Managing my expectations

I came off my five-day writing residency at the Weymouth Center for Arts and Humanities full of hope. I was in that creative head space and it was amazing. I was convinced I would have a draft of book two completed by June 11. Well, June 11 came and went, and that draft did not happen.

This blog post was started while during my Weymouth stay. Since that time, we had a family medical emergency that took my husband to Syracuse, N.Y. for three weeks of June. I had a manuscript to edit (Terry Mancour’s latest, Court Wizard). And we took a long-needed family vacation to Myrtle Beach.

At some point between June and now, after an hour-long session with my therapist, I realized (and verbalized):

  • My plans are ridiculous.
  • My goals and timelines are impossible, hence “ridiculous.”
  • I need to cut myself some slack.

She reminded me that at this point in my life, writing is my outlet, not my career.

Attitude adjustment

I am learning to learn to adjust my expectations. And I am learning to cut myself some slack. I go hard with most things. Tell me it can’t be done, I do it. Challenge me, I rise to it. I don’t let things go.

One way I’m dealing with this attitude adjustment is by reading “You Are a Badass” and by putting some of author Jen Sincero’s points into practice. Where was this book in my high school years? Anyway, it’s been helpful to me as I embrace this new challenge of managing my shit.

I want to write every day. But that became: I must write for two hours a day, which was strong advice from Kevin Hearne (he writes the Iron Druid Chronicles, an amazing urban fantasy series).

At this point, two hours a night is not doable. So I shot for 30 minutes a night for the first week (the same first week my husband was away), but I was too worn out after working, working out and being a single parent to an active kid, anxious dog and deaf cat. I was pissed at myself, but sleep was more critical.

In honesty, I struggled with writing at Weymouth. I couldn’t sit still long enough. I had to fidget. I used a notebook to avoid any Internet-related temptations (yeah, Facebook, which is now off my phone). And I realize now that I need to work my way up to two hours (or longer) of writing time.

Writing is similar to running. Go with me here. I don’t mind running for two-plus hours. I’m training for a full marathon and ultra (anything above 26.2 miles). Long runs are going to be part of the process. But I didn’t start out at two-hour runs; I trained to get there.

Does running cut into writing time? An author friend says it does, that the time spent running should be used for writing. I need that time away from writing to become a stronger writer; a more-rounded person; a happier mommy and wife; and to realize a goal set long before I wrote my first or second novels.

Running gives me time to balance my mental spaces. I can let the characters “out” and free up my frustrations. I get the endorphins, too. If I’ve hit a story snag, running helps me sort and maybe solve it. I am able to work through plot lines, actions and reactions.

I go back to Weymouth in December. Here’s my current goal list for that visit, but it’s phrased as “I hope to” instead of the more concrete “I will.” I hope to:

  • Complete book two of the Rebekah Keith Chronicles
  • Be a comfortable writer.
  • Be up to two hours of writing a night.
  • Begin book three draft.

For now, my goals involve getting this blog current, with a post a week, and completing my ultra on Sept. 24 at Hinson Lake. I’m relying on the editorial calendar I created at Weymouth in May and the Zen Labs Marathon Trainer app ($9.99 on Google Play).

How do you manage or adjust your expectations and goals? Let me know. Tweet me @emilydbharris or drop a comment.


Tech fail kinda day

Today I ran through the new neighborhood. My objective: Scope out a 10-mile loop for my upcoming shadow Tar Heel 10-Miler. Sounds good, right? (Unless you’re not a runner. If you’re not a runner, it probably sounds nuts).

I left the house, Galaxy strapped to my arm and no headphones in my ears (to be safe). I make it three-quarters of a mile into the run/walk interval (we have HILLS in the new ‘hood, like big-mother hills), and I realize I’m wearing the wrong shoes. I was wearing my Brooks P4s, not my Hoka Bondis. I always run on the road in my Hokas. OK, not a prob, I’ll do more of the slower run, I thought. Both have the same drop. I also mentally cursed the stupid iHome arm band because it is ripped and scratchy on my arm.

Then the tunes drop. No Rhapsody. And because I had updated the Galaxy, my music  was magically deleted from the device and my SD card (insert swearing). I don’t know about you, but music makes running feel less like a chore. Well, good music makes it fun.

And then the Garmin died. This is my second Garmin. Second death. It’s a great watch for telling time. Period.

I had two choices: enjoy the natural sounds and run, or go home pissed off. I went with No. 1. As I ran around the pond, I heard the Canada geese hiss their displeasure at my proximity to their grazing. I heard the grind and clank of a riding lawnmower, the chirps of  birds, the clank of a dog’s tags as he barked in what I hope was a greeting, and the planes roaring overhead. It wasn’t terrible. But it made me appreciate my music.

Licking my wounds

“Avalon’s Choice” was hot and trending but didn’t get the nibble for Scout publication.

Here’s what I learned:

  • It’s OK
  • I need a better marketing plan (or a marketing plan)
  • How to dominate MS Word’s Table of Contents feature to create a Kindle-friendly ToC
  • How do strip out and reformat MS Word for Kindle
  • And that I still need a marketing plan

I launched the book in a moment of absolute bliss (because I made MS Word my B!) last week. And I was giddy. I did it. I was a published author. But I neglected the marketing side of the plan. So I’m working on that next. Maybe not tonight, though. It’s been a long day of workouts, work, driving and being a mom.

So, all you bloggers out there, how do you manage your professional and person lives and your writing? I’d love to hear from you.


The Waiting Game

My first Kindle Scout campaign is over. All I know is that “Avalon’s Choice” was “hot.” However, on that last day, I was able to view the traffic (or page views) and I’m not sure how “hot” is judged. The views didn’t give me actual numbers, just traffic.

So, I hope I did well enough to land a Kindle deal, but if I didn’t, I’ll launch the book in “normal” Kindle.

In the meantime, my department is up for reaccreditation (the visit is this week). And I’ll keep my eye on the weather … snow storm of doom? Nah. I just want to sled.

What do you do to pass your time when you’re waiting?

My son is not very good at the art of patience. He’s almost 6 and he is happy that his Playskool Heroes Tie Fighter arrived, finally, today.  The irritating part of the story: I tried to buy it in person at Target. I checked to verify that it was in stock in local (near my office) stores. The site listed it as “not available” at these stores, so I hit up Then I wound up at a local Target and the Tie Fighter was on the shelf. Grrrrr. Instant gratification foiled. I didn’t tell him Target had it (because I didn’t want two Tie Fighters). Instead we talked about the excitement of getting a package.

I plan to stay busy while I wait for the contest-related email. Maybe I’ll delve into the James Patterson Masters Class. I’ve signed up for it and I’m excited about learning how to outline a book (instead of writing by the seat of my pants). But I know I need to get through this week’s work-related tasks first. My hubs has agreed to help me book writing time in the evenings – after we get our son to bed. The goal for now: 500 words a night and build up to an hour a night. I figure if I can make time to train for half and full marathons, I can write an hour a night. Right?

I hope to branch out into short stories, too. I’d love to tie these into the Rebekah Keith Chronicles. The first short, “Family Duty,” is available on Kindle (free or 99 cents, depending on your options).

“Family Duty” introduces readers to Clan Keith and gives background on Rebekah’s childhood, but focuses on James’ history with the Order.

I’m working on another non-Order related short, too. We’ll see where it takes me. My goal is to write the story that’s meant to be told, not to write the story I think will sell.

Boy is my face red

So today is actually the final day in my Kindle Scout campaign.
Please give this tired mommy-writer a break and nominate “Avalon’s Choice.”

Well played, Kindle. Your “1 day left” had me thinking yesterday was it, but it’s today, so here’s a nifty little thought: I didn’t win the Powerball last night. That must mean I’m destined for Amazon gold, right?

This morning, I stumbled upon an article about the Kindle Scout contest. You can read it here. The author and the commenters made good points about the writer’s responsibility, and in light of my red face, let me apologize for misleading cyberspace about my nomination deadline. The bulk of the article and comments focus on if Kindle does/doesn’t edit manuscripts for contest winners. The article was written with Kindle Scout launched in 2015, hence the subterfuge.

My key points:

  • Writers should edit the material
  • Writers should not assume Kindle will edit the material

It turns out Kindle does provide (outsourced) editing for all selected books, but honestly, if your name is attached to the book, don’t you want your best work out there? I mean, are you gonna half-arse it, shrug your shoulders and say, “It’s fine.”

Kindle does ask/encourage that authors submitting to Scout have manuscripts professionally edited. Fortunately, I had three editors and a beta group read mine. Why? It’s the smart thing to do.

You owe it to yourself, your readers, literary agents, your dog, whoever, to produce the best possible work for submission.

I’m a former newspaper copy editor. It was my job (and that of the copy desk) to make sure copy (stories, photo captions, headlines, display type, words, graphics, content, and the dreaded math) was clean. Clean, as in error-free, easy to read and understand, logical. If we didn’t understand something, we knew readers might not, either.

If mistakes get into print, readers (end-users) notice. And then they question your credibility. So get it right (yeah, me, too). Say, where’s the spell-check key on WordPress?

Last day to nominate ‘Avalon’s Choice’

Today is the final day to nominate my novel, “Avalon’s Choice,PROJECT_COVER_IMAGE_1._SX800_” in the Kindle Scout contest on Avalon. It’s currently “HOT” and that’s so freaking cool!

What have I learned?

Use social media to your advantage: it’s worth the time invested (as long as you don’t get sucked into the rabbit holes). I used Hootsuite to post to Twitter and Facebook but I wish I had personalized the messages a bit.

Marketing is worth this writer’s time. It’s not super difficult, but it helps to put something out every day or a few times a day. I wish I had thought to print out glossy color post cards with a shorter URL and the book cover – front/back design type thing. But I know for next time!

Blog. I’m a writer and I should’ve done more writing about both my book and my craft. Also, I can post directly to Facebook and Twitter from my WordPress blog (bonus).

I should have networked with other authors, too, both on their sites and social media accounts.

Thanks for reading – and please nominate me.


Looking for a new read?

So I entered my first novel into the Kindle Scout contest over on Amazon. And I’ve been slack in promoting it here on WordPress. The lovely and talented Kourtney D. Pope, a contributor for Dare magazine, encouraged me to post this little blurb …

“Avalon’s Choice” is eligible for your nomination for another three days, so please, click on the link and pull a read. If I win, you get a copy delivered to your Kindle – free of charge.

If “Avalon’s Choice” is selected, I could receive a 5-year renewable terms/contract, earn a $1,500 advance, and a 50 percent eBook royalty rate, among other things. What does that really mean? I dunno, but it sounds cool, right?

So, I would appreciate your nomination for “Avalon’s Choice.” Thanks for reading.

Past, meet present

My past caught up to me one June morning – on the beach. She was a younger, paler version of myself and probably half my age. Her hair was red to my strawberry blond. She ran by in a similar-to-mine green Marshall T and a pair of black Nike running shorts.
She was running to my jog, her feet churning sand while mine were slogging it. And that’s ok. I am cool with it.
I pegged her at 21 to 23.  When I was her age, running on the beach would not have been on my day’s agenda (more like drinking and surfing). I am ok with that, too.
I am who I am. I was nursing a foot injury (still am, as I finish this post while I am hooked to the Tens unit at Select PT). Injuries are no fun. But injuries offer much-needed opportunities for reat, healing, reflection, and  goal reassessment.
I am learning to slow down, to take time, and to reconnect with who I am as a runner. And I am most definitely ok with that.

Half-Marathon? No problem!

I met Sean Astin, the actor known for his roles in “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings,” at the coffee truck shortly before we ran (not together) the Tobacco Road Half-Marathon on March 15, 2015.


Laurie Matecki, Sean Astin and I wait for the race to start. Matecki ran the full marathon.

I told him this was my first half. He asked if I had a plan. I said, “To not die.”
He gave a kind-hearted chuckle and promised me I wouldn’t die. He offered the disclaimer that he isn’t God, but he knew I would be OK.
I fell on that run at mile 11. A run-walker helped me up, encouraging me to keep going. I did. I finished the run at 2:48, according to my Garmin.
I hit every aid station, too. I wasn’t concerned about my time. Any time would be a PR. This was a first:

  • First for the distance
  • First for the course
  • First with a new group of runners
  • First time car-pooling to a race
  • First race with shuttles
  • First time meeting a Goonie
  • First time not stressing about a race
  • First time thinking “I’m running my run, my race.”

It was awesome. And my “plan” worked. Next up, the Brick City SpringFest 10k in April and a half in May.

Runner Girl

I think I have become a “real” runner.
I run in the rain and cold, and I’ve past the point of “holy shit, this is nuts.”
I look forward to the run (though maybe not in the rain).
I push myself farther than I thought possible.10432472_10205900331331067_5911188170193067757_n

On Dec. 26, my tribe (Brick City Running Tribe, Sanford, NC, Facebook page), held a WTF? Boxing Day Madness run. Show up and log loops around the city’s Kiwanis Park Trail (roughly 1.05 mile per loop, which started at a picnic shelter). Sure, why not?

My plan: put the wee lad in his Bob stroller (bought used, because hello budget) and get 5 loops, which is what I did in 2013. The boy wanted to run, too. So he did loop 1 with me (new slow time of …18:09). Then he was tired. So out came the stroller … at loop 4, I said, “Let’s run double your age.” At loop 8, I said, “Let’s the the Tar Heel 10-Miler.” At loop 10, I said, “Let’s run a half-marathon.” And we did. I let him run loop 10 with me.

For a winging-it plan (not a good way to log 13 loops, btw), I am pleased. My time sucked and I forgot my Garmin and to turn off my MapMyRun app (Connor was watching TMNT on my phone.

The BCRT folks set it up like this: You show up and write your name on an index card, leave the card on the picnic table and put an orange on it to hold it down. Every time you complete a loop (start/finish at the shelter), you draw a line … Easy. And there was food at the shelter … And Drip Drop (lemon flavor is good). One of their ambassadors is the BCRT go-to leader dude, Tim P. Anyway, my fellow tribers were super supportive, calling out things like “Superwoman” and “Beast momma” and saying I was awesome. And I needed to hear that … 🙂 Made the run even better.

So yeah, I’m a runner girl. You try pushing a 45-pound stroller containing a 38-pound kid up a hilly dirt trail for 13.65 miles … I’m not fast, but I got this.