Category Archives: Balancing Acts

Digging Out

2017 is coming to a close. Endings always give us a chance for reflection and review.

For me 2017 was a year of regrouping in many areas of my life. I spent a lot of time working on my new house. While I still have a long way to go, I also did complete a lot of major projects. When we moved in at the end of 2016 our basement was completely unfinished. I mean completely. My windows and external doors were installed, but there was no trim, no internal doors, no window sills or framing… It took me a couple months, but I got all that done, and more.

I built a wet bar, using my first fantasy trilogy as the theme. I installed a TV mount, and wired it for internet. Lots of things. The same was true for my job, and both of my children moved out.

It’s been a year for sure.

I know a lot of people are upset about politics. I’ve long ago learned that people are always upset about politics. Sometimes it’s one side, sometimes it’s the other side. When power shifts, attitudes shift to match. I try not to get caught up in all the hysteria of either side.

So why is this titled “Digging Out?”

Because 2016 was a very difficult year for my family. Building a house is stressful. Finishing an epic fantasy series in the middle of that is stressful. Losing a brother is stressful. Although I didn’t fully realize it at the time, I think I reached one of the lowest points in my life personally, professionally, emotionally and physically in January-February of 2017.

Since then it’s been one long effort to dig out of one mess after another. Many, many times I wondered if the effort of digging was worth it. And I’ve got a lot of digging left to do. But things have steadily improved since February, and now I’m about to wrap up my first sci-fi novel. I have high hopes for this book.

So I am going to be optimistic about 2018. And I’m going to just keep digging out.

Not Enough Time in the Day

Did I Hit my Goals2017 is almost over. This year went by way too fast. I wish each month had a couple more weeks in it.

I love setting goals. Goals motivate me to work harder and stay focused. This year I set a lot of writing goals, and there’s a chance I over-estimated how much I could accomplish. Or maybe I underestimated how long each project would take.

Or both.

I achieved some goals, for sure. I worked hard, and hopefully built momentum that I can capitalize on through the next year. Did I Hit all of them, though? Not quite.

The BIG goal for the year was to release two major novels this year. Did not happen. Several factors contributed, including a much heavier day-job schedule than anticipated that cut into writing time, as well as enormous first drafts of both of those novels that weren’t as on-target as I expected them to be. That required heavy rewriting, which takes a lot of time.

I write big books. Both of the novels I worked on this year were pushing 200,000 words at times. One of the challenges is to cut them down to about 160k or so for release, but first I need to get all the major framework and plumbing working properly, then I can worry about trim and finish work. One book was the final chapter in my Facetakers urban fantasy series, but that novel had to be almost entirely rewritten. I had hoped to release it in May, but ran out of time. I had deadlines that I couldn’t miss for my fourth Petralist YA fantasy book, so the mostly-completed 2nd draft has been on the shelf for a few months. Not enough time in the day.

That Petralist book – Affinity for War is nearly done though! First draft ran long (big surprise). Joshua Essoe, my editor, told me it took the title as the #1 longest book he’s ever edited. The #2 slot was Rune Warrior, also mine, released last year. Edits are going very well, but again taking longer than expected. I had hoped the book would be released this month for Christmas, but it’s going to bleed over into early next year. I chose to make it the best possible book I can, even though that means missing my target release date by a couple of months, but that’s better than sacrificing quality to hit the target.

San MarinoThe year wasn’t just misses, though. I served as president of the Fictorians, which has been an honor. I attended a couple different conventions, and even shared a vendor table with the amazing Gama Martinez (his books are awesome) at SLC comicon. I began learning about marketing, with much more learning still needed, and I took a trip to Italy to research my last Facetakers book! Check out this photo of San Marino. It’s a tiny little nation entirely embedded within Italy. Who knew?

This year I also wrote another novella in the Petralist world. When Torcs Fly should be released by the end of this month (official announcement coming soon!). It’s the hilarious tale of how Tomas and Cameron, two comic supporting characters in the series, first joined the elite special-forces company and had their first misadventure together. It will be super fun.

I also started the process of getting Set in Stone produced as an audiobook! I’ve wanted to do this for over a year, but there was not enough time in the day. I finally just started the process, even though I didn’t have time. I’m glad I did. Joshua Story is the narrator, and he’s amazing. I will begin reviewing chapters this week, and we should have the audiobook out very soon (again – official announcement coming soon!).

So I accomplished a lot, had a blast writing some amazing stories that will be released soon, and learned some lessons on time management and estimating my work. I’ve got big goals for 2018, so hopefully I’ll do a better job planning it out.

Every day, I plan to write as much as I can, but not forget that balance is important. Time with family, my day job, service in my church youth group, and Sleep! are all necessary too. It may feel like there’s not enough time in the day, but I still try to enjoy the journey.

About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank MorinRune Warrior coverFrank Morin loves good stories in every form. When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers Urban Fantasy/Historical thrillers, check his website: www.frankmorin.org

Things to Eat and Drink During NaNoWriMo

If your brain is working overtime and your creativity is starting to wear thin, consider what you’re eating and drinking. Both activities have a remarkable influence on creativity, stress handling, and overall brain function. Here are a dozen things to consider ingesting beyond a cup of coffee when you’re trying to get your mental muse in gear.

  1. Water
    Starting off with what to drink, we’ll begin with something that makes up around 80% of your brain. Making sure you’re hydrated can boost mental flexibility by 14% (and it’s the least expensive on this list!)
  2. Green Tea
    Besides a jolt of caffeine, green tea has an amino acid called theanine that can reduce creativity crashing.
  3. Alcohol
    There’s a reason why so many writers drank alcohol, and it wasn’t always talking to their publisher. Alcohol reduces executive thinking, relaxes the body, and is known to increase creative thinking. The problem is you shouldn’t drink it while driving or in excess, so no going to any NaNoWriMo write-ins with a jug of moonshine.
  4. Fish, especially non-farmed Salmon
    The amino acids and Omega-3 oils help to increase the size of the hippocampus. Fish is brain food, so it makes a good meal and can build the gray matter. Try not to get fried fish though, as that can decrease the good stuff and add calories.
  5. Egg Yolks
    Egg yolks contain choline, a nutrient that is crucial to creating some neurotransmitters that boost memory and brain speed. Yolks also have a good dose of Omega-3 oils.
  6. Popcorn
    Popcorn is a good snack unless you soak it in the tasty but not healthy stuff like heavy salt, butter, oils, or ranch. My favorite was popcorn dipped in yellow mustard (sounds weird, but is surprisingly delicious and addicting.) Whole grains help regulate glucose, and the additional B6 and B12 vitamins can boost concentration.
  7. Pumpkin Seeds
    Halloween is over and you’ve made a pile of pumpkin seeds in the oven? Good for you! (If not, add it to your list for next year’s NaNoWriMo!) Pumpkin seeds make a great snack because they contain zinc, an essential mineral that boosts memory and critical thinking. For some folks, they can also act as an anti-depressant and boost your mood.
  8. Berries
    Berries are brain food, plus they’re tasty and healthy for you. Some of them, like the tiny blueberry, have lots of antioxidants. Berries have nutrients to help maintain communication between brain cells and to promote survival and growth of new neurons.
  9. Seaweed
    Seaweed-based snacks (or even a meal of sushi) contains tyrosine, a nutrient that promotes abstract thinking.
  10. Avocados
    Avocados or dips like guacamole enhances blood flow and oxygen to the brain, so feel free to order up a delicious bowl to share with your writing buddies.
  11. Walnuts
    Since walnuts look like miniature brains already, you shouldn’t be surprised to see them here. They contain lots of neuroprotective compounds like melatonin, antioxidants, and those familiar Omega-3 oils. Studies show they increase cognitive performance and inferential reasoning skills.
  12. Dark Chocolate
    I saved my favorite for last. Dark chocolates contain flavanols, a nutrient that increases the blood flow to the brain by dilating blood vessels. There’s also a little jolt of caffeine and the mineral magnesium, which releases serotonin and endorphins.

Now that you know what to eat, add some of them to your Thanksgiving feast this year and get a few extra hours of writing instead of falling asleep with the tryptophan blues.

 


 

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

What Does It Take To Perform Under Fire?

I’ve been involved in the Martial Arts for over ten years. I have a black belt, and if I hadn’t become a writer on top of my day job I would be a second degree. But I got distracted by writing, and that’s that.

Belt tests are some of my least favorite parts of the martial arts. I love class. I love my lessons. I love punching and kicking and knife techniques and sparring and sometimes I pretend to love forms. But belt tests are a different animal.

In short, the instructors—who are usually cool people—turn into demons that are there to push you until you’re teetering on the edge of your endurance and sanity. I can do techniques all day long, but make me run around the building or scale a wall and I go to pieces. Other people lose it if they have to do defense techniques quickly, or spar more than one person. (Most people don’t do well with that, by the way.) Whatever it is, the instructors will find it. And then, once you’re barely standing and thinking about quitting, they ask you to do a form. Or spar. Or defend yourself from them.

On some level it’s awesome. Especially after you’re at the end looking back. There’s nothing like knowing that you did every single Defense Maneuver you have flawlessly against guys taller and stronger than you. Or that you didn’t get stabbed when they brought the fake knives out.

But in the middle of it, there isn’t time to think, and if you do think, it’s usually about how much some part of your body hurts. Sometimes that includes your brain.

I’m short and round and don’t look much like a black belt, but when I’m in practice, I’m pretty darn good.

And that’s the key to passing a test. Being in practice. Because if you’re in practice, then when a fist is coming straight for your face, no matter how tired you are, you will do something. It might even be the right thing. Either way, you won’t get hit, and the next moment the other guy will be on the ground and you’ll think, “Hey, that really works. Oh crap, there’s another guy coming.”

I feel like this relates to writing. Lately I’ve been extremely busy, and my writing has been suffering. It’s only been in the last few weeks that I’ve thought about the fact that I’m out of practice. I work part time and write part time, but I haven’t been consistently writing. I work on marketing or editing or blogging or putting together a newsletter or a giveaway. I pour words onto the page when there is a deadline looming, but not every day. I’m out of practice. Which is silly, because I know how important it is to write each day, and yet I’m not doing it.

So that’s my suggestion. Write each day, even if it is just 200 or 500 words. Write something. Stay in practice. Get a list of writing prompts off the web if you don’t have any ideas on what to write about or you don’t want to work on your current work in process. That way, when the pressure comes, and it will come, you can crack your knuckles and go for it.