Saturday, January 25, 2014

Old Friends

I'm cheap. I'll be the first to admit it. I think part of it is the way I grew up. My mother, in particular, was frugal. I remember putting the little bits of soap left at the end of a bar in a jar with a bit of water in it so we could use every little piece. She also kept leftovers and served them up long past what I would consider a safe expiration date. That's what happens when your parents grew up during the depression. I remember her quoting "Waste not, want not" a lot.

So it's no surprise to me that the only clothes I've bought in the past year were for my nephew's wedding in October.

Since I've retired, I haven't paid much attention to what I'm wearing. Half the days of the week I don't even see anyone except in passing on my sometime walks. When I was working, my normal routine was to iron the clothes I was going to wear before breakfast. I haven't been ironing much either. The clothes I wear to church are mostly permanent press that don't show wrinkles. I've got some wrinkle-release spray for the tee-shirts that look too messy to wear on other days.

But this week, I was going out where someone might actually notice what I was wearing. It was a big event, my monthly appointment with my hairdresser. I might be cheap and not pay much attention to clothes, but I won't skip an appointment to get my hair colored and cut. This prompted me to pull out the ironing board and iron. When I started ironing what I'd chosen to wear, I noticed something:

See the frayed cuff? And you might notice that it's a little faded. That's because it belongs to this shirt:
From the WUMB logo, I got this when I lived in Boston, which was from 1997 to 2005. Picking a middling date, this shirt is twelve or thirteen years old.

Of course, it's not as old as this one:
I had to get this at the QLink Sunset Bash in October of 1994. They gave out a bunch of old QLink merchandise. It's in such good shape because I'm saving it as a souvenir and don't wear it.

Then there are my jeans:
I have several pairs with frayed bottoms, but I hold onto them for two reasons. One is that the rest of the jean is still good. The other is that it's made of heavyweight denim, which is almost impossible to find now. I'd like to know why all the jeans in the stores and online catalogs are that thin stuff, pretend-denim. I like my jeans to have some heft to them. I like them to be sturdy, the kind of jeans that will stand up to being worn. Cowboy jeans.

Then there's footwear. No, I'm not a shoe collector. Imelda Marcos's record shoe collection is in no danger from me. But there are several items that I can't bring myself to part with. For instance, I l-o-n-g-e-d for this pair of sandals:
But I almost never wear them. They're not as comfortable as they look. And my toes get cold without socks. I almost always wear sneakers.

And can someone tell me why I'm holding onto these?
It never snows in Tucson. Well, I think it's snowed twice since I've been here. Neither time has it been more than an inch deep. But maybe someday the Polar Vortex will dip this far south. Or I'll have to travel back north in January.

The truth is, these (and others like them) are my favorite pieces of apparel. They're like old friends. They fit. They're comfortable. And they still have some wear left in them. (Well, maybe not the WUMB shirt.) So I hold onto them and even wear them.

Speaking of old friends, I couldn't end this blog without mentioning books.
That is one of my seven bookcases. Yes, I do most of my reading on an ereader now, but I still like books. I have a hard time parting with any of them. There are books I haven't read yet and books I've read several times. There's something comforting about seeing them on the shelves. They, too, are old friends.

I promised myself that when I retired from programming, I'd get rid of all the programming books. Not only am I not doing that any more--and with no desire to write code for fun at this point in my life--most of them are also outdated. If I were to start programming again, I'd probably need new books. But I invested so much money in them and so much of my life in programming, I have a hard time letting go.

Which explains the seven bookcases. This is all the empty space on them that remains:
I suppose it could be worse. Everyone has their quirks.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Looking Ahead to 2014


Okay, 2014 has already started, so I suppose that technically I can't be looking ahead to it. But only a very few days of the new year have passed and the first one was a holiday, so I think I'm still good on the looking ahead part.

2014 will be my first full year when, with no salaried job to go to, my primary occupation will be writer. While I published my first book in 2013 and shared a very few of my short stories, there were other things in my life that I needed to focus on. For the first six months, that was going to the day job. On what were supposed to be off days, writing days, I had to attend to the details of prospective retirement--applying for Social Security, figuring out medical coverage, determining what kind of supplemental funds I would need and would be wise to start spending, etc. Some of this activity extended past my retirement date. And there was that whole period of adjustment that I wrote about last week.

A couple of weeks ago I started evaluating what I had accomplished and what I wanted to do in the future. I'd dreamed of my published writing providing income for extras in my life--redecorating, traveling, hiring a landscaper so I didn't have to battle the weeds on my own and torture my arthritic spine. What I'd learned was that the world was not beating down my door to buy my book. There are a lot of books to buy and publishing changed--again--making it more difficult than ever for an indie writer to be discovered and successful.

For one thing, traditional publishers began to be price-compettitive on ebooks. Having lost to the Department of Justice on the price-fixing collusion suit with Apple, they could no longer inflate prices to $12.99, $15.99, or more. And perhaps they saw the benefit of promoting sales with those lower prices. On today's Kindle Daily Deals page, there are books by Ann Rule, John Le Carre, C.S. Lewis, and Edward W. Robinson priced under $3.99.

My lack of sales was discouraging. I tried to do something about that by paying for an ad, guest blogging, and running a sale on my book. None of those tactics worked very well. With only one book in a series, readers are reluctant to commit, not trusting that there will more books to read if they like the first one. There are some outliers who break out with their first book, who sell a gazillion copies and become internet sensations, but most indie writers need a body of work to be successful.

I also discovered that it takes me longer to write, revise, and edit a book than it does some writers. While there are those who can write and publish a book a month over and over again, I have yet to manage completing a book from first draft to publication in under a year. I always told myself that was because I was doing it in my "spare" time, but there have been times when I doubted that reasoning. Sometimes ideas need fermenting. Lots of times, I'll discover a plot problem or a character who needs a motivation for their actions and cannot for the life of me come up with the solution. Every day I'll spend time thinking about it and freewriting in my journal, but not come up with an answer. Until one day I do. But for that period of days, I'm frustrated and anxious that I'll never be able to fix it.

It crossed my mind to modify my decision. After forty years of working for someone else, didn't I deserve to relax and enjoy life? Maybe I would treat writing as a hobby instead of a job, write when I felt like it or was inspired, publish when I was ready instead of according to a schedule, not care whether I sold a book or not. I'd just enjoy telling stories.

But then there was that dream. It wasn't only about the money. It was about having people I'd never met reading and enjoying my books, about leaving a legacy behind me of stories that might be read a hundred years after I'd passed on. It was about succeeding in the career that I'd wanted for myself since I was a little girl.

And so I have declared 2014 The Year of Writing. I have decided that I will focus on producing that body of work, ignoring sales and promotion, and treat writing as a full time job. In addition to the daily list of goals I write down for myself each morning, I have written out a schedule of what time I will spend on each type of goal on my working days. And yes, I have decided to have working days and off days like a real job.

I have set specific publication and writing targets:

  • Publish Deliver Us From Evil, the second in the Community of Faith mystery series by April 30th
  • Publish Blue Murder, the first in the African Violet Club mystery series by September 30th
  • Publish ten short stories, one per month January-October
  • Draft a new mystery during NaNoWriMo in November


Hopefully, I'll achieve all those goals and more.

Photo Credit:
Happy New Year Banner: bdtiger2000 via openclipart.org