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.

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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.

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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.

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Hiring an Editor – Check

A little over a week ago I contacted an editor and sent him my manuscript. I’m studying quantum physics for the next book, and so for the past week it’s felt like my manuscript has been like Shrodinger’s cat… neither alive nor dead, nothing but waves of potentiality. Surprisingly, rather than feeling frustrated by the wait, the anticipation and possibility of anything happening was lovely.

Tonight the wave became a solid particle, and I now have a highly-experienced  professional’s opinion about my book. As expected, there is good and bad. Some of the bad can easily be fixed. Some of it may have deep roots that will be difficult to untangle… not impossible, just difficult.

He pointed out bad habits that I have developed – some are remnants of my screenwriting days, one is the very common bad habit of writing in the passive voice, and the rest are just personal weaknesses. Hopefully the more I am aware of my flaws, the harder I can work to fix them in my future writing.

There were also compliments, which provided some encouragement to keep trying. It’s very nice having a professional in the publishing world describe your manuscript as enjoyable and entertaining. So, as I watch my savings dwindle, I feel encouraged that it’s not time to go to plan B just yet.

What’s next? I don’t know. I am a babe in the woods when it comes to the publshing world. My guess – I go back to work with the guidance of my editor, and when we have something polished I start writing query letters to agents and publishers. Will that lead to a publishing house? It’s a roll of the dice, but at least in today’s world, there is the option to self-publish. One way or another, I will have a published book, what is in question is what reach it will have.

I just have to keep checking things off the list. Step by step. Bit by bit. It’s how every dream becomes a reality.

What’s the next thing on your dream’s checklist?

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Making Connections

There are oh so many things in the news I would love to write about and get off my mind, but I’ve been doing too mach of that lately. Instead, this post will be a progress report.

The feedback on my book has slowly been trickling in. For the most part, it is positive. Where there are issues, I go in and attempt to fix it. So many kind people have pointed out small flaws in the timeline, questions about motivation that can be made clearer, typos, and odd sentence structure. They have also pointed out the good qualities like pacing, dialogue, character development, and chapter endings that keep you turning the page. So far, everything that’s wrong can be fixed, and everything that’s right… well, it’s just right. All good news.

A few weeks back one of our clients at work asked me some questions about my book. Her face lit up and she said, “You know who you should meet?!” She proceeded to tell me about a local author who has sold millions of books, won many awards, and is a good friend of hers. She set up lunch for us to meet and talk about writing, books, and publishing. It was a fun lunch and I was able to ask many questions and get some concrete ideas about what to do next.

His best advice was that it didn’t matter if my friends, family, or even strangers like my book. Until I put it in the hands of a professional editor, I won’t really know what I have. So, next week I plan to get started on that process. Thanks to another connection, one back in LA,  I may already have a good one.

The other piece of advice gleaned from our lunch was that it is time to start querying agents and publishers. So, that means it was time to sign up for The Writer’s Market – a huge searchable index of agents, editors, and publishers that lists what they’re looking for in both a query letter, and a manuscript. It feels a little overwhelming to see all the places I’m going to have to start sending letters, but I imagine the list will get whittled down by a large pile of rejection letters. Even Harry Potter was rejected at first. Eventually, I have faith that someone will see potential and take a risk.

One of the things I’ve loved about this process is its ease. In Hollywood there was a constant scramble to make good connections. If you were chatting with someone, and you realized they were in a position to help your career, your antenna went up, your brain started churning, and you calculated all the different ways you could approach, suck up to, and harness their power for yourself. It made for sick relationships, up and down the power ladder. I’m glad to be off that ladder. I’m glad to be in a world where connections flow naturally.

Even better, it’s nice when your friend has the courage to ask the guy who’s sold millions of books to read your novel. I could never have done that. It will be interesting to see what he has to say, if anything.

For now, the editing continues, the professional is about to be brought in, and I’m going to find out for real if this little leap of mine is going to work.

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Twinges

Here we are again. Another week has gone by. It’s been 3 1/2 months since I arrived here in Missouri. In some ways it feels like I’ve been here for years. In other ways I’m still settling in. There is still a hefty list of things that need to be done before I’m fully “settled.” As I type, my sunporch is finally being screened. I’m excited to get that off the list, and to be able to enjoy the outdoors without the mosquitos. They can go snack on someone else, thank you very much.

Heading towards my fourth month here, things are definitely starting to normalize. Every commute is not another opportunity to marvel at the lack of traffic and abundance of courteous drivers. Now it’s just a commute… a 10-minute, lovely commute, but still just a commute. I still obsessively check WeatherBug to see if there might be a thunderstorm that day, but thunder is no longer the novelty it was when I first arrived. Even my cats can now deal with all but the loudest cracks of thunder.

With this expected loss of novelty and excitement, I am starting to have twinges of… not sure if I would call it homesickness, but I am starting to miss people from California. It’s starting to sink in that despite Facebook, I’m really not around old friends anymore. Yes, I can see their lives play out, but we can’t get together for dinner, a hike, or a laugh. I don’t regret the move, it’s just a fact that old relationships are missed, despite having developed new ones here. When I first arrived, people would ask me if I wanted to go back to visit, and my answer was always a resounding ‘no!’ Now I’m starting to feel like it would be fun to visit. Time does make the unpleasant fade, and soon I will only remember the good aspects of life in California. Several clients at our fitness studio have taken trips to CA and their thoughts when they come back are that they can see LA would be a miserable place to live, but it’s a lovely place to visit. They may just be right.

Work has provided some wonderful access to some amazing physical treatment and care, so I’m no longer living in so much pain. This has given me twinges of restlessness for physical activity. Today I took my first cardio class and it was just as awful as I expected. Ha! I should have gotten up early to eat early, but instead ate just an hour before class. Combine that with my desire to push myself hard and see what I’m capable of, and about 2/3 of the way through class, I was losing my breakfast. Lesson learned. I was disappointed I couldn’t keep up with class, but on the other hand, it’s pretty much the first cardio I’ve done in a year. What did I expect from a 50-year-old, out-of-shape body? I’m tired, I know I’ll ache tomorrow, but it feels good.

And finally, there have been twinges of frustration as I have struggled with the prologue for my novel. I just couldn’t find the right voice. As soon as this post is finished, though, I will be writing, because I think I’ve finally found it. It’s going to be a very short prologue – no in depth information, which was making it feel like reading a history book. Just a quick, simple, and light couple of paragraphs to help people understand where they are. Then I will get back to writing the story. I’m truly beginning to believe that some day this book will be published, even if only friends and family read it. And as I’ve learned with weight loss, or finishing a novel that could take years, without faith you will not continue. You have to believe that your goal is possible.

I believe!

 

 

 

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