Two Years & Six Publishing Contracts Later…

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Yes. I know. I took forever to get back here – you can punch me in the face now. But I spruced up the joint, and brought in a new theme to signify that I am committed to blogging here at least once a month. Mostly.

To be honest, I never thought when I started this blog that my alter-ego’s pen name (she writes erotic romance for those of you who are just tuning in) would become a viable source of future income. No – EL James and I are not exactly hanging out at swank luncheons just yet, but I can actually see the potential. Especially given the recent turn of events.

First I’ll do a quick recap. When I last left you, I was working on turning in my third manuscript for my ER publisher. I had also recently become inspired to write a sci-fi/dystopian mainstream romance that I would actually want to submit using my real name *gasp*. When I say submit – I mean seek a literary agent, but anyway, that’s off in the future still.

Then life hit me like an IED that came out of nowhere. I won’t go into the gory details, but personal crap took me down like a wrestler on crack. How many other similes can I come up with? I’ll leave it at those, and just say that my inspiration to write came to a complete halt. I wrote a total of about a thousand words in the span of three months. During that time, the publisher was sort of hoping I would actually turn in the second part of my series, especially since the first one was coming out in March. Oops. My editor told me not to fret too much, as the second one wasn’t on any specific schedule yet. So at least I hadn’t completely destroyed the first real writing opportunity I’d had in my life. Yay me.

Then the strangest thing happened. It typically wouldn’t be thought of as strange, except it was the last thing I was expecting to happen to me. I woke up one morning a couple days after book one in my series came out, and there was an email from the marketing dept. of All Romance ebooks. Odd. Why would they be contacting little ol’ nobody me?

I was on the bestseller list.

*choke*. They gave me a little badge and everything. Sure that this must be some sort of horrible prank, or misguided error, I went to their site, and there I was sitting at #8. *double choke*. And on from there it went. It climbed up to #1 and stayed there for a week. ( I had to take screen shots – as I feared it may never happen again) In the meantime, it made it to #2 in one category, and #3 & #5 in two other categories at Amazon. It hit # l at Amazon UK in the gay romance category, and stayed there (with a few intermittent drops as new releases came out) for close to a month.

No one was more shocked than me. Now, I don’t how shocked my publishers were, but they suddenly had a renewed interest in my alter-ego. More importantly, I suddenly had a renewed interest in writing. The best thing that came out of all of this is that I cared again. I’ve worked for years to get out there as a professional writer, and I was not going to let the crazy curveballs that life thonks you on the head with screw it up for me.

I also have to mention  – not in a false humility way, but it is true – that a lot of my current success has come from being in the right place, at the right time, writing the right genre. There was a lot of luck involved as I couldn’t have predicted it. I couldn’t know that the 50 Shades thing would be so epic and far-reaching. Although I researched publishing houses before I chose the one that I sent my first piece to, I had no way of knowing that they would like what I wrote, that I would get the best editor ever, or that they would suddenly become aggressive and pro-active in promoting their authors. Something that few publishing houses of any size do.

You see, the best news was yet to come.

About a week ago, The publishers set up an appointment to speak with me about my career with them. (More gasping and choking) I spent hours making notes and practicing how not to say something incredibly stupid. Having little luck there, I just hoped I wouldn’t completely annihilate my credibility as an author – or human being – and still maintain a future with them. I’m happy to report that my dumb comments were kept to a minimum, and they are now working with me to brand my author name, put in place PR strategies to promote the upcoming release of part 2 of my series ( I cracked that bad boy out with 33k words in 3 days – at the end of it, I was seriously having an out of body experience), and to keep me to a regular writing schedule with hard deadlines. This was all proposed to me, and I happily accepted.

Fortunately, a couple months ago I finally, once and for all, stepped down from manager to assistant manager at work. This has afforded me about 8 -10 extra hours per week for this madness.

As a writer, this has been an amazing journey for me. On a personal level, I am so grateful that I’ve been pulled up out of the tarry fetid swamp I was drowning in just a few months ago. For others out there, all I can say is keep pushing through. You never know what goodies might be waiting for you around the corner.

 

Workspace or Potential Hoarding Episode?

It is the last day of my vacation. Sigh. I’m perusing my to-do list, and have completely accomplished close to two of the ten items I had written down. Yup. I have to confess that the internet is an evil, evil curse that has me in its vice-like grip on a daily basis. Lest you think I’ve just been shopping at Amazon (ok, maybe a little) and reading about Lindsay Lohan’s latest arrests, most of it has been productive work on my alter-ego’s blog, research, sales promos, putting together and ordering some SWAG, and other social media concerns.

But seriously – I just don’t have time for a job. Unfortunately, I don’t have time for homelessness either, so off to work I shall go tomorrow.

(Random side note: As I am in the process of writing an historical erotic manuscript, I find that the cadence of my prose has taken on a decidedly 19th century lilt. Stuff of nonsense!)

Okay, I’m back. On the plus side, each day as I have forced myself to “close tabs” on internet explorer, I have managed to squeeze out  approximately 16K words on said historical work. 4K more, and I will have reached my vacation goal. It could happen. Remember – sleep is for wimps. The other plus side is that I had a BLAST with my family last weekend when we actually left the confines of our little coastal world and went somewhere. Shocking, I know. We had two eating and shopping and eating, and more eating packed days, first at the Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood –

Reason # 1 for the visit: they filmed the exteriors of The Shining here.

Now we’ve been on the Pacific Crest Trail in California & Oregon. Okay, not for more than a few hours – but it still counts!

There were chipmunks running around the dining room where we ate at their amazing lunch buffet. Gordon Ramsey would be scandalized. I thought they were cute. What’s a little rodent hair amongst friends? And then we continued our frivolity in Portland at the Pittock Mansion

Kashmere with John – Lord of the Manor

 

Living Room/Slash Music Room

And the Washington Square Mall and Cheesecake Factory where much money was spent on doo-dads and smelly stuff from Hot Topic, Spencer’s and Bath & Body Works, culminating with a birthday feast at the Cheesecake Factory. At one point, I was certain I would never be hungry again (as if) - we ate so much.

 

(2nd random side note: I was so inspired by the Lodge & the Mansion, that they are now being featured as locales in my sci-fi romance epic, which, God help me, shall be finished one day. After the other myriad projects. And stuff.)

Which brings us all back to my last day of vacation. On the sad little list is an entry that says “Clean-up and organize workspace”. If I’d had an ounce of intelligence, that would have been the very first thing I tackled. How I get anything accomplished is beyond me. But I realize I’ve always battled the whole ‘paper’ thing. I can remember complaining to someone years ago – prior to the advent of PC’s for every man, woman & child on the planet – that I was drowning in paper. Once the PC came along, I thought all my worries would be solved. Yet – all that has seemed to accomplish is to produce more and more paper. I should write a horror film about the Revenge of the Killer Document.

Alright, prepare to be frightened:

I know its in here somewhere…

You should have seen the office back when I had the record label – now that was epic. Band photos, post cards, lists of distributors, flyers, radio charting, festival lists, record store lists (back when those still existed) and Lord only knows what else. A great deal of it tends to be my frenzied scribbles on scraps of paper whenever anything leaps into my frazzled little mind.

So even though the rest of the house is a well-oiled, meticulously kept clean machine (courtesy of the hubby, who has kindly decided not to divorce me over my little corner of paper hell), this one area needs some serious help. In the interest of heel-dragging and not cleaning it up, I have elected to write this post. But by doing so, I have also crossed one more thing off of my list.

Paper Trumps Digital

I had quite the surprise today on my day off from retail hell – the author copies of my first book showed up at the door. They are shiny, and physically real. I can hold them in my hands, and show them to the neighbor. (I had the sudden urge to spell it “neighbour”, the British English I use when I’m writing is taking over my brain.) There’s definitely something about holding an actual paper copy in my hands of my book. The digital releases have been very exciting; the first time I saw one of my books listed on Amazon – wow – what a rush.

But this is a very special first time. When I was 12 years old and dutifully, and at times frantically, writing my first Wren the Detective stories, I dreamed (“dreamt” in Brit-speak) of the day when I would hold that first book in my hands. It only took a gazillion years and a lot of real-life drama for me to plow through, but it just goes to show ya’ – never give up on a dream. Ironically, I sort of had. Not completely, since I had to have some ambition to get the thing out there, some hopes, but I had let go of the desperation to make it happen that used to drive me. Particularly in the music biz – oh Lord, what a nightmare that was.

Writing for me now has become something I can completely immerse myself in and enjoy. I’m not saying this just because I got published. I’m not exactly burning up the NY Times bestseller list here, but in my own little corner of the world, it’s really nice. In the realities of the entertainment business – and I had already cut my teeth in acting and music – most, and I really mean MOST – people do not make it big. If you survive with your sanity and don’t o.d., you’re doing awesome.

But this feels like a good beginning. It’s a tangible result. I’ve seen some royalty checks from both self-pubbed and traditionally pubbed efforts. I’m going on a year in the writer business, getting paid to write something that I created. Again, not enough for me to run screaming from the crazed, clothes-throwing, subhuman tourists, but enough to be really grateful to receive each month. I’ve had positive reader and review site response. My editor has been wonderfully supportive and complimentary.  I just signed a contract for the new book series I’ve been yakking about, and filled out the book information form for the publishers. The first 50 K installment is turned in for edits, and I’m starting Book 2. So right now, it all feels as though it’s headed in the right direction.

The most important thing to me personally? What is more exciting to me than any other actual event related to the writing? The floodgates have opened. My mind is going constantly in a way it hasn’t in literally almost fifteen years. In terms of fiction writing – more like thirty years. In the last few days, I’ve tossed out another 8 K words on a mainstream sci-fi romance that’s been festering inside of me the last couple months. I jotted the main ideas down, and pushed it aside to make sure that my gay firefighters from Mesa Arizona could get together and live happily ever after. But as soon as I turned that in to my editor, I started going to town on this other one.

It feels GREAT. Maybe something really big will happen with it, and maybe it won’t. All I really care about is getting it out of me and on paper. Okay, so if I do publish it, it will definitely be an ebook. But it will also be in print, because when you’re living your writing dreams, paper really does trump digital.

And as promised, Lord Chumsley, the Wonder Lizard:

Here Lizard, Lizard, Lizard

How long has it been – twelve years or something? Note to person who left me a message on Facebook six months ago – I never remember to check “other” messages, and now it won’t let me reply.

Anyway. The last two months have been…lame. So I’m going to pretend they didn’t happen, and we can just move on from there, ‘kay?

My alter-ego has completely taken over my life (the part that isn’t being taken over by my day gig – oops, I forgot - I wasn’t supposed to go there), so it’s very difficult to remember that there’s this other person named Wren Andre. Sort of like the premise for the Stephanie Meyer book “The Host“, soon to be a major motion picture. Hopefully, the first half of that film won’t be as excruciatingly boring as the book was. It got better after the first four hundred pages. Good thing I don’t give up easy.

I am feeling the need however, to hang on to a tiny part of me, and to not just completely let my Host envelop me. Especially since she spends way too much time contemplating naughty situations and positions for her characters to get in. For those who are wondering my opinion: Yes, I think Fifty Shades is going to help the genre and garner new readers. And despite the level of writing, you have to give credit: she created two characters that transcended horrible copy-editing and rampant overuse of the term “Oh my”. Isn’t that what readers want – to be engaged and lost in the lives of these fictional creatures? Most people don’t read fiction to critique it for an English Lit. class, they read it to enjoy it. Get over your jealousy people. I have. Almost.

With that said, let’s see if I can get back into some nostalgic writing here soon. That’s the plan, as I’m happy to say that my one year-anniversary happened somewhere around now, I’m pretty sure. For those of you following my pod-person’s journey, she has just completed the final line edits to her second release coming out in September, and is wrapping up the submission draft for part one in her three book series. That has been gruesome – I estimated each book would be 30 – 40, 000 words – and the first one comes in at almost 50 K. It’s not even the writing that’s the epic part – it’s the re-writes for something that long. Seriously – one of the characters somehow stole the other character’s Ford Bronco halfway in ( I accidentally switched their cars around – duh), and things like time of day (was it morning or evening?), name of a restaurant, have three or four days gone by – all of it becomes monumental the longer the thing is. No pun intended.

I’d might as well throw this in as well – my publisher has opened up a new line called “Clandestine Classics”. Remember Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? Well, take out the zombies and add in smutty scenes instead. They announced it to the world a couple of weeks ago, and the press has been crazy. Yes – my alter-ego made a proposal since they sent out the submission call only to their authors, so we’ll see. Sorry – I can’t tell you which one! Here’s a you tube video with a segment that Jimmy Kimmel live did on CC when the press broke (pretty hilarious):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5ZIlC5vZ48

Finally, the most exciting news of all: I pick up Lord Chumsley, my bearded dragon, tomorrow morning. He’s a big fella’ and will keep me company here by my computer. I shall post lizard photos soon.

Thoughts on Prometheus and Other Life Forms…

Such as the ones I help out everyday at work. Work…right…I was going to blab about that today, (you guessed it, more changes!) but alas, something much more interesting happened: the new film by Ridley Scott, Prometheus. The hubby and I have been anxiously awaiting this film for a long time now. Anyone who is a hardcore fan of the original Alien film, Ridley Scott, Sci-fi, the meaning of life, needs to drop everything they are doing at this exact moment and run to the theatre and see this film. NOW.

The film itself has been shrouded in a lot of secrecy, and smartly so. I think having too much hype and pre-conceived notions about it would have ruined the joyous wonder of experiencing it. People have speculated as to whether this is alternately another installment in the Alien saga, or a prequel. Or even that it had nothing to with Alien at all. Since I’m sure the internet and those who love to abuse it will post spoilers galore, and give loads of glorified opinions on the philosophical ramifications of thus and so, the creature’s design, comparisons to Alien, etc. , I’ll spare you all of that.

This is not specifically a review of the film, it’s more about the impact that it had on me. It is smart, and it makes you think. It is also gorgeously filmed with a soaring musical backdrop. The acting – particularly Noomi Rapace, the original Dragon Tattoo girl, Lisbet, in the Swedish version of the film – is excellent. The story and writing are excellent. H.R. Giger‘s design still informs the look. But most of all – it is filled with a hell of a lot of suspense and horror that is reminiscent of the original Alien.

I was engrossed the entire time watching it, and I was very much drawn into the story, as well as the fervor that the lead character had for finding the answers to our origins. It was all handled elegantly, and without the likely cheese factor that such a subject might be prone to (Cocoon anyone?). Go see this film – I hope I’ve made that clear. Final word on the content – it is graphic and definitely deserving of an R rating. Anyone contemplating on taking a kid or teen who is used to gory films, they may not appreciate the origin of the species theme, and find it too boring.

Now that I’ve planned out your weekend’s entertainment, I bid you farewell until next time when I’ll bring you up to speed on the work/new book release stuff. Happy Alien hunting!

Exercising My Right to Freely BBQ

I am so off schedule, it’s up there with completely ridiculous. Obviously, my posting at this blog has suffered greatly, and most of you who follow along on my writing journey know that it’s due to the recent publication of my alter-ego’s first book.

Quick update: Going great – seems like a good response so far. No reviews or royalty statement, so I am currently in Wonderland as to how many units have sold and whether or not people love or hate this thing. For my impatient demeanor, that has been frustrating, yet to be expected. I am moving to phase 2 of promo; after the virtual blog tour for the anthology, I am now setting up – or supposed to be setting up, sigh – the next blog tour for the standalone release on June 11th. More on that later.

That actually brings me to the present, and why I’m even more off-schedule. It’s been a non-stop drama-fest at work for the last week or so with more ch-ch-ch-changes. Some of you will remember that my position was eliminated in a corporate re-structuring (paste my name and face on thousands upon thousands of Americans around the country) blablabla three months ago. Due to my friend and co-worker’s enormously wise decision to escape from Hellhouse, my job has just become available again. Which would mean going back to salary exempt, staying up all hours to write, being exhausted, and not getting to make homemade potato salad and Sopapilla cheesecake pie (thanks for that recipe, very wise co-worker) on a holiday Monday that I get to spend with my family. The financial reward? A few hundred bucks. Not that I don’t need that few hundred bucks (I do), but I still haven’t seen that royalty statement yet. Will it replace that money? And haven’t we survived these last few months without it? And if I don’t make up the money now, won’t a few months down the road (and more completed writing) replace it then?

Enter my boss who swooped down on our little beach hamlet last Monday to grill us all like day-old grilled cheese sandwiches ( I have no idea what that means) on what our workplace intentions were. And to ask if I’d like my old job back. Uh…….hmmmmmmm…well….NO. I need to stay true to my writing path, and my sanity. And, okay, I confess; I did have a little bit of a “HA! NOW you want me! Forget it…” moment. But hey, I’m human, and I have been taking it in a part of my anatomy that shall remain unmentioned, quite a lot lately at this job.

I am now officially the trouble-maker. Or, the worse than ever before trouble-maker. But I need to stay true to my path here, and to my family that is also along for the ride. However, it’s been stressful because since I didn’t make it easy by neatly filling in the gap at work just as we go into our busy season, the boss is not thrilled. I did leave the position available for others – one in particular – who would do great and really benefit from it – but not according to the corporate rules and regulations. In other words, the expected and proper line of ascension up the corporate ladder. Such nonsense. So I say – they are bringing it on themselves, which is why all of this happened in the first place. Had well enough been left alone, my wise co-worker and I might have just stuck it out. But once she got my job - in addition to the essentially two jobs she was already doing – dumped on her, well, there’s only so much one person can take in the name of corporate down-sizing.

But here we are, it’s a nice day, and we’re all celebrating (those who don’t work retail anyway) the freedoms we have because others sacrificed and fought for us. I haven’t had a holiday day off like this in the four years since I took this job, so I’m going to exercise my right to BBQ – and to be with my family for a change. Happy Memorial Day to my American friends out there!

 

It’s Here! And it Needs to be Promoted…

I thought I would check in with y’all since I am so overloaded currently, that even pretending to write about my far-distant freak show past would be a useless exercise, so instead, I shall bring everyone up to date.

My alter-ego’s first book was released yesterday! Yee-ha! I have been a very well-behaved modern author, and have been booking and following through on a virtual blog tour promo schedule. There are giveaways, excerpts, thought-provoking (one can only hope) posts, interviews and such to deal with on a daily basis over the next few weeks. Once that concludes, than the stand alone comes out a little earlier than I originally thought: June 11th. This means another round of promo events. Then in August, the print version of the anthology comes out – more promos. September? Why that’s when the second book comes out. Hopefully, as suggested recently by the publisher, I will have turned in the first of my three-book series, so that an excerpt can be included in the back. Hmmmm…I sense a pattern here.

Many writers have lamented the fact that they have to be their own marketing gurus. It’s not that you don’t get support from your publisher, but that support can vary massively, depending on the publisher’s muscle. Translated: cash flow. I feel very fortunate with my marketing person and the publisher.  They take their business very seriously, and have been successful at it, when many others in the relatively new erotica genre have failed. My direct contact is communicative, creative and very involved. They have offered me multiple opportunities to get my name out there: writing articles, peer reviews, chat groups and so on. They’ve provided me with free review copies, in addition to the lists they already send out to. But they also have anywhere from 4 -8 new releases EVERY week, some are anthologies, so to think they are spending all of their energy on one book from an untried author is - as my boss at work would say – crack-smoking madness.

It’s here, and it needs to be promoted. It’s also my baby, my responsibility. Which means that every day I’m not taking advantage of the opportunity presented to me currently, is another day I’m slapping another writer trying to get their work out there in the face. In the interest of not slapping any of my wonderful writer compatriots in the face, I want to assure you that I have been staying on top of it. Of course, that means other things suffer. Like my writing.

The time and energy to keep up with writing my memoir pieces at this blog - which are for my soul, no less – has been greatly compromised. So has the writing time I need to put in to the first book in the series my new editor said she was very interested in, and would recommend to the publisher. That cannot be neglected. So now, even at this small level, all of this gives me a glimpse into a full-time writer’s future. It’s not unexpected. I figured it would be like this. Figuring and living are two very different things though.

Other little realizations: I still want to do this. I’m absolutely okay with climbing on to the writer hamster wheel. Also – writing guest blog posts and answering interview questions is helping me to think on my feet more. Writing under pressure and deadline is helping me to keep the writing flowing better. I am becoming -  I feel anyway – a well-oiled machine. Is this good? I think so. It beats sitting around wondering what to write about, and maybe getting a page or two down, or a couple random ideas, and then deciding I hate it later on. The other day I scheduled seven hours of writing on the new book, and gave myself a 5,000 word goal. I felt I was over-reaching a little, but I am feeling the pressure to get these guys out there – they are all going to be between 30-40,000 words each - so I need to quit screwing around. Once I set my mind to it – I hit 5,200 words in the allotted time. I even liked most of the words afterwards.

Speaking of which, I have another 5,000 word goal today. And of course, another promo blog post to do for the new baby…

But It’ll Learn Ya’…

…way, way better than school. ( Heart – “Cook With Fire” from Dog & Butterfly.)

Yes – I am still on a tangent. Billie and her evil spirit buddies will have to wait a few more days – so I will understand if you fast forward to the future. And if you are capable of that skill – please let me know how you do it. Anyway, here’s a little story from when I was a young pup back in the eighth grade. It was not a more innocent time; frankly I don’t believe such an animal exists. The times have all been varying degrees of anti-innocence. The differences have primarily been the era – and the degree to whether or not fast food was available – in which the lack of innocence occurred.

A few of you had the rare privilege of attending the same crappy private religious school with me. For those few I say: sorry to remind you it existed. For the rest of you, I offer some background. Crappy private religious school in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley: check. Typical awkward middle schoolers fighting for their spot on the ladder of eighth grade society: check. Teachers and administrators kissing up to the parents with the most cash to keep said school from sinking into oblivion: check. Come on everybody, here we go! (Peter Pan)

I’ve always had a not-so-healthy dose of drama bred into me, and even though I was finally coming out of the weird anti-social cloud I had previously inhabited when I was in grade school, I was hardly the epitome of awesomeness. Especially acceptable eighth grade awesomeness. I was a nerd, and it wasn’t until a couple of grades later that I learned how to work my nerdette into some sort of grand – albeit limited – social status. In the eighth grade I was merely one of the faceless masses that slogged through each day.

I longed for more. Like everyone else, I wanted to better my space in the universe. I just never considered accomplishing it by squashing others around me. I had already been infected by the acting bug earlier, and I saw hiding behind another persona a good ticket to escaping from whatever loathsome creature I perceived that I was. The eighth grade teacher – lets call him Mr. Roberts – was a young, blond cutie that most of the girls and one angry, rotund fellow teacher swooned over. We weren’t allowed to lust, it was against the rules. He was somehow put in charge of putting together some colonial play of some sort to support what we had supposedly learned in American history that year. Since I have no recollection of what this play was actually about, it’s rather apparent how compelling it was.

Several of us, including my eighth grade best friend – lets call her Joanie – excitedly got ready for the auditions. I don’t know if I blocked a lot of this play out like a bad Vietnam experience, but I seriously can’t remember the auditions, or much else about the specific play. The events surrounding it however have that memory imprint in my brain the way that some things do from the past. Finally the results were announced – I was in! Joanie, however, wasn’t. She was not at all gracious about her loss and my win. She was actually quite angry and hurt. I felt really bad.

I became determined that I would find a way for her to be involved. There were a lot of ensemble groups – I have a vague memory of a courtroom and jury – couldn’t she just be on stage during one? I mean, what would it hurt? I brought it up to Mr. Roberts.

“I’m sorry Wren. We’ve already announced the cast, and it would be unfair to others who didn’t make it, they would want to be included too. Plus, we are already having trouble coming up with enough costumes for this thing, I couldn’t possibly add another person.”

“Well,” I said, suddenly coming up with one of my bright ideas that have a tendency to kick me in the ass rather than help me, “Her mom is a seamstress. She could make Joanie’s costume for her, and maybe, if her daughter was in the play, she might be more likely to help with the other costumes!”

Mr. Roberts pondered this interesting piece of information. “Let me think about it. I’ll talk to Joanie and see if she thinks her mom would really do that.”

I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to tell my friend that I had gone out on a limb for her, and everything would work out. And it did. For Joanie anyway. One day before rehearsal, Mr. Roberts took me aside. Maybe I was going to get an even bigger part, or maybe he just wanted to thank me for helping out. Joanie’s mom had really stepped in and taken over the whole costume thing.

“Wren, I need to talk to you about something. It turns out that the play is a little too long, and we need to cut a couple of the scenes. Unfortunately, your scene was one of the ones we had to cut. I’m really sorry.”

I was stunned, and yes, my stomach did drop. I’m sure many of you know exactly how that feels. “But, I can still be in the play, right?”

“Uh…I guess you don’t quite understand. I’m really sorry, but we have nowhere else for you to be. And we’re actually going to be needing your costume back so that we can give it to one of the other cast members. It will save us some time and money.”

Since rehearsals took place after school, and everyone – except me – was still in rehearsal, the halls were pretty much empty when I dazedly made my way back to my locker. Somehow the act of turning the combination dial on my locker unleashed a fit of sobs. Cristal, an acquaintance who shared a class with me and Joanie, noticed me and came over to see what was wrong. I told her my whole wretched story. Apparently, Joanie had already filled her in. Mr. Roberts had told her and asked her to be really nice to me – oh, and to make sure she got the costume back from me. Joanie was intimating to the other kids that she was much better than me in the play, and that was why they were using her instead of me.

As you can imagine, I had some pretty hurt feelings, and confused ones as well. Would my best friend, Joanie, really say such a thing? It seemed unlikely. I was thirteen folks, I didn’t fully get yet that we were all in a life rehearsal on how to treat one another. That this kind of crap would continue. And continue. And continue. The one thing I should have been paying attention to, as if I were the protagonist in a horror novel, is how to recognize the cues of bad human behavior, and then how to run screaming away from said human. In novels, it’s a device called “foreshadowing”. In my story, this was the foreshadowing, but I was thirteen and clueless. Unfortunately, I continued to be clueless many a time after that. Thankfully, I’m in clueless relationship recovery, and am a little better these days.

But we’re talking about the eight grade, right? Once I had regained a modicum of composure, I decided I needed to talk to Joanie about it. She was obviously more advanced than me in the intricacies of game-playing and manipulation, and she thwarted my efforts with excuses and such, until finally, it was sort of swept aside. I did notice a change in our relationship. She was often times too busy to hang out after school as we once did, and I found myself spending a little more time with Cristal, who was stuck everyday at the school until her mom could get her after work.

But Joanie was still my best friend, and I was loyal, dammit. I didn’t want her to think I was cheating on her with Cristal, so I made every effort to always choose her first. This held true for the big year-end Six Flags Magic Mountain field trip coming up. We all had to pick a field trip partner, and obviously, Joanie and I would be amusement park buddies. I verified, and re-verified. She seemed irritated that I kept bringing it up.

The wonderful day arrived; we would all get to go to Magic Mountain instead of school. I had been waiting for this trip for months. I arrived at school, and saw the two big buses ready to take us to this Magical – albeit, roastingly hot – roller coaster paradise. I looked for my park buddy, and finally spotted her standing next to Miss-More-Popular-Than-God. Let’s call her Buffy. Buffy noticed me approaching, and elbowed Joanie. We locked eyes, and I saw something I couldn’t describe. She most definitely had an odd expression on her face, one that said she was less than thrilled to see me. I had that stomach-dropping thing going on again.

She walked up to me, away from the other girls. “Hey. Uh, I’m going to hang out with Buffy today. You’ll have to find someone else to go with.”

WHAT?!?!? Someone else to go with?!?! Everyone else already had their buddies! I tried to keep it together. “But…you…we…” I’m not so great at forming sentences when under emotional pressure.

She shrugged her shoulders. “Sorry.” And walked away.

Everyone was looking at me. Would she cry? Would she scream? Would she punch Joanie in the face? I wish I could say I gave them a good show, but instead, I started walking home. Fairly easy to do, as I lived across the street from this portal to the inner sanctums of hell. Fighting back the inevitable tears, I tried to walk as fast as would appear dignified away from there. Shit – there was my mom. How would I explain this to her? She would be lurking at home, ready to grill me and then make it worse by pitching a fit at the school.

Cristal saved me. She ran up to me, and as soon as I saw her face that clearly portrayed how sorry she felt for me, I burst into tears. She already had a park buddy, but that was okay, the three of us could hang out – it would be fun. I was shaking my head, I didn’t want to go, I was too embarrassed. She kept insisting, and being the amazingly funny and goofy person she still is to this day, she got me to laugh, and I went. And we had a good time.

I was held prisoner at that CPRS (crappy private religious school) until I graduated, and even after Cristal transferred out (in a fit of great wisdom), we remained friends. I watched Joanie meticulously work on reinventing her persona to match the expectations of the most holy crowd of popularity, and it worked. To a degree. After she cut and colored her hair, got the braces off, got model head shots, took up cheer leading, etc., etc. she was “in”. As I had moved on with my life, I wasn’t stalking her enough to find out what actually happened, but she and Buffy had some sort of falling out. When I got my agent, and started going out on acting calls, she started sniffing around.

Nope. I had about five minutes in my junior and senior year where I had a lot of confidence and clarity, and knew better than to hook up with a manipulative climber who only wanted what I could offer them at that given moment. I back slid for quite awhile after that, but I saved myself from any further humiliation and hurt from Joanie. The protagonist triumphs!

And as David Byrne would say: Same as it ever was…   

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKlrkBJozuc

This is the Working Hour…

…We are paid by those who learn by our mistakes. (Tears For Fears – “The Working Hour”, Songs From the Big Chair)

Bad moods, certain songs, and an internet connection could get one into a lot of trouble. But I will refrain from that and just ask you, my dear readers, are there certain songs, entire albums, musicians, etc. that just take you ‘there’? ‘There’ is that place where you connect with some small part of you that you forget you have most of the time. It’s the alive spot in you that can be released just by playing that certain disc or song.

Sometimes I can connect like that when I’m writing. Sometimes not. If I can get that perfect synergy between writing and playing music, then it’s insane. I used to achieve it by writing music. Writing music and playing music at the same time is counter-productive – and ridiculous –  so I’ve only had this marriage of connection activities since I’ve become so invested in my writing.

Then there’s this other thing. The other thing is related to all of the crap I deal with on a daily basis. Sometimes writing can’t help that; sometimes it is absolutely necessary to help it. But there’s one thing I know for sure that always helps it: music. Certain music. I have a rather lengthy list of varying and sundry artists and songs, but I’m currently on a tangent. You know how that is; it’s when only one type of musical vibe will do. What’s your certain music? I bet you can get a feel of where my vibe is at by my certain tangent right now:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOY_aqkUTxY

Publication: The Never-Ending Rollercoaster Ride

So many things keep jumping up and chomping my behind, that then keep me from adhering to any type of decent schedule at this blog. Oh wait a minute – not my behind – my pseudonymous self who is leading a much more thrilling and adventurous life than I am.

So, here is where things stand: when last we met, I had just gotten the final edits turned in for my first release coming out May 7th. Yay! I had a wonderful experience with my editor, she had glowing things to say about me – I was feeling pretty damn-spankin’ good about life in publication land. I began to feel the mounting pressure of scheduling guest blog spots, arranging giveaways, lamenting that I’m too poor to attend the Romance Times convention in Chicago (where my publisher and fellow smut peddlers will be) and twittering like a raging maniac.

Then I opened my alter-ego’s email that contained a message from the art department. The subject line claimed it was the cover art for my book. Odd. I already received the cover art for the anthology my story will appear in about a month ago. I opened it up and actually cried. This wasn’t a “the world is crashing about my ears” crying. This was “OMFG – I can’t believe how GORGEOUS this is!” You see – this was the cover art for my story alone, that will be released as a stand-alone 90 days after the anthology comes out. I just stared at it and was wept. It was not only incredible artwork, but it epitomized the look and feel of my story. If the artist wasn’t in England, I would have run over and hugged her.

It’s really happening. It’s real. Somehow the anthology cover – while exciting to see my girl’s name on there – wasn’t the same as seeing my own title in all its glory. Okay, I realize we’re not talking the next Hemingway here, but seriously, for as long as I’ve waited to get frickin’ published – it was epic. Then came the really fun part, The Booty Box. Yes folks – the Booty Box. They have a merchandise page at the publisher website that includes things like thong underwear, tote bags, mugs and iPad cases with my book cover on it! There was also a T-shirt that said “Such & such publisher author (my name) ROCKS!”

Too funny. But very cool.

But wait, you ask. How is that like a rollercoaster? These all seem like “ups”. Yup. But then there was the email that arrived – I swear less than 10 minutes later. You know how on some emails you can see the first few words of the actual message? So, I see one from the actual publisher who has only contacted me one time to welcome me to the fold. Surely she must be writing to tell me how massively awesome I am, right? Yeah, right. The first few words in this case were “I’m sorry to inform you…”

Gasp. Choke. That seemed like a rather precipitous beginning. I’ve never really experienced a positive outcome from anything that began with those words.

I literally froze. Did I really want to descend from my heights of self-imagined grandeur and crash, burning in flames, to the dirt of this earth? Not especially. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted. So I decided to live on the edge and open the email. Turns out my editor – who must be even more awesome than I originally realized – just received a full scholarship to get her Master’s in English at Oxford. She’s writing her thesis on Mid-Renaissance poetry. Damn. I guess that was a pretty good reason for her to put in her notice.

Sigh. So how self-involved could I be about this? I couldn’t help it. Pretty self-involved. She was the first one that said “I would like to publish your book”, and then sent me a contract. She’s not only the first professional editor I ever worked with, but it was a great experience. She’s also the one that I just submitted a new story to not a week earlier. The one who said she would like to see a synopsis on my 3 book series.

The publisher was very gracious, and let me know that I had been assigned a new editor who would contact me shortly. This new editor might not like my “voice” or story ideas. She may have other writers she’s more interested in working with – where’s the antacid! Also – those vague time references always make me nutty – I am waaaay too impatient. So I was going to have to wait. I thanked the publisher for taking the time to tell me personally what was going on, and that I would look forward to hearing from the new editor. Since the publisher also left it open at the end of her message to be sure and let her know if I had any questions or concerns – I tread lightly into that territory. I decided to save the series question for the new editor, but I did politely inquire about the submission I had just sent in for a Halloween anthology.

Five days went by with no communication. So now I was sweating bullets. Stomach twisting – all the angsty cliches you can possibly think of – I was living them.

The publisher answered me on the 5th day and apologized for not getting back to me sooner, but said that she had forwarded my submission to my new editor who would look it over the next day; but could I please send her the synopsis as well? That would be fine I thought – if I had her email! Since there was a time element involved, and I knew the publisher was busy, I contacted my current editor who is there until the end of the month. I was able to congratulate her and thank her for the experience of working with her, and then ask for the new editor’s email.

She got back to me right away, and I sent off the synopsis. Phew! Then I figured I had done all that I could, and probably wouldn’t hear anything for at least a few weeks. Apparently the rollercoaster had another plan in mind. Five minutes later, my new editor replied with a “speak of the devil”, saying she was just about to email me. Apparently, the anthology was already filled, but she loved my story ( she said something really glowing about it that I’m too embarrassed to put here – but I think I am going to make a poster out of it and hang it above my computer for the next time I get discouraged) and wondered if I would mind if they published it as a stand alone book. Mind? MIND?!?!?!?! Holy 2nd contract Batman – no I don’t mind!

There you have it. And I get that this is how it is. Been there done that in music. But in some ways, I feel that I have more to lose now with the writing. I think it has to do with the resilience we have when we’re young. When we think there’s forever and maybe even an extra day to achieve what we desire. When I got the “I’m sorry to inform you…” email, it felt like a cruel trick the universe was playing on me right after the heady feeling from my cover art on men’s boxer shorts.

Which reminds me, I wonder how much 11 GPB is in US dollars?