Magical Christmas Art

Hi, pals!

As much as possible, Hubby and I try to do homemade gifts around the holidays. We’ve been blessed with the time and (arguably) skills for such diversions, and I despise shopping, so it makes sense for our family.

This year, I got the idea to make custom Magic: The Gathering cards for the kids. (Sorry for all the lingo I’m about to drop.) I thought it would be fun to make Planeswalker cards of each of the kids, with real flavor text quotes and abilities based on their own strengths and weaknesses. 1000% on board with this, Husband then proceeded to one-up me by drafting up the text for an entire set of Marcotte-themed cards. He had vehicle cards based on our cars and chicken coop (ha!), creature types based on our pets and local wildlife, mana-fixing lands based on our house, school, etc. It was fantastic, but geez, my drawing hand was pretty sore by Christmas time. We worked together on the art and barely finished in time, sleeving the freshly printed cards on Christmas Eve. Whew!

I thought it might be fun to show off the art for the Planeswalkers cards. I certainly don’t expect Wizards of the Coast to come knocking any time soon, but I’m proud of my work. I could have done better, but not on the deadline that I was. (On some of the cards, you can see exactly when I ran out of time to do the backgrounds, haha.)

I love art of any kind, whether that’s sculpting, or drawing, or dancing, or painting, or writing, etc. It all gets pretty mixed up in my head and I find that I’m at my most creative when I have a varied diet of artsy goodness.

Enjoy the art, and until next week, happy writing (and arting)!

Aaron James, Loremaster
William Lee, Grand Arbiter
Daniel Duane, Battle Mage
Renner Paul, Mirth Monger
Robert William, Dadbeast
Jill Nicole, Bone Matriarch

Obligatory 20-20 Vision Joke!

Happy New Year! We survived 2019! Good work, people!

Short post this week, but as I mentioned last week, last year was kind of a rough one with quite a few loose ends still mucking up the works. So I’m going to be scaling back my expectations for myself quite a bit in a vain effort to not go completely crazy. Other than that, this is probably all going to look pretty familiar.

Reading Goals Twenty-four books is probably my upper limit so we’ll stick with the attainable. I still want to split it twelve and twelve between fiction and nonfiction, but I’m going to give myself a pretty open range otherwise.

Writing and Editing Goals One first draft, one editing draft, and at least two new short stories. Again, we’re keeping things practical here. This is an area where I anticipate proooooobably overachieving a little bit (maybe?), but I’m wary of setting my sights any higher than this for now. We’ll see where it goes.

Rejections Goals We’re gonna scale waaaay back here and see if I can hit twenty-four rejections for the year. It’s half of what I set for myself last year, but still nearly double what I actually achieved. (Plus, I’m not sure at this point how much rejection my sad little soul can take.)

I have other personal goals (including talking to other humans and not treating my body like utter garbage) to augment my overall well-being and good-humanness, but this is all my writing stuff.

I spoke last week, and in other times past, about balance—and my lack thereof. I had a lot of trouble this last year with balancing work v. volunteer time, kid v. personal time, etc, and it seemed that the easy answer was always to draw off time that I had previously slated for the things that brought me peace and stability.

I wrote a few months ago about self care, and how I needed to get better at it. And for a while, I really did. I did all the things and I felt better for it. Huzzah!

But then the holidays. It was all an unrelenting marathon from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. Everything went to pieces. Next thing I knew, I was nearly ten pounds lighter, arguing with people about hand towels, and contemplating jumping off bridges.

Clearly this is a problem and steps are being taken.

Including the lightening of the goal load this year! If things straighten out and the stress level comes down, I might adjust my goals and amp up the effort a little bit more. We’ll see. But for now, I think this is more than enough. The base line has become Keep Everyone Alive. Anything more than that is icing.

How about you folks? Any writing resolutions this year? Are you scaling it back, or expanding operations? Let me know in the comments below!

And until next week, happy writing, and happy New Year!

Winding Down and Gearing Up

So, I mentioned it a few times throughout the last several months, but this has been a tough year as far as goal achievement goes. Now’s the moment you’ve been waiting for—just how badly did I flop on my face?

Well… it’s not great. Let’s do the numbers.

Reading Goals I had planned to read twenty-four books: half fiction, half nonfiction; at least six would be about experiences outside my own, and at least three would be Own Voices; and eight fiction from my genre, with four classics and four newbs. I didn’t quite make all that, but I got close-ish. I read twenty-four books, but half of them were not nonfiction. Eight were about experiences outside my own and five of them were Own Voices. Most of them were not from my genre, however. I read no classics, and only two in speculative fiction. Not bad, really, but not quite what I was aiming for.

Writing and Editing Goals I had planned to edit three drafts and write one first draft, as well as an unspecified number of short stories. I actually did… okay? ish? I did two quick and dirty edits on a pair of ugly first drafts (Box of Bones and A Cinder’s Tale) and wrote a first draft of another book in the Star Daughter series, an in-betweener focusing on one of the side characters that was kind of a pain to write. (Good side characters do not necessarily make good main characters.) I wrote a grand total of two short stories over the entire year, and honestly, that was probably pretty good, all things considered.

Rejections Goals Just like last year, I had planned to earn myself forty-eight rejections. Haha, yeah, that did not happen. Not even close. Remember back in August when I only had fifteen rejections? Yeah. It’s still fifteen. I completely checked out on that one.

But I have excuses! So, so many excuses. 😦

Writing Jobs I did quite a bit more freelancing this year than I have in years past, and that meant less time for my own writing. It’s success, in a way, although it doesn’t feed my soul as well as writing things that I love.

Animal Woes Between the staggering number of untimely poultry deaths we had this spring and summer, and the loss of our disgusting but strangely loveable dog Jasper, we had a lot of animal stresses to contend with in the early half of the year.

Multiple Medical Emergencies In addition to my own ongoing chronic health issues, I had family members with their own problems. My eight-year-old was attacked by a dog, and the lacerations became infected, which endangered his eye as well; it was several weeks before I didn’t feel the need to check his temperature and breathing throughout the night and he’ll bear those scars on his face the rest of his life. Stressful. Shortly thereafter, my husband hyperextended his knee and was unable to use his leg regularly for months, during which time he started having heart problems. He’s now seeing a cardiologist in an effort to not die. Also stressful.

Foster Care I mentioned this once before, but somehow in the midst of all our other madness, my family is currently fostering a very good kid dealing with some very heavy things. Just getting him to all his appointments throughout the week means at minimum four hours of phone time and five hours of out-and-about time, and he needs a lot of individual attention just to keep him from going to pieces at the drop of a hat (or a bagel). I knew foster kids took a lot of time/energy/attention, but holy Cheez Whiz, I had no idea.

All in all, it’s been a busy year. The animal woes have ceased (for now) and the medical emergencies have stabilized, but we’re still not sure about my husband’s health, and we’re still fostering. The timelines both of those adventures have big question marks at the end of them. With that in mind, I think that I need to lighten up on myself a bit for next year’s goals, which I will tell you all about next week. (You know, after I figure out what they are.) I have a lot going on, and it is all worthy of my attention.

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I’m a big proponent of writing daily, of having goals, of working hard to keep the writing career moving forward. I am in no way dropping this part of my life. But I cannot sacrifice the well-being of children for this. I can’t sacrifice supporting my husband. I can’t sacrifice my flock of birds to starve out in the cold. And so these last few months have been pretty detrimental to my writing stuff. I did all three sessions of NaNo (November and the two camp sessions) and have kept the blog updated, but have otherwise largely stopped writing work since last spring.

Guys, it is seriously crushing my soul. So I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to figure out a new balance. I’m excited to share my conclusions with you next week. Thanks for sticking with me! Until next week, happy writing, and happy New Year to everyone on the Gregorian calendar! Whee!

Writing Through the Holidays

Ugh, sorry I didn’t post Monday. I was clinging to doorposts while my husband tried to drag me to the hospital. (I mean, seriously, who wants to die in a hospital when you can be noisily dying at home under a heap of plague-riddled blankets with fifteen half-drunk canteens of 100% guaranteed health tonic you got from that hippie under the bridge last June? Duh.) But after five days of my life passing before my eyes (rather boring, really), I’m on the mend and able to sit up at my computer without weakly flopping over sideways toward the toilet. Yaaaaay.

So! Maybe next time I’ll post about writing through illness (hahahahahahaha), but today I wanted to talk about writing through the holidays. Here in Americaland, October through January is like one nonstop party, hopscotching from one celebration to the next for pretty much three months. At least here in Alaska, I think we’re just happy at this point that nobody’s frozen to death, and then that oh-thank-heaven, the earth is starting to tilt back toward the sun again. (Seriously. Solstice is the best winter celebration of all.)

But all that partying can make it hard to squeeze writing in. I’m too busy babysitting vinho d’alho and wrapping presents in eco-friendly reusable swaddling clothes to write.

Wrong! I am never too busy to write!

Priotitize

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: your writing will get time according to its ranking in the priority list. So your first step in the plan of attack is to figure out your priorities! The priority list will of course swap around, especially around the holidays, depending on who’s in town, what’s going on, etc. But if you don’t prioritize your writing, it isn’t magically going to happen. This can seem a little cold at times. I mean, yeahhhh, I’ve been known to maybe sneak my laptop into the bathroom with me while family’s over to squeeze in an extra fifteen minutes of writing. (*mom peers anxiously at door, whispering, “Is she sick?”*) But knowing where writing stands in the pecking order is going to keep you from having unrealistic expectations of yourself. As much as we all want to, we can’t do it all. If you know and accept that it’s more important to you go to the Christmas concert with your cousins, then give yourself a pass and go to the concert. But maybe while the rest of the crew is watching that abomination live-action version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, that’s the time to sneak off with your laptop to the bathroom. It’s your call to make.

Plan

Once you’ve worked out your priority list for the season, then it’s time to plan out how you’re going to make it happen. (I’m assuming at this point that writing made the list…) You can go about the planning phase as casually or commando-y as you like. For those really into writing plans down, feel free to map out your schedule and hunt out all those sneaky little pockets of free time so you can stuff them with writing; ferociously cull down the time you spend on holiday shopping, chitchatting over hors d’oeuvres, or artfully wrapping gifts. Or, if you’re not feeling quite so hardcore, maybe just schedule yourself a half hour of quiet time each night before bed to knock out some words. (That’s what I do anyway.)

While planning, keep those expectations realistic. Nothing harpoons holiday zen like loading too much on your plate, so while you’re maybe normally able to blitz through 3k a day, give yourself a break if work is crazy and you’re on overtime every night until Christmas, of if you just want to spend a little more of that time with Nana. Goals don’t have to be huge or even difficult to be high-five worthy.

Execute

Do it! Stick to your plan, whether that means just quietly holding yourself to it, or roping accountability buddies into the loop. Both of my main writing buddies have end of the year writing goals and you know what? I just decided that I want to hop on that joyride too! So hey guys, I’m gonna finish the Cinderella thing by the end of the year! Watch me work! And I’ll be sure to litter the path to glory with little prizes for all my hard work. Because I am actually a mule and I only work for sugar cubes.

Holidays don’t mean you have to take all your writing and stuff it in the sock drawer until you guiltily pull it out along with some shiny new resolutions come January. With just a little extra prioritizing and planning, you can keep working right through the busiest time of the year. People like to go on and on about how the holidays are a good excuse- to forget your diet, to forget your budget, to drop all kinds of great habits that we spend the rest of the year developing. Hogwash, I say! No excuses! Keep eating healthfully, keep being financially responsible, and keep writing. If it’s important to you the rest of the year, it should be important to you the entire year. So don’t give up your writing just because Cousin Martha is throwing another Ugly Sweater Party. (Why do you still talk to her anyway?) Keep up those good habits!

All season long: happy writing!

Blogiversary Episode VI: Escape from Wordhaven Books!

Hello, friends! Sorry about missing last week’s post. I didn’t manage my time very well, and then I found myself suddenly out of town without my laptop and all the files therein. Oops.

But exciting news nonetheless! This week marks the sixth anniversary of this doofy blog! Hooray!

fanfare

In celebration of this most momentous occasion, I knew I wanted to do something bigger than my usual posts, so it’s been on my mind for a while. A few months ago, I was sitting around with my husband listening to a really fun escape room/ role playing podcast called Escape This Podcast, and I decided I had to do one- or at least as close to one as I could do on a blog. So here it is: Escape from Wordhaven Books!

In this CYOA puzzle, you are a detective hired to figure out what a disgruntled employee is up to at a local book shop. But when you find yourself locked in the shop alone after closing, you must find and decipher the clues hidden around the room to solve the case and get back out before it’s too late!

A few suggestions as you start the escape room:

Have something to keep notes on- sequences, hints, door codes, keys, puzzles, etc. You’ll save yourself a lot of running back and forth if you write things down.

Locks are simulated by password protected pages. Most of them are numeric codes, but some use ‘keys’. The keys are used by typing in what is written on the head of the key. (Remember, keys are case sensitive.)

While it helps to have some literary knowledge, it isn’t necessary. All the required information is available within the story, but you might have to look in a few different places to find it.

Only look in Mr. Haven’s notebook if you need a hint. The escape room can be solved without it.

If you’re having a hard time, try the puzzle with a friend- two heads are better than one!

Begin your adventure here!

Happy 2019!

resolutions*flings confetti* Wahoo!

Another year down and I haven’t managed to overdose on lemon sandwich cookies and kimchi brine yet! *fist pumps* Man, 2018 had a lot of madness and utter rubbish, but here we are with another shiny new year. Let’s not screw this one up, guys!

All things considered, last year wasn’t too embarrassing as far as resolutions go. I got pretty lazy on my health goals, but that’s somewhat to be expected, given how lowly I prioritize my own well being. (Stop that, Jill.) But other than that, things weren’t too shabby.

Numbers-wise, I hit my reading goal, and with a couple extra books besides; I even hit the stipulation that half of them be nonfiction! I did write up two new first drafts (Copper and Box of Bones) but only managed to edit one first draft into a second (Sacrifice); but I knew from about October onward that this would be the case, so I’m trying not to beat myself up about it too much. (Because man have I got excuses for the tail end of this year.) Sadly, I totally faceflopped on my goal to write twelve short stories by writing a grand total of three. *sad trombone* But in a shocking turn of events on the last day of the year, I actually hit the rejections goal! *soccer stadium cheer* I even managed one extra rejection (yay?) for a total of forty-nine.

Honestly, for my writing stuff, I think I’ve about maxed out my productivity in my current stage of life. So I’m pretty much just setting a repeat on last year’s reading, writing, and publishing goals, with just a few minor adjustments.

Once more, I’d like to read twenty-four books, with half of them being nonfiction. This year, I’m planning on leaning a little more heavily toward the editing side of things since I have about a million first drafts lurking around my hard drive; I hope to edit three ugly early drafts (probably Blood and Ebony, Quicksilver Queen, and A Cinder’s Tale, but I’m flexible) and to write one first draft of something new over the course of the three NaNo sessions. I’m also reining back on the short story drafting, just letting those evolve on an as-needed basis without a specific goal in mind. And I’m sticking with my forty-eight rejections for the year goal because, augh it hurts, but it seems to be working for me.

So that’s it! I’ve broken each of these goals down into quarterly, monthly, and daily goals to help keep me ticking along a little more smoothly (and maybe eliminate the need for New Year’s Eve miracles, haha). So I have a plan. Let’s see how badly I wreck it!

How about you guys? Any big writing resolutions? Or little ones? Let me know- I’d love to chat! Happy New Year and happy writing!