Monday, December 30, 2013

How do you spell S U C C E S S?

I have a wise and wonderful friend (actually I have more than one) who asked me some really hard questions a couple of weeks ago.  They were as follows:

1. Do you gain a sense of accomplishment/identity from Skye's (my daughter) achievements?
2. Do you lover her whether or not she achieves or succeeds?
3. Is your identity derived from your accomplishments?
4. If all of your success and accomplishments were stripped away would you still accept and love yourself?

Those of you who are smarter than I am will see from question one what my friend was driving at, but it took me an hour of discussion and a week of contemplation to come to the AH HA moment she intended.

At first I felt a little defensive. Of course I do not define myself through my child's success. I know parents who do. Too many of them.(You know them too. The only topic of conversation they have is their kids and nothing happens in their house from the first poo in the potty to the last race ribbon won that doesn't merit a braggy Facebook post, Instagram photo, or phone calls to anyone who might listen) Truly, I take no credit for the wonderful kid who happened to be lent to me by the gracious universe. She has been her own creation from the first breath. I am honored to be along for the ride, and if she wants her successes broadcast to the four corners, she isn't waiting for me to do it. My friend knows this about me. She knows that my love for my kiddo is unconditional. If gets an A or an F, my reaction is the same. If she is first chair or last in band, matters not a whit. If she wins or loses a race, whatev! She is always my awesome Skye and I couldn't love her more or less.

Follow me now; this where the whole thing got hairy for me. I got to question 3 and said, "Huh? Of course, Yes! I am a writer not because I write, but because my scribblings have been selected by random publications and individuals to be read. If I had never been published, I would not call myself a writer. My degrees - four - count them make me an academic. My awards not my experiences in theatre as a writer, actor, and director make me a thespian. What a stupid question? My accomplishments make me who I am. Right?"

Question 4 hit me like a ton of bricks right in the middle of my chest. The honest answer is NO. Sadly in capital letters. I mourned for my shallowness and lack of personhood for 3 days. Then I woke up in the shower one morning and asked, "WHY?" The answer is simple and shallower than my own personal pity puddle. My parents (my mother really) only noticed my sibs and I when we achieved something. We were and are constantly pitted against each other in an unspoken race for maternal recognition based on the number of letters following our names and our spouses', the number of zeros in our paychecks and savings accounts, the numbers appearing on the scale in the bathroom. It's sick and sad.

So success this year will be spelled out not in book sales but in how much I love myself with or without a place on some arbitrary list. I will love myself the way I love my characters with all their flaws and foibles. I will (as my wise friend Susan Jarvis wanted me to) find a way to define myself more deeply and meaningfully and afford myself the same generosity that I afford my child without question. I love you, Susan, for loving me enough to want that for me!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Taking Stock of What's in the Stocking

So the web is abuzz with stories about Christmas wishlists from a century ago. All that talk has made me take stock, not of my own Christmas desires (which consist of more than nuts and fruit, but far less than diamonds and real estate), but of my bucket list. I realize this is just a millimeter short of a quantum leap, but this is how my twisted mind works.

A million years ago when I stood at the edge of the wood and took the proverbial path more or less travelled, I had some kind of pie in the sky wish for fame that would last beyond the grave. In my ninth grade journal I think I said something about wanting kids to read my books in school after my romantic and untimely demise. (gag me with a spoon)

Fast forward to graduate school where I was doused in the cold hard reality of probable literaty obscurity. I scaled my wishlist back to a thin sliver of hope of publication in esoteric literary journals with a readership of several. Those were the days of nuts in my stocking.

Last Christmas I hadn't finished Safe Distances yet and my carefully worded and thought through desires ended with actually finishing a novel, having it read by more than 12 people, and maybe (hope against hope) seeing it find a home in a library. Check. Check. And as of yesterday, Check! I should feel vindicated, done, sated and proud. And I am - to a degree.

My bucket list said nothing about fame, fortune, or the New York Times Best Seller's list. So why am I querying agents and bloggers till my fingers bleed? Why am I spending every spare minute directing and crafting book trailers? Why am I trying to conquer the Twitter in some vaguely desperate and almost certainly futile attempt to make my hashtag go viral (is that even possible?)? Why? No, really, I need you to tell me.

So this is me taking stock. This is me taking this Christmas to be grateful for a story (or two) to tell, characters I love spending time with, and mostly friends who read my book(s) (and blog) and still love me. Am I going to stop querying? Am I going to stop Tweeting (and bloging)? Probably not. But I am going to stop envying the crappy romance writing indy published shedog, who supposedly did nothing to promote her books and ended up on the NYT Best Seller list - 5 f-ing times. (Okay, I'll work on the bitterness too). I am going to accept that fate is a fickle mistress with no taste and enjoy the check marks in the margin.

This Christmas I am going to write because I love it. I will plant myself at a table in the public library across from the shelf that would hold my book if it hadn't been checked out and be grateful for words.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Crossing the Muse

I finished my friend, Jen Hritz's, second novel, The Crossing, last night. It was amazing. I lost four days and touch with reality.  By the time I finished I had learned more about gay male sex than I ever dreamed possible or prudent, and if it had been possible, the book would surely have given me the boner of the century.  That's not what I want to blog about though. 

Joel, the main character of Jen's book has strikingly similar methods of self-sabotage to me. Falling love with the wrong person, sending away anyone who genuinely cares for him. I think if I didn't have to support myself and my child, I would slide down the same slippery slope he takes to self destruction. But that's not what I want to blog about either.

What I want to blog about is the creative impulse. Joel goes through vicious cycles of inspiration, elation, self-loathing, and crushing dry spells. When he picks up the brush to paint, it comes or it doesn't (like love). I was thinking about his dry spells on my way to work and kept thinking I'm glad I don't rely on those capricious gods to keep me writing. I have to admit I was feeling outrageously superior (Yes, I know he is only a character in a book, but after you read it you will understand why I view him as a real person, a friend, a brother). Anyway I was doing the na-na-na-boo-boo thing in my head. Then I sat down to write. Needless to say, I wrote a pile of crap that ended up on the cutting room floor in cyberspace.

I realized sadly that all artists are slaves to the muse. That sucks no end. But I also realized that, like Joel, stopping and waiting for the muse to text or call is a worthless and demeaning way to be enslaved. I choose instead to work without him (my muse comes equipped - if you know what I mean). If he shows up, I'm game to let him in, and I'll even hand him the remote most nights. I like to think I won't beg him to stay, but I am in no way above begging. 

So the long winded point is that unless painters just paint, writers just write, inspiration doesn't stand a chance. Long ago I would get all loaded and sit down for 10 hours in a stretch and come out with utter brilliance, but no one can sustain that method of reaching artistic nirvana for long, and, like Joel, the minute I came down I was forced to realize how completely icky the product really was. Quality work may come in spurts, but the tap has to be running all the time.

I've been away from Elena, Ethan, Sage, Finn, Jo and all the new characters for a whole week now (thanks to Jen). I'm not sure if reading her book made me a better writer (though I think that immanently possible), but it made me more aware of my own muse and how to summon him. I'm off to séance now. Cheers.

Word of warning: this is not the last you will hear about Joel, so go read The Crossing [].

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Where do the ideas come from?

The number one question people ask me after reading Safe Distances is where the ideas for my twisted characters and intricate plots come from. Like most other writers, I have to answer the story fairies who buzz around my head 24/7.  But I have been paying more attention lately because I am wondering too.  Is there an idea organ that lies somewhere behind the andlandula (or some other esoteric brain part that I can't quite put a name to, probably because of the infernal buzzing of those damn fairies .)?

So this weekend somewhere in the middle of Sunday afternoon laundry and cleaning the cages of the hamsters who refuse to move on to the next life, I came up with the idea for my next series of books. The idea came all at once with a fully loaded bevy of characters and several stages of twisting and turning plot revelations and overarching themes. It all hit me in an instant like a fever that comes on suddenly, and I couldn't write or talk fast enough to get it down.  The only way to describe the whole experience is that I had an idea attack. Soooo . . . this is the way I get IDEAS. They just attack me when I'm not suspecting them.  Which begs the question of the fairies who hate this idea.

And no I am not going to blog about my idea. That would be like telling all my friends about the boy I just met and how I am sure that come January we will be madly in love and joined at the hip. Can you say, Jinx?! If I tell you about it, nothing will ever come of it, and I will look like a big fat romantic idiot.  So I am just going to quitely hold onto this precious idea and fall in love with it all by myself in the quiet of my fantasies. If it loves me back and we become a couple, I promise you will be the first to know. . . . Ok, the second. The fairies are very demanding.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Good things come in threes (or fours)

When I'm writing (the books) it's very hard to tear myself away and live in the real world, but I have had some break-throughs recently and some disappointments too.  I'll start with the latter.  There's an Indy published Author (with a capital A) in Austin who has really hit it big.  I emailed this author thinking she might like to meet and chat about her journey with me. Oh well. I have to say though, this is an important object lesson of how I don't want to handle myself when/if my time comes. Being brushed off is unpleasant at best and discouraging at worst. Luckily, I am not easily discouraged.

Now for all the endless good stuff.  I have to start with my dear, wise and wonderful friend Miranda, who recently read my book and gave me some great insight on the genre issue. She also gave me great encouragement in keeping at this.  So the verdict is that I am marketing my books as Young Adult (YA) for older teens. Miranda reminded me that most kids are reading ahead of their current ages. So kids in high school want to read about college and so on. Makes good sense! Given that and some coworkers and friends are buying copies for their teenagers for Christmas, I think this is my best bet. If I get picked up by a publisher and they want to clean up the language and fade to black on the spicy parts, so be it, but I will cross that chasm when it appears under my feet.  Dilemma solved.

Also, I am officially now a song writer. I heard a concert by a well known composer and suggested he needed lyrics for one of his pieces (not randomly-I know a member of his band and we were chatting after he previewed some of his new work). He said, "Write some." I did. And he liked them. Boom! Songwriter added to my resume.  I will reveal who he is after he records the piece.

All good things come in threes. I took a day off work last week to be an extra in my favorite tv show which happens to be filming in Austin. It was grueling and I think I'm done with that experience, but I met a young man who looks like Ethan (the Ethan I have pictured) and he agreed to consider posing for photos for the Geodesy website. I also have found a Sage (One of my coworker's
daughters) and possibly a Finn. All I need is an Elena, and I can do the photo shoot that I envisioned to bring the website to life.  Plus I can get some traction on book covers for Gravitational Forces and Stellar Navigation (Books 3 and 2). 

Or fours. Stellar Navigation is completely outlined (will change I'm sure but having a path to follow through the woods makes the going much easier) and you are all in for a treat with new mysteries from the past, new revelations about the characters you love, and new beyond interesting characters - Cayde a 15 year old hyperkinetic with telekinesis and an endlessly positive outlook; Logan, a female 17 year old juvenile delinquent who travels the astral plane and hates the living; Jamie, no spoilers for this 22 year old guy but he makes Elena question her sexual preference for girls.  'nuff said.

Too much fun. Gotta get back to them. I have a book to finish by February. Yikes!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

To be NA, or not to be NA? That's the m- f- question!

The deeper I delve into the whole promotion game, the more I realize that I have placed myself squarely in a kind of a literary no man's land. I went to the YA/Teen Book Festival here in Austin a couple of weekends ago and the rules around YA fiction kind of gelled for me. Violence of any kind is okay. No amount of horor or gore is too much, but to be considered YA, you best not swear (not even damn) or have any suggestion of sex beyond kissing. So I am NOT writing YA, but I already knew that more or less.  So then I started reading some NA books (New Adult) which are supposed to be for more college-aged readers. The problem with these books is that they are too much like country music for my taste: two dimensional characters playing for tears.  My writing so isn't there either.  It seems NA has none of the whimsical, paranormal, action-adventure, magic that I love about YA. So I have decided that my books are YA but more fun (fun=sex) or NA with less reality.  At this rate I'll never find an agent because I have no clue who to send my book to. 

On a totally different subject, I had a great time writing Book Two Stellar Navigaiton this weekend. Elena is so much more poetic and less emotional than Sage. I really like being in her head. Plus using her paranormal powers is a blast. Some of the writers at the YA conference said they had the most troublel writing the middle of the book. I don't get that at all. I love being able to live in my alternate reality.  The end is the hardest part for me because I hate to see the story end.  Maybe I will feel differently by the time I'm writing my fifth book. I hope not.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

To query or not to query that is the question

I know in my last post I lamented the ago old quandry of "you can lead a horse to a book but you can't make him read it or review it, even if you beg."  In that post I made a snide comment about hitting up bloggers and reviewers smacking of querying agents. And it sort of does, but with that being said, I went and submitted to 3 agencies this week. One gave me an immediate rejection, which was highly insulting, especially considering I just finished reading one of their recent releases and was completely underwhelmed (Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea if you have a morbid curiosity). So I come off that book thinking "my book is better that that one!" Yes, I admit to a certain amount of bias, but still, I seriously got the rejection less than an hour after I sent the query email.  Yikes! 

So I am coming at the problem of getting my book out there on 3 fronts now.
  1. Bug all my friends and enemies until they read Safe Distances and review it just to shut me up,
  2. query agents at a rate of 3 per week,
  3. publish on all the ebook formats (got the nook version up this week and I am working on the iBook version today) and take advantage of any free marketing advice and tools. 

Meanwhile book 2 is nipping away at my brain, begging me to beef up a couple of sceens that I have not properly harvested for maximum tension and screaming to move forward with the story.  Add to that the need to make up posters and negotiate the format and times for my book signing at Cafe Java. Don't know if I coming or going, and I really want to take a week off of work to sleep. 

Hey does anyone have any idea how to get twitter followers so that becomes more than me tweeting to myself and a couple of loyal friends? How is twitter a viable marketing tool? I am flumoxed, but I can still pull a good word out of the hat when I need one.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

So the launch party is over, and I have nearly finished recycling the plastic champagn glasses and wiping the sticky counters. As the glow begins to fade, a tide of questions and doubts is rising on my sunny little beach.  Sure everyone is excited that I actually finished writing a novel (and by everyone I mean people who know and love me, not the general public- not yet). So the word on the street is that the next hurdle is to get reviewed.  Sounds simple enough. But by Whom? And How? Sending free copies out to a bunch of bloggers who I follow on twitter smacks too much of sending agent queries. A shot in the dark at best. Maybe they will like my cover enough to read the back. Maybe they will like the summary or my photo enough to crack the spine, but will they really read the book and then take the time to blog about it? Probably not. Even my friends who have purchased the book might not read it, and even if they do, they might not review it, so how can I expect total strangers to review it.  Hence the crisis of confidence. No reviews=no momentum, and BTW why aren't my friends reviewing my book. I know they are busy, but in the back of my mind it's because they don't love or even like my book. I am secure in their love for me, but I desperately want everyone (and by everyone I mean every reader on planet Earth) to love Safe Distances and her sisters. ON the bright side,  I have set up my first reading/signing.  I hope people come. A voice in my head is mumbling, "If you read it, they will come." Maybe I can get Shoeless Joe to review my book from the great beyond; it might be easier than getting it done in the here and now. What do you think?

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Trigger has been pulled!

I did it! I published my first novel. Safe Distances is available now at I am crazy excited. The official launch will be in 7 days with a party and champagne to follow for close friends.  I will be eagerly anticipating the reviews and hopefully purchases that will come in.  There is so much to do now with marketing. Readings to line up and the lauch email as well as announcements to my colleges and retail research.  I am not going to try to do it all at once though.  I am going to jump back in to writing the second book which is about a 3rd of the way written and I am excited about adding to the character journals on the my website: If any of you have advice or ideas about spreading the word, chime in I'm all ears!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The cover (back and front) of Safe Distances Pre-publication

One step closer

When I decided to self-publish, I thought I was all but done with Safe Distances. I had no idea how arduous the actual publishing piece would be with gutters and pixels and ISBN options. All manner of hurdles to jump kept pushing the finishline further into the distance. Now I am almost there. The proof copy of my book will arrive Thursday and possibly as early as Monday I will get to push the final button. Then I get to wait for Amazon to get it up (5-7 days). Then I can hook up the last Buy it Now button on the website and I am done.  Keeping my eyes focused on the path, the horizon will bring whatever it brings. The best part of finishing this part is that I get to go back to writing book 2 and 3.  The character journals on the website will be fun too. I will add to them at least once a week, probably more than I will post here. So right now this post is pretty much for myself. I hope soon lots of people will join me in the Geodesphere!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Join the Geodesy Journey and other Literary Lunacy

I'm nearly ready to launch the Geodesy series and my fist novel, Safe Distances. Very heady stuff indeed, but mostly a lot of profile stuff to create and fill in. I am trying hard to imagine how I am going to keep generating interest on twitter and facebook and keep this blog up to date and write the next two books.. I imagine I will look back in a year and say the same thing I said when I finished the novel: I did that?! How? When? I had no idea I was achieving my dreams on those nights I didn't sleep. I just thought I was telling a really cool story about the characters I have come to love like real people in my life.  I can't wait to share it all with the world or at least the part of the world who is interested.  Sage, Finn, Elena and even Ethan (a little) are almost ready to take you down their path and reveal their secrets.  Cheers.