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The Mommy Writer Makes Sacrifices (but probably not enough)

[this is part of an ongoing series about how I get work done with kids]

I posted on Facebook yesterday about being sad about not having time to do the catch up reading for Oathbringer.  Well-meaning responses suggested that I listen to the audio books, that I just read it anyway, that I read it slowly over time.  I have wonderful friends.  They were trying to be encouraging.  But instead I felt discouraged.  I knew I couldn’t do those things, but I couldn’t really articulate WHY.  I did a lot of thinking, and now I think I’m ready to try.

Let me tell you what my life is like.  This is not a pity party.  My life is awesome. But here are the facts about how I spend my time and prioritize:

I spend about 45 hours a week as the principal caretaker of my children, and another 30 or so as the backup caretaker.  That’s 75 hours a week, not counting any of the hours in which my children are asleep, and therefore all I have to do is send them back to bed if they wake and generally make sure the house doesn’t burn down.  I’m lucky that my husband does 50% of the principal caretaking, and is home to also play backup caretaker nearly 100% of the time I’m playing principal caretaker.  I literally could not do as follows without him in those roles.

That said, right now I have a one years old who is even now climbing on my desk and playing with my air purifier, and I have to keep lifting down, so the parenting hours are heavy lifting in this stage of life.   And oh yeah, 13 or so hours of this time I am homeschooling my daughter, a number of hours that will nearly double next year.   Family outings also happen in here, both just me and the kids, and me, the kids, and my husband.

I write about 20 hours a week.  Some weeks more, other weeks (usually due to sickness or excessive prewriting) less.  These are the hours that I am physically typing or revising words.  Sitting at my computer.  Giving it my full attention.

I spend at least another 30 hours a week in partnership with my critique partners (mostly Megan).  These are NOT hours where either of us are writing.  What are we doing?  We’re texting about the characters/ideas/plot problems.  We’re doing prewriting (yes, this means playing with Barbie dolls.)  I’m reading for her and giving her feedback; she’s reading for me and I’m listening for feedback.  We text feedback in real time.  We’re talk talk talking about revisions and fixes and upcoming stories.  We’re looking for dolls/sets/props for upcoming prewriting, or building said sets.  We’re writing down the ideas we’ve gamed; we’re turning those ideas into outlines.  We’re talking about business decisions and communicating with our agents or other people we work with.  Really, I think this is probably more than 30 hours a week, but I know it’s at least that.

I spend another five hours a week in business maintenance that doesn’t involve my co-writers.  I’m responding to emails.  Checking on audiobooks or edits or covers.  Doing social media (not reading it; composing posts, etc.)  I’m going to the post office.  I’m ordering books.  I’m organizing and planning promotion.  I’m doing accounting, taxes, and paying bills.

So that’s 55 hours where I’m engaged in creating the worlds and characters and the words that will carry them to readers, and dealing with the business trappings that surround that.  Plus 75 hours of kid stuff, either as on-duty parent or backup parent.  Plus 50 hours (ish) of sleep.  (This often gets cut short, but is usually compensated for by sleeping in on the weekends lest I die.)

There are 168 hours in a week.  I have already spent 180 hours doing these three things.  This means, in case you haven’t guessed, that I’m doing the child thing and the writing words or writing prep during many of the same hours.  This is why I say that I couldn’t do it without my husband to play backup when I’m on duty and to be on duty so I can be off.

Some writers say you should count all the time you spend THINKING about characters or stories or plots as work time.  To which I say HAHAHA that’s the majority of my waking hours—at least another 30 hours a week.  Probably a whole lot more.

So now we’re up to 210 hours in which my brain is filled with child things or work things.  This means in practicality the GRAND majority of the time I am doing BOTH these things already.  Even while driving, I am generally parenting (and fielding a million questions and listening to a million stories) and also thinking about my characters and my books. (Yes, please, let’s listen to an audio book on top of that.  HA!)

BUT WAIT!  I’m not done.  I also have a house to maintain (badly).  I also have a writing group that I’m responsible for.  We meet weekly, and I’m generally the one who sends out the first submission email and checks up on people to see who will be coming, if we need to add more people, etc.  Plus the reading.  This is another 3 hours or so a week.  (Because we are crazy efficient, people!  We have to be.)  I also have a Thursday night roleplaying game (also weekly) that takes up another 4 hours…except I’m running the game this year, so I also need to prep/think of ideas/have the energy to be the game master.  This, for obvious reasons, gets to take about 20 extra minutes of my week.  Because really.

I also go to church (for three hours) and have a church assignment that takes another few hours a week.  I also like to play games with my husband occasionally for another couple hours a week.  I also have to, you know, grocery shop and run errands.  And cook and eat (sporadically, at best.)  Oh, and I got a dog in the hopes of getting exercise, who I try to run with 20 or so minutes a day.  And sometimes I am sick, and my capacity shrinks drastically.  This happens a lot, actually, because I have a kindergartener who brings home all the germs.  (But she’s homeschooled, you say!  Yes, but she has bunches of neighborhood friends who are not.)  And sometimes my brain craps out and I scroll through facebook for two hours because I don’t have the brain capacity or sustained attention span left for my children or to read more than two paragraphs on any given topic.

This means that on top of the two things I am doing most of the time (writing stuff and parent stuff), I am frequently ALSO doing one or more of those other things.

Multitasking makes you stupid, guys.  This is why I didn’t answer your email/go to your party/remember your birthday.  This is why I have dropped off the planet.  This is why I can’t listen to an audio book.  It’s not even the matter of hours in the day.  It’s the amount of STUFF GOING ON IN MY BRAIN that makes me literally incompetent to add anything else.

There are things I do a lot less of than I used to, but still do some: read, play video games.

There are things I don’t really do at all anymore, but will do again someday: yard work, watch TV, paint minis, sew.

I know what you’re thinking.  Janci, do less.  Definitely do less.  For heaven’s sake, work less.

Here’s the thing.  This is my life pared down to just what I absolutely love the absolute most.  My kids. My husband.  My writing.  My God.  My closest friends.  (I am not a person who can function without my closest friends.)   I’m kind of in love with my job.  I am dedicating my life to the things that are most important to me. With the exception of the housekeeping stuff, my life is fun and awesome and fulfilling.  But it’s also FULL.  The words there will not be room enough to receive it come to mind.

So when I say I don’t have room for that and I’m sad, I’m not having regrets, except that my hours and energy are not limitless.  I’m happy with my choices, but occasionally wistful about the ones I could have made or hope to make someday.  And when I decide to give myself moments to do what I want and screw the consequences, right now I’m choosing to spend time working on my stories and hanging out with my best friends, not reading enormous tomes, no matter how much I love them (which is a lot).

Now excuse me while I go happily (though wearily) do four or five vitally important things I love at once.

 

BOYLESS is now available in audio!

Boyless is now available in audio on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. The narrator, Jessica McFarland, did a fantastic job, and I’m so happy with how the production turned out.  I hope you’ll check it out!

Everything’s Fine now available in audio!

The last book in the A Thousand Faces series is off with my editor, and expected back in the very near future for the first (and always biggest) round of edits.  But, in the meantime, I’m happy to announce that Everything’s Fine is now available in audio from Amazon, Audible, and Itunes!

It’s narrated by the talented Katherine Billings, and she nailed the voices of the characters.  I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.  So if you’re an audio reader, check it out!

(I’m also thrilled to say that all of my books are now in audio production, so look for more very soon!)

LONG DARK NIGHT release day!

My vampire novel, LONG DARK NIGHT, is now available on Amazon, in both e-book and print.  I’m so pleased with it–with the book, with the cover, with finally being able to share it with you. It’s one of those that has been waiting for its day for years, and I almost gave up on it many times, but April needed to have her story told, and now she finally has.

Here’s the cover copy:

Sixteen-year-old April is trapped behind the blinds in her apartment, beholden to the schedule of the daily blood deliveries from the local Red Cross syndicate, waiting for Vance—well-respected director of the local hospital by day, vampire lord by night—to finally descend on her and finish turning her unlife into a living hell. From the day he raped her, infecting her with the STD that turned her into a vampire, he’s been watching her, stalking her, trying to make her his, body and soul.

Until the day April seizes the opportunity to choose her own course.  Now on the run in the California desert, April must find the will not only to survive, but to fight back.

SKIPPED now available in audio!

Today I’m happy to announce that SKIPPED is available in audio, narrated by the talented Madonna Lucey!  Find it on itunes, Audible, and Amazon!

Long Dark Night Cover Reveal!

You guys.

I have been waiting to show you this book for ten years.

(Before you ask, yes the final book in the A Thousand Faces series is done.  It’s off with my editor, and will be out sometime before the end of the year!  Unless my editor hates it.  Let’s hope she doesn’t hate it.  But in the meantime…)

Okay, you don’t want to have read this book ten years ago.  It’s been through several different endings, a few different settings, and more than one character has come and gone.

BUT!

Finally it’s ready to see the light of day and I am SO EXCITED to share it with you.

(A note: the subject matter of this one may not be for everyone.  I wrote it because I love vampire novels, but the undercurrent of themes like stalking, abuse, controlling behavior, and rape always disturbed me.  This book is about what happens when you take those themes and push them to the forefront, dealing with them rather than glamorizing them.  It took a long time for me to be pleased with the results, and I hope you’ll love them, too.)

Okay, okay.  The cover, by the brilliant Melody Fender:

Right?!  Melody really outdid herself this time.  This might be my favorite cover yet.

Here’s the cover copy for the book.  It’ll be out sometime near the end of August.  I will keep you posted.

Squee!

Sixteen-year-old April is trapped behind the blinds in her apartment, beholden to the schedule of the daily blood deliveries from the local Red Cross syndicate, waiting for Vance—well-respected director of the local hospital by day, vampire lord by night—to finally descend on her and finish turning her unlife into a living hell. From the day he raped her, infecting her with the STD that turned her into a vampire, he’s been watching her, stalking her, trying to make her his, body and soul.

Until the day April seizes the opportunity to choose her own course.  Now on the run in the California desert, April must find the will not only to survive, but to fight back.

Yes, you can still make a difference

[Posted this on Facebook this week, but wanted to widen its reach.]

I, like many people, have been disturbed by the political happenings of the last week. If you are happy with the way things are going, yay! But this post is not for you.

I have also been disturbed by a sentiment I have seen floating around the Internet that the vote is over, so we all have to suck it up and deal with it. This is not true. In America, we don’t vote in a dictator. Our political system is designed to encourage political participation all year, every year. This is what free speech is all about. If you have a problem with what’s happening, you have every right to participate in political speech to prevent it from happening, or continuing. Our system was built by people who believed we had not only the right to do so, but the moral obligation.

While I’ve known this academically, it’s not until the recent events that I realized it’s true, right now, for me, in real life, and my actions should reflect that. For me it’s not a partisan issue. I strongly opposed the last Republican president, but I didn’t feel the need to protest because I always believed that our president was acting in good faith, even though I disagreed with him.

I no longer believe that our president is acting in good faith. I remember now that as an American I have privileges, rights, and obligations. So I’ve been re-educating myself about political speech. If you, like me, want to claim your right to participate in our political process, here are some historically effective and appropriate means of political speech:

You can attend protests. You can participate in strikes. You can tell people what you believe.  You can give money to organizations that oppose lawmakers or that offer services.  You can talk to your representatives about what you see happening and what you hope they will do about it.

Yes, these things really help. You don’t have to agree with me (or anyone) about what needs to be done. You can raise your own voice for any purpose you choose. That’s how we do things in America, and we need to exercise the rights we have if we want to keep them.

I was super intimidated about what to do and where to start. One tool I found useful is thesixtyfive.org, which is a progressive website that tracks what issues are being voted on by your representatives in the immediate future. It will tell you who your representatives are and give you their Washington phone numbers. Another website you might try is 5calls.org; they list different issues and different suggested scripts.

These websites have a progressive agenda. I don’t agree with all of it. You may not agree with any of it. You can also read the news, especially from trusted news sources.  You can fact check the news you consume.  You can read something inflammatory and ask yourself, is that true?  And the do research to discover if it is before you share.  You can look on government websites to find out what’s being voted on this week.  You can Google your representatives.  If their Washington mailboxes are full, you can call their state numbers and fill those boxes, too.

You can also give money to organizations that fight on either side of a given issue.  You can also give money to organizations that serve important purposes and can help feel the gap when the government cuts off important services.  You can also give money to organizations to help fill the gap when the government defunds them.

You can also encourage others to call their representatives.  You can share what you know about how our government works.  When you see political posts on social media, you can encourage those who are upset to direct their complaints also to lawmakers and leaders who can make a difference.

But if you disagree, please do something. Or at least, for goodness’s sake , remember that you can.

A Million Shadows is finally here!

Today I am happy to announce that A Million Shadows, sequel to A Thousand Faces is finally available on Kindle and in print.

A lot of people have been waiting for a sequel. This is the number one writing question I’ve been asked over the last year. A Thousand Faces is the first in a trilogy, and I actually had the first drafts of all three books written before publishing the first.

So why did it take over a year to get this one out? Was I sitting on it and resting on my laurels?

Um, no. Here’s the thing. First drafts are bad. They need a lot of work. And over the last year this book has given me lots of fits. If you asked me when it would be ready, I probably told you it would be published as soon as I could get all the suck out. Not all books are equally easy to write, and this one was hard. And that’s why I’m so happy to say, I did it! The book is done! The book is awesome! The book is ready for you to read!

And as for me? I’ll be over here revising number three.

Here’s the cover! If you haven’t read A Thousand Faces yet, that’s available too!

Everything’s Fine is free today.

I don’t want to talk about politics.  But I do find myself wondering what I can do to speak out against the acceptance and minimizing of sexual assault and misogyny.  This is what I can think of to do: I’ve made my book, Everything’s Fine, free for the next five days.  

I’d love it if you’d read it.  I’d love it if you’d share the link around.  This is all I can do with my one small voice.  It doesn’t feel like enough, but it feels better than doing nothing.

It occurred to me that some people might not want to read anything heavy this week, so I’ve also marked my summer romance, Boyless, down to 99 cents starting tomorrow, for a week.  And while the official launch is waiting on the print to be ready (probably sometime next week), if you’re looking for my sequel to A Thousand Faces, the e-book is already up on Amazon.

But really, I don’t care if you buy my books.  Read this one for free.  It’s the only thing I can think of to do.

 

 

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