The Things I Never Thought I’d Do

Sometimes I stop what I’m doing, look at my life, and say, “Wow. Of all the things I never thought I’d be doing… well, this is one of them.”

I don’t mean only bad things or exciting things. Some of them are really mundane, grown-uppish things, like paying my HOA or going to the hardware every single weekend because we still don’t have the right part for the stupid broken garbage disposal. Some of them are pretty cool, like selling jewelry on Etsy. A few of them are really freaking bad, but we don’t need to talk about this here. This isn’t a post about bad or sad things. It’s a post about exciting new horizons.

Every year, instead of a resolution, I try to pick something I want to learn in the coming year. One year it was spinning (fiber, not one of those stationary bikes), another year it was guitar. This year it’s dyeing fiber, though I have so much going on that I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t get to it. I don’t look at a new year as a chance to stop doing something, or a time to reinvent myself; rather, it’s a new opportunity to grow and learn. I don’t want to stop being me, and that’s so often what resolutions are about. But I can help me to become more like the me I’ve always wanted to be.

That sentence got away from me a little.

Here’s what I mean: once upon a time, a sixth grade girl liked wearing jewelry and listening to Celtic music and reading about Arthurian queens who spun their own yarn. While I’m not still her, not completely, I still like all those things. And every day, I like to try to do something that helps me satisfy that core me. I still like Celtic music. I make some jewelry now. And by golly, I do spin my own yarn.

But at the same time, I’m now a 30-year-old woman with a mortgage and a house that needs decorating and repairing. I need to satisfy her needs and wishes, too. So maybe instead of taking Irish dance lessons, like that sixth grade girl would want, I take a class about color in design, and that applies both to the jewelry-making and the house decorating.

Do you see what I mean? Sometimes doing the things we never thought we’d do—and never doing the things we always thought we’d do—is a good thing. It means we’ve grown and changed, that we’ve lived long enough to develop new wishes and dreams. And it means that every time we do one of those things, we’re taking a chance and making a new opportunity for ourselves.

And that’s pretty exciting.

What do you do now that you never thought you would? 

 

 

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How To Know When To Let It Go

I like to think when a writer sits down to start that very first manuscript, they believe this work, this first foray into the writing world is going to be THE ONE. I like think you have to at least believe that each one of your works could be THE ONE, otherwise why would you be writing it, but that first one and beginning of the journey you and your hopeful future readers are about to embark on is special. You believe this is a story that needs to be told, and YOU, you fabulous creative machine, are the only one who can tell it.

You write and edited and rewrite and reedit and rerewritedit until you’re staring bleary eyed at a final draft that you think is THE ONE. Really THE ONE – a shimmering little Word Bird that’s ready to be let free into the untamed Wilds of Publishing and hopefully find it’s way to the perch of a some lucky Agent’s windowsill.

But what if fickle winds take that little Word Bird fluttering wayward from the path you thought it would follow. What happens when you come to the conclusion that it might not have been time for that particular Bird to fly free. It’s still has a full plumage of wonderful words and its song is one you still want to hear sung to the world, but perhaps the winds are not right at this moment to carry the song.

I think I might have come to that point with my first manuscript, OF FATES CONVERGED. I had the story of FATES in my head for many years, but never knew what to do with it until one day I decided to plop my butt down in front of a computer and do the damn thing. Writing a novel was a much more challenging task that I ever imagined it would be, but three or so years later I had my first manuscript finished.

My first 180,000 word manuscript.

Aubrey Plaza Dinosaur

180,000 is really long for any novel, let alone the first one. But this was THE ONE. Surely it would be able to buck conventional wisdom and publishing norms, because this was THE ONE. So I went to the Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC a couple years ago to pitch this behemoth of a book. I thought I had the hottest manuscript this side of FARENHEIGHT 451 and rolled up into that conference fell all like this:

Rollins Laugh

Only to get a response from agents there that was a little something like this:

Troy Stare

Okay, they were nicer than that, but it became very apparent that this book was too damn long and the prologue I thought was really sweet was really probably not that sweet at all and that starting your novel with the main character waking up and describing herself in the mirror is not the way to go. Right. Of course. I probably should have known that already.

THE ONE needed a little (re: a lot) more work. Another year of edits, completely rewriting whole sections, including the beginning (a ton of help from Shauna in culling FATES down to a somewhat respectable word count) and I was ready to start querying.

And query I did. Few partials here and there, but not a ton of interest over about six months. This was a good book, I knew it was, but the thing is after all the edits and changes and everything, it was only half the book I had finished two years ago. THE ONE had become THE HALF. It was literally a third of the book it once was, as I’d take 60,000 words off to get it down to somewhat queryable 120,000. But there were still a lot of problems – no big hook, slow to get to the action, all the stuff you really don’t a book to be when you have basically a cover sheet and 10 pages to snag an agent with.

Screaming_internally

It wasn’t really that bad, but about 3 months ago I thought maybe it was time to shelve FATES and focus on the new manuscript I’d been working on the last year. A vast majority (like all of them) of the mistakes I made with FATES my own fault. I really should have done the research about how the industry works before deciding IMMA WRITE THIS BOOK HOWEVER I WANT CUZ THATS WHAT I WANT. But it wasn’t all for nothing, not even close. The experience of being part of the writing community the last couple of years, especially through Twitter, has been incredible and so eye-opening in terms of just how publishing really works and the amount of amazing people who are in it that just want to help each other out.

And that’s kind of what I’ve taken away from this experience so far. The majority of people I’ve come to know in the publishing and writing community just want to either tell good stories and find ways to make those stories seen by as many people as possible.

Some good stories just have to wait until the time is right for them to fly. But until then, you might just have to…

Let it go gif

(I was hoping to find a Let It Go gif that wasn’t just Elsa from the movie, but you failed me, Internet. Awesome hair swirl, though.)

So, my friends. what experiences have you had in letting that one manuscript go and was it ever able to finally find its own wings?

Cover Reveal – NEVER NEVER by Brianna Shrum

I do love doing cover reveals. Seeing all the pretty before everyone else and trumpeting the last few moments before a big release. I’m excited to share the beautiful cover of Brianna Shrum’s debut release, because it sounds like a fun read (I had a huge crush on Peter Pan when I was young) and this cover speaks volumes. It’s gorgeous.

Brianna Shrum lives in Colorado with her high-school-sweetheart-turned-husband, two boys, and two Brianna Shrumbig, floppy hound dogs. She thinks chai tea is proof of magic in the world, and loves all things kissy, magical, and strange. She’d totally love to connect with you. You can find her saying ridiculous things on Twitter @briannashrum

And without further adieu…

Title: Never Never
Author: Brianna Shrum
Release Date: September 2015
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press

 

Synopsis: James Hook is a child who only wants to grow up. When he meets Peter Pan, a boy who loves to pretend and is intent on never becoming a man, James decides he could try being a child—at least briefly. James joins Peter Pan on a holiday to Neverland, a place of adventure created by children’s dreams, but Neverland is not for the faint of heart. Soon James finds himself longing for home, determined that he is destined to be a man. But Peter refuses to take him back, leaving James trapped in a world just beyond the one he loves. A world where children are to never grow up. But grow up he does. And thus begins the epic adventure of a Lost Boy and a Pirate. This story isn’t about Peter Pan; it’s about the boy whose life he stole. It’s about a man in a world that hates men. It’s about the feared Captain James Hook and his passionate quest to kill the Pan, an impossible feat in a magical land where everyone loves Peter Pan. Except one.

 

NeverNeverFinal

Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24517738-never-never?from_search=true

A Taboo Subject in the Publishing World: Money

I originally posted this on my own blog, but I got a pretty good response to it, on the blog, on twitter, and on FB. It seemed like something a lot of writers, aspiring and otherwise, needed to hear. So I thought it would be good to share it here, on The Spellbound Scribes’ Blog to reach more people who might need to hear this and maybe it’ll give you a little hope or make you feel a little better.

The Musings of an Author in Progress

If you’ve been around the publishing, book blogging, reader-ish world on-line last week, you probably already know all about the kerfuffle that erupted when a writer decided to try to crowd-fund the sequel to her previously traditionally published book, using Kickstarter, after her publisher decided not to pick up the sequel.

I’m not going to get into the issue of why people got upset with her, or the possible misunderstandings that went on, or the argument that art is work and artists should be paid for that work (which I obviously agree with). Not because I don’t think those things need to be talked about, but because a lot of other people have already talked about it and I want to talk about something else.

Through this whole thing one issue has come up again and again, an issue that we are conditioned not to talk about, or not be…

View original post 1,263 more words

Keeping Time

grumpyI have a birthday approaching. A birthday which places me solidly in the “late-twenties” category as opposed to “mid-twenties” or even “twenty-something.” I know, I know–I’m still just a baby. But this birthday in particular has got me thinking a lot about age, and the milestones we associate with the passing years.

Many–if not most–of the major milestones in our lives are fairly deeply entwined with our numerical ages. We all start first grade around six or seven years old. Most of us graduate high school around the age of eighteen. Then, we’re expected to leave our parents’ homes and go to college until we’re twenty-two. Then, find a job or go to graduate school. Things get less defined the older we get, but there is still a strong cohort effect–the age group we’re a part of tells us what we’re meant to be doing–or not doing–at that stage in our lives.

Now, not everybody follows this plan, nor do I think people ought to feel pressured to do what the other people their ages are doing. But it’s hard to argue that there isn’t an effect, and that effect can be deeply troubling when, for whatever reason, people don’t match up with the expectations of their cohort. A friend of mine got two masters degrees after graduating from undergrad, and even though she now attends a prestigious medical school, she often feels like she’s “fallen behind” because she’s 30 instead of the customary 23-year-old first year med student. Even my husband, who finished his PhD in record time, often feels like people don’t take him seriously because he’s a few years younger than the majority of his colleagues.

Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately?) for me, this effect is almost negligible among writers. Sure, there’s the occasional Paolini-esque phenom who becomes a NYT bestselling novelist at the age of nineteen. But to be honest, that’s the exception that proves the rule.

I came across this wonderful info graphic today that illustrates the ages at which well-known authors published their first and also their most well-known books. The results are fairly astounding. Jack Kerouac proves to be quite the prodigy–he published his first book at the ripe old age of twenty-one, and his breakthrough novel at twenty-six. But many others didn’t even begin publishing until much, much later in their lives. C. S. Lewis didn’t publish anything until he was in his thirties, and only became well-known at the age of fifty-three. J. R. R. Tolkien didn’t publish a single word until he was forty-six!

It certainly puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?

face-cakeI’m a competitive person, and the successes of others within my age cohort often gnaws at me. It’s hard not to compare my success, or lack thereof, to my peers, even those who aren’t a part of the literary industry. But the truth is, this kind of comparison is useless. I’ve chosen the path less traveled, and that means that external rubrics for success no longer apply to me.

No, I haven’t had anything published, and no, I certainly have not had a break-out novel to call my own. But hopefully one day that honor will be mine. And when that day comes, I can hold my head high and know that while I wasn’t the first, and I wasn’t the fastest, I did my best and kept working for my dreams.

And until then…Screw you, Kerouac. Just…screw you.

How Do You Decide What To Write?

rainbow

If you spend any time in the parts of the internet that readers and writers inhabit, you’ve likely seen #WeNeedDiverseBooks, the hashtag for a grassroots non-profit dedicated to raising both awareness and money to promote diversity in children’s literature. (Jump HERE to take a look at their mission statement or HERE to check out their Tumblr.) This fall, We Need Diverse Books undertook an Indiegogo campaign with a goal of raising $100,000.

They raised $181, 676.

Their appeal clearly resonated, and their goals are long-term and multifaceted, designed to change the white, heterosexual culture that dominates bookstores. WeNeedDiverseBooks is focusing on children’s literature, which makes sense because if you teach children that diversity is the norm, chances are it’ll carry over to the rest of their lives. A quick look at the New York Times bestseller list of hardcover fiction for this week shows you a young Jewish girl growing up in early 20th century Boston, and a scientist with Aspergers. Most of the rest are spies and cops and special forces-types.

Based on the blurbs, there’s enough conformity to suggest WeNeedDiverseBooks has their work cut out for them.

When I went to the Gay Romance Northwest Meet-Up last September, diversity was one of the themes many of their speakers addressed. And not just diversity from a how do we get the general public to read queer fiction? perspective, but also is there a place in queer fiction for trans, lesbian, bisexual, non-binary, and other voices? All the publishers who participated in a panel discussion said they were eager to contract well-told stories from every possible perspective. They encouraged the authors who were present to write and submit stories featuring every facet of the lgbtq rainbow.

But here’s the rub. If nonprofits encourage diverse stories, and writers write them, and publishers publish them, will readers read them?

According to this Tea Time post on the Prism Book Alliance blog, the answer might be a little disheartening.

Maybe by the time today’s kids are able to make their own buying decisions, groups like We Need Diverse Books will have taught them to expect variety  in their reading. In the meantime, there’s a lot of white out there, and most of it is heterosexual.

Which, hey, you know, some of the nicest people I know are white heterosexuals. Like me, for instance. For the last year or so, I’ve been both reading and writing romantic stories about gay men (and we can save the issues around middle-aged women writing m/m romance for a different blog post, okay?). My stories tend to start with a spark, then come together in big chunks. At the risk of sounding all cheesy, they come from the heart.

The reason I bother to write them down, though, is so people can read them, and I worry that if I fall too far from the status quo, they won’t get read.

Even a subgenre of romance like m/m has trends. Rock stars are big, as are cowboys and college students. Chefs are popular, the serious foodie type. Historicals and shapeshifters make the list, too. I don’t want to write a book that’s just like a dozen others, but will anybody read my cute little m/m romance set in 1955 Seattle, starring a handsome trumpet player and the coach of a women’s synchronized swimming team?

That book is almost ready to send to my agent, so I’ll soon know if it’ll find an audience. I’m almost ready to decide what to work on next. I expect it’ll be another m/m romance, and I expect I’ll try to capture the diversity I see in real life. Conventional wisdom says not to write to trends, but geez, there’s safety in numbers, you know?

So where do your stories come from? To restate the title of this post, how do you decide what to write?

Peace,
Liv

 

Books to Movies

I’m a movie fan. I wouldn’t say buff because I don’t really get into all the actors/actresses names and the other details, but I enjoy going to the movies a couple of times a month.

And of course, I’m a book lover to the nth degree. However, movies from books are not usually my favorite. I’m not a big Nicholas Sparks fan. His stories just aren’t my type of read. I didn’t care for the Twilight movies either, and the books, well that’s a post for another day.

There are times though, that the movie turns out to be really good. I love The Hunger Games movies and, with exception of book 3, love that series as well.

One great thing about books to movies is I find out about books I might want to read. Like The Maze Runner. I watched that movie this past year and I’m seriously considering reading the whole series.

On the same note, there are books turned movies that I’d rather just see the movie and not read the book. As much as I like the movie version of Divergent, I’m not a huge fan of the book.

So what book to movie are you most looking forward to in 2015? Not sure what movies are coming out? Here’s an good article with the list.

A few I’m looking forward to: Mockingjay Part 2, The Duff, and Insurgent. The one movie I will see, but I can’t say I’m looking forward to it…Fifty Shades.

Do you like when books are turned into movies? What are your favorites? Any movies that you refuse to see because they might ruin the book?