Tag Archives: novel

Faking it til you make it, or Hey! My book is out!!


Image result for fake it til you make it meme

So, how many of you leap into things, smiling through faces while hiding a certain amount of quavering within?

I’ve done it all my life, think I’ve come from a family who taught me about this, created another family who can do it. It’s a useful skill. Got me through university, job interviews, marriage, parenting. (Though those last two are debatable – not sure if I succeeded there.) (Probably ex-husband and kids would have something to add here – hope they don’t. Some illusions are necessary for me to keep my aging smile properly polished.)

The only problem is, the inner quavering is still there. Tapping on the insides, making your brain make bad decisions, sending you into wee tailspins of anxiety. It used to appear before I taught a class or did public speaking, only to slip away at the actual time of delivery. The only reminder was a feeling of unreality during the engagement and a curious fatigue after it, like I’d run a race. Stage fright, as they call it.

Now that I’m older and more uncertain of my cognitive abilities, that fright is stronger, lasts longer.

I haven’t slept well for weeks, and it’s all about the book, trying to get the book out, worrying about the book. Thought I had it all happily created, only to realize with a gasp the file I used wasn’t the one I wanted and besides, there were formatting things (like dual chapter headings) that loomed in my sub- and conscious mind. Eeeks! It wasn’t perfect, that I knew, but stupid mistakes are just that. They needed to be purged. Fixed. Redressed.

Currently, the revised files are being evaluated by Kindle Direct Publishing before they get finally uploaded. Thank heavens I had yet another look at things. Formatting computer documents isn’t my strong point and if I’d been smarter, I would have hired someone to do it for me, but there I went, leaping in as if I knew what I was doing, grinning madly all the while.

Not that I MIND waking up at 4 AM, really. It’s lovely and quiet out and the apartment is warm and cozy and I can schlep about in jammies without worrying about delivery men coming to the door. Even the radio is sotto voce. It’s pleasant.

The gnawing anxiety isn’t so good. It makes me nervous eat, sucking back carbs and needing things to chew on – popcorn, random pieces of string. Image result for anxious eating

So, I squash it, ignore it, put my mind in other places and pretend things aren’t happening, at least until someone mentions they have ordered my book and then the circle spins again. What will they THINK?

Truth is, I can’t make anyone LIKE what I’ve written. I am so grateful if they are willing to support my wee venture. I’ve learned a lot about publishing and have ever so much more to learn. I just hope not to embarrass myself into dust.

And my story seems small, given that it is, in fact, small. It’s not going to change the world. But then, I never really thought I could – no, that’s not true. I was brought up to believe I would.

I blame my mother for that. She KNEW we would all be mavericks, leaders, changers. (She was wrong, incidentally, but we’ve all been imploding trying to meet that expectation)

As I toddle into my 60’s, I realize that my changing the world probably isn’t going to happen. Except in the small ways that we all change a teeny part of our world as we go along. And of course, changing ourselves to make the world better. I can only hope my little changes are good ones.

Unlike in online publishing, I can’t resubmit and erase the errors.

Want to see the book I’ve been toiling over? Here’s the blurb for Recycled Virgin and a link:

Recycled Virgin (Scleratis Series Book 1) by [Brown, DA, Brown, Dorothyanne]What if the Virgin Mary never ascended? What if she’s been hard at work on earth for generations? What if she finds out that the real story of her religion’s founding has been lost in a melee of male privilege?

The former Blessed Virgin Mary has had enough. She’s spent the past 2000 years looking after others, only to find that her true story has been erased. No one knows the real Miryam, the flesh and blood mother, the woman who taught the foundations of a world-wide religion to her often disobedient son.

As she lives through her latest reincarnation, she struggles to understand why she keeps returning. Will her study at a Theological College finally allow her to free herself? Will she be able to retell her story, make herself real? Will she find the other half to her soul?

Recycled Virgin is the first book in the Scleratis Series.

Note: it’s the FIRST book, which implies there will be more, and there are. So it’s back to chewing string for the next while…

 

Infographic: 4 Key Book Publishing Paths


Infographic: 4 Key Book Publishing Paths.

Excellent post by Jane Friedman. Writers should subscribe.

How do you know when it’s ready?


41vZycAOEfL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_I’m delighted to report my wonderful, smart, and confident niece has written and self-published her first book and is now marketing it to bookstores in her area, as well as on Amazon. It’s called “Crescent” and I’ll link to it here.

When I first heard about this, though, I was startled to find in my heart a bit of anger. I was frustrated – I don’t have a book yet myself, and yet I’ve been “working” at writing for some time (though procrastination seems to be my main output). The things I do write, people tell me, are good. Why don’t I send them in for publication?

Where does that niece of mine get her confidence? I’ve never ever been that confident in my entire life. Was it my mother’s fault? My English teacher’s fault? (She told me a story I sweated over to write for my parents as a Christmas present was trivial and derivative) (It probably was but I cried buckets writing it and my parents cried even more reading it, so there!) My ex? There must be someone I can blame, surely.

Facebook doesn’t help. Everyone is writing books and books and more books and I am smothering in the weight of all those books published when mine are not.

It’s not like I haven’t been published before  – for a while there I was making a pretty good income from writing. I’ve been on CBC’s Sunday Edition, I’ve got publications in humour, non-fiction, poetry, fiction, even the Oxford Companion to Medicine.

And yet I hesitate. I have turned myself into one of those things I promised myself I would never be, the dilettante writer. The wanna be. The liar.

And so I heap more scorn on myself and freeze myself into even greater immobility. It’s ridiculous, but I can’t seem to stop myself.

Nor can I stop myself from writing.

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”
― Dorothy ParkerThe Collected Dorothy Parker

Ah, so true. But there is joy to be had in writing – the joy of seeing things more clearly, of being more present in this world, of delighting in all those other really good books out there (we really don’t need another one, I tell myself in my dark heart…) because we’ve struggled to get things just right ourselves.

I’ve restarted The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron in an attempt to jumpstart my mind, and am working on a few things that have deadlines so that is a good thing. I love deadlines. I’m waiting to hear about a couple of submissions, hoping things go well. I’m doing the 3daynovel thing again this year, working on a mystery plot.

I’m wishing my niece well with her book, which is really quite good and you should all buy it. But that initial anger I felt – I’m hanging on to that, too, because it might just push me over the hump to get my stuff done, too.

So, how do you DO a good murder (story) these days, anyway?


I remember once having a lengthy and somewhat gruesome chat about how you would dispose of a body in these recycling focused days. Would you drop it by the medical school? Dissect it and put the hip joints and such in either the plastic or metal recycling containers? Take the head and the mercury fillings to the harmful waste dump day?

It’s a conundrum.

Likewise, how do you learn to write about murder most foul? Merely calling up your local cop shop and asking for tips  might lead to awkward questions and notes home from school asking you to please not offer to chaperone the next field trip. Calling a local psychiatrist and pretending to be a psychopath isn’t recommended, either – unfortunately, so much psychiatry is based on first impressions you might end up with way too much time to write and too many drugs to be coherent.

The obvious choice is to read read read read mysteries, following the excellent (if somewhat dry) Francine Prose’s guidelines to Reading like a writer. Well, I’ve done that, and I have a problem with that approach.

If the mystery is good, I get all wrapped up in the story and race through, barely noticing the plot techniques while I get pulled along. If it’s bad, I only notice the things that hold it up, ruin the credibility.

OHI0129-CritiqueRule1I remember once being so disenchanted with a book that I dropped everything to see if the plant the author had described actually grew in the place she’d put it. (It didn’t).

I know a book has missed the mark for me when I get that fussy.

So I take courses, rub up against “real” writers, shop my stuff to contests and unsuspecting friends, try to get critiqued. This last bit is harder than it looks. Even in writing groups, there’s the tendency to be nice.

Or horrified.

One of my stories involved a pedophile that I apparently described so well that people didn’t want to read my stuff anymore. So I had to play nicey nicey and write nicey stuff for a bit.

Inside, the seething dark looms.horrifiedwoman

So, instead, I send things to contests. The ones that give you feedback. I figure I’m paying someone my entry fee to have a close, uninvolved reader have a look.

Sometimes the feedback is useful, sometimes it’s just a line or two.  Sometimes it is harsh, sometimes it’s helpful. Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to turn it around and offer my comments on other’s writing. I can only hope I’m the helpful type.

In the meantime, I’ve had help from:

Gotham Writer’s Workshop

Crime Writers of Canada

Sisters In Crime

Bloody Words

Canadian Authors Association

and my favourite resource for ways to kill people and those awkward dinner table silences:

D.P. Lyle. Check out his books. Best way to find stuff out without getting asked questions you can’t answer…

Old news, but I need to wallow a bit…


Will be revising my book over June, hoping to send it out shortly afterwards…;-)

I’m not a winner, but a contendah in the top 12, for “Recycled Virgins”
http://www.3daynovel.com/2013/02/26/announcing-the-winners-of-the-35th-annual-international-3-day-novel-contest/

images-7

Wishing and dreading and hoping…


I have just read a novel of such unspeakable beauty that I am overwhelmed. Donna Morrissey’s Sylvanus Now is breathtaking, right from the first vision of Sylvanus jigging fish: right forearm up, left forearm down, left forearm up, right forearm down; to the vision of Adelaide’s eye, sparkling blue. It’s a novel about the changing of the fishery in Newfoundland, when large trawlers came in to rape the seas and the governments abandoned both the sea and the careful tenders of her in favour of cheap fish and way too much of it. It’s a story of a people forced to change their ways of life, and it seems as fresh now as when it was written, as we all cope with a changing economy and hang on the American election with bated breath, wondering what our future in Canada holds, tied as we are to the tails of the American Bald Eagle (a carrion-eater) and the Chinese Tiger (endangered by environmental change).

Donna Morrissey has won many awards for her writing, and they are well-deserved. Her power in a sentence is vast. Her ability to evoke the feelings of the people she describes, complicated and earthy and thoughtful and hidden as they are is astonishing.

I can’t believe I hadn’t read her before.

I feel small, I do, as I struggle to bring my words to life in even a tenth of the way Morrissey does. I know there are many authors who don’t write this way and are still successful, and who write perfectly acceptable stories and thrillers that make you want to stay up all night or love stories that make you yearn for the glory of new love (well, except for we cynics). But all of my life, despite my stated fondness for the “good enough” story, I’ve yearned to write like Morrissey, like Helen Humphreys, Frances Itani, Bronwyn Wallace. I want to wrestle feelings from readers, transport them, make them feel the sea spray or the bombs thundering or the mud or the fear.

It’s funny the reaction I have when reading such writing. I relax into the book, knowing I am in the hands of a master, knowing the book will take me on a ride and enclose me in its world. I stay awake, eyelids flipping up and down like a blind in the hands of a misbehaving preschooler, unwilling to let the world go, reading just that one more page. With lesser books, I stay alert, less involved, easier to distract, more likely to put it down, even if it is a good book. The great books show me their hearts. I can’t help but respond.

And the feeling lingers. After Sylvanus Now, I want to go out and see the sea, inhale it, feel its call, see the salt-bleached houses, run the wind through my hair.

Fortunately, I live in Nova Scotia. The sea is fifteen minutes away. “Go on, you foolish thing,” I can hear Florry say.

Life as a Can-Lit novel


There’s a running joke about Canadian literature. It has to involve abuse, the church, poverty, alcoholism, women working hard to survive, landscape, and preferably at least one big storm. My excellent Atlantic Literature prof, Alexander Macleod, wailed during one class that he was still waiting for the Canadian novel that didn’t involve a storm. Meanwhile he is teaching us about how literature changes landscape changes literature. It’s a mind-blowing class and I recommend him as a prof. My brain hurts after every hour.

And, well, as for me, I’m waiting for the blizzard to complete my collection…

I find it interesting, living in the midst of my own novel. Sometimes I even have a narrator, though I understand many people don’t. Mine is dictating to me now – “She smiles as she thinks of a clever metaphor..”

How I wish my narrator was a typist. Life would be so much simpler!

Still the novel. I suppose this feeling of being in a novel of some interest and tragedy and storminess and place is behind the urge so many of us feel to write memoirs or (sigh) blogs. It can’t be, we think, that all this stuff we go through really isn’t of interest to anyone else. Surely it must be good for something, some teaching, some long-lasting value.

 

It’s hard to predict what will make a good story many years hence. Pepys’ diary – well it might be interesting, and yet I can’t get into it. I am too far removed from the people. My cousin Grace’s diary, with her indigo pyjamas and repeated stops back and forth with the man who turned her mattress? Fascinating to me, with her notes about the everyday life of an independent woman in Quincy, Mass. in the 50’s. I’d love to read her earlier diaries, when she travelled the world on her own.

Right now for the course I’m taking, we’re reading excerpts from diaries written by the original explorers. to them, they may have seemed humdrum. To us, they are an invaluable window on life at the times.

 

 

I’m sad my mother never filled out the memory book I gave her. Her family is gone now, and the history is lost to me. Not just their history, but the history of them living in that time. I wonder about how they viewed the tremendous changes that occurred in their too short life-span. World wars, pandemics, childbirth, women’s rights, crises in Canada and abroad, changes in the church, technological change so vast it is hardly comprehensible.

My mother-in-law was raised on an isolated farm in New Zealand. I adored her tales of growing up – it was as foreign to me as life without the internet feels now.

Publishers frown on the memoir. At the recent pitch the publisher session I attended, you could see them visibly cringing every time one was mentioned. They repeatedly mentioned the need to have something in the story that made it unusual, different, stand-out.

I can’t help but wonder if they know what they are talking about. Perhaps, in terms of saleability, one needs the can-lit version of a life. Who knows, though, if that’s enough for the following generations to understand our lives? So much of history is the history of wars and conflict, because that was deemed important to write down at the time. And yet…

How did our grandmothers manage their houses? How did the church gain so much power in Quebec? How did women give away their rights? How did they fight for them back? How did we deal with life, death, illness, work? I wish we knew.

So, memoir-writers, write on. Write about the normal things of life. Write about the mad things, the niggly things, the fun things. Share the stories. Our history is oral as well as written, but learn from those who only have the oral tradition – things change. If we want to truth of our existence to survive, write it down.

Even if it ends up as a can-lit novel.

 

Panicking and all that


This weekend I’m off to an excellent mystery writer’s conference – Bloody Words XII in Toronto, ON. It’s one of those GOOD conferences, with a short story contest, the opportunity to have your MS evaluated by an author, a chance to take said story to pitch to an agent, plus lots of sessions on how to write, meetings with all the fabulous authors you read, and fun galore.

So I should be looking forward to it. Instead, I am in a state of suspended animation similar to that of a deer in the front of an oncoming Mac Truck.

You see, I missed the short story contest, despite promising myself I’d enter. My story didn’t fit the guidelines and I hated to send in a revamped weaker one that probably would just embarrass me.

I did send in a MS for evaluation, though, and am inwardly cringing at the potential for damning with faint praise from a real live author. Of course I assume she’ll hate it.

And then I booked an appointment with an agent, and now I am overcome, frozen, totally blinded by the view of my incompetence as I review my book, working on it so it’s shiny enough to pitch.

Part of it is the aloneness of writing. I’ve been lazy about sending things in for publication and my recent contest entries have been uninspired. I feel as if I am dabbling in the shallows of the tidal pools of my mind. Little little splashes.

Part of it is the difficulty I have roping my mind into behaving properly. It might be simple laziness, but I also wonder about the effects of my MS on my brain power. Of course, as soon as I

say that, I hear my mum telling me it’s just an excuse, but I do run up against limitations that seem real to me. Maybe the novel format is too much to take on, my “poor me I’m sick” self says.

“You’re just wasting time,” my maternal message says. “You can do anything you put your mind to,” she adds, dangling participles with abandon.

Self-messaging runs deep deep in our souls. Over years of therapy and self-examination and trying to pull them up by their roots, they still hang in there, sprouting in the darkness, waiting their time to reach into the sun and be seen, in all their malevolent beauty.

I still feel sleeping in past eight is “wasting the day” as my dad told me over and over, despite having a disease that demands more rest. I feel incompetent with handling my finances despite managing okay in general, but my relatives never let me think I could do it. I feel fat and lazy despite working out several times a week (and said illness) because that’s part of the messaging I’ve absorbed over the years. I feel inadequate and all that every day.

And yet, I’m not. I’m active, fit, smart, pretty, round, yes, but strong as a bull. I’m funny and witty and I write well when I write. I accomplish a lot in my humble circles and in bigger ones, too. So why, when presented with this conference, does my confidence drip away through the drain like so much sludge?

Mental Health Days


Before I went back to work, when I was spending my days playing with my kids and doing seemingly endless piles of laundry and arbitrating fights and driving people all over the place, every once and awhile, I’d see that we were getting stressed to the max with school and other commitments. So I’d give us all a mental health day. I’d call the schools, tell them that the kids were sick, and we’d all lounge around in our pyjamas all day and watch Disney movies and eat popcorn and just be messy all day.
It was lovely, especially in the depths of winter when it was too much trouble to get dressed for the weather some days. It’d be -40 or something and the thought of wrapping all of us in the required 10 layers was too much.
Or we’d all be tired and grumpy and a holiday day was a welcome respite for all of us.
I loved those days. Mind you, I loved excuses to play hooky with the kids anytime.

My novel

I still like the playing hooky days, but they are creeping to an end. I have a novel to brush up for June 1st. It needs its hair done, some primping, a lot of education about tenses and structure and plot and characterizations and all that.
What I really want to do is tell it to play hooky with me, to just sit around with it and talk to it and have fun and share secrets. A lot of my writing happens this way.
Every once an awhile, though, I need to tell it to get tidied up and presentable. Like my kids, my novel isn’t all that keen to take to work. It likes being messy.
One of my sons used to live in a pile of his precious items. We argued over it, and I finally told him he needed to tidy it up one day a week so I could vacuum and such and thus prevent bug infestation. He grudgingly agreed. He’d tidy it all up, I’d whip the vacuum through, and within five minutes, it’d be all layered again, looking just the same as before, but less dusty.
It worked for us. He felt more comfortable in the clutter.
Maybe I can tell my novel this – tidy up now, just til June 1st, and then we can play-write again, wallow around in our mental pyjamas, vegetate. I don’t think it’s buying it, though. I think it knows now is the time to grow up.
No more mental health days, not for the moment.
Dang.
On the good side, I can dress in my writer clothes, which are designed to prevent me from being seen in public. Comfy, messy, unattractive. All good.
Time to get to work.
Now, I just need a little Queen to inspire me…

Monkeyminding


ImageMy brain is busy. I went to a workshop at the excellent Writer’s federation this week and learned I should rewrite my novel from the beginning to make it sing. I’m blanking out a bit with horror at the thought as I’ve over 80,000 words invested already and I feel sad about sending them to perdition, a bit afraid that they may be insulted and never return.

I remember a story from my childhood where all the letters talked and had personalities. I still remember the illustrations, but can’t remember the title anymore. I even tried to poach it for a high school essay, but I’m sure mine wasn’t as mentally sticky as I can’t remember it at all. What I do recall is the idea that words had a life of their own, filled with opinions and prejudices and preferences. I wonder how they feel about the animosity toward adverbs, for example. Are adverbs the embarrassing relatives of the word family? Do they tell inappropriate jokes and pick their teeth at the table?

In any case, I think about them ganging up on me in my sleep and telling me off for wasting them. It’s a scary thought. Plus my fingers are already tired thinking about it, and my computer is in the shop.  

But, it has to be done. I need to wrestle the novel to the ground and minute revisions aren’t doing it. 

Meanwhile, in another portion of my brain, I’m revisiting an excellent book launch and having for the first time a wee fantasy about having one of my own.

But then my brain slides over to my trip to Newfoundland, and chatters about that for a bit. Or spring calls from outside the window. And time skitters away.

The letters are mumbling, though. They want me to get at them. Time to stop dreaming and get to work.