Category Archives: writing life

Samhain, Giving Up, & The Grasping Root Launch

***LAUNCH PARTY DETAILS BELOW***

It is one week since I resolved the last edit for The Grasping Root, folks, & since I am the The Last Word on these things, that means it’s…

grasping root remnants book cover

FINISHED!

How did I get from my last post to this one, you ask? I’ll tell you.

  • Pressed PAUSE and spent time with family.
  • Eliminated things in my life that needlessly complicated it (one cat, several boxes, including 20-year-old letters passed at summer camp Lac de Bois)
  • Read a lot (check out the surge in Read Books on my Goodreads!)

I was getting real fed up with the mantra, “Just Keep Going.” So I decided that what I needed was what I wanted. Social time. Alone time. Cooking time. Practicing self-love instead of driving myself to exercise like I should.

I can see I lost some of you with the phrase ‘practicing self-love’–hang in there.

Magically, those 124 decisions I had to make about word choice and sentence construction flew by. They were set in perspective. My inner samurai sliced through the Resistance without attachment.

The same day, I started formatting. Tediousness ensued. Two days later, I sent off details to the cover artist for the paperback and began the steps for the publicity campaign I planned–oh, five months ago.

But now it’s happening!

The click-click-click of the roller coaster inching up and over the zenith is now definitely whooshing into the thrilling part of the publication process, where things wizz past and you forget what you’re supposed to do and who you’re supposed to be.

As my friend April reminded me, even writers are subject to the cycle of death and rebirth, ups and downs, giving up and letting go to gain something new.

let go or be dragged proverb zen hot air balloon

SO. Future steps:

I’m still hoping to arrange pre-ordering for these last couple weeks of waiting. If I do, I’ll be entering everyone who pre-orders into a giveaway contest! Free money, free candy, free books! Sign up for the newsletter to be in the virtual Room Where It Happens.

Goodreads will host a giveaway for The Keening starting Oct 21, so spread the news to those who would love this series about a Scots family in 1822 with some hard-core grit! After that, I’ll put The Grasping Root in for a contest too. 🙂 Connect on Goodreads and follow my author page for updates!

And the party you’ve all been waiting for…

THE GRASPING ROOT LAUNCH!

  • Where: Another Read Through Bookstore, Portland, OR
  • When: Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, 7-8 PM
  • What: Samhain rituals! Scottish food! White Elephant Giveaways! Bringing a new book into the world and celebrating two years of soul-wringing work <3

See you there.

 

Images via me, ShinyStarrlight

What to do when you lose the magic

Warning: No easy solutions appended.

I’ve been feeling the loss of magic in several areas where I usually excel at conjuring: walking, cooking, writing. I usually love getting lost in a character’s journey. I feel satisfied with myself when I walk a few miles instead of using my car. I pat myself on the back when I put together an entree involving pantry staples, leftovers, and just that dash of magic that makes a dish delicious.

magic cooking illustration penelope dullaghan

But recently, these pleasures have lost their sheen.

The editing work gets done because I’m on a schedule and people are waiting for me. Or it doesn’t.

The cooking gets done if I manage to curb spending and snacking cravings, but it doesn’t give me that I-care-about-myself-therefore-I-cook feeling.

The walking gets to be more tiresome, as in lugging bags back up the hill from the farmers’ market and feeling drained, not charged with the healthy produce possibilities.

There seems to be in each of these examples a magic that is lost. A sort of pride-in-accomplishment result that has suddenly disapparated and left me with no motivation to take these higher roads.

undine arthur rackham illustration lost magic

This is called depression.

For walking, I’m not worrying about it for the moment. I’m driving more for work anyway. It’s a higher bill for gas each month which hurts my tree-hugging soul as well as my checkbook, but I can’t focus on this.

For cooking, I started replacing one meal a day with a protein shake–Soylent–in the hope that this would free up brainpower and motivation for making at least two healthy meals for myself per day. It’s helped considerably in the past six weeks.

But for writing…it’s different. Because it comes from such a personal place, it’s hard to dropkick something into starting after it’s become stuck. I’ve even lapsed on Morning Pages. Where I used to be able to summon the concentration for editing merely with setting (table, blanket on chair, pages, laptop) or sufficient anxiety-quieting props (tea mug, pretzels, music)…

It just doesn’t work.

I watch YouTube videos. I sort out finances. I clean the sink. I lay on the floor on a pillow and fall asleep. I deal with my health insurance, for god’s sake.

What am I avoiding? Is it that day, the facing of a work not yet worthy to see the light of day? Is it the editor’s comments, which seem less and less to understand my characters’ background?

Or is it the long term goal, launching the new book, and having nothing left to hide behind?

Whatever it is, it’s taken the magic out of the process.

I need something else to temporarily replace my own motivation.

Ice cream?

A meal out?

The trouble is, enough layers of these temporary substitutes and you get cumulative effects that you can’t easily wash away: debt and weight. They become, in the present, yet another threat of unworthiness.

What I want is for someone to tell me what a good job I’m doing, and that I don’t have to keep up the brave face. But that’s external. What can I do for myself?

What to do?

Move. If running in the morning isn’t happening, I roll around on my bed, stretching the spine and the big muscles. I do my chiropractor’s prescribed exercises (oh yes: side effect of depression is bodily pain, easily manifested by Psychosomatic Me). I take 5-minute dance breaks from work. I watch Yoga with Adriene’s videos, particularly for Upper Back Painfor the Service Industry, and the Rinse.

Be still. Say no to the endless demands on your time, including but not limited to: taking out your minuscule recycling container, cleaning your bathtub, going out for a carton of milk, scanning social media, answering emails, popping joints, reading books you don’t enjoy, shaving, constantly reaching for your phone.

Instead, say yes to things that make room in your heart: good movies, good books, good times with friends.

friends april nesa

Spend time with good people. Not energy vampires. Not superficial acquaintances. Not people who may be good for your career. Ask for help from those people whom you trust, whom you’ve had deep conversations with, who know what an emotional toll feels like.

I went to a kickoff potluck for the Wayfinders Academy this weekend with a friend. It gave me all sorts of deja vu for when I was in Public Allies: the inside jokes, the feeling of being in a crucible, the special cheerleading provided by loved ones for your journey, and the feeling of having an openness, a kindness, a trusting nature.

Thirteen years after my PA experience, I feel the loss of that hope. I realize that it is another type of magic lost, to no longer have that feeling of possibility, of loving kindness. Now it is responsibility, obligation, and the shoulds which crowd in on me just as heavily as when I left Washington DC.

Where is the path out of this lost place? I remind myself of a few things.

Writing is what I want to do.

Success doesn’t come quickly.

This, too, shall pass.

I described the feeling to a friend recently as being suddenly outside the house of your life. You can look in the window and see the life you used to lead: commitments, joys, habits, goals. But you are outside amid a howling gale, where none of those things inside matter anymore. How do you apparate back inside, where you have control, and your effort matters once again?

Step by step.

Bite by bite.

Word by word.

 

Do you have comments or suggestions? Chip in below. Regular book launch programming will resume in the next post, we hope!

 

Images via pinterest, terriwindling

Literary Marketing Workshop for Authors!

UPDATED TIME: Sunday, April 2, 2-4 PM

Guess what, Aspiring Authors?

wear all the hats graphic

(Those who are on the newsletter list already heard, but here’s the general announcement:)

Cal and I are starting a series of workshops focused on the various roles an indie author has to fill in today’s publishing world.

First up is the big bear we all love to hate: Marketing

Wear All The Hats: Literary Marketing Workshop

We both have years of experience reading blogs, talking to other authors, attending panels, and experimenting with our and others’ books. Trust us: nothing is guaranteed, but there are definitely ways to improve your chances of being discovered by the readers who will love your book.

We welcome unpublished, self-published, traditionally published; straight, cis, queer; black, white, multicultural; American, international; any religion and no religion; if you’ve got a story that needs to see the light of day, you are welcome!

bearing an untold story inside you maya angelou quote

We are charging $20 per workshop, payable to either of us, or the bookshop: Another Read Through ($25 at the door, so register this week!).

Sign up through ART, then let your friends know about this opportunity on the Facebook event page! Thanks for your help spreading the word. 🙂

Workshops to follow will touch on topics of Writing, Editing, Publishing, and Bookselling. Get in now, get some new ideas, and meet your fellow Portland-local authors!

 

Images via Facebook & Surveymonkey

Decluttering for Writers

Being a writer has nothing to do with one’s personal style, and there have been plenty of hoarder-style, as well as many minimalist, writers over the centuries.

Recently I saw this meme on Face Book, & laughed:
japanese method declutter humor

It made me think about decluttering, always a popular subject in the new year, and also a subject near & dear to my heart.

Marie Kondo jokes aside, it also made me think about how I could declutter in my capacity as a Writer.

With Language

The obvious culprit to attack is extraneous words. A writer is always called to be their first editor, and that requires the detachment to incise words that smother one’s voice or ideas.

Are you just starting an edit? Are you dragging your feet keeping up with your editing schedule? (Me! Me!) Here’s what I’m telling myself, which sometimes works:

I have the bones. I know what happens now. It’s just about keeping that clear image and structure in mind, and letting go of whatever events, descriptions, words, and thoughts that don’t support that structure.

Let. It. Go.

With Ideas

Another big category for writers is their ideas. Often asked where they get their ideas, from sci-fi to literary to suspense, I’d bet most writers are befuddled.

What do you mean, where do my ideas come from? Ideas and inspiration are everywhere, in the air we breathe!

But perhaps in your work schedule as a writer, you find it difficult to pursue all these ideas. They don’t easily fall into sequence like a Mary Poppins musical number, and you may be paralyzed by too much choice, or uncertainty as to which are the ‘best’ ideas.

So, here’s my mantra on this one: open all those tabs of half-begun stories, or assemble all those notebook pages on your bed. Concentrate on each idea in turn, and simply feel which one is most ready to open up.

Perhaps the mutant plant adventure seemed good when zombies were in full swing, but now there’s no more plot coming.

Maybe you pick up the scrap of paper about the investigation of a trainwreck, and then a woman in black leaps to the snow in the foreground. Suggestions of the stark family issues in Home drift in, and the woman now has a son. And he’s somehow involved with the conductor, who just died…

When it feels like you’ve got a tug on the line, go with that one. Declutter the other scraps into a file, for another time.

With Tools

Ughhh, yesss. What tools do you use as a Writer?

Scrivener? Evernote? Google Drive? Dropbox? Spiral notebooks? Rhyming dictionary? Thesaurus? A drawerful of special pens?

Which ones did you use in the past week? Month? Year?

Having so many things around you is a beguiling crutch, but perhaps it also contributes to that inertia you fight against whenever you sit down to write. (Or stand up)

For me, it is the proliferation of documents, scattered across physical and digital platforms, that makes me feel disorganized and like I can’t get a handle on my ideas and where I should focus.

I can either set up a regular time to scan all of these crevices, or establish a new system and try to stick to it. I’m trying the latter with my sales-tracking, so I think the reminders to scan will suffice for now…as long as I have good accountability buddies.

No mantra on this one yet, then. Maybe you have one to suggest?

 

Images via Pinterest

Beware the Ides, & Doldrums, of NaNoWriMo

Jessica Yu, Academy Award Winner and Director of “Last Call at the Oasis,” Opening Night, Envision 2012

We’re in the third week, chickadees, and if you are participating in NaNoWriMo along with me, you may be tearing your hair out in desperation, or calmly sipping tea at 43,000 words. Tell us on the community page!

I know there are a million and one excuses to give up, but give yourself a moment to imagine not giving up.

You rearrange commitments in this last week in order to squeak out twice your daily quota.

You ask for help from friends who want you to succeed.

You don’t care anymore about making the words perfect.

You just want to see the end of the story: your story.

And then imagine the result: you’ve got a frickin’ novel in your hands!

You can edit it, crow about it, put it in a drawer, let it stew in the back of your mind until you’re ready to tackle it–but it’s corporeal! You’re on your way!

 

Image via EnvisionFilm