The Myth of a “Productive” Quarantine

I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who feels like they are living in a nightmare they can’t wake up from.

In fact, I have nightmares within nightmares. There is the metaphorical nightmare of the situation gripping our country right now, and then my literal nightmares — every night, a variation on the same dream where the students at my school are suddenly recalled to the building, only to become exposed to the virus and carry it home with them.

This dream has repeated so many times that I know when I’m dreaming — and in the dream, I think, “I had a dream this was going to happen! Wait. I think this is a dream, too.”

Yet, I can’t wake up from it. Because when I wake up, I’m still in this world, where so many have lost so much.

My name is Amelia, which means “industrious and striving.” I have always been hard working, always doing something, striving for something, working on some kind of project. When this started, and the reality of it hadn’t really set into my brain yet, I was a little excited. “Finally,” I thought, “I’m going to get SO MUCH DONE!” So much writing, home repair, gardening… anything and everything that my busy 40-hour work week and full time mom position had prevented me from doing.

I dived right in. I went up and emptied our storage garage, I went to my aunt’s and helped haul off things she didn’t need anymore, then set about digging out a garden and beautifying my house, while editing my teen necromancer novel Retinue of Lost Ones. At first I was happy enough. When someone asked how I was doing, I’d say, “Well, I’m getting paid, and I have so many projects to work on. I don’t know what these people are saying about being bored at home during quarantine.”

And I worked. I worked and worked and worked, and I cooked and cleaned, and homeschooled my daughter. And then, I burnt out, and I burnt out HARD. I started snapping at my family and avoiding the few social Zoom meetings I was invited to because I thought I was “too busy.” I was gripped every day by a threatening cloud of anxiety that accused me of “not getting enough done” and “not taking advantage of this time off.” I resented anything and anyone that got in my way of “progress.”

Then, at last, my husband sat me down on the couch with a glass of wine, and made a space for me to talk about what was going on with me. I talked myself through it with him, and realized what I was doing. I was running from my feelings and fears about COVID-19, running away from my disappointment and my sadness, denying my anguish. I attempted to patch up the dam of emotion with lots of hard work and accomplishments. Well, the dam broke. And I’m actually glad it did.

Now I take each day as it comes. I do my best to sit down and just play with my daughter, or linger over a cup of coffee. I video chat with friends and go on walks. If I feel like working on something, I work on it, but I don’t make it a first priority, or hold myself to some rigid, unattainable standard of industry.

We HAVE to be gentle with ourselves. If keeping busy truly, truly makes you happy, go for it. For me, I have found I need a mix of idle enjoyment and usefulness. Volunteering once a week at the community center to pack food bank orders does wonders for my mood and soul.

That being said, I am working on a few writing things 🙂 I have finished Retinue, as I said, and I have several AWESOME beta readers working on edits. When they’ve finished, I’ll get on that. Setting it aside for now feels good, though. I’m also working with my trusty writing group “The King’s Madmen” to edit Cultbreakers, and that process has been and will continue to be incredibly fun and helpful.

That’s all for now. Please, I’m begging you, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!

First Update in a YEAR?!?

Good heavens to Betsy and tarnation and holy cow! Big off and ope all over this. 

I can’t believe it’s been a year since I’ve updated my website with writing news. I apologize for the massive absence. I feel like I have an excuse — I did write, edit, and publish a novel in that time. Yes, you read that correctly! 

But first, some other news. I started a Teachers Pay Teachers store where educators can purchase units and other resources I’ve created. I mention this here because I most definitely use writing skills when drafting these products. I want to focus on educational games, specifically what I call Learning RPGs. Maybe EduRPG would be a catchier name? What are your thoughts? Anyway, these simplified tabletop role-playing games are usable in any subject/content area. All you have to do is provide the math problems/review questions/equations to balance, whatever you want the students to do. In order to solve the RPG quest, they need to answer the questions correctly. If you are a teacher, or a friend of a teacher, please direct them to my shop. My games are highly engaging and guaranteed to get your students excited! I write these for grades 7-12. I hope to have a wide variety of adventures up soon. Right now, my first game is a spy mission!

bugs

I need to get paid.

In other news, I have finished the first very rough draft of Retinue of Lost Ones, which I’ve been publishing on Wattpad. This story’s working title was I Was a Teenage Necromancer! It details the adventures of Shane Elliot, a high school student who not only sees dead people, but can tell them what to do. When a new girl comes to town, trailed by a mysterious but utterly malevolent spirit, Shane must find a way to help her. I look forward to moving into the editing stage. At that point, I’ll be looking for beta readers 🙂

I’m very excited to announce that stories I’ve written will appear in two new anthologies that should be coming out soon. The first story is “The Pearl,” written for the Iowa Writers’ House Writers’ Rooms anthology Writers from the Depths. “The Pearl” tells the story of a young woman who feels she has no way out of her life, and throws herself into the ocean. Beneath the waves, she finds a mystical creature that changes the course of her life forever. Awhile back I wrote a story called “A Mother’s Song” for an anthology called Unlocking the Magic, edited by the fabulous Vivian Caethe, who I worked with for Humans Wanted. Unfortunately, my story didn’t make the cut, but I managed to get it into another anthology with the same editor I worked with for Enter the Rebirth. “A Mother’s Song” follows the struggles of a court bard battling postpartum depression. Witches, Warriors, and Wyverns can be purchased here. 

In non-writing related news, I moved! My family and I left our 900 square foot condo for a 4,250 square foot former Catholic church that we are remodeling into our home! Yes, it’s a HUGE job, and it is cutting into my writing time, but this was an incredible opportunity that can’t be ignored! Once we have more of the renovations done, I’ll try to post some pictures. 

legendary

Last, but assuredly not least, my novel Legendary was released in November of 2019. At last, James and Arthur’s legendary love story is out there for everyone to read and enjoy. Copies can be purchased on Amazon, and I hope to have them in local bookstores soon. I’ll be doing a book signing at Beaverdale Books in Des Moines on 2/8 from 1-4. Legendary also earned a Kirkus starred review!

I am a published novelist. That is some bucket-list shit right there. 

Winter 2019 Updates

Thank you ever so much for thawing out your fingers to click on this blog post! Daaammnnn… what a winter. You would think that having all of these snow days would assist my writing, but I still haven’t managed to get much done!

I do have to give a serious shout-out to my writing group. I’ve been meeting with them once a month since last spring. Beth, Eleanor, and David — thank you so much for all of your valuable feedback on my recent short stories. If you can believe this, I am planning to revive Cultbreakers and have them help me craft it into something I can sell. I still have faith in that novel, and someday, I want it to find a home. If all else fails, I will self publish. Julia’s story needs to be told.

Unfortunately, my submissions to Unlocking the Magic and Release the Virgins were rejected. However, spoiler alert, I have a really good feeling about Writers of the Depths! I want to wait until things are totally official though before I share too much.

I finished and submitted the manuscript for the novel based on “Idylls of the King” titled Legendary. My editor, Lisa, and I are working together on revisions. I’m almost done with my first edit based on her feedback. Right now we are still scheduled for a late 2019 release! EEE! Learn more about my publisher here.

In more news from Running Wild Press, the anthology of short stories that contains “Idylls of the King” was included in a red carpet gift bag for nominees and presenters of the Golden Globes! Yes, seriously! Some of the celebs that received our book were Benedict Cumberbatch, Glenn Close, Tina Fey, Bradley Cooper, and the incomparable LADY GAGA. Here’s what the gift bag looked like:

giftbag

And here’s a nice write-up from my local paper 🙂

newspaper

Five Months and NO UPDATES?!? Sorry.

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted writing updates! Lots of great stuff has been happening, and I can’t wait to tell you about it.

giphy.gif

So, the biggest news is that the editor of Running Wild’s Anthology of Short Stories Vol. 2 asked me to write a novel based on my story “Idylls of the King.” I know, right? Major squeeeee! I immediately started on the manuscript. I worked with the editor to develop an outline, and she gave me some excellent suggestions.

The novel picks up eleven years after the short story, but the short story is also included within the context of the novel through a flashback. I spent a few months working on the manuscript, and I finished it in early June. Since then, I have had one beta reader look at it, and have done two full edits. A second beta reader has it now, and is currently leaving me comments to think about. I’m so grateful to Jill and Jason for their time and energy.

Once I get through a third editing draft, then I think I’m ready to submit the novel to my editor. My editor…*swoons* I have ALWAYS wanted to say that phrase. It makes me sound so professional!

In other news, I.O.W.A was a lot of fun. I broke even on sales, but I got to spend my time talking to the wonderful Randy Roeder and Brian K. Morris, and hang out with Alexandra Penn and Erin Casey too. They are all amazing writers, so you should check out their work!

I’ve also been hard at work on a few short stories. I found three wonderful anthologies I really wanted to submit to, so I wrote stories for them.

Unlocking the Magic (edited by Vivian Caethe, who brought us Humans Wanted)

Writers of the Depths 

Release the Virgins! 

I’ve already submitted for Release the Virgins! and I’m getting some beta reads and help from others for Unlocking the Magic and Writers of the Depths. There are such interesting themes for anthologies out there these days. If I get accepted to any, I’ll let you know.

I hope not to be away for so long, but working on “Idylls of the King” has really sucked up my time. But I’ll try to be better about keeping you posted.

Stay cool!

I Love Writing and Writing About Love

Happy almost Valentine’s Day, everyone!

I spent a lot of my life pretty much hating this holiday. It’s kind of the single person’s nightmare day when they’re reminded that they’re “alone.” But, if I could go back in time and talk to my former self, I’d tell her it’s her choice to feel that way. There’s plenty of ways to show love for yourself, and being lonely is different than being alone. I spent so much time worrying I’d never have a husband/boyfriend/whatever when I should have realized that was society’s pressure and other people’s problems being shoved onto me. So single folks, guess what? There is nothing wrong with you.

I also used to think the romance part of stories were dumb. Sometimes, they are. Like you’ve got this great race-through-history style book about the Knights Templar with espionage and action and artifacts and all this DiVinci Code style action, and then the main characters hook up for like, no reason. I’m looking at you, The Last Templar.

Other times when I read, the love story in some way just rings true to me. I didn’t really like much about The Historian (you can read my review here) but the also-in-some-ways pointless love story between the main character and Barley echoed my own adolescent fumblings in a way that was really sweet and real and hit me in an unexpected way.

Now, I’m writing about two young men who fell in love as 13-year-olds, and seem destined to be together, part of a legendary narrative. But there’s no such thing as a perfect relationship, even though it’s going to break my heart to put them through a storm. I honestly don’t know what will happen in the end. Writing about love is actually pretty great. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a romance writer, but I enjoy that aspect of some of my stories.

These characters in love are from my short story Idylls of the King which will appear in Running Wild Press’s Anthology of Short Stories Vol. 2. It releases on March 15th, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

anthology vol 2_cover final (1).jpg

I’ll be sure to let you all know where you can buy your copies. One place will likely be M and M Bookstore in Cedar Rapids, IA. They are awesome and extremely supportive of local authors! Please check them out and support a local business.

My other big news is that I’ll be at Imagine Other Worlds with Authors, a wonderful book signing event, July 21, 2018 from 10 am to 3 pm at the Marion Columbus Club at 5650 Kacena Avenue in Marion, Iowa.

27750080_875736660230_4621816236569702984_n.jpg

I know it’s not probably the most professional headshot, but I took that selfie at a cafe in Paris. That day(s) I went to the airport and flew to Paris all by myself with a connection in London. It was the best international flight ever — the plane was empty so I could actually sleep, and then on my connection from London, this random French dude gave me his business class ticket so he could sit with his wife. So I got free breakfast and fun cheeses. I landed in Paris and hit the ground running. I figured out how to ride the RER all by myself and rendezvoused with my husband at Notre Dame. This was a very big day for me where I was happy to be myself and be alive. And that’s how I feel when I write. So, dopey picture gets to stay :).

Of Course My Resolution is to Write More…

Hey faithful readers, sorry for the long delay with any news and updates. I’ve been doing an atrocious job updating the facebook group as well. Mostly because there’s not a lot to report, at least not a lot of progress.

One big thing — My story “Snake Charmer” will be in the next issue of Saw Palm out of the University of South Florida. I did the proofs with the editor recently and had a great experience. I can’t wait to get my hard copy in the mail!

So of course one of my resolutions after the holiday is to try and write more. I think my problem is that I try to multitask too much. I need to choose a novel, sit down, and write it. And cut it out with the other stuff until I’m finished. Of course I’ll need to take breaks to blog and work on short stories, but as far as long term projects go, I need to do one thing at a time.

  1. Write the novel based on “Idylls of the King” as requested by the Running Wild editor.
  2. Finish up and send out Harvest of Ash.
  3. Finish up and edit Drifting, and then forget it about it forever, because it SUCKS. But I will be damned if I spent that much time working on it not to finish it. I can at least publish it on Wattpad
  4. Finish Our Liberties We Prize
  5. Finish season 2 of Alayna and the Beast and submit
  6. Finish Retinue of Lost Ones
  7. Finish my “secret book” that may or may not be a romance novel.

I’m running a serious risk here. After a long time passes of working on one book, I might not remember how the other one was supposed to go. I guess that’s just the price of doing business. Because if I have an editor wanting a particular book, I obviously gotta get on that shit. Call me Marshmallow, because if I see a sweet potato pie, I am on top of it.

tumblr_o9tpd1F9fb1udklowo1_400.gif

Here’s a great post I saw on Facebook today about New Year’s Resolutions.

1. Give Up On The Unhealthy Lifestyle
“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” — Jim Rohn

2. Give Up The Short-term Mindset
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” — Mae West

3. Give Up On Playing Small
“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone, and as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
— Marianne Williamson

4. Give Up Your Excuses
“It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.”
― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

5. Give Up The Fixed Mindset
“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” ― Robert Greene, Mastery

6. Give Up Believing In The “Magic Bullet.”
“Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better” — Émile Coué

7. Give Up Your Perfectionism
“Shipping beats perfection.” — Khan Academy’s Development Mantra

8. Give Up Multi-tasking
“Most of the time multitasking is an illusion. You think you are multitasking, but in reality, you are actually wasting time switching from one task to another “
— Bosco Tjan

9. Give Up Your Need to Control Everything
“Some things are up to us, and some things are not up to us.” — Epictetus

10. Give Up On Saying YES To Things That Don’t Support Your Goals
“He who would accomplish little must sacrifice little; he who would achieve much must sacrifice much; he who would attain highly must sacrifice greatly.”
— James Allen

11. Give Up The Toxic People
“Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.”
— Albert Einstein

12. Give Up Your Need To Be Liked
“You can be the juiciest, ripest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be people who hate peaches.” — Dita Von Teese

13. Give Up Wasting Time *aka get off the damn Facebook*
“The trouble is, you think you have time” — Jack Kornfield

All right, until next time everybody. I promise to be better about updating the Facebook. Peace and love, and thanks so much for being here with me right now.

The Last Good Year

When I was a teen, I used to write novel after novel about a group of fabulous and tortured immortal beings. Some of you out there may have even *CRINGE* read them. For that, I apologize. But my point is that my favorite characters I created became immortal at various ages that I, as a teen, thought were awesome. 22 was one, as was 27 and 33. 22 was a watershed year for me as I left college and started teaching. Getting away from University of Iowa party culture and getting healthy in a job I adored made that year one of the times I know I was the most happy that I’ve ever been. I felt like there was some kind of connection between how I used to covet age 22 and the magic that came from this time in my life in some way.

Honestly, I can’t remember exactly what it was about age 27, but something good happened then, too. Well, year 33 was the year I was really sure I was going to get a book deal. I have like two weeks or less and… nope.

BUT I have had a LOT of successes this year with my short stories. So many have found a home in anthologies and journals. Success for me really started in 2015 when “Duck Pond” won the short story prize for the Springfield Writers’ Guild. Since then, I’ve written somewhere around 15 short stories, and 9 of them have been published somewhere. That is super, super encouraging. And even better, Running Wild Press asked me to turn “Idylls of the King” into a novel.

I am a writer. I still feel weird saying it, but I finally thing I am legit. The only thing that separates me from most published authors is their self-advocacy and a good dose of luck. We all work hard, we all have great ideas. Some are just at the right place at the right time. Some HAVE the time and the means to promote themselves.

Thank you so much to everyone for their help. I didn’t come to feeling like a writer without the love and support of so many people. Sigh. 34. Oh well. We’ll see if it’s any different. There are no “good” birthdays after this.

My First Author Event!

Greetings clever readers!

Just a quick update — I’m working with the editor of My American Nightmare to put together a vendor table for Ottumwa’s lovely Halloweenapalooza on October 14th. This will be my FIRST AUTHOR EVENT EVER!!! I will be dressed in a costume of some kind, selling stickers and tee-shirts as well as promotional electronic copies of the anthology.

If you are interested in supporting me in my endeavors, here are a couple of things you could do to secure a place in the Halls of the Hallowed Readers/Valhalla:

  1. Come to the event! Mark your calendars! The event page I linked has all the info and I’ll post more details as it gets closer. Come by the booth and support me and all the lovely authors who contributed to My American Nightmare! (I may be selling a few copies of Humans Wanted as well!)
  2. Please consider donating to my gofundme page. I need help with gas money, paying for the booth, and other incidentals. You can contribute here: https://www.gofundme.com/support-amelias-first-author-event

Thanks for everything. I love it when fall comes and things start to get spooky. You know what goes well with pumpkin spice lattes? Horror anthologies full of amazing female writers!!!

I am Awash in AWESOME ANTHOLOGIES!

Pre-orders and author copies of Humans Wanted (a sci-fi anthology my story “A Second Zion” appears in) are out!!! When mine came in the mail I had to squee a little bit. When my sister-in-law asked me to sign her copy I was pretty much having a crap attack. My very first author signature in a book containing my words!!! It was a pretty singular and amazing experience.

So, if you didn’t get a chance to pre order your copy, Vivian, the editor, will have everything settled with Amazon sometime in August. Of COURSE I’ll let you know when copies are available to the general public.

I have just started the joyous reading of the rest of the stories in this incredibly inspired anthology. If you’re tired of reading about how humans are crap in most sci-fi universes, this is the book for you.

humans-wanted-cover-toc

OMG THAT IS MY NAME

Also we have a cover and a release date for the ebook-only anthology My American Nightmare which features my story “We Kill the Skull Man.” I adore it and can’t wait to read everyone else’s story. Probably be up all night shakin’ in my booties because they’re so spooky!

This collection comes out on HALLOWEEN! (muahahahaha)

My American Nightmare - High Resolution

 

Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

 

“My American Nightmare” Horror Anthology Announcement!

As I’m sure you guys know from my posts on social media, there has not been a lot of productive time spent writing this summer. I’m really trying to strike a balance between relaxation and procrastination, and allowing myself some space to decompress from the school year. I’m a chronic, anxiety-ridden over-achiever, though, so easier said than done.

Lately, I have managed to work on my *SUPER SECRET PROJECT!!!!* which I decided not to give up on. Hint — it’s a historical paranormal romance, but no more information shall be released until I have a draft finished and I’m begging around for beta readers. I also knocked out a chapter of Harvest of Ash, and sent in Alayna and the Beast to Big World Network, though I have received no response whatsoever. I’m a bit concerned. Though there have been some efforts to save the company and turn it into a non-profit, I’m not sure how much movement toward that goal has taken place… should probably investigate.

Today I finished a 3,000 word short story originally titled “Full Moon” (another check mark on the list of 52 short story prompts!) but I’m also playing around with “Motherhood of the Wolf” — a play on the movie titled Brotherhood of the Wolf.

(which apparently I need to watch again, because I don’t remember it being very good, but now I’m reading the reviews…)

But, friends, the big news (again, which I have already posted and tweeted about, but hey) is that another of my short stories will be appearing in an anthology called My American Nightmare. 

The story featured will be “We Kill the Skull Man” which was a piece I was having trouble finding a home for. I’m elated it’ll have a place an an audience!

Very pleased, very excited! It’s so rewarding to get an acceptance. This has really fueled me to keep going.

So, here’s the nitty gritty on My American Nightmare: “We will be creating an anthology titled My American Nightmare. It will be a collection of fictional short stories in which the protagonist will be between the ages of 13-19 (we’re aiming for the YA horror genre), the setting MUST take place in the United States (hence the title of the anthology), AND the author submitting MUST BE FEMALE

…The short stories must also be inspired by horror stories drawn from literature, television, film, or music, to create a unique spin on classic tales of terror.”

The editor asked me to include a list of tales that inspired “We Kill the Skull Man.” It was propelled out of me, in truth, by Stranger Things mixed with my own small-town Iowa upbringing with a dose of The Virgin Suicides. The main character, Elliott, and his sister Mira embark on a quest to discover what happened to one of the most beloved high school girls in town, Jessica Lee. I wanted to write something that had a little flavor of Stephen King’s IT as well, the idea of horror through a child’s eyes, in a child’s world, where monsters easily exist and the real world can be scarier than the legends ever were. Oh, and there’s a goth involved 🙂

giphy (7)

I’ll be sure to post immediately when the anthology is available. The release date is Halloween! It will only be available in e-book format, so bust out that Kindle or Amazon Fire!

And don’t forget about Humans Wanted! Books available at the end of July!