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

This writer is looking forward

Looking back at my life during the past year, I can see losses and gains, but I can’t yet judge the long-term effects. Every year at this time, psychics make predictions for the coming year. I have no such gift. I can only make resolutions, affirming to myself and all, my intent for the future.

Looking back at my life during the past year, I can see losses and gains, but I can’t yet judge the long-term effects. Every year at this time, psychics make predictions for the coming year. I have no such gift. I can only make resolutions, affirming to myself and all, my intent for the future.

New beginnings are hopeful. This year I’m excited about opportunities to advance in my writing and publishing career. One change I hope to make that will affect not only my writing, but my life in general is obtaining—and maintaining—a balance.

In 2011, I neglected not only the usual housework, but gardening as well. I don’t think my roses will survive another year of the same kind of neglect. In general, I spent too much time in my cave. Since my 2012 plans include publishing one book and writing another, it’s imperative that I improve my time management.

This doesn’t mean I’m creating spreadsheets, but it does mean I’ll be working to conquer my habit of letting doubt (fear) derail my writing. In 2011, I probably wasted a good 30% of my writing time hand-tied by indecision. I vow not to let that happen in this next year. I will boldly write what no woman has written before.

In her recent blog post When You Allow Others to Decide Your Dreams, Michelle Davidson Argyle said:

“Nobody’s goals and rules are ever going to match up to my own on the unique path I’m on. Even if I met all those goals I see floating around online on so many blogs and Facebook statuses and Twitter feeds, I still wouldn’t be happy because I would not have met the deepest desires of my own heart …”

And this:

“I think we authors often forget what we really want. I think we often delude ourselves into thinking we want what everyone else wants, and it’s creating this insane sense of urgency in our heads. We pump out our work faster and harder and less carefully than we would otherwise. We feel pressured, more than anything else, to meet certain criteria, follow the lists and rules and advice others post, and it hurts us deeply when we can’t meet that criteria at breakneck speed. For me, at least, this urgency transformed itself into an energy-sucking, emotionally-draining need.

Until I realized that for me it was an illusion and unnecessary.”

Michelle expressed my dilemma. My lack of self-confidence leads me to compare everything I do to what other writers do, seeking a stamp of approval. At best, that works only temporarily. Sooner or later, doing what others did leads to frustration, doubt, fear because their plan, their path, their dream doesn’t “fit” me.

Let me toast to the New Year. New beginnings. New opportunities. Another chance to get it right.

In 2012, I vow to follow MY dreams. What about you?

A story! A story? A tale of fear!

All my sources tell me that, as a new indie author, I need to publish more work soon. Writing a novel is not quick work for me. I have a story that might run novella length—might. I haven’t written it yet, of course. Another option is a short story collection.

Until the last couple of years, I’ve never been a big short story reader. I’ve written some, but they were for my own eyes. But, in the last year, I’ve greatly increased the number of short stories I read. I also read articles on how to write short fiction. I’m still not sure I get it.

I’m also not sure why I don’t get it. It’s almost as though I have a mental block. I think I write a beginning, middle, and end, but it doesn’t seem like a story to me. Is it a vignette? Is that a story?

Does a story require a moral? A lesson? A reason to exist? Am I over-thinking this? Probably. I fear I can’t write short stories. Then again, I fear I can’t write anything. FEAR.

I’d like to say I bravely take up my pen keyboard and wield it like a sword, but that would be a lie. The truth is I sit here quivering. I sit here wishing, hoping, praying that the words I’m typing make sense … have a purpose … tell a story.

That’s what I’m busy with nowadays. And I thank Christ Craig for her recent post reminding me that I have to face that fear or I’ll never know if I’ve written a story at all.

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Could I live without a hardcover?

From some of my recent posts, you may have gotten the idea I’d already made the decision to end my quest for traditional publication. Decision making is always a long, complicated process for me. I think I have a few extra convolutions in my brain. Or something.

I read pros and cons. I listen to the experienced. I think and think and think and find myself not much closer to taking a stand than I was at the beginning. I hesitate in a thousand ways. I like to think of this as thorough research. More likely it’s just fear of the unknown.

In my last indie vs. traditional post, I concluded that a book published by one of the big NY publishers carries no guarantee it’s a better book, in any sense, than an indie-pubbed book. Yet the stigma of “lesser quality” still attaches itself to the idea of self-publishing. I confess, I’ve been guilty of that prejudice.

I have another book prejudice. I love hardcovers. If cost were never a factor, they would always be my first choice. Alas. Because I’m on a budget, I’m okay with trade paperbacks (soft-cover.) But I loathe mass-market paperbacks. If I indie-pub, my book won’t be in hardcover. End of dream.

So, let me consider other advantages to having my book traditionally published.

More publicity: Or not. Nowadays no matter how a book is published, for the majority of debut authors most of the task of publicizing it will fall on their shoulders. Still, that Big Publisher’s name does carry some weight. This is almost a draw.

Wider distribution: Yes, for a while. According to the latest I heard, the typical debut author will have a book on the shelves of brick and mortar bookstores for about 2-4 months. After that, it’s reduced to special order status. As an Indie author, I would not get the thrill of walking in B&N and seeing my book on the shelf, though if I choose the right options and self-pub as POD, my book could also be a special order by those stores. Safer to assume it would sell only online. I’d say the scale tips toward traditional—except I wonder, where do YOU buy most of your books?

More profit: True—if I received a $5,000 advance. Is that likely? I don’t know. I know there are Indie authors who make buckets of money every month, but they are not debut authors, and most of them are non-fiction authors. However, my self-pubbed novel might sell quite well. Or not.  Even if I received only a $2,000 advance from a traditional publisher, I might come out ahead profit wise. Toss up.

Those are all logical considerations. However, as a writer—as a person—I’m not always logical. To be honest, “always” is probably stretching it. I feel more than I think. So, what are my feelings? *sigh* I’m still working on that.

Your turn: I know some of you have already made the decision to become Indie authors. What was your deciding factor?


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The stuff I blog when I tire of relevancy

Yesterday, I watched Ponyo, an animated Japanese children’s movie. It reminded me of another movie, Spirited Away, and a quick check at Netflix told me they were both directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Spirited Away won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2003. The animation in these movies is gorgeous, though some of the imagery disturbs me, as do the stories.

Fujimoto @2008, 2009 Nibariki-GNDHDDT

In the one I saw yesterday, I’m not sure I ever understood what the father of Ponyo was. Though he lives and breathes underwater, he looks human, with bizarre hair,  but he’s horrified that his daughter—born a fish—wants to become human. In the English-language version, Liam Neeson is the voice of this character, and though I’m a Neeson fan, his voice coming out of this character’s mouth only added to the weirdness.

Although both these movies mesmerized me, they seem so different from American animated children’s movies, I’m surprised our children like them. Then again, I don’t see a lot of children’s movies anymore, so maybe they’ve changed. Or maybe I should be comparing them to our folk tales of old. These two Japanese movies did remind me of the fairy tales I read as a child. The ones that frightened me.

Did I worry there might be real witches with candy houses and ovens built for children? You bet. Did it cross my mind that my father might do something like indenture me to spin straw into gold for the rest of my life? In a word, yes. Think of all the tales that feature a wicked step-mother. I did … every time my parents argued. As an adult I understand those tales reflected the harshness of the times in which they originated, but as a child that aspect flew over my head. A part of me believed these things might be possible.

Gran Mamare @2008, 2009 Nibariki-GNDHDDT

This image from Ponyo particularly spooked me. Every time I stand at ocean’s edge, I fear I am seconds away from seeing something huge—and alive—rising out of it. So, even though she was beautiful, the image of Ponyo’s mother gave me pause.

Sometimes imagination is a curse.

Tell me, did any children’s stories worry or scare you? Or were you precocious enough to go deeper, analyzing the symbolism and allegory?

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