I’m here!

Hi Everyone,

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I posted. I’ve fallen into that place where writers are told not to go. You know, that place where you start a blog, keep up with it somewhat and then masked men with Mac computers come take you away to a special place where you’re ordered to write and write and write and are forbidden to do anything else — including dishes, laundry and taking the dog out before the next accident on the carpet.

Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic.

The truth is, I have fallen into the trap so many writers, and other professionals, fall in to. We start a blog, and then….life happens. Or in my case…a book happens.

Writers love their books, we have to to spend so much time with them, but this book is very special to me. To be honest, I didn’t think I was ready to write it. (It’s definitely one of those training-wheels off types of projects!)

I’m nearly done with the first draft and I’m still not certain I’m ready to write it, but sometimes a thing just has to be written and if that thing lives in your head, you have to be the one to write it.

That said, that’s where I’ve been — writing and researching and living in a mental cave deep within the earth, excavating very very dark things.

I love blogging and reaching out to people and feeling that odd cyber-connect. I also love reaching out to people with pages and pages of black ink on white paper and touching people in, I think, the most intimate way possible — by sharing stories.

Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, I’ve just fallen in a very deep hole with my laptop and my story.

I’m near the end of it now and there’s that excited running-downhill thing going on.

I’ll be excited to share this book with you when it’s ready. Though I have to warn you, it’s dark, and truth be told, it might take me a while to climb out of that dark cave. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll make it all the way out.

So if you see a hand reaching out from the earth and hear a voice calling from the darkness, it might be me.

“I’m here!”

 

 

 

Waiting = Writing

Every writer knows that waiting is a part of the job. Waiting for beta readers to give feedback, waiting for responses on query letters. Waiting for your agent to say it’s time to submit and then waiting to see if any publishers want to offer you a deal.

It’s excruciating, but there is something to ease the pain and to make the minutes, days, weeks, even months go by faster. Work!

Writers write, so write already!

In an earlier post, I compared the publishing process to having a baby. It is a lot like that, the waiting and the wondering what life will be like once it (the book or the baby) arrives.

baby-84626_640

Because we tend to think of our books like offspring, it’s hard to imagine getting pregnant with another baby, before the one you’ve been carrying is born. But writers never carry just one story inside of them at a time.

Right now, I bet there are characters, just waiting to be written, passing the time playing cards in the deep regions of your cerebral cortex. We think waiting is hard for writers, just imagine what it’s like for the characters who get hopeful every time we pick up a pen or sit down at our keyboards. Think how their hearts race when we order that double shot of espresso at Starbucks and take a table in the back corner.

Old vintage typewriter

The thing is, stories want to be told and as writers, it’s our job to tell them. So forget the clock and the calender. Stop checking your email every hour. Eventually, you will hear something, but in the mean time, work. Give life and freedom to your characters. Spring them from your brain and let them live on the page.

For me, there’s nothing better than the moment a story takes hold of you and pushes you, blindfolded, down a steep hill. The exhileration of not knowing what’s going to happen and the certainty that you’ll figure it out is the best!

So yes, waiting is a part of being a writer. But remember that waiting should always equal writing.

 

 

 

“This Generation”

Hi Everyone,

Sorry it’s been a while since I posted. I’ve been busy working on rewrites of a novel that will be going out to publishers soon and it’s this novel and some other things that have inspired this post today.

To start off, last week I saw a post on Facebook about ‘this generation’.

 

teens in classroom

Needless to say, when the term ‘this generation’ is used, it’s probably not going to be a post about how studious, respectful and wonderful today’s youth is. I’m not a teenager anymore, but as someone who once was, and as someone who writes for teens and tweens, this really annoys me!

First off, generations are made out of people and people are individuals. Everyone has their own story, their own triumphs and tragedies. Not everyone born in the sixties or the seventies or the eighties or nineties are the same. Yes, we are all parts of the eras we grew up in, but we didn’t grow up in the same houses or neighborhoods, with the same incomes or religions or talents or handicaps. We’re all different and grouping a whole generation of teens together is just plain wrong.

Secondly, I happen to like this generation of teens. As a teacher, they make me laugh and sometimes they make me cry. I see them struggling in a world that isn’t like the one I grew up in. When I was a kid, bullies weren’t that common and if you had one to deal with, you knew once school was over for the day, you were free of him or her. Today kids are never free — not with cyber bullying.

When I was a kid we had fire and tornado drills. We would never have imagined someone coming into school with the intent of killing as many of us as possible just because they have a desire to kill.

The point I’m trying to make is that teens don’t have it easy and most of them, if they feel entitled, it’s only because they want what’s fair, like a decent education and healthy food to eat. Most are grateful for the good things in their lives and most are much more attuned to what’s happening in our world than we ever give them credit for.

So to all the teens out there, when I first wrote this novel, it contained letters to you. Now, these letters are written by me, but I wrote them trying to imagine what God would want to say to the youth of the world if He or She decided to drop a line every once in a while. (I prefer to believe that God doesn’t have a gender one way or the other because…well…God created the universe and somehow genitals just shouldn’t matter to a being capable of such a feat.)

In the various rewrites of the book, the letters were taken out, but I’d like to give them to you all the same. So starting this week I’ll be posting the letters — the love letters from God.

Now, it may seem presumptuous of me to think that I can speak for God, and I’m not trying to. I’m simply imagining what the Almighty might want to say, or is already saying, but in our crazy, hectic, and sometimes angry, societies, we’re not hearing.

God gets a pretty bad wrap today and to be honest, I’ve struggled with sorting through the bigotry and downright evil that is paraded around our country in the name of religion. These letters aren’t about religion. They’re about spirituality. They’re about you and the fact that you mean something. You are something.

Anyway, I’m not sure what I’m hoping the letters bring you. Peace maybe. Guidance…well, we’ll see. Mostly, I want them to help each one of you know that while you are part of a generation, you are a part of something much bigger than that. You are a part of a gallery of art that is beautiful, rare and utterly magnificent. You matter.

watercolor-1020509_1280

Spring YASH! YA Scavenger Hunt

Hi Everyone,

Just getting the word out that I’ll be hosting Kate Elliot for this spring’s YASH! Kate Elliott is the author of numerous science fiction and fantasy novels including BLACK WOLVES, COLD MAGIC, and the YA fantasy COURT OF FIVES. She lives in Hawaii and paddles outrigger canoes in her spare time, as well as walking her now very old schnauzer.  The hunt starts on March 29th. It’s a great chance to see what’s out there in the world of Young Adult fiction and to win books! Who doesn’t want to win books?

Come back here on March 29th to learn more about Kate’s books and take part in the YA Scavenger Hunt for a chance to win books from these authors!

Go team purple!YASH PURPLE TEAM SPRING 2016

To Read those Reviews, or Not to Read!

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with another writer who just had her third book released. She told me that she never reads reviews of her books, and I had to wonder if this approach is a good one.

Sure, great reviews are awesome! We all need our egos stroked once in a while and a good review on Goodreads or some other website is like that much needed pat on the back. But what about the bad reviews?

Do bad reviews serve any purpose? If the good ones build our self confidence, do the negative ones tear our fragile egos down?

First off, whether or not to read reviews is something each writer must decide on their own, and, if they chose to read them, they need to be able to sort the helpful ones from the ones that aren’t helpful.

What do I mean by helpful?

We write to be read. Many of us write for certain audiences. If that audience feels a certain way about our stories or our character development (or lack there of), we might want to hear what they’re saying — after all, they’re the ones buying our books.

In psychology, they say that recurring dreams usually mean something — that our unconscious self is trying to get us to deal with some issue. Well, in reviews, recurring issues might be something we, as writers, need to deal with.

Of course, it doesn’t feel good to admit that maybe we could do something better, but isn’t that always the point — to get better at our craft. If I’m a singer, and I’m singing off key, I want to know! I want to fix it! But if we place our hands over our ears every time someone starts to say something negative, we’ll never improve.

The most difficult part is knowing which critiques are helpful and which ones aren’t.

I recently read Neil Gaiman’s  book The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I LOVED it! I went on Goodreads and out of curiosity looked at what other readers had to say about the book. I couldn’t believe that anyone wouldn’t like it, but of course, there are people who don’t like chocolate, strawberry shortcake, or walking along the beach.

People have different likes and dislikes, and as a writer, we have to know that there will always be people who don’t get us or our characters or our stories. That’s just how it is.

You can’t please everyone, and there are, sad to say, haters out there who just enjoy hating and might need to see a proctologist to have something removed from a certain part of their bodies.

But if there are recurring issues being brought up in reviews, we might want to take these critiques seriously and see if or how we should apply them to our future work. But we can’t know if there are recurring issues if we don’t read the reviews.

That being said, you don’t need to read a hundred reviews to get the gist of what your readers think. After all, that would take hours and hours, and that time needs to be spent writing!

Curse the Day Job!

Okay, the fact is that most writers have day jobs, or sometimes, night jobs, or second shift jobs or maybe jobs that seem to never end, like teaching. Day jobs are great in that writing these days generally requires electricity and caffeine, both which are hard to pay for without money.

But while day jobs are a blessing, they also have their downsides. Talk to any writer and the one thing they’ll tell you they need the most is time. For many people, they work the 8 to 5, pick up the kids, fix dinner, do laundry or whatever. For the writer, the real work begins after they’ve punched out, but there’s still dinner to fix, still laundry to wash and still a big steaming pile of “whatever” to get done.

Day jobs take up time. They also keep us from getting hungry, figuratively and literally. The bills are paid, there’s food in the fridge, and there’s a danger of becoming comfortable, of forgetting the dream and the stories we want to tell.

I’m not saying we should quit our jobs. (Yes, I think all writers fantasize about getting out of bed, filling their favorite mugs with coffee and getting to work in our pajamas  —  in short, quitting our jobs), but you may have noticed that few homeless people today are getting published. Most of us can’t quit our jobs, at least not yet. We have to see the dream through, and to see the dream through means, at least for now, getting up to the alarm clock, getting dressed, and heading to the only 8 to 5.

My point? Do your job, but don’t forget that no matter what it says on your pay check or your name tag, you have two jobs. You’re a writer. Let the day job feed you and pay the bills, but don’t let it feed your ambition. Don’t let it feed your dreams. Don’t get comfortable being part of the status quo. Don’t let your day job turn into the thing that keeps you from fulfilling your dreams.

Getting in the Mood — to write

It’s Saturday morning. The kids are asleep. Dad is working in his garden (hooray for spring) and the dog’s gone out. It’s time to write! And yet….

It has occurred to me that writing is like sex.  Sometimes we’re more ‘turned on’ than other times. Sometimes we’re in the mood, and sometimes…our creative side gets a headache. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a Viagra for writing! Okay, I know this sounds ridiculous, but we all know that writing takes focus and energy (the mental kind of energy that’s much harder to come by). So just like most people have their turn-ons for sex, maybe we writers have turn-ons for writing.

Let’s see. For me there’s….

Music:  Trying to find a song that would go with the scene I’m working on. Youtube is great for this. Last week I was working on a scene where a character is playing the violin. I found a wonderful video of an artist playing a heart-wrenching Bach piece — perfect.

Ambition: Okay, this is a big word that can mean many things, from just wanting to be able to pay bills to going to that next high school reunion and telling the girl who made head cheerleader and razzed you about not making the squad at all that you have a book deal. Ambition can be wanting your kids to go to college, wanting a bigger house or one with a basement that doesn’t flood when it rains. Or for someone like me with a child who will be battling health issues his whole life, the ability to know he’ll be able to go to good doctors and have a good life. Ambition isn’t a four letter word. There’s nothing wrong with ambition, and reminding ourselves of ‘why’ we want it so badly can be just what we need to get us to work when it’s hard to get in the mood.

Dreams and stories: I think this is the most important one. Writing isn’t easy. I think that horse has been beaten to death and the only people who believe writing is easy are those people who don’t write. We hack away at writer’s block, at the insecurities and rejections because we have a dream and we have stories. In a world of destruction, we dream of being creators, of giving birth to characters and scenarios and tragedies and moments when something magical happens on the page and we cry and we know that someday someone on the other side of the globe might hold our book, read our words, and cry too. That’s the dream. Stories move in us, beseeching us to tell them, to exorcise them from our souls and release them into the world, to set them free.

Right now, the sink is full of dishes. The couch is covered with laundry and very soon, too soon, the dryer will buzz like some sci-fi beast to let me know I have responsibilities! And yes, I do have responsibilities — to my craft, to myself, to my characters and their stories.

There is no viagra for writers, but we can turn ourselves on to writing. It’s not easy, but it’s what we do.

Waiting

There’s no way around it. If you’re a writer, you’re a waiter, and I don’t mean someone who works in restaurants taking food orders. Whether it’s waiting to hear on the latest round of queries you’ve sent out, waiting to hear about a partial or full an agent requested, or waiting to see if your agent is able to find a home for your manuscript, we wait. We wait. We wait some more.

I’m a terrible waiter. I try to explain, especially to my family, why for the next so many days or weeks, I might not be the most pleasant person to be around, and I know they don’t get it — they aren’t writers.

We wait for a response and that response is everything. It’s the answer to questions that burn continuously in our souls.

Am I wasting my time?

Do I have any talent?

Will I ever be able to quit my day job or at least, pay a bill just once with money I’ve made writing?

These are huge questions, and sadly, an email rejection on a query doesn’t answer any of them, and too often I’ve heard agents say that they had a great writer with a great book that they just couldn’t find a home for.

So what do we do?

Some writers drink whiskey or vodka or vermouth. Some take second jobs in order to afford their twice daily trips to Starbucks because not only do we need caffeine, we might well develop relationships with the staff at Starbucks and seeing their kind, smiling faces may be the only thing that keeps us from falling off the edge of ‘waiting’ insanity.

It would be nice if we could wait like expectant mothers. That we’d be guaranteed that by such and such a date, our manuscript will have developed a beating heart, a brain, and by such and such a date, we will be able to hold our precious creation. But no.

We can’t just gestate our characters and plots into existence. We have to work constantly to create  and recreate them. Maybe our protagonist is a male one day, a female the next. Maybe she has a brain the first fourth of the book but by page eighty-seven, her brain’s been sucked out by alien insects.

We create and wait. Create and wait. And while I may not be the best person to hangout with during those periods of waiting, I know the best advice I can give myself and others to help us through the endless ticks of the clock.

Create. Start the second book in a series, even if you don’t know if the first will sell. Start a totally new project or go back to an old one. Work. Create. It won’t silence the ticking, but it will muffle it a bit, and while we wait, we become better writers because that is who we are destined to be.

Dear Teens,

Up until now, most of my posts have centered around writing. I am a member of a very important species called “writers” and we need to stick together, to support each other through the moments of doubt, joy, elation, depression, and temporary (hopefully temporary) madness.

But as a young adult writer, I feel the pull, the need, to communicate not only with other writers, but with those most likely to read what I write. So here goes.

Dear teens,

I’m not of your generation. I grew in a world where the word terrorism was never spoken and 9-11 was just another date. And all too often today, I hear people saying that ‘kids today’ have no work ethic, they take everything for granted.

And I wonder what it would be like to grow up in a world where you’re told to be yourself, but then people look down on you because you’re not conforming enough. To be told to get good grades so you’ll get into a good college and by the way, terrorists are plotting to kill people in shopping malls so YOLO!

Life today is a kaleidoscope of paradoxes. Pursue your goals, your dreams, your ambitions, but beware of Ebola and North Korea and student loan debt.

I think my niece put it best when she was two years old and she went around saying, “Life a bitch.”

Sometimes it can be, but sometimes it can be pretty amazing.

The truth is, I don’t know you. I don’t know what struggles you go through every day. I don’t know what crap have you to put up with or how many people care about you and do a good enough job showing it.

But I don’t think you’re a generation of “kids today”. I think, no, I know, that you are as full of possibilities as any human being who has ever lived before you.

I want to listen to you. I want to cheer for you. I want to understand and I want you do know that when I write, I’m writing because a) I have to or I’ll explode! b) it’s my way of reaching out across the miles and the houses and the apartments and fields and the oceans — to tap you on the shoulder and say hey, this is for you. I hope you like it.

Writing Naked, Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone!

We write, picking each word carefully. We highlight/delete, chose more precious words, rewrite and rewrite and then after months, years, maybe even decades, it’s still not everything we know it can be.

We might start working on something else, thinking time and distance might give us new perspective, and while that may be helpful, we might also want to get in touch with our inner Freud. What are we over looking, not just in the story but inside ourselves?

I’m currently doing revisions and having that feeling that the story could be great. Not just good, but something really special. But it’s missing something. My agent was able to put her finger on it.

Overtime, I’ve gotten too close to my main character and too protective. Characters in stories get hurt. Sometimes a little. Sometimes a lot. I’d built a safety net beneath her, and I was making certain she stayed over it. In short, I started controlling the character instead of letting her go where she needs to go, even if it’s somewhere I’m not particularly comfortable with.

As artists, we have to be honest in our writing, and that means letting the characters tell their stories. They may go somewhere we’re not comfortable. We may have to strip down our barriers, our emotions, maybe even our values, to keep it honest and real. We may have to write naked, figuratively speaking — especially if you have children or nosey neighbors!

In short, we have to lose ourselves enough to let the muse use us, to let the characters use us. But we also have to know where our comfort zones are, and we have to be wiling to step out of them, if that’s where our characters take us.