Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Letting Go

In last month’s IWSG post (find other IWSG posts here), I shared my struggles with giving up my writing deadlines because of circumstances beyond my control (i.e., health issues).  A month later, I have found some measure of peace with accepting my realities.  Delaying the release of my fourth book has indeed allowed me to take care of myself, deal with some of the health issues, rest, relax (as much as a person like me ever does), and breathe.  I am not sure when I will release the book because I just can’t face another deadline while I am in the middle of the health issues, and because I really think that this time to clear my head is going to prove immensely valuable to my long-term writing career.

Sometimes we have to lose some of the things we want to make space to learn.  That is what I feel right now, the willingness to embrace uncertainty, to open myself to other directions in life, to trust that all of this will work out just the way it is meant to.

Even after all these years and all the bumps and bruises, I still believe.

And just for fun, someone else in my life has had to let go of the illusion of control and embrace the realities of his health issues.  This is Gilbert and his cone of shame.

Wishing everyone happy holidays and an amazing new year!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

When Reality Crashes Through Imagination - An IWSG Post

I didn’t realize it was the first Wednesday in November and I almost missed my chance to post on IWSG day (check out the other posts here).  But, thankfully, I remembered in time so that I can participate, since I have a doozy of an issue to report this month.  

I’ve been writing full time (in addition to a full-time job) for over five years, have published three books since last year, and was scheduled to publish my fourth book in December.  I am a planner.  I am driven and all sorts of fired up to get my writing career off the ground.  I have dreams and dedication and can really see the pieces moving on the grand chess board of life.  Yup, all that.  But what I also have are some health issues that are seriously crashing through my dreams, goals, plans, and drive.  I am struggling with the reality that I really should postpone my upcoming book release (but I seriously love this book and want to get it out into the world) and slow down my over-working tendencies that don’t allow for things like exhaustion and illness.  This decision is truly crushing me the same way the health issues are.  I hate running up against limitations.  I want to be fearless and brave, steady and unrelenting.  I want to be the hero of my epic publishing tale.  And in my mind, heroes aren’t bound by stupid human weakness.

Only they are.  I am.  We all are.

All of us writers are living in two worlds, one with the dragons and the other with... well, the dragons.  Only in real life, the dragons include illness (self and others), loss, jobs, bills, financial challenges, and other miscellaneous responsibilities that are way less cool than the other sparkly, fire-breathing dragons.

And just like in fiction, life is hard sometimes and sometimes, we do hit the boundaries that make us feel small.  Health issues do that very, very quickly.

I’m not at all resolved about postponing my book release, but I really think I am going to have to get resolved very soon.  But the one thing I am certain of is that this challenge of mine is shared by all of the other writers living in the real world and trying to tackle our seemingly impossible dreams.

We are all in this together, especially on IWSG day.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

And There Are Angels

Life is crazy busy lately, so I will have a shorter post today.  But the length of the post in no way diminishes the importance, because this post is about angels.  And by angels, I am not speaking about the winged ones or about hot fictional angels... or Angel (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer... although if I think too long about the lovely Angel, then I start thinking about Spike, and I will forget what this post is actually about).  Focus... focus... okay, I’m back.  The angels I am writing about today are the ones who exist in the real world, the people we encounter along our paths who are the angels in our lives.

It is so easy for writers to feel low about this mostly solitary path with so many pitfalls and doubts, but our angels are the ones who keep us going during the bleak periods.  Some of these angels are members of our families and some are trusty friends who stay up all night before a release date, reading the book one more time to be sure it is ready (yes, I have that friend).  Some are just kind people we meet along the way who get jazzed about our endeavors (met one last night, who was completely excited that I write and wrote down the title of my books so that she could read them... and she really liked my puppy who is without doubt the cutest boy ever, see picture below).

And some angels are people who know more about some aspects of the writing journey than some writers do (myself definitely included).  This particular angel is a book blogger who offered to read indie published books and was excited when I offered to send her mine.  She read it, loved it, reviewed it.  Then she did the same for the second book.  About that time, I mentioned that I hadn’t done much to get my book out there (because I am still clueless and working too many jobs that if I take the time to learn right now, I won’t make my insane publishing deadlines... and thinking about marketing leads to some uncomfortable combustion in my cerebral cortex).  So this angel whom I stumbled upon by chance offered to put together a book blog tour for me and helped me introduce my book to new readers.  The blog tour was fun and if you are interested in reading the reviews, you can check out the blogs with reviews here.  It was a fantastic experience and I am very grateful to an angel named Tiffany Mahaffy.  Thanks so much, Tiff!

It is too easy to get down about the hardships, and I think we all need to look around more often to see the blessings.  Happy IWSG day to everyone, and check out the other participating blogs here.  And there is now an IWSG website as well... here.  IWSG is an amazing group that lets people in all creative pursuits know that they are not alone with all of the ups and downs inherent in any epic quest.  Good luck to everyone... and watch out for dragons (because they are pretty, of course).

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Other Shore: An IWSG Post

I am feeling pretty great about the world right now.  I know there are terrible things happening and plenty to worry about, but today (and actually this week), I’m in my happy place, riding on a wave of hope about almost everything.  And the reason?  Diana Nyad and her epic journey to reach the other shore.  She did it.  A 64-year-old woman who had been trying to reach this goal for more than 30 years reached her other shore. I watched the (craptastic) live footage as she neared the shore (was worried more than once that some drunk jet skier might mow her down just before she reached land) and swore a bit about the epic news media fail that was the end of her journey (and yes, the news media has jumped on board in a mighty way... and they are all showing the exact same footage because no one decided to get off their behinds and go film the epic conclusion to her journey... you know, an inspiring moment rather than something to depress us all).  But all of that aside, her journey has inspired me to look at my own in a different way, a kinder way.

Diana talks about never giving up on your dreams, about never being too old to achieve them, and that solitary dreams are team efforts (I certainly know that with the amount of wonderful people who help me get my books ready for publishing).  She talks about these things and you see not just her truth, but the way her truth applies to all of us.

I am so grateful that my epic dream to be a successful author is completely free of sharks, jellyfish, and rough seas (yes, thank you to the powers that be who chose this mostly safe endeavor to be my dream).  When Diana talked about chasing dreams, I felt so amazingly good.  I am in my goal, have been for the past five years, and have three published books to show for it.  My books are currently being reviewed by some great book bloggers and so far the feedback has been wonderful (to see the reviews, check out this link and this one).  I am in my epic journey.  I am moving in the right direction.  I just need to keep going.  For writers, our other shore isn’t as easily or tangibly defined as the sand of Key West, but our other shore is out there and means something different to each of us. I would like to be able to work less than eighty hours a week to make my publishing dreams come true, but for now, this is what I have to do (and am still really glad about the no jellyfish thing).

For writers (who are also readers), it is so easy to get impatient, to look at our journeys and say, “I should be there by now.”  Sure, we know that Frodo didn’t just teleport to Mount Doom and chuck the One Ring into the fire.  No, he had to get there and that was a huge part of his journey, and yet how many of us would get in that teleporter right now and arrive when we have really arrived and skip over all of this seemingly bumbling around in the dark, hoping for a happy ending?

But Diana Nyad reminded us all of what a goal looks like, of what the hard work and sacrifice it takes to reach the other shore look like.  I needed the reminder.  I am about to ramp up to get the fourth book in my series ready to publish in December.  It will take sacrificing my time that I could spend seeing friends and relaxing, cleaning my house, and pursuing the many other goals lining up on my list.  It takes sacrifice because it is my epic goal.

And if I forget and fade back into Feel Sorry For Myself land, I at least have many video reminders of the lesson that is inspiring this fabulous week.  If you haven't seen Diana's story, check this out:

To check out the other IWSG posts, head over to the master list.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Time: An IWSG Post

I only have time for a short post for this month’s IWSG (check out the master list of participating blogs here), but even that is a perfect example of what is troubling me today.  Time.  Stinking time.  Never enough.  Always running out.  Lately, because life, work, and a new (adorable!) puppy have kept me so busy, finding time to write has been a true struggle.  Without writing, I get cranky (picture an unhinged alligator type of cranky) and life loses its sparkle (the puppy does have some sparkle of his own, but still).  I know the writers reading this understand how vital experiencing the writing connection is to a person who is wired that way.

Last night, I had a mini breakdown, because I only had a bit of time to write and tried to get to it like jumping off a two-story house onto a horse’s back and expecting things to go smoothly.  I wrote.  The words came. But I wasn’t on the right path at all.  And then I got frustrated.  Maybe shed a few tears.  Went and let the dog out.  And came back in to do what I should have done from the start.  Take a deep breath.  Review what I wrote the day before, tweaking here and there, and then easing into the story.  It worked out much better for me, but I didn’t get as much done as I wanted because I was exhausted and had to get to sleep.

I’ve always been driven in a way that made time my enemy, as though 115 years wouldn’t be enough for me to do all I want to do.  And I have other goals beyond writing.  I tried to start some of them recently and made it two weeks before coming to terms with the fact that I simply can’t add anything else right now without running myself ragged (something I am frequently guilty of... I published two books last year, and am set to do the same this year).  I want to push hard.  I want to see this series through.  I want so very many things, and waiting and obeying the constructs of time really pisses me off.

Just saying.

So, for all of the obsessed work-a-holics out there, I feel your pain and know that I am not the only one who has been burning the candle at both ends for so long that it’s a good thing my light comes from a bulb and a switch.

I hope everyone finds the time to experience the best of what writing can be and appreciates all the moments that are so blessed. 

And to improve everyone's day, meet Mr. Gilbert (name inspired by Anne of Green Gables).

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

No Words: An IWSG Post

I’ve been on a writing break (of sorts) since the release of my third book and this time living almost completely in the real world has been an interesting journey.  A strange conundrum has found me and I’m not completely certain I have it worked out yet, but I am ready to drop it into this writers’ forum to see what you make of it (To see other blogs participating in IWSG, see the master list here).  My issue is about words and writers and the sometimes symbiotic and sometimes parasitic nature of their relationship.

I think it is fair to say that most writers see the world through words, possibly more heavily than other people.  Math-inclined people probably see the world in numbers more than others.  Artists probably see the world in images.  I don’t have any hard facts on this, but it stands to reason.  We all have aptitudes and our non-aptitudes (for me, see anything involving coordination, especially sports), and our aptitudes shape how we see the world.

There has been a lot going on in my world with words, the words of others and their power, the words I use to define myself and my actions, words in writing, words in general.  As I’ve been working out my thoughts on this, I’ve felt very much like I was tickling the edge of oblivion because the idea that I might find something wrong with the way I see the world and my dependence on words, has been unsettling.  But here we are.

The catalyst:  At dinner with a friend, I was relating a bit of drama I recently had with a friend (catching her up with my life since I haven’t seen her in a while... writing-related shut-in syndrome, of course).  I mentioned to her that I had written a response letter and was thinking about sending it, just to get some closure.  

My friend said, “Don’t.”

I said, “No, it’s not bad.  I think it’s actually a good thing.”

She said, “Don’t.  Just let it be.”

Okay, well, closure freak here.  Just letting anything be isn’t something that feels right.  I like to put a bow on it, seal it up, and then let it go.

I said, “Well, the main thing is I wrote it.  The words just bubble up in me if I don’t write them down.”  I paused. “I feel infected by words sometimes...”

That led us down the rabbit hole and there I have remained.  There is something tactile, something compulsive in my need to write things down, to make sense of the world through words.  I’ve always seen this as a good thing (for a writer especially), but suddenly, in interpersonal relationships, I realized it might not be good at all.

I didn’t send the letter.

Last night, I experienced something indescribable.  Neither entirely good nor entirely bad.  Something that made me fight against the urge to write about it, to discover what the experience meant to me through delving into the treasure trove of words.  I suddenly wanted to just let the experience settle on me without smothering it in language that couldn't possibly capture what was one of the most powerful moments of my life.

And in that moment and the hours that followed, I didn’t want to hear words or talk to people, to form images of my life experience for others.  I didn’t want to communicate in faulty terms what went beyond words, too powerful and elusive to be captured by them, almost like trying to tether wonder.

I finally understood what I have known, that each blessing can also be a curse.  I am a writer.  That is who I am.  And words are the medium with which I connect to the world.  But last night, I felt the true limitations of that, the way that pinning an experience down with words can rob something, diminish it, just as in other cases, words can illuminate the truth obscured in the hazy shadows of our lives.

In the morning light today, I see that balance is what all of this is actually about, finding the connection inside myself that allows me to find beauty in the wordless, the feelings and experiences beyond language.  To seek that connection deeply.  And to use my words and the pictures they create in a more measured way, not in my relationships with others, but into the stories always pushing at me to be told.

The truth is: words, understanding others, seeking to obtain the concrete in ever-changing people is much less important than just having empathy.

We don’t need to build word prisons to protect us or to capture us, to make us right in any circumstance.  For me, I think I found a step toward peace in just breathing in a remarkable experience and allowing it to change the way I see my life and the world around me.

I love words.  That’s not going to end.  But, and this is a hard thing for me to say, there is more to life than fiction (though my characters certainly reserve the right to disagree), and feeling more, experiencing more, exploring the truth found in silence and the beyond—those things will make me a better person, and possibly, in the long run, a better writer.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Aftermath: An IWSG Post

I believe that all great hurdles in life—both the ones we choose for ourselves and the ones fate chooses for us—follow a series of predictable steps.  The fact that these steps are predictable should mean we are prepared and yet inevitably, I am blown away by them.

This would be a good time to admit that I actually exist with a running list of Buffy quotes in my head and feel pressed to add that Anya/Joss Whedon made my point better than I ever could in End of Days (Season 7):

Anya: Well, I guess I was kinda new to being around humans before. But now I've seen a lot more, gotten to know people, seen what they're capable of and… I guess I just realized how amazingly screwed up they all are. I mean, really, really screwed up in a monumental fashion. 

Andrew: Oh. 

Anya: And they have no purpose that unites them so they just drift around blundering through life until they die... which they know is coming yet every single one of them is surprised when it happens to them. They're incapable of thinking about what they want beyond the moment. They kill each other, which is clearly insane... and yet here's the thing. When it's something that really matters, they fight. I mean, they're lame morons for fighting but they do. They never... they never quit. So I guess I will keep fighting, too.

Ahh, Buffy (I miss that show huge).  

Anyway, I know that when I ramp up to put out a book, the inevitable letdown is just around the corner.  This time was no worse than before, but still, I found myself staring at walls, looking around at my house and realizing that I hadn’t really noticed anything in it for the past few months (note: my dogs are well fed, loved, and cared for... my plants, not so much).  I remembered that I do have some mighty nice friends whom I last saw... before the ramp up.  I experienced the odd loneliness of a person who’s lived in fiction for months and only now notices that these characters aren’t actually real. 

I wondered about myself, feeling a disconnect, an uncertainty about who I am and what I want that led to some really healthy questioning of purpose.  But this is where I think our chosen goals and the ones forced upon us are similar.  After every great adventure or terrifying experience, we are changed, sometimes subtly and sometimes monumentally.  We can’t expect to be who we were before the event. We need to be open to getting to know ourselves right now and accepting that changes don’t show on our faces and the people we are close to can’t always see our new perspectives, just as we can’t see their changes.

I guess what I’m saying is, we need to be a lot less fixed about assuming we know ourselves and anyone else.  Most of the great hurdles in our lives happen without an audience.  I know, for me, publishing my books, journeying through my characters' lives, changes me.  Builds empathy in me for not just the imaginaries in my life, but the reals.  I think we all need to cut ourselves some slack and ask the questions that need to be asked.

Who am I today and what do I want in my life?  (Rinse, and repeat.)

For me, I’m already working on the next draft of Book 4 in my series (coming out in December), so the question has been asked and answered.  I am where I want to be, doing what I am meant to be doing.  There is a wonderful sense of peace in accepting the answers and that all of the prices we pay to do what we love are worth it.

Also, and a reason to smile, The Wild Wood was reviewed by IndieReader.  Here is an excerpt:

An absolutely brilliant, haunting, and painfully beautiful young adult novel, spiced with romance, magic, and danger. Cecily is a fully-realized, vividly-drawn heroine, battling between fear and faith, love and betrayal, struggling with the scars of her past.”
To read the full review, click here.

Book 3 in the Sevens series, The Barren Way, is now available on Amazon.

To watch the trailers for Book 1 (The Wild Wood) and Book 2 (The Downs), check out links below.   

To check out other IWSG posts, find the master list here.