Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Making Decisions, Maybe

I’m standing in my office, the time is just after 8:00 in the morning. For the first time in what feels like forever I have an entire day to do my job. No contractors. No household / domestic distractions. Just work.

Hell, I can’t even do laundry since the dryer isn’t hooked up yet. (I mean, I can but it takes ages to sort everything after the wash and hang it all on hangers from the shower curtain rod, laziness shall prevail.)

So, I’m in my office at my standing desk doing the one thing that allows me to procrastinate on my job without feeling too bad about shanking it on fiction editing:

Writing this blog post.

Hey, at least I’m still putting words on the page. Even if they aren’t the desired words.

I go through something similar to this every time I write a book. And I justify the break in momentum by calling it my “process” or that “stepping away is a good thing because I can come back refreshed.”

Please.

I’m writing this right now, aren’t I? So technically that means I don’t have to abandon writing in order to work within my process.

Calling it “the writing process” is really just a fancy way of saying “I just did a lot of work developing entire worlds, people, out of absolutely nothing so my brain needs a fucking vacation and no I really don’t care that I just took a vacation 6 weeks ago because I need this.”

Picture back of hand on forehead, woe is me, overdramatized pity party. Because apparently that’s exactly where I’m at right now.

But it’s high time that I get shit back in gear.

I typed ‘The End’ on draft 1 over 3 freaking weeks ago. Between construction madness, contractor chaos, and general life needs, I’ve managed to do everything other than work on my book for the past three weeks.

Either of my books.

You see, I wrapped draft 1 on two manuscripts this summer – Reckless Mind book 3 in my Shaw McLeary Mystery Series, and Carol + Chad 4-eva! Book 1 in my soon-to-be launched California Dreamin’ Series.

I wanted Reckless Mind to be released this past March. I even put it on business cards I ordered last fall that it would be out in March.

Oops.

Turns out, March was the time I needed to open a new document and start the entire manuscript over from word one because the thing just wasn’t working out.

And now the finished draft is doing its own version of tubing down the Salt River on some hot day in July. It is having too much damn fun getting drunk and sunburned, shirking responsibility, to realize it still has work to do.

Put down the beer, manuscript. We have a few more weeks to go before you get to just sit there doing nothing. That doesn’t happen until after I post you for sale on Amazon. Sheesh, learn the order of things would you?

This is the part where I always seem to struggle. I know I have to edit now. I know this is supposed to be the fun part. I also know this is the time to get excited because I’m so close to release.

But like any dedicated author knows this is also the dreaded time of conundrum.

As authors we tend to run around saying things like: “I can’t wait to get this book done and finally out there, I’m just too afraid it won’t be good enough so I’m not sure I want anyone to read it!”

Walking conflict. That’s a writer for you.

I wonder if this shit ever fades?

Like, does James Patterson sit around secretly trying to decide if the book is good enough? If the story has enough tooth to really feel enjoyable to the reader? Or does he write so fluidly, effortlessly, after all these years that he’s long since let go of that fear and releases books with little to no drama?

Honestly, I hope to find out someday. Which of course means I have to release the freaking books, right? I mean, hello? Without more books I can never release more books.

Ugh. Stupid process.

Sure, it would be easy to blame my lack of action on the fact I have 23 kitchen cabinet pieces sitting in my living room, that my laundry area has no drywall/walls, or that I have contractors by the dozen in and out of this house either bidding or doing work.

But if I let those things distract me from finalizing either of these books for the market then I’m just a chump. Because it isn’t like this is my first rodeo. In fact when Reckless Mind is released (someday) it will be the fifth book self-published with my name on it.

Fifth!

Reckless Abandon and Reckless Hearts are already out there not being read by anyone new since their release.

I even have Creative Writing Kickstart on the Amazon shelves, collecting dust after the one copy I sold since it was released.

So why am I so hesitant to just sit down and edit this damn thing? Get it done. Release the fucker and be done with it so I can move on to the next project then finish that too?

As an old friend used to say, what’s my glitch?

Truthfully? I have no idea this time.

In the past it was fear – fear of what people would say about my writing, or worse, fear that nobody would say anything at all.

I’m not afraid that nobody will read it. I have all 10 of my loyal and awesome readers ready (begging me to release this one). And I know all 10 of those phenomenal people will also review the book for me.

I’m not afraid of what people will say. In fact, saying anything, even that you hate the thing, helps me out. Not a lie. All press is good press, right?

Truth be told, I can’t sit here all day writing this blog post. And I’ve rambled on for way too long already. So long, in fact, I’ve moved my location to the living room since starting to write this thing.

It’s time to do my real job now. It’s time to get over the inner procrastinator, put this post up, and start editing Reckless Mind.

See you all next time I feel the need to procrastinate.

So, maybe, tomorrow?

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

In My Estimation

Well, I did it. Finally.

The first draft (AKA: fast and loose version that needs MAJOR editing) of Reckless Mind is done. Finito! Complete!

As a matter of fact, lots of stuff has happened over in my little corner of the world since getting back from vacation. Hence the long-ass absence (and right after I said I’d be writing over here more frequently, of course).

Today I was supposed to celebrate and reward my hard work by taking my 40% off coupon and doing some shopping. So, obviously, I’m sitting here writing up a blog post.

I’ll get to the store eventually.

When we arrived back on U.S. soil, my fingers were so ready to start typing again. For months I’d been struggling with that book. I’d literally started and stopped three times before opening a blank Word doc back in March and rebooting the damn thing starting over from word 1.

Now the manuscript is written and falling at just under 33K words.

Since returning from our tropical beach paradise vacation in early May I’ve penned 42,989 words of fiction across two completed draft 1 manuscripts.

Can I get a fuck yeah?

Normally I’m not one to rah-rah myself but I am mother fudging proud of myself for the first time in a long time. Because, no matter how much this story was sucking when I first tried writing it, I wouldn’t let myself give up on finishing it. And that means more to me than just about anything else right now.

Last night Matt said I was doing my own version of NaNoWriMo and he was right. I got all those words out in roughly 18 days of typing.

What the whaaaaaaat?

To be honest I didn’t even realize just how incredible this accomplishment was until I started doing the math. And I’m shooting to have both books edited, completed, and out by July/September. Plus, I have 2 other half finished manuscripts I plan to get to ‘The End’ before the end of this year.

Because my dedication level to myself, my work, my career is through the roof right now and I couldn’t be happier!

I woke back up while we were away. Or, at least, my inspiration was revived after a very, very long slumber. Because I can’t seem to stop now that I’ve set myself on this path of completion.

Ideas and words are flowing as smooth as the water in my pipes.

Speaking of which, in the midst of all this real work I’m also meeting with contractors because Matt and I are getting our renovation on again this summer.

We’re bringing the laundry inside and out of the garage (finally), installing a whole house filtration system, rebuilding our covered patio as a screened in porch, renovating the kitchen (FINALLY!!!), a shit-ton of landscaping and other yard stuff, and anything else we can fit into the budget.

Something I’m discovering about AZ and contractors though? Very easy to get call backs, not so easy to get someone to show up.

Matt called landscapers and handymen – all kinds of excited to come out and bid the jobs – and after 2 missed appointments we’re moving on to new landscapers. The handyman? Eager to talk about the job then poof! Disappeared before even setting an appointment.

As a girl who grew up in the land of General Contractors, has a GC for a dad, ran a faux finishing business, this attitude mystifies me.

Back in Boston the guys always showed up to a least look at the job. It was common knowledge that if a contractor looked at the project and they found it would be too much for them, that they didn’t want the job for whatever reason, they’d quote some outrageous price to do the work. But they never, ever didn’t show up to bid.

At least in my experience.

But out here? Matt and I have asked for estimates from numerous contractors in various specialties and have been met with the returning sound of crickets.

I don’t get it. We’re not talking installing a garbage disposal here. I don’t want someone to trim my 1 palm tree. We’re talking thousands of dollars’ worth of work, possible referral business, possible future business.

And, nothing?

That lack of responsiveness makes us want to do most of the work ourselves. But, frankly, I have a life to live and a job of my own. That faux finishing business didn’t involve roof repairs, patio rebuilds, skylight installs or irrigation line digging. I want to pay someone to do their job so I can continue doing my own.

So why is it so damn hard to find a contractor worth a damn anymore?

You remember we had the plumbing debacle back in October 2013? Well those plumbers did such a good job we asked them to come back and quote on this new work.

So the same guy showed up the same day I called and came out to look over the job – move laundry water/gas lines, install slop sink, loop hot and cold water to run through a filtration system. He sent me the quote with 2 different options (a softening system, or, a conditioning system) within a few hours of coming out.

Matt and I did some research on installing the loop, how it would impact plants if it tied into irrigation, as well as the systems he’d indicated they could install.

We weren’t sold on the need for the loop or system at this time. We researched more. We found a filtration system with lots of great ratings for water in AZ. One that was listed at about ¼ of the price of the very specific model they quoted. The filter system was discounted during a Memorial Day weekend sale so we bought it.

The same day, I wrote the plumber to ask him to hold off on the loop and system, just quote the rest.

Sure, he said. The pricing for individual items could change due to not being a “package deal” anymore, he said. I’ll get that quote out in the next day or so, he said.

I’m still waiting for that follow up quote.

The one I’ll likely never see from Mr. Rooter. Because I undercut the initial job by probably $4000. So, what? The job isn’t “worth it” to quote anymore? Is that it?

He saw the job numbers shrink by a lot and apparently lost my email even though he’d been mister responsive before when our job ballparked in at $6000. (yes I’m using ballpark as a verb)

Funny thing is that if he’d just done his job and got me the new quote like he said he would, Matt and I would have considered talking to them about doing the master bathroom.

But he blew it.

And that job would have put you back up into the 6k range, probably would have garnered referrals and who knows what else.

New contractors have been called, appointments scheduled, and no feelings of ours were hurt in the process.

Now, can I edit my books and release them before we get someone to actually show up and do this work in our house?

The race is on.

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

Last year my sister and her boyfriend were supposed to go on this crazy trip to the Caribbean – super sweet resort, all inclusive, turquoise water, and only 1 stop on the 3400 mile flight – with two of their friends. But between injuries, unforeseen issues, and other necessary delays, the trip was postponed to April of this year.

When they considered rescheduling back in December, Matt & I were first asked if we’d like to take the place of their friends. After having just taken a really long vacation around Thanksgiving there was no way we could do it. I mean, not only the issue of time off but the cost.

My sister told me to get my damn passport renewed anyway (something Matt and I had been putting off for too long) and so we did. And then promptly forgot all about it.

That was, until February when this question came our way:

“So, those guys just moved to Hawaii and can’t make the trip, you guys busy at the end of April or would you like to go to St. Lucia all expenses paid***?”

***(sort of, more on that in a bit)

And so I started thrift shopping for this trip of a lifetime that I never in a million, billion years would have expected to be taking.

Passports showed up, clothes were purchased, but I couldn’t concentrate on the trip. I had a party to plan this past spring.

Matt, my love, was officially joining the ranks of “old man” status with his 40th birthday. And I’d been planning his event since January. A surprise party. At a baseball game right downtown at Chase Field.

The sneaking around, the lies and deceit, the preparations for 24 people including his family coming in from 3 different parts of the country, friends who were kind enough to pay for their own tickets, meant get-togethers and taking cash from friends on the down low.

The last thing I did from January to early April was think about St. Lucia.

But then it was time to party at Chase with Matt’s mom, sister, all 3 nephews, dad, step-mom, SIL, MIL, BIL , friends. The euphoria was like Thanksgiving dinner – months to plan and cook, over in a matter of hours.

Pictures were shared, laughs were recounted, everyone went home. And then it was mere weeks away from our departure to the Caribbean. I still barely believed it was real.

In fact, if I’m being perfectly honest here, I still don’t believe that it actually happened. It was like I lifted out of my own body and watched someone who looked like me partying in an all-inclusive resort at the edge of the most beautiful water I’d ever seen for a full week.

Things like this just don’t happen to me and Matt. We aren’t wealthy people. We do okay and pay our bills on time and stuff but a trip like this? No. Never before and never expected. Ever.

To tell all the details would bore everyone, trust me. Our entire first day of vacation was summarily stolen by a number of problems with a number of airplanes and we spent 8 un-scheduled hours in Miami International Airport. That story might become a book someday.

After that debacle the week went by in a blurry haze of sun, sand, salt air, vodka cranberry, sunscreen, dancing, laughs, amazing food, and an overflowing level of gratitude that I could hardly contain. It forced me to notice everything, every tiny detail of every tiny moment we all spent together on that island. The people, the scenery, the vibe. Everything.

The trip revived my waning inspiration.

For the past 4 or 5 months I’ve been struggling with Reckless Mind, trying to get the story down but finding it difficult to see the next move, the twists. I’ve started and stopped the book 3 times. One of those times was a complete reboot from the first word.

Before we left I was stressed. So much had happened in the past few years both personally and professionally and no matter how many massages I wanted to get or essential oils I tried to meditate with, nothing seemed to take that stress away.

Some of us like to call it writer’s block.

I like to call it real life taking over the creative thinking process.

There have been so many people to see, things to do, detours that tried to convince me what my path should be when I actually knew all along what really needed to be done for me to find fulfillment.

I needed to write books. Period.

Not freelance blogs, not ghostwriting, not how-to guides or any of the other things I tried to convince myself would be smart choices. No. I need to write books.

Length? Unimportant. Genre? Unimportant. Story? The most important.

As Matt and I walked the beach for about a half hour on the last day (a moment that came way too fast of course), I shared my plan. And it basically encompasses one thing: I’m giving up being a perfectionist.

I’ve said stuff like this before about just writing and not caring. But I never had a clear-cut plan of what that really meant. While we were away I finally put everything together.

In this age of digital reading and the flood of titles out there that’s the number one thing I need – titles. The more you have the more your name is seen. And of course the more it gets seen the more it sinks in, people buy, review, send you to a best seller status.

I have so much work, at least 5 stories I can think of off the top of my head, that I started back when I was a teen or in my 20’s. Most are within chapters of typing “The End” and I finally realized why I might be having trouble writing Mind.

Because I have too many unfinished characters swimming around in my head pool and until I get them out I won’t be able to hear Shaw telling me what she wants me to say.

I told Matt out on that beach that I was looking forward to getting home and he looked at me like I had turned into a crazy person. Maybe I had become a crazy person. Crazy inspired.

So when we got back, after the jet lag wore off, I extracted the first journal out of my big box of languishing work that I’ve been toting around since age 14 and started transcribing.

That story? It started out as character development and about 600 words. Now? After 4 days of non-stop work it’s almost done and hovering around 6,000 words. Just shy in fact. And I already have cover art in mind.

The title. Locked in.

After that one I plan to start with the 5 stories that are long and close to done. All of them, every last one, will be released this year.

My sister was shocked that I’d gotten over my need for perfection but I told her that wasn’t exactly true. I still want the stories to be terrific. I’m still going to edit like crazy. Because the basis for the work might have been okay but I was also 15 when I wrote some of that stuff. It will need major polishing.

But polish I will. And you want to hear a pretty cool side benefit? Since almost finishing this first one I’m hearing the main character, Carol, less and Shaw just a tiny bit more. I even got a bit of her story developed at the same time. That book will see light this year too.

My resolve for what I do has been 100% revived. I’m in love with my job again. So I guess it’s time I got out of here and did it, huh?

I’ll keep you posted as titles drop.

Like rain in the tropics.


***the larger percentage of cost for this trip was fronted by a fantastic person who I will not name here on this blog, but none of it would have been possible without them. My sister and her man also fronted some cash for the trip. So Matt and I are splitting that cost. That was the deal we worked out with the original friend who couldn’t go, because that person just wouldn’t hear it about paying them back for anything. I literally feel my heart swelling with thanks every time I think about how grateful I am to have had this once in a lifetime opportunity. Saying thank you seems a weak sentiment but I feel so thankful, it’s all I can seem to say! Thanks again to all of you amazing people in my life. I am a lucky girl indeed!

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.