Monthly Archives: January 2023

Writing accountability post # 4

Illustration of office

Planning promotion; picture by author

Post number four. I’ve managed to keep this process going for four weeks. Yay me.

Today was slightly different, because I decided that my focus needed to be “what have I accomplished during the month” rather than just the past week in review. So I went ahead and started working on thinking about what did and didn’t work, including what roadblocks I encountered and how I could possibly overcome them.

Three pages later…wow. But there are definitely some things that need to be developed further. First of all, in order to get some of the things done that I need to get done, requires the ability to spread out with paperwork that doesn’t need to be picked up but doesn’t get in the way of accessing things like books and supplies. Somewhat of a tall order due to the current office setup. So I am looking at that and will spend time organizing it.

I need to develop a coherent promotion plan rather than just willy-nilly saying “oh here’s my latest stuff” as an afterthought.

I need to reduce stress by having my volunteer activities better coordinated and blocked out in my schedule.

I need to reclaim my sewing space, identify what projects I plan to work on, and begin creating craft items for fall online sales.

As I go about moving my backlist onto Ingram for paperback versions, I need to move those items through production, including updated interiors, continuity tweaks, and full wrap covers.

The writing has actually been making progress, though slower than I would like. But some of that is due to Caroline Starshine asserting herself more and more, almost as much as Gabriel Martiniere started to do with the Martiniere stories. I don’t think Caroline’s story is going to last more than one book, but hoo boy is it ever turning into a roller-coaster ride. It’s a much better story than the original concept I was playing with over ten years ago. However, as well as that serial is progressing, I need to get ahead of uploading so that I can turn from it to other projects. On the other hand, I seem to be doing a decent job of juggling multiple work items, so….

In a lot of ways it will get easier as we get out of winter. Right now, I need to deal with the horse about midday, which turns out to be somewhat of an organizational challenge. Weird but true. It’s a lot easier for me to work straight through until four or five, take a break to do horse stuff, then get back to it. I suppose it’s a function of darkness and so on. I just find the midday horse break to be somewhat more distracting and it shouldn’t be. It’s a matter of my head space.

What is becoming more clear is that I need to spend some time breaking down tasks that seem big and insurmountable at the moment into workable pieces. I started doing that about this time last year, and then the cataract blew that all to pieces, along with the MacBookPro teetering on the edge of collapse. Which is another factor–I need to begin integrating the MacBookAir into my writing again. The short period where I was using the iPad for everything away from the computer ended up causing as many problems as it solved, in the long run. So I need to be doing that.

The overall lesson from January? Planning and structures work, as long as I adequately break the tasks down into smaller, doable units. And, y’know, actually do the work of planning.

Well, I think I know what February is going to be all about.

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Serialization and the growth of Federation Cowboy

Oh my.

When I started writing these Kindle Vella projects, my main idea was to get some of these damn stories out into the world. For the most part, except for the Martiniere books, that’s been the case. I have pulled things off of my hard drive, put a little organization into them, and tossed them up on Vella, then at least up on Amazon if not wide.

And it’s been a learning proposition. I’ve definitely changed up my drafting processes to use Scrivener even more than I was starting to do (the non-serialized Martiniere books were driving me in that direction just so I could keep track of continuity). I suspect that’s been a minor factor in this huge change I’ve noticed.

What I didn’t expect was for the serialization-to-novel process to affect how I plotted a story and, ultimately, my productivity processes. After doing this off and on for over a year (well, not so off-and-on considering I have been doing the same thing over on Substack, only with a slower schedule), I have started to realize that serialization has helped me figure out how to plot better without needing to be so formal about it.

Why? I’m not entirely sure. I do work off of an outline, but these days said outline is primarily a set of fairly loose chapter summaries running about 3-5 chapters ahead of where I am in drafting. And the outline is pretty flexible. It lives in its own file under the research tab in Scrivener, where I have it open most of the time while drafting the current chapter in Word. If anything, as I said above, drafting serials seems to have helped me use Scriv more effectively. Some of this is just a matter of visual organization. I can look over at Scrivener and see the chapter titles. Check the word count of the draft. Look up something without needing to scroll back in Word. Keep track of the chapter length because each chapter has its own document, until it’s finished and put into Scrivener.

But what is happening as a result of serialization isn’t just a matter of how I’m outlining and drafting. Serialization provides me with set deadlines. For Kindle Vella, that means an active project must have enough drafted so I can stay at least two weeks ahead of my publication schedule (my active Vellas post new episodes every Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday). Episodes generally run from 600-2000 words.

For Substack, I try to have enough drafted to post a new 800-2000 word episode every Friday. I prefer to run a month ahead of schedule there.

In both cases, I’m writing chapters that are anywhere from 3000-6000 words, and splitting them up accordingly (essentially, dividing into major scenes).

But what this also allows me to do is work for a while on one project, until I either run out of steam and need to let the story sit for a little bit, or get enough ahead that I can focus on other projects. Generally, given the different publication rates between Substack and Vella, that works out.

Sure, I could do this without resorting to serialization, but…one thing that really seems to work is to have the hard deadline. The awareness that I need some lead time for an episode to clear with Amazon, in the case of Vella. And having that deadline seems to be freeing. The brain starts figuring out a lot more stuff.

Case in point–Federation Cowboy, the Vella serial that started publishing this past week.

Oh, I had made a running start at this story a few years ago (and actually had circulated a short story version for a little while). I even have a novel outline. But, dear God, it just wasn’t working. Lovely space opera elements, but I just couldn’t get them to work. I had a few pages with an earlier scene, where Jeff and Caroline meet because he’s retired from a career as a rodeo duelist and wants to go into politics–and Caroline is a political consultant. But then it skipped ahead to the short story, where Jeff the Planetary Representative gets into an argument with a sentient–Converted is the term I’m using–horse colleague, Fenarmin, who is also a former rodeo duelist. Things cross a line and Jeff and Fenarmin end up engaging in the most dangerous and intense version of rodeo dueling–sentient against sentient, which goes until one participant is either disabled or dead. The duel ends with both badly injured. Caroline and Fenarmin’s partner, Rifanel, discover that nefarious forces deliberately used an intoxicant to set up the fight between Jeff and Fenarmin–to sideline both of them before a significant vote in the Federation Congress. The nefarious forces are trying to gain control of a power source found only on an planet which has some…interesting characteristics.

It just didn’t work.

So. I blew dust off of the story a few weeks ago and started working with it. I went back to that first scene. I decided to keep the tone somewhat light-hearted, by allowing my human characters to choose usenames that reflect their aspirations when they reach adulthood. Caroline wants to get away from old Earth and her family. Jeff wants financial security for him and his extended family. Rifanel is a powerful mare who wants what is best for her extended herd. Fenarmin wants to make amends for a bad family history.

And then the pieces kept falling together. Both Jeff and Fenarmin were forced to retire by non-rodeo injuries that sabotaged their careers. Jeff was able to prove foul play, but Fenarmin couldn’t. Instead of a power source being the source of contention (and introduced later), a plant-based drug with different effects on different species and tightly controlled by a cartel which–may have ethics issues of its own–is what everyone’s fighting over.

The cool thing is that the twists keep popping up as I write along. But this is not the story I would have written ten years ago, when I first tried to write it. I don’t know if serialization finally kicked things loose, or if the idea finally just had enough time to sit in my brain.

Nonetheless, it’s been a fascinating change in drafting processes. We’ll see how this continues, when I move to writing the fantasy trilogy in the spring.

That is, if something like the Martinieres doesn’t happen along to further distract me (which is what happened three years ago, when I was originally going to write that series.

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Writing Accountability Post #3 and some thoughts about serialization

So this was the week that things kinda fell apart. Hey, sooner or later I knew I would have a bad week. I got some words down, but there were a couple of days that were more about doing other things and not getting words down. Mind you, some of those things that I did were important, after all. One day that ended up with several lengthy phone calls with husband and friends. One day of managing problems with an online insurance payment. Several days of grogginess due to body aches because of medicine hangovers.

Stuff happens. It’s just the way it is.

On the other hand, I managed to get A Different Life: Now. Always. Forever. uploaded to Amazon, Draft2Digital, and IngramSpark. I made the full wrap cover for the paperback. That whole process took a big chunk out of one day, but now the book is uploaded and in pre-orders for the February 7th release.

I finished enough of Federation Cowboy to get ten episodes uploaded to Kindle Vella. It will start releasing 3x a week on Tuesday. Now I just need to get several more big chunks written so that I can focus on other things, like creating marketing plans for the year. Setting up accounts as part of my promotional plan. Planning the fantasy series, or at least beginning some sort of planning so that I can start work on it in a month or two. Fiddling with Pinterest and Post.

The Goddess’s Vision books are not going to be serialized. I may change my mind at some point, but right now, Kindle Vella is for work that is partially visualized and is my incentive to get that stuff finished and out in the world. If bonuses end in March, as rumored, then it will be less of a priority. I just don’t seem to have many readers there. Martiniere Stories is pretty much committed to The Cost of Power for 2023. Though I’ve had some interesting little twists pop up…such as well, I might end up doing more with the Zingter nanos (which will start showing up in the serial version about March). I’ve come up with some thoughts about just how Ruby manages to implement mind control vocals in this world without formal training and programming, and it’s all tied into Zingter. Ruby in this universe may also start seeing the multiverse-traveling digital thought clones at about the same time as Gabe–and this universe’s Philip becomes aware of them very early, especially the version of himself that is aggressively attacking other versions of Gabe and Ruby in other universes. And…influencing other versions of Philip to go over-the-top.

But this is more of a fanfic project (yes, I consider writing alternative versions of my own world to be fanfiction, maybe my ultimate fanfic).

Federation Cowboy is also taking some significant twists from the original plan. It’s going to be interesting when I start balancing the serial work with non-serial work, because what I am really starting to like about serial work is that I can work on one thing for a while, get ahead of required episodes for several weeks (if not months), and then work on another project while letting that one simmer. I think it’s actually causing me to create more meaningful work because of that simmer stage. I’ll not completely leave a serial project alone–I’ll go back and poke at it, tweak what’s already been posted (but not post revisions, serial work is rough draft only), and let the brain chew on what I have in progress.

Having stories be drafted in a serial form with set release times is actually kinda freeing, really. I can say to myself, “well, I’m this far ahead on this project, so I can turn my focus elsewhere” without losing precious momentum. It’s very interesting and different. Hit a roadblock on one project? Well, with enough of a publication cushion, I can switch out to something that needs advancing. The Substack schedule is once a week while the Vella schedule is three times a week. I’m doing much more drafting with Substack, while with Vella, I’m poking at already-written stuff that just needs to be extended into something that is at least novella-length.

With non-serial projects, though, there isn’t that sense of accomplishment when I’ve written enough to upload for publication. I have to plug straight through the rough draft, then the first revision, then get it out to betas, then revise again.

Will I be able to do both, or will I break down and serialize the Goddess’s Vision books?

We shall see.

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Writing accountability post #2

It’s been a week. I’m surprised at what I’ve been able to accomplish, given that we had one power outage, I had multiple Zoom meetings this week, there was a farrier appointment where I ended up holding someone else’s horse as well as mine, and oh, I don’t know, a further continuation of the Month of Dread going on.

One of the Zoom meetings was pretty useful–a organizational class aimed at writers that was, for once, created by a neurodivergent person using some useful notions and structuring that differ from the neurotypical “this is how you get organized” structure. The others were either hosting or organizing a monthly podcast.

The organizational class had several good things that stood out to me. First of all, this person (Paulette Porhach) redefined “getting organized” as self-care. Instead of saying “I’m organized,” she suggested saying “I am taking care of myself by being organized.” I thought about it a bit, and wished I had that perspective when working with some of my ADHD middle schoolers. I think that reframing might have made organizational structures more palatable to them. But she also was talking about focusing on the future, biting tasks off into smaller chunks (that’s not new), working backwards slowly (that’s new) and other good things, including creating central electronic and physical locations for organizing information, making it easier to do next time around, creating systems that YOU can trust, not being afraid to adjust and replan when life strikes, and having a weekly executive meeting with yourself.

Interestingly, that last bit was something I had tentatively already started to do, beginning last week. I had decided I needed to do a weekly publication progress plan. Today, I expanded it further to taking notes in my spiral notebook about what did and didn’t get done this week, plus forming a plan for the week ahead. I already do that somewhat in my weekly planner, but writing it down really helps. I also am thinking about writing an updated resume for myself. Not because I’m looking for work, but because I think it will be useful for me as a sort of psychological boost to chronicle everything I am doing to help my assorted communities.

One thing I stumbled across is that when I did my revised 2023 long bio, I separated it into several widely spaced paragraphs. This became useful in a couple of instances this week when I needed to use portions of the full bio but not the whole thing.

So. What did I accomplish in the past week?

–Began drafting Federation Cowboy and finished a five-episode first chapter. That gives me almost two weeks worth of episodes (posting 3x a week). However, the story has changed somewhat and I needed to redraft my working outline. Otherwise, I might have been able to start uploading this week (I prefer to have a two-week lead on serial publishing, just in case something happens). That said, another chapter will give me that cushion, so I hope to start uploading toward the end of the week. I already have a Vella cover. I may tweak it some more, but for now, it’s ready to roll.

I am discovering that phenomenon when writing in a new world, where I have to stop and think about the worldbuilding and just how much information to feed into the work. I’ve been spoiled by working for three years on the Martinieres, where I had easy access to what I knew about the world. In this far-future world with Converted (raised to sentience and cross-species communication) species, I had to stop and think. What kind of names would birds give themselves? Cattle? And then I had to cut out a whole section of writing because while it was useful and helped me understand the world, it just. didn’t. work. for the story. Oh well.

–I finished the production of A Different Life: Now. Always. Forever. ebook and print interiors. Now I just need to write the final blurb, create the paperback, create the promotion campaign, and get it uploaded for preorders before the February 7th release.

–I backed up almost all my photos (forgot to do the promotional photos on the desktop itself) and Dropbox files onto my new external hard drive that is compatible with the MacBookAir’s USB-C ports. For the first time, I actually can access my current photo catalog on a laptop. That’s huge.

–I revised and submitted a new short story (which has received its first reject, from Clarkesworld, which is not surprising–they’re fast and it was a long shot to get sold there anyway). I now have eleven short stories in circulation.

–Both of my other meetings were productive and useful, and I’m glad I’ve started note-taking for a lot of this stuff in a spiral-bound notebook. I have a lot of these, left over from teaching days and my own college days in the Master’s program. Some kids kept their spirals that I provided for journaling, others didn’t. Rather than throw them out, I discarded the kid writing. I can write what’s included in the notebook on the front cover when it’s done, and meanwhile, recent stuff is handy where I want it. That’s where I did my executive meeting notes.

What didn’t get done?

In one word, PROMOTION. That’s the biggest hole in my writing business. I did small things, but I did not get a lot of the visibility work completed that I need to do to promote my backlist. Or what I have coming out.

I have some notes about what I need to do on that front this coming week. Fortunately, I don’t have as much to do with meetings and horse stuff. Farrier always eats up my entire morning, no matter what.

Life is…busy. We’ll see how this week goes.

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Writing Accountability Post #1

Well, we’ll see how long these last. One of the processes I decided upon–not necessarily a New Year’s resolution but a musing in my evening journal last night–is that I need to do a weekly checkback with my projected publication and craft schedule for the month to see if I’m on track to finish what I have planned. Part of that checkback is going to be a weekly accountability post. This is as much for me as it is for anyone else. I need the time to clear my mind and think about how I’m working.

Some of this is an attempt to quantify and observe my progress. I may dig out some of my old behavior tracking schedules–where I record what I’m doing at what time and for how long–to see how my behavior changes. I already know that the time of year definitely affects things, because I need daylight to do things with the horse. I also know that I get more fatigued after dark a lot of the time. These posts and the weekly accountability schedule review are a means of tracking what I’m doing, and I may stop doing them once I’ve internalized some structures (look, as a former special ed teacher, I should be able to apply some of these techniques to me, right? Right?).

With no further blathering, here’s what I accomplished in the way of weekly goals:


  • Completed In the Land Where Dragons Grow, the short story for the month.
  • Did some thinking about The Cost of Power, annotations in chapter outlines.
  • Did some thinking about Federation Cowboy, enough that I feel comfortable beginning work on it.
  • Did some brainstorming about the Goddess’s Vision series, including a possible worldbuilding short story that I may submit to an anthology call.


  • Finished writing up an interview.
  • Made contact with one reviewer for a potential review in April.
  • Assorted networking.
  • Appearance on B-Cubed Sunday morning last Sunday.


  • Completed edits for a client.
  • Completed edits on A Different Life: Now. Always. Forever. so that I can begin production for the February 7th release.

Other Writing:

  • Sent out three short stories that had come back in December, plus one more that I had missed earlier.
  • Board meeting minutes for NIWA, took notes at Saturday meeting.
  • Renewed membership in ALLi.

No craft or sewing work this week.

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Dealing with scheduling writing work

Illustration of office

Planning promotion; picture by author

The standard notion about scheduling your writing is that the earlier in the day that you write, the better it is.

That doesn’t really work for me anymore. Oh, it was a good idea when I was working full time because a.) the only time I had to write where I wasn’t dealing with brain fatigue was early in the morning. By the time I got home, I was usually wiped out, mentally fatigued, and at best only good for editing that day’s work and making notes for the next day’s writing progress.

Things change. I really struggled with that notion when my cataract was growing because I needed time in the morning to get my eyes working and focusing.

Now, it’s an issue of when is my brain most awake? What activities work best at what time of the day?

I started looking back at my schedule over the past year and came to certain realizations.

First, the optimal time of day for writing is much more flexible for me these days than it used to be. It seems to change with the seasons and with what I need to do. Right now, I find that writing is happening in the afternoons and early evenings, same for editing. I can’t do much writing early in the day anymore. My brain isn’t quite ready to go into creative work. But…

Second. I found that when I left promotion and social media work to afternoons and evenings, after writing, far too often I ended up closing those tabs and moving on. I just didn’t have the brain power to deal with a lot of the work involved with promotion. But–I found that if I did the work in the morning, it was easier to pull things together and do the work than when I left it in the afternoon. I find it harder to face that work in the afternoon.

Third. I need to remain flexible about scheduling, in part due to seasonal changes. One of the big changes that happens from winter to summer is when I see the horse/go riding/do outdoor stuff. In winter, that tends to happen more often midday. In summer, that needs to be morning or late afternoon (mid-afternoon is the heat of the day here). The horse stuff is always late afternoon because I prefer to ride when it’s cooling down rather than heating up. It works better for me. Also, outside chores timing is important.

Now, one thing is that this is based not on detailed observational tracking but just thinking about my working process as it has changed. So far, I have not needed to explicitly block out writing time because so far I’ve been keeping up with it.

This process will probably change over time, but what I’m learning…is that remaining flexible is the key.

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Looking ahead to 2023

One part of me says “no, don’t get too ambitious in disclosing your goals for 2023. After all, look at what happened in 2022.”

Another part says “eh, go ahead and do it anyway. Accountability purposes, plus it helps you articulate some thoughts you’ve been fiddling with.”

I don’t think it hurts to consider what needs to be done for the year ahead. I don’t make resolutions as such, but as I sat down yesterday and worked my way through my publication/drafting/production/craft schedule for the year, I started feeling better about how I do things and what I intend to accomplish this year. Rather than having the things I want to do swarming loosely in my head, I looked at my tentative goals, then booked out time to get them done. That includes when I’m starting worldbuilding on one set of stories, when I’m drafting, and when things go into production. I’m also including the goals of having some craft work ready to sell by fall for the holiday season, and maybe even before then.

For me, setting out these tangible goals makes it easier for me to get things done. If I can see it on paper–in this case, a written plan, with one copy on the wall behind the computer and the other folded and tucked into my planner–then it’s easier for me to focus. I need some structures, whether self-imposed or externally-imposed, to get this done. Too much stuff floating loose in my brain leads to gridlock and paralysis. I started falling prey to this during the last half of the year.

The reality is that I am more productive when I have a plan. Even if I don’t hit all of my deadlines, the plan motivates me to do my best to accomplish them. It’s probably an artifact of when I worked as a paralegal (and again as a special education case manager), where I needed to think in terms of daily blocks of time. If I know what I’m doing (above and beyond word count measures), then I can mentally block out the time. If I have too many things that I should be doing, I end up not being able to carve out those mental blocks of time and…paralysis sets in.

In any case, 2023 continues one goal I had for 2022, which was to clear out some partially completed stories on my hard drive and get them out in the world. Also, due to my cataract, I missed getting some things set up in paperback and marketed wide. The other piece is that I want to start writing and circulating short stories for publication again. Yes, it’s a time-consuming pain in the butt. However, at some point I hope those stories will gain some visibility.

To that end, I have blocked out a drafting goal of one short story a month.

Serial writing also requires a certain amount of schedule planning. I have enough episodes to provide weekly episodes of the new Martiniere Multiverse book, The Cost of Power, through the end of May. I’ve flagged when I need to think about writing more, if I haven’t created new episodes by then. The Cost of Power will probably run for most of 2023 on Substack at that rat.

I’m also toward the end of worldbuilding for a new Kindle Vella serial, Federation Cowboy, which includes a chapter outline. Since I want to publish new Vella episodes 3x a week, at about 1000-2000 words per episode, I need to make sure I have 3000-6000 words ready to go per week. So I will start posting once I’m about 18k into the story, just to be safe. Plus I want to write three other serial stories, Into the Vortex, Dark-Shaded Heart, and Oregon Country (which will start posting in 2024, depending on what happens with Vella). All of those stories have rough outlines and, in some cases, are partially written. They should add up fast.

I also plan to start working on a new fantasy series this year, probably for publication in early 2024. That series will not be serialized.

I have two stories that need new covers, new back matter, and uploaded for wide distribution (they’re currently only on Amazon because they went up when things really went to pieces thanks to the cataract).

How do I produce this much work?

The serials are reasonably easy. I can work on one to get ahead by about four weeks, then let it rest. I’m finding that for those stories, that seems to be the best pacing. Once they’re completed, I can let them sit before editing for publication. The Vella stories have to sit for 30 days after the last episode before I can publish them, anyway.

I have the following categories in my monthly record: Drafting (composition), Editing (both for myself and others), Production (covers, interiors, and these days the promotion stuff), and Worldbuilding. Drafting gets three months per story, but that’s easily flexed. Editing is a one month thing, and reflects only my work, not waiting for others. Production gets one month. Worldbuilding gets three months, whether I need it or not (part of that flex strategy).

Basically, the longer parts of the process (drafting and worldbuilding) get more time than the others. And with the serials, I can write ahead, then turn my attention to other things.

So, roughly, this is the plan for this year and what I’ll be putting out:

February 7, 2023: A Different Life: Now. Always. Forever. (Martiniere Multiverse series, A Different Life subseries. Near-future agripunk SF with romantic elements and a HEA).

March 7, 2023: Reissue wide (and in paperback) of Beating the Apocalypse. Cozy apocalypse with hopepunk elements.

April 4, 2023: Reissue wide (maybe paperback, depends on length) of Bearing Witness (Vortex Worlds series, Weird West multiverse novella).

By May, I hope to be caught up with paperback reissues in the Netwalk Sequence series and Becoming Solo. If not, that will happen in May.

June 6, 2023: Federation Cowboy wide ebook and possible paperback release (Standalone, space opera)

August 1, 2023: Into the Vortex (Vortex Worlds, release very tentative, Weird West multiverse).

Honestly, after June, there’s a lot of tentative stuff going on. But that’s the way I plan.

Feel free to ask me any questions about this process!

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