Thursday, June 20, 2013

The World Is a Big Place

Photograph by Mary Lundin, submitted to My Shot via NatGeo
I've had my mind on travel lately, and not just because it's summer, though that's undoubtedly part of it. Somewhere beachy and photogenic sounds best--coastal Maine, California. Or somewhere historic and iconic, Washington DC, Chicago, Boston. I don't know if I'm getting stir-crazy (a strong possibility), or if I'm just feeling like I'm missing out on the world because the 9 to 5 grind has me in its death grip.

I'm not even full-time, so I feel like maybe I shouldn't (or others who are FT think I shouldn't) be complaining about not having had a vacation in two years. But we all wear out. We all lose sight of ourselves and what's important to us, and a vacation is sort of a mentally stabilizing factor that reminds us that the world isn't all spreadsheets and time cards.

Of course, vacation planning can be extremely stressful, mostly financially, but coordinating driving directions, flights, routes, public transportation on arrival, hotel reservations, campsite reservations, and figuring out what's legal to carry on a plane nowadays is a trip unto itself, and not a pleasant one. As if you're supposed to suffer before you get to let it all hang out.

I think mostly I want a vacation to have time to myself. I don't even have to travel out of the state (granted, I do live in a pretty cool one) to do that. Some time alone to read, I'm so behind on my reading, some time away from the Internet, some time to write, some time to think, some time off from the worries, fears, and frustrations of everyday 21st century life.

I've always wanted to travel--like EVERYWHERE. England, France, Italy, Russia, Australia, Thailand, Egypt, New Zealand, Israel, Greece, India, etc. etc. I've always been held back by money, and occasionally by priorities. The "someday" mentality firmly implanted in my mind, as it is in most minds.

There's always something, usually quite a rational something, that's going to hold you back from doing what you want to do, whether it's money, time, family, romance, or fear of air travel, but at some point, you have to decide what you want, and how far you're willing to go to get it. Sometimes, as we all learned well in Risky Business, "you have to say, what the fuck" and run with it.

As much as I'd like to be that person more of the time, I'm still the cautious person who plans everything out and considers everything carefully and thoroughly before making a decision. Maybe that's a good thing. My life overall is in pretty good shape, all things considered. But, it means I don't take risks very often, and while that has kept me out of danger for the most part, it has also kept me from experiencing some of the best things the world has to offer.


Just a few ruminations on travel, vacations, and what's important.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

I Don't Know What to Title This Post. How About I Call It "Edgar?"

My blog tour is over! (Almost.) The posts have all been published, the comments are all in, the winner will be announced soon, and I've written the recap post already, but I still need to draw the winner and add the post to my website. So, nearly, but not quite finished. I had a lot of fun with this thing! Was it worth the money? I'd say I got what I paid for. If I had been able to afford more, I might have gotten more out of it, but for what I spent, I'd say it was about right.

I'd say the biggest issue I had was time. Putting together 10 posts and recording an audio interview in a span of two months, on top of everything else I'm working on, is a lot of work! I also wish I'd had a better mix of interviews and guest posts. Guest posts are much harder, but if I can have some time to work on them, I can really turn out some good writing, which is partly what I was hoping for. I wanted people to get a feel for my writing more than for me as a person, thinking maybe if they liked my writing style, they'd like the book, too. Doing the interviews was fun, but I think three or four probably could have covered everything. I think I ended up with 7 (out of 11 posts total).

Still, I had fun and it was really great to hear some feedback about the book, the excerpts, the blurb, etc. I would still do things differently the next time around, but why do we fall? So we can learn how to pick ourselves up. I even got a 5-star review from one of the tour hosts, so that was awesome! It came near the end of the tour, and since none of the other hosts had decided to read the book and do a review, I hadn't expected it. It was a wonderful surprise to wake up to that morning!

Aside from the tour, I've been working my butt off trying to catch up on my health blog project. Since I just converted it a couple months ago, it's going to take me some time to rebrand the site to the world and to my existing followers, but I am getting a little traffic to site, which wasn't happening when it was just a product-based site. A lot of the visits are probably me as I develop the site and add new posts, but there are a few unique visitors, so that's good. I've got about a week and a half's worth of posts scheduled out as of this evening, so I can have a little time to redistribute my efforts elsewhere, but not much.

I'm still working on the story I worked on for April's Camp Nano, and I'm REALLY hoping I can finish it by the end of the month. Ambitious? Of course. But, if I can do 50k words in November alone, I certainly should be able to do another 20-30k in the 22 days left in June! I know I'm on the right track with it, but with all these other projects to work, and especially catch up, on, I haven't had the time to crank it out. If I sat down and worked on this only for a week, even with work, I could make some serious progress.

I have every damn intention of getting back to Always Happy to Entertain You soon, but I've got so much to catch up on and I want to restructure how I do the posts that it's going to take some real motivation and maybe a kick in the pants to get me back into it. Unfortunately, it's easy to break from right now since so many of the shows are on break for the summer. I'm considering moving the site to self-hosted WordPress soon (not the other WordPress I was bitching about last week), but that won't be for another few weeks.

Aside from that, I'm really financially frustrated at the moment. I was expecting to have a little more money coming in starting this month, and it turns out that's not going to happen now, so now I'm trying to figure something else out, and find the time to do so. I'm getting close to my savings goal for a new (used) car, but it's the little expenditures that are becoming a problem.

A lot of them are "luxury" expenses, like going to the movies and getting small things for myself like books or jewelry (all under $15 or $20, I assure you), so technically I shouldn't be complaining about not being able to buy that X Files memorabilia I want or that new book that comes out next week. I've been on a budget for a long time, and I don't have a problem budgeting or taking my time and saving up for things I want but don't necessarily need. I just really was expecting to have more money to budget by now, and knowing I don't means I have to adjust things and it's going to take a little time for me to come to terms with that.

In any case, even with the tour over, I've got plenty to keep me busy during the weeks and months to come!
Everybody's working for the weekend!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

So... I'm Back. Sort of.

Once again, I have the "I've been busy" excuse for why I haven't posted anything lately. I've been focusing on my writing, on my book tour, and on myself for the past couple months. I've made some progress on some things, and am still waiting to see progress on other things.

I've made some good progress on my writing. I completed my goal for Camp Nano and hit 15k words in 30 days, and since then, it's been slower, but still going. I thought I got stuck, but it was more weariness than writer's block. I just needed a break, and after having had one, I was finally able to jump back into it a couple days ago and I got going so well that I lost track of the time. A good sign :)

My book tour is off and running this week! It started on Monday, and now that I've been through my first week, I'm exhausted! It was really frustrating being at work and not being able to check in on the host blogs during the day--even though there aren't THAT many people following along. While I don't expect my sales to take much of a leap, I am hoping that it helps me build some "brand" awareness for my writing, and so far, it's been really great to read the comments and feedback from the few people who have stopped by.

I officially took about a week off earlier this month to not do anything. I was seriously burned out on everything, and I really needed a break. I mostly sat around watching Netflix (I'm into the West Wing now for some book research O.o) and catching up with my soap opera, but it was awesome. Then I started getting a ton of posts (in advance) for my book tour stops, and I had to get back into it. It was a much needed rest, however, and I'm glad I had the sense to do it.

Since my tour is already half over, I don't have much work to do on it except checking in for comments and sharing the posts, trying to get people to visit, comment, and interact. I have one more post to write, the topic didn't arrive until today, so I'll have to work on that this weekend, but that's not a problem.

As much as I like the story I've been working on, I did spend quite a bit of time on my "break" procrastinating and doing character outlines and plot mapping for a few other ideas I've been kicking around. I had a blast with all that, but I can't start writing any of those until I finish the one I'm working on now. I know myself too well, and I know I'll never get back to the first one if I start a new one.

As to the blogging, I'm so far behind and out of touch, it's ridiculous. I haven't been on here since mid-April, and I got back to Happy to Entertain for a couple weeks before my overwhelm hit and I took another break. Not to mention my three other blogs... I am hoping since it's summer, I will have more time to post. Less TV, longer daylight hours, and not having any upcoming publishing plans will definitely help. I just have to get back in the habit again.

Despite not having been blogging about it, I've been seeing a shit-ton of movies already this summer, and I've been keeping up with my shows and all the finales that have been going on this month. There have been some really good ones (Star Trek, Now You See Me, Hangover 3) and some not so good ones (Gatsby). I actually recorded a YouTube video (it's private, so don't bother searching) of a review of the movie, but the video isn't showing up right on YouTube, so that's why I haven't shared it. It shows fine on the video manager and on my computer with the recording and sound and everything, but for some reason, on the video's page on YouTube, the color's off and it's split like a mirror and it's just wrong. Disappointing. I had wanted to share it, because I thought it turned out pretty well for my first ever self-recorded video.

Oh, if you haven't noticed, I redesigned the blog, again. I actually went through the trouble of dumping everything over to because I was thinking of switching to get a cleaner look, but then I remembered why I moved Happy to Entertain off WordPress and onto Blogger in the first place--free WordPress sucks.

While I like the widgets and plugins (self-hosted only) and the fact that there are categories AND tags, it's way too limited with the design elements. It won't even read Javascript or Flash in the widgets, not to mention iframes, and you can't even edit your own CSS without paying an extra 30 freaking bucks A YEAR! Total bollocks. It's cheaper to buy a domain and add it to my existing host for my self-hosted WordPress blogs! On the one hand, their domain purchasing is pretty great because it includes hosting, but you still have to "upgrade" to edit your CSS which makes that domain purchase money not worth spending.

Anyway, I spent two days messing around in WordPress trying to find a way to make my blog look like I wanted it to, and I decided, for all the trouble, I think I'll just go back and update my Blogger design. I am no expert at coding, so I can't replicate some of the elements I'd like (like a full width header image), but I think it looks quite nice, and I've also gotten rid of some sidebar stuff that I didn't think was necessary. Hopefully you like it too, and if you don't, tough shit. :P

Also, last piece of catching up, I've become addicted to Etsy. Who knew? I had heard about it a while back, but I didn't realize how much stuff they actually had, and how much of it was pure awesome, until about two weeks ago. If I suddenly came into some extra money, even a hundred bucks, most of it would probably end up being spent on that site. As it is, I can only get one or two things a month on my current budget, but that's ok. Probably for the best. Not like I really NEED any of it, it's just pretty :)

My eyes are starting to get blurry from looking at too much blog design stuff today, so I'd better switch off to something else for a bit.

This was my jams today while blog (re)designing:

Come on try a little, Nothing is forever.
There's got to be something better than in the middle.

Etsy Addict: A Few of My Favorite Things