Tag Archives: write what you love

Stan Lee

I don’t buy comic books and I don’t know much about any of the heroes, but when my grandsons lived with us, they dragged me to see a lot of Iron Man, Avengers, and X Men movies.  And I enjoyed almost all of them.  Just like the urban fantasies that I love, comic book heroes always face overwhelming odds.  Good always versus evil.  The fate of the world is at stake.  And there’s so much action.  How fun is that?  So it surprised me when I listened to a quote by Stan Lee, after his death, where he said, “I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: Entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it, they might go off the deep end.”  (I got that quote from Screen Rant’s list of 10 most important quotes from Stan Lee:  https://screenrant.com/10-inspirational-stan-lee-quotes/ )

I love his words.  When I was a kid, I always wanted to do something important with my life.    It wasn’t about making oodles of money.  It was about changing the world, and in my eight-year-old mind that equated to becoming a teacher.  To me, teachers shaped kids’ minds and kids were our future.  And I didn’t change my opinion all through school and college.  That’s why I taught elementary for six years.  But it dawned on me that yes, teaching was important, but there were so many other factors that shaped a child, my influence was like a pebble dropping into an ocean.  And when laws changed, and Indiana wouldn’t hire anyone with a Master’s Degree anymore when I wanted to return to my old job, I told myself that raising two awesome daughters could change the world, too.  Still believe that.  And then when I discovered writing, I thought I’d found the perfect vehicle for more.

Somewhere in time, though, I realized that serious fiction might not be for me.  I was more drawn to genre novels.  At the first writers’ conference that I ever attended, the speaker asked us to raise our hands if we wrote genre.  My friend and I lifted our arms, and he sneered at us and informed us that we were hack writers, that we only worked for money.  (I wish).  Now, I knew that I’d never be compared to Margaret Atwood or Shakespeare, but that still ticked me off.  I took pride in what I wrote whether he thought it was worthy of literature or not.

A few writer conferences later (and I chose ones that focused on genre fiction), and the speaker asked one of the really talented romance writers why she chose to write “beneath” her.  Again, I silently fumed while the poor writer struggled for an answer.  (She came up with a good one, too.  Not that it satisfied Mr. Smirky Pants).  Since then, I’ve decided that it’s hard to write ANYTHING well.  And if you do a good job, you’ve earned my respect.  I’ve also learned that some people STILL have to have an hierarchy of what’s important literature and what’s not.  That’s their problem, not mine.  But I still fussed about the things that, in my mind, I couldn’t write well.

That’s part of the reason I had so much fun writing outside of my comfort zone for the three short stories I posted on my webpage for the beginning of October.  I’d told myself that I couldn’t write dark and dismal very well.  And when I posted those three stories, I was pretty satisfied with them.  I’d achieved my goal.  And do you know what?  It wasn’t as much fun as I thought it would be.  Because they’re not the real me.  Yes, I could write them.  Did I want to write any more?  Not really.  And that was a revelation for me.  I’m happy writing what I write.  That’s why Stan Lee’s quote struck such a chord for me.

I’m grateful to all of the authors who write the books that I love to read, the ones that bring me so much enjoyment.  Stan Lee’s right.  Offering entertainment is an end in itself.  Yes, serious, weighty volumes inspire me, but so do cozy mysteries and smalltown romances.  The world needs people who care about what they do, whether they collect garbage, perform surgeries, sing and dance, or write comic books.  Do what you feel passionate about (within reason:)

P.S.  I won’t be posting another blog until after Thanksgiving, so enjoy the holiday.  And happy writing!

I Should Have Written A Cookbook

I’ve never been particularly brilliant about what I decide to write.  If an idea comes to me, and it won’t leave my head, I’ll probably try to write it.  Not the best market strategy.  My wonderful agent, bless her heart, took me on because she liked my writing.  I was working on urban fantasies back then.  She liked Fabric of Life and sent it out into the world of editors and publishers.  But Fabric of Life was a blend of fantasy, ghosts, and family relationships.  Editors turned it down because cross-genre, especially a combo of myths, ghosts, and Fates, couldn’t be stuck in any specific genre.  I read their comments and tried again.

My agent liked Fallen Angels, but sent LOTS of comments.  I rewrote it–over and over again.  It went from single POV to multiple POV until finally, she really liked it.  Off it went, and this time, editors wrote that it wasn’t true urban fantasy because I’d included a mortal, mystery plot with fallen angels and vampires, so no deal.  When I finally wrote a pure urban fantasy, Wolf’s Bane, too much time had passed.  This g0-round, they wrote that they liked the book, but they’d already bought too many urban fantasies and the market was glutted.   So…my agent let me put the books online.  Where they faced stiff competition, because there are a LOT of urban fantasies out there. Did I learn my lesson?  No.  I thought I’d throw myths in the mix, and that might appeal to readers.  Thus, Empty Altars and Spinners of Misfortune went online. Finally, my kind and patient agent said, “Enough’s enough already.  Try a romance.”  Okay, not in those exact words, but that exact sentiment.  And she was right.  (She’s always right).  And guess what?  It sold, and I got a three book deal with Kensington.

My point?  Lots of people told me to write what I love.  And that’s good advice.  I learned a lot and became a better writer.  But what I loved didn’t sell.  Writers told me that if I wrote a good enough book, I’d find a publisher.  I did write good books.  At least, my agent thought so, and she knows her stuff.  They didn’t sell.  Why?  Because markets do matter. I’m not telling you to write for a trend.  First of all, it usually doesn’t work.  By the time you notice the trend, it takes a while to write your book, and then it takes longer to market it, and by the time you do that, the trend has often passed.  Secondly, I still believe you have to be attached to what you write.  It has to appeal to you.  If you force yourself to write something you don’t like, readers can tell.  Another thing I’ve come to learn–what you love isn’t always what you’re best at.  Every writer has strengths and weaknesses.  You have to find your niche–the genre that makes your writing shine.  Working on romances made me think about developing characters and their relationships.  I added humor and found that I enjoyed it.  Romances made me grow as a writer.

All that said, I should have written cookbooks.  My dirty, little secret is that I sleep in every Saturday morning, then pad into the living room and watch the new, foodtv cooking shows until noon.  Yes, noon.  I sip coffee and eat donuts–Saturday is not about being healthy. And no, I don’t feel guilty about it.  Because I love cooking, and I love trying new recipes. My husband loves to eat, and he isn’t fond of repetition:)  Like me, he gets bored with the same-old, same-old.  So, I scribble on every recipe I’ve ever made, tweaking it to what we like.  If a recipe doesn’t have scribbles, I never used it.  And I have a file full of recipes that we consider keepers.

Cookbooks sell.  Every time I watch In The Kitchen With David on QVC, he has a cookbook author on his show, pitching her new book.  And people buy them, LOTS of them. *Sigh*  If only I’d known.  Instead of worrying about plotting and pacing, word choice and characterization, I should have been fretting about which herb to use and what ingredients blend best.

Oh well, I have more fun creating my own worlds than wrestling souffles, so I think I’ll stick to shifters and love interests.  Happy Writing!

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