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The art you’re looking at is the second installment in a series of short stories (one that I never expected to be a series)! A young lady gets super into lucid dreaming and has a series of odd dreams, that almost feel… Too real.
Years ago, one of my buddies approached me and asked “What’s a plausible goal for words written in a day? 1,000? 10,000?” She wanted to write a devotional book. (She blogs instead, check her out.)
“I mean, if that’s what you want. I do one sentence.”
She was like “Whaaaa?”
Yeah, straight out. So far I’ve written at least five books, three of which are published, by forcing myself to write one sentence per day.
And you’re probably thinking, much like my home girl, how in the fresh, Kentucky Fried, Heck did I get by only writing one sentence per day? That’s the real trick. I didn’t. I fooled myself…
You see, one sentence sounds manageable to your addled brain. You can do that on the train on your way home (aaah, glorious public transit. This is America! Buy a car, you bum!), you can do that while cooking dinner instead of trying to watch a pot of water boil, you can do that while pooping. You say “I want to write a thousand words” and you’re like “A thousand is a lot! You ever lose $1,000? So many! You ever gain $1,000 unexpectedly? Also so many… I’m too tired for this junk.” You’re not too tired or too busy for one sentence.
If you saw this Instagram post, well, first of all, here is the promised blog post. Second, you’ll notice that, as I said, I told myself to write one sentence… Then an entire paragraph came tumbling out! Yes, everything in red fell out of my head, and on to the page. That’s what I’m trying to tell you you could have.
If you stop fricking beating yourself up for not being good enough, and not writing 10,000 words like some highfalutin author who’s already made it. The one that makes so much money off of their series, they can afford to live on their writing, writing will be easier for you. That’s not you, and that’s not me either. Let’s stop beating ourselves up for it. Chances are, we’re gunna be broke blue collars for the rest of our lives. Let’s stop thinking like victims, and start thinking like survivors. Let’s make goals we can manage.
I believe in you. I know you were writing in that bunker, in quarantine, in that hospital waiting room. You’ve already been here, and you already know what you need to do. Now you just need to break it down in to manageable pieces. Write one sentence a day.
I know you are probably getting tired of me plugging my Patreon, but this blog relies on donations to stay running. I do not have disposable income right now, to keep it up alone. I think education should be free and accessible to the public, and I really don’t want to hide these posts exclusively behind a pay wall. If you have a little extra, please consider treating yourself to a month long subscription to my Patreon, where you can access tons of poetry, short stories from the vault, and, your favorite, each and every one of these blog posts a week early! If you would like to make a onetime donation, with no subscription benefits, please visit my Ko-Fi.
Okay. We’re doing another writer’s block post because it’s happening again! I am full of funny Tik Toks, advertisements, I have energy for editing, I can still make poetry, I’m writing this blog post right now! But the thing of it is, I don’t know where to take the book I’m writing now. Should I just scrap it and start a new one?
I’m currently writing Book 2 of The Tooth Fairy. Krysathia, her boyfreind, and Marlene all share one brain cell in Yuma. Marlene’s house is haunted. There’s a witch somewhere in there, with a massive garden in the desert. The city can’t pin excessive water usage on her. Marlene gets someone special. All these components, a story does not make.
The second is a very rough idea. It’s another Gishlan book. There’s a prince. He is the younger brother of the beautiful princess. Where she is dark and beautiful, he is pale and ugly. Where she’s tall and thin, he’s short and fat. Oh, and she’s 3/4 mermaid, while he’s 3/4 human. Genetics! They’re each going to inherit one half of Gishlan. Because no one ever notices him, he goes around playing super hero (vigilante?) until the little dude gets way over his head. I feel like we don’t have enough awkward boys with chub and stutters in literature. I want to make a human human-merman.
Anyway, I’ve been sitting here like “Huh…” for a few weeks. But you know what? It’s not a writing problem.
If attacking your writer’s block on the page isn’t working for you, try this advice instead: Fix your day to day life! Figure out how to work smarter at your day job! Eat a whole pie at three in the morning! Wear your favorite dress for absolutely no reason! (Yes, even you people’s who be like “BuT i’M a MaN” Go find your favorite dress!) Go to the movies in furs and diamonds like it’s 1940! Fall in love with a lovely mistake with brown eyes. Bring the brown eyed lovely one of those giant roses from Hobby Lobby! Join an underground art club!… Suddenly leave that underground art club because commitment is terrifying! Get a tattoo to prove you’re not afraid of commitment. Go hiking, and take a bunch of pictures for the Insta of Gram so you can look cool. And ope. Look. A book just fell out of you during your potty break.
My solution to writer’s block is to start living life out loud. Honestly, I am just busier than a cat on a hot tin roof, and I’m about to make myself late to work trying to finish this blog post, which is also work. ADIOS, MIS AMIGOS!
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Ha! You fell for my click bate! This was a trap to attempt to show you how to set boundaries between your writing career and your personal life. Bamboozled again! I want to show you how to set firm boundaries and keep your private life private. This is something I’ve been asked through the years, and I have two big methods you can apply to various aspects of your life.
Just say “no”. This is what I did at first. Because I’m a mean and scary cowgirl. “I’m a fan of your work. Can I add you on Snapchat?” “No, but thank you.”, “I literally just met you 10 minutes ago. You wanna go cruising tonight?” “No, thank you.” “I wanna see your family’s ranch.” “No.” You can just do that. You can just say “No”. But politely. “Can I meet your kids?”, “Can I have your discarded tissues?”, “Can I read your WIP?” No, no, no.
It’s all about misdirection. Completely different than “No.”, you can just have two of everything. Like, a personal social media account, and a business one. You can easily get a PO Box for about $60/yr so you don’t have to tell everyone where you sleep. I did that because I come from a village of 20, and if someone road tripped, walked into town and said “Where’s Helen?” to one of my neighbors, they’d be like “Oh, she’s up the tree out back. Go on over!” because that’s our culture. Not telling people where I lived cut down on unpleasant confrontations like “Helen, I’ve come to kick you like an old pair of clown shoes.”
“Say when, you scoundrel.”
What’re they gunna do? Wait at my PO Box, in the next town over where I went to school, until I show up?
Anyway, I’ve been doing this more and more. Things like having one social media account for the people who love me and want to know how I’m really doing, and the other I just use to be obnoxious and talk about my career. I don’t really want “I feel like a giant blood blister” to come up when someone Googles me, because I had strong opinions about getting a normal, healthy, period; But I do want all three of my books that are in print to come up instead! The thing I love about this method though, is that it’s helped me stop putting up so many walls between my heart and new friends. We have time to get to know each other, and talk, and actually build a relationship, before we plunge into the depths of my full-lilt crazy… Or you know, garden variety vulnerability.
Anyway, you’re going to have months like “Two of my close friends died, and while I’m grieving I’m also waiting for the other shoe to drop, because Grandma told me death comes in threes, but now I have to go on tour and act like I’m the happiest person alive… Aaand one of my favorite cousins is on hospice.” Not showing your friends you’re struggling is a crime, because you’re isolating yourself, and cheating yourself out of deeper relationships. Particularly the devalued platonic relationships! But no one wants to break apart in public. So. Two accounts.
Those are my two methods of, well, keeping people at arm’s length. (Totally healthy!) The biggest thing I think you need to watch as an entertainer, is exactly how much information you put out there. I.e. If you don’t want strangers asking about your cousin’s cancer diagnosis, don’t put it out there. You’re allowed to be a private person.
Yes, there will always be some vulnerability in writing and putting your work out there. It’s your baby, and it’s going to have a little of you in it. My friend told me she saw straight through Marlene, and saw me ranting about my situation at the time when I wrote about The Tooth Fairy. There is a margin, where, like it or not, you’re going to be exposed through your work. (Which, I would like to take this time to point out that all of my friends died after I got back from tour in March 2022, thankyaverymuch!) But that doesn’t mean you have to be like “Oh, my YA characters are doing stupid crap I did as a teenager.” In public. You can be cryptic and be like “Yeah, I knew some kids who did stupid crap like that as teenagers.”
Also, not every part of your life is for Instagram. Listen, and listen well, you do not owe anyone an explanation as to how your life. Unless they’re paying your bills. Which is why I specify on Patron that that money gets reinvested back into my career, my fridge, and this website, and on Kofi that I will be spending all funds on rum, unless I’m lying and I waste it on reinvesting in my career. I try to be transparent when people donate money to my cause. But outside of the bill they’re covering for me, I don’t tell them much.
Any who, back to The Gram.
You don’t have to post about where you’re going all dressed up like that. (I think my last dressy selfie was when I was headed to a classy event at my day job.) You can literally just be like “Ayyo, lookit me. I’m hawt!” and people will be like “Rad!” You don’t have to post a pic of you and your besty getting ice cream at 3am, during a heart-to-heart, every time it happens. You can just go do that, and not tell anyone. You can even be hecking cryptic with your posts. For example, I announced I will be letting go of the last semblance of sanity I posses, and posted a picture of my prayer journal, where I suggested to Jesus Christ that He put Josh Groban in my life so we can get married. Am I okay? No. Will I be elaborating further? Absolutely not. Am I at least having fun? You bet your sweet bippy. Bro. If you wanted, you could just post a picture of you gnawing on a different tree every week and make the general public think you’ve finally made good on your promises to fade into the woods and become a crypted. Or, you know. You could just only post about your writing…
As an aside, if you choose to take the cryptic crypted posting route, and you’re fairly active on social media, I firmly suggest you make a private account where your loved ones can see how you’re actually doing. Like, bro. There’s people who actually care about you. Let them in.
One of my bigger concerns is trying to keep my day to day life out of my career. Sometimes employers get touchy about, you know, you asking for strangers on the internet to buy you rum. Before you get called into the office, make sure you can actually laugh, when HR shows you your own post. *Finger guns* This problem could be solved by taking on a pen name, and that way, H.M. Pugsley has no day job. If you choose not to take on a pen name, you don’t exactly have to turn over the name of every literary journal and blog you write for. Stay wild, moon child. Run free through the valleys of the glorious internet.
You’re also allowed to say “I don’t want to work here anymore.” A couple of years ago, I had a job where the management made me so uncomfortable I buried all of my social media, which got in the way of trying to have a viable writing career. I think they were worried about me talking about the semi-legal things they were doing, online, to customers. Which, while I was looking into protections for whistle blowing employees, I wasn’t using social media to draw attention to them. I would’ve gone to the county courthouse, not the county Facebook page. I do highly recommend finding a new job before quitting the one you’d don’t like. However, Covid-19 made the whole situation a wash for me. Before “No one wants to work anymore” was a chant that ran wild through the streets, there were reports online about employers asking their employees for their social media passwords. Like everything else, you’re allowed to say “No. I sell you this part of my time. My personal life is mine.” or to your readership “No. I sell you these stories. My real life is mine.”
Anyway, I know what I’m doing all the time, and I always get it right my first try. Definitely listen to me. There is no way to have your privacy without saying “No” and meaning it. There are gentle ways to redirect people, but at the end, at the bare bones of it, you have to be good at telling people “No”. Figure out which pieces of yourself you’d like to play close to your vest before you put yourself out there. You’re more than allowed to have a private life, but you have to be willing to be firm about it.
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The whole quote from Lee Childs goes “Writing is just show biz for shy people. That’s how I see it.” My man’s is right! Especially when it comes to publicity. Publicity is more like show biz than any other part of writing.
For those of you who don’t know, I have a background in music I never shut up about. (Trumpet playing sopranos rarely do.) In recent years I’ve pulled back from it, severely. I talk about the why in other posts. Unimportant! But I do find it helpful to think of writing, like I do performing. In many ways, they are similar.
First of all, musicians will rehearse, and rehearse, and rehearse, until they can perform in their sleep. I for one associate my trumpet with the taste of blood. That is akin to editing. You, as a writer, need to read your piece over, and over again until it is just so. It also helps to get several other people involved before you show your work to a broader audience. See where I’m going with this? *Wink, wink* *Nudge, nudge* Hire an editor!!! Let your friends beta read! Take criticism! It helps to hear “Helen, you’re a bit bright on the high notes, and you need to open the back of your jaw a little wider.”
Another immortal quote: “If you practice like a fish, you wrestle like a fish.” That was from my 4th grade teacher, Mr. E, and it still rings in my head, even though I can’t remember what E stood for. He was a coach, and he meant “If you let people toss you around the mat like you’re a dead fish in practice, you’re going to get tossed around like a dead fish at tournaments.” I distinctly remember him applying that to our school work. So, the lesson here is: Give practices your all. I like to do silly little writing prompts when I haven’t been writing. I set a timer for five minutes and go ham. I’m bougie, so mine come from a nice book an elder in my community gave to me, to encourage me to keep writing, when I was just a wee lass. Having only five minutes to write with a prompt will also encourage you to quit editing while writing.
Okay, seriously. Did ya’ll see me do that Wyoming Arts Council Funded Tour? Because I will not be doing it again. (Just kidding. I would love the opportunity, but I was using that as an expression.) Look, I need you to understand: I am so shy when I go to practice for praise team at church, I can barely ask which stand I can use. There’s no hiding on stage though. Even when you’re one of six people. There is no hiding when you’re trying to do publicity either! I’d say using the internet for advertising is probably one of my strong points as a published author, but with the time I took off work to do my tour, I learned that most of the people I interact with daily had no idea I wrote. In my defense, at what point in conversation would it have been appropriate to bring it up? *Cue nervous chuckle* Anyway, I also treat book signings like they’re performances. I get dressed up, I pull on a not-steal toed pair of boots, I stop thinking like an introvert and start thinking like a showman. I’ve got cool stuff to show you! The book signings where I also do presentations are particularly like that. I think of it like giving a tour (I grew up in a historic town. I can do tours!), but instead of a real place, I’m showing you Gishlan. Razzle dazzle, baby! (If you’d like to learn more about me and my touring check out chapter 15 of my Kindle Vella series.)
If you want [what little] I have, you have to be willing to hustle. Travel, put your name out there, work with people, keep your finger to the pulse, put your work out there, make yourself available, join some clubs, network, be an active member of your community, and don’t forget your sparkle.
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Okay, this is literally the one that’s hardest to talk about. I also did these in order of publication. I’m definitely not chicken! What?!
I wrote Tales from the Gishlan Wood when I was seventeen, under the advisement of my mentor June Wilson Read. It was a cute relationship. She had her “nest” behind my parent’s house, so she’d always have a way to come home to Wyoming, while splitting her time in North Carolina. I had been visiting since I was tiny, and she even kept board games and crayons for me. When I wrote my first book, War and Chess, I was excited to show my real life author friend what I had made. At fourteen I had already started querying publishers but, of course, I had no luck. (War and Chess was a mess, honestly, and being an author is a bigger responsibility than I could’ve ever imagined.) So June told me “Why don’t you write bios for your characters.” and ya know, as you do, a whole book of short stories fell out.
Back then, at seventeen, I wanted to know everything I possibly could about the characters. And yeah. That meant writing more than a page about each of them. I sat in my room and pretended to interview them. Suddenly Haylend–*Ehem* King Haylend didn’t seem like such a villain, but “my sweet, misunderstood, villain, baby” You have “UwU” we had “Rawr XD” we are not the same. I learned Teacher P is a recovering alcoholic, I learned what became of Princess Amethyst, and where the blue fairy came from. I learned who Prince Quillpeck grew up to be, and I fell in love with the relationship he has with his wife. I even got to meet Amethyst’s grandchildren! And I loved every second of it. Thought you might too so I published it.
Let me tell you, publishing was no small feat either! I published War and Chess at 20. It was then I decided I’d published one novel, once a year, until I keeled over. And then God laughed. I think I got the job done at 25, maybe 26? When you can drink legally, you stop caring, I promise.
Anyway, my parents let me take a year off, [look for a job,] and write. So it was painstaking hours sitting in my father’s chair (I didn’t have a desk at this point), until my back screamed, editing a manuscript I hadn’t touched since I graduated high school. When I finally presented it to my former publishing house they asked me for eight books instead. “Make Tales a series!” they said. “Take it or leave it.” I said. They left it until our contract expired and I walked away. No hard feelings, just wasn’t the right fit.
I bounced around for a while. That’s where I get all my really weird publishing house stories, which I’ll tell you if you buy me a beer sometime. *Cough* I mean root beer. I write for teenagers. I’m behaving! I had one publisher contact me through my work email, to see if I really worked for James Bond’s Library. Another had a printer in her basement, and part of the contract I was offered meant I’d have to buy 500 books from her. Yeah, all sorts of spice. What really drove me nuts, and made me hesitant to work with any of the more reputable publishers was their lack of enthusiasm for my book. I’d rather work with someone who could put my book in front of 500 people, and likes my work, than someone who could put it in front of 5,000 people, and is totally apathetic. I was holding out for just the right home for my books. I say it all the time “If you’re in Book World for money, get out.” Librarian, author, publisher. Nope. You have to be smart with money so you don’t live in a cardboard box, but at the end of it all, you really have to love what you’re trying to do for the world. I wanted a publishing house that felt the same way. In the time I was holding out, War and Chess fell out of print and the copyright reverted back to me. Suddenly I had two homeless books.
Grant Smith and I had met at our old publisher. We liked each other’s work and bonded over it. Grant had his own publishing blues, and solved his problems by building his own publishing house, Drakarium Publishing. I’ll be honest, Grant had to wear me down. I was always “No, you just want these books because we’re friends!” but even his kids liked them. And I am so happy he wore me down. First of all, I absolutely love working with my friend! Second, I love how this press is a passion project of his. He is truly interested in bringing the world good books through Drakarium Publishing. And again, reverting to that subject that makes my skin crawl: money. Grant is much more interested in making sure books get into people’s hands than he is in making a quick buck. He actually had to talk me into lowering the price of War and Chess. You can thank Grant for it being $9.99. And in person, it’s nice to see people go “Oh, I can bring my kids two books they’ve never read before for the $20 in my hip pocket.” Seriously, Drakarium Publishing makes beautiful books, because they’re good books, and you can actually afford them. Go check them out on Goodreads. I know this sounds like an ad, but I’m honestly gushy over this.
Because War and Chess and Tales From the Gishlan Wood now have a home, it frees me up to think about my other two books, To Craft a Nation and Rock at The Bottom Of The Sea. Both are already written, and you can check up on their progress here.
I just watched Row vs. Wade get overturned in the supreme court. This means states have the right to choose to legalize, or ban abortion individually. I started my day off listening to how open carry applies to all states. This is a time of great change, and we are all terrified. There’s been a lot of talk online about “Today we grieve, tomorrow we stand and fight.” But not all of us want to go and stand on a street corner holding a sign, and we know if you have two brain cells, you’re not going to storm the capitol. So I offer you this: You’re a writer. Act like it.
Yeah. You. Following this blog. Your words can inspire change. People listen to you because you can string entire sentences together in a semi-intelligible format. Your community respects you as a creative because you’ve published work. (Traditional press to Wattpad, it doesn’t matter.) I was floored the first time someone quoted one of my infamous pro-hemp rants on social media. You have power, you have a voice, you have the resources.
This is not the time to think about throwing bricks. This is the time to start writing letters, gathering information, educating yourself, and time to build arguments that can actually hold water. This is the time you need to look around and say “How can I help my neighbor?” This is your time to crawl out of the woodwork and make your voice heard.
If you follow me on social media you’ve seen me holding up pride flags. One of my young mentees had rocks thrown at him for wearing a pride shirt. I’m done being quiet. You’ve seen me repost pro-choice rhetoric. I am here because one of my ancestors chose not to have an abortion. I want to make sure my grandchildren have a choice. I hate talking about the deaths of children in any capacity, but my silence is compliance if I don’t speak up. And yes, I feel we could be replacing many paper products with [THC free] hemp. I’m Christian, but every day I watch groups of Christians, much louder than I am, jam popular culture with hateful messages. Being silent in my love for my brother [sister, or sibling] was not how I was taught to be a Christian. I want the LGBT+ population to be safe, because those are my neighbors; I want people who can become pregnant to have choice because God gave me free will first; I want renewable goods, because I was taught that being a Christian meant being a steward of the earth. And yeah, I’m a Wyoming girl. I rather like guns. God put mountain lions in my home town. My mother chased a black bear off her front porch a week or two ago, using only the power of her “mom voice”, and I would’ve been much more comfortable with that situation if she had grabbed a gun first.
We can’t all wield the raw power my mother has, so some of us write. Alone you are just one voice. Together, we are many. Today I helped put stickers on a newsletter with a group of children. They were fascinated by how the pile of papers raised where the sticker was placed, and couldn’t believe that something less than a centimeter wide could cause a hill in a stack of freshly printed paper. You are an important contribution. I, by no means, mean to tell you what to think. I’m only telling you to write. You’re a writer. Act like it. Stand up for what you believe in. Also, if you are an American, you need to vote.