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Summer is on the Way!

Woooooooot! I can’t wait for warm weather and having fun with the kids! If anyone is super excited about the upcoming summer, it’s my boys. When we pulled up to the school this morning, the field was set up with the equipment for field day. They couldn’t get out of the car fast enough! There have only been a handful of times throughout the year when the boys were that excited to go to school.

The other magical thing about summer is that there is time to read books. Or, conversely, write them. I’m hoping to get The Ifs (my middle grade books) finished and ready for self-publishing, then get started on the third. My boys have been asking me for a while to write the third book, but I haven’t had time. I’m making time this summer.

Per their request, this book will have zombies in it.

As I was brushing my teeth last night, I was thinking about all the other projects I want to work on in the near future. I can’t decide what I’ll do after The Ifs book, but I have several to choose from—some of which include continuing some of the series I have out. Hmmmmm.

There’s plenty of time to worry about that later! I must remain focused on what has to be done in the near future, which is getting my family moved to Nebraska. After that, I can worry about what I’m going to write after zombie Ifs.

Do you have any fun plans for the summer? A list of books you’re looking forward to reading? I would love to hear about them!

Happy Memorial Day!

For those of you who are celebrating Memorial Day, I hope you are having an amazing day. It’s a great time to thank those who sacrificed to give us the freedoms we enjoy here in the U.S.

I am honored to have grandfathers and a grandfather-in-law serve our country. Their sacrifices and the sacrifices of all service men and women won’t be forgotten.

My maternal grandfather, Bud Lewis.

My grandfather-in-law, Dale Robinson

I’ve been able to spend this weekend with my family and relax. It’s just what I needed/wanted! I’ve been able to catch up on a few movies I’ve wanted to see too. On Friday night, my boys and I watched The Great Wall. We all really enjoyed it. Of course, if you give me monsters and action, I’m pretty happy—and this movie had just that!

On Saturday night, I got to hang out with my sister and her husband, and we watched Alien: Covenant. I liked it. I know it’s not a “traditional” Alien movie, but it was still fun to watch. My boys really want to see it, but they’re going to have to wait a few years. There are some pretty scary parts, and a few of the alien creatures are creepy as hell. I feel like I need to watch this again (and I will!) to tease out the meaning behind it.

I also get to go see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 with my mom, my boys, and my niece and nephew. I’m really looking forward to that. My mom has already seen the film and says it’s good, so I can’t wait to form my own opinion. Plus, Baby Groot!

In addition to spending time with my family, I’ve also been able to get some editing done. I’m rereleasing my middle grade books under Pembroke Sinclair (they were previously released under J.D. Pooker), so I’ve been rereading them and making a few corrections. Next, they’ll get new covers and be ready for the world!

All in all, it’s been an amazing weekend. I’ve had the chance to chill out and enjoy my family. Have you done anything fun and exciting? What was your weekend like?

Getting Back into the Groove

My schedule has been thrown off for this week. I went to Nebraska over the weekend and didn’t get back until Monday. It’s a long trip to drive there, but that will be the last time I do it for a visit. The next time I go, it will be to move there.

Because my week has been thrown off, I’m not posting as much as I normally do. That will change next week. I’ll get back into my groove. Since I haven’t been posting, that also means I haven’t been writing fiction. I’ve been doing some freelance stuff, but I haven’t been writing for me. That will also change in the coming weeks.

Soon enough, I will have a schedule that will allow me to be productive and creative, and I’m really looking forward to that. I have several projects that are demanding my attention. On the top of that list is getting my middle grade books ready for self-publishing.

I don’t foresee the process taking long, but it still requires time. They need to be edited again, then formatted and fitted with new covers. It’s an exciting process, and I really enjoy doing it, I just have to have the time.

Soon. It’s going to happen soon.

In the meantime, please feel free to keep yourself busy trying to win signed zombie paperbacks. The sign up is in the right hand column. May is Zombie Awareness Month, so I’ve been giving away free books. This is the last one for this month, so don’t miss out. It’s my nonfiction book, so it has some great advice on how to survive zombies.

Re-evaluating My Career Path

When I was an undergrad, I remember sitting in one of my English classes and having guest speakers tell us what kinds of jobs we could get with an English degree. One of the speakers was an editor (she was also one of my classmates and fellow English major), and I remember being a bit jealous of her and thinking, “That’s what I want to do.”

As I continued through my schooling career, I had dreams of also being a fiction writer. I took several writing classes and workshops—and had my dreams of writing crushed. I still wanted to be in the writing world, so I figured editing was my best option. After earning my master’s, one of the first jobs I got was as a document production specialist. It’s wasn’t editing, but it was still working with manuscripts. And my editor friend was my coworker, which was an added bonus.

As time went on at that job, I eventually became a technical editor. My duties included reading reports for the normal stuff—grammar, sentence structure, proper English—in addition to ensuring that the information in the text and tables/figures was the same, that references were cited and included the works cited section, and that acronyms were properly defined.

I loved it. It was exactly what I wanted to do. The work was repetitive, but I didn’t care. I was formatting and editing reports. It was amazing. In fact, to do this day, I still freelance edit for this particular company.

I continued to believe that I wanted to edit and took on roles as a freelancer for indie book companies—doing editing from content to proofreading. I enjoyed that also, but it was a lot of work for very little pay. And by this time, I wanted to focus on my own fiction, so I drastically reduced the amount of fiction editing I did.

I took a job at the university where I was called an “Editor,” although editing wasn’t my only duty, I also wrote quite a bit. Again, it was a good fit for me. When I had the opportunity to work at home as an editor, I jumped. It was my dream job.

Well, without going into details, that job didn’t work out, and it seems since then it’s been a downhill slide. I’ve applied for multiple editing positions, and I can’t pass the editing tests. More often than not, I don’t get the results back so I don’t know what I missed, but I’m worried about my future as an editor.

Getting terminated from my at-home job was quite a blow. I’d never been fired before, so it messed with my self-confidence. Continuously failing editing tests doesn’t help at all. I don’t know if I’m having a mental block and subconsciously failing them or if I’ve always been a terrible editor but good enough to get by. Either way, it’s made me rethink my career choice.

I want to switch my focus back to writing. Of course, I’ll always write fiction, but I want to see if I can be successful getting paid to write other stuff. I’ve been a freelance writer in the past, and I’m finding some places to do it again. It’s strange to think that the reason I originally wanted to edit was because I lost confidence as a writer and now I want to write because I lost confidence as an editor.

On one hand, it feels really good to turn my focus away from editing. It’s freeing to not fail any more tests. On the other, I’m not good with change, so I’m freaking out internally that I’m never going to find a job. I need a sign, I guess, to let me know that I’m making the right decision.

Hope You Had a Happy Mother’s Day!

I hope all of you had a wonderful Mother’s Day! Mine was pretty good. I got to hang out with my family and eat my spouse’s famous smoked pork ribs. Mmmmmmm. Pork ribs. They were delicious!

I also got a new Kindle Fire. It’s a good thing too. I’ve had my other Kindle for a while, and it was getting to the point where I would order a new book and I couldn’t download it because my Kindle was too old. The files weren’t compatible. I’ve been reading on my boys’ Fires, but now I don’t have to!

I also had a garage sale this weekend, which went a lot better than I expected. I was convinced no one would show up and I would have to haul all my stuff to Goodwill—which would have been fine, but this weekend was university graduation, so they were stuffed to the gills with donations. I doubt they would have turned me away, but wow! So.much.stuff!

In addition to the fun, there was a little bit of stress over the weekend, but it certainly wasn’t caused by my family doting on me. No, it was just life. I keep trying to tell myself that everything is going to be just fine with the move, that things will work out the way they are supposed to, that most of the stuff is out of my control, but my brain doesn’t always listen.

It starts playing scenarios over and over and shows me the worst-case scenario, making me freak out that things aren’t going to work out the way they are supposed to. This, of course, leads me to stress out and try to find way to fix the problem—even though there might not be any ways to fix the problem. It’s a vicious cycle that leaves me feeling worthless and exhausted.

I’m trying to take deep breaths and lets thing happen, but it’s not always easy. Most of the time, that’s when I turn my attention to writing. I need to do that again. I’ve been a little busy to put words on paper, but that’s going to change. For my sanity, it needs to be soon.

Here’s to looking toward a great week where amazing and wondering things happen! Are you looking forward to anything in particular? I would love to hear what exciting things are headed your way.

How We Define Ourselves as Authors

As authors, we are used to defining ourselves. More often that definition is applied to the types of books we write (whether it is literary, sci fi, fantasy, horror, or any of the other genres) or by what age group we write for (children’s, middle grade, young adult, new adult, adult).

Within the last 10 years (or so), we have also been defined into other categories based on how we are published: whether we are indie, self, or traditional.

For me, the definitions of each are as follows:
  • Traditional: being published by one of the Big Six publishers and having an agent that represents you
  • Indie: being published by a small, independent publisher that you don’t have to have an agent to submit to
  • Self: being your own publisher and incurring the cost of book covers and editors and using any of the various sites, including, but not limited to, Amazon
Up until the last 5 years (or still to this day, it depends on who you talk to), having the label of “self-published” had a negative connotation to it. Other authors, especially traditionally published ones, looked down their noses at you, like you weren’t a real writer/author because you weren’t traditionally published. Today, some authors still look down at self-pubbed authors, but it seems to occur less often. There’s not as much stigma and more freedom with being self-published.

But it got me to thinking: why is it so important that we place these labels on ourselves?

For the genres, I totally get why. What I’m referring to is why we feel the need to label ourselves based on how we are published. One way is not better than another, and it certainly is not indicative of quality. At one time it might have been, but that’s changing now. And more and more often, even traditionally published authors will self-publish books. Do we still need the labels?

My questions arose while having a conversation with another author. I asked him how he was published, and when he commented indie, I asked if he meant indie publisher published or self-published, and he said he believed self-published and indie were the same thing.

That got me to thinking and wondering about my own biases in the publishing world. I certainly wasn’t trying to imply that one form of publishing was better than the other—I’m also an indie and self-published author—I honestly was just curious which one of the two he was. I’m endlessly fascinated with author’s stories of their failures and successes in the various publishing realms. I enjoy learning new ways to market myself and my books or to hear if there are publishers out there who should be avoided.

But how important is it that we define ourselves by the way we are published?

After all, whether traditional, indie, or self, we face a lot of the same problems when it comes to marketing—or dealing with editors or finding new readers or [insert publishing issue here]. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to everyone if we just classified ourselves as “published” and help each other be successful?

I have no answers to my questions, and I’m wondering if any of you have thought about this same thing. I would love to hear your thoughts on how authors define themselves through how they are published! Is it good? Is it bad? Should we change it? How would we go about changing it?

It Started with a Souvenir

Every summer for the past few years, my boys have had the opportunity to spend some time with their grandparents. They usually go on fun and exciting adventures, such as checking out the dinosaurs at Vernal.

On one occasion, my youngest was being super sweet and bought me and my spouse souvenirs—one of which was a tiny coffee cup.

I don’t drink a whole lot of coffee in the morning (but darn it all, I need my tiny cup full of it!), so I started using this small cup, and my obsession began. From then on, I’ve been on the hunt for tiny coffee cups. And believe me, they aren’t always easy to find.

I was able to find one while visiting Seattle a few years back. We had gone into a souvenir shop on the boardwalk downtown (I can’t remember what it’s called), and I saw the cup from across the room. I was so excited, I almost knocked over my child to get to it.

My spouse found me one when he visited Minnesota. This cup used to have a wrap around it that said Minnesota, but I didn’t read the instructions that it wasn’t dishwasher safe, so now it’s just a black cup. It still works.

My sister-in-law found me one at Starbucks, and recently, my oldest made me one in his art class. It was the best present ever! Unfortunately, the clay on the bottom didn’t quite fuse together, so there are some holes. He was pretty bummed about that. Honestly, though, I’m not sure I want to use it. I don’t want to ruin it.

Whenever I travel anywhere, I keep my eye open for tiny coffee cups. It’s a fun adventure, and I’m excited to see what tiny coffee cup I will find next.

To put these in perspective, here they are next to a normal-sized coffee cup.

Talking Zombies and Networking with Authors

I love going to conferences and conventions. They are just the best. More often than not, I am inspired to write and I meet some really amazing people—both fans and other authors. That was true of the WyoCon convention I attended over the weekend.

It was just a small con at the White Mountain Library in Rock Springs, but it was a lot of fun. I did my Surviving Zombies workshop, and it’s always a blast to get the audience involved and to listen to their plans when the dead arise. I love that people take the time to think about how they are going to survive the apocalypse. It’s important to be prepared.

After my presentation, I sat at my table for the rest of the day. There were several participants who ventured by, and I spoke with many of them on a variety of topics, from reading to movies to other conventions. I also had the opportunity to chat with the other authors around me. They were such amazing people.

Going to conferences and conventions feeds my soul. They can be incredibly exhausting, but seeing other fanatics reminds me of why I write. I might not always sell a ton of books (I sold two at the last one and consider that a win), but I get to meet some really cool people. Like I said, it’s inspiring going to these things.

Things have been pretty bleak in the writing world lately—and not necessarily just my own. I’ve read numerous articles about how readers aren’t buying books like they used to and that Amazon is trying to monopolize the entire system and authors are going to be the ones who suffer.

Really, it’s nothing new, but it’s still something that plagues authors—and not just us indies/self-pubs. Everyone is feeling the pinch. There are those who blame it on self-publishing and how easy it is to publish a book nowadays—flooding the market with millions of books instead of thousands—but that’s not the only reason. The publishing industry has changed, and we’re all trying to figure out how to keep up with it. In the process, we see our earnings shrink and less and less books get sold.

It can be incredibly depressing. It can make us question why we are even wasting our time.

I get it. I really do. I’ve been down that road. But at the same time, I still really enjoy telling stories. I love seeing people read my books and review them—even if it’s just a small percentage. And I love going to conferences and talking to people about other books and nerdy pop culture things.

At the end of the day, it’s all about perspective. It’s deciding what you want to take from an experience and deciding if it was good or bad. Personally, I spend the vast majority of my life being cynical and a little crabby, but it’s nice to take a break and immerse myself in my writing and other geeky ventures. Sure, I might not make a lot of money doing it, but it makes me happy, and that is the most important part.

“I am like sugar to them.”

The above quote comes from The Simpsons.

Last weekend (not this recent one but the one before that), the family and I headed to Nebraska to find a house. It was our normal trip: too fast and full of long hours in the car. We didn’t find a house, but we had some good contenders. Things were looking up.

(Side note: we found a house later in the week. I didn’t get to see it, but my spouse sent me pictures and it looks like it will work!)

We got home late on Sunday, so I didn’t have time to get my laundry started. On Monday when I woke up, I noticed that I had bug bites on my legs. Of course, my first thoughts were: “Sh*t! We have bed bugs!” So I immediately scooped up the bedding and threw it into the wash. I then proceeded to spray my mattress cover down with bleach water and Lysol.

All week I worried and fretted about whether or not we had bed bugs. I kept an eye on the kids and every time the dogs scratched, I watched them intently. As the week wore on, I got more bites on my legs.

Now, the logical side of my brain told me: If these are bed bugs, why are you only getting bit on the legs? Wouldn’t they be going after your entire body? And why aren’t the kids getting bitten? The dogs seem fine, so why are you so special?

The anxious, panic-attack-susceptible side of my brain was like: IT’S BED BUGS! BED BUGS! CALL AN EXTERMINATOR! YOUR HOUSE IS INFESTED! YOU’RE GOING TO GET EATEN ALIVE!

I texted my husband on Friday morning to tell him about the phenomena, at the same time as I was Googling bed bug bites and looking for exterminators, and he told me that a doctor could tell me immediately what was going on. So, in a rush, I headed to Urgent Care.

Long story short, it’s not bed bugs (thank goodness!), but the doctor wasn’t exactly sure what kind of bites they were. He assumed since we were in Nebraska, it was probably mosquito bites. I was fine with that explanation, if not a bit skeptical, but just incredibly happy it wasn’t bed bugs.

This past weekend (the recent one), I went back to Rock Springs for a convention. While there, I showed my mom my bites, and she immediately thought they looked like chigger bites. She then Googled “chigger” and read the information. I had all the symptoms—especially the insane itching that also made my leg where the bites were feel like they were on fire. My bites didn’t look exactly like the pictures, but there were a few that were close.

It made sense. Those dastardly little bugs are abundant in the Midwest, and they live in grassy and wooded areas. We were walking through lawns and by trees when looking at houses, so it’s completely possible that I could have picked up chiggers. Of course, I’m the only one in my family who got them, but what can I do? I’m just glad I figured out what was trying to eat me alive.

Speaking of the convention, I will go into more detail about it in Wednesday’s post, but I wanted to let you know that I have some leftover books I would like to get rid of before I move. Pictures of what I have available follow. I will sign them and send them (U.S. shipping only) for $4 each. If you’re interested in any of my series, I put the price for those beneath their pictures. Please send me an email if you’d like some books!

Life After the Undead series: each book $4 or both for $6.

The Road to Salvation series: $4 each or all 3 for $10.