I am in this great and terrifying space where it’s time to work on a new project. If you’re not in the writing world, you may not have heard the term “plot bunny.” Plot bunnies are those little snippets of inspiration that can hit you anywhere, at anytime. It can be as small as a character name or as big as an entire plot line. Not all of them are winners but some are. The winners are the ones that stick around, that burrow in and multiply into characters, settings, conflicts, romances, and dialogue fragments. And the time plot bunnies are most likely to strike? Right after you’ve decided what you’re going to work on next.
I had my mind and creative energy all set to work on a particular story that’s been brewing for some time. Then two days ago I was hit with a plot bunny. Last night another one hit me. The two merged and became twice as persistent. As I sat down to begin the plotted story, I found myself instead making an inspiration playlist for the mutated plot bunnies. Where do I go from here? Do I follow my plan and write the book whose sheen has dulled a little? Or do I follow this shiny new idea and see where it leads? The shiny idea that is multiplying so quickly it almost a full fledged outline.
Meanwhile there are all the other ideas I’ve been holding onto for years. All of these partial stories hanging out on my computer, waiting for my return. Some of them have a few chapters, some are over a third of the way written. Now that I know the time and investment writing a book entails I am lost on where to go next. What will be the next thing I pour my creative energy into? What story can I stand to work on for the next few months or years?
I don’t expect an answer. There aren’t absolutes and facts in the writing process. It’s all about taking risks, jumping and hoping there’s a parachute. Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t. But like the masochists we are, we jump anyway.
It’s been quite the year. I survived a wild, whirlwind of a summer followed by an even more wild fall. In September I started my masters program in Library Science, began a new job, and moved across the state. Now it’s November and I don’t know where 2016 went or how it’s already time to pull out my Christmas movie watch list again!
I have been blogging, just not here (I know. Terrible). For library class we each keep a blog of our class reflections and reading take aways. If you’re dying to read some stuff that makes little sense out of context, check it out.
Meanwhile, I’ve been making a Herculean effort to keep up with my personal reading. Hopefully getting back into my blog updates will help with that.
Last Friday I finished the book Dewey The Library Cat by Vicki Myron absolutely bawling. It’s the true story of a kitten that was abandoned in a library book return in rural Iowa and grew up to become the joy of the small town public library. Dewey was a big, fluffy orange tabby who spent his days snuggling with kids during story hour, sitting in on important meetings, and sleeping on as many laps as he could. Honestly, living in a library has always been a childhood fantasy of mine so I was incredibly jealous as I read about Dewey’s glorious life.
There was also a lot in the book about the changes rural Iowa went through during the 1980’s farming crisis and beyond. It was a part of history I’d never thought about, at all, and having it as part of this heartwarming story of a library cat made the book that much better. I wouldn’t say I loved the writing but I can certainly see why people loved Dewey.
If you don’t have time to read the book (and it’s past time to own up to the fact that most of us don’t), here’s a cute YouTube video from the Iowa Public Access story on Dewey. It’s very 80s and the librarian glasses are a riot.
In what is now a tradition, here are my top ten moments from this year’s RT Convention!
- Meeting up with friends from last year and making new friends. This isn’t a moment, this was the whole five days. I loved seeing my posse again and adding some new members. We’re taking on the world, one romance novel at a time.
- Pitching. I pitched my book this time and it was great! Nerve wracking, very scary, and more than a little overwhelming, but great.
- Meeting Julia Quinn. A lot! Julia Quinn is on my list of authors to meet during my lifetime and I met her!
- The Help! Crazysauce Broke the Interwebz… panel. If I am ever in the middle of a media blitz, these are the ladies I want handling it.
- The Smart Bitches Trashy Books reader recommendations party. Basically we went around and recommended books to each other. There’s nothing I love more than hearing someone talk about a book they love. I came away with pages and pages of new books to track down and read.
- Lady Jane’s Salon. The above times a thousand because this was authors reading from their books. Nothing makes me want to read a book more than hearing the author of said book talk about it. This particular event led to #7…
- Receiving an advanced copy of J. Kenner’s Dirtiest Little Secret. I told her I’d heard her at the salon and desperately needed to read the book she shared so she gave me a copy!
- Jennifer Armentrout, who no doubt met hundred of people in those few days, remembered me from one of her panels. Did I feel special? Absolutely.
- The romantic comedy panel. Last year’s led me to Wallbanger and everything Alice Clayton. After this year’s I need to read everything by Christina Lauren. It’s on.
- Making new friends everywhere. I made a friend while waiting to pitch who I hope to see at Spring Fling in Chicago. I made friends in every line I stood in and waiting for my plane at the airport. Everyone at the convention loves books so we always have something in common.
There are more and the minute I post this I know I’ll think of them. I miss RT already and am looking forward to Atlanta 2017!
Here’s the truth – writing a book is hard.
To quote The Princess Bride, “Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
The same can said for writing a book. Writing a book is pain, anyone who says differently is probably trying to sell you a sure fire formula to writing a novel in a week or some other nonsense like that.
But here’s the other truth, writing a novel is one of the most amazing, incredible, fulfilling things you can do. So yeah, I’ll keep writing. Even when I’m pretty sure I’ll delete the whole thing later.
Otherwise how will I get all these characters out of my head?
Thank god for readers and editors, one of whom pointed out that I accidentally renamed one of my characters Bret Michaels instead of Brett Jacobs part way through the manuscript. How embarrassing would that have been? Also definitely the wrong vibe for our lovable hero.
Sometimes I feel closely akin to the Romantic poets and writers of old. The melancholy, the heartbreak, the overwhelming feelings. I could pontificate on the state of the human heart for hours in these moods but, for your sake, I will not. The attention span of audiences is not what it used to be. Including my own.
What has brought on such a state of unmitigated woe? A book. A mere physical piece of paper and ink. I am reaching the end of a trilogy, one that has engaged me heart and soul. I don’t see a happy ending in sight without one or the other character sacrificing all they have worked for. Can I respect a character who has given up their purpose in pursuit of a happy ending? Could you?
There in lies, stems, inhabits the dilemma.
It’s hard to believe that I read my first Ava March book a little over a year ago. Since then I’ve read almost everything else she’s written, including this ARC of the re-release of Convincing Leopold.
Convincing Leopold is the sequel to Convincing Arthur. This is what I love about Ava – she writes the first book about her rakish and uptight men fighting their feelings for each other, a falling in love tale. In the second she shows us what happens after the happy ending. In this book that means challenging her characters to keep the promises they made when they initially got together.
I liked seeing their struggle – the real fears come to life that weren’t just manifestations of jealousy and paranoia. There is a real and present danger that this tenuous relationship may crumble when faced with the inherent incompatibility of the characters’ day to day life. I really enjoyed this book, more than the first one even. Plus it set up the third book in the series (which hasn’t been released yet) and I love a good tie in.
Read more about Ava and her Regency M/M Erotica here.
I made this list for obvious reasons. Obvious to me but since you’re not in my head, here they are:
- I love lists.
- It’s the end of December* so end of year top ten lists are all the rage.
- I read a whole lot of books this year that you should read too.
Ten Best Books I Read in 2015
Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski – have questions about your sexuality? (if you don’t are you sure you’re human?) This book is for you. It’s for all of us.
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari – It makes you think, it makes you laugh, and I loved it.
Wallbanger by Alice Clayton – Oh wow. Just so much love for this one!
The Duff by Kody Keplinger – This is an awesome YA novel to read at any age and the movie absolutely doesn’t do it justice.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman – This one is a life changer for sure.
Sandman Volumes 1-10 by Neil Gaiman – I don’t recommend binge reading these like I did. They are intense.
Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson – I was surprised to find out Jeanette Winterson wrote a book for young readers. Turns out it’s only in the youth section because the heroine is twelve.
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown – If you haven’t read anything by Brene, do so now.
A Room with a View by E. M. Forster – delightful
How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran – Hilarious, insightful, and relevant.
*Note: When I started writing this list, it WAS the end of December.
For the past few days I have been on a therapist prescribed Staycation. In my last session I told my therapist I was feeling anxious and exhausted after the holidays. Every time one of my friends or family asked me to do something (fun things, things I’d normally enjoy), I’d get a wave of anxiety and a gut feeling that I needed to say no. My therapist reminded me that after periods of intense energy outpour, such as the holidays, I needed to recharge. Being an introvert, that meant I needed time alone. So she wrote me a prescription for at least two days off from social interaction of any kind.
There were some guidelines for this Staycation:
- I would practice suspension of judgement.
- I would practice mindfulness.
- I would do most to all of my twenty coping skills (everything from drink lots of water to exercise to deep breathing).
- I would not talk to anyone.
I told my family and some of my friends I was unavailable for two days, buried my phone in the laundry basket, took the clock off the wall, and practiced calming my frazzled nervous system.
The first day I had a few moments of panic. I’d remember approaching deadlines and calls I had to return and events I had to attend. I got into a real panic over the Christmas cards I hadn’t sent out (who ever gets those out on time anyway?).
The second day I settled into it. Last night I decided to extend my Staycation two more days because I could. Because it was helping, a lot.
What I’ve Taken Away:
- I love yoga. It’s yoga classes I can’t handle.
- Life can be fun, adventurous, meaningful, and whimsical. It’s not all struggle and strife.
- Mindfulness is hard. I find it easier to be mindful when I’m physically doing something – cleaning, walking, painting.
- I am really addicted to my phone and I don’t want to be.
- The present moment, without the past or future to cloud it, is kind of amazing.
I encourage everyone to try this, even if only for a few hours or a day. Do things that feed your body, mind, and spirit. Things that recharge you and heal you. This staycation didn’t cost me anything extra. I actually got more done than I normally would and I felt better doing it. My personal goal is to do thing every few months.
Note: This is a post I wrote a few weeks ago. I won’t deny it’s validity by saying it reads like an angsty me teenager (though it does). I wrote it because I felt I could try to explain what was going on with me at the time. Now I’m posting it as a way of sharing where I’ve been these past few weeks. If the emotional stuff is too much for you, never fear, the comedy versions coming out later today.
Today I am sad and out of sorts. It has to do, in part, with these things:
- Tomorrow my friend is going to put down her long-suffering dog. This is a dog I’ve known for years, who I used to live with, who I’ve pet sat for on many an occasion. I’m stopping by tonight to say goodbye but how do you begin to say goodbye?
- People keep telling me there’s a song written about me. They’re thinking about “Cecilia” by Simon and Garfunkel. I know because people have been telling me that and singing to me most of my life. I am sad that they can’t read my name tag properly. I am sad that they’re trying so hard to connect but are going about it all wrong. I am sad because I don’t have the energy to correct them or care that they’re wrong. I respond to Cecelia. How sad is that? It’s not even my name.
- I’ve been getting pretty sad and worked up about fictional characters lately. I love fictional characters, love them so much it hurts when the book is over or the character dies.
Mostly I am just sad. As in the depressed kind of sad. Sometimes I consider myself a high functioning depressed person. Sometimes I call it mild depression.
The drugs make it so I feel generally a little better. They also make it harder to cry. Like there are tears constantly building up behind my eyes but they won’t spill over, they just build and build until I am so upset I can’t help myself. Sometimes I wish I could cry more or better or whatever.
It’s this ache in my chest. It squeezes my heart, trying to squeeze out all the emotion. But the only emotion I have, the only one that is there, is sadness. It squeezes and I feel more sad and still no tears.
Living with depression is like that. There are good days and bad days, ups and downs like whoa. The middle ground is an illusion we don’t know about anymore.