Currently browsing tag

Inspiration

Burn Out is Real…and it’s Scary

I’m a burn out. Wait, wait! Let me rephrase that. I am burnt out.

I am in the process of writing my fourth book in a year and a half… During that time, four other books released. I know there are some amazing authors who can kick out a book every two months — or one month. I wish! But that’s not me, and I know that.

Let me be clear…I’m not complaining. NOT ONE BIT.

But I am admitting…
I’m burnt out.

As a debut author who had never signed a contract before, I didn’t realize how grueling a publishing schedule would be. I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t be able to just put my head down and write as I did for years before I even tried to get a book deal.

Sure, I knew all about the other things that go into being an author—the editing and editing and editing, social media, marketing, conferences and continuing education workshops, author events and signings and more editing…and, of course, writing.

I signed my first contract in February 2015 and I haven’t been able to catch up yet. As soon as I signed that contract and put myself under a real deadline: Reality happened. Exhaustion and stress and life unraveling happened.

Real life doesn’t stop when you get a deal. And for me, it got a whole lot more complicated.

An entire re-write of my fifth book is staring me in the face. Minutes click quickly toward the date that it’s due (again). So how do I get my mojo back? How do I muster up the strength and energy to write the best damn book I possibly can?

I went back to my favorite place to write. A local French bakery in the “Noda” neighborhood of Charlotte called Amelie’s. It’s got such an eclectic vibe. There are always people there. Creative people. Business people. (Not that those two can’t be the same,) All ages from toddler to Betty White.

I settled into a seat and put my head down. No Internet. No writing companions. Just me, the music (because you guys know I need the music) and my laptop. And I wrote my ass off. I was there from 6pm to 2:30 in the morning. The next morning, I jumped out of bed and was back at a cozy table with black coffee and a delicious breakfast sandwich (eggs, spinach and asiago on a croissant—in case you want to get the full picture) by 8am.

The words were flowing. The ideas kept popping. It’s almost as if I had to get out of that pocket of life that was stifling my creativity and go back to this vibrant, happy coffee shop where I’d written so many words previously—before the contract.

Life. Moving. Jobs. Deadlines. Marketing. Motherhood. Social Media. Events. Separation. Moving. Kids. Time. Love. Loss.

There’s always going to be something. Find your happy place and get back on track. If that doesn’t work—mix it up. Try something you’ve never tried before (I just started yoga again after 9 years). Go where creative people are. Find meet up. Be in the presence of individuals who like the same things you do. Don’t try to be someone you aren’t. Find yourself. <3

After a few more sessions at Amelie’s, I’ve almost finished re-plotting and restructuring my current work in progress. And I’m going back tonight.

 

P.S. Photo: A scrumptious berry tart and dark chocolate covered strawberries. Happy Valentine’s Day to me. 🙂

Sophia Henry writes Heartfelt Flirty Fiction featuring hot, hockey-playing heroes. DELAYED PENALTY and POWER PLAY, the first two books in the Pilots Hockey series from Random House Flirt, are available now at all major e-book retailers.

3 Comments

The Right Plot Bunny At The Right Time…

I’ve already written at some length about my weirdest plot bunny. So for this month’s theme, I’m going to focus instead on what has, thus far, been my most important plot bunny.

The beginning of 2014 found me at a pretty low point in my life. I was struggling with fertility issues, with the loneliness that follows an interstate move, and ultimately, with my career. I’d released a number of short books, but I wasn’t getting a lot of sales traction, and try as I might, I couldn’t seem to finish anything. This was compounded by my fixation on completing a full-length novel and my refusal to do anything that resembled plotting.

Finally, in what at the time felt like a Hail Mary pass, I scrapped everything and started one more manuscript—one I was determined to finish. I threw everything I loved at this project. Paris. Art. Museums. Sex. Sex toys. A dude who looked like Sebastian Stan. An art student grappling with her own self-worth, and perhaps more importantly, the worthiness of her ambitions to make it in a creative field. (No, there’s no deeper meaning there. Why do you ask??)

While actual plotting remained a hard limit, I took the time to at least map out the basics. I decided I didn’t care if it sold. It was all stuff I loved, and it was stuff I wanted to write about. Sure, I threw in a billionaire plot line, but that was incidental, at least in my mind.

Then I sat down. And I wrote.

I wrote and wrote and wrote. My usual stalling-out point of 25,000 words flew by, and then 50, and even 75. Finally, at 90,000 words, I typed The End, and for the first time in so long, I sat back in my chair and I felt good about what I had written.

Good enough that when, by a lucky confluence of events, the opportunity to get my work in front of an agent’s eyes came my way a few weeks later, I was ready. I sent it off. I signed with that agent. And before I knew it, I had a three book deal with a New York house. Seven Nights To Surrender hit shelves about a year later, making one of the greatest dreams of my life come true, and the third book in the series, Nine Kinds Of Naughty, comes out next month.

Many people will tell you to write the book of your heart, and that your passion will show in your work, propelling you to success beyond your wildest dreams. I don’t know that that’s necessarily true. But for me, pursuing my own passions in my writing was a key to achieving my goal of finishing a novel, and eventually, to reinvigorating my career. I hold on to that every time I hit a rough patch.

Sometimes, all it takes is the right plot bunny at the right time.

5 Comments

Cooking with Sophia – for beginners

Hello Hello!

I’m here to share my favorite recipe. It’s very easy, since I am NOT a good cook. I once had the fire department come to my house sirens-blaring because of my cooking. No joke. Don’t worry! There was no fire! Just a lot of smoke from me trying to follow very well written recipe instructions.  *I apologized profusely and also brought the firefighters doughnuts and coffee the next morning.*

Sophia’s Favorite Recipe

Cup or glass–I prefer a Tervis Tumbler. I’m not a fan of condensation.

Ice–or not.

Vodka–as much as you want

Add whatever beverage you like with vodka–or none at all–it’s great both ways

Grab a book. Relax and Enjoy!

*Please do not drive after consuming this beverage.*

stars-teaser

SOPHIA – WHAT BOOK SHOULD I GRAB?

I’m glad you asked. Because my fourth book, UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT released TODAY! And it stars a hot Russian hockey player. So the vodka fits perfectly!!

More Info:

UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT

Contemporary Romance.

Random House Loveswept

Sparks fly when a strong-willed Greek girl meets a cocky Russian hockey player on a singles cruise in this story of adventure, forgiveness, and LOVE. Discover why Kelly Jamieson calls the Pilots Hockey series “fun and flirty, warm and sweet.”
 
Kristen Katsaros wants a life full of adventure and laughter. After a difficult childhood, her motto is to live each day like it’s her last—because it just might be. So when Kristen’s parents send her on a post-grad singles cruise in the Caribbean to meet a Greek husband, she promptly hooks up with the hottest guy she’s ever met. Pasha’s decidedly not Greek, but Kristen gives him a pass because he’s got fun written all over his rock-hard abs.

Pavel Gribov, the cocky playboy of the Detroit Pilots hockey team, can score any girl he wants. But when a teammate drags him on a singles cruise, he can’t resist the chance to help out a drop-dead gorgeous damsel in distress by pretending to be her boyfriend. Before long, the fake fling turns intimate, fueled by something much deeper than lust.

Kristen and Pasha both agree to walk away once the cruise is over, but reality hits like a slap shot when Kristen finds out Pasha lied about everything. Just when she’s ready to start living again, the two stubborn survivors must decide if they can bear to lose the best thing that ever happened to either of them.

Also – I donate the first $500 in my royalties (yes, before I pay myself) to a different charity for each book. I’ve chosen the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for this book, as my heroine has CF. <3

unsportsmanlike-conduct-cover

 

Buy Links:

Amazon // iBooks // Barnes & Noble // Kobo

Books-A-Million // Google Play

 

Thank you for letting me indulge in a NEW RELEASE post instead of a real recipe!! Happy Reading! <3

Sophia Henry writes Heartfelt Flirty Fiction featuring hot, hockey-playing heroes. DELAYED PENALTY and POWER PLAY, the first two books in the Pilots Hockey series from Random House Flirt, are available now at all major e-book retailers.

4 Comments

Brought To You By the Letter J

There was never any question that I love books. Some of my earliest memories are Mom reading me fairy tales, me attempting to “read” to my baby sister, and the magical day I discovered the school library in kindergarten.

And there wasn’t much question that I was a writer. Mom’s nickname for me was Ink-Spot. My hands and clothes were perpetually stained from the hours I spent scribbling in journals and spiral notebooks with cheap ballpoint pens. Before I could write, I did my storytelling through Barbie dolls. You would not believe the plot twists that went down at the Dream House. In school, I was known for writing. If there was a geography lesson, I failed. If there was a math test, I cried under my desk. But if there was an essay? I lost count of the times a proud teacher would read one of my paragraphs—or an entire paper—to the class. I knew in my bones I was a writer, I just wasn’t sure what to do with it (except, obviously, pen hundreds of tragically bad poems in my teenage years.)

Then, at a middle school slumber party, someone handed me a Jude Deveraux historical romance, one of the books from the Velvet series. That was the beginning.

Sexy men meeting their matches in smart, sassy women. Ballrooms! Pirate ships! The Scottish Highlands! I can’t tell you how many Jude Deveraux and Johanna Lindsey books I read after bedtime by flashlight. In high school, a friend added to my reading list Julie Garwood, who always made me laugh, and Judith McNaught, who always made me cry. After sobbing my way to the end of another McNaught historical, I knew that Jude, Johanna, Julie and Judith had led me to my destiny. I was going to be a romance writer. (I even saved up my babysitting money and bought a book called How To Write A Romance and Get it Published.) My mother suggested that, inevitable fame and fortune aside, I still go to college. Which I did, focusing on history. To assist with all my romance novel research.

After graduation and getting married, I joined Romance Writers of America and learned a lot about the business side of publishing. Still, I couldn’t sell any of my historical romances. What was I doing wrong? Did my writing suck? Were my London Regencies not original enough? Was it because my name didn’t start with J?! I was fortunate enough to final in several unpublished contests and get my work in front of judging editors, but I never won. I came close in 2000, when an editor placed me second and left the margin note “strong writing, but not a historical voice.”

HOW COULD I NOT HAVE A HISTORICAL VOICE? I’d been mainlining historicals for years and had been fantasizing about my historical romance career since I was sixteen. (I love historical romances to this day, btw, and am currently reading books by both James, Eloisa and Jenkins, Beverly.) But after several years of being told no, I began to wonder. Trying desperately to find a place for myself in the market, I began reading many different subgenres. I read some good books, but nothing really cut through my frustration and confusion. Until.

Jennifer Crusie. (Fine, I have a thing for Js. Just ask my husband. Jarrad.)

Sidenote that isn’t as random as it seems: I remember being delighted while watching the Season 4 Buffy the Vampire Slayer finale “Restless,” written by Joss Whedon. The whole episode is bizarre dream sequences, and I literally told my husband, “This is what it’s like inside my head!” (To which he replied, “You frighten me.”)

The first time I read a contemporary romance by Jennifer Crusie, I had that same feeling of joyous identification. Beyond her storylines or sexy banter, there was something in the rhythm and cadence of her words that spoke to me, that felt like the more sophisticated version of how my brain works, or at least aspires to work. After falling madly in love with her books, I was no longer too stubborn or too scared to try something new. Instead, I was inspired.

My first book, a contemporary romantic comedy, was released in 2003, and I’ve now published/sold almost fifty books and novellas.

I found my voice and achieved my dream through a lot of trial and error–but it was other authors’ voices that inspired me in the first place and motivated me to keep trying. Thank you Jude, Johanna, Julie, Judith, Joss, and Jenny.

(Author’s note: Obviously I don’t only read books by people with J names—my love for Kresley Cole is well documented—but I must say, Jeanette Grey continues the glorious tradition of J-awesomeness. Don’t miss her upcoming contemporary romance Eight Ways to Ecstasy.)

Me with Jude Deveraux, New York City, 2015:

11752563_10200932141303375_7871000394396569576_n

2 Comments

Their Eyes Were Watching gods in Alabama from the Midnight Bayou while playing The Westing Game

This month we’re talking about the authors and books that inspired us to become writers. I get asked this question all the time: why did you decide to become a writer?

I didn’t choose to be a writer; writing chose me.

You could say it started with my affinity for Go, Dog, Go! At the tender age of three. Or the L. Frank Baum  and Nancy Drew books I plowed through a little later. I fondly remember Irene Hunt’s Up a Road Slowly in which the main character’s uncle is a writer who’s always working on his magnum opus. Then it was thumbing through my mother’s English textbooks to read Twelve Angry Men and “Harrison Bergeron.” Or The Westing Game or Jane Eyre or. . . Certainly my love of reading was one half of the equation.

Two writing experiences stand out as the other half. In fourth grade we suddenly had a new assignment: writing stories with all of our spelling words. I loved the challenge of fitting words that didn’t go together into a story, the sillier the better. Then in seventh grade, our gifted teacher had us write a story round robin style. While several members of the class bellyached about it, I thought it was the best assignment in the world. So did a couple of my friends. We started our own round robin soap opera and cast all sorts of celebrities as well as ourselves into a crazy world where the best trick was to put characters in a sticky situation and then pass the story off to someone else. *Ahem* It’s possible there was kissing in these stories.

When my friends couldn’t write fast enough for me, I started writing my own stories on the side, sometimes writing two or three at a time. I wrote historical, gangster stories, even an episode of The Love Boat.

This is what I did in junior high AND high school. Because I am a nerd.

By the time I got to college, I had a pretty good idea I needed a major that would put bread on the table. Despite this, I chose English. Extracurricular reading and writing took a hit in college, though, for a couple of reasons. One, I actually did all of my class reading instead of binging on Catherine Coulter and Judith McNaught, an offense fellow bad girl Tanya Michaels won’t let me forget. Two, college is a time of trying to find yourself, and I didn’t feel as though I had anything important to say to the world just yet.

Within a few months of graduating college, though, the writing bug had found me once again. I fell in
love with Nora Roberts’s Midnight Bayou. It was a romance, but it wasn’t like the ones I used to, um, “borrow” from my mother. Since I wasn’t ready to write a *sniff* literary novel, I thought I would write a romance. After all, as a summa cum laude English major how hard could that be?

The cast of Austin Powers mocks my naïveté.

So, it’s hard. It’s really, really hard, y’all. I could smack myself for ever thinking it would be easy to craft a love story that focused on only two characters and brought something new to the table while still working within the constraints of the genre.

Okay, so the next idiot who says he/she is going to whip out a romance because it can’t be that hard, I say we just challenge them. I wrote at least six manuscripts trying to write a romance and learned some very valuable lessons. The most important of these is that the best romance writers can teach you more about craft and the business of writing that colleges, mainstream writing groups, or just about anyone else. 

But I digress.

Another pivotal moment in my life came when I read Joshilyn Jackson’s gods in Alabama. I fell in love, y’all. I fell in love with southern fiction, with trying to capture the essence of that weird place where I grew up. I told myself I was going to write whatever story I wanted to write, and The Happy Hour Choir is what came out. I named my honky tonk piano player heroine after an apparently obscure hymn I grew up singing in my little church. To ensure the proper amount of shenanigans, I had her fall for the last person in the world she would want to love, a minister. With their story and that of Ginger and Tiffany, I found my voice.

My current WIP has been indirectly influenced by another novel that has inspired and continues to inspire me, Their Eyes Were Watching God. I read Hurston’s book for the first time while I was studying for the GRE Literature subject test, and I put the book down knowing I’d just experienced something monumental. I didn’t know how that book was going to change my life, but I knew it would.

Fast forward to a year or so back when I reread Heart of Darkness and then treated myself to a reread of Their Eyes Were Watching God just to redeem my faith in literature. Hurston’s prose is still gorgeous. Her characters are complex. Her dialogue reflects her anthropologist’s ear for idiom and dialect. I don’t think I’ll ever write as well as Hurston, but I’ve shifted to third person in an attempt to juxtapose my English major prose with the southern vernacular of my characters’ dialogue. Wish me luck on that one!

6 Comments

The One That Got Me Hooked!

sight for sore eyes coverEver since we started the current blog topic of the books and authors that inspired us to become writers, I’ve been wondering exactly how to approach it. I’ve been a reader since I was three, and a writer of stories, poetry, and embarrassing handwritten fan fiction for almost that long, it only occurred to me to try writing novels fairly recently. What flipped that switch was an intersection of some ideas, a creative itch, and a summer full of free time. I’m a visual person. I love stories that draw me into their world, that make me feel like I’m there–and I strive to achieve that in my own work. Also (and you may not believe this about me), I’m a talker. I love to tell stories. It’s probably this desire to entertain people as much as anything else that made me a writer.

There are so many authors that I love and have read religiously for years, but if I had to choose the most inspiring one, it’s the incomparable, late, Ruth Rendell. She was the epitome of the lifelong author, publishing her first novel in the 1960s, and she continued to write up to her death this past May… and in her later years, she did it while also being a Member of Parliament. She’s deservedly one of the queens of British mystery, because of her long-running Inspector Wexford novels, but my personal favorites are the more psychological studies she creates in her standalone books, both as Ruth Rendell and the more Gothic/Literary ones penned as Barbara Vine. Seriously, folks, there are more good books written by this lady than I can count! Do you like dark humor? Do you like razor-sharp insights into the stranger aspects of human nature? Do you like getting into the mind of the villain or weirdo character? Plots that weave the lives of random strangers together with shocking consequences? How about being immersed in London’s neighborhoods and atmosphere? If you answered “Yes” to one or more of these questions, my friends, then you owe it to yourselves to get on closer terms with this legend!

It all started innocently enough, about fifteen years ago, with A Sight for Sore Eyes. I found it on the shelf of the public library, where I was looking for some non-algae based reading material (I was in the midst of writing my Master’s thesis at the time…now that was riveting prose, let me tell you). I meant to read a few pages, take a little break before getting back to the scientific journals and my computer. Later, I realized the day was gone, it was the middle of the night, and I’d done nothing but read that book and pee since coming home from the library!

Her prose is cool and spare, no extra words anywhere, but you are right there in that story, witnessing the making of a sociopath. And sort of understanding him, if not actually rooting for him. And OMG, the hooks! Hooks at the end of every scene! The creeping dread and ominous buildup–and the absolute creepiest of poetic justice at the end! All bow down to the Queen, people.

Even though my light women’s fiction is about as far away as you can get from what you might find in the pages of a typical Ruth Rendell book, she still inspires me. Her hooks, her settings, the absolute realness of the inner and outer worlds of her characters…. if my stories could achieve half for what she did on the daily, that would be a lifetime achievement for me.

So what do you think? Have you ever read any of her books? If you’re a writer, do you have a favorite author who writes in a completely different genre? And most importantly, do you need any more awesome Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine recs? Hint: A Dark-Adapted Eye is just as awesome as ASFSE, but with added WWII intrigue!

Happy (and creepy) Reading!

 

8 Comments

How McGovy Wound Up In Writersville

The topic for this round of blogs is what authors or books inspired us to become writers. I have several authors and series that inspired me, making me long to weave tales with even an iota of their skill:

Karen Marie Moning’s HIGHLANDER series

KMM pic

Lisa Kleypas’s WALLFLOWER series

LK pic

and JK Rowling’s HARRY POTTER – duh.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t confess my largest inspiration and motivation toward writing as a career was fan fiction.

Even before the wave of Twilight fan fiction, there were pockets of fans writing about movies, TV shows, and books they loved. I believe I’ve mentioned it here before, but the very first bit of fiction I wrote was a corrected version of the events in X-Men 3. (Gee golly, look at that. For me, it all goes back to Marvel. Who’d’ve thunk it?) From a deep desire to right the wrongs of that movie, came the courage to put pen to paper (literally) and write a different ending.

The resulting narrative was so-so, the dialogue fun, and I shied away from writing any sex (BAH HA HA!), but I’d written a story.

Hands shaking, I hit ‘Post’ – or whatever it was you did to put stories up on Live Journal back in the day – and the comments trickled in. And then they poured. Comments are to FF writers what reviews are to traditional writers, and fandom liked my story! I didn’t suck!!!

After that, I wrote a few more short stories, then a couple of opuses with a co-author. I had regular readers and people encouraging me and, though I didn’t know it at the time, I was learning the basics of my craft.

THEN I discovered J.R. Ward’s BLACK DAGGER BROTHERHOOD series.

<Cue the choir of angels>

JRW pic

Ward’s voice was unique, gritty, the characters larger than life. I read the entire series (6 books long at that time, I think…wait…Wrath, Rhage, Zsadist, Butch, Vishous, and Phury – no, I’m not even kidding about the heroes’ names)  in a matter of two weeks. Then, about three months later, I re-read them all again. Ward created this world, with vivid characters who I cared about, and I wanted to return again and again. If you’re one of the few people out there who hasn’t tried this series, and you like steamy romance with some paranormal flavor, do yourself a favor and GET THESE BOOKS NOW. If I know you, I’ll even lend you my copies.

Upon my third reading of Rhage’s book, LOVER ETERNAL (*swoooooooooon*), I put the book down and proclaimed, “I want to do THIS! I want to write stories about love and acceptance, healing and redemption. I want to reach a reader who is grieving (like I was at the time) and give them solace and reprieve. I want to provide some happiness, a brief escape. In a world full of doubt and darkness, I want to be…a romance writer!”

And that’s exactly what I did. 🙂

Do you have an author, book or series of books that made you take the leap from dreamer to writer? Who? What titles? Share the names and joy with us – namely with me because I’m in the market for a new addiction! 😉

9 Comments

Why the Hell NOT You?

Wow, it feels like forever since I last blogged last.  First, let me just say how excited I am for our new blog lineup!  I mean, seriously, have you checked these ladies out?  They are nothing short of dynamite, and I am truly honored to be blogging with them.  Every single one of them, both new and old less new (can you tell who has a birthday coming up?)  Our readers are in for a treat in the upcoming year!!

So, I’ve been a busy girl the past few months.  I quit a job, took a month off to write, and started a new job.  I made it through another compulsory season of gymnastics for one daughter and am heading toward another season this coming weekend for the second.  I fumbled through the chaos of the holidays and dug out last year’s New Year’s Resolution list, clenching my jaw as I changed the 4 to a 5.  Things were chugging along, business as usual, and 2015 was looking to be a repeat of 2014.

And then this happened…

Many of you know I am a HUGE Buckeye Fan, so this has been a very exciting couple of weeks for me.  And whether you like football or not, this season has an amazing story that we all can learn from.  So let me break it down for you…

A week before the season opened, we lost our Heisman Trophy hopeful quarterback to a shoulder injury.  Most fans will admit (myself included) they tossed 2014 out the window at that point.  But then something happened…our backup quarterback grew into his own and ALSO became a Heisman Trophy hopeful who would lead us to the Big 10 Championship.  Until he broke his ankle in the last regular game of the season against our rival Michigan.  Again, most fans tossed out the rest of the season.  But then, here comes the third string quarterback leading the team to a shut out win in the Big 10 Championship Game against Wisconsin and then onto the playoffs where they beat Alabama AND Oregon.

**Churns a little butter while humming the OSU fight song**

I swear there’s a point here.  I’m not just gloating…

For me this was more than just a football game – it was an omen promise that 2015 is going to be a kick ass year.  It wasn’t a perfect season by any means, but the Buckeyes found a way to overcome all the odds and shut a lot of people up who’d simply said it couldn’t be done.  And it taught me a very valuable lesson as well.  When the Buckeyes took the trophy home on Monday night, I crossed all the crap off my New Year’s Resolution list and replaced it with one single question…

2015-motto

No, seriously.  Why NOT me?  Why NOT you?  Why NOT anyone who has the determination and the will power to push through and beat the odds?

Why NOT?

I get it, I do.  It’s more comfortable to look at this as a long shot so that the failures don’t hurt so bad.  If you don’t expect much, you can’t be disappointed, right?  But don’t sell yourself short.  You are just as capable as the next guy.  You have your own little special talents and you have all the potential in the world at getting them discovered.  And you WILL get them discovered.  You will.  It’s not a question of IF, it’s a question of WHEN.  You might just be the third guy in line on the bench who winds up in the biggest game of the season and KICKS ASS!

That’s not to say it goes without hard work.  Maybe not blood and sweat (unless you’re into that sorta thing), but there are definitely going to be tears.  Lots of tears.  But as my daughter says, tears are just weaknesses leaving the body.  Let them go, look in the mirror, and ask yourself…

Why the hell NOT me?

Let’s ROCK 2015!

Jenna P

20 Comments

It Gets Harder

Ah, my newbie writer self: so innocent, so enthusiastic, so convinced major success was waiting to fall into her lap. So enamored with her new calling, her story permeated her life. It was the focus of her dreams: both kinds. Her husband got jealous of the time she spent obsessing over another (albeit fictional) male. Her mother (almost) got tired of reading new drafts. Convinced of the rightness of her place in the writerly universe, the words flowed, and she put them all to use.

 
Notice I didn’t say “to good use” back there. Oh no. As Mae West once said, “goodness had nothing to do with it.” Her themes were cliché, her descriptions went on forever, and I’m pretty sure there are Duran Duran videos with more plot than her original novel had. But the passion was there, and her output showed it. The only thing standing between her and success was hitting that Submit button. Soon, (possibly too soon), she did. Instant success? Not so much. Did the realization dawn on her that she maybe had a little more to learn? Did it ever! So learn; she did. Young Syd got better—a hell of a lot better. Her story began to resemble a seventh-grader’s attempt at erotic fan fiction a little less and a real book that other people might actually want to read a little more. She got better feedback from critique partners, contest judges, and agents. She was getting closer—and not just in the lollipop landscape of her own mind.

 
This is where things changed. Somewhere along the way, it started to get hard to make the words come. It got harder, and I’m afraid to say, it stayed that way. So, when the Bad Girlz got together and decided to put together a series of “advice to our newbie selves” posts, I knew already what the title and concept would be. It Gets Harder. Thanks a lot, Debbie Downer.

debbie downer gif

 

 

 

 

 

Poor little newbie-writer Syd! What did she ever do to deserve such a crap mentor? And for that matter, how did her mentor-self become such a hardened old broad? It was a lot of things, some of which are beyond the scope of this article—but mainly it was a matter of quantity vs. quality. I knew more, so I recognized when my words were off right away. I became a compulsive editor, honing each sentence until it felt perfect, no matter if it was a first draft. Each day, I’d begin writing by going back over and picking apart what I’d written before. The quality was better, but boy was the going ever slow! The time it would take to produce five pages now produced one. As metamorphoses go, the timing utterly sucked. This time of my life is one where creative windows come in furtive snatches, much like trying to eat a cookie around a toddler without him sussing it out and demanding five for himself. A lot of little chances get wasted when you’re fussing around with old words instead of putting new ones on the page.

 
When thinking about this post, an idea came to me. Instead of bashing newbie Syd over the head with a club of her broken dreams, I’d think about what she could teach me. Her enthusiasm kept the same old story fresh through countless revisions. Her desire to entertain people with her stories made her fearless about handing them over to readers. Her exhaustive detailing of every little thing (down to her heroine’s favorite nail polish AND brand of topcoat) made sure she was never at a loss where to begin. Girl wrote in real time, y’all. So what if half of it ended up in the white void where deleted words spend eternity? That’s where the hardened broad comes in to do her thing!

 
I’m glad we’ve had this theme of looking back for our posts lately. It’s prompted me to think about not just the advice I’d give to my newbie writer self, but it also made me realize that she has a lot more to offer than I’d given her credit for, and she’s someone I want on my team.

 
So tell me, what awesome qualities did you have as new writers that you’d like to have now?

 

11 Comments

End of Summer Inspiration

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill

School_Supplies

It’s the last week of summer vacation at my house, and I’ve spent the past few days purchasing everything my little monkey will need for school this year. The pencils are sorted, his clothes are folded, and his new backpack is hanging on the back of the chair at the new desk in his bedroom. With this level of organization and preparedness, I can’t help but remember this time last year.

Last August, I was going through a rough patch on all levels of my life. I was struggling to complete and turn in HOW TO LOSE A LORD IN 10 DAYS OR LESS on time to my new editor. We were moving to a house on the other side of the city, a house that required a massive renovation before we could live there. The little monkey was already late starting school, and that was before the house flooded on move-in day. Then, he was extremely late to school. There was a constant stream of misfortune that followed my family for months.

flood pic 1

 

But, then something happened—we survived it. The house became more and more habitable every day. The little monkey finally started school. I turned in my book. And, everything else in our lives slowly fell into place. It was a struggle, but with small steps in the right direction, we crawled out of the pit we’d fallen into.

IMG_2211

Why am I telling this story other than I’m feeling nostalgic today? Because bad days happen. Sometimes bad weeks, bad months, or even bad years happen. There are times when life is nothing but a pile of roadblocks to our goals, but I think the bad is balanced by good if you’re willing to fight to reach for it.

Whether your roadblocks look like form rejections from agents, sales numbers of your latest release, the word count of your manuscript, a stack of bills to pay, a house to renovate, or the number on the scale in your bathroom floor, you can overcome it through small steps every day in the right direction.

I’ve spent the past year putting my life, and my house, together after disaster. And today, I’m celebrating progress, not completion of my goals, but progress.
My little boy is about to start school—on time and prepared.
I’m back on the treadmill attempting to shed the pounds I acquired since the great flood of 2013.
My first 3 books are on book shelves, and I was able to sign them for the first time at RWA.
My fabulous agent just sold my new series, The Spare Gentlemen’s Society, to Sourcebooks in a 4 book deal!
…Do you like how I slipped that in there like the fourth item on a grocery list? *grins* With this great news, I now have a new mountain to climb—a 4 book mountain! And, I’ll climb it one word at a time, one step at a time, and one day at a time.

My small daily steps toward my new goals include walking 2 miles and writing 1,000 words every day for the next year. Keep me honest, Bad Girlz, alright? Whatever your goal, you can reach it! Even if by the end of your journey your hands look like this. It’s just an excuse for a spa day.

IMG_0835

What small step toward your goal are you taking every day? Let’s celebrate progress!

~E. Michels

 

9 Comments

%d bloggers like this: