31 March 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

I was tagged by two wonderful writing friends, SK Keogh and Precy Larkins, to participate in a blog tour where authors answer a few questions about their writing process and what they're working on. SK Keogh writes historical fiction. You should check out her Jack Mallory Chronicles, of which two books are published and a third is on the way. Read more about her writing process here. Precy Larkins is a Young Adult author and you can read all about her writing process here. Now, on to the questions!

1. What am I working on?

Well that's a heck of a question. As a self published author, I'm never just working on the next book. Writing-wise, I'm currently working on a women's fiction manuscript tentatively titled Confessions of a Non-Believer. In this story, Bree is a young woman dealing with the emotional fallout after the sudden death of her fiance. She faces the daunting task of keeping her life and sanity together while facing a crisis of faith--or non-faith, as it were--and acknowledging the growing attraction to her would-be brother-in-law.

Additionally, I have the start of a contemporary romance on paper and fighting for brain space. This one is untitled, but it's in an introverted love story that I was inspired to write because I think the quiet soul is super sexy and underrepresented.

In terms of marketing, I'm working on some new cover concepts for Sorry's Not Enough. The book will be one year old at the end of May and I'll be revealing a fresh new cover and it will be hugely discounted for a short time as well! My short story collection, Consenting Adults will get a new cover to celebrate also. I've already decided on that and will reveal it soon. (Check out my Facebook page to stay updated on when that happens or to give me feedback on the things you love/hate to see on book covers)

2. How does my work from others in its genre?

That's a difficult one to answer. Based on feedback I've gotten from readers and what I see in my own writing, I would have to say the degree of realism. But in a good way. We want to get lost in stories and characters, so sometimes being too true to life can be boring or dull. I think my realism is the opposite. My characters are flawed, sometimes awkward, emotional, sometimes uncertain, sometimes very certain about something only to discover they were wrong. I think they can really touch on elements of the human experience that speak to us all. I've also been told I write great, natural dialogue.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Because I love it. That's the simple answer. The more complicated answer is that emotion and drama make me feel connected and alive, even when they're sad ones if a character is going through something bad. Maybe it's because I am, in my own reality, a fairly even-keeled person who goes with the flow and doesn't express extreme emotions very often. So I like to live it out in fiction. People fascinate me, which is why my stories are character-driven. The vulnerability (and, of course, sexiness) of what happens between two characters in the bedroom, is beautiful and presents a great opportunity to explore more of the emotional things I like in fiction, which is why I never shy away from sex in my stories when it makes sense.

4. How does your writing process work?

I'm a slow drafter. I do all of my first drafts by hand, in notebooks. It involves a lot of staring at the page or off into space as I decide the next word, the next sentence. There's also lots of daydreaming and working through potential scenarios while in the shower and before falling asleep at night. It can take me quite a while to get that first draft written. I'll type up large sections of it when I get stuck or feel uninspired, to put myself back into the story. And as I type, I do some minor edits. So the typed draft is a little more polished than the written one. So far, I've been very lucky that my first drafts are often pretty clean and I don't usually have to spend months ripping it apart and putting it back together again. With the exception of my first novel, but we won't talk about that! Then it's off to some trusted readers for feedback.

I'm supposed to tag others to participate, but if you've read any of my other meme or blog hop type posts, you know I often decline to do so. Mostly to spare myself the awkwardness of asking others and fearing they'll feel obligated because they're my friends even though they don't want to. What can I say? I like to avoid even the potential for conflict or awkwardness. Guess that's why I write it instead. If you feel inclined to share your process, then consider yourself tagged! Tell folks I inspired you to blog about it, and tag some others to participate the week after you do yours. Or don't. Whatever. You're a grown adult. You can decide. :-)

05 February 2014

On Happiness and Mental Health

A friend asked me recently if I consider myself a happy person. I do. Most people would say I am. One of the most frequent comments I get is about how much and how often I smile. Even in spite of the I love humanity/I hate humanity dichotomy that lives in my brain, my default is positivity. Sure, I'm happy. Easy to answer. The next question was a little tougher.

What makes you a happy person?


Well, hell. That's a hard one to verbalize. It's sort of like asking why my hair is brown. Short of the scientific explanation offered by genetics, the short answer is "It just is." I can chemically alter my hair to make it a different color, and I can do that for a multitude of reasons, but it doesn't change the fact that my natural state of being is to have brown hair.

Same goes for my happiness. It's how I am and how I've always been, at my core. My default position is to smile, to trust, to love, to go with the flow, to see the good and to actively look for it if it's not immediately evident, to laugh, to be content. How do you break down something that's as much a part of you as the nose on your face so that someone else can understand it and adapt it for their own life?

Depression, Anxiety, Sadness, etc.

The fact that I'm generally a happy person doesn't mean I haven't had my own emotional struggles. I know sadness and fear and anxiety. In my teens and early 20s there was an undercurrent of tension and sadness in my head that most people wouldn't have known was there. Being a shy introvert probably didn't help matters, since talking it out with someone didn't even register on my list of coping mechanisms. I preferred working through it in my own head, or on paper. My "standard" of happiness didn't go away during that time, though. It coexisted either simultaneously with the sadness or as a reminder of who I really was during those times when I could not figure out why I was feeling so bad.

I didn't learn to drive until I was in my mid-20s and even then it took me a couple years before I actually got my license at the age of 28. My anxiety about it was that overwhelming that I truly had no desire to get behind the wheel of a car. I'm coming up on three years with my license and I still get slightly anxious when driving to new places, or driving more than a few miles in the dark, or in the rain/fog/snow. I won't go anywhere for the first time without my GPS. When I joined a choir last fall I used the GPS on my phone to get there and back the first time... but also for every weekly rehearsal for three months after that until the anxiety about driving in unfamiliar areas subsided.

The struggles I've been through are the equivalent of coloring and cutting my hair. My hair has looked all kinds of crazy ways temporarily, but there's nothing that will change the fact that my natural state is brunette. And while I've had moments where my mental health looked a bit different, I honestly don't think there's anything that can change my happiness default. For some reason, that was a big surprise when I realized that.


Is Happiness Rational?

My fear of driving was not rational or logical. The sadness and frustration that sometimes crashed over me when I was younger was not rational. But that didn't make them any less real to me at the time or any easier to conquer. They just were. I couldn't really explain those things to other people without feeling a little silly. But the same things goes for my happiness. I don't know how or why I'm happy, and trying to dissect it makes me feel weird. There's no logical reason for it.

Part of me believes strongly in the power of positive thought. I don't mean thinking about being a millionaire so you'll magically attract all the right things to make you one. I mean having the ability to recognize and change thought patterns to reclaim my happiness when I feel it slipping. A teacher in high school would often say "Today is going to be a good day" out loud in class and I find that helpful still. It's not about ignoring or denying the negative. When I find myself drifting into one of those irrational funks, I look at it and ask myself Is there a reason I'm feeling this way? Has something happened to make me feel this way? and if the answer is no I'll ask myself Is this mood serving any purpose besides making me moody? and if the answer is still no then I decide right then and there that I will strive for something more positive. There are times when what I'm feeling is the direct result of something happening in my life and/or what I'm feeling is driving me to make positive changes or get things done that I need/want to get done. And when that happens, I acknowledge what I'm feeling and even embrace it for a short time before sending it on its way in favor of my usual happy disposition. It sounds easy, but it's not. I don't mean to imply that it's easy. It's just a place to start. (Let me be clear that I'm not trying to say that anyone can and should just "positive think" themselves out of depression or mental illness. Please don't be afraid to seek professional help.)

Positive thinking is more a coping mechanism for when I feel unlike myself. I wouldn't say it's why I'm a happy person because it's something I've had to learn to do. And like I've been saying, being happy and upbeat is just who and how I am without reason. In talking with my friend it hit me:

It's likely that all the people who've ever asked me about my positive outlook on life and my happy disposition were just as baffled by my explanation as I was about the notion that I could do or be anything other than how I've always been.

I don't like to think that I've been so oblivious that I haven't realized that not everyone is happy. I know they aren't. But it was a bit of an epiphany to think that not only are some people unhappy, but some are unhappy (or at least "less" happy relatively) because they just are and always have been. We have different baselines and my happiness doesn't make any more logical sense than their unhappiness.

My friend and I have always had certain different ways of approaching things and that's part of why we're such great  friends. I like to think we've challenged and checked each other over the years in ways that made us both better people. But I admit to qualifying my feelings and private thoughts now and then with sentiments like "if only you were happier." How things would just be so much better "if only you were happier" because I was convinced that that was the answer to my friend's troubles. I never understood that our differences in how we see the world extended so far beyond political and social ideology all the way into that non-rational space of happiness. I never thought that other people weren't equally as happy as me, down in their core. I figured their unhappiness was either a temporary state of being brought on by whatever biochemistry is responsible for our mental health, as mine often was, or the result of any number of external factors and experiences and that they would return to their natural state of happiness with time or counseling or medication. Those things can affect happiness, no doubt, but that's not the point.

I can't change my friend's baseline any more than they could change mine. It's not a huge revelation, although it feels like one to me. But it does change the way I'll think about, talk to, and empathize with my friend. I love this person like mad and it breaks my heart to see them struggling with something that comes so naturally to me. All I can do is continue to say I love, I'm here for you. Most importantly, I hope my friend and I can take a bit of the pressure off - me off myself for feeling like I should somehow be able to explain my own happiness in a way that they can make it their own, and my friend for feeling like my or anyone else's happiness is the gold standard.

Happiness doesn't make any more rational sense than anything else. My happy isn't your happy. Mentally healthy is what we should strive for, not the amorphous sliver of happiness in anyone else that they likely have no more control over than anything else.

And to my friend, who may be tired of hearing it by now: I love you. And I'm sorry if I've ever made you feel like you should just look at things through my happy lenses in order to make all your troubles go away.

01 February 2014

The Journey of Self-Acceptance

Believe it or not, this is a GIVEAWAY post! I've teamed up with four other lovely ladies for a giveaway just in time for Valentine's Day.

As most of us know, there's a certain amount of self-acceptance that you need to have to be happy and fulfilled, both in and out of romantic relationships. The five of us chipping in for this giveaway all have books that feature strong female characters who struggle with their own self-acceptance on some level throughout the book, and it's only when they've learned to love themselves as they are that they can achieve their goals and transform into the women they want to be.

In Sorry's Not Enough, Charlotte is pretty good at convincing others that she's strong, confident, and independent. But it's pretty clear to the reader and to those who are closest to her that she's lying to herself. She pushes away painful memories from her past instead of dealing with them and as a result they haunt her for years, affecting friendships and romantic relationships alike. Steven wants to love her wholly, wounded heart and all, but she can't accept his love until she also accepts just how broken she is. The question is how long will it take her to confront her past to make way for a healthy future, and will Steven still be around once she's able to love him back?


Since Evelyn Adams doesn't blog, I'm hosting her here on Jello World so you can learn all about her book, Love Uncovered.


Evelyn Adams
Love Uncovered
Website
Facebook

Thanks, J Lea for sharing a corner of your blog with me and for all the wonderful writers participating in this giveaway!

Love Uncovered came out of conversation I had with my husband one night. We were laying in the dark, talking and I asked him what men wanted their wives to do? His answer surprised me because it was exactly what I wanted from him.

Pay attention to me and what I do for our family. Really see me. I think that is true for many couples, especially those who’ve been together for a while. It’s certainly true for Max and Julie. Max worries about being a provider and taking care of his family while at the same time wanting to be more than just a paycheck. Julie is so used to putting her needs on the back burner, she has a hard time even remembering what they are any more.

It would be easy for them to keep plodding along angry and unhappy, burdened by their responsibilities and expectations. Instead they make time to really pay attention to each other and rediscover what drew them together in the first place. By learning to accept themselves and each other they find their way to an even deeper love. And there’s plenty of spicy sex along the way.

Other participating authors:


A.T. O'Connor
Whispering Minds
Website
Blog
Twitter






Jean Oram
Whiskey and Gumdrops







Julie Farrell
Driving Me to You
Website
Facebook
Twitter






Grand Prize gets all FIVE books! Dead tree books from me, A.T. and Jean and e-books from Evelyn and Julie. Only U.S. and Canada entrants will be eligible for the grand prize.

There are 10 additional prizes listed below. Individual e-book prizes will be open internationally.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

15 January 2014

Giveaway and Cover Reveal: Angie Sandro's DARK PARADISE




DARK PARADISE
July 1, 2014



BOOK BLURB:



DARK LEGACY


Mala LaCroix has spent her whole life trying to escape her destiny. As the last in a long line of “witch women,” she rejects the notion of spirits and hoodoo and instead does her best to blend in. But when she finds a dead body floating in the bayou behind her house, Mala taps into powers she never knew she had. She’s haunted by visions of the dead girl, demanding justice and vengeance.


DEADLY SECRETS


Landry Prince has always had a crush on Mala, but when Mala discovers his sister, murdered and marked in some sort of Satanic ritual, he starts to wonder if all the rumors about the LaCroix family are true. Yet after Mala uses her connection to the spirit world to identify his sister’s killer, he starts to form his own bond to her . . . a very physical one. As they move closer to each other and closer to the truth, Mala and Landry must risk everything—their families, their love, and even their
lives.



GIVEAWAY:


Angie is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card.


a Rafflecopter giveaway



ANGIE SANDRO:


Bio:



Angie Sandro was born at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. Within six weeks, she began the first of eleven relocations throughout the United States, Spain, and Guam before the age of eighteen.



Friends were left behind. The only constants in her life were her family and the books she shipped wherever she went. Traveling the world inspired her imagination and allowed her to create her own imaginary friends. Visits to her father's family in Louisiana inspired this story.




Angie now lives in Northern California with her husband, two children, and an overweight Labrador


Author Links:








09 January 2014

On Waffling

 via Wikimedia Commons

Mmmm.... waffles. Buttery, sweet, yummy... oh wait, sorry. Not those waffles. I meant waffle the verb. From Dictionary.com:
waf·fle
verb (used without object), waf·fled, waf·fling.
1.to speak or write equivocally: to waffle on an important issue.
I'll come back to waffling in just a sec.

Several months ago I updated the look and feel of the blog here, and I had some ideas about new directions I wanted to go. I encouraged anyone interested in the nitty gritty, technical writing stuff that I would post here now and then to follow me over at From the Write Angle because I wanted to branch out in this space. I wanted to turn it more into something that will let me connect with a lot of people besides my fellow writers. I envisioned posting a lot more stuff centered on some of my personal thoughts and beliefs about all sorts of stuff. I didn't want to shy away from hard, complex, personal, or controversial discussions. "They" say an author shouldn't get too political on social media or else they run the risk of alienating potential readers who don't share the same views. But I say screw it. We're all grown ups capable of intelligent debate and the occasional disagreement.

The truth is I like some good intellectual intercourse now and then.

But as you may have noticed, there has been a distinct lack of posting recently. I've held back from putting my more serious thoughts on paper. Or the screen, as it were. And not because of a fear of hurting my sales as an author. So why, then? Why, indeed.

Over on FTWA this week, Charlee Vale wrote about getting a "case of the whys" when she sat down to write. I could certainly relate on a broad level. Sometimes I feel like I have a perpetual case of the whys when it comes to social media. I'll think maybe I should blog about this, or post this on Facebook, or tweet this and almost immediately that little voice in the back of my head says why? And it's very often followed quickly by a who cares? Part of that is just self doubt that I need to get over. But there's something else, too.

After reading Charlee's post, I decided I needed to address this nasty case of the whys that has been keeping me from posting what I want on the blog. I answered the question of why. The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind waffling.

I'm an introvert. I spend a lot of time tucked away in the corner of my own mind, thinking about possibilities and consequences and maybes and what-ifs. That's part of why I write. That's also why I tend to look and observe and stay quiet a looooong time before speaking. I like to think things through before committing a thought to words out loud. Partially because I like doing things right the first time, but also because I've noticed that people don't like when you change your mind.

Sometimes I think I'm a little quirky in that I can be pretty comfortable with cognitive dissonance at times. I can entertain two conflicting ideas at the same time. (I love people and have an almost naive faith in humanity, and yet I can't stand people. That sort of thing, but sometimes it's on a much more complex scale.) This can be unnerving for people. I get that. And although I may be stubborn and feel like I'm right about something if I've taken the time to think about it and actually make a statement about it, I am more than happy to change my mind. I like adapting and evolving and changing every day. Usually all that stuff stays on the inside, though.

Listen to any political interview show or watch any attack ad during an election year and I'm sure you'll hear the word waffling. Look at the current political situation and pick a politician - any politician. They hold fast to things they've said even when it's painfully obvious to everyone they're wrong. They repeat themselves and don't dare to change an opinion on anything. Or if they DO amend their opinion based on factual evidence, suddenly that's a bad thing and their opponents accuse them of waffling. I don't know about you, but I would love my state and federal leaders to be a little more flexible and to be able to admit when they have adjusted their views and ideas based on new things they've learned and experienced. That's the logical thing to do, really. But it seems we've tossed logic out the window in favor of clinging to what we believe without questioning why we believe it and ridiculing those who would dare to change themselves for the better.

Show me a person who has never altered one tiny thing about the way they think or believe and I'll show you a person clinging to an illusion. And they're probably miserable to boot.


When I went to college, I had some great experiences in terms of thoughtful discussion and debate. There were a lot of people I could talk to and listen to and learn from. We didn't always agree, but we were always able to be respectful and learn from each other. Sometimes opinions were changed, sometimes not. Sometimes the most wonderful thing was the moment when someone said "I don't agree with that, but I see where you're coming from." One professor, Dr. Cashdollar, said some of the most important words I've ever heard during a unit that took a historical look at religion. He said that we didn't have to believe the religions we looked at, but we should strive to find a way that we could believe they were believable. I think the same thing holds true for any serious debate.

My hope is that I can kick this case of the whys and stop worrying about being accused of waffling. I'd love to share my thoughts about social issues with you and to hear yours in return. Discussion is good. Learning is good. I won't hesitate to admit when I'm wrong or when something I previously believed no longer makes sense in light of new experiences. That's not waffling. That's growth. I can't promise you'll change my mind, and yours probably won't change just based on what I say. But in order to foster sincere discussion, maintain respect, find common ground, and lay the foundation for growth, all I ask is that you try to look at anything I say and see how it might be believable. I'll do the same. And maybe we'll both change for the better.

Believe that it's believable.