Best Laid Plans….

I meant to have the first draft of POSED IN DEATH finished by the end of June. I knew June was going to be a busy month, but I didn’t realize quite how busy it was going to get. There’s no way I’m going to meet my goal.

HH’s brother and his significant other came to stay with us for a few days for a visit. They live in California,, so we don’t get to see them often. We had a wonderful time, but no writing. I love having guests, so cooked things ahead for them, and we took them to different places for walks and hikes (their favorite thing to do). Our daughter, a traveling nurse, is still coming to stay with us on the days she works in town; and it’s wonderful getting to see her, so I shave off time for that. On a sadder note, my cousin who lives with my sister is having more health issues, and Mary had appointments she had to keep, so I sat with Jenny more than usual lately. She’s having more mild seizures lately and having more trouble walking, so Mary and I are starting to look at nursing centers.

Some people shake their heads at that, but after HH’s dad died, his mother was a lot happier when I found a good nursing home for her. She hated being alone, didn’t enjoy cooking, and kept forgetting to take her medicine. The home she stayed in had an activity every afternoon and usually another one each night. I went to take her out for lunch and for long rides every Thursday for twelve years until she told me that she couldn’t work me into her schedule anymore. I loved it. My writer friend, Ann–one of my favorite people–went to a nursing home after her husband died, too, and her daughter visited her every day. She was in my writers’ club, so I went to visit her occasionally and so did other members of our group, and she got happier and happier the longer she was there. I think Jenny will be the same. She loves being around people and doing crafts. Right now, she watches a lot of TV and can’t get out much. Mary and I will visit her if we can find a good home for her. So will my daughter. But finding that good place for her takes time.

I don’t have any deadlines I have to meet, and that’s a good thing right now, but I’m getting a little antsy to get this done. Sometimes, life happens, though, and this time, I’m doomed. I’ve been writing whenever I can, and I can smell the end of the first draft. Only five more chapters to go. I’ll get to them when I can. There’s no use fussing about it. It is what it is, and I did the best I could. So I’ll just keep chugging along. At least, for now, I’m happy with what I have, and I’m writing this ahead to schedule it, so who knows? Maybe I’ll have written The End by the time you read this.

How’s your summer going? Do you lose writing time once warm weather rolls around? I always think of the lazy days of summer, but the truth is, I’m busier once the heat cranks up. I have the yard to take care of besides the house. And we’re more social in warm weather and go out more. We play more. Do you still meet writing goals? Fingers crossed you do.

What is Success?

When I first started writing, and knew that I was new and had a lot to learn, I felt like a success if I could just finish a short story and have all the parts in the right place with no big  problems.  If the story came together well enough, I’d read The Gila Queen to see if it might fit anywhere.  (The Gila Queen’s a marketing newsletter that I subscribed to.  It’s still available online, but I haven’t looked at it for a long time.  If you’d like to:   )

I really enjoyed The Gila Queen, because it listed small magazines that were looking for short stories and paid in copies, as well as established publications that paid cash for each word.  If I found something that looked like a good fit, I’d mail (yes, snail mail) my story off and hope for the best.  If the editor wanted it, I felt like a success.  Now, mind you, success might mean that I received two free copies of the mag with my work in it.  I didn’t care.  Someone wanted my work.  Sometimes, success meant that a respected editor took the time to write a thoughtful rejection about why my work didn’t fit their magazine.  To me, that meant my writing was good enough to warrant a bit of their time.  And I was grateful.

Another reason I liked Gila Queen was because editors looking for stories for anthologies would list what they were looking for or the theme for that edition.  And often, those themes gave me ideas to try.  And sometimes, those ideas came together in a story that the editor took.  Eventually, those small sells led to bigger sells to bigger magazines, and after that, I got brave enough to try to write a book.

My first stab at a novel only stretched to 20,000 words–what some might consider failure.  I considered it success, because I’d never written anything that long before, and I’d learned a lot from the experience.  My second “novel” came in at 40,000 words and a tiny press in Baltimore bought it to print as newspapers for passengers to buy at airports to read on their flights.  Success.  Of course, no one ever heard of Gourmet Killings, but the editor liked it and passengers bought it.  Good enough for me.

These days, I still measure success with a slide rule.  For my Jazzi series, I look at numbers–rankings and sells.  But for Muddy River, I’m letting the series build slowly, so if my numbers are tolerable and I hear a good review, hey–success.

Why am I going on about this?  It’s a fluke, really.  John Tesh just happened to be on the radio when I was listening to it to pass time.  And what waa he talking about?  Success.  His message?  People say, “I’ll be happy when I’m successful.”  But success is hardly ever exactly what they thought it would be.  Or it comes at a higher price or more work than they anticipated.  He believed that the cause and effect should be reversed, that “happiness brings success, not vice versa.”  Because we  measure it differently.  We count one success at a time and are happy when we reach the next one.

I’m not saying disappointment doesn’t flatten me sometimes.  We all get frustrated and mumble about quitting, giving up, it’s too hard.  I felt like I was beating my head against the author wall when I wrote romance after romance that couldn’t get any traction.  But when that happens, it’s time to stop and rethink, to try something else.  And sometimes, we have to realize that we’re aiming for an impossible goal.  A near miracle.  We’re setting our goals and dreams too high.

That’s what Ilona Andrews’ blog was about today.  Sometimes, we’re simply unrealistic. We don’t reach the pinnacle of success, so we consider ourselves failures.  Instead of embracing what we’ve done right or well, we look at where we’ve fallen short.  I’m not saying to quit trying.  We should always do our best.  We have to give ourselves the best chance we can to reach our goals.  But when we don’t, it just means that that particular effort didn’t work.  So we have to try something else and try again.

Keep hitting those keys, and happy writing!




Writing: How did March get here already?

Last year, I set big goals for myself for my writing. I was going to write the third novel in my Fallen Angel series. Cross that off. I was going to write a new Babet and Prosper novella. Done. I was going to start putting short-short stories on my webpage. Check. And I was going to finish a third novel for Wolf’s Bane and maybe Empty Altars. I’ve just finished the first draft of the Wolf’s Bane novel–admittedly late, but hey!–somewhere in there, my agent asked me to try to write a romance. First, I don’t read romance. I don’t know the rhythms and intricacies of the genre. So that’s what I did first. I really believe you can’t write something you don’t read. And I discovered that I love Catherine Bybee. I read her, and ideas started to perk. I wrote the book, sent it off, my agent–Lauren Abramo at Dystel & Goderich–loved it, and we’re still doing the rewrite dance.

This year, I didn’t set goals for myself, because I don’t know what to expect. My agent might ask for another romance. I hate being rushed, so I’m going to start a second one soon. Once my trusted critique partners go through Magicks Unleashed (the 3rd Wolf’s Bane), I’ll polish that and put it online. And then? I’m not sure. But for a writer with no agenda, I still feel behind. How can that happen? I’ve decided it just goes with the territory. I’m very aware that I haven’t written a third Empty Altars novel and don’t know when I will. I used to think that if I got to three books in a series, I could pat myself on the back for being a good girl. But then trilogies stretched to longer series, and some writers hit their stride on their fourth or fifth book. Yikes! That means that three books is just cutting your teeth. Anyway, I have lots of writing to go. This year, I just don’t have a plan. And for right now, that’s okay.

BTW, since I’m going to start rewrites soon, Sue Bahr did a great blog post on it. I found it really helpful.

Also, since I’m starting to miss Tyr and Diana in Empty Altars, I decided to treat myself by writing a short story about them for my webpage. I’m going to post one part every week for the month of March.

And if you’re ever interested in catching my author’s facebook page, it’s:

If you have goals this year, hope you meet them. If you don’t, happy writing anyway!

Life Goals

Dreams change over time.

When I was in middle school, I got hooked on Natty Bumpo novels.  I wanted to be a pioneer.  I fell in love with Lewis Wetzel in  the Zane Grey books that told about him.  It wasn’t until I dug deeper that I wondered if maybe Wetzel didn’t have a few personality flaws that weren’t mentioned in Grey’s stories and that there might be a downside to being the first person to discover new territories.

In high school, I discovered Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and The Feminine Mystique.  I was determined to be a clever, independent woman who would make my way in the world.  My goal?  I wanted to teach elementary education for nine months each year, and I’d be so inspiring, so motivational, that every child in my classes would yearn to achieve.  Unrealistic?  You bet, but worthy nonetheless.  I’d save money while I worked, devoting myself to others, and each summer, I’d take a trip to some new, exotic locale, giving back to myself.  I was serious enough about these goals that I warned every man I dated that I would not budge from my plan to teach and travel until I reached the ripe age of thirty.  And then, and only then, if I met a man who intrigued me, I might re-evaluate my thinking.

It sounded good on paper.  I stubbornly stuck to the idea, even after I met John when I was a sophomore in college.  But John’s a very persistent person, and I married him after I taught one year.  My summer trip was our honeymoon all through New England, but I have no regrets.  Forty years later, I still think I made the right choice.

The odd thing is, I never once thought about becoming a writer.  I bumbled into it by accident, just like I stumbled upon marriage and kids.  It wasn’t part of my plans.  It had to niggle and nag to catch my attention.  At first, it was a distraction from diapers.  I love children, but when my husband signed me up for a class in continuing education called Writing For Fun and Profit, I was so happy to get out of the house to have some time for myself, I could hardly believe it.  And I loved the class.  I loved writing.  Little did I know that it would become a lifelong passion.

I listen to some of my writer friends.  They always knew they wanted to write.  I thought of it as an outlet from more important matters–an escape, until I realized I was addicted.  Looking back, it’s been interesting.  I was the girl who always had a goal, who was disciplined and driven.  And I met those goals, but then got distracted by tangents, things that led me to other things.  The distractions have proven fulfilling.  They’ve become goals in themselves.  The journey has been rewarding, and there’s still more to come.  I can’t wait to see where Life leads me next, even if it’s not part of my agenda.