Tag Archives: retreat

Post Smoky Blues and Highs

So, back again! Been a while, hasn’t it?

Soooooo, I went to Smoky again. J If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out [this post] or [this one] from a review of a previous Smoky. If you don’t want to go to that lovely piece of my blog, I’ll paraphrase: 20-some writers of all shapes and kinds, cranking out words, eating delicious, homecooked food (courtesy of our two live-in chefs), and having a blast.

I miss everyone already, but that last day slammed me once I go home. See, in the prior two years of attending the Smoky Mountain Writers retreat, I would get home off of a high of cranking out thousands upon thousands of words, and think, “I’m going to continue working on this until it’s done and perfect and-


My brain would shut down entirely. I would want to write, but have nothing pulling me to write. My mind was filled with ideas, but without motivation, I’d go nowhere. {See  [this post] on L.O.I. and my struggles with it.)

And nowhere was where I remained for months after each Smoky. First Smoky (2015) I cranked out about 28,000 words in the six days of the retreat. Second Smoky (2016 – Last Year): 36,000 words.  All new projects.

This year, my new project topped out at 31,000 by Saturday night. I was pleased with my work, even getting positive feedback from an awesome friend who has been supportive for the last month or so. (For those of you who don’t know what I mean by that, watch [this video] for the bombshell that broke me at the end of January.)

I won’t say much about this project, as I’m keeping it as hush-hush as I can. All I can promise is that it is amazing so far. In working on this project, I learned how to look back on the past and smile, without it dragging me down.

Most of this week post-Smoky, I’ve been singing and dancing everywhere, smile on my face (most of the time, anyway). I’ve gotten tons of weird looks at the grocery store and gas stations and while walking laps at work, but, for once in my life, I didn’t care.




A HUGE step in the right direction, I think. While the beginning of the year had been rough, I’m not going to let it squash my passion for writing and my confidence in this project.

Also, we do nightly readings at Smoky, where we can ask questions, but no criticisms, which creates a nice, positive atmosphere in which to share our crafted stories. Many of you will have heard of me talk about my mentors Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine (Authors of The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series; highly recommend). They were the ones that got me to my first Smoky, and they go every year too. It’s always fun to see them and laugh and have a good time, and my depression thanks all the Smokies for emotionally supporting me. It really helped, guys. It really did.

Anyway, Tee was in my last three reading groups of the retreat. That first reading, it was me, him, and KT. I did my reading second, and was terrified. Once I’d finished my 15 minutes (different from the standard 10, because our group was smaller than the others), Tee asked a question or two, and then told me that, compared to the readings I did last year, my writing was LOADS better, and he could see how much I’ve improved, to which, KT agreed. Once readings were over, I was headed to my room to call Boyfriend, when Tee got my attention and said, “Seriously, Christine, that was good. Keep it up.” As he thumbsed-up me and walked away, my heart pounded. I couldn’t believe that my mentor, idol, and role model had complimented me that strongly.

Fast forward to the final night’s reading. I finished reading a single chapter, and had 3 minutes left to read. Before I could continue, Tee interrupts and asks a question. I glanced at where I would be reading and told him, “I don’t think I’ll be able to get there in three minutes.” He laughed and urged me to finish. Once my turn was done, he said to me, “Your story… it kinda feels along the lines of Labrynth.”

Cue heart pounding out of my chest. For those of you that don’t know Tee and Pip, let me mention a little factoid: they LOVE David Bowie. Like, beyond comprehension. Tee comparing my story to a David Bowie movie just topped anything else on the retreat. I was on Cloud Nine all the way home… Until I remembered what my brain does after Smoky…


… And started to silently panic.

Soon, I realized there was a simple way to combat the L.O.I. and lack of motivation: Forcing words out. I am now challenging myself to write 300+ words a day, and I’m keeping a record in an Excel Document (Curse my love of Excel). I’ve been doing okay, considering; I’ve written over 3k in the last four days. I’m also posting a daily #PostSWRLog update on my Twitter account to hold myself accountable. I’m still going to attempt words this weekend, but travelling for a short vacation might hinder that ability. I still will post #PostSWRLogs, but probably not a huge word count. That will change after that fun’s over.

Oh, and that project that Tee complimented me on?

*gestures for you to come in closer*

*whispers* It’s a secret.

Keep Faith, everyone. Stay tuned. This year is going to be a wild ride. 😀

Pre-Smoky Jitters

Greetings, Vikans!

So, Story #2 of The Chaos Accounts, titled “Account of Unrest”, released on February 16th (two Thursdays ago). Compared to its predecessor (“Account of Anxiety”), sales reactions responded weakly. “Account of Anxiety got 81 downloads in less than a month. My biggest download days were the first three days after release. With “Account of Unrest” having been out for over a week, I’ve only gottne three downloads.



However, I will NOT be deterred! In fact, I’ve come close to finishing up Story #3, and the only hint as to what happens that I’ll give at this time is that it’s from Luz’s POV.

Now, for the topic mentioned in the title: SMOKY!

Every year, a bunch of crazy, incredibly talented authors and their equally as amazing chefs, rent out a cabin in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee for a week. During this week in the majestic mountains, writing is our full-time job. Eight hours a day with lunch in the middle, for seven days. We get a “Free” day to explore the surrounding arear too, but I usually just get another day of wordsmithing in.

So, why does my title use the word “jitters”? If this is Year 3 for me, why so nervous?

Well… for a few reasons…

  1. My anxiety has been manically wild for over a month now, so I’m jittery enough at home in day-to-day life.
  2. This retreat is my safe haven. A place where I’m among people who are accepting and caring (and crazy, but we already mentioned that). The jitters will come from being away from home for a week after all the previously mentioned anxiety that’s cropped up recently. I know my fellow Smokies will be there to hold me up, but I don’t like the idea of burdening my friends with my problems.
  3. WILL I BE PREPARED?! Last year, I cranked out 36,000 words in 5/6 days. With everything worrisome in my brain space, will I be able to focus enough to crank out even a fraction of last years total word count?

To wrap up this worry-fest, I’ve been counting the weeks until Smoky for months. Now, with only days until we arrive in our “Valhalla” of a cabin, I’m starting to feel nervous. But, while I may have worries, Smoky is my safe haven, and all the people in that cabin are my writing family. They’ll be there to help guide me through all of this.

I’m so grateful I have them to get me through this. 🙂

TWO DAYS! Smoky, here I come!


AWESOME! – That Time In The Mountains


I’ve been quiet for a while, trying to figure out what I could blog about. Now, I have the absolute BEST thing to write about.

For the past week, I have been away on a Writers retreat (Smoky Mountain Writers- SMW) with about <20 AMAZING people. When I arrived, I only knew one person, one of my mentors who pulled me into this. I was petrified, not knowing who these people are, just knowing they were writers and friends with my mentors. Said mentors assured me that these were good people, and I trust them, which is why I agreed to go. I thought, hey, it’s a good experience, and great networking. However, with my shyness and reluctance to interact with other people, I was still a bit anxious about how I would fair during an 8-day retreat in the middle of nowheresville Tennessee (The mountains in Gatlinburg, for anyone’s information) with a bunch of people I didn’t know. At worst, I’d get some writing done, get some sleep and food, and not embarrass the heck out of myself.

Man, I was SOOOOOO GLAD that it was much more than that.

My drive was difficult to say the least. I drove through a blizzard on I-81 for over 8 hours, finally stopping 15 miles from the VA/TN border on Saturday night. I continued the drive Sunday morning, and when I got there, I learned it had been totally worth it (no matter how much my mom said she was going to kick my @$$ when I got home).

Sure, a majority of our time was silent writing time (which, over 6.5 days, I’d written over 28k). At first it was hard to interact with these people, because all of them had some sort of connections with other cabinmates. Most had been to Balticon, and were planning on returning this May. Some were co-authoring works together, and others had been friends for years. It was intimidating, being the odd one out.

Then came the surprising part: they attempted to include me. Like, talking to me, actually WANTING to get to know ME, of all people. They understood the challenges I’d had in life, because all of them had been through it too. They were welcoming, kind, CRAZY people, so much like me that it stunned me for a bit. They got me to do things I never would have done elsewhere. I read some of my raw work EVERY NIGHT. I watched a New Zealand vampire ‘documentary’ (coming soon to places other than NZ- What We Do In The Shadows). I even hot-tubbed OUTSIDE in 30° temperatures!

Before I arrived, I believed this would be an amazing opportunity to network and make connections. I hadn’t really expected to make 17 new friends. By the time I had to say my tearful goodbye (Bad weather on last day, so left early), I trusted them so much, and I hope they will be friends with me for a long, long time. They were amazing, creative, spontaneous, CRAZY people, and I miss them so much already.

Onto Smoky Writers 2016!