 7+ related short stories.
    I’ve pitched the series to my publisher and am working on polishing up book 1 to give him very soon. I have an editor assigned, and we’re working on getting the cover artist. So, maybe mid summer for the release of book 1, possibly a little earlier for the first short story? The first 4 are written, just need revisions. And of course something I revise in the first book (“I’m a secret agent!” “I’m a secret villain!”) has to trickle down to the rest of them.
  2. Publish to Medium at least twice a month.
    So far in 2020 I’ve published 5 stories on Medium, with one more submitted and waiting on publication. And I’ve also done parts 1 and 2 of a short story, “Spice Pirates,” that’ll probably end up being 4 parts altogether. Yay, I’m meeting this goal!
  3. Continue to increase my networking.
    My goal is to comment on, clap for, and/or share at least 15 people’s blog posts or works, at least 4-5 times a week. I’ve been going in spurts on this, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to do this more consistently with the extra time I have on my hands right now.
  4. Buy a cabin on Lake Superior.
    Reaching this goal right now means upping my side hustles, which are kinda on hold right now. I’d intended to do some craft shows this spring but that’s obviously not happening. Neither is a side job at the moment, since counseling places aren’t really hiring for evenings right now. I’m still keeping my eyes open for extra income, and crocheting a TON so I’ll be set when/if things go back to normal.
  5. Marie Kondo the shit outta my life.
    I’ve been doing decent with this. I decided to go through each room of my house and make it exactly how I want it. I started with my living room; I repainted the tan walls pale blue and painted all the dark wood trim white, then rearranged the furniture. My dad made me a couple book shelves as well as some little shelves tucked into the walls, and I’ve put everything on those. Decluttering, as well as keeping the room decluttered, has been good for my mental health. I’m now working on my entry hallway and stairs. I repainted the lighter tan hallway a lighter pale blue and repainted the trim white as well. I got rid of a lot of the clutter that tends to congregate in the entryway. We stripped all the old stain and carpet glue off the stairs, and now I’m in the process of restaining and painting them. I should be done in the next couple of weeks, depending on how motivated I am. I’m also building a wall ladder plant holder (since my cats love eating my plants) to put at the bottom of the stairs. The colors are very calming, as is not having stuff everywhere. Then it’s on to my dining room, which is a cluttered disaster since it currently doubles as my office.
  6. Read 100 books.
    So far I’ve only read 9 of the 25 I should be at. I just haven’t been in a reading mood, I guess. I’ve been spending a lot of time writing and crocheting instead of reading. And I’ve started a bunch of books but lost interest in them halfway through. Maybe this would be a good time to unpause my reading around the world challenge.

So, there it is. Like usual, I’m making progress on some goals but not on others. Life is throwing us all a massive curveball right now, and I guess all we can do is try our best to keep things normal while everything is definitely not normal. Welcome to the ‘Ronaverse, I guess.

If you’ve set goals for yourself, what are they? How are you doing with them?

6 YouTube channels to improve your writing craft

A couple weeks ago, I compiled a list of 10 resources for building a medieval fantasy world. I’ve also been watching a bunch of YouTube videos on the craft of writing, and this week I’d like to share those with you.

  • DC Ferguson: dozens of very good videos on all aspects of craft. If you don’t click on any other links, make sure you click on this one and then watch everything!!
  • Hello Future Me: focuses on fantasy but has lots of videos on worldbuilding and craft, with detailed examples from movies and books.
  • Just Write: different aspects of the writing craft, illustrated by movies.
  • Lessons from the Screenplay: similar content to Just Write.
  • Lindsay Ellis: videos on the theory of storytelling.
  • Overly Sarcastic Productions: entertaining videos on tropes as well as history.

There are a few more channels that I watch occasionally, but not enough to subscribe to them or recommend them in this list.

If you’re a writer, what YouTube channels have you found useful? Please share in the comments!

10 resources for building a medieval fantasy world

The series I’m currently working on – fairy tales with Vikings! – is best described as historical fantasy. It’s set in a version of medieval Europe and the Mediterranean, although I don’t call the places by their current names. I want the stories to seem accurate for the time period, but I also don’t want to be constricted by actual historical events.

Fortunately, there are a ton of great resources for building an authentic medieval world. Here are some of my favorites.

Historical figures and campaigns

  • History Time: Really detailed videos on Viking exploration and military campaigns of the Middle Ages, focusing on Britain, Viking kings, and the Mediterranean, as well as ancient Rome and Greece.
  • History With Hilbert: Short-ish, in-depth videos on specific northern Europe historical figures, wars, languages, and general Viking and British stuff.
  • VC3 Productions: Overviews of the history of European countries and historical figures and events.

Daily life

  • Modern History TV: The best channel on YouTube for all aspects of daily life of knights in medieval Britain, from horse care to meals to weaponry.

Random details

  • Invicta: Details on military life and logistics in the Middle Ages and ancient Rome.
  • Metatron: All things military in medieval Europe, from weapons to fighting techniques to battle offense and defense, as well as videos about daily Medieval life.
  • Scholagladiatoria: Another channel on medieval warfare, focusing on weapons, armor, and fighting techniques.
  • Shadiversity: The go-to source for information on all aspects of medieval castles, including how and why they were built.

General fantasy worldbuilding

  • James Tullos: Reviews of fictional worlds in books and movies, as well as discussions on how to build fantasy worlds.
  • Stoneworks World Building: In-depth discussions on accurately naming your worlds and characters and adapting real-world settings and scenarios to your fantasy world.

If you’re creating or have created a fantasy world, what resources did you use? Please share in the comments!

Fall 2018 goal review

Every 3 months, I review my annual goals. Here’s my progress so far this year.

  1. Better time management.
    I’m still tracking my activity, and while I’m getting more done most days, it’s not necessarily things I need to be doing. I started a new job this school year, and while I absolutely love it, it’s very mentally draining. Combine that with some family drama, and my focus the past couple months has been more on unwinding/self-care.
  2. Publish to Medium at least weekly.
    I was doing really well with this until I wasn’t. I’ve published 27 stories so far this year, which is about 10 less than I should have to meet a goal of about one per week. However, I’ve been writing a lot – almost every day!! – and not just flash pieces, which is a lot of what I published on Medium. Still a doable goal.
  3. Publish a stand-alone novella or short story collection quarterly.
    Part of the reason for not publishing on Medium as much is that I’ve been writing a lot on the first story in a seven-novella series. I only have about 5 chapters left in it, at which point I’ll polish it up and hopefully have it out by Christmas. My writing group is loving the story and pushing me to finish it, which is helping keep up my momentum. I’m about one story short of a collection – that should be out in the next few weeks. As much as I’d like to space everything out, I might do an end-of-year holiday rush. We’ll see.
  4. Grow my reader base, whether on social media, my newsletter, or Medium, by at least double. So, 600 followers on Facebook, 1500 followers on Twitter, 200 followers on Medium, and 3000 mailing list subscribers.Stupid Facebook keeps taking away my followers (or they’re unfollowing me). I’m at 310 for Facebook, still about 860-865 on Twitter, and way short on my mailing list subscribers. But on Medium, I’m at 276 which is great!
  5. Post to my blog at least twice a week, and promote those posts to get more traffic here.
    My blog has been pretty neglected lately. I’m writing a bunch of scheduled posts, so I should be able to meet this goal. I’m looking for a social media manager program that’s free to help promote my posts; I used to use HootSuite but now you have to pay for a lot of the features. Any suggestions?
  6. Read 100 books.
    I’m at 72 for the year, which is 4 behind. And also way more on target than I’ve ever been at this point in the year.

Overall

I’m not doing great but I’m not doing too poorly. Which is okay, because as Armando Perez once said, “Reach for the stars. And if you don’t grab ’em, at least you’ll fall on top of the world.”

If you’ve set goals for yourself, how’re they going so far this year?

Summer 2018 goal review

Every 3 months or so, I take a look at the goals I’ve set for the year and then write about how little progress I’m making on them. Here’s the update for this summer.

1. Better time management.

This year, I’ve been tracking how I manage my time. I can’t say I’ve gotten more productive, but I can definitely see how I’m wasting my time – or maybe not wasting it, but spending it on things I shouldn’t be spending it on.

crochet figures

Homework can wait – this crocheted princess needs crocheted dating options!

Part of my problem is that without deadlines and a full schedule, I tend to drift. I think I have all the time in the world, and then bam – I haven’t done anything I intended. I’ve been keeping a to-do list, and now the next step, I think, is to impose deadlines. And find a way to make them meaningful, since I know they’re arbitrary.

2. Publish to Medium at least weekly.

I’m at 19 for the year, not counting two table of contents posts. I should be at about 25-30, to meet my goal. Still an achievable goal.

3. Publish a stand-alone novella or short story collection quarterly.

Still hasn’t happened – see goal #1 for why. I have a month until school starts up and I hopefully start working in a school again, so if I can get my time management under control, I can still crank out a couple longer works this summer.

4. Grow my reader base, whether on social media, my newsletter, or Medium, by at least double. So, 600 followers on Facebook, 1500 followers on Twitter, 200 followers on Medium, and 3000 mailing list subscribers.

Facebook: 309.

Twitter: Still hovering around 864-868. It seems like for every follower I gain, I lose the same amount.

Medium: 235! Let’s up this to 400 for the year.

Mailing list: 10 new subscribers this year, but nowhere near that 3000 mark.

5. Post to my blog at least twice a week, and promote those posts to get more traffic here.

I’ve posted once since the last update. Gonna have to up my game here.

6. Read 100 books.

58 so far this year, which is 6 ahead of schedule. I just got home this week from a month in Thailand and southeast Asia. Between the flights, overnight train rides, and that day spent just chilling in a hotel room in Kuala Lumpur because my stupid bank wouldn’t let me use any ATMs and we had no money to do anything, I’ve been able to read a ton.

Overall

At this point, it’s just a matter of finding the willpower to meet my goals. There’s nothing standing in my way and keeping me from writing, except myself. Any suggestions for imposing discipline on yourself are much appreciated!

If you’ve set goals for yourself, how’re they going so far this year?

Spring 2018 goal review

Every 3 months or so, I take a look at the goals I’ve set for the year and then write about how little progress I’m making on them. Here’s the update for this spring.

1. Better time management.

I’ve been tracking my activities every day, so I can easily tell what I accomplish (lots of crocheting and Duolingo) and what I don’t (all my writing stuff). That said, I’ve been pretty good at keeping up with school work this semester and not leaving it all to the last minute. Well, mostly.

2. Publish to Medium at least weekly.

I’ve published 15 stories on Medium in 2018, which averages out to just slightly under weekly. My publishing frequency is more sporadic than I’d like, and the stuff I’m putting up is a mix of old and new, but overall I’m doing pretty good with this one.

3. Publish a stand-alone novella or short story collection quarterly.

I haven’t done this yet. I have about a week left of classes and then this (and my dissertation proposal) is my priority for the summer. I have a bunch of stuff started and outlined; I just need to sit down and write.

4. Grow my reader base, whether on social media, my newsletter, or Medium, by at least double. So, 600 followers on Facebook, 1500 followers on Twitter, 200 followers on Medium, and 3000 mailing list subscribers.

Facebook: 308 (pretty sure FB is cleaning house, because as soon as I get a new follow it drops back down)

Twitter: I’ve been hovering around 864-868 for the past six months. Ugh.

Medium: 203! Looks like I need a stretch goal here.

Mailing list: 2 new subscribers this year (I’m too lazy to look up the number).

I’m hoping to get some gains when I release something.

5. Post to my blog at least twice a week, and promote those posts to get more traffic here.

This post is #14 for 2018, which averages a bit under once a week. I intended to do the A to Z challenge, but life and school got in the way and I fizzled out.

6. Read 100 books.

I’m at 38 for the year, which is 5 ahead of schedule. I tend to read a TON on long flights – the flights to and from India in January pushed me ahead – and I’ll be flying to Thailand in a month, so I expect to stay ahead with this one for awhile.

Overall

I’m doing decently right now, by which I mean I’m only slightly behind instead of way behind like I usually am. I need to up my writing output by a ton, but with summer break right around the corner, I don’t really have an excuse not to start meeting my goals. Although I’m sure I’ll find one.

If you’ve set goals for yourself, how’re they going so far this year?

Tuesday Tournament – Christmas songs

It seems like I’m one of about five people who enjoy listening to Christmas music for two months straight every year. That said, there are some holiday songs that are better than others. So, in the spirit of the season, today’s tournament is a chance to determine which song is the best.

Which Christmas song is the best?

(Feel free to define best any way you want.)

We have five contenders this week:

“Last Christmas” by Atomic Tom

As someone who worked in retail throughout high school and college, I came to loathe this song as sung by WHAM! But then one of my favorite bands that no one has ever heard of, Atomic Tom, put out their version and it quickly became one of my favorites. Also, you should get Atomic Tom’s CDs because The Moment is one of the best albums ever.

“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen/We Three Kings” by Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan

One could make a pretty strong case that Barenaked Ladies’ Christmas album is just a holiday cash grab (“Deck the Stills” – “Deck the Halls” with the lyrics changed to “Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young” over and over is a great illustration of this point), but that didn’t stop me from buying said album or from really enjoying this song.

“All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey

This song is objectively one of the best Christmas songs ever, according to numerous charts. It’s been covered many times, including for that cute scene in Love, Actually where Sam plays the drums to impress his American classmate as well as by Atomic Tom, but I think this version will always be the best.

“Christmas Eve/Sarajevo (12/24)” by Savatage/Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Okay, so fun fact – The guys in metal band Savatage went on to form the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which is why sometimes you see this song attributed to Savatage and sometimes to TSO. Either way, I love this combination of “Carol of the Bells” and “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.”

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” by Straight No Chaser

This song is fun, original, and very well done. Also, probably from a cash grab album but whatever. They were probably poor college kids at the time.

Honorable mention

“I Am Santa Claus” by Bob Rivers

As a metal fan, and as someone who sometimes gets sick of the same songs over and over and over, I wholly enjoy this parody of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man.”

So, readers, which song is the best?

[yop_poll id=”6″]

In addition to voting in the poll, if you leave a comment below explaining your choice, I’ll randomly pick one reader to receive a free copy of my upcoming ebook, “Spice Pirates,” as well as a $5 Amazon gift card.

Fall 2017 goal review

Mr. McNutterpants, from my short story “A Lesser Man” on Medium

Every 3 months or so, I take a look at the goals I’ve set for the year and then write about how little progress I’m making on them. Here’s the update for this fall.

1. Finish something every month – short story, novella, novel, anything.

I have several chapters done on a novel, and I’ve finished a couple shorts. I’m hoping NaNoWriMo will spur me into action next month.

2. Publish at least 4 things – again, short story, novella, novel, anything. Either with my publisher or self-published or in a magazine, doesn’t matter where.

I’ve started posting stuff on Medium. Three things are up so far – two are stories that have been published elsewhere, and one’s a new story, “A Lesser Man,” that’s pretty damn hilarious. You should read it.

3. Finish the draft of a nonfiction book that’s good for my career.

My academic timeline is about a semester behind where I want to be. But, most importantly, I passed my comprehensive exam and am now officially a PhD candidate! All I have left is my dissertation (and several classes for a master’s I just tacked on), which is my focus right now. My timeline right now is to have my proposal mostly done by Christmas break, so I can still theoretically crank out this nonfiction book over break.

4. Do more live events – readings, book fairs, etc. Again, it’s about getting my name out there.

As I mentioned last time, events are turning into a major waste of time. I’m doing a solo reading tonight, and then I’m done with live events for awhile unless they have a proven track record for women’s fiction book sales.

5. Travel more internationally – and Canada doesn’t count.

Sadly, this isn’t happening – this year. I’m headed to India for 2 weeks in January and Thailand with my kid for a month next summer – but for the rest of this year, it looks like I’ll be staying more domestic, with upcoming trips to Boston in November and hopefully Duluth in December (weather-dependent).

Sadly, now that I’m working again I have money to travel but no time for it.

6. Read 100 books.

I’m at 52 right now – 25 behind schedule. I don’t think I’ll be able to make this goal this year, but I should be able to get closer once a couple approaching academic deadlines pass and I have time to read again.

Overall

I think I’m in denial about achieving my goals. I’m going to keep trying, but it seems there’s a lot popping up that’s taking up my time (unexpected overtime at work due to kiddos in crisis, opportunities for academic projects that I don’t want to pass up, etc). Things are settling down, I hope, so I should be able to focus on writing more.

If you’ve set goals for yourself, how’re they going so far this year?

Summer 2017 goal review

Every 3 months or so, I take a look at the goals I’ve set for the year and then write about how little progress I’m making on them. Here’s the update for this summer.

1. Finish something every month – short story, novella, novel, anything.

I’ve finished several chapters of a novel, plus a short story. So, about halfway there.

2. Publish at least 4 things – again, short story, novella, novel, anything. Either with my publisher or self-published or in a magazine, doesn’t matter where.

I’m two behind now on this.

3. Finish the draft of a nonfiction book that’s good for my career.

My academic timeline was pushed back a couple months, but I’m still planning on writing this book this fall.

4. Do more live events – readings, book fairs, etc. Again, it’s about getting my name out there.

This will never be a goal again because live events, at least the ones around here, are a waste of time. The only people who came to the last event were friends and family of the writers. And as much as I appreciate my grandma stopping by to say hi, she can buy books from me any time. That said, I’m doing a presentation in a couple weeks at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (okay, so not THE Iowa Writer’s Workshop, just a writing workshop at the University of Iowa, but whatever) that may be interesting. Then a couple local-ish events in August, a reading in October, and nothing else unless it’s free to participate and I don’t have anything else going on.

5. Travel more internationally – and Canada doesn’t count.

A research assistantship position ended this spring, so I recently got a part-time job as a youth residential counselor. While I’m enjoying it so far, it doesn’t leave much time for travel. I went to Michigan a couple times in June, and I’m heading to the Pacific Northwest and Canadian Rockies in a couple weeks. No international travel other than Canada, though.

However, I did book tickets just this week to go back to India in January! I’m taking my kid with me, and we’re hitting the Taj Mahal before heading south to work on a project. I’m super excited about this trip.

6. Read 100 books.

I’m at 43 right now – 7 behind schedule. I caught up a bit earlier this summer, but I’m falling behind again. Still, I think I can still catch up and make this goal this year.

Overall

I’m still in the game. This past semester kicked my butt, and while I’m pretty much recovered, my new job is consuming a lot of my time – plus (fingers crossed!) I’ll be starting my dissertation in the next couple weeks. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for writing, but on the plus side, my new job has given me a lot of story ideas that I really need to write to help me process working with this particular population. Overall, I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ll come pretty close to meeting my goals this year.

If you’ve set goals for yourself, how’re they going so far this year?

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