Seeds in the Soul Garden

Recently, I stumbled on a social media post talking about how you shouldn’t tear out seeds before they are given a chance to grow. This struck a chord with me. The idea is so simple and the thought of new endeavors as seeds so perfect that I wanted to spend more time with it.

Have you ever taken a moment to look at a truly beautiful garden? Flowers and plants grow together in ways that both surprise and delight. Accent pieces and sculptures glisten among the flowers, drawing the eye and telling their own stories. There’s a magic flowing through the space that invites the viewer to slow down and breathe.

Now I want you to imagine all your hopes, dreams, and goals; all your accomplishments; and all your failures are represented as a garden. What does your garden look like? Are the various flowerbeds of your different interests and passions alive and well? Are there hobbies that are overgrown and taking over more space than they should? Are there personal care areas that have shriveled and grown weeds from lack of attention?

Just as a gorgeous garden requires consistent time, effort, and love from a gardener with both skill and experience, your soul garden requires the same. All areas of your life deserve the attention they need to thrive without overwhelming the others. Take time to prune back unruly pursuits (Diner Dash, I’m looking at you) and devote more time to growing the things that bring you joy.

Personally, my soul garden probably looks more like a zoo right now. There are errant sentient plants wandering around and messing up flowerbeds. One is trying to build a shed using toothpicks and chewing gum. The few nice flowers I’ve managed to curate must be kept under bulletproof glass domes to protect them from the roving hoards of plot bunnies that munch on literally everything. There’s a treehouse in there somewhere. It’s chaos, but it’s my chaos, and there’s beauty in that too.

I see you there plot bunny. Don’t you dare eat my petunias.
Photo by Diana Măceşanu on Unsplash

This whole authoring business has encouraged me to plant new seeds while continuing to care for for the ones that are starting to sprout. These seeds represent skills and connections that need to be built and strengthened. It might be a while before I see real growth, but I know the possibility is out there. I trust that with proper care and attention they will grow into something beautiful. And where skill is lacking, thankfully there’s always Google, YouTube, and fellow indies I can randomly text on random Tuesday nights with my questions.

I raise my glass to those amazing indie authors out there with gorgeous gardens – thank you for sharing the fruit of your experience. It’s not an easy road, but it’s easier because I have you trailblazers to follow and learn from.

Tell me, dear reader, how does your garden grow?


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The big oops of reading the wrong schedule

There is a weird time vortex that happens around the holidays. Days get sucked into deep black holes and no one knows if it’s a Friday or a Tuesday. The only clock that sticks is how many days, hours, minutes, until the next thing happens.

Behold the holiday vortex!

Which is why I find this story so funny.

As someone who is trying to run her own business from home, schedules and plans are the only way to get things done. Some of these things require intense focus, so I save them for when the house is quiet. Ideally when I’m home alone. These precious silent hours are when the characters talk the clearest and the settings bloom to life.

Needless to say, I was eager for the day the kids went back to school and hubby went back to work. So eager in fact, that on January 3rd I woke my two youngest up at 7:20, fed them, made them get dressed and brush their teeth, got their backpacks and shoes figured out and was about to shovel them into the car and gleefully escort them back to school when I got a phone call.

“Hey hon,” hubby says. “I’m looking at the calendar and it says that K and D are off track,”

“What?” I hurry to the fridge and rummage through the papers important enough to earn a magnet, school schedule included. Sure enough, no school today.

No school for my younger two kiddos until the freaking 22nd of January. Yay for year-round school?

Here I am, literally tasting the sweet nectar of that most elusive of motherly gifts – free time – and I find out they will be hanging out with me for the next. three. weeks.

I might have cried. Or ate the rest of the stocking candy. Can’t quite remember.

Fast forward to today. While there’s none of that wonderful thing called silence. (Any parent will tell you that when it’s silent in the home and the kids are around, that means trouble.) What there is instead is plenty of laughter, fun, and games.

They’re pretty good about letting me escape to my basement dungeon and work, especially when it’s still early and they’re still sleepy haven’t booted up for the day.

As for my writing goals for January, this might be interesting…

Wish me luck.


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My Winter Self-Care

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.

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

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.

Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

A question…

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.


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Winner! NaNoWriMo 2019

At beginning of this week I figured if I averaged 3300 words a day, I could finish my NaNoWriMo project on Wednesday, leaving the rest of the weekend to celebrate Thanksgiving. That averages to around three hours of intensely focused writing a day with no distractions. Lucky for me, two of those days the kiddos were in school and the third they slept in a few hours.

I’m proud to day that with lots of grit and determination (and an unhealthy amount of leftover Halloween candy) I slammed dunked my way to the finish before lunch on Wednesday. There’s nothing quite like typing the words “The End.”

Wow. While I’ve done the challenge for several years now, this is the first time I’ve finished an entire draft of a project with the intention of publishing it later this year. Just thinking about it is both exhilarating and terrifying. What if the story I came up with is actually really stupid and I haven’t realized it yet? What happens then? Was this entire month of work a waste? I guess I’ll find out soon enough when I read it in a few weeks.

Writing Isben’s story was challenging. I was confined to use and stay faithful to the already existing confines of the Stonebearer universe, including what point he needed to reach at the end of the story. While part of this meant a lot of thoughtful review of how that might limit the possibilities, it also meant I had some guidelines to follow – a perk I’d not had before.

The story starts on the day Isben discovers that he possesses the power of the Khandashii and follows his struggle for survival each day after until he reaches the tower of Amul Dun and safety. One of the characters he meets along the way is now my new favorite character, after Bremin of course. The more he showed himself to me, the more I liked him. Sven the bard has some delightful surprises up his sleeves and in his amazing wagon.

Vision board for Isben’s story

Should everything go to plan, Isben’s story will be coming to Amazon March 2020.

For the next two weeks, I will be taking a small break from the intensity of NaNo and will spend my time reading a few amazing books to recharge my batteries, possibly writing a short story or two, and catching up on the dozens of things that I allowed to slip through the cracks as well as what needs to be done to prepare for the re-release of Stonebearer’s Betrayal in early January.

Stay tuned, there are a lot of awesome things in the works!


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Stonebearer’s Betrayal Sequel Update

For those of you keeping track, I officially started editing the rough draft of the sequel novel to Stonebearer’s Betrayal back in March. During the writing phase, I’d experimented with both speech-to-text and using a stand alone drafting keyboard, which made the draft messier than usual.

Note to self – when using speech-to-text, correct the mistakes the same day you dictate. Also, teach your software your character’s names early. Katira’s name changed into all sorts of crazy, like cuchara (Spanish for spoon).

I encourage anyone learning a new skill to experiment and find what works best for them. While I spent hours and hours going back and fixing misheard lines and words (and sometimes trying to divine what on earth I might have been thinking…) I know now how effective using dictation software is for me at this point. If it wasn’t for that test, I wouldn’t have tried tried transcribing my own recordings instead. Doing it that way means I can add correct punctuation marks and use names correctly the first time as I listen to files recorded on my phone. It also means I can speak out a scene in the oddest of places where writing or typing would be difficult, like while out walking, and then have material ready for when I’m ready to sit down and type.

All of this has helped me refine my writing process. With drafting, the most important goal is to get the whole broken story out onto the page, then make decisions where new scenes are needed or if something needs to be taken away. Editing is far different as it takes much longer focused sessions of working at the computer, which can be a challenge to find.

A little history…

I started writing the sequel novel to Stonebearer’s Betrayal during NaNoWriMo 2015 as a challenge to myself to see if I really did have another book in me. I met my goal and wrote the first half, about 50,000 words. Then life happened, as if often does and I set it down to work on other projects and focus on getting book one ready to see the world.

I didn’t touch it for over a year – literally waiting until the next NaNoWriMo to work on it again. That was when I did something truly stupid – and didn’t read the first half before writing the second. This was a lack of planning on my part. I could have easily done my preparation in October, but again, got too busy and when November 1st rolled around it was time to write.

This meant there was time for ideas to change and shift in my mind between the two halves of the book, many of those ideas for the better. But, it also meant that it took a huge amount more work to edit. I’ve literally rewritten 80% of the book at least once, if not several times, to make the two halves match. Learning is hard sometimes, and if I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that I really (really!) need to not put projects down for a year and then not spend a day or two simply rereading what was there.

Fast forward to today. There are twenty pages left of the final edit and a handful of little things to tighten up and then the sequel is ready for professional editing and test reading. So much yay! I feel like I’ve been teasing about finishing this one for months now, probably because I kept setting unrealistic goals and then being surprised when I didn’t reach them.

Another note to self – planning on getting significant work done during the kids summer break from school – totally not realistic.

Like I said before, there is a learning curve with every new project and although I know I’ve gotten so much better at drafting and editing, there’s still a long way to go before I can claim mastery. I’m proud to say with each attempt things get better, easier, and faster.

Writing the first book and bringing it to publication was a ten year journey. The second will only be five. The third is already drafted and I expect it to only take 18 months from start to publication – including the months I stopped to focus on book two. If this trend continues it’s totally possible for me to complete two full length novels a year in the future.

Will I get to that point? Time will definitely tell. There is an exciting world of possibilities out there and I intend to keep trying and moving forward.

I fully intend to release Stonebearer’s Apprentice (official title pending…) in Spring of 2020 and Katira’s story will continue!

Here’s to making progress in whatever way we can!


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Lessons Learned from Buying a Used Elliptical

We’ve all done stupid things. Buying a used elliptical sounded so smart at the time. I was saving money, ensuring my wintertime happiness, and also giving my kiddos another outlet to burn off extra energy. Then reality bit me in the butt.

Let’s back up a minute. Last week I talked about the importance of taking walks to help clear my head and deal with anxiety. While walking is indeed the fastest, cheapest, and easiest way to do this, the winter months are coming and the idea of walking outside during a blizzard or dreary freezing wind is not appealing in the least.

So, I had a brilliant idea – find a cheap elliptical that I could use on days when the weather is nasty and get in my exercise that way. As an added bonus, I could totally watch Netflix while working out – win.

Bad elliptical, go sit in time out and think about what you did. If you’re lucky, you won’t be a coat rack in the future.

For those of you who are experienced fitness machine users, yeah, feel free to laugh at me from this point forward. So many mistakes…

I found what looked like a great deal on a solid looking elliptical – $30 dollars and everything worked fine. We took it home at set it in the center of our family room to let the kiddos goof off on it. If anything was going to break, I’d rather it happen sooner than later and kids make excellent testing subjects. They hung on it, tried it two at a time, adjusted the built in fan, and made sure the heart rate monitor was accurate.

Even better, they didn’t break it.

What they did reveal is that it was a bit squeaky and thumpy. My goal, remember, was to be able to use it while watching TV. Being the uber-handy person I am, I decided it would be a great idea to lube the thing up and get rid of the excess noise. I looked up a Youtube tutorial, hubby bought some plastic-safe grease, and we went to town.

I’m one of those people who love taking things apart and putting them back together. It is very gratifying to fix stuff so it works better. Even better, hubby feels the same way. Usually. We lubed literally every joint and friction point just to be sure this new addition to our family could be as good as it be. If we’re going to do it, might as well do it as good as we can.

And it worked and ran as smooth as butter. For 30 glorious seconds.

Funny thing about moving parts, some don’t like to be slippery. In our haste to finish the job, we used a spray lubricant to reach a few places not thinking much about the drips. Those drips made their way under the tensioning belt and made the whole thing slip off.

Using and elliptical without a tensioning belt is WAY more exciting that I’m up for. There’s no friction at all and if you work hard enough you can cut a portal into another dimension. I think one of my kids summoned a minor demon as they cranked their way to infinity – and beyond! His name is Floyd and he now lives under my 7-year-old’s bed.

Did I mention that not only was this elliptical a great deal, but it is quite possibly the cheapest home elliptical known to man? We stripped screws, snapped plastic bits, and (possibly) swore more times than normally allowed in a home with younger kids. To fix the tensioning belt, we took that whole thing back apart and degreased all those essential frictiony bits to the best of our ability.

And put it all back together again…

And enjoyed another 30 glorious seconds of smooth silent operation…

Before the #(@&)#ing belt slipped off again.

Guess who gets to learn the finer points of how to properly retension an elliptical belt this weekend?

This gal, right here.

Yay.

The moral of this story is to research before you buy, don’t be too cheap, and for heaven’s sake, be careful where you spray lube!

Arrrg, Matey! When in doubt, use the white stuff. Smells like an old amusement park.

The real life lesson is never give up. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Stuff takes longer than expected. A great deal turns out not so great. Getting mad doesn’t fix anything. Whatever you do, keep trying. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Does anyone want to adopt Floyd? He keeps the youngest up at night with his cute demon snores.


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The Future of Guest Interviews

For nearly a year, Fridays here on the blog have been dedicated to guest interviews and features. It was gratifying work and a great chance to learn more about the amazing people I’ve had the privilege to meet.

Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

The idea was a great one at first and ultimately spread good karma all around. I got to help other creatives reach more people. Sometimes they did nice things for me in return. However, it was work. I spent hours and hours searching, inviting, interviewing, collecting images, creating graphics, and gathering links and info to make each of these interviews shine.

As a writer mom who works from home, there are always dozens of projects underway at any given time. This makes for a pretty chaotic mind space and a chaotic mind is not an efficient one even on good days. It’s crazy making on bad ones.

Between working to finish books, keeping active on social media, writing blog posts, managing my local writing group, and also maintaining my household and being a stay-at-home mom, something had to give.

Photo by Senjuti Kundu on Unsplash

After careful analysis of what efforts brought the most benefit and what were fun, but not super helpful, I’ve decided to drop the weekly Friday guest feature. In it’s place, I’ll be sharing something meaningful or interesting. It might be funny or serious, it might be academic or a rant – but it will be something I hope will connect with you, dear reader.

I will still be posting a few interviews here and there as I find them, probably about once a month.

Onwards and upwards!


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The Origins of Stonebearer’s Betrayal

Everyone wants to hear some fantastic story about how their favorite books came to be. While it would be easy to say that a dream angel gifted me with such a powerful idea that I stayed up for the next three nights feverishly writing down every beautiful word until my fingers bled, it wouldn’t be true. The fact is, Stonebearer’s Betrayal came into the world much like an unruly apple tree.

Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

It started with an idea, parts of which were tactfully borrowed from my favorite fiction tropes. This idea burrowed into the soil of my imagination and poked at my waking thoughts from time to time. When the time was right, I watered it with my attention until it started to grow, and grow, and grow. It was an ugly thing, overgrown, shapeless, and crowded by weeds. Over time I learned to prune away each unneeded character and subplot. It hurt but was necessary to allow the healthy branches to grow strong and bear fruit.

I still remember the moment when I decided I’d give this whole writing thing a try. In the sleep-deprived weeks and months following my daughter’s birth, the stress of caring for a newborn, paired with exhaustion, tacked on to also having a toddler to care for, pushed me past the breaking point. I had to escape. Some women shop. I dive into worlds created by the written word.

It was on one of these dives when I noticed that my reading experience had changed from when I was younger. I used to allow stories to eat me whole and I would only come up for air when I absolutely had to. As a parent, the distractions and needs of a busy family came first. I couldn’t dive deep, yet I craved that immersive experience.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

So I started writing. During nap time I typed away at dark ideas wanting to be explored. Every late night feeding was a chance to imagine different story twists and possibilities. It kept me sane and gave much-needed release. Years later, and a lot of learning about the craft of writing, I finally felt ready to let someone else take a look.

And … it wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great either. Inside the bloated and unwieldy story there were ideas that accidentally got sucked into the void alongside whole side stories that didn’t really matter. World building ideas needed to be solidified and developed and character motivations needed lots of shining up.

Bit by bit, year after year, I made agonizingly slow progress as the chapters and scenes started coming together and behaving nicely with each other. The big turning point was when my youngest started to attend school and I could have a few hours of undisturbed headspace to dig in and finish.

The book went under contract when he was in kindergarten and was published when he was in 1st grade.

Did I totally have a crush on Duncan Macleod? Yes, yes I did.

Where did some of the key ideas come from? I’ll admit, this book is my love letter to all my favorite books and TV shows I used to enjoy as a teen. I adore the Wheel of Time and Lord of the Rings, alongside pulpy favorites such as Highlander: The Series and Kung Fu: the Legend Continues. There might be a dash of Life in the ER as well…

Currently, I’m eyeballs deep in finishing final edits on the sequel and letting the characters drive the story to where it was always meant to go. Man, this is going to be good.


Stonebearer’s Betrayal is available in print at all major online retailers and in ebook exclusively through Amazon.com. Pick up your copy today!


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Power Word: Fearless

We’ve reached the end of the power word series and I saved the best for last. Today’s word is FEARLESS.

While many choose to define fearless as ‘being without fear,’ I define it differently. Being fearless means to acknowledge your fears and then go out and do the thing that’s perhaps a little scary. For me, it’s anything that might result in confrontation. Public speaking is one of those things. It’s scary and this year I’ve done it far more than I’ve ever done it before.

Photo by Amanda Jones on Unsplash

I’m an introvert by nature. Most assume the outgoing, somewhat loud side of me they see in public means that I’m super extroverted – it’s not true. The extroverted persona I wear at conferences is me grabbing the idea of being fearless and doing what needs to be done to best represent myself as an author. At conferences that means being brave and talking to strangers and presenting ideas in classes and panels.

If you’d asked me about this years ago, the idea of attending conferences with the intent to meet as many amazing people as possible and making myself seen, would have reduced me to a pile of anxiety ridden mush. It’s taken time, experience, and lots of watching my wonderful fellow author friends show how they handle being at a conference table, or behave on a panel, or teach a class.

The key to being fearless is developing confidence. Confidence comes from deep within and must be grown over time. It’s a personal understanding that you are a person of worth and have lots to share with the world. It’s also understanding that everyone around you deserves to be treated like they are also an interesting person and letting them shine.

Be fearless my friends!

For the complete list of power word posts, head over to Power Words of 2019.


Check it out! I’m doing something super brave and attending FanX officially as an author for the very first time this September. If you’re headed to FanX, I’d love to see you! Search the FanX site for my profile (or just click here) to see the most up-to-date listing of the panels I will be sitting on. You can also find me hanging around the Printed Garden vendor table.


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Power Word: Serenity

As we plunge into the full throes of Summer, this power word holds much more significance than during other parts of the year. Serenity doesn’t mean to be surrounded by peace and a zen-like atmosphere, although I would really like that right now. Serenity means to find that peace within regardless of what’s going on around you.

Which is why I’ve chosen it as the power word for July, when school is out.

Photo by Amanda Flavell on Unsplash

Like many people, I find great comfort in predictability. So much in life is unpredictable – the weather, the news, the rampant mouse issue in my backyard – that finding parts of my day that can stay the same, brings with it small amounts of peace. Having a schedule and routines take the guess work and stress out of the mundane things needing to be done.

Don’t get me wrong. I seek out joy in the unpredictable. I smile in the rain. I laugh at butterflies and bumblebees. These things are pleasantly unpredictable.

It’s the things I can’t predict, but must manage regardless, that cause amazing amounts of stress. While I hate to say it, that’s the definition of having multiple kids at home and trying to get work done. At any moment, a fight will break out, something will break, someone will need help, something will be lost, and I’m the one who has to fix it.

There’s a word for it – hypervigilance. It means even when you are relaxing or doing something you enjoy, you’ve got a huge part of your brain constantly monitoring for any unrest among the natives. And it’s exhausting.

Back to serenity. Deep breaths. I totally didn’t just have to leave in the middle of writing this post to deal with an argument about computer turns.

Having serenity as a power word means every time I see the word stuck to the bottom of my monitor, I take a few seconds to breathe and remind myself to find peace in the now. Every moment there isn’t a crises to be dealt with, is a mini zen moment. The more this practice is performed, the more the mind will auto regulate to seek out and acknowledge these moments of calm.

What helps you find your serenity?

Do you like routine or do you prefer to let your heart guide you?

Let’s discuss in the comments below!

If you want to read my other power word posts, head over to Power Words of 2019.


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Don’t forget! Stonebearer’s Betrayal is eligible to win a Dragon Award. The deadline for nominations is July 19th. If you’d like to help me reach my goal, head over to the nomination page, and vote for Stonebearer’s Betrayal in the Young Adult/Middle Grade Category. Anyone can do it!