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Afraid to Write

I’m putting this out there…

I’m afraid to try writing anything right now.

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Writing used to be my favorite thing to do. Then I started getting published. Don’t get me wrong; being published is awesome. I’m happy about it. I learned a lot about writing through the publishing process, by noting problems in my writing that editors frequently brought to my attention, by reading what others wrote, and just by writing, because the more you do something, the better you get at it.

(I still seem to have a problem with run-on sentences, though.)

The thing about learning to write better is it became a lot of pressure. With each subsequent book, I was afraid of doing it wrong. Even knowing that the first draft is meant for just getting the thoughts out of your head, I felt like I had to write the first draft as perfectly as possible, and had to edit the thing even more perfectly. That was a contributing factor, though not the primary one, to my difficulties in writing.

Now I’m at a place where the last book I submitted was rejected–for good reason; I can see the flaws in it now–and I’m struggling to write anything. I tried to fix the rejected book and got so bogged down in trying to write it better that I ended up giving up entirely on it. At least for now. I’ve been trying for the past several months to write a new book, one I thought I had plotted well enough to get it done. And last week, I reached the point where I realized it sucks. One of the characters isn’t presented the way I want him to be, and the plot is dragging. I’ve already done two major rewrites. To fix the problems I’m noticing with it now, I would have to scrap over 100 pages of writing and start the thing over from scratch. So for now, I’ve given up on that one as well.

I didn’t used to have this much trouble writing, and now it’s standing in the way of my willingness to try to write anything at all. I’m afraid of that struggle. I’m afraid that I’ll start writing something and have it go off the rails to the point that I can’t finish it. I’m afraid that whatever I write will suck. And feeling that fear is keeping me from even trying.

A couple of friends of mine have told me that I should just write, and not worry about what or how I’m writing. Just let the thoughts flow onto the page and see what happens. That’s easier said than done, but I am trying. It’s just hard on the days when I sit at the computer dreading typing that first word, because it means I’m putting myself back on the path of having to do it “right.”

Hibernation

I’m not talking about hibernating animals. I’m talking about myself.

For the past month or more, I’ve felt like I was in a cave. Everything seemed dark, and nothing was interesting. I just wanted to sleep, though I got up every day, showered, and got dressed. Some days, that was all I did.

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I’m not entirely sure what set it off. I have clinical depression, and I was definitely depressed. It was winter, which probably didn’t help any since the long, dark, cold days and nights usually make my depression worse. I’ve been struggling with a novel I’ve been trying to write for nearly a year now and just can’t seem to make work, and that was causing some major self-butt-kicking as I tried to figure out why I couldn’t wrap my head around the problem.

I also had to leave the part-time job I’d only had since September, because I was no longer able to manage the commute and work shift five days a week. The shift was only three or four hours, but the commute was nearly that long, and it was just too much for me. That was what really shoved me into the dark cave. Having to give up a job I usually enjoyed, one with that few hours involved, because I was physically and mentally unable to handle it did a number on my self-image, and that fueled the depression.

So for the past month or more, I’ve been essentially in hibernation mode, just trying to maintain things.

Tomorrow is the first day of spring here, though one wouldn’t know it by checking the temperature (below freezing as I type this) or seeing the snowbanks left from last week’s blizzard. It’s the time when things start coming out of hibernation.

I’m feeling better now. Stronger. So I’m hoping I’ll be able to make it out of hibernation too.

Teaser Thursday- A Perfectly Nice Guy

I’ve been working on this story for a while now. Hopefully sometime soon, it will be finished…

After school, I grabbed my stuff out of my locker and left the building before my trig teacher, Mr. Tellier, caught me. Since I hadn’t done the homework, he’d given me detention, but I didn’t want to sit there for another hour while he lectured me and made me do the assignment. I might end up with an extra detention for skipping this one, but it didn’t matter. I was hoping to catch up with Tyson. Maybe even find out where he lived.

I didn’t see him outside, though. There were a lot of people walking away from the building or standing around talking or waiting for rides, so it was easy to miss one person, but even though I stood there for a while, checking every face I could see, I didn’t spot him.

That sucked. I’d hoped he would wait for me, but that was a pretty stupid hope on my part. We’d met that morning. He didn’t really know me, and I hadn’t given him much of a reason to want to hang out more. Especially when I’d completely spaced on buying him the breakfast I’d promised.

It was no wonder I’d never had a boyfriend. I was completely incompetent when it came to liking guys.

“Hey,” someone said from behind me.

Thank god, Tyson’s voice cut off the “you’re a piece of crap” loop that had started playing in my brain. I pasted on a smile and turned around.

In the sunlight, his hair practically glowed. He was smiling, showing those dimples even more than he had that morning. I fought the urge to hug him, or worse, kiss him.

I had to get over the stupid insecurity, because I really wanted to get something going with him, and he definitely wouldn’t be interested in a bundle of angst.

“Are you going home now?” he asked.

“Yeah.” I glanced up at the door. Mr. Tellier was standing there surveying the crowd. “Shit. Come on. I need to avoid someone.”

“Huh?” Tyson glanced over his shoulder. “Oh. Sure.”

We hurried around the corner and stopped. “I was supposed to have detention,” I said. “I bailed on it. I don’t think my teacher’s too happy about that.”

“You bailed on detention?” He tilted his head. “Seriously? You seem like a total good guy. Like you never do anything wrong.”

That was a pretty close assessment, but for some reason it ticked me off. “Yeah, well, I’m definitely not perfect. And I don’t see the point in detention for not doing an assignment that isn’t even going to count on our grade.”

“I hate when teachers do that.” He studied me. “Are you mad? I didn’t mean anything bad by what I said. I was just surprised.”

“I’m not mad.” I took a deep breath. “I don’t know. I think I need a do-over.”

He laughed. “For what? Detention?”

“Making a good impression on you.” I clapped my hand over my mouth. Crap. I didn’t mean to say that!

Oops…

January obviously got away from me! I was participating in a blog challenge on my other blog, which required me to post daily, and I completely spaced on posting on this blog.

The challenge was fun, and it required me to stretch my brain a great deal to think of enough topics to fill an entire month. It isn’t something I’m likely to do again.

Aside from the challenge, I’ve spent the past few weeks working on a novel that I started several months ago and hope to eventually finish, as well as adjusting to no longer having a job outside the home. While my kids were in school, I focused on writing, but after both had graduated, I held a part-time job. For various reasons, I’m no longer able to do that, so I’m back to trying to write full-time.

And to hopefully remembering to blog regularly.

Playing With Writing

When I was younger, writing stories was a form of playing for me. I created elaborate worlds, populated with many, many characters, and made up whatever I wanted. If I wasn’t in school, I was usually sitting somewhere with a notebook and pen, scribbling something. Or I was using my dolls to act out stories that I would later write.

Back then, I wanted to get published someday, but that wasn’t the main purpose for writing for me. It was something that made me happy. Brought me joy. The creation of the stories was the top priority.

Unfortunately, that started to change when I started getting published. Over time, writing became less about joy and far more about writing something good enough to be accepted, that readers would actually buy. It became about earning money to help pay my bills and buy food for my family.

It became something that stopped bringing me joy, and instead brought me anxiety and fear. The fear that I wasn’t good enough and never would be, especially when I saw other authors earning ten or even a hundred times what I earned. I knew I wasn’t the best at marketing, and I started feeling like I wasn’t any good at writing, either. And because I felt like I wasn’t good at it, the quality of my writing suffered.

These are things I’m working on changing now, though, and that work is part of the reason I don’t have any releases scheduled for 2018. Before I can consider myself ready to submit my work again, I need to regain the joy that got me started writing in the first place. I need to take time to play with plots and characters, with no pressure and no consequences if something doesn’t work.

I don’t know how long the process will take, but that’s okay. What I do know is I need to put myself first, and that means putting joy first.

 

2018: The Year in Advance

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe 2017 is over already.

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In 2017, Harmony Ink Press released two of my novels. Midnight Chat, which came out in February 2017, is about Mira, a girl who is trying to keep her best friend Rob from doing something he can’t take back. She believes Rob is only a danger to himself, but what if she’s wrong?

 

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Dolphins in the Mud, released in August, is the rerelease of a novel originally published several years ago. Chris Talberman is trying to hold his family together–but who will help him hold himself together?

 

The last two novels I submitted were rejected, both for valid reasons largely involving the books’ genre, paranormal, though that wasn’t the only reason. Unfortunately, that leaves me with no releases scheduled for 2018. This will be the first year since 2009 that I haven’t had anything released under the Jo Ramsey pen name, and it’s a little bittersweet.

At the same time, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m currently revising one of the rejected novels, on which the editors kindly gave me very useful feedback, and plan to send it elsewhere when it’s ready. I also have begun a new contemporary novel, and hope to send that to Harmony Ink by summer. I might do a short story or two and post them on my Free Reads page, and may even take the second rejected novel, which would have been a rerelease, and try self-publishing it through Amazon.

While it’s strange not having anything schedule to release this year, it’s giving me time to get back up to speed on my writing craft, meaning better-written, better quality stories. I have more time to think about options. And I’ll be launching a new adult fiction pen name this summer.

So that’s what 2018 looks like for me right now. I hope your 2017 was a good year, and I hope 2018 will be even better!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!

For those of us who celebrate Christmas, today’s the day. Which means I’m taking the day off from blog posts, writing, and so forth to spend some time with family.

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(This is not my tree. I wish it were!)

I hope everyone who celebrates Christmas has a great holiday, and I hope those who celebrate other holidays have/had wonderful days then and today. I’ll be back next week with some thoughts on 2018.

Teaser- Superaser Saves Christmas

The complete version of this story is available as a PDF download on my Free Reads page.

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A few yards from the workshop, one of the tiles on the floor was a slightly darker shade of beige than the rest. That explained how the woman could be so definite about where she and Thaddeus were standing.

“Mommy!” a high-pitched voice shouted over the low roar of panic around us.

“Thaddeus!” Frantically, the woman looked around.

So did I, until I saw the kid standing beside the corner of the fence. I touched the woman’s arm and pointed, and she ran over to the little boy. I followed as she scooped the kid into her arms. A happy ending for them, but I still needed to know what I was up against.

“Thank you.” The woman looked at me with wet eyes.

“Mommy, where did the bad elves go?” Thaddeus said.

Finally! Something I could work with to find the culprits. “Bad elves?” I asked.

Thaddeus nodded. “They was little like me. All in green. They said Santa’s fake.” He sniffled and looked at his mom. “He’s not, right, Mommy?”

“Right.” His mother pressed her lips together. “That’s who you’re looking for, I guess. About half a dozen of the so-called elves. We thought they were part of the show until they started saying all those things. And then this guy showed up wearing all black, even a black Santa hat. He went right up to the workshop and kicked, and then everything was smoky.”

“Darn it.” Now I knew who was behind this mess. Missile Toe. A supervillain who had decided the best way to fight his enemies was to shoot projectiles from a specially made shoe.

The Super Group hadn’t run up against Missile Toe since before I joined the group, over a year ago, but Super Guy made sure all the new heroes knew everything about all the bad guys the group had ever fought. I had to wonder why Missile Toe had picked now to show up again. And why he and a bunch of “bad elves” had decided to mess with one of the most important holiday traditions in the city.

I didn’t have time to figure it out right then, though. If I was going to be any use to the rest of the Super Group, I had to change into my secret identity of Superaser. Kind of a dumb name, in my opinion, but I wasn’t the one who picked it. Super Guy named me for my ability to erase pieces of people’s memories.

“Thanks for explaining,” I said to Thaddeus and his mother. “I know some people who can make sure nothing like this ever happens again, so I’m going to talk to them.”

“The bad elves made Santa go away,” Thaddeus said. “After they said he’s fake, they took him away. Are you going to bring him back?”

I started to say yes, but remembered just in time that Thaddeus and his mother, and anyone else nearby, couldn’t find out I was a superhero. I had to keep pretending to be a normal teenage boy until I got somewhere private enough to change.

“I’m going to tell my friends,” I said. “They’ll make sure Santa’s okay. But I have to go now. Happy holidays.”

Before anyone asked me any more questions, I hurried to the nearby food court, which was nearly empty. No one at all was in the rest room, so I quickly changed into my super costume, which was made of a special fabric that could fold up small enough to fit into the pockets of any of my jeans.

When I left the rest room, Super Guy and Polarity were right outside. Super Guy glared at me. “You almost gave yourself away, according to Farsight. What did you say to the normies?”

Even though I hadn’t done anything wrong, my stomach sank down to my shoes. The same sneakers I’d been wearing all day, because my costume didn’t include footwear. Hopefully if anyone had seen me earlier, they wouldn’t notice what I had on my feet. If Super Guy was already getting annoyed, I didn’t want to do anything to make it worse.

I tried to cover up how guilty I felt. “All I told them was that I have friends who can take care of everything.”

“Farsight is never wrong.” Super Guy folded his arms. “Are you sure you didn’t say anything else?”

“You said she told you I almost gave myself away.” I took a deep breath and pretended for a moment that I was Scott. He could out-argue any adult, and right now I had to make sure I didn’t trip myself up with Super Guy. Especially since we were wasting time on the debate while we should have been tracking down Missile Toe. “She isn’t wrong about that. But it was only almost. I caught myself before I actually said anything I shouldn’t. Look, I know I need to be more careful, and I will be. Right now, we have a super villain and a flock of angry elves to deal with.”

“Elves?” Polarity wrinkled his forehead. “People in elf costumes, right?”

I shrugged. “The little boy and his mother, the ones I was just helping, said there were bad elves. And they said the villain shot something out of his foot.”

“Missile Toe,” Super Guy and Polarity said together.

“Which One?”

Recently, I had a conversation with someone I hadn’t heard from in three or four months. He asked whether I’d finished my book.

My immediate response was, “Which one?”

It isn’t that I’m working on a lot of books at this point, though that used to be the case. From 2009-2015 or so, I was always working on a book or short story, and during a lot of that time, I worked on more than one project simultaneously. If someone asked whether I’d finished my book, I genuinely had no way to know which one they were talking about, unless I remembered the last conversation I’d had with them. Even if I did remember it, though, it might not help me figure out which book  they meant, because I might have talked to them about more than one.

hard cover books in attractive colors
hard cover books in attractive colors

Nowadays, I work on one book at a time, and sometimes I’m not working on any books or stories. But as I rebuild my career in the direction it used to be–though hopefully less stressful and better organized–I’m nearly always working on something, even if it’s just a brainstorm.

In the few months since the last time I spoke to this person, I worked on, and then temporarily set aside, a young adult novel. I’ve written several short stories, and completed a novel I’d been working on for nearly a year and a half; the stories and this novel are adult fiction and under a new pen name which I haven’t officially launched yet. My memory is wonkier than it used to be, so I legitimately can’t even remember for sure when I last talked to this person, let alone which project I’d talked to him about. And I didn’t want to ask, because that would have looked a little foolish. Some people don’t understand why I don’t remember every word of every book I’ve written; most people definitely wouldn’t understand why I can’t remember what I was working on this past summer.

Since I had recently finished the adult novel, I told him that yes, I’d finished my book. I just hope that was the book he was asking about…