Trish Heinrich

Mother, Author, Hero

Indie Author: Year One

I had a Theme for my first year as an Indie Author. It was ‘Impossible’, only with the ‘Im’ crossed out.

When I sat down December of 2016 and wrote down what I wanted to accomplish in 2017, I felt stomach-churning fear. I had no idea how to do any of the things I dreamed of in the coming year, much less if I’d be able to do them.

After a great pep talk from my husband and many glasses of holiday cheer, I took a deep breath and started 2017 with a prayer and a hope.  The first six months I stumbled along, trying to revise book two of The Vigilantes, trying to figure out how to launch a website, how to get email subscribers and what in the world I was going to do for a book launch plan. All of it made me scared silly.

Then in June things started to come together.

Here’s how it happened, and what I hope to accomplish in 2018.

Year One as an Indie Author

I see Joanna Penn doing year in review posts, and it’s really amazing to be able to look back at her early years as an author.  I get to see what she went through, the questions she had and the mistakes she made and bounced back from. So, if it’s good enough for a Bestselling Author like Joanna Penn, it’s good enough for me.

I published my first TWO books.

Yep, not just one but TWO books!  I had them ready to go, that was always the goal and so I released them within a month of each other. Though I think it definitely helped to do this, I would’ve done a few things differently.

For starters, I would’ve released the first book in September so I could release the second in October as opposed to in November. The last two months of the year feel very hard for a beginning author to get traction and I think I would’ve gotten more out of staying away from November altogether.

Another thing I would’ve changed was that I would’ve worked harder to have a third book to release.

Now, this was something I considered, to be honest. Everything I’d heard said that three books released in quick succession can make an author much more “sticky” in the rankings.  The next book of The Vigilantes is a novella and takes place actually in between book one and book two, so if I could’ve had it ready, releasing it within this time frame would’ve been really good.  But, the novella was very hard to write for some reason and has gone through many revisions. There was no way for it to be ready until January.  Would waiting until then have been a better choice? Maybe, maybe not.

I wrote a free Novella and grew a subscription list, i.e. the VIP’s

This was something that I resisted for so long! I didn’t want to write something and give it away. I didn’t want to write a novella or anything I just wanted to dig in and focus on my full-length books.

And then I started Bryan Cohen’s Selling For Authors course.

He was adamant that the only way to be a professional and build my subscriber list was to do this. So, with my teeth grit, I took two weeks off from revising the second book and wrote the novella Serpent.   The results were astounding.

When I started June I had about twenty-something subscribers, mainly friends and family.  As of now, I have over a thousand!

And why? Several factors.

One is definitely the free novella. It’s a great story first of all, and it’s professional cover and editing make it something of value when people get it for free. It’s also a great entre into the world of The Vigilantes and who I hope to be as an author.

The other part here is that I took time to set up a professional email service and a series of fantastic emails that let’s new subscribers know who I am and what to expect from me. This sequence will need updates and tweaks, of course, but it’s been an amazing tool to get my subscribers excited about being on my list.

I owned being an Indie Author-Entrepreneur

That’s right, like a BOSS!

Even a year ago the thought that I was an Entrepreneur was incredibly uncomfortable.

Entrepreneurs are smarter than me, more put together. They wear Dior skirts, have Michael Kors handbags and go to lunch meetings with investors. They don’t have to clean up the peanut butter their son left on their sweater. Or learn how to Market in between soccer practice and Behavior Therapy appointments.

Or do they?

I took a chance at some point this year (probably around the time I was getting complete strangers to sign up to my email list) and whispered to myself “I am an author-entrepreneur”.  Then I said it to myself again, and again until I started saying it with more confidence. Then, one day, I found myself believing that this could really be me.

And now:   I am an author-entrepreneur.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have doubt.  Every day there are moments, even hours of doubt. Where all I can think of is the fact I haven’t sold a book in four days so how in the world am I an entrepreneur?  Then I remember that all the people in this business I look up to started this way. They weren’t bestsellers overnight, or over a year. They worked their butts off and did epic battle with their doubts to get where they are.

If they can do it, so can I. I am just as worthy of success as they are, and I will do what it takes to get there.

Which brings us to-

Coming Soon in 2018: Year Two as an Indie Author

This year I’m stepping it up. For any of you that saw my book production board on Facebook, you’ll know that I have very aggressive goals for 2018. A reader asked how in the world I could keep that pace. The answer is:  This is what professional authors do.  They get their butts in the chair and hands on the keyboard every day.

So this year, I have a daily goal of 2,000 words. Not counting my one day off a week, of course

I will be publishing three new novels: one novella and two full-length ones.

And, I’m going to be part of a Superhero ebook boxed set

Now that’s the production side of it, how about the business side?

I’m still learning this part, and believe me when I say it feels like a never-ending uphill climb. The best part though? I’m loving it!

I am going to learn Amazon ads, how to run campaigns and how to understand the data.

I will increase and maintain good engagement with my VIP’s (my newsletter list) and my Facebook and Twitter followers.

I will grow the relationships I’ve started with other authors and make new author friends.

This may seem kinda vanilla, but it’s the foundation of where I want to go. And if my foundation isn’t solid, then I can’t build the kind of business I want to build.

Onward!

Well, that’s me. How about you? What were some of the highlights of your year? What are you going to accomplish in the coming year? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

What a Coven means to me

We all have very specific ideas when we think of the word Coven.

Witches dancing naked under the moon.

The American Horror Story show Coven.

Modern day Wicca’s with their earthy rituals.

I know this word has a rich religious meaning for those that practice Wicca and other Earth Mother rituals. I hope as I talk about what it means to me, that I do not offend any of you who practice this.

For me, the word coven makes me think of a group of true sisters that love and support one another. It’s a group of strong women, who cry and swear, laugh and love. They’re single,  married or in committed relationships. They’re mothers or childfree.  I imagine a group that is without judgment or sabotage. Where women flourish in their gifts, each person’s personality is cherished, seen as important, unique.

I’m thinking about this right now because I just watched “Practical Magic” for about the hundredth time.  And after every time I find myself yearning for a group of like-minded women who bring out the best in each other,  to find older women in life like the Aunts, who are wise, but not perfect.

Most of my life, I have felt a hollow yearning for a true group of sisters.

Sisterhood all around us

As I write this, however, I have realized that I have older women in my life (one in particular) who are wise and kind and strong. I have friends who are all so different but are bonded to me in ways no blood tie could ever come close to. We laugh, we argue, and we love each other, passionately.

When I go to someplace like Geek Girl Con, I feel moments of soul connection with the women around me that transcends the fact that we are all strangers.  I’m struck by the fact that sisterhood is all around us if we can stop and see it.

Nurturing this sisterhood might be a challenge for some of us. Maybe it means getting out of our comfort zone and acknowledging the common bond we share with a perfect stranger. Maybe it’s finally taking the plunge and organizing a monthly get together for you and all of your sisters.

For me, it would be both of these things. And it’s more specifically, getting out of my laser focus on work and children long enough to call a friend, reach out to the older women in my life and ask for help, or just listen someone.  Maybe even finding a way to get the book club I used to be a part of back together.   (Cuz really, book clubs could be our modern day kind of suburban coven if you think about it!)

What are some places you feel connected to other women? Is it a holy place like a church, synagogue or mosque? Is it your monthly book club? Maybe the cosplay group you meet with once a year at a Convention? I’d love to hear about it.

Writer Mom Life Podcast Interview

Being a mom and an author is kind of like juggling bowling pins that are on fire while balancing on a ball in the middle of a lake of gasoline.   For a while, I thought I was relatively alone in this death-defying stunt.  But I have recently discovered that I couldn’t be more wrong.

The Writer Mom Podcast is, as the tagline goes, made by indie author moms, for indie author moms. I was fortunate enough to meet the wonderful host Daphne James Huff on the Indie Author Life facebook group; with is heavily populated with indie author parents.   She mentioned she was launching this podcast and I wanted to cry with relief.

“I’m not alone!” I wanted to shout.

Along with co-host JR Frontera, Daphne delivers some much-needed advice, laughter, and comradery twice a month. I never miss an episode, and that’s not just because she interviewed me.

Yep, yours truly recorded an interview. 

The weekend before the interview went live, Daphne and her husband took a trek out to Seattle. It just so happened that I was attending Geek Girl Con that weekend and so we found an hour to meet over coffee. It was so nice to just chat without children or author duties tugging at us. Daphne is a pretty awesome gal.

Daphne James Huff and Trish Heinrich

Daphne and I in Seattle

So, sit back, grab a cup of something (coffee, tea…wine, no judgment here!) and take a listen.

Don’t’ forget to subscribe if you fall in love with this podcast like I have.

Instructions on Flying: First let go

It was a sunny fall afternoon. I had just finished brunch with my best friend and was sitting in my car crying.  This was a breaking point, a reckoning of sorts.  I had been trying to balance being a new mother with being an actress, and it wasn’t working.

I had known from a young age that I wanted a creative life.  And if that meant sacrificing having kids to do it, then so be it. Then my husband came along. He told me that we were a team and together we could make it work. He was and still is, a true partner, doing everything he could to support me as I tried to claw my way back up the indie acting ladder.

But on this day it was clear to me that it just wasn’t enough. That realization broke my heart and terrified me.

I knew I would shrivel without a creative outlet, but I also knew that I couldn’t be an actress anymore.

What followed was a year or two of trying to fill that creative void with things mothers are supposed to do. I baked, I tended a garden, I made all kinds of things from food to playdough from scratch.  But every time I’d end up feeling more depleted than filled up and I’d throw in the towel.

Then on another fall afternoon, something clicked.

When my husband and I were working our way through three years of infertility, I had written a novel as a way to distract myself.  It wasn’t a good novel. But I had finished and edited it with all the love I had wanted to give to a child. When we had that child (an exuberant and joyful little girl), the novel got shelved.   Before I fell in love with acting, I had wanted to be a novelist. I wondered, on that fall day,  if going back to that first creative love might be possible.

By this time, I’d had another child, and things had gone off the charts busy.  When I approached my husband about doing NaNoWriMo in 2015, he said ‘Yes’ with very little hesitation. He pitched in with meal prep, watching the kids after work and on weekends so I could have enough writing time. He read my second draft, gave story advice, supported me through every moment of self-doubt and fear, and cheered every victory no matter how small. He was patient as I interrupted conversations and had later than usual dinners because an idea had hit and I had to write it down.

When I decided to Indie Publish, he once again threw his support behind me wholeheartedly.  Going so far as to give me seed money from some of the proceeds of the sale of our townhouse. It’s safe to say that without my husband I would not, today, be launching my very first full-length novel.

Our path is never straightforward

I loved acting, and I was quite good at it too. I met my husband and some of my best friends through acting school and the indie film industry.  But when I look back on that day, crying in my car, I see the painful end of one thing creating the seeds of something new. Realizing this has brought something into sharp focus for me.

Our path in life is full of forks, twists and turns that both exhilarate and terrify us. Sometimes we refuse to take a particular turn, sitting down in terror at the unknown before us. Then, one day, the weight of doing nothing becomes more unbearable than the fear and we get up and start walking. For a lot of us, that one moment is the start of some of the most fulfilling endeavors of our lives.

That’s how I feel about being an Author. I am so grateful that in the midst of my fear I chose to trust my instincts and take those first trembling steps down a new path.

Today those steps have turned into leaps and increasingly I find myself doing what the song says: Defying Gravity.  This is the life I dreamed of all those years ago as a child. I didn’t get here the way I thought I would. That’s ok. It’s no less fulfilling. And when I feel those stomach dropping moments of fear and exhilaration, it really does feel like flying.

Is there something in your life that you’re struggling to let go of or begin?  Are you having a hard time seeing the possibilities that could come from letting go of something you’ve held dear? I know how that feels. If you want some support, please leave me a comment below or email me:  trish@trishheinrich.com

I look forward to hearing from you.

And, if you’d like to read the book that started it all, you can now purchase Serpent’s Sacrifice in Kindle ebook format from Amazon.

 

The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful: Wonder Woman (Part Three)

And now for the Good in Wonder Woman.  We’re talking tears down my face, pumping my fist into the air and feeling like an Amazon GOOD!

The power of a movie like this.

 

When I came home from seeing this movie, I could barely speak. I could only cry. I felt so stupid at first. Who cries throughout an action film. Then afterward in their car. Then all the way home.  And then when she gets home too?

The Answer: Women who’ve waited for decades for a female superhero film like this, that’s who. And it’s not just that simple, actually. There have been female superhero films before. Supergirl, Catwoman, Electra, Barb Wire. But these films suffered from a lack of understanding of their source material and a lack of respect for the hero herself. With the exception of Supergirl, these films were created from and for the male gaze.

Wonder Woman was not.

For the first time, we have a superhero film that not only wasn’t created from or for the male gaze, but the people working on it knew and respected their source material. They appreciated the differences a female hero is supposed to bring to the story, and they made those differences heroic.

Wonder Woman is arguably, the best female superhero film yet .   And please, notice I specifically said SUPERHERO. I know that we’ve had female heroes for decades, Ripley, The Bride, Sarah Connor, Red Sonja, Thelma and Louise, just to name a few. I’m not denigrating their legacy. I’m drilling down into genre specifics here.

Wonder Woman benefits from the female heroes in films that have come before her.  All of them made me feel powerful and strong as a woman. But there’s something different when it comes to Superheroes.

The Power of Superheroes

Superheroes have lasted as long as they have because there’s something about that genre that speaks to  us like no other story does. As Jennifer K. Stuller says in her book Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors  “…superhero stories are American culture’s modern expression of myth. Modern myth serves a function similar to that of ancient myth, namely, telling stories helps us make sense of our lives.”

Mythology in ancient cultures were primarily religious stories about Gods and Goddesses and their interactions with us.  Perhaps, then, superhero stories are actually a kind of spiritual experience, touching a part of us that is rarely stirred by other kinds of stories.

If this is true, then taking a genre that has that kind of power and making it about one narrow group of people, makes everyone else feel cut off from the power of these stories.  “In.. Spider-Man 2, Aunt May tells…Peter Parker that she believes ‘there’s a hero in all of us.’ If this is true, what happens to our social consciousness if the presence of our mythic heroes is-and has always been-overwhelmingly male?…I often wonder where our Wonder Women are.” (Jennifer K. Stuller Ink Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors.)

I do feel something when I see Peter Parker become Spider-Man or Steve Rogers become Captain America.  But it’s nothing to what I felt when I saw Wonder Woman charge into No Man’s Land and take all that gunfire, then lead a group of soldiers.

Women felt uplifted in a way we never had before because we watched this modern myth with a female hero at the helm. In that moment, we were no longer just women. We were Women. Powerful. Warriors. Princesses. Heroes.

The fact that so many people were touched by this film should serve to highlight how much we need representation in this genre. Not just for women, but for people of color, the disabled, and the LGBTQ community. It’s well past time for the superhero film industry to stop catering to the few and start making quality films that represent our vast, beautiful world.

The age old argument that such representation won’t make any money, has been blown out of the water by Wonder Woman. And if enthusiasm for Black Panther is any indication, that film will also destroy the lame argument studios have been using.  Not only is there an audience for more diverse superhero films, but there is a societal necessity for it. The more we see diversity in the foreground of these films, the more we normalize it until it no longer is shocking or surprising or anything except, well, normal.

And that would be a truly, wonderful, powerful, awesome thing.

The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful: Wonder Woman (Part Two)

Part Two of my three part series on the Wonder Woman movie. Now we get to talk about:

The Beautiful

After seventy-six years, and a lot of wishing and hoping, we finally get Wonder Woman on the big screen. And what’s awesome is that we truly did get a Wonder Woman film because the people making this movie understood, at some deep levels, the hero whose story they were telling.

Like a lot of women, this movie was emotional for me. I cry just thinking of certain scenes.  The fight in No Man’s Land, or the charge of the Amazons on the beach. Not to mention the end. Why did a superhero film make me cry while watching it? And why am I not alone in that? It’s a good question, a hard one to answer because it’s different and yet the same for each of us.   I agree with many of the women who are already writing about this that there is an emotional release because at last, we see that these stories aren’t just for male heroes, they are for any and all of us.

The feminine is heroic.

To me, this is the power of this film.  Seeing my daughter pump her fist in the air and want to be just like General Antiope (Robin Wright). To see my son clap his hands with glee when Wonder Woman battles heroically.  I could use every adjective I know and still, I would not come close to how I feel when I think of this film.

God! I’ve waited so long to see a female hero like this. Strong, beautiful, compassionate, loving, kind. Wholly a woman and wholly a hero. The two coexist in Wonder Woman as naturally as breathing, and no one doubts that it should be that way.

We have seen so many sister heroes who have had to justify their strength and showcase their feminity in ways that weaken them as characters, heroes, and people. We have seen them reduced to sidekicks, to have to be one thing for all women. And even though Diana is one woman, we get to see her Amazonian sisters alongside her for the first twenty minutes or so of the movie. They are of all shapes and sizes, all skin hues. They are young. They are older. They are all completely female and completely heroic.

I didn’t realize it at first, but most of the Amazons are portrayed by athletes, the real-life superheroes of our world. And watching it a second time in one weekend I could see the strength, grace, courage, and grit that made them heroes in the real world.  They were, individually and as a whole, one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen on film.

For Wonder Woman, Love is the most Powerful

Wonder Woman is arguably one of the most powerful heroes in all of DC, and she uses her powers with compassion and love. Really, that’s the theme of the movie: Power used with Love.  It’s profound, especially in our worldwide political climate. She sees the suffering of mankind, and is told again and again by the men around her “You can’t do anything, this isn’t our mission.” And, finally fed up with it, does what her heart and soul tell her to. In the process, she inspires an army of men and saves a village of innocent people.   She is clear-eyed and sure in her purpose, no matter the naivete that she carries with her. When faced with the shattering of deeply held beliefs and heartbreak she doesn’t respond with anger or vengeance, she chooses to love.

 

Was the film perfect? No, but it was damn close.

 

The Good, The Bad, and The Beautiful: Wonder Woman

I have a lot to say about Wonder Woman, too much for just one blog post. So, I am going to write a series of three: One about the Good. One about the Bad. And one about the Beautiful.

Let’s start with:

The Bad

In the past two weeks there have been many criticisms about Wonder Woman. A lot of it has centered around the feminism and the lack of representation in the film. I’ve read some of the criticisms, not all.  I’d like to focus on two that really stopped and made me think.

*SPOILERS AHEAD!!!*

1-Dr. Poison gets off too easy

This is one has taken many forms. Some think that a psychopath should just be killed and mercy isn’t an option. Some have said it was anti-feminist and compared Dr. Poison’s treatment by Wonder Woman to Ludendorf’s. Some have said that it contributes to the societal judgment of those with scars.  But this criticism from Black Girl Nerds.  is the one I want to focus on. Out of all of them, it’s the one that’s stuck with me.

Before we begin, let me say that I in no way intend to call bullshit on the experiences of people of color in this country. Though I am a woman, I still have lived from a place of privilege because of my skin color. I need to take what people of color say seriously, to give it thought and examine why it makes me uncomfortable. That’s what I’m trying to do here. I would like very much to find a balance where I can disagree about the interpretation of a piece of art without taking anything away from the experiences of a person of color. I have no idea how to accomplish that because very often white women step in it, whether we mean to or not.

Personally, I see the scene in question as a key moment in the film. It shows us the core of who Wonder Woman has always been: A hero who operates out of mercy and compassion, not hate or judgment. What Ares was asking of her was to judge and execute. That is not who Wonder Woman is. Now, I’m not saying the writers at BGN know less than me about Wonder Woman or anything like that, and if that’s how this comes across, I am very, very sorry. I am only using the history of the character to explain why I believe this scene was a simple, yet profound, character moment for Wonder Woman. That’s all. But, I am also seeing it through the eyes of a white woman, and my experiences are very different from women of color

The argument in the BGN article was that this scene is white supremacist propaganda. The author of the article, TaLynn Kel, expresses it much better than I could:

“There is a problem with showing the active decision to spare a cruel killer. For that killer to be a white woman, the most underestimated agent of racism, is white supremacist propaganda….The reason this stands out so sharply for me is because of how often we, Black people and POCs, are encouraged to be lenient when white women’s transgressions are revealed. How we are conditioned to look at white women as above wrongdoing when we have clear examples of them actively participating in racist acts that can and have led to Black people’s, Black children’s deaths.”

Ouch, in a big way.

I can not argue with her social criticism, not one bit. We do get a pass as white women. And then we whine and argue when a person of color points it out. It’s uncomfortable to be confronted with this.  But it doesn’t mean we should ignore it or make excuses about why we get to be this way.

I’ve done that, I will admit. I do get angry when someone tries to lump me in with the women who voted for the orange piece of trash in the White House because he represents everything I am against. But a better reaction would be to stop and ask how I contributed to a society that would allow him to get there in the first place.

Again, OUCH.

So, what to do?

There’s a lot of possible answers to that question. In this instance, it’s not dismissing what she says just because it made me uncomfortable . The fact that it made me feel this way was a sure sign that I needed to examine what she was saying.

Her article was a good reminder that I need to be aware that there are other lenses to see things through. I may not agree with everything someone says, but I can be open to hearing their side of it nonetheless. In the process, I just might learn a thing or two.

2-Feminist? Yes. Intersectional? No.

If you are a white woman like me, you saw the diversity on Themyscira and thought “Holy Cow, that’s awesome! Look at all those different women! Women of color, women of diverse sizes and beauty! Look at the older women kicking ass!”  But an article from Bustle made me rethink that a bit.  Yes, there was a diverse group of women on the Island. And yes, it was amazing to see all those female bodies doing so many amazing things during the training scenes and the beach battle. But, those women of color had few lines, and none were named. I did hear someone refer to one as “Nubia”, which I geeked out about, but Nubia didn’t have any lines. In the comics, Nubia was Wonder Woman’s sister. But here, she was just another face in the crowd.

There were many things that could’ve been done to remedy this without changing the core story. We could’ve seen Nubia talk with Diana as she considered leaving Themyscira. There could’ve been a scene with Antiope and her lover Menalippe, even just a few gestures, hand holding, a kiss.  Some women of color in the honor guard that Hippolyta has with her would’ve been good.

When Diana leaves the Island, anyone of color disappears off the face of the earth.  I had thought, like many, that this was just historically accurate. But I was wrong.  London would’ve had a significant population of color, and there were soldiers of color fighting on the front lines. There could’ve been more women in general present as well. We don’t see any nurses after Diana leaves London.  And though I loved her troupe of misfits, why couldn’t one of them be a woman?

We hear a lot about the need for women in positions of power in Hollywood, but I’d like to take it a little further.

I once heard a male showrunner and writer say that the problem isn’t that males are anti-female, it’s just that they write, unthinkingly, from what they know. I would like to think that the women behind Wonder Women just didn’t think about the lack of representation. That maybe they just didn’t see it. If that’s the case then there’s something that can be done about this going forward.  If there were more people of color and people from the LGBTQ community in positions of power, then we would see more diversity in film.  So really, the issue isn’t just that we need more women in Hollywood, we need more DIVERSITY.

Wonder Woman was in no way perfect, what film is? And these two things aren’t the only criticisms possible. They just happened to be the two that affected me the most. What was it about Wonder Woman that you thought could’ve been better? Different? Do you agree with these two criticisms as they apply to the film?  I’d love to hear from you so feel free to leave a comment or email me at trish@trishheinrich.com

 

Five Simple Things: How to be an Author and a Parent

How in the world can an author get anything done with two small kids and no childcare?

That’s the million dollar question isn’t it?  The one I’ve tuned into countless podcasts for the answer to, only to be disappointed when the author spends five minutes on how great their nanny, or day care is and that’s it.

What about those of us who just can’t afford child care, be it daycare or a nanny?

Well, through trial and error, I have figured out how to write a book and start an Indie Author business without going crazy. I’m not saying it’s a perfect system by any stretch. And maybe a few of you out there have some tools and tricks that I won’t mention here; if so PLEASE share.  But if you need some simple guidance to get you through the weeds until your kids are in full time school, then read on friend.

First of all, basic information:

My daughter is seven and in first grade, so for most of the time she’s taken care of. Except, of course, for snow days, and holiday breaks.  My son is four and is in his first year of preschool three mornings a week. Now, that preschool time is HEAVEN because I get two and a half uninterrupted hours of work during what is my prime creative time. I know that not everyone can afford most preschools. There are some programs through community centers that have very low or no cost preschool programs that you might want to check out if you’re interested.  On to the good stuff!

#1-My Secret Weapon: Quiet Time

I am an introvert. My children are extroverts. If you know what this means, you know that they have been steadily sucking the energy out of me since day one. (No, I’m not saying my kids are vampires…not exactly.)  When my son was an infant and my daughter had started to phase out her nap, I knew that I just couldn’t get through the day without that precious break. So, I instituted Quiet Time.

At first, my daughter would stay in her bed and play quietly for about two hours. You read that right: two hours. When she got too bored with staying in bed, I let her out of bed, as long as she stayed in her room. Now, this took time to perfect. She hated being alone, I mean with a fiery passion. But now, at age seven, she asks for this time when she’s not in school. As she’s gotten older, I’ve changed the activities she can do. Now, she gets a little Kindle or Mine Craft time, she can do art projects with markers, things like that.  My son is also on Quiet Time since phasing his nap out this year. For him, the concept of quiet play time is hard, but he’s getting better.

This time in the middle of day, which used to be recharge time, has become Author time for me.  I give myself a forty-five minute lunch, during which I eat and do something that fills my inner well. Then, it’s work. Some days I get an hour and half, other days between running upstairs to help my son with the potty or ask him to be quiet, it’s more like forty-five minutes. I’ve found that working against a hard time constraint helps me focus better. I’ve written four thousand word chapter in an hour because I just had to.

Quiet Time has been stretched out to about two and a half hours these days, and the kids are far from bored. In addition to a little Kindle time, they have some art supplies, my son has his huge Hot Wheels track and cars, puzzles, books, dolls. They have a very rich imagination, so usually they end up playing there. Sometimes I go to check on my son and he’s asleep on the floor or in his bed, which isn’t bad either.  Basically, they both like Quiet Time, and I feel like I’m not only getting some work time but teaching them a valuable life skill: How to build down time into your life. Which is something we all need.

#2-Use Screen Time Strategically.

This might be a bit controversial. Screen time is a huge hot button issue with many parents, I get it. But I find that without child care, this is a necessity for me if I’m going to be an indie author.  During holiday breaks when I’m home alone with both kids  I need a few extra hours to build an author business.

Now, before you think I just plop my kids down in front of the TV for unlimited shows, let me say this: We limit their screen time. They get less screen time than the average American child their age, but also more than I’d like if I’m being honest.  They will get about an hour either in the morning or afternoon depending on how the day plays out. This is in addition to the Kindle (or in my daughter’s case Mine Craft) time they get for Quiet Time.  The parent controls on the Kindle Fire allows me to set a time limit, so they don’t play for the full Quiet Time.

My son’s time limit is anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour. My daughter’s time, because she‘s older, is around an hour to an hour and a half. Now, combined with their TV time that may sound like a lot. Like I said, in an ideal world, they wouldn’t have that much.

Maybe your kids are the kind that will sit and play wonderfully on their own for hours on end, never needing your attention or input. That’s not my kids. They will play with each other for long stretches, but it’s loud and rambunctious. That’s  not something I want to squelch, it’s who they are.  Though there are boundaries to how they can play in the house, I also give them freedom. Having said that, listening to your kids play loudly and eventually devolve into a fight, isn’t really conducive to getting work done. So if you’ve been feeling hot pokers of guilt in your heart every time you put on Sesame Street just so you can edit one chapter, STOP! There’s nothing wrong with it, seriously!  It’s a tool at your disposal, it’s there to be used. So use it.

#3-Your Partner Can Parent Too.

Growing up the only time I really saw my Dad take over from my Mom was when she was horribly sick, like barely able to get off the couch sick. Any other time, my Mom was the primary care giver even when my Dad was home. Not that he was absent or anything, but it was understood that my Dad worked all day, had a hard commute and when he got home he was to be left alone while my Mom finished dinner and we set the table. After dinner, then we could engage with Dad.

It’s been a challenge for me to shift that thinking, no matter how feminist I am. When you’re raised with a particular example of relationships, your subconscious defaults there.  To this day, it’s sometimes hard for me to ask my husband to take lead with the kids so I can get some creative time. This has NOTHING to do with him. He has always been fully supportive of me being an author, in that respect I am incredibly lucky.

One thing that helps, though, is if I ask him a day or two ahead of time. That way he’s not caught flat footed and I don’t feel like I’m springing something on him. The way we’ve worked it out goes something like this: I fix the kids dinner, and sit with them or do dishes. Hubby comes home in the middle of their dinner time, after changing his clothes, he takes over. I put on head phones and write for about an hour. Then he takes the kids upstairs and gets them ready for bed. I come upstairs in time to kiss them good-night, sometimes to read to one of them.  Then, he and I enjoy dinner just the two of us either talking or watching a show.  This sounds really simple, but I’d bet it’s not something you’ve considered.

For me I would feel bad that my husband was “doing my job”, as well as guilty because we weren’t having a family dinner. Turns out the kids don’t mind. On these nights they get some of their favorite foods like mac and cheese or chicken nuggets and fries. And, it makes family dinners all the more special for all of us.  On average I ask him to take over with the kids about twice a week, more if I’m sick or it’s been a particularly hard day as a Mom (because let’s face it, stay at home parenting is one of the hardest jobs out there without trying to be author on top of it).

#4-Specific Scheduling.

This one took a while to figure out. I love using an old fashioned paper planner, but I wasn’t using it optimally. I heard an author on a podcast say once that she will assign certain days of the week as either Writing days or Business days or Marketing days. If she only has a few hours that day,  she spends them doing whatever she’s assigned to that day. That has really helped because I can get overwhelmed with all the things that need doing as an indie author.

So, on the days my son has preschool, those are writing days. Any time I have for work on those days, I work on my novel.  The two other days of the week are for business development, education, website, blogging, or marketing. Since I started doing this I’ve been WAY more productive.

I usually take Sunday and look over my week, making sure that what I’ve assigned for each day works. Sometimes I drill down into specifics for each day if necessary. If it’s a holiday break, then sometimes I have to shift things around, but I still try to adhere to this as much as possible.  I also do some basic menu planning for the week so I know when I need to stop working in the afternoon in order to start cooking. I’ve found that this helps a lot because by about four o’clock, I can sometimes have some pretty bad decision fatigue. Which brings me to-

#5-Take A Personal Day

I know what you’re thinking:  “But I have a novel to finish, butts to wipe, lunches to make, puke to clean up, Lego’s to trip over, doll heads to glue back on….”    Yeah, I know. I do too. But we are USELESS if we are tapped out. And let’s face it, being a Stay at Home Parent  alone can zap our energy reserves.  I had to learn this over and over again the hard way because I hate taking time off.  Sometimes, however, my body will just shut down and I have no choice. Those are the bad kinds of breaks, the ones that take us out for a week or more.

So, I had to ask myself: Do I want pneumonia or a day of being a little lazy?  I’ve decided one day every few weeks is a much better option. I usually plan a day around my menstrual cycle because that wipes me out. Then I will reserve another day during the month that is for myself. Instead of creative time or marketing during the times I talked about, I read or watch TV. Sometimes I’ll catch up on podcasts but usually not because that ends up feeling a little like work.   Taking a personal day is still a challenge for me.  Sometimes my husband has to remind me that it’s necessary.  Sometimes I find myself tense and thinking about my To Do list when I’m supposed to be resting. That’s when I take a deep breath,  tell myself that what I’m doing is OK.

In the end, Heroic Moms and Dads, trying to be creative with kids is hard and can make you feel like you’re all alone. But you’re not, I’m right there with you.  If you need a pep talk, if you have questions or need to vent, then I’m your gal pal! Leave something in the comments, join the conversation on Facebook or feel free to email me.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Creative Nemesis: Fear of Failure

Every time I thought about launching this website I would feel the cold dread of fear in my gut.

Yep,  I was absolutely terrified of pushing that one little button and letting the whole world see my author website.

Why?

Because I was afraid people would think it was lame. Or that it showed just how little I knew about being an author. Or that no one would read it.

Basically, I was battling an age old nemesis: Fear. Specifically the fear of  falling flat on my face and failing.

In the days leading up to launching this site, I felt my heart speed up any time I thought about launch day. I’d laugh nervously, and then do a little hop and twirl to get the nervous energy out.  I knew that once I launched this website, that it was one more step that got me closer to doing this other, really big, really scary, really amazing thing that I’d dreamed of since I was a kid:

Publishing my first book.

Sometimes, success can make us feel far more fear than not trying at all.

I’m not sure why it’s more panic inducing than failure, but I do know that there have been so many times I’ve felt this. And every time, I take some deep breaths and tell myself to calm down. I look at what I’ve done, I look at where I was and then I square my shoulders and make a promise to myself that no matter how hard it is, I will do everything I can to keep this success going.

To be honest, I’ve had a lot of what people would call failures. The web series I produced with my husband and our best friend, for instance. Critically and among the Seattle film community it was a success. People loved it! But we could never figure out how to monetize it, and it never went anywhere. Some would say we failed. And for a while I would cry every time I thought of that series because I loved it so much and it hadn’t gotten any traction.

But then, one day, I realized that I was looking at it all wrong. We had dared to do something most people just sit around and BS about. We had made something funny, and intelligent and original that resonated with people. No, we never got very far out of the starting gate, in spite of all our hard work. But if you look at writers and producers who are “over night successes” you find out that they had to write and produce a lot of “failures” and build off that before their break out hit.

I look at that series now, and I see a success because we were brave enough to do it, and do it well.  It’s one of the things I’m most proud about in my creative life; so far anyway.

Which brings me back to this website.

It’s probably not perfect. I will likely retool, and change things over the next year as I learn more about being an Indie Author. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. If I waited for things to be perfect, I’d never do anything, and neither would you. We can’t wait for perfect to start our creative lives.

Perfect doesn’t show up, ever. It’s like Waiting For Guffman. It just doesn’t happen. And, just like Waiting For Guffman, we will do a lot of stupid, embarrassing, unnecessary things if we insist on waiting for perfect.

Instead, we must strive and learn and make every creative offering better than the last one. Maybe that’s part of the fear, because it’s never ending, really hard work. We put our heart out there and let people trample and take a dump on it. For those of us that feel called to a life of Creativity, we don’t just do this once. No, we do it dozens; if we’re lucky, hundreds of times.  And every time we are afraid that this will be the moment everyone sees what a fraud we are.

Right now, I feel that. That Inner Critic is pouring on the Impostor Syndrome with relish. And I’m shaking, terrified.

But also determined.

He hasn’t beaten me before, and I’m not about to hand the bastard a victory now.

So go ahead Inner Critic, go for it. I may cry and curl up for a minute, but then I’m going to brush it all off, put up my fists and knock you on your butt.

Do you have something you’re afraid of doing? Have you already done it? Are you on the threshold of doing it?

I’d love to hear all about it, to share this crazy journey with you. Feel free to leave a comment below, on my Facebook page, or sign up to my monthly email newsletter where you’ll get exclusive content and a round up of my blog posts for the month.

Here’s to lots of wonderful successful failures!

A New Urban Fantasy Hero to Love

Unleash (Spellhounds Book One) by Lauren Harris

I will admit that I have become burned out on Urban Fantasy. I often find it predictable, recycling the same old magic systems, problems, etc.

While Unleash does have some familiar elements, it still managed to fee fresh and exciting.

Here’s a little about the book from the author’s blurb before we go on.

Helena Martin doesn’t know who she hates more, the sorcerers who fired the magic laced bullet or the gang-lord master who used her mother as a shield. It’s not the price she expected for escaping magical slavery, nor is the unstable power now pulsing in her veins.

Caught between her former master’s hunters and the Guild of Sorcerers determined to kill them, she finds a safe haven at a dog rescue willing to take in a different kid of stray. But Helena’s newly-unleashed power is a beacon for her enemies. And they’re threatening the first place she’s ever thought of as home.

 I give this book 4 out of 5 stars, and here’s why

So yes, there are some elements here I’ve seen before. The difference? In the execution. The book starts off at break neck pace, doesn’t slow for several chapters. When it finally did I felt like I’d been running a marathon.  There are calm moments that are interrupted by fights, attacks and the unveiling of truth. The pacing and structure was spot on and only fell to explaining things once. Which in a book with a unique magic system, is pretty impressive.

And yes, you read that right, I said unique magic system.  I have become so bored with magic systems that were either too complex because the author was in love with their world building.  Or so simple that there were giant logical holes in the system that it was part of the reason I stopped reading the genre. This magic system, however, is based on Mandalas working with different metals; iron, gold, etc. And, since blood has iron, there is also a type of magic where you can use Mandalas and blood. The scene where the history of this is explained could’ve verged on the info dumping side if the author hadn’t built up to that moment the way she did. I didn’t care that I was getting a little history lesson because I was nervous about what the Guild was going to do the hero I had become very invested in. As well as just knowing that the bounty hunters were probably about to attack.

And that leads me to our hero: Helena Martin

I’ll admit that I also have been tired of the beautiful, thin and all powerful hero in Urban Fantasy. While Helena is pretty, thin, white and does have unique power, she is clueless about how to use it and so the author uses that as an opportunity to teach us a little about the magical system and about Helena too. The kind of childhood that Helena has had means she doesn’t trust anyone easily. She’s secretive, suspicious and scared. Instead of neatly resolving all of this so that Helena can boink the cute Korean guy quicker, or dumping it because it would be easier to write (like I’ve seen other authors do), the author full on embraces it. We see Helena’s painful PTSD, we see her inability to grieve for those she’s lost, the fear of trusting, the fear of bringing pain and death to anyone she might begin to care for. The author uses the past she’s given Helena to take us on that journey with her. It’s awesome, and even a little frustrating because I just wanted her to kiss the cute Korean guy already! By the time we reach the end of the book, though, I felt that Helena’s journey was all the more satisfying because of how true to the character the author stayed.

Even though Helena as a  white female is nothing new, the author surrounds her with a diverse cast of characters. The already mentioned Korean guy, a curvaceous lesbian, a woman with mental health struggles, an East Indian a sorceress, and a mixed race woman who runs a dog rescue.  I loved seeing the real world represented so well, without stereo types. In fact, there is much poking fun of said stereo types.

I also loved the ever present menace of the villain, who is “on screen” for very little time. The Guild was far more present, as well as the creepy bounty hunters. We see him at the beginning and the end, but I felt his presence throughout the entire book. I’ve seen other authors try to pull off something like this.  But they only succeeded in making it all feel clunky and over done. Not so here. I knew that this guy was haunting her every step, even when she thought he was dead.

One of the only things that kept me from giving it five stars was the formatting. There were some serious issues at certain points. These included key pieces of dialogue missing or combined with another characters, which made it difficult to figure out what was happening. There was also extra words in sentences that stopped my flow of reading. Sometimes this happened in the middle of a really tense moment. I wouldn’t make a big deal out of a handful of such things, but this was a rampant problem throughout the book and became frustrating by the end.

Overall, I would highly recommend this to anyone who is or has been a fan of Urban Fantasy.  I can’t wait to see what happens next!

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