The necessary break

This past week, I was at the beach … St. Simons Island, to be exact. Shopping, eating sea food, walking on the beach, floating in the pool, exploring historic sites, and enjoying the company of my oldest son and daughter-on-law. Also the three granddogs.

And not even thinking of writing.

Bruno loves the beach. So many new friends to meet, so many birds to chase, and lovely water to wade in.

I didn’t check my sales, do any  searches for publishers or agents, or even plan out my next book.

Nope, I relaxed. Read a little, talked, walked the dogs.

And I didn’t feel even a little bit guilty.

We all need to take a break once in awhile. I’m pretty sure even those writers who stay at their desks for 8-10 hours a day, seven days a week, take a break.

Otherwise we would stagnate. We can live in our imaginations only so long before we need to refuel, and we do that by re-entering the real world.

We see things that spark our creativity, see people who could be characters in our book (and  maybe we don’t  jot the details down, but that hairdo, or tattoo, or outfit may just find itself in a description), and overhear conversations that pique our curiosity.

And don’t forget the wonderful sounds and scents we encounter. The tang of salt air, the fragrance of roses, the gentle roll of the surf … all add grist to our mill.

I am home now, ready to get to work. I’m energized when only a week ago I was busy finding excuses not to move my project forward.

If you find yourself bogged down and can’t find the time for a week or even a few days away from your WIP, you can take a mini-break by going for a walk, seeing a movie, or calling a friend and meeting her (or him) for  a glass of tea and conversation. A few hours away from your desk (or wherever you write best) won’t detract from your work.

It might even make it better.

 

 

The rocky road

No, I’m not talking about ice cream, although I love ice cream as well as anybody I know.  Since this is a blog about writing, you’ve probably guessed I’m talking about the rocky road to publication.

I’ve been fortunate to find a publisher who believed in my work, and disappointed when, due to financial difficulties,  that publisher went out of business. I found another, but they only do e-books. Correction, they will do a print version when your sales reach X number of dollars. Alas, mine have not attained that pinnacle.

So I decided to self-publish my latest book, Riverbend,  in both print and Kindle. I say Kindle and not e-book because I am trying another experiment, and that is listing the e-book version on KDP Select. Some authors say it has worked well for them, and others maybe not so much. We’ll see how that works out and I promise I’ll get back to you with the results.

Like you, I attend workshops and conferences and try to figure out what gives a writer the most exposure, or should I say return on investment? Do  you cajole, threaten and blackmail friends and relations to post reviews so you will be eligible to submit to the giant among e-book promoters, Book Bub? And then pay hundreds of dollars for an ad IF you are accepted?

Do you find sites that post banner ads for a sum of money and pray that someone sees them?  Or do you pursue book reviewers and hope their influence will increase your sales?

I’ve tried all of these (well not, Book Bub because no matter what I do, I can’t get to that magic number of reviews.) I’ve spent money and time, only to be disappointed. People say they like the book, the reviews that are posted are good to excellent, but sales are dismal.

This time I’m trying a new feature introduced by Amazon. For a fee (of course) they will place strategic ads on their pages advertising your book. You can pay as much or as little as you want, and run your campaign for one day or to  infinity. I thought I’d get on board because isn’t it in Amazon’s best interest to sell books?

I’ll let  you know how that works out, also.

Meanwhile, keeping my fingers crossed and working on my next book.

 

 

 

 

Claiming your title

I attended a library event last week and a woman came up to me and asked “Is your new book out? I can’t wait to read it.”

Pretty heady stuff! I’d like to say I ran home and finished the book, but alas, I am not one who can write 40,000 words in one day. Not even in a month with my 1,000 words a day schedule.

The important thing I took from this encounter was that someone recognized me as an author. When I first started writing, I didn’t admit to anyone that I was writing a book. I didn’t even talk about it with my family. Oh sure, my husband knew because I had to explain why I was huddled over the typewriter for hours at a time.

Yes, you read that right. Typewriter. Later on, a word processor, and finally a clunky takes-all-the-room-on-your-desk computer. But I still didn’t tell anyone. And when the book was published I announced the news to my family and close friends. I didn’t know a thing about marketing, blog tours, reviewers, or any of that. I did do a book signing at the local arts council and thought that was the height of public relations.

I got a little more aware of how things worked with my next book. But still, when asked what I did, I’d say “I’m retired” or “volunteer work.” I did not say,”I write books.”

When friends called and asked if I were busy, I’d answer “no” even though I was deep in edits. “Just puttering,” I’d say.

Why is it so many of us are hesitant to admit we are writers? How many of you say “I am an author” with confidence?

It was only this past summer that I had the courage to walk up to complete strangers and hand them a bookmark and say, “I’m a writer and I’d love you to take a look at my books.” Some looked a little taken aback, but all were friendly and a few promised to check out my website. I don’t know if it made me any new fans, but what it did was validate, at least in my own mind, that I am an author.

acac_08-12-12

Me at a book signing for my second published book. I still didn’t think of myself as an “author.”

I wish I had thought of myself as a professional from the minute I wrote “Chapter One.” Or after my first sale. But I didn’t. It took me a long time for my inner self to claim that title.

I think it comes from fear. Fear that the announcement will be met with looks of incredulity from our friends, snickers from our relatives, disbelief from acquaintances. Fear that when you mention your book title they’ll say, “How many books have you sold?” Or worse, “Never heard of it.”

I don’t think selling million books or having your name on the New York Times Best Sellers list is the benchmark. Does a baseball player get to say he’s a professional only after he’s made so many home runs? Or a lawyer after he’s won X number of cases?

I haven’t yet come to the point where I will let the phone ring when I am working. But when I’m asked if I am busy, I will say, “Hey, I’m writing right now and I’ll call you back.” Or, when people ask me what I’ve been up to, I can answer, “Working on my book” without fearing ridicule.

It doesn’t sound like a big step, but to me it’s enormous.

If you have written a book–actually sat down and typed 80,000 or so words–you are an author. It doesn’t matter if it is published or not. From the moment you wrote “The End” you can claim your worth.

Yes, you need to have it edited, proofed, find a few beta readers to give you some feedback. This is because you are a professional.

You may never get it published. Or you may decide to self-publish. That doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you wrote a book and you are an author.

 

 

 

 

 

The cat ate my homework

I don’t have a dog. I’d like to have one, but I travel too much. You can leave a cat alone for a few days, but not a dog.  And cats don’t demand to be taken for a walk when you are deep into your story and your head is in another world and the words are coming together…

Your cat may try to tromp across your keyboard while you are working, but after being put down firmly ten or fifteen times they will give up and go off to do what cats do best: take a nap. And you can get back to your story.

I have been sticking to my plan and doing my daily word count, modest as it is. The story is coming together according the my “beat sheet.” I even politely told a caller during my work time that this was my writing time and I couldn’t do whatever it was they wanted me to do. First time ever I drew a boundary line.

Then came the cat. Or rather, cats. I volunteer at the animal shelter one morning a week. A friend and I clean the cat cages. It’s a  nasty and paradoxically rewarding job. We pet and talk to the cats and reassure them. Someone once asked if we got paid and I said, “In purrs.”

Last week I talked with the director, complaining that my two cats don’t get along. Both are rescues, but they are equally ungrateful. Then came Sydney, a cat I  fostered until I could take her to her forever home. Jack played with Sydney and seemed to miss her after she was gone. He tries to play with Spooky, who will have none of it. Huge fights involving spitting and growling ensue (no one actually gets hurt).

She suggested I replace Sydney with another cat. I demurred, but then she said I could take one home on a trial basis. If it didn’t work out, I could bring it back. So I chose a kitten that was playful and friendly.

I thought I would have it back in a few days. Both Jack and Spooky were terrified of the little gray ball of fluff. I don’t think she weighs a pound, but she might have been a lion for the terror she instilled.

Now for a backstory. The  week before, I got a call from a friend who had adopted one of Spooky’s kittens (she was pregnant when we adopted her, unknown to us). The woman was moving to a senior facility and couldn’t take the cat. Did I want him back?

I had to say no. But I did, with the help of my son and daughter-in-law, find him a home. It came time to transport him to his new owner and I had to leave my three cats alone.

I drove the two and a half hours, stayed overnight, and set out the next morning, all the while worrying about what I might find when I got home.

I needn’t have fretted a minute. I was entertained that afternoon by watching Jack and Frenchy play together. ( I didn’t name her, but if you don’t recognize the name it is from a character in Grease.) Jack, three times her size, was so gentle and sweet that I almost cried.

Spooky, of course, was hiding under the bed. But at least Jack wasn’t tormenting her. I really think she needs a little Xanax.

So no writing got done for three days. I will get back on schedule. These things happen and we learn to roll with them.

Oh, and I guess Frenchy isn’t going back to the shelter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ah, the giddy excitement

After procrastinating all summer, making excuse after whining excuse, I have done what I  promised my friends, family, and all five of my fans what I would do. I sat down at my computer, opened a blank Word document, and wrote:

Work in Progress

by Sandy Bruney

Chapter One

And I kept on writing for a couple of hours. Moreover, I have sat down every single day and written something, even if it was only a correction or adjustment to what I had written the day before.

And I’m excited. I’m not sure if this story is any good (I think it is) or if I will be able to maintain the pace. (I hope I can). The point is, I am writing again after a long dry spell. I feel like someone who has given up chocolate for some obscure reason and decided to try it once more, only to be reminded at the first taste how good it is, even better than she remembered. And savors the melting sweetness on her tongue, wondering why she ever gave it up in the first place.

Yep, that’s how I feel. I’m excited and energized. I’m falling in love with my characters. I’m at the point where I need to create a cheat sheet so I can keep them straight. I’ve already called one character by two different names, but I caught it before I went too far.

I am not a writer who sits down and draws up a list of characters and their descriptions, personality quirks and so on; My characters wander into the story and tell me who they are.  Sometimes they arrive fully fleshed out. Other times, I have to wait while they reveal themselves piece by piece. It’s always fun, either way.

As for the plot, I have a good idea where it’s going, but I love being surprised by the little twists and turns that pop up while I’m thinking about something else.

There’s a little added quirk to this story. I made myself a promise that I would not get sidetracked and I would not tell myself I can write as soon as I complete this or that chore around the house and yard. I know from experience that once I start raking or cleaning or whatever, I will be too exhausted to write. So my new order of business is write first and then I give myself permission to haul out the rake or dust mop.

To my  amazement, it doesn’t work in reverse order. Instead of feeling too tired to tackle the waiting chores, I finish writing and am eager to do something physical. I’ve written a couple thousand words this week and also trimmed the hedge, scrubbed the bedroom carpet, and washed the hall and kitchen floors–all chores I have been putting off for lack of energy.

I don’t know why this works, but I’m really happy it does. Moreover, my mood is better because–ta da–my guilty conscience has slunk away.

I’m not saying what the new book is about yet, but I met a woman in the library today who, being told I was a writer, asked if I wrote romance.

“There’s romance in every story,” I told her. “What’s life without it?”

Procrastination

As I write this, it is raining outside. A lot.

Jim would be checking the rain gauge every five minutes, and spending the rest of his time watching the weather channel. He loved weather.

I can take it or leave it.  Rainy days, when they are not actual hurricanes, can be restful. Notice I did not say productive.

It is a perfect time to settle down and start that new novel I promised my half dozen fans I was going to write. But, over the summer, I have learned to procrastinate. Yes, I finished my edits. Yes, I have begun sending out queries. But when anyone asked if I am writing something new, I am forced to say “No.”

The characters are in my head clamoring to be set free. I have a glimmering sense of a possible plot.

My excuse is that what with all my gadding about this summer I haven’t had a solid block of time in which to write and that I don’t want to start something only to be interrupted just when the juices are starting to flow.

Yeah, I know BS when I hear it, too.

I think I am procrastinating because I know once I start, it is going to be a long, tough road until I write “The End.” And as I once said, “the end” is really the beginning. Rewrites, edits, submissions, more edits, promoting…

I get tired just thinking about it.

To quote Cheryl Strayed, “Writing is hard for every last one of us… Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.”

Neil Gaiman’s rule #2 for writers is “Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.”

Yep. One word after another. One sentence after another; one page…

It’s the first word, not the last, that’s so darn difficult.

 

 

 

 

Feeding the birds

I have a whiteboard calendar on my refrigerator to remind me of appointments coming up during the week. Sometimes it is empty and sometimes there are two or three things listed for the same day.calendar

Three chores stay there permanently: Wednesday, volunteer at the animal shelter; Thursday, water the plants; and Friday, clean the hummingbird feeders.

It’s not that I would forget these things, but this way I keep on schedule.

My list of chores, written or unwritten, has grown during the past year. Little by little, I took over some of the heavier duties as Jim’s strength failed. So it wasn’t too much of a change to keep on after he passed. One thing I do now that he did up until he was hospitalized is feed the birds. This was more of a joy for him than a chore. He loved watching them and never let the feeders get empty.

So I added this to my list, and every time I lift the heavy feeders down, drag out the 25-pound bag of bird seed and fill them, then stand on my tiptoes to replace them, I think of him. I wonder if he is watching and giving his little nod of approval.

I’m happy to say the squirrels have disappeared and the birds have had free access to the suet feeders. And, I haven’t had to refill them every other day due to the little thieves making off with the suet, cage and all. I have had to search the yard for the cage more than once. Which isn’t as bad as my sister has it, what with raccoons stealing her bird feeders, never to be seen again. The feeders, I mean. The raccoons keep coming back.

But where the squirrels have gone, I haven’t a clue. Maybe because the they ate every one of my crop of figs, they are too ashamed to show their greedy faces. But I’d keep feeding the birds even if the squirrels did keep stealing the suet cages and tipping the feeders, spilling the seeds on the ground.

I feel Jim’s presence when I feed the birds, and when I sit on the deck and watch them in the evening. If I keep my head still, I can imagine him on my right, watching their fluttering and listening to their songs. I can hear him laugh as the hummingbirds wage war, zooming over our heads.

I don’t need to write anything on  my whiteboard to remind myself to feed the birds. It’s too much a part of me.

Of us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Previous Older Entries

Blue Ridge Vinlandia

The Wineries of the Applalacian Foothills

Summer in New Hampshire

NH - America's Vacationland

Mimosa Mornings Writers

Writers Wearing PJs, drinking coffee, dreaming mimosas

Jennie Spallone

MYSTERY AUTHOR, SPEAKER, AND BOOK REVIEWER

Rurally Screwed

Jessie Knadler

The Dream Well

We believe time spent sleeping is time spent well!

Ozark Pagan Mamma

Folk Magic, Druidism, Heathenry, & Pagan Parenting

WTFville

when life surprises you!

Farm to Table Asian Secrets

Full-Flavored Recipes for Every Season

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

Pam Grout

#1 New York Times best-selling author

The Chocolate Box

Romance for Every Taste

Hiking Photography

Beautiful photos of hiking and other outdoor adventures.

Book Ends and Odds

Mary Incontro blogs on books, pop culture, and criminal cases

Writer Unboxed

about the craft and business of fiction

Chick Lit Is Not Dead

Two girls who believe that books with high fashion and happy endings never go out of style

Angela Quarles

Witty, Charming, Captivating Fiction

%d bloggers like this: