Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Returning to Normal

I am so excited to be able to write again, I can't begin to tell you.

For those of you who ask, "how do you know you're a writer?" Today is one of those days I can tell you very enthusiastically that you "just know."

The past month I've had very few thoughts I could call my own. As they relate to the day job, they have been organized and clear and focused. Then the deadline ends and you feel like someone pulled the plug. Suddenly your brain goes blank and the simplest of things feels overcomplicated. Answers you know readily have traveled to a different planet. Grasping for a life preserver, I started over with Cinda's story, which has been waiting patiently for me, and discovered my creative side jumping up and down screaming "yay!"

"Yay." Not, "Oh gee, another job to do."

And the ideas are coming through fast and furious. Granted, the story has a direction and I left it at least 2/3 done, but the chapters still have to be written. Don't get me wrong, it is absolutely a job, work. The difference is in the way I feel about it.

The fatigue of the recently completed deadline lingers, but the excitement of doing something I love buoys me up. Something that brings so much joy, something I've worked hard to do well, something others have rewarded me for doing well (did I mention I won an award from Writer's Digest? Did I? Did you know I won an award from Writer's Digest?), this is something you "know" you were meant to do.

I'm looking forward to the Chicago Spring Fling Writer's Conference in a couple of weeks. If you're in the Chicago area, stop in on Saturday for the book signing. I'll be there, along with Mary Balogh (one of my faves! I'm so excited to meet her!), Simone Elkeles, Kristan Higgins, Joelle Charbonneau and more than I can name here (but if you want to know who else, you can visit this link for the full list -Spring Fling Book Signing). It starts at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, April 26 at the Marriott by the Sears Center (Hoffman Estates).

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Coming up for Air

There are times I question my sanity for working the type of day job I do. The stress is tremendous and even crippling at times. The satisfaction for a job well done is always rewarding. However, being inside a pressure cooker does mean that once they take the lid off you can have unpredictable results. Generally speaking, people come exploding out.

And so today I have a day of quiet. Decompression. There's one deadline left to go at the end of April before life returns to something close to normal again. But with the worst deadline in the rearview mirror, baby steps can be taken back toward resuming some of the other aspects of life that necessarily take a back seat.

Today is my designated day to recapture some semblance of sanity, and I spent part of it reading a book. I'm now officially a fan of Tessa Dare. Curled up on the sofa with a cat who demanded that I "sit" and rest in just that spot, I'm already feeling rejuvenated. Battle weary, but no longer explosive. I have a fresh desire to write and recruit new fans of my own. At the end of April I will be attending the Chicago Spring Fling Writer's Conference where I will meet and mingle with others just like me -- and I get to meet another of my favorite authors!

Spring has been a long time coming this year (in fact, it hasn't yet arrived) and yet the sun is coming out. With the worst of the day job behind me, I have a fresh perspective once again. The grass will turn green, the trees will bud, and I will finish Cinda's story!


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

On deadline

Back next week. If you're looking for something to read in the meantime, feel free to pick up one of the books you see at the right :-)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Strangers on a Train

I had a fascinating conversation on the train home from the Big City yesterday.

As a regular commuter, there are friends you make along the way, compatriots of a sort. And then there are times when you ride with a car filled with people you've not seen or met before. Sometimes it's nice to chat, sometimes I spend the time catching up on reading and sometimes it's nice to listen to my iPod.

Last night, I didn't see one person I normally encounter on my ride home, and proceeded to play games on my iPad to kill the long ride home. As I neared my stop, I moved from the upper berth to the lower (my stop is near the end of the line, and by the time I'm close, the lower berth has cleared considerably). Sitting closer to the doors, a man came and sat near me and started to talk. He told me he was training for a marathon and showed me his "necklace," a medal which was somewhat battered. My impression of the man was that he wasn't quite on the same path as the rest of us. A man of color who was blind in one eye and wearing tattered clothes, he went on to tell me his training ritual and told me I should run a marathon.

Something about me - I don't run. I DO participate in 5K races and normally walk (very fast). I did one 5K with my son during which I ran part of the way, but I still wasn't going to break any speed records. I can't get the breathing down and I'm not as young as I used to be (there are physical limitations I didn't have when I was younger).

Anyway, I shared with this man that I participated in 5Ks and he asked if I'd won.  Ha Ha!  Nope. And then he told me how I should be training. How I should train for a marathon. That I should lose some weight! Imagine a complete stranger telling me how to live my life! No, I wasn't offended. He doesn't know me any better than I know him. I don't know his life's journey any more than he knows mine. It was a pleasant, ten minute conversation at the end of the run.

Most people hide behind their iPod or their computers or some other means of personal entertainment while they ride the train. I'm guilty of that some of the time as well. As a "not highly social" sort, I'm not always comfortable talking to strangers, and yet there are days I enjoy a little conversation to make the ride go by faster. It's an interesting insight into different personalities, some of them very like your own and some of them very different.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Work Life Balance

Or maybe the title should actually be work/work balance. With a little life thrown in.

No, I'm not going to whine. I'm grateful to have a day job. Some day I would love for this author gig to be the day job, but that isn't the way it works. At least not yet.

The downside to the day job is that there are a few months each year where it gears up, requiring significantly more hours. That would be now. March Madness (as you may have seen in prior year posts). It isn't just for basketball. While that's excellent for the business for which I work, it is difficult for those of us employed there. We go from a 40-hour work week to 60+. Just this morning, when I signed on at {yawn} 6:00 a.m., I had an email from someone that was sent last night after midnight. I replied to the email and was stunned to get a response almost immediately. To which I replied (again), "you haven't been up all night, have you?" He assured me that he had managed to get some sleep between those emails, but it isn't unusual for these guys to work well past midnight. What is unusual is seeing them back in the office before 9:00 a.m.

These hours tend to block the creative process a bit. Focus has to remain sharp on the work at hand, and with the day job demanding more attention, that leaves less room for independent thought and creativity.

At this time I would like to give a shout out to Beverly Long. I sat with her for lunch at the last Chicago Spring Fling Writer's Conference and we commiserated over long hours at the day job, but let me tell you about Beverly. She was under contract to deliver three books that year. Count them. Three. I asked her how she managed to accomplish that in addition to working a 9-5 (and often longer than 9-5) day job. Her answer? she had two of them essentially completed, so it amounted to finishing editing on #2, and working on #3. And, she added, she didn't watch much television. She's my hero! Last year I managed to complete two books, and I thought that was a challenge!

So what does one do during peak periods like this? First, I have to manage my stress levels. That means eliminating things that are not absolutely essential. As much as my writing is an essential part of who I am, for the month of March in particular, I have to devote my attention to the day job. Until you guys make me a best-selling author, there is no alternative to this.

Will try to keep blogging. In the meantime - Back to work.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Read an EBook Week

My friends over at Smashwords are hosting their annual "Read an EBook week."  It's a great place to find a new favorite book! Many books are offered at a deep discount (including my own).

At the day job, we have completed the first deadline. Yay! This is the busiest time of year for me there, and often interferes with quality writing time as my day job hours extend beyond a normal workday. Now we go into March Madness. The February deadline kicks it off and we go non-stop all the way through March with the final deadline at the end of April - just in time for my next writer's conference. So life is humming along at a fast pace right now.

And here's an upside to the wacky weather - being this busy makes it less of an issue that mother nature is still playing games with the thermometer and the precipitation. I don't mind not being able to play outside quite so much when it's zero and below with inches and inches and inches of snow. Anyone else ready for a little green? Some budding trees? {raising my hand}

Stop over at Smashwords and check out some new books, or follow the link "to buy other ebook readers" on the right. Please note that they have an "adult content" filter.  Some of my books fall under that category and aren't visible unless you turn off the filter.

Back to work for me.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Hubris of Writing.

I should start by saying that if you want to write a book that people will read, you shouldn’t use big words like “hubris.” (that from my mother-in-law)

As authors, there is always a moment of “who do I think I am?” when writing a book. Of “this story sucks, no one will want to read it.” And yet we put our hearts and our souls into the people and places we create on the page. Let me send this message loud and clear. If you are taking the time to write it, if you are taking the steps to hone your craft, the only way you will succeed, in the end, is by believing in yourself. Instead of telling yourself you have no business trying to be an author, try telling yourself you have every right to be an author.

I have found that one of the biggest motivators for me when I hit that inevitable mid-story self-doubt is to read a book and realize that “I can write that well,” or “my story is at least as good as that one.” (Keep in mind, I only feel confident telling myself that with traditionally published books, but trust me, there are plenty that fall into this category.)

Reading a well-crafted book also motivates me to model my writing after something exceptional. One of the books that moved me the most was “Dragonfly in Amber,” by Diana Gabaldon. Her character sketches make you want to reach out and touch them, they are so three-dimensional. That book reminds me that every detail is important, and if I want people to relate to my characters, I have to include every facet, every visual, every attractive attribute along with every flaw. Another example of excellent writing is Stephen King. He gets all the details down.

With that being said, it is also important, as an author, to recognize when your story is flat and not going anywhere. Is it boring even you, the author? Then stop to ask yourself these questions: What is the theme? The plot? The goals, motivation and conflict of the characters? Even multi-published authors will write a clunker from time to time (ask Jennifer Cruisie!)  As I struggle through my current WIP, I told one of my writing partners that I was worried I was including too much detail. She asked me if it was moving the plot forward, and you know what? I could truthfully answer yes, so I’m powering past the niggling doubts. If it doesn’t work, I can always cut it later.

Don’t get in your own way. Every author hits a mid-book slump. What makes you think your book is worth writing? If it’s important to you, it’s important to write. Writing is rewriting. If you want to author a book, it’s work. HARD work. For authors who get published, it’s a long journey from the joy of inspiration, to the excitement of the creative process, to the despair of finishing and the pain of editing. If you can get through all those steps, then the answer to “who do I think I am, trying to write a book?” is answered. You are an author. It takes a lot of “stick-to-it-iveness” and a thick skin to withstand the constructive criticism.