personal life

That’s A Lot Of Stuff

I’ve been writing since I was 13-14. I have tons of written work that is lost to the ravages of time and technological advancement. Notebooks full of stuff I wrote when I was younger, the ink and pencil now faded, and tons of 3.5 disks which can no longer be accessed because the technology I wrote them on is archaic (ah, my first Brother word processor!). I’m mostly okay with that because my writing back in those days was unwieldy and unpracticed and truly awful, and if I read any of it today I’d cringe. But I remember writing it, and so it still exists in a metaphorical way.

There’s also tons of writing I can still access: uncountable stories, books, half written things, chunks of unused work, abandoned writings, and writings that were finished but never followed through on. Those are on my laptop, or in a cloud, and I can still go look at them any time I want. Many of them will eventually end up on some lost trail behind me as I keep on writing and producing more things, but they exist too.

The point is, I’ve probably literally written millions of words in my writing life. Millions as in plural. Two million? Three million? Maybe more. I’ve written a lot. There’s no way to know how much. Even if I counted up what I have access to, there’s still all that stuff lost in the past. Sometimes I’m quietly impressed by it and give myself a little pat on the back. Most of the time, I don’t even think about it. Churning out all those words is just who I am.

If you’ve been writing for a long time, you probably have just as much in storage, be it literal or theoretical. If you haven’t been writing long, you probably still have more words behind you than you realize. Most of us writers have a half-formed, clunky body of work that follows us around forever, most of which will never be seen by eyes other than our own. That’s okay, because that’s what being a writer is.

I’m using this as an inspiration today, and you may need it too, because right now I feel like I’m in a dry, bitter, fallow period with my writing. I feel like I can’t get anything down on the page and I’ll never produce anything of worth again. I’m having one of those dramatic, hubris moments of I WILL NEVER BE A REAL WRITER. The well is giving up just a few ounces of muddy water and I will never write much again.

But, if you’re feeling this way too, here’s what you should do along with me: look at that big, ugly, misshapen pile of work behind you and ask yourself, do you really think you’ll never be able to write again? Do you really think you’re not capable of producing more words? All those words in the past seem to disagree.

Now, get back to work, self. And you too.

Have a great weekend!

A Memorial To A Friend

Six years ago today, a friend of mine named Chris passed away. We met when I started working at my very first serving gig in a restaurant that doesn’t exist anymore. Everyone there was like family, and until this day, at all the places I’ve worked, I’ve never found friendships or bonds like the ones we created there. If the place was still around today I’d probably still be working there. I keep in touch with a lot of those old friends via Facebook and meeting up from time to time.

Chris was a wiry, scruffy guy who looked like John Lennon (though he hated when people pointed this out). He was a true dank hippie, loved jam bands, was a huge fan of Phish and The Grateful Dead, and did all sorts of drugs not to get high, but for the existential experience. That sounds like some old stoner who was a teenager in the 60’s, but he was actually only 30. He could tell a story like no one I’ve ever met, and his tales of ‘enlightenment’ were so mesmerizing I believed that I, too, could drop acid and see the face of God (I’ve never done acid, btw). He had an incredibly interesting life and had done so much in his short thirty years it boggled my mind. He also had so many friends it was surreal–and not just acquaintances, honest-to-God friends. He was known and loved by everyone, a truly gregarious and outgoing person, and he always made everyone feel equally important.

He was spastic, a prankster, and loved to make people laugh. He was a trickster with a heart of gold. He was one of my best friends, a brother to me, and we had so many good times together. One of his last pranks, which will live on forever, is that he would change his birthday on Facebook every day so it would alert all his followers that every day was his birthday. Because of this, some people now believe December 27th is his birthday (his real birthday was in July, like mine). It’s bittersweet, because when I see that notification pop up on Facebook it reminds me of his humor, but it also reminds me what the next day is.

He was a writer, too. He was working on his memoirs, Triumphs of An Open Mind, most of which contained stories I’d already heard from his mouth. Since I was a writer too we constantly shared ideas and advice. He was my writer friend and everyone knew us as ‘the writers’ where we worked. He hadn’t gotten published yet, but he was working on it. We both had big dreams of bestsellers and stardom.

Then, a few months before the end of 2010, he was diagnosed with Graves Disease after suffering heart palpitations and weakness. I was adamant that he was fine, and reminded him of this when he’d get down on himself about it or start feeling hopeless. I remember saying “You’re not going to die!” about a hundred times. I was convinced he wouldn’t, that he’d have a long happy life telling wild stories and bouncing off the walls.

A few days after Christmas, he proved me wrong. (Some of my friends still joke ‘he died to spite you’ because it’s the sort of joke HE would make.)

I’d worked an early shift that day and came home, turned the ringer on my phone off, and took a nap. When I woke up I had about 16 voicemails and missed calls from different people, and none of them said anything more descriptive than “call me.” I knew something was horribly wrong. I picked my friend Jodi as the one to call back, and when she answered she was crying and said “Chris died.” He’d passed away in his sleep the night before, from heart failure, at the age of 30. I remember being so disoriented I got up and tried to get dressed and couldn’t figure out how to put my clothes on. Absurdly, Jodi and I went shopping and called everyone we knew before they got the news second-hand. We didn’t know what else to do.

His funeral was massive. I had never seen so many people at the funeral of a person who wasn’t famous. We actually closed the restaurant that day so everyone could attend. I remember thinking ‘I want to live my life in a way that I end up having a funeral like this.’ The place was huge and they still couldn’t fit everyone inside.

A few months later, I had the opening line of his novel tattooed on my arm. I think he would appreciate it, and it gets me through the dark times in my life.

I had a dream about him Monday night, amazingly. We were sitting and talking like we used to, and suddenly I said, “I know this isn’t real, but can I hug you? Because it’ll feel real for a minute.” And of course, it did.

We were both huge fans of Carl Sagan, and so I post this today in honor of him, our favorite essay by Mr. Sagan:

I hope you’re still out there jamming across the cosmos, Chris.

The Language Of Writing

Many years ago, I wrote under a different pseudonym, in a somewhat different genre, and had a modicum of success. The name was Lydia Nyx, if you’re curious, but it doesn’t matter because everything I had published back then is no longer in print/distribution and some of the publishers are defunct. I ended up eventually shifting genres and reinventing myself as Megan Morgan.

However, despite the fact I didn’t write fantasy/sci-fi, I somehow ended up being a panelist at 2011 Penguicon in Detroit (which is a sci-fi/fantasy con). It’s a funny story, and what I learned from the experience–that we, as writers, no matter where we are on our path or what we write, are all in this together–was invaluable.

I ended up at the convention because I made a comment on a blog post of a fellow author who was published in an erotic horror anthology with me. He mentioned Penguicon and that they still needed panelists (I believe he worked for the organizers? I can’t remember clearly.) and I looked into it, despite the fact I didn’t fit the demographic. When I contacted the organizers, they said indeed they would like to have me, and didn’t care what I wrote, they just wanted published writers to speak. I was scheduled for not one, not two…but SEVEN panels. Keep in mind, I had never spoken publicly on writing before, ever.

The convention ended up being a blast. However, on three of those panels, I sat alongside sci-fi/fantasy authors Jim C. Hines, Stephanie Osborne (who had the coolest NASA ribbons), and….*GULP* Brandon F*kin Sanderson. Needless to say, I was way out of my element and way nervous. I was terrified to sit with multi-award winning, bestselling Mr. Sanderson, who, let’s not be modest about it, 90% of the convention goers were there to see. What’s more, I was expected to sit with him and talk to a huge audience about writing, intelligently.

I had no idea what to do, so me and my son just got Steampunk’d.

What did I learn from those three nerve-wracking panels? I learned that despite the fact Mr. Sanderson was at the top of the food chain and I was way down at the bottom, in the swamp, and that we write in radically different genres, our love of writing, the way we talk about it, and the techniques we use to evoke creativity are exactly the same. He was a tremendously nice and polite man. He moderated all three panels (basically directing the flow of conversation/controlling the subject matter/provoking the rest of us to speak) and he was extremely pleasant, encouraging, and helpful. I realized despite our different points on the spectrum we were both writers, and we both thought like writers. We could discuss it on the same level, all other things aside. It was incredibly comforting as a young, floundering author.

Jim C. Hines is also a darling of a man. I sat directly beside him for all three panels and he was just a great conversationalist and gentleman. He eased my nerves greatly before each panel.

It was an eye-opening weekend. I also made several fans at the time who were pleasantly surprised to find an author so radically out of place. I met author H.B. Pattskyn there, before she was published, and she was so wonderful and supportive of me on those days when this young author was so scared. I even had her sit with me on some of my other panels!

The thing I learned that weekend, and I still carry with me to this day, is that we’re all in this together, no matter where we are on the ladder, no matter what we write. Writing is a universal language!

Look how well I fit in! I apologize, my son could only seem to take pictures during earthquake tremors.

The Writing Community

One reason I love the Insecure Writer’s Support Group and participate in the monthly blog hop is because of the support it provides. It’s a huge blog hop, and it’s easy to get lost sometimes and there’s so many bloggers involved it’s hard to get to them all, but it’s a great, supportive community of writers who always have your back. By sharing what’s on our minds and what’s bringing us down each month, we find camaraderie, commiseration, and most important of all, sympathetic ears and shoulders to cry on.

This week I posted about how life has been getting in the way of my writing and I’m feeling drained and haven’t made much progress. The outpouring of support was overwhelming and I really want to thank all of you. It makes me feel better to know that other writers struggle with the same issues, and that all of us drop out of the race from time to time. The fact that we’re there to help each other get back in is heartening.

Lots of things can sideline writers and make it so we can’t get our fingers on that keyboard and produce anything:

  • Real life stress and responsibilities
  • Major life changes
  • Health problems
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Holidays
  • Too much on one’s plate

If you’re dealing with any of these things, I’m pulling for you, and I’m here for you. If you need to talk to someone about it or just moan and share your woes, I’m always available. You can comment here or contact me via email, if you would rather discuss something privately. It’s important as writers that we support each other and help each other get back up when we fall. It doesn’t matter what genre we write in, we all have the same love of writing in our hearts.

If you would like to talk in the comments, or you’re in a good place right now and you would like to offer other struggling writers your support, feel free!

Getting Up The Hill

This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. The awesome co-hosts for the December 7 posting of the IWSG will be Jennifer Hawes, Jen Chandler, Nick Wilford, Juneta Key, JH Moncrieff, Diane Burton, and MJ Fifield!

My insecurity this month revolves around the fact that I’m feeling a little drained right now. Okay, a lot drained. I recently got a promotion at work and the adjustment has taken a lot of my energy and caused a shift of focus. Christmas is also coming and all the buzz surrounding that. As a result, I’m finding it hard to concentrate. I’m not working on writing much, struggling to keep my blog up, and generally just feeling drained and zoned out when I sit down at the computer (so then I screw around online instead of doing work).

I know all writers go through this from time to time, when life climbs on your back and slows you down. I’m hoping as things even out at work and the holidays pass, I’ll get the spark again and be able to concentrate. The funny part is, it’s a vicious cycle: the less I write, the worse I feel, and then the more drained I am. I have to break it!

December 7th Question: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

My ultimate ‘writing plan’ has always been to be a career writer. That is, I want to make a living off writing and not have a day job. Far-fetched? Definitely. Improbable? Maybe. Impossible? Only if I don’t do anything to reach that goal. I know it’s something that will take a lot of hard work and needs a little bit of luck thrown in as well.

In five years I hope to at least be paying some of the bills with writing, even if I’m not making a total living off it. How do I plan to do it? The only way an author can make a living off writing: write, publish, repeat. Unless I happen to land a bestseller, it will take lots of work and lots of available work to make a living. Though even if I do magically hit it big, I’ll keep writing more books because–I love writing!

My plan is to do a job I love, which is writing, and live comfortably on it. But it’s going to be a long, hard, sometimes uncomfortable road getting there. I think that’s true of a lot of professions, though. No one becomes a doctor or lawyer overnight, either.

This plan seems incongruent with my insecurities this month, doesn’t it? I guess that’s a sign for me!

How are you feeling this month? Have you ever been drained and unfocused?

The Christmas Spirit Is Here!

I put my Christmas tree up yesterday. A lot of people I know decorate on or directly after Thanksgiving, but I always wait until December begins because I don’t want to get sick of Christmas too fast. This is the first year I’ve had a full-sized Christmas tree, because I live in a bigger place now and I have room to put it. I always had a table top tree before. That means it’s my cat’s first year coexisting with a full-sized Christmas tree as well…

Look how sweet and innocent I am. How dare you insinuate that I would assault a Christmas tree.

We’ll see how she gets along with it. So far, she’s been ignoring it, but sooner or later she’ll get bored, I’m sure.

Do you celebrate Christmas? Have you decorated yet? Feel free to show off your tree/decorations in the comments!

On a completely different note: Black Mountain Magic got an awesome review at Up Til Dawn Book Blog. Stop by and check it out!

Off to Chi-Town!

I’m off to Chicago for the weekend! I’ll be back on the blog next week for more fun and games. I’m going to try to stay off social media over the weekend and just focus on having fun, so if anyone needs to message me, I’ll get back to you on Monday. Make sure you stop by the Halloween Sale Blast and enter to win a $10 Amazon gift card–the contest closes Sunday!

Have a great weekend! I know I will!

Going to Chi-Town!

Next weekend I’m going to Chicago with my best friend! We always seem to end up going there at least once a year. It’s only a six hour drive from where I live (Cleveland) and we have friends we usually stay with there, so most of the time it’s a relatively cheap trip. We’ve taken Amtrak there as well, which was lots of fun. We both love Chicago and I’d really like to live there someday.

Me and the bestie all dressed up to rock Chicago!

So it’s probably no surprise I write about Chicago a lot. It shows up either directly or peripherally in a lot of my writing. My entire Siren Song series is set there, and even in my upcoming Kentucky Haints series, the main character is from Chicago (though the series takes place in Kentucky). Every time I visit Chicago I discover some new thing and I try to include it in the next book I inevitably write that’s set there. I think the best compliment I’ve ever gotten was from my best friend–last time we visited Chicago, we were out at dinner and she brought up a description of Chicago from one of my books and said it was the best description of the city she’d ever read. I might be a little obsessed!

It’s important to write what you love, though. That’s the lesson to be learned here. When you write what you love, and you write it joyfully and honestly, the result is going to be something that you just might get a compliment on. Also, writing is going to be a lot more fun, and even the days when the words feel more like work than play, you’ll be creating something that feels right to you.

What’s your Chicago?

Write More! Do More! Moooore!

I have a bad habit of overwhelming myself with projects. I try to work on multiple stories and usually end up scattering my brain because I’m going in too many directions. I know I need to write or edit one thing at a time, but my mind starts hopping around going “if we write MORE things though, we’ll have MORE things that will get finished quicker!” Only, that’s not really the way it works. I end up taking much longer to complete things than if I had just concentrated on one project at a time.

I’m sure there are some writers that can work on multiple projects and bring them to successful completion. However, I’m not like that–or, I haven’t taught myself to be like that yet–so the overbearing anxiousness to complete a bunch of stuff all at once is counterproductive for me. I’m dealing with that this morning, as I have several projects started and I’m trying to organize which one I’m going to work on when. The only thing it’s doing is making me feel overwhelmed and keeping me from writing anything at all.

I don’t know why I insist upon trying this route over and over when I know it doesn’t work for me. Maybe I think someday it will? Maybe I think my laziness and procrastination will magically disappear so I can create from the time I awake until the moment I go to sleep? Maybe I think I’ll actually stop being distracted by the TV, internet, and a million other shiny things and get more writing done? HA!

As I move into my self-publishing ventures, I find myself even more anxious. I thought the opposite would happen, that I’d feel more relaxed without the pressure of publisher deadlines. Instead, I realize I’ve put the burden entirely on myself to create and produce and I need to do so much. Write more! Edit more! More projects! I’m going to try to calm down and focus on one thing at a time instead.

There’s a million ways we make ourselves crazy as writers. Do you find yourself trying to do too much and overwhelming yourself?

Ch-ch-ch Changes

I’ve made a big important decision about my writing career, and I thought I would share it with all of you today. After much thought and consideration (and a lot of research), I’ve decided to make some changes that feel right, and I think I’m finally in a good place to make them.

I’ve decided to become a hybrid author.

What the heck is that?

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, no, I won’t be splicing my genes with some other author to make myself into some sort of weird book-writing chimera. A hybrid author is an author who is both traditionally and self-published. It’s something a lot of the hip kids are doing now, as it gives an author more creative options. I am currently only traditionally published, but that’s about to change.

Why have I made this decision? Here are a few reasons:

  • I have an established readership/following now. It’s small, but it’s mine, dammit! Hopefully through my already established social media presence and this blog, I can show up to the self-published party without worrying that not a single person will have any idea who I am. I’ll have a few people to mingle and eat cake with in the corner.
  • I want greater creative and career freedom. I don’t just mean with what I write (I’m still sticking to largely paranormal romance and some smutty stuff here and there) but also as far as covers, distribution, and promotion. I have some graphic design ability (check out my Twitter, Facebook, and G+ accounts for my graphics-making chops) and with a stock photo account in hand and some visions in my head, I think I can make myself some pretty killer covers that I’ll cherish.
  • I’ve gotten better at writing. I’m not as green in the self-editing and plotting arena as I used to be when I was a wee writer. This does NOT mean I won’t still make use of beta readers and professional editors, but I think (or hope) I know enough now not to make a fool of myself.
  • I know the business side of writing a lot better than I used to. I also learned all I could about self-publishing platforms, pricing, and formatting.
  • Even if the whole venture flops, I’ll still be ahead. My income from writing now is minimal, so even if the response to my self-published work is lukewarm, I’ll probably be making about what I am now with traditional publishers. But if it does even slightly better than lackluster…I’ll be ahead!

I’m excited about this experiment. I want to be my own boss, so to speak, even if my employee is a pain in the butt. Will I continue to publish traditionally? Of course. I just want to open my options.

Additionally, I’m going to be making a major overhaul to my woefully neglected newsletter. As soon as my first self-pubbed book comes out (details soon) I will be offering free stories as an incentive to those who sign up. Those kind few of you who are already signed up, I will make sure to contact you to offer you these free stories as well!

I’m a little nervous and a lot eager. Watch this space for lots of news in the near future!