Confessions of an Author

A month ago today, my day job let me go.

The shock was utter and complete; I had no idea that I was in trouble until my supervisor asked to speak with me in the conference room. My stomach sank when I saw the HR guy was already there. I sat in confusion and disbelief as they broke up with me. Breaking up is what it felt like, anyway. I wanted to argue with them. My pride demanded I try to show them they were wrong. Defeat descended quickly, however, and then I couldn’t get away fast enough. Stripping down my cubicle to the bare beige and gray was terrible.

They let me go near the end of my shift. I went home, stunned for the entire evening, worrying about the logistics of what to do next.

Rather than stay at home and stew in an anxiety ridden turmoil, the next day I went to a coffee shop with my laptop. I worked on my novel. I’ve been working on this novel for two and a half years. The bulk of the day was spent doing what I loved.

I am of course looking for work, but finding a job in my town is a demanding art form all its own. I’m also looking to get back in school. I have a few hours a day that aren’t spoken for, in that time  I work on finishing up Bento Box.

The first time I was laid off, it was in 2009, when the housing bubble burst and all the jobs stopped. During that time, I wrote two novels. I didn’t know what to do then either, but writing at that time seemed just like something to wile away the hours until I landed my next job.

This time, I don’t feel like I lost a job. I’ve been practicing at this writing business for almost three years now. I’m not lost for things to do, I’m desperate to get everything done in a day. I’ve worked harder in this last month than I feel like I have in a really long time. The only difference now is that I enjoy the work so much more.

This has been a time of unexpected ups and downs for me. The one thing I have going for me is the amount of support I have. So many of my friends have told me, “This is a blessing in disguise,” “This is an opportunity,” or my favorite, “The universe really hit you with a two by four, didn’t it?”

I’m terrified, but I’m going for it. In this situation, what else can I do?

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Service Announcement

Recently my friend Allie Drennan launched a website, http://barelysalvageable.com. It’s dedicated to building community for aspiring authors. It’s also where we show off our work and keep people informed of our newest novels. You can sign up for our newsletter as well, and get a free copy of the ebook The Corsican, my debut novel. Please check out http://barelysalvageable.com and tell me what you think!

The Con Show

I went to NorWesCon, which I have done for many years before. This con, however, I focused on my venturing into my writing career, rather than just going for fandom. Fandom in and of itself is fun, but this year I was more engaged. I went to learn about something I love, and that’s just what I did.

I went to panels, which were great fun. I went to one panel called, “The Biggest Mistake I Ever Made…” and all of the panelists seemed in consensus that it was agreeing to a panel at 10 am Saturday morning. I didn’t meet Simon R. Green, but I made him laugh. It was a nice return for all the times his books made me smile.

My next most exhilarating moment was getting my story critiqued by four published authors. Sunlight streamed into the big plate windows 14 stories up, creating a hot box effect. Not ideal. I tried to hang in there and concentrate on what they said. I felt like a patient being diagnosed by four doctors. Fortunately, they were kind, wonderful doctors. They didn’t leave a stone unturned, but the way they delivered their advice was professional and encouraging. I have lots to think about going forward on Bastions.

The best is of course for last. My friend James, whom I met through my writing group, offered to escort me down to see Phil Brucato and his partner Sandra for dinner down in the lounge. I’ve met Phil once before, when I sat on a panel at Geek Girl Con. He was wonderful, and I thought to myself that I’d like to get to know him better. He remembered me, smiling easily as I sat down at a table full of noone I knew. At one point James brought up the Mage Anthology that Phil is orchestrating. At that moment, Phil Brucato turns to me, looks at me point blank and says, “Oh yeah! I forgot you were a writer. Do you have a month? I’d like you to write a short story.”

…and then my heart stopped.

I said, “For you, of course! I’d be happy to!”

…and then I remembered how to breathe again.

I had other great moments while I was there. I bought a very adorable, tiny matted picture of a blue squid with a hunter’s cap, magnifying glass and pipe. Squidlock Holmes is my favorite, and I have to find a place to put him on my wall. The artist was Meg Lyman, a local Seattle artist with a clever talent for cephalopods.

Con always ends too soon, and Monday is the cruelest cut of all. That being said, I have no regrets. This con was the best I’ve attended in ages.

Merry Thing What You Celebrate

To all of the people who read my blog, I wish you a belated Christmas, a late Solstice, and most importantly, respect to who you are and what you believe. I also hope you have a prosperous and happy new year.

My new year is shaping up quite well, after a few false starts. I will be finishing Bento Box to a point where I’m going to shop it around to agents and publishers. *gasp!* The indie girl is going straight? That’s a legitimate question. The truth is that despite having one book out, I am still learning new things about the publishing world every day. I’ve decided that I want to try my hand at going “legit,” and trying my hand at a few different publishing methods. Not every type of publishing is right for every type of project. This is my chance to research and find out what works best for me.

And, if I should fall on my face in a pile of rejection letters, at least I can slink back to known ground and get my book out that way.

A short story of mine, “The Gaijin and the Butterfly,” will be making its way onto Amazon very soon. I am being published through a game designer who wanted some stories written to fire up readers imaginations about how the game could be played. (Read: fluff piece.) I’m happy with it though, and I learned a lot while working on the piece.

Another short story of mine, “Nitpix,” is due to be published next year as a part of an anthology written to sell for a charity cause. The book is a YA saga of many different teenagers finding themselves the outcasts, and dealing with it. The anthology doesn’t have a title yet.

I have other projects brewing, but I’m so focused on these different paths that I’m not focused on the story as much. A necessary evil of becoming an author, I suppose.

I am also considering revamping my blog. I seem to do all right posting my writing and my ruminations on writing, but I don’t have a goal with my blog and I’m not giving it as much attention these days. I love the community that I have garnered, but I’m not sure what I like about this blog and want to keep. I’m figuring that I will be writing a lot about the processes I’m learning about in the upcoming year.

So, again, to all those who read this blog, thank you for coming along for the ride!

Learning process

It is safe to say that I’m doing it wrong.

I can’t tell you the number of happy, unemployed writers who are writing up a storm, who are spending hours a day on their efforts and treating it like a real job. I see them schedule signings and market new books. They post word count that makes me nauseas from jealousy.

I hear about product funnels and how to make a mint by posting serials, and I continue to labor on my second novel.

I have a full time job, a seven year old son, and a husband. Most people might consider that to be three full time jobs.

Unfortunately, I have a powerful need to eat sometime this month. I also like to talk to friends, although unfortunately most of the time I bore them with the same thing I’m writing about here – my life and how my writing fits into it.

Still, I see how my other friends live. Two of them stay at home and manage their domiciles. One of them writes, and I am terrifically jealous of the “free time” she seems like she has. In her perspective though, she chooses to spend this “free time” helping out her brother and sister, both who have several children. She’s doing Very Important Things. And it’s easy for me to say what I’d do with that time, but I’m not in her shoes. My other friend is an artist and a mother. When she does get free time, she has multiple hobbies, which she seems to switch in and out of.

Several other of my writing friends do what I do – work to make money, and write on the side to get started. They’re mothers, they’re wives, and they’re exhausted, like me. And our word counts suck. And our writing groups are tiny, and barely held together by the invisible force of the Internet. Hell, I’ve only had a writing group since March.

But I’m doing it anyway. I’m writing, I’m editing, I’m taking classes, and I’m reading articles. I tweet, post, and network. I try to minimize the Internet stuff, as it eats into my all-important writing and editing time.

I have by no means become rich off my first book. The good news is, I wasn’t expecting to. I really do have high hopes for Bento. Hell, I want it to be a zeitgeist, and I’m in love with it. On the other hand, I’m a novice, with only one book under my belt. I still have so much to learn about marketing and all the things. If Bento becomes my golden goose, so be it. But even if I never made a dollar writing, I would still do it.

I love writing. I’m passionate about getting stories out. And despite the obstacles I’ve mentioned previously, I still make time to write. I go out with my girlfriends and talk plot. I hop onto Hangouts and learn about the publishing world. I listen to podcasts about how to improve my writing skills. And I write.

Maybe in five years there will be articles about me. Maybe my name will sit on the shelf with authors I adore: Gaiman, de Lint, Martin. And maybe there won’t. There are few guarantees in this world, but there are lots of stories.

And maybe, I’m not doing it so wrong after all.

Geek Girl Con

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As I have mentioned before, I got invited to speak at a panel at Geek Girl Con. I was over the moon about this opportunity. Keep in mind, I have been going to cons for years. Normally I would be too preoccupied to go to panels, but I have seen Neil Gaiman, Jim Butcher, Neal Stephenson, and Greg Bear speak at various panels. I had at least some idea of what was expected.

The panel’s title was Toward A Universe of Equals: The Past, Present and Future of Gender Equality in Speculative Fiction. We were in one of the larger rooms, which hosted about 250 people, and was almost full when the panel was ready to start. While I was there, I met Phil Brucato, whose work I was familiar with. He developed for White Wolf and helped work on several of the major gaming systems that I was quite fond of playing years ago. He was a crisp, professional gentleman who admitted to ruining his knees and hips in mosh pits. I immediately liked him.

At the other table sat Danielle Myers, April Jo Murphy, and Micheal Shean. Micheal was the moderator and invited me to the panel. Crystal Connor showed up a little late, as the panel began. She sat down next to me, and on a spur I hugged her, and she hugged me back. What floored me is that when she hugged me, I felt like she was hugging me because she hadn’t seen me in ages, not like a hug for show. In no time we were giggling and whispering during the panel like complete children, but no one seemed to mind.

The panel itself.. well, I was in some fairly prestigious company. And we all had differing opinions about ‘feminism.’ And honestly, while that was where the conversation started, it evolved into a simple sense of equality for everyone. It wasn’t boys vs girls, it was race and age and even weight, all the discriminations that belittle people.

I noticed people leave, and I noticed people sneak in. I think at the end of it, despite feeling like I was babbling incoherently, it went really well. Afterwards, Micheal told me that the head of the panels told him that she thought it was the most successful panel of the con so far.

There were those that asked the question, why have a feminism panel at a feminist con? I think what made this interesting was that the panelists had six different opinions on the issue of discrimination. Two of the panelists were men. One of the panelists was African American. Everyone has different takes on how best to achieve equality, which is important because equality is not one size fits all. If it were, it would discount individuals, and individuals are who want to feel equal.

The panel, however, was the first step. After the panel, there were those who wanted to talk to the panelists, and that was very interesting. I was approached by this handsome young man with a cap of ginger curls hidden beneath a helmet. He wore a soldier’s outfit and his name on his tag was a con name, not a real name. He asked me for my autograph, even though I got the impression he had never even heard of my book. I signed his poster and then he asked me about his book. I was a bit surprised by the question he asked, which seemed very basic to me, but it was very important to him. He opened with, “In your professional opinion, what do you think?” He told me about a soldier that appears in his book (no surprise there) and told me he mentioned he was “of Latino descent.” Then he asked me what I thought.

I can only say I didn’t laugh, but took him seriously, as it seemed very important to him. I told him he had the right instincts and he should stay with that. He smiled, and was so pleased that a real author had taken him seriously.

It was then, having a person approach me and feel towards me the way I felt when I met Charles De Lint.. It was an experience like none I’d ever had, but it told me something very important. If I become a known author, someone who people talk about and share with their friends, I will become a public figure. I learned that at the writer’s conference. I knew that in my mind. However, it’s a different thing entirely to learn that I think I am up to becoming a public figure.

The rest of the evening was terrific. We left the con, found a restaurant, and sat down to chat. Everyone really seemed to click, and we had an amazing time. We swapped stories from our various walks of life, and I learned a ton. We all exchanged information, and left the con very pleased with how the whole day turned out.

One year and a month from the time I’ve published The Corsican, and I feel like I have vaulted from dreamer to doer. I have had a taste of what I’ve always wanted in life, and I want more. Getting published seemed like the conclusion of a life’s dream, but it was simply the beginning. This whole month was a demonstration of where I need to go, and now I’m going to keep on going, as far as this ride will go.