Happy Endings

When I told my father I wanted to write romance novels he said, “Good. The world needs happy endings.”

I believe this is true now more than ever because seeing a happy ending, like Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle today, is a reminder that there is good in this world. It’s love triumphing over hate, over pain and suffering, and cynicism and indifference. And it’s a reminder that no matter what happens in life, it will go on.

The eternal optimist in me has never given up completely on life. Yeah, I can get down, and pissy, and flat-out mad as hell sometimes, but in the end I know and passionately believe love will triumph over hate. So when people put down romance and happily ever after’s, whether in fiction or real-life, I want to tell them to stuff that. And not just because I don’t like put-downs of something I hold very near and dear to my heart, but because I think it’ss an act of defiance to believe in the good of this world when there are people who are doing their dead-level best to destroy it. And I’m not just talking about blowing us all to kingdom come, but to divide us into have’s and have not’s, to keep us separated along lines of race, religion, and other barriers that are the constructs of people without hope and compassion in their hearts.

Because believing in love means having compassion, empathy, and kindness towards others. True love looks past the surface to the heart and soul of a person. It’s why true love isn’t limited by skin color, religion, or any other barrier the butt-holes of the world try to throw up. Love doesn’t build walls but tears them down.

So to keep it short and sweet today: the world needs happy endings because love does win. Always.

Writing Business: From the House to the Author

When I started learning about publishing, it was over twenty-five years ago and the internet was just a twinkle in someone’s eye. Now though, writers truly have a choice in how they publish their work. And before you can say anything about quality, let me tell you about a few things I’ve seen over the years.

First, print wasn’t the be-all-end-all to quality work. Publishers could be terribly homogenous in what they put out and what they wanted from writers. Guidelines from days long ago would look ridiculous today but trust me, they were real. When I started writing romance, there were enough do’s and don’ts that would fill a entire how-to manual. It was writers who broke those so-called rules that kept the genre moving forward and kept readers in the fold because of it.

Second, in addition to publishers being gate-keepers, most publishers wouldn’t look at any potential new author unless that author had an agent. Here’s the thing: anyone could, and still can, hang a shingle outside their door and say they are an agent. Yes, there is an organization for agents that has established criteria for accreditation but there’s no regulation other than that. And just because someone was an agent and was successful didn’t mean they knew everything and the price of it. There were agents who deep-sixed books and de-railed careers because they thought they knew best (though honestly they were either off their rockers or just didn’t have the guts to end their relationship with the author they were sabotaging).

Third, just because a writer published their book with a big New York-based house and got a ton of money for marketing and promotion didn’t guarantee success. I saw a lot of big-hyped books tank on the shelves and it didn’t matter if they were good or bad because despite the hype-campaign, they didn’t connect with enough readers to make back the money spent.

In the end, if a book is meant to do well it will. And for some books and their authors, that success can be right out of the gate but for most, it’s a slow and steady climb. It’s a lot of hard work writing well and trying to build a relationship with readers. And that relationship with readers was changed most by the internet.

Romance authors and readers were some of the first to embrace the internet as a means of sharing their favorite books and authors embraced the internet as a way to reach readers directly. Then with the rise of Amazon and e-books, suddenly print wasn’t the be-all-end-all. Because when romance authors got into electronic publishing, they brought a strong work ethic of putting out quality books and direct marketing campaigns that are still the playbooks for success even after a decade of electronic publishing.

Because for the first time ever, with electronic publishing, a writer could control every single aspect of the writing and publishing process.

THE AUTHOR could decide what to write and how to write it.

THE AUTHOR could decide how their book was going to be edited and they had the final say in those revisions.

THE AUTHOR could decide how the cover was going to look, and how the cover copy was going to read.

THE AUTHOR could decide how their book was going to be marketed and promoted.

And most of all, THE AUTHOR retained all the rights to her books forever.

Yes, that’s a lot of decision-making, but romance authors are smart and savvy women and they have created cottage industries not just of writing books, but editing, graphic design, and marketing and promotion. Some have set up their own publishing houses vowing to be different than the big New York publishers with great success.

Has every single book worked out? No. But like I said earlier, even big New York-published books didn’t work out either. The good thing about electronically-published independent authors is that if something isn’t working, they can make changes and keep going.

And that freedom and independence are why I will be pursuing independent publishing. I won’t rule out conventional publishing because if a writer can get a good deal then it’s a good thing. But since I’m doing my bumbling best to live an independent life free of as much needless stress and bullshit as possible, electronic is the way I want to go. Sure, I love the feel of a print book in my hands and would definitely get a thrill out of seeing my print book on a bookshelf in a bookstore. But like the changes to publishing itself, bookstores are nowhere near as numerous as they used to be.

Times change and so do business models. As I like to say, if a business model still worked well then there wouldn’t be a need to change it. But the business models that are being upended, like traditional print publishing, have had these changes coming for quite a while. Because even back in the glory days of print publishing and bookstores galore, the model didn’t work as well as it could have. Or better put, the house always won no matter what happened good or bad.

Now the author is the publishing house, and there’s no going back now.

Writing Wise: A Good Beginning

This is the first in a series of writing articles. These are not writing tips for working writers, but hopefully an insight into the writing process for those not writing full-time (or at all).

One question that comes up a lot among writers, especially those new to the process, is where do I start my story? This is a very good question as the beginning is the writer’s only opportunity to get a reader’s attention and keep it until the end. It’s also where a lot of problems with a story begin, but there are some things a writer can keep in mind when working on a beginning.

Now, I write romance and a key element of that genre is the hero and heroine usually meet if not in the very first scene, by the end of the first chapter. This is because in a romance the story of the hero and heroine’s relationship is the key element, not backstory, or description of the world they live in, or a plot element happening to other characters. Personally, I think having lead characters introduced right away would work with any genre of fiction so a good beginning should start with them first.

A common way some writers like to start a story is with a flashback scene (or chapter) For me, a flashback scene (or chapter) at the beginning of a story can work if doesn’t feel like a character is narrating it from the present, future, or from the great-beyond, and if it also connects to the present story. I’ve read flashback sequences that I couldn’t figure out how they connected to the present and if a reader has to ask that question, then they’re going to be pulled out of the story.

Another way a reader can be pulled out of a story at the beginning is what I refer to as info-dumping. You don’t need to walk up to the first pages of your story and dump out all the backstory of your characters and research you have done. Communicate ONLY the key information you need your readers to know through your character’s actions and dialogue. And when it comes to dialogue, don’t do a marathon back-and-forth session trying to get all that information on the page. You’ve got plenty of time to reveal what you need to and if you need to know when to do that, let your characters guide you.

And by characters guiding your story I mean reveal what you need to as they learn of it. This eliminates any distance between the reader and the story itself because for characters to truly engage the reader, the writer needs to take themselves out the story. Your characters are the best guide for where to take your story and listening to them at the beginning will give you a solid foundation to start your story, and finish it.

Finally, you don’t have to have a flash-bang beginning, just something that engages the reader by getting the story into motion. Make that beginning come alive and get that reader wanting to know what happens next. Because if the reader is engaged from the very beginning, they’ll stay to the end. And that is the ultimate goal of every storyteller and to reach that goal, you have to start at the beginning.

Writing: Cheap Therapy Only in Terms Of Money

Over the last few months, my writing output ebbed and flowed and at times, dried up altogether. But in the end, when it began flowing it became cheap therapy that was only cheap because it didn’t drain my bank account. But it did one heck of a number on my mind, heart, and soul even though I’ve come out on the other side.

 

At times, it felt like I was battling a storm from Hell on the Bearing Sea. And if you’ve ever seen the show ‘The Deadliest Catch’ you’ll get a really strong visual on that. Towering waves of icy-cold salt water crashing over the deck, waves hitting the boat so hard they almost knock it to its’ side, and the ever-present fear of one wave taking the boat down to the bottom of the ocean. Now I’ve never thought about going to the bottom of the ocean on my own (suicide) and I’m not lying on that. I’ve always thought about just crawling away somewhere and never coming out. But I know that’s not the answer either so like those crab boats on the Bearing Sea, I soldier on. Because after all, storms don’t last forever.

 

And that’s the big thing I’ve always learned from writing things out: nothing lasts forever either good or bad. My father used to say life was both and that you just had to accept and deal with that. When I started writing again a couple of months ago, almost everything I wrote got deleted. And that’s okay because not all writing deserves to see the light of day. Sometimes the blank page is a therapist who works for no money at all, just time and emotional equity.

 

And by the way, difficulty writing isn’t just limited to non-fiction either. Fiction writing can sometimes stir up some pretty intense stuff and be used as a form of writing therapy, too. I wouldn’t say writers as a whole are neurotic nut-balls, but if you really get into writing and keep coming back to it no matter how long you’re away from it, you know you’ve got the strength and endurance to get through emotional storms. So I’m going to tell myself here that although I probably won’t ever set foot on a boat in the middle of the Bearing Sea, I can do what those guys do in my own way.

 

I had planned out a schedule of writing with this blog but as always, I seem to be deviating from it. That’s alright because this is my blog and I call the shots here. If I hold back on something, I have my reasons and don’t need to disclose why unless I want to. And that need for privacy is something that should be respected with every person.

 

In another way I’m like those fishermen in Alaska, I know that if I work through the storm that there could be one heck of a payoff at the end. I haven’t hit the jackpot yet but I’m happy where I’m at because I can see the road I want to take.

 

 

I’m not knocking conventional therapy in any way, shape, or form. I believe in it with all my heart and soul and I have the upmost respect and admiration for people who seek professional help. To me, that’s strength and courage. I’m just broke as hell right now and not in that much need. I actually have a pretty sunny outlook right now despite being flat-broke and living out of a suitcase. As I’ve said to people, I won’t exchange the freedom I have in my life for the one I left two years ago. I’ve made mistakes along the way but so has everyone else. I’ve done my best to fix what I can, and learn from the rest. And a lot of that I learned from writing things down (or typing them on my laptop here like I’m doing this now).

 

I know writing is recommended for people to work through their thoughts and feelings and I will add to that recommendation. But I will say that if you really get into writing be prepared. Because like stepping onto a crab boat in the Bearing Sea, you’re going to hit by more than a few storms, empty crab pots, and situations that will push you. And as I like to say, you don’t know what you can handle until you’re faced with it. For me, as long as I can write, I know I can figure things out.

 

Breaking Radio Silence: Happy Birthday to Me

Yes, I deliberately chose to re-launch my website-blog here on what is my forty-fourth birthday. And the reason I’ve chosen this date is I realized I needed to stop waiting and make this happen. Is the timing ideal for me? Heck no. I’m currently living out of a suitcase and flat-broke, but life is not a series of perfectly-timed events.

The reason this website-blog went dark a few months ago is a bit of a long story but let me just say that I had a bit of a crash-and-burn and am picking up the pieces and moving forward in my life. Over the last six months I’ve had a lot of time to think, and not just about the crash-and-burn, and not just about the last two years since I left my last call-center job, but about my entire life.

And the conclusion I’ve come to is this: I’ve been silent for too damn long. All my life I have lived in fear that has been almost choking in its’ intensity at the thought of breaking out of my hard-shell of shyness and anxiety. Because all my life I’ve had a terrible fear that if I truly broke out of that shell and lived my life without being shy and anxious about everything, that someone would come along and do whatever they could to silence me. Yes, I seriously thought that there was someone out there who would shove me back into my shell and weld the only door shut. That’s the voice of fear and anxiety lying its’ ass off but it’s taken me until now to truly realize that and call bullshit on those two asshole-thoughts.

I know there are people in this world who will not agree with what I say, or how I live my life, or just hate the fact that I freaking exist as I am. The thing is, I’ve been terribly ostracized and excluded for being me, and so many people have thought that my silence and shyness was me being a stuck-up snob.

Being a stuck-up snot-faced bitch was the last thing that was on my mind. If I kept my mouth shut and stayed out of everyone’s way it was because I thought that was the best thing I could do. I have never wanted to be a burden, or an annoyance with anyone.

But being quiet and shy does not mean someone is stuck-up so if you think that, take that thought and choke on it with a pile of your own shit. And I will not follow that last statement with an apology for its’ bluntness because there’s no excuse for judging someone without listening to them or getting to know them at all. I have never known a terribly shy person to be a stuck-up snot. In fact, all the stuck-up snots I’ve known have been loud-mouths who never bothered to hide their suck-assed stuck-up attitude.

Again, no apologies for the rant of the above paragraph as this is what you can expect here from now on. If I want to let it rip on asshole-behavior, I will. For far too long, I believed in tolerance for shitty attitudes and behavior because I thought that was what was best. It wasn’t because my silent tolerance didn’t do a damn thing to change anyone, and I’m sure my speaking out against bad behavior won’t do so either past a certain point. People make the decision whether or not to change themselves regardless of whatever you say or do (or don’t do).

And I’ve made my decision to come out of my shell on my own terms. Those terms that I live by are:

– First, do no harm to anyone or anything.

– Second, try to keep fear and anger in check, and realize both those bastards will lie their freaking asses off if given any opportunity to do so.

– Third, always remember that everyone has a story to tell. It’s the story of their life that they’re living and unless they’re literally getting in your shit, leave them to live out that story.

– Fourth, remember that everyone else is just as full of shit as you are sometimes in that we all make mistakes. But making mistakes and not having all the answers doesn’t make you a bad person; it means you’re human.

In addition to coming out of my shell and only going back into it to sleep, I want to put my past behind me once and for all. That will be a journey I will be sharing with you here with the ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ book project. That’s a book that I’m calling a memoire/self-help hybrid that I’m still working on.

In addition to that, I’ll also be letting loose on topics of a political, social, and religious nature. Yes, I will be wading into that area of the world, too. I’ve been too damn silent in regards to that area of life and holding back hasn’t helped the cause of fighting against the injustice of the world we live in. Corruption of any kind is wrong, whether it’s political or moral and writing about it is my first step towards fighting that.

But I’m also a writer so there will be weekly entries on writing topics and the business side of writing. Since my goal is to make a living with my writing, this will be about my journey and like everything else here, it will be an honest one.

In the end, I hope that anyone who reads this gets something out of it. I want anyone reading this to know that they’re not alone in this world, and that other people have had thoughts and feelings just like theirs. I know I’m not the only person on the planet that has felt alone and isolated all their lives. I just want other people to know that you don’t have to be silent. You don’t have to go public like I’m doing but you can find your own way to break free from fear and anxiety, and all around petty-ass bullshit-people even if it’s just in your own mind.

So on my forty-fourth birthday, I will be going forward one step at a time.

I will tell myself every day that everyone is just as full of shit as I am sometimes, but that I’m not a bad person.

I will tell myself that everyone has a story to tell and live, and to do whatever I can to keep their story going in any positive way I can.

Most of all, I won’t retreat, or go silent ever again.