Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Not Writing

I see people post about dealing with writer's block often. They go on about how they have no inspiration, cannot get the characters to talk to them, and how upset they are about the entire thing. I see people giving advice on how to break through the walls or encouraging them to go out and try something away from the craft for awhile in order to let their mind reset. There are many I know that believe the only reason an author doesn't write is because they are experiencing this phenomenon.

What happens when you have more story ideas than you could ever have time to write? What about when your characters are all feeling chatty, and not in the all talk at once way that causes migraines but in the helpful you pick one and they tell you their story kind of way? Why would you not be writing if you have the playlists ready to go, a complete understanding of the layout of the book, helpful cast of characters, and couldn't stop the epiphanies even if you wanted to? How about dealing with something far worse than writer's block, depression.

A large part of the PTSD I have discussed before if dealing with the irrational and sometimes seemingly trigger-free depression that flashes into my life like a freak storm, disrupts everything in its path then disappears again so I can pick up the remaining pieces. I know following the event and the lack of turn out I struggled slightly but I was feeling better yesterday, at least I thought I was. I still felt like crying from time to time and only got through it by forcing myself to do labor focused chores around the house. Today I am sick and stuck resting with little to distract me which is making the frustration stronger.

I used to hold in these feelings but when I found myself having a complete breakdown from bottling my feelings up inside I realized a few things. The first is that keeping it in was harmful to my own wellbeing. The second was that others out there are fighting with the same issues and if I let the world know what is going on it may help someone like me know it's ok to talk about it. For writers like myself who are dealing with the double edged sword of being too depressed or anxious to focus on the thing we normally use to relieve those feelings, I understand. It's ok to hurt. It's ok to cry and pull away for a bit until the feeling lessens. Don't wait for it to go away entirely. As soon as you start to feel better take that energy and write again. Or bake, or paint, or go for a run. Do something that you enjoy and makes you feel productive. It is the first step on the road back home.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Event Wrap Up

Two days ago I held a charity book signing. My event partner and I worked for months to find a venue, gather raffle prizes and pick out items for a concession stand. We contacted authors to fill our tables and created a room layout so everyone had a space to call their own. We wrote and distributed press releases, partnered with other events, put up flyers, and contacted every person we could think of in order to market our charity and our authors.

Then came the big day. The venue had kept a few rules to themselves until the last minute, such as no entering the room for set up until the event was supposed to begin, no putting up flyers or any form of advertisement outside the room, and keeping everything for our function confined within the room making it nearly impossible to let people know where we were. She and I are both authors as well as being the event coordinators so when there was a lack of foot traffic we were just as disappointed as our authors.

Most seemed to understand how much we put into planning and empathized with us on the unfortunate turnout. There was one who instead decided to berate me and do their best to turn others to her own negative way of thinking. She accused me of keeping the money, insisting we were not going to donate the proceeds to our charity (something we did this morning shortly after they opened). She made her way around to other authors doing her best to bad mouth us before sitting at her table with arms folded and glares of disapproval coming my way.

At the very end I announced the winners of the raffle prizes. The microphone was not wireless so I was forced to stand by her table as I made the announcements where I was once again harassed as she and her assistant made constant comments under their breath. She was eager to leave, insulting us and our event right up to the minute she walked out the door. I am honored to say everyone else has offered us nothing but positivity and encouragement.

I struggled a bit yesterday. I will admit the lack of turn out combined with the personal attack got to me. Today though, we had the opportunity to hand over the financial donation and the collected books to our charity and see them light up with gratitude. Seeing the kind words from our participants gave us both a much needed boost. Being able to share what we did so that more children can enjoy the adventures a book can provide is a priceless gift. We are thankful and already looking forward to creating an even bigger event next year. Hopefully this time we can bring even more joy and crush the negativity.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Series Of Series

I have been told repeatedly in order to be successful as an author I needed to choose a genre or at most two closely related ones to write in so that I could build a brand upon that platform. I have been instructed to to write series because it drives readers to you in search of what happens next. I understand both of these pieces of advice but have found that neither fit my style as a writer.

I am not opposed to series. Like any author it is my goal to keep readers coming back for more. I have four different series in the works at the moment along with a book I thought was a stand alone but has a prequel set to come out next year now. I have a set of children's books which I don't qualify as a series because they could all be stand alone and can be read in any order desired. While I have the different series, much like some of my favorite murder mystery authors will follow different detectives through different book series, mine are all in different genres.

I have one set back during the time of the Salem Witch Trials that blends historical fantasy with mild erotica. There is a series that highlights various aspects of a syndrome I know well, PTSD. My personal favorite is a series mixing suspense / thriller with just a touch of paranormal. Finally I have my own murder mystery series set in my home of Las Vegas with several ties to my own day job. What these books lack in common for genre they still carry with them in my writing style. Like many authors I read, I have a way of building the story, letting the flow reach its peaks and valleys, then using the same way to wrap up the loose ends in every book I write.

It wasn't until I began writing my thriller series that I found a way to carry the story beyond that wrap up ending. Everything I created before that was a one and done style of book. Even though my PTSD series can be considered a series, the books themselves can be read in almost any order and it is actually a novel with a series of character background novellas. The children's books are similar in the respect that they have the same theme and writing but do not require a particular order.

I have a found a love of writing these series because it allows me to delve deeper into some of my characters but I refuse to be pressured into choosing one type or genre over another. I know many thriller and mystery authors can go on for years with the same series because they can continue to introduce new and interesting situations. When I get more into my mystery series I may discover the same thing. Right now all of my series have definite ends. The PTSD series is five books, the historical series is seven, and my thriller has four total. I appreciate the advice I am given but I think as creative people is more important to find a way to take things that have worked for others and blend them into our own personal style.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Staying True

Last year I was sitting at a hotel bar with a number of aspiring authors, agents, and editors. We were all talking and laughing, enjoying our choice of beverages. I was on my third caffe mocha and one of the other authors tested me about not ordering something at the bar with a little liquor in it. I told him I got enough alcohol around me at work and sometimes it was just nice to enjoy a little sweetness without the buzz. He then asked what everyone did for a living.

The agents and editors kept quiet, watching everyone exchange information. We, of course, already knew who they were and what they did. As the writers began sharing what they currently did or had retired from for daily work I began to see a pattern. All of them had worked as teachers, freelance or professional journalists, or held a creative job such as creating pottery and other art for sale at shows. I was still sitting at the bar by one of the agents and when it was my turn I was scared to say my job.

They had all given reasons why what they did or used to do was helpful for their writing but my job is more of an escape. I have fun at my job but I do not use it as a place to meditate on ideas or sneak in a few extra words here and there. I deal cards at a casino. I high five players when a hand goes well and laugh at the same cheesy jokes day in and day out. I do my best to enhance vacations and teach people how to play different games. It has nothing to do with my writing. At least that is what I thought at the time.

A few of the writers scoffed at my profession. They were even more annoyed that I wouldn't take their advice to move into something else in order to focus more on my writing as a priority. I love what I do. I told them that but it didn't matter. They kept telling me I just wasn't serious enough to become a real author. One of the agents asked why I loved my job so much. After having told people about one of my books with s very serious subject matter I told them how being a dealer is a great mental vacation. I shared stories of things I had seen while working in order to make them laugh.

After a little while a different agent gave me his business card and told me he wanted the book I was pitching. i told him it wasn't a book, it was just some funny stories. He said he still wanted it. I never fulfilled the request for a book inspired on my job but I did have a conversation with one of the keynote speakers the next day and she also told me I should look at my job and life in Las Vegas as a form of inspiration. She told me that a job with a creative element or pertaining to writing was not a requirement to be an author. I needed passion, drive, and a few ideas I could build on.

I am still in touch with both the author and the agent I spoke with and they have helped by giving me feedback on a few series I am developing. I am excited to see where the stories take me and I will always be grateful to them for showing me it is important to remain true to yourself and not let others tell you who and what you need to be in order to achieve success.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Creative Escapes

At the beginning of the year I looked over my list of goals. One of the biggest things I am focusing on this year are my physical challenges. Of course I am a writer first and my writing / editing / publishing goals are huge priorities, but this year I want to try to improve my overall health through activities and improved diet. So far I have fallen short.

I have an injury I'm fighting in my right elbow that makes strength training painful. Without strengthening my upper body I will definitely struggle going through the Spartan Race next month. I am also supposed to be building up my stamina for running to prepare for the half marathon near the end of the year. All of these things are making my plans more difficult. I am not giving up in the least. I just need to find ways to work around the setbacks. My biggest issue seems to be that I get distracted from my physical ambitions by thinking about my writing ones.

I was talking to a friend recently who mentioned he was surprised I don't use running as a way to clear my mind and think about my writing stuff then. The truth is the only way I can clear my mind is if I am doing something that is second nature and can therefore zone out mentally to let my subconscious take over. I do that when I cycle as well as when I am stuck on long car trips. Swimming is another great example and of course, my favorite distraction, baking. We talked about the fact I listen to music when I run and he suggested instead trying to run without the music but I don't think I would even make it out the door without something blasting into my ears.

I listen to music with every activity I do. When I write I have specific playlists for every book. The melodies and themes of the songs help put me in the mood of the story. When I drive I have music going, either to keep me awake or help distract me from hours stuck behind the wheel. When I cycle I always have music going and I even had water proof bluetooth headphones for years to help when I swam. Baking is no different, though I listen almost exclusively to classical or pure instrumental music when baking. When I am lost in the moment of my activity, the music fades to a white noise and becomes a catalyst instead of an up front element to what I'm doing.

For me, running is not now and most likely will never be an escape. It is a challenge to overcome and then move on. For him running is an escape from daily life. I find that same meditative state and escape in creation. Whether I am making a mirror cake for my birthday, chocolate candies for christmas or a surprise my my boyfriend and his veteran friends in honor of a motorcycle ride, I can get lost in the moment. While I am mixing the batter I can feel the characters waking up. As the cake rises in the oven, I feel the story taking shape. While I spread the filling and frosting, I begin to understand something I didn't even know was happening. When I put the finishing touches on, I already have an outline in my head for either the scene or book that now wants to take priority. I have never experienced that with running. For me, life is all about my creative endeavors.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Never Quit

I saw a post in a writers group today asking if the writers felt deadlines were good or bad for motivation. Like any question asked there were split responses. There were a number of people who complained that deadlines put unneeded pressure and stress on their writing which causes the quality of the work to suffer. They said all they had to do was work diligently everyday and the book, poem, or short story would be completed when it was ready.

Then there were people like me who adamantly profess to live by the looming deadline. When there is a timeframe and set structure to follow I am able to focus better. I have always done my best work in the final hours of any project and my recently submitted short story was no different. I entered the NYC Midnight short story competition last year and enjoyed myself so much I couldn't wait to sign up and do it again. This year I got my assignment within an hour of when it was posted but it threw me so much I struggled to figure what I could possibly write about.

I have been trying to come up with any idea for days for my assignment. It wasn't about agonizing over details or obsessing about a character, I just didn't have any ideas at all. After I talked to a friend yesterday I I redeveloped what I was working on to include my elements of the assigned genre. I was still lost for the actual storyline though. I found myself dancing between projects, flipping through social media and reading about several writing styles all because I couldn't make myself concentrate.

Even though the story isn't due until Saturday night I had to complete and submit it today because I work almost non-stop, day shifts and night shifts until Sunday evening. There would have been zero chance of me pushing myself to stay awake after getting out of work at four in the morning to write just to get back out of bed at ten to leave for my other job. Because of that deadline and the whole all or nothing mentality it brought I was able to force my mind to focus, write and edit the piece, send to a beta reader, and ultimately submit it all today.

It is not the story I would have chosen if I had months to research and read in the genre. It is not the character I would have picked without the assignment. I went in a different direction than anyone else I can think of and hope my subject comes through for the contest judges, but the fact of the matter is, I finished. I did my best and was able to create something simply because I pushed myself to try something new and allowed the pressure of the deadline to motivate instead of overwhelm me.