Monday, April 20, 2020

Dealing With Doubt

One of the most frustrating things for many writers I know is the overwhelming sense of insecurity they have about their own work. They are the epitome of the statement one's own worst critic. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to focus, put words down on paper (or screen), and write a story beginning to end. The self doubt and nagging suspicion nothing is going to be good enough can be paralyzing. It has been a large part of why each of my books has taken so long to be published.

Never Give Up was written over the course of eight years. The first chapter was written in a single day but then nothing happened for a year and a half as I was gripped with a stomach churning fear of rejection. I picked at the manuscript for years until I dedicated myself to Nanowrimo one year and pushed through to the end. It still took me another two and a half years before it went to publish however. Between editing, allowing a beta reader to see it (yikes!), and submitting to agents I was woefully ill prepared for, it was a long process. Then I had to fight that little voice inside that said to run and hide at every new turn. My heart would race, my palms were sweating, and my stomach was in knots no matter what step I was on. The day I hit publish I cried happy tears while chugging Pepto.

When that book was done I faced another major fear. What if that was the only story I ever came up with? How was I supposed to be an author if everything I had went into just one book? Once again my fear was staggering. Later that year I was hit with inspiration for what would become the second book I would write but seventh I would publish. In fact, to date I have only published four. The fifth is with my editor, the sixth is being written even now, and the seventh will be released next year at a specially planned event.

Publishing Never Give Up was extremely important to me. It was the culmination of years of work and proved I had the ability to face my fears. It was still a long time before I felt I could do it again though. The second book I published was Survivor. This book was even worse when it came to doubt and, at one point, self destructive coping methods. Telling such a personal story was mortifying and something I attempted to back out of several times. Ultimately it was the belief that what I was sharing was more important than my fears that pushed me through. Fish, Crash, Combat, and eventually Sharing Strength all have that same belief behind them. These are stories I needed to write.

I have yet another project, somewhat writing related, that is currently taking about 70% of my time and nearly all of my concentration. It is at a level of second guessing, doubting, and nerves that I feel like I am dead in the water. I am fortunate that I have a strong team around me to keep me going. When it comes to handling the doubt in my life I turn to them and ask myself if not moving forward will bring more regret than my current fear. How do you deal with doubt?

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Learning Something New

The past couple days have been about watching shows and movies about military missions, particularly in the Middle East. The next book in the series is called Combat and centers around deployed Army soldiers serving in Afghanistan. The first three books so far have covered issues such as domestic abuse, sexual assault / bullying, and survivor's guilt. Sadly because of my experiences there was no reason to look deeper or further research on any of those subjects. I know all of them well.

I have never felt the sting of a bullet grazing my skin, or worse, punching a hole through my body. I've never attempted to keep my wits about me in the middle of chaos like a firefight. There hasn't been a time I've been given orders that would put my life or the lives of others I'm responsible for in danger and been required to obey anyway. On top of those I haven't felt the heat of the Arabian desert or the wind burying sand in my pores. I have no idea what vehicles the military drives or what may have been modified by the enemy. The types of weapons used on both sides are unfamiliar as are the rankings of the U.S. Army. 

I chose these shows and movies because they give me a sense of what buildings look like and how the members of a team may communicate with one another. I can get an idea of complications that may arise during a mission I would never have thought of without the research. These shows also use language from military sources. 

There are always going to be things I have to create in a book but I want to make sure the story is as authentic as I have the ability to make it. The relationship between the soldiers will be no problem and the feeling behind the situations are something I can relate to, it is the navigating through the streets and military actions I would struggle to recreate. These are the reasons I am watching the shows and movies. I know so many people who would say you can't get a real experience by watching scripted television and for the most part I agree. However, short of jumping on a plane to Afghanistan in the middle of a global pandemic, it's what I have to work with.

I'm curious, what is the most interesting or difficult thing you have ever researched and what method(s) did you use? Was it effective? What would you change for the next time?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Adapting

This is the time in the day I would normally be doing one of two things. I would either be finishing breakfast and taking care of a few household chores before getting dressed and heading for work, or I would be halfway through a class at the gym and would then shower and change before going off to the day job. Either way it would result in me walking through the back doors of the casino prepared to play cards for eight hours with my regulars and teach a few tourists along the way.

I love my job. I know many who say they enjoy elements of their job but I love the entire thing. Yes there are players and bosses, coworkers and outside vendors that occasionally drive me crazy but overall I wouldn't trade what I do for almost anything. Not only do I get to laugh and talk with my players, I teach other dealers, and get to be part of a team at a company I admire. Then, of course, there is the bonus of being able to get inspiration for two different series of my books and have the time, while no one is feeling chatty, to sit and let the characters talk to me. Many of my fellow casino dealers have jokingly told me one day I will find that bestseller list and can quit. What they don't understand is I wouldn't leave, that place not only brings me joy but is a treasure trove of inspiration.

Today I am unable to head to the casino so I am sitting in my home office. I have my coffee sitting next to me, a notebook open with a pencil poised to work on notes / research / outlines but nothing is coming. I plan to get a decent amount of writing and I know that it is always the same for me. When I first sit down it is a struggle. I know the story in broad strokes but the elements of the story from line to line I discover the same way my readers do. It unfolds as I type and I am on the journey with the characters, I just happen to know where the final destination lays.

I am used to packing up my computer bag and heading to a coffee shop where I can get comfy for hours and push past that initial struggle to jump start the words and getting a solid word count on my days off. Now everyday is, in a way, a day off. With the current closing of all non-essential businesses I am writing in a space I have rarely bothered to commit words to paper, my home office. I spent a few days getting it in shape and now I am doing my best to make it work.

There are pros and cons to adapting. I am not stopping for coffee in the morning, granted I get coffee at 7-eleven not Starbucks, but it saves money nonetheless. My Keurig is getting a workout but in all honesty I like the coffee better anyway. I am home and getting things done around the house which is great to be accomplishing things but I am still struggling with the anxiety that comes from lack of socializing and with pushing to get my writing done.

My hope has been to create a pattern I can continue when the house arrest is over and I can return to my day job but will also be able to keep making progress on writing. Because I tend to take on just enough projects to get overwhelmed I find I struggle with completing any one thing in a timely manner. Hopefully this time of adapting and reflection can change that.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Trying Too Hard

Like most of the country (and many places around the world) my beautiful Las Vegas is on lockdown. Yes I can go for a hike, run or bike ride. I still make periodic trips to the grocery store, but I can' have coffee with a friend at a local coffee shop and for reasons of keeping exposure low I shouldn't even be having coffee at my house or theirs. As a super social person, both from a natural one to be around people as well as an anxiety driven need to not be alone, this is driving me crazy.

It has, however, given me time to reflect on myself some and there are things I am both proud of and irritated by that I have since discovered. One of the biggest understandings I have come to about myself is I tend to overthink and try too hard the it comes to many situations. Yes there are a number of people who cold say that but I am concerns with addressing these issues in myself at the moment. Perhaps if I find a path forward then I can discuss my methods with others dealing with the same types of issues. If not, then at least I was able to make some positive changes in myself.

When it comes to how I had this realization there are a number of things that came to mind first. I am overly ambitious. When I take on a project it is usually something that makes people look at me like I've lost my mind. They aren't always wrong. Because of that there is always a very real possibility I will fall on my face. However, to quote so many of the players on my table at work, go big or go home. When I took on my first distance bike ride I didn't sign up for the 17 mile ride which would have been the shortest distance, I took on the 60 (which later got rerouted to 72) mile ride and nearly killed myself. I trained but not enough and had no idea what I was doing. My clothes, supplements, water, everything was lacking. But I found out the camaraderie of the riders was unparalleled and they helped me finish what I started that day.

When I say I want to lose a little weight I don't set my sights on just dropping 5-10 pounds, I instead set my sights on doing a boudoir photo shoot within 6 months and begin contacting photographers and looking into poses / makeup / clothing I will need to acquire for such a shoot.

This is where my overthinking and trying too hard comes in. I am a natural flirt. It is part of my job as a dealer and something I have no problem doing. Yet, when faced with the idea of trying to be sexy for the camera, I freeze. I think, can someone learn to be sexy? I wonder, are there classes I can take? I look at myself in the mirror and all of my personal insecurities come screaming to the forefront.

I do the same thing with writing. I try so hard to have a public image that is "right". I stress about the idea of going live on Facebook, even though everyone knows I have no problem talking someone's ear off. I feel like I don't have anything entertaining to say and nobody would bother watching anyway. I spent years believing I was nothing unless a certain person gave me approval. There is a part of me that still fights his voice everyday and wants to prove him wrong.

I am closing in on 40 years old and a lot of the things I want to do I am far above the generally accepted age to begin, or even end, but I am at the point where I feel it is better to put myself out there and at least try. I just need to swallow my fears, tell that stupid voice to shut the hell up and trust that who I am and what I am truly is enough. If I want to do a sexy photo shoot, I should and just enjoy the experience. If I want to do distance cycling I should start pedaling and see how far I can go. When I write I need to stay true to my voice and believe I have a message that will resonate with someone out there. If I want to go live I should be happy even if it ends up being nothing more than a couple friends keeping me company. I have always been guilty of overthinking and I am using this time to work on that and try to just be proud of who I am.

How are you dealing with the house arrest? Have you had any epiphanies?

Friday, February 14, 2020

Coming Soon!


Crash
When Craig Stillwell receives a promotion he can't wait to take his young family out to celebrate. However with the wine flowing and tensions on the rise the night becomes anything but a party. On the way home a tragic car accident threatens to tear everything apart and change their lives forever. Can Craig pull himself and his family together or will everything simply crash?

Combat

Kyle Miller and Brian Nickerson are best friends and brothers in arms. Proudly serving in the US Army they have seen combat in the Middle East three times. As they near the end of their third tour they are caught in an attack while on patrol. Thinking quickly, Kyle, the leader of the mission, goes on the offensive, working to fight their way out. He does everything he can to bring his team home safe, but will it be enough?

Monday, February 3, 2020

Restructuring

Sometimes all it takes is the spark to light the motivational fire. I mentioned in the previous blog that I was self imposing deadlines for a couple books by adding the cover mock-ups to my preorder forms for signings I have later this year. With that looming over me I am happy to say I have been moved to follow through with a number of things for these books.

The covers for both my novellas Crash and Combat have been created. I have designed the preorder forms and just need to upload them. I am several thousand words into Crash now while having a solid outline and a number pages full of research ready for Combat. The last book in the series is Sharing Strength and while the first draft was finished years ago I now know so much more about the characters and their stories from the novellas so I will be rewriting it and have set the release date for early 2021 including a launch party on my birthday Feb. 28th 2021. At that launch party I will also be announcing a large scale event I am planning as a fundraiser and awareness campaign for the PTSD subject that has both plagued and inspired much of my life.

I have noticed that this new found motivation is having side effects in my regular, non-writing, life as well. I push forward at the gym even when I want to give up. I take time to accomplish things around the house and make the choices needed to improve everything from my health to my financial situation instead of the usual fly by the seat of my pants style I have done for years. I recently was able to pay off my car which was a big first for me. I am slowly getting myself healthier by losing weight and training at the gym through the longer term plan of diet and exercise instead of looking for a quick fix. I have even started working with a financial advisor to plan for retirement though I am a few decades away.

While all of these are great steps forward, and honestly changes I should have made long ago, it is my personal and writing lives that have seen the biggest differences. Many people that know me personally know I have been with our local author group Coffee House Tours and have served as the Marketing Director for over a year now. It is something I love and I enjoy the planning of special events as well as helping our authors plan their own launches. Last year however I had signings every week from early February to early June and I got burnt out. Not only that but I wasn't writing nor was I spending time with my boyfriend or friends. I felt overwhelmed.

I made the decision that I would still be doing my best to help and I would have signings but I couldn't do more than 1 or 2 at most per month. There are times when special events will add to this count but for the first time I am doing everything I can to limit my extraneous activities. I am a glutton for punishment usually when it comes to my schedule but I am doing my best to restructure my priorities. How do you make sure you stick to your priorities?

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Deadlines

Many writers I know prefer the free flow of being a writer because they aren't under the crunch of a deadline. There is no boss standing over you barking orders, no projects schedule forcing you to multi-task, and no co-workers constantly asking for updates. They are free to write as the inspiration comes to them and submit (if they are traditionally published) when the book is ready.

If they are traditionally published through one of the big publishers there can be deadlines but most of my friends do not fall into this category at this time. The small press and vanity press published authors will get a deadline for edits after the publisher has accepted the story but rarely do they have a deadline for submitting the initial book. WHen you're self-published there are no deadlines at all unless they are self imposed. This is actually a problem for me.

I have found that the pressure of a deadline is motivating for me and without one I get easily distracted. In my last post I discussed how I am now using exercise to clear the chaos and be able to breakthrough writer's block and keep pushing to accomplish things on my ever present to do list. However I find without that looming pressure I still struggle to get more than a little writing done at a time. Even my chores need something pressing to make me do them. I have to make my to do list and then promise my boyfriend the list will be done before he gets home from work or I will allow myself to get distracted and then the only things that get done are dishes and laundry.

I know I need the deadline to push me but the only one I had was still over a year away so I wasn't feeling the motivation. I have several signings coming up this year that I wanted to have more books available but they aren't complete. I made what some will consider a questionable decision to put cover mockups on my preorder forms for a couple of my later signings so that forces me to have to finish the books. Every time I have pushed myself to write a book there has been a challenge like that pushing me. I can't wait to share excerpts and the covers in the coming weeks and months. What do you do to push yourself toward your dreams?