December 22, 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Let me take you back to the olden days, back in the early 1980s. Personal computers were around back then, but they were quite expensive and few people had one. The internet? Barely even thought of, let alone used.

The following occurred more times than I care to count:

I carefully typed my manuscript (as error-free as possible) on my trusty Sears electric typewriter. I then placed my book in a stationery box along with a cover letter, title page, synopsis, and an SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope).  With a rubber band around the box to be sure it held together for the transit to NYC, it went into the toughest padded envelope available . Included with the box was another large, padded envelope, addressed to me, with enough postage attached for return if the book was rejected.  Then I hauled my precious burden to the post office, had it weighed, paid what felt like a year’s salary in postage, blessed the package with good vibes, prayers, and hopes, then sent it on its way. After about six weeks, I would literally stand at the front window about 10 a.m. every day, waiting and watching for the mailman.

Step into the 21st century. I am basically doing the same thing, sans the packaging, the expensive postage, and trip to the post office. I’m anticipating affirmation (or rejection–but we won’t think about that) so I check my email a hundred times a day. What I’d really love is a phone call, but happened to me only once, when I sold my first book. The editor actually called me at 9 o’clock one night to tell me she loved my book, wanted to publish it, and asked if I had anything else to send her. Boy howdy, that was a sleepless night, I tell ya!

At any rate, the jumpy feeling in my gut, the shivers of anticipation, the uneasy dread … those feelings haven’t changed. It’s been a long time since my work has been rejected. If this new series I’ve created is turned down, I have a feeling I will suffer disappointment just as keenly as I did years ago, watching as the mailman brought that battered returned manuscript to my door.

Send some good vibes my way, will you?

December 12, 2015

Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015

That darker, deeper, more serious book I’ve mentioned a time or two has been giving me fits. Many authors don’t bother to title their books. They’d rather let their editors do it for them. Not me. I need a real title in order to feel as if I’m working on a real book.

I have spent hours seeking a title. I poured over the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Shakespeare. I looked in my trusty, beat-up old book of quotes. I scoured the internet. I meditated. I sent the story outline to some friends and begged their help. I developed a short list of possibilities, but none of it resonated.  I was ready to give up and call it “Untitled Book”.

At my desk a few days later, I found a small slip of paper clinging wetly to the bottom of my glass of sweet tea. I peeled it off, but just as I pitched the damp scrap into the trash basket, I noticed something written on it.  At some point in my frenzied search for a title, I had scrawled a snippet from Wordsworth’s Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.  Five words.  “The glory and the dream”.

There it was. I had my title. Apparently I’d had it for days and didn’t realize it.

Funny how we don’t recognize what we need until we’ve exhausted our resources and decide to give up. At that point, we discover our answer in the strangest places. It’s been there all along.

December 8, 2015, Tuesday

I am not a multi-tasker.

Because I dislike chaos and confusion (i.e., too many things going on at once), I tend to work on one book at a time until it’s finished. If an idea for a different story occurs to me while I’m writing, I make a note of it, but continue to write. To stop working on one story in order to fiddle with a new idea is the perfect plan for creating stacks of unfinished manuscripts. It’s why a lot of talented writers remain unpublished. But I digress.

Right now, I am going against the grain. I am working on two books at once, and it feels a little weird.

You read that right. Just don’t spread it around and ruin my reputation as a drudge.

One of the books is a simple cozy mystery. I created a nice little road map for the plot a few months ago. If I choose to do so, and have few interruptions, I can get the book written in a month.

The other book is a deep, dark, psychological tale. It is not a story to be dashed off in a flurry of enthusiasm. No indeed. A page or two, then it’s time to rest, to ponder, to meditate, to prepare for the next page or two.  This book, too, has its map laid out, ready for me to follow. Unlike the mystery’s fun and gentle path, the written journey for this one is filled with metaphorical rugged valleys, tangled forests, churning waters, dangerous grounds, sudden drop-offs, betrayal, bloodshed, love, hate, goodness and darkness. There is no hurrying through this story. Word by word, slow and steady, examined and re-examined.  The writing of it is going to take a while.

I’m interested in how other people fulfill their goals. Would you please share with me? Do you wait for circumstances to be just right, everything exactly in place? Do you take one goal and work hard for only that one? Do you plow ahead and get everything done at once? Do you flounder and struggle and end up quitting in frustration?

Journal Entry for November 17, 2015

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Oh my ears and whiskers.

*takes out watch and looks at it*

I do feel somewhat like the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland: busy, late, more than a little anxious.

You may have noticed that I’ve been “away.” Not away, away. But away from journal writing. In the flurry of these last few months, I neglected it terribly.

This has long been a problem with me and diaries. More pressing matters tend to push journaling into the background until it resembles the underside of my bed, all cobwebby and dusty and forgotten.

Update: I’ve finished the projects I was working on earlier this year.

Also, I have finished the first book in what I hope will be a new series for children. It is in the editor’s queue right now. Keep your fingers crossed!

I’m writing a new book for yet another line of mysteries for Annie’s Fiction. Confidentiality dictates that I can’t tell you too much about that yet, but I’ll share more when I can.

Then, there’s the new book I’m working on. It is not under contract nor have I even approached any editor with the premise, but I really like it. A serious story set in rural 1930s Georgia about the bastard child of a poor white man and beautiful black woman. Stepping a little out of my familiar zone on this one, but I want to be stretched as a writer. This book will stretch me.

So, as you see, I’ve not been lazy. Just away.

Until next time ….

July 8, 2015

Wednesday, July 8.

Last night I finished an intensive deep edit on a friend’s manuscript. This edit was important to us both, and it took me more than two weeks of uninterrupted work time to finish. What a sigh of relief!

Editing for someone else can be scary, especially when we are friends. In the past I did it a lot, but then hard feelings erupted more often than not. These days, I only do deep edits for writers who are professional enough not to get bent out of shape by some tough critiques and suggestions.

It’s now time for me to move back to my own work.

But first…

I’m going to clean this house. I like to clean after intense, prolonged brain sessions. It’s relaxing. Besides, when writing/editing has me fully engaged at my desk, the dust bunnies get busy. Laundry multiplies. Things in the ‘fridge begin to grow fur. Bare feet stick to the floor. The rooms take on a “funny odor.” (And I don’t mean, funny-haha)  Ew.

The great thing about cleaning is that it gives my little gray cells a chance to unwind, if they want to. Most of the time, they are stirring the stewpot of ideas always simmering in my head. That’s OK. I have plenty of paper and pens scattered around the house. I can jot down those ideas and get back to scrubbing and polishing.

So tell me, do you find mindless chores (cleaning, mowing the lawn, washing the car, etc.) tedious or relaxing? Necessary or needless?

And tell me this: have you ever done something good for someone only to have them resent it, perhaps even sever a friendship because of it?

Comment here. I’d love to hear from you.