NaNoWriMo Is Weird

            NaNoWriMo is weird. You’re just expected to write 50,000 words in 30 days!? Do you have a death wish? Don’t get me wrong, the whole non-profit organization is great. I love it! In my own way I participate every year! But the holiday, NaNoWriMo, concerns me.

            Have I ever told you the story of my music career? I have? Well here’s the story again: Once upon a time there was an operatic soprano who played trumpet. If you’ve met sopranos, and you’ve met trumpet players individually, you would know that a trumpeting soprano is the human version of glitter. Really arrogant glitter.

            This little trumpet playing soprano left home at 18 and played on street corners for tips. She traveled all around the continent (yes, Canadian and Mexico too) dooting for dimes, moved into an apartment, then only played a mute because it was too loud, then stopped playing all together after a while. She stopped singing in choirs in favor of getting a job *Snorts in global pandemic*

            Why did she stop making music? She got burnt out.

            I loved music. It was everything to me. But one day, after a while, I just stopped! My stereo is still more important to me than my TV, I have a display of instruments in my house (pretty, pretty please don’t rob me), and I sing to myself but other than that… I’d like to think that writing was more of everything to me but in all honesty, I got burnt out.

            DON’T GET BURNT OUT.

            I cannot stress it enough. Do. Not. Get. Burnt. Out.

            You know what happens when I sit around making jewelry for my Etsy store until my fingers hurt? I don’t want to look at the pretty things I just made, I don’t want to think about jewelry, I don’t want to wear jewelry. I want it waaaaaaay the heck over there! Thankfully, I keep going back to it, but only when writing is too much.

            Do not use NaNoWriMo to hurt yourself. I know we all want the good grade but it won’t help you in the long run if you write for thirty days, wind up hating it, and then never touch a keyboard, a typewriter, or pen again. If you’re having fun then by all means keep going! If you’re loving the extra accountability, then keep going! If you’re just having a good time himming and hawing, and actually having someone listen to you talk about your book, keep going! But if you’re going to use NaNoWriMo and all its weirdness to hurt yourself throttle back. When you get obsessed that’s how you know it’s time to take a break.

            NaNoWriMo is weird and it is not kind to those of us who want to be the very best that no one ever was. We put too much pressure on ourselves and it’s not a good time. NaNoWriMo is weird, here’s your permission not to break your neck and make yourself hate writing.

If you want to see me epically fail at my NaNo goals you can find me on their website. I’m nelehjr. Next month’s blog post will be about gift giving! How to Donate Your Book to a Library! Of course, if you want me to cover something I haven’t yet, smash the contact button, or drop me a comment.

Boo! It’s the Fear of Failure

I have to share something truly scary with you guys: I want to give up.

That’s right. I said it. I want to turn around and dump all of this off. I want to unload every single piece I’ve written, my life’s work, online for free so someone will read it and love it. Maybe Wattpad? I am tired.

No hard feelings, of course, but the press I was in a gentleman’s agreement with and I decided it would be best if my books and I moved on back in July. It’s like a breakup. Even if you were unhappy and it was just not working it still hurts. And yeah, much like a breakup, I wish them well and hope they get all the happiness this world has to offer too. But still, it’s about as disheartening as a punch in the jaw. (Actually, a punch in the jaw would make me incredibly angry but that’s beside the point!)

Like I started off saying, I just want someone to love my books as much as I love them. I’ve spent 10 friggin’ years in Gishlan. This October will make it official! I am, in all seriousness, thinking about self-publishing my Gishlan series. Which, is something I promised myself I’d never do because self-publishing is great for hobbyists! More power to ya! But this is so much more than a hobby to me. My itty bitty vegetable garden is a hobby, my Etsy shop is a hobby, making memes in Facebook groups is a hobby. My writing is not a hobby.

You know what’s easier than rounding up all the freelancers I’ve been working with for the past five years and tapping my foot impatiently at them while we try to meet some fancy smancy deadline I made up? Giving up.

I could just drop it. Never talk about it. I could swear off writing (even though I actually can’t because I get this weird itch under my skin when I don’t write and BLEH!) I could just let this skill set I’ve been working on since I started elementary school get rusty, let the stories die inside of me, never make another blog post, get out of the game. I could.

But why? Why sacrifice that year I lived off of the royalties and revenue from War and Chess? Or all those hours where I broke my back over an antique kitchen chair as I typed out 40,000+ words during a global pandemic? Or that time when I was 17 and I gave a nice lady with eyelids that reminded me of butterflies $10 to read my fortune at a street fair, and she told me “I don’t think you’ll publish your book. I know you will. Kick some ass.”? Why would I let go of that time I was first world starving in my first apartment, pressing 700 shirts a week, wondering if anything good would come of my life or if I’d just pay bills and slowly rot away, but instead one March day I got email a contract for War and Chess? I coyote howled all the way to the grocery store where I bought sparkling grape juice I couldn’t really afford because I was 19 and wasn’t legal to drink yet. Why would I let any of it go?

The fear of failure. That’s why.

This is friggin’ terrifying. Here I am pouring my heart out to you guys in fiction, and someone who doesn’t even read young adult fantasy could just come up and “I don’t like it.”, give it one star on Amazon, and “It needs more romance.” Or not even that! War and Chess has been rejected 25 times and Tales from the Gishlan Wood has been rejected 26 times. Both pieces could never meet the right publisher! And what about the other two books on my desk? They just go inside of my coffee table which is a trunk containing manuscripts? I could completely fail.

But you know what? War and Chess has been accepted by indie presses twice, and Tales from the Gishlan Wood has been offered three different contracts. I just feel that it’s important to find the right publisher where we, me as an author, and them as a press, can mutually benefit each other. And as for books three and four: one day one of my friends will ask “OH! Is this the one with the pregnant lady who swears a lot?! Yass!” and somewhere out there, there is a little girl who is really excited to see her mermaid book in print. Even just to read it! (Because I only just did the first draft editing and she watched me write it from afar.) I firmly believe there are people out there who need these stories and I want to do it in a way that can reach the most people. And if that’s not it, then I’m sure people need the story of me wanting to give up because I’m so gawldarn tired of failing but then persevering. Even if that person isn’t a writer. My childhood heroes ran brothels. The sex industry just isn’t for me even though I respect the con craft. Some examples: 1, 2, 3.

What’s catastrophic failure to the owner of a brothel? The church shuts your practice down? Dell Burke offered to shut down the power plant for them if they dared. For me catastrophic failure would be amassing a fandom over the course of 20 years then saying a bunch of narrow minded garbage that defames a certain group. *Looks into camera* So why not give myself that chance and keep working?

Don’t sweat. I’m currently querying agents because I obviously can’t find the right publisher on my own. Don’t get me wrong! I’ve worked with good people! We’re just not right for each other. I’m not giving up and neither should you!

These things take time. And it’s about as much as having bamboo shoved under your fingernails then lit on fire. Go for your goals! Battle that dragon! Lay siege to that castle! Pick one that the beefeaters aren’t guarding. I don’t want to see you die. Learn a new language! Travel the world [when it’s safe to do so]! Write your bleedin’ book. Publish your bleedin’ book! Whatever you came here hoping I would tell you to do! Do the thing!

And please continue to follow my career so I can disappoint you, as all heroes do eventually. *Whispers* except you, Dell. You’re perfect.

Happy Halloween! Come back next month for NaNoWriMo is Weird. And as always don’t be a stranger. Contact button is to your left, comments are below. Would love to hear from ya!

Find What Motivates You

            Oh jeeze. Here we go… In October of 2019 I made a bet with my best friend. Every time we have dinner together we go back and forth about the novels we’re writing. More than once I’ve finally broken through writers block by talking my entire story through with her. But this woman… This woman whom I love like I love the sun, can never seem to finish writing one of her books.

            She constantly makes jokes about it too! So I only feel slightly horrible for throwing out the “I love her but…” again. (Das toxic. Don’t talk about your friends like dat.) Well, this gorgeous, dear, beloved friend o’ mine who happens to be a sun goddess, kept telling me about this fantasy novel she was working on. It involved the female heir of ancestral magic, born to common wealth, who needed to reopen a one hundred year old city she had no idea existed, and an evil king who wanted all that magic and power for himself. It was epic.

            So I badgered her about it. “Can I read it?”

            “No! It’s more idea than book right now.”

            “Make it for me.”

            “I’m busy!”

            “Gib me buk!

            And she finally relented when we struck our bet. We bet on her drive. If she could finish writing the first draft of this book before October 31st at midnight she could give the raunchiest, nastiest, sexiest, speech at my wedding. The kind that would make a sailor blush. And I would not be allowed to ring her neck.

            For the entire month of October we were like Sarah and Jareth from Labyrinth. Every day, “How’s my book coming along?”

            “Shut up you, @#$%! %^&*!

            “You know, I win either way. I either get to read the book or my mother never has to know what I’m into.”

            “Oh. She’ll know. Everyone at your wedding will know.”

            It got especially bad on Halloween. Every time I got a break at work I was all “In 9 hours and 23 minutes, you’ll be mine!”

            I just so happened to be up at midnight. So I texted her to gloat. “I win. No ratchet speech for you!”

            And my golden ray of sunshine says to me  “*Yawn* Oh, our bet? I finished writing three hours ago.” then promptly emailed me a full length manuscript to prove she wasn’t lying. I quickly sped through 150+ pages of awesome to make sure there wasn’t filler pages of “ffffffffffff” or quotes from medieval monks like “By God, it’s finished. Get me a drink.” It was 150 pages of story.

            I have never been so happy to lose a bet in all my life.

            I was so excited I even made a vague Instagram post celebrating her! She did it! And now, unfortunately, I am going to show you all what a real blushing bride looks like on her wedding date. Now all’s that’s left is to find a good man with strong teeth and a compatible kidney.

            What I’m telling you you need to do is find what motivates you. (Aw look. Here’s where the title makes sense!) Set your eyes on a goal! Maybe you wanna get interviewed by Oprah! Maybe you want to get the bloody book out of your head because it’s just taking up too much space! Maybe you want to make a raunchy speech at your best friend’s wedding! I don’t know your life! Just set your eyes on the goal and go for it, then give yourself a reward if and when you get there. You know what I get for finishing this blog post? A piece of pie. I’m feelin’ rhubarb.

            There is nothing wrong with setting rewards for yourself. Sticker from the sticker box? Interview with Oprah? Dinner out? (I’m told you shouldn’t use food to reward yourself but I’m already dummy thicc. It’s too late for me.) That shirt you’ve been eyeballing from The Cute Store downtown? Motivate yourself! Sometimes the achievement of the goal itself just isn’t enough. Sometimes you need to promise yourself a reward for getting there. Now if you’ll excuse me, that pie and I have a pressing appointment…

Join me next month for Boo! It’s the Fear of Failure. As always, if I haven’t covered something you need drop me a line! There’s a “Contact” tab on the left hand of your screen.

Substance Abuse Doesn’t Make You Creative

            This blog post is going to be kind of heavy but I’m going to do my best to be honest. We’re going to do some “real talk” here. I write these posts month in advance. Right now I’m in quarantine due to the covid-19 pandemic. I am safe but I am trying to keep everyone else safe too by taking myself out of the equation.

            During quarantine many of us have had to look our inner demons in the eyes. Self isolation is a bad habit we try to avoid. Humans are pack animals. We rely on each other. Right now we are all bored, we are all scared, and we are all looking for ways to comfort ourselves. I can’t see the future. I don’t know what’s going on in August. I do know that plenty of people are drinking and smoking more because we can. I know I built a wind chime on my lawn at 11am with a beer because I could. I wouldn’t be surprised if come August many of us were struggling with addition.

            I want to tell you something creatives don’t tell each other enough: Your addiction doesn’t make your more creative. Smoking cigarettes doesn’t make you an artist. Drinking whiskey doesn’t make you a writer. Anything that makes you feel altered isn’t where your creativity comes from. It’s in you. I’m sticking to legal substances. You know where you sit. I certainly am not saying that people who struggle with substance abuse are bad people. We are all just people. Even food can be a weapon. I’m telling you: This does not define you.

            And for those who haven’t danced with the devil: No. No, “pulling a Hemingway” (getting slobbering drunk and then writing until you wake up and it’s morning) will not help your create quality material. Sometimes not even a quantity of material. It’s not worth it. It’s just fun.

            To summarize: What you should take away is that you don’t need it to be creative. Whatever it is. The creativity is inside of you. It always was. The addiction of your choice won’t make you a better writer. Continuing to create will. All things in moderation.

Join me next month for Find What Motivates You

Quality Matters

I’ve got one major pet peeve that will make me drop a good author like a hotcake. Not just the one book. My whole endorsement of their career. I’ll give you a hint… It has to do with the title… That’s right! The quality of their writing!

It affects writers in all stages of their careers. Indies, hobbyists, NY Times Best Sellers, anyone. When a writer sacrifices the quality of their work for putting the piece out there, their careers suffer. I’ve seen some of my favorite series come to awful ends because the writers got tired of writing them. I’ve seen some potentially great indie stories fall flat because no one took the time to polish them up before they put them out there. Let me teach you how to combat that. 

If you’re worried that your fandom is going to be upset that you haven’t published anything new in a while: Babe. Please. I just figured out I can read a book a day. But the books you make will follow you for years. No pressure! What I’m saying is: Babe, babe! When your readers get your book they’re going to devour that sucker in a day. If you’re lucky they might read it twice! But what kind of book do you want to produce? A quick and dirty one that made them go “Wow. That wasn’t up to that author’s usual standard” or one that makes them go “Wow! That was so worth the wait!”

If you’re worried no one’s going to take you seriously because you only have one book on the shelves… or less: People are jerks and will work weekends and holidays to discredit you. (Ope. There it is.) Let them talk! But, make sure your books are the best that they can be before you put them on the shelves. Make sure your next publication sparkles like my freshly polished collection of trumpets! That’ll make their traps clap shut! And if you must publish your work to show you’re writing do it somewhere informal where you can still maintain control over where you work winds up. Try one of those story sharing apps. There’s a million of them. Even Goodreads has a section for original stories. I, personally, use Wattpad. And I can say, I have thrown some of my worst work on there just for a laugh!

What I’m trying to say is: Don’t choose creating a great quantity of writing for public consumption without making sure what you throw to the public is quality writing. By all means! Go make $h!t! Just don’t put $h!t on the shelf. You’ll win more readers making good books, than a ton of books. Go look at Harper Lee.

Join me in July for Go On Adventure to Increase Your Creativity

Treat Your Writing Like a Job

Yes. Even if it isn’t making you money at present. Treat it like a job. Honestly, this blog makes revenue from ads. So far I’ve made $0.08. From my novels, I probably spend the money I make investing in them (art, travel expenses, hiring editors, etc), and I write poetry just for fun. Still! I treat it like it’s a job.

Part of learning to treat your writing like a job is figuring out how you work. Yes you. What makes you tick, human? Do you need a set schedule, or do you prefer flexibility with accompanied accountability?

When I was working full time (at James Bond’s library) I had a routine for my writing. If I didn’t meet a friend for lunch I’d sit in my car, or at the local bakery (Shout out to Sweet Lou’s!) and write, edit, get done what I needed to do. When I did meet a friend for lunch writing would be the last thing I did before I went to sleep at night. Just like I did when I was in school. I’d write well into the night. Whatever happened, I’d make sure to write every day. Even if it was just a sentence.

Now that I’m an unemployed louse I prefer flexibility with accompanied accountability. Hey, I tried to make myself a schedule. I tried to trick my mind into thinking I had a 9-5, but so far it hasn’t worked well. Life has too many unforeseen peculiarities right now for a structured schedule. And to be honest, I’m enjoying the wildness of it. Since I am free to eat when I’m hungry, drink when I’m dry, and sleep when I’m tired, I also write when I feel like it. However, I make sure to write every day.

That’s the most important thing: I make sure to write every day.

Let me include this motivational poster so you can hang it above your desk to feel like I’m yelling at you all day.

Full image credit to Your Quote.

But where does my accountability come from? Chiefly, my friends. Everyone knows I write, everyone knows I have a lot more time on my hands than I had planned on having.  So every time we see each other they ask “Whatcha writing, Helen?” I am even lucky enough to have one friend who, every time she sees me, she will tell me with mock aggression “You best be writin’!” Haha! She checks in with me daily.

Secondly, it comes from my fandom online. (That’s you!) If I didn’t post a pretty picture of my work space once in a while, or a nice quote, I’d get a few concerned messages. Which is really, really nice and really appreciated.

Though structure is a thing of the past I have no shortage of accountability.

You can do it your way! You just gotta get ‘er done! (Hopefully that phrase is not copyrighted…) Yes, even if writing is just your hobby and you follow this blog because you think I’m cool. You still have to eke out time for what you love. And just like a job, you are totally allowed to give yourself vacations and holidays. It’s okay if life explodes and you need to take a couple of days to focus on the cleanup. Just remember, you’re treating this like a job now. Consciously call in sick with yourself. Consciously decide you’ve got Christmas off! Consciously decide you need a weekend getaway from your writing. But just like a job, if you just up and decide not to show up for a few days, it’s not going to end well.

Really, have enough respect for yourself and your career to take yourself seriously. Treat it like work. Work that you love doing. You’re in control. You set your hours. You make your choices. But don’t leave yourself hanging. And no matter what, it helps to have good friends holding you accountable.

Thank you for your support! I appreciate each and every one of my readers no matter how much revenue I get. Join me here next month for: Quality Matters

Emergency Blog Post

This not the usually monthly blog post. This is a special bonus one. An emergency one.


Kids, we are in the middle of a global pandemic. For those of you vaguely aware of the passage of time, it is May! I wanted to tell you: You have my permission not to be productive. 


This crap is depressing. We’re engaging in behaviors we’ve trained ourselves not to. Self isolation, staying home and not going out, covering half of our faces when we go out, staying six feet away from other humans when we definitely know we’re supposed to be touched! Or at least we’re worth standing a foot away from to have a conversation.


Not only that, but our workplaces, our favorite restaurants, our favorite shops downtown are in danger. And if we touch our faces at the grocery store Grandma will get the plague. Last but not least, if we’re lucky enough to be quarantined with someone we love we are certainly… Begging for space. 


I am so proud of you for bearing it all. You’re hanging in there. You’re staying tough. Whether you’re essential or not. Whether you’ve been laid off, or you’re gutting your PTO. Whether you’re working, or not. I am proud of you.


You absolutely have my permission to take a break and not make something cool. I saw this image 

in my feed. Unfortunately, I do not have information about the artist.


The bloody world is on fire! You don’t have to do anything more than survive! If making a book is going to overwhelm you don’t do it! If making a book is going to provide you with solace and escapism, then by all means: write the damn book! 


This is not the perfect time to write! The perfect time to write is waking up out of a dead sleep at 3am, next to your lover, and you shout “I’ve got it!” And you proceed to tell them “You are my muse.” As they stand over you, you, scribbling words in your mother tongue on some scratch paper that wasn’t important until now, and they think Wow, what a magnificent human being.


Art needs life to sustain itself. This is a weird and frightening time. One where we’re just supposed to sit in our houses and wait for the boogie man to go away. This isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t fun! It’s okay if you don’t feel like making an entire book. You have my permission to rest.

Introducing: Me!

Hello, and welcome. I guess you could say this is my new year’s resolution. To start a blog about writing. Why should you be taking advice from a village girl in Wyoming? Because I have insight that you can’t find in text books.


As well as the author of The Gishlan Series, I was a librarian. For the past two years I had been writing and running a blog about writing for my former employer. My former employer no longer requires that piece of my services so I am free to blog under my own volition. My former employer wishes to stay out of my work life, and likewise, I prefer to keep my former employer out of my “author life”. Because fiction is so much more fun than reality… I worked for the library at a top secret spy agency. I am where James Bond goes to get his James Pattersons. I know my way around the book world!


For at least the next 11 months I want to encourage you to keep writing, put yourself out there, open your mind to new ways of thinking, and well… Since we have established I worked for a top secret spy library that wishes to remain anonymous we can have a little bit more fun! Sex, drugs, and rock and roll!


As always, if you have questions, comments, requests, etc. Smash that “contact” button off on the left side of your screen and drop me an email. Now that I’ve introduced myself tune in next month for “Don’t Let the Lovers Drive You Crazy”.