Aw, Crap!

Good Tuesday to you all…because I’m not having one. My computer sputtered and breathed its final digital breath over the weekend. As I’m typing this out on my phone, I can’t help but feel I may have taken its usefulness for granted. This is especially true because I’m currently too poor to get a new one. I understand all too well the term “starving artist.”

Make no mistake; ivorychronicles.com is not done for and neither is my writing. In time and/or through a miracle, I will get a new computer to have everything up and running at full capacity again.

In the meantime, I have a GoFundMe campaign going on for this very reason. Even if I raise a little then maybe I can simply see if it’d be worth it to repair my old laptop. If you aren’t able to donate, I’d sure appreciate a share! Thanks!

https://www.gofundme.com/51p83io

Sundry Spotlight – Meet Megan

Hello, readers! As we take this MLK jr. Day to reflect on a brilliant and inspiring mind that helped change the course of our country, we think of other people working to shape the future. They’re out there, and today, I have Megan, a high school teacher who finds great purpose and fulfillment in her profession.

 

Hi! Thanks for joining us here on Sundry Spotlight! Tell us a little about yourself.

Hello! I’m a high school teacher, a mother to two boys, and a wife of 12 years.

You have a bit of a unique interest. What is it and what can you tell us about it?

I am a high school teacher and I love it. It’s challenging and rewarding. I am famous inside the walls of my school because, as the kids say, “I’m chill” I get to teach the subjects I am passionate about and I really love my students, even the rough-around-the-edges ones. The tough kids challenge me to be more creative and look for different, unique ways to either engage them in the content, or find ways to maintain order.

How long have you been doing it?

As a career teacher, this school year marks the 5th year I have been doing this job.

What led you to start it in the first place?

Well, that’s kind of a long story. When I was a kid I wanted to be a lawyer. So, when I got to college, I started majoring in political science so I could have a good background in conflict resolution and diplomacy. I hated the courses…I then changed my major to History, a subject I was very passionate about and I loved it. When I was a junior in college, I got married. One day, speaking with my husband about school, I said, out loud, “I don’t think I want to be a lawyer.” Instantaneously it felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I thought, I’m not supposed to be a lawyer. So, I thought, what can I do with a History degree? Teaching seemed like a good place to start. I enrolled in an exploratory education course at my university and their advice from day one was to start substitute teaching. They said it was a good idea to even see if you liked teaching first. I started the process and fell in love with teaching. This was where I belonged.

What’s your favorite thing about it?

The interactions with many unique students who are hilarious, the outlet for creativity in my lessons, the impact I can have on a kid and the impact a kid can have on me. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to see a kid struggle so much as a freshman and then to be there to see them mature into someone who knows what they want out of life because they finally got their life together. It’s so inspiring and uplifting to know that I had a part in that metamorphosis.

What sorts of challenges do you face in pursuing this interest?

Well, not that it’s a problem now, but when first applying for jobs and trying to get started, the fact that I am a woman and teach the social sciences, and don’t coach, I had a very difficult time getting a job. It took me 3 years to actually get hired as a full time teacher. I had the qualifications and licenses necessary and I was working as a substitute teacher at the time so I know I had some on-the-job training too. It was just rough going on several interviews knowing I would not likely get the job. I treated each one like interview practice. So, when I finally got offered a job, my literal first words were, “are you serious?”

Now that I am a teacher, other challenges I face are ever-changing teacher expectations from society, low wages, others not respecting my profession (I hear things like, well, you get summers off, or well, you’re just a teacher) I do just as much work as anyone else, and I work a lot during the summer just to get prepared for the next school year, particularly if I add a class to the load I’m already teaching. Governmental policies pose a road-block as well. Sometimes the government does not give us enough funding to do some basic things. For example, we used to have purchasing cards each year in my district but because of funding, a lot of the office supplies and things I need either need to get submitted for approval or I just need to purchase them out of pocket.

A major daily challenge is how to motivate those students who are not really into school. I am constantly asking myself how to motivate those kids…it’s what pushes me to get more creative and design more engaging lessons.

If you could have your ideal setup for doing this, what would that look like?

Realistically, I would love to be able to get raises for doing an amazing job…I’m kind of stuck right now. Because I get paid by the district (a non-profit organization basically), not like most other people do, through for-profit-companies.

If someone wanted to start doing the same thing, what advice would you give them?

I would definitely say, find out what the minimum requirements in your state are to become an emergency substitute and start doing that ASAP. It was what really taught me what it was to be a teacher and I think it really helps people to decide if that is what they really want to do. I loved subbing and I love being a teacher. It is my true passion and calling. I am so glad I started with subbing because it helped me decide which grade-level I wanted to teach full time. I learned that I did not like elementary school and middle school was barely tolerable but I found that high school was where I was the most comfortable and where I fit best.

I would also say, figure out what you love and try to teach that. If you teach something you love, you’ll be happy. I absolutely love history and even though, I teach things that aren’t history per se, I teach sociology and psychology and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT! I never even thought about teaching sociology before but once I got into it, I fell in love and I wouldn’t want to go to a district that didn’t have that option.

Do you see yourself doing this for the foreseeable future?

Yes and no. I see myself putting in at least 5 more years or so but eventually, I would like to get a masters and start working as an adjunct professor at a community college or university and eventually, I want to teach future teachers or start working the professional development circuit.

Where can people find you/your work?

@MrsBoneLHS [Twitter]

 

Thanks so much for joining us on Sundry Spotlight, Megan. Continue what you’re doing and help shape those budding minds. It’s been a pleasure.

Table Talk – Meet Edward

Happy Thursday, readers! Today, I have a guest who puts the spotlight on comedy with his writing. Here to tell you more is Edward!

 

Hi Edward! Thanks for joining us here on Table Talk. Tell us a little about yourself.

1) What sorts of things do you write and where are you in the publishing process?

I write mostly absurd comedy mixed with elements of fantasy, and I’m all over the place! I self-published a book, but took it off the market to re-edit. That process is going well and I’m constantly amazed by how much my style has changed after a couple years.

Then I’ve got another book I’m editing before writing the second part of the first draft.

Then there’s another that’s shorter but only one-fourth written.

Then there’s…

2) What inspires the stories you tell?

Life. The universe. Everything. Douglas Adams. Isaac Asimov. Random conversations with people. Subconscious association. Disassociation. Nintendo. Weird dreams. The person reading this right now who doesn’t know I know they’re reading this but I do. But I don’t.

3) What life experiences have helped you to become a better writer?

Writing, primarily.

I worked as an audio-book editor for a couple years, which helped me understand better the natural rhythm of speech. It also forced me to read over two hundred books in two years, so… that helped too. I was able to peek between the lines at the outlines of best sellers to see what made them tick. It wasn’t pretty.

4) When you write, how do you plan your schedule? Do you commit to a length of time, word count, or just write as time allows?

This is a good question, and I only recently developed a decent answer. According to my new schedule – from seven to nine in the morning I write, from nine to ten I work on my author’s platform, then I write again from ten to twelve. I’ll take a ten minute break every hour. I use a mechanical egg timer to remind me that time exists. I’ve got a video about the system here: https://youtu.be/2GmBoKlGMyw

5) What is the most challenging thing you’ve come across in pursuing this craft?

My anxiety.

I think it’s my worst enemy in all this. Once I put it aside, everything’s easy – the writing, editing, proofing, publishing, etc. But my anxiety often stops me from ever making a move. Or, once I do make a move, it says, “Hey! How about this other idea instead?!”

The new schedule’s helping.

6) Has anything come surprisingly easy for you?

Comedy.

I wasn’t particularly surprised by how easy it was for me. But I was overwhelmingly surprised at how difficult it is for others. Apparently I’ve got a talent or something. I just assumed everyone could whip up a joke on demand.

7) How did you reach the decision to become an author? Was there a defining moment, or was the decision gradual?

I worked as an audio-book editor for over two years and read over two hundred books. In that time, I realized two things. A – I was in a dead-end job making decent money with benefits where I would probably die from some illness caused by sitting in a dark basement all day. B – There weren’t a lot of good comedy books out there.

I had a story my dad and I had been working on for fifteen years and I decided it was about time to finish it properly and make something awesome.

Two years later, I’m editing the crap out of it.

8) If you could sum up a piece of wisdom you’ve gained in your journey to write, what would it be?

Just do it.

Don’t let your dreams be dreams.

NO, SERIOUSLY! This is the biggest mistake anyone can make! Don’t overcomplicate it, don’t make excuses, and don’t let excuses make you!

JUST.

DO.

IT.

9) How would you prepare someone who wanted to start writing? What advice would you give him/her?

I have a pen.

I have a paper.

I have a JUST WRITE THE FREAKING BOOK.

Write a few short stories. Find your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on your strengths. Figure out the awkward punctuation issues. Once you can write a short story without it being stiff, start writing your book.

10) What do you enjoy reading?

Not a lot actually.

I know. It’s weird for a writer to not like reading. I’m pretty sure I have mild dyslexia, ADHD, or both. A book’s got to be really freaking good to keep my attention and be worth the aching eyes.

With that said, I do enjoy non-fiction, Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, and the occasional well-written fantasy novel by other authors.

I’m currently reading “The Stuff of Thought” by Steven Pinker. (Non-fiction: linguistics, psychology, very dense, extraordinarily well done.)

11) Do you have a favorite author? Do you have a favorite book?

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

12) Different people have different ideas of what makes a great story. What’s yours?

Fun dialogue, deep thought, a dash of humor, and short chapters. #NoFiller

13) What’s your dream writing job?

A. Give my writing away for free to everyone who wants it.
B. People laugh, think, and form a community around my work.
C. Patreon.
D. ???
E. Profit. $35k per year is fine. I’m not greedy.

I’ve yet to figure out the exact platform to do this.

That’s what this year is about.

No. It’s not Wattpad.

14) Do you have any writing resources you swear by?

Twitter.

The writing community there is amazing.

15) Where can people find you/your work?

Currently I don’t have any books for sale.

However, I do have some interesting stuff over on YouTube. If you’re looking to boost your creativity, or just want a good laugh, here’s a link to my channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdDv5fjjEySZjR31st1zt0g

I’m also losing my mind on Twitter: @EdwardVanWinkle

Edward, thanks for joining us here on Table Talk and giving us some laughs! Best of luck on all your comedy endeavors. It’s been a pleasure!

My 2018 Writing Goals

2017…what a year, huh? There was bad weather, some guy that everybody hates, entered the Oval Office, and some people knelt instead of stood at football games. Plus some other stuff. Other stuff happened. The world moves on.

The year 2018 comes with a fresh blanket of snow (or a clean slate – whichever metaphor you want to use) and is a new chance for us all to make new choices. Hopefully we all strive to make good choices, so that we can live in a better world. Hey, it all starts with us, right? I enjoy making goals for the new year. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re the type to strive toward a better you, declaring or maybe writing down those goals can be a big help in achieving them. When I write down my goals (i.e. type them into a word processor), I feel more compelled to adhere to those goals, like I’m somehow held to a higher degree of accountability. I need that. When it comes to just doing something because I need to, or it’s important, I can be a little lazy. It’s not on purpose. For me, I tend to lose focus amidst my day-to-day responsibilities and forget the bigger picture. When I see the big picture, it helps me pinpoint those smaller details to bring that big picture to fruition.

Weird, huh? Maybe I’m just a walking paradox.

ANYWAY….

Here are my five writing goals for 2018.

#1  Release Ivory Chronicles: Ascension – This was supposed to happen quite a while ago, but I ran into several speed bumps that hindered my progress. I wrote this backstory on Sovereign Ithayleasin as a bit of a preamble to Book 2 in the main trilogy, but I also thought her story was one that was worth telling. Smaller and easier to read, I think it may draw more readers into the universe. We’ll see sometime this year!

#2  Complete Ivory Chronicles: Book 2 (subtitle pending) – It’s in the works. This is causing me some trouble as I’m having a hard time mapping some of the plot. I know it’s in there, somewhere, but I need to take the time and let it filter out onto the (digital) page. I know the end of the trilogy. It’s just getting there that’s causing me grief.

#3  Become a paid writer – Ugh, conventional jobs. Ugh, retail. Ugh, unruly hours. I’m a whine-bag when it comes to holding down good ol’ fashioned employment. Several years ago, I realized that I would go insane if I had to do a normal job the rest of my life.

Wait….just wait….

Before you judge me, let me say that I hold down said job like a boss – I have a smile on my face, use my can-do attitude, remain top-notch professional, and display a work ethic seldom seen in any workplace. I complain (not even that much) but I’m downright thankful for the job I have that provides money to pay bills.

Continuing…

When I completed Ivory Chronicles, I felt such joy and such fulfillment that I have to believe that writing is my calling. Making money as a writer, however, is harder than getting hardcore Star Wars fans to enjoy the new trilogy. It might happen, but it sure doesn’t look promising. So, whether this means becoming a (traditionally) published author, getting a writing job in a different field besides novel-writing, or just selling more of my independently published books, that’s my hope.

Speaking of selling more books…

#4  Sell 5 more copies of Ivory Chronicles: Call of the Dead – Indie publishing is super challenging. You have to network and splash yourself all over the internet just to get a little bit of exposure. The competition is super-fierce. You just want that smidgen of attention that might get you a sale or two, and many times you’ll find yourself disappointed and frustrated. If I can sell just 5 more copies of my first book, I’ll call that a win.

#5  Complete the first draft of another novel – I have a concept and premise worked out, and this would greatly deviate from the fantasy that I write, but I think it could be really fun. I won’t go into too much detail because things can easily change and go into an entirely new direction. Suffice it to say, however, I would draw on some interesting life experiences to make a potentially hilarious novel (series?). It’ll be worth taking a crack at it.

There they are. Do you have writing goals for 2018? Do you have other goals? Do you hate New Years resolutions and want them to die forever? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Table Talk – Meet Kelly

Welcome, readers, to the first Table Talk of 2018! If you’re like me, you’ve made (or are going to make) goals for the new year. Again, if you’re like me, you’ll find keeping those goals to be an immense challenge. Perhaps a little inspiration is needed. Meet Kelly!

 

What sorts of things do you write and where are you in the publishing process?

I write Young Adult and New Adult speculative fiction, so I dabble in Science Fiction and Fantasy. The first two books in my Rogue Elegance trilogy were indie published, and the third and final installment is due out in spring 2018. I’m also currently querying a post-apocalyptic young adult manuscript and a new adult Peter Pan retelling. I’ve been keeping busy!

What inspires the stories you tell?

I draw inspiration from everything; reading, art, music, the real world, and human observation. My day job (before I became a stay-at-home mom) was as a social worker and working on that therapeutic level with clients really allows you to observe the full spectrum of human emotion. I think that’s why my books tend to be so character driven. I love taking people apart and finding what makes them tick, and then placing them in a high-stakes story and setting them loose.

What life experiences have helped you to become a better writer?

For me, I’ve become a better writer through writing a lot of really terrible things. I’ve improved by failing over and over again. The trick is to pick myself up, dust myself off, and get a little bit better each time.

When you write, how do you plan your schedule? Do you commit to a length of time, word count, or just write as time allows?

I wish I could adhere to a schedule. I write whenever I can, whether it’s for five minutes or six hours. As a first time mom to a one-year-old, my writing time comes in snippets. I often burn the midnight oil and write when the baby is sleeping, but I’ve been known to cram in a writing session in the grocery store parking lot a time or two.

What is the most challenging thing you’ve come across in pursuing this craft?

I would say the largest challenge to date has been mastering the indie publishing scene. When I first made the decision to self-publish, I don’t think I was fully aware of what exactly I’d gotten myself into. It really is a full time job, and you’re a one-man company. Books don’t sell themselves! It’s been an infinitely humbling process, but I’m slowly starting to figure things out.

Has anything come surprisingly easy for you?

Oh, good grief, no. Every bit of it is earned, from putting those first words down to editing, to working through writer’s block, to rejection and bad reviews and marketing. If I had to pick something easy, it would be how wonderful it is to connect with other writers. There’s a terrific network of support out there, and the combined knowledge of people who are more talented than me is really limitless. I’m a sponge around them.

How did you reach the decision to become an author? Was there a defining moment, or was the decision gradual?

I started writing when I lost my hearing to Meningitis. I had a difficult time adapting and so I threw myself fully into fictional worlds. Eventually, I started writing my own stories and creating my own worlds. I can’t remember when it went from being a passion to a career pursuit, but it feels like the desire to write has always been there.

If you could sum up a piece of wisdom you’ve gained in your journey to write, what would it be?

It’s hard to pinpoint just one. I heard Victoria Schwab speak last winter and she talked about putting your ideas on a backburner and letting them simmer before even starting to write about them. This has been the way I’ve tried approaching all of my writing since then, and it really allowed me to form more coherent plots well before tackling that first draft.

How would you prepare someone who wanted to start writing? What advice would you give him/her?

Read. Read, read, read and read some more. I read as much as I write, if not more. I also frequently try to read books that aren’t in my genre. You can’t know how to tell a good story if you don’t read good stories.

What do you enjoy reading?

I read everything and anything, so long as it’s fictional. I don’t do well with non-fiction, but I wish I did. My favorite author is Margaret Atwood. I think her prose is pure poetry.

Different people have different ideas of what makes a great story. What’s yours?

I think high stakes make a great story. If I’m going to get invested, the characters need to feel invested. Robert Frost says, “no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader,” and it’s so true.

What’s your dream writing job?

My dream writing job is to be a full-time author! I’m currently a full-time mom and part-time author, but I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Do you have any writing resources you swear by?

Is a beta reader considered a writing resource? I work with alpha and beta readers like they’re going out of style, and I am grateful for each and every one of the wonderful writers and readers with whom I’ve partnered.

Where can people find you/your work?

People can check out my website at www.kadowling.com

Or find me being snarky on Twitter at @KayAyDowling

The first two books in my rollicking pirate adventure trilogy, The Changing Tide and The Forbidden City, are available for purchase on Amazon and on the Barnes and Noble website! They can be bought in hard copies or downloaded as e-books.

 

Many thanks to Kelly for joining us on Table Talk and best of luck!

Table Talk – Meet Angelique

Welcome, readers, to another Table Talk! In the hot seat is Angelique who draws inspiration from her knowledge of the real world and injects it into her writing. Check out her interview below. Happy reading!

 

Hi Angelique! Thanks for joining us here on Table Talk. Tell us a little about yourself.

Good morning, James. Thanks for having me. As a disclaimer, I would like to add that all my responses are coming while I’m only on my second cup of coffee, so please be kind in your judgements of me.

What sorts of things do you write and where are you in the publishing process?

I write Young Adult Romantic Urban Fantasy, Dystopians, and New Adult Romances. I am about half-way in the second book of my “Mystics” trilogy, and I am currently seeking representation for the first book.

What inspires the stories you tell?

I have a Master’s degree in Religious Studies, so I enjoy turning ancient texts into modern fun. (That’s actually my tag line!) I don’t write vampires and werewolves. I write gods, goddesses, and demons as characters.

What life experiences have helped you to become a better writer?

For starters, I am an avid reader–which is a non-negotiable to the writing process.

When you write, how do you plan your schedule? Do you commit to a length of time, word count, or just write as time allows?

My writing is my job. I get the rest of the family off in the mornings, and then I go down to my office to write. I do aim for a word count every day.

What is the most challenging thing you’ve come across in pursuing this craft?

In my humble experience, until you are published, it’s hard to get anyone else to take your writing seriously. It’s almost like until you have something published, everyone else sees what you do as a hobby, no matter how seriously you take your own writing. But I suppose a lot of different artists in other crafts feel the same way.

Has anything come surprisingly easy for you?

Dialogue.

How did you reach the decision to become an author? Was there a defining moment, or was the decision gradual?

This one is a bit of a story in itself. When my husband came home from his second deployment and we were transferring duty stations from Florida to Colorado, I had the idea of writing a series of Middle Grade books, almost like the Magic Tree House series, but with religions. I was desperately trying to put my Master’s to good use. My characters, however, had no interest in being Middle Grade, so I had to bump it up to Young Adult.

If you could sum up a piece of wisdom you’ve gained in your journey to write, what would it be?

Don’t stop. Don’t give up. And write for yourself. If everyone else likes it too, well that’s just icing on the cake.

How would you prepare someone who wanted to start writing? What advice would you give him/her?

Find a writer’s group to join. At minimum, find critique partners who understand the genre in which you are writing so that the feedback you receive is relevant.

What do you enjoy reading?

I read in several genres, and I read literary. I believe there is much to learn from the craft of as many writers as possible.

Do you have a favorite author? Do you have a favorite book?

I have too many favorite authors to list. And as far as what I consider a favorite book: if I read a book more than once, it’s a favorite. I can count on both hands the number of books that I have felt worthy of reading more than once (and taking time away from me reading a new book). It’s a strange unit of measurement, I know, but I’m a strange individual. Here are a few of my favorites:

A Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

Life of Pi, Yann Martel

World War Z, Max Brooks

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Indigo, Beverly Jenkins

The Infernal Devices Series, Cassandra Claire

Holly Black

Jennifer L. Armentrout

Alice Walker

Like Water for Chocolate

etc, etc, etc

Different people have different ideas of what makes a great story. What’s yours?

I want to be transported to another time/world/reality. And can you keep me there half the night when I should be sleeping?

What’s you’re dream writing job?

Writing my novels right now is my dream job. The only thing more that I could ask is to have them published.

Do you have any writing resources you swear by?

Find a community of writers. People are your best resources: for critiques, for plotting help, for networking, for support. FIND A TRIBE! They are out there, and they are waiting on you.

Angelique, thanks for joining us here on Table Talk. It’s been a pleasure!

Thank you! The pleasure has been all mine.

Sundry Spotlight – Meet Beth

My apologies for a lull in our interviews (computer problems that I’ll not get into), but we are back with a very special guest in this Thursday’s Sundry Spotlight! Today, we have Beth, who takes artistry to a whole new level.

 

Hi Beth! Thanks for joining us here on Sundry Spotlight! Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m 64 years old, a little goofy, and I have had many, many jobs in my past. I’ve done everything from child abuse investigation to being an IT consultant in hospitals all over the USA and England.

When I was laid off about 10 years ago, we purchased a farm, and I went from being an IT consultant traveling 48 weeks out of the year to a fiber artist/goatherder.

You have a bit of a unique interest. What is it and what can you tell us about it?

I raise colored angora goats for their mohair.  I sell their mohair to crafters and fiber artists who use it in everything from doll-making to felting, weaving,  knitting, crocheting and other fiber arts.

I shear the goats myself, clean their fleeces and then either sell it or process it further for my own use.  That means picking, carding or combing the mohair, dyeing it, then spinning it on one of my 7 spinning wheels.

 

How long have you been doing it?

Almost 10 years, since we purchased our farm.

What led you to start it in the first place?

Many years ago, I took a fiber arts class at the KC Art Institute,  and learned to spin with a drop spindle, dye wool, and weave. I have always had the idea of spinning in the back of my mind, so I finally bought a spinning wheel when we moved to our farm.

I had a hard time learning to spin by myself, so I took a week-long class from Carol Leigh in Columbia, Missouri.  I learned about spinning, felting, dyeing and weaving in that class, it was well-worth the time and money! If anyone is interested in learning about natural fibers, they should check out http://www.hillcreekfiberstudio.com/ .

After a few months, I realized that I should get some kind of fiber animal so I would not have to purchase rather expensive fibers for spinning. I thought about sheep, angora rabbits, alpacas and angora goats.

I did some research, and decided on angora goats rather than sheep.  Mostly because goats have great personalities, and can even be taught to do tricks like dogs can.  I decided on Colored Angora Goats so I could have more naturally colored mohair to work with.

I started out with five goats, now I have 60.

What’s your favorite thing about it?

I love being able to create something beautiful from the animals I have raised, cared for, and sheared.  Then taking the process all the way through to a final product.

Currently, I’m doing a lot of wetfelting – I felt wool, mohair, alpaca wool and silk together to make very unique items.  I also enjoy spinning yarn and needlefelting.

But actually, I think what I love the most are my goats.

What sorts of challenges do you face in pursuing this interest?

Naturally, the hardest part is finding customers for my fiber art, and learning how much to charge for what.

The other big challenge is learning all about goat health care.  How to keep them as healthy as possible and how to deal with goats who get sick.  We have had sick goats living in our house before while they recovered.  Thankfully, I have a very understanding husband!

It is very hard to find a veterinarian with much knowledge about goats – they are not very common in the USA compared to cows, sheep, horses, etc., so I find that I learn a ton from other people with goat herds.

If you could have your ideal setup for doing this, what would that look like?

I love our property, it’s great for the goats, but I would love to have more pastures properly fenced for them, with a shelter in each one.

I’d also love to have a properly lit indoor area where I could shear my goats instead of having to shear them outside – where the wind steals a lot of mohair as I’m shearing!

If someone wanted to start doing the same thing, what advice would you give them?

Believe it or not, I have learned a ton from social media. There are groups devoted to fiber artists and goat raising there.

If you are interested in learning to spin, dye, knit and weave, I would join a local fiber guild or see if anyone will teach you.  I’ve taught a lot of people to spin yarn.

Do you see yourself doing this for the foreseeable future?

Definitely.  It’s hard work, but it’s also quite rewarding.

Where can people find you/your work?

On Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Argghhh/.  Please look through all the photos, and you can see what I make.

I am also building a website at www.castleargghhh.com It should go active next week.

I also sell colored angora goats to other fiber artists.

Thanks so much for joining us. It’s been a pleasure.

Thank you for your interest, James!

 

Best of luck to Beth and her endeavors with all things goat-related! There is more to come!

Sundry Spotlight – Meet Melissa

Good Monday, readers! In our very first Sundry Spotlight, my guest’s interest lies in the heart of music. Her tale will inspire you to never give up on chasing your personal dreams no matter what. Allow me to introduce you to Melissa.

 

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am a wife and a critter mom.  I have a dog and two cats. I am an introvert which means although I enjoy being around people, I need a certain amount of alone time to recharge my batteries. I love reading, traveling and sci fi stuff like Star Wars and Star Trek.  I am also a nature girl.  I love hiking, sunshine, trees and being outdoors in the fresh air.  For my day job I work in the helping, human services profession.

You have a bit of a unique interest. What is it and what can you tell us about it?

Sure, I am an Americana folk rock singer.  I am a recording artist/songwriter and I also do some live performances.  I also have a custom song writing business where I write custom love songs for weddings.

How long have you been singing?

I have been singing since I was a little girl. When I was a kid I would spend hours in my bedroom playing records, mesmerized and memorizing the lyrics and notes and I would sing along with the artists.  I quickly learned all the notes and the changes and nuances of tons of songs because I enjoyed it so much.  My childhood dream was to become a recording artist.

What led you to start it in the first place?

I used to sing in church and when I was about 6 years old I started doing solo performances on Sundays.  This was a big deal for me because I was a very shy little kid but I felt the magic of the music so strongly that I could look past that and just get up there and do it.  I started taking voice lessons as a child and throughout high school and in college.  After college, I joined a rock band and did a ton of performances at venues and weddings, for quite a few years.  I got out of the business for a while and finished a master’s degree in psychology.  Around 2013, I was longing to get back into the business again and I joined a new grass group and then I was in an acoustic duo called CHILL for a couple of years. I did some recording with CHILL and fell in love with being in the studio.  It ignited my childhood recording artist dreams!  In 2016, I decided to strike out on my own as a solo artist.

What sorts of challenges do you face in pursuing this interest?

The decision to become a solo artist was challenging as I have always kind of hid behind having a band to back me up so I feel more vulnerable now when performing.  I have always wanted to do this but was afraid to be on my own but have taken a lot of steps in my life around personal growth so that has improved my confidence.  The other challenge as a solo artist is that I am solely responsible for everything from booking to making decisions around production of tracks, follow up calls, just all the details that go into doing this.  However, at the same time there is this sense of excitement and empowerment that goes along with it.

I actually got an F in chorus in high school. My teacher was bullying towards me and treated me like had a contagious disease..lol. But I still decided to go after my dreams so don’t listen to the naysayers!

If you could have your ideal setup for doing this, what would that look like?

I am very blessed and feel like I have a pretty ideal set up right now.  I have a supportive husband, enough free time to write and record and all the tools I need here at home to do that plus I have access to session musicians, recording studios and colleagues who are helpful and supportive.

If someone wanted to start doing the same thing, what advice would you give them?

Don’t give up on your dream.  You can do this. Just take a little step or two on most days towards your goal and you will make it happen. Record deals are overrated.  They are basically a glorified loan that you must pay back and then you are basically a slave that can be dropped anytime at their whim. It sounded so glamorous and amazing to me when I was younger but I have had a few musician colleagues that have suffered at the hands of record labels.  It doesn’t mean they are all bad but just be careful, get a good lawyer, etc.   Don’t worry about making mistakes. There is a great quote from John Mayer which is “Mistakes are the exhaust of the dream machine.” You will make mistakes and bad decisions but just keep moving forward.  Don’t take it too seriously because then it will start to feel like work and once that happens then the magic is gone. However, do treat your music as a fun and creative business or a startup, show up, follow through, schedule time to create, have a business checking account There is nothing wrong with having a day job and it does not delegitimize your craft! Don’t listen to the naysayers who will tell you this.   It is honorable to take care of yourself and your finances so that you can free your mind of worry so that you CAN create. Nothing stifles creativity more than financial pressure.  If you are hungry/broke then it is hard to concentrate and relax so that you can truly enjoy and excel at what you are doing. Also, you can have more than one calling in life.  For example, I am in the human services field.  I feel it is a calling for me to help people and serve my community.  I also feel that my music is a calling.  Both callings feed me in different but very wonderful ways.

Do you see yourself doing this for the foreseeable future?

Yes, I’m just getting started!  I am an independent artist, so I am not doing this the conventional way through big tours and major record deals, but I am finding my own way in a grassroots/on the ground kind of way and that feels so empowering.

Where can people find you/your work?

Vermontmadesongs.net. I am giving away my new single, End of the Day, plus another bonus track.  I also have a Kindred community. Would love to have you become part of it.

 

Thank you, Melissa, for sharing your passion for music and your amazing talent with us! Stay tined for more Sundry Spotlights.

New Website

Hello and welcome to my new website! Once upon a time I ran a different website that focused on Parkour and exercise in general that I just didn’t have the time and resources to fully devote to in order to make it a great experience. Since writing is my career goal, I thought, “What better alternative than to turn my site into an author/blog page?” So after a few headaches and a few $$$ later, here we are! Take a look around and see what might tickle your fancy. Not everything is up and running at 100% and I apologize for that, but keep coming back and I promise to have new and fresh content for you. Who knows? I might eventually be able to give the website a professional makeover one of these days.

As your guide, I just want to point you in a couple of directions:

If you’re reading this, you’ve found yourself in my personal blog known as “In Mansfield’s Mind.” I talk about writing, mostly, but will also deviate to who-knows-what at my indiscriminate whim. Fun times!

Here, you’ll find my segment, “Table Talk,” where I interview other writers at any and all stages in their efforts. It is meant to be a beacon of shining hope as well as a reality check to authors at any stage in the writing process. Learn, study, grow. As a sub-segment of Table Talk, I also host “Sundry Spotlight,” in which I interview people with unique hobbies or interests. If you write or if you have a fairly unique hobby or interest, feel free to go to the contact page and fill it out if you’d like a chance to be on Table Talk. I’d love to have you!

If you haven’t already noticed, I am an author as well. This very website, after all, is named after the very book I’ve authored. If you’re interested in the book itself or in what’s going on with my continued work in the series, head on over here to discover more.

Kick off your shoes, grab a cup of joe, and do some reading. Thanks for visiting!

Table Talk – Meet Christy

Good Friday to you, readers! On this, the very first Table Talk, I have Christy as my guest. Like the rest of us, she faces the challenges of becoming a published writer, but shows no signs of being deterred in doing what she loves. Read on to meet her as she shares her story with us.

 

Hi Christy! Thanks for joining us here on Table Talk. Tell us a little about yourself.

I live in Kansas City, MO with my husband and three kids, but I grew up in Texas and Oklahoma. I’ve never really had a traditional career in any field as I went from college to temp jobs to grad school to raising children. I wrote off and on between babies but didn’t get serious about writing and trying to sell it until about three years ago.

What sorts of things do you write and where are you in the publishing process?

I write historical fantasy and urban/post-apocalyptic fantasy. My current project is an urban/PA tetralogy.

I’m at the frustration level of the publishing process. I’ve received excellent feedback both in person and by email from professionals on my current query and manuscript, but the abundance of urban fantasy in the market hurts my chances. I got a clearer picture of this at a conference when I was told “Nothing is wrong with this at all, but I would stop reading because it’s urban fantasy and I know it’s a hard sell.”

So, I’m investigating self-publishing right now. When I get book 2 into the polishing stages, I want to put book 1 on the market. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t wait more than 3 months to get a new book out when I e-publish.

What inspires the stories you tell?

I have a BA in History but originally majored in Biology. While I’d always enjoyed creative writing, I didn’t see it as a career avenue. As I worked on my Masters, I found myself interested in the people of history and their stories. I started plotting out stories set in my favorite periods, following that old platitude, “write what you know.”

The first novel I finished was intended as a historical set in England a few years after the Norman Conquest (such an underrepresented period in HF!) But as many critique partners noted, fantasy kept creeping into my plot. So, I finally gave in to the call of the genre and finished my first fantasy about a year ago.

I still include a lot of history and science in my contemporary fantasy and some day I might go back to that first book and revise it to suit the fantasy world.

What life experiences have helped you to become a better writer?

To sound old, the longer I live the more I understand people and their motivations. That certainly helps develop good characters. Also, joining a critique group is a good decision. Other writers point out habits and weaknesses that I would never catch on my own.

When you write, how do you plan your schedule? Do you commit to a length of time, word count, or just write as time allows?

I wish I had a schedule. I’m pretty good at creating them but horrible at following them. I use a combo of time allowance and word count goals. It helps to have a goal in sight and I even give myself a gold star on my old-fashioned calendar for every 1000 words.

What is the most challenging thing you’ve come across in pursuing this craft?

I struggle with self-motivation and time management. In fact, I quit a job to devote more time to writing and ended up writing less than I did before. I realized I needed an outside responsibility to force me to schedule time for writing. This is almost the only reason I recently started a part-time job.

Has anything come surprisingly easy for you?

Editing. I LOVE revisions. Weird, I know. I also enjoy helping others revise anything from non-fiction essays to romance novels. It makes me think I missed a calling in copy-editing.

How did you reach the decision to become an author? Was there a defining moment, or was the decision gradual?

Gradual. It started as a hobby but I wanted to share it. When I did, others enjoyed it so I spent more time with it. Eventually I thought, “I should really try to make money with this hobby that consumes my every waking thought.”

If you could sum up a piece of wisdom you’ve gained in your journey to write, what would it be? How would you prepare someone who wanted to start writing? What advice would you give him/her?

Be prepared to wait a long time to receive positive responses. When criticism upsets you, put it aside for a couple of weeks, but don’t delete it or discount it. Usually, you’ll be able to use it once you’re in a more peaceful frame of mind. Thick skin is a benefit, but I don’t have it, so the above advice is definitely a personal lesson. Always thank someone for constructive criticism whether you mean it or not. Constructing believable gratitude is a good writing exercise.

What do you enjoy reading?

I love a good urban fantasy. High fantasy isn’t always a hit with me but there are some I enjoy. I also like historical fiction, mysteries, and some romance.

Do you have a favorite author? Do you have a favorite book?

Elizabeth Peters is my all time favorite author, probably because she was an
Egyptologist turned mystery writer. I would say that Ilona Andrews inspired my flip to urban fantasy but Peters inspired my early writing. Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters.

Different people have different ideas of what makes a great story. What’s yours?

Complex characters and witty dialogue When I can see through a character right away or the dialogue doesn’t move things along and keeping me interested, I usually put it down.

What’s your dream writing job?

Writing whatever I want all day while someone else worries about marketing. There’s a reason I favor fantasy.

Do you have any writing resources you swear by?

On Writing by Stephen King. There are also some good blogs put out by agents like Kristin Nelson’s Pub Rants.

Where can people find you/your work?

I haven’t built a website, yet. When I do, the link will be posted on my Twitter which is @ChristinaHerly1. When I publish, the book links will be there, as well.

Christy, thanks for joining us here on Table Talk. It’s been a pleasure!

Thanks for having me!