Category Archives: Reflection

Frog Jones Year-in-Review

OK, they tell me I have a single blog post to recap one of the biggest years in my writing career.  So, here we go.

1.  January

January was actually relatively calm.  We will think of this as the quiet before the storm.

FFG Cover2.  February

February kicked off with my first time attending the Superstars Writing Seminar. Despite spending a third of the conference in bed due to altitude sickness, thereby becoming the black sheep of the seminar, I made a lot of great connections and met a lot of good people.  Also, I was introduced to this group of authors who call themselves the Fictorians–you may have heard of them.

But wait, there’s more.

February also saw the release of Book 3 of the urban fantasy series I co-author with my wife.  We launched the book live at RadCon in Pasco, Washington; the good folks at that con and the Central Washington Authors Guild helped to insure our best launch ever, putting us briefly in the top 40 list on Amazon’s Urban Fantasy category.

3.  March

March saw the release of Horseshoes, Hand Grenades, and Magic.  This is an anthology we were really happy to be a part of.  The entire anthology is filled with stories in which close is good enough.  Our story, “Some Kind of Way Out Of Here,” involves a thief who steals a number of magic wands–only to need to use their random effects in his botched escape attempt.

12998266_10154046171413080_5286021561999122271_oMarch saw us attending Norwescon, the largest of the regional conventions at which I’m a regular.  The picture’s a little fuzzy, but the bowler stands out).   In addition to being a big, awesome con that gives its authors free booze in the evenings (no joke there, just awesomeness), Norwescon is the home of the Fairwood Writers Workshop, which is a really amazing chance for me to give back to new authors in exactly the way I got my own start.

4.  April

I’m going to cheat a little bit, here; while at Norwescon we recorded the first episode of 3 Unwise Men, the comedy genre fiction podcast I record alongside two other nimrods.  Season 2 released in April, though; it was a six-episode season, beginning with the Livecast from Norwescon.

5.  May

In May, I attended Miscon as a professional.  Miscon was an amazing experience; I did dinner with Jim Butcher, drank beer with Kevin J. Anderson, and ended up in a sweet game of Fiasco with Christopher Paolini.  In addition, with the help of the Fairwood Press table, we had our greatest single day of physical book sales ever.  Possibly the most heady con experience I’ve ever had.  There was a moment at Miscon where a fan walked up to the WordFire Press table, where my wife Esther volunteered, and asked Kevin J Anderson where he could find our book.  That’s something that makes you really feel like you’ve arrived.

13415482_10208446988645564_8879850187004161903_o6. June

June is a time for getting things done.  CampCon happens in June, a small gathering of professionals in the woods surrounding Mt. Hood in Oregon.  We bring our laptops.  We place them on picnic tables.  And we throw down word count.  Esther and I finished the draft of the first novel in our new series, Black Powder Goddess.  When is it coming out?  Well, that’s up to whoever buys it.  But CampCon is an amazing experience, where the creative juices are flowing and nobody has an internet connection to distract them.  That’s the group pic we took; there’s several new authors that come, but we also have Phyllis Irene Radford, Bob Brown, Sanan Kolva, Joyce Reynolds-Ward, and Blaze and Leah from Knotted Road Press.

13516369_10206756434249727_4232598126185580488_n7.  July

In July, we did Westercon!  Westercon was the first con at which Esther and I appeared at a table featuring our own books.  We shared that table space with the great David Boop and Peter Wacks, and broke all of our sales records.  Also, the Unwise Men made an appearance at Westercon.  It was the last panel of the day for me, and you can tell that all three of the UWM were shocked to see us not only invited back to a convention, but actively advertised by that convention.

But wait there’s more.

During July, we also appeared at Capital Indie Book Con in Olympia.  We had a table here, as well, and had decent sales as well as a couple of unexpected guests.


8.  August

During August, we took deep breaths and dove headfirst into revising Black Powder Goddess.  In addition, we began drafting Graceless, book 4 in the Gift of Grace series.  Normally in August we attend Spocon, the convention which gave us our start back in 2011.  This year, Spocon took a year off after putting on Sasquan in 2015.

9.  September

Easily the best-selling anthology to date for us is the great How Beer Saved the World.  Keeping a copy of this book on the table at any given con is difficult at best, and the online sales for it have been fabulous.

In September, Esther and I were proud to be a part of the launch of the second volume of How Beer Saved the World.  Having two of these books on our table from here on our is really going to be quite something, because we cannot stop people from buying the first one.  Here’s a quick marketing tip:  if you want to sell an anthology, make it about booze.  Half the people at a convention are already thinking about it.

10.  October


The editor of our first three novels, Sue Bolich, lost her fight with cancer in early October.  Sue has been with Esther and I from the beginning of our careers, and losing her was a serious blow.  I would not be the author I am today if it were not for Sue flaying me alive at every step.  Sue, we loved you, and we are far better writers with far better books for having known you.  Nothing we do in the industry would have been possible had you not ever-so-politely laid the skin from our flesh every time we looked at you.  She was a great author and an amazing editor, and I still feel directionless in this industry without her.

11.  November

November began with the release of Dragon Writers.  a charity anthology put out by WordFire Press.  If you’re reading the Fictorians regularly, there’s fair odds you’re going to see this mentioned a lot this month.  Frank, Jace, and Kristin (and maybe some others I missed, sorry guys) appear alongside Brandon Sanderson, Jodi Lynn Nye, David Farland, and Todd McCaffery in this anthology of stories featuring (1) dragons, and (2) creativity.

In addition, Esther and I made yet another con appearance, this time at OryCon in Portland.

12. December

It is December 2nd as of this post.  Who knows what the next 24 days will bring?

That’s me for the year.  It was a huge year with our biggest releases, our most effective con appearances, and some of our best networking.  For Esther and I, 2016 is going to be looked back on as the year we started going full-bore as professional authors.



The Work/Life Imbalance

Let’s be clear.

I’m crazy.

Yup. Off my rocker. Certifiable. Nuts.balancing act

I was raised as part of the generation of women told, “you can have it all” and swallowed the line, hook and sinker.

My last year life in brief:

  • Happily (no really) married for nearly 19 years.
  • Matt and I have two amazing sons, ages 17 and 15.
  • We live on a 5 acre horse farm including two horses, a dog, three cats, a pool, woods and a creek. My dream made real in cooperation with Matt aka “The Hubby.”
  • I’ve been published, am getting ready to self-publish and am finishing an alternate history novel.
  • I’m a staff member for Superstars Writing Seminar.
  • I read slush for an online magazine.
  • I wrote a guest post for Grammar Girl’s podcast!
  • I’m a founding member of this blog.
  • I’ve owned my own law firm, and grew it to the point I had to join another firm.
  • With the help and guidance from the amazing people from EWomen Network, I’m launching a YouTube Channel about legal tips for business in May, 2016.
  • My book on business law for real people is scheduled to release in May, 2016.
  • I speak 6-15 times a year about using the law to protect your solo or small business and help it prosper.
  • I have some amazing strategic alliances that allow me to help mid-sized businesses transition into BIG businesses.
  • I am humbled and honored to call some of the most generous, wonderful and supportive people on the planet my friends.

So, I have it all, right?

Yeah. Truly, I can’t complain about my crazy busy life. Well, sure, I can complain about things – like the orange cat shredding 2015 set 1 132and eating (literally) my papers. But really, this is a trivial problem. I’m a pretty A-type personality. I love being in motion. A week of doing “nothing” is not my idea of fun. I’m also a bit of a perfectionist. (Stop laughing, Matt). “Having it all” is a lot of work.

So, here’s the truth about “having it all” and the myth of the “work-life balance:”

You can have “it” all; you just have to decide what “it” actually is.

I took far too long to come to that epiphany. I’ve felt guilty about success in one area of my life, as mommy, wife, writer, lawyer, speaker or farmer, because that success came at the expense (real or perceived) of another area of my life.  To “do it all” I’ve had to accept sometimes, being a lawyer meant I couldn’t be a writer right then. I’ve had to let go of one of my favorite sentence stems – “I should be…”

I’ve wrestled with the “I should be…”s and related “I’m a bad…”s all my life. See, my Mom “did it all” too. She worked but she always made us dinner and came to our school events. I called her shortly after my oldest was born and asked Mom how she “did it.” I didn’t remember that she worked part-time until I was too busy with school to come home before 7 pm. All I remembered is she and my Dad had been there when it mattered.  I remembered dinner was at 5 pm; learning how to cook in her kitchen;  studying Latin with her and math with my Dad; Dad waking up at 4 am and taking me to a horse show; and the hours he and I spent fishing.

Still, that simple and profound lesson took years to sink in:

Others don’t see the things that worry us so very much.

Balance is a myth. No aspect of my life ever balances out in perfect proportions. I don’t spent 1/6th of my time wearing each of my hats and in many years the garden is ruled by weeds. But I accomplish a lot.

My tips for having it all:

  1. Let go and accept.

Sometimes we must prioritize one area of our lives over another for a time. That’s okay. That’s just life. The needs will change and if you’re paying attention over a life time the scales will balance the way you want, even if that’s not totally equally.

  1. Lists. Lots and lots of lists.

I know myself. If a task, appointment or whatever doesn’t hit my to-do list with a deadline it isn’t happening. Because I’ll procrastinate if I can do the task “whenever,” every task has a deadline whether real or Nancy created. I try not to beat myself up when I miss the fake deadlines.  Now I just reset them to my next best guess.

  1.  When you can hire people to deal with the administrivia.

Time is best spent on income generating activities (for me, doing legal work or writing a story) or fun (watching movies with my 3 boys) rather than on unproductive tasks like mailing out my invoices. I can pay an admin $15 an hour to handle those necessary distractions. There are things only you can do. Do them and nothing else. Use money to make time when you can.

  1. Focus on what you accomplished rather than what remains to be done.

If your to-do list something even Superman and Wonder Woman would fear?  When I focused on the 15 things that weren’t humanly possible to do in the day and I, surprise, didn’t finish, I was a grumpy gal. Now, I try to end the day remembering what I accomplished. I’m less likely to dread the next day.

  1. Sleep is for wimps.

Just kidding. Sleep really isn’t optional.

For me, finding balance meant accepting there are limits to my superhuman strengths (Again, stop laughing Matt or I might revise the “happily married” point). Don’t get me wrong. I still hear the deeply fearful part of me repeating her “not good enough” and “I should be…” mantras, but her voice has grown softer over the years and she’s getting easier to ignore.

Oh yeah, and when getting the work/life balance right, it helps to be downright crazy.


Chasing a Dream and the Temptation to Work Yourself to Death

A day doesn’t go by when one of my writer friends proudly proclaims online, “It’s 3am, I should sleep but I just need to finish this scene. I’ll rest when I’m dead.” It’s almost like a badge of honor for writers to show others how late into the night they work, sacrificing sleep, personal time, and free time. When I started focusing my life and career toward writing, these were the posts that I thought I needed to live up to. They were inspirational. Sacrifice all for your dream. Go, go, go, until there’s nothing left.

Now, whenever a post pops up on my feed about another writer pushing themselves to the limit, I keep scrolling. Because that kind of behavior takes me back to a nightmare time in my life when I worked in that job.

Most of us have had that job. The job where you worked long, thankless hours. Where high stress was your every day norm. The boss you hated, breathing down your neck. The one where each day felt like you lost years of your life. The one where you reached burn out after only a couple of weeks.

I come baring good news: writing is not that job.

Don’t make it that job.

In a short, fantastic read over on by Jessica Seeman, Jessica points out that working hard felt like a non-negotiable. “Working hard is ignorance. Because I was young, and my narcissistic boss told me it is the only way.” But working that hard takes energy away from other activities necessary for your health. “Working hard is selfish. For I am robbing my family and friends from my presence, love and attention.”

When I was working for small businesses and startups, it seemed like not taking a break was held in high regard. But science tells us taking breaks not only makes you more productive, it also makes your work better. When you’re busy and have deadlines, it feels counterintuitive to take a break. But taking those breaks helps you stay focused on the task at hand, helps your brain take in information and make connections, and helps us reevaluate what’s important. 

Doing the best you can in the time allotted is good enough.  There is no need to hyperextend or overexert yourself. The work will be there for you to do, no matter what state you put yourself in to do it.

Don’t get me wrong. You will have deadlines. And some of those deadlines will be tight, and you will have to occasionally give up some free time. But if you allow your free time to be taken over time and time again, then that’s exactly what will happen until you decide to stop it, or until burnout stops you.


Life in the Cosmic Fishbowl

I think it’s because I come from a small town. Growing up, there were about 1,500 people in Niverville, Manitoba. As I’ve grown into adulthood, my hometown seems to have grown with me, to the point where the population now is just shy of 5,000. By most everyone’s definition, however, even after this lightning quick population boom, we are tiny. A mote of dust in the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s eye.

The truth is, I like it that way.

When I attended college, I packed my bags and moved to the nearest city: Winnipeg. It is now, as it was then, about 750,000 persons strong. A city of moderate size, and hugely spread out. You’d be hard-pressed to find another city anywhere, much less a regional capital, with such low density. After college, I lived for a couple of years in Huntsville, Alabama, home to a mere 450,000. Winnipeg was larger than I liked, and Huntsville, while just about right in terms of population, was most enjoyable for me when I relocated to its most distant suburb.

So it should come as no great surprise that I eventually returned to little ol’ Niverville. Recently, in fact, I doubled down and purchased property here. For the time being, barring some unforeseen life changes, this will be home.

It’s an interesting thing, but the fact that the town doubled in size during my time away has profoundly changed my experience of it. When I was a kid, I knew everyone. If you showed me a face, I could tell you who they were, or at least who they were related to or where they worked or where they went to church. Now? More than half of my friends from high school have moved away, and the people who’ve taken their places are largely unfamiliar. Somehow a lot of strangers have decided that this town is perfect for them.

I no longer know all their names and faces, and more often than not they aren’t related to anyone I know. Because I work from home, I often don’t know where people work, and I certainly don’t know where they go to church (probably because I myself don’t go to church anymore).

In short, 5,000 may seem small to you—but the difference between 1,500 and 5,000 is pretty big.

Why am I going on and on about the populations of the communities I’ve called home? Because I think it has a strong bearing on the kinds of communities represented in my fiction.

My books aren’t very urban. In The Watchers Chronicle, the characters visit a number of cities, but it’s a travelogue, so most of the time the characters are in smaller, quieter locales or travelling through countryside and otherwise empty spaces.

My more recent stories take me to (1) a tiny and insulated Martian colony, (2) a small ship of cryogenically frozen interstellar travelers, (3) a generational space vessel, and (4) a future Earth overrun by wilderness and devoid of human life.

These are the settings that resonate to me, the ones I gravitate to. They’re very intimate, with a relatively small number of characters who are often incapable of getting very far away from each other in a pinch.

The whole “write what you know” mantra totally applies. It’s funny, because logic dictates that you’d need to squint to see the similarities between Niverville, Manitoba and a little dome of civilization on the Martian plain. But really, they are much more alike than you’d think—including in temperature, sometimes, but I won’t go there.

Everyone knows everyone else, for better or worse (often for worse). People’s lives are deeply tied to their pasts, to their reputations. A small number of larger-than-life personalities can wield a disproportionate amount of power and influence. The family you were born to, or marry into, carries big significance. It can be hard to outrun your problems, and really hard to hide from your mistakes. Life lived on a small stage, ultimately, is subject to greater exposure. (You know what they say about life in a fishbowl, right?)

This is what I know—and frankly, it can lend itself to some stellar drama.

Evan BraunEvan Braun is an author and editor who has been writing books for more than ten years. He is the author of The Watchers Chronicle, a completed trilogy. In addition to writing both hard and soft science fiction, he is the managing editor of The Niverville Citizen. He lives in Niverville, Manitoba.