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.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Doubt Infection: An IWSG Post

I recently got over a doubt infection.  It wasn’t a particularly bad case, but it did lead to some serious thinking.  I considered posting this as a regular blog, but decided that an IWSG post was the way to go because I believe every writer has or will experience this little adventure.  To catch up on other IWSG posts, check out the master list here.

Like any infection, well-meaning people are carriers of the dreaded doubt.  They sidle up to us at the store, over lunch, or even digitally, carrying doubt that breeds in our soon-beleaguered bodies and minds.  Writers are dreamers at our cores, people who lose a lot of time in fictional landscapes while the real world carries on around us.  It takes a truckload of belief to smother the doubt that always resides in our bodies, even when dormant.  Doubt about our words.  Our purpose.  What all of this epic enterprise means and where it will lead.  Doubt is something that must be controlled, otherwise we never get past the first Once upon a time... that leads to stories and novels, and perhaps our dreams coming true.

From the first instant of accepting a goal like becoming a writer (or any big goal), the well-meaners line up to lower our expectations, to cushion the inevitable blow of failure.

“You know how many people are trying to be writers?  Better prepare yourself...”

“Most writers are never successful.  Are you sure you wouldn’t rather be a/an...?”

“You have to write every day to be a writer and I’m not sure you have that kind of ambition...”

Or the classic, upon hearing a person is a writer:

“Well, what have you published?”

(Pet peeve on this one:  As though a runner isn’t a runner if they haven’t run a marathon, or a singer isn’t a singer unless they have a Platinum album, or a climber isn’t a climber unless they have climbed K2—Writers are writers if they write.)

What makes the well-meaners’ arguments tough to fight is that they are not technically wrong.  More people write than are successful (if success is measured by a fixed definition, that is—I will get more into that later).

Writers and dreamers build our inner fortresses to combat the voices of others, the doubt infections waiting to be caught.  But even with that, they occasionally knock us down during weak moments along our paths.

Critiques.  Querying... a perfectly good excuse for doubt.  Rejections.  Any number of places along the publishing path can bring us doubt.  For me, publishing my first book without the validation of industry professionals inspired a great deal of doubt that was ultimately overcome by solid belief in my purpose.

My recent doubt infection was brought by a well-meaner’s statement made in the context of a wider view of my life and writing journey, in which the overall advice was that it would be better to give up dreaming of reaching any manner of goals and embrace that right now might be all there ever is and included this statement: "What I don't know is how successful you will be as an author..."

I went on quite a ride after this admittedly unsolicited opinion of my journey and it took a while to figure out what and why and how the concepts it contained affected me.  And why my reaction, other than the doubt infection, was so strong.

It took the greatest immunization and curative imaginable to make me see what I rebelled against in this missive—I picked up the phone and called my best friend.

My BFF reached the point in the letter mentioned above and said (roughly), “Huh?”

She then paused to collect her greatness and blathered, “You are a success because you show up and write.  You are a success because 400 rejections didn’t stop you.  You are a success because you are living your dream and publishing your books.  Besides, it’s too soon to tell whether you are a tremendous success yet—your books have been on the market less than a year.  And besides that, what does success mean anyway?”

And then came a sigh from me and a question for all of the writers out there: What does success mean anyway?  Because to assign success or failure means there is a fixed point out there somewhere in the distance.  I believe we all have a vision of what we want out of this goal, but at its heart, we have to know that just getting to the tell our tales is a success.  Money.  Fame.  Fortune.  Film deals.  Sure, they are the trimmings.  Not having to work a day job—yes, that would be nice.  For indies, having copy editors/graphic designers/and for some, a traditional publishing deal are signs of success.  For others, just being contacted by readers who enjoyed their work is a success.

Success isn’t a fixed point.  My favorite authors (some of whom had bestsellers) are the ones who kept writing after their books found tremendous success (even though their other works never reached the same level of success); they continued to tell stories because that is who they are.  My favorite book is out of print—does that make the author a failure that her work didn’t stay in print forever?  I think not.  And even if I did reach whatever elusive meaning success has, would I stop?  No.  I write because it is how I communicate with this world, how I take in and chew on meaning of life, how I breathe.  I would work just as hard if I reached the success I dream of.

I understand the concept of non-attachment to goals.  I get it.  And I get the visualize your success of the “laws of attraction” folks.  I get both (even though they directly contradict each other), but I think we all—we dreamers—have to find our own ways through the hurdles, the reasons to doubt.  For me, I want the people who care about me not to say they don’t know if I will be successful or to act as though success is a fixed point.  My best friend has been with me in this goal for thirty years and never once said she doubted my success—in fact, she’s been the chorus of the opposite (the You’ll Get There Brigade).  I don’t think there is any way to be supportive when feeding doubt and expecting the diminishment of goals or the acceptance of the status quo.  Another friend put it in a different way, saying (roughly), “That would be like you telling me I may never find love.  We both know that could be true, but hearing it from a friend just isn’t helpful."

Even though this doubt infection made for a bumpy couple weeks, I’m grateful for it because it challenged me to think about my life and what success really does mean to me now, after five years pursuing the goal I’ve held dear all my life.  And what I came up with about the meaning of success is the willingness to keeping trying no matter what happens, doubt infections, rejections, sales figures, whatever.  All I have to do in this is try.  That’s the difference between success and failure for me.  And as long as I continue to try and hold some happy thoughts about what future smiles will be built on, then I am doing my part.  And since the lion’s share of my life is spent with characters who only ever want me to shut up, sit down, and let them write their stories through my quickly-tapping fingers, I know they approve.

I hope you keep trying with whatever your goal.  I hope you have a best friend to pull doubt up short and shake it loose.  And I hope you have peace in your heart, knowing your only job is to serve your purpose.  If that is to write, then lucky you, because for all of the ups and downs, the heartbreaks and the times of smooth sailing, disappearing into fiction and coming out on the other side with a finished novel is the greatest adventure I can imagine.

To quote a favorite token that I have with me almost always:  Write hard; die free.

Carry on.

P.S. After my third book in the 7s series comes out May 17th, I will be blogging more often.

If you are interested in taking a look at my books or watching the trailers for the first two books, links are provided here.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Overmining: An IWSG Post

I am a pretty driven person by nature and as soon as I accepted that the only way to be a happy, content person was to dedicate myself to my writing (five years ago), I went at it pretty hard core.  In five years, I’ve written quite a few books and now that I have embarked on the indie publishing adventure, I’m publishing my books at a pretty hard-core pace.  This scenario leads me to this post about overmining, because I have been feeling overmined lately—specifically, my creativity.  I am pushing so hard to get the next book ready and the next one after that.  I go from finishing one book to beginning the next in the series on the same day.  I sit down in front of the page every day and expect my creativity to show up, and honestly (and thankfully), it does.  But in pushing this hard, I’m finding craters in my creativity that used to be meadows.  The fun of story discovery begins to feel taxing.  The characters I love—and their expanding lists of issues—become toxic to the joy I usually find in the writing process.  I push for a reason, believing that if we don’t give ourselves deadlines, nothing much will get done.

I’ve even created a timeline of when I want to release my books through 2016.  I push to hopefully develop a readership that will follow me from book to book, series to series.  I have a plan and a vision.  I also have overmining as a chief worry.  

And I have my catch 22.  To be a happy person, I must write, but what happens when writing drains me?  How does balance exist for a person who cringes at the word moderation?  I admit to a somewhat Puritanical work ethic.  How do I let go of something so ingrained in the fabric of my person?

It is all about filling the well—that I know.  But everything gets more complicated after that, when the thing that most completes me depletes me.  And horror of horrors is the idea of taking time off when I have a publishing map driving me forward.

I know from reading other IWSG posts that many writers have procrastination worries with their writing.  I had to smile when I realized that last IWSG post day, I had procrastination envy.  This isn't to say that my focus is always rock solid (certainly not... I can get lost researching the history of kilts or fall into the parallel universe of online puppy pictures), but I will say that if I ever had a boss at a job who pushed me the way I push myself, I'd run for the hills and seek life elsewhere.

I’d love your thoughts on this because I get tight in the chest even considering backing away from the greatest part of my life.

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

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

"They Were Wrong"... and So Was I: An IWSG Post

Today (and on every first Wednesday of the month) I am participating in the Insecure Writer's Support Group.  Check out the list of participating blogs here.  The goal of the group is to provide a safe haven for sharing our writing/life-related struggles and fears in a supportive and understanding community of writers and readers.  So here goes...

In my typical way, I am going to go all in to this in a way that truly frightens me.  There are things I hide from my blog, from my friends, and many times myself.  But to be honest with myself, I have things to say.  Things inspired by this...

(If you have already seen the To This Day Project by Shane Koyczan, continue reading.  If not, it is well worth your time.  Teachers, parents, friends, teens, writers for teens... I simply can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t be better for watching this and finding just a bit more empathy than they had before.)

I first watched this stunning video a few weeks ago and have wandered back since, gathering more, reliving more, falling more, remembering more.  To This Day is such a great title, because it is the proof that events we lived through in our pasts live again in our thoughts, are carried with us as baggage that we discard and pick up again throughout our lives.  A friend recently told me of the horrible names her sister called her when she was young, never calling her by her (lovely) given name (one of my favorite names).  As she said the words, they lived again for her.  No, she is not still traumatized by them, but when she remembers, she lives those moments again.  She will set down that baggage again and live her life as an amazing and active, decent and generous mother to a very lucky boy.

Like everyone else, I have my wounds of words and events that I pick up, carry a while, and then discard.  Most times, they are far away, but sometimes in winter, when blue skies are fairy tales, and everything becomes a swirl of cold and grey, when the life I dreamed of looks starkly different from the life I live, those events come to life again.  Baggage I must carry.  To This Day reminded me of the seeds of my sorrows and how long ago they were first planted, how thickly they grew, and how hard they are to eradicate.

I was the smallest student at my grade school and I remember the things I was called, but being a small girl wasn’t always bad.  The first real bullying I remember came from a teacher who falsely accused me of cheating and then lied to my mother and the administrators about it.  And while shocking to me at the time, there were enough wonderful teachers to buffer the one who wasn’t.  I remember middle school as nothing but awkward.  I was the target for some and a friend to others.  Once again, that was just something to survive, not something that left too many scars.  And maybe that was because I was in gymnastics.  I had other adventures that kept me busy enough to not wound too easily.

And then there was high school.  I’d quit gymnastics and maybe, looking back, that changed things for me, but high school was where patterns were formed, where self-doubt owned me, where I faked confidence to such a degree that perceptions of me grew more and more distant from the real me.  I didn’t fit in... and more than any real bullying or abuse from the outside, I suffered from something else.  I became the invisible girl.  I was the girl forgotten about.  The girl who was left behind.  In truth, this began earlier.  I remember being left behind on a field trip.  I remember the day my friends from church ditched me at the mall.  I remember being forgotten on the call back list for a play I auditioned for.  I remember never getting a part in any play in all my years of high school.  I remember all the dances I didn’t attend because I was invisible, and who would ask an invisible girl to a dance?  I attended just two dances, a Sadie Hawkins and my prom, both times asking my date to the dance and having a great time.

In my invisibility, I excelled at everything I did.  I worked behind the scenes in theatre, graduated with honors, traveled to Australia and Germany, earned a Bachelors and a Masters.  And I wrote... and wrote and lived in fiction.

The trouble is, once you are invisible, being seen is a thing beyond your reach.  I’ve spent almost my entire adult life alone, never picked for anything, making a wonderful life out of the scraps of fallen dreams.  And just like my friend who only wanders into her sister’s nasty words when they come up, I don’t dwell on this all the time.  I’m too busy with my adventures, but here is where this intersects with writing and publishing.  The process of querying was a test of whether I could survive the letdown.  I honestly think that challenge was what held me back for so many years, but when I felt ready, I launched myself at querying like it was my purpose.  Four years.  Four projects.  Close to four hundred rejections.  But an invisible girl’s legs are strong, and they didn’t buckle.

In To This Day, my favorite part is when Shane so beautifully and powerfully says, “They were wrong.”  I don’t know if agents will one day believe they were wrong about my work, because the truth is, now that I have found my way to indie publishing, which is a perfect fit for me, “they” aren’t what my journey is about.  It is about “me.”  Instead of “They were wrong,” I choose to think “I was right” about me and the stories that burn inside me until I free them.  I was right to work this hard to make a wonderful life.  When I think of my life as the invisible girl, I see that it is just one facet of a beautiful life, the saddest perhaps, but still just a part of a blessed whole.  The other sides of my life are the friendships I have made with generous, loving, supportive people who do see me.  Family who are inspirations.  My goals.  My gifts.  My plans.  I have more peace in my life than many visible people have, more to be grateful for, more good to focus on.  And then there is the future, where maybe an invisible girl might one day be seen.

I do see in myself the weakness that invited invisibility, a place where I felt safe from risk.  A place I don’t want to live in anymore, hence a blog post about things I never thought I would share in a forum like this.  I knew I was ready to be seen when I published my first book last year, followed by my second.  With two books coming out this year, I am staking my claim.  And every time a reader contacts me, moved by my books, it is a nail in the coffin of my former life of invisibility.  When a young reader told me she hated reading until she found my book—that was the proudest moment of my life.

I was right.  To write.  To share.  To dare.  To serve my purpose.

And as Shane said, 

“... If you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself, 
Get a better mirror.
Look a little closer.
Stare a little longer.
Because there is something inside you that made you keep trying,
Despite everyone who told you to quit.
You built a cast around your broken heart and signed it yourself—you signed it They Were Wrong.”

And so was I... about myself.  Now it is time to be right.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Choosing Darkness

I have been working like a mad writer lately, trying to get through the rough draft of the fourth book in my series before I put the finishing touches on the third.  I like to make sure that I know where this ship is going so that I can add a bit of foreshadowing here and a few hints there.  What I discovered as I blazed through the end yesterday was that I had no idea where this story was going, and I have to say I was shocked at the darkness that is coming for my characters.  At the end, I was sad, and in talking (ranting) to my mother, I realized that like a parent, I don’t want to see my characters go through rough times.  I want to make sure they have hope and remember that every day is beautiful and even grumpy times are reminders of the goodness of better days.

Today, I realized that my grieving for the bumpy seas ahead for my characters had more than a little to do with a good friend of mine in real life.  As I watch the train wreck coming in fiction, I have some power, my fingers can change everything (though not without consequences in terms of inspiration to write), but in real life with a friend going through equally rough seas, I can do almost nothing.

I’ve tried all the things that a person can do.  I’ve reached out.  I’ve shared my stories of darkness and how I worked through them.  I’ve done what I could.  But in real life, we simply don’t have that much power when people choose darkness.  My characters sometimes choose darkness and it hurts, but I can see when they will have that spark of awareness and lean back toward the light.  For my friend, I can’t see that.  I hope, but I have no special window that lets me see that my friend will go a different way, fight harder against the demons, and come out on the other side grateful and hopeful.  

Maybe one day, my friend will remember that his friends and family are out here too.  And while he’s focused on his own pain and his own worries, there are people he loves who could use his help and his attention.  Other people might need him, but right now his view is limited.

I’ve been there, in a different way, and I wonder why people and characters choose darkness.  Why is it so hard to see that we have a thousand choices every day to view the world and our particular challenges in a positive light?  Why is it so hard to remember to look beyond ourselves when the only thing we see inside is ugliness?  We’re not ugly, we’re beautiful, but the times when our souls feel like cesspools are the times to look somewhere else.  To stay busy.  To make this minute positive.  To not think about the end of the day or the week, the month or the year.  Just to make this one minute beautiful, and if not beautiful, then at least bearable.

Anything positive has to be better than giving in, running away, hiding from pain, or searching for permanent endings to temporary problems.

My characters will find their way.  They’ll find hope.  I hope my friend does too.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


I had a funny morning the other day, a morning where memory took on the role of villain.  We like to think having a good memory is an asset, and certainly when it comes to people losing their memories, that is indeed a great tragedy.  But like everything in life, there is a price and a benefit to having a good memory.  Other than a few gaps when I was too busy to attend to much, I have a really good memory and on the morning in question, that memory delivered to me the rogue’s gallery of annoying people I’ve come across in my life.  Like I was flipping through a deck of cards, there they were, including (I hate to say), their names.  I couldn’t believe that I can remember the names (all of them) for these bit players in my life who carried a short-lived (thankfully) but irritating place in my history... some more than twenty years ago.  And I’m not talking about the annoying teachers who I saw everyday (their names are worthy), but the boss I had who told me I had to quit my job because I had to take a night off to sing in a wedding (that he knew about when he hired me)... yup, still know his name.  Bad one-time dates.  Co-workers from my teen years.  All still here.

It shouldn’t be a surprise really.  I still know all the words to songs I haven’t heard in years (REM, I’m looking at you right now... It’s the End of the World as We Know It).  And truly, it did make me laugh to remember them, but it also made me think.  One of the things I have struggled with is letting go of old hurt feelings, and it’s no wonder.  With a good memory, we can replay these incidents in our minds like our own version of Dysfunctional Youtube, and odds are (and if witness identification stats are correct) we aren’t replaying them exactly as they happened.  We color our memories.  That old boss could have seen things completely differently, and leaving that job gave me the opportunity for a different adventure.

I’ve worked to make peace with these memory monsters, and making peace means turning off the memories even though they still rumble around inside me on cold mornings in February.  It takes discipline to focus on the good, the place in my life where I’m happy, my goals, friends, and family.  And the incredible blessing for a memory-afflicted person is the future, open and wondrous.  Better to be happy in this moment and the one that’s coming than to worry at the past with no hope of changing anything but our own perspectives.

So, rogue’s gallery, I salute you and wish you well, and to all the rogue’s galleries in other people’s memories in which I am a member, I hope you forgive me and find your own peace with our shared pasts.  We do improve with time, and life really does get better.

Quote for the Day from L.M. Montgomery

"Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?"