Monday, April 14, 2014

Stuck!



Calling all writers, artists and others who must dip daily into the well of creativity. What happens when the well goes dry? What happens when you get stuck? I’m not talking about writers’ block. In my opinion, getting stuck is a whole different thing.

I recently started a new book and, since I fly by the seat of my pants, I had main characters in mind and a vague idea of the plot line. I’d learned to trust my process. In the past, the act of writing stimulated the creative part of my brain, resulting in forward progress. Sure, once in a while, I’d write myself into a corner and have to backtrack, but it was usually an easy fix and I considered it a learning experience. Six chapters flew by and then my fingers froze on the keyboard. I was stuck. Here’s what happened next:

I brooded and indulged in a lot of negative self-talk. What the heck’s wrong with you? Yikes! After eight books are you out of juice?
I forced myself to write. As the saying goes, you can’t edit a blank page. When it took me an hour to write two sentences, I knew it wasn’t working. This was followed by………..
More brooding.
I tried writing in long hand, a technique that sometimes works for me. Not this time.
I comforted myself with junk food which, in turn, led me to……..
The Solution. Concerned about putting on weight from the aforementioned junk food, I hit the elliptical machine at our local fitness club. Something about music feeding directly into my brain via ear buds, mindless repetition as I sweat and pedaled, plus the oxygenated blood surging through my body did the trick.



Remember my term, “vague idea of the plot line?” I realized it was a little too vague. I’m writing romantic suspense, for Pete’s sake! There are dead bodies, nasty villains, stolen babies and human trafficking involved. Way too many moving parts for an author flying by the seat of her pants. I needed details. I needed more characters. I needed more plot lines. OMG, was I becoming a plotter? Were my pantser days over?

Happily, I’m back on track after taking some time to answer the obvious questions. Who? What? Why? Where? When? Apparently I am now part plotter, part pantser. Works for me. And, if I get stuck again, I know what to do.

 Eat junk food. 
 Exercise.


Cheers,

Marilee




Monday, March 31, 2014

Where Do I Go From Here?



In 2008, Moonstone, the first book in the Unbidden Magic series was published by Bell Bridge Books and I signed a contract to write five more books. Moon Rise came out in 2009, along with The Rock and Roll Queen of Bedlam from a different publisher. Three more books in the series appeared in 2010, 2011 and 2012. In late 2013, Baby Gone Bye, the single title YA story of a teenage father, was the final book in my contract.

Christmas came and went. January is typically the time I get back to work. A brand new year. New resolve. New energy. I didn’t write a single word the entire month of January. I had an idea floating around in my head, but couldn’t gather the will power or strength to start something new. Strangely, I felt like a sailboat cut loose from its mooring and adrift on the sea.


Since I keep track of the number of words I write on my daily calendar, I looked back.
January, 2012 – 15,000 words (Midnight Moon)
January, 2013 – 17,000 words  (Baby Gone Bye)
January 2014 – Nada.

What was wrong with me? After writing a book a year for six years, had I lost my mojo? Did I require a deadline in order to produce a book? I did a lot of thinking that month before I came to the following conclusion: I need to look forward not backward. My confusion and resulting paralysis sprang from the sense of loss I was feeling. I no longer had a relationship with a wonderful publishing company who’d taken a huge chance on an unknown author and given me a six-book contract. I will always be grateful for that opportunity.




In early February I realized it was time to move on. With loss comes liberation. I am now free to explore other options. A brand new genre has emerged in the last few years called New Adult. The idea floating around in my cerebral soup coalesced into something resembling a book. I began making notes, creating characters, plot lines, once again excited about starting something new.

On February 9th, I started the book I now call Affliction. I’m totally into the main character, 22-year-old Honor Melanie Sullivan and can’t wait to tell her story. Though I intended the book to be strictly romantic suspense, I've added another layer. My girl not only has a touch of Asperger’s, she can also read souls. Oh yeah, her boyfriend turns out to be ex military policeman, the Harley-riding William Henry McCarty, aka, Billy the Kid. Yep, I’m having fun again!



Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Amazon Rankings

                                                                     

Okay, fellow writers. Be honest now. How often do you check your books’ Amazon rankings? Does your heart soar with happiness when that line shoots skyward? How about when it heads for the cellar? I have to admit I’m a bit of an Amazon rankings junkie, obsessively signing into Author Central several times a day. I’m writing this blog as a therapeutic exercise, designed to help me kick the habit.  Here’s what a few of my colleagues have to say:


Kathryn Magendie, (latest release, The Lightning Charmer) rarely checks her rankings or review, with this exception: “When The Lightning Charmer went on sale and someone said it was rising in the rankings, I began peeking in – and peeking in – my mood matching whether it was up or down – and that reminded me why I do not do this – I hate to think I am that fragile – a strong kickarse woman letting her moods be defined by some rankings on Amazon.”

Bill Allen, author of the popular Journals of Myrth series, says, “OK, I will admit to checking my rank more often that I should. Individual book rankings on amazon don’t mean much. A single sale can send the number flying, so I just glance at my overall author ranking. I think reading reviews is important. If one person says there’s a duck on your head, you may or may not, but if a lot of people are telling you there’s a duck on your head, you probably have a duck on your head.”

Deb Stover (latest release, Maid Marian and the Lawman) has this to say: “Amazon rankings can shoot up and down so fast they are totally unreliable as a barometer of how well our books are doing or not doing. I try not to look, but I do check reviews – sigh.

Multi-published author Elizabeth Sinclair (latest book, Winter Magic) adds: “I just looked at my author rankings at Author Central and it appears I’ve had a severe cardiac episode. LOL.”

Prolific author Pam McCutcheon, writing as Parker Blue, doesn’t watch rankings, but reads her reviews. “Since I write a series (The Demon Underground) it’s a good way to find what readers like and dislike with what’s going on with the characters. However, I don’t obsess over bad ones, or people who don’t get me. They’re entitled to their opinion and that’s all it is – one person’s opinion.

L.B. Hayden (Magick Rising), has a creative solution. She says, “Friends don’t let friends read reviews. Designate a friend to watch your reviews and to give you only the highlights.”

Best selling author Anne Stuart (Never Marry a Viscount – Sept. 2014) adds the following words of wisdom, “Now, I only check my rankings if there’s a special promotion up like a Kindle Daily Deal. And, I only read rave reviews! It’s taken me a long time but I’m finally choosing a soupcon of mental health over despair.”


Okay, if they can do it, so can I. Starting today, I will strive to be that kickarse woman described by Kathryn Magendie. I will choose a soupcon of mental health over despair and I will acknowledge the duck on my head only if I hear multiple quacks. If my rankings look like a severe cardiac event, I will laugh it off and be grateful it’s not the real thing. How’s that for a brand new plan?




Thursday, January 2, 2014

Auggie's Happy New Year



It’s me, Auggie Doggie, wishing you a Happy New Year. It’s gonna a be a good one, I just know it. How do I know? Because things have changed for me. Big time. Last year, I got dumped off out in the country. I was all by myself. No more mom dog. No more brothers or sisters. I was hungry and thirsty. And then, a guy grabbed me, threw me in a cage in the back of a big, scary metal thing and took me to doggy jail. That’s right, I’m an ex con.


Next thing I knew, I was at a place called The Vet’s. They jabbed me with a needle and when I woke up, I was missing a vital part of my anatomy, if you get my drift. After a bath, I was taken to the adoption center where I tried to look as cute as possible. A man decided he liked me and took me home. But, sadly, it didn’t last. I got returned like an overdue library book. He said I was a bad dog, that I bit his son. But, he didn’t know what the son did to me! I was on my way back to doggy jail.

But then, a nice lady said I was a good dog, too good for doggy jail. She decided to keep me at her doggy day care place until I got adopted again. She emailed my picture (I looked really cute) to a couple who had recently lost their dog. Even though they were 1200 miles away from home, they promised to come see me when they returned.

In March, 2013, my life changed forever. My new mom and dad took me home. I was really afraid they might not like me but they do. Even though I have issues (I hate the scary metal thing that moves really fast) they too think I’m a good dog. I guess maybe I am.


So, if you see my brother or sister, or somebody who looks like me, would you please think about rescuing them? They might be hungry and thirsty like I was.

Happy New Year, everybody. 2014 is gonna be good. I just know it!

Auggie Doggie, signing off.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Book That Almost Wasn't



 Whenever I open the document titled The Blue Rose, I look at the date it was created and smile. July 15, 2010. Eager to write the story of a male high school senior who is suddenly saddled with an infant, I whipped out five chapters. At the time, I was also working on a book in my Unbidden Magic series. Consequently, The Blue Rose took a back seat.

 In October of that year, I attended a large, highly regarded conference in a major city that included “dozens of industry professional.” One of the workshops featured a panel of agents and editors who offered to evaluate the first page of writers’ works in progress. Hmm, why not give it a try? After all, these are the gatekeepers. The industry professionals. Critiques are good. I stepped to the front of the packed room and added the first page of The Blue Rose to the pile, never dreaming it would be selected.

The panel shuffled through the stack of papers and selected six. Mine was the second. In a juicy baritone and a tone dripping with sarcasm, the moderator read, “The night Gabriel Delgado found out he was a father, he was …” After completing the first paragraph, he paused, sighed and mugged for the audience. Then, each person (industry professional) took turns explaining why this pathetic first page would never make the cut.


For one thing I was grateful. Other than the flush of humiliation burning my cheeks, and the fervent hope I’d developed the ability to vanish, nobody knew it was my work. Later in the day, I had a pitch appointment with one of the agents from the panel. I almost backed out, but decided that would be the coward’s way out. When we met, I said, “I’m pitching the book your panel just eviscerated.” She had the good grace to look ashamed and mumbled, “Well, you know, that was mainly done for the entertainment value.”

After I returned home, the doubts set in. Even though I had several published books, I was convinced The Blue Rose was a dud. It languished in my computer for several years. Had it not been for my librarian friend, Lynne Greene, it would still be unfinished. She’d read the first few chapters and, each time we met, she’d ask, “Have you finished the magic baby book?” Tired of telling her, “No,’ I began to work on it again. With much trepidation, I pitched it to my editor along with a couple of other ideas.


Much to my surprise, she loved the concept of a teen-age boy in an all-male household raising a baby girl. A publication date was set and I tackled the book again. The Blue Rose became Baby Gone Bye. I dithered over the first page but decided to leave it alone. Incidentally, the book still begins, “The night Gabe Delgado found out he was a father …”

Lessons learned:

1.Industry professionals can be wrong.
2. Seek feedback from people you trust.
3. Trust yourself more. Listen to your inner critic. When it goes ding, ding, ding, don’t ignore it. You’re on the wrong track.
4. Attempt to be as supportive to yourself as you are to others. Above all, don’t let anything or anybody stop you from writing your story. If it needs to be told, tell it.

Have you ever been stopped in your tracks by criticism or self doubt? Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Baby Gone Bye.