Writing, Reading, and Trying To Stay Focused

It was a bizarre first week of January, to say the least. I’m going to try not to talk about what happened at the Capitol Building because my brain is still trying to process the remnants of the act. I didn’t know how much it would trigger my PTSD. Especially as someone I am familiar with shared his experience of being in lockdown in the building while this was happening. I remember immediately thinking of him and worrying, but he stayed in touch and I respect how honest he was about the entire ordeal. People like to say nasty shit to him, for no real reason other than trolling someone because their politics don’t line up with yours, but he’s been a good connection for me to make since moving to Massachusetts.

What have I been up to since January 1st? I’ve been reading like a madwoman, studying hard, and was also able to write over eight thousand words on a psychological thriller I’ve been trying to grasp for maybe six months, or so. The story is progressing nicely. 🙂 When I look back upon the beginning of the month, it seems like I had a steady, and successful week. I suppose I did. I’d consider it small steps, in truth.

This week is already different. I am determined to truly break open my new laptop (She’s beautiful and I shall name her Poison 8.0. I won’t lie; all of my laptops have names. Why else do they give me the option? 😉 It’s not for shits and giggles. I might not name a car, but I’m sure as hell going to name the laptop that keeps me creative and working.). The computer arrived much earlier than I expected, and after initially logging in, I put it back in its original box and set it aside. I had looked at it, from day one, as a matter for 2021. My brain, unfortunately, is still confused whenever I write the new year down or see it on anything. I have the same reaction to the calendar; it startles me a bit. I feel discombobulated, for lack of a better word. I feel like I blinked and there was a ton of change I haven’t quite caught up with just yet. I’ll get there, because obviously, work is taking off in a new direction and I have to be prepared for every moment of it. I am also going to take it to Best Buy and have all of my files transferred over as soon as I can. But only if it means getting them both back within the same day. I don’t want to miss a moment of this creative drive. It’s a nice ride to be on, and any good writer will tell you the same thing.

2020 was a good year for me financially and professionally, which encouraged me to break out of my shell a bit and look into new options. The “new options” and new projects are on their way, and I am encouraged by the authenticity of them. They are 110% ME from start to finish and I am proud of this fact. If you see me do something, know that I didn’t have help in it. I will only ever credit someone if I had no hand in it, but the work you see with my name on it, know I did it all.

The downside of having this success, on any level, is seeing how hard others have worked to try to one-up me. And it’s not so much, “work”, as it is someone trying to compete against me for no valid reason. It really made me roll my eyes; especially one person in particular who has felt more like a frenemy over the past 4-5 years, as opposed to a real friend. I realize some women don’t understand deep connections, and that’s okay, but I’m not going to get behind people, “just because”. That’s not who I am. My core group of friends know they will always have my support in whatever they do personally and professionally (Unless I am worried for them, in which case I will be honest. I’m known for my honesty because it’s part of who I am. Being direct shouldn’t be considered a bad thing.), and they support and encourage me, as well. They’re happy for me; not competitive. So, I’ve started severing ties here and there with toxic people and the negative energy they bring along. I do that to move forward, and I also do it because it helps my mental health not to see those low vibrations trying to touch me as I ascend.

I will say this now and never again: I don’t buy followers to make my numbers look better. Not here. Not on Twitter. Not on Instagram. Nowhere. When I look at my numbers, I know they are authentic. I don’t have bot followers. I have certainly been approached to pad my numbers, but that’s so disrespectful to my core readers and it detracts from my message, as well. My ego isn’t part of the equation here. I receive offers all the time to pad the numbers by tens to hundreds of thousands, and I refuse to do it. It sickens me. So while social media ebbs and flows, I let it be. I only follow and support people who are part of my circle and/or people I genuinely like. There’s no other reason to click the follow button, and I speak for myself on this level.

Occasionally a friend will have to remind me about their newest blog post, but they will also tell you I DO jump online and read it. I don’t allow people to have a lot of access to me anymore, so generally the people who can reach out instantly have my phone number and can text me whenever they want. Or, they will message me via a different app and we have a relationship based on communication and mutual support. I have seen these extremely talented individuals start from scratch and a few years in, they are, like me, not padding their numbers. I have more respect for that than I do for people who so obviously are buying fake followers. People don’t like to admit it, but I’ve had so many agents and publishers tell me they know it’s going on and they can’t abide by it. If it makes no sense to someone who knows how all of this works, then it should raise questions for others as well.

So, after I make hopefully just one more tedious phone call this week, I will have time to prepare the new laptop. In between reading and writing. If you’re going to be at home, you might as well be productive on as many levels as humanly possible. Because other than grocery shopping and laundry, books and creativity will always be there for me, and I’m grateful for that.

Stay tuned, my friends. Stay tuned. 🙂

Checking In Post-Procedure

Hello, everyone. Nothing major to report. I should be okay-ish in about 2-4 weeks. I had a minor in-office procedure done this afternoon and practically ran out of the building screaming because, sick people. If you’re sick, please stay home. Running to a hospital attached medical building might not be the smartest decision. I was there for continuity of care, or I would not have been there at all. I was as careful as humanly possible, but I’m sick of having to be. I am sure you feel this way, too. It’s a LOT.

This week, Peace Talks by Jim Butcher is on my reading list. I included a link in case you want to check out his books (Start with Storm Front, link included). I can’t believe how long I’ve been reading Jim’s books. Fun fact: He and I share the same birthday. The first time I read his work, I immediately knew he was a Scorpio. Jim is a brilliant story teller. If a friend hadn’t recommended his books to me, I never would have found 5-6 other authors, some of whom are friends all these years later. Everything happens for a reason.

I’ll get some writing done, too. After all, it IS my job. 😉

Anyone have interesting plans this week or a book they want to share?

Tools of The Trade

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Being without my laptop has been trying these past few weeks. I’m SO READY to be writing and creating, and I hate being stalled. Poor thing is a very expensive paperweight at the moment. 😔 I don’t want my creativity to dry up or meltdown. If anything, it’s ramped up considerably. Talk about frustrating! I found something that could be the perfect fit for 75% less, but I still have to wait, which sucks.

This week, I picked up some notebooks so that I could at least get some chapters written. The pens I already had. I purchase a box or two of the pink Uni-Ball Signo pens each year. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The ink is black and these pens are my faves. We won’t discuss how many pens are in my purse at any given moment. I was teased last year for signing something in purple ink while wearing a purple t-shirt, sneakers with purple accents, and I had a bottle of water with me that matched. “Do you usually match your ink to your outfit and water?” 😂 Smart ass.

Current hardcover inspiration: Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare, Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu, and Next Level Basic by Stassi Schroeder. I finished the latter this afternoon. It’s decent, but I cringed over the editing, which, in my humble opinion, was not well done. 🤷 However, I supported three different libraries, so that’s a positive. 👍

At the moment I’m on page two of a new scene, and I started reading Red Scrolls a few days ago. I always have 2-8 books in my current rotation. I’m trying not to be too miserable or upset, but I won’t lie; I’m getting there. However, I feel like there’s a lesson to be learned here, so I’m trying to keep calm-ish.

I’m having an in-office medical procedure done Monday afternoon. The anxiety is already creeping in. 😔 It’s 30% procedure and 70% Boston traffic, which is a fucking nightmare, and makes other major cities look GOOD. Especially if you don’t have to view the nearly three billion dollar casino that has yet to open. It looks like it was accidentally dropped off in the wrong neighborhood, except this monstrosity is intentional. I feel like it’s going to be an epic fail, but to each their own. I always come back with a vicious migraine, but after eight months, my migraine medication was finally approved! Celebrate the small things, yes? The photo series will continue.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

li

 

A Written Word

“A written word is the choicest of relics. It is something at once more intimate with us and more universal than any other work of art. It is the work of art nearest to life itself. It may be translated into every language, and not only be read but actually breathed from all human lips; — not be represented on canvas or in marble only, but be carved out of the breath of life itself.” ―Henry David Thoreau

Doubting Myself

All writers have moments when they feel unprepared. Me? On occasion I will say “I wish I were talented.” or “I can’t write this.” In other words, even the best of us have bad days. Or weeks. We all have a little doubt, or we’d be completely full of crap.

I hold it in really well, but I have a lot of doubt when it comes to material I haven’t been writing since day one.

When I first began writing, I did toy around with some fiction. I spent about four or five years writing it for FUN, and when I moved from one state to another, I trashed every single printed page and everything I’d saved it to. Why? Because I took a look at it, saw my growth, and realized that even though it had been fun, it was infantile compared to what I truly wanted to be writing. I didn’t ever want to come across it again because it was nonsense. I decided then that it was okay to read fiction, but it wasn’t in my best interests to be writing it. I did not personally excel in made-up worlds.

Fast-forward and I’ve since created a Dark Urban Fantasy series, which I will be refocusing on at some point in the future (Meaning not today, but soon.), and I am currently working on something I’m not completely comfortable with. However, it is allowing me to explore my emotional depth, and maybe that’s the entire point. Maybe that’s why this story haunted me for months. Maybe it is a reminder that I’m human, and that not every part of me has to be put into storage under lock and key. There are certain lines in the book that are straight out of my own life.

More than once I’ve caught myself saying “Do I have to publish it under my name?” Yes. Yes, I do. I cannot worry about the thoughts of others. I can only tell the story, and move forward. There will be good reviews, bad reviews, and middle of the road reviews. I’m used to that, because not everyone likes my writing style and plenty of people like me even less. Regardless of what people think or say, I still have to tell the story.

For the last few days, I took it upon myself to do some research. I read a lot to see if anyone had anything similar out there, as a precautionary measure. Even if I didn’t know about it, someone could still accuse me of a form of plagiarism. My determination after a few books is that after a certain point, a lot of stories start to blend into one another. Everyone tells their stories a little differently. Some are good, some aren’t, but ultimately I need to stop worrying. Comparing and contrasting isn’t my job. Writing IS.

And so I sit here today, as per usual, with a lower back and left shoulder that are in desperate need of medical treatment. Just walking yesterday killed me, and by walking I mean 3 ½ miles worth. I have no idea how I’m functioning today.

No, I’m not being stubborn. The insurance I had doesn’t cover the doctor I want to see, who is local, so I switched temporarily, just to be able to get in with ONE doctor until I can find someone to see me on the other plan. They told me it wouldn’t go into effect until May 1st, but that I am still covered regardless and not to worry. However, when I went to pick up my medication yesterday, I was already covered by the new plan. I stared at the pharmacy tech and she said “They’re SUCH liars. You can speak to five different people in a day and they’ll all tell you a different story. This happens every day, all day long with these people.” It isn’t the first time I’ve thought that in regard to this company, she just got it out of her mouth before I said something equally as honest.

Technically, I should be at Urgent Care instead of sitting here writing. Alas, this might be another one of those weeks where I don’t get to prioritize my health because of outside circumstances beyond my control. The doctor can’t see me until the end of the month/early May, so Urgent Care seemed like a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, they have bankers hours and I don’t want to show up only to be told they don’t take my insurance. I’d probably lose it on someone. As it is, I have until June 29th to change my insurance AGAIN and then start over with a whole new set of doctors that will be G-d only knows where! What’s the point of having health insurance when no one is accepting new patients OR they’re so far away, it’s utterly pointless?! It’s extremely frustrating to me.

And so, I write. I write through the pain, I try to write it out of my system emotionally, and I desperately try not to sit here in tears when the pain is too much (which is 99% of the time).

There are days I’d like my original life back. One where very few doubts entered my mind, and where being able to walk, sit, stand, think, etc., were not issues because my life wasn’t chock full of agonizing pain.

copyright © 2017 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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“Who Are You?”

A few days ago a family member offered to read my new manuscript. It was a very “Alice In Wonderland” moment. I damn near said “Whooo Are YOU?” and everything, just like the caterpillar asks Alice. I turned my face to the right, in utter mortification.

“I can be objective.” was their argument. Um, I’d rather you not be.

Then they asked “Don’t you have anyone you trust who you would want to read it and give you their honest opinion?” I said no. I wasn’t kidding. “How about your best friend?” My best friend Marion is not a big reader, mostly because she reads at work all week long and can’t stand it when she’s on her own time, which is completely understandable. I could write the worst crap and she’d tell me it was fantastic. Not that I’ve EVER written crap in the 20+ years she & I have been friends, but you get my drift. Bestie #2 suffers from Fibromyalgia with terrible brain fog, so asking her to read 100,000 words, or more, would be akin to asking her to lift a crate of dynamite over her head while setting a match to it.

I then had my writer’s moment of realizing I have no Beta Readers. None whatsoever. And in truth? I don’t really trust anyone with my work. As if it’s been a well-kept secret; I’m a fucking control freak. However, experience has taught me to not only protect my work fiercely, but NEVER to hand it over to someone I haven’t thoroughly vetted.

A friend isn’t always the right person to ask. If they don’t want to hurt your feelings, they’re not going to be 100% honest. As the person “most likely to be intimidating”, I don’t think a single friend of mine would say boo to me when it comes to my work. A few would be honored to read it, and others? Not so much. It’s putting pressure on someone. Plus, most people who aren’t writers themselves can’t point out issues. As an editor, I can point out issues in every single thing I look at that is written, from a restaurant menu to a real estate flyer. I self-correct as people speak; I’m THAT bad.

I don’t worry that what I’ve written isn’t good. I know it is. However, it’s not finished. Until you know the story is done, why would you say “Here, can you read this unfinished manuscript?” Seriously?!

Yesterday I hit 91,000 words on the umpteenth rewrite. The decision to either make this story a one-shot deal (which is what I originally intended) or to turn it into 2-3 books, is an ever-present issue. The longer it gets, the more you have to realize it has branch-out potential. The characters are strong, interesting, and I’d hate to lose them. They’re lighter than what I normally write. Freer. More enjoyable because they’re easier to tap into. It’s a lot like knowing your hands, or your own heart. These characters are pieces of me in a very different way, and I am protective of them.

One day, I will have to let them fly out into the world and be judged. That day is NOT today, in their current state. They need time to blossom and flourish, and that’s normal. I refuse to feel pressured to complete something when I know in my bones that it’s not done. While I was able to get past that feeling of being stuck around page twenty-five, I no longer feel that way any more. I do, however, feel like the story needs a break from me looking at it fifty times a day. Progress does not occur when you psychoanalyze and criticize your own body of work for ten hours, or more, each day. That’s not productive.

So instead of staying up until 3:30 in the morning writing, which I’ve been doing for weeks and weeks, I went to bed early last night and actually got under six hours of sleep (which is the new norm post-Spring Forward). If I hadn’t hurt a toe in my sleep (No, I have NO idea how I did it. I just know it hurts and I had to take care of it immediately.) and been searching for the Neosporin, thus letting Kitten know that Mommy is awake because I was rummaging around in the dark, I might still be asleep. Instead, her Majesty thinks it’s breakfast time. It’s not. I went into the kitchen and food bowls are still filled, water bowl is good, and breakfast isn’t until about 8:30 a.m. If she keeps being aggressive, I may have to feed them earlier, but this usually results in the death stare at 3:00 in the afternoon while I’m trying to work. Once you’ve got two sets of eyes on you, it’s harder to say “You have another hour before you’re getting fed.” They’re not being starved. I actually just switched them over to a new grain-free food this weekend. I do think she wants attention because the rain is coming down hard and it makes her nervous, but mostly, I know my cat. She’s all about the food. LOL.

Today I feel like I can look at the manuscript with fresher eyes. I can get the Lexicon prepared for the beginning of the book and maybe do a few other things that until recently, I just haven’t had the head for.

The freedom of working with personal deadlines, instead of rigid ones, it that I’m answering to myself. I’ve already achieved a LOT by writing this multiple times, and writing three different alternatives to the beginning of the story. I’m not patting myself on the back, but I’m not sitting here in shame, either.

If the average reader understood how long it takes for a quality book to be written, edited, and published, they’d be shocked. An author friend of mine, who is currently dealing with copyright infringement lawsuit (someone stole her work and didn’t credit her for it), is paid fifty cents  (U.S.) for every book sold. She’s a very interesting writer, spiritual, thought-provoking, and her take-home is fifty cents per book. Years worth of work put into each book she writes to share with the world, and that’s the paycheck. I was BEYOND insulted for her. And yet, this is often the norm. If she sells 20,000 books, her take-home is $10,000, before taxes. After taxes, it’s a grave insult, but this is such a common theme. It’s why so many people have turned away from traditional publishing and have started self-publishing. And yet, most self-published titles (not all, just most) are poorly edited, riddled with mistakes and major errors, and read like first drafts that were rushed. So when a close friend asked if I thought my manuscript would sell “this month”, I had to explain to her that it is a lengthy, oftentimes frustrating process to get anything sold.

Moreover, I have committed myself to writing a spec piece on Chronic Pain disorders and actual pain patients’ experiences from diagnosis to now. I will be interviewing people by phone and e-mail to get their stories into a series of articles. I write this in the hope that our voices will be heard, but I’m also not selling it for pennies on the dollar, either. It’s an important story that needs to be told, and who better than a pain patient to tell the story? People are reading, and believing, an awful lot of bullshit produced by the media on this particular subject. Patients are outraged, and yet, few of them are willing to stand up and speak up. Venting on message boards and in groups is a waste of time, but participating in something bigger? That’s how you get the right people to listen. If any reader would like to be a part of this, please feel free to leave me a comment and let me know you’d like your story told. I will be changing names for those who aren’t entirely comfortable with their business being put out there for the world,

Today is a brand new day. There’s work to be done, laundry to be washed, phone calls to be made, but if anyone is going to be reading my work this week, it’s gonna be me.

copyright © 2017 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Page After Page

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In less than a month, I’ve written over 220,000 words. Does that sound like a lot? It is. To do it in such a short period of time is a testament to me pushing myself to write every single day, and not to give up when I’ve felt stuck. Even if I only managed one page on a bad day, I still parked my ass in front of the file and went over it, and over it, and over it. It’s called determination, with a healthy dose of bat-shit crazy thrown into the mix.

I’ve written, rewritten, proofed, edited, done additional rewrites, changed the direction up, added new characters, strengthened characters I liked, and here I am, still trying to figure out the true direction of the story. For the first time, I wrote something 100% unplanned. I let it haunt me for three months before I said “Let’s give it a try and see how it goes.” It’s become so much bigger than what I first thought, and I’ve found most of it incredibly easy to write.

The challenge in the work is getting in touch with things I’ve personally found difficult in my life. It’s been therapeutic to work it out on the screen in front of me and allow myself to be authentic within the confines of a fictional novel. Instead of saying “That’s decent, it’ll do.” (something I never say, I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my writing), I’m finding myself excited to get up each day and return to work.

During a radio interview Nora Roberts explained how she began writing under the pseudonym J.D. Robb. Her publisher had, and I’m paraphrasing here, told her to “get a hobby” because her books were selling so well. Instead of deciding to actually take that advice and learn something new or do something fun, she decided to channel it into writing something else. I remember hearing the interview and laughing, until I realized today that I’ve sort of done the same thing. Instead of staying in my comfortable world where I’m 100% writing the truth, I’ve opened a door into a new genre for myself, and have found it’s equally as comfortable, if not more so. If you had suggested this to me ten or even five years ago, I would have laughed in your face. Instead, I’m breaking personal records on what I can achieve. I feel proud of that.

I hate reading things that make me roll my eyes. I hate reading things that don’t feel realistic, to some degree. I also hate feeling like I’m writing the same shit a thousand other people are writing. It gets boring very quickly.

I hate timid characters. They annoy me. I hate the damsel-in-distress nonsense. This is the 21st century, and I don’t know a lot of weak women. Unless you’re writing a period piece set in a different century, lose the giggly, shy female that you’d either slap or kick if you were to meet her tomorrow. Let someone in junior high write that crap.

Some of what I’m writing touches on gender roles. What makes a woman truly strong? What makes a man the right person? What makes a couple work well together? How do you stay strong through difficulties, your own idiocy, lapses in judgment, etc. I prefer to focus on the humanity. What are our characters if not perfectly flawed human-beings?

I have come to realize that most of my female characters (some, not all) are a version of me. If Erika Girardi can be Erika Jayne, then I can channel aspects of who I am into characters, too. There’s nothing wrong with that. I find it incredibly empowering.

When writing male characters, I work hard at channeling the men I know. There is no such thing as the perfect person, but there is such a thing as “the right person for you”, regardless of gender. Several of my friends described me as their soul-mate, from a friendship perspective. I firmly believe we have multiple soul-mates in life that we meet at different times. Some are with us forever and others come and go, leaving their mark. That’s real life. I’m virtually incapable of writing something and not bringing real life to it.

So as I sit here this afternoon, struggling with a scene I feel is emotionally crucial to the story, I have to remind myself to just be real. Take a deep breath and push through. And when I feel like I can’t focus, then it’s time for a break, but I have to get it done. I have to finish it. Maybe not today, but as soon as I can.

Let’s face it; no one would believe I wrote it if it were emotionally false.

copyright © 2017 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.