I may have blogged about balance before. It’s one of my favorite topics because I believe feeling balanced is one of the keys to happiness. To be honest, I’m not sure I qualify to lecture anyone in balance, as each case is as unique as each individual, but as a mother of three, wife, the family secretary, daughter, sister, author and domestic goddess (*snort*), I often get head shakes accompanied with “I don’t know how you do it.” Or questions like “How do you make time for writing?”
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I know what works for me. I figure if I put my schedule below maybe it’ll help someone out there understand how it can be done. Or maybe some piece of it will resonate and help in some small way. Somehow, amid the chaos of raising a family and keeping a household going, I’ve released five books in the past three years and watched my career steadily, though slowly, grow. And I know many writers who face all kinds of incredible challenges and have persevered in this crazy industry. No matter what you’re facing, you can succeed, too.
What’s important to you? Whatever your answer, it will likely change over time. As my kids (ages 11, 9, and 4) grow older, I feel time speeding by. I always put them and my husband first. My dad and siblings are also a large part of my life. Dad lives in the same town as me and is alone since my mother’s death two years ago. He isn’t good at planning meals, cooking (or even pushing buttons on the microwave), or cleaning, so I make time for him each week. Besides, after losing my mother, I want to enjoy every moment I can with my surviving parent.
Even with all of the external demands on my attention and energy, I NEED to write. I write to reclaim my sanity. It even says so in my bio (see below). I started writing full time about a dozen years ago when my husband and I moved across the country and I knew nobody. And then I got pregnant and my life changed even more. With little sleep to go on. I needed the escape that writing fiction provided. Writing was a way to feel in control of some part of my world, and to have a piece of something for myself.
Basically, writing is important to me. And if something’s important, you make room for it in your life.
After you’ve had a deep discussion with yourself about how you want to spend those precious 24 hours we have each day, make sure you take to focus on those priorities. How will you get the most out of your energy/time? What needs are your actions addressing, and are you meeting your most important needs? I envision my life as consisting of four primary arenas:
PHYSICAL – Your body’s health. Diet and exercise would be here. If you’re sick or have unhealthy habits, it impacts everything else.
SOCIAL/FAMILY – Humans need relationships with others. None of us is an island. (And if you are on an island, can I come visit?) It’s important to take the time to foster these bonds, just as it’s important to cut the toxic relationships out of your life.
MENTAL/EMOTIONAL – Keeping the brain primed is the key to a fulfilling life. This is especially true for writers. Having daily challenges to stimulate the brain is important, and for me, that stimulation is writing.
SPIRITUAL – A connection to a higher power, a faith that we each have a purpose, keeps me going when things seem especially dark. It’s just as important to pay attention to the larger picture as it is the daily activities.
When I feel off-kilter, frustrated, or unusually anxious, it’s usually because I’m neglecting one of the above and my priorities need to shift for a while.
MY IDEAL DAY
What’s important will change over time, but here’s how my ideal day looks when my kids are in school:
7 a.m. – Up and packing lunches, getting kids ready, etc. (Social)
9 a.m. – Drink coffee while going through emails & popping in at social media/blogs (Social, Mental)
10 a.m. – Workout (Physical, Mental) unless I’m on deadline, and then this is writing time (Mental). I’ll also sometimes listen to audiobooks or workshop recordings while working out. (Mental)
about 11 a.m. – Lunch (Physical)
12 – 3 p.m. – Writing time (This can include WIP, edits, blog posts, putting together my chapter’s newsletter, or whatever tasks are on hand for the day.) (Career, Mental/Emotional)
3 – 5 p.m. – Picking up kids and running to after-school activities. Sometimes I can squeeze in more writing time, or if I have just a few minutes here or there, I’ll read a book for pleasure. (Social, Mental)
5 – 7 p.m. – More running kids around, homework, and dinner (Social, Physical)
7 – 8 p.m. – Clean up the house and get kids moving toward bedtime (Social)
8 – 9 p.m. – Settling everyone for bed (Social) and checking emails or catching up on whatever needs more attention (Mental)
9 – 11 p.m. – Online work, sometimes while watching TV with husband. Because my brain is often tired, this is the best time for catching up on emails, doing some social media, and tackling the miscellaneous tasks of the writing business like searching for cover images, updating my website, or listening to a conference workshop on tape. Or sometimes I can generate new words and they actually come out pretty good in this semi-conscious state. My subconscious takes over more easily. I also try to take some time to reflect on my day, be grateful for what I accomplished and what I have, and other things that connect me to the more Spiritual side of life. (Social, Mental, Spiritual)
11 p.m. – 7 a.m. – Sleep (ideally, though it doesn’t always work out that way!) (Physical)
While this is a glimpse into a “typical” day, there are the inevitable upheavals, illnesses, and unexpected problems that require flexibility. And deadlines trump a lot of things. I like to have a To-Do list to start each day where I can put the three or four items I absolutely need to get done. For me, feeling organized is important to getting the most out of the 24 hours I have each day.
Weekends are different. Kids and hubby are home and I spend time with them. However, the housework that may have been put off during the week can become a Saturday morning family project. Sunday, my dad comes over and I cook for everyone. But I also squeeze in a couple hours of writing time each day if I can. I find if I’m away from my WIP for more than a couple days, I struggle to get back into that world.
PREPARING FOR CHALLENGES
Three kids at different schools and a husband who teaches at another equals a germ factory. I can almost count on a week in October and another couple weeks in the winter and spring being unproductive due to illnesses.
I always set aside a couple weeks around the holidays for family and relaxation, and try to adjust publishing schedules so that I’m not doing the most challenging stuff at those times (i.e., major edits).
The essence of prioritizing is sacrifice, and knowing what you’re willing (or NOT willing) to sacrifice is the first step toward finding more time for writing (or whatever your priorities are). Sleep is a biggie for me. I did without it for so many years when my first two were young and horrible sleepers that it’s hard for me to give it up now. But sometimes the promise of a nap the next day is enough to trick myself into staying up a little longer. And the week before a deadline is almost a given that I’ll be sleeping five hours a night instead of seven or eight. But that’s a finite commitment, which is so much easier than those days when I didn’t know when my kids would finally start sleeping. Or if they ever would.
Another sacrifice is giving up TV time or going out. And weekend time. And reading time. There are weeks when any spare hour I have might need to go toward writing or editing.
Balance isn’t easy. A lot of days, I feel like I’ve got too many balls in the air or can’t take on one more thing. Making writing a priority comes down to what you’re able to sacrifice, and knowing what’s important to you.
What’s your daily life like? Are there any tips you’d like to share for managing it all, or any questions you have that the Rubies might be able to help with?
Anne Marie has always been fascinated by people—inside and out—which led to degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Counseling. Her passion for understanding the human race is now satisfied by her roles as mother, wife, daughter, sister, and award-winning author of romantic suspense.
She writes to reclaim her sanity.
Find ways to connect with Anne Marie at www.AnneMarieBecker.com. There, sign up for her newsletter to receive the latest information regarding books, appearances, and giveaways.
(*Warning: Author has the tendency to seek patterns in life and wax philosophical about them.*)
What is an important part of a satisfying romance? Pacing.
What is a key ingredient in making a story suspenseful and thrilling? Pacing.
What can make or break an author? Pacing. And knowing one’s limits.
Years ago, one of the most valuable lessons I learned as a newbie romantic suspense writer was how to use pacing as an effective tool. I had to kill my darlings—to delete paragraphs, sometimes even pages, of backstory and description that bogged down the story. It wasn’t easy to cut these hard-won sentences. I liked them. I’d nurtured them. But I had to admit, leaving them in the dust increased the power of the story.
Sometimes we have to let go of things that seem important in order to be stronger.
But pacing is also a factor in an author’s career. The pressure to increase the quantity of books can be enormous. But it’s the quality of books that builds readership. How does one pace oneself to achieve maximum potential and still stay sane? That’s been a very real question for me this past year.
On the writers’ loops, blogs and conferences, there appears to be a constant hum of, “You must have a backlist and produce several books a year to keep your readership happy or your career will wither away.” Logically, I know not everyone is producing more than a book a year, or even one book a year. Likely, there are only a few writers who can keep that pace and still keep their lives together and their readers happy with good quality. Today, I’m releasing my fourth book in just under three years, and I still don’t feel like I’m doing enough. (And some days I don’t feel quite sane.) But I’m doing all I can. And I need to stop and recognize that before the joy is gone, or before I burn out.
So I’m killing my darlings and saving myself. What darlings? Those beliefs I harbor that could end up breaking me. It may be time for a new belief system—one that’s framed in a positive way.
I can write a book (or less) a year and still be a successful author. The important thing is that I’m living life, and writing when I can.
I am on my own path. That author, over there, is on her own path, and those journeys can look different.
I give myself permission to simply write new words or edit old ones today, without spending an hour keeping up my social media sites.
I can take tonight off to enjoy my family, rather than work.
I can be a productive person without being Superwoman.
If it comes down to saving myself (and my health) versus producing more books, I choose myself. I’d rather kill my darling misconceptions than lose myself in the process. Sometimes we have to let go of things that seem important in order to be stronger.
What beliefs (or darlings) do you need to kill off to pace yourself better and stay healthy and sane? Extra points for re-phrasing that belief in a positive way.
And…to celebrate my release day, I’ll be giving away a digital copy of DARK DEEDS to one non-Ruby commenter, so please share your advice and/or experience below.
Dark Deeds (Mindhunters, Bk 4)
Dark Deeds Blurb:
Walking away from sexy Detective Diego Sandoval was one of the toughest things security specialist Becca Haney ever had to do. But her past is a direct threat to his future, to the career he’s working so hard to rebuild. Now, with a witness from a horrific case implicating Diego, Becca must decide whether to listen to her head or her heart.
Diego is a big-city lawman used to cracking the hardest cases, but he’ll never understand why Becca ended their passionate affair. When he’s assigned to help keep her safe from a human trafficking ring, he’s determined to stay by her side and learn about the woman behind the passion—scars and all.
But Becca has another admirer. Known only as “the Fan,” he believes he’s the perfect partner for her—and he’ll kill to prove it. When the stakes are raised in the killer’s deadly game, Diego will be called upon to save lives—including Becca’s.
Anne Marie has always been fascinated by people—inside and out—which led to degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Counseling. Her passion for understanding the human race is now satisfied by her roles as mother, wife, daughter, sister, and award-winning author of romantic suspense.
Truly. I’ve tried being witty. I’ve tried joining conversations. I’ve tried book blurb tours, giveaways, blogging six ways to Sunday, and going to reader conferences. I’ve bought book marks, reader trading cards, given away books, giftcards, and a kidney (okay, not an actual kidney but lots of heart-shaped things). I’ve advertised, helped host Facebook parties, given away raffle baskets and done everything else but tap dance to sell books (and I’m willing to do that if I can find some tap shoes to fit me). But the results are always the same. My book sales are…oh, I can’t even say it….average.
So what I really want to say is JUST BUY MY BOOK ALREADY!
But that would be crass. That would turn people off and then my name would be blacklisted as “one of those authors.” You know the ones – they constantly tweet their reviews and links. Their signature line is eight miles long (with links!) and they slyly slip things in about their books in other people’s posts. Basically they do everything they can but shove the book in your face and beg you to buy it.
Sad thing is, I understand that desperation because sometimes I want to say the hell with it and just post “You people need to buy my book because I want to go to another conference this summer and need some money.” Too honest? Yeah, I thought so.
And there are times I want to tell people to NOT buy my book. Like reverse psychology will work the same way it did when my kids were six years old and I’d say things like “Don’t you dare put this toilet seat down” or “I bet you can’t run get the mail faster than I can.” By the way, those challenges no longer work on 14 year olds. They give you that blank stare than could kill pretty flowers and baby’s smiles. I figure if I say “Don’t buy this book. Nothing to see here, folks” maybe readers might get interested enough to check it out for themselves. But I know that won’t work any better than chasing people with nail files and bookmarks.
I feel like I’ve tried everything I can think of to sell my books (outside of setting up outside the Barnes and Noble, yelling “Come try a real book, whydontcha?” which could possibly get me arrested).
So what should I do?
I already know what you gals are going to say – shut up and write another book.
And that’s pretty good advice. You see, there is much about the world I cannot control (which drives Virgos like me nuts!). I can’t control what readers think, I can’t control how much promo Harlequin will give me, I can’t control distribution, shelf space or foreign sales. I can’t control whether someone will pick my book to review, how many people like me on Facebook or how many people enter my raffle copter. I can’t even control my damn covers. BUT what I can control is my writing. I can control my characters (or try to), I can control my reading a good craft book (rather than watching The Bachelor) and I can control the amount of time I spend with my butt in the chair and hands on the keyboard. That’s it.
Can’t make people buy my book, even if I want to shout on Twitter, Facebook, blogs 1,2,and 3 and from the parking lot of the Barnes and Noble BUY MY DAMN BOOK!
Because I don’t control the universe. Which is sad because if I did we’d all be a size four with perky boobs, gorgeous hair and Matthew McCognaughy, Brad Pitt and Henry Cavill (take your pick) giving us a foot rub…and we’d all be reading my newest book. See? Now you wish I were in charge
So here’s the premise of this whole post – don’t try to control the world. Just control what you can do (in the comfort of your own home…or Starbucks). Focus on your writing. Make it stronger. Make it tighter. Take it to the next level. Be a good friend to other writers. Don’t steal their thunder. Don’t whine (I don’t take my own advice sometimes). Don’t put the writing off. Control what you can control - which is how you put your story on the page.
That’s it. That’s all I got. (and in case you didn’t get it, this was advice to myself, too)
FYI, I do have a RUBY RELEASE this month and I’m adding the blurb and cover in case you’re interested in doing my will. When I snap my fingers you will go to Amazon and buy the book. 1…2….3… (okay, okay, I didn’t hypnotize you. Add that to the things you shouldn’t do to readers)
What are some promo Do’s and Don’ts that drive you nuts?
His Forever Girl
This forever is off to a rocky start!
Meeting Tess Ullo is definitely a sign life’s improving for Graham Naquin. After their spectacular night together, he knows there’s a lot more to explore between them! Good thing he’s aced the interview that will bring him home to New Orleans, his young daughter and Tess.
Closet writers break my heart. Any reason a writer keeps their writing a secret is just wrong, unless the writing is extremely personal and not meant for other’s eyes. I was a closet writer.
There are many reasons why writers remain in the closet and the Rubies have had discussions concerning them. At some time or another, many of us have faced the road-blocks that kept us from being us.
Some writers think they haven’t read enough books to be considered a writing expert. In their minds, if people find out they write, they must’ve read every single book ever published. I’m here to tell you that I’ve never read Huck Finn, War and Peace, Fifty Shades Of Gray or a zillion other classic or best-selling books. Does that confession make me less of a writer? I think not.
Being shy, it can take years for some people to join a writer’s group. A long, long time ago, when the internet was young and a thing called dial-up was used to connect to it, writers actually went to public meetings to connect with those of like minds. Walking into a meeting can be daunting to a wall flower. I know because I’m an introvert. The internet and the ambiguity it provides, has made it easier for some writers to connect to others, but not all. They remain in the background, unsure of themselves. To them, I say, “it’s always the quiet ones who make the biggest impression when they’re ready.” Rest assured most writers are genuinely nice and more than willing to help other writers in any way they can. You only need to be serious about the craft to be considered a writer by them.
A closet writer might feel they don’t know enough about the craft and until they know all there is to know they remain in seclusion. I’m not sure if there is anyone out there who knows it all. Well, maybe King, Patterson or Nora. Only they can answer that question. The point being, the majority of writers will openly admit that they don’t know everything and that they learn something new all the time. Join the club that strives to be better at their craft.
My writing sucks. It very well could, but are you the best judge? You’ve read and studied and wrote and edited. Now it’s time to trust yourself and share your work. If a critique offers constructive advice, weigh it, and then accept it or not. In the end, it’s your story. There is no greater joy for a writer than when a reader enjoys your work. The only way to know that joy is to share your gift.
There are those who really, really want to be a writer but struggle to do the work required. Writing is hard work and takes a huge amount of time. Completing a work is possible a word at a time. Commit to the work, or perhaps another hobby would be better for you.
I’m fortunate. I’m a writer who has had the support of family and friends for many years, but that wasn’t always the case. I once was a closet writer. I was told that my dreams of becoming a published writer were stupid and thus I hid my passion. Now, when I read the notebooks I filled during that time, I cringe at the darkness that shadowed my life.
One day, I finally broke and said to myself, “This is my life and I don’t want to look back and wonder what if I’d taken one step. Would my dreams have come true?” That was a year of change for me on many levels. It was a hard trial but through it I learned I had the support of many family members. I read craft books. I joined a writer’s group. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I attended conferences and workshops. I found more support through my writer friends. I met the man of my dreams and he became my biggest supporter. I will love him forever for letting me be me.
Life doesn’t give us do-overs, but it does give us second chances. Take the step toward being you.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
(from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran)
Today is release day for one of my best projects ever. Dear Daughter #2 is leaving for college.
Someone asked my husband a couple of months ago what it felt like to wait for the release date of my debut book. He said, “It’s like childbirth. It’s painful, it takes too long, and then suddenly it’s over and what now?”
I’ve shared this post with y’all last year, but it can’t hurt to hear it again. If you’re like me, you struggle to sit down with your work in progress during the busy, busy holiday season. So I thought it would be fun to share some coping strategies once more. I’ve added my 2 cents worth for 2013 near the end. :) Happy Holidays, everyone!
It’s December, and we are currently knee deep into the annual holiday season. As women, we are usually the ones responsible for the planning and plotting that goes into holidays, even if they aren’t being held at our house. The same is true for me—I do the planning, my hubby does the inviting (usually without telling me until the last minute). We end up with a house full of family and friends who eat, talk, laugh, and play games all Christmas day. That’s after a month full of other parties, family celebrations, gift buying, etc. Something I enjoy with a heart full of gratitude.
But all this partying makes it tough to get any writing done. The list of things to do can extend to infinity sometimes (or at least feel like it). All this extra party planning can really cramp my writing style. I’m sure even you non-writers find time short during this busy season. So what’s an author to do? Here are a few tips: 1. Up your word count on the days you CAN write.
I know this sounds like it will take even more time, but when you do get uninterrupted writing time, do your best to up the amount of your goal. My usual goal for weekdays is 750 words, but for December I’m aiming for 1250. This way, I can manage a few days off during the month without guilt or getting really behind. So push yourself to do more, and enjoy your reward later. 2. Take it One Small Step at a Time
It can be overwhelming to sit down and face a 1000 word goal, but how about 250 words? Oftentimes, I don’t write my whole goal in one sitting. I can’t, because I have very few uninterrupted chunks of time in my day. So here’s how I approach it: During my morning break at work, I plot out the scenes I’m going to work on that day. Then on my lunch break (30 minutes) I type on the Alphasmart. I also have 1 hour set aside for writing directly after dinner. I try to keep that sacred (doesn’t always work, but I try).
Then thirty minutes while the kids do homework or clean their rooms or 30 minutes while the hubby watches a television show. Just 30 more minute before bedtime, then I can sleep. You’d be surprised how much easier it is to tackle any large project in smaller steps. 3. Be Prepared
For plotters, this is much easier. But it is also doable for pantsters too. Before putting down your pen for the day, take a few moments to write out the first few sentences of your next scene. Make sure your notes on the coming pages are complete and you have a decent map for where you are heading. This will make jumping into the next session much easier (no staring at a blank page wondering what the heck you were thinking to have them break into the warehouse so soon…) and your writing will flow more quickly from the start.
I find a To Do list essential for big projects and my writing is no different. This way, I can see how much time I have, then jump into whatever task I have time for, without worrying I’ll forget what else needs to be done. 4. Utilize the Buddy System
Find a writing friend who needs to accomplish as much as you do at this time. Vow to keep each other accountable. Daily emails require you to send in those totals, even if the sum is 0 (and embarrassing enough to force your hands to the keyboard). Set up times for write ins (getting together for the sole purpose of writing—bookstores are great for this).
And don’t forget a reward. Plan an outing to get your nails painted or a massage when all the hard work is done. A night out to dinner with some girlfriends. Or form an accountability group where everyone pitches in $10, and the top three performers during the holiday season get to split the pot for After Christmas shopping! This will give you a tangible reward, other than the relief you’ll feel when you see all those words on the page. Addition: New Thing I Learned in 2013
One of my goals in 2013 was to learn to enjoy life in the midst of chaos. I have a full time day job, write at least part time, have 2 kids and a very supportive husband. I felt like I worked from the moment I forced myself to roll out of bed in the morning. About halfway through the year, I realized I wasn’t really LIVING. So I’ve tried different approaches to try to remedy this. Here’s 1 for the holidays: Don’t feel guilty when you aren’t writing. I know it sounds counterproductive, but guilt is only going to bog down your writing, not help it in any way. When you are at a party, or chillin’ with your family, enjoy it. Don’t spend it feeling bad about what you’re not accomplishing. Oddly enough, when you get back to the page, you’ll be MORE refreshed and productive without all that negative emotion hanging around. So there’s my 2 cents worth for this year! My hope is that you’ll be able to be as productive as I hope to be this holiday season. We’re all busy. I know that. But you can still manage something (this is me giving ME a pep talk here). So tell me your best advice for getting writing (and other holiday tasks) done during this busy time. (because I need all the help I can get!)
Thanksgiving is the time of year where the concept of thankfulness is visibly front and center.
By personality and profession, I’m a problem-solver, instinctively attuned to recognizing, and then correcting, problems, exceptions, deviations and anomalies. Sometimes I need a reminder to break out of problem-solving mode, and consciously acknowledge the things I’m thankful for. Thanksgiving gives me that reminder.
Things I’m Thankful For, in no particular order:
Good health: For those of us living with chronic illness, the concept of good health is sometimes a day-to-day thing, but all things considered? 2013 was a pretty great year. I barely met my insurance deductible! Speaking of which: I am thankful to have health insurance.
Modern medicine: Every time I grumble about how many sticks it takes for me to have blood taken, I try to remember that had I been born even a decade earlier, I likely would have died during my teen years. I’m thankful for butterfly syringes, with their small-gauge needles!
Employment: I survived yet another round of corporate layoffs – oh, excuse me – “limited restructuring.” In this economic climate, I feel so fortunate to have a job that challenges me, and a regular paycheck, when so many equally capable people don’t. And did I mention, yay health insurance!
Family and Friends: They may not always understand me, but they always have my back.
Democracy: I feel fortunate to have been born to parents who live in a democratic society, where, within the scope of the laws of the land, I can say anything, do anything, be anything. As someone who lives some aspects of her life outside prevailing cultural norms, believe me I don’t take this for granted.
Last but not least…
READERS!! This year, I reconnected with the joy and exhilaration I felt when I wrote my very first book – before I sold and writing became /gulp/ a job.
Thank you to READERS everywhere, who give writers yet one more reason to listen to these voices in our heads, and to push our words out into the world.
10/31/13 Update: Thanks to everyone for stopping by! Our randomly selected winners are: Autumn and Amanda! I’ll be in touch, ladies!
True story: Last summer at the RWA conference, just as I was about to leave the hotel room for my first ever Literacy Signing, my lovely and talented cousin, Cara Connelly, proudly took a photo of me and sent it to family back home. Our dear aunt—who’s my biggest supporter and unfailingly honest—immediately texted Cara back.
Something along the lines of: “Tell Annie she needs to amp it up a little if she wants to make it as a romance writer. Good grief, she looks like a schoolteacher. She’s got to WORK IT.”
Cara jumped to my defense—sort of: “LOL, I know. But I think she might be showing a *little* cleavage. Will try to get her to put on some red lipstick at least.”
Me (grabbing Cara’s phone): “Will everybody please stop hating on my classic cardigan and sensible heels?!”
Geez, you’d think I was dressed like a nun or something. Wait, never mind.
I guess the point is, I seem to be missing the risqué romance writer gene. I don’t like drawing attention to myself or taking risks. My life, in general, is distinctly un-scandalous—and I like it that way.
But when I’m writing (or reading), it’s a completely different story. In books, the more scandal, the better—and my second book, ONCE SHE WAS TEMPTED, has plenty!
Everyone thinks Miss Daphne Honeycote is the sweet, innocent younger sister, but it turns out that she’s been hiding a shameful secret. Two, actually. Because she once posed for a pair of risqué portraits, and if they fall into the wrong hands it will mean ruin for her and, worse, for her beloved family. (You see, kids, this kind of risky behavior can get you in trouble!)
Anyway, I thought it would be fun if there was a way for risk-averse people like me to experience the thrill of posing for a scandalous portrait without actually, you know, getting naked. So, I created Daphne’s Scandalous Portrait Generator. Just answer the five completely innocuous questions below to find out what your portrait would look like. I dare you to give it a try!
Also, since my book releases today, I’m going to give away two copies of ONCE SHE WAS TEMPTED to random commenters (U.S. only, please). Now, go get your portrait!
What are your passions? Writing has been one of mine since my 2nd grade teacher published my Christmas story in the local paper. Eventually I became a mom and my priorities shifted to include my growing family. I became supermom, ready to turn frowns upside down with my arsenal of homemade puppy-dog-face cookies and castle cakes. Other interests crowded in, but for the most part, family and writing remained my top passions in life.
Castle Birthday Cake
Two and a half years ago I was given a third. I woke up in a hospital room to the words “it’s cancer” and life thrust me onto the most brutal topsy-turvy rollercoaster ever imagined. Teal ribbons, weekly chemo infusions, pills, doctor’s appointments, mouth ulcers, CT scans, shedding of ALL hair, a mailbox filled with get well cards, casseroles, flowers left on my doorstep, pain, panic, “who will you play with in heaven, Mommy, if I’m not with you” became my life.
When I first saw the chemo ward at the hospital, and all the bald, tired people hooked up to beeping machines with bags of drugs snaking into their bodies through various tubes, I cried on my husband’s arm. “They look dead, and I’m going to be one of them.”
What I didn’t realize at the time, but discovered quickly, was that those people are warriors, battling with everything they’ve got. I was proud to get to know them and to become an Ovarian Cancer Warrior, fighting for my right to live and be a mom, daughter, friend, and wife, fighting a beast that stalks women silently.
OC is the deadliest of the GYN cancers as it is the hardest to detect. I was diagnosed because I happened to mention some pelvic pain and mild bloating to my general practitioner when I went in for a possible broken hand. So I was diagnosed at stage IIc with a 70% chance of living 5 years. If I’d waited a couple more weeks, it could have easily moved to stage III with only a 20% chance to survive 5 years. So early detection of these whispered symptoms is crucial to survival.
Suddenly I had a new passion. My husband and I started the SHOUT Against the Whisper campaign with a mission to educate women about the whispered symptoms of this terrible beast. So…I have three passions in my life: writing, my family (although I’ve retired my supermom cape), and OC Awareness/Cancer support.
Me & my Highland Hero
One thing we can do, as passionate people, is to blend our passions together in a way to enhance each one. But doing so must be done thoughtfully.
My third book was about to release when I started chemo. Part of me wanted to scream “I have cancer; buy my book!” But the sane part of me knew that wasn’t appropriate (unless perhaps I was writing cancer books, which I plan to do BTW).
I swore to God, the universe, and to my friendly kale juicer that I would use all my talents to educate and help save women if they would keep me alive to do so. I am a public speaker and I write, and I plan to use my skills in any way I can to spread the warning, not just because I swore back in those grim days, but because I’m genuinely passionate about not letting cancer win.
So in the back of my books, I list the whispered symptoms. When I do book signings or workshops or interviews, I give out symptom cards and ask for articles to list them. This type of cross-promoting is very appropriate.
However, this doesn’t always work in the reverse. When on the chemo ward, if someone was reading a romance, I would tell them about my books, quietly and in conversation. I donated some to the ward. At my OC Awareness events I might give away books for collected donations to OC Research or Education, but it is a minor part of the big push of alerting women on how to save their lives. Every time I try to cross these two passions in my life, I must be thoughtful, because promoting my writing in the face of suffering can come across as crass and just plain wrong. Which can completely turn people off to your work, something that should be avoided, obviously, at all costs.
Some passions hit around the same level on the emotional/life importance barometer and can be intertwined easily. If you are passionate about wine and wine features in one of your books, touting your book to wine lovers, on Twitter or FB or in person, can be appropriate after you’ve set up a friendly relationship with them. You still must remain thoughtful so as not to come across as only being an advertisement, but the promo is less tricky than trying to sell romance books to someone who is fighting to stay alive.
Healthy Mom Again!
I am now finished with 15 months of chemo and am getting my life back in order, though I will never be the same. I’ve learned too much, felt too much, to be the same. Actually I think I’m better for the experience. In some ways cancer has connected me to readers. One woman wrote to me after reading the acknowledgments at the end of CAPTURED HEART where I detail out the symptoms. She was an OC survivor herself and thanked me for putting the symptoms out there in the world. I think she will be a reader of mine for life now. Sometimes there is cross-promo between very different passions, even passions that fall on very different levels. But it is something that cannot be forced.
So when you take stock of your life and your own passions and interests, do think of ways to use them to help promote your writing, but please remember to do so thoughtfully. What ways have you been able to cross-promote your passions?
Bloating, Pelvic Pain, Feeling Full quickly while Eating Less, Urinary issues.
Other symptoms may include fatigue, constipation, pain during intercourse, menstrual issues, indigestion, and back pain. If you have a symptom for 3 weeks or more, see your GYN for a pelvic exam.
If something feels abnormal, a trans-vaginal ultrasound and a CA125 blood test should be ordered. If you have a mass to be removed, your #1 way to survive if it is cancer, is to have a GYN Oncology Surgeon remove it.
It’s often said that writing can be a solitary business. And it’s true. Unless you have a ghostwriter, this is one job you can’t delegate to others. We cleave ourselves from the rest of the world in a quest make the scenes playing in our heads come alive on the page. Occasionally we might venture out to conferences or critique groups, but for the most part, we are…alone.
But no writer is truly an island (I know – another cliché. I’ll stop soon.). We need a companion. Someone who’ll listen without judgment to our rants about rejections or bad reviews. Someone who reserves the right to remain silent when we’re up against a deadline. Someone who’ll give us random cuddles, especially if it’s cold or there’s a stray dog roaming outside…
Yes, that someone I’m talking about is a cat. Felines are wonderful writing companions. This fact was not lost among authors like Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs, and Hemingway. (Check out the Writers and Kitties tumblr page.) Contemporary authors Haruki Murakami, Neil Gaiman and Stephen King are notable cat guardians, and cats can often be found slinking in and out of their pages. Figuratively, of course.
Sigmund Freud once said, “Time spent with cats is never wasted.” My two cats’ snores, purrs, meows and mere presence have the power to inspire and comfort. When those critters fall asleep on my lap while I’m typing, I’m loath to get up. So I keep writing – it’s a win for my productivity.
Not every cat is always up to the role of “wonderful writing companion.” Mine demand to be fed at precisely 7am and 6pm. The claws really come out if these times are not observed. Pinklepurr and Possum view laptops not as my most treasured writing tool but as a warming device for their tummies. If I let them outside, they’ll want to come back in immediately, and vice versa. Possum likes to play with whatever stationery I require at that exact moment. They even have their own blog, Twitter account and Facebook page. (I’ve had to put a stop to all that because supervising their online activities is a huge time suck…). But all is forgiven when they settle back into my lap and gaze up at me with a look that says, “Mum, do finish writing the damn book and feed us at 6:00, m’kay?”
Do you have a four-legged writing companion? How do they help or hinder your writing process? Ever been tempted to give your pets a starring role in a book?