Day 203

Today is World Mental Health Day, and if I were a better person, I'd probably post about my own mental health, about how I fought against the very idea of depression and anxiety for so long because I had been raised to feel that it was a weakness to acknowledge it. About how when I finally realized that something was really, truly wrong with me, I'd been secretly sleeping my entire days away for months. About how I went to my doctor and cried and told him that I had nothing to be sad about and yet I was just so sad and tired of everything. About how he gave me a pill and I slowly started to feel better. About how there are still good days and bad days, but rarely an I-need-to-hide-from-my life day, anymore. If I were a better person, I'd tell you to never give up, never feel like you are weak or that you have nothing to be sad about. If I were a better person, I'd tell you that depression and anxiety aren't really about sadness or worry, they're actually completely about chemicals in your brain. And lets face it, this world that we live in, this 2017 world, it's so full of garbage and toxicity that it's no wonder every person on the planet isn't chemically out of wack. There are better people to listen to about this. There are people who know more and have been through far more than I have, and I've read some truly devastating and uplifting stories on Twitter, today. I hope that if you are struggling, you'll reach out to someone - a doctor, a friend, a helpline, anyone. There is help and you are worth finding it.

***

But since I'm not a better person, I'm going to use Day 203's post to talk about the new trailer for The Lost Jedi. Hokey religions and ancient weapons are pretty much my bag, and I've had a fondness for Star Wars since I was little. I remember the first time that I really sat down and watched the whole original Trilogy, back to back. It was on TBS, probably 1989 or 1990. I was maybe 12 or 13, but I stayed up all night, racing to the bathroom when the commercials were on, just so I wouldn't miss a scene. I had watched all three of the movies separately, but I guess the whole picture hadn't really clicked for me. Not until that viewing. And when Vader announced that he was Luke's father, I cried. When Leia said "I love you," I cried. When Han was frozen in carbonite, I cried.  Watching Star Wars, that night, I was changed. I firmly believe that I first really learned about storytelling, that night. I saw the entire character arcs of the first trilogy and I realized how vast and beautifully developed the world is. The movies aren't perfect, but they are so much a part of our shared history, our shared mind-canon, that they feel real. 

And that's why I cried when I watched the new trailer. Han is gone, but there's still Luke, there's still Chewie. When Carrie Fisher's General Leia came on the screen, my heart hurt. She was a role model before girls had role models in the movies. She was smart and tough, witty and sexy. She was in control, and I worshiped her. Probably still do, a little. But I'm struck by the fact that these characters -- my old friends -- have aged. There is gray in their hair and wrinkles line their faces. They've lived a life that has damaged them, even perhaps broken them. And again, that makes them even more real. The fact that Leia and Han split up after the loss of their son, Ben, is so achingly true and honest, because what could be harder than that? The fact that Luke abandoned the world out of fear that he would lead another astray is so painful, so real, that my throat grew tight when I first saw him in the trailer. 

Their hearts have been broken. Their trust has been tested. Their love wasn't enough to make everything better and perfect. They have suffered, and some have died. More will suffer, perhaps more will die. They have lived, and so few Hollywood films really give us the grit and glory of aging. 

And though I know it's a movie, and I know that my life will go on -- that twelve-year-old part of me that stayed up all night finally understanding the scope of the original trilogy is getting scared. Will the good guys win? Will balance be brought to the force, and if so, is that a good thing? Will we watch Kylo Ren murder his mother, or his uncle, the way he killed Han? Will Chewbacca survive? Will the Millennium Falcon be destroyed? It feels like old friends are falling under the weight of too much despair.

It's all just so very 2017, and I need a new bit of hope. Maybe it's Rey, Poe and Finn, but I'm not counting Luke and Leia out, just yet. If they are struck down, they'll become more powerful than you can imagine.

Day 211

Today was a truly terrible day in the United States. A domestic terrorist gunned down innocent concert goers in Las Vegas, murdering at least 58 people and injuring over 500. Let's not mince words. This is just another dark mark on the record of a nation that continues to fight against gun control and be utterly in the pocket of the NRA. It is the worst mass shooting in US history, but after Columbine, after Aurora, after Sandy Hook, after The Pulse -- worst is just another line in the sand. They are all the worst -- and this nation should be ashamed. 

So because I am a writer, and because this is a blog about my writing rather than my political leanings, I want to discuss how events like this -- events in the real world -- can alter your writing.

The first thing that must be said about creating any art in this bleak, brutal world, is that sometimes, some days -- you simple cannot. Some days and some events push your mind too far, and there's no way you can find your way back into the world you're trying to create when the one you must live in is so painfully broken.

That's okay. That's reasonable and normal, and I've finally come to realize that it's alright. It's fine to take a break, to read a good book or watch a good movie or hide in your blanket fort. You cannot expect that the real world won't impact your work when you're building a universe from scratch.

But what happens when you are able to work? What happens if you are fueled by the pain and darkness of the real world and the words keep coming? Sometimes, that happens, too.

I had a great writing day, today. I finished revisions on a Middle Grade novel that I've been struggling to finish for a while. I blocked out the real world, stayed off social media, and dove head first into the world that I've created. It was a lot safer there, today. But I don't write in a bubble, and today, I watched tiny rebellions creep into my book. I knew, as I was writing, that I was being compelled and propelled by the day's events, and I embraced the words that came, because it was like a prayer. My fingers were whispering my deepest wishes for healing for this country and spelling them out in a world that looks absolutely nothing like our own.

For me, today, I rebelled through my work. Another day, I may not have the strength. That's okay. It's a long race and all you have to do to win is finish. Be good to yourself, be kind and do good for one another. Stay safe. The world is dark and more frightening that anything I've managed to imagine.

Day 219

In two hundred and nineteen days, my debut novel, THE QUEEN UNDERNEATH, will be released by Page Street. I've written that sentence and said those words countless times and yet... they don't quite feel real. There are moments that drive it home -- I got to see my cover a few days ago and it is so beautiful and so REAL -- and for a brief second, I could picture holding a book with my name on the spine in my hand. But it slips away, it drifts and turns to smoke. The reality isn't quite tangible enough for me to feel yet, but soon. Two hundred and nineteen days isn't that long. If I were pregnant with this book baby, I'd be nearing the end of the first trimester, and we know I can survive that long. Not patiently, but it can be done.

When I started this part of the journey (we'll talk about writing and querying agents and all that stuff another time), I didn't really know what to expect. I thought I'd do some revisions for my editor and then the book would disappear off my radar until one day I walked into a bookstore and saw it on the shelf. Or something like that...

But for anyone who is interested, I can tell you that this isn't remotely what goes on. I signed the contract with Page Street in February, 2017, but we'd been talking with them since the previous August and I had already done one round of revisions for them before we had a formal offer. The deal was announced in March and I received my first rounds of notes from my editor at the beginning of April. While I was working on those notes, my acquiring editor, Alyssa, left Page Street. I was sad to see her go, and more than a little paranoid about what would happen with TQU, but my amazing agent, Rena, talked me off the ledge and said, "This happens all the time. It'll be okay."

I finished my revisions and submitted them to Lauren, my new editor. I'm a big enough person (now) to admit that I was terrified. Lauren didn't have a relationship with me or my story, yet, and I was worried that she wouldn't love it or care about it.

Sidebar: This was totally rookie paranoia. Lauren has been super awesome. She dove head first into my seedy underworld, embraced my story and my characters, and has done everything she can to make my book a success. And Alyssa, sweetheart that she is, writes to check on me and the book frequently, despite having moved on from the project. While I wholeheartedly acknowledge every author's right to choose their publishing path, I always knew that I couldn't succeed at self-publishing, and this is why. I need these amazing cheerleaders who have taken my story -- a conglomerate of mishmash and nonsense -- and helped me sculpt a novel.

Anyway, I have now revised TQU for Page Street four times, plus worked through copy edits with my copy editor, Ruth. In fact, today (Day 219 prior to publication) I sent in another version. I think this is *close* to being the end result, but editors are not messing around. They know their stuff, and Lauren's not about to let me slide at this late date.

So, I do what they ask. I fiddle and reword, clarify and simplify. And every time I do, I see the artistry and collaborative energies that have gone into every book that has ever been published before. I begin to understand the art of the business, and I am in awe. I hope that I can manage to help every person that has helped birth my book baby, but if I don't, it's due to my own ignorance. 

I had no idea what it took to produce the stories that I have loved, my whole life, and now that I'm starting to understand it, I realize that my heroes weren't just the authors the put words to paper, but the editors, publishers, agents, and designers that fought to get it on the page.

Thanks for being on this journey with me.

Out with the old...

So, now that I'm a big time, fancy author (or you know, I play one on t.v.), I've decided that I needed an author's website. This is actually kind of important. No matter how much I thought writing was about sitting down and hammering out sentences... there's a lot more to this author stuff. So here's my new website, and my new, glamorous blog. (Let's hope I do a better job of blogging here than I did on the old one.)

Which brings me to the point of this tiny, not that interesting post. If you are desperate for some nonsense or 'wisdom' that I typed a while ago, it is still here, for now. I cannot guarantee how long it will be there. I don't have any plans to tend to that old site, any longer. But it's there for now.

As they say -- Out with the old, in with the new.