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.

 

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Committing

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I’ve always believed that ideas float around in the ether. Creative minds catch them – then some will start on it but let it go, others go further but don’t finish, others will finish, but not do it well and a small percentage will follow through.
It’s the follow-through that counts.
Ideas are a dime a dozen. Or a dime a thousand. They’re cheap, I’m telling you. Ideas are easy. Committing to them, not so easy. I know a few writers who are protective of their ideas. They’re so sure someone is going to steal them.
I hate to burst that optimistic bubble, but no matter how wonderful you think that idea is, the chance of someone actually stealing it is probably remote.
Have you, as a writer, ever found that the idea you thought was so original, has been done or is being done? You see the book you wanted to write on the shelf or reviewed in a magazine or has already been made into a movie? And you think, damn, they stole my idea.
I’ve always believed that ideas float around in the ether. Creative minds catch them – then some will start on it but let it go, others go further but don’t finish, others will finish, but not do it well and a small percentage will follow through.
It’s the follow through that counts.
Lots of people, myself included, pay lip service to their ideas, their plans. They tell their friends and family of their wonderful, creative, sure-to-make-a-buck ideas, talking them up, vowing to make it happen. Then they don’t. It was fun talking about it, impressing their friends and family with their genius. But all they do is disappoint.
I’ve done this plenty in my misspent youth. As I matured, I found how rewarding is was to follow through. Self esteem is not given, it’s earned. And it’s earned by accomplishing your dreams.
If you’re familiar with this blog, you may have read September’s post, Chasing the Dragon. In it I resolved on my last birthday, October 1, to make this year, to October 1, 2017, count. I’ve done four of the five things listed. I finished the revision on Alex Bullied, sent queries to twenty agents (one of whom requested the full manuscript) (still waiting), wrote the first terrible draft of My Identical Cousin, and I continue to celebrate the small victories, like that agent request or completing NaNoWriMo.
I have not yet begun to turn Morning of the Mermaid into a graphic novel and I added another project, a nonfiction adult book which I will self-publish in November.
I’ve been thinking of this nonfiction book, writing it in my head for years, and I believe it will have commercial appeal. I’ve come up with a promising way to promote it. I need an artist and an expert to be on board and I want to have it out in time for Christmas sales. I’m being vague about the book’s contents for good reason, which has nothing to do with fearing the idea will be stolen. Because it’s so different than what I’ve been working on for so long, the project just must remain mysterious for the moment.
This post isn’t about this particular project anyway, but my commitment to do as I’m promising, to not just give it lip service, to put my time where my mouth is. I have to prove to myself that I’m right about its commercial appeal and the marketing.
All the while, I will edit My Identical Cousin to have it ready to be workshopped at a writers retreat in September and get Morning of the Mermaid ready to be a graphic novel. I have eight months to accomplish these things. One key to committing is not to over reach. Don’t be too ambitious, or you’ll set yourself up for failure.
What is that saying? The road to Hell is paved with good intentions? The road to Failure is paved with good intentions is more like it. Intentions don’t get projects done. Only work, often hard work, does that.
Can I do it? I hope so, because if I can do it, it might inspire someone else to not only have dreams, but commit to them and make them reality.
Stay tuned.

Other People’s Blogs

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So many blogs, so little time. To keep up, we’d have to spend most of every day reading. Not even Sunday off. There is so much media out there: blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and those of which I am not aware. When do we ever have the time to read them all, much less write our own?

And how do we find the ones we might like?

After I post a new entry, as I will this one, I receive half a dozen or so emails from Word Press telling me how So and So loved my blog and maybe I’d like theirs.

I have found a few that I like. But mostly, not so much. Sometimes I think the posts are a kind of vanity, equivalent to posting selfies on Twitter. Empty and pointless. There are a lot of would-be writers out there and a blog is a good place to start. But remember, quality still counts for something.

It’s not only aspiring writers who create blogs. Agents and editors have blogs. And, as hopeful published authors, we should follow these, right? But which ones? In pursuing some of these, I’ve noticed they tend to be sporadic about their postings. If you “follow” them, you’ll get a notice when they post. So if you find a couple or few you connect with, you may only hear from them once a month, if that.

I follow one in particular, Nathan Bransford, and I recommend his blog. He posts regualrly. He is an agent turned author and knows all sides to the business and has valuable imformation to impart. Sometimes he will take submissions of first chapters or queries and will pick a few lucky ones to critique and edit. Also, he’s funny and fun to read. Recently he posted about the demise of the blogosphere and while I don’t know that I agree with him, it’s interesting. http://blog.nathanbransford.com/

Many of the sites I’m directed to by Word Press are “Indie” authors. In the interest of supporting fellow struggling authors, I “followed” a few. I found them mostly annoying. Not  because they’re Indie, aka self-published, but because their blogs are devoted only to selling their books. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but there’s nothing there to interest me.

For instance, one is constantly having contests in which a reader can win a signed first edition of his hightly-acclaimed novel. He doesn’t say acclaimed by whom or what. And I can’t help but wonder how many other editions there will be.

I know this sounds snarky, but because of the convenience of Kindle, I can check a book out in a matter of minutes by getting a sample. I read the first chapter of the book written by the above blogger and it was obvious he didn’t have a critique group. If he did, he needs a new one. I know what we like is subjective, but poor writing is poor writing.

Another Indie author supplements his book promotion with almost daily quotes about writing. This just takes up space in my inbox. It’s funny, though, once I’m following someone I hate to unfollow. I don’t know what that’s about but the fact that I will watch shows I don’t even like because theyr’e on my DVR might have something to do with it.

Then there’s the guy who constantly announces his book is on sale on Kindle for ninety-nine cents. I read a sample of his novel and I liked it well enough. If he’d done his due diligence on the editing, I might have bought it. When I read something I think is so close to being publishable, I can’t help but wonder what the writer was thinking. Not that I know what’s publishable, clearly. Just my opinion. But to put all that work into something and then self-publish without trying to get traditionally published puzzles me. Unless he did and gave up. His site says he has 42,500 followers. Is that even possible? I wonder how his sales are.

Again, I know I’m being snarky. I am not down on self-publishing. Anyone who can sit and put between fifty thousand and a hundred and fifty thousand words on paper has my respect and admiration. If they can put those words into an order that makes sense and transports me, even better. But just because a writer decides to forego the agony of prospecting for an agent and go the independent route doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try hard to put out the best book possible. Also, unlike this blog I just checked out and didn’t “follow,” if you’re going to have a blog to promote your book, for heaven’s sake, at least proof the writing on the site. This person had so many obvious mistakes, it was embarrassing.

I like a theme to a blog, not just promotion and filler. I like an essay, maybe. I’d like to read about an Indie author’s struggle. What else are they doing to market their book? What do they want for their next one? Will there be a next one? What is their ultimate goal?

I think it helps to have a theme. It keeps the blog centered. A couple of friends in my writers’ group have blogs devoted, not to their books, but to the subjects of their novels.

For instance, C.L. Woodhams, author of The Outreach Committe, a story about a group of women who murder each others’ abusing husbands, writes a blog about domestic violence. It’s informative. Womenbreakfreefromabuse.wordpress.com

R.W.Richard, author of Autumn Breeze, Double Happiness, and A More Perfect Union, is a man writing in the woman-dominated romance genre. His blog, Romance:the guys’ POV, gives the man’s view of writing romance, but also general writing tips and helpful advice. http://romancetheguyspov.blogspot.com

Of course, C.L. and R.W. promote their books on their blogs as well and want to sell copies. But they give us more while they’re doing it.

Fortunately, I have been directed to a few blogs I’m glad I follow. These women are on their own journeys to publication. They also write young adult or middle grade. Theya re doing what I’m doing. And misery loves company, right? They post often enought to maintain interest. One of them plumps her blog with book reviews. I’ve bought a couple because of her reviews. Sometimes the blogs will feature an interview with an author or reblog something someone has written about the business of writing. Check them out at  www.wordsreadandwritten.com    and    https://dawnewebber.wordpress.com   and   http://lorellepage.wordpress.com.

What makes these blogs stand out for me is the writing. It’s personal, it feels chatty, not like I’m being taught something or being sold something. They’ve beenproofed and spell checked. And they care as much as I do.

By the way, chances are you’ll find mistakes in these posts of mine. I hope not, but it happens. I just want you all to know, it’s not my writing, they’re typos.