Woman watching the sunset

Looking ahead to post-COVID life

Every so many months, I force myself to take stock of my current situation and attitudes, reviewing the goals I had set myself and working out if I am still on track—or whether things have been completely derailed.

With all the crazy that the last six months has throw at the world, this particular review seems to be more important than ever.

New Zealand, my home country, has just moved into Level 1 lockdown, meaning that our domestic economy can get a reboot. We still have border restrictions, with all those coming into the country still facing quarantine, but all internal restrictions on businesses and travel has been removed, and life can go back to normal.

But for me, going back to normal is NOT going back to pre-COVID life. There are aspects of that pre-COVID life that I want to leave behind.

So, this review is not just looking at the goals I had set myself at the start of the year, but taking stock of my current situation and comparing it to pre-COVID life. It's time to decide was post-COVID life will look like—at least for the beginning. I encourage all of my readers to do the same.

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Woman looking at what it means to be diverse.

Diversity to the point of exclusion?

They say that dreams are the subconscious's way of speaking to the conscious. It's our way of trying to nut out things that have been plaguing our minds.

I must have a lot of things plaguing my thoughts, because I actually recall many of the dreams that I have. Many of my story ideas have started as dreams. Over the years, I've developed ways to cling to those last images that hit me during the moments between REM sleep and waking. When I sit at the keyboard, I start writing and let the story develop.

However, when I sat down to write the other morning, it wasn't the dream itself that I wanted to write, but rather a commentary on the dream's subject matter. That commentary is this blog post.

My dream was about a woman who wanted to write diverse stories, complete with the erotic scenes, but was constantly persecuted for doing so. In her everyday life, she was forced to write many of her stories in secret, with her friends pounding on the door, demanding that she show them the latest works. But the moment she showed them, out came the judgments and the hatred. So, she was forced to hide what she truly wanted the world to see. It was sad, because her stories were filled with beauty and romance, and a world that was accepting of all—yet, that was not her real life.

I guess you can say that it was a nightmare within a dream, and in many ways, my subconscious was telling me to stop worrying about what might be the world reception to my stories and just share the buggers. Get my writing out there. But there is an underlying fear that goes deep into my psyche.

As I traversed the path from my bedroom to my computer, I knew exactly what had sparked that dream. And I knew that I had to speak up about how things have gotten so out of control on the public stage—terrifying as that thought might be.

There is a genuine fear that hangs over my head about being persecuted for the stories that I write. The world says that it wants diverse stories with diverse characters, but there are those who will publicly attack a writer for even attempting such a thing. At the same time, there are those who will go for the throat when a writer tries to stay under the radar, sticking to stories that rest in the comfort zone.

Yet, those of us who want to speak up about this duplicitous discrimination genuinely feel that we can't say anything at all—for fear of being lynched.

The fear is real, and by making my fear publicly known, I open myself up to attack. But I'm doing it anyway, because if I don't, my dream from the other night—the one where a female writer wrote her diverse stories in secret and never shared them with the world for fear of being persecuted for doing so—will reoccur again and again. I know how my brain works. My subconscious wants me to understand that I, as a writer, should feel confident to write whatever I want to write without the fear of attack—and other writers should feel that too.

I do need to apologize to my readers in advance. This post is long, but it needed to be said.

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Focusing on What I Can Control

Every year, at this time of the year, I sit down and examine my journey into the publishing industry. I look at the little goals that I had set for myself and how I progressed towards those goal. When I do this, it’s about reminding myself of what I have achieved, and not focusing on what I haven’t achieved.

It’s about celebrating the little wins, and sometimes, it’s about reminding myself of the things that are out of my control.

There are external factors involved at every step along my personal publication journey. I’m getting better at identifying what those external factors are and shaping my goals, so that when I do these annual reviews, I’m able to be proud of my accomplishments.

Last year, I had set six objectives. One, in particular, was fully out of my control, 100% reliant on others. The other five... Well, I need to learn to get a little bit more specific in my goal setting

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Why the Sunrise?

I've been taken sunrise photos for a long time now. I'm up so early (naturally and by choice), often getting so many things done. I deliberately take the time to watch the sunrise, and I capture it on in digital pixels with my DSLR. It's my routine, and it works for me.

I have recently uploaded my September 2019 collection of sunrise photos, but it was so hard to chose a favorite. It was hard to decide on my latest fuel.

Some time ago, at a meetup with some of my writing buddies, one of them asked me a simple, but complicated, question: Why the sunrise? She was asking how I was able to actually be up so early in the mornings.

With the sunrise between 5 and 6 am in the summer, it’s actually easy to understand how she struggles to fathom the hour that I get up. Yet, my answer to her question was just as simple, and complicated, as her question: It’s just part of who I am.

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Traditional vs Self-Publication: The argument has flipped.

There was a time when the world at large looked down their noses at anyone who self-published, like the writing was sub-par. In many ways, it was. In those early days of Amazon and Kindle, self-publishing was so easy. Getting your book out into the world was just a matter of uploading your file to the internet and clicking on a few buttons. You didn’t even need to pay a dime if you didn’t want to. As such, everyone from the dog to the neighbor was self-publishing — and the world became flooded with books, many of which should have never been published when they were.

The market is still flooded with sub-par self-published books, but things have moved on. With the changes that have occurred within the industry as a whole, the quality of the self-published works has gone up and the ability to get traditional publication contracts has dramatically become harder. And the attitudes about self-publication have now flipped, and the stigma is now attached to the traditional roads.

For someone like myself, it is exciting times to see these transformations within the publishing industry. However, the shift in attitudes actually make my blood boil — but not because of where the stigma now lies, but because of the way people treat me when they discover that I’m determined to go down the traditional route with my fiction.

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