Painful Beginnings

Going back to the beginning.

Starting anew.

Getting a fresh start.

It doesn’t matter how you phrase it, when you’re starting something over, it’s hard.  Ever tried to save a batch of chocolate chip cookies with too much salt?  Trust me, despite the agony of throwing it all out, it is the better choice.

I started an exercise program several months ago.  I made great progress, dropped several pounds, even lost a clothing size.  Then life got hectic as life is want to do at times. I quit going to the gym, stopped following the diet, and found the pounds I’d lost had come back with a vengeance. So I went back to the gym and started over with everything, and I’m pretty sure it hurts worse by 200 percent more than it did when I started originally.

Now I’m doing something almost as painful: I’m rewriting one of my novels, starting over from scratch because I just can’t seem to fix it in bits and pieces. I’m rethinking the characters, I’m reworking the plot, and I’m sorting through some of the subplots and secondary characters to decide what I want to keep and what I want to get rid of. It’s a far more painful process than I had anticipated it would be, and I find that I come to the writing part of my day and I am reluctant, even a bit bitter, about going through with the work. After all, I created this world and populated it and set it in motion – I liked it enough at the time to see it through, and I liked it enough when I finished it to begin submitting it. Now, here I am, the fickle god who is destroying my beloved creation.

God-of-War-Destroying-Earth-56260-215x300

The truth is, though, that I didn’t get it right the first time. I need to start over because the story isn’t working as it is, and simple revisions won’t be enough to fix the issues. As much as I like some of the characters, and as much as I thought I had worked out a solid plot, I realize now that the story really needs a new start – no matter how painful it might feel right now.

In a way, I’m hopeful that this process will seem easier – eventually – than writing the original story did. I already know the basic thread of the plot, and I know the key characters (even if they will change a bit), so in a way, the story is somewhat written already. I’m trying to think of this in terms of a piece of clay: I molded it one way, but the result wasn’t as appealing as I’d hoped, so now I’m reshaping it into something more attractive and useful.

dirtyHands

It would be easy to toss the whole story aside and say, “Oh well, better luck next time,” but I really believe in this story, and I really think it will find a home and finds its life outside my computer. I think I know the answers to the issues I’ve uncovered, and I’ve had good readers willing to look it over to share their insights as well. I know it will be better, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Writing at its very core is a painful process, but now I’m compounding that pain, and doing it on purpose. I guess that makes me some kind of masochist – which is a pretty funny thought.

So, it’s off to work again on a novel called The Afterward. Hopefully this time I can release its full potential. I just don’t think I have the heart to rip it apart yet again.

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Resolutions – The 2013 Edition

It has been a VERY successful year for me, and I am grateful for the support of friends, family, teachers, librarians, and most of all readers! In June of this year, Angelic Knight Press made an offer for Death’s Kiss. In August, I sold a horror short story under my pen name Mimi A. Williams. That story, entitled Rita, will be part of the Axes of Evil: Heavy Metal Horror Anthology that will be released on February 1, 2014.  The Deepest Blue was released from Tanglewood Press in September of this year. This book has a long, winding history behind it, and it’s one that I am incredibly proud to see in print. All of this exceeded my goals for the year, although there were a few places I fell short

This is the seventh year in a row that I’ve done this exercise. It is a tradition now, and something I look forward in some sick and twisted way. It actually started further back even than the posts on this blog! All credit is due to Carol Lynch Williams who started the whole thing at least a dozen years ago and maybe even more. We are members of several list serves together, and every year about this time, we would publicly post our writing goals, and at the end of the year, Carol would hold us all accountable by posting our objectives on the list.

I like to do it this way: First, I review my resolutions from the beginning of the year to see how I did. That usually provides the motivation for my new resolutions. So here is what I aspired to a year ago and how I did:

1) I will revise my book The Afterward and continue to send it out.

The Afterward did not get the work I had hoped it would. It was shoved aside in favor of other projects. That’s not entirely bad. The other projects were both getting revised for publication. The Deepest Blue was the one that required the most time, followed closely by Death’s Kiss, which will be released early in 2014.

2) I will revise my book Death Kiss and continue submitting it and looking for its home.

Death Kiss was revised, and it was bought by Angelic Knight Press. It did find a home, and as I mentioned, it will be released soon under the revised title of “Death’s Kiss”

deathkiss final-front

3) I will participate in as many promotional and marketing events as possible (like Authorpalooza, Writing for Charity, and others) to promote my books and my availability for speaking.

I did quite well with this! I attended 10 different events, including a workshop at Whitmore Library, Writing for Charity, Davis School District Literacy Night, SCBWI’s The Inside Story, and others. I have also upgraded my website, and learned new ways to use social media to help promote my books. The results have been very positive, and as I anticipate my upcoming royalty payments, I should have a more concrete idea of how effective these efforts have been.

4) I will begin offering writing workshops 3 or 4 times a year through different sources as a means of income and to promote my books.

I didn’t quite follow through with this, though I did teach two workshops with good results. This year, though, I will follow through with the workshops, and I have recruited my talented writer friend C. Michelle Jefferies to be part of the fun! We have already laid the plans for the first workshop the first week of February.

And now it’s time to commit to the page (such as it is) my goals for the coming year. They came pretty easily this year, and I feel like I am stretching a bit and giving myself a challenge, but I don’t sense I’m setting myself up for failure. So here they are:

1. I will get an agent this year. Period.

2. I will finish at least three novels this year, including rewriting The Afterward, finishing Namesake, and a third novel (yet to be determined).

3. I will continue to look for opportunities to promote my work and to participate in at least one writing-related event each month.

4. I will attend two writing conferences or workshops to benefit my own writing.

5. I will offer four writing workshops  during the year.

That’s a lot to do in the next year, but I’m feeling confident and enthusiastic. It’s as much giving as it is taking. I’m focusing on quality and quantity. Overall, I think 2014 holds more promise than even this past year held, and that just makes me even more eager to get started!

Here’s to the coming year! My propellers are spinning and I’m ready to fly!

airplane

You Say You Want a Resolution . . . (with apologies to the Beatles)

new yearFor the past six years at this time, I have made public my writing resolutions. So here we go again – a new year and a relatively new round of resolutions. First, though, here are last year’s offerings and the results there of:

1) I will finish the YA novel currently entitled “Death Kiss” and start submitting it by this summer. Check this one off. I did finish and I did begin submitting. It is currently sitting on the desks of two different agensts, waiting for word on its fate.

2) I will start working on the collaborative projet with Jared (assuming he finishes his other one!) and have it completed by the end of the year. We never quite got to this, but we did sell Beautiful Monster and are awaiting the first royalty payments from it!

3) I will continue trying to get an agent. Of course, having sold all my books without an agent, I sometimes wonder if I really need this. Then I read about an overseas deal or movie rights negotiated by an agent and I realize that this is the right course for me. Still trying, still getting rejected. I haven’t found the right agent yet, but I haven’t tried them all so no point in stopping yet.

4) Continue learning and polishing my craft. I plan to attend a variety of workshops and conferences this year, learning more about the industry and about my chosen career. I atended the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and I continue consulting with some of the most talented and generous writers I know. I’m also reading constantly and analyzing everything that I read.

Not bad for 2012. I pretty proud of what I accomplished, like selling two books (Beautiful Monster and The Deepest Blue) and seeing one reissued (Kiss Kiss Bark). I’m proud of the work I’ve done and continue to do. I am committed to growing as a writer, to supporting those in whom I believe, and to pursuing my dream with my whole heart. So, without futher ado, here is this year’s set of goals –

1) I will revise my book The Afterward and continue to send it out.

2) I will revise my book Death Kiss and continue submitting it and looking for its home.

3) I will participate in as many promotional and marketing events as possible (like Authorpalooza, Writing for Charity, and others) to promote my books and my availability for speaking.

4) I will begin offering writing workshops 3 or 4 times a year through different sources as a means of income and to promote my books.

These are my objectives. Some require some stretching, some just require organization and time. I look forward to seeing the results of my work, and I would love to hear how many of you have resolutions as well!

Resolution Time

It’s that time of year again – time to make my New Year’s resolutions. The only resolutions I make anymore relate to writing, and for the last 5 years, I’ve shared them here.

Before I go into this year’s commitments, here is a review of last year’s and how I did.

1) I will secure an agent.  Well, sadly, I’ve been rejected by several (dozen) agents, but I haven’t found one yet. But I’m optimistic that I will find one soon.  The market is still a screwy place, but I have a sense things are changing; slowly, but surely.

2) I will finish “Project Evil Heart” This one I can check off the list! Jared and I finished this project, now named “Gallery of Dolls” in the nick of time. We are working on revisions and will have this one ready to submit very soon. We had such a good time doing this that we’ve decided to collaborate on another project in the future. We are working on individual projects right now, but by this summer, we hope to be ruthlessly killing more characters off.

3) I will finish my YA novel entitled “The Complete Guide to What I Should Have Known” I turned my attention to another book which was started quite a while ago. “The Afterward” is a speculative fiction for YA readers that takes place at the beginning of the second Civil War in America.  I finished it, revised it, and it is currently collecting rejection letters.

4) I will sell at least one book. Oddly enough, despite having absolutely no control over this, it happened! “The Deepest Blue” was initially rejected by my publisher, but a year and a half later, the story stuck with her and she bought it on December 1! At the same time, she announced plans to reissue my first novel, “My Brother the Dog”, with a new title (Kiss, Kiss, Bark), a new cover, and in hardback instead of paperback!

So what are this year’s goals?

1) I will finish the YA novel currently entitled “Death Kiss” and start submitting it by this summer.

2) I will start working on the collaborative projet with Jared (assuming he finishes his other one!) and have it completed by the end of the year.

3) I will continue trying to get an agent. Of course, having sold all my books without an agent, I sometimes wonder if I really need this. Then I read about an overseas deal or movie rights negotiated by an agent and I realize that this is the right course for me.

4) Continue learning and polishing my craft. I plan to attend a variety of workshops and conferences this year, learning more about the industry and about my chosen career.

These are my objectives, publicly posted so that I will be accountable for them. So much depends on outside forces – like whether or not the world is going to end (tee-hee), but I believe that dedication, perseverance, concentrated energy, and prayer will help me to achieve the results I want. I have the support of family and amazing friends, so realistically, everything is in my favor. I look forward to letting you know how things unfold this coming year.

Happy New Year, and keep writing!

 

Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun!

Last week, I received good news X2!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let me begin by saying that, while I am not “religious” in the context of going to a specific church and identifying with a specific religion, I am none-the-less a very spiritual person. I pray. A lot. One of the things I have prayed for over the last few months is that I would sell a book this year (meaning 2012). I’m currently shopping around a dystopic Young Adult novel called The Afterward that I wrote this past year.  A few months ago, the editor of my first book said she would look at it and give me feedback.  I waited patiently (well, mostly patiently) until last week when she called me. Sadly, I missed her call, but saw her number on caller ID one morning, and I immediately called her back.  She started by saying, “I have a little bad news for you.”

I’m a veteran of this business, and I wasn’t surprised to hear this, so I braced myself for what came next.

“But I have some good news, too,” she said.

Eh? Well, that threw me. I knew she had been considering re-releasing my first novel, so I was hopeful that this was what she was referring to. The bad news, as I expected, was that she wasn’t going to go with the manuscript I’d sent her. The blow of that was softened knowing that there was some sort of good news yet to come.

“I’ve decided to rerelease My Brother the Dog next year. It will have a new cover, a new title, and it will be issued in hardback instead of paperback.”

Color me surprised – and ecstatic!

That news was enough to make me feel as though I was levitating! I love that little book, and now it will have a second chance at success. The new title, Kiss, Kiss, Bark is geared to the target market of 9-14 year olds, and almost everyone who hears it has to giggle at it!

“I have a question for you,” she continued. “I’m wondering about The Deepest Blue. Have you sold it? Is it under contract somewhere?”

I paused, trying to shift my line of thinking. “It’s in a file on my computer,” I said. Interestingly, I had had a dream about this very manuscript just a week before. This particular manuscript is very near to my heart. I shopped it around about 2 years ago, but the market wouldn’t support the book at that time.

“I’ve been reading a lot of manuscripts with male protagonists that remind me of The Deepest Blue, but each time I finished, I’d say ‘It’s not as good as The Deepest Blue’ so I’d like to offer you a contract on it, if that’s okay.”

If that’s okay? WHAT? Um – yeah, that’s about as okay as it gets in this business! “Yes, of course,” I said very professionally. Then, because I feel more like a friend with this lady than a client, I said, “I am so excited to work with you again!” I think I may even have squealed a little. But it is true. This woman is amazing, and the chance to work with her on 2 projects at once is a thrilling and delightful concept.

The dates and specific details are still tentative, but it looks as if the Kiss, Kiss, Bark will come out in the fall of 2012, and The Deepest Blue will come out a year later. After doing a continual round of the happy dance, I have finally settled down to get thing in order so I’ll be ready to start revisions in January when she gives me her feedback.

(Christmas gift spoiler alert for Jared! Don’t read this if you don’t wanna see what one of your gifts is!) I recently came across a bracelet with a small charm on it that has the initials “TYJ” – it stands for “Trust Your Journey.” It isn’t fancy, but it expresses an idea that I hold very closely to. When you believe in your path, your journey provides for you.

So was this good news just a coincidence? I don’t think so. Was it a stroke of luck? Nope. It was a combination of hard work, perseverance, dedication, prayer, patience, and trust. It was a touch of the divine, for which I am grateful, and it was a lot of effort on my part, to which I am committed. However you choose to look at it, it is what is making my December (a month I typically dislike a lot) not only bearable, but right now, downright enjoyable!

Revisiting

I’m reposting something I wrote almost exactly 4 years ago today. It’s interesting to me because I’ve experienced some of these same issues recently, and while somethings have improved from then, some things are the same, and there is a valuable lesson in this. I’ve added a few comments at the end to bring things up to date. Enjoy!

It’s been a grueling month, one which I hope not to repeat any time in the near future.  Unfortunately, the remaining two months of the year are looking mighty similar to what I’ve just been through.  It’s frustrating.  I’m not writing enough.

I can always tell when I haven’t spent enough time working on stories.  I feel off-balance, as if part of me is weighted down and unable to move with the fluidity and speed I need to have.  Sluggish, that’s the term for it.  Like I’m dragging, or grinding gears.

It’s not that I lack the desire, or the discipline.  I lack the time.  In a recent heated discussion with my significant other, he suggested what I needed was better time management.  I retaliated that what I needed was a little more understanding from him about what I value in my life.  Then I sat down and produced for him a schedule of exactly how well-managed my time is.  I calculated the number of hours I spend in the classroom teaching (33 hours per week), the amount of time I spend preparing, grading, and reviewing for class (15 – 20 hours, except at finals when it doubles), the time I drive kids to and from activities (5 hours), the time I give to my writing (10 hours a week on a good week, far less than I need) and the time I take to spend time with him (5 hours a week – again, not enough). 

Fully 1/3 of my week is devoted to work.  Before I continue, I want to clarify that my teaching is just a job.  My writing is my passion, it just – unfortunately – doesn’t yet pay the bills. Thus my dilemma, and my recent complaints leading to the heated discussion.  Trying to remember that it is “just a job” is often difficult because I approach everything I do with commitment and dedication.  Even my first marriage, despite what my ex-husband might say, I went into with whole-hearted belief and dedication. But that’s another story for another time.

The problem is that, once again, I find my life in conflict between what I do and what I love.  Now, lest my students read this and somehow think I don’t like them anymore – let me state for the record: I like teaching, I love my students, and I enjoy what I do.  For a job, it’s not a bad way to go.  I appreciate that I am paid well for what I do, and I have always liked being in an academic environment.

But I am a writer, not a teacher.  Writing nourishes me in a way that nothing else can.  I don’t want to say that “I live for writing,” because I don’t.  I live for all the varied, interesting things I  have in my life.  But writing is a vital organ.  It is a necessary part of who I am.

I did get a bit of encouragement and understanding from, of all places, my mother-in-law.  Save the jokes – I absolutely adore this woman.  We just celebrated her 83rd birthday a few weeks ago, and this lady hasn’t missed a step.

I was helping her with a mouse problem.  I was setting traps and cleaning cupboards, bemoaning my situation when she put some things into perspective for me.

“It doesn’t matter what you choose to do,” she said. “There will never be enough time for everything and if you start worrying about, you’ll spend more time worrying than actually doing.”

She went on to tell me about when she switched careers at age 48, “just as a temporary situation.” My father in law was struggling to earn enough to support the family (he was 50, mind you) and she went from a part-time accounting job to a full-time accounting and human resources job for a local property development company.  It was just supposed to tie them over for a little while.  She stayed almost 30 years. She retired at 73.

Her point to me was that life will never give you exactly what you want, and if you spend all your time worrying about it, you’ll waste what precious time you have.  “Do what you need first, do what you want second, and don’t waste time on the rest of it.”

She’s a sharp cookie, that one.  And I hope she lives to be 120.  At the rate she’s going, she might do just that.  And I hope I live to be old enough to be there with her.

I applied her advice, stopped worrying about how much time I didn’t have and focused on the time I did have.  I got 2 hours of quality writing on a new novel done. It’s still not as much time as I would like ideally, but it’s better than thinking I didn’t have enough time at all. I wrote faster, too, because I wasn’t worried about the other things I should be doing.  For too long, now, I’ve treated my writing time as though it were an intrusion into other things.  I kept fussing about how it was important to me, but I hadn’t really given that time the priority it needed.  Attitude adjustment.  Long overdue.

I look forward to greater productivity from hence forth.

We celebrated my mother-in-law’s 87th birthday last week. She is still as supportive, as loving, and as feisty as ever! She has written “her story” as she calls it – not a book, but a record of her life, her family members, significant events in her life. She inspires me on a regular basis.

I finished the novel I was working on, The Deepest Blue, but it sadly has yet to find a home. It’s waiting for the publishing market to turn around just a little. But I have finished two other books since then. The Afterward is out circulating and collecting rejections. It is a young adult novel of speculative fiction. Gallery of Dolls is an adult horror/suspense that my best friend Jared and I coauthored. I’m currently working on another YA novel with the working title Death Kiss.

I still struggle to make writing a priority, but I’ve made significant progress with that. And my significant other and I have reached a peaceful understanding of the role of writing in my life. He is very supportive of me, and more importantly, he believes in me because he’s seen me achieve success before with My Brother the Dog and the Hey, Ranger books and he wants me to have it again.

It is interesting how these issues circulate in our lives, but it is also important to notice that, despite their recurring presence, we keep coming at them with conviction and dedication. We don’t give up or give in. That’s ultimately, to me, what success is – staying strong and not giving up the fight for what we believe in and what we want.

I can’t get no satisfaction . . .

With apologies to the Rolling Stones . . . and Stones fans who may read this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A while ago (no, I don’t exactly remember when) my writing partner and friend Jared and I were talking about publishing. I was lamenting the fact that I hadn’t published in a while, and that in fact, I hadn’t been very good at submitting.  I was going through a “pity me” phase – it happens. I’m not proud of it, but at least I’m honest about it.  Anyway, I wanted sympathy for not being recognized as the outstanding artist that I know – at least at some level – that I am.  I went through my list of woes – all my rejections, not having time to write, having to work full-time instead of writing, etc., etc., ad nauseam. 

Each time I would point out a perceived negative, Jared would counter with something positive.

“I barely have time to write anymore,” I would say with a pronounced whine.

“But you have book signing in a few weeks!” His voice was quite perky and enthusiastic.

“I’m beginning to doubt my abilities as a writer,” I added with a morose tone.

“You have five published books, and not one is self-published or co-published, or anything.” Again – perkiness and light.

We went back and forth like this for a bit, and suddenly the happy, smiling Jared began to scowl at me. I was a bit taken aback (but nothing was a-twirl or a-flutter – sorry, inside joke). He looked at me with quite a stern expression on his face. 

“What will it take for you to be satisfied?” he asked in total seriousness.

And in total seriousness I replied, “It may not be possible.”

See, being the publishing junkie I am, with the release of each book it’s like a release of heroin into my blood stream. I want more, and I’ll do anything to have more, and when I can’t have it – well, I’m miserable and whiney. It has nothing to do with reviews, or number of copies sold, or Amazon rating numbers (which no one can make any sense of anyway). It has to do with that thrill of getting a box of books with your name on them on your doorstep. It’s about signing the contract and knowing you’re rushing headlong into the insanity of publishing and loving every second of it. Some people jump out of airplanes to get this rush. Some strap a giant rubber band to their bodies and leap off of bridges. I get my rush producing something that has my name on the cover.  And I will do anything for that rush.

Of course, over time that thrill wears off and you want it again . . .

and again . . .

and again . . .

but a lot of this isn’t up to the author. The market sucks right now. Agents are ultra conservative on the books they choose to sign up. Editors are just as conservative, so there is less and less room in the publishing forum, and more and more people who want in. And on a side note – somehow, crappy books are still being published. Go figure.

So over a year ago, I returned to writing with a vengeance. I’ve written half a novel with Jared, and a complete YA speculative fiction on my own. I’ve revised both projects and started on a third, with plans for the fourth and fifth works in the next six months.  I am actively submitting – and actively collecting rejections. It is hard to stay focused. It is hard to stay positive, but as Jared says, “We will never stop.” And he’s right. Neither of us can function properly if we aren’t writing. Neither of us can imagine doing anything else for the rest of our lives. We will work whatever jobs, and do what’s necessary to pay bills, but there is no satisfaction without writing.

So – when will I be satisfied? When I keel over dead at my computer and my nose lands on the “F” key. Until then, I’ll keep searching for that next high, and the next one after that, and so on. There is no cure for this – but I’m perfectly fine with that.