*If you don’t watch Strike Back on Cinemax, now might be a good time for a binge watch. It is, hands down, one of the best shows. The final season drops next year.*
This weekend I am going over my notes for book four. Yes, it has a title. No, I’m not giving that information out yet.
As I go over my prep work, I realize that it’s a pivotal time to start killing off some annoying characters. I recently wrote a fight sequence I am incredibly proud of. I spent weeks letting it play out in my head before I sat down and knocked it out, and I think it plays out beautifully, but that will be in the first book.
Book One (also titled), is an introduction. You meet all of the important characters, everyone necessary to make the book “come alive”. You learn some minor back-story, and you learn about things that probably won’t be pertinent within a reader’s mind until Book Three and/or Book Four. Laying the ground work is important, but now it’s time for action.
I recently posted a photo, courtesy of M.J. Rose, which basically stated not to annoy the writer or she’d kill you in a book. I’d already been pondering it, but now the list is at three people.
Killing someone on paper is incredibly gratifying. It is the ultimate “Fuck You” to a person that, in your every day life, may or may not have been told off, but is about to find out that you don’t mess around. They say that the pen is mightier than the sword, but the pen IS my sword and I know precisely how to wield it. Now I just have to decide who goes first and which weapons get used.
I LOVE this shit!
copyright © 2014 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Finding Work As A Writer
Depending on what your skill-set is, finding work as a writer isn’t easy. Like many writers, I am not classically trained. I liken it to the fact that I’m not classically trained to cook either, but I still kill it in the kitchen.
To clear up the difference between being a classically trained writer and one who isn’t: Yes, I took all the prerequisite writing classes long after realizing I had a gift. I went to a school where all forms of writing were the primary focus. I do not have a Journalism degree, and I didn’t major in anything that would put me to sleep or make me want to remove my eyeballs with a fork. Writing comes naturally to me, but on the freelance end of things, it is not always easy to find work.
There are thousands of people trying to hire you to write an e-book that may or may not even have your name on it, and many of them want to pay you per word, and some simply want to pay you as if you’re some kind of migrant worker with no knowledge of what an American wage should look like. I just saw one that strongly suggested a penny per word. Here’s the catch: They’d like 30,000 words and they’d like it in three days. Are you fucking kidding me?! I’ve got 30,000 words for you, but you’re not going to like a single one of them.
Then there are the jobs you, essentially, are bidding on. You submit a proposal where you tout your skills and show an interest in the particular project, and then what you’d like to be paid, either hourly or for the entire project. God forbid one puts a price on their talent and abilities! If I wanted to be paid like I work at Walmart or McDonald’s, then I’d work at Walmart or McDonald’s. No, that’s not an insult to those that work there, it is a comparison. People who work in retail and/or fast food don’t have it easy. They’re expected to do a lot for very little, many of them do not receive benefits of any kind, but hey, here’s a discount for you to make up for what we do not provide as your employer. No thanks.
If you’re joining any .com type of situation and have forked over anywhere from $30-$75, or more, never to earn a dime or even get a return on what you put out, then it is probably a scam. If you’re thinking it’s a great way to earn a quick buck, research the site first. If it has even one complaint against it or there are blog posts about it being a scam, do not, I repeat, do NOT, fork over a penny. You’d do better looking for work on Craigslist.
Yes, there are a great many options if you’re smart, resourceful, patient, and look for the right projects. In the meantime, as you diligently search, remember why you’re a writer and take a good look at your own work, even if you’ve deemed something finished. If there’s anything you need or want to change, work on, etc., take some time to re-focus and polish the rough cut stone that you are. There is not a single one of us on this planet that does not have room for improvement, myself included.
FYI: I lost brain cells this morning reading a list of things people would like to hire a writer like myself for. I think a piece of my soul died.
copyright © 2014 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
“Life is a book waiting to happen.” -Sloan McBride
How Much Does Music Influence Your Writing?
As a writer, I get asked this question quite a bit. As I work on the first four novels in what will be, at the very least, an eight book series, I do have a playlist I refer to when I am researching.
I have eclectic taste in music. It may or may not be the kind of music you like to listen to, but it’s truly all over the place. For book one, I have a 500 song playlist on my Kindle Fire. I listen to it at the grocery store, the nail salon, at home, in the shower. I have the same playlist on my phone. Some songs really speak to the individual characters, and others just set the tone for the world in which I have created. I have a similar playlist on my computer, but apparently due to some cross over repetition, there are less songs in that particular playlist. That, or I never bothered to update it when I switched over to the new laptop. Since I tend to access it via my cloud, that’s probably why.
Do specific artists influence my characters? No, but a few songs are like theme music for them. I have that moment where I think “Okay, so and so is on the page.”, as if Elvis just walked into the building. But again, there’s such an eclectic mix that I’m listening to Halestorm one minute and something classical the next. I always have my music on shuffle, always. I cannot listen to it any other way, and much like bad TV, I will often skip over songs obsessively until I find precisely the one I want to listen to. At certain moments, a song is often on repeat.
Unlike many genre writers, I do NOT have music playing when I am writing. It’s irritating and distracts me from the task at hand. When words are playing out in my head, the music has to be paused, muted, or shut off completely. But prior to that, I often have something on for long, or short, periods of time. It just depends on the mood I am going for and whether or not something external is influencing my brain in the moment. It also depends on whether or not I am writing in the midst of a migraine, in which case, I want it as silent as possible and might actually be writing silently in a notebook with a pen.
I do not have individual playlists for each of my characters. I have songs that intensely remind me of them, but that’s pretty much where it ends. Because I have eclectic taste, I do not feel the need to weave a ton of music into my work. In book one, I think exactly two bands are mentioned in total. No music is mentioned in the beginnings of the other novels, but that doesn’t mean that won’t change.
The protagonist is, much like me, a music lover, but she tends to use music in the same ways that I do in her daily life. That wasn’t intentional, it just sort of flowed that way. Some of the other characters, if this wasn’t for book purposes, would have some pretty epic songs involved with their appearances. If this were being written for television or movie purposes, the characters all have both visual, mental, emotional, and musical impact. I can’t describe it any better than that. The protagonist, perhaps, is a bit more meditational, a lot more internally verbal, yet still strong and influential.
My current musical influences as I write, at the moment, for different reasons, are The Band Perry, Kacey Musgraves, Carrie Underwood, Ed Sheeran, Miranda Lambert, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Snow Patrol, Gavin DeGraw, & Christina Aguilera. A very odd grouping indeed. Trust me, this can, and will, change on a dime.
Are there specific artists influencing your writing? If so, let me know who in the comments.
“How Much Does Music Influence Your Writing?” is copyright © 2014 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
People have no idea exactly how serious I am about this!
Photo credit to M.J. Rose. If you haven’t read her books, I highly recommend them.
“Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the internet.” ―Unknown
*This doesn’t apply to me, but it’s cute.*
It always helps to have a plan, but some days, it’s perfectly acceptable to wing it.
Over the last ten years or so, I’ve had a deep, abiding urge to tell a long list of people precisely what I think of them. In many instances, I have chosen to refrain. Not out of fear, but out of the fact that it doesn’t make me a better person, and it does not allow me to grow. If someone is a piece of shit to you, sometimes the very best thing for you is to walk away, not say anything, and keep on moving forward. Of course, if a person persistently pursues you for an answer, let them fucking have it.
Who is on my list? Family, a best friend of almost 19 years, and more recently, some “friends” that have proven themselves to be so incredibly full of shit, I am amazed they can breathe actual air. I am pretty sure they are walking EPA violations.
Family is always a mixed bag for a lot of people. Does anyone truly come from the perfect family? I used to think some of my relatives were so pulled together, until one particular funeral when I realized exactly how fucked up and dysfunctional every single person truly is. It was as if their masks had come off at a masquerade ball and I was suddenly able to see them for exactly what they truly are. It’s scary when people put up such good false identities, even to their own family, that you start buying into their bullshit. It’s all a facade, because in the end, no family is perfect, not everyone loves each other, hell, most of them don’t even like each other. In truth, it’s perfectly okay. Moreover, it clarified a lot for me.
Not every friendship is perfect either. The best friend I have issues with is someone who has been a part of my life for an exceptionally long time. We haven’t spoken in four years, yet she occasionally “likes” one of my Facebook posts or comments on something I write. That’s confusing to me, because if I mean anything to her, she should have apologized a long time ago for the crap she’s pulled. I love her, but I also hate her, all in the same sentence. There are moments when I just can’t imagine having allowed her to become a part of my life, and in the same breath, I sometimes wonder how she & I can not speak for so long, and then, out of nowhere, pick up like it was yesterday, like nothing has changed. The truth is, a lot has changed. I have changed. I think this time she knows that, and she’s afraid of what the outcome will be when she inevitably slithers her way back to me. She has no idea what I have in store for her. No, she doesn’t read this.
As for false “friends”, I have no use and even less time for delusional people who think their shit doesn’t stink, or who take offense to things that aren’t offensive, like the truth. If you’re my friend, then you’re my friend all of the time, not when it is convenient for you to be. If you’re not “Ride or Die”, then get the fuck away from me, period. I don’t have time for drama, petty nonsense, or bullshit. I would much rather close ranks than allow some two-faced degenerate anywhere near me, my heart, or my work.
90% of the time, I am an incredibly professional, driven, hard-working woman, and I’m a lady. The other 10% of the time I’m silently contemplating the benefits of letting a person know what I think of them, only to decide it’s not worth it, that they’ll reveal their snake-like personalities to others all in due time, and I can just sit back and let it unfold, without ever having to say a single nasty thing, however deserved it may be.
Sometimes, no matter who the person is, they’re not fucking worth it, and it is perfectly okay to come to that conclusion. The one thing that bothers me though is knowing that as I rise through the ranks, these very same people will return in an attempt to ride my coat-tails. I am going to have to employ a few people to physically and publicly sever the ties.
In short, be careful how you treat people. You never know where they’re going, or how high.
copyright © 2014 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
My Writing Roots
We all start somewhere, especially in terms of writing. My roots are steeped in tradition in the sense that I come from a family well versed with the written and spoken word. I, myself, have a way with words. There’s not a lot I won’t say. I’m direct, I have no time for bullshit, I speak the exact same way that I write, but I wasn’t always like that.
At an extremely young age, I was painfully shy and introverted. My extroverted self only “came out to play” when she was completely comfortable with those around her. There had to be a measure of trust, and even still, I held back a lot. Today, I am an introverted extrovert, but I’m also an extremely dominant personality. I can’t even begin to count the times the word “intimidating” has been used to describe me. The people that know me best know that I’m actually not like that, but it’s something I can turn on in an instant. We all have built-in mechanisms we use when dealing with others. If I have to amp up my intimidation factor, I go with it. Dumbing myself down and playing the pathetic card aren’t things I do very well. What can I say? I didn’t major in drama, and I’m not an actress. To quote another Scorpio woman, “I’ve never faked it for a man, and I’m not going to fake it for anyone else.” Exactly.
I started writing as an alternative form of communication. I’d been given a school assignment at the time and I put it off for as long as humanly possible, until my mother was finally clued in that this assignment was way past due, and my Mom, God Rest & Bless Her Soul, was not the type to let her kids fail. She also never sugar-coated anything. If I had no talent in any area, she’d tell me not to quit my day job. If I had talent in an area, she was the first person to tell me to run with it. More parents should be that way.
I was convinced I did not have the ability to do said assignment, but my mother said “Honey, you’re over-thinking this. Just write what you think and write what you feel. If someone doesn’t like it, that’s their problem. You’ve still done the assignment and given it your best.” It was a very simple, honest statement, but it was as if she’d opened some kind of gateway for me, and in many respects, I know that she did. How many parents ever tell their children to say what they think and feel?! None that I know, but she opened a door that day, a door that has always remained wide open for me. I’ve been writing ever since.
I might have been kind of raw initially, but that grew into talent and ability very quickly. People commented on it, people took notice, and I started winning small awards. I was known for the fact that I was a writer, and I was also known for the fact that keeping my mouth shut when a voice needed to be heard wasn’t high on my list of priorities.
As I previously said, I was quiet, shy, and observant. Most writers are great observers of others, as well as observers of behavior and body language. I immediately realized that people responded to my opinionated take on all things, and I went with it. That eventually led to me operating my own “by-subscription-only” publication. It was not a magazine, but it wasn’t a flimsy joke either. A year into that project I was faced with a decision, realizing I could not run two publications simultaneously, and soon found myself the founder & President of a non-profit fan organization specializing in an individual’s athletic career (and at this point, I say “athlete” with a very thinly veiled cough. I’m not naming names. If I did, you’d throw rotting fruit at his house. I’m actually all for that, really. I’d be happy to give you his name and address. Okay, so I’m actually too classy to do that, but I’d still love to see someone hit him with an over-ripe tomato, or 400.).
I did everything from dealing with fans one-on-one, to handling personal appearances. Public & Fan Relations is no joke. I was also responsible for a fan based publication, which went out to roughly three thousand people all over the world at a time at its height (yeah, the post office loved me!). Sounds like no big deal, but it is, especially when you have to write more than half of it, do the layout and design, approve everything for print, and take it all by hand to the copier yourself. I had gotten to the point where I was turning people down because membership was out of control. If someone hadn’t said to me one day “You’re far too talented to be working for the likes of this asshole. You need to be doing your own thing, promoting yourself and your own work.”, I might still be in that job, which is still one of the most under-appreciated, but mind-blowingly amazing things I have ever created and done.
I did not have staff assisting me with any of that work. Not unless you count the fact that a handful of people submitted work, photos, and art for the publication, most of which had to be re-written, revamped, heavily edited, etc. And don’t get me started on all of the fan mail, because I answered all of it, every single bit of correspondence, myself. Not in a “form letter” kind of way, but in the most personal, professional way I knew how. I would never have been able to grow if it had not been for the fans, for word of mouth, for people being hooked on the work I produced. The work was mine. Every single second of hard work was mine, and mine alone, and in turn, people tried copying it. Many took my hard work and did exactly that without offering me so much as a “Would this be ok?”, and they quickly found out that the word “copyright” isn’t a lame or tame expression, it means “I own this, don’t fuck with it.” True writers and artists do not appreciate or respect theft of their work. Plagiarizing someone else’s hard work because you, yourself possess not an ounce of talent is cowardly, pathetic, and a host of other things I am lady enough not to say.
After many, many years of this work, which resulted in carpal tunnel syndrome, migraines, and ulcers, I then went through a series of personal & professional loss, and I had to take a step back. That step turned out to be a huge step away, a step I needed. It was a huge turning point.
Time doesn’t heal everything, but it can certainly help you see clearer than you’ve ever seen, to the point where you say “I’m done.” The only difference is, I meant it. I was done being unappreciated, I was done with the severe lack of respect, I was done catering to people who only wanted to get closer to what I had earned. It’s an extremely unattractive thing, riding someone else’s coat-tails. I went from being a sought after friend & adviser to having just a handful of people left in the world that I valued. More would continue to slip away, but after a while, you no longer think about it any more. It’s done, it’s the past, and I don’t spend a lot of time looking back.
At that particular point in time I chose a different career path and even started writing a book about my experiences in the new career. I had a lot of things I wanted to accomplish there, and only in the last year did I discover that someone else came up with a similar idea and is now turning a profit on it, which just goes to show you that there’s some truth to the saying “Everything under the sun has already been thought of.”, and yet, I am still fiercely protective of my work and ideas. I’m a writer, I have to be.
I shelved the book after getting my degree, not because I couldn’t finish it, but because my father was losing what would be a 15 year battle with cancer. I couldn’t write, constantly be at the hospital, constantly care for my mother, and maintain a decent level of sanity. The day I got a phone call from an Emergency Room physician telling me to get to the hospital immediately, I was prepared for the worst.
I stood there with my family, my father out like a light in cardiac care recovery, as a doctor quietly told me that the cancer they THOUGHT they had gotten through multiple operations, through several rounds of radiation, and the experimental treatment that landed him in the hospital for over a month that didn’t rid him of cancer, but brought all of his heart problems to light, had spread throughout his body. She was a fine physician, truly, but the next year and a half was hell on my father & my family. In the middle of all this, my Mom became sicker than she had originally been, so it was a constant back & forth. I was pretty sure I’d never write again, and at that point, I didn’t care.
I knew for quite some time that I was going to lose my father young. I always knew he would never see me get my degree (I graduated between semesters so that I could be close at hand, just in case.), that he’d never walk me down the aisle, that he’d never get to see his Grandchildren. I’d known this to the depth of my soul for a very long time, and yet the morning the phone call came, I was prepared and unprepared, all in the same breath. When I had gotten the final notice that it was time to move him to hospice, I fought like a vicious animal over it, I refused to do it, until he finally agreed that it was time, he’d had enough. By then he could no longer speak, the only person who understood him was me, and it was an extremely upsetting time for all of us.
Right about that time I picked up a newly released CD at my local Target and these incredible lyrics popped right out at me from the CD jacket. I read them to my Mom and said “Do you think I could write the eulogy? Would that be ok?” Traditionally at Jewish funerals, even the most relaxed, laid back ones, the only person who speaks is the Rabbi. I’ve always found it cold, a bit phony, especially if the Rabbi doesn’t truly know the deceased, and I wanted to do something that I knew would honor my father when he eventually did pass away. It took me about two months to piece it together, and the night before the funeral I was up until way past my bedtime putting the finishing touches on it. It’s truly one of the finest things I have ever written, and I know I not only made my father proud that day, but I pretty much brought the house down. People who have known me my entire life came up to me afterwards and said “I had no idea you could write like that!”
I remember e-mailing my best friend a copy and she was so floored by what I’d written. Unable to be present herself for the funeral, we immediately made plans for her to be present for the unveiling the following year, not knowing that my mother would pass away five months later, making her even more intent on being present, because she knew & loved my mother.
I gave the eulogy at my mother’s funeral as well. A cousin I don’t really speak to came up to me afterwards and said “You have a real gift, you should do something with it.” Yeah, because my incredibly expensive degree is just plain useless!! Backwards comments are so insulting. For my parents’ unveiling, I gave an 11 page speech to my best friends (my brother’s & my own) and the few family members that deigned to show up who I share blood with, and not much else. My Aunt being the exception in the family, we’re very close and I love & respect her. I absolutely adore my Rabbi as well, and he has been an immense support from day one. He too encourages my progress as a writer.
It was right around that time that I started praying more than usual. I would often say “Mom, send me an idea I can work with. Send me something we’d both love to read.” My Mom was the person I shared books, music, movies, and TV with. We’d fight over books, we loved so many of the same things, and sometimes she’d read something and say “You could do this. You’ve got what it takes. Don’t box yourself in to a genre, you’re better than a lot of what’s out there.” Sometimes I wrote that off as my Mom being my Mom, and simply being proud of her daughter and believing in me, but eventually I did start believing that she was right. Most of the time, she was, so why couldn’t she be right about this as well?
One day, a tiny idea blossomed inside my head. I shook it off, but it became persistent and it was my mother’s voice basically saying “I like this. You can write it. Start typing, here’s an idea, see what you can do with it.”
I spent a lot of time after that writing, researching, and four months in I presented the first few chapters to my Aunt for her opinion, and because I desperately needed feedback I could trust, feedback not my own. She liked 90% of it and recommended some minor changes. A few months later I was back with the changes she had recommended and the additional chapters I’d been working on. She loved it, every bit of it, and said “You need to finish this. If I was flipping through this book in Barnes & Noble, I would buy it, and so would a lot of other people.”
Like my mother, my Aunt isn’t into the sugar-coating. If I lack the talent, I’m told I lack the talent, whereas when I’ve got it, I am encouraged to keep on pursuing it. She’s been that way with me my entire life, she’s never played games with my emotions or bullshitted me, so I respect her advice and value her opinion.
Book 1 has since received an official title, and despite being in re-writes, it will eventually be ready to be shopped around. When you begin a book and it’s not a stand-alone novel, it’s important to do the groundwork for future novels, and to think about the back story to your characters. I’ve got most of the series story-boarded out and I continue to write and do research on where the story will take you, what you will learn about each character, all while taking you on a believable adventure that you can get lost in. I, personally, prefer stories that, while fiction, are still pretty honest in the telling. There is a LOT of truth in the first book and in each of the books I have started writing chapters for. In many respects, these books are therapeutic in how they have helped me write out my anger and hostility about certain things, but also tell a story I believe in.
Writing hasn’t just given me my voice and a great deal of strength & confidence, but it’s also how I met my best friend, and many other friends that I am close to and would do anything for.
Marion found me through a mutual acquaintance when I was doing Public & Fan Relations. Four years into our friendship (this was before e-mail became so huge, believe it or not we actually wrote *gasp* letters to one another. And by “letter” I mean 6-20 page letters on a weekly basis. Marion blames me for the length, apparently I’ve got a lot to say. LOL.), she & her sister flew here, though I was living in another state at the time, and spent a week visiting. We did everything from shop, goof off, laugh, enjoy great food, and I took them to the original Yankee Stadium where we took in their first official baseball game. It was a great week, despite the serious late July/early August heat/humidity, and we have been friends from day one. I have other friends that have also come in to my life through my writing and remained my friends through thick & thin, not caring what career change I may have made at any given time, but caring about who I am as a person, and knowing that at the end of the day, I say what I mean and I mean what I say, and that I am there for them no matter what, that my love and support will not waver. I can travel to a lot of places in this world and I have family in those countries, people who I’ve known for so long that they are closer to me than blood, and I think that’s a fabulous thing. Writing has gifted me with a lot, and I will always be grateful to my Mom for giving me the confidence to realize that this gift was in my arsenal.
So there you have it, my writing roots. Trust me when I say that as a writer, no matter what we may write about, we tell some of the best (true) stories.
Originally published in April of 2013.
copyright © 2013-2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
I only have a handful or so left to read to meet my tiny Goodreads challenge this year. I’ve done well over the last three years with these challenges, very well, in fact, but this year Mama needs to write and be focused. Hope someone gets to enjoy a good piece of prose this weekend. I will be writing, after devouring Divergent on Blu-Ray.