This is a crazy month for me. Lots of traveling to visit family which is wonderful, but it also is cutting into my writing time. This is only a problem because I’ve really got to pull my act together and start working. I have plenty of projects, but I can’t seem to settle on one and get it finished. But I’ve decided that since my life is still kind of crazy at the moment that writing something totally new is a bit overwhelming. So I’ve decided to pull out a never-published book and do a complete rewrite. I’ve always loved the story, but it’s never caught the eye of a publisher. Which is fine. I’m sending it out in the world on my own. It’s a romantic suspense novel, which I understand isn’t selling through NY. Got to love this whole self-publishing avenue available to me now.
Anyway, since my other self-published books are beginning to sell I’d like to keep it going by releasing a new book. That means the pressure is now on to produce. Again, it’s my own personal goals that create the pressure, but still.
Every writer (whether they work full time at their craft or squeeze it in around another job) tries to find the balance between creating new stories and editing upcoming releases, promoting their books — and real life. Sometimes it’s a precarious balance.
I’ve found myself over the last few months ago frittering away my days. Bad. Very Bad. I spent my days typing at the computer, but somehow emails, Facebook, Twitter and visiting blogs were more important than putting words together to form chapters. 😀 hee hee. That’s me.
When I was in high school about every three months I’d fall apart, tears streaming down my cheeks claiming I couldn’t possibly live up to everyone’s expectations. My mother would calmly suggest I drop out of this or turn over the responsibility of something to someone else. I’d claim I couldn’t do it. Then I’d mop up my tears and rise to the challenge and of course I’d push through and meet all the deadlines and fulfill my responsibilities. It’s what I do.
After all these years, I’ve come to realize it’s how I’m hard wired. I can’t change it. Nothing but deadlines … a goal to finish by a certain date … works for me. It even happened when I was teaching. Even though I knew I wanted to create a new program I never buckled down and actually did it until I had the first group scheduled to come for the program. Then it was no holds barred until the research was done and the lesson plan complete. The deadline has to be real.
I’ve tried to participate in writing challenges, but there were no repercussions. No one except me knew if I didn’t finish. 1k 1 hour … just can’t seem to do it. I need to know something tangible is at the end. So, after being a published author for nearly four years, I’m finally figuring out what makes me tick.
So authors, how do you work best? Do you find deadlines (either actual or self imposed) motivational or do you like the freedom to create at your own pace? And if you have any secrets about keeping your productivity up, please share!
Curious authors want to know.
I march to my own beat!
Oh, quiet all of you who know me well. Pick yourselves up off the floor, stop laughing, and let me explain this revelation.
Yes, it’s true … I’ve never done it the easy way. I’m the middle of 5 kids and if I wanted attention I needed to do something different. When everyone rolled their tongue (which is genetically impossible for me) I taught myself how to flip my tongue in odd directions. When my siblings would sing (which is sooo not one of my talents) I taught myself how to say the alphabet backwards. Then I memorized the original “Big Mac” (two all beef patties, special sauce..) song … backwards! I can say the tongue twister “How much wood can a woodchuck chuck?” and switch the chucks for the woods and woods for the chucks “How much chuck can a chuckwood chuck?” kind of thing. (I can still recite the list of prepositions we had to memorize in 7th grade! I’m such a geek.)
When I went to college I ended up in a male dominated major. (Which was really fun.) One of three women in a 20 person oceanography class out in the middle of the ocean studying squid is an absolute blast with all that testosterone flying. And so as not to be bested by the guys, I pushed myself to not only succeed, but rose to the top of my graduating class.
Yeah, I’ve always done it my own way.
But then I had kids and I wanted to be like all the other moms. Just bake cookies and do Girl and Boyscouts, go to the kid’s plays and sporting events. I chose to step back and let the kids shine. I had part-time jobs that kept me out and about … and sane. I would have liked things to go this way. I was very happy.
But life had other plans for me. Enter multiple sclerosis.
For about 10 years following the diagnosis, nothing in my life changed save for the many doctor’s appointments. I will be forever grateful I had the younger years with my children as a vigorous and healthy mom. But then, just as I was looking ahead at a job I loved and a house with young adults, my disease reared its ugly head.
I had to give up my teaching job. I still cry about the loss. I absolutely loved teaching. It was the job of my heart.
But I’m a firm believer in making lemonade.
So, the door closed and I opened a window. My mobility continues to become difficult. I use an electric wheelchair a lot of the time and I walk with a cane … and not well. (Think Aunt Martha with 3 too many glasses of sherry. 😉 ) Anyway, I wasn’t going to sit home and twiddle my thumbs. I want to be responsible for myself which meant I needed to find something I could do that didn’t require anything more than my hands and my mind, but bring in some income.
See, when you hear the story of most writers they talk about how they started writing when they were in elementary school. How stories chased them until they finally sat down and put pen to paper. Now they eek out writing time around jobs and children and other mom duties. Man, do I admire them. Those authors when asked if they would stop writing if they won the lottery said “no way, I’d just have more time to write!”
That is so not me.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have always loved to write. But not things that required my imagination. I LOVE research and writing papers that compare and contrast. I spent 3 months doing a research paper on Ernest Hemingway that most of my high school classmates did in two weeks. In college I loved the science classes where we had to do scientific papers on animals or fishing industries.
Yeah, I’m sick like that.
But the kind of writing I’m doing now is a whole different ballgame. I have to dig deep within myself to let the story free. After nearly seven years, I’m finding it’s getting harder, not easier. But I’m learning what works for me. And that’s what it is for me … a learning process. But see, as I get older, I’m figuring out what makes me tick. I can’t change how I’m wired. I love to figure things out, set them in logical order and present them in a way that makes sense to everyone. It’s why I loved teaching. Taking something ordinary and presenting it in a way that makes people step back and say “wow, I never thought of it that way”.
I guess that’s why I’m so drawn to the suspense end of writing. It’s like putting a puzzle together. How can I give you, the reader, the corner pieces and a couple of edge pieces and then begin filling in the middle, carrying you along as the picture comes to life, without giving it all away. Then springing an ending on you that perhaps you had suspected, but totally weren’t expecting.
Now, that’s a challenge and one I realize … I’m really enjoying!
Whew! You know … it’s nice to have figured this all out. Since this looks like the direction my life is headed (and happily I travel this path) I’m glad to have gotten it all sorted out. Thanks again for letting me ramble.
There are stories in every marriage that get told over and over again. This is one of those classics that Mr. Nina and I still laugh about … well, he laughs and I give him the hairy wife-eye! Anyway, this happened four years ago this weekend and I just thought it was worth sharing again. Enjoy …
Okay, so Baby Girl goes off to work, Little Boy Blue hops on the bus for a basketball game and DH asks… wait for it… “wanna go snowmobiling?” Not what I was expecting, but heck, we just got another foot of snow, it’s above 10 degrees F and the sun is shining. I figure what the heck. We’ve gone around and around about how much I enjoy staying on the trails and if he could please follow the map, I might enjoy myself.
Sure. Sure. No Problem.
First… (and this is where I should have jumped off the sled, thrown down my gloves, and stamped back into the house… obviously I didn’t) First, he’d like to swing over to a buddy’s camp and check out what he’s up to.
“Is it waaay off the beaten path?” He can see I’m ready to bolt. I’m not really interested in breaking new trails in the middle of the northern Maine woods–again.
He laughs. “Now honey. Would I do that to you after our last ride?” At which point he jumps on the sled, sending us hurtling into our next adventure.
My first inkling that something had gone wrong was our trip down a very long road a couple towns over. Now, the police are pretty lenient here. You can cross the road, you can even travel a short distance on a road to get to the trail, but the law clearly states a sled may not use the road as a throughway. Fifteen minutes at 50 mph (you do the math) and we’re still on a major road, I’m thinking something’s wrong. But hey, if the cops stop us… it’s his license and being lost in civilization works for me.
Why I didn’t ask him to turn around at that point is beyond me. I knew, I mean, I knew nothing good was going come of this. Finally he turns off the road into the woods. I’m not freaked yet, he’s not going through fresh powder, at least one sled has come this way. Besides I’ve been to this guy’s camp… it’s nice… lots of well groomed trails. But then the trees close in on us. The sled’s wobbling here and there, but I’m not panicked. DH has assured me he can control the sled. I worry too much.
But then we’re really dragged off the trail. He compensates, only to be pulled the other way. I’m not panicking, he’s only dumped me once. (Off a snowbank in front of people coming out of church… but hey we managed that unscathed.) So as the sled continues to bounce from side to side I keep thinking he’s going to pull out of it.
Next thing I know I’m being dragged off the sled as it catapults forward on its side. My foot is caught under the sled and for a moment I worry about refracturing my pelvis. But then all is still. DH hits the kill switch and tells me to get up! Now! Did I mention I have MS? Even under the best conditions nothing about my body moves fast. So he hauls my butt up and out of the brook we and the machine are laying in. A brook! The song “Islands in the Stream” took on a whole new meaning at that point.
Now, trust me when I tell you that gurgling mountain brooks are only pretty in the summer or on video tape. Seeing water running through the engine of the only thing transporting you out of the middle of hell nowhere is a little frightening even for the hardiest souls. Undaunted, DH manages to get all three of us at least out of the water. But now there is a brook and a 3 foot drop between the sled and the trail.
This is so not looking good.
“How far from the camp are we?” I ask, realizing there is no way I can walk.
“Between 1 and 4 miles.”
“You’re not leaving me here alone.”
“If you think I’m dragging your cute butt down this trail, you’re sadly mistaken. I can go faster alone.”
“At least leave me the cell phone.” I say, knowing there are no towers and it probably wouldn’t work anyway, but it might give me some comfort.
“I didn’t bring it. Really. It won’t be long. Sit here in the trail. You’ll be fine.” And he turns and walks away.
Have you heard silence? Because snow is an insulator and it swallows all sound. There’s an eerie stillness in the middle of nowhere.
This quiet allows my vivid imagination to conjur up all sorts of wild stories. Not the least of which is the lead anchor of the local news cast reporting on the corpse of local author found frozen to the seat of her snowmobile mired in mud.
So I sit and wait. Trying to remember all the stages of hypothermia. No, I’m not shivering, yes my fingers still move. And I wait some more wondering if I should start walking. (Mind you, I can barely get myself standing from this sitting position in the snow… but perhaps I should just give it a try.)
Then I hear another sled. And there they are, my knight in shining armor… and the @$$hole of a husband that told me we’d go for an uneventful ride.
Lots of lifting and maneuvering of a 650 pound snowmobile and some digging with a shovel and they had the machine back on the trail. I chose to ride with my knight and left DH to find his own way back to the camp.
This picture says it all about the state of my life right now. Mr. Nina and I had hoped 2012 would turn the corner of our transition phase and we would finally be able to get settled. Weeeellll, let me just tell you, it’s only managed to become more complicated and unpredicatble in the last couple of days.
Now, I consider myself a “go with the flow” kind of woman. And even in the last 18 months when we’ve been bumping over the rocky bed of white water that has become our life, we managed to stay fluid and bob along in the ebb and flow of a wild ride. But it’s getting more crazy and unpredictable even as I write this post.
The end of the year brought the wonderful blessing of our first grandchild. We were fortunate enough to be with our daughter when she brought our grandson into the world. He’s beautiful isn’t he? Okay, so I may be a little bias when it comes to how wonderful he is. Unfortunately, we worry about the situation our daughter has chosen to live in, but she’s an adult and all we can do is let her know every day how much we love her. She’s got a hard road to haul and no matter how much parents would like to make the road easier for their children, that isn’t the way of life lessons, is it?
Our oldest daughter also got engaged before Christmas and is looking to getting married this year. We love her fiance and know they that will be amazing together. But seriously? A wedding? Okay … add that to the to-do list!
I also turned 50 on the New Year. The number itself doesn’t bother me so much as it surprises the hell out of me! I remember celebrating my parents’ 50th birthdays. Hard to believe I’m now celebrating my own. I had just thought by the time Mr. Nina and I reached this milestone we would be settled in our lives. But, with the exception of when our children were brand new babies, our lives are the most chaotic they’ve ever been!
And now, ANOTHER wrench has been thrown into the cogs our lives and as I write this I’m not sure what the next chapter looks like. I’m trying to stay upbeat, but it’s getting really hard when we’re just not seeing how things are going to turn around at this point in our lives. *sigh* Now the pressure is on for me to really push forward my writing. It’s time for something to work for us!
Sorry for the rambling post … but there you have it. All you ever really didn’t need to know about the current state of my life! 😉
Now don’t get me wrong. Putting books up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble is so easy, you can do it without losing much sleep. BUT I went further and uploaded it to All Romance Ebooks which required downloading Calibre and formatting issues and … in the name of all that is Holy, I should have paid someone to do that for me. LOL!
And did I learn anything from that. Ohhhh nooooo … Nina thought it was a good idea to combine the three books in the Tilling Passions series and put them out in print. I know, right? … what the hell was I thinking? Because here’s the thing. I didn’t choose some easy single manuscript to upload, but an anthology. Now think about anthologies. They come with title pages and different headers and hidden page numbers and … a whole frickin’ lot of hidden problems that I didn’t anticipate. Let’s just say I jumped in on Friday. Worked all day and night Saturday (like until 4 am) and got right back at it on Sunday morning by 8. The pages are FINALLY loaded this morning.
So what did I learn?
1. That my high school typing teacher had no idea that setting margins would get so friggin complicated.
2. Word 2007 is an evil empire hell bent on keeping secrets from its users.
3. That when you ask for “advanced word help” it seems everyone only knows the basics.
4. I had no idea that gutters weren’t just for removing water from the roof.
5. Headers and Footers are magical environments where the normal laws of Word don’t apply.
6. That just because Createspace says you can upload an rtf they forgot to mention … it doesn’t really work.
7. I’m so damn stubborn and every time I said “one more upload” it didn’t mean anything when it didn’t work.
And lastly …
Writing a book is only hard until you decide you want to self-publish it.
And that’s what I did this weekend. How was yours?
You know when your life is completely insane and you wonder if you’re really going to be able to survive the storm of craziness that fills your days? Yeah, well, that’s been the kind of summer I’ve had.
But this week the planets finally aligned and I managed to find my mojo and get back on track. With the redesign of the Tilling Passions series book covers (including new titles) I feel re-energized with the series. I’m working really hard on the final edits for the third book “Cheat Her With Charm”. With some hard work it should be released by the beginning of October.
And since I’m looking at all the exciting things that happened this week, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Facebook. Because yeeeeeeah, that’s exciting … NOT! I know it’s true it’s a FREE social media and they can do whatever they want, but as an author I am expected to have an active presence over there. So yeah, I think I have the right to say they’re really pushing my technical abilities into the abyss of chaos. Every time I have some sort of handle on this “making friends” and posting pictures, they change the way I’m supposed to do something or other. And that scrolling update thing is really too many moving parts for my liking. There are many blogs I don’t visit because of the moving advertisements in the sidebar. I know it’s not going to change anything, but complaining like Facebook can not only hear me, but gives a s**t what I think, certainly makes me feel better.
On a disappointing note, this week Romanticon, EC’s reader convention, begins. But I won’t be there. Life conspired against me and I had to cancel my reservations. But lots of my friends and fellow authors will be there enjoying the cavemen, a little pole dancing and LOTS of laughter. That’s what I’m going to miss the most. Just hanging out and having fun. Enjoy everyone … and hug a sexy caveman for me!
I’m crossing my fingers that the house we’ve been trying to buy since May, might actually be ours before the end of this month. Which means all my stuff that has been in storage for six months will finally be back in my home. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned around wanting that foolish little thinga-ma-jig tucked in the waaaaaay back of the cupboard that you only need once a year. Of course this summer it seemed I wanted something or other every other week! Anyway, it will be nice to be back to normal in our new community.
I’m looking forward to another productive week. What about you? Anything exciting happening in your corner of the world?
No, these aren’t positive traits, but hey, it’s who I am and I embrace it.
Why am I telling you this? Weeellll … I’ve been writing fulltime now for six years. Not a lot of time in the grand scheme of things, but enough that I’d like to have found a following. And yes, I see the three of you out there jumping up and down. I know you love my books and I appreciate it more than I can say. I was just hoping to have a couple more by now so I could at least say I have a “crowd” of fans. Not a “mob”, mind you, but a number of peeps that are chomping at the bit waiting for my next book.
I know an author whose debut novel went viral, even though it hadn’t been edited well. (Her zillions of reader reviews mentioned this fact. It’s the only reason I know.) It was in a subgenre of romance I’ve written in. Every subsequent book has increased her readership exponentially. I can’t lie. I want to be her. Since my reviews from review sites and readers alike are all positive and sport a significant number of stars, I figure I craft a pretty good romance.
I market myself, but do try to walk the fine line of not annoying people. And yet … I feel invisible. Have I crossed the line from a friendly banter about books to “oh, my God, here she comes … quick get the delete button ready”? I don’t know.
I do know there are a hell of a lot of books being made available to readers DAILY. I scroll through the 100’s of my feeds on Goodreads and rarely see the same cover twice. I’d just like to know what made one book stand out from another. Good writing? I don’t always think that’s the case. I’ve seen very good books bomb in sales and poorly crafted books rise to the top. Good marketing? Perhaps. But again. I’ve seen two authors do exactly the same thing. One with amazing results and the other … not so much. (Speaking from experience, Nina?) Genre? I’ve got to nix this one as well because books in all genres are both flying off the virtual shelves and gathering dust. A great book cover? Again, that’s personal taste. Both ugly covers and beautiful covers can be found on the best seller lists of Amazon.
So what is it? That Je ne sais quoi that gets a book to the top 100? If you’ve got the magic answer please share. There are LOTS of us trying to figure out the secret.
Age doesn’t bother me. I’ve never worried about an impending birthday. They come every year, whether I want them to or not. I celebrate the joys of the past year and have hopes for the new one just beginning.
I had a friend just a few months older than me get very depressed on his 25th. He thought his life wasn’t what he had hoped or dreamed. But when I tried to talk to him about it, he got very defensive and told me to wait until I turned 25 (did I mention 3 months later?) and then I could talk to him about aging. Of course 25 came and went, along with 30 and 40 and 45 … still, I don’t regret my life. It is what it is. I make decisions and changes based on the information and experience I have at the time and choose not to look back. Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda gets you nowhere in life. Regret is such a wasted emotion. So some decision didn’t work. See how to change it and move on from there.
So aging isn’t really the issue, I’m okay with it. But my hair … I’m beginning to question. Jamie Lee Curtis is my idol when it comes to real. She’s not embarrassed by who she is. Look at that gorgeous picture of her. She doesn’t look old even though her hair is gray and she has laugh lines. A couple of years ago I thought if she could do it so could I. I’d been coloring my hair for nearly 20 years when I just got tired of the process (and it finally turned gray enough not to look salt and pepper). So I let it grow out.
Lately I’ve found a lot more people jumping up to help me. It’s hard to know if it’s the gray hair or the awkward gait of my MS that brings them out of the woodwork. But I’m thinking I may just go back to coloring my hair blonde. But I thought I’d throw it out there and see what you all think.
Does the gray hair make me look a lot older? Be honest, it’s okay, I can take it. And what do you think of this new trend of women letting their hair go natural? Have you jumped on the bandwagon or as my mother-in-law says, “gray hair is not my thing”.
When you have a chronic disease like Multiple Sclerosis there are just days when you have to question “Why me?” and wonder what lesson there is to learn from having to put up with a body that at best gets you through your days (with many modifications) and at worst finds you sitting in a chair hoping tomorrow will be better.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m really not a complainer. I believe I have two choices when I get up in the morning; 1) cry about my disability, but that doesn’t get me anything but puffy eyes and a red face and neither look good on me or 2) be grateful for everything I can still do. Most days I choose option 2. (Because everyone deserves to have a short pity party now and again.) I’ve had this disease for 25 years and thank God and knock on wood, I’m still on my feet. It’s not pretty, but I’m still mobile. Which really brings me to the point of this blog.
I’m considering two new medications, Ampyra and Gilenya both of which are fairly new to the MS world and both are supposedly helpful for progressive MS. I haven’t been on medications for a long time because the side effects really were dibilitating and my quality of life was horrible. But anyway, I digress…
What I really wanted to mention in the middle of all this medical jargon, is the people I had the privilege of meeting. My first appointment had me at the opthamologist. The moment I walked into the office there was a positive energy just snapping through the air. The ladies behind the desk were smiling and friendly and an absolute joy to talk with. You could just tell they loved their job. And the doc … well, his caring smile and pleasant manner were infectious. And I told them all that. I’ve been in a lot of doctor’s offices over the years, but I would love to have just sat in the waiting room with a cup of tea and chatted and visited with them for the morning, they were that wonderful.
And of course I started chatting about the new medications for my MS. which brought a couple of people drifting into the office. Turns out one of the ladies has a sister-in-law my age who’s MS has progressed to he point of being bed-ridden. She is just heartsick. We talked quite awhile about the hardship of being a family member to an MS patient. I often think it’s harder because they want so desperately to do something for the person they love…and there’s nothing they can do except love them.
I followed that up with a trip to the hospital for some very benign tests. The lady who conducted my ECG asked me about the book I was reading, one of Jessica Andersen’s Nightkeeper series. Which then got into a discussion of genres and of course I told her I was an author. Pulled out a bookmark and gave it to her. Next thing I knew 5 people were standing in the doorway after my test wanting to meet the author (who I assured them is faaaaar from famous) and asking about my mother-approved-stripper-pen name. (If you haven’t heard that story, ask me some time, it’s pretty funny.) Anyway, it was fun to chat with them all.
Then off to the lab to have FIVE vials of blood drawn! (And not a sexy vampire around.) It turns out the young lady coaxing blood from tiny, spaghetti veins has a sister with MS. A nurse in the hospital upstairs and she tried some medications, but refuses to continue, guess why … the side effects. This young lady was sad and worried. We talked for a good 15 or 20 minutes about MS and medications and her sister’s decisions. It was wonderful to offer my perspective.
So I don’t know. I sometimes wonder if that’s my mission in life…to offer support and encouragement to both people living with MS and family members who are worried and afraid. As a teacher at heart it’s so easy for me to share/educate/listen. In this crazy world of chronic disease, I’d like to think there’s a reason I’m going through all of this. Maybe my next career will be as a motivational speaker. Who knows? I’m game.
I love all the new technology. Weeellll, not all of it. Okay, probably not most of it. I’m what you call a techno-idiot and I resist upgrading or downloading anything until the device has wires hanging or so many error messages that I can’t make it function.
But my children? Totally in love with anything gadget.
And I was going to say it is their generation, but that’s not the case. There are plenty of people my age who wouldn’t go anywhere without their Smartphone where they can tweet, email and update their facebook status from anywhere.
Ummm, what about interacting with the people standing right in front of you??!!
When my children were going through school we didn’t have the internet. No, it wasn’t 1970…it was within the last decade and I didn’t want to have to deal with policing them when I didn’t really know much about it myself. They had to do their research the old fashioned way … encyclopedias. *Gasp* Oh, the horror! There was no facebook and cyber-bullying wasn’t even a word.
Simpler times for sure.
Now, they’re as plugged in as their friends. (And mom is getting there.) But we’ve banned cellphones at the dinner table (because we get together so infrequently these days). But on our recent family vacation, every kid under the age of 25 had their phone in their hand nearly every minute of the day. I have no idea if they were texting or updating internet sites. The point is…they didn’t put them down.
And companies are making it even easier for them to stay connected. Cars and phones with facebook status update technology have made it so people (not just the twenty-somethings) don’t EVER have to unplug. Crazy. Where is the mystery of the morning-after phone call following an awesome first date? Where is the living in the here-and-now?
No one is going to stand up at a funeral extolling the number of friends on a Facebook page or how fast someone could text. I just worry that we’re going to get so caught up in the technology and forget that life is NOW and you need to enjoy the people you are WITH.
And yes, I completely see the irony of putting this whole diatribe on my blog … just go with it. 😉