In the words of Mother Teresa

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

–I had one of those “down and out” days yesterday, and it wasn’t because the fog has decided to blanket northern California all week. There were a few reasons why, none of which I’m going to go into right now. I’m not really sure why this particular poem came to mind (I’ve only read it once and it was years back), but certain lines kept popping into my head. I didn’t exactly know the name of the poem, or where it came from. It simply cycled over and over in my head–even drowned out the radio–while I was driving home from my in-laws last night.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Create anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.

Yup. I’ve mulled over the internet, whined to a select few, confided fears in others, and now I’m over it. I’m embracing Mother Teresa’s words of wisdom and writing my heart out until…well, until tomorrow comes and I’ll do it again.

And maybe within the next few days, weeks, months, I won’t be so cryptic.

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. On towards Christmas!

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Vamped Up goes into the world–NetGalley Review Time!

I’m a little nervous…

VAMPED UP goes out to reviewers on NetGalley today.

I absolutely love this book. It’s my baby. I fell in love with Eve and Ruan right away. From the moment they popped on the radar in INTERVAMPTION, I couldn’t wait to tell their story. It’s the first book I’ve written that elicited serious emotional reactions from me as I wrote it. (I teared up during one scene and released butterflies in my stomach for a few others.) My writing got stronger through the pages and I went deeper into these characters than I’ve done with any others.

But I still worry. There are bound to be imperfections and people who don’t relate to the work. I’m sure there’ll be bad reviews. There’ll be expectations that aren’t met. (Especially after the great reviews of InterVamption.)

Nothing can be done about that.

(I would like to think ALL writers, regardless what stage of their craft and career they’re in, go through this kind of panic mode when reviewers get their hands on our work. You pray there are good reviews with the bad. No wait, you pray that the bad reviews are swamped by good ones. That would make the bad reviews more tolerable, wouldn’t it? I know I’m rambling–told you I was nervous.)

Anyhow, I suppose I have to suck it up. Allow myself to sweat and worry. Then let the story go. It’s like dropping off my youngest at school for the first day. As I left the parking lot, I couldn’t help but wonder how his first day was going to go. Were the other kids going to be kind to him? Would he make friends? Would he sing and play and be happy or would he sulk by himself? Is Vamped Up going to live up to the expectation I’ve placed upon it? Will Ruan and Eve reach through the pages and grab readers’ hearts? I sure hope so.

I’m just so damn jittery this morning and it has to be because my latest work is finally going out into the world.

Good luck, VAMPED UP. Fly, baby, fly.

How I’m handling edits on Vamped Up, Book 2 in the Vampires of Crimson Bay Series

I got the first round of edits back on Vamped Up yesterday. Actually, I got the commented manuscript back two days ago and the revision letter yesterday.

Before I’d ever reached this stage…before I’d snagged the best agent on the planet and the most dedicated editor…I wondered how authors viewed their edits. What’s the revision letter all about? What’s the process like? How long do you have until you have to send them back? Then what?

I can’t speak for everyone because, let’s face it, every writer is going to have a different experience with their editor or book and a different process for dealing with the mountain of revisions they inevitably receive.

But this is how I handle (HANDLED, AM HANDLING) it (WITH MY FREAK-OUT THOUGHTS IN PARENTHESES):

When I saw my editor’s email in my inbox, glaring in bold–Book 2 edits–with that little paperclip symbol, I freaked. I got butterflies. I took a really deep breath, and I opened the mail.

The email letter itself was very nice, yet very professional. She loved the book (THANK GOD!) but thinks there’s some issues in my first 100 pages that need to be worked over. (I ALWAYS STRUGGLE WITH THE BEGINNING, SO THAT WAS REALLY NO SURPRISE.) There were overall suggestions I absolutely agreed with. (DUH! HOW COULD I NOT SEE THAT SOLUTION BEFORE?!?) And suggestions that made my nose twitch. (HMM…NOT WHAT I INITIALLY HAD IN MIND…COULD THAT WORK?…COULD I MOVE THAT SCENE AND CONNECT THOSE TWO AND REWRITE THAT ONE AND MAKE IT SMOOTH AND FLUSH LIKE THAT’S THE WAY I ORIGINALLY INTENDED? WOULD IT HAVE THE SAME EFFECT? YES, WITH SOME WORK, IT COULD. AND IF SHE’S SAYING IT’LL MAKE MORE SENSE THIS WAY, I’LL GET IT DONE.) There was also the panic inducing mention of the due date: October 10th. (SURE, THAT SOUNDS LIKE A LONG TIME AWAY, BUT DID I MENTION I’M REMODELING MY KITCHEN? DID I MENTION THAT FOR THE NEXT THREE WEEKS–THREE WEEKS IN WHICH I COULD USE SOME PEACE AND QUIET–I’M GOING TO HAVE A TEAM OF CONSTRUCTION WORKERS STOMPING ABOUT, SMASHING INTO MY CABINETS WITH SLEDGEHAMMERS?) No problem. I’ll get it done (BEFORE THE DUE DATE, BECAUSE YOU ALWAYS SHOULD). And the book will be better for it.

Now when I dove into the book, I was looking for her comments in the margins. (THERE’S SO MANY OF THOSE DAMN RED THINGS! I’M TALKING MAYBE 2 BUBBLES PER PAGE.) I wanted to see where she tripped up in my writing, where the comments slowed down (meaning she was absorbed in the story) and where they picked up (places that still needed work). I noted those in my trusty composition notebook. I fixed some easy-do’s. I highlighted new changes I wanted to make, leaving little notes for myself in the margins. I got reacquainted with the novel and my characters. (WELL HELLO, RUAN, IT’S BEEN TOO LONG.)

That’s it.

The first run through is over. Took two days.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I opened the revision letter. It was four pages worth of suggestions, divied up by character. (ie: Ruan–fix XYZ on page 123. Dylan–go into more detail on her xyz from chap 8-12. Savage–what’s with his blablitty-blah issues in the beginning? Move that to chap x and flop that end part to the middle. Mesh it flawlessly.) (I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THE STRUCTURE OF THIS REVISION LETTER! SEE, I’M A HARD CORE PLOTTER. I CAN WEAVE A PLOT LIKE NO ONE’S BUSINESS. I CAN CREATE A STORY OUT OF A SIMPLE IDEA AND THROW MORE COMPLEX ISSUES AT THE CHARACTERS THAN THEY KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH. BUT WHEN IT COMES TO THE CHARACTERS, I TEND TO SPIN THEM ROUND AND ROUND ON MY PLOT STRING, AND FORGET TO TIE SOME OF THEIR ENDS TOGETHER. WHAT I MEAN IS, MY EDITOR POINTED OUT PLACES TO MAKE MY CHARACTERS STRONGER. WAYS TO BRING ABOUT MORE OF AN AH-HA MOMENT. WAYS TO TORTURE THEM WITH THEIR PAST. IT WAS EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED. NO, SHE DIDN’T DO THAT FOR INTERVAMPTION’S REVISION LETTER. MAYBE SHE’S REALIZING MY STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES AND WORKING WITH THEM. I DUNNO. ALL I KNOW IS, THIS IS GOING TO WORK AND MAKE VAMPED UP SHINE!) Seeing all the work that needed to go into Vamped Up and feeling a little overwhelmed, I re-formatted the letter. I double spaced it. (YES, IT WAS FOUR PAGES SINGLE SPACED!) I gave each character his/her own page. I took out the “I thinks” and the “You shoulds” and gave each instruction a 1,2,3 assignment. Now, I’ve got this really tight word doc straight from my editor about what I have to get done. It’s gone from “wouldn’t this be great here” to “get this shit done in order and make it snappy!” Just the way I like it. It’s now eight pages long. (HOLY F#@%& EIGHT PAGES…EIGHT PAGES…HOW THE HELL AM I GOING TO GET THIS DONE. I SUCK. I TOTALLY SUCK. SHITDAMNSHIT! PRESSUREPRESSUREPRESSURE! HEADEXPLOSION!)

Then I closed all documents and put it aside for the day.

I let my mind stew. (OR YOU KNOW, LET MY BRAIN DOWNSHIFT FROM PANIC TO IDLE.)

I cleaned out my kitchen cabinets and stayed up late watching the season premieres of Vampire Diaries (WHY OH WHY, DON’T ELENA AND DAMON HOOK UP ALREADY?!?) and America’s Next Top Model All Stars.

Today, tomorrow, the next day and the next, I’m going to be editing. Non stop. I’ll go down the list, tweak what needs tweaking, iron what needs smoothing. Then I’ll read through it again from the beginning to make sure it’s tight. Then I’ll download it to my kindle and read through it again, taking notes, to make sure it reads right. (THAT’S FOUR READS OF MY 400 PAGE BOOK IN THREE WEEKS, IF YOU DIDN’T CATCH IT.)

Then, and only then, will I send it back to my editor…on October 9th…a day early.

Burn Out

Ever feel like you’ve got so much on your brain that instead of letting a few things slip through your fingers, everything falls apart at once, leaving you empty handed and exhausted? Yup. That’s where I am right now.

The writing’s been slow going. I’ve written 10K in three weeks. Not enough by a long shot if I plan to have this finished by mid-summer. Every time I sit down to write I remember I have to answer emails, do the dishes, throw in some laundry, pick up something for one of my munchkins classes, etc, etc, etc. The list in my brain goes on and on, all hours of the day. I’m even having trouble sleeping. My head just won’t slow down enough for me to rest…but I can’t seem to write during the night, either.

I think I’m close to burning out, trying to do too many things at once. I think I need to slow down a bit…take a step back. I don’t mean from writing–Heck No! I mean from everything…for a night or two.

Not to mention I’ve been working out religiously for about four weeks now and haven’t lost a single pound…instead, I’m gaining weight. Seriously? I know muscle weighs more than fat, but come on. I want to see those numbers decline on the scale. I’m even watching what I eat and I don’t mean that in the funny ha-ha “I’m watching the chocolate as it passes my lips” kind of way. I’m being serious. And I’m not a fan of diets.

Something’s gotta give or I’m gonna burn out FAST.

Yesterday I told Husband I need to get out of the house this week. He asked what I had in mind. I don’t really have anything in mind, other than doing something that requires my brain to go on auto-pilot. Yet every time I try to think of what I want to do or when I want to do it, it feels like another “thing” added to my to-do list.

I could really use some advice here. What do you do when the writing is grinding and the rest of your life won’t slow down enough to let you think clearly? Do you Yoga? Run? Coma-like sleep? Write through it?

Dorian Gray and The Cost of Writing


I watched the film Dorian Gray last night, having been curious about the character for a while. I’d watched The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen when it first came out and was intrigued by the idea of an immortal man bound to an old and rotten depiction of himself. I’d heard of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and knew the basic premise was about a guy who whimsically sells his soul to the devil after a picture of himself was painted. In this deal, he could live life as he wished, giving in to the pleasures of the flesh, while the picture showed each effect on his soul and he remained vibrant and young.

As I watched the film, I couldn’t help but dwell on the price his deal cost. At first he could care less about his acts (sex, drugs and rock and roll, right?), but as the picture began to decay and transform into a demon, trapped in the picture, a demon he would become when it was time to pony up his soul, I could see the weight bearing on him.

He began to question whether the cost was worth the gain. And, in his case, finally realized it didn’t.

But in everything we do whole-heartedly there is a cost, right? Olympians have to live and breathe their sport, often times giving up their loved ones to live in different states or countries. (Husband and I know this first hand and made the right choice for us–cue children running and screaming and giggling!) Lawyers and doctors sometimes give up dreams of an early marriage or family in order to focus on their careers first. (I’m speaking for a few friends, not everyone of course.)

I see the same thing in my writing. I get asked a lot how I find time to write. I’ll tell you. My house isn’t perfect. My laundry baskets are never empty. My dishes are usually piled into the evening. And if you wanted something specific from my pantry, you’d probably be disappointed. I have only the staples. But my kids and husband are happy. Taken care of. They’re put first, with writing coming in second and housework a very distant third.

That’s the cost for me. If I want to write a book in three months, spending hours in front of my word doc, editing my heart out as I go, then I have to choose something to let slack. It won’t be my family. Can’t be. There goes the impeccable housecleaning.

Nora Roberts once said “Life is a juggling act. You’re going to drop some balls. The struggle is knowing which ones are rubber and which are glass.”

So true.

Which aspect of your life falters a little when you write?

"That John Denver is full of shit, man."

And so are the people who said writing a book is a piece of cake.

When people find out I’m a writer, they say one of a handful of things–after the “Really? That’s cool”:

1-“So do you practice the scenes in your novel with your husband, or what?” (By the creepy eyebrow raises, you’d know immediately what kind of scenes they’re asking about.)
*To which I answer “No more than the murder scenes.” If we “practiced” the scenes in the books I’ve written, Husband should be deathly afraid of water, caves, alleys in San Francisco and women with dark curly hair. *ahem

Or:

2-“I have this fantastic idea for a book! Do you want to hear it so you can write it for me?”
*To which I enthusiastically listen to an unbelievable and totally awesome story line about which I have no desire to write myself. The idea may be the best thing I’ve ever heard, but if it’s not originally mine, I won’t do the book justice.

Believe it or not, I’ve also heard a naive few say:

“It must be pretty easy to stay home and sit in front of the computer for hours on end and write, huh? Especially with an English degree.”

Wait…

Easy and Write should NEVER be in the same sentence.

I kinda thought this writing gig would get easier over time, when in fact, I think it’s the opposite. Stakes raise. You’ve learned how to make your book shine. Now you have to put the proof in the pudding. People (your agent and editor) are depending on your book being The Best Thing You’ve Ever Written. (Or at the very least, better than the last one you wrote which got you representation in the first place.) Pressure builds. Because not only do you have to write your heart out, applying every single thing you’ve learned over the course of your writing journey, you now have to do it quickly. Of the four books I’ve written, it’s never taken me longer than four months to write a book and another month to edit it…but can I guarantee that for the next one? No. I can’t. But I have to. So I will.

Whoever said writing a book was easy was full of shit, man.

I have the third book in the Crimson Bay Series plotted out. Mostly. I introduced the hero and heroine in Book 2. I know them. I like them. I know what they want, and what has to happen to make sure getting what they want is the most difficult thing for them to accomplish. Well, I sort of know that. And even though I know where my story is inevitably going to end up, and what my turning points are along the way, that starkly white first page is still daunting as heck. I thought about writing page one, line one today…then decided to clean out my refrigerator instead.

Whoever said writing a book was easy was full of shit, man.

Whether I jump into Book 3 the next day, or the day after that, I know one thing for certain: it never gets easier. Writing is hard. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s not for the insecure. It’s not for the weak-minded or feeble-willed. Even though I feel that way from time to time…especially when faced with the impatiently blinking cursor…

Beginning…starting out…this…is the hardest part for me.

What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you?

Rejection and American Idol

Rejection was a theme on television last night. At least that’s what I picked up.

On America’s Next Top Model, Tyra decided to trick the models into believing they were being sent home instead of invited on the show. As they were ready to tote their luggage down the empty hall of their dreams, Tyra (as OZ) dropped her big ass curtain, revealing their trendy LA apartment.

The girls fell apart. I’m talking panic attacks and Niagra tears.

Was the point of the cruelty to make them appreciate their blessed position? Was it to make sure they knew how fast Tyra could *snap* her fingers and make it all disappear?

I changed the channel. All those dog-howling screams during the first few episodes really got to me. I may be deaf.

I started watching American Idol instead. It didn’t take long before I was crying my eyes out. I couldn’t believe they cut Chris Medina. (What a man, right? Talk about a hero.) Then Jennifer Lopez went and said something that made me think about writing…and once again, Rejection. There I was in my flannel PJs, sitting on the couch with my legs curled beneath me, munching on some popcorn, my dog snoring atop my feet, and J.Lo literally stops me mid-munch.

While crushing singers’ dreams as lightly as she could, the diva said (forgive the paraphrase), “Don’t let this No discourage you. You’ll get rejected a lot in this business. I did. A lot. Now if you want this…if you really want this…you’ll learn what you’ve got to do to make it happen. And then you’ll do it.”

It was then I realized…some of those singers who got rejected will go home, decide they made it further than they ever thought possible, and be fine-and-dandy with that. They’ll live perfectly happy lives knowing they gave American Idol the best shot they could…they got far…and they’re proud. (As they should be!) They can sleep peacefully at night knowing they at least reached for their dreams. What makes me sad is that many of them had AMAZING talent. I’d buy a few of their songs, had they stuck to their guns and sealed a record deal. But it’s what good enough for them, and not me, or America or the judges, that matters, right?

Some writers aspire to finish that one novel that’s been hanging over their heads for years. Some writers finish that novel, then wait years to begin the agent hunt for fear of being rejected. Putting your heart and soul into something just to see it turned down is a hard pill to swallow. Some writers receive one rejection or ten or fifty and think Hey, I got this far. This was further than most people got. And they quit much too soon. Before they fully developed their craft. Before they really stretched themselves to the limit.

I think Jennifer Lopez was on to something. I think the people who make it…the ones who really make it…they’re the ones who feel it’s never good enough. They can always be better. Their work, their art, their drive, can never be strong enough. Look at the greats in any field and think about their determination, their sacrifice, their drive: Nora Roberts, James Patterson, Al Pacino, Anne Rice, Madonna, Cher, Michael Jackson, etc, etc, etc. I could seriously go on and on. Think about your favorite artist, in any form. Although there are insta-stars in any business, I’d be willing to bet they were faced with hurdle after hurdle before reaching their goal.

At least this is what I’m telling myself as I face rejection after rejection in my own journey.

For all you idol fans, my favorite this season is Tim Halperin. I’m not sure he’ll win because he’s not really the total package that American Idol looks for, but damn his voice is awesome.

Run your race

I’ve been thinking a lot about my running progress…well, more like focusing on the pain as I push through yet another grueling session. I still can’t push myself further than about a mile before I start to think my knee is going to explode. But as of today, my lungs feel fine. It didn’t take me as long to recover as it did two weeks ago. And that’s awesome.

As I sat in a hurdler’s stretch on my front lawn this morning, so happy that I managed to minimally limp on my run, the fifty-something guy down the street blew passed my house like he was going for Olympic Gold in the 100m dash. I picked my jaw up off the concrete. He lives, like, 2 miles away for goodness sake! I reigned in my death glare. He looked at me and waved. I waved back, very unenthused and still sweating bullets. Just before he passed my house he yelled, “Have a good day!” He wasn’t even out of breath. You can’t imagine the profanity that flew through my head.

I went from feeling like this…

…to feeling like this, in two seconds flat…

My good day was shot. The old dude was gone on his run for over an hour. I know because I watched out my window with a big ass bag of potato chips. He jet by the house on his way back, too. He still didn’t look winded. I started wondering how it’s possible that a guy like that is able to make me feel like I’m not even moving. I’m not going anywhere. I’ll never get to that point–it’s so far off the horizon for me right now. I can barely drag my feet around a mile loop!

I got to thinking…

I’ve felt this feeling before. I’ve been feeling it all week actually. And I’m not only talking about my pathetic runs that make me feel like I should invest in canes and walkers right now. I’m talking about my writing journey.

I got my first rejection from a New York editor yesterday. It hurt. Much more than I thought it would. I think I’ve got pretty tough skin for a writer. I take almost everything constructively. The rejection, although coming from a very nice person with very good intentions, didn’t come off so nice. It was brief. Too brief to make me think I can make it in this industry.

I drowned my sorrows in my current read, Carnal Sin. I got to thinking that I’ll never reach Allison Brennan’s status. If an editor who KNOWS this business thinks it’s not good enough, then maybe I’m far off base.

More than a mile off base.

It was after I took a day (or two) to have a mini-pity-party that I realized everyone has a different race to run. I don’t know how long Brennan wrote before she was published or before she hit bestselling status. I don’t know what kind of rejections she got or what they said. And I shouldn’t care. Not one bit. I should be focused on my journey. Some people reach success faster with seemingly little strife (damn you all), and some have to work and fight and toil and bubble for their success, for every little inch.

I was hoping to be the former. Looks like I’m just gonna have to keep pushing around that mile loop until I can sprint it without my knee giving me so much as a wince. I don’t know how long it will take me…but I don’t know how long that old dude has been running either. Maybe his six or seven mile sprint is off base from what he thinks is “good”. (In what universe, right?)

Likewise, I have to run my race with this uber-critical writing biz. I have to find an agent who believes in my work as much as I do–one that’ll offer to run with me on this journey.

I don’t know if this is going to fall on deaf ears, but if you’ve ever felt like you’re racing to catch up in this business…like everyone seems to have it so much easier…or everyone is one step ahead…remember they’re not. Everyone is running a different race with different motivations and different end goals.

Just run your race. Focus on your end goal instead of the success of those around you. I know I am. From here on out.*

*Except if I see old runner dude tomorrow I’m gonna have to bite down on my lip to keep from kicking dirt on his damned sweat-free shirt.

Imaginary Writing Process

Everyone seems to have dreams about what the writing process is like.

You’re a writer? I’ve heard, time and time again. It must be easy for you to write a book, right? You’re good at English, so that must help.

Yeah. That degree in my dresser drawer turns out four hundred pages in three months all by its lonesome. Every night it sprouts legs and stomps its jagged corners all over my keyboard. I wake up and the work is done. Voila!

Oh, and did I mention that the sun is always shining on my work, the inspiration is flowing, and the words falling onto the page are the best ones EVER written in the history of writing? Ever? I’m telling you now. They’re good. (No, no, really. They’re not. In fact, the sun is sweltering in the valley right now, the inspiration is flat and the words falling onto the page are these. BAP! ZOW! WHIZ! See how cool those words are?)

Likewise, everyone who has tried their hand at writing has dreams about what the publishing process is like. Agents and editors are lined up at your door, begging to represent you. Oh, and the New York Times just called…you made #1 on their list…as soon as you write the book of your life.

Sounds dreamy, doesn’t it?

The truth is, writing is hard. Really hard. Most days the inspiration well is dry. Most days I spend hours digging through the muck at the bottom of said well just to find a drop of water I can exploit to give to a thousand thirsty children in the Sudan. Hey, I can be the Mother Theresa of writing, can’t I?

But writing is fun. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing this fine Friday morning…other than shopping…or getting my nails done…or having coffee with one of my lovely critique partners gabbing about writing…I suppose then that writing is a labor of love.

We push through the muck because we love that muck. We love the way that muck hardens into rubies and emeralds in the sun and shimmers all glossy and slick in the rain. When it’s all said and done, that muck is a work of art. And we’re proud muck holders.

In the meantime, while I’m waiting for that lightning bolt of inspiration to strike in the middle of this summer heat, I can skulk around YouTube and find videos like these…ones that make you scream YES! THAT IS HOW IT SHOULD BE!

So take a look. Fill up your well of inspiration…or not, and just pound on those keys until they turn to dust.

Huffington Post and…Treaddesk?

Good Morning! First things first (because that’s the way it should always go, don’t you think?), my literary agent was featured in the Huffington Post. You should check out what he has to say on the ebook revolution. Brilliant! Brilliant, I tell you!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-rivera/literary-agent-robert-bro_b_665255.html

Second things second (and oh, so much fun), you must take a look at what fellow San Fransisco Chapter member Tawny Weber has developed to help ease the ache of writing at a desk for long hours every day.

http://blog.tawnyweber.com/blog/

Pretty cool, huh? On both counts.

Have a great one!