It’s a well known fact that modern life is stressful. I’ve harped on this a few time before – probably because I don’t like stress and I want to be proactive in reducing it in my life. I can’t always kill off one my characters when I’ve had a really bad day. For starters, it takes forever to fix that, especially if you need that character in the future, like at all. Don’t ask me how many times I’ve resurrected characters that accidentally got dead.
Finding inner peace is one of those things that sounds like a good idea until you try it. For me, I lean on a few methods that work for me, namely journaling and meditation. The benefits of both are measurable in my own life and I feel it when I’ve missed a few days. My meditation practice isn’t a terribly formal thing. I literally do it while waiting in my car for my kid to get out of school – using an app or YouTube when the network isn’t being fussy.
The car is fairly comfortable and I’m assured a few minutes of undisturbed peace. Even better, since I literally can’t do anything else, thoughts of housework don’t haunt me.
There is only one snag. The drive to the school isn’t long enough to let the car heat up and I refuse to idle the engine as I sit there parked. During the winter months it’s cold. Even in a jacket you can’t get away from it. And, because I’ve spent the last few hours madly typing away in my office, I’m already a little chilled to start with.
Let me tell you right now, trying to achieve a state of relaxed contentment is impossible when you’re shivering. There’s no relaxing when your shoulders are huddling around your ears for warmth.
So why try? If it’s frustrating, then maybe trying to meditate in a car when it’s cold is a bad idea. Maybe I should find a happy alternative involving chocolate and reading a juicy novel. Maybe I’ll do that anyway … wait, sorry. Got distracted.
Hang on, hear me out. A meditation practice is meant to help people find their zen state, even when the conditions aren’t ideal. Someone who regularly spends time doing breathing exercises and finding their inner calm will be able to find that calm much easier when things are frantic.
Meditating when cold isn’t a complete waste of time. Instead, it demonstrates a challenging situation where it’s necessary to adapt. Getting mad at it won’t help, so you have to learn to roll with it. Or wear a warmer coat, and gloves, and a hat.
That said, I’m happy it’s warming up. I’d rather find my inner peace without a challenge. (thankyouverymuch).
How do you cope with stress? Does it include chocolate? Inquiring minds want to know.
Psst! If you’re the type that likes a good indulgence read, grab my free story today. Like the rest of my writing, it’s lovely, dark, and deep. You can also sign up for my mailing list while you’re at it (win!).
There is this weird stigma when it comes to the idea of self-care. For most people, the very words summon up visions of eating chocolate, taking bubble baths, and indulging in activities seen as vain and selfish. This viewpoint needs to change. What self-care really means is to do the things that are necessary to lead a happy and productive life.
Everyone’s needs are different. Like me, some people have trouble sleeping at night. Some people might suffer from a lack of energy, especially in the afternoons. Some people might fight cravings for junk food and sweets constantly. Some people might suffer from depression which makes it almost impossible to do everyday tasks. My point is, your needs will not look like everyone else’s needs.
What works wonders for one person might actually make your situation worse. Personally, I find my self-care needs become far more time consuming in the winter than in the summer. The moment the days start getting darker, my energy begins to flag, my anxiety increases, and sleep issues become a more persistent problem. The drive to complete all the things on my various to do lists is just not there.
In the clinical world, this is referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD). You are literally affected by the change in the seasons. It’s mother nature’s way of getting a final jab in before hibernating for the long winter. She’s still irritated at the invention of the light bulb.
My self-care routine
Part of my winter self care routine this year stems from the tiny midlife crisis that kicked off a few weeks ago when I turned 40. All of the sudden getting in regular exercise and eating my vegetables seemed so much more important. This is the only body I’m going to get, if I’m not maintaining it in such a way that it runs well for me, then I’m setting myself up for a massive breakdown in the future. Something similar happened when I turned 30 and I realized that if I wanted to do anything with my life other than be a mom, I would need to start doing it.
Starting in early October, I pull out my happy light and use it in the morning while I’m working at my desk. It helps wake me up and simulates the natural sunlight I would have experienced in the summer and makes my brain generate more serotonin during the day and melatonin at night. I also get far more diligent at taking my vitamins. Currently I take a general multivitamin, calcium citrate, B-complex, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin D. All of these are necessary in maintaining healthy brain chemicals and aid in better energy production.
I also aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day. Some of it is while watching Netflix and using an elliptical, or if the weather is nice, going out for a walk. On alternating days I turn on Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. If you are looking for a darling down-to-earth yoga practitioner who excels at making yoga accessible to anyone, check her out.
The other two things I do are regular journaling and meditation. Journaling helps me to analyze things that I would like to find solutions to, while meditation helps calm down the brain chatter and helps me focus on the things that are important and need doing. After exercise, these two practices do more to help me counteract daily stress than anything else.
Does this mean everything in my life is perfect right now? No, it really isn’t. But when I’m diligent at keeping up my self-care, my tools to handle problems are kept sharp and well maintained.
What do you do for self-care? I would love to hear about activities and practices you’ve put in place to help you feel better about yourself.
Today is the big day where I cross the mile marker between heading up the proverbial hill of life to working my way down the other side. Let’s all go sledding, shall we? I mean, I’ve reached the “fun” part of existence, might as well enjoy it. I couldn’t think of a better group to hang out with than my fellow creatives.
However – for today, on the most momentous of days, I’d like to stop and enjoy the view.
Ahhh … That’s nice.
Have you ever noticed that the harder the uphill climb, the more breathtaking the view seems once you’ve reached the top? It’s the reward for the hard work it took to climb up to the summit. That, mixed with probably a little bit of oxygen deprivation and sheer relief to just get there, makes for a memorable experience.
My path to the summit has been challenging, but very doable. There have been a few boulders to skirt along the way, but I can say I’ve been pretty lucky. In all my forty years I have never had an extended hospital stay, have never had a serious injury, have never totaled a car, and have never been arrested.
Most of that might be because I’m probably far too careful for my own good. You might argue that I’ve missed out – you might be right. But look – I’ve got a whole parcel of years ahead of me to try a few crazy things. I’m okay with this.
There are things I’ve done that I’m embarrassingly proud of. I graduated from college, I have three amazing kids (all of which are way smarter than me), I published a book, I’ve traveled the world, I’ve learned a foreign language, I’ve volunteered my time to a non-profit organization, I’ve owned a home, the list goes on.
And I couldn’t have done it without the support of my friends and family.
To all of you, thank you!
Now, who brought the cocoa? If we’re going sledding that’s super important.
Exactly one year ago today Stonebearer’s Betrayal, my very first novel, entered the world – and oh what a day that was. There’s something to be said about a dream you’ve worked on for years to finally happen. To be honest, I was more terrified and insecure about release day than for the birth of my own children. So much depended on things that were wildly out of my hands, everything from Amazon rankings, to generating a good public buzz, tp the people who ended up coming to my launch party. All I could do was try my best and watch and wait.
With my kids, I didn’t have to prove anything. My responsibilities revolved around keeping them healthy and happy and success was easily measured. The world had nothing to do with their well being, as well it shouldn’t.
Yeah, not quite so true with books… Authors are expected to flaunt their book babies to the unsuspecting public at literally every turn. Even more so, we are supposed to go flaunt it to complete strangers and beg, remind, and cajole them to tell us what they think in the form of a review. We spend hundreds of hours seeking out ways of making connections with as many people as possible, because the health of our book baby depends on it.
The Challenges of First time Authoring
Some authors are much better at it than others. One of those tragic truths about creative people is that we’re good at what we do because we thrive on spending time with words and ideas and finding ways to make them exciting. Most of us struggle to reach out to strangers by the hundreds to find ways to share our message.
For me, this entire year has been eye opening to say the least. Leading up to last year’s release, I spent hours and hours learning about all aspects of authoring books, including researching marketing needs. There is something to be said about learning by doing vs. learning by any other means. While taking classes and reading books about the subject is an amazing way to get a general feel for what needs to be done, it feels like each challenge or obstacle is a burning match and the solutions are as easy as blowing it out.
On the other hand, learning by doing, especially when it comes to marketing your own products, is more like being thrown into a building that is on fire. It’s dramatic, scary, and sometimes you feel like you might die from the sheer volume of what needs to be done. No matter how hard you blow, the flaming challenges keep coming back.
I quite literally burned myself out. During the four months leading up to the release and then the six months after, I spent anywhere between 4-6 hours every single day working to find opportunities ranging from identifying people who would be interested in giving reviews to tracking down podcast hosts and pitching them show ideas. Over the course of the year, I showcased over a combined sixty different artists and authors on my blog as I tried to spread good karma.
Don’t get me started on the amount of time I spent trying to find my voice on social media. I still stink at that… But I’m learning!
Worse still, I lost the time to do the parts of authoring that I truly loved. I couldn’t find the time to write down new shiny stories and then polishing them up until they shone. The sequel novel didn’t get the attention it needed, not to mention the dozens of short story projects that I wanted to be a part of but simply didn’t have the time or energy.
Give me a new baby any day. Actually, I take that back. With my young kiddos still at home, I’m still balancing their needs into my working day.
All that said, the future of the Stonebearers brand is shining bright and I’m excited at all the plans that are coming together as I write this.
The biggest announcement, is that the sequel to Stonebearer’s Betrayal, Stonebearer’s Apprentice is slated to come out the second week of March 2020. Stay tuned for sneak peaks and other amazing stuff I’m planning for its release.
I’d like to thank all of you who have taken this journey with me. It’s been one wild ride, and will only get better. Thank you dear readers. I couldn’t do it without you.
The other day my mom shared a story with me. When I was a baby they needed to have me sleep in a different place for the night. I was just old enough to climb up and peek out of the crib, which, while adorable, can quickly turn into a parent’s nightmare when several hours pass and baby still refuses to lay down and asleep. Apparently I didn’t sleep the entire night and stood peeking out of the crib waiting to be rescued.
Knowing my tendencies, that doesn’t surprise me one bit. Growing up, I was the kid who was always the last to fall asleep at sleepovers, if I slept at all. I never could sleep well when camping, and the first night in a hotel anywhere meant a night of tossing and turning.
Everyone agrees that sleep is important. A bad night’s sleep can wreck an entire day. It cuts back productivity, drains energy, and makes us less able to cope well with stressful situations.
As an adult, and especially as a parent, I’ve hit new exciting milestones of being tired that I’d never imagined. One day, when it had been several weeks since I’d had a decent nights sleep due to not one, not two, but three kids taking turns keeping me awake at night, I forgot how stoplights worked and who’s turn it was. I had no clue which way I needed to look to make sure I wouldn’t be plowed into.
That marked a turning point in my adult life to start learning how to get better sleep. I studied every article I could get my hands on to learn about scheduling, meditation, exercise, vitamins and supplements. I became more proactive about my kids sleep schedules and my expectations for them to stay in bed. I took back my night.
Most nights at least are okay these days.
It’s turned into a delicate balancing act. If I haven’t had my walk that day. or if it’s fall or winter and I haven’t used my happy light enough, or if I’ve forgotten to take my vitamins, or if I’ve got a lot on my mind or an unresolved problem, those bad nights still come, but much further apart than they used to.
My attitude about having a bad night has changed as well. Now it means I can go down to my office and spend a few hours working at my computer or reading in the silence of a sleeping house. Sometimes I catch up on YouTube videos.
I wouldn’t wish poor sleep on anyone. It’s disruptive, it means I’m tired during the day, and sometimes it makes me angry. But, had it not been for insomnia, I wouldn’t have turned into a voracious reader as a kid. When you’re too tired to cause havoc around the house, reading is a great alternative.
I’d even go as far as saying that if I didn’t have insomnia, I wouldn’t be a writer today.
If you find yourself struggling with sleep, I totally understand. There’s no easy solution and I wish there was. But, there are things that can help and it’s worth it to learn about your specific needs then make steps to work toward better sleep.
How do you feel about sleep? Do you sleep easily, or do you struggle? Let’s talk about it in the comments.
Back in December I wrote, in super dramatic terms, about bringing my first book into the world and how it was way more like being a first-time mom than I ever expected. Looking back, I agree with every word.
It’s been almost six months since the release of Stonebearer’s Betrayal and the roller coaster of emotion is now more like a carousel. There are still ups and downs, but they don’t make me scream and I only get motion sick if I close my eyes for too long. Each turn is predictable with each next step already planned. Each tiny up has its own tiny down.
It’s all very manageable and to be honest – a little boring. It’s work. Plain and simple. I create goals to complete. Some are big, like finishing 2000 minutes of editing each month to finish Stonebearer’s #2. Some are tiny, like making sure my email stays under control. Some can be tedious, like ensuring my social media presence stays solid. (By the way, my Instagram is fabulous.) Some are fun, like attending conferences and signings.
I find myself hoarding time like a miser. Each minute I can work in peace while the kids are at school is measured and optimized. The hours of the day are sliced and diced into focused chunks, 45 minutes here to write today’s blog post, 10 minutes there to fold the laundry, 15 minutes here to answer an email, another hour there to edit another scene.
Right in the beginning, when the world of possibilities was wide open, I lost focus on my big goal, to earn my success by creating great novels, and instead spent way too much time chasing micro opportunities down rabbit holes. Whole days were eaten in the search for podcasts and book review sites willing to even look at me. I didn’t write or edit a word of fiction for months.
I turned into a crazy person. I collected every bit of data and studied each analytic hoping to see an upturn that said I’d won the author lottery and the mainstream market had noticed my little book. After months of working and watching, I realized the only way to continue growing my fan base would be to keep writing more books for people to enjoy.
So here I am. Working. Hard. Everyday.
I don’t regret my weeks and months spent being a little crazy and obsessive – it comes with the whole becoming an author package and needs to be experienced to be understood.
I’m all better now. Here, have a smiling potato.
Interested in checking out my book baby? It’s a great read for fans of Wheel of Time, appropriate for ages 12 and up (although my 11-year-old loved it too!) Here’s a handy link to Amazon to learn more.
Love staying in touch? So do I! Let’s connect. You can follow here on WordPress, or choose your favorite social media – I’m on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
People are like books, containing journeys, adventures, and hidden turns. Today’s post is about the journey of a young entrepreneur working to make the world of reading a little bit brighter.
Rae was kind enough to help me with my book launch last year and I finally got around to thanking her formally and letting her share her voice here on my blog. Go check out the awesome post she did for me on her website.
Within the Pages
I could start off from the very beginning of my book
journey with my grandma’s reading challenge the summer before high school. I
could continue with my plunge into writing and fanfiction and the overwhelming
consuming of the #feels that come with author admiration, character boyfriends,
and more. From there I can spin my web of story telling to encompass my writing
journey at college and all that I did there – successes and mishaps. Following
college my writing took a nose dive into a pill of forgotten story ideas while
my blog burped under my relentless pursuit of being a book blogger and becoming
a part of a community I admired and feared. And yet, where am I now?
You see, everything that has happened has shaped me into
who I am today – a freelance editor with a young business, a reader buried
under her TBR list, and a writer struggling to type a sentence while ignoring
the imposter that whispers in both ears. Let’s not even go into the MFA rant
because believe me…it’s complicated.
From a book challenge till now as I type this, has
been intense, scary, beautiful, heartbreaking, and ironic. I tried so long to
ignore my voice, ignore the stories…and still books brought me home.
Now it might sound corny, but bear with me here. As a
reader we all have at least one book that sticks with us. You know exactly what
I mean. That book that haunts you from the shelf, that sneaks into your dreams
or daydreams, that influences an action when you find yourself floundering to
react in a situation. Then of course there are the book boyfriends and idols we
all want to be but can’t figure out how to find them within ourselves or others.
But I digress here.
Each one of my roles – editor, reader, writer – all
lead me back to the story, the words on the page that entice me to tears,
provoke me into a rage, that shield me from reality when life gets too
unbearable. I look for the book that doesn’t let me go, that I suffer through a
book hangover for days trying to pick up the pieces and connect the what if
this or that had happened. I look for the book that glares at me from my shelf
and I glare back because how did it get so far under my skin? I need the happy
ending. I need the realistic ending. I need the ending where it is such a cliff
hanger that I want to hook up a bungee cord and make the leap because I know
the story has got to be continuing.
As an editor I want to help that story grow and be
ready to face the world.
As a reader I want my reviews to shower reflection and
As a writer I want my story to leave an impact of some
Will it be pretty? No. Will it be perfect and loved by
But that is the beauty of it. Writing is messy. Books are messy. Being a fangirl, reviewer, bookstagrammer, editor, and so on is messy. Take the good and the bad and go with it. That next book is waiting for you. Go find it or go better yet – write it.
About today’s guest –
Rae is a writing and reading instructor at an elementary school by day, freelance editor by night, and fangirl at every other available opportunity. She always knew books were her passion, well after her grandmother’s challenge to read a book a day, and obtained her B.A. in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Arcadia University. Currently, she’s drowning in her TBR list, deciding on whether or not to go for her MFA, outlining her would be novel, and expanding her freelancing business while looking for more bookish things to get involved with. She is active on Twitter, Instagram, and sometimes Facebook when she remembers.
A New Look On Books is a professional freelance editing service that aims to get manuscripts ready for querying and publication.
A testimonial about her services –
“Rae’s sample edit exceeded my expectations. To say that her instincts were spot-on is an understatement. She immediately “got” my characters, had a sense of where I was going, and offered suggestions that immediately tightened up my manuscript. If you’re searching for a qualified and passionate editor who will challenge you to make your book better, look no further.”
— R. Bazylak @bazlactica
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I believe I’ve said it here before, but creating a book is a lot like having a baby, morning sickness and all.
Over the past few weeks I’ve had several people want to hear about my journey of what it’s been like to publish a book. Last year, I wrote a post about my experience with querying and finding a publisher. Ironically, that post was immediately preceded by one talking about rejection and accepting yourself as you are, proving that this industry is indeed a roller-coaster ride of emotion.
What a year it’s been!
If my book “pregnancy” officially began the day I signed the contract, then the morning sickness set in when I started work with my editor. Women suffering from morning sickness will tell themselves it will all be worth it in the end as a way to cope with the misery. During the editing process, I kept telling myself that the nauseating discomfort of learning about all the weak parts of my book had to be a good thing as well. My editor at one point in the process may, or may not, have compared my main character to Bella Swan from Twilight. Ouch.
Editing is hard work. Each chapter, sometimes each page, takes long hours of intense focused thought to bring it to the next level. When I’ve done my own rounds of polishing and editing it’s taken months to work from cover to cover. Under contract, I’m given thirty days to complete an editing pass. Fun fact – if I spend one hour per page, editing the book would take over 300 hours. That’s THIRTY ten hour work days back-to-back with no breaks. Which is why it really wasn’t fair for my kids to be off-track during the first crucial editing pass as I transformed my main character Katira away from being a passive Bella and into a strong, capable protagonist.
Deadlines are aptly named. If you aren’t feeling half-dead with exhaustion as you slide your edited manuscript back, you probably have better time management practices in place than I do. In the first pass, we cut away almost 15,000 words of dead weight and replaced them with hundreds of small additions sprinkled through the book like salt. I learned quickly that one of my writing weaknesses (besides poor Bella) was not tagging dialogue in a way that added motion and life into a scene. After spending days of work inserting more action into my dialogue sequences, I think I’ve learned my lesson.
This process is repeated until both editor and author agree the book is as good as it can get, or can’t stand to look at it again. I’m still not sure which. Morning sickness fades into a period of waiting, preparation, and sheer terror contemplating the vastness of all that should be done. There’s waiting for the proofreader to finish, waiting for the cover artist, waiting for formatting, waiting for proofs, waiting for digital copies, waiting for early reviewers – so much waiting.
At this point self-publishing starts to look good. While I’ve loved having the support of a company to help me through this process, especially since it’s my first time, the waiting and not knowing what’s happening – or if anything is happening – can drive anyone a little nuts.
Just like a first-time mom, a first-time author (despite all their research, and best efforts, and fellow author friends who try to show them the way) experiences so much uncertainty with the whole process that the stress is unbelievable. Looking back, I could have done so much more with this waiting period to prepare for the books release, but I was naive. Now I’ve been through it I know what really needs to be done, and when I go through this again I’ll have a much better plan.
Launch day is literally a book’s birthday. It is pushed out into the world and is on display for all to see, warts and all. All the early teasers, quotes, articles, and efforts that happen before the launch are the same as showing people ultrasounds. As the author, I can see the cute little nose and the tiny precious fingers, and all that amazing potential inside because I’ve studied it – but to everyone else it’s just another static filled picture.
There’s no way to feel truly prepared for launch day. Some authors do hundreds of hours of prep and set up and marketing and a blog tour – the options are dizzying. Some moms fill their freezer with weeks’ worth of meals and create and fill a schedule for people to come help them.
The results are the same. The book still comes, the baby is born. The family and friends that planned on supporting and helping the author still show up. Sometimes friends of friends are dragged in as well.
Unlike a baby who demands care, feeding, and endless love and attention, a book won’t demand anything and immediately starts fading into obscurity unless the author continues to push and work to keep it in the public eye.
This is where I am now. My book has entered its infancy where it still doesn’t know its place in the world. I’m working everyday, trying hard just to keep it alive until it can start building momentum on its own. Just like a real infant, the work keeps me awake at night and requires a steady stream of care and feeding for it to thrive.
It’s exhausting, but worth it.
My family will tell you that this process has changed me. I believe it. I’m a stronger more confident person than I was before. I’ve learned how to squeeze the most out of short periods of time, and utilize every moment – especially when I’m under a deadline. These skills have transferred into home life as well. Putting off doing something I don’t like doing, like creating a meal plan, only serves to prolong stress. Get it over with. Having a messy house won’t kill me, but it doesn’t help me find peace either. It’s important to seek out ways to feel centered, even when lots of crazy is going on.
While I wrote the book because it was one of my life goals, it has helped my kids see that they can reach hard goals as well and that anything worth doing takes real work. I love hearing the pride in their voices as they tell their teachers and friends that their mom is an author.
Hopefully they don’t mind too much that this book baby might be expecting a little brother in 2020…!
Interested in checking out my book baby? It’s a great read for fans of Wheel of Time, appropriate for ages 12 and up (although my 11-year-old loved it too!)