Now It Gets Real

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I’m almost finished with the first draft of my adult non-fiction project. I expect to be done by the end of May and have it the hands of beta readers by mid-June. That’s a blink of an eye. In a moment, it got real. I’m nervous. No, panicked. No, scared shitless. Yeah, that’s what I am.

I’m flying blind here. There are a myriad amount of things I’ll need to do to publish, promote and market this book. I’ve never done anything like this. In fact, this will be the biggest thing I’ve ever done.

And I’ve raised a son.

It has to be written well and perfectly presented. It has to have been thoroughly and brilliantly promoted and marketed on every social media outlet possible. It has to be published impeccably. And all this must be done by November fifteenth. That’s my launch date. In plenty of time for Christmas sales.

I feel hopelessly unprepared.

However, I will pull up my big girl panties and throw back my shoulders and face it. Whenever I’m faced with what seems like an overwhelming challenge, I break it down. Then all I’ve got are manageable pieces.

Right now all I can do is write this as best as I am able, then take it to my writers groups and get critique, which helps the manuscript. All I can do is work with the illustrator, who, I am sure, finds me frustrating at best. It seems I don’t know what I want until I see what I don’t want. I thank him for his patience in every email.

I will make copies to hand out to almost anyone willing to read and comment. Copies will also go to those who will help with promotion and marketing, to the web builder, and anyone else involved. By the end of July, I should have a finished product, ready to go to the publisher.

When I published my first book, after it had been with an agent and rejected by all the big publishing houses, there were no POD (Print On Demand) companies. Twenty-five years ago, the only options were to hire a vanity press or do it yourself. With my husband’s help, I did it myself. I still have four boxes of books in my garage.

This time I will probably use CreateSpace, a POD company in association with Amazon. I’ve heard good things. But I have no idea how involved the process is, especially when adding illustrations, or how long it takes. I plan to hire someone to figure all that out.

I will also have to hire people to build the website for this book, and to manage the social media. I want to make promotional videos to post online wherever. And those videos will require actors and a camera person. And music.

Whenever I add something to my list, more ideas come up. And the simplest idea becomes complicated the minute it’s thought.

How will I get reviews from credible sources? How do I get followers for all the social media outlets I will join? How do I make my promotional videos go viral? How do I reach my target audience? I haven’t a clue.

This is scary stuff.

I tend to procrastinate. I joke that it’s part of my process. But there’s no time for that with this project. My deadline is November fifteenth and if I miss it, I’ll have to put the book launch off until next year and that is not happening.

Stay tuned.

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New Years

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One new year for an entire 365 days is not enough for me. It seems I need more than one fresh start. I need three. If you can come up with a fourth, please let me know.

The first is when our year changes – welcome to 2018. I make plans that encompass the next twelve months. While Christmas shopping, I found a gift for myself, a journal with the title Master Plan. It’s a blank journal but includes sticky notes titled Notes, To Do:, For Now, For Later, Remember. This book was meant for me. I’m hoping it will be filled with goals, steps to achieve those goals and more plans as they occur to me by the end of 2018. I love making plans. Probably more than I like actually doing.

According to my Libra Horoscope this year may be a challenge for me to keep up with my work. This is the nature of Neptune in my work zone. I should do what I think is right and ignore the comments of others. From January 21st, apparently I will be attracted to getting out and about and will love entertaining people. By the third week of February, the fun will cease and I’ll get back to work.

I already do not like nor do I agree with what is foretold. If I follow this, I’ll be wasting a good six weeks of productivity. I have to have the first draft of my nonfiction adult  book done by March. There must be hidden meanings in this horoscope. I hope.

The second is the Chinese New Year, starting on February 16th, ushering in the Year of the Dog. What does this mean to a me, a Dragon? The Dog will offer support and aid to each Dragon. The only thing which it cannot help with is inspiration. With such a down-to-earth nature, this canine is not capable of creating, which means that even Dragons who think in unorthodox ways will have to spend the whole of 2018 without major flights of fancy.

Holy Moley.

The Chinese Horoscope also says on the whole, during the period when the Dog is ruling, Dragon’s careers will have every opportunity to lunge forward.

Okay. Whew.

Apparently I need to work with other people on creative endeavors. Which is exactly what my adult nonfiction requires. And those people are in place, ready to go.

Finally it’s October first and the last of the new years. My birthday year. When that comes, my astrology  will be more specific. I will reevaluate previous plans and make new ones.

Three months later we celebrate another New Year and I start all over.

I have two projects on my desk but they’re big ones. Both will need to be broken down into sections. Taking them step by step is the only way for me to not be overwhelmed. I plan each step. I celebrate each fresh start.

I’m pretty this fixation has a lot to do with my on-going struggles battling time and aging, but there’s something optimistic and hopeful about having three new years.

Wishing all of you, constant readers, (and you two know who you are) a happy, healthy, productive, successful New Year!

Revisiting An Old Friend

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My young adult novel, Morning of the Mermaid, came about because a few lines appeared in my head –

When her parents died, an hour apart, of a mysterious fever, Calista  thought–now I will experience great grieving and utter desolation. All of her family had just passed on to the world of eternal rest, leaving her alone for the first time in her sheltered, pampered life. Yet she felt nothing. The depth of emotion she hoped for never came.

I thought these would make great opening lines for a story and a great character to explore. The story, from there, formed in about a week. I would tell of the first ever mermaid and how she came to be, starting with her mother’s story. The mother fascinated me, this gorgeous doomed girl who, because of a cursed beginning, never developed feelings.  Hopefully, readers would grow to love her as she grew to find love, only to die in  childbirth, leaving a daughter who was half-human, half-fish.

I wrote the entire first draft before I recognized the problem with it. Most of the first half of the book dealt with her mother’s troubles, how she came to live on a deserted island and formed a friendship with the creatures there, grew a heart and fell in love with the mermaid’s father, a man enchanted into dolphin form.

I would begin to tell friends the story and instantly they would ask, “Is she the mermaid?”

“No, wait,” I’d say, “and then…”

“But where’s the mermaid?”

Obviously, this should begin with the mermaid.  Total rewrite in which the mermaid, Kallea, not only seeks to find others like herself, but also to learn her mother’s story. It becomes the story within the story. And those lovely first lines come in somewhere around page 118.

I finished the manuscript, again, and took the synopsis and first two chapters to the summer SCBWI conference for a critique by an agent. I was told I needed to “take it to the next level.” The next level? What did that look like? Didn’t I just do that?

I spiraled into self-doubt, self-pity and defeat.  Which lasted for a few months.

Digression: I’ve never found time off from writing, for any reason, to be unproductive. I usually read a lot and do a lot of cooking and baking. And it usually results in fresh ideas and a wave of creativity.

This time was no different.  I knew what Mermaid needed. How had I not seen it before? The problem was that, for Kallea, the stakes weren’t high enough. All I had to do was make her troubles more do-or-die, put more shadow into the story.

I attacked another revision, the images clear in my mind. I wanted to make this book so good, no agent could refuse it. My mermaid deserved it. Her story should be read.

But a certain amount of my interest and faith had faded. And there was another, more insistent, story pounding on my door. This one had been wanting in for a year as I’d made notes and tossed them into a basket. It was time to put the mermaid aside and channel my inner eighth-grade bully.

The plan was to go back to the mermaid after I’d finished Alex Bullied. I strove, through several revisions, to make this the book that no agent would reject.

I got the idea for My Identical Cousin and decided that instead of tackling Mermaid again, I would write Cousin, because it would be a better book to follow Bully.  We all know how delusional I was. And probably still am.

Cousin had to be put on a back burner, which is fine, because, apparently agents can reject Bully pretty easily. I’m not ready to give up on either of them, but I needed a middle-grade novel break. I wanted to work on something new and different.

Or maybe old and different.  I’d decided to turn Morning of the Mermaid into a graphic novel. The time seems right to start that project. Graphic novels for the Middle Grade and Young Adult crowd are popular right now and not going away any time soon.

I bought some books on the subject, and am reading graphic novels that were actual novels in a previous life. A Wrinkle in Time is one of them. I’ve never read it. (I hear your collective gasp.) I’m reading the novel, then will see how it transformed into a comic. The San Diego chapter of SCBWI, which I attend, is sponsoring a graphic novel intensive next month. It’s a sign that this is the right course to take.

It’s so nice to revisit this old friend, the mermaid. She’s been so patient. I read some printed out pages of the book, the first chapter. Then I pulled it up on the computer and it’s a totally different first chapter. Which one is better? Which version is more suited to graphic novel?

And so it begins.

Stayed tuned.

Repost: Why You Should Skip Nanowrimo by Zarah Parker

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I have been struggling with the rewrite of my latest work in progress, My Identical Cousin. I wrote the first shitty draft last November for Nanowrimo. 50,000 words in thirty days. I managed to get to about 47,000 words, which is a decent length for a middle grade novel. I thought having this first draft done in thirty days was quite an accomplishment and a real head start in completing this book.

But the revision has not come together the way I thought it would, or as quickly. I came across this blog, The Memoir Of A Writer, read a current post and suddenly knew why.

This is the first time I’ve wanted to repost from someone else’s blog. But this one made so much sense to me. You may not agree. Perhaps your experience with Nanowrimo was different. If it was more like my ordeal, this post may make a difference.

Of Possibilities And Probabilities

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I had another birthday on October 1st. It seems it comes every year about this time and, once again,  I’m feeling like I have a year of possibilities ahead of me. By next year I will have completed, maybe sold, projects, lost weight, trained my dog, baked a perfect pie crust, read every book in the universe and turned back time to my forties.

That’s what I thought last year, too. And I wrote down my ambitious plans. In this blog. Posted them. Like a clueless fool. I thought of them as Probabilities instead of Possibilities.

I aimed to do a last edit and a final round of queries on Alex Bullied. I did do that. I said I would use the month of November, with NaNoWriMo to inspire me, to write the first draft of my next book, My Identical Cousin. I did that, too. So at the end of last November, I was still on track. I had to finish Cousin, turn Morning of the Mermaid into a graphic novel, and edit the sequel to my first book, Outlaws, which is the second in my series about an 1860’s girl, Carrie Sutton, and self-publish it as I had the first, Riding On The Wind. And I added a new nonfiction adult project, that I thought would be easy peesy and just plain fun to do. I could do all of this in ten months, right?

Not likely.

The adult project turned out to be tougher than I’d thought it would. I knew My Identical  Cousin needed to be deeper, needed another level and I wasn’t quite sure how to reach that level.

Then my much loved mother-in-law passed away in December. In January we traveled to Texas for her memorial. This did not contribute to a sense of  creativity.

I decided to focus on the nonfiction project in February. It required an artist, so finding one and communicating the book’s needs took time. And was distracting.

In April I was pacing and moaning to Husband how difficult  the nonfiction was proving to be and how I’d never make my November deadline. He said, “It doesn’t have to come out for Christmas.” I said, “Yes, it does.” He replied, “Not this Christmas.” Hallelujah! He was right. I put the deadline off a year to my, and my artist’s, relief.

In May I heard about the Big Sur in Cape Cod Writers Workshop for children’s writers, taking place in September. This seemed an ideal way to end my year. I hadn’t finished Cousin as I’d hoped, hadn’t made the progress on the nonfiction book I’d hoped, hadn’t turned Mermaid into a graphic novel nor edited Outlaws. But Husband was leaving for six weeks in Asia and during that time I would focus on and get Cousin into shape. There would be no more distractions.

And then the After happened …

July 22, the night before Husband was leaving for Asia, we went to a BBQ and I may have had a little too much, um, fun. Later, at home, when I brought my chiweenie out for a last potty trip in the backyard, I lost my balance, pitched forward and smashed my face onto a two-foot concrete retaining wall. I was instantly covered in blood. My face felt like mush. I felt like an idiot. I managed to get into the house, and to the bathroom where the mirror revealed a chunk of my forehead hanging loose. Husband says he will forever have the image burned on his brain of me, standing at the bedroom door, drenched in blood, saying “I think I need to go to the hospital.”

Oh, I just got that — “last potty trip.”

A night in the ER, forty-three stitches and possible fractures in my nose and cheek later, we were home and Husband was preparing to go to Asia. He couldn’t not go, as people there were depending on him and he was bringing equipment and products for a trade show. Best Friend stayed with me the first night. I knew I was okay, as far as concussions went, and I would be fine alone after that.

However, I sure didn’t feel like writing. Talk about a distraction. This pretty much finished me off. Recovery took predominance over everything else. I could sit in front of an ever streaming Netflix, but I didn’t have any desire to write or read. The stitches crossed my forehead and clustered around both eyes. I didn’t have pain, but it still felt awful, I thought it must be similar to botox, tight and unmoving.

So this is the After. I will have scars. I don’t know if my eyes will look normal. As I write this, the bridge of my nose and right eyelid and part of my forehead are still swollen. The right side of my head and forehead are numb due to the severed vein that runs up above the right eyebrow. How much feeling will return to these areas remains to be seen. But I am recovering.  I did make it to the Big Sur at Cape Cod Writers Workshop (more on that later) and I am back at my critique groups. I’m self conscious in public but a cap and dark glasses covers most of the evidence of the injury. I am back to writing.

The Birthday Year has passed and another has begun. I am once again excited and hopeful for the year ahead. I’ve made a list – but I’m not posting it and I’m letting it be more fluid this time. I know I have a year of possibilities ahead. Possibilities, not necessarily probabilities. Nothing is certain. We do the best we can.

Stayed tuned.

 

Who Do We Write For?

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I recently received the final two rejections for Alex Bullied, both from agents who had requested more pages – fifty for one, the full manuscript for the other. Whenever I send a full manuscript, I am including my hopes and dreams. And this time, it was to an agent at Writers House, so, win or lose, I was feeling validated. An agent at a Major League Agency wanted more of me! But, alas, having done this for awhile, I know there’s a good chance it’ll just be a delayed rejection. Still, I can’t help but cross my fingers and hope.
Alex Bullied has been shelved – or, more accurately, drawered. I gave it all I had. The agent complimented my writing and the story. He just wasn’t passionate enough about it.

Let’s face it, it wasn’t good enough.

When I wrote my first book, Riding On The Wind, I spent months perfecting the first six chapters. I hadn’t yet taken any writing courses or joined a critique group. I didn’t even know what a critique group was. I knew nothing. What I did have going for me was a lifetime of loving books and reading. I wrote by instinct. I wrote the book I wanted to read. And I read Writers Digest and The Writer and any other writing magazine I could find. Inevitably there would be an article that addressed whatever question I had at the moment. I wrote and rewrote those first chapters until finally I had to make myself move on. But, those are six really good chapters.

On my third query, I scored an agent. I was so green, I had no idea that was a Big Deal. After a year, although it came close a couple of times, she could not sell my book, and we parted ways.
I had written that book for myself, for the reader I had been at twelve years of age. I did the same with the next book, Morning of the Mermaid, in which I imagined how the first mermaid came to be. By this time I had taken some writing classes, had found a critique group and was much more savvy.
I knew enough to be hopeful as I sent out the first queries. All rejected. I chalked this up to premature querying, something many beginning writers do. I attended a few writers conferences, paid extra for professional critiques from agents and editors. I rewrote and rewrote and sought out more critiques, all of which pointed to more rewriting. Would this book ever please the agents? Frustrated, I set it aside.
The story of Alex Bullied had been playing in my mind for a year and I started it with a certain amount of joy. This one would be so much fun. I aimed to write a humorous book for boys. If you’ve been reading this blog you know my trials and tribulations as I finished the manuscript and set out to hook an agent. To please critics, I rewrote. And rewrote. The book drifted from my initial concept. I wasn’t writing for boy readers anymore.
I was writing for agents.
This is a quandary many prepublished authors face. Who do we listen to? Who’s advice, who’s critique, do we take? How far from our vision are we willing to go? As far as we think it will take to get an agent? Who do we write for?
Literary agents are the gatekeepers to the Publishing Kingdom. To get in, we must please them, right? But what if, by writing to them, we lose ourselves, our voice, our vision?
When I am writing middle grade fiction, I imagine I’m writing to myself, at that age. If I start to think about agents reading, the words become self conscious and I do not think this is the way to brillant writing.
I caught an interview with comedian, writer and film maker Jordan Peele the other day. I had to write down what he said when asked if he had any words of wisdom for writers. (He was being asked as a film writer, but I think it applies to any writer) When I heard it, I thought, that’s what I’m talking about! He said:
Follow the fun. Don’t follow the practicality, don’t follow what’s going to get this sold, what’s going to make this good. You’re writing your favorite movie that doesn’t exist. What’s the movie you wish someone would write for you?
Follow the fun.

Promises, Promises

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It may have been a mistake to announce, in writing, on this blog that I would complete my nonfiction project and have it published by November fifteenth of this year. Perhaps.
Or was it?
What I do know is that I am at the halfway mark on my schedule, but not on the book. Putting the book together is going more slowly.
It’s not like writing a novel, which is something I do all by myself. I am in control of every aspect. This project requires others to bring it to completion and to realize my vision for it – an artist and an expert on the subject and later, actors for the promotional spots.
Before I began writing seriously, I was involved in local theater. I loved the atmosphere, the camaraderie and all that it took to get a show off the ground. But we had to deal with egos and insecurities and the flakiness of others. We had to rely on everyone doing their jobs and doing them well. That may have led to my becoming something of a control freak.
Writing a novel is the perfect occupation for someone with control issues. I get to be not just the writer, but the actors, the set designer, the costumer, prop master and so on. I get to control everything. No one else contributes until I bring the pages to critique groups, beta readers and, eventually, literary agents.
The nonfiction project I’m working on now takes me back to those theater days. I have found my artist and expert who will – hopefully – be able to see and interpret my vision. I have to rely on them. Then others will be involved in the production of the promotional ideas I have. I will have to find these people.
It’s all going to take more time than I’d planned. Which brings me back to my schedule and my arbitrary deadline. It seemed doable at the time. At the time a year stretched before me. It seemed possible to complete the nonfiction as well as a novel and a graphic novel.
What was I thinking?
I imagined how fun the nonfiction would be, in a completely different genre and age group. And it is, can be, fun. It’s just once I began it grew, swelled with more ideas, as each of the topics led to something else, something more.
I am not an anxious person, but I began to think about it constantly and felt the passing of time crushing down on me. One night I was pacing, complaining about my schedule, or lack thereof, to my husband.
“It doesn’t have to come out at Christmas,” he said.
“Yes,” I said, “it does.”
“Not this Christmas,” he replied.
Not this Christmas. He was right. Just because I announced it, vowed it even, there’s nothing holding me to this deadline. I didn’t carve it in stone. Suddenly I have all the time in the world.
A year and a half stretches before me.
Stay tuned.

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