Reflecting on 2017

I’m quite late in doing this wrap-up for 2017. While I was preparing my reflection of the year, 2017 hit me with one more bomb. It’s taken me several weeks to brush off the dust and crawl out of the rubble that was left behind from that last explosion. But I’m moving on, I’ve pulled myself up by the proverbial bootstraps and I’m ready to dig in.

First, the bad:

I’m sure a lot happened in 2017 that seemed horrible at the time, but only a few things stand out now. One of my dogs proved that he just can’t be left alone, and his impulsive nature has resulted in him being grounded….forever!

Six months later a head-on collision on the interstate sparked a fire that spread uphill and burned down our fence and a number of trees. Luckily everyone survived the crash and no homes were damaged in the fire.

Six months later I was notified by my employer that I was being given a 37% pay cut. There were a number of other changes and expectations that made me realize I was no longer in a healthy, supportive work environment. After much soul searching–and a LOT of number crunching!–I decided to leave that 60 hour/week job and find something else. I’ll be making less money, but I’ll have more time for my family, my writing and myself, which is far more important than numbers on a check.

Now…the good:

In 2017 I began doing some social media tasks and reading submissions for a publisher. Lakewater Press is a small publisher in Australia, and what a wonderful experience it has been to work with everyone there. I’m learning more about the querying process, but from the publisher’s side. I’ve also learned more about how books enter the world from the querying stage to publication.  I’ve come to realize how true it is that rejections aren’t personal, or even a reflection of the quality of writing. Sometimes, no matter how well-written a sample is, it really just “isn’t for me.” I’ve also been somewhat surprised at the number of submissions that are sent out and don’t meet the posted guideline or aren’t professionally prepared. For my author friends I would like to reiterate how important it is to review the guidelines and ensure your queries are well-prepared and appropriately targeted before sending those to an agent/publisher.

In 2017 I entered the world of being a published author. A Shine That Defies the Dark was released in December with Changing Tides Publishing. This book has helped me learn so much about the editing process as well as just how exhilarating and exhausting marketing can be.

On the horizon for 2018:

So, what does 2018 hold for me?

I have a new job, with realistic hours that will allow me more time for the things that nourish my soul.

I’m looking forward to better physical, psychological and spiritual health as I move beyond the stress of my old job and spend more time with my family and my writing.

I have two books that are SO CLOSE to being ready to send into the world. The Light at Finnigan’s End is a follow up to A Shine That Defies the Dark. I also have a YA fantasy, The High Crown Chronicles, that is inching closer to completion (I can’t even tell you how long I’ve been working on that novel!).

And I hope that 2018 is off to an amazing start for everyone else. Read widely and obsessively, everyone!

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When Life Interrupts the Creative Process

The thing about writing is that there’s a delicate, gossamer thread that’s ever so lightly attached between your creative mind and the ear-shattering, turbulent chaos of your everyday life. And sometimes it snaps.

Too dramatic? Maybe. 

I’ve spent the last few weeks being consumed by the demands of my “real” life (aka- my nonwriting world). My job typically requires 50-60 hours per week. I enjoy spending some time with my husband & kids. We’ve had two wonderful weddings in our families this month. I had a four day business trip out of state. Each day I thought I was just about caught up and I earmarked specific days (or even hours) to work on my revisions. And each day the “needs” prevented me from doing the “wants” (aka- the “yearnings” or “desires”). None of these interruptions in my plans were things that could be rescheduled or reallocated. They were great big, mind-blowing things where you stand back, scratching your head and wondering, “how the hell did that happen?” Or, more accurately, “What the hell just happened?”

For example: 27 hours before I was due to board a plane for Albuquerque, I was alerted that there was an accident on the interstate that the rear of my property overlooks. The accident sparked a fire, which was moving up the hill to our neighborhood. We were lucky in that we lost nothing more than a fence, several trees and some sprinklers, but once again, my entire schedule was thrown out to deal with this new issue. When I finally carved out time (two days later) to work on my revisions I found that I’d lost every bit of momentum I’d gained. I stared at the screen and couldn’t make a single word of progress.

So, what do you do when those real life stressors impact your ability to put words to paper–or even move words about on the paper? Sometimes, no matter what you try you just can’t force it. It could be that you need to step back and give yourself permission to deal with the things that are causing you stress–and causing the block in your creative flow. Do things that will help you relax–not those that cause additional stress. Reading, warm baths, going for walks, long drives are all activities that can help you expel some of the tension that’s invaded your body and mind. I actually find it completely relaxing to binge on mindless television viewing when I get severely overwhelmed. After several hours of not having to think, I find I’m completely recharged and my mind has shifted to another–more productive–gear. 

No matter what is happening in your personal life, don’t let your writing become another stressor. It isn’t something you have to do every day. Give yourself a few days–or weeks–to sort out the things that are impeding your creative flow. But you do have to make the vow to get back to your writing at some point. Set a limit for yourself. Revisit your writing every few days, maybe the words won’t come, but by reading it you’ll stay involved with your project. Even if you can’t write, allow yourself to think about your characters and storyline. Listen to the conversations they have with each other while you’re gone, imagine what they’ve been up to. You might just find yourself more deeply aware of the subtleties of your novel even though you’re not writing it.

As a matter of full disclosure: I started this post 2 weeks ago and then…well, life. Again! 

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Social Media Games

Disclaimer: I will not play your Facebook games. Or your Twitter games.

I’m not talking about the Candy Crush or Farmville invitations I’m constantly getting (but really, please stop sending those). I’m referring to the recreational blocking, unfollowing and unfriending that happens on social media sites.

We seem to have entered an era in which we deal punitive blows to our friends, acquaintances–and, yes, even family members–by deleting their very existence from our timelines and friends lists. I, personally have been deleted/blocked/unfriended on three different occasions. Not one of those times was it based on anything that I’d done, only because I happened to be the friend of a friend of someone who may have been involved in drama with my “unfriender”.

I don’t like conflict. I’ve whittled it out of my life and aside from the inevitable (work place, family, kid issues) I live a very quiet and drama-free existence. It’s chaos (I did mention the kids, right?), but a quiet and manageable chaos. Very rarely will you see me voice my opinion or get involved in any online debates over issues. I feel that online debates are held in a forum that doesn’t support resolution or even a respectful discourse. I’m more than happy to debate face-to-face, but I just don’t see the internet as an effective means of debate on social issues or conflict resolution.  So, with that, I must say that if you try to engage me in an online argument, I will not join in. If you’re involved in an online battle, I won’t join in. I don’t feel the need to prove myself or be “right”. I’m just as happy to walk away and enjoy my quiet, peaceful existence. I can say with 98% certaintly that I haven’t, nor will I ever, tried to engage in an online battle with anyone or slander anybody. But as much as much I am an Olympic champion at letting things roll off my back, I am also a reformed hot-head and being “punished” for someone else’s actions/words is one of my hot-button topics. If you delete/block/unfriend me simply because I’m acquainted with someone who you have conflict with I will never reestablish that connection with you again (I do have family who can attest to that).

Please don’t misinterpret my position: I’m not referring to legitimately wanting to remove negativity & drama from your social media life. There are going to be times you’re completely right to block someone. If you’re being harassed or just find that someone’s posts are offensive, then by all means block them. But please don’t rush into being punitive when dealing with everyone. A little bit of disagreement and opposition are good things, as are cooperation, compassion, empathy and respect for those we disagree with.

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On the Loss of Deputy Geer

Something is going on in my mind. For the past three mornings I’ve woken up at 4 am, unable to go back to sleep and with one thing on my mind. It isn’t a thing that directly impacted me, it won’t alter the day-to-day realities of the rest of my life, and yet I feel the need to purge myself of my thoughts and feelings. This thing isn’t mine, I can’t claim ownership of it, as it really happened to someone else—to several someone else’s, actually—and yet I’m in a community of people who are feeling the sting.

On February 8, 2016 Deputy Derek Geer, with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, responded to a call. The suspect that he contacted was a 17-year old boy. There was an altercation. Deputy Geer attempted to use his taser to subdue the suspect. That 17-year old proceeded to fire a gun—several times—leaving Deputy Geer mortally wounded.

For residents in Mesa County the shooting of Deputy Geer has been a shocking blow. Although our community has grown significantly, a large number of residents have been here since it was a small town, and Grand Junction has managed to maintain its small town personality, despite its growth. Our town is a true “six-degrees” type of community: everybody is connected to someone else in town by no less than six steps—more often only 2-3.

While we realize that we aren’t immune from the crimes and tragedies that happen in larger cities, we haven’t experienced many of them yet. The last deputy of the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office to be killed in the line of duty was in 1906. Our Police Department has only suffered from one active duty loss when, in 2004, a K9 officer, Gero, was shot and killed.

Because of our size, our history, and the close ties in our community, it was devastating to find that our law enforcement personnel—valued members of our community—aren’t as safe as we imagined them to be. And, because our citizens are so closely linked together, even those who didn’t personally know Deputy Geer or his family knew someone who did know them. We knew his friends, his coworkers, and those of his wife and children. We saw how it hurt those who were directly impacted. We knew details about how his family was notified, who was with them at any given time and who was preparing them dinner that night. We saw the local law enforcement at the hospital, and later at the mortuary, standing sentry (which they may not realize that we saw, and appreciated, but lacked the words to pass on). And, we waited until the final announcement had been made, that Deputy Derek Geer had committed his final selfless act—the donation of his organs—on February 10.

On Monday, our community—and others from across the U.S.—showed up in force to bid our final respects to Derek Geer. The support was so great that several remote locations were used and the services streamed to those sites. Even with the staggering number of people watching the services, the streets of our town were crowded along the processional route with those paying their respects. It was truly awe-inspiring that our community came together once again, like the small town we still identify as, to say good-bye to one of our own. And, while I know that the loss to Kate Geer and her children is far greater than what we experienced, I am still saddened for my community in what we lost along with Derek Geer. We lost a little more of our innocence and our sense of safety. But, we also proved how strong we are and how our neighbors will pull together to support each other in the darkest of days. For that—the overwhelming sense of living a community that will stand up together to say, “you are not alone”—I am grateful.

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Derek Geer (11/15/1975-2/8/2016)

#GeerStrong

As a member of the community in the city of Grand Junction and Mesa County, I would like to offer my heartfelt gratitude to all of the members of law enforcement and EMS who traveled our area to pay their respects to Deputy Geer. I’m sure we missed some but we did note the presence of representatives from the following cities, towns, counties and agencies in addition to Mesa County, Grand Junction, Fruita and Palisade:

Adams County

Adams State University

Alamosa city & county

Archuleta County

Arvada

Aspen

Auraria

Avon

Basalt

Boulder City & County

Breckenridge

Broomfield

Buena Vista

Cañon City

Castle Rock

Cedaredge

Cheyenne County

Clear Creek County

Collbran

Colorado Springs

Conejos County

Cortez

CU Boulder

De Beque

Delores

Delta city & county

Denver

Douglas County

Durango

Eagle County

El Paso County

Engelwood

Evans

Fremont County

Garfield County

Gilpin County

Grand County

Greeley

Gunnison

Hotchkiss

Hinsdale County

Lafayette

Lake County

Lakewood

La Plata County

Larimar County

Limon

Lincoln County

Logan County

Loveland

Meeker

Moffat County

Montezuma County

Montrose city & county

Norwood

Oak Creek

Olathe

Ouray City & County

Paonia

Parachute

Park County

Parker

Pitkin County

Rangely

Ridgeway

Rifle

Rio Blanco County

Salida

Sanford

San Juan County

Silt

Sterling

Summit County

Telluride

University of Colorado- Anschutz Campus

Weld County

Westminster

Wheatridge

 

Cottonwood Heights, UT

Moab, UT

Montezuma Creek, UT

Salt Lake City, UT

Missoula, MT

Sweetwater County, Wyoming

Rapid City, South Dakota

Department of Homeland Security

Department of Fish & Wildlife

US Forest Service

United States Navy

United States Army

 

 

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