Even Writers Need a Will

Last week, we lost another giant in the world. This year has been a rough one for creative types. We’re coming to an age where we will start to lose our living idols, and though that’s a tough pill to swallow, we need to learn from it as well.

The news broke this week that Prince, while an incredibly smart and savvy businessman, died without a will. I am actually quite shocked by this. Prince was known as a man, despite his super-stardom, who handled most of his business transactions himself. Even scheduling tours and shows and the rare interview. He did so much for himself instead of having an entourage of people doing it for him. But he didn’t have a will to protect his work in death.

This was a man who refused to allow his work to be included online, except for some streaming. He took on YouTube himself. He did it himself. So how could he not have a will to protect his interests in death?

It’s not a question anyone can answer because it seems so out of character. I’m really hoping it turns out that they haven’t gotten into the secret vault at Paisley Park yet and when they finally do, they’ll find a glittering golden scroll, sealed under glass near the master recordings. I hope when they unroll it, there will be a detailed account of what he wanted, all signed in glittering purple ink.

I hope.

But that brings me to today’s topic. Wills for creative people, especially writers.

It seems strange to have a will when you’re relatively young, I know. Or if you don’t have children. I actually don’t have a will yet, but I’m going to rectify that. I’ve thought about this before, but like so many mundane things, it slipped my mind.

I am not a New York Times Best Seller. I am not a famous writer with millions of dollars in royalties piling up in the corners of my home. I don’t have a movie deal in the works. But I do have titles I want to protect.

I have had moderate success as an author, more than some, less than others. But I do have a catalog of titles, 16 published so far, more working on my computer, and a handful of short stories. I want the control of those to go to my husband, should I pass before him (*knock on wood*). If there is more success from my titles, I want my husband to profit from them. It seems obvious, but you never want to leave it up to fate. So I’m going to make sure to take care of it.

The renowned author, Neil Gaiman, is an incredibly helpful person and he’s taken steps to help writers with this very problem. If you don’t have a lawyer, or can’t afford to go to one, Mr. Gaiman has reached out to a lawyer-author-friend of his for help for the rest of us. He wrote up the post here. His lawyer-author-friend, Les Klinger, drafted up a simple form that works as a will for authors in the US.

Here is Mr. Klinger’s advice:

1) Recopy the document ENTIRELY by hand, date it, and sign it at the end. No witnesses required.

2) Type the document, date it, sign it IN FRONT OF at least two witnesses, who are not family or named in the Will, and have each witness sign IN FRONT OF YOU and the other witnesses. Better yet, go to a lawyer with this form and discuss your choices!

Having said that, the first option, a “holographic will” isn’t valid everywhere — according to Wikipedia, In the United States, unwitnessed holographic wills are valid in around 30 out of the 50 states. Jurisdictions that do not themselves recognize such holographic wills may nonetheless accept them under a “foreign wills act” if it was drafted in another jurisdiction in which it would be valid. In the United Kingdom, unwitnessed holographic wills are valid in Scotland, but not in England and Wales.

So the second option is by far the wisest.”

Here is a link to the PDF, I hope you, like me, check it out and take this seriously. Writing takes up so much of our lives, it means everything to us, take care of it in death. After all, which temps death more: preparing for it, or ignoring it?

http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/SIMPLEWILL.pdf#sthash.Y0HlbByW.dpuf

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Debunking the Writer Myth

giphyOne of my biggest challenges as a writer is getting caught up in the myth of the thing instead of just living it the way it feels right and works best for me. Does that sound confusing? It is, a little. Let me rephrase–sometimes instead of just being myself, a person who writes and is hoping to continue writing indefinitely, I make a whole ton of assumptions about what a writer looks like, and what a writer does, and so on. And then I compare myself to those assumptions, and feel guilty, or sad, or angry when I don’t quite match up.

Fellow Scribe Brian wrote a great post in this vein just last month, citing one of my favorite (or least favorite, depending on how you look at it) myths about being a writer: Writers write every day. Spoiler alert: it’s not true. But that horrible, insidious little notion is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to myths and assumptions of what a writer should or shouldn’t do; can or can’t look like; to be or not to be. (Sorry.) Myths and assumptions not only made by others, but if you’re anything like me, about ourselves.

Here are a few myths I wish would die, never to be resurrected ever again.

Writers Write Every Day

giphy1Okay, I know I already mentioned this one. But it bears revisiting. The assumption here is that if you’re a real writer, you’re constantly scribbling away at something. In the middle of the night, on your lunch break, under the table at dinner parties, and during commercial breaks. As though writing is a pathological need, an urge as implacable as hunger or thirst that cannot be ignored.

This is simply not true. Sure, there are moments when I whip out my handy journal in the middle of a restaurant and begin scribbling furiously because something just occurred to me. But there are also times when I stare at a manuscript I’m passionate about and simply can’t think of any words. I try to write every day. But just because that doesn’t always happen, doesn’t mean I’m not a writer.

Writers Rely on Inspiration

Jeez, if this was the case I’d still be trying to finish my first book! Maybe some writers are conduits for some mystical creative force shooting down from the heavens through their fingertips and out onto the page. But I certainly don’t know any of those kinds of writers.

Inspiration is real, don’t get me wrong. But in my experience, inspiration must be grown; seeded and planted and watered and fertilized before blooming. And even then, it must be married to hard work and commitment if it is to grow into anything really amazing.

Good Writers Are Naturally Talented

giphy2You know what’s a myth? Talent. I’ll clarify–are some people naturally gifted at certain things? Yeah, sure, maybe. Who cares? The road to success is paved with tenacity and the will to improve. Good writers and successful writers are almost always people who have taken the time to make a study of their craft, and have never assumed that they’ve learned all they can learn. A good writer is a writer who knows that they can always improve, and is willing to put the time and effort into improving.

Writers Are Loners and Introverts

Can writing be a solitary and occasionally even lonesome path? Yes. Does it help if you’re pretty okay with being shut away with only yourself and the voices in your head for company? Probably. Will there be times when you wish everyone, including your loved ones, would leave you the heck alone so you could finish your book/poem/story? Almost certainly. Does that make you a loner and an introvert? Not necessarily!

In fact, a lot of the writers I know are pretty outgoing, and love to geek out about books and writing with fellow writers! Sure, the proverbial water-cooler might exist in a mostly digital environment these days, but that doesn’t mean we don’t surround ourselves with the kind of communities that support our dreams and buoy us through hard times.

At the end of the day, being a writer is like being human–there’s no one way to do it right. Be yourself, and be your own kind of writer, and believe that everything else will fall into place.

 

Are there any myths about writers that drive you crazy? Leave your thoughts in the comment section!

Second Book Publication – Excitement and Fears

Camelot's Queen eBook Cover LargeThis is a slightly modified version the blog I posted on my own web site on Tuesday when the book came out. I’m reusing it because it’s really the best expression of my emotions about this book.

My second book is out in the world! What a strange feeling for someone who was only first published on January 1. Before we get into my musings, here are the buy links for the Camelot’s Queen print (Amazon and Barnes and Noble) and ebook. Audio will be available in May.

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Let me start by saying that Camelot’s Queen is the book I’m most proud of to date (and I’m including my two as-of-yet unreleased books in that statement). It is long, but I think it really shows what I can do as a writer and adds a lot to the collective Arthurian legend.

You would think I’d be less nervous than for the first one, but I’m actually more. I think it’s because I have no idea how people are going to take this book. I mean, I expected some push back on the first book because it’s a totally different Guinevere than people are used to, especially if they come at the books expecting the perfect, docile Guinevere of some stories. But since most authors haven’t explored her early life, I had some leeway.

I explained this in the author’s notes to Camelot’s Queen, but I wrote this book with no small amount of trepidation. This is the part of the story everyone knows and loves. Everyone has their own interpretation, vision, and expectations, so no matter what I do, I’m going to let someone down. I have made the choices I made for a reason, but I know they won’t sit well with everyone, especially given that Morgan’s role is different from what you would expect and I’ve given a completely different reason for Guinevere’s affair with Lancelot.

Not only that, this story delves into a few controversial and dark issues, including rape, physical and mental abuse, and PTSD. Guinevere’s kidnapping and rape is part of the canon of Arthurian legend. Just how badly she was abused (if at all) varies by the telling, but to leave this event out simply because it is distasteful would be disingenuous to both the tradition and to readers. I have done my best to treat these issues with respect and not use them simply as plot points but to show how they affected the characters’ lives and brought about change, as they do for victims in real life. However, I know some people will take me to task for it.

That being said, this isn’t a totally dark book. There are moments of happiness and scenes I truly cherish, especially with characters I invented. I look forward to all of you meeting Sobian, the pirate-turned-assassin-and-spy from Arthur’s past and Mayda and Elga, the Saxon sisters who will continue to cause trouble into book 3. I also can’t wait for you to get to some of my favorite scenes: there are three with Aggrivane that are close to my heart, I love the battles, and the Holy Grail was so much fun. I especially can’t wait for all of you to see the twists, especially the one with Morgan and Arthur and also the circumstances leading up to the end of the book.

I’m hoping and praying that readers who haven’t discovered the series yet start with the first book. You probably could read Camelot’s Queen on its own, but you will miss many of the relationships and motivations built up in the first book, which may lead to misunderstanding or frustration, and I want readers to have a pleasant reading experience. But that’s not up to me.

I’m going to take a deep breath now. My baby is in the world. She’s no longer mine; she belongs to the readers, too. I hope you all like her!

About Camelot’s Queen

History remembers Guinevere’s sin, but it was Arthur who transgressed first.

Forced into a marriage she neither anticipated nor desired, Guinevere finds herself High Queen, ruling and fighting alongside Arthur as they try to subdue the Saxons, Irish and Picts who threaten Britain from every direction. Though her heart still longs for her lost love, Guinevere slowly grows to care for her husband as they join together to defeat their enemies.

Meanwhile, within the walls of Camelot their closest allies plot against them. One schemes to make Guinevere his own, another seeks revenge for past transgressions, while a third fixes her eyes on the throne. When the unthinkable happens and Guinevere is feared dead, Arthur installs a new woman in her place, one who will poison his affections toward her, threatening Guinevere’s fragile sanity and eventually driving her into the arms of her champion.

Amid this tension a new challenge arises for the king and queen of Camelot: finding the Holy Grail, a sacred relic that promises lasting unity. But peace, as they will soon learn, can be just as dangerous as war. As the court begins to turn on itself, it becomes clear that the quest that was to be Arthur’s lasting legacy may end in the burning fires of condemnation.

This highly anticipated sequel to Daughter of Destiny proves there is much more to Guinevere’s story than her marriage and an affair. See the legend you think you know through her eyes and live the adventure of Camelot’s golden days yourself – but be prepared to suffer its downfall as well.

 

How a book saved my life…

As I’m writing this post, I’m suffering from a huge book hangover. (“Suffering” in the best possible way.) Be warned.

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This morning I stumbled on a Two Nerdy History Girls blog post about a doll. Not just any doll, though. A Well Loved Georgian Doll and Her Wardrobe, c.1790. The thing about this doll is, not only did she survive intact from 1790, despite being designed and utilized as a child’s plaything, but so did her extensive wardrobe.

Reading the post slammed me right back to the age of ten, when Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess was one of my favorite books. Do you remember that story? Sara Crewe is brought to London by her wealthy father, who leaves her at a boarding school and returns to India. To keep her “company”, he buys her the most extravagant doll, with velvet dresses and lace underthings an even a fur coat – just like the doll in the post!

Back in the day, that book carried me away to Victorian London, to a lost little girl living in a garret, and by the way fueled way too many rescue fantasies.

Maybe I shouldn’t admit that last bit in public.

At any rate, a simple blog post brought back a flood of feelings for a book I haven’t though about in years. Which started me thinking about other books that have stayed with me, or turned up in key moments. The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which taught me to love historical fiction. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which showed me the possibilities inherent in one man’s imagination. The Vampire Lestat, which sowed the seeds for ideas I’m still working through.

I’m old enough to have a head full of gray hair, so I’ve had plenty of opportunities for one  book to change the course of my life. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I’ve got many, many key memories linked to the books I was reading at the time. My 20s, when I devoured Michener and The Thornbirds, and Dune. My early 30s, when I attempted to raise my brow with literary fiction(ish) books like A.S. Byatt’s Possession. My 40s, when I basically realized I didn’t have to impress anybody, and allowed myself to indulge my love of genre fiction.

(Thank you Janet Evanovich. You rock.)

Beyond the big, broad strokes memories, I have some very specific connections. The sweet, cozy romance I read one harrowing night in an ER while waiting for a kid to be admitted to the hospital. (And I honestly don’t remember the name of the book, but it kept me from losing my mind.) Sitting in front of a huge stone fireplace on the Sunday evening of a Gregorian chant retreat, absolutely devouring Dead Until Dark, the first Sookie Stackhouse mystery. And before you laugh at my choice of reading material for a chant retreat, that was the book that made me say, “I want to DO that.”

And so a writer was born.

More recently, there was the time I went for a pedicure and decided to play Kindle-kamikaze, where I scrolled through, opened a book at random, and started reading. I picked a book called Scrap Metal by Harper Fox. I still don’t remember when or why I downloaded this book, but at the time I was somewhat startled to realize the POV character was just as male as the man he’d got down on his knees in front of. Scrap Metal was the first m/m romance I ever read, and it opened me up to a whole new world of fiction.

Which brings me to my current sorry state. I am SO hungover, you guys. Was up till all hours, reading one of the best books ever! Just thinking about it gives me little shivers. Also, tbh, I needed the distraction after spending most of the evening dealing with teenager drama. Mom needed a mental health break, and this book was the perfect answer.

The book? A Gentleman’s Position, book 3 in the Society of Gentlemen series by KJ Charles. You could read this one as a stand-alone, but really, one of the great pleasures of the series is how the stories are linked. Events that happen in one book are retold in the next, from different characters’ perspectives and carrying different levels of impact. It’s fascinating and elegantly done and adds so much to the stories overall.

If I had more space between these books and this post, I would have done something on how the trilogy, along with the prequel The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh, comprise a masters’ class in plotting. Not only are the stories interwoven, they’re constructed around actual historical events. For me as a reader it felt effortless. None of the seams showed.

As a writer, it blew me away.

I guess a more accurate title for this post would have been How Books Saved My Life, because they have, time and again. I’m going to let the original stand, though, because on any given day, there’s been ONE book that’s made a difference.

What book is that for you?

(And Nan, thanks for the tag.)