Saturday, December 31, 2011

11 Lessons from 2011

2011 was a crazy year for me. In spite of everything, 2011 is finishing up even better than it began. Here are 11 things I learned in 2011:

Gigi with her dad in India.
1. Writing a novel always takes longer than you think it will. After a late 2010 trip to India, I thought it would be easy to finish up the second book in my Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery series, much of which takes place in India. Ha! It was June before I gave it to my agent. 

2. Conventions and conferences are worth the expense. I'm not talking strictly about monetary calculations, but rather about life experiences. My non-writer friends and family are supportive of my quirky writing habits, but they don't really get it. Hanging out with inspiring mystery writers at Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe in March got me re-energized to finish the above-mentioned novel. I was also on my first panel, and it was exciting to have attendees come up to me afterwards to tell me they looked forward to buying my book once it was out. 

3. Being Zen about changes of plans is the way to go. I'm a planner, both in life and when it comes to writing. I was planning on attending Thrillerfest for the first time, but a week before I was set to fly to New York, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had to cancel all of my upcoming travel plans. The only way I could imagine getting through the rest of the year was to let go of the desire to continue life as usual. Thus began my crazy cancer summer.  

4. Wig shopping is best done with friends. I could have been secretive about going through chemotherapy and needing to buy wigs, but that's not my style. I'm so glad I brought my friends wig shopping with me. They picked out wig styles I never would have selected myself, but they were so right! (I've had enough people ask me for details about buying wigs that I'm going to do a separate blog post about it in the new year.)  

5. Chemotherapy isn't as scary as it is in the movies. I was so relieved this was the case. It wasn't fun to to be poisoned for the greater good, but thanks to modern medicine, drinking plenty of water, getting plenty of sleep, staying active, and remaining connected through the internet once my immune system dropped, I was able to get through it while accomplishing more than I thought possible (more on that below). 

6. Good friends, a great husband, and Victoria Laurie's Ghost Hunter mysteries are all fantastic ways to get through individual chemotherapy sessions. How did I miss out on Victoria Laurie's amazing mystery series until now? I have no idea how I missed it before, but I'm glad I found it at the exact time that I needed a new series to entertain me for several hours every few weeks. And while I didn't exactly take the people in my life for granted before, I certainly have a greater appreciation for them now.

7. Cancer can help you see what you want in your life. For me, I could see it was the right time for me to publish my mystery novels myself. I won't regurgitate what I already wrote about here, but point is that I'm no longer bound to doing what I'm "supposed" to do. I was able to see what was right for me, and not to worry about what anybody else thought about it. And I knew exactly what I wanted to do: spend more time on my creative passions—photography, art, and writing—in ways that were meaningful to me. Thus Gargoyle Girl Productions was born.

8. Setting a long-term dream goal can keep you grounded. In addition to my creative passions above, another passion of mine is travel. It's not something I can do this year, but I found that looking forward to traveling once I was better made me all the more committed to helping myself get well. In addition to planning individual trips starting next year, I decided I'd start saving up for a three-month round-the-world trip for my five year anniversary of being cancer-free.
    9. While stuck at home due to an illness, only watch TV when at your most tired. We got cable TV once I found out about the treatments I needed for my cancer. It was definitely worth it for those days when I was tired. But as soon as I felt better a couple days after each chemo treatment, I grew antsy and felt there was something I could be doing besides watching TV. I went back to work remotely, formed Gargoyle Girl productions, and wrote a draft of an experimental new novel.

    10. However busy you think your life is, NaNoWriMo can be done. I wasn't sure if I could complete the 50,000-word challenge of National Novel Writing Month this year, but those tend to be the times when we're most successful, right?

    11. Remember to not take things for granted in 2012 and beyond. It's easy to go back to life as usual, but I'm resolving to remember to be grateful for all of the things in my life. Like coffee. Oh God it's good to be done with chemo and be able to drink coffee again.

    Happy New Year!

      Tuesday, December 27, 2011

      One Writing Frenzy for Chemo & One for Radiation

      I'm convinced that one the main reasons I felt so healthy during chemotherapy was because I stayed busy.

      I took a bit of time off work at the beginning of my cancer treatments, but I quickly realized I was feeling well enough to work from home. During my four months of chemo, I did my day job, formed my new Gargoyle Girl Productions business, and wrote over 50,000 words during November for National Novel Writing Month. (Um, yes, I also watched a whole lot of bad television on the days I was feeling tired. What's up with the Forever Lazy pajamas for adults being marketed as a Snuggie you can wear outside??)

      I won't lie and say the months flew by, but thanks to the overwhelming support of family and friends who cooked for me and came to visit when I couldn't leave the house, the time did go by pretty quickly.

      Now that I'm done with chemo, I've got a little over five weeks of radiation — last week through January 27. So what are my plans during radiation, you ask? I'm giving myself another writing challenge:

      This January, I'm going to write a novella.

      Since I'm publishing the first book in my Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery series in August, this 25,000-word novella will be a Jaya Jones adventure that readers can enjoy before the second full-length novel in the series comes out. (The second novel in the series is already written but needs editing.) I came up with the idea for this novella while experimenting with another story during NaNoWriMo, so I'm eager to dive into it.

      I'm working on some fun ideas for publishing the novella, so stay tuned for details!

      Tuesday, December 20, 2011

      Post-Chemo and Post-NaNoWriMo Updates

      Now that the chemo drugs are out of my system and my immune system is back up, I've gone from working from home to being able to be back in the office part time! I love my office. Yes, I love my beautiful brick wall (shown below), but I'm mainly talking about my coworkers and the projects I get to work on as a graphic designer. While I drew a short straw on the health front, I lucked out with a dream job. That makes it much easier to count my blessings instead of feeling sorry for myself.

      It's been three weeks since I completed National Novel Writing Month, and I haven't written a word of fiction during that time. Some people (perhaps Rachael Herron and Sophie Littlefield) might think I'm crazy for not feeling the need to write every day. But then again, some people (definitely Catrina Chaos) think I'm crazy for wanting to write novels in the first place. Me? There are some ideas and characters I can't get out of my head, so I need to write them down. But every day? Not so much. NaNoWriMo helps me get down my ideas in an efficient and fun manner, which is why I love it.

      Now that I've written down my latest set of ideas, it's time to turn to my publishing plans. And there's a lot to do. Forming a company and publishing your own work isn't for the faint of heart. My list of things to do keeps growing longer. It seems like each time I finish one thing, I think of three more items to add to my list!

      I'll do a proper publishing update in January, once I've completed a few more items on my list. For now, I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season!