My salad days, when I was green in judgment . . .

Research the origin of the phrase “salad days” and you’ll discover, especially in the U.S., it’s currently used to mean being at the peak of one’s abilities. That’s not how I’m using it. I use it as did William Shakespeare when he coined it in 1606. “My salad days, When I was green in judgment …” is from Anthony and Cleopatra: Act I, Scene 5 and Cleopatra speaks of her youthful naivete.

salad_mI’m a long way from my youth in life, but not in novel writing. In the fall of 2008, I was in the midst of writing the first draft of my novel The Brevity of Roses. Concerning the publishing business, I was not only hopeful that I’d be a success, I was confident. Ah, yes. I was “green in judgment.” I was naive. But I felt alive.

When I finished writing that novel, I queried it to the big name agents, none of whom broke the sound barrier in their haste to send me a contract. I revised my query letter and sent it to other agents. I received some, but not a lot of response. My confidence took a big hit. My hope waned.

Then, a major change in my life circumstances made the idea of self-publishing attractive. In hindsight, I see how “green in judgment” I remained. I am not naturally suited to indie publishing by personality. But I was even less suited to it after  the agent querying process eroded my confidence. Since publication, some lovely positive reviews have helped restore a bit of that, but I fear I’ll never regain it completely.

I know I can’t fully return to those salad days. It’s unrealistic to think I can retain naivete and gain experience at the same time. But my Muse, jaded by reality, misses the exuberance of her “youth.” I’m having a devil of a time shutting off that publishing/marketing voice that questions every aspect of what I’m trying to write now.

To say I’m stressed is putting it mildly—and stress, for me, always takes a physical toll. Before I published my first novel, I was a few pounds overweight, but otherwise mostly healthy. Now, I’m more pounds overweight than I can bear to say, and I’m beaten down with health problems. In some sense, I have to find a way back to those “salad days” of writing.

I really don’t want to make the decision not to publish anything more, but I do want to write without distraction from publishing/marketing concerns. I need to recapture some of the innocence that made my fingers fly over the keyboard, thrilled at the story unfolding before me. I need to throw off these chains of stress and depression by believing once again that the story I’m writing is wonderful and the words flowing from my imagination will speak to readers in the way I’ve always dreamed.

So, I rescind my statement in a previous post that I hoped to have two books ready for publishing by the end of 2014. I don’t know if I’ll have even one ready. Right now, publishing is off my radar. I want to write. Further marketing of what I’ve already written is not something I can deal with, either. I want to interact in social media simply for the fun of it, like I did in my salad days … but maybe with a little less greeness.

It’s time to quit frowning and start smiling again. It’s time to feel alive again.

Linda

Tag, you’re it! Blog Hop

Ouch! I’ve been TAGGED. Actually, it only hurts when I think. A few days ago, the effervescent and talented romantic suspense author Dana Mason selected me for the Tag, You’re It Blog Hop.

This is supposed to be an easy one, just answer 4 questions and then tag 3 others. But, naturally, I had to twist, turn, and overthink the questions first.

giraffe-tag

What are you working on right now? I answered this one in my last post. I’m working on two books. Or I was until I stopped to do some research for my women’s fiction novel and got side-tracked by old family photos and swapping family history with a couple of my cousins. But it’s all good. The more juicy details I stuff into my brain, the more my Muse has to work with.

How does it differ from other work in its genre? Well, the women’s fiction novel is set in the 70s, but it’s not historical fiction because its main focus isn’t on any issue specific to that decade. It’s about relationships—surprise! It’s about having to lose everything you want, to get what you need.

The other book, the paranormal horror love story (new genre?), is plot heavy, but character-driven, so that’s a bit different.

Why do you write? My reason for writing is not because I’d die if I couldn’t. I could regress to making up stories only in my head. But it’s more fun to share them. Unfortunately, it’s also terrifying to share them. So if the terror starts outweighing the fun, I’ll go back to keeping them to myself.

How does your writing process work? In two words: organized chaos. I could probably be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, so besides my heavily annotated main manuscript file, I create dozens of little files containing research notes, what-if plot change notes, cut bits, character notes, bits of dialogue that come to me before I’m ready to write the scene, descriptions of scenes from the movie version that plays in my head, and more, more, more. (You’ll notice I didn’t mention an outline.) As I work, I might have six of those files and three research websites open. And yet, in the end, I manage to get all the words down and arranged in pretty decent order.

And yes, I know about writing software like Scrivener. I tried a demo version, but all that organization stifled me. Maybe I’ll give it another try someday.

Okay, now I have to tag three authors, so eenie meenie minee moe, I choose:

Christa Polkinhorn

Jennifer Neri

Natasha Alexander

What’s in Your Future?

Multi-tasking is essential for most of us. Even when we’re engaged in only one obvious task, at least a part of our minds is working on something else. I’ll be starting my annual pre-holidays housecleaning, decorating, and cooking soon, which means for the next eight weeks a lot of my writing will take place in the back of my mind. That may prove more difficult this fall and winter because I have a new writing challenge.

2pencilI don’t know if I can meet that challenge. It wasn’t my intention to try. Some of you may do it regularly. What am I talking about? I’m talking about writing two books at the same time. The first book, another women’s fiction novel, is one I had a hard time getting into, but it’s finally taken off. The second is not presently and may not end up like either of my published novels.

The WF novel is in the first draft stage. It’s one I started with the idea of seeking a traditional publishing deal. I’m no longer certain about that plan, though. I’ll make the final decision when it’s a polished work, which is months away.

The second book I’m working on is one I wrote in 2000. So, I’m not writing another first draft, but … well … You see, I have about 76,000 words that tell a pretty good story, but I don’t know if that’s the story I want to tell now. At present, it’s kind of a horror novel … with a love story … or two love stories actually. Yet it’s not a paranormal romance. Anyway. I owe a story to these great characters. But my revision is likely to become a major rewrite.

If all goes well, in 2014 I’ll have either one novel ready to query and another to self-publish or two novels ready to self-publish. Unless I drive myself insane—and then I’ll probably write a blockbuster!

What’s in your future?

Linda

The Memory Keepers

My mother has dementia. It’s increasing rapidly, now. At first, she suffered only the loss of recent events, which my father kept secret for a while. Not long before he died, he pulled me aside and told me, “Mom forgets a lot.” But it wasn’t until after his death, that I realized how much of her memory loss he’d compensated for.

sandsoftime1In the last year or so, her dementia has progressed to long-term memory loss. Often, she can’t remember what great-grandchildren belong to which grandchild. Or where her grandchildren live. Or what they do for a living. I live across the country from her, so I’m already on the periphery of her life. Someday, I’ll phone and she won’t know who I am.

I’m reluctant to remind her of her youthful escapades she’s relayed many times throughout my life for fear I’ll discover that even those events, grooved most deeply into her memory, are now lost. Sometimes, I think of something I wish I’d asked my father before he died, and now I’ve waited too late to ask my mother many things.

I’ve always had excellent recall of my childhood, which most of the time is a blessing. But I already know I’ve forgotten some things I used to know. That saddens me. Once upon a time, I started a written record of my childhood memories. Too soon, I got distracted. But now it’s imperative that I start again. To record not only memories of my childhood, but memories of my children’s and grandchildren’s lives. And all that I know of my parents’ and grandparents’ lives.

There are too many things I don’t want to forget. Eventually, that book of memories may read like fiction to me, but the tales will not be lost. They will remain for those who care to know them. I will be a memory keeper. And I must begin now.

It’s never too late … until it is.

Linda

Shhh! Don’t Speak of It

October’s a spooky month for some, a time of frights and fears. On a clear, chilly night, when the full moon shines through bare, skeletal branches it’s easy to see shadows creep. And if a cat screeches or a squirrel skitters through dry leaves, who could blame you for jumping? Being an imaginative sort, I scare myself quite often. To my mind, those bumps in the night are never something benign.

mooneyeWhen three of my grandchildren were young, they liked playing scary games. One game they called the monster in the dark room. We played it once. I stood moaning in the dark behind the bathroom door, while they took turns knocking, and then I’d whip open the door and try to grab them before they ran. The problem was the longer I stayed alone in the dark the more I felt sure there was something standing behind me. And that was the end of that game.

So, that’s one kind of fear my imagination produces. Another kind concerns my writing. I fear I won’t be able to write another book Or what if I do, but no one likes it? Even worse, what if no one even cares enough to read it to find out if they like it?

Yes, I know, we’re supposed to write what we love. But loving what you’ve written doesn’t mean it’s good enough for publishing. It’s hard to be objective about your own work. Especially if you’ve spent a year or more of your life working on it.

Yet I write. It’s a challenge to myself. My current work-in-progress is proving quite a challenge indeed. What if I can’t finish it? Or what if I do, but no one likes it? Even worse, what if no one even cares enough to read it to find out if they like it?

Help! There’s something lurking in the dark behind me. I feel it.

Linda

And Suddenly, It’s Fall

Where I live, it rarely rains from April to October and the summer temperatures hover around 102° F, so about mid-July we start longing for the arrival of Fall. Just when it seems summer will never let go, we wake up to a change in the air. Even if the days still heat up, we sense Fall’s presence.

oct_sceneThis past week, I woke to hardwood floors chilly enough to break out the fuzzy socks. Yay! Maybe it’s because I was born in October that I feel the energy of a beginning more than an ending.  And a boost is surely what I need now. I just finished the critique training workshop though WFWA and soon will be sorted into an online critique group. Egads! What was I thinking?

I participated in the workshop because I’m anxious to work exclusively with other women’s fiction writers. But how can I be a member of a critique group with nothing to submit? I have no choice, now, but to wake that Muse and get back to work.  Shut the doors, put in the earbuds, and start up the Bach cello suites.

So yes, I welcome the energy of Fall. Of course, it also shines a spotlight on the many other jobs I need to tackle. Maybe I’ll get a few chapters written and then switch to the mad house cleaning I used to do in November. Any long-time readers remember my NAHOCLEMO (National House Cleaning Month) challenge?

For me, these cool days present another challenge. I’ve finally decided to get serious about losing the pounds I’ve added during these last five years of sitting, sitting, sitting as I worked on this serious writing business. It’s hard to eat salad when your body’s chilled and begging for hot chocolate and cream soups and hearty casseroles. And I can’t even think about the temptations of the upcoming holidays.

Okay, as long as I keep my fingers on the keyboard, I can’t eat. Well, I could, but …

Linda

Image courtesy of Karpati Gabor / Morguefile.com