Yes, I have been MIA on my blog for a few months. Okay, so six months is almost a few, right? Just where have I been? Let me tell you! It's mind-blowing! It's exciting! It's..it's work. Just plain work. Nothing special. Maybe the amount of work is something: between substitute teaching, tutoring, and another part-time gig as a cashier at the local ski resort, I barely have time to think, let alone write. In fact, I'm using my work break today to write this. The limited amount of time I did have since the last post, I chose to spend with my family. You know, being a family, doing family-ish things. You'll have to keep reading if you want specifics.
Being an author is hard to maintain when you still need to be making a living. It's not the writing-I have tons of new ideas-it's the finding time to write. I'm not the newest (or even oldest) New York Times Best Selling Author and there are no movie deals knocking on my door. In fact, the only people theoretically knocking are the bill collectors. Every month, like clockwork, I get bills from various places telling me to pay the money I owe. I'll be darned. I'm a writer now, don't they see it?!?! Can you imagine that conversation? It would go something like this:
"Mrs. Southwell, why haven't you paid your phone bill?"
"Because I am a published author. Drop. The. Mic."
"Drop the Mike? I'm sorry I do not understand who that is. You owe for the usage of your phone."
"Author. I said I wrote a book."
"My name is not Author. I am John. Congratulations on your book. Now, you have an outstanding balance on your bill. How will you be paying for that today?"
So I work. And between work, I make an effort at cleaning the house (fail), making healthy dinners (pizza anyone?), keep up on the laundry (You need clean socks? Just look in the gigantic pile of clean clothes thrown on the couch. While you're there, fold some.), and being chauffeur to my kids (Thank God for friends who carpool!). My husband is trying to make the ends meet, too. He works full time and then cuts firewood after work and on the weekends for his second job. We collapse into bed every night only to repeat it all again the next day.
The demand for my first self-published book was great amongst my family, friends, and a few good samaritans. It's not perfect. There are errors. I learned from it. Let me tell you, I should write a book about it. First and foremost, DO NOT use Word with an iPad and then switch to a computer. The amount of stupid mistakes from the weird formatting was many too much. Second, you can never rush editing. Read, revise, reread, revise, have someone read, you won't need to revise because they got caught up in the story and couldn't find anything, have someone else reread, hopefully revise, then reread it, and if your two editors didn't give you much (They love you! It's hard not to get caught up in the story!), hire a professional. Last, (or at least for the purpose of this blog post) hire an expert to market for you. You'll be too busy trying to make ends meet (Self-Publishing isn't cheap the first time!), trying to be a family, and fitting in at least enough time to jot that fantastic idea down in a notebook.
There were a few ginormous changes in our family this year that have contributed to my lack of progression in the writing world. First, my husband, Eric, did not go to Alaska for work for the first time in five years. He had worked a wonderful job, six months on, six months off for great people, got to fish world famous salmon rivers, and the rest of use were able to come visit in the summers when the kids were out of school. The money was great, the time away from home was not. So, he took a job with the company he previously worked at. This didn't mean that we would get to see him, though. Instead of being 2000 miles away working 50 hours a week, he was 20-60 miles away working 80-90 hours a week. When we saw each other, Eric was exhausted. He was so unhappy. This leads us to the second major change in our family. Eric applied for a job with the county and was able to get in at the end of September-Full time, year round, five days a week, weekends off, and a regular schedule (mostly, anyway, depending on Michigan snowstorms). The extra time with family far outweighs the money. This leads us to the third big change. I took up a second job for the winter season. Along with substitute teaching most every day, I work 2-3 nights a week in the cafeteria as a cashier at the local ski hill. The goal was for me to pay for Christmas, which I have, and have a little extra to throw at the bills that we struggle with. The added benefit is that my family gets to ski for a minimal charge. We have lived in Northern Michigan our whole lives and I can count on my two hands how many times we have skied all together. That is slowly changing this winter.
So, really, Liz, what did you do besides work?
For the first time in several years, we put in a large garden and harvested so many great vegetables. I had a wonderful pumpkin patch that I proudly tended while Eric shook his head. He thinks my passion for perfect pumpkins to carve is ridiculous. I think his passion for 75 tomato plants and 60 pepper plants is nuts, but I guess it all works out. I am not exaggerating! He planted everything from seed and provided several others with plants, too. I canned dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, stewed tomatoes, salsa, and jam and froze squash and strawberries that the kids and I picked at a local farm. We picked raspberries out of the patch and reclaimed the garden area from the deer. This was an especially hard job, and they almost killed me when I saw how much damage they did to my pumpkins one night. Plans for a bigger and better Eric-style fence are already in the works for next summer. If you know my hubby, you know he has been researching ways to make it all winter. I'm sure it will be next to impossible to penetrate.
Both of Eric's siblings and their families were able to come and visit at the same time. I even schemed with my sister-in-law and got to have her four kids for an extra two weeks. Eric was the happiest I have seen him in a very long time. What's not to love when you get to have all of the family four-wheeling and RC racing from home?
All of these activities happened in the summer when I was "just" being a mom. Not that that's not a huge job in itself, but I didn't have the added jobs that actually pay the bills. This fall, when school started, I went back to substituting during the day and tutored a night or two each week. Both kids were involved in sports, which means that both parents were knee deep in running them back and forth to and from school, rearranging schedules and becoming experts on crockpot dinners. I love, love, love volleyball, so I helped Alexa's team at practices and games. It was Evan's first time playing football and we all enjoyed watching him on Saturdays.
Then, the holidays hit. 'Nuff said.
So, though I may not be posting a new blog as often, I'm still here. Life just took over for a second. It hasn't been bad, just busy. But when it comes to writing, I have become the turtle in a race with the hare. I'll get there. I just need to keep at it. Slow and steady wins the race.
Believe it or not, with life as crazy beautiful as it is, I have worked on book 2 of Ordinary to Extraordinary. It's coming along slowly, but it's coming along. In this book, both kids go to camp with their parents, though Evan doesn't know it's a camp for extraordinary kids and that Mom, Dad, and Alexa are on Missions. The same characters are back, only grown: James, Marcus, Nimah & the gang, and there are two new ones who are Evan's age.
The next simultaneous steps are to finish the book and finish selling the remainder of the copies of Book 1 that I have neatly arranged in my closet. If you haven't supported me yet, you can get your copy at lizsouthwellauthor.com. I'll even sign it for you. Maybe someday it will be worth something. :)