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!