D. Lambert, author
Enter a new world. Stay for a while.
This post is inspired by my husband buying me socks.
Through my academic career, we had to dress formally. That meant black socks with dress shoes. What my professors never knew is that I wore socks with coloured heels and toes. They couldn't see the neon pink or sunshine yellow I was hiding, but it was a splash of fun in an otherwise bland day. It is a trick I maintained for years, until I couldn't find those kinds of socks locally. Lately, I've been wearing the black socks they all expect of me.
My husband bought me socks. He found the coloured heel/toe socks again. Today, I'm turquoise. It's a spark of joy where only black used to be, where black is meant to be.
A CBC article (link HERE) said: "..."self-care" is quite often is just another added duty that can overwhelm…" and I've been finding that. But my socks have changed my point of view.
Self-care can't be scheduled in. You can't make yourself relax just because you took a hot bath, or attend yoga and expect the world to be a better place. These large scheduled 'self-care' moments are just one more thing weighing me down. If I schedule lunch with a friend, I lose three hours of the day during which I would normally be doing other things. Not to say I won't do it and enjoy it in all likelihood, but I may regret it later when the dozens of other things that need to be done show back up. And what if I can't afford to go on that holiday I feel like I need? Am I doomed?
Thus, I am advocating for little moments of self-care. Don't feel obliged to take long holidays (but if you can, go for it!) or schedule in 'quiet time' if it means paying for it later. You'll just be sitting in the bath worrying anyway (or is that just me?) about the things you are not doing. Instead, find small self-care moments that can be fit in anywhere.
A cup of tea
Fun-coloured socks (thank you husband of mine!)
Listening to good music
Sit outside when reading/writing/doing emails etc. Or at least open a window!
Enjoy small pieces of dark chocolate.
Then listen to I'm unworthy by Cheryl Wheeler and have a laugh on me:
Not to sound like an evil overlord but... my plan is coming together perfectly.
It's time to expand. When I started, I set out a 6 point plan. So far…
1. Join another local writing group
I joined the Sooke Writing Collective. This surprised me by turning into my FIRST publication (https://sookewriters.com but the new one's not up there yet) of a short story. It ties into the world of Espar (more to come on that) but is independent. I'm tickled pink! Even got some compliments about it. It seems there are many closest fantasy buffs just looking for someone to be bold enough to share.
2. Start submitting stories into contests.
I've done three submissions to contests, two to shorter publications. Just finished one, in fact, to the Helios Quarterly Magazine. I got a bit confused by time zones, but I think I made it by nearly 24 hours under the deadline. It's for "Shifting Sands," a desert-world tale from the Nanterac universe.
3. Put up the website.
Yep. Still here.
4. Polish up and get beta readers for one of the stories.
In the end, I had three beta readers for "Dragon's Voice," which is aiming to come out November 2019. It's Sair's story (check it out here) in the Tales of Espar world. A bit of a classic tale of a nobody tossed in way over his head, with witty fairy dragons, demons, and the doom of magic the world over. I'm looking forward to sharing it.
5. Attend SiWC to make connections.
Which reminds me: I need to buy business cards.
I got tickets for SiWC. I set multiple alarms, paid for the hotel deposit months ago, and got tickets within 30 minutes of them going on sale. That's a good thing, as it sold out in about 4 hours, or at least the full weekend/meal tickets did. Yikes! But it should be fun. I get to go with not one, but two, of my local Victoria Creative Writing group.
This was the big one. And it's going to have to be several points in the end. There is so much involved! But I'm on my way. I'm on chapter 12 of 22 on review, I've got the first cover draft made (more to come!), and I'm building connections on twitter as well as Facebook and writing groups. Work in progress? Yep! I'm still debating whether I can afford a second edit (next time, editor AFTER Beta Readers!) on this one, but I'll try.
So there it is. No more 6 point plan. Now, just point 5 and 6 to go. Wish me luck!
This will probably be short, else I risk sounding preachy. But I've been silent for a few weeks because life got in the way and it has reminded me if a simple lesson.
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." It's attributed to Ian Maclaren, but motivational posters abound. I prefer an extended version: "Be kind, for everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about."
I have a secret. Perhaps some of those who read this will know what I'm referring to, but they will be few. It's not important what the secret is. I'm almost back to normal (or at least what I consider my normal) but, for one week, I have carried my secret around. I have been pretending to be fine this week.
I was chatting with a friend who struggles with chronic pain and depression. We got to talking about how little we know about the people around us. It's part of our culture to ask "How are you?" but then the "correct" answer is "good" or "fine," even if it's a lie. We ask, but we don't expect anyone to answer honestly. Why even ask?
Because it's polite.
And why do we lie in our answer? Those who are suffering do not wish to burden others. Why discuss how much your disease makes you hurt today? Or how terrible of a day you've had? Why complain when the person in front of you cannot help?
I don't expect people to change that cultural habit. I'll still say "okay" when someone asked the inevitable "How are you?" but I want people to remember to be patient with others. You do not know what another person's secret is.
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
The slogan for the conference in Nanaimo, BC (just up the road from me by 2 hours) was "Where will my words take me?" It was an eclectic mix, ranging from poetry to genre fiction. It reached out to publishing, contracts, and editing as well.
This conference was less frantic than others I had attended. There were opportunities to do two or three topics a day, no more. Evenings had social events. At the same time, I came out with new information that made the trip up and hotel costs well worth it.
#1 Fantasy is hard.
This is not to say that crime is easier. Or romance. Or poetry. I couldn't write a poem without resorting to couplets if my life depended on it! But the fantasy genre was not a huge presence, I suspect because it's difficult. I was thrilled to find an excellent talk by Jo-Anne McLean exclusively for fantasy writers. Her author page is HERE. It put me at a table with ten other writers who wrote fantasy in one form or another.
I may offend some people, but I think creative non-fiction is more straight forward. While a great story can still be killed by a lousy writer, at least the characters, world, and plot are pre-determined.
Fantasy makes us build it all from scratch. That's hard.
#2 Genres confuse everyone!
I am not alone! After researching genres extensively, people have started asking me where a book lands among genres and I often do not know the answer! All stories are not quite the same as the stereotypes of their genre. That's a good thing!
Dragon's Voice is definitely a fantasy action and adventure story. I wrote it to have a product that fits into a category. But the World of Taint walks a line between epic fantasy and action and adventure, with some dragon and magical creatures tossed in. So where does it fit?
I learned I should look at the Book Industry Study Group website for the BISAC codes. Find the one that fits best. It won't fit perfectly! Then find a second, because that helps marketing. That becomes the genre.
Apparently, if you ask Amazon via email, they may allow you to select up to ten categories when you market your book. That will be handy for some!
#3 I need an editor
As someone who loves to edit and has stories around 100,000 words on average, this news disappointed me. Thrillers, crime, romance and other such genre fiction usually run shorter than fantasy. Science fiction is the only one who matches our penchant for loquaciousness. Hiring an editor is not a $500 investment; it's worth over $1000. Looking at my eleven completed novels make this number daunting.
I have decided to take it a book at a time. Even professional editors said they use an independent editor for their books. Authors are too close to the manuscript and miss things, even if they are editors themselves!
And it doesn't matter if you're going traditional, said one well-published author with thirty years of experience (ok, it was Betsy Warland. Website HERE). As much as we want to think the publisher will do edits for us, they are looking for manuscripts that don't require the effort.
So hire-ye an editor.
(I did learn about PEAVI.com, which sound like a friendly, local group.)
#4 You can fake it
I'm an introvert, but I faked being an extravert for the weekend. I engaged with people at the table across from me, asked their name, what they wrote, where they were at in the process, how they were enjoying the conference and a million other things. I got to know a dozen people. For someone daunted by networking, I surprised myself. I now need to buy a business-card holder to keep track!
It was exhausting, but without someone to start the conversation, most authors would remain silent. We are a shy lot, happy to sit at our keyboards anonymously and do our own thing. That's the writing part we love so much.
But marketing and publishing are not the same. So I learned to fake it to a debatable level of authenticity.
#5 The most valuable piece of advice
I have to thank Jo-Anne McLean for this one. It was her last tip, and it resonated with me:
"Writing is not a competitive sport."
I have been working on self-publishing, feeling intimidated by the need to get through the 'noise' of the genre and somehow come to the surface of the flood of ebooks online.
But a reader doesn't stop at one book. Just because they read someone else's, it doesn't mean they won't read yours! Having any book out there to get them interested in the genre helps all writers. We're a team.
I have felt the love of the writing community, a family that sees beyond genre and accepts that you too hear voices in your head and have characters that take your story somewhere you never expected. My teammates sympathize with getting stuck on a climax or finding time to put words on a page and have tips for improving your craft. We support each other because when a reader reaches for a second, third, or fifty-second book, we all win.
I hope all writers can learn to recognize this.
As I wait to hear more feedback from the Beta Readers, I'm a bit at a loss. I always have three projects on the go: one nearly completion, one stuck in the middle, and one just getting started. I finished my 'nearly completed' one a while ago, but the other two have not moved up.
The trouble is, I'm either too stressed or not stressed enough to write at the moment. There exists a middle perfect-level of anxiety and stress that drives words onto pages. Below that level, I have no spinning thoughts to tether. Above that level, I end up like many others; catatonic. When I am too tired, there is no energy remaining for creativity, and the pages remain blank.
The stress can be mental stress, where I'm working through life or work or emotional affairs and building up anxiousness. My strategy to release that tension has always been to give my over-active, worrying mind a purpose. When my chest gets tight, or when I catch my brain going back over all the negative things that may happen, I point that rambling idiocy at a story. For sleep, a calm, familiar scene or character that soothes it. For anxiety, I give it a problem to solve. How will Breagh and Alastair find the fairy queen? Lania's trapped in a cell. How will she escape? Cairon just stormed out. Will Danoron be able to win him back?
But sometimes the stress is temporal. Sometimes, I'm happy but have trouble finding time to sit down at the keyboard.
I am never more creative than when I have no time to write. Then, the ideas build up, begging to be given life. When there is plenty of hours on the clock, it may fall off as I lose momentum. Being pressed for time helps keep the ideas going.
It's a good thing I don't use a typewriter though. When in doubt, put the words on a page and go back and edit later. You can't edit when there's nothing there.
That philosophy got Breagh and Alastair down into the forest, so that's a start. Now I need to discover what lurks in the place where the wind stands still...
I had not anticipated the phenomenally detailed report I received from my beta reader. I've done plenty of critiques, and I usually provide pretty much that level of detail and consideration. I was not expecting it from a beta reader. I have been entirely spoiled!
Dragon's Voice also found itself two new beta readers, but I'll clean up some of the nitty gritty before passing it on, lest the little things get in the way of the new readers. But it did show me how much variation there is in writing. The editor did say they edit to Chicago style. Now, I can see where the expectations of the reader may be different depending on their usual reading habits and their upbringing.
I am Canadian. I have slowly learned how to write in American English, a trick I can perform on command, but I default to my Canadianisms. However, I also spent four years in the United Kingdom (which is where many of my pictures are from, by the way). I became familiar with British English. British English influenced everything I wrote while I was there. You'll notice I don't use "pants" in my writing. I can't. It means underwear. Mis-reading that word completely changes the meaning an otherwise innocent sentence!
Thankfully, I have enough confidence to take the good from the beta reader and leave the rest. Sometimes, I know I'm right about where a comma goes. Sometimes, I'm willing to try to replace an M dash to see if it would read easier.
It's the big points that continue to intimidate me, but I'm waiting for more information before acting on them. I don't want to have a manuscript so different after the first read that I can't reference the points of the next beta reader. I know many of the points have weight and will likely be integrated shortly, but I plan to do them in one haul.
But, like I said, wow. I am flabbergasted by the effort and time the reader invested in reading my work. And I am grateful beyond measure.
Progress is scary.
I was shocked, but pleasantly so, when I got two offers on Beta-Readers for Dragon's Voice from the Victoria Creative Writing Group (which I have been a member of since 2011 and help manage too!). One was so fast, she read it in 48 hours (or less!) and we're meeting for coffee next week!
Amazing! But terrifying too! It's been a lot of years since I first started reaching out to writing circles and critique groups, and I've done a fair number of exchanges with other budding authors too. I'm not scared of just having my work out there anymore. I know it can hurt, but that I'll be able to pick the parts that fit my vision and gently put aside the parts that don't convey what I want. My writing experience has given me that much. I'm a big fish in my tiny pond over here; I can take it!
But the whole point of this adventure is to leave the pond.
I'm excited, and nervous, to hear what the Beta-reader has to say. Feedback is so important and can be so helpful. But it can come with that confidence-destroying pain of knowing your work is not as awesome as you'd like. Since I already feel like my work is good, but not stellar, that's a hard blow.
But I need to leave the pond.
So we're meeting for coffee . Then another edit down the road and it'll be time for the next step.
It's strange to consider this my first post, since it's been so many years in the making. The simple fact is that I'm addicted to writing and have been for many years. I can't help but write. After enough time, those words on the page have to become something. And here we are.
This journey begins somewhat arbitrarily on February 14th, not because I have any special feelings about Valentine's Day, but because that was the week I had some extra time. My son's at his grandparent's place for a brief stint. A local snow storm has limited my holiday to staying at a hotel down the road instead of going to Tofino, but I won't complain about that. I have time.
Like many, I started this year wondering what to do with my life over the next 12 twelve months. I decided to work on getting a book published. I've completed many of them, and they're just sitting on a hard drive (and backed up...) without any purpose. It's time they see the light of day.
The plan went as follows:
1. Join another local writing group (here's looking at you, Sooke Writing Collective. I've been to three meetings so far and paid my dues).
2. Start submitting stories into contests (and The Golden Jubilee just went into the CBC Non-fiction contest February 13th, 2019. REALLY not what I usual write, but an idea is an idea so it happened.)
3. Put up the website I built last summer (and here you are!)
4. Polish up and get beta readers for ONE of the eleven novels I have on file for publication.
5. Attend SiWC to make connections and learn more about self-publishing. If you don't know what SiWC is, the link is here).
6. PUBLISH. Actually do it. Get one of the novels out there as a stepping stone to more. There are a few steps buried in this one (cover, advertising, social medial platform...) but it's the main goal. Its deadline is November 2019.
That's the plan. I'm at number 4. I still need a few more beta readers for Dragon's Voice, the stand-alone sword and sorcery I'm going to start with, but it's been polished and edited. I've got the website now up (obviously!).
I just need to do it.
Wish me luck!