Tuesday, January 26, 2016

time and money

In general, you can have either time or money -- but usually not both at the same time.

I like my job -- it affords me great flexibility most of the year, which really helps when I am pursuing writing for publication. But I also do some freelance writing on the side to fund various projects (house remodeling goals) and pursuits (vacations, writing retreats, and self-publishing goals), and that eats up some of my flexibility.

The more freelance projects I take, the less time I have to spend on the kind of writing I really want to work on, which is fiction. And yet, it is so hard to consider giving up a relatively easy and consistent source of income when my brain keeps telling me, You could keep doing both if you were just better at managing your time. And on top of that, my dad's voice in my head, reminding me of what his parents always told him: You get ahead by doing more than everyone else. 

(My grandparents were the O.G. Hustlers.)

A few weeks ago I wrote about how you have to give yourself the benefit of your own time, and I still firmly believe that. And the fact is, I am pretty good at managing my time. I'm not the best, but certainly not the worst. I manage to perform all the duties at my real job (quite well, if you ask me), spend quality time with my husband, keep my house (sorta) clean, my dog healthy and sufficiently snuggled, etc.

It's just that there are only so many hours in the day. More importantly, there is only so much mental capacity before I start hitting what Nick calls my psychological "allostatic load."

This weekend, I sat down to hit my 1,000 words goal for the week. And before I knew it, I had opened up my freelance writing projects and begun agonizing over them. I've tried to build up a few pieces so I don't have to work during my busy season at the Day Job, and I haven't finished quite as many as I would have liked, and ...

The excuses mounted and before I knew it I had spent two hours writing the sort of stuff that pays me -- and found myself without the mental energy I needed to work on the sort of stuff that fulfills me.

(By the way -- I know this post is the very definition of first world problems. "Ohh, someone can't follow her bliss, boo hoo!" Just had to acknowledge that I also know I am very privileged and being somewhat ridiculous about my circumstances.)

I don't know what I am going to do about this at the moment. I know what I should do (give up the freelance work and tighten my financial belt) but it is so very hard. 

If you have any recommendations on how I find more hours in the day and more mental fuel in my tank, believe me. I am all ears.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

goal updates: week 1

This past week I read two books (Big Magic* and I'll Give You The Sun**), went to the gym just once and skied once. I also bought new flowers yesterday and attempted making stew for Sunday dinner. It went ... reasonably well.

Date night was fun -- Nick and I took my dad to see The Revenant. (Will someone just give Leonardo di'Caprio his Oscar already? No, I don't think it was his best role, but it's getting ridiculous.) The cinematography was gorgeous, the violence level was extremely high (and I've got a high squeamishness tolerance), and overall I think it was a good movie but don't think I'd see it again.

(I also managed to annoy Nick a little by leaning over at one point and asking, "Do you think a boulder is going to come out of nowhere and hit him next?"

But for reals, The Revenant. For reals.)

The one thing I probably won't finish this week is making a dessert -- we were shooting for tres leches cake, but that may have to wait until Monday.

Until the next update -- we're over and out!

* Generally recommended. There are a few passages that had me resisting the urge to roll my eyes (it's a little ... new agey at times), but in general, it gave me a lot to think about in regards to my writing habits.

** Strongly recommended, though with the caveat -- it took me a little while to get into the story. I nearly gave up initially and I am so glad I didn't. Everyone who gushed about this book was right.

Monday, January 18, 2016

the cozy corridor

I like to refer to October 1 through January 1 as the "Holiday Corridor." My house is decorated for Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas, with no breaks in between. It's a solid three months of excitement -- scary movie marathons, baking, Christmas parties galore.

Lately I have been thinking about that, and about the Danish concept of "hygge" that has been floating around the Internet these days. Hygge means, roughly, "coziness," but also ... a state of mind of coziness? Danes, you crazy. (I get to say that because I'm Danish descent.) (No, I know that's not really how it works.)

I'm a firm believer that people should buy themselves grocery store flowers on the regular, because a vase of flowers in your home can really lift your mood. And that's part of what everyone is getting at, as we all run around and try to hyggify our homes. Fireplaces! Cuddly pets! Gratuitous scarves! Scented candles as far as the eye can see!

You take the idea of the grocery store flowers and amplify it = cozy/lovely/snuggly to the max.

I may have mentioned before that January through March is my busiest season at work. Some years it is not too bad at all, some years it borders on unmanageable.

But this year, I am making a conscious decision to sort of hyggify my busy season--create a "Coziness Corridor," if you will. After all, October-November-December are extremely busy months too, and yet I always find time for friends and football and all the other goodness of fall.

Why not January-February-March?

So here are my goals for Cozy Corridor:

On the shallow side of things:
1. New manicure every three weeks. I think you type happier with cute fingertips.
2. Mid-March: buy a new dress for spring, put it away until the snow melts.

For my health:
1. Continue to hit the gym at least twice a week.
2. Go skiing every other week.
3. Limit soda consumption to no more than one a day.
4. Pack lunches to work.
5. Go rock climbing once a month.

For my brain:
1. Read one book a week
2. Write 1,000 new words a week.
(Confession time: I love my new work-in-progress, but it does not love me. I've been stalled out at about 35,000 words for over two months, and instead of moving forward I keep redrafting what I've got. It's not exactly wasted time, but it isn't forward momentum. So I'm adding this relatively modest goal so I can make some forward progress and maintain my creative outlet. Gentleman Caller has put an alert on his calendar so he can remember to ask me how that's going every Saturday at 4:00 pm.)

Home goals:
1. Clean for one hour every Saturday.
2. Buy new flowers every other week.
3. Cook an interesting dinner and bake a fun dessert every Sunday night.

Fancy goals:
1. Date night every Friday night.
2. Really awesome Valentines Plan! (TBD) 

I am generally prone to wanting to zone out after a busy day of work--just mentally pass out in front of my TV. And while I don't think there's anything wrong with that now and then, I don't want to only do that for the next three months.

So check back in on Sunday, I'll report on the book, the new words, and the lemon tart baking.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

diversity and the Academy Awards: part 2

Can you believe there's a Part 2?

Me neither.

Last year I wrote about the lack of diversity in 2014 movie releases. To my completely uneducated eye, it seems like 2015 did slightly better (Creed, Straight Outta Compton, Concussion ... there are probably more, but I haven't seen that many movies this year). But despite that, there are no POC nominated for acting Oscars this go-around either.

Again, this isn't about saying people like Rachel McAdams or Michael Fassbender don't deserve their nominations. They do!

I am simply saying (for the second year in a row, apparently) that many of the institutions that support popular culture (primarily film production companies) overwhelmingly produce stories about white men and then overwhelmingly promote stories about white men. When that happens, the field from which the "best" are selected is already stacked against reality.

(Speaking of stacking the deck against reality ... Jennifer Lawrence, I love you, but it is time you stop accepting roles that are clearly meant for a 40 year old woman. Kthxbye. Also, remember when Emma Stone played an Asian woman? Oh 2015 casting directors, you crazy.)

I have no idea when this trend is going to shift. But in the meantime, I'm going to watch Sense and Sensibility this weekend to commemorate Alan Rickman (the best), go catch Creed while it's still in theaters (and rocking a 96% positive review rate on Rotten Tomatoes), and root for Mad Max: Fury Road to win literally everything on February 28th.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


I am so excited to help my friend Hayley Stone share the cover of her debut novel, MACHINATIONS. Hayley is a 2014 Pitch Wars alum and her book is coming out this spring from Hydra/Random House -- so exciting! Here's what MACHINATIONS is about. 

Perfect for fans of Robopocalypse, this action-packed science-fiction debut introduces a chilling future and an unforgettable heroine with a powerful role to play in the battle for humanity’s survival.

The machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the endless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race.

A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself.

Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.

Doesn't it sound awesome?! And here's the cover!

Pre-order Machinations today!

And don’t forget to add it to your list on Goodreads!

Hayley Stone has lived her entire life in sunny California, where the weather is usually perfect and nothing as exciting as a robot apocalypse ever happens. When not reading or writing, she freelances as a graphic designer, falls in love with videogame characters, and analyzes buildings for velociraptor entry points. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in German from California State University, Sacramento.

Monday, January 11, 2016

writing music

Lately I am obsessed with The Lower Lights, a local folk band that records old Gospel songs and Christmas music. Along those lines, I've probably played this version of Come Thou Fount by Sufjan Stevens about twenty times in the last week. (I obsess over certain songs. You don't even want to know what number is next to Adele's "Hello" on my iTunes.) (Or, to be completely honest, "See You Again" by Miley Cyrus. IT WAS CATCHY.)

Ditto to Queen (specifically Fat Bottom Girls, which I tried to make the song Hailey and Will left their wedding to ... before someone cut it off. But seriously, listen to it! It's the perfect "grand exit" song and I mentally use it in SEVERAL scenes.)

Are there any songs catching your fancy lately?

Edited to add: I wrote this post and scheduled it this weekend, but as of this morning, I've been adding a lot of David Bowie to the playlist. My characters definitely approve.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Take your cut

How do you make time for the "extras" in your life? Once you're done with your daily adulting (working, making food, cleaning your home, laundry, caring for pets and/or children, etc.), where do you fit in the rest (working out, creative pursuits, connecting with friends, time with beloved Netflix accounts, etc.)?

My friend Will likes to say that, if he's going to get any time to work out or play guitar, he needs to do it first thing in the morning. He calls it "taking your cut off the top," and argues that much like with a savings account, if you don't pay yourself first you'll find yourself running out of what you need by the end of the day.

(PS, Gentleman Caller recently joined Will's band, Black Bess and the Butchers. If you're in the Salt Lake City area, you should definitely check them out sometime. They're musically talented and also fun to look at ... wow, did I just make that creepy for you all? So sorry.)

I usually try to find time at the end of the day or on weekends, but I am starting to realize that Will is right -- at least when it comes to the hard stuff. If I want to read or hang out with friends or veg out to a Friday Night Lights marathon, I will always have the energy for that at the end of the day. But if I want to find the time to write or go to the gym -- things I usually find hard to start but am always glad when once I'm done -- well. I might find myself completely sapped.

So I've been trying to flip that around the last few months -- gym in the mornings (sob) and writing while the sun is still out (whenever possible). In the next few weeks I might get EVEN CRAZIER and start writing BEFORE the sun is up, because Day Job is about to go bananas. 

How do you find the time for the extras in your life?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Reading goals - 2016 edition

This year my cousin Alli tagged me in Mrs. Darcy's Reading Challenge and I'm going to give it a whirl. Who is with me?

First up -- a book I have been meaning to read, BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert.

What's new in your reading world?