Fiction, Horror, Memory, Novel, Writing

A Time for Looking Back

I’m big on memories. Sometimes I wonder if that’s a product of my age, but then at our family gatherings of three generations, sooner or later, the reminiscing begins. Memory is our personal history book, skewed of course, but still. I’ve spent some time looking back this week.

lookbackNot too long ago, I mentioned that I was re-watching the X-Files series. Last week, I watched an episode about reincarnation. It stirred up a longing to work on my family history again, but subconsciously it stirred up more.

Two days later, just as I woke from a nap, I thought of the first novel I wrote. I finished the first draft fourteen years ago. I revised it, even modified the genre, but I never finished polishing it. Then, after we moved back to California and my life entered a new era, I set it aside.

I didn’t think about that novel much during the next eight years. Then I wrote another novel. And after that one was published, I thought about revising my first novel. I made a half-hearted attempt to convert it to women’s fiction. But ideas for other novels distracted me.

But last week that X-Files episode reminded me that I’d written a dark novel about two reincarnated lovers who find each other again. I opened the file of Forever (working title) and scrolled through, stopping to read several passages.

As I told a friend, the newbie errors made me laugh and some purple prose embarrassed me, but mostly the quality of the writing pleasantly surprised me. So even though I vowed to lighten up this year, I’m now entertaining this dark tale. If I’m happy writing, the result will be the same.

Sometimes looking back leads you forward.

Linda

Promotion, Real Life, Reflections, Writing

A Year of New—or How I Hope to Stay Sane This Year

I believe 2014 may be a year of new for me. We’re only a week into the year and I’ve already started writing a new book—in a genre I’ve never written before. I don’t want to jinx it by telling too much too soon, but I’m excited about it, even though I know how much work I have ahead me. And I don’t mean just the writing, editing, and revising. I’ll need to maintain a different mindset to write in this genre.

KG_crocus That’s all right, though. I need a new mindset for this year. A positive, I’m-going-to-enjoy-life-no-matter-what outlook. I need to focus on what I CAN do, who I CAN be, and build my self-esteem. And that requires changes in many areas of my life.

In my writing life, that means I must STOP comparing myself to other writers. Bye-bye, tons of frustration and disappointment. And I can’t afford to waste time like I did in 2013. I now have two books to write and edit this year. (The book I hoped to revise will have to wait for 2015.) I absolutely have to get organized and assign priorities.

I’ll elaborate on some of these points in future posts. Being a writer in the digital age is both a blessing and a curse. Maybe if we talk honestly about it, we’ll help each other enjoy more of the first and suffer less of the second.

So, that’s my plan to make it through 2014 saner than I did in 2013.


But first, I have to finish up one “old” thing—it’s coupled with a new experience, though, so that’s good. I’d planned to stop actively promoting my first two books, but I’d forgotten that a few months ago I requested to be put on the waiting list for a promotion with eReader Buddy. My name finally came up, so I decided to pair that promotion with a new tool for books in KDP Select. So for the next couple of days, The Brevity of Roses ebook will be on deep discount at $.99 and then rise in price twice over the next days until it’s back to the regular price. That’s called a Kindle Countdown Deal at Amazon. I’m interested to see how it works.

Linda

Image courtesy of Karpati Gabor / Morguefile.com

My Books, Publish, Reflections, Social Media, Writing

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

Family, Memory, Writing

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

Doubt, Fiction, Inspiration, Motivation, Writing

To Keep the Channel Open

Let me tell you a lie. It was not always a lie. It was the truth a month, a week, a day ago. It was true until an hour ago when I received an email from Ed, a man who’s braved being in a critique group with me. He wrote to tell me he’d had another story published and said he was looking forward to restarting our critique sessions. (We break for summer.)

channelI replied, “I no longer write fiction for publication.” And then I told him I’d be happy to read for him, but I no longer had need of a critique group. He asked why I’d quit writing.

I gave him reasons; just like I’ve given reasons to two other writers I’ve discussed this with in the last month. I explained it in various ways, but a lack of confidence in my writing is what it boils down to. I’m a perfectionist—and usually not in a healthy way. And concerning my writing, no matter how hard I try to push my perfectionist striving down, it always rises back up to choke me.

Nothing I’ve ever written is perfect. I wanted it to be. But I failed. Failed. I tried my hardest. I did the best that I could and that wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t perfect. And there’s zero chance I’ll ever write anything better, which I know because … like … I have these mad prognostication skills. Right?

Perfect is how this author writes. Or this one. Or even her, and she’s self-published like me. Or him, and he’s not even published yet. And besides, I’m not writing anything life-changing, so who needs my lame writing anyway?

I gave up. Hung up my keyboard. Tried to pretend I had no idea who that silly wannabe writer Linda Cassidy Lewis was. She’s not me. I don’t write fiction.

Okay. Yeah. So this man, Ed, took me seriously when I told him I had quit writing. And he sent me this quote from dancer/choreographer Martha Graham (emphasis mine):

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

The funny thing is, I’ve been working on accepting my personal limitations. Forgiving my “failures.” Learning to see the strength in vulnerability. Linda the Human has been working to apply this new mindset. But Linda the Writer never thought to pay attention.

So, it’s a lie that I’m no longer writing for publication. The truth is, I have no choice but to keep that channel open. I may not tell a story many care to hear. I may not tell it as well as other writers could. But I will tell it because it’s mine. It’s what I have to give. I must embrace that “queer dissatisfaction.”

It’s a new month, now. Let us proceed …

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