Life as a Full-Time Writer: The End of an Era

Well, I’m sad to say that my days of sitting in my basement all alone and writing stories has come to an end. Or am I? I had a wonderful four months working from home on a collection of literary short stories, thanks to the wonderful Saskatchewan Arts Board, who awarded me a grant. If it wasn’t for people who support the arts, I never would have  got this time, which means I never would have developed fantastic new stories to share with you and the world.

But good times can’t last forever. At least not until I get enough sales to replace my annual salary (which is a pretty good size). And part of me missed my day job. I missed having coworkers to visit with, I missed my afternoon walks around the pond and through the garden, somedays I even missed the cafeteria.

But, I’m pretty sure I will miss the writing life more. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and by that, I mean I’ve always wanted to spend eight hours a day coming up with characters and stories and events, and thinking about ‘what ifs’ ‘and thens’ and ‘maybe’. I’ve never dreamed that writing would be less work than this, and after my four months off, I know it’s not. In fact, it’s often more than eight hours a day because once I could immerse myself in writing full-time, the thinking rarely stopped. My mind was free to roam, and I didn’t have to force it to concentrate on contracts and applications and coworking. It was wonderful.

It seems (from all the internet articles about it), that being able to afford being a full-time writer is a more and more difficult thing. Whether it’s due to the abundance of free articles and stories on the web, changing media (to television, to film, to Twitter), I can’t say. And maybe it has always been difficult to make a living from art. Maybe it’s always been that a couple of people are lucky and the rest of us are relatively unknown. All I do know is that I have my plan to write, whether it’s on the weekend or late in the evening, I will always be writing, because I love it. Not because I hope to become rich and famous, but because I love to think, I love to think about our world and what powers humans, and I love to think about possible other worlds, other realities, and other possibilities. A writer is just what I am.

Now that I’ve finished up a couple major projects, I’m moving on to the next step in the process, which is shopping those projects around and trying to find them a home. Meanwhile, it is also Camp NaNoWriMo, so I’ve also returned back to writing genre fiction, which is a nice break from the literary, though-provoking work I was doing (Not that my genre fiction isn’t somewhat though provoking—at least, I hope it is). To that end, stay  in touch for updates regarding upcoming presentations and publications, or because otherwise I’ll miss you.

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Cheers to work well done!

Thanks for reading!
JEH

The Circlet Is Here!

Hello All!

Today is one of those great days when I get to release a new book into the world. The Circlet is now up on Amazon and Smashwords, and should be up on the other retailers shortly, though, as always, they lag a bit behind. Download, enjoy, share!

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Thank you for your support!

JEH

Writing for Teens: How to Keep it Real

A short essay on writing for teens, and how I keep my fiction real.

I’ve written a lot of Young Adult fiction, sure, it’s not as much as some people have written, but it’s enough that I’ve learned what to look for when crafting a young adult novel. Now that I’m in my thirties, high school feels distant and trivial. Did I really get that upset when my best friend didn’t invite me to a party? Things that upset me then, wouldn’t upset me now. The trick is remember how I acted in my teen years, and not force my adult learning on my characters.

The above mentioned party happened sometime in my senior year of high school. When I found out about the party late that night, or possibly the next day, I was in tears. Did my best friend at the time (we aren’t friends anymore, unless Facebook counts), mean to hurt my feelings? Probably not. She probably just wanted a break from me, wanted to have fun with someone else, or thought it wasn’t my thing. I don’t believe she was vindictive (she seems like she’s a nice person overall). But I do believe that she didn’t have the words to express why I wasn’t invited, or why she lied instead of telling me the truth.

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Thinking back on my teen years, and about the teens in my life now, it is very common at that age to ‘read too much into things’. By the time adulthood rolls around, most people have stopped taking every look and every word dished out personally. We’ve begun to accept our differences, our path, and our identity. But this is something teenagers struggle with.

One of the ways I stay in touch with my teen self is by keeping my teenage diaries and occasionally, when I feel strong enough, by reading the terrible, painful entries: here’s an example.

“I finally talked to Red. I don’t know how it is. We’re talking tomorrow after school. That’ll be hard. It was hard enough on the phone. I think she was crying. I’m not sure. I almost felt like it. But I don’t cry. It’s too hard. I almost said, “I can’t stand Blue”, when she said she couldn’t stand Green, but I couldn’t. This is hard. I mean, we have a circle. We work together and I told her we shouldn’t. That was hard. I don’t know what to say. Tomorrow we have to talk and I have to tell her my happenings and feelings….”

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See, everything is hard when you’re a teen. So hard in fact that I reused that word five times in that one short paragraph. And this was just about having a simple conversation with the friend about why she didn’t invite me to a party! Nowadays, I’d just go up to my friend and be like, Yo, You didn’t invite me b-! And my friend would either apologize and offer a reason that may or may not make sense, or we’d just laugh about it and move on. It wouldn’t be as difficult for me now that I’m older.

What about you? Did simple things seem more difficult for you when you were a teenager?

JEH

Trying to Commit to a Publishing Schedule

One of the hardest things about self-publishing (at least for me), is committing to a publishing schedule. I’m terrible at picking release dates for my books and achieving that date. Having a day job never helps, since something always comes up that slows down book development, but as I’m currently a full-time writer until July, I’m hoping I can make some big goals and stick to them. It’s been lovely going to cafés and drinking tea, and getting so much work done on projects that I love.

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In the works right now I have The Circlet: Artifacts of Avalum Book 2, which is off with my beta readers. After I get their comments, it will be another round of edits before sending the book to my editor. I’m hoping to have The Circlet released in May.

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This week I finally found the time to compile the Black Depths Boxed Set for the complete series. I whipped together an ebook cover and compiled all the books into one gigantic read. It’s live on Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords right now, and should be up on iBooks and Nook soon. If you like to read everything all in one go (or no someone who does), be sure to spread the word.

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I’m slowly picking away at The Chain: Artifacts of Avalum Book 3, and hope to release that in the fall, with a box set of that series to follow after a couple months. There are two books I wrote years ago that I’m planning to clean up, one of which I will release as a one off and the other that I hope to shop around to a small, literary press. Both of those should be complete by May.

What I’m trying to figure out now, is what story idea should I pursue next? I love self-publishing, and I want to write a series that is similar to both Black Depths and Artifacts of Avalum. I would like to get the outlining for this series done before I head back to my day job in July, but, as I’m also working on my short story collection, I’m not sure how much time I will have.

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But, here’s a chance for you to vote. My main debate right now is whether I should write another “Port-hole” fantasy, which means the characters start in this world and travel to a different, fantastical world, (similar to Artifacts), or whether I should write a 100% fantasy, where Earth does not exist (or at least the characters in the book don’t know about Earth, because they have magic, not space travel). Do you prefer fantasy that is connected to our world, or not? Let me know in the comments!

JEH

Becoming a Full-Time Writer: The Transition

So far I’ve had two full-time weeks of being a full time writer. I will admit, it hasn’t been the smooth transition I was hoping for, yet I also feel like it is going pretty well. Part of this is because halfway through last week I admitted to myself that transitioning will take time, and developing a new routine will take time (I think they say it takes 30 days to form a new habit).

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Working Hard in My Office

I’ve written myself up a few draft schedules, which go something like this:

8:30 AM: Do a quick writing exercise and read a non-fiction book about the writing craft while finishing coffee/tea.

9:00AM-12:00PM: Work diligently in the basement office on short stories.

12:00P-1PM: Lunch break with reading.

1PM-130PM: Yoga/Exercise Break

130PM-4PM: Odds and Ends (i.e. other writing projects, blogging, emailing, submissions, queries, other short stories, more reading, art, journalling, staring off into space etc.)

So far, this schedule has worked pretty well, if I stick to it. But last week I ended up going out on Wednesday night to meet my writing group and worked for an extra two hours and I completely burnt myself out by Friday. So on Friday, I mostly stared off into space and got nothing done until I decided to call it a day and just watch Downton Abbey. It turns out this was a good idea because this morning I feel refreshed and ready to think deeply about what I want to say again.

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Weekend Reading Break

I recently read, The Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, which I loved. And this experience reminds me of the Hemingway quote:

“I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.”

So this week, my focus is going to be stopping writing before the well is dry. There are a lot of other things I need to do daily, other than write, and this includes researching markets, submitting stories, reading up on craft, or just taking a break to refill my creative well by reading a fiction book, doing some painting, or visiting with a friends. 

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Weekend Painting Break (from a tutorial). I’m getting better at painting!

Here’s to a good week!

JEH

 

Time to be a Full-Time Writer

Well, it’s here! And I’m so excited and nervous at the same time. March 1st marked the day I got to leave my full-time day job—for four months. To try out the life of a full time writer. I’m so thankful both to the Saskatchewan Arts Board and my current place of employment for helping this happen. While I wish I could for sure be a full-time writer forever, I’m glad that I get to try it out with the security of having my career to return to. Environmental Engineering can be interesting too. No. Really, it can! I celebrated immediately after leaving the office with a mini-chocolate-caramel cupcake. Mmmmm!

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Last week I worked my way slowly into the writing life by going to coffee, the book store, reading a bit of Annihilation and A Moveable Feast (love them both) and editing a few small projects and sending them off into the world. This work I’m getting into my schedule, which will primarily consist of working on a new, literary short story every couple of weeks, and squeezing in my side projects (novels, genre fiction etc.) when I get a chance.

I’ve worked long and hard to get here. I’ve put a lot of my work out into the world on my own, and I thank all of my readers for their support and the confidence that the purchasing of my books gives me. I’m looking forward to discovering new works during the next four months, and polishing up on my craft and writing technique and style. I plan to post regularly about what I’m up to and how I’m doing (I’m planning on not taking *that many naps, lol). Four months isn’t a long time, but it should be long enough to see if I like being a full-time writer. I have a feeling I’m going to love it.

JEH