Apples to Apples

Let’s face it, it’s human nature to compare ourselves to others.  Our society encourages us to do it, day in and day out, with the commercials and magazine ads and impossibly perfect women on that t.v show you love.  There’s the monetary comparison:  Why can’t I get a new Lexus for a Christmas gift?  You know, because so many people do.  There’s the self-image comparison:  Does my skin look as perfect as that chic on Game of Thrones?  Which is why I watch The Walking Dead, by the way.  I’m BOUND to be better looking than a dead chic with no eye, right???

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And if that’s not enough to make us feel like a pile of manure, we as writers subject ourselves to a whole slew of other comparisons in which, more often than not, we come out on bottom.

So, when you’re feeling down because your critique partner just landed your dream agent or you BFF was nominated for the grandest of writing awards, here are a few things I tell myself before digging into that gallon of Chunky Monkey…

Compare apples to apples

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I’ve fallen into this trap many times, traveling with my bad girlz to conferences.  Still do, actually, as much as I hate to admit it.  They’d come out from pitching, all jazzed because an agent wants to see the book they pitched and the four others in their closet, and I come out with an unenthusiastic 50 page request.  And while I was truly ecstatic for all their good news, I did start to wonder why I wasn’t getting the same vibe.  Was my story not as good?  Did I suck at pitching?  Should I have worn the red heels instead of the blue?

The answer to all three is no, of course.  I’m not subpar, I’m just different.  Turns out, agents and editors at romance conferences are actually looking for romances.  Crazy, right?  It seems like a no brainer, but I have to work at constantly reminding myself that things are always going to be different for me because I have to adhere by a whole different set of rules in a whole different market.

The measurement of someone’s success is not a measurement of your failures

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It’s easy to feel like you’ve failed when you see others sitting where you want to be, but the truth is you just haven’t arrived yet.  So you didn’t make the best sellers list with this one – doesn’t mean your next won’t.  There’s always another story to be written, always another chance.  The only way you can fail at this business is to stop writing.

Don’t measure your success against others.  Measure it against yourself.  Everyone has different circumstances, different responsibilities, different expectations.  Work to be a better writer than you were the day before, with your own pace and your own process, and don’t worry about the others.

Don’t change into something that you’re not

I’ve spent hours listening to good advice from my critique partners on how I could change my writing into something that would sell.  I mean, I’ve tried everything.  And while they were all insightful ideas, in the end I had to decide who I am on my own.  It was changing my voice and my whole purpose for writing.  It felt like I was constantly battling between who I am and who I thought would sell easier.

But here’s the thing – I don’t want to write my next forty books that way.  I want to find an agent and an editor who love my writing the way it is.  Maybe in a different story with different characters and a different setting, but still my writing style and voice.

And I will, eventually.  I just need to keep writing and keep looking.

How do you deal with those dangerous comparisons?

 

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Big in Germany (but not Big-Headed)

Writers talk a lot about how rejection messes with your mind. Wanna know something weird? Success can also screw with you mentally. Sometimes success goes to people’s heads, making them obnoxious, entitled caricatures of themselves. Paradoxically, it can overwhelm a person with self-doubt or even shame. Other times, there’s just a strange disconnect between the success we fantasized and the reality of it.

Early in my marriage, J and I talked about how we’d celebrate when I sold my first book. There’s a tower hotel in downtown Atlanta with a revolving restaurant at the top. We were going to eat there, order massive amounts of champagne, then stay in one of the suites. (I now know that such an extravagant night would have cost the entire advance check I received for my first book.) I did not envision getting The Call two weeks after an emergency C-section. I’d had a particularly rough night with the baby, hadn’t slept in thirty hours and when the editor began speaking into the answering machine, I legit thought it was a sleep-deprived hallucination.

Needless to say, we did not go out for a fancy dinner. Still, I’D SOLD A BOOK. The joy of that is mine to keep forever. I had arrived!

Once I’d caught up on sleep and done revisions—which is a whole different blog post—I pitched my editor a second book. She apologetically turned it down. I pitched her a third idea, which she thought showed promise, so I wrote a proposal…that she turned down. Thank God she loved my proposal for the fourth idea! But her boss turned it down. By the time I sold another book I was pregnant again. (Okay, I had my kids really close together. But still.) My arrival into the publishing world was less a definitive YOU HAVE ARRIVED and more like the scene at the end of the classic farce “Airplane” when the out-of-control plane hits the ground and airport speakers are announcing “Now arriving at gate 1…no, 2…3, 4? …35, 36, 37…”

After a book comes out, authors are paid royalties a few times a year—IF the author has sold enough copies. The walk to the mailbox is like Budgeting Roulette—will I get fifty bucks or five hundred? I wish I had a picture of the royalty check I once got for, no joke, sixty-one cents.

A few years ago, I wrote a women’s fiction novel that I think nineteen people read here in the U.S. My editor told me the book was also being published in Germany, so I hoped to double the number to thirty-eight. Picture a spring day: Tanya steps outside in mismatched clothes she threw on to avoid encountering neighbors in her writing PJs, she pulls an envelope from Penguin Random House out of the mailbox and, with typical impatience, tears it open before she ever reaches the house.

It had been a tough year, and I was desperately praying for a check that was at least a few hundred dollars to help with medical expenses. The check inside was well over ten-thousand dollars. Apparently, Germany LOVED my tearjerker novel about two sisters. My extremely professional reaction was to sit in the driveway and cry. (Afterward, we went to Disney World.)

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Alas, my bestsellerdom did not blossom into fame and fortune in the States…or even in Germany, once my next novel was published there after an unfortunate delay of several years. One day I’m dazed in the driveway wondering if we’re going to be rich; the next September, I find myself looting the kids’ State Quarter Collection to provide them lunch money.

Of course, there are other ways to measure success than financial gain. For romance writers, there’s a prestigious award called the RITA. In March of 2004, while I was simultaneously trying to get my baby daughter to stop crying AND cleaning up dog vomit, I got a call telling me I was a finalist in the Best First Book category. Me, a RITA finalist? Holy crap. I was ecstatic to the point of giddiness for about ten minutes. Then, because I am a writer and therefore of questionable mental health, I plummeted into despair-filled certainty that it was a fluke. Probably a mathematical error on someone’s part.

Honestly, I don’t think that self-doubt started to fade until a year later, when I got a RITA call letting me know I’d finaled in another category. As of this spring, I’m a six-time finalist. I no longer think it’s a fluke. On the other hand, because I am fortunate enough to have a track record in this area, I feel palpable expectation from my editors, as if the years when I’m not a finalist are a disappointment to them. (I realize this neurosis is completely self-absorbed and makes me sound like “Oh, poor me, someone nominated me for an award, my life is so tough!” Shut up, Tanya.)

But as you can see, a writing career is fraught with psychological highs and lows. I cope with the lows by leaning on amazing friends and my supportive husband. To cope with success, I advise the following:

1. Don’t buy into the hype that you are suddenly better than anyone else. If you’re blessed enough to have a moment of fame, enjoy it but know that it may never happen again (especially if you alienate readers, fellow writers, bloggers and booksellers with diva behavior.)

2. Any time you have a victory in the crazy business of publishing, celebrate the hell out of it, just in case it doesn’t happen again.

3. Don’t tell yourself—or let anyone else tell you—that you don’t deserve what you’ve achieved. Guilt can strike when you land your dream agent the same week that your very talented friend gets rejected by an agent. I’m not saying you can’t be sensitive to your friend, but don’t let any negative emotion cheat you out of savoring what you’ve accomplished.

4. Prepare for the pressure of duplicating your success, and surround yourself with people who can keep you from panicking. Whether it’s “Yay, I sold my first book…will I ever sell a second?” or “Hallelujah, I hit the NYT list…oh, God, what if I never do it again?” success can create expectations. Remember that you got where you are with talent and perseverance, and they will continue to serve you well as you journey forward. One step at a time.

5. Recognize the less obvious successes. A rejection letter may not seem like a success. But learn to value rejection letters with comments like “your story was wonderful, but too similar to one we just bought” or “this wasn’t right for us as is, but if you’re willing to make some changes…”

Hitting any kind of bestseller list is a public standard of “success.” Because my publisher once packaged a story of mine in a collection along with a story by a Major Author, I got to see my name on the New York Times list. (I didn’t even know until a friend emailed to congratulate me.) I’m thrilled that thousands of people read that book, but I’m not sure I consider it my biggest success. In contrast, back in 2005, I wrote a foodie rom-com for a Harlequin line that was cancelled just as the book was being released. Very few stores even bothered to shelve it. Spicing it Up was a first-person book different than anything else I’d written. I’d worked hard on it, and I was devastated that it was impossible to find. Still, there must have been a few copies out in the wild because I later heard from a reader who’d lost her home in Hurricane Katrina. A copy of Spicing It Up was in a bag of donations she received, and she said reading it was the first time she remembered laughing out loud since the hurricane. If I made her laugh, I succeeded, even if she’d been the only person in the world to ever read that book.

Whether you’re a writer or you’re pursuing other dreams and goals, I wish you success. The bad news is, it rarely arrives when you hope. The good news is, it can often be weirder and more wonderful than you ever imagined.

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SPF For Your Sanity

Our latest blog series is all about your sanity, and how to hang on to it. Because, let’s be real, this whole publishing gig is nutso. Writing and creating can make you looney enough, but add in the pressure of selling a product and good ol’ capitalism, and you’ve got yourself a cocktail of crazy – shaken, not stirred.

The crux is we love it. Every writer I know LOVES what they do. We say stuff like we can’t imagine not writing, we’d be even crazier if we didn’t write, and that, in writing, we feel complete. So, how do we keep doing the thing without flying over the cuckoo’s nest? I have a few suggestions and, while they might not all work for you, I hope at least one will ring true.

  1. Take a break from time to time. If you’re on deadline, this is tough, but there is usually a day or a weekend after your deadline to stop and breathe. If you have more time available, take it. If your break is a week or more, you might be slower when it comes time to write again, but like bike riding, it’ll come back to you. Stop stressing. Set the laptop aside for a bit and get out. Do whatever makes you happy that has nothing to do with writing. Yard work, shopping, walking or hiking, going to the movies or vegging out on Netflix. Whatever it is, take some time to relax and rest your gray matter. I promise this does wonders to keep you from having an emotional breakdown.
  2. Have that emotional breakdown. No really. Sometimes there is nothing for it but to bawl your eyes out. If you hold the hurt or doubt or rejection in, they will consume you and kill your creativity. Go ahead and get your ugly cry on instead of wasting a lot of energy fighting it. Then, wash your face, blow your nose, put on some lip gloss and know that you’re wonderful. We all have setbacks and hurdles. We all feel like dog poo, doubt ourselves and our place in this business – like, on a weekly basis. You just need to get it out of your system, and you’re not alone.
  3. Don’t go through any of this alone. Find your tribe. These are your people. Your people may be only one other person or a bevy of Bad Girlz. You’ll know them when you find them, but find them you must! These people will grab your hand when you go over the ledge. They will drag you back up and ugly cry with you. They will listen after you’ve already ugly cried alone because you’re too proud to cry with anyone around. They know you’re awesome, even when you don’t, and they will remind you of this fact however many times it takes to get you back on your feet. They will meet you on your birthday to drink margaritas and shop and act silly. They will email or text you random stuff at all hours of the day, just to make you smile. They will not judge you for being a dirty little freak, because they’re dirty little freaks too! They will love and respect you for who you are – and in this business, you’re going to need people like that by your side.

I’m going to stop here and go meep into my coffee now, because I realize just how blessed I am to have my people. How do you stay sane in this insane biz? Best wishes on your writing journey and write on!

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Oldies but Goodies

For many, many years, a huge percentage of every day was dedicated to my pursuit of getting and staying published. And that’s still true to a certain extent. You have to write, edit, write, edit, research, write, edit…well, you get the idea…to make writing a career. But sometimes you look up and realize that you’ve let things go that you once enjoyed. After all, there isn’t much time for hobbies when you’re a writer. At least there’s the danger of letting writing become all-consuming.

Don’t get me wrong. I like being a writer, having my books go off into the world to hopefully entertain readers. But sometimes my brain just needs a break. TV and reading for pleasure are common ways of doing this, but every once in a blue moon I’ll pull out something really old school, things I’ve been doing since I was a little kid. I still get a little thrill from a new box of crayons and a brand new coloring book. And I’m evidently not the only one. Recently, coloring books for adults and how adults are rediscovering coloring as a stress reliever have been making headlines. Check out this story from NBC Nightly News.

P1030562And another oldie but goodie — not to mention something that keeps the mind active — is putting together a puzzle. In fact, I just finished one tonight, a beautiful Disney one called “A Rose for Minnie,” part of the Expressions line of Disney puzzles. I hadn’t done a puzzle in a long time, and it was fun rediscovering how much I like it.

If all my board games weren’t packed up and ready to move after we sell our house, I might feel the need to host a board game party with friends. I love a good game of Monopoly, Scrabble, Dominoes or any number of other games.

What about you? Are there things you did as a kid that you like to revisit? How do you most love refilling the well when you feel it running dry?

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The Things I’ve Learned: Release Day Edition

I drew a blank for this month’s post (so what else is new, B?)—at least I did until Sally’s post on Monday, where she detailed her very first release day (congrats, Sally! *confetti cannon*). I still consider myself green in the world of publishing, but since I just celebrated my third major release on Tuesday—fifth if you count novellas—I thought it might be fun to share the top 5 things I’ve learned since my debut release and this latest one.

5.  Barnes and Noble will never, ever have your book on the shelf when you go to see it.

Okay, so this isn’t a blanket statement. Sally was able to see hers in one of the B&Ns she went to. Alas, I did not. For my debut, I cried. And I felt really foolish that I was crying over this—my book was still out in the world!—but cry I did. I’d dreamt about seeing my book on a shelf for so long, and then when it was finally happening…it totally didn’t happen. I talked to several other authors who have experienced the same thing—knowing that helped me feel a little less butthurt about the whole thing, because I’d been feeling like maybe I wasn’t good enough for them to properly stock the shelves.

I have yet to walk into a book retailer on release day and not have to ask them to bring me the stock so I can sign. I thought maybe it would be different with Captive, my second release. I thought wrong. So on Tuesday when I went to sign stock for Tessa Ever After, I did the obligatory rounds looking for it, but I sort of knew it wouldn’t be out. (It wasn’t.)

4.  Most people in your real life won’t realize/care/think Release Day is a big deal.

If you’re hoping for a cake/some flowers/a tiara to wear, keep hopin’, sister. I have to remind my husband the day before each release. For my debut, my lovely CP and fellow Bad Girl, Jeanette Grey, sent me flowers, and I love her for it (I still have the card and just looked at it the other day, actually). And, well, if I waved those flowers under my husband’s nose like, seeeeee? Some people know it’s a big deal! I’ll never tell.

And the thing is, my husband is proud of me. So proud of me. He tells me constantly, and especially on release day. But flowers? Nope. Tiara? Pfft. So I take myself (and the fam) out to a celebratory dinner just so I don’t get stuck cookin’. My little release day present to myself.

3.  Most people online will realize what a big deal it is and shower you with congratulations.

The book community is a wonderful place. Everyone from readers to bloggers to fellow authors will take time out of their day to wish you a happy book birthday. It gets a little overwhelming, to be honest—all these people telling you how much they loved the book or how they can’t wait to read it. It’s a constant reminder that, oh shit…my book is totally available for eyeball consumption right now. If you need to step back and take some time away from social media, do it. You do you. It’s your book birthday.

2.  You will be busier than you ever thought you could be, but at the end of the day, you won’t be able to say one thing you actually did.

“Umm…I tweeted a lot?” Seriously. You will tweet a lot. (Or FB a lot, if that evil bastard is your thing.) Not about your book necessarily (though there will be a few of those, too!), but remember #3? All those amazing people wishing you congrats? It’s going to take the majority of your day to favorite, reply to, converse and interact with, and read reviews from those people. On Tuesday night, I went to bed at midnight, and I was exhausted. What did I do? Umm…I tweeted a lot?

Think you’re gonna get some writing done? Ha. Think you’re gonna get some anything done? HA. Don’t stress about not doing anything, because you totally are. You just won’t remember what.

1.  Seeing your book out in the world will never get old.

Okay, so I know I only have three releases to compare it to, but I can’t imagine there will come a time where I’m not excited to go to Barnes & Noble or (fingers crossed for more!) Target and see my book(s) on the shelves. And you know what? I don’t want there to ever be a time when I’m not. I don’t want to grow jaded in this business that I’m lucky enough to be a part of.

And also, how about I just set this right here…

In this grippingly emotional New Adult novel from the author of Caged in Winter, what you want isn’t always what you need…

Jason’s been living (and loving) the rich playboy lifestyle for five years, but now his parents are pressuring him to get involved in the family business. The last thing he wants is another obligation, but when his best friend moves out of state and asks Jason to look after his sister, he can’t just say no.

Tessa had to grow up way too soon. After dealing with the aftermath of her parents’ deaths, then becoming a teenage mom, she knows the meaning of responsibility. Which is why, at twenty-two, she’s looking for so much more than a party boy. She’s looking for someone who can stand by her and her daughter…forever.

A relationship between them is doomed from the start, but who says they can’t have a little fun? But as Jason gets closer to Tessa—and her daughter—fun starts to turn into something else… Something Jason’s not sure he’s ready for.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Indie Bound | kobo

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“And You May Ask Yourself, Well, How Did I Get Here”

I Completed, Edited and Polished my novel. Time to get my book in front of agents and editors.

My personal preference is to pitch to an agent or an editor in person. (I’ve got issues, I know!) Am I a great public speaker? Nope. Am I good at “selling myself?” Not really. Do I get nervous and forget what I’m going to say? Yep. But I know in my heart that I have a better chance pitching in person then sending cold queries to someone’s e-mail. My personality sparkles more in person than in e-mail.

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*flashes a charismatic smile*

 

I attended the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in May 2014, and signed up to pitch to one editor. That editor requested a full. But I received three more requests at the conference. (Two agents and one editor all asked for partials). If you want to hear the full story on how the heck that happened, I’ll write a future blog post about it.

Long story short…I received a call from an editor at the publishing house who’d asked for the full. The editor told me they were taking my book to the acquisitions board. After a few weeks of back and forth communication lead by my agent, the editor asked me to make a huge change. Now, I’m going to be honest and humble here, I don’t think my writing is absolute genius. I knew I’d be asked to make changes to my manuscript, and I’m 100% okay with that. BUT – out of the hundreds of changes I would make to my book, the editor asked me to make a change I did not feel comfortable making, so I pulled my manuscript.

Back to the drawing board.

GrampskissingChse

 

Here’s a picture of my grandpa kissing my son, because I needed warm fuzzy pictures after re-living the devastation of being SOCLOSE and making the decision to pull my manuscript.

 

Moving on…literally

Since I love to pitch in person—and because a lot of my writer friends were going—I attended the Georgia Romance Writers Moonlight and Magnolias Conference in October 2014. (Awesome Conference) The thing that sealed my attendance was finding out my dream editor was going to be there. I HAD to get in front of her! I may have offered to give up my first born child to get in front of her. (Kidding!)

I pitched to two editors. Dream editor asked for first three chapters. Other (awesome) editor asked for a full. Holy cow!

My agent sent Dream Editor the partial on 10/14/14. Dream Editor asked my agent for the full on 11/01/14. Dream Editor asked if Book 2 was finished on 11/20/14. Agent sent first five chapters of Book 2 on 11/21/14. Received an offer on (roughly) 12/2/14. Signed contract on 1/17/14.

The road is long. The road is hard. I can’t say this enough: Do Your Research. Don’t just blanket query. Go to local or regional conferences, or even local RWA Chapter meetings. A lot of them bring in great agents and editors you can meet (and pitch to) in person.

Pitching is nerve racking. And hard. Querying is nerve racking.  And hard. And it takes time.  You’re gonna wait. And wait. Use your time wisely. Keep working on that next project or book or series.

YOU CAN DO IT!!

Credit for Post Title: Song: Once in a Lifetime Artist: Talking Heads

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The Glamourous Life of the Debut Author

the happy hour choirSo I started off last Tuesday at the Waffle House because that’s how I roll. One of the best moments of the morning was when the waitress facetiously proclaimed, “I’m living the dream!”

Me, too, sister. Me, too.

No, really. My first book had just come out. How long did it take? Three laptops, two desktops, three printers, two kids, five to seven manuscripts, and seventeen years from the time I specifically said, “I want to publish a book.”

Heady. That’s almost nine elephant pregnancies, yo. Honestly, I didn’t even know what to do with myself. Once you’ve held a goal in your mind that long, it’s surreal. Sure, I took some detours. I got married, worked at Borders then Philips. I taught school and had two kids. It took forever to finish some of my manuscripts, but I kept going. Then I entered the MAPW program at Kennesaw State and renewed my membership with Georgia Romance Writers. Both of those programs spurred me on and kept me writing.

Wanna know what goal I set for myself back when I was twenty-three and freshly graduated from college? Publication by thirty. The good Lord has laughed and laughed at that solemn proclamation. I was forty when I held my first novel in my hot little hands.

So, back to release day: I asked for glorious hashbrowns at the Waffle House. Glorious, they were. Then we went to Barnes & Noble, and I have to give kudos to the West Cobb Avenues B&N because they already had my book on the shelf. There it sat nestled between Sue Monk Kidd and Stephen King, and I had to stop and stare for a while because….wow! That’s my book baby, just chilling on a shelf with a couple of my favorite authors, you know.

Then we had to take my book’s first official baby picture at the Babies ‘R’ Us. You may not know this, but the staff at Babies ‘R’ Us don’t think too highly of someone using their sample cribs for taking pictures. Then they try to charge you for your own book when you buy a giftie for someone else’s child. True Story. 

At this point, you may be thinking, “What’s this we stuff, kemosabe?” Well, my husband took the day off to gallivant around town with me. He dubbed himself my #trustymanservant and plied me with sugar, caffeine, and alcohol all day long. Also, joining our tour was Kim, the self-proclaimed president of my fan club and my future spiritual advisor.

We went to the Book Exchange, and I signed stock. (How cool is that?) They gave me a number of launch party reservations that gave me pause. Then we checked another B&N and a Books-a-Million, both of which had not done their daily shelving yet. Also, you’re welcome BAM! I did that alphabetizing for free, and I was an honest-to-goodness bookseller so you know I know what I’m doing.

Then we went home and had a softball game and wine and pizza and talking until the wee hours of the night and solving the world’s problems. That was a great day.

Oh, but Saturday was a humbling day.

I had my launch party, and I sold out. I sold out at my launch party thanks to an incredible number of family and friends and, yes, a few folks who didn’t know me. I still can’t believe it. I still can’t believe that some people traveled hundreds of miles to come to my launch party. I was actually shy. I had a James Harvey (my dad) moment and wondered about all the fuss, but I made a note. I put all of those faces away in my heart to treasure later. If I were to die tomorrow, I could ask for no more from that book, and I could certainly ask no more of my family and friends.

Then today rolled around. Sure, I had leftover launch party cake for second breakfast, but then things got real. I had a piece of cold pizza for lunch while driving to the school to pick up Her Majesty for her eye appointment. Oh, and I’d fed the cats but forgotten to wash my hands so the bottom of the pizza held the faint aroma of dry cat food. Also, there was the classy moment where I considered tossing the crust in the school’s shrubbery (It’s biodegradable!), but I didn’t. Kids were on the playground, and I didn’t want them to think I was actually littering.

So I left it wrapped up in a Kleenex in the side compartment of my door because no one wants to put out enough trashcans anymore, and I didn’t drive through an area rural enough to toss it. The struggle is real, y’all.

Oh, and on the way out the door to the softball game, I picked a burger off one of the launch party sliders and ate that. Only I’d just helped Her Majesty get her cleats on so the burger held the merest trace of red Georgia clay dust. If I keel over, you’ll know what happened.

Did I mention I’m also wearing a T-shirt that says “cleverly disguised as a responsible adult”? Yeah, from glamming it to slumming it, that’s the life of the debut author. Oh, and thanks, Tanya Michaels for the shirt—you know me well.

I keep thinking I may wake up from this dream and find myself once again struggling to finish a manuscript or striving to find an editor or agent willing to take a chance on one I’ve written. But, nope. I’m living the dream. I know I don’t always say it well enough, but I mean it when I say thanks to everyone who helped me get there.

 

*Clearly, I need the British spelling of glamourous, right?

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My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

I’m casting back a couple of years to tell you about my worst writing week ever. What’s the old cliché? Bad things come in threes (or more!) Alexander had lots of bad things happen to him over a long, miserable day (and of course, I’m referencing the book, and not the movie.) Publishing moves so slowly, my bad stuff was spread over a week. Your bad stuff may happen over a month or a season, but it never fails to come in a clump, in my experience.

Let me set things up by saying the months leading up to my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week were pretty awesome and encouraging! I’d finaled in a couple of contests, which led to two full requests. In the first contest, the wonderful, talented Angie Fox (NYT best selling author of The Accidental Demon Slayer—which is free on Amazon right now!) left her name and email on my judged copy. Of course, I contacted her and we struck up an email conversation. Once she determined I wasn’t a total weirdo, she offered to put me in touch with her agent, Jessica Faust, who was on my top agent list and happened to be closed to queries—except for referrals. I thought, this is Fate! This is meant to be! This agent will love my manuscript!itshappening

From the second contest I finaled in, Kevan Lyon, another agent on my top list, requested a full. Not only that, but I’d cold-queried a handful of other agents and got two more partial requests lickety-split. I was on fire! I hunkered down to wait for all the offers to pour in.

In the meantime, I realized that my manuscripts *might* need some work after taking a Margie Lawson class (which I highly recommend.) While I was waiting for the agents to begin fighting over me, I set out to revise my first two completed manuscripts based on Margie’s principles.

Then, the hammer fell. One Monday, I got a rejection from one of the partials I had out. That agent is no longer in the business, so that turned out to be a blessing. Then, the next morning I woke to find a nice, but terse rejection waiting for me from Jessica Faust. I won’t lie; I felt betrayed by the writing gods. Then later that morning, my account was hacked and a crazy email went to a good portion of my address book (and OF COURSE, I had saved Jessica’s email address, because we were going to be bffs, right?) It was a letter written by someone whose first language was obviously NOT English, pretending to be me and asking for money because I was stuck in Indonesia somewhere.

Not only was I horrified to have spammed countless people, but Jessica Faust emailed me back and hoped that I was okay and not in trouble. She was genuinely concerned. The fact she thought I had written something so grammatically challenged made me want to crack open a bottle of tequila, and it wasn’t even 9AM.rejection

After licking my wounds and not leaving the house for a couple of days, my optimism bloomed anew. All hope was not dead, I still had a full out with a kick-ass agent! Except on Friday, I received a rejection from Kevan. A very nice, very long rejection. And, those of you who have received a long, thoughtful rejection will understand how much better that is than a form email.

I remember reading that email a couple of times, and realizing she was right. That manuscript wasn’t good enough. But, the one I was in the middle of rewriting was better. I debated ten minutes, but decided I had nothing to lose, emailed her back, and offered her my second manuscript. She wrote back within minutes saying she’d love to look at it. A few weeks later, I had an awesome, wonderful, really good day when she called and offered to represent me.

I guess the point of my ramblings is that every writer is going to have really great days (signing with an agent, getting a book deal, receiving a great review) and really, really stinky days/weeks (rejection after rejection from agents, ditto from editors, bad reviews, disappointing sales). If you let the bad days crush you, then you’ll never get to the awesome days. And every writer has bad days no matter what you see on Twitter and Facebook. A very wise writer (ahem…Beth) told me, we all put on a happy face when on the inside we are a debilitating stew of insecurities and anxieties. You are not alone!

Sometimes success is less about talent and more about persistence and plugging away and improving day after day. So when the bad days come, put your chin up and believe that good days are coming! And, if they don’t get here soon enough, pmakers and dietour yourself one of these…

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Changing How I Write…By Changing How I Type – Part Two: The Verdict

Back in February, I shared with you my crazy decision to teach myself how to type from scratch, and using an alternate keyboard layout called Dvorak, to boot. At the time, I still hadn’t made up my mind as to whether or not it had been a good idea, and I promised to check in again later with an update. Well, here I am.

So how has my experiment with learning to touch-type properly with the Dvorak layout gone?

First off, I’m not sure if I adequately explained this in my previous post, but using the Dvorak layout does not require the use of a special keyboard. It can all be done with software. I basically hit a button, and my computer automagically converts the QWERTY key I’m hitting into its Dvorak analog. I hit the key that is labeled J and H appears on the screen.

It means the learning curve is crazy steep, but it also does guarantee you become a touch typist by the time you’re done. Looking at the keys is flat out not an option.

Now let’s talk about that crazy steep learning curve.

I’m not going to lie. The first week of this experience was hell. In order to learn, I used a free tutorial that introduced a few keys at a time, and offered lots of vaguely nonsensical sentences to practice on. I did a new tutorial or three every day. And it was awful. My hands hurt with all the new muscles I was using, asking those pesky, neglected other half of my fingers to pull their weight for once. I refused to let myself go back to typing the way I normally did, so basic emails could take me half an hour to curse and cry and bumble my way through. I constantly had to check my cheat sheet to remind myself where the damn X and V were.

Ten days in, I had the whole alphabet sort of down, but I was typing at about eighteen words per minute. For those of you not familiar with WPM, that means writing a typical 2500 word chapter would take approximately for-f***ing-ever. It wasn’t going to cut it.

So I took the internet’s advice and I practiced and practiced and practiced. I opened up books and stories I loved to my favorite parts and typed them. I took about a million speed tests, hoping I would suddenly, magically be able to type well.

It was still awful. Like trying to speak a foreign language and knowing you could do this so much more easily in freaking English. Without meaning to, I found myself spelling words in my head constantly, even when I wasn’t practicing. So. Annoying.

Then. Finally. Three weeks in, I was typing at about thirty words per minute—still insanely slow and about half my normal speed, but starting to approach at least being functional.

And there were moments. Brief glimpses that were like being in The Matrix and suddenly seeing the lines of shiny green ones and zeroes. I could see how maybe, someday, this wouldn’t suck.

iknowkungfu

Unfortunately, the holidays were over, my next deadline was beginning to loom, and I didn’t have any more time to dedicate myself fully to learning to type. I dove into edits feeling like I had a broken limb as I tried to make my fingers form words. It was hard, and it sucked, but it was okay.

I practiced and practiced.

Five weeks in, I was typing at about forty words per minute, though with a lot of errors.

Six weeks in and I started being able to type without thinking again, the words flowing out without so much effort. I stopped spelling in my head so much.

Seven weeks in, I started hitting fifty words per minute. My errors were getting fewer.

It’s now been four months, and I’m proud to report that I’m averaging sixty words per minute with ninety-six percent accuracy. Mind you, I started out typing sixty words per minute back before I relearned to type, but remember: I’m now typing just as fast as I used to after only four months. Even better, I’m hitting mid- to upper- sixties from time to time, which makes me pretty optimistic that I’m still improving and will probably continue to speed up with continued practice, whereas with the old way, I was absolutely maxxed out with nowhere up to go.

Maybe even more importantly, my hands don’t hurt, and I’m significantly more accurate. I’m even experimenting with using other writing software like Scrivener now that I’m not so dependent on Microsoft Word’s autocorrect capabilities, which used to be absolutely essential with how many letters I missed.

So, my overall verdict? It’s been a rough road, but in the end, it was totally worth it. Would I recommend it to anyone who already knows how to type QWERTY correctly? Nope. But to any two-finger typists out there, I would say it is absolutely worth giving it a shot.

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More Than Just Your Average Man Candy

It’s Marvel Candy! Oh come on. Don’t act like this surprises anyone. This Thursday night is the US premier of Avengers: Age of Ultron! At least half of the Girlz on this blog are jittery with anticipation, so get in on the action. Let’s celebrate some superheroes!

First up, Steve Rogers. Obviously.

CA

I’m a little obsessed with the winky arm transistor magnet thingies. Hence this gifs top spot.

Baby threw a motorcycle y'all.. A motorcycle!

Baby threw a motorcycle y’all.. A motorcycle!

 

Next up, Natasha. And I will fight about it. ;)

nat1 nat2 Tony, being Tony. Then being Iron Man.

tony1

tony2

Thor. Because he deserves more appreciation. thor

Clint. Hawkeye. Because he deserves hella more appreciation.

clint2 Bruce – Hulking out and taking robot names.

bruce1

 Quicksilver

silver1

I don’t want to talk about what they did to this pretty man’s hair. I suppose it had to be done?

Wanda – Scarlet Witch

wanda1

Ngl, the fourth or fifth thing I’m most excited about is seeing her powers in action. Girlfriend gonna feck some shite up!

 

 Finally…

 THAT is a hero shot!

THAT is a hero shot!

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