I really hope 2021 is treating everyone better than 2020 did. I don't know what everyone's been doing but I've been trying to keep busy. I've been plodding my way through the first draft of Thy Choicest Gifts and I was so excited when I finished the first draft last Tuesday night.
I dove in pretty quickly to start working on line edits and finished the first round of line edits on Saturday, which now comes the task of incorporating the edits, notes and continuity checks into a second draft. Then comes the hardest part. Letting it sit. Critical distances is an important part of the process for me. If I come back too quickly after finishing the second draft, I'll miss glaring errors. I also use that time to give it to a few very close friends for a 'comment period.'
I sent the very, VERY, rough, first draft to another author friend and got back some lovely comments. That'll help when I come back to the manuscript a few weeks later to create the third draft.
In that fun, in between time, I'll be refocusing my attention on the second book in the Cryptid Chronicles series. The first book of the series coming along and I've finished a third draft for it and I'm letting it sit a while before going back for a final polish. I can't tell you what a mess that first draft was! The original manuscript spanned ten years and at least five complete rewrites before I had a manuscript that I was happy with enough to call a finished first draft.
With so much stewing for what I hope will be 2021 and 2022 releases, it gets a little chaotic sometimes. Sometimes it feels like the different characters are warring to tell their own stories, or their worlds are battling for precedence. It makes me think of a few quotes about writing. Hemmingway wasn't wrong when he said, "There is nothing to writing; all you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." And that's okay, because the flip side is the that for as hard and easy it is at the same time, it's also "the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel like I should be doing something else." (Just gonna through in some Gloria Steinem for ya!)
My two favorite quotes about writers come from Carson McCullers and Victor Hugo. McCullers said "the writer is by nature, a dreamer; a conscious dreamer," and Hugo wrote "a writer is a world trapped in a body."
You see, for me, the struggle and pain, the blood letting so to speak, the tears and laughter, are all part of the process. From the draft to the edits to the final polish. Even comments bring the same feelings about. You remember what you wrote and why. You'll find in Thy Choicest Gifts a few passages where I put more of myself into it that I expected and that's okay, it's part of that trapped world, struggling to get out.
Is there ever anything quite so satisfying as checking things off on a list? After the hellscape that was 2020, it's really nice to think that we *might* be nearing the finish line. Rays of hope are in sight! Now let's not delude ourselves into thinking that life is just gonna pop back to normal. I think it's going to be a slow and incremental process, and I think it's likely that we'll be wearing masks for at least another year or so, but the we're getting there, I truly believe that.
In that same spirit of expectation, I have started planning out my year. Now I know that I'm a little behind, it is February after all (it's February?!?!) and I completely missed a month, but I've started! And ya know what? It's filling up fast. I'm setting deadlines for my manuscripts to come - realistic ones, ones that aren't going to fly past at supersonic speeds cackling mockingly at me as they go.
I've been able to plot out some events that I am doing and am hoping to do, and I'm also planning grace. Just because the light is starting to shine at the end of the tunnel, doesn't mean that we can start being unnecessarily cruel to ourselves. We are still experiencing a global trauma and none of us are functioning tip top. This is a period where we have to be able to forgive ourselves when we don't meet our own expectations.
I admit that there have been periods of feast or famine in terms of creative creation. Here in Philadelphia we've recently had two snow days on the heels of a weekend. I planned to devote those two 'bonus days' to writing, to getting ahead of my own schedule. I did a little rearranging in my study, I got all situated, lit a wonderful scented candle, opened the miniblinds and settled in to write. I took a look out the window and before I had any clue what had happened, three hours had passed - of me just looking out the window. I have no clue how that happened. I don't think I looked away that whole time. I instantly hated myself. I'd lost three hours of work from just staring away, I can't even tell you what I'd been thinking about! Which infuriated me even further. Where was my self-discipline! BUT that was three hours that was never actually planned on. It was three hours in a day that was already like a free space on a bingo card. And my mind surely must have needed a reset time.
Periods like these are going to happen. They happen everyday, and probably a little more frequently right now. We've got to allow ourselves to have those times of just being. And we've got to take care of ourselves, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. If that means going for a socially distanced walk, do it! If it means screaming into a pillow, do it! (Try not to scare your pet, children, housemates, ghosts or even your houseplants) If you need to binge watch some Netflix, do it. (I usually escape to Star Trek or the Great British Baking Show!) Read a book (I hear there's a great book called Opportunity out now [shameless self promotion]) And talk to someone. If you need to, contact a therapist, there is no shame in taking care of yourself! I'm not ashamed to tell you that I speak to a therapist twice a month. Don't let the ignorance of other stop you from making sure you're well taken care of. There is no more courageous sentence than 'I need help.' If you just want someone to talk to, not necessarily a professional, find a friends, someone you trust. Hell, I'll even listen. I can't promise that I'm always available to be back and forth, but I'm always happy to listen. And I can't promise that I've got any advice, but I'll listen. And your friends will listen, and those who love you will listen - because they love you.
This became a long rambling thing that I didn't plan on but, hey, I think it needed to be said. I hope 2021 is an amazing year for you, for me and for all we love. We're in this together, but from other places (which works fine for me. Like Frasier said, "I'm here for you. And you're over there for me.")
Which brings me to one other thing that I want to say in this random stream of consciousness. We've probably all seen the meme that says "Introverts have been preparing for this their whole lives." While there is some truth to that, that doesn't mean that we aren't struggling too. This is hard for all of us. Check on your introvert friends too. We all need care and love right now!
And above all, remember; you are seen, you are loved, you matter!
Well guys, as of today Opportunity has been available for two weeks, and I gotta say, these have been some of the weirdest, anxiety fueled two weeks of my life! I can only think of maybe 3 or 4 other spans of time that have been more 'white knuckles' than this.
Releasing a book feels so much more vulnerable than I'd ever imagined. It's sort of like... when it's just a file on my computer or an idea in my head, I can protect the story, the characters... But once it's out there, it has this feeling like I've lost control of it - and ya know what? That's okay. The story is something I love enough to want others to experience it.
They say that you should write the story you want to read. And Opportunity is definitely a story that I wanted; I wanted the adventure of it, and as I got to know Joshua and Benji during the development phase, I wanted their romance.
And surely if I wanted it, someone else does too.
All of that is a long and meandering way to talk about the development process. Now that you've got it in your hands; now that you can see the boys and their trials, I thought I'd share a large part of the process for me.
When I'm writing, the background music is one of the most important parts of the environment that I create. Very early on, I create a playlist for that story, a sort of soundtrack, if you will. I thought it might be interesting to share that playlist with you. So here are the tracks that I listened to during the writing of Opportunity.
So you might have noticed that the two songs from Dear Evan Hanson have a couple asterisks by them. That's because these come from special recordings, not the Broadway Cast Albums.
*The Only Us version is from a series of videos the production put out and it's amazing.
** The version of Waving Through a Window that I used was this video done for Broadway.com.
Wow! What a ride the last few days have been! It's sorta been a whirlwind. Last Thursday, I received the proof for Opportunity and spent the last few days marking it up and making small notes in it. And last night was the last part, making the final changes, approving them and sending it off. It's been a long road for this book, and it's been crazy emotional as I've prepared to hand these characters I've come to love over to the world.
It's funny really; this whole story came to me following a vacation - a trip through the Kennedy Space Center and seeing the retired orbiter Atlantis. From those few hours at KSC, an idea blossomed into a story that felt like it needed to be told.
There have been moments where I've sat, staring at the computer screen thinking "what the hell is this crap?" and there have been moments where I've gone back and thought "damn, this is something I'd read." In the end, after all the tears and triumphs Opportunity has been the catalyst for, I can honestly that I am incredibly happy with the result.
And so, I am so incredibly excited to hand this story over to the world. I really hope you love these characters as much as I have. Joshua and Benji are yours now.
What a weird year, huh? I don't know if you've experienced it the same way I have, but the way this year has passed just feels so odd - like the embodiment of The Doctor's 'wibbly wobbly timey wimey.'
Each day and even week feels like it's just crawling by, but when I look at the calendar, it hardly seems possible that we're at the end of October.
Fall is usually my favorite time of the year. I love the crunch and smell of leaves, the warmth of a bonfire and that amazing feeling of holding a big, hot mug of tea in your hands - feeling that warmth radiate into your fingers. There's nothing like pulling on a big, 'lumpy' sweater that's just so big you're practically swimming in it.
But this fall just feels different. Off somehow, like somehow, 2020 is a year displaced by time. It reminds me a little of how time seems to flow in C.S. Lewis' classic series, The Chronicles of Narnia. Each time the protagonists went to Narnia, there was no way of knowing how much time had passed there, even if only months had passed in their world. That's kinda how I feel this year. I look at a calendar and think 'surely just a week or so has passed,' only to see it's been a month and a half. But also the opposite, I've thought 'I'm sure I've only got a week or so more to wait for [insert particular event here] only to see it's still months away. I suddenly understand the Pevensie children so much better than I ever thought I would.
It's been that way for writing this year also. There have been days that have felt incredibly productive, days where I look at my word count for the day and it's between 8,500 and 10,000 words; followed by days where the very thought of sitting down to create is painful.
I admit that there have been days when I've wasted the whole day without writing a single word and have felt guilty afterwards- as though each day without at least trying to write is an offense to nature. And in all honestly, nothing ever feels quite as right as writing. I feel the Gloria Steinem quote "writing is the only thing I do that I don't feel I should be doing something else" in my very soul.
Writing is a painful yet incredible experience. I cannot imagine my life with out it. And yet it is one of the hardest endeavors I embark on. It is euphoria and torment. It is rapid and glacial. It is peace.
This National Coming Out Day is a little different that most, but the importance is there none-the-less.
Isn’t it amazing the difference 15 years can make. I came out in the fall of 2005, just barely 18yo. And it wasn’t an easy road to get to that point (and not always easy since.) But I can say that I cannot imagine not having come out.
For me it was a long road of self-loathing and fear that took a long time to get to self acceptance.
Along the way, I’ve had family and friends who were there every step of the way. Along the way I’ve gathered an entire community around myself and my husband of the most amazing people who love and support us.
Most LGBTQ people know that coming out is not a single event but a process that takes all our lives. We come out every time we meet new people. It’s a frightening and liberating thing that never stops.
To me, the celebration of Coming Out Day isn’t specifically a day for us to come out but a chance to remind those of us who are out that while we celebrate, not everyone is ready or in a place that they feel safe enough to come out; and a chance to remind those that aren’t out that that’s okay. It’s okay to come out in the time and place of your choosing and when you feel safe.
It’s a chance to remind those who aren’t out yet that it’s not a road that needs to be walked alone. There’s a community of people who have or are walking this path too. To tell those who aren’t out, “you are seen; you are loved; you matter.”