Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Publication Panic Attack

I was reading another writing blog, where a hopeful author is fretting over getting her first manuscript accepted by an agent. She was talking about query letters and how when you send one and it's rejected, you really don't know why unless they take the time to explain, which is rare. So the author has no idea whether to change the proposal, change the query letter, change the book, or just try the same package on someone else.

When I read stuff like that, I get a painful constricting feeling in my chest, just under the sternum. I have to remind myself to breathe. My stomach also clenches and I think I might lose my breakfast. So I take deep, slow breaths, fix a cup of hot tea and write about it.

This all goes back to the eternal question: Is what I am writing interesting enough for someone else to read, let alone publish? The answer to the first part of the question is undoubtedly "Yes," because my friends, at least, will read it and perhaps even enjoy it.

The answer to the second part is "Who knows?" From what I hear, publishing is the ultimate crap shoot. You just keep putting yourself out there and hoping for the best. However, at least authors get to do it from home, while actors, singers, etc. have to face personal humiliation day in and day out. Okay, it's not the ultimate crap shoot, but it feels like that at times.

The other question is, why in the world do we DO this? What makes us so goddamn sure our writing is so important that we have to sacrifice our time, happiness, self-worth and lots and lots of postage to try to spread it to the world? In the ultimate picture, does anyone really care, besides us? My mom will always encourage me in my writing, because she's my mom. (Thanks, Mom!) My husband will ask how much all this is going to cost and will we ultimately lose money in the process? He isn't being mean, just practical... the bills come in each month regardless of my word count, and it's not like I'm contributing a lot financially.

My six-year-old just wants me to get off the computer so he can play Dino Attack.

Writers are either supremely egotistical, or supremely driven. I have met some egotistical ones, for example the author/writing teacher (now very successful) who discouraged me in college so much that I didn't write a thing for nearly thirteen years. But most of us are just driven. We can't not write.

But why publish? Why not do what my friend Michelle Gregory did, and self-publish a few copies to share with family, friends and Internet buddies? Why not publish for free on my blog? It would probably draw an audience, which is what I want, but no income. No publisher would want the book after that because anyone could just download the whole thing for free. But is income that important? Yes, I have to admit it is. I need to be able to justify all this time and effort to our family finances.

And, I have to admit, there is that teeny little part of me that is just dying to see my name on a glossy cover at Barnes and Noble, or an airport news stand.

But, I am also terrified of the whole publishing house process. For example, book promotion. How in the world am I going to do book tours and signings when I have a six-year-old who has to go to school, Cub Scouts, etc.? My husband can't take off from his job to do Daddy Daycare. So it seems hopeless, and I go round and round in circles of nail-biting, chocolate-chomping, coffee-slurping frustration.

What I keep coming back to... and I apologize because this is really, really corny and even a bit wierd... is that I really believe God wants me to do this. I don't know why. I find it very hard to believe that in His eternal Plan, my little book has any impact whatsoever. I just know that over and over again, He has put it in my heart, "Just write the book! Just do it." Perhaps its a simple matter of obedience. Like Abraham sacrificing Isaac. Nothing really came of that (fortunately for Isaac!), other than that Abraham proved he was faithful and God was pleased. Perhaps this is all just about pleasing the God who gave me this little gift of making up stories.

And yet... and yet... those tremulous little fingers of hope reach out in spite of my own misgivings... Did C.S. Lewis think that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, written for his niece Lucy, would ever have the impact it has? Did J.R.R. Tolkein ever think that his Lord of the Rings trilogy would be so successful, even though I believe most of the success has been posthumous? Did Beatrix Potter really think her simple little stories would affect generations of children?

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. But oh! What a venture!

Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not lose heart. (Galatians something: something)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Finding my Inner Faldur

Okay, I lied in my last post. I am going write about writing today.

This weekend, we watched the movie Nim's Island, in which an adventure writer has to overcome her own fears to help a little girl who thinks she is the heroic character she writes about in her books.

One of the scary things about the movie... because it hit home... was the two-way dialogues that occur between the fictional hero and the writer, played by Jodie Foster. (Incidentally, I adore Jodie Foster and have been told on more than one occastion that I look like her. :Grin: ) I haven't quite acquired that level of schizophrenia in my writing life, but I can see it as a distinct possibility in my future.

So who is Faldur? He's the male protagonist of my book. The thing that has been bothering me the past few weeks, is that getting inside Faldur's head is making me uncomfortable with myself. You see, he is one of those disciplined, alert, self-controlled people who does everything with such annoying perfection, that it makes the heroine want to punch him in the nose just to see if he'd say "Ow." He is everything I'm not: athletic, self-disciplined, discreet, used to sleeping outside... you get the picture. He can eat anything he wants, because he burns up so many calories hunting down bad guys, slaying evil creatures, and being cold, hungry, uncomfortable and wet. He's attuned to every facet of his surroundings and always knows the right thing to do. He's the kind of guy everyone turns to in a crisis, and whom they definitely want on their team.

And he does all this without magic. Well, maybe just a little.

Anyway, I find myself thinking at times... Faldur wouldn't be here blogging and eating popcorn when there is work to be done. Faldur wouldn't have eaten that chocolate bar. Faldur would have exercised for at least an hour today. Faldur would not have hit the snooze button eight times.

My life is turning into WWFD: What would Faldur do?

The thing that is so troublesome about this is that I know, deep down, that I could be that way if I only tried. I am better than this sloppy person I have become. Okay... that I've always been. Part of this is due to my messy creative side, which I have gladly embraced, but there are limits to everything. At least, that's what Faldur would say.

True, Faldur has his shortcomings. He has spent so much time with his fellow Rangers and his horse, that he tends to be a dry stick in company. He doesn't like opening up to people, let alone admitting he might actually care for them. He's so out of touch with his emotions that he doesn't realize he's in love with the heroine, although it's perfectly plain to everyone else. And of course, he has the benefit of a clear purpose in life: Defend the border. Serve the King. Protect his men. That's it. If he ever became a civilian he would, like many soldiers, be at a complete loss for a while. And he never has to worry about domestic problems. His horse is his family. For now, anyway.

So, I can't say I really want to be him, but I would like to be like him in certain ways. And, I wouldn't mind sleeping outside once in a while either. Camping is fun. "Where are the outlets, Mr. Ranger?"

P.S. Let me try to clarify this a bit, because I'm afraid I gave the wrong impression of my hero, whom I really admire. The heroine, Marenya, is pretty ticked off with him in the beginning of the book for being so perfect and so indifferent to her. But he is actually a very complex person. Like many people who are good at what they do, he makes it look very easy when in fact he has worked very hard to hone his skills and is constantly reassessing each situation, as well as himself.

As well, he has paid a high personal price for his commitment to duty. He has given up any idea of a personal life because he doesn't want to leave a widow behind some day when he finally comes to that point where he makes an error in judgement, or is simply outmatched. As she moves out of her safe, familiar environment and is drawn into the dangerous world he lives in every day, she comes to appreciate him more and more.

What I envy about this character is his focus and discipline. It makes me very aware of my lack of both. What I have to face, though, is that in order to know this character as intimately as I do, there must be some of those qualities in me that are yet undeveloped. That is the challenge I am facing for myself... finding my inner Faldur.

1 Peter 5:8
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Hello, out there!

Hi Everyone! I know I haven't posted anything for a while. I have been working really hard on The Golden Gryphon. I'm trying to finish the first draft by the end of the year. So, instead of writing on my blog about writing, I'm just... well... writing.

I have created a blog for my math students. It's boring, just lists of homework assignments and test information, so I won't bother to link it here. But one feature I put up is a quote of the week. I thought that some of them would be nice to post here, so I'm going to add that feature to this blog as well.

Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Zombie Writers

I am falling victim to a commom malady called "writing zombie-ism." The Zombie Writer is recognizable by a number of clear symptoms:

1. Walking stiffly, as a result of spinal compression due to sitting most of the time

2. Clenched hands, which have become gnarled from using a pen or keyboard

3. A perpetually glazed expression, and the tendency to speak in monosyllables, if at all, in response to well-meaning attempts at conversation. This is due to the fact that the zombie is not actually present with the speaker, but is living inside his or her imaginary world

4. The tendency to mumble to himself or herself while performing mundane tasks. See above.

5. An unkempt appearance, including rumpled clothes and wild hair, as a result of rushing to his or her desk immediately after waking, and then subsequently losing all track of time.

6. The tendency to eat nothing for long periods of time, and then suddenly be overcome with the urge to eat, at which time s(he) either empties out the refrigerator, or orders and consumes an entire large, deluxe pizza

7. The tendency to prowl around at night, unable to sleep but also too exhausted to write, resulting in daytime sleepiness, paleness and optical sensitivity to sunlight.

8. Lack of communication with family and friends

These symptoms, however, can be relieved in several ways.

1. The sudden arrival of friends whom the zombie invited over, and forgot all about

2. The sudden arrival of friends who want to make sure the zombie hasn't fallen and can't get up

3. A sick child throwing up on the computer

4. A child who is not sick, but positions himself on the writer's lap in such a way that no matter how the writer moves her head, she cannot see the screen

5. A dog (or cat) who throws up on the writer's feet

6. Spousal yelling (not recommended)

7. Being "kidnapped" for a dinner out by said spouse (recommended)

8. Completion of a manuscript (rare)

9. Publication (even rarer)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The First Sick Day

Today was Jeffrey's first sick day. (I'm sick of calling him DS=Dear Son. I'm going to take a leap of faith and assume there are no stalkers reading my blog.)

He caught the virus that everyone else has had at school, and the nurse called me yesterday afternoon to pick him up because he had a low fever. He threw up in the car, laid on the sofa for a while, then crawled into his bed and slept from 4 pm to 8 pm. I thought he was out for the night, and Mark (DH) and I were happily in the middle of watching "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" when the son rose and announced he wanted to play Webkinz. He played computer games, ate some pizza which we had ordered for his Jesus Birthday (that never got celebrated), and went back to bed at 11 pm.

This morning he seems fine, true to the course of this particular virus. At least, his fever's gone and he's playing happily. He clearly has a cold, but he's not lying on the couch. My friend Sharyn is going to come over and babysit so I can teach my class this afternoon. Her daughter Carolyn already had the virus, and can't wait to play with Jeff.

But I realized that this is his first sick day! God is so good... he did not miss one single day of school last year when I was teaching. I missed school several times for illness, but Jeff was never sick. Amazing!

I just feel so fortunate to have such amazing friends who will babysit for me even when my child is sick! When I married Mark, I knew no one in New Jersey. I tried to get him to move back to Ohio, but he couldn't because of his job situation. I was really depressed about the whole thing, but God told me that if I would commit myself to this marriage and to Him, He would provide a home for me here, and He truly has.

So I want to say a very heartfelt "Thank you" to Sharyn and Michelle D. and Marci and Toi and Wendi and Erica, and my Internet friends Michelle G. and Kristal, and my long-distance friends Kimberly and Alison, and my teaching colleagues Terri and Jackie and Sharon C. and Rose W., and even Linda, the fabulous secrectary of my new math dept. at CCC.... for giving me a HOME!

God is using you, even if you don't know it!

"Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life." - Matt. 19:29