A wonderful thing happened while I was distracted.

Controlled Descent has been chosen as a semi-finalist in a statewide indie author contest. I got an email a week or so ago telling me this, buuuuuut…the message didn’t sink in until yesterday.

I can think of no better example than this to illustrate how thoroughly my mind has been consumed by the million details of moving into a new house & preparing our old house for listing.  Just between you, me, and the lamp post, I’m pretty surprised it only took me a week to figure it out.  Now that I have connected all the dots, I’m giddy. 


How could I not catch that the first time around? Glad you asked. Funny story.  I read the email, thought, “Cool, they’ve picked semi-finalists,” and  scrolled onward to the rest of the umpty-zillion house-related emails & messages awaiting my attention after my return from Dragon Con.

I’ve entered The Soon To Be Famous Illinois Author Project every year since I first heard about it, so update emails are nothing new or rare. I filed this year’s entry way back in the spring, long before House Adventure began, and carried on with life. It’s a librarian-focused, library-centered contest, so of course I participate, but when I submit anything, I manage my expectations hard.

And I’ve been a wee bit distracted.

Things didn’t click even when I noticed print sales for Controlled Descent later in the week. I shrugged, thought, “Cool, go, l’il book, go!” and returned my attention to the to-do lists made of other to-do lists full of post-moving purchases & real estate listing items that still need to be completed.

It took until yesterday for the reality to belatedly hit me in a big, glittery gob of excitement.

See, I got a Google Alert about a newspaper article (Chicago Daily Herald) mentioning the semi-finalists by name & book title. And there it was.

So. Let me say this again, but WITH HAPPY DANCING AND EXCLAIMING IN SHOUTYCAPS, while throwing virtual celebration glitter all over the place:



Here’s the STBFIAP blog entry  if you like your news straight from the source: 2019 semi-finalist list

As a bonus,  have a couple of pics of today’s minor New House project: putting up pretty window clings. (the major project is gas fireplace installation, but I’m not doing that. Well-trained, highly competent professionals (Oskar & Robert from Hearth & Home) are in charge of that project. Anyway. PICS!

Dining room. These also block UV & have a wee bit of insulating value. YAY.
In my new nest.  These are just prism-y fun & privacy making. 


Now ‘scuse me, I gotta go check off a bunch of to-dos from yesterday. (I painted shutters, repaired a cabinet, and returned a cable modem, among other fun activities. If anyone wondered) …and then have a cup of tea and put up more pretty window decorations. Because HOUSE.

But I’ll do a little more validation happy-dancing while I work.

Until later!





Tortoises & Hares

The tortoise & hare fable makes a good illustration of style differences between writers. I’ve ranted on word counts and productivity worship enough times that I don’t need to do it again. But it’s awfully satisfying to get the frustration off my chest. So I’m going at it today. Again.

It’s okay to move along. I know, I’m stomping on a crowd favorite. I might as well kick a puppy. But I wouldn’t do that.

I am a tortoise when it comes to writing long works, especially fiction. The concept of drafting fast just to be done so I can go back and re-write the whole draft mades me ill at heart. I despise the pressure of having a measuring tool chasing me along, breathing down my neck, turning every creative effort into a competitive event. More! Faster! Finish line! Eyes on the PRIZE!


It works for many. I do not dismiss the value of being a hare. But. But. BUT. I cannot be one, and I have no desire to work against my essential nature for the sake of fitting in. (There’s a fable about  that topic too. It doesn’t end well.)

I am going to continue to toddle along at my slow unsteady way (ever watched a tortoise walk? They always appear one mis-step away from disaster, and yet they seldom actually tip over.) and I will be done when I am done.

Remember who won the race in that tortoise & hare fable? Yeah. I think I will do okay.

In the long run.

Time: 10:35
Tea: Irish Breakfast
Steeped: 6 min

Pushing Limits & Nurturing Growth

Dirty Harry said, “A man’s got to know his limitations,” but what does that mean?

For me, it means this: unknown limits can’t be tested. The only way to know what I can do is to do it. The psychological comfort zone never holds me for long. I seek out activities that make me uncomfortable, skating the edge between personal growth and emotional damage. On the physical side, I can’t stop working or playing until I’m too exhausted to continue. It’s who I am.

 For those unfamiliar with the concepts of comfort, stretch and panic zones, and their significance, here’s a little graphic. Humans learn best when we get out of the comfort zone, when we’re stressed enough to stimulate new brain connections. We stretch and grow. When people are hit with too much, too fast, however,  it pushes us out into the red danger zone, where fear erases connections and sears the brain with stress hormones.

  Prowling the hot line between stretch and panic zones might be a mild form of adrenaline addiction or an undiagnosed bipolar issue, but reasons aside, that is where I live. The new makes me giddy with enthusiasm, and curiosity is my besetting sin.  Mastery is always my goal, and repeated failure is the route to mastery. It’s a form of competition, this constant testing of myself against myself, and I am a competitive monster right down to my toes. (See this post for examples.)

This lifestyle has consequences.  One, it creates a high level of self-awareness about my strengths and weaknesses. Two, it creates a ferocious desire to protect my few comfort zone choices, because those zones are already so small and under such constant pressure.

 In the months since I first published my books, I have learned a lot from the worldwide community of independent writers.  Self-publishing experts dispense pearls of wisdom like these:
Get yourself out there. Write letters and send out work. Do con panels. Build a database of contacts. Court fans. Be sociable. Be outgoing. Negotiate with strangers. Set up signings.  Talk up your work at every opportunity. Push, talk, connect, network. I can do those things. I am a salesman’s daughter, and I can dance the social dance so well that thousands of people would swear that I’m a shiny, happy extrovert.  I have polished skills. I can sell an image. I can sell myself.

 I can’t do it and be a writer too. There’s the rub. I realized recently that I have wandered across a line, and lurched into a molten hot danger zone. Here’s another graphic, because I’m in a picture-worth-a-thousand words mood:

I’m turning my back on any possibility of making it to the top through dogged persistence and relentless self-promotion. I need to step away from it before I do any more damage to myself.

I am a challenge addict who craves all that is difficult and untried, but I am also a deeply fragile introvert, one who needs long periods of solitude and only blossoms in emotionally inclusive spaces. If you think that dichotomy sounds odd, try living it. Balancing contradictory traits is an exhausting job, and every lurch off-center results in painful cycles of misery and self-loathing.

 When I strip off the polished shell and open up my raw heart, the demands of marketing recede so far beyond comfort that they end up in a different time zone. I know promotion isn’t easy for anyone, but there’s hard, and there’s adamantium hard. There’s stretching, and there’s being strapped to a medieval torturer’s rack. Writing is already a huge stretch out of my comfort zone,  a major undertaking I can’t safely manage alone.  I need to protect the tiny comfort zone developing beneath that growth far more than I need to develop myself as a brand.

As of today, I am sinking back into the bluish depths, writing and stretching in a limited way with the help of some few others. I’ll continue on my own unsteady schedule and present the work in my own hesitant, self-deprecating way.  I will remain unknown and unread. I’ll salve the pain of obscurity with the balm of choice.

 Call me unprofessional. Call me lazy.  I’m ready to accept the insults, if it means my soul quiets enough that I can hear the whispers of story again. Sneer away. Pity me for the cowardice of refusing to reach the biggest audience possible. Go ahead. I won’t mind. I”ll be over there in the corner, writing.

This is me, stepping away from the line, being a cat who walks by herself.