Kelly Maher
Sweet, Sweet Organization, Part 2

The Emotional Impact of Organization

When I was writing the original Sweet, Sweet Organization post for the #GetItTogetherHop, I was also in the process of cleaning my apartment for my mom’s impending visit over Labor Day. In some ways, cleaning off my desk was the easiest part of that process (as of this post, I’m still in the middle of it). It’s something I do regularly, for me. I find that having a mostly clear desk makes it easier for me to write. If only because I have the space to rest my arms and laptop/iPad.

If you’ve read the #GetItTogetherHop posts, you’ll see a common theme of how organization methods both reduce and create stress and impact mental health. This is definitely true for me. Having a clearer desk gives me more mental space as well as physical since I’m not feeling as crowded. Every piece of paper sitting on my desk chatters at me to be dealt with. And I generate a crap ton of paper for as much as I live my life in an online environment. Certain things, like my check book, also have a designated space they occupy. If they are not in that dedicated space when I need them, like to pay rent, I get more anxious and bitchier the longer I can’t find them. Ask my family how many times I’ve bitten off their heads when I haven’t been able to find something because it’s not in or near the last place I remember seeing it. Half the time it *is* near the place, but hidden under something.

Let’s talk about moving and storage for a little bit. Mainly because I went home last weekend and was forced to deal with, or at least acknowledge, the majority of things I had left in storage in various locations with my family. Moving is not pretty. No matter how organized I am, and I am thanking whatever deities there are that I thought ahead enough to label many of the boxes that weren’t see-through, moving turns me into an emotionally battered bitch. I hate subjecting my family to that, but they continue to volunteer to assist despite this. Dad and I were reminiscing over my last full day in Iowa. Not. Pretty. The problem is all of the decision-making you have to do. You have to touch every single tiny ass object and make a decision about it. Does it go with you? If so, where do you pack it? Does it go in the trash? Recycling? Can you sell it? Should you give it to someone? So many questions. And I fret over each and every answer. Fretting is your enemy when you have so much to go through even when you think you have budgeted yourself enough time. I had a month to go through my things in Iowa. I used that month. It was nowhere near enough.

At one point on Monday, while standing in my parents’ garage looking at what was sitting in there (and my parents’ garage is not finished, so that’s another issue), my mom asked me something and the only thing I could tell her, warn her really, was “I’m feeling very overwhelmed right now.” All of these boxes were staring at me, demanding my emotional energy. And this was after I’d spent four hours on Friday culling about eight banker’s boxes of books out of my book collection sitting in my dad’s storage unit. The question my family kept asking me was “what do you want us to do with it?” I kept wanting to say, “did you not see everything I threw out/decided to get rid of in some manner?!?!?!”

The final kick in the emotional can was when the used book store I went to offered me only $40 for the eight boxes of books. $5 per box. If I could have, I would have boxed up a good half of those books so I could give them to someone, FOR FREE, who would appreciate the treasure trove I had built up over the years. But I didn’t have the space, nor the time, to do that. Luckily, both my parents saw how fragile I was at that point, and didn’t speak much about it. A little unexpectedly, I started crying as I wrote this bit because I’m still grieving the loss of that collection. And this was something I had been planning on doing for almost a year. It’s because I know that collection was special, and I couldn’t treat it the way it deserved because of the time and space constraints forced upon me.

That is the emotional toll of organization. It’s all about managing your time and space. Being organized in a way that works for your situation can be a very good thing. Having outside constraints force you to be organized in a way that is not ideal for you can suck you down quickly. I am glad to have lightened my mental load with not owning as much stuff, even though I didn’t see it on a regular basis. I wish I could have been able to better control the dispersal of the most meaningful part of that “stuff” in a way that was emotionally healthier for me. If you want to be more organized, whether with time or space, I think the key is to find a system that minimizes the amount of decisions you have to make. It should help relieve the stress in your life, not contribute to it. Good luck!

Sweet Heat Collections

I’m happy to announce that I will be republishing my backlist stories under the series title “Sweet Heat”. I’m planning on three volumes that will be published over the course of Fall 2015. One volume, likely the last one, will be updated next year when the exclusive rights to the last of my previously published stories reverts back to me. I will be pricing these collections at $3.99. I’m playing around with the idea of offering a one to two month introductory price for each of $1.99. I’m interested in your thoughts on the pricing of previously published material, so leave a comment below, email me, or tweet me! I’d very much like to make these available internationally, but I need to do some research into the VAT issue as I don’t want to run afoul of regulations.

If you are interested in being notified of when these collections are available, join my newsletter. I’m instituting a thank you program for newsletter subscribers. For every 100 subscribers, and with every newsletter, I will randomly draw a name to win a $10 gift certificate to your online bookstore of choice–provided they offer gift cards or equivalent.

RWA in NYC

I will not be signing at RWA this year, but if you’re in the area, I highly recommend you check it out as a ton of great authors will be signing.

Though I’m not signing, I will be running around the Literacy event as a volunteer. If you can spot me, grab me and I’ll give you one of my special buttons that I’m really hoping will get delivered before I leave! I’ll also be around the entire conference if you’re also attending or bar-conning it.IMG_5955.PNG

Book availability, part 3

More updates! Such as they are đŸ™‚ I’ve requested back my rights to the stories I’ve published with Amber Quill Press (Family Jewels and Cimmerean League: Revelations) and Phaze (Spring Storm and The Man from HATHOR). I’ve had no complaints with either AQP or Phaze as a publisher, but I’m hoping to repackage and self-publish the stories along with the ones formerly published with EC and a few other stories I have floating around. I’ll leave this post up as a sticky and will post another update once I have more information.

Book Availability, Part 2

When I’m asked where I work for the day job, I have a short answer and a long answer. I have many things tumbling through my head about the status of my books that had been published by Ellora’s Cave, but for now, I’ll give you the short answer: the publishing rights to Amuse Bouche, End Balance, and Tera’s Awakening have reverted back to me as of today, March 16, 2015.

I have hidden the pages for those books until I can deal with updating them (I’m heading into the day job in a few minutes). Until I have time to update them I’ll leave this post, or one with further information, stickied to the top of the main site page so that there is a clear record of them (it’s the librarian in me). If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Nano Winner!

I crossed the 50,000 words mark on my novel yesterday! Woohoo!! I’m very pleased with myself in that I confirmed that I can write the first draft of a short novel in a 3-week period without killing myself. I did manage this same feat earlier this summer, but doing it again is proof the first time wasn’t a fluke.

I do have mixed feelings about this novel, however. Most of my writing yesterday was done just to cross the story over the 50K mark. The ending is beyond rushed, and some might say it doesn’t even exist. The story itself is wibbly-wobbly and is in dire need of revision. If I wanted to do anything with the story in its current state. And I’m pretty sure I don’t. As I said to a friend on Twitter yesterday, not only did the story go off the rails, but it went over the cliff. But do I regret spending my precious writing time on this novel? No.

I’m choosing to look at it as a palate cleanser. Last week, I was pondering some things I discussed with a writing friend at a recent convention. The main point was to write what excited you. Every project I tackle excites me to some extent. There’s something drawing me in. However, not every story is able to hold my attention through the first draft. Let alone all of the revision drafts that are necessary. As I was pondering the conversation, I had the spark of an idea. That idea grew, is still growing, and it’s getting me *very* excited. To the point that I’ve already plopped this new story on my writing schedule for January and February. Without working on the Nano novel and clearing the dreck from my mind, I would not have been able to sow the field for this new idea.

In my non-writing life, I’ve never regretted any job I’ve ever worked even though a few made me *supremely* unhappy for the time I was there. The reason I don’t regret them is because I learned something from each and every one of them. Whether it was a skill set I was able to take forward into the next job, or something about myself, I learned. This is the same with writing. If you learn something from every project you spend time on, your time is being well-spent.

For those still Nano-ing, good luck! Press on! Even if you do not get the winner’s badge, you are still a winner for ending the month with more words on paper or screen than you started the month with!

Self-care during Nano and other fast-drafting sessions

Fast-drafting is a challenge. Nanowrimo is essentially one of many versions of fast-drafting. This last calendar year has cemented for me that my process is very much aligned with the principles of fast-drafting. I vomit out words at a copious pace, and then I go back and heavily edit them later. I mentioned in my last post that previous attempts at Nanowrimo had left me burnt out. This is always a concern with fast-drafting if it’s not a process you’re used to. Increasing your pace at any time leaves you open to burn out.

You must listen to your body and your mind when fast-drafting or working to increase your pace. A couple of times this week, I ignored my alarm and slept in later than I planned on. I needed sleep as I’d been staying up until midnight (if I was lucky) with my alarm going off at 6 am. For some, this amount of sleep would be more than sufficient. It isn’t for me, and I’m not a morning person in the first place. The first time it happened, I got up in time to squeeze in a half hour of writing time before I needed to head into work. This is about half the time I normally spend writing in the morning. I’d already decided that I was going out with friends for a working dinner of writing, so I figured I’d be able to make up the remainder of my daily goal then. That didn’t happen, but the words I had written that morning had kept me ahead of not only my personally scheduled pace, but also the official Nanowrimo pace. I chose not to stress.

Then on Friday, I was exhausted. In addition to just being tired–and cozy warm in a nest of blankets with a chilly morning temperature, I was having a flare up of the dry patches around one of my eyes. This fall-to-winter transition has caused incipient psoriatic patches around my eyes to erupt as never before. My left eye is being hit particularly bad. Luckily, my issues with psoriasis are relatively light compared to others with it. Suffice it to say, before I go into a long discourse on psoriasis (I just deleted a bunch of sentences), my body’s yelling at me to rest. Friday, I listened to it and slept in a little longer. I compromised and went into work earlier than normal so I could leave earlier than normal. I came home, and despite not generally liking to draft new projects in the evenings, I got my words in.

The key to successfully fast-drafting is setting up a schedule. A schedule that includes downtime for you which can be shifted around as needed. One of the main reasons I get up early to write is so I can have my evenings free to read, watch TV/movies, or do chores around the house (ugh). When needed, like on Friday, I can put those more fun activities (not the cleaning) aside in favor of making up the work. I try not to do this often, but every once in a while is fine.

For this weekend and next, to get ahead of the Nano pace and finish the first draft of my novel (at least my project word count) prior to Thanksgiving, I scheduled myself to write 5000 each Saturday and Sunday. I know I can accomplish that in a three-hour period. On the days where 5000 words is my goal, I shoot for blocking out 9 am to 12 pm to do it. Yesterday, I started a little after nine, but that was fine. I was able to get the words done and then head out to my other scheduled activities without being too late. Even better, I hit the halfway point of my project word count for my novel. This morning, I could not crawl out of bed once again. However, I also had not scheduled myself for any hard-ish commitments like I had for yesterday. I started an hour later than I did yesterday, but once again, I completed my goal.

Ultimately, be kind to yourself. Figuring out the right pace for you is finding the one that will allow you to work consistently and produce the amount of work needed to meet your goals.

Nanowrimo 2014

Ah, Nano. I’ve had interesting feelings regarding Nano since I first started attempting it way back in 2003. I became aware of it in 2002, but I think during November, so I didn’t actually have a book to write at that point. The manuscript that eventually became End Balance got me my one “win” in 2004. Ten years ago. Chills raced down my spine at that thought. I tried again in 2005 and 2006, but realized that the pressure of Nano was contributing to feelings of burn out. In the years since, I’ve kept my account active, but have not put effort into dipping my toes into the water again. Last year, though, I did consider doing it again as I had begun to achieve a rhythm in my drafting style that would theoretically allow me to win. However, the timing was not in my favor for a number of reasons.

This year, though, as I was plotting out when I would be drafting projects–though I hadn’t decided on *which* projects–I realized that I could schedule myself to draft a novel in November. And I knew I could absolutely win as I’d written two full novels and a few short stories in the meantime. One of those novels was written well ahead of the suggested Nano pace. All without really feeling a strain. This is not to say that some days weren’t grueling, because they totally were. However, because I’ve gotten to know myself, and what works best for me in terms of the time of day that I write and the amount that I write, I have been able to avoid burning out. Which has *always* been my biggest fear with Nano.

As part of my prep for this year, and what I’ve done for my last few projects, I’ve printed out a calendar and written down my daily writing goals. But I do that *after* I block out the days I already have other plans. For example, I went back to my hometown last weekend for a family-ish wedding. I knew I’d have some time here and there Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to write, but I only scheduled myself for 1000 words each day. Part of this was to ease myself back into drafting mode, and part was to accommodate the expectations of visiting with family. However, I forgot my calendar here at home so I got ahead of myself on Monday. This did come in handy this morning as there were some errands I had to accomplish before going into work and I cut the goal for today in half. I’m still 1300 words ahead of my scheduled pace.

This is me, though. I was advising a friend a few weeks ago to give Nano a try because she needs a kick in the butt to start writing. She was focused on winning. I told her to ignore winning. What she needs to focus on is just getting words down on the page. Any amount she accomplishes during Nano is going to be more words than she had at the beginning of the month. And *that* is true for everyone whether you “win” or not.

If you’re participating in Nano this year, good luck! If you finish and “win”, yay!! If you don’t, you still have more words than you started with. But no matter what, EDIT that sucker before you submit it somewhere or self-publish it!

Book availability

EDITED 1/18/15: As I am still waiting to receive a response from EC regarding my request for the return of my rights, I’ve decided to make this a sticky post until the situation has been resolved one way or another. ~KM

I’ve been debating for days on whether or not to say anything about this. As in, the Streisand Effect. Finally, I decided that my readers deserved to have a statement from me on why certain pages on the books section of the site look different from the others. Over the weekend, I removed the direct links to purchase my Ellora’s Cave published titles. I have done this because I sent notice to EC requesting the reversion of my rights to those stories. There is a lot of drama going on right now and, frankly, this is not something I decided on the spur of the moment to do. The drama was the prod for me to get off my tuchus and not wait for a condition I had been waiting on (outside of EC) to change. I control my career no matter what, and I needed to request these books back.

I will say that I have always received my royalty checks and statements with the exception of one month for which I was told (after I queried EC), there were no sales for that royalty period. I have been told by other authors this was not the case for them. There were other issues beyond payment (or not) of royalties that made me decide that EC was not the best house for my work. Frankly, my stories have not sold well to the EC readership. This is what allowed me to request my rights back under the clause regarding what constitutes a story being out-of-print. It really sucks to admit as an author that your work doesn’t sell well, but that’s reality. Not everyone’s going to be a New York Times bestseller. But I keep plugging along working on the next project because I live in hope *that* might the magic manuscript.

If I do get my rights back, I will consider whether or not to self-publish them at that time. If I do self-publish them, I doubt I’m going to revise them. The stories were written over a six-year period between 2004 and 2010. I had a lot of growth as an author in that time, and I’ve had exponential growth since then. What I don’t believe in is going back and reworking a project once it’s been published. To me, for me, that casts the work in amber. I’ve got new and fresh stories I want to tell, and I’d rather spend my time writing and revising those to make them publishable. Anyway, I wanted to update you on what’s going on. And as I say on Twitter every time I receive a royalty check, especially when they’re under $1.00: THANK YOU. I appreciate each and every one of you allowing me the chance to entertain you.

Being creative – Knitting

One of the things I really enjoy doing besides writing and reading is knitting. Right now I’m working on a shawl. I discovered yesterday that I had wound only one skein into a ball. Oops! As I want to knit tonight, I figured I should probably wind up a couple of balls. How do you guys spend your creative time?

Yarn of various blue colors on a yarn holder. Tag identifies it as Malabrigo Worsted. The colorway is Whales Road.

Two balls of Malabrigo Worsted in the Whales Road colorway--various blues and greens--wound up into yarn cakes.