when there is too too much

Sometimes there is just too much. You have already condensed and prioritized and cut out everything but what absolutely cannot be cut, and there is still too, too much.

I can marshal my resources and dig my heels in and get through when things come to a head. Oh, can I push.

The problem is when the rough time isn’t temporary. When the “too, too much” doesn’t have an end in sight—or at least not a near one. When everything promises to be too much for not just days, or even weeks, but months, or longer.

Friends, I have been running over capacity since at least May. Life happened: I was already full up, then was thrown a few big things I couldn’t afford not to catch. But there are only so many unplanned and enormous commitments I can accommodate.

It’s taken me four months of pushing myself to the breaking point over and over to admit this isn’t just a matter of “if you just work hard enough you can do everything.” I can’t. I hate that, limitations are infuriating, but I don’t enjoy being slow on the uptake, either, so here we are.

This post is part confession, part reminder, and part promise. How do you get through overwhelming commitments when they’re not a sprint, but a marathon?

Pacing.

I’m still learning that, pacing. I expect I always will be. It’s clear I’m better than I used to be, or I wouldn’t have made it this long, as over capacity as I’ve been. But just as clearly I have more work ahead, or I would’ve realized months ago how this could only unfold, the way I’ve been going.

Cutting yourself some slack.

I’m… extremely bad at this. Ha. My self-worth gets tangled up in my productivity, and when it’s impossible to be productive enough, it makes it harder to do anything at all, let alone everything, let alone well. When life is calmer, I’m better at untangling this. When stressed, old habits of thinking rear.

Letting go.

I’m always going to expect more from myself. I’m always going to reach for it. I try to set the bar slightly out of reach, but sometimes I miscalculate, and then I keep expecting myself to be able to somehow fly to reach it anyway. Which is a lot of wasted effort for a faulty goal I shouldn’t even be trying to reach, but the lure of how great it would be if I were superhuman is sometimes ridiculously hard to shake.

But these are the things I need to do to pull myself together, and I’m doing them.

The work I care most about needs me to be in a better mental place in order to meet it. So do the people in my life; so do I. So I will. Please be patient with me, and each other, as I work on being patient with myself.

Take care out there.

synchronized sunbathing naps

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House!

House! Oof, where to even begin.

I guess I begin with the fact that I’ve been promising to post pictures for months, but the prospect of MORE HOUSE related work made me shy away. So, here we are like half a year later… >_> But!

House! Pictures! Very Excite!

To be brief: I moved! Into my first house! IT WAS SO MUCH WORK. Partially because I cared, and partially because I wanted to be done all at once so I wouldn’t have to keep worrying about house setup tasks continually down the road. And let me tell you, now that I’m months down the road, that plan has actually been great SINCE finishing. But it made the moving process a little all-consuming.

See, while visual art is mostly beyond my abilities, I have Opinions about interior design. Because Opinions, I spent A LOT OF TIME choosing (finding, acquiring, assembling…) everything from tile to furniture to serving platters to trash cans (seriously you need a lot more trash cans when you move from a teeny studio apartment to a house). AND NOW I AM DONE. The backyard may remain tanbark forever, but INSIDE, where I have Opinions, I’m done.

I’m really happy with how the house came out. I’m going to post pictures of just some of my favorite parts here, because the alternative is I end up writing a blow-by-blow of how I did everything complete with the names of types of quartz and itemized budget lists. Unless someone asks specifically I’m erring on the side of no one besides me (and my mother) cares quite that much.

So! Welcome to the Wexlair.

Paws Here

Enter at risk of cats and puns.

 

We begin by passing through the entryway, a warning to all who enter.

Hallway Swords

SPOILER ALERT FANTASY BOOK NERDS LIVE HERE

 

The main section of the ground floor includes the living room, kitchen, and dining room.

Ground FloorLiving RoomKitchenDining Table

 

 

Downstairs is the library/game room. My significant other built 18 Billy bookcases in the span of like a week because he is a monster. If you need Ikea furniture assembled in record time, I know a guy.

Books!

Books!

Board Games!

Board Games!

 

Downstairs is ALSO the evil overlord suite. It comes equipped with a death star lamp, swords, D&D manuals and miniatures for plotting evil campaigns, evil overlording cloaks, and other surprises only guesting evil overlords will get to discover.

Evil Overlord Lair

Evil Overlord Lair

 

The master bedroom is upstairs, and while it’s not the most exciting of the rooms set up, it does include the world’s most comfortable bizarre lounge chairs. As an added bonus, they also make an excellent cat cave.

Master Bedroom

Pictured pre-curtains: as you can see, the view from the bedroom does not suck.

 

We put the prettiest surfaces in the house in the master bathroom. The counter has these blue flecks that in the light glint like buried sapphires, and the shower floor makes it feel like I’m standing in a river.

 

Last but not least among our worth-posting-photos-of-our-work spaces, we have our offices. I wanted a magical forest feel, so this is some of what I did.


 

And that’s the house, more or less! Now I never have to shop again, right? =D?

Bring on 28

This year is a wrap! Let me review what I’ve been up to.

 

I did finish editing AFTERSTORMS. It’s on submission, and so far that’s going well. I drafted one new book this year, which I consider the bare minimum; I aim for two in a year. There are a couple reasons I didn’t make that goal this year.

 

The first is that I moved. Not just moved, but set up an entirely new house. There were a number of challenges even getting into the house, and I will spare you those details, but suffice it to say a lot of unnecessary time was spent dealing with the consequences of the developing company’s questionable management. And then there was actually moving–sorting, packing, trashing–as well as acquiring a lot of furnishings besides. Here’s a teaser:

 

Ground Floor, with Bonus Cat!

Ground Floor, with Bonus Cat!

 

Now that I’m a little settled I’ll post about that more, but going from zero to fully outfitted house before hosting twelve people (including the first meeting of parents for my partner and me O_O) for Thanksgiving took some doing. It wasn’t that long ago I lived in a 390 square foot apartment; fully furnishing an empty house (to my satisfaction) just plain took a lot of time. (It’s never just about the big pieces of furniture; it’s the half a dozen small trash cans for various rooms.) But I’m really happy with it, and the space feels like mine, and that matters a lot to me.

 

The second reason is that I’m in the process of doing a serious revision on one of my novels, more extensive than any I’ve done before. Normally a round of edits takes me one month; this is going to take considerably longer. The revision is alternately exciting and terrifying. It’s a good thing I’ve leveled way up at editing in the last couple years, because it’s going to take a lot to pull this off.

 

On the bright side, not finishing another novel this year doesn’t hurt my long-term writing plans (I keep having to remind myself of this). I’ve reached the point where I’m literally finishing novels faster than agents can finish considering them, and unlike with short fiction there’s no benefit to shopping multiple novels around at once.

 

Which is not to say I’ve slacked off by any means! But this is as good a time as any to have a sizable revision project. And I’m also taking this opportunity to set the wheels in motion for another, sort of novel-adjacent writing project. I’m trying some new things with this one that I’m really excited about, and I hope I’ll have it enough underway to start telling the world about it soon.

 

And of course the real reason for this post: annual birthday flying adventures are still happening! For my 28th birthday flying adventure, I went ziplining in Thailand. The ziplining trip also included some abseiling, so it’s practically a double win.

 

Mid-ziplining selfie!

Mid-ziplining selfie!

Mid-abseiling selfie!

Mid-abseiling selfie!

 

The reason I went to Thailand was not specifically to go ziplining for my birthday. For years I’ve been seeing pictures of Yi Peng, a lantern festival, and I wanted to see it with my own eyes.

 

I have no good pictures, lighting being what it was. I released a lantern lifted by the smoke of its own fire into the sky, and from any distance I could see the trail of released lanterns like a river of stars climbing into the night. But my friends (thank you, Nicole and Christian!) did manage to get a picture of me at the festival worth sharing.

 

This is me, having done everything right to get the lantern ready but still terrified I’m about to set something on fire and going for it anyway:

 

Yes, that's a metaphor.

Yes, that’s a metaphor.

 

Getting this trip together took a lot of doing, but I’m so glad I went; having the privilege of participating in Yi Peng is not something I’ll forget. But there has been more than one occasion this year where I’ve wondered if the universe was spiting me for daring to imagine I could organize my life and have things actually go as planned. Moving was one, and this Thailand trip was another.

 

It all worked out. But if I’ve learned nothing else this year, it’s that you do the work, as well as you can, and that matters, and sometimes life goes sideways anyway. It’s important to take precautions, but it’s just as important to know when to take a leap and go for it.

 

In any year wrap-up it would be disingenuous to neglect to mention that this recent election has made me angry and afraid, and I have a long habit of being goaded into action by anger. Amidst everything else I’m taking some time now to start figuring out how I’m going to cope with the election aftermath. There’s an alarming amount of work to do. It still matters. And I will be a part of that. I will do what I can to fight.

 

Next year I’ll also be finding a new job–that’s a whole other story, but the bottom line is while this state of affairs is suboptimal in the short term in the long term I’ll be better off. I’ll research and plan the shit out of it, because that’s what I do. Then I’ll take a leap, and I’ll roll with whatever unexpected challenges it brings. Which is not, really, so different from how I write. Here’s hoping I can make some happy news happen next year.

We’ll See Where We Land

Friends have been asking where I’m at with writing and editing at the moment, and it occurs to me that I’ve let my blog languish. An unexpected side effect of living with people again is that when I feel ranty or something noteworthy happens I just, you know, argue with a living human instead of blurting it out on the internet. Alas for the regularity of my posting here.

So an update on my current projects for anyone curious:

Recently I’ve been writing a new YA fantasy novel I’m calling Sealed, and I just finished the first draft last week! It’s a story with female friendship at its center, along with quests, underground monasteries, demon invasions, political machinations, undignified and vicious floof friends, and magic.

I’m tentatively (I am rarely sure of anything when I first finish a draft) pleased with how this one came out. It took me a while to get into it — I tried a lot of new things and was coming off a looooong stint of editing and not drafting, so that’s not shocking but was still frustrating — but I think it’s come out approximately book-shaped.

Normally I’d do a quick clean-up and send it straight to readers for feedback, but this time I need to do a more thorough edit pass first. I have a document full of notes I jotted down while drafting of things I already know I need to fix, so I’m going to address those first. My manuscript needs to be in the best shape I can get it in before I ask anyone to put their time into helping me make it better.

I’m taking a brief (possibly too brief?) break to do some beta reading myself before diving back in, letting my mental gears adjust a bit from the mode of CHURN OUT ALL THE WORDS (I was writing 6-8k/day towards the end there — I did eventually get into it) to a place with enough distance where I don’t get caught up and can edit more effectively.

On the beta reading note, I think I’m going to have to officially close to beta reads for a while. I just counted, and I have four full beta reads and three partials already this year. I love beta reading, and I always want to be available for writers who’ve beta read for me in the past, but at least through July I’m booked on that front.

Next on the agenda is finishing up the final round of edits for Afterstorms, the adult fantasy novel. I’m actually excited to edit it, so I know taking a break to write something new was the right choice for me. And I’m really excited to get it on submission — honestly while I’m invested in being published I’m not usually so enthusiastic about the prospect of querying — and the submission packet is almost in its final form. This book is ready to soar into the wild, and I can’t wait to see how it flies.

So, to recap, this is where I’m at.

recently: wrote a new book
now: beta reading
May: first round of edits on the YA fantasy
May and maybe June: last round of edits on the adult fantasy
by June: submitting the adult fantasy

Why the rush? In part because I’m anxious for these books to go on to their next steps. But also because I’m going to have travel commitments coming up at the end of June and early July — con, wedding, etc. — and I don’t want to be interrupted after getting into the flow.

And after those I won’t be able to just pick back up, because in June and July, construction disaster notwithstanding, I will be moving at long last. I will be moving into a new house and furnishing the whole thing, and I am reasonably sure that getting settled to my satisfaction is going to take all my creative energy for a few weeks at the minimum.

SO. It’s been a busy spring, and it’s shaping up to be a busy summer! After that, we’ll see where we land.

Third Annual Flying Birthday Report

It’s now been two years since I took a leap (well, more of a roll out of the plane) and really committed to putting myself and my writing first. Continuing the flying tradition, for my 27th birthday I decided to try out a wind tunnel, which I highly recommend.

wind tunnel 1

Throughout various adventuring, I have learned that it behooves me to warn guides about two things in advance:

a) My skull, while unusually hard, is tinier than they really think it is.

Here I am wearing an actually child-sized helmet.

Here I am wearing an actually child-sized helmet.

 

b) My back is unreasonably bendy.

ziplining

When I ran out of momentum while ziplining and had to pull myself the rest of the way, I ended up alarming my poor guides.

 

In the wind tunnel, it didn’t matter how well I held position or how straight I kept my legs; because I was essentially doing an upside down backbend, I was constantly drifting backwards.

upside down bridge

Good times, good times.

And thus I finished out my second year of putting my writing first in my life.

I haven’t been good about blogging this year, so I thought I’d recap how this has been going.

The first year after quitting my fulltime job was largely about figuring out how to best arrange my life to support my writing, as opposed to finding a job that allowed me to write on the side. That’s a subtle distinction, but for me it’s been an important one.

I will probably always be adjusting. I changed part-time jobs again for various reasons, and the one I currently have — working at a root beer store and doing way more than is technically in my job description — is so far working the best of anything I’ve tried, so I am hopeful.

Last year was a learning year, and I knew it would be. I went into year two with such grand plans for implementing all the things I’d learned, but of course life, right?

First, I attended four weddings (plus related events) that included five out-of-town trips.

we1 we2 we3 we4 we5 we6 we7 we8

I am delighted for all of my newly married friends, but there were So. Many. Weddings.

I only went to three cons this year, but with Christmas that brings my total of out-of-town trips to nine. Each trip required varying degrees of work, from researching and writing presentations to herding bridesmaids and coordinating travel plans. Not only did this create some logistical and financial stress, it also cut into writing time. The problem wasn’t just the trips themselves, but the fact that a lot of them happened back-to-back (for instance, June included back-to-back trips to Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Minneapolis). Catching up on all the things I had to push while I wasn’t physically present to deal with them impacted my schedule more than I’d anticipated.

Second, I moved. And not only did I move, I plan to move again. There has been a lot of time spent physically moving things, picking out design items (be it duvet covers for the bed I have now or countertops for the place I will have), and all of the usual hassle.

In my defense, I basically knew about these events in advance and blocked out three months in my writing schedule on the assumption that life would happen. In practice, it’s ended up encroaching a little more than that, but I’m basically on track.

By “on track,” I mean that my current goal is to complete two novels every year.

For me, completing a novel now includes the initial drafting of the manuscript, time for at least two full rounds of beta readers to have a crack at it, thorough rounds of edits after I collect all the feedback, assembling the submission packet, and getting the final draft out the proverbial door.

I can draft a novel in about two months once I get going. Each round of edits takes me about a month. Even leaving some time for when life causes my schedule to go awry, that puts me at a pretty good noveling pace.

In theory, while I wait for beta readers’ feedback, I work on writing or editing a different novel. In practice this year instead I was usually at weddings while waiting for feedback, which skewed my schedule and left me with a lot of months of back-to-back editing.

But I’ve just about gotten myself on the schedule I want to be on: I’ve just finished the first post-beta round of edits on one novel; I’ll draft a new novel next; then I’ll do the second round of edits on the previous novel; then the first round of edits on the new novel; then I draft another new novel. And so on.

Of course, if I do get a publishing contract that will probably blow the Master Plan out of the water, but that is still to be hoped for and I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

At the moment I have a YA space opera novel (teenagers piloting mechas in space battles) out on submission that has been getting positive responses from industry professionals so far. And if that novel doesn’t get me an agent, well, I’ll have another novel ready to go in a few more months.

I’m really excited about the latest novel (which is unusual given that I just finished editing the thing, which normally leaves me feeling =/): it’s a secondary world urban fantasy starring a woman who is a professional mage and adventurer and also the single mother of a teenage daughter.

Overall, my writing grows increasingly tight with every novel, I’m better organized all around, be it in terms of story structure or work schedule, and I’ve gotten hugely better at editing. I’ve learned how to better set schedules for myself — they have to be mildly unreasonable to give me something to reach for, but not too unreasonable or the whole thing collapses. So far I haven’t blown a single editing deadline, though, so my current methods of organization and motivation are working as they should be.

Basically, everything is going well! There have obviously been bumps, but I have this writing/paying-work/spending-time-with-other-humans/recharging-in-cave-time stuff reasonably well-balanced at the moment.

And now I get to start working on a new novel =D. Onward to further adventures!

Arranging Spaces

I AM DONE MOVING AT LAST.

The move happened more suddenly than I expected, and it happened at the same time my workload about doubled. Because of course it did. It had to happen gradually to fit in my work, which seems like it ought to be less stressful, but in reality it left me split, having to keep track of which of my things were where and driving all across town. And feeling disorganized, caught in-between states, took more of a toll on me.

This is my first time moving into someone else’s space. My significant other (hereafter referred to as “SO”) and his two housemates have lived in their house for seven years. This is not like going into an empty house with other people or like sharing a room in college. They have their established ways of doing things, they have their places, and I am trying to fit myself into the cracks.

In this process I’ve also learned that my SO and I need different things from a living space to feel comfortable, which is something I knew in theory but it’s different when we’re figuring out what to do with physical things. He needs enough space for his things, while I need for my things to have spaces. My junk drawer isn’t organized, but it is the place where junk goes. I cull to make sure my things will fit in their established places, while he acquires more space to accommodate his things. Somehow we are now sharing a bedroom, bathroom, and closet. This has been an adventure =).

Everyone — my SO especially, but also his housemates — involved has been very communicative about their needs and willing to help each other be comfortable. Still, every time I think I’m done, there’s another space to arrange. There’s a closet, a pantry, shelves in a kitchen, drawers in a bathroom, desks. There was no organization when I got here, and this makes the THINGS NEED PLACES part of my brain twitchy if left unresolved. It wasn’t enough to get my things here; to feel settled I also had to place them.

In some places I simply added my cleaning or pantry supplies or whatnot to the existing space. Any time I combined my stuff with theirs, I also sorted through which of theirs needed to be trashed anyway to free up space and organized so we could find things. (Oatmeal does not need to be on three different shelves, right? Not just me?) The closet now includes drawers; we each have a sink in the bathroom; for our new bed we acquired a bedframe with drawers; extraneous cardboard boxes and piles of discarded plastic have been moved to more appropriate venues (often the trashcan). The cats have loved this process; I keep moving things around, so they, naturally, have to investigate.

In others, we cleared out space for me. One shelf of comics was moved out of the library so I could move my desk in. It’s a space where I can be seal myself off (until the cats meow at the door, anyway) and have a private space while I work late into the night and the rest of the resident humans sleep. It’s a little space carved out just for me to arrange and use as I need, and that means everything. The cat has found where I keep my ninja caltrop, so I wouldn’t call this place peaceful, but it is what I need.

It was odd to finally leave my last apartment. That was the first place that was entirely mine: I chose it, and I chose everything that went into it and arranged it just for me. Now this is the first place I’m living with a SO, and I think the last month has been educational for both of us. But just as there are new challenges, there are new rewards, too.

Another Year, Another Sweeping Change

What would a new year in my life be if I weren’t planning on making huge, sweeping life changes?

As far as I can tell, this is what I have to look forward to forever. Other people seem to manage to adult by settling down and having blips of excitement; maybe that’s just perception. But I expect my adulting will be endlessly exciting, and there are worse things.

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions. I have goals for the year, but I always have goals and can’t be bothered to wait for January 1st to start working on them. But here’s some of what’s been up while I’ve been away.

The holidays were crazy. My college roommate visited, which was fabulous, and I also got to hang out with The Cats.

Roommate Love

Roommate Love

 

The Cats

The Cats

On the work front, the tutoring is picking up as more students start to prepare for standardized tests this spring and summer. I’m actively querying again for the first time in too long, I’m gathering beta feedback on my YA space opera novel draft, and I’m getting going on a new high fantasy novel.

The current whirlwind of DOING ALL THE THINGS comes from my personal life this time around: I’m getting ready to move again. This is, on the whole, something I’m excited about, although the plan is mind-bogglingly complicated for reasons I won’t go into. I am also going to be temporarily moving in with my significant other of almost a year (O_o), which is on a whole other plane of Dramatic Life Change for me.

In practice, this means I’m leveling up in searching and winnowing, in list-making and people-wrangling. I am drowning in threads of lists of URLs, and there is always another decision to make.

First there was the matter of the mattress. People, there is NO GOOD REASON for these things to be so absurdly expensive. Of course the SO and I have polar opposite tastes in this, because of course we do. So now there will be the mattress pad, and the sheets, and the comforter or duvet cover set, and the bed frame. And new shelves, because the board games are taking over. And some drawers or boxes or something for me to put my clothes into in his closet. Eventually I’ll need to actually claim a storage unit for my furniture, not to mention the actual packing and moving of stuff. Nor to mention getting set up with a new health care plan or transferring all of my addresses for everything. And all the while, we are shopping for houses (WHAT IS MY LIFE) on behalf of his friends, houses that we may one day move into (aforementioned complicated reasons: don’t ask). Meanwhile, I may be attending five weddings this year and have been called upon to assist with the planning for two of them, and let me tell you this has been an educational process.

So I am GETTING SHIT DONE, folks, and all is well. But I may be quiet around these parts for a while as the madness takes hold.