Monday, December 30, 2013

I Survived 2013 and That’s Enough

My awesome social media coordinator, Ralene Burke posted a status on the Realm Makers facebook page today, asking how life has changed for our fans over the past year, and like many posts there, I felt compelled to respond. I mentally worked my way through 2013, and came up with this list of what big events happened over the year.

I settled into a new position at work

OK, so I changed positions, technically, near the end of 2012, but 2013 was the first year that I had to go through the “busy season” for my new job. The busy season runs from about May to August, and during that time, I am responsible for obtaining and preparing about 6500 (no, really) jpgs of the covers for different pieces of choral, band, and orchestra music to populate our half dozen catalogs that go out before the beginning of the school year. I spent the first half of the year learning who’s who at about 50 different publishers I need to contact for these covers, and by some miracle, survived juggling all this artwork on my own. (There are other things, too, like making sure these things get to the company website, but I won’t bore you with the laundry list.)

Besides my day job…2013 brought us a home of our own

At the end of April, 2013, my husband and I closed on our first home. We’ve been married 15 years, but yes, this was the first time we were in a position to get out of the rental market, because A.) we live in a place where it’s plausible we’ll stay, and B.) we both have a predictable income. For many years, we chose to rent so that I could stay home with our children, but since my husband’s gift is in teaching, and he is in the place of ministry God would have him (teaching in a private, Christian school) I am helping with the household income now. In dream-world, I would be home full time doing creative things and having some tiny clue what in the world is going on with my kids’ school and homework, but for now, this is where God has us. Anyway, as for the house…

Our budget necessitated we get creative about buying, and we were ready when foreclosures were at a historic peak. Typically, foreclosed homes have problems, so you can’t get traditional financing on them. So we went into the process approved for what’s known as a 203K loan, which is basically a purchase and construction loan all rolled into a single closing. Mortgages and homebuying are complex enough. But holy moly was the 203K convoluted.

In the end, we got a solid little Cape Cod style home in a quiet neighborhood, with just enough yard to be manageable and to be able to tell the kids: Go outside! We gutted the entire upstairs and had to have all the plumbing throughout the house replaced, as well as ductwork installed. Oh, and we discovered we needed a new roof on the back dormer of the house because it was leeching water down the back wall and rotting it. And we needed all new windows. And appliances. And floors in the kitchen and bathrooms. (There’s more, but I’ll stop.) Oh, one other tiny detail: remember how I said we closed at the end of April? That meant we were renovating the house (while living in it) at the same time as my first busy season at my day job.

But wait, there’s more…remember that thing where I write stuff?

Also in the spring, I was in the process of the final edit for my third Windrider book, Valor’s Worth, with my
publisher, Diminished Media Group. Since I was also producing the cover for this, I was also building sacrifice chalices and daggers out of craft store supplies, drawing pages to ancient texts, having all this photographed, and compositing it for the final artwork. So I’m turning around corrections, begging friends to proof my finals, and approving final cover layout all at once. Right in the home stretch, we also had a few unprecedented formatting nightmares for the interior of the book. This all while in the busy season of my day job and renovating a house . . .

And not to forget . . .the crazy Idea That Wouldn’t Be Ignored

During this same first 8 months of 2013, I was also planning the first Realm Makers conference, being held in St. Louis at a venue I could only go on faith my good friend had scoped out and knew would be adequate to host 65 authors and 20 faculty and volunteers. I don’t know how many hours goes into planning a two day conference, but I know I’ve already sunk about 300 or so into the 2014 event. Yes, most of the work for the first Realm Makers happened in—you guessed it—May, June, and July.

So why am I writing all this? Not so much to toot my own horn as to explain why I came very close to a nervous breakdown over this year. Perhaps I’m leaving myself a horrifying chronicle of how not to schedule your life. I’ve been wondering why I have felt so emotionally fragile for the past few months. Um, I’m thinking maybe it’s fatigue? The good news is, for 2014, all I have ahead of me is finishing my sequel to Curse Bearer, planning the next Realm Makers (which will fall BEFORE busy season) and managing the day to day demands of family and work.

By comparison, that sounds like a breeze.

So what about you? What amazing things did you witness in your own life in 2013? What you hoping for in the coming year? I wish all of you a new year full of many blessings. Here’s to living and learning!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Not Exactly Hatin' on Desolation of Smaug

I’m not usually a fangirl—I don’t think I even have the physical capacity to actually squee. But yes, I will have to concur, the combined efforts of the sound designers on The Desolation of Smaug and Benedict Cumberbatch created easily the best dragon voice EVER. I dare you to try to show me one better. In terms of design, mannerisms, and animation, Smaug was definitely the crowning achievement of Peter Jackson’s continued cinematic interpretation of The Hobbit.

For me, however, much of the rest of the movie was just OK. It pains me to say that, but I keep thinking back, trying to determine if I was just addled from slogging our way to the theater through driving snow, or from the unthinkable--actually having to get up and use the restroom during the movie. (This has NEVER happened to me in two decades of independent moviegoing. I must be getting old.) But no, it just turns out that tDoS did not strike the chord with me that any of the Lord of the Rings movies did.