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    The Weight of Chains
Thursday
Jan242013

Just walk away

Learning to balance all of the different parts of my life is my goal for 2013.

Balance is something I’ve struggled with forever. I tend to get sucked into what I’m doing, get hyper focused, and everything else falls away. With all of the new responsibilities I added to my life last year I’ve been struggling. It’s hard to keep everything going at one time and not have something get lost in the shuffle. The last thing I want to do is let a commitment fall. 

So far this year I feel like I’ve done reasonably well, but today was a major fail.

Basically I’ve spent the entire day working on two interviews, one in which I’m the interviewer and the other where I’m the interviewee. I say worked on, but in reality I sort of stared at the screen, rewrote the same thing a dozen times, then planted my face in my palm, muttering, “I sound so dumb!”

Finally, I walked away. I needed to collect kids from school, get a shower, work on some Girl Scout stuff. I needed to do *something* else. Anything. I wasn’t getting anywhere with what I was working on and it was just making me frustrated.

As I went about doing everything else, I found myself talking to myself, working through the issues I was having with the interviews.Talking to myself isn’t odd -I do it all the time, just ask my kids - but suddenly it occurred to me that my day would have been so much more productive if I’d just walked away earlier. I didn’t stop working, the constant dialogue with myself proved that, but it’s possible for me to sew flags for Girl Scouts or pick up my house, and work through issues I’m having with something I’m writing at the same time.

It isn’t a novel idea. Far from it. But today I needed someone to tell me to just walk away and work on something else. Let the ideas simmer. Let them work themselves out. I can come back to them later when I have a fresh perspective.

Friday
Jan182013

How I'll spend my time

I visited a friend yesterday who recently had her first baby. My younger daughter tagged along, chasing the cats, watching Howl’s Moving Castle, and asking never ending questions. Typical 5 year old behavior. My friend and I chatted about her adjustment to motherhood, my work with Apex, my progress on my novel, and the way my phone continuously beeps with notifications for everything from Girl Scout emails to Apex stuff. Eventually the topic of my younger daughter starting kindergarten next year came up.

As I rocked her adorable baby boy, thinking how nice it was to not be juggling all I do at once and just relaxing, she asked me what I would do once I didn’t have a kid at home all day.

*blink, blink*

“A lot.” I cast my gaze to my phone which beeped right on schedule.

It’s hard for people to understand that staying home doesn’t mean I have nothing to do. I have a lot to do. I’m actually hoping that when both my daughters are in school that I’ll be able to have a normal 8-4 schedule, rather than starting at 5 in the morning and finishing up sometime after my kids go to bed.

When it comes right down to it, being Mom is my number one job. My kids will always come first, but being able to write without having to fix a snack or braid a dolly’s hair will be like paradise. Having a schedule where I can say, “This is my Apex time”, “Now I’ll work on Girl Scouts”, “Time to write,” will be a refreshing change to the constant flipping between tasks that I do now.

It sounds perfect, I long for it, but it also makes me a little nervous. I’ve never been the type of person who thinks in a linear fashion. My thoughts jump from thing to thing and I tend to work in the same way. It can make it difficult to hold a conversation because I confuse people if they aren’t accustomed to my speeding, multiple thoughts, but at the same time it’s a skill that allows me to juggles multiple tasks at one time. I’ve dreamed of a day when I can work out a schedule and stick to it for as long as I’ve had little ones running under foot, but now that it’s right around the corner (fall will be here before I know it) I’m feeling a little trepidation.

As it is now, I accomplish a lot. Most days end with me feeling like a productive Super Mom, able to write blog post with a single keystroke, organize Girl Scout events in a single email. What if I can’t function without the chaos that has tripped up my every movement for 10 years? What if I stare blankly at my computer, frozen by the lack of interruptions?

I guess there’s no way I’ll know for sure until the day comes that I put both kids on the bus in the morning and spend the day completely alone. Until then, I’m going to try to accomplish as much as possible to make up for any frozen days that occur.

**As I wrote this the Lion King 1 ½ played on the TV, I fixed a hat for one kid, listened to another tell me something was wrong with her iPod, and my kids ran in circles around my chair working out some game that included finding their babies and watering ponies.**

 

Saturday
Jan122013

My Life Now

So when I posted the Next Big Thing blog I said I was going to get back into blogging on a regular schedule.

I didn’t.

I’m not going to say why, it’s a lot of personal shit that I don’t really want to put up here, but I do want to be better about posting. I should be better. Someone out there might be waiting for my updates and when I go months at a time without letting them know what I’m up to they might die just a little bit inside.

Probably not. But maybe.

So what have I been doing in my long absence? A lot.

First, my husband and I bought a house. Yay! I love homeownership. Not only are we moving past the point in our lives when every room has to have multiple purposes (living room/playroom/office/library) but being able to pick out paint colors that aren’t a variety of white is refreshing. My living room is a beautiful shade of tan my husband lovingly calls Band-Aid.  Alright, maybe he doesn’t say it so lovingly, but he let me pick the paint colors. J

Also, I’m deep in the second draft of my novel The Weight of Chains. I’ve been working on this novel a very long time, sort of feeling my way through the process of writing something longer than a short story. It’s definitely been a learning process, with me swinging wildly between manic elation and paralyzing terror. There was a long period of time when I wasn’t working on it at all, avoiding even thinking about it by filling my time with short stories and submissions and anything that didn’t involve France or the 15th century.

During those months I hated The Weight of Chains. I was sure that every one of the 78,000 words I’d written were utter crap and I’d wasted years of my life obsessing over it. Then, at the prod of one of the only two people who read the first draft, I decided it had to be finished, even if I never submitted it for publication. I’d never start another novel if I couldn’t finish the first.  Somewhere along the way I’ve fallen back in love with my characters and their story. Now I’m excited - I’d even say optimistic - about the idea of getting The Weight of Chains out there and letting people read it.

Another major change in my life is I’m now working for Apex Publications. I’m the Social Media Manager/Marketing Leader/Assistant Editor. Suddenly I find myself with a job that is a multi-purposed as the rooms in our apartment were. My husband suggested that my job title should be Senior VP of Getting the Word Out. I think I should get name tag with continuously scrolling titles. And lights. I want blinking lights.

I manage the Apex social media sites, this includes: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Goodreads just to name a few. I also query book reviewers about reading and reviewing Apex books. In October, we had a subscription drive for Apex Magazine and I spearheaded that, securing raffle prizes and organizing the shit out of it. I proofread upcoming books, write blog posts, and somehow have found myself doing coding for one of the Apex Magazine pages (how Jason Sizemore talked me into that I’m still not sure). Describing what my job is is just as difficult as coming up with a title for it. I do a lot of different things. It changes day to day and I’m continuously learning new skills and finding new ways to try and get the Apex name out there to potential readers. I spend a lot of time talking to people, chatting about books, asking for reviews, finding out what they’re doing. My kids now think Twitter is a legitimate job.

Even if it is hard to concisely say what I do, I love my job. Over the past nine months I feel like I’ve grown as a person. I’ve had to learn to swallow my fear of failing and put myself out there. I’ve had to become more outgoing, more personable, and willing to tell people my ideas instead of keeping them to myself because I’m afraid they’ll sound silly. In the process I’ve learned an immense amount about publishing. I’ve gotten to work with some amazing writers and I’ve gained great friends who also happen to be my coworkers.  

And that’s what I’ve been doing: buying a house, writing, editing. All fun stuff that makes my life. Now that I’ve updated you, I’ll start posting here more often. Promise.

 

 

Wednesday
Dec052012

The Next Big Thing

Wow! A blog post. Haven’t written one of these in a long time.

Things have been busy. Like buying a house, starting a job with Apex, pounding through the second draft of my novel on top of all the normal busy.

It isn’t an excuse for not updating my blog, but it’s all I’ve got.

Anyway, Wesley Southard tagged me to do The Next Big Thing blog hop and I thought it would be the perfect time to get back to this blog, so here we go.

What is the working title of your book?

The Weight of Chains. I’ve had the title longer than I’ve had a novel and it works really well. Wish all titles came so easily.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

A publisher sent me the guidelines for an anthology they were putting together of zombie stories set in the past. I did a report in high school about Gilles de Rais, a French nobleman who liked to kill children in the 15th century, and remembered that he kept a lot of bodies in and around his castle. What would happen if all of those corpses suddenly came back as the ravenous undead? I wrote what eventually became the end of my book as a short story to submit for that anthology. Obviously, it was rejected.

What genre does your book fall under?

It’s an alternative history horror novel. Tons and tons of research.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Hmmm, that’s a hard one.

My main character is an eleven year old girl. I think an unknown actress would be best.

As for the rest of the characters – Gilles, Colette, Prelati, Poitou – I’m not sure. I’ll leave it up to the casting director.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

One sentence? This question is asked as if I have a one sentence synopsis already planned out. I don’t, but I’ll give it a shot…

A peasant girl, a wizard, a serial killer, and a demon walk into a bar …

No, that isn’t right.

Let me try again.

The Weight of Chains deals with a young girl being forced into the responsibilities of adulthood, a psychopath who can’t control his urges and one who must, a mother desperate to protect her son, a man desperate to protect himself, and a demon pissed beyond belief.

Yeah, that’s it. Basically.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’ll be looking for a publisher.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

*Chuckles*

 My novel started as a short story more than 5 years ago. I know, I know. That’s forever, but I’ve written a lot short stories in that time, published a few, and started working for a publisher. Given that this is my first novel, I’ve basically been teaching myself what the hell I’m doing as I go. Add on top of that the fact that I’m having research every single fact, down to what peasants eat and if a pitchfork had been invented in the 15th century, and I don’t think I’m doing too bad. I think it’s the classic case of starting a novel that I wasn’t ready to write, and then having to rewrite the entire thing to make it worth reading. Right now, I feel really good about it.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I haven’t read anything like this. I’ve been trying to read more historical fiction to get the feel of the dialogue and pacing, including Speak the Nightbird by Robert McCammon and the Rashi’s Daughter’s series by Maggie Anton, but none of these are like The Weight of Chains.

The Weight of Chains is a horror novel. It just happens to be set in the past. Sure, there are characters in my novel who are based off real historical people – Gilles de Rais, Prelati, Poitou – all real people, but my characters are fictitious.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Inspired might not be the right word. As I mentioned earlier, I originally wrote a short story because I received submission guidelines from a publisher. After it was rejected, I was left with an 8,000 word story that I had no idea what to do with. J. F. Gonzalez read it and told me that I didn’t have a short story; I had a novel, or at the very least a novella, shoved into a short story. When a professional author tells me to write, I write, and so I worked my way backward from the end, thinking the whole time that I was writing a novella.

I wasn’t ready to write a novel.

I didn’t know how to write a novel.

I didn’t want to write a novel.

When I hit 80,000 words, I had to admit to myself that I was writing a novel, but I’ll be honest, I’m still not completely comfortable with the idea.

I’m writing Jeanetta’s story. She has a lot to say. Very bad things are happening to her and her friends, and their story deserves to be told. I can only hope that I’m doing her justice in the way that I’m telling it.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Finally, an easy question.

What isn’t to like about a demon getting even with a serial killer?

Thanks for stopping by. To keep up with The Next Big Thing check out the blogs of Dawn Griffin, Denise Wyant and Daniel Robichaud next Wednesday.

 

Tuesday
May012012

Blowing Past Drop Down Three: or The Advice I'm Not Following

I normally don’t write stories for specific markets. As I’ve said on here before, writing stories directed to a very specific theme can leave you with a story that’s impossible to sell if it gets rejected from the market you intended it for. It’s easier to write stories and then try and find them a home that fits.

But sometimes …

I was poking around Ralan.com the other day, looking for markets for stories that have lingered on my hard drive way too long when I came across a submission call that spoke to me. I love it. Everything about it is perfect for me; a mishmash of horror and whimsy. There’s no way I cannot write something for this anthology.  It’s me.

Immediately I started brainstorming ideas. Advice I heard during a panel at some long ago conference echoed from my memory: the rule of Drop Down Three. “What is this?” you ask. Let me explain. When you’re writing for a specific theme, looking at guidelines put out there for every writer and their brother to see, you have to come up with a solid, unique idea to get through all the other slush.  The first idea toss out immediately. That’s what every other person is going to write about. The editors will see 50 stories just like yours and someone is bound to write it better than you. Rejected. The second idea is just stupid. Don’t know why, but it is. Toss it.  The third idea, that’s the money. It’s different than everyone else, something originally you, but solid enough to carry an entire story. That’s the one you want to run with.

This piece of advice has stuck with me for years. Unfortunately, ideas for this anthology came at me so quickly, so strongly I can’t tell which was first, second and third. Honestly, I have half a dozen ideas. All of which I’m sure, if given enough time, I could come up with solid stories. (I told you these guidelines spoke to me.) 

After a lot of thought, I narrowed it down to three, all of which I love. One I have a fantastic beginning, but the ending is a little murky and I’m afraid I won’t be able to make the main character sympathetic because she’s a cannibal. Another I have a wonderful ending: heart-wrenching, a curse becomes the heroine’s only hope type ending. And then there’s the third. The one I keep coming back to. The one that makes me smile but also has me worried. It’s cute, it’s clever, it’s a lot of fun, but I’m so afraid if I go with it the editors are going to read it and say, “Oh, that was cute and clever. Lots of fun. Pass” and move on the next story in their pile.

Yesterday, miracle upon miracle, I found myself with an hour between running around doing errands and time to start dinner and I wanted to jump on a story, flesh it out and make sure I chosen correctly. I decided to go with the one I had a solid ending for. I know if I could get the reader to the ending, then I’d have them.

In an hour I wrote 250 crappy words.

Not good.

*Sigh*

I walked away from the computer, hating myself for not being able to make it work and still playing with option number three. A dryer full of dishes and one bowl fruit salad later, I had 15 minutes before I needed to get anything else ready.

Alright, if number three was going to be so persistent then I’d give it chance.

I’ve never had 15 minutes fly by so quickly, but by the end of them I had 200 solid words and an excitement to keep going.  So I guess that’s it. The other ideas are still there, but there’s no way I can’t finish this story. I’m not sure where it falls on the drop down three scale, but it needs to be told even if it is cute and clever and totally dismissible.

Today’s my writing day. Once every two weeks a friend of mine picks my younger daughter up from pre-school, so I have from 9:30 to 3 to write. Lately though, the writing bug hasn’t been biting, and I’ve filled the time with chores, errands and self-loathing. Today I have hope. If the words flow like they did during those 15 minutes, then by 3 I’ll be nearing the end and hopefully capturing it.

And so it begins.