Work is a Four-Letter Word…

…no matter how much you claim to love it. So is “book.” In which I explore the idea of working on a passion.

Have you ever considered your writing career as work? Most people thinks of work as a four-letter word(I know my father did), but the truth is writing is work. The secret is loving the aspects of it. If you’re truly lucky, your avocation can be your vocation.

I don’t believe anyone who tells me they love every aspect of writing. There’s plenty about it that resembles work the four-letter word. You have to plan and schedule your time; you have to get supplies; do research; you have to deal with outside forces passing judgment on your efforts; you have to deal with the empty page that can be daunting; you have overcome the self-doubts that plague you. You have deadlines, carpal tunnel syndrome, and isolation from those who don’t understand what you’re doing and just what it entails. Frustration and pain go hand in hand with writing. So don’t tell me it’s not work.

So why do we keep at it? Because our work gives us joy and satisfaction, and fulfills our creative needs. We tend to forget the pain when the joy is upon us (kind of like going through a second–or more– childbirth) because the joy is so much more powerfmargaritaul.

So in this new year, I’m telling you to get back to work, and may your joys outweigh the pains this year. And any to follow.  Work hard and reap the joys.

And when you’re done with work…

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The Mean Vet by MC Beaton

Obsession by Jennifer Armentrout

A Little Loneliness…

…but don’t feel sorry for me. It’s my way of life and I like it, and you should too. If you’re a reader. In which I examine the life of writing.

So much of writing is a lonely endeavor. Authors aren’t known for being social. We live in our made-up worlds by ourselves and stare in silence at the bank page/screen (Unless you talk to yourself, but I won’t get into that here.) For many of us it’s how we actually enjoy living our lives. I, personally, am an introvert. My mother laughs when I say that. She can’t understand how I could have performed so easily as a younger adult on stage and that I still enjoy being in front of people but still call myself an introvert. I believe it’s because that’s not really me there. I enjoy the attention, but I’m not really exposing myself; that’s a persona up there.

Still, like all (most) humans, even writers crave interaction with others. That’s what writers’ groups are for. When I get together with other writers, I can feel less alone. Here are the others who know what I am going through. They have suffered my disappointments, lived my successes, cheered for me as I have cheered for them. My writing circles make me realize I’m not alone out there. My dream is not outrageous or crazy. Have friends who share the same dream. So as I embark on writing yet another novel and exploring a new world by myself until the time that I expose my world to other explorers (readers), I buoyed with the knowledge that I have people I can lean on when the seas get rough or the journey stalls. Thanks in advance.

RWA book signing
RWA book signing

Still the world has changed and this new publishing world requires me to put myself out there and be “social”. Social media, advertising, promotion are all part of the author’s responsibility now, especially if you’re self-publishing, but it’s also true if you are on the traditional path. Self-promotion can be overwhelming. Am I crossing some line? Did I say too much? Are people sick of me yet? How can I pimp myself and my books?  Are you sick of me yet?

But the rewards are great. To hear from someone you’ve never met that your book moved/entertained/helped them is amazing. Yes, the writer friends offer support, but the praise from readers is that treasure that makes the hours of loneliness and agony of putting words on the page worthwhile. And readers can’t do that unless they can find you. And in order to create the stories that readers will respond to requires embracing the loneliness.

And you wonder why authors have the reputation of being a little crazy.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now

Bad Luck Trouble by Lee Child

With This Ring by Celeste Bradley

Introducing Agatha Raisin: The Quiche of Death by MC Beaton

“Ride, Boldly Ride…If You Seek for Eldorado”

In which I explore the nobility of following a dream with the aid of a poem by Edgar Allan Poe.

 An English teacher told me once I would never be a writer. At the time I didn’t listen because I thought I was going to be an actress, but those words stuck with me. When I finally realized that I had stories inside me (I had just been acting them out instead of writing them), I remembered what that teacher had said, and ignored her. I had a dream to pursue.

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 9.25.06 AMAll artists have much in common. We pursue dreams. We aren’t always successful, depending on your definition of success (yes, that’s one of those words where the definition can mean different things to different people despite having an entry in the dictionary). Many of us don’t make money, many of us have day jobs because we can’t support ourselves with our art, many of us have other responsibilities. So we worry about being real artists, but if you valiantly make the effort, don’t worry. The pursuit of the dream is as noble as the dream itself.

Think about it. If you dream about being a writer or whatever, and you do nothing to achieve that dream, then it’s a nice fantasy, but little else. But if you are actively writing (or whatever), and learning, and trying, and submitting, then you are as valid a writer as Ms. Bestseller whose 400th book comes out next week (there is that propensity for hyperbole again). The pursuit of the dream is as noble as the dream itself.

I’ve put Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “Eldorado” here, because it embodies this ideal. A knight spends his whole life searching for Eldorado, but in vain. It’s a poem about perseverance. Yes, he fails, but look at that last stanza. As the knight is dying, he meets a ghost, and the ghost tells him to keep on. “Ride, boldly ride.” That doesn’t sound to me as if the ghost is trying to dissuade him from his quest.

So go on. Ride.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Tears of the Rose by Jeffe Kennedy

Harry Potter und die Kammer des Schreckens by JK Rowling

Slacking Off

In which I ask for help in either, a) getting inspiration to continue to work, or , b) getting permission to take a break.

It’s that time of year when the desire to do actual work fails me completely. I have presents to buy and wrap, special cookies to bake, and possibly travel plans to make. I get visitors or at least a chance to see people I haven’t in a long time. But I also have THE BOOK calling to me from in my brain. And with it’s call comes a healthy dose of guilt. I should be working, but instead I’m wrapping (hey, at least I’m not rapping. That would be frightening.) I should be plotting, but instead I’m partying.Pixie Christmas

So how do you keep on track? Do you cut yourself slack at this time of year (Or whenever your “time of year” may be)? Do you set a rigid schedule? Do you allow yourself to take a break? Is it okay to take a break? Inquiring minds want to know.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Harry Potter und die Kammer des Schreckens by JK Rowling

Tears of the Rose by Jeffe Kennedy

 

Screw the Muse; It’s the Internal Editor I Worry About

In which I talk about the struggle between getting it right and just getting it done. The story is there; it’s the writing of it that’s hard (Well, that’s a no brainer).

Not only am I the world’s worst typist (You have learned about my penchant for hyperbole, right?), I tend to be anal about grammar, punctuation, etc. So turning off that internal editor just to get words on the page is one of the most exhausting elements of novel process that I go through. I want to correct as the symbols, letters and words, hit the page. It’s excruciating to let the mistakes lie and move onto the next thing for me. But without that haranguing voice echoing through my brain, I can write with more feeling, with more freedom. That bitch’s voice telling us the writing is no good, error-laden, and pointless, freezes the product. Only when you ignore the urge to go back and edit every sentence will you get past that first sentence, that first paragraph, that first chapter.

My current WIP, chicken scratches and all.
My current WIP, chicken scratches and all.

Not all of us work in the same manner. Some of us are final draft writers. Every word we put on the paper is perfect. But we’ve already done a lot of the prep work ahead of time. We’ve outlined, plotted, planned, and meditated to make that draft possible. Some of us are first draft writers. We don’t care what we put on the paper; we can always go back and revise later.  I fall somewhere in between and drift from one extreme to the other and visit the entire scale along the way. In any case, that internal editor can keep us from producing anything. If the bitch is telling us that we’re not good enough, we can freeze up and never produce a sentence. And that’s what we’re aiming for: producing sentence after sentence until we have a book.

I wrestle with my internal editor daily. Only after I lock her in a cage can I get to work and produce my stories. She struggles to pick the lock every time, but if I just get lost in the story, I can keep her there. I’m happy to let her out when it’s revision time. Then I can use her input, but until then, she needs to disappear. I still can’t let myself just write anything on the page–I stop to find the right term, the proper historical reference, etc.–but I’m getting better.  When I hand write, I can just circle a word I don’t like, put a check mark over it and leave it. I’m not so good when I type directly onto the computer.

And there’s always that little voice that tells me I’m not good enough. If I could learn how to shut her up, I’d be a much happier writer. I’ve heard she never goes away. The bitch.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Harry Potter und die Kammer des Schreckens by JK Rowling

It’s Never Too Late. . .

In which I talk about learning, errors, the importance of questions, the value of knowledge, and an embarrassing story that makes me laugh to this day.

I’ve been at the writing gig for many years now and I’ve found two constants in this endeavor: one is that everything changes–editors change, houses change, styles change, public tastes change; and two there is always something new to learn, whether it’s research, vocabulary, genre, or grammar. People often speak about the changes, but I get excited about the learning. Call it the nerd in me, but I love to learn a new word or some minute grammar point. And don’t get me started on research. For my last manuscript, I had to visit a brewery, take a tour and taste some beer. It’s hard work.

Today, my competence in English is solid. Of course I make errors, but they’re more likely to be typos or skipping words because my thoughts are faster than my fingers, or just not seeing mistakes on the page because I’ve stared at the screen for too long than actual lack of knowledge. But it wasn’t always the case.

In the past couple of days, I’ve seen several mentions of the fight over one space or two after a period. It reminded me of my very first term paper. US History (I still remember the title: The German-American Bund: the Fritz Kuhn Years: 1937-1939).  I have never taking any typing classes (thus the reason for so many typos when I write), and the requirement was ten typed pages, double spaced. It was my first typed paper. I had to borrow the typewriter (in return I bought a new cartridge for the owner–remember those?), get some unlined paper (I bought onion skin–yuck), and hunt and peck my way to ten pages. But I did it. And being the kind of student I was, I was the first person in the school to turn it in. Done. Relief.

A few hours later, my roommate (I went to boarding school, remember?) said that the teacher had held it up to show how not to do a paper, that it wasn’t doubled spaced. Well, I went straight to the teacher and told him he was wrong. I had double spaced. He said it didn’t look like it, but I told him again he was wrong because I had double spaced.  And indeed I had–type a word, space, space, type another word, space, space, and so on for ten pages. I thought it an odd requirement at the time, but it wasn’t until years later that I realized where I had made my error. I think my paper was actually 1.5 spaced as regards the line spacing.Photo on 2012-06-21 at 16.37 #5

Ask questions, people. Questions are good things. (By the way I received an A- for the paper. Thanks,Mr. Waples.)

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen by JK Rowling

It’s alive!!

In which I parade my new tweaked and redesigned book covers, including two brand spanking new ones.

One of the most fun aspects of self-publishing are designing the covers. You have complete control. If you are traditionally published, they ask for input, but the final say is theirs. I’ve had quite a few covers I’ve loved, and one I’ve hated. My all time favorite cover of mine (I didn’t say book, mind you, because that would show favoritism and I don’t want to hurt any of my books’ feelings) is the one for The Wish List. It had every element of my story and looked, well, magical.

So without further ado, here is the parade of new tweaked covers:

MatterOfConvenienceLatestSmall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MatterOfPrideLatestSmall

 

 

 

MatterOfHonorLatestSmall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For these three, we made my name bigger and consistent, enlarged the people and cut off a bit more of their heads (Have you noticed that cut off people are big in covers these days?

TameARoseCoverLatestSmallTemptationsWarriorCoverLatestSmall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For these two, again we made my name much bigger and kept the consistency with the first three. Took the guy off To Tame a Rose, just to see how it does.

FalconAndWolfLatestSmall

 

 

This one is brand new. Different people, different background. Notice the name is the same as on the others, but we had fun putting the dragon in the corner of the name block just to make sure you know it’s a fantasy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EverYoursLatestSmallYoursAlwaysLatestSmallThis two are part of a series so we gave them the same look. Ever Yours was already out there, but we made the mask bigger and moved it slightly, and, of course, my name is bigger. And then it was easy to match the look for Yours Always.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TheSeaEagleSmall

 

 

 

 

And here’s the last one, the one I introduced earlier this week. The Sea Eagle is a brand new book out for the first time. Swashbuckling hero, feisty strong heroine, and a tale that spans from the Caribbean to the Scottish Highlands. Yup. It’s big.

 

 

 

 

So there you have it. All the books are live on Amazon, Nook, and Kobo (except Yours Always, but I swear it is going up today!) I hope you go check them out.

Oh, and Happy Halloween.

–Gabi

 

Books, I’m reading now;

The Splendor Falls by Susanna Kearsley

The Way of Kings by Brian Sanderson

 

 

 

“I’m Your Biggest Fan”

I don’t care if you think you’re the biggest fan of my favorite book. You’re wrong. And here’s why…

You want to know the magic of books? It’s that every book is yours. Allow me to explain. When an author writes a book (I may just be speaking about myself; if so, just change the generalization to references to me), he or she is trying to give life to a story floating out in the nebula of our brains. I don’t care how much you plot, plan, or plead, the story you write will never achieve the vision you held in your head. So we do our best because we want to share our vision with the reader. And notice how I wrote “the reader,” not “the readers.” Of course authors want many readers; hell, we would all love to hit the lists, but when we speak about those who enjoy our work, we tend to speak in the singular. Yes, we are trying to reach many, but each book can only reach one person at a time.

Some (very few) of my favorite books--the ones that were close enough that I could take this pictures quickly.
Some (very few) of my favorite books–the ones that were close enough that I could take this picture quickly.

What I take from a book is different from what you take. Yes, we can both (all?) love the hero, hate the villain, but when I’m reading it’s just me and the page. When I’m in a book (and I would say I am in a book), every image is mine. Yes, the words create them, but my mind pictures are different from the author’s and different from yours. When I love a book, it doesn’t matter if someone can beat me in a trivia contest over its contents, or can name every fact. The only thing that matters is how I respond to it. Because it’s now mine. The book, its story, the characters, and my experience with them. Mine, mine, mine.

As an author I can tell you it’s hard to let your book go out into the world because part of letting others own the book is that some will not like it. Their experience will be unsatisfactory. They will think the hero stupid, or the heroine weak, or the villain too over the top. Unfortunately, those are valid responses as well. Remember, the book belongs to the reader.

And thus the magic. When you pick up a book, you bring yourself to it. Your responses are yours—you don’t have to justify them, or support them, or debate them (although if you can support your arguments in a debate and like that sort of thing, it can be fun). When a reader says he or she is the book’s biggest fan, he or she is right, even if there are thousands that say so. When I’m reading or rereading a favorite novel, it’s my book, and I am the biggest fan. Of course I’m the biggest fan (or biggest detractor), because the story I read/experience is different from anyone else’s; it is mine. It is unique.

And that’s magic.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks

Honor’s Price by Alexis Morgan

Space, Time, and the Woo-Woo Contingent

. . .or My Experiences Posing as an “Expert” when I feel like a fraud. In which I give a report about Bubonicon 2014, the Albuquerque Sci -Fi and Fantasy convention.

I spent the weekend at a science fiction/fantasy convention here in Albuquerque. It’s called Bubonicon because New Mexico is famous (sort of) for having the most cases of bubonic plague each year. I find the name amusing. The symbol is a rat–Perry Rodent, to be precise. I know this because I wrote the short story that appeared in the program featuring non other. That was my first foray into the world of becoming a con artist. I had to write a sci-fi story featuring a rat. While I love Sci-fi and had written a couple of short stories (now appearing in the Preternatural collection by GS Anderson), this was scary. I chose to do a light-hearted romp filled with allusions to famous sci-fi and fantasy titles and characters. There’s a dog named Kahn, a quote from Star Wars, and a nod to my daughter’s favorite speculative fix series The Power Puff girls. I think sixteen different puns/groaners/ allusions in one thousand words. (I could probably count, but I’m too lazy).

Program, Bubonicon 2014
Program, Bubonicon 2014

While my last books were indeed fantasy (paranormal romances) and I have had a spec fic story collection published and I’ve a complete fantasy novel that we’re starting to shop around, I feel like a fraud. There are so many books I haven’t read, so many shows I haven’t watched (Supernatural to name one), that I felt like Garth and Wayne: “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy.”

I appeared on three panels: one on tropes, one on pop culture, and one on urban fantasy vs. paranormal romance. I won the tropes panel. Just kidding. My husband and I have a running joke that I always try to win panels after my experience on a panel in the past where they other participants were so patronizing and dismissive of my knowledge and then I blew them all away. I certainly didn’t win the pop culture panel. I was there with Cherie Priest and Ernie Cline, who have such big personalities that I was as caught up in their stories as the audience. I did get to speak and even get some laughs, but I was content to mostly sit back and listen. It’s awesome to get on a panel with two big names and ride on their brilliance. I highly recommend that strategy. The third panel was a group of women, mostly romance writers whom I know, and we talked about the differences between urban fantasy and paranormal romance. We came to no real conclusion but took a lot of questions and made many erudite points. I was the moderator of that one, so protocol required I tried not to win and let the others speak.

It was fun. Scary, but fun. I plan to go again next year, if they’ll have a fraud like me. If you were at the book signing, I gave away THE WISH LIST to the first twenty-five people who wanted them.  With luck I’ll have more cred next year, but I guarantee, I will still feel like a fraud. I’ll let you in on a secret: most authors do.

Let me know if you want to read the Perry Rodent story. It’s mine, so I can post it here.

–Gabi

P.S. While it’s not quite the dress up con as others are, I did see a kid dressed up as an awesome Dr. Horrible, and a wonderful Howard Wolowitz. (Pictures, damn it, pictures. I am so bad at remembering to capture cool moments.)

Books I’m reading now:

Holy cow, I finished Serpent of Venice last night and haven’t picked up a new one yet. I have a pile to chose from (from the RWA conference) and I haven’t chosen yet. Stay tuned.

As Churchill said…

“Never Give Up”…or How to Beat the Fear of Failure

In which I talk about the power of persistence without actually using the word.

One of the driving forces that keeps me writings embarrassment.  Everyone knows me as a writer, and if I run into someone I know after a gap of time, the first question they always ask me is, “Are you still writing?”

Ballons a group of readers surprised me with yesterday. The blu one says "Make a Wish"
Ballons a group of readers surprised me with yesterday. The blu one says “Make a Wish”

How do you answer that?

Well, since I haven’t achieved all I have wanted to achieve in my writing career, I am still writing. But what keeps me writing is fear of seeing a hint of pity in their eyes. I don’t want to be known as that friend who wrote a few books but she doesn’t now. I want to be known as  their writer friend. So my answer to the question is truly, “Yes, always.”

Picking yourself up is hard. Sometimes the effects are lingering. But often, after a good night’s sleep, you realize that the world didn’t end, the sun came up (even if it’s behind a rain cloud),  you didn’t die, and it’s a new day. And you choose to continue.

Basically, I’ve found the one thing I cling to through any discouragements. Find that one thing that will keep you going. Money is a valid goal; awards are a valid goal; grades are a valid goal (if you’re in that world); and avoiding embarrassment is a valid goal.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore

Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs