2019 Goals

I don’t do New Years resolutions because I never keep them, but here are several things I’d like to get done in 2019:

  • Self-publish I Dare You to Stay With Me. Inkitt has made some changes to their publishing policies that I didn’t agree with so they’re giving me my rights back for the sequel to I Dare You to Love Me. I’m just waiting on that reversion of rights contract to be emailed to me so I can sign it and get this self-publishing process going! I’ll give you all updates as things change.
  • Finish writing The Andromeda Trilogy. (And come up with a cooler name for this sci-fi fantasy series…I’m open to suggestions!) The first book took me over a year to write, the second one took me all of six months to write, but I’m only about a third of the way through the last one even though it’s been five months since I started it. Grant it, I haven’t been writing as often as I used to because of work, holidays, and other family stuff. But still! The words are coming slowly, much to my frustration. I’d like to have at least the first draft completed before my baby is born in June. That way I’ll only have minor edits and revisions to make before it’s ready to be shown to the world.
  • Get The Andromeda’s Ghost published. I’ve participated in Pitch Madness and will be involved in SFFpit, (a similar Twitter pitch party for science fiction and fantasy manuscripts only) later in the month. I blame my terrible pitch-writing skills for the small number of requests I’ve gotten. This book is special! I know it! I’ll keep trying until this series finds a home. It’s been on ice for far too long.
  • Finish writing Death’s Curses. This is technically my first and only attempt at a YA romance story with some magic realism. I want to be sure it’s good enough to compete with my other work. I’m starting to realize that Esmer (one of the main characters) sounds a lot like Jael (from The Andromeda’s Ghost). Which is a big NO-NO! Each character I create is supposed to be unique. I’ll have to work on highlighting the differences between them because, although they share a similar sense of humor and both have tragic pasts, they have different goals, temperaments, and coping mechanisms. And they’re both great! It might help to finish The Andromeda Trilogy, make Jael and Taren’s arc solid and complete, before I attempt to wrap up Esmer and Charlie’s story…
  • Read more! I’ve gotten into a terrible habit of binge watching old TV shows instead of reading. I have a TBR list but I haven’t been motivated to check those books out at a library. I’ve just been waiting for Marissa Meyer and Brandon Sanderson to come out with the last books in their series, which is going to take forever of course. It’s not cool. I used to consume a book a week and I miss it! I just have to grit my teeth, pick a book, and dive on in. And ignore my wariness when it comes to new authors. Is there a possibility of disappointment or a bad fit? Sure. But that’s why we go to the library first and only buy the books we like. I have to take advantage of my time now, before I have a baby to take care of 24/7.
  • Promote more. After exploring numerous free book promotion options and seeing little to no results last year, I got really discouraged. I knew giving up wasn’t the answer but I couldn’t bring myself to keep trying things I knew wouldn’t help. So I told myself I was “taking a break” and would get back to book promotion later. Well, as you can probably imagine, “later” never came. Here I am, at the start of 2019, and my book sale numbers are only getting worse. It’s time to invest more than just time and energy into my books. If I’m truly serious about my writing career, I have to put my money where my mouth is. I’ve looked into some book promoting services that actually require me to pay something. (Thanks, Tirgearr Publishing, for providing a list of some sites that you’ve found to be the most helpful! It’s a great place to start.) My husband is on board with it. I just have to budget it in to our monthly expenses and try a few of these new avenues.
  • Get ready to be a mommy. I volunteered at my church’s nursery for almost three years before I got engaged. I was a nanny for several months. I’ve baby sat before. I have nephews. I know how to keep an infant or a toddler alive and entertained for up to four hours. But I’ve never had to take care of a newborn by myself. I don’t know everything there is to know about them. I have to do my research. Find a birthing class or a Lamaze class. Maybe both. And yet I’ve been dragging my feet on that. I want to blame my husband, whose attitude concerning the unknown has always been, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” but that’s cheating. I’ve always been the planner. It isn’t like me to put off preparing for something. They say a new mom can do all the research they want and still come up empty when they have their first kid because there’s just too much that can’t be accounted for. That’s more than likely the reason why I haven’t gotten started: there’s too much information to absorb. It’s overwhelming. But it’s still a good idea to be as informed as possible before baby comes…Again, I just have to grit my teeth and get started somewhere.

Laying it all out like that, it sounds like a lot! 2019 is going to be another busy year. Who knew? To those of you who do goals or resolutions: best of luck! To those of you who don’t, rock on!

End of the semester reflections

To quote Albus Dumbledore, “Another year…gone.” Only in this case it’s a semester. I took my usual three classes and managed to swing “A”s in all. (Thank God.)

Intermediate Fiction was by far the most challenging because the teacher had us writing a new short story every month. It tested my creativity, forced me to think outside the box. But I’m thankful for this because it yielded some surprisingly good results, with “Entering the Deep” and “To Kill a Vampire” especially. My teacher also had us students giving each other detailed feedback on our stories. There was a form with questions we had to fill out, which made us stop to think about what we just read. I’m not the greatest when it comes to critiquing. I read books for enjoyment, not with the intent to break them down or analyze them. And short stories have never been my cup of tea, mostly because they lack that character development and fluff of a full blown novel (which I love so much). So giving good feedback was also a challenge for me. But, once again, I’m thankful for this. It helped me develop good critiquing skills.

Planning and Structuring the Novel was great. As the title might suggest, we students were given the opportunity to submit excerpts from our current works in progress to receive constructive criticism from classmates and our instructor. This kind of feedback wasn’t as specific as the feedback I received for my short stories, but I was made aware of some important plot issues with “The Andromeda’s Ghost.” (This is a science-fiction novel I’ve been working on. I’ve posted an excerpt or two on the blog in the past.) This novel is my first attempt at science-fiction so it was great to hear that I was doing a good job so far. My instructor’s thoughts especially were helpful. There’s just something about working alongside an impartial adult, who has studied writing and literature, and genuinely likes your work…I’m going to miss discussing my story with that man.

My Portfolio class was filled with more feedback. I basically submitted all of the short stories I was thinking about putting in my portfolio and the teacher, the Director of the Creative Writing Program, gave me his thoughts. In order to get my Certificate of Completion for the Creative Writing Program at Phoenix College, I have to submit a portfolio with 12-15 pages of original work from two different genres, a letter of intent stating my writing goals, and a letter of recommendation from a teacher. I was asked to provide three copies of this, so I can only assume that the director of the program and two mystery people will be reading my work and making the final decision.

Naturally, I agonized over which stories to submit. The three stories I wrote this semester are my favorites out of my little stack of shorts, but they’re all at least 12 pages long, maybe more. I’d only be able to include one. I’ve written a few poems but I didn’t feel confident turning in any of those. (Although, now that I think about it, I could’ve totally turned in my prose poem about public speaking! Dang it! Oh, well…) In the end, I went with a horror story I wrote last semester and the mermaid story I wrote more recently. Combined, they fell within the page limit so it worked out. For better or worse, I’ve mailed it in. Now all I can do is wait.

I’m not technically done with the program yet. I have one more reading class I have to take, but it’s not available until the summer of 2018. I emailed the director of the program, thinking I’d have to wait to turn in my portfolio. He said I didn’t have to wait. He seemed to think I had a shot at that certificate, which was encouraging to hear.

So my schooling is pretty much over. I’ll be going back for that one class in the summer, but then I’ll be done! [insert girlish shriek of excitement here]

I still don’t know if I want to get a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing. A part of me thinks I won’t need it. Another part of me is terrified that I’ll totally flop as an author and I’ll need a backup plan. I do okay in school but it’s not something I want to do for the next four to eight years of my life. I want to be focusing on kids and my writing during that time. But life is…well…to quote Forrest Gump, “Life [is] like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get.” I could do really good as an author, really bad, or just mediocre. I want to be prepared for all of those outcomes. I want to have a plan. That’s who I am; a planner. So what will I do if, by this time next year, I can’t make a living off my writing? Do I keep at it? Do I get my Bachelor’s and try to get a job at a publishing company? Do I pick another major?

The thing is, I can’t think of anything else I’d want to study. Sure, for a while I thought it would be cool to be an interpreter. I enjoyed learning American Sign Language and all about the deaf community. But when my job conflicted with the scheduling of the interpreter’s program at Phoenix College, I wasn’t devastated that I had to give it up. I would be devastated if I had to give up writing. But I love reading and writing. I feel like getting my Bachelor’s in Creative Writing will make me start to hate these things I love so much…

Uuuuuggggghhhhhh.

It takes effort to trust that everything is going to be fine so long as I do my best. It’s hard for me to be okay with the fact that I don’t have all the answers. It helps that I have a great, merciful God who doesn’t mind repeating that He has everything under control. It also helps that it’s Christmas time and I have family to distract me. Tonight, my husband and I will be flying to Wisconsin to spend the holiday with his mother and brothers. I’m so looking forward to seeing them and having my first white Christmas. Another semester is over. It’s time to celebrate. That’s what I need to be focusing on right now. After the holidays, I’ll be working on book promotion and finishing that science-fiction novel. What comes after that can be decided later.

If I don’t post anything else before the new year, let me just say Merry Christmas to you all. See you in 2018!

Publishing Updates

Last week, I signed a contract with Inkitt to publish my young adult fiction novel, I Dare You to Love Me. It was a challenging decision for me to make because I had been given the opportunity to Revise and Resubmit this manuscript to an acquisitions editor from Filles Vertes Publishing. I wanted to remain loyal to that editor; she’d given me a second chance along with some invaluable constructive feedback. But after seven weeks of silence from her, it was time to move forward. I never thought I’d have to send a rejection letter. I’ve received enough to know how to write a cordial one, but it still wasn’t fun. All I can do is hope she’ll understand why I decided to accept Inkitt’s offer.

Just before this, I received word from Tirgearr Publishing that they decided to publish Asta and the Barbarians after they publish In the Dark! So now all of my completed manuscripts are going to be published. (Insert girlish shriek of excitement here).

The publishing schedule for my novels is as follows:

I Dare You to Love Me — October 2017

In the Dark — January 2018

Asta and the Barbarians — April 2018

Inkitt is giving readers the opportunity to receive a free ebook copy of I Dare You to Love Me on launch day. If interested, click here.

It’s still hard for me to believe. Everything’s been happening so fast. I’m exhilarated and proud and humbled and thankful and terrified all at once. Have I mentioned that already? Well, it’s worth mentioning twice! I don’t know what these next few months are going to be like. I’m taking three writing classes this semester, working full-time, and trying to finish another manuscript. There doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to get these novels ready for their publication dates, but I’m sure I’ll come up with a new routine as things develop. It’s just like the beginning of a school semester. Looking at the syllabus and the assignments that are going to be due, it overwhelms me. But, so long as I take it one week at a time, it’s manageable. At the end of each semester, I’ve been able to look back and think, “Well, that wasn’t so bad.”

Everything I’ve done for my manuscripts has led up to this point. It’s real now. It’s go time. I can’t wait to get started!

The Dream

I finally got that “yes” I’ve been waiting to hear for almost five years. After sending countless query letters, doing research, writing and rewriting, working with beta readers, sprucing up my writer’s resume, developing a social media presence, creating a blog, and participating in Pitch Madness, a publisher has offered me a book contract for In the Dark.

Just like that.

It doesn’t feel real. Upon hearing the news, I felt elation, validation, pride, humility, and thankfulness. Now that all that has passed, however, I can’t help but feel a little strange. I’ve arrived. I’ve made it. It’s…over?

I’m not naive enough to think that the work is over. I’m sure I’ll have to go through several more editing, formatting, and cover design phases before the manuscript is actually published. Then after that, it’ll be onto the promoting stage. So why does this feel like the end of something? Well, I guess it is to some degree. It’s the end of this stage of my writing career.

How weird is that? I have a writing career now. Before, it was just a dream, a seemingly unattainable goal I had to keep trying to reach because I couldn’t imagine not trying. Now, it’s suddenly real.

I’ve mentioned several times in my blog posts how I’ve had moments in my life when I feel like an adult. When I take on new responsibilities, or when I’ve learned something new and good about myself, or when I’ve pushed my limits and come out victorious in the end, or when I’ve dared to go somewhere or do something that my younger self never would have. Then there are other times when I still feel like that clueless, sheltered, high school girl who doesn’t know anything.

This is one of those rare moments when I feel like both. Adults have careers. They accomplish big, life-changing goals and move on to the next item on their list. But are they ever afraid of what comes next? Are they ever uncertain? Do they ever feel a tiny bit of loss when endings come, even if those endings are good? Or is that just the child within me?

I can’t help but remember that scene in Tangled. Rapunzel and Flynn are sitting in the boat, waiting for the paper lanterns to appear.

Rapunzel says, “I’ve been looking out a window for eighteen years, dreaming about what it might feel like to see those lights rise in the sky. What if it’s not everything I dreamed it would be?”

Flynn says, “It will be.”

“And what if it is? What do I do then?” Rapunzel counters.

And Flynn in his casual way says, “Well, that’s the good part, I guess. You get to go and find a new dream.”

I guess that’s really all I can do, huh?

More details to come. 🙂

The end of the semester

Final grades have been officially entered. I received A’s in all my classes (Intro to Poetry, Intro to Horror, and Literature and Film).

Intro to Poetry and Into to Horror were challenging, as I knew they would be. Neither come naturally to me but I discovered that I could create both, after much study and practice. I personally think my horror pieces are better than my poems, but I’m still proud of the fact that I can write them now. I feel more rounded as a writer, and I’m really thankful for my teachers. They helped make these classes interesting for me, despite the challenges. They encouraged me, told me where I could improve, gave me good advice, and provided books I could continue learning from even after the classes were over.

Literature and Film was just fun. I got to watch movies and read stories that are considered classics but I’d never willingly read or watch on my own (Jaws, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King and it’s adaptation The Shawshank Redemption, The Body by Stephen King and it’s adaption Stand By Me.) I feel more cultured as a movie geek having watched these. For the final project, we were allowed to choose a book and movie adaption to analyze. I chose The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien and it’s partial adaptation The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It was the easiest, most enjoyable final project I’ve ever had to do.

Despite all the fun and the growth I’ve experienced this semester, I’m relieved to be done. With the completion of Literature and Film, I gained the last few credits I needed in order to be done with my Associates in Arts. After four years and five months of balancing school and work, I can finally say I have a degree. I’ll be getting my diploma in the mail in ten business days. It might not seem like much when compared to other kids my age who stayed home, had the freedom to just go to school, and are now finishing up their bachelor’s degrees. But it’s a big deal to me. I’m done with something I set out to do a long time ago. That feels good.

These last few classes I’m taking in the summer and in the fall are for an Academic Certificate in Creative Writing (an associates in Creative Writing.) After that, the sky’s the limit. I could transfer to a university and get a bachelors and/or masters in Creative Writing if I wanted to. I think I’m going to take a break. I haven’t taken a real break since I started college. A part of me is a little nervous. If, for example, a great job within a publishing company is brought to my attention and I’m disqualified because of my lack of education, will I have the strength to go back to school? Will I have the willpower? Or am I shooting myself in the foot by not pursuing higher education now, while I’ve got the momentum? I’m trying not to worry about it, though. Too often I feel as if I choose to do what I think I have to do. In the area of school, I believe it’s time to do what I want to do. Besides, my husband and I are already saddled with his school debt. I don’t think we could handle paying off any more school loans with the jobs we currently have. In the future, who knows?

I’m looking forward to devoting more time to my writing and expanding my contacts in the publishing world. I’m really looking forward to not having to worry about homework!

Here’s to the future and all it’s possibilities!

So children…

I’ve wanted to be a mother since I was fifteen years old. I know, I know. I’m weird. Normal girls at that age are thinking about boys, school, their friends, and the latest gossip. Well, I was mostly invisible to boys, I wasn’t too crazy about social gatherings, my friends didn’t attend my school, and gossiping about others has never appealed to me, so the only thing left to really think about (other than books and movies and my stories) was the future. At fifteen, I knew I wanted a big family. After all, I came from a big family. Being an introvert and a bookworm wasn’t such a bad thing when I had three siblings to hang out with. I knew having all of us kids must have been hard on my parents, but I also knew that they wouldn’t trade us for anything.

At fifteen, I knew what kind of man I wanted to marry. Having just broken up with my first boyfriend, I decided I didn’t like heartbreak. I didn’t like feeling like I wasn’t good enough for someone, like I was stupid for letting my guard down, like I had completely misjudged this person I once claimed to love and know everything about. I decided I wasn’t very fond of this thing called dating. It was fickle and unreliable and temporary. I wanted something more permanent. I wanted a husband. After only one year in high school, I knew none of the boys there were husband material. Call it instinct, call it very good observation skills, call it whatever you want, I just knew my future husband was not the guy sitting next to me in Biology. (There was a time when I wished he was. My sophomore Biology partner was a year older, Hispanic, into dirt bikes and adrenaline rushes, and thought I was cute. I might have been able to convince myself that he could have been my future husband if he had any interest in God…No regrets, though.)

Sure, I crushed really hard on a few guys and almost started dating two of them, but in the end I couldn’t see myself marrying either of them. Both had admirable qualities, but I had made a list of attributes I wanted in a husband and I was committed to sticking to it. (I went over this list repeatedly, adding things as I grew up, erasing things that I realized weren’t very realistic.) I prayed about it all the time, asking God to give me the strength and the patience to wait for my perfect fit. (I hope I’m not starting to sound holier-than-thou; I have a point here. I promise I’ll get to it quickly.) Anyway, God was faithful and did eventually introduce me to the man I’m married to today. Believe it or not, he has everything on my list, including some habits and qualities that I never knew I wanted. He also comes from a big family and has wanted to be a father for as long as he can remember.

Because we both feel so strongly about it, the subject of kids came up early in our relationship. (I learned three things about my husband in our first month of dating; he liked to travel, he wasn’t afraid of anything, and he wanted children.) Shortly after we got married, we compiled a list of house rules for our kids, just because we wanted to be prepared and on the same page about some things. (If you haven’t noticed yet, we’re very weird. That’s just who we are.) The older we got, the more real this concept of being parents became. Witnessing hissy fits at the grocery store, being thrown up on while volunteering in our church’s nursery, over-hearing bratty kids in the line at Chipotle, and watching movies starring lazy, disrespectful kids has done little to dissuade our desire to have children.

I was told once that if I waited for the day when I could afford children, I’d never have any. I’m sure whoever said that was half-joking, but I’ve spoken to several more parents since then and they’ve all seemed to reach the same consensus: there is no perfect time to have kids. Still, I was raised by a very logical, realistic father who always thought carefully about things before doing anything life-changing. (This instinct, his sweet tooth, and his stubbornness are some of the things I inherited from him.) My husband and I have needs that should be met before kids enter the picture. My husband’s truck has lived longer than any car either of us has ever owned; it needs to be replaced. We’ve started setting money aside and building up our credit for the day it finally craps out on us and we’ll be forced to replace it. I’m eight credits away from finishing my creative writing program and being done with school (at least for now). Thirdly, my husband is trying to get into the police academy because his current job is sucking the life out of him. Plus, a larger paycheck would be nice. I figured it would be wise to wait until we’ve accomplished these three things before trying to have children, and my husband agreed.

And then last week he tells me, “I’m ready when you are, babe.”

Cue panic attack.

Suddenly, there are lots of reasons not to have a child. I’m too young. I haven’t published a book yet. What if I’m a terrible mother? What if the child comes before my husband gets a better-paying job? What if we can’t pay the bills and are forced to move back into an apartment? After living in a spacious house for eleven months, we’ve accumulated some extra things and I really don’t want to have to rent a storage unit. I don’t know how to talk to children! Bring on the spit-up, the poopy diapers, the sleepless nights, and the endless screaming. I can deal with that. But a talking child, who is old enough to reason and make their own deductions, will be able to tell that I have no idea what I’m doing. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I drop the kid? What if I ruin his life?

Suddenly, I’m not ready.

Or am I? My mother was nineteen when she had my oldest brother. My dad was the only one working for many years. Mom stayed home with us. We didn’t have much, but we always had something to wear and we never went hungry. If God could take care of us then, He can definitely take care of us now. Sure, I have a hard time interacting with other people’s children, children who can take one look at me and sense the uncertainty. But it might be different with my own child. My mom said the wrong thing once or twice and she dropped me as a baby, and I turned out all right. She made mistakes and she didn’t ruin my life. I’m pretty sure if I try my hardest and I love the snot out of the little person who comes out of me, I’ll be a good mom.

I’ve never been so confused.

Should I or shouldn’t I?

I’ve been praying about this ever since my husband brought it up last week. I wish God would just tell me what I should do. He does that sometimes, makes the path that I should take crystal clear. And then, at other times, He leaves it up to me. I feel like He’s doing that now, like He’s saying, “You’ll be okay either way. You decide.”

Ugh. It would be easier if He just told me what I should do. Then I wouldn’t have to have this same argument over and over again in my head. I’ll keep thinking about it and praying about it. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even write another blog post about it. Sometimes, it just helps to think out loud.

 

Adulting

The baby shower was going to start in twenty minutes and I didn’t have anything to wrap my present with. I had some tape, a bow, a lot of colored tissue paper, and a plethora of “Merry Christmas” gift bags, and that was pretty much it. I’d just been to the grocery store that morning and had remembered to snatch a card, but somehow I’d forgotten to get a gift bag. Fortunately, my sister-in-law (who was driving us both to this event) graciously offered to stop by the 99 cent store on the corner. I hopped out of the car, ran in, snatched the biggest baby gift bag I could find, and zipped into the check out line. Once outside, I stood at the curb and waited for my sister-in-law to come around the parking lot. I hurried up to her car when she was near enough, tucking a stray curl behind my ear.

That’s when I caught my reflection in the passenger’s side window.

I don’t see myself as an adult. I may be twenty-two years old but, physically, I’ve looked exactly the same since I was fifteen. I’ve had my own car, my own apartment, my own bills, and my own job ever since I was nineteen. I’ll be celebrating two years of marriage this May. I live in a four bedroom, two bathroom rental house with a husband, a very old, very fat tabby cat, and a hyperactive miniature Australian shepherd who can’t produce tears. (We still don’t know why. She was very sick with an unknown illness for the first six months of her life and we’re thinking all the different medications we had to give her might have damaged her tear-ducts somehow, but we can’t prove that. We should really get her to a dog eye specialist but we don’t have that kind of money, so we have to resort to giving her eye drops three to four times a day. Yes, we love this dog.) I plan meals and manage finances while balancing 30 hours a week at the office and 9 credit hours per semester.

I have goals for the future which involve finishing school, becoming a published, well-known author, and helping my husband the police officer raise our four kids. It all sounds very adultly, right? And yet, I still see myself as that fifteen-year-old girl who thought Twilight was the greatest love story ever told and didn’t know anything about the real world.

So when I looked into that car window and saw a young lady, all dolled up and ready to attend a baby shower, I blinked in surprise. Because, for a second there, I actually looked like an adult.

My husband believes we never really grow up. We might physically change and become more responsible as life demands, but that little kid lives on inside of us. Sometimes its voice is loud and its influence is strong, while at other times we can suppress it more successfully. With all the “adulting” memes out there, I think he might be right. I find that I feel the youngest when I’m geeking out about Star Wars or when I’m daydreaming about The Magical World of Harry Potter theme park or when I’m listening to the kind of emo music I used to listen to as a teenager or when I visit my old haunts in Mexico. That little kid inside me sure loves to throw a fit when the alarm goes off at 7 a.m. But then there’s the voice of reason, the voice of the Adult, reminding me of all the things I have to get done and how much work will pile up if I listen to the Kid and simply pull the covers over my head.

If I take a good look at the choices I’ve made throughout my life, I can honestly say that I’ve listened to the Adult more often than I’ve listened to the Kid. My husband often has to tell me when it’s time to relax or take a break or set the schedule aside and just hang out. Indulge the Kid. So why don’t I feel like an Adult more often?

Good question…

I think it’s because of the conviction that I don’t know anything. All right, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been in college for three years and have worked for three different establishments, and have read more books than I can count. After all that, I should know something, but every day I encounter new things. Every day it seems I come across an article, a person, a conversation heard in passing, or an event that reminds me of just how much I still have to learn about life, love, politics, insurance, government, taxes, credit, education, literature, creative writing, finance, morality, the Bible, my family members and friends, even my husband. There are still topics I don’t understand. There’s still stuff in this world that I haven’t discovered yet. It leaves me feeling like a child who’s still figuring it all out.

Sometimes I have to wonder: will I ever feel like an adult? Will I ever feel like I’ve got this life thing figured out? A part of me would like to have the answers to everything. It might make life simpler. But another part of me hopes that I won’t ever reach that point. Because what is someone supposed to do after they’ve discovered everything there is to know? Maybe that’s why it’s so important the keep that little kid around. After all, without it’s sense of wonder, humility, and discovery, how are we supposed to grow?

2016 Reflections

I know it’s a little late for a New Years letter, but that doesn’t mean I can’t blog about my 2016. I’m calling last year the Year of Change.

My husband and I moved out of our one room apartment in April. My grandparents own several houses that they rent out to growing families and college aged students. They offered one of those houses to us for a very generous rental price and we snatched it up. We had been blessed with our apartment; it was in a safe, clean, quiet environment, with great management and neighbors. But we had a dog that was in desperate need of a backyard and we were tired of not being able to host visiting family members. The school semester wasn’t over yet but we had very little time before our lease was up so it had to be done quickly. The two of us, with the help of a friend, moved everything out in an afternoon. It was a stressful and emotional time for me. I had things organized just the way I wanted at the apartment and it took time to re-organize everything into our new living space. Also it was the end of another chapter and I always get nostalgic about endings. I stood in the middle of our empty apartment after having scrubbed it clean from top to bottom, smiling a little and blinking back tears as I remembered the good times that were had there.

We love our new-to-us house and so does the dog. We were able to host our friends for Pumpkin Carving and Scary Movie night in October, my family for Thanksgiving, and my husband’s family for Christmas thanks to the extra rooms and larger living room space. It’s been a blast. I for one finally feel like an adult. We’re so thankful.

Following the theme of change, both my husband and I switched career paths this year.

My husband had this dream of going to medical school on the island of Saint Kitts (in the Caribbean), finishing his degree in their sister school in Maine, and then doing his residency here in Phoenix. It sounded like a wild adventure when we were dating and, even though I had my concerns about leaving our families and friends and everything we’d ever known, I was willing to go with him. I was willing to be brave and travel to places I’d never been before so long as we were together. But we’ve both wanted to have a family since we were very young. My husband was confident that we could do medical school and raise a family at the same time. Somehow. I wasn’t so sure. Still, we talked about it and prayed about it, until my husband came to me one day and said that he had decided to give up on medical school.

“If we’re serious about starting a family in the next few years, I’m going to need a different career path,” he said, to which I heartily agreed. It was hard for him to think of another career at first. My husband is a man of many talents but he’d had his heart set on medical school for such a long time that he didn’t know what else he wanted to do or even where to start looking. He literally received a sign shortly after making this decision. He was at work, helping his coworkers hang a bill board sign about police agencies hiring in the city. (Smee: I’ve just had an apostrophe. Captain Hook: I think you mean an epiphany. Smee: No… lightning has just struck my brain. Captain Hook: Well, that must hurt.) It was so obvious. My husband is strong, smart, quick on his feet, and just. Of course, he should be a police officer! So began the application process. It’s been a fury of studying, taking tests, filling out paper work, and going on ride alongs but it has been a blast for him. The current challenge is the upcoming physical exam. My husband’s current occupation is physically taxing and makes it hard to train but so long as he keeps trying, I’m confident he’ll succeed.

Growing up, my father always told me, “It’s okay to dream but keep your feet on the ground. Circumstances might not allow you to be a writer and stay-at-home-mother as you’d like to be. Think of a subject or area of study you could major in that could help your husband provide for your family should you need extra income.” So that’s what I did. I chose language. I’m already bilingual thanks to my Hispanic father and his family. I’d heard somewhere that being bilingual made it easier to learn other languages, so I thought I’d be a translator. Despite my desire to start with French, circumstances led me to American Sign Language. I ended up really enjoying it. I took four classes and was about to start the Interpreter’s program when complications arose between my work schedule and the class scheduling. An advertisement about a creative writing program on the school’s website caught my eye.

I’ve read many articles about writing query letters, self and traditional publishing, and book marketing. I’ve sent over 100 query letters over the past two-three years and received nothing but polite rejections. Still, the beta readers who read my work insisted I had talent. My writing, which had always been a hobby and an unrealistic dream, was fast becoming frustrating. Did I have what it took to be a successful author or not? With my current career path being blocked at every corner, it was time to find out. I started with Intro to Creative Writing and Intro to Writing Fiction, both of which I loved and aced. I received good criticism from my classmates and some much needed validation from my teachers (adults who had studied this area and could spot the difference between good writing and mediocre writing). I still don’t know if I have what it takes to be successful in the writing world, but I know I’ve got something good going on here.

I’ve read that agents receive millions of queries daily. To stick out from the crowd, you need what anyone else needs for a resume: education, experience, and proof of talent. Once I complete this creative writing program, I’ll have an Academic Certificate in Creative Writing (basically an associates). With it, I can transfer to a university and begin a bachelors in English if I wanted. It’s more education than I had two-three years ago when I started querying. The easiest way to gain some publishing experience is to be published. I’ve submitted some of my short stories into literary magazine contests. No bites yet but I can’t give up. Proof of talent in the writing world is having a following. Agents help with some book marketing but I’ve read time and time again that 90% of an author’s book marketing is done by the author. Having a following/readership reassures the agent that a writer is willing to do most if not all of the heavy lifting. Through blogging, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram I hope to develop my following.

All the while I work on my manuscripts in the hopes that one day I’ll be ready to submit query letters again, this time with confidence. In my endeavors, I’ve learned a lot about writing, publishing, and book marketing. It’s become more and more apparent to me that the fulfillment of this crazy dream is going to take a lot of work, especially for an introvert who was determined not to have a social media presence not so long ago. But this feels right. Whether anything comes out of this or not, I’m going to see it through.

While all of this was happening, my husband was learning how to have long distance relationships with his family. One brother moved to Los Angeles to study film and work. Another brother moved to Hawaii to work in the student ministries department at a church in Maui. The third brother still lives in Phoenix but being a full time student keeps him very busy. My mother-in-law, who suddenly found herself with an empty house, decided it was time for an adventure and took a job in Wisconsin. For my husband, who has always been able to drive ten minutes to see his mother and brothers, this has been a huge adjustment. I went through similar stages of grief and homesickness when I moved out of my parents’ house in southern California to study and work in Phoenix. It’s been hard to go through this with him but it’s made his relationships with his family stronger. Because they’re so far away, his brothers make more of an effort to call and text. They’re learning and growing, and sharing their experiences with their older brother. That part has been fun.

2016, the Year of Change indeed.

It’s hard to think 2017 could possibly top it. But yet again it’s only January.