Holidays With a RailRoader

So it is one of my favorite past times every year to explain our family Christmas situation to everyone. For those with family down the street, it could be easier. But for those traveling for the holidays farther than 2 hours, it gets pretty sticky.

Railroad women are a rare animal that solo-parent roughly 80-100% of the time. We are not SINGLE, but nonetheless could very well find ourselves alone during the holidays. When my RR (railroader) and I were in the military, we were able to anticipate when we would be apart. The railroad is very different and very spontaneous.

For ease of everyone, here is a quick and easy way to share with your family and friends why you cannot accurately answer their holiday invitation:

  1. Unless we say no, the answer will be “I don’t know” consistently until about 2 hours before your event. Until that 2 hour window, it is impossible to give even a  “maybe yes” or “maybe no” as to if my spouse will be able to attend. We are just as frustrated as you might be. The reason is because…
  2. There is not a schedule. If there is a schedule, it could change at a moment’s notice and is completely out of our hands. The above mentioned 2 hours is being generous. Other circumstances nullify that 2 hour window. Bottom line is, it is a game day decision if I have to strong arm the kids by myself or if I will have help.
  3. If you are farther than one hour away, it either all of us or none of us on Christmas Day. The big kicker is that I don’t want my RR home alone, without his family on Christmas Day. Whether that is waiting for a call to go to work, coming home to an empty house, or us leaving him to go to another Christmas without him. I don’t want that.
  4. We would be happy to compromise but without set dates. I know this is nearly impossible for most people, but this is our life. As much as we love and appreciate you, our priorities our different because the RR is our livelihood.
  5. We WANT TO GO TO YOUR EVENT! But because of number one we don’t want you to count on us being there or not make enough food in case we are able to come.

 

In some cases, we can make it but it’s just us (and the kids). Please understand our spouse wishes they could spend time with you and us during this time of year (or birthday or anniversaries or anything else for that matter). It is hard on them as it is hard on us doing these things alone.

If anything, what we want for the holidays is understanding. Send us home with an extra plate of food, or be available when we are together. It is not easy, but it is especially not easy having to come up with colorful analogies to help you understand why we cannot give you a solid answer.

For more RR wife stories, you can check out these 6 Facts, The Condition of the Railroad Wife and A Snap Shot of Life on the Extra Board.

Share as needed with friends and family and have a Happy Holiday Season.

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NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month

 

I learned a little more about myself in my first stab at writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I made it 1/2 through in a matter of 1/3 of the time so there is hope that in the future, I would be able to actually do it.

I started to plan out my novel in mid October. I mapped out new characters, a new and compelling story. I kept with the trope of ordinary people with extraordinary abilities. This was 100% new. November 1st came and went and I was so focused on pitching my first book, that writing anything new took a back seat.

Then something amazing happened. I got a full request for my first book that had “series potential”. The only thing is, if she did manage to read the whole thing, she would see that this was indeed a book one of a very strong series. I couldn’t disappoint.

So on the 8th I started hard charging into book 2 of the Power Series. From there, I averaged about 4k words a day. I would constantly chase the same 5k to be caught up with the NaNo pace car so to speak. Then something else happened that stopped my brain completely. I could not focus. I struggled to get 2k words out in a day.

I was paralysed 1/2 though my very first NaNo. My family came to visit and holidays took priority over writing which changed focus when my baby was admitted to the hospital. Writing was the last thing on my mind.

But I still learned things:

  1. I COULD do it. There is no doubt that I have the ability to get words out. With this particular story, I know it so well, I can add just about any scene to it for better or worse.
  2. First drafts are by far the worst products of writing ever. I am embarrassed to have even my favorite Beta reader and closest friend read what I produced in a mad rush to write words. Horrible garbage writing. What is fun about this is that I will not have to work so hard later. Editing is easier than coming up with ideas from scratch.
  3. I learned a lot about bullet journaling. I cannot draw, but I can use a ruler and make graphs to track things. This was soooo helpful as I am a pantser (I write from the seat of my pants without any formal planning). I created a timeline of various scenes that kept me writing. Transitions between scenes are pretty rough as I have yet to master the passing of time between one paragraph and another, so sleeping is my default. This is later researched and edited to something far more entertaining and effective. All that to say, outlining in some fashion is not something I am used to, but it works for NaNo and prevents you from getting stuck. Write a scene, then move on to the next.
  4. I also found that a reward system is fun, though I rarely stuck to it. As I continue punching out this book, I think I will keep with the reward goals. Mainly because 40,000 words is an order of my favorite wine from Tennessee. (Just had an amazing idea to have my book cover on a wine label for all future book launch parties.. Um YES!!) Other rewards included NaNo swag, a coffee mug, writing in a public place, etc. I did not want everything to cost money, because I am a writer and we can potentially no longer deduct “writing expenses”. I also stuck to rewards every 10k words so that I could feel like I was actually working for it. I was producing anywhere between 1.5k to 5k words in a day. A typical novel is around 80k. 16 rewards that potentially cost money is a bit much in my opinion.
  5. Changing your writing environment helps to break a writer’s block. So incredibly true. I dropped my son off at school and sat at my neighborhood coffee shop and took notes until it was time to pick him up (1/2 day session preschool). The problem I was running into was I did not have enough scenes between the beginning and the end of my book. The end was coming dangerously close in just 20k words. I needed more subplots or a bigger main plot of the book. AND IT WORKED! I left that coffee shop with a HUGE addition to my plot and even an added theme.
  6. I truly have a solid support system. Between my husband giving me the time to writing and my friends cheering me on, to fellow authors and industry professionals that gave me advice on how to write a sequel.

 

I hear that people are scared to write books, and nervous about XYZ. The literary world is so forgiving in the developmental stages of writing. We want to see others succeed. Once it is out in the world, that is when things get sticky. You could have the ripest apple on the tree, but there is always going to be someone that does not like apples. Much is like the publishing a book.

Success for me now, having put so much work into not only my story but the logistics of marketing to agents and publishers, is not so much about the numbers (I say this now knowing I have this huge marketing plan that will require much more work). Success for me is holding my book baby in my hand or giving someone the title to search on Amazon. Success is stating my occupation as an Author when asked. It’s catching up with former colleagues and being able to tell them that I succeeded at everything I started out to do.

I really recommend doing a hobby challenge like National Novel Writing Month. Or maybe you want to try doing a smaller challenge first. ChapterBuzz.com offers a 10k in a month challenge, which I have won twice with one book. You never know until you try.

Writing: The Art of Romanticizing Life

I’ll be the first to admit that my life is, by no means, glamorous. I am in, in no way, the best at anything. I have many talents but am a master of none, as the saying goes.

But when I tell people stories of my life, they listen. Or they read, because I am a writer and all. I lived a life that was very clumsy, but for that I have stories to tell. I did not live them so that I could make a profit or for the attention. Many of the stories I have to tell about my life, I truly wish I could take back and never live through again.

But why do you even bring them up, if you wished they never happened?

I am who I am today, because of those events. Because of my mistakes. While there is a teeny bit of satisfaction from people being interested in what I have to say, I honestly want people to learn from my life.

How do you get people to listen?

As a writer, stories are told in a way that place people in the moment. I put them there with me in the emergency room in Baghdad, in the concrete shelter of a bunker in Talil, in a helicopter over Mosul, on the seas of the Persian Gulf.  They listen as if they were on the receiving end of the phone call, the bad news, the heartbreak, the fear. Things that they have felt before but claim “I can’t even begin to imagine.”

Oh, but you can. And I will help you.

Writing is taking my day, mundane and routine, giving the details of what would normally go unnoticed, and changing the perspective of the person reading (or listening. I tell a lot of stories, too).

Writers church up the details, regardless of their intent. We make things darker, bolder, sexier, more precious. We put makeup on the pig, and fool them all.

This is kind of embarrassing but I’ll admit to it:

I have a habit of commentating my life as I go through my day. It makes me more conscious of my emotions, easier to control because I imagine people are listening to my thoughts and watching me throughout my day. This exercise also helps me to search out those romantic details of my day, and explore them.

Disclaimer: By romance, I am not referring to any type of relationship with people. I am referring to the ability to make something ordinary or otherwise a footnote and showing it in a light that makes it appear desirable.

Example: I have recently resigned from my job. I will, more or less, be a stay at home mom. For those who live there, they know it’s not as exciting as it sounds. But the writer in me divulges more, because heaven forbid anyone think my life is boring or mundane. I’m quitting my job to write full time and focus on my children. My book is finally finished and I have begun seeking representation. I should be published by the summer of 2018.

See how romantic that sounds? Not once did I mention dirty dishes or poopy diapers. Scrubbing the toilet or folding an endless pile of laundry. My hope was that you would imagine me, in my business casual, typing in my home office while my children play quietly on the floor in their clean day clothes (I just laughed so hard I snorted).

So you, writer, can you “church up” your day to day? Can you paint a sexy picture of your #bedhairdontcare? Can you fool us into believing Beyonce ACTUALLY woke up like that? That is my challenge for you today. Tweet it, FaceBook it, Instagram it.

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#myromanticlife

Yeah- I’m into Fitness… Fitn’ess Crazy Schedule into 24 hours!

Geez Louis I have been a busy lady. I’ve come back to work this week after a couple stays in the hospital with my littlest little. Since September sucked so bad, I decided to change a few things. One of these things is my health. After baby number 2 and a long and drawn out Postpartum Depression, I have found myself 20 lbs overweight, and 30 lbs from where I’d like to be. Dammit.

So now I have to try fitn’ess terrible hectic schedule into 24 hours and be successful at EVERYTHING- because what’s the point of all the stress if I’m not?

Just for your peace of mind, there is a list- in order- of the things i do 4 of 5 days a week.

Get the kids to the sitter on time

Get to work on time

Leave 1/2 way through and get my son to afternoon preschool on time

Work on my book

Make 2 calls for sponsorship for the nonprofit I support

Workout

Get kid from School on time

MAYBE go to the grocery store (this is like 3 of 5 days)

Get daughter from the sitter on time

3 different dinners because heaven forbid everyone have to eat the same thing

Feed children and entertain them for 1-3 hours

Bed time for Tiny

Work on book

Bed time for son

More book? Snuggle with the mister (because he needs attention too!!)

Sleep….

Up at 5am and try again

I am constantly moving and juggling. I am hoping to make a few extra changes in the coming weeks, but until then this is my life. I am excited to not be fat anymore, though. So I have that going for me.

A few things that have helped me stay on track with my fitn’ess:

  1. Stick to a strict eating schedule. Even if it’s an off day like a weekend or a Wednesday when I work all day and son doesn’t have school. I also leave most of my eating to the afternoon because I do not like to work out after eating too much and the evening is when I snack. So if I know I have a few hundred calories of food I can eat, I don’t feel as guilty. I don’t eat after 8 because I’m usually dead tired by then.
  2. Giving myself time to get “ready” for my workout. I take about 30 minutes to drink a preworkout magic motivation potion, change my clothes, set up the TV, get my weights out and I don’t feel rushed. When I am stressed, I am completely unmotivated and feel like I can only do so much of the whole workout and I ultimately talk myself out of doing the whole thing. SO… letting myself get ready helps me.
  3. Scheduling the same time to do it! That way I know I have enough time between book and preschool pick up to get ready and do the whole work out.
  4. Friends, accountability and community. I love having people in my corner to pump me up and cheer me on while they are going through their journey as well. I’m a bit competitive so I don’t want to be the one that is slacking. I love the motivation it gives me and could not do it without you guys. (Because I know you love me and read my blogs too).

 

My goal is fitn’ess @ss into a certain dress by a certain date in January. My baby factory is closed and there is no reason for me to ever be fat ever again. Here’s to a healthier and fitter me.

 

Thank October- I’m Awake!!!

September was a horrible month for me and my house and I am thankful that it is over. I had every intention on doing amazing things in September to include pitching my book, but none of those things happened.

I had a slew of family visit me, which in itself is not a bad thing. My sister came to visit from KCMO for a weekend and then days later my husband’s entire immediate family came for my daughter’s first birthday. My dad and his family made it to her celebration as well.

After her party, I rushed her to the emergency room. My poor little girl was admitted to the ICU right away. What my family and I assumed was just a cold, was a virus and pneumonia. She barely skirted getting a breathing tube. After a few days, she bounced back and released after 5 days. A week later, we were back, readmitted but not nearly as bad as the first time. The doctors could not determine if it was the same illness that was complicated by another on top of it, or if she simply caught the same illness again. We were discharged and things are looking up for my little miss.

I had some pretty big personal struggles going on through all of that that weighed heavy on me and my family, but have since cleared up as well. The past is the past and we plan on leaving it there.

What does October bring?

Struggles probably. Final edits. Work with the Ghost Town Writer’s Retreat which I am really excited about. Juggling work and kids. You know, more of the same.

I have quite a few blog posts actually scheduled for the month to keep everyone engaged in what’s going on. Thank you all for your support through these struggles and encouragement to meet my goals.

My hopes that your October is significantly better than last month. Even if September was not all that bad for you. Cheers!

The Mystery of the Disappearing Underpants- A Book Review

This is a middle level reader for 3rd grade and up. You can purchase this chapter book HERE.

I loved this book. It is written as the secret spy log of three neighborhood kids trying to solve multiple mysteries. They end up getting into quite a bit of trouble along the way.

This book brought me back to the days of my childhood and the radical adventures my friends and I would send ourselves on. What I really loved was the ease of reading. The author alternates narrators between each member of the spy team, and it is incredibly fun and easy to keep up with.

As an American reader, I found that sometimes I was having to reread some lines to get a better grasp of what was happening or what the narrator meant, but I would 100% encourage my son to read this to expand his knowledge of English cultures and reading within context. Nothing was far from deduction.

Nikki Young, thank you for writing such a rich adventure for the growing generations. I cannot wait until my children are old enough to devour this book as quickly as I did.

Pitch Wars Update- A Writing About Writing

“You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.” -Mary Tyler Moore

Earlier this month I submitted my very first novel to PitchWars (HERE) in hopes of snagging a mentor that will help me shape it into the master piece that I see in my mind. Well, I did not get in. Which is fine. I am actually in the majority and did not take it very hard.

The day after submitting my first ten pages for consideration, I attended a writing conference (which I wrote about HERE). I was able to tweak my in person pitch, tighten my query letter, and found some very GLARING problems within the first few pages of my work and even some throughout.

These are VICTORIES for me. They are not setbacks. I knew I had a lot of work to do, but I also know that it will be worth it to see Apparent Power within a cover and in my hands. My premise sparks interest with agents and now I have to wow them with my hardly more than mediocre writing.

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Though I am so excited about my new book, Apparent Power is my baby and I cannot wait for Valerie’s story to be available to the masses. You can preview it HERE.

So while I balance work, kids, and life, I guess it’s back to late nights in September editing and writing on my lunch break.

If you are a writer and have experienced rejection or are being hard on yourself (its a vicious cycle, we all do it) take a breath and say “I won’t learn if I don’t try. If I fail, I will know why and work to fix it.” You are in control of your emotions. You are in control of your actions. You can be defeated or you can have your beverage of choice, maybe cry a bit if that’s your thing, and then you suck it up and drive on. Your writing goal is not stupid or unrealistic. It takes a special person to keep going, and I think you’re pretty special. Good Luck!