Crickets

The fire-like leaves of an aged oak rustled above Polly’s head as she lay watching clouds carried by the wind. Blue sky and the birds overhead — mockingbirds she thought — the sun dappled prairie that stretched beyond her forever, like a sheet of paper she could write her life on. This was her childhood playground. It had been years since she’d been here, she’d never really intended to come back, and now she was. Now she was laying in the same place she ‘d spent almost every afternoon as a girl. The same place where she’d seen him fall.

The memory crashed to the front of her brain like a truck to a brick wall. Tanner staring at her through the tree’s limbs, backlit by the noonday sun. Smiling. He had the most beautiful smile. White teeth, crooked on the bottom, his lips pink and soft. He always wore chapstick.

She closed her eyes, banishing his image from her mind. This was why she didn’t want to come back here. She stood up, brushing the debris from the ground off her jeans and straightening the hem of her denim button down. Clothes she’d uncovered in the attic of the house. Boxes of her mothers things, from the years before her mother stopped trying, stopped keep up the appearance of a woman who cared.

Polly had spent her entire life trying to get away from the truth, one that ended a life she loved more than her own. She’d wandered around. She’d had meaningless flings with tall, dark, northerners who talked about Faust and Niche. She’d made herself a medallion wearer, two years now, sober and sulking. She’d liked the feeling of a motor buzzing her away from his sandy blonde hair. Or how the boys in New Hampshire had all complimented her accent and the freckles made from too much time in the sun.

The truth was, Polly had enjoyed the distance, but then her trek was halted. Her mother had finally given up completely, the war she’d fought with a man Polly was supposed to call “Daddy” had ended, and it had been accompanied by a loaded shot gun. But what could Polly have done about that? She hugged herself, the smell of her mother’s perfume in her nose somehow, and she felt a tear squeeze into the corner of her eye. She could have done more than she wanted to admit, but she couldn’t with his memory hanging onto her like a barnacle.

She bent her knees, plucking from the ground a lonely, fading bluebonnet. The wind caught her hair, sending it out from her neck like she’d been shocked. No, she hadn’t helped her mother, just like she didn’t warn Tanner he was too high. Just like she didn’t believe him when he said his head hurt from the fall. Polly’s silence had killed them both.

“Remember what your mother told you,” Tanner’s words as he limped up the hill. “Listen to me, Polly Anne. Listen to my heart, and not my words.” Tanner was talking nonsense, but he was right, and she should have listened.

This post was inspired by a brilliant InMon Prompt.

Road Trip Wednesday

Wednesday, which means it the day to Road Trip with YA Highway. Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and we bloggers link back with our response.

This weeks question, and it’s a good one, is: What music has been your summer soundtrack?

Now, my summer soundtrack consists of the music I listen to when I write. Writing music is a funny animal. It’s music I like, but can’t be distracting, and it has to evoke the mood I am trying to convey in my words. I have listened to a wide variety of stuff — from instrumental film soundtracks, to pop, to moody bluegrass. Here are just a few examples, courtesy YouTube.

 

You get the idea. The mood and tone of my manuscript is not entirely heavy, but the intensity with which she is pursued and with which she must battle is akin to the crashing symbols and abandon of these singers. I used Spotify to make playlists, as well as have access to way more music than I have in my iTunes. Spotify is good for us as writers because the possibilities are limitless, as long as we always remember to support the artists beyond the easy listening of the internet. Uploading these videos got me distracted, what was I doing?— oh, yes, a make-me-gag-synopsis.

Author Platform Building

Authors with a mortgage never get writers block.

— Mavis Cheek

I have been looking a lot at writing as a profession, and not just an outlet for the crazy inside my own brain. When you sit down to write your first novel the tendency — at least this was the case for me — is to get wrapped up in the new romance. This can manifest itself many ways. I fell in love with my protagonist. I fell in love with her love interest. I fell in love with what she was fighting for, and consequently, against. But, eventually you finish the manuscript, you do your rewrites, and you get it to an agent.

If you are lucky enough to hook an agent, you then have to wait for them to read it and give you notes (if they’re going to take it on) or pass (at which point, chocolate and a bottle of wine may be in your immediate future.) Either way, waiting is involved. I’m an inherently impatient human being. I can blame my father— who is the same way — or the instant availability of entertainment and information in this age — because they have screwed my generation over when it comes to attention span — or just bite the bullet and admit I just can’t sit still. I can’t.

This means I seek the next step. I file a preemptive strike against patience. And I research what authors, especially YA authors, are doing to get their names out there. That is where I learned the phrase author platform. Apparently, romance with your work is great, researching agents is smart, doing the hard work of actually editing and submitting your novel is valuable, but author platform is increasingly vital in this growing, merging world that is publishing.

Publishing is changing. It’s largely electronic now. The audience you are trying to reach wants things now  — I’m not alone!— and they want to know EVERYTHING. They need multiple ways to interact, not only with celebrities, but writers, friends, family, celebrity pets. In other words, if you want to be a writer, you must develop a platform from which to build your following. You must become a presence.

This may send you to a dark room with heart palpitations. You are not alone, I was there earlier this week. But, once you stop panicking, you then start to grapple with the reality, you then develop a plan. Dan Blank writes a clear, cut-the-shit article about it here. His basic take, and here he’s referring to branding (a not four letter word that feels like one):

…it is about communication. Effectively understanding your own purpose, that of your audience, and the ways to connect the two. That’s it, just a word to describe a much deeper and more meaningful process.

He goes on to break it down for us. It’s helpful. Still scary. Why does it scare me? Because it feels like admitting that I’m really doing this. There is a place where you can still go back. I left that place two weeks ago when I stopped rewriting and handed my manuscript over to an agent. I drank a lot that day and watched Batman Begins. (I was gearing up for The Dark Knight Rises too!) It felt like a weight lifted and then was replaced by an anvil. It felt real — the tangible step toward the abyss of publishing or crashing-and-burning.

I already had a blog. I’m gonna be honest, that is the easiest step. Blogging is fun, and as long as your blogging you can feel like you are accomplishing something just by clicking publish. This can be a delusion when you only have three people reading your blog. The real challenge is then producing real interest in yourself. That takes time, consistency, and you actually putting something out their that other people want to read.

On writer Bill Henderson’s blog, Write a Better Novel, he explains that utilizing the planks — haha, since your building an author platform, get it? — of Facebook, Twitter, and blogging is an easy, free way to do that. You still have to be smart about it, though, and not just think by having an account people will magically care. But if you can’t be smart about it, maybe you should be a baker. Of course, if you’re trying to make it as a baker in this day and age you probably need a Twitter account and Facebook page so people can like you. In other words, everyone looking to make a career needs to build themselves a platform.

In the spirit of that, I started a Facebook fanpage. This is separate from my personal, private account, and is set up for me to funnel all of my internet writerly escapades to one, easy source. Check it out if you are so inclined. But further, make your own if you are at this stage. And then let me know so I can like it. We need each other, we reclusive, obsessive writers. Planks laid, platform being nailed.

Pure Baggott

This post is really about two things, but they overlap, so it will be written as one. I recently read a YA book called Pure, by the New York Times Bestselling author, Julianna Baggott. I don’t know if I would have known about the book if not for my agent friend Julie. I read YA, and more so now that I am writing YA, but a lot of really amazing stuff gets by me because I don’t always have the drive to search. Pure could have been one of those.

I read it a few weeks ago while I was finishing my novel. In some ways, I think this was a mistake. I was in the throws of romance, all hot and sweaty for my own story, not necessarily absorbing what I was reading. That said, I still think about it with an eye twitch and ache in my chest. I will not review it. I do not feel qualified. I will tell you, if it is not on your radar, let this blog post put it there. Pure was stunning. It was written in third-person, which is not widespread habit of YA writers. It is a lot more literary than some of the YA we may all be used to. It also deals some pretty loaded hands, paints some pretty graphic pictures, glares at some pretty real issues. Some of the description required multiple reads (again, this may be because my head was full of my own book) and even then sometimes the result was more of a brow knit. Don’t let that deter you, because upon another read (now that my head is clearing) I am feeling very differently.

I was perusing the web for blogs on writing, wanting to build my knowledge of what other writers are saying, reading, coloring, and I came across Julianna Baggott’s blog. Baggott writes under three names: Julianna Baggott (her legal name), Bridget Asher, and N.E. Bode. She has published over seventeen novels and poetry anthologies. I chose to check out her blog, and that is what this post in really about.

As a writer, Baggott is prolific. She is not only renowned in publishing, but she is a scholar of books and teaches that craft to future writers by way of Florida State University. She is long married with four children (ahh!). I set about reading some posts and promptly fell madly in love. Her voice as a human being is really bold, full of ballsy goodness and knowledge. And better, she writes not only about writing (publishing, agents, books, authors) but about real life. She writes about herself, her kids, and her vulnerability and humor befits a person that has seen many things of the world and still believes in it.

I have just been clicking through her blog, absorbing her words, laughing, nodding. In one particular post, I found myself nearly tear up. Not from sadness, but solidarity. The link to that post and the rest of her blog is here. She beautifully describes the road to a publishable manuscript as being gutted. I also have described it this way, and I was shocked by it. I will continue to feel completely vulnerable, all exposed nerves and blazing skin, for years to come I hope. And I know, Baggott would agree with me. I also hope for it to all be worth it. Not by monetary calculations, but by the assessment of worth in readers. For all our scowling, we really want to connect.

I highly recommend you peruse her blog. It’s a good read. And, as she says at the end of many of her posts: go buy Pure!

Filling time

Lately, (and by lately, I mean, since Wednesday) I have been faced with a dilemma. Patience is a virtue I am usually bankrupt in. It is also something I must do as I wait for feedback from early readers of my manuscript, including an agent friend of mine. The first couple of days I felt like my skin was being picked at by tiny, flame fingered trolls. I could still feel my narrator inside, running parallel with me, screaming that I couldn’t leave her that way. I know this sounds insane, but truthfully most writers are a little bonkers.

I also began to balk at the idea that this book I had written with ambitions for publications and widespread distribution (lofty goals in this market) was being read by very close, and trusted friends who wanted me to succeed. There reaction will be real, but they are kindly invested in the future of my work. (I hope, I don’t generally run with backstabbing b*tches.) How will it be for me when others with no care for my well-being or knowledge of who I am, read this.

I know what you’re thinking, “You will suck it up and be thankful they read it at all.” I think you’re right. If you aren’t thinking that, and are giving me a virtual edifying kiss on the cheek, I would like to thank you for the sentiment and promptly cry on your shoulder.

In the whirlwind of writing my manuscript I have often been captured by the narrator, drawn in as prisoner by the world she lives in and the fight she fights. Now that the bulk of the work is behind me — unless the consensus is that my book is not worth reading  at all, a reality writers are faced with everyday — the next step will be much different than the last. There will be times when I will have to actually participate in my life without thinking about my book.

It’s been nine months of solid work. Some authors work years on a manuscript, some spend a decade writing one huge story arch (see JK Rowling), while others still pine away on unfinished projects with no hope of an end. In the grand scheme, this experience so far has been relatively smooth. Though from the inside it felt very messy.

So…what am I doing to alleviate the stress of being patient in earnest?

  • Reading
  • Blogging
  • Gathering knowledge about my genre
  • Watching movies! Finding TV shows on Netflix and harping on about how nothing on TV is as good as Mad Men.
  • Playing with Sam — he has had to endure a lot of Zombie-Mommy since I began writing my book. He has handled it with great grace and piles of new superhero figures.
  • Crying. This is involuntary and not at all helpful.
  • Relaxing. Getting brows necessarily waxed, toes painted, back massaged, hair highlighted. All things I let fall during the mad dash.

Now I leave you, but not empty handed. You can ponder with me the cuteness of this pig. (Where do I get one and how can I sneak it past my landlord? ) Also, what makes a person wear stilettos? And should we petition for Pluto to be a planet again? (Ah, the things I think of when I am not working…)

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This blog is about Writing (Or whatever I want, cause it’s mine.)

You may think my name is a pretty lame title, but consider that this blog will hopefully carry over into my splash as a published author, and then it may make more sense. Most of what you will read here will be about the process, which can be daunting, of getting a novel published. Though, there is no guarantee that I will not write about my son, Sam.

Or my dog, Samson.

But mostly I believe it will be about writing. Writing bleeds into everything I do, filling my world with ideas and voices I sometimes wish I could silence. One of these voices became the heroine of my first novel, and others sometimes find there way into the cracks and crannies of the narrative I’m trying to construct. Sometimes I have chats with them, which prompts my son to ask me who I’m talking to, and sometimes I just let them stew inside. I marinate them.

So, if you are a writer, or a reader, or a person who thinks children, yorkies, and Brooklyn, NY are interesting, then you may find this blog a welcome distraction. It may also be a useful tool to draw from, or a source of amusement. (If you think someone rambling on about YA romances or the crazy shit her son says is humorous.)Whatever it becomes, I hope we can learn from it together, or laugh at it together, or triumph in it together.

Alright, that said, I really must get back to work, and you probably should too since I’m posting this in the afternoon on a Monday. Enjoy your day, wherever you are, and remember to look around you. Inspiration is literally everywhere.