Well, it’s finally official. I have quit my job to focus on writing full-time.
Technically, I’m still with the company until the end of March, but when April hits, I will be a free woman. I’m equal parts exhilarated and terrified right now, especially since I don’t have a part time job lined up yet. But you know what? THAT’S OKAY. This isn’t the first time I’ve done something crazy like this before, and that last one worked out pretty well, and everything within me tells me that this is right, this is right, a little mantra inside like a heartbeat. This. Is. Right. This is the moment I take a really big step toward living the life I want to live. I wasn’t happy where I was. I was happy on my days off, when I actually could write and I could make a little effort at networking and joining blog tours and all that. I’ve been with my company for quite some time now, and I really didn’t like the direction it was going, so I would continue to be unhappy, and that would really suck.
I’m free. The road ahead is likely to be rough and bumpy and a little stressful trying to make ends meet, but you really can’t put a price on that liberation and excitement that goes along with finally deciding that, yes, I will fully commit myself to my dream.
For the first time in a very long time, I feel like I can breathe again. Here’s to a lot of great things in the near future.
“It feels to Michael as if his heart is being punched to death.”
“Breed: A Novel” by Chase Novak
Perhaps I expected a little too much. Maybe I should have reminded myself that I’ve only actually encountered a handful of Stephen King books that I enjoyed. But when I saw “The best horror novel I’ve read since Peter Straub’s Ghost Story” from Stephen King stamped on the cover and an intriguing synopsis about a mysterious procedure for fertility that turns parents into monsters, I was really, really excited. I spotted Chase Novak’s Breed in a bookstore one day, was enchanted by the description, and then eagerly rushed out to get it the moment I had some extra moolah. I guess I really do have to stop judging a book by its cover, because I have not been so utterly disappointed with a book since Dan Simmons’s Drood, which was a staggering let-down.
The concept was such a great one, which might also add to my disappointment. Alex is a rich New Yorker from Old Money, Leslie is a pretty typical young woman in love with his house, and then they fall in love with each other and get married. Turns out they have trouble conceiving and, while Leslie is fine with adopting, Alex has this big legacy to continue, so they desperately turn to some cracked-out doctor in Slovenia for a radical fertility treatment that turns them into monsters. I was hoping for a lot of suspense and mystery laying out the nature of these beasts they become, but everything is pretty much laid out for you right from the get-go. They’re basically werewolves, and they’re going to eventually want to eat the children they worked so hard to get. This isn’t a spoiler. We basically know this right from the start, which really dissolves a lot of the potential tension and horror that this book could have supplied. I found the nature of the beasts not only disappointing, but also transparent and unimaginative. Novak tries to be clever with his modern take on monsters, but it more often than not borders on cheesy. I suppose the book could be overly cheesy on purpose, but that’s too much of a stretch. It really needed to decide whether it was taking itself seriously or not.
My boyfriend helpfully found some other reviews that felt similarly to Breed that I did, but it seems to be a bit of a critical darling, and I just do not get it. It is slated as being a “literary horror” book, and if this is what “literary” writing has become, I weep for literature. At first, I’ll admit, Novak’s style of making quip-like descriptions and throwing in little metaphors was quaint and charming, but it’s a style best used for a short story, because it very quickly became annoying and felt incredibly lazy. Take the quote at the beginning of this review. “It feels to Michael as if his heart is being punched to death.” I had to stop and read that one out loud for how bad it was, and, while I feel that was the worst offense, the book is littered with phrases like that which seem neither literary or even very good. There is no strong connection with the characters; Novak moves along with his narrative so swiftly that you can’t really appreciate the changes they go through. Often, something really cool and interesting is happening, and, just as you really start to get into it, oh, never mind, we’re already moving onto the next thing and the previous thing is not even likely to be touched on again for the rest of the book. I was also really hoping that the house, which establishes itself as a character itself on the very first page, would become like a brooding, looming presence through the hold thing, much like in Mark Daneilewski’s iconic House of Leaves, but, alas. It is not to be. If we can’t even get Novak to flesh out our main human characters, I suppose it is a little too much for a setting to develop in such a fine, nuanced way.
As it happens, as I was plowing through to eagerly get to the eventual end of Breed, I was reading through a small collection of some of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short stories. I am incredibly biased toward Hawthorne; he’s one of my favorite writers. But just diving into the melodrama and the suspense he builds in “The Minister’s Black Veil,” “The Birthmark,” and the classic twist of “Young Goodman Brown,” it just highlights why, more often than not, modern “horror” just doesn’t cut it for me. If Breed is what’s popular in literary horror right now, I think I’ll just lean on the classics, thank you. In fact, I’d rather go back and read Drood. At least Drood could genuinely scare me (and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Drood was not intending to be modern but, in fact, was calling up the classic gothic terror that lurked in the minds of truly frightening men).
Books read: 002/100.
Funny how time flies. Not so much from having fun in this instance, but from just having too much damn stuff to do. Here we sit, halfway through February already, and I’m boggling on how it felt like just the other day, it was January and I was setting lofty and impressive goals for myself, goals that have, naturally, been shuffled around and reconsidered a gazillion times over.
Remember all that talk about quitting my job for part time work? Well, I’ve only put in about an application a week, so the job hunt hasn’t been too intense, but that’s partially because I know that if I want to quit what I’m doing now, it better be for something I’ll love. I’ve been picky. Meanwhile, things have been stirring themselves up in my company, and they’re going to send me to a different store at the end of February, as a “trial run” to see if they want to make me General Manager of that store. Okay, so, while part of me pleads with every fiber of its being to get out, I’m in the running for a big promotion, one that will take even more of my time, but will be financially smart. Damn. I’m going to go ahead and give it a try. If it goes well, awesome, I’ll keep it up and maybe I just needed a change of pace. If it doesn’t…well, all the more reason to duck out and bid adieu. Even though the store is a very looooong distance from where I currently live (thankfully, they’re going to cover me for gas), it is a low volume store, when I’ve only worked at high volume stores. That in itself seems like a bit of a relief, and, if it does turn out to be a permanent fixture, I’ve scoped out some cute apartments in that area already and so maybe I don’t necessarily need to get OUT of my Day Job, I just need to mix it up a little. Guess we’ll find out in March. This whole thing has been an excellent test of my patience, that’s for sure. Not to mention, there’s talk of another trip to Atlanta, and I certainly wouldn’t want to miss that…
On the writing front (since that’s why we’re all here, after all, rather than silly workplace craziness), things have been getting steadily better. I haven’t been able to promote Bowlful of Bunnies as much as I was hoping (oh, the suspense! Will she make a sale by the end of this month? WILL SHE??), but I’m hoping to squeeze some of that in today. I still haven’t been writing nearly as much as I want to, either, being distracted by so much going on, but I’ve been making some small strides there, too, and getting back into the habit of scribbling at least a page before bed. I’m also about half-way through a sort of modern retelling of “Rumpelstiltskin” that ties in a little with my Goldilocks tale “Just Right.” I’m hoping that, if I don’t finish it today, I at least get fairly close. I’ll also be participating in my first Blog Tour coming up in April, so keep an eye out for that! I’m fairly certain I’m finally nearing the end of the rough draft for Soulless, which is particularly exciting because that’s a series I know I want to self-publish. If I can wrap it up and start editing within the next few months, it just might be ready to release by the end of the year.
What else is going on out there in the blogosphere? I know Lauralynn Elliott just had a big ol’ Facebook party for the release of her new book Hearts of Evil. I unfortunately missed the meat of it, but it looked like everyone had a blast. The synopsis sounds great; I’m definitely downloading it if I ever get the time to check out my Kindle and see if I can bring it back to life (or just get another new one!).
Anything else I’ve missed?
So, it’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to update. Remember how I was talking a few post back about how Mondays were so nice because it was really the one day I had to myself, to catch up on all my writing and cleaning and everything else. Nope. Wrong. Just as I was starting to get settled into that schedule and really look forward to making the most out of it, the schedule changes. I work Mondays again. Thursday randomly becomes the day where I can get all my things done. My brain goes into a minor tail-spin because the way I had things planned did not go as planned. Time to regroup. Time to replan. Time to force myself into taking things one day at a time again. Sigh.
Life is all about change, though, isn’t it? So I suppose I just roll with the changes and do what I can, and that’s the best I can do. I’m determined to turn today into that Monday I was looking forward to having, to get a lot of stuff done, and to reorganize my thoughts for February. So here’s what’s on the agenda today:
-Make a blog post. Since you’re reading this now, we can assume that has been accomplished. Signed, sealed, delivered.
Laundry. I don’t know how one person seems to produce so much laundry every week, but I only have one day a week to do it, so do it, I must. Thankfully, we have a machine in our building’s basement, so getting it going isn’t the problem. It’s usually putting it away where I utterly fail.
Pimp my shit. One of my goals for this year was to sell at least one copy of my book per month, since promotion and marketing is where I really failed in 2013. D.J. Lutz was really awesome and bought the 99 cent Kindle version of Bowlful of Bunnies (and, I see, wrote an exceptionally beautiful review! Thanks, D.J!) right off the bat, which made this task easy for January, but unless anyone ponies up this month, it’s off to explore different marketing avenues and ways of getting my book out there on more spheres than just my blog and Facebook. Of course, many of you already have the book, but if you’d like to help out and pimp it a little on your blogs or have some great suggestions, I’d love to hear them!
Submit an Application for a New Job. The desire to get out of the current B.S. of my present Job has been mounting even more in the past week, as I realized with startling clarity that I really have no respect for my boss, and there’s no way I can be satisfied working for someone I can not respect. It’s a very complicated thing, especially considering I’ve been with this company for more than three years and have always expected myself to continue moving forward with it. But lately, it’s been so disheartening and it’s truly distracting from what I really want to do. I told myself if anything ever interfered with my writing, it was gone, out of my life, end of discussion. But I have to find a new job first. So I should probably apply to at least one job today, too.
Submit a Story. Now, when I started this plan to submit a story every day I don’t work at the Job, I had these grand delusions in my head that I could whip up something, even if it wasn’t very good, every day off to submit somewhere, anywhere, and then brush up later when/if it got rejected. These grand delusions did not translate into reality, and I found myself struggling to come up with anything even terrible on those days. Luckily, I did shoot a few stories out, and one was rejected, so now I brush that up and try to find a new home for it today. Which leads me into my next goal…
Write a Story. The rest of my day will be spent trying to really focus on getting another story written. If it happens, great, something to brush up and submit next day off (which is Sunday, though that day off will be spent with the boyfriend’s parents and watching The Walking Dead). If it doesn’t…well, hopefully I’ll at least have something started so that I can work on it more at the boyfriend’s parents’ house because they live out in BFE and don’t have WiFi.
Apply for ANOTHER job. One of the places I’d like to work at only accepts paper applications. How quaint in this day and age, right? So I’ve got to spruce myself up and go in to fill one out in transit to visit with the BF, and probably apply for another place down that way, too, while I’m there.
And, finally, Enjoy a relaxing evening with the boyfriend. Thursday nights are and always will be reserved for just chilling with my boyfriend, having some Taco Bell, and catching up on all our TV shows. And it will be a good way to celebrate having made all the things preceding this happen. I’m particularly looking forward to catching up with the few episodes of True Detective that I’ve missed, especially since Community and Parks & Rec are on hold for the Olympics.
There you have it. Hopefully, a full day, a productive day. A day that clearly redefines the term “Day Off.” But these are the days I truly enjoy the most, the days where I consider my craft, build my career, and revel in my writing. Days that are too far and few between now, but, hopefully soon, will become a much more frequent thing.
Happy writing, everyone! Thanks, as always, for reading.
“…’But if you start down a road you can’t see the end of, there’s a chance you’ll find some dark things along it.’”
“The Sharing Knife Volume One: Beguilement” by Lois McMaster Bujold
My delve into this series by one of newest writerly influences, Lois McMaster Bujold, lead me to realize one solid conclusion: I do not particularly like stories where romance is firmly at the center. Beguilement (and I trust the rest of the series, we will see) is one such book, departing from the more fantasy-focused books I’ve read thus far. Going into it, I knew there would be a romance element, but I was secretly hoping it would be minor. After all, the description for The Curse of Chalion makes it appear that the romance will be front and center, but that was (thankfully) not the case. With Beguilement, though, what you read on the back is basically what you get, although we have strong elements of Bujold’s incredible world-building throughout.
Beguilement is the story of young Fawn Bluefield, a girl on the run from her family farm for reasons that become all too obvious when she is abducted by a creature known as a malice. Enter Dag, a Lakewalker patroller, who saves her from a gruesome end while Fawn, in turn, ends up saving…well, everyone. This opens the door for Fawn to discover the strange world of the Lakewalkers, as well as the world outside her small farm, and, when love blossoms between them despite their differences, it leads Dag to discover Fawn’s world as well, which turns out to be just as strange to him as his world is to hers.
While it’s a solid book on its own right, I found Beguilement a little disappointing. Perhaps it’s because I adore her Chalion books so much, but the writing here seemed a little lackluster and almost lazy. It felt more like a beginner’s novel, from a writer who had yet to find her voice, so I figured perhaps this was an earlier series; I was kind of shocked and disheartened to discover that these books were written after the Chalion books. Though the writing was disappointing, there was still enough of what I like about Bujold to hold me through it. The world is fully realized without heavy exposition; it’s really fascinating, and there’s so much of it in the first part of the book, but it tends to get put towards the background in the latter half, though Dag’s introduction to Fawn’s farmer society is equally fascinating in establishing the every-day normalcy of this world. Fawn starts as an unconventional female character, too, another thing I loved in the Chalion books, but outside of her initial uniqueness, I felt she was a little wishy-washy in certain aspects. The middle half of the book focuses heavily on the romance between Fawn and Dag, which made me lose my attention. As I said, I just don’t dig romance as much, and, honestly, I felt that the main point of the book was essentially to convince us that these two were in love. We shouldn’t have to be convinced that characters have a connection: it should just be there, to the side, and not the whole of the story. I would actually be interested to hear what a fan of romances might have to say to counter my feelings on the matter. Overall, it wasn’t bad, but it was a little bit of a let-down.
Books read: 001/100.
Well, it’s Monday. For most people, Monday means a return to the grueling grind of daily life, but, for me, Monday is sacred. It’s the one and only day of the week where I can truly dedicate myself to my writing as a career. Very rarely do I have any obligations on a Monday these days, so I settle myself in with a bunch of notebooks, my laptop, and plenty of coffee and tea to set to work on my writing from nine to five like an actual job. Typically, I intend to get a lot done on those Mondays; sometimes, I accomplish great things, other days are kind of a bust, but if I didn’t have those Mondays, I’d be shocked if I got anything done at all. Today’s a big day; I’ve been crazy busy lately, so I’m hoping to catch up on my short story goal, do a little bit of reading, update my resume, and perhaps even get my Federal income taxes out of the way. Not to mention this is also the day when I get my laundry done and clean up after my slobbish self a little bit.
That’s an awful lot to fit into one day. This needs to change. I’ve been saying that all month, in the grand effort to rework my life into the life I want to be living, but the life I’m currently living seems to have different plans, reinstating itself so firmly that I can’t seem to find two minutes towards the changes I want to make. The biggest issue there is my current job. I feel crazy for doing this, but I truly, truly need to find a new job. In a world where the economy and employment seems to be a struggling and elusive thing, to give up a full-time position with a growing company feels nothing short of crazy. But the fact of the matter is that it demands so much from me and it’s only going to continue to demand more. It makes more financial and economic sense to stick with it, especially since there’s talks of another promotion, but is it any good for my soul? I can’t do what I really want to do because I’m spending so much time on something I’m just doing “because it’s smart.” As a result, I really don’t think I’m as happy as I could be.
I am probably one of the few people out there looking to “downgrade” to a part time position. It’s definitely a risk, but risk is something I find must be welcomed with open arms and taken with vigor and excitement. It gives you the drive to succeed, despite adverse situations. It’s interesting that I’m giving this particular thought right now; it was around this time four years ago that my fiance unexpectedly passed away, throwing my life into a big upheaval and forcing me to accept risk and change. And now I find myself yet again eagerly accepting it, doing something that others might think is a little crazy and against conventional wisdom, but I know, deep down, it’s what I need to do if I want to start the life I want to be living.
When we stay safe in where we know things will be okay, we still take a risk, and that is the risk of never living up to your potential. It’s only when you take a chance that great things can truly happen. I’m about to do something that some people will classify as foolish, but I know it’s the right path to make me happy. Wish me luck, guys.
So, tonight, I wasted too much time on a reddit thread about books you hate with a passion, having come across a few classics that I absolutely adore but I could understand why people weren’t fans. This mostly hit me when I came across Little Women and Anne of Green Gables, two classic staples that I realized I never actually read until after I saw the mini-series or the movie (Christian Bale will forever be Theodore Laurence, SORRY BATMAN). That put an instant thought in my head: do I love these books more because I saw the movie first?
Now, I’m going to admit something that may be shocking. I’m actually a little nervous to admit it, because it may lead some of you to never look at me the same way again, but here we go. I do not like Jane Austen. Yeah, yeah, I know, but every since my father bought me a set of her books when I was in high school, I have been diligently trying to force my way through them, but I just cannot understand the appeal. The Regency era is interesting and I love them as little slices of history, but as literature, I’m not a fan. The only one I’ve remotely enjoyed so far is Emma, and I will admit that was only because I grew up on Clueless, and so it was really fun for me to draw the connections between the original book and the way fun modern retelling of it.
This really makes me wonder: does seeing the movie before reading the book enhance your experience of it (assuming, of course, you liked the movie)? Something about having that visual retelling and that immediate connection with the characters in a short space of time already sets you up to explore them in greater depth in a movie. So many of my favorite books (Battle Royale, Little Women, Alice in freaking Wonderland) were books that experienced as a movie first. A lot of the movies I love are books I look forward to finally getting to read (The Hunger Game, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess). Are there books that I hated (Anna Karenina comes to mind…Pride and Prejudice as well) that I would have loved if only I’d seen a film version of it first?
This also brings to mind how much I loved the A Song of Ice and Fire series because I was reading the books and watching the show simultaneously. It was so much fun reading something, then seeing it portrayed on the show (and sometimes vice versa), and taking note of the differences. I also stopped reading the series…just as I stopped watching the show. Granted, both of those were due to things beyond my control (no access to the show, and Dance with Dragons was on my now dead Kindle), but it’s still an interesting coincidence.
What do you think? A lot of times, I find myself saying, “Oh, I want to see that, but I want to try to read the book first.” Perhaps I shouldn’t. Perhaps I should go ahead and see the movie, because it’ll set me up to already enjoy the characters and the story and just enhance the experience so much more. Do you feel being exposed to a visual media version of a story enhances it, too, or do you find that it lessens it? In a way, it’s almost like creating a multimedia experience, and I am a child of the multimedia age…
On the flip side, though, seeing the movie first lead me to read Twilight. Not because I enjoyed the movie, of course, but out of morbid, horrible, sadistic curiosity, so the point is probably moot.
What are some movies or shows that helped you appreciate a book better? Which books have you read that you hated the movie for? And, on the reverse, any books that you hated but thought the movie was pretty good? How about books that you’d love to see turned into movies?
Ever have that feeling like you’re all ready to be productive, get stuff done, so you open up your Internet browser, thinking, this is going to be an accomplished day? Then you pull up WordPress, open up a new post, sitting there blank and ready, an open canvas. You poise your fingers eagerly over the keys, ready to type, and then…nothing. You’re ready to type, but you realize you have nothing to type. You have plenty to say, but you realize you don’t have the words. You want to post something, but you have no idea what to fill that big white space with.
You are suffering from a big old case of Blog Block, and that is precisely the predicament I am in right now. Thankfully, Blog Block is not the same as Writer’s Block, which means that, while I can’t seem to think of a good topic for a blog post, I am having no trouble writing actual stories right now, which is why I’m not too concerned. But I’ve been putting up with this blog block long enough to want to write a post about it, and that’s just annoying. Every time I think of a topic, I found myself either bored halfway through (an if I’m bored, I can’t imagine how my readers will feel) or doubting that anyone would be interested in reading it in the first place. So I stop, and it’s back to square one.
Ironically, the most common and effective cure for Blog Block is to write about Block Block. It’s like the anti-Fight Club. It’s not the first time I’ve just blogged about the fact that I can’t think of anything to blog, either. What I’m definitely not going to do is complain, because, while the blog may be collecting some dust these past few days, my notebooks haven’t. If all my creative energy is going into producing manuscripts rather than blog content, I’m definitely considering that a good thing.
Today is the first day of the life I want to live.
A bold statement. But what the heck does it mean? It isn’t the first time I’ve written in this blog about the fact that, if I want to make writing my life, I have to start treating it like the job I want it to be. I made pretty good strides last year in making my approach to writing more professional and effective, but there was still a lot of work to do. I have resolved that, this year, I take the efforts up another notch. I turn the volume to eleven. No more messing around. It’s time to start living the life I want to live, and that life includes writing as a focal point.
Okay, okay, that’s all good and great to say, but how about the steps to actually make this so? How does this translate into changes that I’m consciously applying to me life? Basically, any day that I’m not working the Dreaded Day Job, I’m working the Writing Job, and treating it like an ACTUAL job. That means:
–Being on time. Just as I’m expected to be at work at a specific time, I am to be at writing at a specific time, too. Be there, or be fired.
–Dress. No more scribbling away in my jammies. I need to be cleaned and dressed as if I’m going into an office. I need to treat it AS my office, even if that office is just the coffee table in the living room.
–Quantifiable goals. Every Writing Day, I MUST send in at least one story to a journal or literary magazine. If that means scrounging up something from scratch, so be it. I will be spending that day crafting and polishing something. If I have something in my pocket, I will polish and send that out and spend the rest of the day either working on my longer pieces or prepping the next story. Every day, if I am not sending SOMETHING out, I am failing my goal. If I am not making a blog post a day, I am failing my goals. If I do not connect and do a little marketing and networking, I am failing my goals. I need to write at least one page of one of my larger projects, as well. Each of these things MUST get done on each Writing Day.
–Lunch break. I work on my work steadily for a few hours, take an honest-to-goodness break to have lunch and recharge, and then it’s right back to work, just as if I was taking a lunch break at my Day Job.
–Time Limits. I will not allow myself to do anything else until these goals are met by a certain time. For example, today, I am going over to my boyfriend’s later to watch our TV shows and just hang out. I’m scheduled to be there at six, which means I MUST have this done by five. If it’s not done by then, I need to hurry my butt up and get it done, or else. Tomorrow, I need to go out and get a new phone. It’s something I NEED to do, but I CANNOT do it until I have met my goals. Or else it will have to wait.
This may seem like a lot of obvious stuff, but for the past few years, I’ve struggled to really get a grip on it. Too much has been going on in my life, but this time around, I’ve made a firm decision that the only way I will be happy is if I pursue this to its fullest. It’s time to bunker down and get serious. This will never be a JOB if I don’t TREAT it like a job. I’m extremely excited to have two days off in a row (unheard of!) to really start this habit of being true to my desired profession. Wish me luck! I should probably get back to editing before the boss gets on my case.