A Little time Away From the Modem and Router Is a Good Thing

Missed the big wedding, heard rumors of a new comedy duo named Laurel and Yanni, spent some time on a major earthquake fault line along the Mississippi River (during a severe thunderstorm), hardly been online at all ...

I'm not sure which those should go into the good or the bad category of vacationing. But since we didn't get swallowed up by the river or hit by lighting (yet), I guess we're doing okay.

While looking out over the Mississippi at New Madrid I saw a small whirlpool, so you could say that New Madrid is both shaken and stirred. I say these puns are their fault.
"Hey, let's all go on the narrow pier over a giant river right on the spot where the land splits in two!"

Pointing toward the river. New Madrid is a small town of around 3,500, but they have a Port Authority office.

If this is the storm shelter, we're in trouble.

It's a-boat time.

You can't get blood from a turnip, but they got a whole bag full from me

We're going on vacation soon, and so won't be online all that much for a few weeks. But, between fun things like reading, being outside, and reading outside, I'll continue that writing related stuff. You should hear about future projects by the end of summer, if all goes well. 

My oldest daughter approached me with a simple request: Her twins were being asked to bring someone to their school to donate blood. You want to do something for your grandkids. After all, they're your ... wait for it ...

Blood relatives.

Blood relatives! Hey, the dog thought it was funny.
There was a short period of time, a few nanoseconds, in which my mind wound up to deliver a powerful, definitive, final, "hell no". Scream it. I've always had an issue with needles, which abated some over the years as I got used to allergy shots and annual blood draws. But the needle they use for an allergy shot is like, say, a BB Gun. My brother shot me with a BB gun once; it left a welt on my cheek (no, not that cheek), close enough that it could have put an eye out, but otherwise harmless.

The needle they use for blood donations is closer to Dirty Harry size.
"Go ahead: Open a vein."
But in the short amount of time I spent winding up to scream "No!" the way teenagers used to scream at the Beatles, I heard a voice. It said, "Sure, okay." It was squeaky and shaky, but it was me.

It's not the first time I ever spoke before I thought. There was the time I agreed to a BB gun fight with my brother, for instance.

Worse, it's notoriously hard to get a needle stick into my tiny veins. I suppose they shrivel in fear when they see the needle approach, just as I do. But I made a blood promise, literally, so I showed up to talk to the Red Cross people.

"Hey, you can't draw blood from people who are taking allergy and acid reflux medicine, can you?"

"Sure we can, no problem."

"Oh, right good. But what if professional nurses have actually taken early retirement because they couldn't find my veins?"

"Not to worry, we deal with that all the time."

"Yeah, but, if somebody faints ..."

"You'll be laying down, it's okay."

"Oh, cool. What if I ran for my life?"

"No problem, I was a defensive tackle in college."

Long story short, I sucked it up while getting my blood sucked out. The whole process only took about half an hour, of which twenty minutes was paperwork and ten actual sucking. The biggest shock to me is that they found my vein on the first stick; this is so remarkable I'm thinking of hiring them to do all my future blood draws, even the ones with the BB gun needles.

Smiling through my pain.

And no cost. Well, none to me: I had the good fortune of feeling a little lightheaded when it was all over, so I got three cans of juice and a bag of cookies out of the deal. I also got Red Cross blankets for the grand-kids, which is great, but I think it's their turn to give blood next time. I mean, they're almost ten.

Now that I've done it, I have to say, I understand people who make multiple blood donations. There's a certain satisfaction in giving when it's done, the idea that you've contributed in some small way.

Just the same, it would be nice if they could come up with some other extraction technique. Maybe something similar to squeezing it out, like from a sponge. Or collecting it from a BB gun wound.

Maybe I'll try that on my brother.

Interview with author Renee Antonia, with guest blog on working while writing

When she wakes up in the morning, the first thing that goes through Alejandra's head is whether or not she will be forced into another anxiety inducing situation. The struggles of being a young adult living with an anxiety ridden brain becomes too much for Alejandra to deal with. So, with the help of her friends, she forces herself out of the bubble her anxiety has placed her in. She learns to conquer the fears she once thought would destroy her and learns to rely on herself more than she ever has.

I'm honored to join the Women on Writing Tour of I'm Not Okay, a young adult fiction novel by Renee Antonia.

I know what you're thinking: "But Mark, you're not a woman!" Hey, equal rights--besides, it's about her book tour, not me. But thanks for noticing.

Being a writer myself, I asked Renee to say a few words about one of my biggest challenges: Trying to write while also working the "day" job full time. But after reading her book, I also had a few questions for her:

Am I right that I’m Not Okay is partially autobiographical? How much of yourself do you put into your writing?
1.  I'm Not Okay isn't necessarily autobiographical, but I did pull a lot of inspiration from my own life for this book.  The main character, Alejandra, isn't me, but some aspects of her personality are based off of my traits.  

What kind of research did you do for the novel?
2. Since I suffer from anxiety and depression, I didn't really have to research much about the symptoms that come along with it.  However, I did read as many personal testimonies from other people who suffer from  anxiety as I could find, just so that I can get a firm grasp on what other people go through.  I felt like it was important to include how other people deal with their anxiety to make the book a little more universal. 

How was your experience self-publishing?
3.I personally loved self-publishing.  I wish I would have been a little more patient and taken advantage of all of the different resources that are available for self-publishing authors, but I loved the experience.  I believe that it gave me the opportunity to create a brand for myself, and it was an experience that I will never forget.  Plus, BookBaby, the self-publishing site I went with, was extremely helpful.

Did you try the traditional publishing route first and, if so, how was that experience?
4. I decide to bypass the traditional publishing route for I'm Not Okay.  Since the story was so personal, I wanted it to stay as true to what I wrote as possible.  

Did you have help with editing, beta-readers, or otherwise have people look at your work before publication?
5.I did have a few of my friends and family read through the book a couple times, however I wish I had invested in an editor.  Unfortunately at the time I was still on a budget, and the thought of hiring an editor was tempting, but not feasible.

How do you budget your time? Writers with day jobs always want to know this!
6. I wish I can say that I have budgeting my time down to a science, but I don't.  I just learned to write whenever I could.  I would write during my lunch beaks and would wake up early to knock out a couple pages before work.  If I had free time, then it went to writing.  Unfortunately, there is no secret to make writing while working easy, you just have to sit down and write.  

Do you plan to stick to one area in future writing, or switch genres?
7.As of right now I plan on sticking to young adult for a few books, but I do have plans for a book that steps out of the young adult genre and into the mystery genre. 

Are you a discovery writer (often called pantser) or an outliner/planner?
8. I am definitely a discovery writer.  While I write, the characters tend to come up with a path for themselves, so  I have learned to listen and follow them.  I believe this makes the story flow way smoother than if I outline and plan every chapter.  

What do you prefer: Novel or short story writing?
9. I would have to say novels.  I absolutely love writing short stories, but there is nothing better than watching a character grow from a single adjective to a full grown person with an entire life story.  

Do you have any future projects coming up?
10. I am currently working on a duology that follows a teenage boy who lives in the underground city of Seattle.  I am hoping to go through the traditional route of publishing for these books, but my mind can easily be swayed to self publish again. 

Thanks, Renee! I'm Not Okay is available as an eBook with all the usual suspects, such as Amazon.comBarnes and Noble,  and Apple iTunes. Search for it by its ISBN-13 number, too: 9781483598062. As for the Author:

Renee Antonia grew up in the Los Angeles area with four siblings and two wonderful parents. Having such a strong support system enabled her to decide who and what she wanted to be. However, this question haunted her for years, because she couldn't quite pinpoint what exactly she saw herself doing for the rest of her life. She began to read a lot, hoping to find inspiration between the pages of a book. It was at this time that  she realized one thing. She loved sharing, reading, and writing. Renee decided that she wanted to be a writer, and since that day, she has taken any steps necessary to achieve that goal.

You can find Renee Antonia at:

But wait ... there's more!  As I said up above (you don't have to go back, just take my word for it), I asked Renee to say a few words about one of the modern writer's biggest challenges: writing while paying the bills:

     When I first decided that I wanted to try my hand at being a writer, my parents decided to sit me down and give me a pretty harsh reality check.  They told me that at this point in my career, I wouldn’t be able to sustain any kind of comfortable living with the money I was getting from writing, and that I should keep the jobs that I had until I could.  After hearing them out, I agreed.  My writing career was (and still is) in its infancy, and as a 20 year old who had just moved out of my parents house, I couldn’t even think about leaving my jobs. 

    So, I decided to write while I worked a full time schedule.  It didn’t sound very hard at first, but I’m pretty sure that was my naivety.  I work two part time jobs that bring me in about 50-60 hours a week, and my schedule varies weekly.  So, planning my writing out is difficult.  I never know how tired I will be once I finish an 11 hour day, or if I’d still want to write after writing all day at work.  Unfortunately, because of this, in the very beginning, my writing suffered.

    I didn’t know what it meant to keep up a writing career when I first started.  I didn’t realize that I would literally be writing all the time.  Between my book, blog, and Patreon I was writing, or at least thinking of writing at least everyday.  All of this would have been fine, but because my jobs were sustaining my life, I couldn’t just drop them to write a short story or finish a chapter in my book.  So, I let my writing go for a couple months.  I was only writing when I had free days or I was bored and I missed deadlines that I gave myself. 

    It wasn’t until a reader who keeps up with my short stories on my website messaged me and asked if I was okay because I hadn’t posted in a month.  The embarrassment I felt was crippling, and I realized then that I had to figure out how to be a writer while I worked. 

    So, I did.  It was hard, but I had to find a way to come out with content while keeping my obligations at work. I started waking up an hour before I usually would.  By doing this, I was able to write a page or two before I even started work.  Along with waking up early, I started staying up later.  Now, it may not be the best thing to do, but staying up an extra hour would help me wrap up the writing I started that day.  By getting up an hour early and stay up and hour later, I knew that I would at least get two hours of writing done a day.

    Now, if I wanted to do more than that, but I had a full day at work, I would take my laptop to work and use my breaks as writing time.  If I had a 30 minute lunch, I would take out my laptop and write a little.  These breaks never gave me a lot of time to write, but it was something.  I also would force myself to go to a library or a starbucks or coffee shop after work, instead of going straight home.  I knew if I went home then I would end up laying down and convincing myself that I needed to rest. 

 However, if I went somewhere that didn’t have my bed at a convenient ten feet from me, I would be willing to write, because there was nothing else I could really do there.

    This was and is what I still do to keep my writing career and two jobs manageable.  As I’ve mentioned, it isn’t easy.  Sometimes, I am really exhausted and writing just doesn’t seem appealing. 

 But, when I finish a short story or another chapter in my book, I know that I all of this hard work and long days will be worth it in the future.

    Working while writing is hard, and there is absolutely no way I can sugarcoat that.  However, if you really want it, the outcome will be worth all of the sacrifices.