Lost

Lost. That’s how I’d describe myself right now. Lost, but not hopelessly. The day after I posted the last blog, I had an inspired idea for the fall writers contest. But I wasn’t writing anymore, so what was the point? The problem is, when I have a good story idea, I can’t just banish it. It pings around in my head, and I write sentences, scenes, dialogue, and then rewrite them over and over. It won’t stop until I put it on the page. So I finally did. It’s not my best. Nor my worst. It’s a good story.

Still, when I thought about picking up my finished novels, and editing them, there’s nothing but resistance. It feels like relief not to have to try to get them out into the world. But then I hear about a waitress who was laid off during Covid, wrote a book, and got published. She’d never wanted to be a writer. Never spent years practicing and getting better. Just wrote a book, and wham! Published. Or a 9 year old who published two books during the pandemic. It’s just that easy apparently, which makes me a complete failure. Granted,I never really had time off to write, as they did, but still. The irritation and jealousy that rears its ugly head means I’m clearly not done with writing, just as the fact that a story pestered itself into existence, tells me that writing is clearly not done with me.

At first my grim prognosis of the world didn’t seem to actually depress me. Nor did me not wanting to write. But as the days have gone by, I’ve watched my mental health decline. I’ve become more insecure, more numb, more unhappy. Not writing is not the answer.

That caused me to look at why I don’t want to write. After some reflection, I believe the problem is two-fold. 1) I’ve lost confidence in my writing ability. Sending out a manuscript over and over, revising over and over, and still never getting one person who was interested enough to request more pages, inevitably leads me to think I simply can’t write. I mean yes, I have talent, but I’m missing something that successful writers have, and until I figure out what that is and fix it, it’s all pointless.

And 2) I’ve lost the joy of writing. I’ve heard other writers talk about how much they hate the process of writing. That seems insane to me. If you don’t like doing it, why do it, even if you’re good at it? For me, losing myself in a story was pure joy. It’s what drove me to want to spend my weekends sitting at a desk in front of a computer. What could be better? But the joy is gone. It’s work. Work that I no longer think I’m particularly good at. And now I look back at all the social events I said ‘no’ to because I wanted to write. What a waste, because those invitations come far less often now, after years of ‘no’ and what have I got to show for it?

I’ve identified the problems, now I need to find the solutions. Writing is a lonely, solitary endeavor, and it’s easy to start listening to the doubts when they’re the only voice you’re hearing. One thing I have always wanted, but never found, is a mentor who has been down the writer’s road before. Someone that takes enough interest in me to want to see me succeed in some aspect of my life. Someone to guide me where I want to go, to slap me (figuratively) when I need it, and encourage me to take risks when necessary. The only reason I’m posting this here, is to put it out into the universe. I’m not saying I’ll get one through this blog post but you don’t get what you don’t ask for, so I’m asking. I think that could help me with issue #1) lack of confidence.

As for #2) lack of joy? My initial thought is that I want to start saying ‘yes’ to social activities in hopes that it will recharge my joy battery. It may not be the ultimate solution, but it is a place to start.

And that’s why I say I’m not hopelessly lost. Just a little lost. Or maybe not lost at all. Maybe this is just a part of my writer’s journey.

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Uncharted Territory

After my last post, I thought it was full steam ahead. I was ready to delve into another pass on Fear Unleashed before self-publishing. There was book two of the series to finish. Plus I have two other books to edit, and another book started. And there were short story contests. I was ready to throw myself back into all of it. And then… I found myself in uncharted territory.

For the first time in my life, I had lost my desire, drive, and inspiration. The short story I tried to write for the summer contest was flat. The one I’m working on for the fall contest also feels flat. I just didn’t feel like there is much to say. I’d never felt that way before.

On Labor Day weekend, I gave myself permission to hole up, read, and contemplate life. With time to think, I began to see why I no longer felt like writing.

From recent events, It’s clear that we’ve passed the tipping point with the earth. It’s not to say that we couldn’t still stop climate change, but we won’t. As fractured as society is, there simply isn’t time to get those who are reluctant to see the obvious, to change their ways. And without everyone on board, the task is probably impossible. Violent natural disasters will only increase, causing suffering for humanity.

We are seeing a return to authoritarianism across the globe. While we managed to hang on to our democracy in this last election, the undercurrent of the cold civil war is taking us towards insurrection and violence. With two different sets of “facts” and two different realities, it’s hard to see how we can ever be the “united” states again. Every opportunity for unity is manipulated for political gain. Greed and selfishness have replaced our former American ethos of loving our neighbor and coming together as one. Again, can this country be saved? Absolutely? Will we? Doubtful. We have become too tribal.

The pandemic was one such issue used to divide us, when it could so very easily have united us. It has left hundreds of thousands of Americans dead. Sadly, we’re no where near the end, because we refuse to do what’s needed. We brought this suffering on ourselves, and if we think it’s the last pandemic we’ll be dealing with, we’re wrong. As the environment is destroyed, disease only increases.

With a stream of disasters and our shift towards societal collapse, writing seems like a silly endeavor. I’m writing for a world that no longer exists. And while I’ve read impassioned pleas for the arts to continue in the midst of such chaos, highlighting the great works of art that come out of such periods, I feel I’m not up to the task. I’m good with words, yes, but I don’t know that I’m talented enough to narrate the collapse of civilization. There are others who are clearly more skilled than I am who can handle that task. I suddenly feel led to do nothing more than be in each moment, experiencing what life has to offer. That seems like enough.

I have no idea if this state will continue. I don’t know if it will recede as mysteriously as it came over me. Perhaps this is just the eye of the storm, and soon the winds of story will howl through and around me. I only know that right now, just being is enough. So I will be, and maybe being will come to include writing again.

I look forward to finding out.

And I’ll keep you posted.

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Starting Again

This blog has been abandoned for far too long. There was the turmoil of the election and the never-ending pandemic, and for some time my little writing endeavors felt so unimportant. I reached the decision to self-publish my first novel, FEAR UNLEASHED, and kept meaning to blog about that, but never did. I hired an editor and delved back into the book that had been sitting on a shelf for a couple of years.

And just as I neared the end of the editing process, my landlord sent me a text telling me someone had offered him money for the house, and he was going to take it. I ended up having about 45 days to find a new place to live. I abandoned editing and publishing in order to deal with the immediate crisis.

As in so many cities and towns, we are in the midst of a housing crisis, with investors who have more money than sense, buying up every house available for more than it’s worth, driving up prices and rents. With a great deal of luck, and the blessing of being so well connected in this town, I secured financing and got a house before it went on the market, so no bidding war ensued. It’s an old house, so it will require a lot of upkeep and there are some pretty major projects in my future, but it feels like home, and I look forward to years and years spent here.

Now that I’m settled, it’s time to get back to the work of writing. There was a summer writing contest, and despite all the uproar in my life, I worked on a story. However, it was not up to my standards, and I could never get it where I wanted, so that was abandoned. It was still a worthwhile project to get me back into the writing frame of mind. And if I ever finish it, I will add it to my short story site. Today I returned to editing my novel and working towards self-publishing it.

So, after a long fallow period where I began to wonder if I would ever get back to writing, I am starting again… again.

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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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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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Weaning Myself off Amazon

Before I get to the main topic, I want to speak to any writers who read my blog. There is a terrific podcast out there called Write or Die. Authors are interviewed about the road to publication and it is eye opening. I knew it was a long process, but until I listened to these authors, I had no idea how long. A part of me thinks it would have been good to know it can take 8 or 9 years to get a book from written to published before I took my leap. My 3 year financial cushion wasn’t nearly enough. On the other hand, it’s a good thing I didn’t know, or I never would have taken the leap. Give it a listen. It’s great information about getting published.

Now to the title – I’ve made the decision to end my Prime Membership and wean myself off Amazon. It’s something more Americans might want to consider. Let me lay out the reasons.

  1. Brick and mortar stores have long warned that Amazon hurts local businesses. Local businesses employ local people, giving them money to spend, and building thriving local economies. I’ll admit there have been many times I have ordered products through Amazon that I know I could get locally, but it seemed so much easier to have it show up on my doorstep, rather than drive to get it. There was a good chance the price was better too.
  2. Amazon’s policies are impossible for smaller businesses to compete with, and are creating entitled customers who expect the same service. No shipping expense, and if you don’t like it, you don’t pay to ship it back. Package stolen – Amazon refunds it fully or sends another, without many questions asked. When a business isn’t doing the volume Amazon does, they lose all profit with those policies. But if they don’t provide them, they lose all customers.
  3. Amazon is the poster child for corporate greed – Recently, on the same day they announced huge profits, blasting through all expectations, they also raised the fee for Prime Membership citing rising costs. Riiiiiiiight. Jeff Bezos has so much money he’s using it to go to space, but he can’t pay his workers a living wage, and provides horrible working conditions. When Seattle tried to tax Amazon to help the homeless population, which has grown due to the high cost of living in the area, partially due to tech companies, Amazon fought back and killed the tax.
  4. And for me, there’s a final kicker. They broadcast extremist views that are contributing to the deaths of Americans – NRA-TV.

I’ve got until December before my Prime membership renews, but I’ve already begun the process. I can’t get my cat food anywhere in town, but I can get it through PetCo. I’m searching out item after item and am finding it locally, ordering it directly from the manufacturer, or at the very least, another distributor. That doesn’t mean I won’t use Amazon from time to time. In fact, if I’m trying a new product, that’s exactly who I’ll go to, precisely for the free shipping and easy returns. But once I know I like something, I’ll buy it elsewhere.

Greed is not good, and right now neither is Amazon.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Don’t Quit… Rest

In my last post, I was feeling hopeful. Not long after, that feeling faded. I decided to take the month of December off. A quiet little nudge inside me seemed to make it clear that it was the right thing to do. As the month went by, the voices that had been nagging at me and bringing me down, got louder. You’re not a real writer. A real writer doesn’t take breaks. A real writer lives to write. You’re a hack. Your writing is always missing something essential.  You are, and always have been, a failure. Just quit. Face the fact that the best you can hope for is to be scraping by the rest of your life, and working until you die. 

Even when I tried to turn my thoughts to the hope of publishing, the voice got even louder. The publishing world is no different than the film and TV world. You don’t fit their mold. They want young, pretty women with lovely writery pictures on the back cover that they can trot out on stage to sell books. You are not that. Once again, you have to jump through their hoops, play their games, all with the understanding that in the end, you just won’t cut it. Why bother. Just self-publish and let the public decide, except they likely will never get that chance, because of the sheer volume of self-published books and your lack of experience with marketing. So really, Just quit. Face the truth. Quit, already, and end the embarrassment of trying.

After weathering the onslaught of negative voices in my head, I woke up in the middle of the night a few nights ago and gave myself a talking to.

Look, you chose this. This is what you wanted. You put everything at risk to do this. You could have chosen an easier path, the kind most everyone else takes, but you didn’t. Is it fair that your work will somewhat be judged on your appearance and age? No, it isn’t. But for many agents and publishers, that’s what’s happening. But, there will always be some who are simply looking for a good story, and  you have to go through the effort to find them. Again, this is what you chose. Put on your big girl pants and see it through. Pending any disasters, you’re aren’t going to be homeless for another 2 years, and maybe even longer, so stop stressing, do the work that needs to be done, and have some fun with the process.

The spring unwound and I came to realize that during the fallow period, even as I fell into an anxious depression, my batteries were actually recharging. I came up with two short story ideas, which is important, because my query letter is woefully short of credits. Winning a contest or two could help with that. During December, I read more from agents on what they do and don’t want and came to a conclusion my instincts were actually right for a change. Chapter one, as is, is the way to go. I’m eager to give

book one another pass to make sure my edits are consistent. I’m eager to hire a junior agent to help me with my query letter. Eager to get short stories out there. Eager to then get back to book two, do a rewrite on that, and then begin to move forward. All that anxiety and fear is gone. I’m ready to work.

I think I got the lesson loud and clear this time. When I feel defeated, anxious and all the voices in my head are telling me to quit, what I really need to do is rest.

Are you tired and ready to give up, especially after a stressful holiday season? Can you take a break from at least one thing that is causing stress and draining your time and resources? Find a way to take time off. Get your balance back. Your feet underneath you. Take a deep breath. Then when you’re rested, ask yourself if you still want to quit. I bet you won’t. I bet you’ll be ready to go at it even harder.

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Keeping the Faith

Prepare for a somewhat rambling, stream-of-consciousness blog.

I’m sitting on my sun porch listening to the sounds of the night. Perfectly synchronized tree frogs, crickets, and other unknown insects are creating a symphony. They are accompanied by the urgency of sirens, and the groan of traffic.

The blue fairy lights wrapped around the old growth trees in my yard are all pulsing, completely out of sync. I spent the afternoon repairing one strand that a squirrel had decided was a chew toy. I’m taking great pride in seeing it twinkle, though I miss the fireflies that added white lights to the dance.

The writing has been coming at a slower pace, partly because I’ve been busier socially. It’s so hard to find that balance. I’m either holed up, or never home.

Another query needs to go out, and yet I find myself hesitant. Once again I feel like the outsider in the agent world.

Perhaps it is who I’m querying. They all seem to be about 22, bouncy, and adorable. They post about all the books they represent that are coming out and many seem instantly forgettable. They tweet all the story ideas they’re looking for, which sound an awful lot like mine, yet the rejections keep dripping in. And then they tweet about all the mistakes querying authors make, and this process begins to take on a familiar feel.

It reminds me of Hollywood, where I was never quite good enough. I was expected to play by rules I had nothing to do with setting up. It didn’t matter how much talent I had, or how many original ideas I had, if I didn’t meet certain expectations and play the games of the men in power.

Now, instead of sexism, I feel the weight of ageism. I feel the need to be hip and current. I’m expected to condense my book into 140 characters in a twitter pitch fest, or find just the right combination of words to win over an agent in a few paragraphs. And then there’s the whopping 5 pages of my manuscript I’m allowed to submit. I think about Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and wonder how it ever got published. The first 100 pages were excruciating, yet if I don’t wow them in 5 pages, I have no chance. Once again, I’m just not hip enough. Not cool enough.

Then there was the depressing moment recently when an agent I was really interested in, revealed her love of Twilight.

She is clearly not my agent.

I have a good story. In fact, I have a really good story. I’ll admit, there may be times I don’t tell it as well as I would like, but it’s as good, if not better than many of the books lining the shelves of bookstores. It will take three books to tell that story, and somehow I have to get an agent who has the patience to see where this is going. Either that, or I have to find a way to support myself while I write all three books. 45’s recent attacks on healthcare make that more and more unlikely.

But I don’t have just three books. One agent I follow recently tweeted that too many authors focus on breaking in with their first book and not on building a career. Frustrating! After this trilogy, I have an entire middle grade series in my head. I also have an adult dystopian book with a killer title, Dwellers of the Eye. I would love to build a career, but I need the income of breaking in with my first book to do it. Why is it so hard for those who have broken in to remember the frustrations and struggles of those still trying?

When I send a query off, I am filled with confidence. I’m certain this will finally be the agent to request my manuscript. When I receive a rejection, I am filled with fear and doubt that I have just wasted my entire life savings, and I am going to spend the rest of my life struggling to keep a roof over my head.

I had the silly idea that as this went along, the rejections would get easier. They do not. They get far harder, and with each one it also gets harder to keep the faith that I’m not on a fool’s errand.

Still, what else is there to do but to forge ahead. I’ve chosen my path and I have to see it through. Peak after valley, after peak, after valley, I will keep riding this publishing roller coaster and do my best to keep on keeping the faith so I can keep on sitting on my sun porch, listening to the music of the night, and living a life that feels filled with purpose.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Rejection

It’s official. I’m a writer. I’ve been rejected. It’s actually not the first time, just the first time for a novel. Despite being told I would probably not hear back before September, it o only took a couple of weeks to be rejected.

I had told myself to expect it. Afterall, nobody gets in on their first try. Still, it hurt. Reading the reasons hurt more.

I gave myself last night to feel lousy about it, then today I would get off the pity pot and climb onto the perseverance pot. Even in my angst, I reminded myself of some things – like the comments I’ve gotten from people who’ve read it. And the fact that neither agent actually read my book. They sampled it. If I can get someone to actually read it, perhaps I’d have a better outcome.

This morning some other facts dawned on me. I know that most writers get rejected many times before someone takes them on. Each person who rejected them had a compelling reason for the rejection… but that didn’t make them right. J.K. Rowling was rejected dozens of times, and obviously those agents reasons were idiotic.

One agent that rejected my novel said its was good writing, good pacing, but too familiar and wouldn’t stand out. Another one said he didn’t care for it and couldn’t follow it. Two agents. Same agency. Two completely different reasons for rejection, and frankly two that don’t even work together. If it’s good writing and too familiar, how could it be difficult to follow? It occurs to me that I can’t take any of their opinions to heart. If down the road, every agent is saying the same thing, then perhaps I should take them more seriously, but for now, I simply have to find an agent whose personal opinion is more closely aligned with my readers.

Other reasons cited for rejection were a weak market linked, in part, to the chaos in Washington. Lucky me. i decide to make my leap of faith at the same time a quarter of my fellow citizens go nuts and decide to destroy the country. Hopefully they don’t take my dreams down too.

This afternoon I did some research on how to properly construct a query letter. I already have several agents in mind that I’d like to query. One in particular interests me greatly, but only allows for 10 pages of the book to be submitted. That means I better have a killer query letter to sell then entire series.

Onward and upward. It’s not the last rejection I’ll get. But I won’t quit. Not yet. Perhaps not ever, because I only fail if I quit. I will persist.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

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