Sunday, May 31, 2015

Weekly Update: The End of May

Whew. This month went by in a whirl.

Last weekend, as I mentioned in my previous post, I went to Lightning in a Bottle. It was a crazy, fun New Age art and music festival, and I will spill all the details ad naseum starting next Saturday. But I'll give you a sneak peak. Try and guess what's going on in the photo below.

Monday evening I dropped off my dusty bags stuffed with laundry. The house was a mess, and my mind was a bit spaced out. I'd lost all my previous efficiency and had trouble getting back into my routine. I didn't want to empty dishwashers, fold clothes, make dinners, and get up early in the morning. I wanted to dance. And color. And dream.

Unfortunately, I had no time to recover. My hard copy of The Changelings, my first novel, is scheduled to come out on Tuesday, which means I had this one weekend to get all the tedious-yet-necessary details finished. Details like adding in the edits to my Kindle version, getting in my Certificate of Resale to Createspace (so I wouldn't have to deal with double sales tax), making sure my Library of Congress Number was up-to-date, and other equally boring stuff publishers have to deal with.

Plus the dusty laundry piled in my room!

When I decided to come out with a hard copy of The Changelings, I thought that 6 months would plenty of time to do a good job. But, man, has it gone by quickly. Between getting a full cover from my editor, figuring out how to format the text to Createspace, waiting for the proofs to arrive, getting copies into Beta Readers' hands, re-reading it for the umpteenth time, putting in the final edits, re-formatting for Createspace, putting the changes into Amazon, getting my Sales Permit and Resale Certificate, getting a PO box, getting a Library of Congress Control Number, etc., etc., the time just flew. And now, here I am with days left, praying it all comes together.

I guess we'll know on Tuesday.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bi-Weekly Update: 5-21-15 Jam-Packed Weekends

I hope you'll forgive my lack of updates, but I did warn you that May would be my busy month, and here I am in the thick of it. Funny thing is, now that it's actually come, I'm enjoying it. All that angst and dread and drama got expended for nothing!

Last weekend was last chance to make any major corrections to The Changelings, although most of these were cosmetic: grammar, spelling, and minor clarifications. I'd handed out a few proof copies for Beta Readers to look over a month ago and collected them back a week ago; in addition, I went over my own work again for the umpteenth time. Having gathered my data, it was time to imput it. That was as pleasant as doing taxes. It was tedious and boring, yet it required enough concentration that I couldn't watch TV while doing it. I ended up staring at the computer screen for, oh, it must have been five hours on Saturday and another seven on Sunday.

But I finished!

And believe me, that was reward enough. What I dreaded more than anything was not finishing and having to go over the corrections all the way up until Memorial Day Weekend.

Memorial Day weekend I have plans. I'm going to Lightning in a Bottle with my friend Ashley and her boyfriend Matt. In fact, in a few hours I'm going to leave for her house. We're going to leave early Friday morning for the far-off campsite of Bradley, CA (a little north of San Luis Obispo) and stake our tent. Now I've never been to Lightning in a Bottle, but Ashley has and she's spoken enough of it to give me an impression of art and lights and music and community and adventure. So I'm very excited about going and soaking it all in for myself.

Wedged between these two boulder-like weekends, the rest of the week has been a flighty blur of substitute jobs (four of them), packing, baking (vegan bannana muffins, cranberry muffins, butterscotch cookies), packing, chores, and writing. Yes, somehow, I managed to get writing done. It's the end of the school year and sometimes I get assignments where I don't have much to do. During these times, I surreptitiously open my notebook and scribble out a scene or two. Would I prefer three or four hours stretched out on the floor with a cup of hot coffee nearby? Yes. But I've learned not to be picky, and this week, I'm frankly amazed to get any new writing done at all.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Artist and the Businesswoman

Within every writer, there are two different aspects of the personality, each one battling to have their say.

The Artist...
cares about the work.

The Businesswoman...
cares about the audience.

The Artist...
sees the work as a sacred covenant between the self and the source of inspiration. Her goal is to translate these intangibles into a concrete form.

The Businesswoman...
sees the work as a series of selling points. Her goal is to find an audience who will appreciate the work, preferably showing their appreciation in the form of money.

The Artist...
wants the world to go the hell away and let her work.

The Businesswoman...
loves social interactions and takes appropriate opportunities to present the work.

The Artist...
creates messes. Like a whirlwind, she leaves behind trails of notebooks, manuscripts, dried out pens, half-read books, and receipts for coffee shops

The Businesswoman...
tries desperately to sort through the chaos and organize them neatly in three ring binders, file folders, and pencil cases.

The Artist...
knows the work will be finished when it is ready.

The Businesswoman...
knows the audience expects the product at a certain time.

The Artist...
is sick of being asked what she's writing about by people she knows won't read it.

The Businesswoman...
knows that each time she gets to talk about the book is one more opportunity to sell it to someone new.

The Artist...
hates being criticized.

The Businesswoman...
loves getting feedback.

The Artist...
cares nothing for money. She know that the true value of life comes from love, friendship, long walks in the park on beautiful days, spiritual fulfillment, a shelf full of well-paged book, and good, hot coffee.

The Businesswoman...
is obsessed with finance. She reminds the artist that love and friendship might be free, but all those paperbacks and trips to Starbucks are not.

The Artist...
needs the businesswoman to find people to read her book.

The Businesswoman...
needs the artist to create things for her to sell.

The Artist...
draws upon the businesswoman's research when she writes, making sure that the passages are clear and suitable for potential readers.

The Businesswoman...
draws upon the artist's skills when writing book blurbs and synopsis, conducting interviews, or preparing speeches.

are in competition for the same precious resources: time, energy, and money.

come perfectly-formed into existence. They must be nurtured and educated.

are creative, must take risks, and suffer a full range of mood swings, from elation, frustration, fear, anxiety, annoyance, and occasionally despair.

can fully be divorced from the other.

As a writer you must take care to develop both aspects of your personality, finding value in each and giving both time to grow. It doesn't mean you have to develop them simultaneously or even in equal measure. Both sides can be ignored for a time--and may even benefit from the rest--but they cannot be ignored forever. They must learn to compromise over decisions and find an ethical, productive, and satisfying way to co-exist.

Weekly Update: 5-10-15 Book Burning and Mother's Day

Last week, I was clearly in a bad mood. But I spoke to my mother and cried it all out, and this week I felt much better. I worked five jobs this week, Monday through Friday, including two days in a row teaching language arts at Yorba Linda High School.

The sophmores were reading Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's Dystopian Science Fiction where firemen are paid to burn books. I'd read it once in junior high, and thought it was all right. Re-reading parts of it for class was actually an enlightening experience, because in the two decades or so that's passed, the world has changed and I've changed, too. The setting Bradbury describes, with multiple screens taking over the house, technology taking over social relationships, and lowered attention spans seems frighteningly close to today's world.

Yet I also found it heartening, because Fahrenheit 451 is, beyond all else, a treatsie on why books really matter, why it's important to read and to think. As a writer, one of the things I constantly struggle with is the idea that my writing doesn't matter, that nothing I write means anything, that I'm not really contributing anything to the world. So imaging a world without books really put things into perspective for me. I think I may have to go back and re-read the whole book all over again.

* * *

A few announcements.

The Changelings, my first novel, should be coming out into a very nice paperback copy on June 2, 2015. The listed price is $21.99 (due to distribution costs), but I'm hoping to offer discounts as soon as I figure out how to do it. It's currently available on Kindle for $2.99, but I'm planning a special promotion to make the Kindle version free around June 2nd, so if you can't afford a hard copy, at least you can pick up a digital copy.

To celebrate the publication of my first book, I will be throwing a launch party on June 20, 2015 at Canyon Hills Library in Anaheim from 2:00-4:00. There will be books for sale, snacks, a reading by me, and opportunities to win prizes. I'm still working out the details, but I'll let you know when I know more.

If you can't make it to my launch party (or even if you can), I will be doing an event at the Brea Library with my friend, mystery-writer Michelle Knowlden, on Saturday August 22nd, 11AM. More details to come.

* * *

Today is Mother's Day. Myself, I'm not a mother and may never be one, but for all those people who are, I'm very much in awe of what you do. Once you become one, you never can stop. To my own mother, who is a fountain of love, support, and constant encouragement, I just want to say, I am so proud of you and grateful to have you in my life. I'd never be the person I am now, without you, Mom. I'd never have the strength to take these risks, if I didn't have you in my corner, rooting me on. So thank you, tons and tons.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Weekly Update: 5-3-15 Dark Nights and Sweet Dreams

I'll be honest, I was in a really dark mood this week. There was this nasty voice in my ear, berating me for every single thing I did or didn't do. I mean, nasty. I went through my subbing jobs, and all I kept hearing was how I was absolutely spineless, how I couldn't get the kids to listen to me, etc, etc.. And I hardly even need mention the internal cringing I felt every time I opened The Changelings in order to proof read it. I wanted to die at every single mistake.

Now, since I've turned thirty or so, I've had this constant voice in my head telling me what a loser I am. It usually comes creeping in on me in the middle of the night, right when I'm about to fall asleep. It's this weird jerk impulse that wakes me, a sense of unreality that I can't quite believe this is my life. It's fine in your twenties, if you don't know what you're doing, but in your thirties, you're supposed to pull it together and have everything figured out, not to mention actually having everything. A career. A family. A car. Your own place. And I don't. Late at night this hits me upside the head, and I think, Where the hell did I go wrong in life?

I wonder if I'd be better off not following my dream.

Sometimes I'm angry at everyone who blindly told me they believed in me, at all those self-help books written by people who were successful before they wrote their damn book and then had a midlife crisis and decided to follow their dream. Do what you love, they said, but did they warn me that doing what I loved would get me no money for decades?

They probably did, and I tuned them out, so really I can only be mad at myself. And I am. And then the voices of my perfectionistic self come roaring back.

Weirdly, this is going on right as I'm about to publish my book. I think it's brought on by the stress of having to essentially run a business: permits, taxes, distribution, launch parties, marketing, and social media, and don't forget to write every day. All the websites tell me to be profession, and I try, but how am I supposed to compete with actual publishing companies, who have people devoted to editing, who can launch a publicity campaign, who can get reviewers, who can get books into libraries and bookstores, who have accountants of their own?

And I really don't want to seem ungrateful, because it's not like my life has turned out horrible. I have people who have supported me, who do believe in me. My parents says they're proud of me, my dad's my biggest fan of my book, my writer's group has thrown themselves into promoting my book. And when I think about why I wrote, why I felt I had to get this book out, it was because I had this idea that I could die at any moment, and if that were to happen, if I had one thing to give to the world, it was my writing. I was going to write a book come hell or high water.

One good thing about being old is knowing that this isn't the first time I've sat and cried because things weren't going my way. Hell, I've done it since high school. When I was in Japan, when everything looked so rosy, I cried because I was lonely, I cried because I felt that I'd never finish my novel, I cried because I was afraid of what I was going to have to sacrifice to be a writer, I cried because I didn't know what I was doing with my life.

These things often happen because I'm going through a moment where I know change is coming, and I have to break myself against whatever difficulties I'm up against, if I'm going to take risks and try new things. I want to be honest, it's hard to follow your dream, and in that moment when things are hardest, you're alone. It doesn't matter how many people are behind you, you have to make that decision by yourself. And it doesn't matter how many people have gone in front of you or how clearly they've marked the trail, the first time you climb that mountain, you feel like the first person to ever do it. Because it's new to you.

* * *

And now, because this whole rant has been dark and depressing, I want to tell you about a dream I had on Friday morning that changed my perspective a bit and made me feel happy.

I dreamed I was a model, much skinnier than now, but not freakishly so. I was healthy and beautiful and I remember I just glowed with confidence. Nothing could get me down.

I went to the salon to get a makeover and out came the rudest hair-dresser ever. He had this look of utter disdain and said I couldn't possibly be a model. For the most part I was ignoring him, because who cared? But then, he said I had no talent, and that rankled me. I pointed out that I wrote a book, and he started to mock it.

At which point, I sprang out of the salon chair and chewed him out. I called him stupid, that he didn't know what he was talking about, that he didn't have a high school degree, that I had a Batchelor's Degree and read Faust last week. And I just went on insulting him.

Now, I've had dreams where I've thrown a tantrum, trying to get people to acknowledge me, and they just ignore me. But not this time. The hair-stylist gaped at me with his jaw dropped, unable to come back with a single remark, while everyone in the salon stared. Damn, did I feel good to see everyone stare at me. I felt like I did back in high school drama class, when I went from the quiet girl to Lady MacBeth in the space of a single monologue. "Yeah, I can do crazy," I told the salon and sat down nicely.

I woke up feeling radiant, like that dream confidence had infected me. And the weird thing was, this dream had come out of nowhere, right in the middle of the worst of the self-hatred. I swear, it was a gift from God, like he was gently reminding me of all that I could really be. At the same time, I first began to notice how self-destructive the criticism had become.

* * *

I think the reason I've been going through this now is because May's going to be a stressful month. The Changelings comes out in June, and for all that I tried to get everything ready early, it hasn't. In addition, I have Lightning in a Bottle at the end of May, and it's also my last chance to score subbing jobs before the summer drought.

If I fall behind on my blogs this month, please forgive me. I'm just going through stressful times