Enlighten and Introvert and Challenge

enlighten_56Enlighten. Or, inform, apprise, advise, acquaint, familiarize, instruct, to understand, disclose, shed light. All things that a writer needs to do. As any human being should do.  But as a writer, as a published author, in this age it is more important than ever to continue to be informed and “enlighten” ourselves in many areas.

Introvert. That’s me too. I’m not good on the public connection thing.  And this world of social media is truly a challenge for me. I’m really not a social kind of person, but as a reasonably intelligent person, I understand the need to engage. As well as familiarize, and I have to accept the challenge of engaging more directly. I know these things to be true. But it certainly doesn’t make things easy.

This is a very complicated world, and it certainly isn’t enough to just write the story and find a publisher these days. Because of the reduction in earnings and the loss of my publishers to the ever-changing technological advancements, big business, and ease of publishing these days, it’s become more important than ever to become familiar with all the facets of this publishing world, and the world at large. I have to learn many new things, and some of the programs can be damned complicated to learn. But the reality is, we never stop learning, from birth to death. When we stop trying to engage and understand, that is a death in itself, I think.

It’s call the narrow-the-focus, one-step-at-at-a-time progression. Take Adobe. Learning Photoshop and creating book covers and marketing banners and such is an ongoing challenge for me. Formatting ebooks and paperbacks using Word or Adobe InDesign. We aren’t evening going to the audio book thing for the moment. As I said, one-step-at-a-time.

Thank goodness for some of the educational channels on YouTube, and how-tos at Adobe and Microsoft. And Google. Most times I get caught with something I can’t figure out, I can Google it, and it gets me to the answer I need. Because I sure can’t afford to hire out everything, not at the pay rate for today’s indie authors and the noise in a very global marketplace.

It’s not easy, but being enlightened is necessary in order to continue to write. Luckily, I enjoy taking photographs as well, so a lot of the backgrounds in my book covers are created from photographs I’ve taken.

And this is where my bullet journal also comes in handy. Narrowing focus, that challenge – what one particular challenge, or goal, that’s been niggling at me, do I want to face today? Only that one. Figure that out, then I can move on to the next. Because if I go to broad, the summons blockage, freezing in place, and ultimately procrastination and putting everything off to another day, which likely will never come.

Getting more than 100 stories back out into the marketplace after having rights returned to me from publishers, has been, and continues to be a daunting prospect. And to write new stories, and to work at independent contracting work not related to writing in order to pay bills, is quite the juggle of time.

But I’m not a giver-upper. I make mistakes along the way, I learn or become more enlightened from those mistake, and hopefully improve what I’m doing because of that. I can’t be afraid to keep going. I can’t remain stagnant. I will persevere.

Making My Creative Day Surmountable

Surmountable and Individualistic

Dizzy. I feel dizzy. Yes, I know. In this day and age it’s a real trial to stay on task and not be distracted by the hundreds of other things that are on your plate. Where is a moment t catch my breath? I wake up at about 5:30AM and my day doesn’t end until around 9 PM, if I’m lucky. It’s crazy.

The Basic Supply List To Sort Myself Out:

  • bullet journal (because I can design and customize my own layout and because I’m a visual kind of gal. And I need reasons to buy all the cool journals I like to use.
  • Sticky notes (the program on the computer, and the physical form of little colorful squares of paper. Because I simply have to clear my head. Too many characters, too many to-do lists. I simply must get the business stuff out of my head. Paper does the trick because I only have so much computer screen to work with. And filing it into a spreadsheet puts it out of sight, out of mind. And again, only so much room on the computer’s desktop. And, frankly, I’d rather have a cluttered physical desktop, than a computer screen desktop. It’s a thing with me.
  • My vintage fountain pen, and I found a turquoise V5 Pilot pen that works for me, too. I use peacock-colored ink in my fountain pen. It’s a fun color to work with.
  • Outlook for email and some of my longer-term deadlines.

surmountable_19Having a lot of balls to juggle each and every day really takes some determination. A mixture of contract work having nothing to do with writing, photography, graphic design of banners and covers, writing, outlining, editing, proofing, brainstorming, and on and on. I have a mix of tasks I need to accomplish in any given day.

I am a list writer. My desk is covered in handwritten lists that eventually get transferred somewhere else. Excel spreadsheets are something I only use for part of what I need to keep track of, such as books published, price, length, etc., on that end. To-do lists I tend to keep on my desk as constant reminders. The ideal schedule I’d like to strive for is posted on my wall. The visual of the schedule can help rein me in if I get too far off the mark.

There are days when I look at what I would like to accomplish, and the amount of time in any given day that I have in order to accomplish, so the to-do list and the schedule posted are critical to being productive.

Marketing is a part of the plan and finding time on most days to do that, again takes times to map out. Fitting time in to write, to create, to promote, to read, to research, and the many bits and pieces that come along with that often makes me dizzy and I can freeze in place. Particularly because that is just one part of what I need to balance in any given day. Visualizing the to-do list the night before can help with that. Because then I can wake up the next morning with a clearer plan to approach the day.

I have about 20 slips of paper on my desk right now with various notes I’ve made through the week on tags/hashtags for various things I’m looking to promote. I have several title ideas for new stories. I have a list of books that are on Kindle Unlimited and dates those end, I have a Christmas grocery shopping list that I keep adding to. I’ll be sorting these out this weekend and transferring the information to various Excel spreadsheets, my bullet journal, my calendar sheets that are split into categories of things that need to be accomplished throughout a month.

Oh, yes, the calendar. I have come to the conclusion I can’t use just one calendar; it gets far too cluttered. I’ve split things up to more manageable pieces to help focus. Too much on one calendar makes everything a blur and feels very overwhelming to me. I generally don’t use my online calendar to keep track of short-term goals, maybe because I’m a tactile, hands-on kind of gal. That’s more for reminders of birthdays, anniversaries, yearly events and such. And I like shuffling – cards, paper, whatever, because shuffling in and of itself is a form of reminder or nudge for me. And I do like to compartmentalize things.

My day is surmountable though it doesn’t seem like it at times. Perhaps to someone a little more structured and straightforward it looks totally convoluted. But, it works for me.

Books Released Tracker. I mean, really, don’t I stare at a computer screen for enough hours in the day? I need to break it up. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. And again, I like buying journals and using them for a variety of different things. And it gives purpose to a journal buying binge. Because I have so many stories available and promotion I need to do for those stories (and yes, I’ve tried using Excel, but it didn’t work for me as well), I’ve taken to using a separate journal book and I have it set up somewhat like a bullet journal with an index at the front, and each book has a page with details on where and when I promote it, so I’m not duplicating the same information on the same social media sites too closely together. Could I use an Excel spreadsheet for this? Sure. But I don’t. Lots of reasons, but I just don’t. Anyway. In the journal  I can see when I posted excerpts on my blog, Facebook promotions, Instagram images, etc., for that book at a glance. It’s working for me.

img_0923Then there’s my Daily Deeds book that I made, tailored for me. Because I like to create things, and I like writing things down so I can remember what I did. It will show me what groups I’ve posted to specifically in a drill down, what I have accomplished on a given day such as free units offered, book editing completed, formatting accomplished, etc.  Daily Deeds is basically a tracker with details of what I’m doing, and details such as posting on Facebook, I’ll list the exact groups I post to, so I don’t repeat it and I can look back and review that list before posting something again. Or it might detail something that wasn’t on the to-do list, but did get accomplished out of order, or because it suddenly become urgent to get it done.

I will say the holidays throw a wrench into the mix and stretches my daily management abilities to the max.

Health must factor into the fray. I find the best thing for me to do since I’m at my desk  most of the day to work is I do a mix of 45 minutes at the computer, 15 minutes away, even if it’s just walking to the other end of the house, or doing little 15-minute chores that take me away from the computer.  Two days a week I’m out in nature, walking, hiking, photographing. And these two days are what can make the rest of the week surmountable. I can clear my head, in the quiet, I let my mind wander, I clear my head, and I am rejuvenated once again to return to task.

So I take control, I make it surmountable, I individualize for me, I may get repetitive, but for me, that’s sometimes necessary – for my personality, for the ways in which I can accomplish. That’s really the bottom line – to accomplish. I have to make my life work for me. I will prevail, and will use whatever it takes to do that.

Feel the Fear

susanjeffers_feelthefear

Fear, not in destroying it, but acknowledging it, and accepting it as a part of my life. Claiming it and saying, “OK, we have to live together. It’s time to figure how how to do that.” Not a battle, not a war; let’s call it an uneasy alliance. And exciting things are often uneasy experiences. Growing isn’t painless.

A new book (to me) I just started reading. “Feel the Fear And Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers, Ph.D. Her Truth No. 1. I guess sometimes we spend so much time fighting fear, not just in writing, but on so many different levels. We call it different things, like procrastination because we have other things to do, we get sidetracked. Self-protection. Or it’s just plain too hard. I have all sorts of reasons sometimes. Second-guessing myself tends to be a constant.

One thing I know is that when I’m writing a story, and I get to a section and I go back and forth in my mind and I say – because I talk to myself a lot, “I can’t write this or that, because it’s just too far out there,” that’s fear trying to override where my muse wants to take me. And once I’ve written that passage or that scene, that rush of adrenaline bursts inside. That scary moment, that moment when I think I’m crazy for taking chances, but also says, this is authentic, this isn’t about acceptable, it’s not about all the rules, all the political correctness, it’s about flying free. This is raw, this is what I want to write. But there is fear, and far from ever going away, or getting past it, I embrace the fear because it means I’m pushing myself to challenge boundaries, to challenge myself. I guess the day my writing doesn’t scare the crap out of me, I’m done. So, the one thing I need to do is recognize it, embrace it, and keep on moving.

 

Logistics and World Building – Captivity

Can’t draw, not even a straight line. Nope. Love this digital age. Sometimes I like to visual parts of the world I create, on paper, and not just in my head. It helps to know if someone is moving in a southerly or northerly direction, as it does to know the environment my characters must contend with.

In Captivity, for the location of Lord Sarratin’s compound, I used a desert environment. In Chapter One –  The Expectations of an Intimate Servant, we get a glimpse of not only Orion’s past life and previous environment, but also a sense of the desert enviroment that now surrounds him, and the contrast of the two environments. His world has completely changed.

Once a savage creature of the wild, without a name, without a home. Untamed, untutored. Uncivilized.

Beautiful women had gifted him with presents so that he would breed with them. He’d had no desire for civilization or its rules. His needs had been simple. He’d nested in the thick jungle that surrounded Bendar City, slept when he wanted, ate when he was hungry, and bred when he desired. Orphaned as a babe, he’d had no name—the ones who knew of his existence called him wild thing. There was no other on the planet exactly like him.

And that had been his downfall.

Lord Adolpho Serratin, high master of the Kalamadur Oasis compound located in the middle of the deadly black desert, was now Orion’s master, with the power of life and death over his slaves, his possessions. He also held the coveted position of Planet Mediator. He was a powerful man of untold wealth, with an army to secure his province. No one escaped Kalamadur—not without death as the consequence, in one way or the other. Either they were claimed by the black desert with its hidden traps and monsters, or excruciating death at the hands of Lord Serratin if they were tracked and recovered. One was simply slower and more painful than the other.

The erotic flash fiction prequel, “Wild Thing,” can be read for free on my website.

The map. To visualize the layout of the compound, since at the time I did not own a cartography or mapping program, I used my WordPerfect program to create a sense of the basics of the compound. There were the usual questions, which also helped to draw out character personality and traits. Where would Lord Serratin house his collection of creatures? What sort of garden might he have? Thus, I arrived at this description for the desert compound, taken from Chapter Five – The Aviary.

“Come with me,” Lord Serratin said. Orion followed the master out of the private suite and into a corridor. Days before, the birdman had been escorted by Kasheesh, the Menagerie Senticle, on a tour of the general layout of the compound. The house itself seemed more like an octopus, with corridors snaking out from a center court. The glass aviary, or conservatory, was a sparkling hexagon shining at the heart of the compound, but Orion had not been allowed inside the room.

Lord Serratin’s private suite of rooms was located in the northeast quadrant of the strange building. The upper norpromo_map2thwest quadrant was a special place reserved for Lord Serratin’s living possessions with access to outside cages for undomesticated creatures. This secured quadrant was where the master kept his priceless collections—those animals and items that were rare and considered to be his special acquisitions. It was an area that was more menagerie than residence, and where a room was already prepared and reserved for Orion. Even those prized possessions who acted as servants within the master’s household inhabited rooms in the collector’s wing.

Although Orion was assigned a room, in his capacity as intimate servant to the master, he was told he would rarely use it. Instead, a pallet was available for his use in the master’s private apartments and as long as Lord Serratin was in residence that was where he would sleep.

Orion followed the master down a corridor, curious as to where he was being taken, when his master stopped at the door of the conservatory. When Lord Serratin drew a gold key from his pocket and opened the wrought iron doors, Orion’s eyes widened with surprise as he caught his first glimpse of the impressive room. It was almost as though the house had been built around a section of the oasis itself.

Thus, this rough map helped to ground me as I began to navigate the world of the Kalamadur Oasis.

This map, of course, lays out the upper floor, not what’s below the surface. Such as the room to which Kasheesh takes Orion to receive his “reminder” of place and position within the household, as evidenced in Chapter Eight – Beneath Master’s Firm Hand.

“You’re to come with me, slave,” Kasheesh said as he attached the leash to Orion’s chest chain and roughly tugged him forward.

Orion glared at him. “Where are we going?” He tried to stand his ground, but the leash pulled the rings through his tits and unwillingly he followed the senticle out into the corridor. He was surprised when Kasheesh turned and walked past the dining rooms, heading to the back corridor that led to the kitchens contained in the separate building at the southwest corner of the compound.

“You’ll see soon enough. It’s about time Master took you in hand.” Kasheesh increased his pace and Orion was required to trot to keep up with Kasheesh’s long, quick stride rather than have the rings torn from his nipples.

Kasheesh stopped at a door in the back hallway. He pulled a heavy key ring from his belt and inserted an iron key from the assortment on the ring into the lock. The door squeaked when Kasheesh opened it.

Orion felt the first fingers of misgiving trace along his spine. He’d heard gossip from others that there was a dungeon located below ground. Could that be where Kasheesh was taking him?

“Wait,” he said, trying to halt Kasheesh’s progress toward a darkened set of descending stone steps. “Why are we going here?”

Kasheesh turned to look at him, a hard smile on his lips. “Master’s orders, spoiled boy. Time to learn your place.” He tugged on the leash and Orion had no choice but to follow him down the dangerous steps that ended in a cold, dimly lit corridor.

Torches flared along the tunnel. He heard the keys jangling at Kasheesh’s waist. A steady echo in the murky environment. They walked for about ten minutes, taking twists and turns until Orion had no idea where he was. He shivered in the clinging moist cold air. The musty smell filled his senses.

Kasheesh stopped at a thick iron door, unlocked it, and led Orion inside. Orion’s eyes widened when he saw the interior. Why had Lord Serratin wanted him brought here?

There was a table with implements laid out on it. Whips and paddles of numerous varieties. Large iron rings were embedded into the stone facade and into the stone floor. There was a barred cage at one end of the room.

“What is this place?” A tremor passed through Orion.

More about Kasheesh and envisioning characters…later.

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