Moving On

Writing is a journey, and there is so much to learn along the way. One of the things you must learn is when it’s time to move on. I knew the odds of publishing my very first novel were slim. It didn’t stop me from loving the book and trying my best. It has been through many revisions, and no one has shown much interest. I still believe in it, but know it needs help that I don’t have. So I had to take a hard look and decide it was time to move on. Doing that in the midst of the stress of a pandemic and social unrest made me feel a bit like this.

While querying, editing, and querying again, I also wrote two other books. One is another children’s book that I have yet to even begin editing. The other is my memoir, detailing the 25 years I spent in the entertainment industry. I was able to use the stay-at-home order to find more time to finish it and finally pare it down to find its form.

I thoroughly enjoyed going through my work orders, reading my journals, and falling deep into the memories of the time spent with Kevin Costner in South Dakota, or with Bob Hoskins on a soundstage at Television City, I relived the infamy of turning off Bill Clinton’s mic in the middle of a speech, and the sublime feeling of standing on the field of an NFC championship game with my eyes closed, imagining what it would feel like to have the roar of the crowd be for me.

Professional Eavesdropper takes the reader behind the scenes in Hollywood and leads them on a journey from naïvely wanting to be a part of celebrity culture to the realities of the toxic environments that culture encourages. With help from beta readers and wonderfully honest critique partners, the memoir began to take its shape. It likely still needs a lot more work, but I think it’s a fairly entertaining read.

Tomorrow, after finishing the polish on my query letter and synopsis, I will send out a couple of queries, testing the waters. I am cautiously optimistic that I have something people beyond my friends and family will find interesting, and something that can begin a dialogue on what celebrity culture does to society.

Some day I hope to return to Fear Unleashed and find the missing pieces to it. Until then, I am moving on with renewed optimism and excitement where this memoir might lead. Wish me luck.

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The Rhyme of History

If you live long enough, you begin to see history repeat itself, or at least rhyme with itself. Almost 30 years ago a black man was beaten on camera, though unliked George Floyd, he lived to tell his side of the story. But the lack of justice, the years of pent up anger over police abuse, and systemic racism, boiled over into the streets of Los Angeles. Businesses were burned. Lives were ended. Society unraveled. The conversation on systemic racism went national and so many promises were made after the violence ended, because sadly, it’s only after a paroxysm of violence that political leaders tend to take notice. But obviously those promises were left unfulfilled and nothing really changed, because here we are 30 years later, experiencing similar events in a different city. Making things worse this time, these riots are now packed with outside agitators.

Here is a section of my memoir, Professional Eavesdropper: The Adventures of a Teleprompter Operator in Hollywood. It will give you a small glimpse into what it was like to live without the peace and safety most of us take for granted.

In April of 92, I was finally leaving the crime-ridden streets of Hollywood for the safer streets of North Hollywood. It would be a little further drive into Hollywood, but I looked forward to a quieter neighborhood. Weeks prior I had asked for the day off to move. As I was loading up boxes, my phone rang. It was work. The Rodney King verdict was in and going to be read soon. After that, the mayor would be speaking, urging calm. My boss needed me to go downtown and prompt his speech.

            I was furious. I had been promised this day off. I was going to be working the next few days, and wouldn’t have another chance to move. I had been in the business long enough not to feel the need to take every job offered, I refused the job. My boss was angry with me but finally convinced another operator to take the job. During the violence, he became trapped downtown. I felt bad for him, but as a woman amidst all the violence, I was grateful I wasn’t there.

            The verdict was read, and despite the pleas for calm, violence began to break out. People were being pulled out of cars and beaten. It was coming closer to Hollywood. I threw everything into my car that I couldn’t bear to lose, and fled to my new apartment in a part of town that was not erupting in violence. I had a little 13 inch black and white TV I had bought when I first arrived in town. It was one of the things I had grabbed. I set it up in my new bedroom, maneuvered the rabbit ears until I picked up the local stations, and watched the city burn. 

            I saw businesses just up the street from our teleprompting company go up in flames. I saw buildings not far from my old, only partially vacated apartment on fire. It seemed like society was collapsing. And yet somehow, the next day I got up and went to work. I think everyone expected the worst was over. There had been a spasm of violence, and now order would return. Oh how naïve we all were.

Edward James Olmos – Marina Del Rey – 4/30/92

            The memories of this shoot have been wiped away by the violence that started the night before. I remember it was outdoors on the marina. I remember Edward James Olmos couldn’t have been nicer. At one point during the shoot, he gathered the crew together and told us that everyone thought the riots were over, but they were just getting started. When the shoot ended for the day, he wanted us to go straight home and not leave. Things were about to get very bad.

            We wrapped at 12:30 p.m. and we all felt the urgency of Mr. Olmos’ words. I was out of the location by 1. I dumped the gear off and fled the shop by 1:30. There air was dingy with smoke, and I saw a few people running, but nothing too horrible. Another operator was driving back to the shop around the same time, and while stopped at a stoplight, several guys came and started beating on the hood of his vehicle. With an open bed pickup full of teleprompter gear, he had to run through the red light to get away.

            I felt lucky to have made it back to the shop unscathed. I went straight to my new North Hollywood apartment and watched my world burning on that little black and white screen. A cold fear started to form in the pit of my stomach. What if it didn’t stop? Right now average, everyday people, were rampaging through the streets, breaking windows, stealing, beating, and killing. There really was very little keeping us civilized. I came to understand how fragile the fabric of society is. Anarchy is nothing to aspire to. It’s terrifying.

            I didn’t work for several days as the city burned, and finally order was restored. National Guard troops stood on the street corners of Hollywood, armed with rifles, though we later found out they had no ammo. There was a curfew in place, but work was the one exception. I was never stopped on my way to a job, but it was unsettling to see soldiers on the street. That was not the America I knew. It was not the America I wanted to live in.

{Journal entry made at the time – It started with young, black men, probably gang members, pulling white motorists from their cars, beating, robbing, and shooting them. It soon went to looting and burning. In all of this, the police were non-existent. All this went completely unchecked.

            It started in South Central LA, a primarily black community. It quickly spread to areas previously thought safe from those kinds of disturbances. The area of Hollywood where I first lived, was heavily looted and burned. The area where I was living until the day the riots broke out, was looted and burned. Two stores on my block were destroyed. Even Beverly Hills was not unscathed. By the time the police and national guard were in place, it was all over. To this date, 58 peole died, almost a ½ billion dollars in damage was done. Over 2000 people were injured, 200 critically. This does not even begin to figure in those now homeless and unemployed because their businesses were burned.

            Even worse is the fear and mistrust that have tripled since the rioting started. Rather than try and solve these problems as human beings, our leaders are pointing the fingers and saying, “It was the whites who held us down.” “It was the black gangs and criminals.” “It was rude Korean shop owners.” Etc. 

            After things settled down and the damage was assessed, there were lots of promises made about how the city was going to step up its services in black communities. They talked about police reform, more black-owned businesses, an end to food deserts, and more opportunities. As usual, there was talk, but the racial-socio-economic divide in Los Angeles continues to this day, with some of the worst homelessness in the country.

Will anything really change this time? Or will we just put a bandaid on it as usual. Tell ourselves it’s not our problem. Or will we all step up and make the Declaration of Independence finally ring true, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (ahem, and women) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Because it should be self-evident. George Floyd has every bit a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness as anyone else. I don’t know if he was truly passing counterfeit money. If he was, I don’t know if he knew he was. What I do know is that no human being deserves to die for 10 or 20 dollars.

I think about my friend Jeff, who years ago, was stopped for DWB (Driving While Black) in Burbank on his way to work at NBC. Jeff was a skinny, sweet, African American guy who loved to ride his longboard, meditate, and was about as non-violent as they come. Yet, because of the color of his skin, the police thought he looked suspicious. They kept him in handcuffs, sitting on the curb as cars drove by staring at him, repeatedly asking, “Who do you run with?” meaning, what gang do you belong to. He showed them his NBC credentials. It didn’t matter. “Who do you run with?” He had been tried and convicted in those officers eyes. He was black, therefore he belonged to a gang. Eventually, after verifying his employment, they let him go. Can you imagine having to wonder every day of your life, if this will be the day you get pulled over? And then wonder if it’s the day you might just die because of it?

Something has to change and as Benjamin Franklin said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” Well, I’m not affected directly, but I’m outraged. So are many others. Are you? Will this finally be the tipping point? Will you finally step outside of your comfort zone and stand up to ensure the systemic racism built into this country is exposed and reformed? Will you vote in leaders who work to unite and repair our rifts instead of casually firing off incendiary tweets that divide us? Will we all finally step up?

We must, because a change is gonna come. It must, or our divided country will fall to the injustice we have chosen to perpetuate.

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Limiting Covid-19

It’s a scary time in the world right now. Not only do we have to face the dangers of flu season, but now Covid-19 is making its way across the country, partially aided by misinformation and a lack of preparedness. People are hoarding masks and food supplies, when those things aren’t necessary.

As has been made clear, there are several ways to limit your chances of getting Covid-19 or the flu. Wash your hands, and learn to stop touching your face. Avoid crowds. Those are all reasonable methods to limit your exposure, but the fact is, all it takes is one exposure, and all our efforts are pointless.

There is one thing that could help protect you if you are exposed, and I feel like I can’t keep this information to myself. Several research centers have done studies on a method of breathing called the Wim Hot Method. It is a method where you breath deeply for 30-40 breaths, basically hyperventilating, and then ceasing to breath until you body needs breath. The longest I have not had to breath is 3 minutes. It seems crazy, but it is entirely possible for the human body not to breath for several minutes. Doing this breathing regularly helps your blood become more alkaline, builds the immune system, reduces anxiety and inflammation. Several studies were done where bacteria known to wreak havoc in the body was introduced into the blood of practitioners of this breathing method. There was little to no reaction in the body, where control patients developed flu-like symptoms.

I have practiced this type of breathing every day for a year. I have had two illnesses during that year, and both were exceedingly mild.

Can this protect me against Covid-19? I have no idea. But I do no this is not the time to stop. If you would like to learn this type of breathing as just one more step you can take to protect yourself, here is a video.

If you decide to try the breathing, let me know how it goes. Be well.

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Anti-Social Media

It’s come to my attention that I don’t like social media.

It didn’t help when I recently took a course on writing your memoir, and it was suggested that if you want to get it published, you need to have, at minimum, 100,000 followers. That’s never going to happen. I freak out when I have 200 followers.

I’ll admit, that in early stages of entering a social media platform, there’s a rush of excitement. I’m connecting. It’s fun. Whee!

But then you have to keep it up. I see people posting on Twitter 10 times a day. I barely think to look at it once a day. It is a great resource of connecting with other writers, agents, and publishers, but I simply don’t have the time and energy to make it place for real interaction.

Then there’s Facebook. When considering a post, I always ask myself why I want to post it. Who would be interested in what I have to say? Will they be entertained? Am I informing? Am I just trying to create an image of myself? Generally, after thinking all that through, I tend not to post. Sometimes I still post when I shouldn’t. Some of my reluctance to post has to do with a theory I have on intimacy. I was contemplating what intimacy is, and realized it’s the special moments we share when no-one else is around. When we broadcast everything we do, we cheapen those intimate moments. I would much rather submerse myself in that moment with a good friend than stop to take a picture and post it to show everybody I have a friend and we do stuff together. I used to feel obligated to skim through FB posts several times a day because of FOMO, but I’ve learned I don’t miss out on the people around me when I’m not glued to my phone, and that’s more important.

And then there’s this blog. I should really post more often. I should really try to get it out there, but once again I’m faced with a time and energy problem. My work requires a lot of me, and my savings are running out. I can’t afford time-wasters. I need to focus on writing, editing, and querying.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that when it comes to social media, I have to accept I’m old. And that’s going to be a huge battle in the new publishing world, but I’m just going to have to let me words speak for themselves. Either my work is good, and someone sees that, or I will spend the rest of my life continuing to tell stories just for me.

I have two books sitting in my files, needing to be edited. One is a children’s book, and the other is the memoir of my adventures in Hollywood. I’m eager to get to both, and yet last weekend I got body slammed by the best story I’ve had in a very long time. A book for adults this time, though I think teens would like it too. There’s depth, sub plots, fully developed characters, and intricate themes. I spent the day handwriting 12 pages of rough story outline. It was amazing to see it flow through me. Those are the moments every writer lives for. I think I have to write this before I edit the other ones. I just have to. I don’t know how it will resolve, and I’m trying to figure out if I can just go ahead and write what has been laid out so far in hopes the ending will present itself.

My posts will probably continue to be sporadic, because as it turns out, I’m designed more for anti-social media. So you can be ironic, and drop me a line, telling me how much you dislike social media too.

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The Prodigal Blogger

I have returned.

The last few months have been a stressful blur. I’d never been through the process of moving a business. It was almost as much work as moving myself across the country, even though we moved less than a mile. But it’s finally done, and the new space is amazing.

The little girl I take care of in addition to my job, reached the terrible twos at about 20 months. Now don’t get me wrong, she is a sweet girl who is better behaved than most children her age, and I love her dearly. She’s incredibly bright, already counting to 10 in both English and Spanish, can sing her ABCs, and loves belting out Tomorrow from Annie, though she often stops midway through the chorus to explain very seriously, “I like Annie.” But despite how darling and wonderful she is, she’s still 2, and there’s nothing quite like having a 2 year old crying and pulling on your leg, while you’re trying to be a professional and deal with clients waiting to pay or get information, while the phone is ringing. You want to see BP rise in real time, strap a monitor on me at work. When I got home at night I would be happy doing nothing but stare blankly at the wall. Writing? Ha! I have no idea how people with children write.

Then there was PitchWars and the disappointment of not getting a single nibble. That led to a questioning of my writing ability. Winning a writing contest helped that a little. I can write. I can.

But through it all, I somehow kept putting words on the page. I’m about 1/2 way through writing my memories of my first five years in Hollywood. It’s been a really fun project. I knew I had some incredible experiences, but putting them down, one after another has reminded me how truly extraordinary my life has been. When you can research your work by looking up historic events online, you know you’ve done some stuff. I’ve begun to weave in the narrative of my own life adventures, not just what was happening on set. It was an historic time to be in LA: the riots, the Northridge earthquake. It’s beginning to feel like there could be an audience for this outside of friends and family. Eventually I’m going to have to figure out just how honest I can be about some celebrities. Right now, I’m letting it all out – the good, the bad, and the very, very, very ugly. When you combine fame, money, and entitlement, there’s a lot of ugly.

And yesterday I finally began querying my first manuscript again. Just a couple. We’ll see how that goes.

Lately I’ve found even more time for writing due to an accident. Thankfully it was a good accident and I’m not laid up injured or anything. I accidentally acquired a Roomba and it has changed my life. It was purchased as a Christmas gift for the boss, and then she bought one for herself before it could be given. The problem was, it had been on such a steep discount that I had a hard time returning it. It would have been like giving money away. And since I had a cat that gets so upset by the vacuum cleaner that she either a) pees the bed or b) runs into the farthest corner of the yard and buries her head in the grass until it is over, I often let the vacuuming go so as not to traumatize her, which means living in a filthy house. Gross!

So even though I really can’t afford it, I kept it and decided to apply my recent writing contest winnings toward the purchase. There’s been a learning curve. It first ran around like a drunk, bumping into everything, getting stuck in weird places, sending me texts saying it was stuck on a cliff and needed help. It’s starting to settle in and do a good job, but as my boss pointed out, robots are not going to be taking over the world anytime soon.

Because the Roomba requires the floor to be tidy – no discarded socks, books thrown on the floor, etc, I have to keep things picked up. And because the floor looks so clean I began to notice other places where there was clutter and began to pick them up. And then I began to be bothered by the kitchen looking messy when the rest of the house was so nice, so I began to keep that clean. And all of a sudden, my house is clean 24/7. I don’t stumble through the week, letting things pile up, then find myself spending the weekend cleaning the house. Once the weekend hits I do laundry. I cook. But mostly I WRITE! I love my Roomba so much! And while my cats don’t love it, they are a little fascinated by it, and they certainly don’t pee my bed in fear anymore.

So that’s my writer tip for the week. Get a Roomba.

And just keep writing.

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Boost My Bio – PitchWars

The advice most given to writers is to write what you know. For that reason, I think it is every writer’s job to go out and experience as much as you possibly can. When I look back at my life, I’ve done my job. It’s been quite a ride.

The first 17 years were spent on a farm in a very rural part of South Dakota. Books and my imagination were the things that kept me going. My mom says she taught me to read at 4 because I kept trying to do it on my own. Books let me know there was a big, wide world out there, and I couldn’t wait to go see it.

My senior year in high school I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark. Living an hour from a theater meant I hadn’t seen many movies. This one had an impact. After the movie, if I didn’t do it physically, I did it in my head – I stood, pointed at the screen and said, “I want to do that.” When I found out screenplays were only 120 pages long, while novels were 200-400 pages, my long diversion away from novels began. I decided I would write screenplays.

I wandered the earth a bit, fulfilling my writer’s job of exploring life. I spent a couple of years in Hawaii, a summer in Yellowstone National Park (best summer of my life), a winter at The Grand Canyon, a spring in the San Bernardino Mountains teaching city kids about the outdoors, and then finally, I made my way to Hollywood. With luck, hard work, and some talent I started working as a teleprompter operator.

The first five years were freelance, and were enough to make any farm girl’s head spin. I worked with celebrities I had seen on my TV for years. One day I was doing a PSA with The Fonz. The next day I’d be on the set of Home Improvement. Another day it was Murphy Brown with JFK, Jr. standing next to me at craft services. I worked with Michael Jackson at Neverland Ranch. I prompted Presidents Reagan and Clinton, and Vice Presidents Gore and Quayle. Sydney Poitier asked to speak with me privately in his sitting room, and I asked Meryl Streep to get off my cases so I could pack up and go home. I’ve been kissed on the lips by Bob Hoskins and Connie Chung, and slapped on the ass by Kevin Costner. Neil Simon once asked my thoughts on rewriting his speech. Every day was a new adventure. It was also an adventure on how to make ends meet in LA on very little money.

That struggle to earn a living led to the biggest wrong turn in my writing career. I traded all the excitement, and opportunities to meet new people doing freelance work for the good money and security of a long-running studio show – The Late Late Show. The problem was, I wasn’t connecting with the kind of people who could further my career. If I wanted to do standup, or be a comedy writer, it was the perfect place. For someone who wanted to write dramatic TV or film, it was an absolute dead end. My scripts piled up, unread, un-submitted. Even trying to further my career within the network went nowhere, because I was too valuable to them where I was.

After 20 years of watching celebrities parade across the control room monitors, and seeing there was no future for me writing in Hollywood, I walked away, sold my house, and moved to a spot in the middle of the country where I had good friends, the weather was tolerable, and the cost of living was low. I have a job where it takes me a month to earn what I used to make in a week, but it is one that makes my heart sing, and not one that kills my soul. I have found the balance that has allowed me to write.

I’ve completed my first novel, though if you count the pile of screenplays in a box somewhere, it’s not like it’s my first attempt at writing. I’d like to think it’s not your typical first novel. I’m focusing on MG at the moment.

The final book will have a dragons vs. jet fighters battle.

The MS I am submitting to PitchWars is Fear Unleashed, which takes place 2000 years after mages and dragons filled the land. They still exist, but now, technology has replaced the need for magic, and kids just want the latest gadget. 13-year-old Opal’s mom was working in the space program when she was killed. Now all Opal can think of is fulfilling her mom’s dreams and heading into space. The only problem is, her magic ability score is even higher than her science scores. The placement board has other ideas for her, and on her first day of school she summons a deadly karuk. In the midst of all the danger and adventure, Fear Unleashed explores spirituality vs. science, and by the end of the trilogy, love vs. fear. I hope to find a mentor to help me fix some structural problems, and give the MS a boost in finding its way into the world.

I was part way through book two of the trilogy, when I decided it might be better to have a more stand alone book to offer. I have nearly completed that book, but can’t come up with a name for it. It follows the adventures of an 10-year-old girl named Daisy, who finds a magic stereoscope in her great-grandfather’s attic. When she presses a button on the side, it sends her back to the exact moment the picture was taken – Buffalo Grass, Oklahoma just a few days before Black Sunday, one of the worst dust storms the country has ever seen. While this book is a stand alone, it also has the potential to be a series, with Daisy traveling to any number of historical events between 1835 and the present day.

So that’s what I’ve been up to during my years on this planet. Thanks to my wandering, there’s a lot I know and a lot I can write about. Hopefully some day all those experiences will make it to print.

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Dipping a Toe in Social Media

For years I’ve avoided most social media, because, well, it is the devil.

The most engaged I’ve been with it is Facebook, and that is just for friends and family I know. Even that has its myriad of downsides, and the more engaged I am in the real world, the less I’m interested in Facebook.

I have a Twitter account, but for years I mainly followed breaking news, celebrities, and friends. It was also an excellent place to vent my anger or frustration at a variety of companies that failed in putting the customer first. I never cared about gaining followers, and in fact, was more comfortable having few people listening to what I said.

I have an Instagram account. Can’t tell you the last time I posted.

However, all that is changing. It has to. There is a wonderful podcast called Write or Die, and many of the guests talk about the supportive writing community they discovered online. Twitter seems to be the hangout for the literary set – agents, editors, writers, publishers, all hanging out around the #writingcommunity water cooler.

I started following a few writers and agents, attempting to jump into conversations here or there, but never really connecting. I continued as a Twitter wallflower.

Last year, I discovered a mentoring contest called PitchWars, just before it began. There was time to enter, but I missed out on the socializing that went on beforehand. This year I’m using PitchWars as an excuse to finally dip my toe in the social media pool.

Downside: It is a time sucker, and I hate that I’m spending more time in front of a screen.

Upsides: I am connecting with other authors pursuing publication, as well as published authors, editors, and agents. In the last month I’ve gained 30 followers, which I know isn’t many, but for me it’s a lot. Quality over quantity. Not only am I following authors and agents, a few are following me. I’ve met a new CP (critique partner). It’s starting to feel like I’m finding my community.

Writers have vibrant worlds and stories in their heads, but we alone can see them. Then we spend years alone, putting them on paper not knowing if anyone will join us and fall in love with them too. Writing is a very lonely and often disheartening endeavor. Social media can help. Struggling with writer’s block? Tweet your frustration and you’ll have a chorus of suggestions and encouragement. Confused about the query process? Ask the #writingcommunity and get advice from industry professionals. Search #MSWL to see which agents would love to see a book just like yours. Social media can bring you inside the #writingcommunity and out of the wannabe cold.

Even if it’s not your thing, make it your thing. At least try it.

You can follow me at @LynnieDN I’ll give you a follow back.

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Content

So, you ask, does the title refer to the content of a book, or being content in life?

It is both. You see, I’ve discovered some things about my writerly self. It is easiest for me to write when I am happy. It is harder for me to write when I am unhappy. But, it is hardest to write when I am content. In other words, being content means I produce little content. See? Both.

I began the new year with the determination to turn off the screens and read more. I have done that. I set a goal of 50 books this year and I’m almost to 40. The free time also set my mind to niggling at problem areas of my book, which along with feedback from critique partners, helped me delve back into a rewrite. Success on that front.

Already feeling a slower pace of life from reading more, I then discovered a meditation/breathing technique that calms anxiety and finally allowed me to sleep well after over 20 years of interrupted sleep and constant weariness. It’s amazing how much more manageable problems seem when you’ve had a good night’s sleep.

The biggest problem I have to manage is my finances, and I can’t say all the worry from that is gone. I’m slowly depleting what’s left of my savings, but all the things that truly matter in life are in place. My work is fulfilling, I’ve found my tribe, and I’m strong and healthy. And with better sleep and less anxiety I can appreciate all that even more. Thus, I am content.

Yes, being a published author is an unfulfilled goal, but since I’m content, I’m happy to keep journeying. If the road leads to a career in writing and I don’t live my senior years trying to figure out how to keep a roof over my head, that’s a bonus.

The down side to all this contentment… it’s hard to find the motivation to spend hours a day carefully reading each sentence of my manuscript, making sure it says exactly what I want it to say. There’s just no rush.

Pitchwars is coming up, so I have that as a deadline, but it’s still far enough away that I don’t feel the pressure. And I wonder, should I just start querying again and skip the mentor contest? That would give me a more immediate goal and keep me rewriting. After all, I now have a killer query letter and I think the first 10 pages will grab the reader. Do I just go for it? However, I see so many Pitchwars mentees get book deals after having a mentor help them.

I think I will wait and submit again, because if I submit and get no requests, I will know I still have work to do, and won’t have burned through any agents. Sadly, that decision won’t speed up my editing process, and it will be even longer before I start querying again.

That’s okay. What’s a few more months when you’re content and enjoying the scenery.

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Once More Unto the Breach

Four years ago today I arrived in Springfield, MO – my spirit nearly broken, exhausted, and clinging to a small bit of hope that my life wasn’t irreparable. It wasn’t, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not grateful for the leap I took.

Looking back, I have to laugh at my naivety. I had done the math, knew the cost of living in Springfield, knew the profit I made from the sale of my house, and figured I had 3-4 years to get a book published before it all fell apart.

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know that the journey to publication can be a very, very long one. Many authors don’t get published until they’ve written 9-10-20 books. Each of those books might go through 6-16 rewrites. 3-4 years! HA!

Of course there are always the wunderkinds – the ones who get published right out of the gate. There are the self-published who can claim the title of published author, but can’t claim to have many readers or earn a living. But the vast majority of authors who want to publish traditionally, toil away in the trenches for years, learning to write, learning to tell stories, and learning to deal with rejection.

This is what I’ve gathered the path to publication is: write – celebrate – edit and polish – celebrate again, imagining agents thronging to your brilliant book – rejection – rewrite – test the waters – rejection – rewrite – rewrite – rejection – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite – agent – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite – publisher – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite. Publication!

I’ve been stuck in the rewrite process, floundering. Not sure what direction to go. Since form letter rejections leave the author blind, and my writer’s group has disbanded for the time being, I needed to get some pertinent critiques from authors who write and read similar books to what I’m writing. I got a couple of critique partners online and we are in the process of reading each other’s manuscripts and giving feedback. I’ve gotten one back already and it has given me so much to think about. Many areas that I had problems with, but my early readers assured me were fine, gave them problems too. I wish I could learn to listen to my own instincts more.

I am heading back into the rewrite breach. What will follow is analyzing the already written story for structure. Breaking each chapter down. Examining plot. And most daunting… possibly rewriting the entire novel from a different POV. Right now each chapter is told from each of the main characters point of view – rotating through to tell the story. I am considering switching to third person omniscient. It seems overwhelming to even attempt it, but I may give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, I still have my original.

So for those who ask where I am with my writing… that is where I am. Once more unto the breach.

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Boredom Update

By this time each year, most people have let their new year’s resolutions slide into oblivion. So, it made sense to wait six weeks before reporting on how my boredom experiment is going.

It’s been an abject failure.

Let me explain.

My life has improved dramatically in just a few weeks. Last year I read 16 books over the year. More than one a month. I considered it acceptable, though for a writer, less than stellar. This year, on Goodreads Reading Challenge, I committed to reading at least 50 books. With largely TV free evenings and weekends, I read 9 books in January. (So far, Beneath a Scarlet Sky – a true story of a 17 year old Italian boy during WWII, is my favorite.)

With more free time away from screens, I began meditating regularly again. I decided on the schedule of 20 minutes, twice daily. Yes, it meant getting up earlier, which I am loathe to do. There have been many mornings when I thought about going to just 1 evening session a day, but I wanted to stick with it until it was a habit — give it a fair shot. I’ve reached that point. I look forward to the time on the cushion, and am reaping the benefits of a regular practice, though some mornings, I would still rather sleep another 20 minutes.

It’s great I’m reading so much more, after all, I recently heard that every hour of reading is like an hour of studying writing. But, I also have a shelf full of writing books, many of which I’ve never read. It made sense to add more academic endeavors to my reading regimen.

After looking over the titles, I picked The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass, of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. In just the first chapter I saw things I could do to improve both books I’ve been working on. It felt like my opening chapter of Fear Unleashed didn’t grab the reader like I wanted it to. My intention was to create a slow build of getting to know the main character, but I don’t think that helped sell the story. It has inspired me to rethink much of my first novel, and since I have a lot of passion for those changes, I think I’m jumping tracks and letting my current work in progress go for a moment while I rewrite Fear Unleashed.

The truth of my boredom update is this… I have failed miserably at being bored in 2019. I now see that I already was bored and screen time was just a lazy way to fill the boredom. So I guess I am sort of breaking my resolution. I no longer resolve that 2019 is the year of boredom. Instead I resolve it is the year I switch boredom off and reengage with the things that give life meaning. It’s an easy resolution to keep.

How are your New Year’s Resolutions going? Have you also tried less screen time? How is that working for you?

Read any good books lately? Please tell me about them, as I’m constantly looking for my next book.

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