Monday Mayhem – Big Magic

I’m not much of a non-fiction reader. I prefer the world of make-believe most of the time. Unlike most writers, I’m not much of a ‘craft’ book reader, either. I don’t like being told what to do or how to do it, so I tend to rebel. But sometimes, I do go looking for inspiration when I feel my creative well running dry.

This week, I started reading the book BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert. I admit I never read EAT, PRAY, LOVE, nor did I see the movie, but I am in love with BIG MAGIC.

Not because she has some nuggets of magical writer voodoo to impart, but more because she reminds us that it’s okay for people engaged in creative pursuits to be burned out, worked up, disillusioned, or even madly in love with their own work.

I needed this right now.

So go out there. Be brave. Be bold. Live a life filled with Big Magic. No one can tell you you’re wrong.

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Monday Mayhem – This Magic Moment

I did something totally out of character for me this weekend…I lived in the moment.

On Wednesday, I turned in the finished manuscript for Easy Bake Lovin’ (Play Dates #2), and then from Wednesday night ’til this minute, I haven’t even powered up my computer. Oh, it traveled to Illinois with us and back, but I didn’t do any work.

Here’s what I did instead:

Walked out of the Isle of Capri casino in Cape Girardeau, Missouri with $50 more than I had when I walked in. Wooot! Thanks, Ghostbusters!

Took the bypass around Bloomington-Normal, Illinois (my hometown) without stopping for the first time in my life. It was a little freaky.

Laughed my butt off with some of my oldest friends – seriously, these broads are getting up there.

Trained from Level 1 Ninja to Level 5 Ninja thanks to my Karate Kid crane kick and guidance from my nephew, Liam. Sadly, that still wasn’t enough for me to be able to wield the plastic nunchucks. I’m told you have to be Level 10 Ninja for that.

Learned how to vanquish the undead (neon green plastic skeletons) with a sword. Special thanks to nephew, Connor, for letting me use one of his foam swords. Fodder refuses to buy me one of my own. The big chicken.

Rebuilt a bulldozer. (I wasn’t sure I could do it, but great-nephew, Bo, had faith in his Aunt Moogie.)

Laughed my butt off some more, but don’t worry, I ate enough to ensure continuous padding. Plus, we made the resident teenagers whine and beg us to go to bed, so we win!

Swept into Bloomington on our way south again to share a little lunch with my biggest brother, nieces & nephews, and great-niece and nephews.

Rolled into the St. Louis area and scammed a bed for the night from second biggest brother and his ever-patient wife. Devoured my first steakburger from Freddy’s Custard – yum! Can’t wait until our Freddy’s opens!

Up early to drive another six hours through sporadic rain, but it was all worth it to come home to this smiley beast:

I realized when I started this post that I forgot to take pictures of all of the above, but I decided I’m okay with that. I was living in the moment, and enjoying every one of them. <3

How was your weekend?

 

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Monday Mayhem – The thing about things

Not long ago I reposted this picture on social media:

So true.

But it takes some of us a long time to learn that. This past weekend was Mother’s Day. Fodder once again complained about how hard it was to shop for me because I have everything I want/need. I have a jewelry box that is mostly neglected because I wear the same pieces most days. My electronics are not the latest models, but in fine working order – I’ll update when I have to, thankyouverymuch.

He’s resistant to buying me the one thing that’s always a hit – gift cards for book buying – because a) he thinks it’s taking the easy way out, and b) he’s worried I may have a book hoarding problem.

He may be right about the second one.

So, I hauled him out to garden center, pointed to four hanging baskets of flowers, and said I NEEDED them for the carport and porch. The man was pleased to accommodate my needs, and all were happy.

The thing is, I think I’m really easy when it comes to gift giving.He knows I like to rescue flowers from the supermarket bargain bin:

Anything that allows me to grow my own creature in a bowl:

Socks:

And, I love homemade cards – particularly those with inside jokes, or characters I love. Like Woodstock. Our daughter knows this. Check out my awesome card:

 

I like spring evenings spent hanging around the homestead…watching the man teach a four year-old how to start fires.

 

And I like watching said four year-old and his granddad enjoy their first s’mores together. (Seriously. I think he’s been living under a rock. The man was a Cub Scout, for cripes sake!)

But the best things in life really aren’t things. They are puppy cuddles:

Melty marshmallows:

And heart-melting smiles:

What are some of your most precious non-things?

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Monday Mayhem – Typecasting

Do you have a type?

I’m working on Easy Bake Lovin’ (Play Dates #2), and one of the plot points is that the heroine is about as opposite the hero’s usual type. Their attraction stirs some not-so-subtle commentary, which, in turn, leads to hurt feelings and confusion.

“Type” seems a shallow plot point on first glance, but when you think about it, most of us DO have some characteristics we gravitate toward. Types can be based on appearance, common interests and passions, and our attraction can be conscious, or sub-conscious.

Weird example: Most of my celebrity crushes were born within a year or so of the man I eventually married.

1960 was a magical year.

Obviously, this was not an intentional thing. I didn’t go looking for a man who was born within months of Colin Firth or John Taylor from Duran Duran. It just happened that way.

And upon noticing that, I realized that they all share similar physical attributes – each just a shade over six feet tall, dark not-quite wavy hair, dark eyes, squarish jaw. Check this out:

Colin plays it a little bit stuffy

John’s still rock ‘n roll

 

My combo deal

Fodder scoffs at this, of course, but that’s okay. It works for me, and that’s all that matters. And when I really want to bug him, I tell him I’m going to frame this:

How about you? Do you have a type?

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – Birthing a book

Two weeks ago, A BOLT FROM THE BLUE released into the wild. This was a super quick labor – only about thirteen months from conception to birth. Since I am traditionally published (meaning I sell my work to a publishing house, and their team then takes over the editorial timeline and production), this can be a relatively long process.

It’s always fun to see non-writers reactions when I talk a little about the behind the scenes. It’s shocking to discover how many people think you just write a book and put it out there. With the advent of self-publishing, that is certainly possible, but if you’ve read one book that has been released without benefit of an external editor you’ll most likely agree that it isn’t preferable.

With BOLT, I was dealing with a publisher and editing team I have worked with on 5 previous publications, so it was easy for us to press the accelerator.

Here’s pretty much how the timeline played out:

I sent a synopsis to my editor on March 6, 2016, and she submitted it to the team at Lyrical Press.

On April 26, 2016, my editor said, “Yes!” Contract talks began, and I hunkered down at my keyboard to magically transform the synopsis to an actual 60k+ word manuscript.

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

May 9th – I was informed that expected delivery date on BOLT was July 1, 2017 for an April 2017 release.

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

May 23rd – sent the first chapter to the fabulous Julie Evelyn Joyce for critiquing.

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

Also on May 23rd – Publisher requests completion of Cover Art and Publication Information forms. Because I have sold the rights to this book, these forms are my last and only chance to give input on the look of the book and the message conveyed in the cover copy. Most people are surprised to find out I do not have the final say in any of that kind of stuff.

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

On June 13, I received the official contract and signed it. Wooot!

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

Sent the full manuscript for to Julie Evelyn Joyce for wizardry June 15th – she sent it back June 26.

Spent days eradicating excess instances of ‘just’, ‘that’, ‘it,’ and other favorite words from what was a 67k word manuscript.

Delete, delete, delete, delete….

July 1, 2016 – Sent 66k word manuscript to marvelous Marci, my editor at Lyrical Press.

July 5, 2016 A WILL AND A WAY releases – promo ensues.

Received the first round of edits August 7, 2016. She requested an added scene toward the end of the story.

Typing, typing, typing, typing….Send to Julie…Back from Julie…delete, delete, delete, delete….send back to Marci August 14th.

Second round of edits arrived on the 16th. Back to her the 18th.

Another round of edits from the line editor on September 2, 2016. I returned them on the 4th with some notes and questions. Marci shot them right back, and I went at it again.

Manuscript sent to my esteemed editor again on September 7th. She repaid me by sending the whole enchilada back in galley form (proofing for minor corrections only) on the 8th. I passed the hot potato on the 9th, and we put the book to bed.

Then, I ran away to the beach.

September 15th, the cover art fairy visited with this:

I squealed, then got down to writing the first book in the Play Dates series.

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

NaNoWriMo starts – more typing, typing, typing, typing….

November 22, 2016 – LOVE & ROCKETS releases. Promo madness ensues.

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

December 1, 2016 – Final formatted digital copies of BOLT landed in my inbox. I cooed over them, checked for any hiccups in the front/back matter. And then, the wait for April 4, 2017 began.

In the weeks around release, authors step out of their caves long enough to do some social media schmoozing and guest blogging (Read & Watch 2017, Just Contemporary Romance, and later this week, Fiction University).

The publishing industry is about as unlike what you see on TV. There’s no publicist, or even publicity budget. We arrange and pay for most of our advertising ourselves. We are not making big money. In fact, most of us make less than a dollar on each book sold.

That’s why we annoy our Facebook friends with incessant reminders that, yes, the book is available now, and yes, we desperately need reviews. That’s the biggest thing readers don’t really know.

We NEED reviews.

Not for ego-gratification, or self-flagellation, but because they allow us to leverage better marketing for our books. Seriously. There are many, many places where we cannot BUY advertising with our own cash money unless we have a certain number of reviews on Amazon or GoodReads. Most of my books do not have even the minimum, so I am BEGGING you. Please consider leaving a review in a public forum.

They don’t have to be essays or even a paragraph. I am not asking you to sing my praises. I just need an honest review on the book itself that says, “I liked/didn’t like this, because XXX”

And that’s one book’s journey to publication in an extremely long and picture-laden nutshell. I think I’ll go have a nap now…

Kidding! Kidding!

I can’t nap…I have 5 more books coming at you in the next year.

Brace yourselves!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – I’ve been up, down, all around…

I’ve been feeling completely unmotivated lately.

For most of this year, actually.

At first, I didn’t worry about it too much. I’d finished another NaNoWriMo in November. December had been its usual whirlwind, but with the special added bonus of a software conversion and move at the day job. Then January came, and I ran out of patience with the life I’d been living. Cue another big life change…

Is it possible I used up whatever motivation I had focusing on getting out of one day job and into the new one? Because, I don’t seem to have anything left for the writing. I’m even writing this blog post late because I am so daunted by the thought of facing this damn blinking cursor that I will do endless loads of laundry to avoid it.

It’s a phase, I know.

At least, that’s what I tell myself.

I can’t leave all those plot bunnies lingering in their hutch indefinitely. Something’s going to start to stink in there.

Every author knows the ebb and flow. Some stories pour out like water. Most are prized out with pliers. Genre fiction writers have been on a roller coaster ride for the last half-decade. As the authors who drive most of the revenue in the industry, we’ve been expected to produce more, faster, better, and cheaper than ever before. And we’ve answered the call…but at what expense?

My first book was published in 2011. Next week, my 33rd (A BOLT FROM THE BLUE) will hit the digital bookshelves. Crazy, huh? I’ve written and sold 33 novels and novellas in 6 years. Numbers 34-37 are already written and awaiting editorial. I’m scheduled for release through number 38 in the fall of 2018.

I should be riding high, right? I ought to be psyched. But mostly, I just feel tired. Like Madeline Kahn in Blazing Saddles tired.

This weekend, Fodder and I hit the flea markets and excavated some awesome old albums. I came home with this fabulous Barry Manilow double album. And while Sally may not appreciate my rendition of Weekend in New England, I totally understood where Barry was coming from when he sang about Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again.

There are times when I worry that I’ve fallen out of love with writing. Moments when I wonder if I could just walk away from it—leave all those bunnies in the hutch to battle it out until all that’s left is one single killer rabbit of a story with nasty, pointed teeth living in a deep, dark cave.

But I won’t. I can’t. So, I’m still meditating every night. I started doing yoga again. Mainlined Grace & Frankie season 3. And, hey, look—I just wrote a 500 word blog post whining about not wanting to write.

I just…need to find a way to get my storytelling groove back. I’m hoping the Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass album I scored for $2 will help.

 

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Monday Mayhem – March Madness

No, I’m not talking basketball, though, I can, I will and I do. I’m talking about the week we just had around here.

Did I tell you we had tickets to so The Phantom of the Opera this week?

I’ve seen it 5 or 6 times in Chicago and St. Louis, but this is the first time it made it to Little Rock. I made Fodder order the tickets the day they went on sale in November. We chose the Thursday, March 16th show because there were some primo orchestra center seats that would have put us near the chandelier. Since it was the man’s first time to see it live, I really wanted to see his face when the Overture started.

The best laid plans of grandparents…

Our daughter was pregnant with her 2nd, and due March 19th, so for five months, I’ve been telling her to keep her knees locked together on March 16th.

Of course, the phone rang at 5am Thursday morning. Needless to say, we missed the show,  but look what we got!

Yeah, a pretty good trade, I’d say. We also got to spend a few days with my little Stinker while mommy and daddy got that whole baby brother thing sorted out. Fun and fruit snacks were had by all!

And never fear…we’ll have another shot at Phantom when it swings back around to Memphis later this year. In the meantime, I need to get back on track. And I will. Right after I finish kissing all the sugar off this baby.  🙂

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Monday Mayhem – Whoops!

Whoa! Life got me.

Yesterday, we hosted a party for our grandson’s 4th birthday, and we were so worn out at the end of it I completely forgot to post!

I hope this bit-o-cuteness makes up for my inattentive behavior. I’ll be better next week!

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Monday Mayhem – Persistence

Been there, done that, and my T-shirt is on the way.

Here’s the one I ordered:

I think the blue will really make my eyes pop. 😉

Persistence. If there’s one thing women know, it’s persistence. I have five older brothers. They didn’t always want to let me play with them, so they used their superior size and strength to try to muscle me out.

Nevertheless, I persisted.

With five boys and little hope of ever growing grass, my father covered our backyard in asphalt, installed a regulation basketball hoop, and marked the free-throw and three-point lines with spray paint. The ‘no blood, no foul’ rule was instituted. I was never big enough to mix it up in the games, but they would let me play H-O-R-S-E with them. Of course, they could stand behind either of those spray-painted lines and knock me out of the game in five quick rounds.

Nevertheless, I persisted.

Being a small girl, I had little hope of developing the arm strength for shots from field goal range. I needed to develop another weapon.

And so, I became the queen of the backwards bucket-shot.

With a little practice I could (and still can) sink a basket from anywhere within the arc by turning my back on the basket, spot-checking my alignment with the goal, then hurling the ball up over my head from between my knees.

I did what I had to do. I persisted until I found a way I had a chance to win.

I’m planning a program on goal setting and business plans for my local RWA chapter next month. In doing so, I’ve had to take a long look at my own goals and plans and how they have morphed in the past six years.

The publishing industry seems to shift and change like clouds on a windy day. I have a plan in place for 2017. Who knows if it will be relevant in 2018? *shrugs*

But I have to start somewhere.

Either way, I will persist.

Oh, and here’s a snapshot of me honing my skills on my First Communion day. What can I say? I was dedicated.

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – Shake it up!

So…life took a couple of turns for me last week. I turned the first book in the new Play Dates (Kensington/Lyrical 2017-2018) series in to my editor, and, I turned in my two-week notice at the day job.

While I’d love to say I’ll be writing for a living, that’s not the case…yet. What it came down to was the need to make a choice for happiness. And, extreme caffeination. For that reason, I chose to try something new. I’m going to work for our local Coca-Cola distribution center.

As Fodder pointed out, the only job that might have been a better fit for me would be some sort of quality assurance for at Steak ‘n Shake. 😉 Mm. Steakburgers. *sigh* A girl can dream.

This is another big step for me, but one that I think really highlights my evolution through my 40s. I went into this decade of my life with a lot of “somedays” in the back of my head. You know the kind. They sound a lot like, “Someday, I’ll write a book.”

My adventures in publishing have given me so much more than a sense of personal accomplishment. I’ve had to learn to accept and embrace criticism and rejection. I don’t like either of those two, but I can deal with it. And because I can, I now have the courage to make choices based on my potential for happiness.

The main thing I’ve learned in this decade is that life is too short. There’s no guarantee that you’ll ever see Someday. All we have is THIS day.

So, do something risky today. It doesn’t have to be big, or life altering, or even thrilling. Just take a chance, make a leap, do something that makes this day different from all the others. If it doesn’t work out the way you hoped, try something else.

Life is a series of chances, not a one-and-done.

The only true failure in life is the failure to make an attempt.

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