While I was at RT this past month, I learned some unexpected things.
One of them was that I, the card carrying introvert, absolutely loved meeting tons of new and interesting people. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but it was probably the fact that these new and interesting people were all either writers or lovers of books. I have to be honest – sometimes when I meet people socially in the big wide world, I am horribly and fatally bored. I can only think about when and how I can gracefully escape while engaging in the obligatory small talk or (hopefully) politely listening to something that interests me not at all. At RT this was never the case because the topic of any conversation was likely to focus on books: writing them, reading them, marketing them, where to put them.
Another thing I realized was making me happy while I was at RT was that I had one single job to do while I was there – be social and meet people. This, in itself, was bliss.
My current job involves a lot of juggling. It’s not safe, fun juggling with soft balls or balloons or stuffed animals either. More like knives and loaded guns and maybe a lighted torch or two. I drop something and somebody gets hurt, maybe me, maybe somebody else.
What I’ve been doing for the last five years is working as a mental health crisis response specialist. For the last two years of that, I’ve also been the supervisor of these services in my county. What this means is that every client I see, every client my team sees, is an individual that somebody thinks is dangerous to self or others, and my decisions can mean life and death. It means that sometimes I sit in my office doing administrative tasks with no clients on the horizon, and other times I’m trying to triage an onslaught of crises at once and make sure everybody’s needs get met. Scheduling anything during a work day or a night on call is a crap shoot. There is little structure and less consistency, and always the very real possibility that I’m going to make a decision that results in somebody getting hurt or dead. The phone is not my friend and I can’t schedule in writing time unless I have a full day off.
Honestly, this has been a lot of fun. There’s nothing like a good adrenaline rush. I get to hang out in jail and the emergency room. I’ve made friends with nurses and cops and corrections officers. I’ve stored away bits and pieces of situations and stories that can be adapted for writing later on. But it wasn’t what I meant to do with my life. I went into mental health to be a counselor – to develop a working relationship and assist people in making changes in their lives. Somewhere down the road I’d like to be doing this part time and writing part time – a balanced life of service and creativity.
When I got back from RT I read my work emails and discovered that one of our counselors is leaving the agency, and I immediately applied for the position. A couple of days ago I got the thumbs up on that – starting May 14th I’ll be shifting into a full time counseling position.
I have mixed feelings about this. I’m excited about doing something new, about brushing up my counseling skills, having a regularly scheduled day job, growing in a new direction. I’m ecstatic about not working weekends and nights. But I have guilt about leaving my team, knowing it will create hardship for them until the agency can recruit my replacement. I find I’m revisiting my grief for my two teammates who died during the time I’ve worked at this job. I’m taking a significant cut in salary.
It’s been an emotional roller coaster week, but in that deep, quiet place at my center, I am confident this is the right decision. You all may need to remind me of that in a couple of weeks when I’m trying to adapt to a daily routine. But for today, I think it’s all good.
If you’re on Twitter, and you’re a writer, you either already know Johanna or you’re brand spanking new. It’s kind of hard to miss this hardworking writer. She’s the founder of #amwriting, after all. Every single morning, no matter what is going on her world, she’ll be found taking on the words. And believe me, there’s a lot going on her world. This amazing woman home-schools children, raises sheep, and manages a variety of other tasks that would be, for me, the equivalent of three or maybe four full time jobs.
Anyway, the point I was making is that you probably don’t need me to introduce you to Johanna. The reason I’m mentioning her here today is because I think an onslaught of Happy Wednesdays, hugs, and other tokens of support would be lovely. Because seriously – there is not a writer who works harder or more consistently toward her goals, or helps more people along the way.
And if for some reason you’re not twitter following her, (@johannaharness) or reading her blog, you will want to correct this deficit at once. She’s full of wonderfully creative ideas for brainstorming and plotting and is a motivating force for getting writing done.
As always, if you’re a writer, remember to give yourself a little love today.
Outside my window the world is moving into spring.
Every year, when spring finally makes an appearance on my mountain, I’m surprised. Not that it showed up – contrary to much whining and expressed doubt at the end of winter, spring has been showing up pretty regularly for thousands of years and I’m always pretty sure it will come along eventually. What gets me is that the green is as vibrant and improbable as I remember, and not a figment of my imagination.
I’m really not kidding about this. I’ve lived in lots of different places and spring came to all of them, but I seriously don’t remember seeing so much of this particular shade of green. I call it the Hollywood Fairytale Green, and there does seem to be some magic attached to it. Every time I look out the window my eyes are be-glamored and I sit and stare while time ticks on around me and I get absolutely nothing done.
Which makes it all the more ironic that while nature is doing spring with such abandon, my creative self has moved into a state of permafrost. Writing at the moment feels like trying to dig in soil that’s been frozen at subzero temperatures for weeks.
I blame it on my editor.
Have you ever done that thing where you soak in a hot outdoor jacuzzi and then jump out and roll in the snow? Either that, or jumped into a lake or a river that was way below comfortable swimming temperatures? Your chest constricts. You gasp, but no air enters your lungs. Your heart convulses once and then seems to stop. There’s a tiny instant where you think maybe this is it, you’re not ever going to breathe again, your heart is pissed about the assault and going to go on strike and that’s it, you’re dead.
Well, my editor sent me an email last week that created precisely that response. The email said that all of the line edits looked good and she’d sent the manuscript on to copy editing.You’d think this would be good news, right? The work is getting done. The book is moving forward.
In reality, not so much.
My own personal internal editor, once she managed to get her breath, started shrieking in terror. No, no. We are not ready. There are still so many mistakes. I thought we had more time. I thought the editor would find more flaws and send them back to me so I could fix them. I thought maybe we could work on this book forever. It’s not perfect. And the final, crowning moment of terror:
When I wrote the book, when I marketed the book, when I signed the contract, somewhere in the back of my head I knew people would read the book. Of course they would. Someday. After the writing fairy waves her magic wand and somehow turns it into a brilliant and perfect book with no flaws that everybody in the whole world will love when they read it.
And so, reality strikes. The magic writing fairy won’t be coming by. The book is what it is and won’t be changing much from here. Sure, there are things still to be fixed in copy editing. But no more rewrites, no more character deepening, or plot tweaking. In fact, the book really doesn’t belong to me anymore. People I don’t know are going to format it and put a cover on it and then it will be sent out to face the big scary world.
All of this has served to stop me cold in the process of writing the second book, which will also never be perfect.
I know what I need to do. Put my butt in the chair and write. Tell my internal editor to take a vacation, only I can’t send her too far away because I’ll need her for those copy edits when they show up. All week I’ve been struggling. I confessed me dilemma to the Viking this morning, and he gave me some very good advice.
He reminded me that I started writing because I love to write, and that the contract and the hype and expectations don’t change any of that. He reminded me that even if the book should miserably fail out there in the big wide world, all that this means is that the book failed. And that doesn’t mean I can’t still write for fun, or that I’m a failure, or that another book won’t succeed. He even dared to suggest that getting a publishing contract doesn’t change anything, not really.
Wise man, my Viking. Yes, there are expectations for this book I’m in the middle of writing. And a deadline. And a freaking outline, which is a thing I have never, ever dealt with before. But none of that means I can’t still write for the love of the story and the music of words coming together on the page. Because, if there is an magic to writing, that is the place where it shows up.
That said, it’s time to make another cup of coffee and get back to the writing. If only I can manage to quit staring out my window.
It’s Wednesday!!! For some, this is hump day. For my pal Linda Grimes, it means camels. Here on my blog, Wednesday is love a writer day. Not that I don’t love writers every other day of the week, of course, but I’ve elected Wednesday as my day to celebrate them. Writing books is lonely at times, often discouraging. Having people read our books is both exciting and scary. All of us need an extra hug and cheer every now and then.
Today’s writer is James Huskins, who in my mind always goes by his Twitter handle – Groovy Mystery. He is just a groovy dude, all round. If you follow him for awhile you’ll figure out that he’s one of the nicest writer people out there and a great Twitter follow.
James writes mysteries set in the sixties. You can check out his Groovy Mystery blog here, or read an excerpt from the first book of the Groovy Mystery Capers, Silent Scream, here. More importantly, just take a minute to tell him hi and offer up an extra smile or hug.
First, my apologies for neglecting this blog last week while I was in Chicago for RT. I had very good intentions (and yes, we all know where good intentions lead – to blank screens and unwritten manuscripts and also missing blog posts). I actually sat down several times while I was at the Romantic Times Convention and wrote a few words, then stared at them blankly and wiped them all out.
The fact is, the RT experience is so BIG that any time I was away from it long enough to try to write a post, my brain was frantically scrambling to process all of the events and there simply wasn’t enough wattage left to produce orderly sentences without blowing a fuse. I’m still not able to be eloquent about the experience, but here I go with a few of the highlights.
All manner of thanks goes to my lovely and talented roommate, Leigh Evans, who talked me into coming to RT in the first place and then mentored me along and introduced me to some incredibly helpful people. Here we are on the day we flew in, when we were still functional and dutifully working on our writing:
This was the best we could do about both getting into the picture at once, since there was no photographer stalking us or anything. (Maybe next year. You never know.)
The very first morning Colleen Lindsay invited me to breakfast. Yes, THE Colleen Lindsay, former agent, Community Manager for Book Country, lover of cats. At about 6 am I was awake and on Twitter and she suggested a 7 am breakfast. I confess to an initial moment of OMG panic, but within about 30 seconds of meeting Colleen, all fear was gone. This woman is truly one of the nicest, most down to earth people you will ever meet in the publishing industry, or possibly anywhere else on the face of the planet.
Colleen not only bought me breakfast, she proceeded to introduce me over the next couple of days to an incredible group of people.
Thanks to the great beginning, I felt courageous and introduced myself to people. I ran into a lot of familiar faces from Twitter. And over the course of the week I discovered this:
Writers and readers are pretty wonderful. I met people standing in lines (there are a lot of lines at RT), at events and parties and panels, and yes, at the bar. All of the authors I met, whether they were self publishing, seeking representation, established, or even NYT bestselling – were open and friendly. They shared marketing tips and writing ideas and also just told a lot of funny stories and enjoyed themselves. Readers talked about their favorite books and authors. Somebody from Australia gave me my first ever TimTam. (I think I may, someday, have to move to Australia now.)
There’s really no way to talk about everything that happened this last week. Even just hitting the highlights would take a long, long time, and more words than I have at my disposal at the moment. The short version is this:
I learned a lot. I made new friends. And I was reassured that the love of books is alive and well in the world.
There is a “Lucky Sevens” meme floating around the internet, and I was tagged by the lovely SarahLBlair.
Without further ado, the rules for the Lucky Sevens Game are these:
*Open the document for your current MS/WIP
*Go to page 77
*Go to line 7
*Copy the next 7 lines (sentences or paragraphs) and post them exactly as they are written. No changing or cheating!
*Tag 7 authors and let them know.
I waffled about this a little. Which WIP? I decided to go with the rough wordage from the first draft of WAKEWORLD. Here are 7 paragraphs, beginning with the 7th line. And damn, it was hard not to revise them before posting:
“Life had taken enough from him, he wasn’t prepared to let his body disintegrate – there was an out waiting for him when it came to that. A damp cold soaked up through the grass, but the tombstone still held lingering warmth from the sun. Across the graveyard floated the mysterious call of a mourning dove. Haunting.
How could any kid take a gun and massacre his only family? What sort of meaning was there to such a thing? This was what was eating at him from the old reports. Nobody had even looked for motive, and the only circumstantial evidence resulting in the Wanted poster was that one family member was not at home when the violence happened. Surely there must have been more to it than that – something between Weston and his family, something in that relationship or in the young man himself, that would allow an entire community to believe he was capable of such a thing.
Draining the rest of the beer, Brett hoisted himself up onto his feet and limped across the grassy graves toward what was known as the old graveyard. The remains of a stone wall marked the boundary, nothing left now but a line of irregularly sized rocks, mossy and green, barely visible through tall grass. The new cemetery was kept mowed and well tended, but the grounds keeper claimed ghosts roamed around the old stones and refused to bring a lawn mower in. The town powers didn’t believe this, of course, but also didn’t care enough to force the issue.
Brett himself had put in a request to fire Julianna and hire someone who would do the job, had argued the point vociferously. Was there any reason why the long dead shouldn’t get the same respect as those who had living relatives? What was to stop them pulling down the rest of the wall and mowing the entire yard, other than a woman who was delusional enough to believe she was disturbing ghosts.
He’d almost managed to get himself fired in the process, the way he’d run his mouth about it. Any time people started rumblings about the supernatural he found himself wound up in knots, acid in his belly and bitter on his tongue. And now look at him – having to acknowledge the reality of dragons, being trapped in a dream that literally almost killed him.
For the first time, he felt a subtle difference as he stepped over the stones. Cooler, although the sun was still shining and there was no shade. Hair on the back of his neck stood up. He found himself looking over head for clouds, perhaps a dragon shadow. All was clear and bright, nothing altered. Stretching away in a smooth sloped the new graveyard with its brass and granite stones, all evenly spaced and symmetrical.
Time to mind his feet. The grass here was tall and tangled, making it difficult to see where the stones lay. A fool’s errand, perhaps, but curiosity drove him from one old stone to the next, deciphering the phrases, the names, the dates. Some were obscured by time and the elements. In the far corner, backed up against a stand of pines that would have been young when the graves were dug, but now towered against the sky, he found what he was looking for.”
Now for my 7
victims recipients, in totally random order:
Linda Grimes (@linda_grimes)
James Huskins (@GroovyMystery)
Julie Butcher (@Julie_Butcher)
Johanna Harness (@johannaharness)
Danielle Poiesz (@DaniellePoiesz)
I know you all are busy, and I don’t know whether you’ve already been tagged with this meme or not, so play if you feel like it, or pass on by if that’s your preference. If you choose to play, be sure to let me know so I can read your lines!
See that gleam of mischief in his eye? That’s for real, but it comes along with an always questioning mind and a wise and gentle soul. I’ve had the privilege of meeting him in person and I always enjoy his company on Twitter.
John writes stories and mini essays that border on the mystical. You can read some of that on his blog, Love This Life, Onward Through the Fog. You’ll also catch his posts and stories on the #amwriting blog from time to time.
He also knows a lot about music and special needs kids and, as it turns out, alternate realities.
As always on Writer Wednesday, remember to do something nice for yourself or any other writer in your vicinity. And while you’re at it, say hey to John.
Last week, one of my writing accountability pals, Noortje de Graaf, (@Lordkiwii if you’re on Twitter) conferred the Liebster Blog award on me.
I don’t know about the rest of you bloggers, but when I get blessed with a blogging award I usually have two reactions, occurring in the following order:
Good news on the second account – the Liebster Blog demands very little of its recipients. Here are the rules:
That’s it! Also, the word Liebster, as far as I can tell, means dearest, favorite, friend, or love, depending on where I look. Any of these sound good to me. That said, here is a selection of bloggers I like who hopefully meet the “less than 200 followers” rule. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
1. Emily Murdoch – Lefty in My Write Mind. Okay, so I really have no idea how many followers this blog has. But it’s a great blog. And Em is a YA author you want to be watching. Her debut novel, Patron Saint of Beans, is going to be awesome.
2. Carrie Clevenger – Mindspeak. You may know her on Twitter as @texistential. Watch for Crooked Fang coming out through Lyrical Press in 2012.
3. Sarah L. Blair – The Things I Think and Do Not Say. Sarah is on Twitter as @SarahLBlair. She has a fun blog that makes me laugh. This is always a good thing.
4. Dina James – Chronicler of the Paranormal. Okay, so I’m pretty sure Dina has more than 200 followers. But it doesn’t actually SAY that anywhere on the blog where I can easily see it. Watch out – Dina is Evil, in all of the good ways. You can follow her on Twitter as @dinajames.
5. Veronica Scott – The Official Website of Veronica Scott. Veronica is one of my newer friends on Twitter -@vscottheauthor. I haven’t had a chance yet to read her books but I notice them getting a lot of great reviews. And her blog is an interesting place: excerpts, Six Sentence Sunday posts, and informational bits about history and other stuff.
And that’s it for me. I have completed the requirements that come with receiving this blogging award, and I’d better get on with my day.