The Bad Girlz Write Blog will be on holiday hiatus from 12/21/15 to 1/5/16. We wish you all a wonderful season and prosperous 2016! We’ll see you back here in the new year!
I feel like I should write something in the spirit of the holidays, being that I’m the last bad girl to blog before our annual holiday break. You’ve already seen the best gifts to give the writer in your life, and I wrote the funny twelve days of Christmas adaptation last year. So this year, I decided to go off the cuff and just tell you a little holiday story.
We’re driving home from dinner tonight when my youngest daughter turns to me and asks, “Mommy, do you still believe in Santa?”
“Of course, I do,” I say. “Don’t you?”
“Part of me does and part of me doesn’t.”
“Well, what part of you doesn’t?” I ask.
And then the tears come. “It just doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t see how reindeer can fly, or how he gets to all those houses every night. And sometimes he gets me things that I don’t ask him for.”
“Magic,” I say.
She raises her brow. “Magic isn’t real. I’ve seen Now You See Me!”
That’s it. I have GOT to quit letting her watch PG-13 movies.
I can’t blame her, really. She gets it’s honestly. I’m a logical thinker and I use logic when trying to explain things to my kids because I want them to be logical thinkers too. I don’t want them to grow up blindly to the ways of the world. It’s why I think we should keep score in sports, and why I don’t believe that everyone should get a trophy.
But I digress, this is about a little girl believing in Santa Clause.
I’ll admit, this one took me back a little. Here I am, a spinner of stories and make believe, but I couldn’t find the words to spin my way out of this one. Instead, I found myself skirting around the issue, answering questions with questions, and avoiding it all together. I don’t remember ever having the Santa conversation with my parents, and I never had it with my oldest daughter either. So what do I do? Do I lie – something I told myself I’d never do when the time came? Or do I break my little girl’s heart – something I also told myself I’d never do?
So, I did what any mother would do – I waited for my daughter to get into the shower and I called my husband.
“Tell her Santa is more of a state of mind than a physical being,” he says.
Yeah. That clears it right up. Then I’ll pass her the peace pipe and we can sing Kumbaya. She’s NINE, for crying out loud! She doesn’t know what a state of mind is!
In the end, we decided I would stall a little more, and then we would find a way to talk to her together once he came home. Luckily, by the time my daughter was finished with her shower, she had already decided Santa had to be real because, “NASA tracks his sleigh every year, and they wouldn’t waste that kind of money on something that wasn’t real.”
It took everything in me not to tell her my theory about the whole moon landing debacle.
I’m not sure if she really does still believe, or if she saw me fumbling over the question and decided to throw me a bone. But I do know that I’m content to go with it for now. I figure, what’s so wrong with letting her believe in it anyway?
After all, I sit in my office for hours having conversations with imaginary people.
How did you handle the Santa question? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
I love when I have a blog post during this time of year, because that means I get to go virtual shopping! It’s still early enough where you can sneak this list where your significant other will find it or—and I like this option, personally—you can just buy whatever you want for yourself.
Without further ado, I give you AWESOME GIFTS FOR WRITERLY PEEPS.
- Heated fingerless gloves. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the warmest room of the house, parked in front of a space heater, and buried under seventeen blankets, my hands are still like icicles. I actually own these gloves, and they do get super warm. Bonus? They’re soft and fuzzy.
- Blank pages for all your brilliance. Whether it’s this one for a to-do list, or this one to keep track of random notes, or this one for when those brilliant ideas inevitably come to you while in the shower, you’re covered.
- Writer inspired jewelry. Is there anything better than Etsy? No, no there is not. In the mood for some earrings, a bracelet, or a necklace? (Or two or three or four necklaces—full disclosure, I make that pretty little sucker!) You can pretty much find anything in this treasure trove of handmade goodies.
- A coffee/tea/alcohol-of-choice mug. Writers need a little boost in the morning. Most of us are coffee drinkers; however as one of the few who hates the black stuff, I’m here to tell you one of these babies will work just fine for hot chocolate, chai tea, or some straight up RumChata. (Hey, a writer has to do what a writer has to do.)
- This glorious, glorious thing. I have been drooling over this for years. And, really, my obsession with it is stupid because I have a lovely MacBook that I write everything on, but there’s just something about typing on an old fashioned typewriter…or what passes for an old fashioned typewriter in 2015. And, well, if you have almost a thousand bucks to blow, I say you should blow it on this.
Did I miss anything awesome? Something on your writer wishlist? Share in the comments!
Picture it, Sicily, 1922…just kidding. (Did anyone even get that reference?)
Seriously though, picture it, Atlanta, July 2013, the RWA National Conference. Five Bad Girlz stood outside the Marriott Marquis, trying to decide where to go to dinner while simultaneously chatting up other authors in the smoke break section.
You know how pivotal times in your life, be they grand or gruesome, stick with you in perfect clarity? This was one of those times for me. I stood there, as my best writer friends in the world talked about the workshops they’d attended that day, the struggles with their current WIP, their writing path in general, and that’s when it hit me.
I wasn’t happy.
As the smoke break continued and no decision was reached on a restaurant, I dug down deep, to the core of my unhappiness: My writing.
I was adrift. Doubting my skills, my direction. I felt miserable about my WIP and worn down by the rejection. Being told no when you believe in your story is one thing. Being told no when you’re also 100% meh about what you’re writing = Not. Good.
I was lost, angry, defeated. And the meh was immense. I’d hit my Big Black Writer Moment. All was lost – or so I thought.
Fast forward through the Dark Night of my Soul and autumn of my discontent. The wallowing, the procrastinating. It sucked, but I wasn’t alone. My friends were there to assure me I’d figure things out, and eventually, I did.
Cut to December 2013. I finally figured out my new direction and the genre that made me happy with my writing. I wrote and rewrote and wrote some more. In March of 2014, I had a manuscript and I queried agents. This time, I got bites of interest.
April 2014 I signed with my agent and went out on submission in early June. By the end of July 2014, my first book was rejected. Albeit nice, complimentary rejections, they were still rejections.
August of 2014 was my crisis of confidence. Not quite another Dark Night of my Soul, but I was struggling. Until something brilliant happened: I finally remembered who I am as a person, in every other aspect of my life. That person is strong of will and hard of head. That person always finds a way.
So, I said “F*ck it!” and decided I was going to write and do my thing, no matter what. I was a writer, and how and when I published would never change that. I’d give it my all and let the chips fall where they may. I developed a Plan A and B, and even a C in the wings in case the first two didn’t work out. I was going to be an author in the McGovy name no matter what. Just watch me, I thought. I am doing the thing!
I wrote and wrote and wrote, and in January 2015 I had another book. Book 1 of a new series. I went on submission in February and went right to work on Plan B: Write Book 1 of a whole different series.
In July 2015, I got the call from my agent. Standing in line at the allergist, to get shot in the arm with dust and dog dander venom, my phone buzzed. I saw Kirk and Spock’s faces with my agent’s name above them. (Yes, Kirk and Spock are my default display for calls unless I have a cute picture of you. I need a cute pic of Nicole. I digress.)
“I have good news!” she said, and I don’t remember much after that. The important thing was we’d sold my book. Three of them to be exact. Exactly two years from the day I thought all was lost, I hit a huge milestone. The job isn’t over and there about one hundred and seven more milestones ahead – both good and bad – but what a difference a couple of years made.
If you’re down on yourself, down on your writing, down on life in general, I have great news: A lot can change in two years. Or one year, or one month. I’ve seen wonderful progress happen for other people in a handful of weeks. In this craft and business, you never know what might happen.
Life is fluid, and wherever you are in your life, on any one day, is not an absolute. Change is inevitable. If you’re unhappy, your situation can get better. Even when we think all is lost, it isn’t. We just have to figure out where we are, where we want to go, and start moving.
A few friends with some road maps never hurt either.
Winter is, by far, my least favorite season. I get cold very easily, and the lack of daylight negatively affects my mood. I had hoped to be living in Florida at the beach by the time this winter rolled around, but delays in our renovations and getting our house on the market have not made that possible. So, I’m trying to put on my positivity hat and focus on the things I can look forward to in the months ahead.
Christmas – Even though my Christmas stuff is in storage, we drove around last night looking at Christmas lights. I still love doing that as much as when I was a kid. And I still love hearing Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.”
The premiere of shows in January such as Downton Abbey and the new Legends of Tomorrow.
My RWA chapter’s holiday party. We do potluck and a Dirty Santa book swap that can get pretty rowdy. It’s always a good time.
And speaking of my RWA chapter, our members-only retreat is at a state park is in February. We rent a bunch of cabins on a lake, bring oodles of food, have workshops, writing time and evenings full of fun activities such as Romance Family Feud.
The day after the Winter Solstice because the days start getting longer!
For now, the abnormally warm December weather. I can still get outside and walk without freezing to death, so that’s awesome.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens! Need I say more?
Every day that passes, it’s one day closer to spring.
Are you a winter fan? If not, how do you get through the dark, cold days?
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone! Christmas is my favorite time of year, but this year is even more special. My debut novel, CHRISTMAS AT THE REKINDLE INN, is officially released today!
~Welcome to the Rekindle Inn~
JT and Mary receive an early Christmas present from their parents—a week’s vacation at a beautiful romantic inn in snowy Vermont. It’s the perfect getaway . . . unless you’re a month away from a finalized divorce. A battle of wills may be what sends this couple to the lively North-Pole spirited town. But when they arrive their search for closure is quickly transformed into something magical that can only be found at the Rekindle Inn.
JT’s eyes scanned the room.
Had his body tensed the second he recognized her?
Mary’s heart plummeted. Why did she care if he was happy to see her?
He closed the distance in a few long strides,
stealing the breath from her lungs with every step.
“Hey.” JT slid onto the barstool beside her.
He flagged down the bartender. “Can I get a
draft?” His gaze loomed over her empty glass. “Make
The bartender waited for her approval. She nodded,
and the big guy snatched her mug and turned to the tap.
“I started to think you weren’t coming.”
JT frowned. “Yeah, sorry. Got held up at work.”
“There’s a surprise.”
“Wow. I’ve missed that sarcasm.”
Her stomach tightened. Why had she said that? She
could care less how much time he put in at the job these
days as long as she didn’t have to stay up nights waiting
for him anymore. Afraid he’d been hurt on the job or
worse. Nope. Her days of worrying over Joseph Tanner
Walker and his workaholic ways were behind her. He
could live in the site trailer for all she cared.
“So what’s up? I’m guessing you received the so called
present from the folks?” He slipped off his jacket
and slung it onto an empty stool before propping huge
flannelled biceps on the bar. Mary caught the familiar
whiff of musk and soap.
She picked up her brochure of said Christmas
present, and fanned herself. The bar was stifling.
What’d they have the thermostat set on—order another
Remember to Dream Big!
Our latest blog series here at Bad Girlz is on the theme of the best and worst days of our writing careers. If you’ve been reading the posts, you already know that writing is a roller coaster. I’ve had my share of dips and loops and suddenly being thrown into reverse. I’ll get the “worst day” out of the way first so I can end on a happy note. The world needs more happy.
Like any writer, I’ve faced rejections and the occasional one star review. I mourned when the editor who’d worked with me for my first ten books left publishing. But the worst day of my career was something else and it came in the form of an email on a “loop” of writers (how we all communicated in the stone ages before Twitter and Facebook).
It was a Thursday. I had just dropped off both my toddlers at a Mother’s Morning Out program, giving me two precious hours to write before I had to drive back and get them. I only checked email because I was impatient to hear from my editor; her boss was reviewing a proposal for a book that, if approved, was about to lead to the biggest contract of my career.
It’s worth mentioning that the first book I ever sold was to Harlequin’s romantic comedy line; right around the time it was published in 2003, they cancelled the line. I was disappointed and nervous about what that meant for my future, but I learned from my mistake. Instead of choosing a single new line to target, I chose two, realizing this would double my job security. After some collaboration with my editor, I ended up writing for Harlequin Temptation, a long-standing line that had published some of my all-time favorite authors like Jennifer Crusie and Stephanie Bond, and a brand-new “chick lit” line called Flipside that took inspiration from the urban, snarky tone of work like Sex in the City and Bridget Jones. So two years into my career, I’d sold to three different lines, all with single book contracts for around the same advance money. But suddenly the stars aligned for me. I had an idea for a Flipside trilogy that the senior editor loved. Meanwhile, I was working on two books for another senior editor at Temptation. I was on the cusp of signing a five-book deal and the advance I would receive was, at that time of my life, a staggering amount. With the stakes so high, I decided to hire an agent. Everything was in place! Until I opened my email that Thursday morning.
There was nothing yet from my editor, but a message from an author on the writing loop we used to share support and craft advice caught my eye. It was a statement of sympathy for everyone who wrote for Harlequin Temptation and Harlequin Flipside, as both those lines had just been axed.
What the HELL?
I experienced denial, panic and even some detached humor, wondering if this was a bizarre prank. I knew from firsthand experience that lines could close, but what were the odds that BOTH publishing imprints I wrote for could be cancelled on the same day and that rather than hearing it from my editor, I was finding out from some random woman on the internet who didn’t even write for Flipside or Temptation? No way. But just to be sure, I tried calling the publishing house directly. And could not get through despite multiple tries.
Then I remembered—hey, I have an agent now! I’d only been with her about a week. We’d had a few lovely phone chats, but we didn’t know each other well and I’d never even seen her face. So I tried my best to sound utterly professional when I called, stating that I didn’t want to put too much stock into an internet rumor but if she could just reassure me…
The split-second pause on her end of the phone was deafening. My heart stopped when I realized I had just gone from the brink of five-book deal to being unemployed. As it turned out, Harlequin had first sent a letter to agents to warn them about the coming emotional fallout, but editors were trying to contact authors individually to give them the news. (Why some agent passed this information onto a client who didn’t even write for Flipside and Temptation, I will never know. But the client’s dropping that bomb on a public forum caused chaos while we all clamored to contact our editors at once.) By the end of the day, both my agent and my incredibly apologetic editor had confirmed that none of my five stories were going to see the light. Those books had been tailored to fit categories that no longer existed. The thousands of dollars I’d been mentally putting to good use? Gone.
I managed to stop crying long enough to pick up my children from Mother’s Morning Out, their teachers regarding my tear-ravaged face with alarm. I called my husband at work and told him to get home as soon as possible and to bring Oreos and the largest bottle of Pinot Grigio the grocery store sold. (I’m not advocating this as the healthiest way to cope, dear reader, I’m merely giving you the facts.) I told him he was on kid duty for the rest of the night and locked myself in the bedroom with Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer–six being the darkest season. Plus, Spike.
Somewhere during that night, I got really, really mad. I had worked damn hard to build a writing career. Was I going to give up? Hell, no. If Buffy could overcome mother-effing death, I could overcome this. I brushed off the Oreo crumbs and began outlining a rough story idea full of Pinot Grigio induced typos. Both my editor and agent were surprised when I emailed them a blurb the very next day, but they thought the book (Dating the Mrs. Smiths) had a lot of promise. Every minute of that weekend not doing something with my kids, I was parked at the computer. By Monday, I turned in my proposal.
Bad stuff happens. In publishing and, God knows, in real life. It will hit you from out of the blue and knock you on your ass. But you don’t have to stay there. Choose the best way to get back up, and let your friends and loved ones help you to your feet (even if one of them happens to be a fictional vampire slayer. No judgment here.) My anger and bitterness didn’t magically fade overnight, or even with the sale of Dating the Mrs. Smiths. Even now, practically a decade later, I worry about what will happen if my publisher suddenly decides to go a different direction or if the amazing agent who has helped me overcome obstacles wins the lottery and decides to retire to Maui. But I’ve proven I can reinvent myself when necessary. Being mulishly stubborn has its perks.
When it came time to write this post, I knew immediately what my worst day was–it’s vividly etched in my memory–but I had to think more about my best because I’ve had a lot to be grateful for. I’m a fan of symmetry, though, so I’ve chosen the following wonderful moment to share. When Dating the Mrs. Smiths was published, I opened my email to find a two page letter from my heroine. Okay, not my actual heroine, but a woman who shared her name: Charlotte Smith. She started by saying that she’s not a reader. She was never much into fiction to begin with and, raising two small kids while her husband was overseas, she had little time for books that weren’t Goodnight Moon. But the yellow cover caught her attention at the grocery store, and when she picked up the book to discover that the heroine had her name, she bought it on impulse. In her letter, Charlotte shared with me some of the challenges she was facing in her life and how instances in the heroine’s life inspired her and gave her courage. It was amazing praise, knowing that my words had somehow helped this woman and given her a glimpse into the power of books. Some of my earliest memories are of reading–or of being read to–and books are my favorite hobby/vacation/escape/coping mechanism.
When I was a teenager sighing over the perfect ending of a great story, I didn’t care whether the author was award-winning or rich or bestselling, whether what I’d just read was their debut or their fiftieth novel. What mattered was that their stories had touched me. And now a woman with so much going on in her life was taking the time to share with me how my story had moved her? Best. Day. Ever.
My wish for all of you is many happy days, many good friends to help you weather the not-happy days, and great books to read every day!
I wanted to be glib for this month’s topic on the best and worst writing days, but I can’t. Instead, I’m going to make a confession: the best days and the worst days are often one and the same because I, like many writers before me, suffer from anxiety and depression. I know, I know! I’m so freaking bubbly on Twitter. Yeah, well, I’m also #MedicatedandMighty.
You see, there was a day back in 2008 when I realized I couldn’t keep going the way I’d been going. I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. I suffered from road rage. The tiniest things set me off—either anger or tears—and sometimes I got the shakes or an eye twitch for no apparent reason.
Logically, I knew my life was awesome and yet . . .
And yet, I didn’t feel awesome at all. I made an appointment to see the doctor, and I will never forget that I sat there on the end of that table shaking and crying because I felt like a failure at life. I felt as though a normal adult should be able to handle these things. Never mind the fact I was teaching full time, going to school, had a 45 minute commute one way with one kid in Kindergarten and the other in preschool, always worrying about imposing on the in-laws who were blessedly shuttling my children to where they needed to be. I had a lot on my plate, which wasn’t that different from earlier in my life, but I wasn’t handling it. I still think baby number two altered my brain chemistry a bit, but no one will ever be able to prove that one way or another.
Dr. C, God bless him, asked all of his questions and went through the rounds. He prescribed Lexapro, and he didn’t make me feel like a second class citizen while doing it. Within a week, I was making lists again. Everything felt so much more . . . manageable. The road rage was . . . better. (It’s Atlanta. You can’t expect too much.) My husband got a new job that paid what the two of our jobs together had paid.
I was going home to write.
Believe me when I tell you, it hasn’t been all wine and roses since that day. There have been
setbacks. My last day of teaching high school was in May of 2008. I didn’t sell until October of 2013. There were rejections and promising requests. Since then, I’ve had rejections and promising requests. All sorts of other things happen behind the scenes that I don’t talk about because I’m learning this whole author gig as I go. Suffice to say this year has been a roller coaster. I’ve had the highs of first and second book being published. I’ve had some lows, too.
Probably, the biggest challenge of 2015 has been to get back into the habit of drafting. For the first time in a LONG time, I have half of this story and half of that, unsure of how to proceed and constantly interrupted by the other side of publishing. Can I find success again? Is my third book still a hot mess? Will my second book be a sophomore slump? Will my first book place in any contests? Win any awards? Am I doing enough promo? The right promo?
I remember sitting in a workshop where an author—I can’t remember who it was—reminded all of us who hadn’t sold yet to enjoy the ride because publication never gets rid of your problems, rather it creates a whole new set. From that point on, I made an effort to enjoy each success, and I still do. Request for a full? Celebrate. Sell the book? REALLY celebrate. Finish revisions? You guessed it. Finished copy edits? Grab a glass of wine and watch some Sherlock. Finished page proofs? Cup of fancy coffee. Book released? Big ol’ celebration.
I guess publishing is like life: you don’t know where, when, or if the highs are coming so cherish them as they come. You know, logically, the lows will be there, too. Prepare for them as best you can and remember those highs and how you enjoyed them. I had one spectacular low earlier this year, and I took a day to wallow. Then I picked myself up and started again.
On the whole, though? 2015 has been one helluva year. No matter what happens, I’ve had a book published. Two, in fact! Some folks resist the analogy between books and babies, but I’ve done both and feel it’s quite similar. I love my children more, but I do love those books and I did make them. While I wrote them I had critique partners who wiped the sweat from my brow and told me when to push. Then I turned around and tried to be a good book doula for them. It’s an amazing business we’re in, but it’s not for the faint of heart.
Should you be like me, one of those people who feels the highs as pretty damn high and the lows as awfully damn low, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Being #MedicatedandMighty is what keeps my keel closer to even. Find good friends, loyal friends, friends you can lean on and, this is the biggie: remember that you are not alone.