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Failures and Realignment

2017 has been a lot of things. There have beautiful moments hidden in the edges. But I think it's clear that this has been a very hard and painful year for a lot of people. My experiences have been no different, though I'm quite aware that I have privileges that many do not. My struggles with anxiety and depression have been amplified by the negativity of what's happening in the world. And I have often turned on myself for not being more knowledgeable, braver, and more capable. I've watched so much suffering and anger, and I've hated myself for not being able to do more. For having so little to offer.

I've had many other difficult years. Ones with more personal pain and loss and panic. Years that felt like my own world was ending. But there was a key difference in 2017. My writing used to be a safe place I could escape to. This year, I've struggled with writing self-doubt. And I have mentioned this time and again, so I'll try not to linger. But I've wanted to save the world so much. Writing felt like my only way. I'd often hoped that my writing could be some comfort to people who felt "different" or rejected by the world. But I started to worry with every word I wrote that I might slip up. I might not be perfect. I might make mistakes. And then, what use would my writing be to anyone?

So, I would hold back. I would hold it in, fearing that any tiny wrong move would ruin everything. I wanted to save the world. And I knew that I couldn't. And in the process, I've forgotten to save myself. I've drifted back into despair. I've gone back to hating myself for all that I could never be or do. And for who I am. Because who I am isn't perfect. I have flaws. And my work is also flawed. And that made me want to give up. In some ways, I'd convinced myself that I had failed before I'd even finished.

This fear of imperfection has lead to me repressing my true feelings. Repressing my true self. Because I feared being rejected for being flawed. But I cannot do this anymore. My well-being is not more important than the world's. But I cannot help the world, or anyone, if I do not take care of myself. And part of that is writing what I love simply because I love it. Because it saves me. Not because it has some greater purpose to the world. Maybe it will. But if doesn't... that doesn't change the fact that I need it.

"I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me." - Joanne Rowling

And so, 2018 will be the year I finish Book Two. Or maybe not. Who really knows? But I will write what I need when I need to. I will find a way to realign with my inspiration. I will find a way to reconnect with myself, even if that means closing out the world for a little while. Maybe that really does mean that I've failed for now. But I hope to come out of this a success on my own terms. I will write the book(s) I was meant to write. And I will hope that it is, somehow, a book the world needs, too. Or maybe, just one other person. Because I am no writing superhero. And I will not pretend to be. I will not pretend to be anything I'm not.

"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default." - Joanne Rowling

I will just be who I am. As a writer and a human. And someday, that will be enough.

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The Quiet Voice

About once a year, my Catholic grade/middle school would send each class on a retreat to the church. Most of what happened at these retreats was unremarkable. No different than anything else we learned during religion classes. I barely remember most of them at all. There are two exceptions. The first, a scene that made it into Magic Inc. Book One, an innocent connection with the first boy I loved before he grew to hate me. The second, right before I found out the second boy I loved had asked out my best friend, went something like this…

The priest was trying to make a point about “God’s voice” being the quiet one amidst all the chaos of the outside world. That temptations and pressures from around us were much louder than the inner voice telling us to follow the light and do the right thing. He decided to illustrate his point by having the quietest student in the class stand on the opposite end of a tunnel of other students (making lots of noise) to lead the “loudest” student along the path while blindfolded.

Of course, when he asked everyone who the quietest student in our class was, they all immediately said my name. And so I was forced to stand on the other side. I barely made a squeak, far too afraid to do what I was asked. Being quiet was my only chance at protection from the cruelty classmates often showed me. It was a mortifying experience. And it stuck with me even in a year particularly filled with heartbreak.

~

I have for a long time felt a deep connection to my own inner voice. I would not call this voice God’s voice, but I do believe it to be my intuition - which, in turn, is connected to whatever higher power exists out there. This sense of self has guided me through so many years of pain. The bullying. The multiple times my panic attacks almost sent me to the psych ward. The times I felt like the world wanted me to change into someone more “normal”, so that I could blend in and not cause waves.

This inner voice is what compelled me to write. To become a vegetarian. To believe in soulmates and synchronicity. To be compassionate and creative in a world that often seems cruel and ready to attack those who seem different and follow their own path. This voice only grew in strength in my years of near solitude following dropping out of high school from anxiety. I still struggled with self-doubt, with major body image issues, and high anxiety. But my inner voice eventually guided me back. And I became more and more certain of my path.

Until recently. The last year, I have struggled with self-doubt so large it has threatened to knock me completely off course. The voices of the outside world have been so loud, so hurt and angry, that I have lost track of that quiet inner voice inside of me. That I have doubted my path. Wondered if I’m really meant to tell the stories inside me. Worried that I might cause more harm in this world than good.

Writing was once the only thing I felt sure about. I knew I was meant to write. I had no delusions of being “the best” writer. I always knew there would be more talented, more experienced, and harder working writers out there. But even when I doubted my writing would live up to anyone I admired, I believed in the power of stories and that I had been given stories I was meant to tell.

Now, I am fearful. Over the years, I’ve watched so many stories being ripped apart (sometimes with good reasoning), and it has frightened me. It has brought me back to the days where any wrong move could lead to an attack from my peers. It has made me question the one thing they were never able to steal from me. My voice.

Because being quiet in school didn’t matter as long as I could escape into the worlds in my head. As long as I could spill out my emotions in writing. That was my true voice, anyhow.

~

There is always more we can learn. I have learned a lot the past year. I believe many important issues are being brought to light. And that is very good. But I also believe our polarized world has often lost sight of compassion. Has turned into angry shouting matches. And it scares me. Because while I certainly lean far more one way than the another, I have never fit perfectly in any group, any box. And my stories will not either.

No story is perfect. Because no writer is perfect. Because no human is perfect. But I believe we can learn a lot from listening to each other’s stories. Some stories have had the advantage for far too long, and I hope that is changing. I want to read more stories from diverse writers. I want to learn about experiences that are not my own. I want humans to realize we have far more in common than different. We all feel love and pain, have hopes and fears, have good points and flaws. We all make mistakes. And I want us to learn from them. To apologize when we’ve done wrong, even on accident. But I also don’t want to fear being demonized for making missteps.

I believe writers should be aware of the messaging in their stories and pay attention when the community presents issues of concern. But I don’t think writers should be expected to tell perfectly moral tales. Life is imperfect. People are imperfect. Therefore, stories and characters should be allowed the same.

~

I am trying to reconnect with my quiet inner voice. I’ve written quite a bit the last few weeks. Let Jane's voice speak out again. But I still am scared. After years of being hurt by those around me, that last thing I would want is for my work to be hurtful or harmful. But my fears have turned into repression. I’ve started believing that who I am is somehow wrong. That I don't deserve a voice or to have my stories told. Started hearing the voices of the past more loudly, telling me to hide away. To disappear.

I want to believe in the power of stories again. That writing is healing way to deal with both darkness and light. I think (nearly) every story deserves to be told. I need to have the freedom to tell mine. To write about my love and pain, hopes and fears, good points and flaws. I am not perfect, but I will try my best. If I make mistakes, I will try to learn from them.

Writers are only human after all.

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Flowers and Spring and Writing



I've been trying so hard to take positivity from the fresh air and new life - the green leaves and flowers - but warm weather brings on my seasonal depression far more than winter. I think it's because it's so beautiful outside that I feel such a disconnect from everything around me. Just like holidays, I feel the pressure to be happy. And because of that, I actually feel worse. But I am trying.

Writing has also been tough lately. I'm more anxious about how my current WIPs will be received than I was about my first book's release in 2015. Self-doubt is killing my creativity on a regular basis over the last year, and I don't know what to do. I've certainly had writing anxiety before, but it has never happened with such intensity and frequency. It never really got in the way of my work. Until now.

In a way, I think all the interacting I'm trying to do with other writers on Twitter has been draining me and making me doubt myself more. I appreciate the idea of community, but as with a lot of social things - or maybe all social things - I often feel more alone when I try to connect, and fail. My process is so different from most of the other writers. And that's totally fine. But I don't know. Finding a community just never really works for me. I always feel on the outside looking in.

I've learned a lot from listening to other writers talk about issues in writing and publishing. And for that, I'm grateful. But constantly worrying about whether those people would approve of my stories has been making me so sick that I cannot work. And it's not their fault. That's just where my anxiety takes me. The other writers have been kind and supportive. But it's all very casual, and that's not the connection I'm craving. And any socializing is incredibly draining to me, so it has to be worth it.

What's the right amount of casual socializing for me? I don't know. Some of the discussions have been really enjoyable and motivating. But writing, to me, is about feeling immersed in story and characters. I want to discuss story... not writing, if that makes sense. I want to connect with another writer one-on-one. But it has to be the right match. And I don't know where to find that any more than any other deep connection with another human being.

My birthday is coming up in about a month. This tends to trigger emotional crashes. So, maybe I should pull away for a while. Get immersed back into story instead of all the technical examinations of writing. That's what I want to do. But I don't want to lose the little bit of connection I have found, since it's so rare.

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The Destination is Important, Too

Health issues combined with continuing depression about life and the state of the world have made writing scarce these past few weeks. But I opened my windows today for the first time in ages, and I feel like I can breathe again. If you know me well, you'll know I'm not exactly a summer person. I get terribly overheated in the sun, keep my room fans all year, and wear a tank top and shorts if at all possible. (Seriously - middle of the winter, tank top and shorts.) But don't get me wrong, I don't particularly like winter, either. Snow is pretty from indoors, and luckily, I work from home and can stay out of it most of the time. I favor the in-between seasons. Spring and fall. More fall than spring these days, since the arrival of spring just makes me fear the summer and my birthday. But I love the breeze. Jane is an Air Element for a reason.

I just remembered this bit of advice I left when posting a song many years ago, and it still rings true: "And seriously, the biggest piece of advice I have for writers who are in the midst of a huge writer’s block, or have ideas but can't seem to get motivated enough to write... is open your window." Maybe some of you are more drawn to the scent of fresh earth or rain or the ocean, but I feel like most creative people have at least one major connection to nature. And it's good to reconnect.

Anyhow, I spent the day reading with the windows open, and I feel more alive than I have in a while. (I also packed up some copies of Magic Inc. for my next event!) Some of what I was reading was more Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Bird by Bird does have some very interesting things to say about writing, and it's a pleasant read. But I'm only deeply connecting to bits and pieces and not the core of the lessons themselves. For instance, I love the idea that characters will form themselves and that you shouldn't betray their personalities for the sake of plot. Also, that you're more a typist for the story that exists out there in the ether or in some other unconscious part of the brain. But I've realized this book is far more a tool for Pantsers than Plotters. The very idea of writing out a first draft with no idea where I was going is terrifying for me. I always need to know where I'm going. Some curves may surprise me, just like any journey. But the destination is important, too, you know.

I planned the majority of the Magic Inc. series before I even started the first book. Some sections of the journey have bigger empty spots waiting than others (which make me nervous if I think about them too much), but as a whole, I know where the story is going. I know my characters' wants and needs. I know the way their stories weave into my other books. And definitely, where it all ends.

But that's pretty far off, so we can just focus on the journey for now.

Inside & Out Book Tag

Swiping another book-related set of questions from elsewhere to post here. This one is the Inside & Out tag. Feel free to take this onto wherever you like to answer questions.

I Inside flap/Back of the book summaries: Too much info? Or not enough? (Discuss)
I really like book summaries, both reading and writing them. Occasionally, I feel like they give away too much, but usually, I like seeing what all the book wants to tease you with. It's probably the most important factor in deciding what I purchase.

N New book: What form do you want it in? Be honest: Audiobook, E-Book, Paperback, or Hardcover?
I love hardcovers. I box up books and move them often, and they take a beating way better than paperbacks. Plus, I just remember the joy of picking up a new hardcover Harry Potter book. Nothing else compared.

S Scribble while you read? Do you like to write in your books, taking notes, making comments, or do you keep your books clean clean clean? (Tell us why)
Clean, clean, clean. Although I like the idea of making notes in books you want to share with friends.

I In your best voice, read for us your favorite 1st sentence from a book.
Well, since I stole this for my blog, I can't do this one. But I'll link to Alexa reading hers, since it's my favorite as well.

D Does it matter to you whether the author is male of female when you're deciding on a book? What if you're unsure of the author's gender? I'd like to say no, but honestly, I read way more from women authors than male. I find books written by male authors tend to be more gory in fantasy, which is triggering for me, or filled with crude jokes in contemporary, which is also triggering. But I don't consiously avoid male authors.

E Ever read ahead? or have you ever read the last page way before you got there? (Do confess thy sins, foul demon!) :)
I have a friend who always reads the end first. (You know who you are!) I've only skipped ahead when it's something I'm considering abandoning. And I used to check all the chapter art when I got a new HP, until I accidently spoiled myself that way in Book 5. Haha.

&

O Organized bookshelves, or Outrageous bookshelves?
Organized. Sort of. I just group books together in a way that makes sense to me at the time, and I only shelve books I've already read and want to keep.

U Under oath: have you ever bought a book based on the cover (alone)?
Possibly? I do love covers and get drawn in or turned off by them, but I can't remember buying any books without reading the synopsis. The cover is the first pull, but it's not enough to sell the book alone.

T Take it outside to read, or stay in?
Reading outside always sounds relaxing, but I'm too twitchy of a person to actually enjoy it.

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Not-so-"Shitty" First Drafts

I am very nearly halfway through the first draft of Magic Inc. Book Two. Well, really, I'm very nearly halfway done with both the first and second drafts of Book Two. Because writing first drafts by computer instead of in a notebook has allowed me to revise sections as I go along. Which I know can be a killer to some writers. Getting all wrapped up in perfecting one small section instead of actually finishing a full draft of their book. I used to be that way when I was a teenager. Forever starting and restarting Dreaming in Shadow and even my fanfiction projects.

But somewhere between then and now, I got into a better relationship with revision. For one, I became more able to do it on my own instead of relying so much on outside opinions of what needed to be changed. I could see more of the flaws with my own eyes. I could also better appreciate which parts needed to stay raw and filled with emotion. The sections that basically spilled out of my soul. So, now, I am writing in scenes as I feel drawn to them and tying everything together later while also revising what I have already. This leaves me with something more resembling a second draft than a first by the time I end each chapter.

Of course, I will need to go over everything again once I finish writing, and I already have noted some scenes that will probably need more additional editing than others, but I feel I'm delivering more polished new chapters by this method. In some ways, I am hoping that streamlining my process will keep me from taking five years to write one book, but it's mostly just the natural progression my writing process has taken.

I've been reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, and mostly enjoying it so far in spite of my hesitation to read more writing tips for fear of feeling even more alienated. Anne's writing is witty and relatable. At least when she's simply talking about the many feelings writers go through and not trying to teach something. Which is to say, I still cannot relate to the "shitty first draft" concept.

I always prickle when writers proclaim that all first drafts are garbage. While I've certainly created work that was flawed and in need of excessive editing, I have not (at least for many years) written what I would consider garbage. Maybe it's because I usually spend years writing a story in my head before I even start the first draft. Maybe it's because I only write when I'm inspired, and therefore, haven't forced whole chapters out of myself before I was ready. Maybe I'm just really bad at writing, and have been doing it wrong all along. I mean, that's always a possibility, I suppose. But I think my process just different from the norm.

I spent some time recently on Miss Masquerade, which has gotten very little attention from me since the release of Magic Inc. Book One. It surprised me how I'd forgotten the ease of working on a real second draft, where the plot had been laid out and all I had to do was make everything flow better. I got to just play with words. Be a writer over a storyteller, because the story was already told. Being a storyteller has always been my priority, but it is nice to have the freedom to not worry about that part. This is why I put so much into my first drafts. So that all I have to do later is polish. It baffles me that writers often say the second draft is the hard part. But I guess that makes sense if what you threw together the first time was "garbage" and you have to change the structure of everything drastically.

I'm certainly no stranger to having structural issues to fix in second drafts, though. Part of the reason I'd forgotten how nice it could be to write a second draft was because my other second draft, Dreaming in Shadow, had a major issue. There was a scene I had meant to include in the first draft that had the potential to break the flow of the entire second half of the book if I put it in now. Okay, it probably was not going to do that. But I am an anxious person, so I agonized over how I was going to fix this issue most of last year. And in the end, when I finally came to the part in the second draft where the scene needed to go, it went. Perfectly. There was a pointless scene sitting there, holding a place for it this entire time. Ugh. So much wasted time and energy. But I'm grateful it all worked out. Now, I just hope the second draft will start to flow again.

So, maybe I can't quite relate to the "shitty first draft". But the feelings of self-doubt that often facilitate the need for them - oh, can I ever relate to those! Doubt is really is my biggest threat to staying productive, besides low energy. Part of the fight actually is against the worry that I'm somehow doing all of it wrong because my process is so different from most writers. That's why I don't like to read writer's tips. They all seem to be the same. And there are so many different ways to be a creative writer.

What matters most is the finished book. So, if part of your process is to write a bad first draft where you let yourself write freely, go for it! But I actually enjoy my planning and "perfectionism"... most of the time. I have a fairly good relationship with it when it comes to writing, at least. The combination of planning ahead but waiting for the right inspiration to hit before actually getting the words down is a good balance for me. Part of the reason I pay so much attention to my first drafts is that I don't want to edit heavily later. I want the emotions to stay raw, while fixing the flow of everything else.

I would encourage new(ish) writers to let your work be raw and imperfect. Don't let your fears keep you in an editing loop, if it means you'll never finish. Know that you can fix issues later. But don't be afraid to take your time, either. And instead of considering first drafts as being "shitty", think of them as an unpolished gemstone. It is still beautiful. It still deserves your respect. And with more work, it will shine.

Music Meme

Rules: you can tell a lot about a person from the music they listen to. Put your music on shuffle and list the first ten songs, then tag 10 people. Take it if you want to!

1. Poe - Hello

2. S Club 7 - Dangerous

3. Sherwood - Gentleman of Promise

4. Erutan - Come Little Children

5. Nobuo Uematsu - Compression of Time

6. Hilary Duff - I Am

7. Linkin Park - Shadow of the Day

8. Adele - Make You Feel My Love

9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Cast - Walk Through the Fire

10. t.A.T.u. - Show Me Love

A Year in the Life of an Author Redux

This was my first full year as an author, and it feels kind of weird. I've gotten a lot of good work done this year, and I'm grateful for that. I know that finishing my next book is my main mission right now, and that's going fairly well (if slowly). I also did an absolutely terrifying first author event, which took so much personal planning and energy.

But I still feel like so little has changed. Aside from a few moments here and there, I still feel more like a writer scrambling to legitimize her vocation by finishing her first book than an author working on her second. And maybe it's just my predisposition for seeing the negative, but I can't help but be sad that I still don't really have any clue what I'm doing when it comes to marketing and disappointed that Magic Inc. hasn't really found its audience yet.

Year-End Book Freak Out Tag

I feel like I should be blogging about books more (and just blogging more in general). I read quite a lot now. The last few years, I've been reading about 30 books per year. This year, there's a chance I might hit 40. That's nothing compared to some of the most voracious readers out there, but it certainly isn't nothing. I've been trying to find some book vlogger/bloggers to follow, and in the process, stumbled upon this tag. Obviously it's way past mid-year, but I wasn't able to find a similar end-of-year tag yet, and I may forget to look for one once the holidays descend. Sooo, let's just pretend this is an end of year book tag, and I'll amend the questions to fit that.

1. Best book you’ve read in 2016?
Where She Went by Gayle Foreman. I really loved the first book, so I had high hopes for this one. It did not disappoint. As soon as I started reading Where She Went, I fell in love. Something about Gayle Foreman's writing style feels like it was tailored specifically for me. I can't explain exactly what about it appeals to me so much, but it's like breathing in a much needed gust of fresh air. I haven't read any of Gayle's other books, and I'm curious to see if the writing style feels the same or if it's just the way she wrote this series.

2. Best sequel you’ve read in 2016?
While Where She Went qualifies here as well, I'll say City of Glass. After years of saying I would never read Cassandra Clare (here's why), I bought her first two books at my library's book sale last year, and after being encouraged by a friend, read them. And loved them. I mean, really loved them. I then had to decide whether to buy the rest of the books, and if so, how. I tracked down used copies with the original covers and read City of Glass in January. What can I say? I love forbidden romance, and the first three Mortal Instruments books are full of it. The characters are amazing, and the lore is fascinating. Book Three added some interesting new characters to the mix and resolved one of the main plot points in the series. And the ending felt very much like it could have been the end to a trilogy. That's why I've hesitated to read the second half of the series. Book Three ends in such a nice place, and I wanted to let the characters rest. I still have my reservations about reading Cassandra Clare and occasionally feel guilty for giving into the hype. But if I judge the books by what they are, I can easily say it's my favorite series of the last two years. And someday, I'll purchase and read The Secret Country series to assuage my guilt.

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to?
SO MANY. But maybe, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum. Or The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. Or Remembrance by Meg Cabot. I started rereading The Mediator series to prepare.

4. Most anticipated release for next year?
Either Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth or Once and for All by Sarah Dessen.

5. Biggest disappointment?
I mean, I could say Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. But to be honest, I didn't expect great things from it in the first place. And yet, somehow, even going in with low expectations, I was still disappointed. Maybe even emotionally devastated by the destruction of my favorite series. So, actually, Cursed Child. Definitely Cursed Child. (Runner-up: Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott. I mean, it had a book blurb from Sarah Dessen; I expected it to be amazing. I found most of the characters unlikable and the circumstances even worse.)

6. Biggest surprise?
Maybe Cinder by Marissa Meyer? I'd heard a lot of praise over the series but wasn't sure tech-based Cinderella would appeal to me. I loved the writing style, the characters, and the world. And all this is just reminding me that I need to read the second book.

7. Favourite new author (debut or new to you)?
Cate Tiernan. I flew through the first three books in the Sweep series. Loved the main characters and the magic. I have the next six books now, and I'm planning to get back to this series soon.

8. Newest fictional crush?
Probably Aiden St. Delphi from The Covenant series by Jennifer L. Armentrout. Honestly, at this point, I can be hard to please when it comes to other writers' fictional love interests now that I've written my own. I'm not impressed with the way male romantic interests are always described as being out-of-this-world gorgeous. Aiden is no exception to this rule, but he has that watchful protector vibe that I love.

9. Newest favourite character?
Probably still Aiden. But also maybe Dawson Black from the Lux series also by Jennifer L. Armentrout.

10. Book that made you cry?
Basically everything makes me cry. So, it's hard to just pick one. But which books may me cry the most? Either The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger or We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han. For very different reasons.

11. Book that made you happy?
I guess I don't read a lot of happy books. But I read Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen, and her books are always a treat. (Bonus: Mink Volume 1 by Megumi Tachikawa. So adorable!)

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