Chapter 35, A Time Capsule


q1Right now I’m editing Chapter 35 of Old Souls. That means I’m about 90,000 words deep in what currently stands as a 138,146 word novel. This isn’t the first editing run for Old Souls, and it certainly won’t be the last. Likely, the book will require two more passes before the manuscript is forwarded (again) to my critique partners, and yet another draft before it goes to betas. The good news is that each editing endeavor becomes substantially easier than the last. As every gaping plot-hole gets filled, the characters become sharper, and the stakes more clearly defined.

And that acceleration of pace is more than welcome, because the last time I edited Chapter 35 was in 2015.

The first time I saw that “previously opened” date on my file, I was a little floored. How is it possible that so much time has passed?

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We all know that writing a book is hard. Writing a fantasy book can be even harder—much harder than I ever suspected. Typically, fantasy novels are longer than books in other genres (which is great; because 138,146 words). Not to mention (except I’m mentioning it) fantasy novels play by different rules. Case in point: Old Souls is about a man who forgot his past lives, and the “great family” who claim he abandoned after a massacre ten thousand years before. So, reincarnation rules must be made. Worlds must be built, and details must be maintained throughout the manuscript to create a cohesive, believable story.

While digging into this particularly dust-riddled section of my story this week, I realized that allowing work to rest for two years had created a sort of time capsule of my previous strengths and weaknesses. The last time I edited Chapter 35 was at a time in my writerly journey when I’d obsessed over the writing tips and tricks I’d picked up in critique groups. And, it showed. The draft had become clunky. Seeing how this obsession had affected the story led me to reflect on how I had grown as a writer since then.

6a9252e5fdc632e1f48cbc9fe22647e8When I first started to write Old Souls, I obsessed over the sentences. I wanted to write beautiful words, and subsequently thesaurus-ed the shi@% out of my work. As a direct result, shooting out the first chapter of my “beautiful book” took forever roughly a year, and the chapter was absolute garbage.

To stand a hope of writing “The End” I needed help. So, I to turned to writerly books and blogs in search of answers. Everyone seemed to say the same thing: just write. Write for yourself. Write to get something, anything, on the computer screen. So that’s what I did. And when I finished, I had a rambling string of words which no one–including me at times–stood a chance of understanding.

But, I had created something from nothing. Which was outstanding, even if that something needed a LOT of work.

I found that to improve on what I had, I needed to follow an outline. Many writers “pants,” their scenes, writing at whim. My whims had whimmed up a mess. I bought several plotting books and selected my favorite outline for Old Souls: writersjourney3rddropThe Writer’s Journey, by Christopher Vogler, an outline based on the ideas brought forward by Joseph Campbell in, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. And while some writers might argue using an outline inhibits their creative freedom, I found structuring my story within the steps of the Hero’s Journey to be infinitely liberating.

By the time I completed the draft of my story utilizing Vogler’s words of wisdom, I had been working on the manuscript for years. To be fair, I had also brought a couple hellions into the world and moved across the country. There had been large gaps of time where I never worked on the book at all.

Throughout all the time I worked on Old Souls, I hadn’t shown a word to anyone. Except for four people, no one knew I was writing a book. I was fiercely self-conscious. But, the time had come to ask for help. I found a small critique group based out of Western Canada; and when I outgrew that one, a larger critique group, where I met my writerly besties. At first, I soaked up every bit of advice offered, ecstatic that other writers were taking time from their own work to improve mine.

And that’s where I left Chapter 35, two years ago.

Since then, my writerly abilities have grown. And, a lot of that growth can be summed up in one word: Confidence.

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Anyone who’s written anything decent can tell you writing is hard. But, the hardest part isn’t learning to choose the active voice over the passive. It doesn’t have anything to do with dialogue tags, showing vs. telling, or the multi-faceted characterization of villains. The hardest thing about writing is trusting your voice and your story.

It’s a truth that packed a punch when I saw Chapter 35 was probably better before I started taking advice. There are no dialogue tags, there is no passive voice, and no adverbs. But, the story has a stuttered flow, and the action tags read like the characters are participating in a play instead of a book.

So, what has my time capsule taught me? A good story uses writing rules as an aid, not a crutch. Yes, excessive passivity is cumbersome to read. He said, she said can become annoying. The overuse of adverbs is slovenly. These are terrific guidelines. But sometimes, to paint the best pictures, we have to go outside the lines. What has to matter the most–before anything else–is the story. Because, your reader will forgive almost any “mistake” if the story is good enough.

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Becoming a Free Time Ninja


Yesterday morning my friend Dan sent me this message, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 6:15am, his time:

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Good morning! What are you working on this week? Any new blog posts coming?

(That’s Dan speak for, it’s time for another effing blog post, Jenny.)


Dan is one of my very best writing compadres. Along with being a writer who produces entertaining prose faster than Agatha Christie on speed, he’s a critique partner that gives me grief whenever I take too long to email an edited chapter. He’s always sure to tell me what works, and what needs work. He encourages me to step out of my comfort zone. He’s a republican that calls me a commie. And, to be honest, being called a commie by Dan makes me laugh out loud, Every. Single. Time.

I responded to his message with a pretty standard J. A. Allen reply:


13686538_316709032000883_4678767774587559035_n  I don’t have time.


Because I don’t have time.

These days, I hardly have time for anything. I’ve devoted three days a week while the kids are in school to my writerly endeavors. Of my last six “writing days,” only ONE was actually spent writing. It’s man-cold season in the Allen house, and everyone afflicted needs their mawmmy. The oldest hellion just celebrated his eleventh birthday, resulting in a slew of preparation and general chaos clean-up. And, every second day the teachers seem to be partaking in professional development, resulting in about a bazillion days off school and practically eliminating my designated writing days.

Working as a manager in hospitality, I am often outnumbered by a younger subset of humans, ranging in age between eighteen and, ohhhh, twenty-three. selfiesSome of these people don’t go to school. Some of these people still live with their parents. None have kids. And yet, they still complain about doing laundry. One person’s laundry. Not FIVE people’s laundry, like there is in my house. These are people who spend their free time on Netflix, Snapchat, and Buzzfeed, getting their eyelashes extended, going to the gym, and taking selfies.

Every day, I ask these free-time squanderers, “What did you do today?” Mostly to torture myself. Because I don’t have time to do any of that. Because the last time I had time for ANY of that malarkey was when I was twenty-three, and said eleven-year-old turned my previous affinity for the smell of cooking chicken into a dastardly trigger for morning sickness. Not that I don’t love my life as mother of hellions. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m just very busy. When I’m not at work, my day is spent cleaning the kitchen, breaking up fights, putting away laundry, watching futsal and basketball, helping with homework, and (lovingly) swearing under my breath at little-boy-aim as I wash the floor beside the toilets.

It begs the question: how the hell does any human with offspring AND full-time employment find the time to learn to write well/produce a book/blog/participate in a web show/tackle social media/apply to be a member of the Florida Writers Conference?

And why the hell would they torture themselves by trying?

(Just joking about the writer’s conference. Because, Florida.)

But then, about half an hour after messaging with Dan yesterday–while perusing my Instagram feed–I came across this little image, posted by none other than my favorite republican: Untitled.png

Sweet baby Jesus. Why the hell was I scrolling through Instagram when I could be writing  the blog he just bugged me about?

I was spending what little free-time I had as a squanderer.

Every now and then I need these reminders to get my butt in gear. There is never going to be time if we simply try to find it. There isn’t going to be time to write if we wait for it to fall from the sky like manna from the pearly gates. There isn’t going to be time if we wait for Ryan Gosling to hand it to us on a chocolate platter.

There is only going to be time to write if we MAKE IT. If we put our phones down. If we unplug from Instagram and Facebook and focus on the writerly endeavors in what little time we have.

In truth, operating Scribble on Cocktail Napkins is one of my guilty pleasures. I do it for me more than anyone else, so within reason, I can write whatever I want. Interacting with readers fuels my fire.jhv The people who leave comments give me all the feels that can be missed while writing a book—because novel writing can be a long and solitary endeavor, similar to telling a joke and waiting in a vacuum for two years to find out if anyone laughed.

So, as per my friend’s direct and indirect cajoling, I woke up early for the sake of writing this blog, and that was easy because A: it’s probably going to get Dan off my back for five minutes, and B: it’s going to bring me a little instant gratification.

Finding time to edit Old Souls can be harder. And maybe that has less to do with not having time, and more to do with procrastination than I’d like to admit. Finding time to write is a never ending battle. Sometimes I win. 1jd7whSometimes I’m defeated before I even bother to try. I go through periods of protecting my writing time with the tenacity of a momma bear protecting her cubs, and periods of handing my writing time to any task that wants it.

And that’s not how anyone anywhere completes a book. If you want something, whether it’s to write a book, further your education, pick up a new skill . . . chances are you’re going to have to be uncomfortable. You’re going to have to fight for it, and protect the time to work on it with every fiber of your being.

It’s about focusing on the dream.

My dream is to see my book on a bloody bookshelf in a bloody book store. And then the sequel. One day I want to earn my living writing on a beach in Aruba. Because who doesn’t want to earn a living by writing on a beach in Aruba?

So, I’m going to post this blog for anyone who, like Dan, has been wondering what I’ve been up to lately. Then, I’m going to daydream about Aruba and shovel my driveway, ‘cause last night a pretty layering of fluffy clouds dumped six feet of snow in front of my garage. And THEN, I’m going to cut chapter thirty-six out of my manuscript, paste it into a new document, and make it better, ninja style.

Fighting Winter Blues


It would be fair to say that occasionally, I suffer from depression. It seems to be a common thread among some writers. I don’t talk about it often, simply because it isn’t the looming monster a few of my friends and family members face. But around this time of year—every year—it sneaks up on me: a weight on my chest that’s hard to shake. img_20161130_101550I find it difficult to blog, to write, and even to return emails. And while sometimes I think it comes because my family lives too far to visit as often as I’d like, or my book is taking so long to write, or because I will never be the Stepford wife with the time and ambition to make a Pinterest perfect home,  in truth: my depression is seasonal, caused by the lack of summer warmth; the eternal shades of grey outside my window.

This January I allowed myself to slink a little deeper into my winter blues after being turned down for a grant for Old Souls. I had used a large block of precious writing time to map out my application, consisting of a budget, resume, project plan, and expected finishing date. The five-thousand-dollar grant would have permitted me to ease back a few hours at work to focus on my book. It could have contributed to financing a round of professional editing and a little advertising, if one day, I choose to self-publish. It could have acted like a pat on a back saying, “You’re good enough.” And when I didn’t get it, I allowed the rejection to become a kick in the ass that said, “You aren’t.”

I love writing. I make a little money with articles and short stories from time to time, but writing certainly isn’t how I support my family. For now, I am a hobby writer. For now, I live in a distinctly in-between world where I don’t really talk about my “real job” to my writerly friends, or my writerly ambitions to my work friends.

1hlmwvI earn my living in hospitality. I’ve worked in a collection of restaurants, sport bars, pubs, and clubs across Canada, and even a handful of places in Australia. Now, I work in a high-end restaurant in downtown Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Since I started a year and a half ago, I’ve been promoted twice. For a few months over the summer, (peak-season on our tourist driven little island) I ran the bloody place myself. But, when the work began to sabotage my writing time I was forced to prioritize, and ultimately took a step back. Now I punch the clock, tend the bar, and enjoy three quiet writing days a week while the hellions attend school.

Working in hospitality is perfect for someone like me. People who know me know I love to talk. I talk to anyone who’ll put up it with it, really. I talk to cab drivers, grocery store clerks, and the unfortunate souls who stand beside me in line. I like to talk so much that when I’m home alone and there’s no one else to talk to, I make people up and have them talk.images1KTY36UF

Some of the most interesting people in the world have saddled up to my bar over the years. It’s true, many come in looking for a man to talk to about sports. Being that I am not a man and have no interest (at all) in sports, the conversations are forced into other directions. And once my guests have finished a few drinks, some of them get . . . kind of deep.

The restaurant where I work is located just off the lobby of a boutique hotel. A number of travelers drift in our doors throughout the winter: generally, singles on work trips. They come for dinner, and to drink wine, scotch, or dry Tanqueray martinis (oh, with two olives, please), and to socialize a little before retiring to their rooms.

On Monday, a man fitting exactly that description came in on his own. “Mathew” is a couple years older than me, with what sounds like a great job and the perfect family: 2.5 kids and a stay-at-home wife. As the night progressed and my other guests filtered out through the doors, Mathew sipped his Malbec thoughtfully and began to talk about life. stocksnap_jxnkzrbv86These are the conversations I live for. The ones where I don’t contribute much. The ones when people tell me the things they wouldn’t say to anyone else, because I don’t know the same crowd they do. Because they are from “away” and will likely never see me again.

He told me about his kids. How he had his first at twenty-one. Now, his oldest was applying for college while many of his friends were delving into the joys of parenting for the first time: changing diapers and staying up all night with colicky babies. He was almost home free. All the same, the subject of his conversation kept wandering back to whether or not he would have done things differently if he was given the chance. Would he have waited to have kids when he was older? Picked a different career, or a different partner?

Looking back on our lives and wondering “what if” is one of the ties that seems to bind humanity together. One might argue it’s an evolutionary safeguard, inspiring us to learn and grow from past decisions and experiences, almost like rats in a maze.recite-lslqv0.png

But, in talking to this stranger—whose children are only a couple years older than mine—I realized something.

Wallowing in my little bout of depression and wondering “what if” about the loss of my grant is . . . stupid.

My winter blues are taking me away from the moment I’m in.

Mathew is teetering near the brink of a change in life. That can be scary. But, it can be fun, too. He already chose his wife and had his kids. He raised them. And now, while many of his friends venture into the territory of having a family—a territory he already navigated—he’ll soon be released into the childless wild, at the tender age of forty. The rest of his life is up to him. Just like the rest of my mine is up to me.

1441996275528.jpgEvery day we’re faced with decisions. It’s how we deal with the wrenches in our journey and the decisions we made in our past that will often define our future.

While it was easy for me to see that Mathew is facing an opportunity in his future, he seemed determined to look back.

Sometimes talking to other people can force you to see everything you’re sleeping through.

Every day holds the possibility to grant us a change in life. It isn’t limited to graduations, our children venturing away from home, or our retirements. Every day we can change our future.

While I’ve been allowing myself to wallow in my “wrench,”–my recurring winter blues, and the loss of a silly little grant–I don’t have to. I can make a conscious effort to fight it. I can wake up. I can take a walk when the sun shines, enjoy my children, and will myself to write; to finish the book that has haunted me ever since my very own “old soul,” Hellion #1, was born.

Thanks to Mathew, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.


 

Greg Bardsley on The Bob Watson, Gutter Water, and Magic.


aaeaaqaaaaaaaaxaaaaajgm2ywi3owq4ltvkzditngzmys04yzhllwflytzlzjexotm3zqGreg Bardsley knows funny.

He’s the proud author of two books that you can read, and a couple others that he says will NEVER see the glitz and glamour of the publishing world. Cash Out  and The Bob Watson were both printed by Harper Perennial, the latter having been released November eighth of this year. I had the unique opportunity to read The Bob Watson while still in the editing stages, and even then it was easy to tell the novel would be a satirical comedy gem.

The Bob Watson follows Rick Blanco, a guy with a dream. Actually, his dream is similar to one many followers of Scribbles can likely relate to: the opportunity to quit his job, housesit a mansion, and finish writing a book. quotescover-jpg-72The dream is within his grasp, if only he can pull the perfect “Bob Watson” by ditching his meeting, and making it through six hours of mayhem to prove to his sister he’s not the loser she thinks.

The result of Greg’s hard work? A book that one should not drink coffee while reading.

I learned that the hard way.

Greg and I met last year, although I use the term met quite loosely. While I live on Prince Edward Island, Canada (where as I write this, I’m faced with a wind warning, storm surge warning, and snow squall warning), Greg . . . well, Greg lives in the San Francisco Bay area, where the chief complaint of residents is the unrelentingly perfect weather. bbb

We met as writerly nerds do: via an online writer’s forum.

Followers of Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins know Greg has been featured here before. While many of the authors featured on Scribbles have rocked the self-publishing world, Greg is one of the few peddled by the big leagues. Harper Perennial is an imprint of HarperCollins Publishing—one of the “big four” publishers dominating book distribution in the English speaking world.

His premiere novel, Cash Out, garnered rave reviews from everywhere including The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. His writing style is fresh, twisted, and as funny as it gets. As an author of two books published by one of the big four, many would say he’s made it.cash

But, what is it actually like to go to a bookstore and see your very own book for sale on the self? What are the realities of life under the Harper umbrella, where the grass is oh-so-charmingly green?

Greg’s experiences offer an interesting perspective of life on the other side, and I’m thrilled to be able to share them here.

Hi Greg, welcome to Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins!SONY DSC

Hey there. Sorry for delay. It has been NUTS at work. On Monday night, I worked all the way to 7:30 am, then pulled another all-nighter Wednesday. I have a series of all-day meetings this week, too.

So, your new book is about a serial-meeting ditcher, and YOU can’t find your way out of them?

Ha! You know the term, The cobbler’s children wear no shoes. Actually, I have created an app for people to ditch useless meetings (the Bob Watson Meeting Ditcher ), but I am lucky that my employer is good about preventing meeting inflation. They even invested in training me and other leaders to run better (and fewer) meetings. It was funny because that training was a three-day MEETING. It was a three-day meeting on meetings.

A three-day meeting on meetings? You must really love your job if you developed an app to ditch meetings and didn’t use it for that! Rick Blanco’s big dream is to quit work and write full time. Is that something you would consider?

On some level, I of course would love to be able to write novels full-time, but it’s really not realistic for me. And I am very lucky to have a great job at a great company, working with great people. So I can’t complain. Sometimes I wonder if I were a full-time novelist, maybe I would go nuts with the new lifestyle—the isolation, the new routine, the extreme focus on just writing fiction.

Okay, can I please tell you my FAVORITE part of the book now?

Please do 🙂

 David Sagan.quotescover-jpg-52

That is so funny. I haven’t heard anybody talk about David yet. He’s inspired by an old friend.

Really? I bet he’s the life of the party!

He is a pretty interesting (and funny) person. I’m not sure if he’s like that much anymore. But he is a true original, that guy. I remember trying to really come up with the right things for him to say in the book.

I had to put it down, I was laughing so hard. My kids kept asking what was so funny.

quotescover-jpg-60Oh no! I actually worked with somebody who had a lover who wanted her to urinate on him.  The real David Sagan was a master at getting women to have sex talks with him on the phone. I always thought those stories were super funny.

I will admit that I’ve never had a woman urinate on me, nor have I engaged in sexual play with a goat. Call me boring, I don’t care.

 Do you think the real David will read it?

I did mention to him that there is a character that is inspired by him a little bit. I’m not sure if he’s read it. I once wrote a book (that will always be unpublished) with David Sagan as a central character as a college student. untitledPeople liked that character. He did like to say that thing about being a large man. He was a tall man with broad shoulders. He’d say it to ladies. It was really funny.

I can imagine the plot of that book was full of dastardly twists. You have a wicked imagination.

Thanks. I finished it more than 10 years ago. That old book will always be screwed up, unsalvageable. I have given up on it at this point.

How many of your characters in The Bob Watson are inspired by real people?

Not really anyone except a few characters—and I should emphasize the term, “inspired.” It usually was just something a person did or said. No one will see themselves in this book. That’s really the truth Bob himself was originally inspired by a real person. I tried to connect with him a couple of months ago, with no luck. The character Bob in the book, which admittedly is a small character, is not anything like the real Bob who I haven’t spoken to in more than 20 years.untitled1

People just always loved the idea of “pulling a Bob.” So I kept the first name. The real Bob also was super relaxed, and really did ditch a meeting one day. I looked out the window, and there he was crossing the street with a cup of coffee in his hand. That was when I realized people could approach meetings in a different way.

Were you focused on the plot first and foremost, or the characters? It reads like a largely character driven book.

Interesting. Let me think. Actually, I thought of the plot first. I had always talked about the guy who used to ditch meetings. People always loved that. So I had an idea to write a book in which a guy ditches an all-day meeting and goes on this crazy adventure and  nobody realizes he’s gone. That was the original idea, and then I had some things I wanted to satirize.

Oh wow. So how long did it take to turn into a story?

I think it took about a year. I signed the deal in February 2013, and turned in the full manuscript the last day of that year. I had written the first 60 pages and done a little bit of story development before we signed the deal, but then needed to complete the majority of the book in 10 months. I don’t think I’d ever written so much in such a short amount of time. When I turned it in, I heard nothing for five months.

That wait must have driven you nuts.

After a certain amount of time, it did drive me nuts. I had really busted my ass to turn the manuscript in on deadline. But then, I got a lot of feedback about the book—primarily about my main character in that draft, a guy named Randy who was a lot different from the ultimate character I would later develop, Rick Blanco. quotescover-jpg-34It was really, really, really good feedback, and I was grateful for it.

My editor, Cal Morgan, was super busy and worked with lots of writers who are much bigger “fishes” than me, so ultimately I was willing to work in a way that worked for him. Then Cal left HarperCollins, so they gave the book to another editor, Eric Meyers, who also gave me a lot of great feedback. The way I look at it as is: this book is so much better than it would’ve been had I not gotten that feedback, guidance and inspiration from Cal and Eric. I’m just terribly grateful.

Tell me a little bit about the editing process.

Cal, who had bought the book on concept, started with a “global” approach, meaning we spent a lot of time looking first at my protagonist and his behaviors. Ultimately I ended up completely changing his personality and motivations. The first character was very self-righteous, very serious and appeared (unintentionally) to be preoccupied with his nephew. So I reinvented him.untitled4

After we worked on character motivation and story arc development, we got more specific with my second editor, Eric. Then we got into different scenes and how to get the best out of those scenes, which also was super helpful.

The help with editing would definitely be one of the benefits of going with a publisher like Harper.

Oh, yes. I felt like I was very lucky to be working with full-time pros in the book game, who make a living putting out great books, and who were helping me turn out the best book possible. Without them, the book would not be what it is today. The book is much better because of their collaboration with me. After spending so much time on the first draft of your book, I really think you need a new set of eyes—somebody who knows what they’re doing—to help you make important decisions and provide feedback that the author will not have. You are too close to the story at that point. It’s really hard to be objective about anything.

steveI am a lunchtime basketball player. Using a basketball analogy, I felt like this was having the chance to go to a weekend clinic for one-on-one instruction from the NBA’s best coach, Steve Kerr, and that I essentially was getting paid to receive instruction and guidance and coaching that I never would’ve gotten, had I just done this myself.

Would that make it hard to fight for your ideas if you disagreed with their advice?

Not really. I have always felt that if a committed, smart, experienced, and skillful person is weighing in on my writing, I should really give what their feedback a lot of thought. Nobody wants to waste their time to give somebody a bunch of bullshit feedback. This is what these folks do for a living, and I want my book to be the best, so I think about all that.quotescover-jpg-89

I have to say that, ultimately, I agreed with almost all the feedback. It’s really important to have an open mind about that kind of thing, if you want your book to get better. I try to have a very open mind about the book, that it is a work in progress, and that if someone hates the book, they don’t hate me, and they probably don’t think that I’m a bad writer. They just don’t like the book right now.

So, after publishing two novels, tell me a little bit of the reality of being a published author vs. the fantasy.

Well, I have to say the experience surprised me. It taught me a lot about myself, and about life.

Essentially, we’re all ingrates.

Satisfaction is elusive.

And that shiny object up ahead? It isn’t what you thought.

quotescover-JPG-34Selling a novel had been a goal of mine for a long time, and over the years I guess I had created this vision of what the realization of that goal might be like. Basically, I imagined that I’d be awash in satisfaction. I’d see my book in a store, or in my hands, and I’d relish in the delight of finally “getting there,” dancing in the hills as the hunger pangs of my ambition finally dissipated.

With two books out now, I have had some really satisfying moments of accomplishment. But of course, what I learned was that getting your book published is not the end of a long journey, but only the beginning. It’s the beginning of new kinds of stress, new highs, new lows, new kinds of pressure, new kinds of hurt and new kinds of love and delight and growth.

The truth of the matter is, the statistically overwhelming probability is that the world won’t give a shit about your book. To have a remote chance of changing that, authors need to work it, and work it hard—otherwise, very, very, very few people will care (sorry). Even if you do work it hard (doing bookstore events, pitching to media, creating promotional items, and a variety of other things), the chances are that the only ones who’ll care are your mom and a few friends. The book business can be both unbelievably exciting (and rewarding) but also freaking brutal. It can break your heart a dozen different ways. It’s crucial that you find a way to brush aside the stress and disappointment so you can appreciate the good moments (because they are there in very real ways).

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You can’t be too proud or aloof. In the world of authors, I force myself to be a shameless tramp walking the busy boulevard in my candy-apple short-shorts and tiny terrycloth tank top, pacing the corner, winking at all the passing bookstore people, the media outlets—anyone, really. They’re tooting their horns at me as they blaze past, spraying gutter water all over me, and I’m getting catcalls. Very few of them actually pull over and the roll down their window. But when one of them does, it’s magic.

These publishing “streets”—it’s hard out here for an author pimp.


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Greg worked as a Silicon Valley speechwriter, a newspaper reporter and a global communications leader. His ghostwriting for high-profile business executives has appeared in Newsweek, USA Today, and the Financial Times. His award-winning short fiction has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. His debut novel, Cash Out, was listed by The New York Times as one of five notable novels written about Silicon Valley.


San Francisco aside, (damn you, far away, beautiful weather) Greg Bardsley lives in a place where many of us want to be.  He’s a published author backed by the big leagues. And, while the big leagues played a part in shaping his story into the gem it is today, it doesn’t mean that he hooked a free ride. He’s just dealing with life on the other side of the dream: the good, the bad, and the little moments of magic that make it all worthwhile.

Thanks for laughs, Greg!

And as for YOU?? You can find The Bob Watson here.

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Editing Woes

God help me, editing can be a painful process. Editing a lengthily, complex book (that has been edited several times already) can make you want to stab yourself in face with a soldering iron.chri.png

Characters who were removed on the third round of edits might poke their little heads out to fu@# your day in the eighth. You may come to find the escape route you so meticulously mapped out for your characters eleven months ago is as plausible as Trump getting into the White House. (WAIT A MINUTE–you mean that actually happened??) The groundwork for plotlines you thought of while working in later chapters must now be staged from the BLOODY beginning. Editing a book has become a task of flipping between pages to make sure that everything connects in a cohesive, well written (or even vaguely entertaining) story.

And, sometimes you open the file for Chapter 24 to find that every word is garbage. Did you actually write this, or did a small child with weak wrists hack into your computer and delete your glorious, errorless prose to replace them with this complete and utter trash?

Sometimes it seems like there is no hope.kuyc

Sometimes you might show your work to someone you respect. Sometimes they tell you it’s okay to give up and start something new.

And now you have permission.

Now you may give up.

Let’s face it, kids. This is the hard part.

It’s important to remember that nothing worth doing is ever easy. And, because I am not-so-secretly actually talking about me, today I am reminding MYSELF that the only way a book gets written is word by word. 1f89qlStephen King puts his pants on one leg at a time. The sun always shines after the rain.  A diamond only forms with a lot of pressure. Yahda, yahda, yahda.

If you think you have found the book you truly want to write, the godforsaken TANGLE of yarn you want to weave into a story, be prepared to fight for it. And then, be prepared to find out that the only person you really have to fight for it is yourself: the side of yourself that is scared of a lot of effort . . . and the overwhelming possibility of failure.

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Shut up, Batman.

It’s okay to take a break to write a blog (like this one), apply for a grant, read a book, attend a conference, and mess around on Twitter. They’re great ways to give your mind a rest. The human brain is an organ that often works like a muscle . . . right?

It needs rest days.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

So, (maybe) today I’m doing myself a favor. I’m taking a little time to recalibrate. After I come home from work and the kids are in bed, I may even drink.

*coughs*

Heavily.

Not that that’s a solution. But it makes me feel better. And tomorrow I’ll start writing again, one sentence at a time. ‘Cause love it or lump it, THIS is the stupid, complex, lengthily book I want to write.


 

q1

NOT the cover. Maybe.

 


 

Something Exciting is Brewing


It’s true–my last post was about attending the Florida Writers Conference, too.

But bear with me: this is going somewhere pretty cool.


12661895_10154013026448083_422715894567006278_nThe Florida Writers Conference is held near the end of October every year in Altamonte Springs, Florida.  Over the course of four days, hundreds of writers swarm to the Hilton to attend 80+ workshops, commune with like-minded keyboard junkies, and receive one to one instruction from successful authors in a wide range of genres, as well as helpful critiques from agents.

Writers Off TASK w Friends NEW SquareThis year, I was encouraged to attend the conference by my good friend and critique partner, Dan Alatorre. And I’m glad I did. Because, as an added benefit to the conference, I could actually meet the other two-thirds of our YouTube runaway sensation (critically acclaimed by our die-hard viewer, Aunt Shirley), Writers Off Task with Friends.

It was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up. So, I boarded not one, but THREE germ infested planes (Charlottetown to Montreal, Montreal to Toronto, and Toronto to Orlando) to arrive at my destination. And do you know what happened? I didn’t get sick. I got to hang out with over seven hundred writers and geek out completely. I got to talk about writing from the time I woke up till the time I went to bed.1euzup

And alligators.

We talked a lot about those, too.

They’re everywhere.

Attending the conference was especially fun because, being Canadian, I got to enjoy lounging by the pool in my down time (in OCTOBER), check out various restaurants nestled between palm trees, and  sample food and wine from around the world at the Epcot Food and Wine Show, which–coincidentally–is the EXACT same time as the conference.

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No, Oprah, just me. I have a point.

So, what’s my point?   (you may wonder)

Well, something pretty exciting just happened, and if you start planning now, you could be a part of it.

My writerly partners in crime: bestselling authors Dan Alatorre and Allison Maruska, have recently been accepted into the FACULTY of the Florida Writers Association.

And you know what? I got in, too.

That’s right! If you’re looking for the perfect excuse to escape your family soak up the spectacular Floridian sunshine next year, check out the Epcot Food and Wine Show, commune with hundreds of other writers, partake in a plethora of writing workshops, meet agents, and hang out with me, Dan, and Allison–you’ve found it.untitled

The three of us will be returning to the conference to teach. And THAT’S pretty cool.


For more information about the conference, check out these handy-dandy posts:

Three Things to Know About Writers Conferences

The Teacher Has Become the Teachee

10 MORE Things to Know about Writers Conferences

Dan’s Special Announcement

The Florida Writers Association


So, keep this destination in mind when planning your vacations for the year. We would love to see you there!


 

 

What’s up with Writers Conferences?


Last Wednesday I woke up in the wee hours in the morning, caught a quick shower, and made my way to the airport. Three planes and a very stern immigration officer later, I stepped out of Orlando International and into what all Floridians seem to refer to as “Paradise.”

They aren’t far off.
But, I didn’t leave my hellions at home with the ol’ hubster for the beautiful palm trees, the perfect weather, or the practically tax-free American wine that flows like milk and honey.

The main reason for going?


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A writing conference.

The great Allison Maruska and I were invited to Florida by Dan Alatorre. Dan a good friend of Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins, a great critique partner, and also the best-selling author of stack of books that are killing it on Amazon right now. Actually, Allison’s books are doing pretty furr-eak-ing amazing, too. Given the opportunity to chill out in the Florida sunshine with these two . . . who could possibly say no?

untitled.pngNot me.

And so, I got to partake in my very first writers conference. Over the course of the next couple of days, I participated in a plethora of workshops that ran from 6am till 9 at night. The conference was attended by agents, critically acclaimed and best-selling authors, blogging phenoms, and beginners.

Now, I am what many would refer to as a self-taught author. I decided to write a novel on a whim without having ANY idea how hard writing a godforsaken book actually is. (Did I mention it’s hard?) That said, it doesn’t mean that I went about learning how to write in a half-@s$ed daze. As a fiercely self-conscious/perfectionist/control freak, I hit google up for writing tips with the tenacity of a trick-or-treating eight year old. ocd-2I bought eleventy-billion writing books, and then I bought the audible versions so I could learn about writing (and torture my children) while folding laundry, washing the floor, and while getting ready for work. I joined multiple critique groups. When I ran into a problem with my story–be it grammatical, or to do with structure, plot, or outline–I was able to figure it out pretty quickly. (Or I just asked Dan.) I wrote short stories for competitions, and eventually sold articles to websites . . . for money.

I learned the skills to teach myself and then taught myself. And, immersing myself in a hotel filled with seven hundred authory types on a quest to broaden our writerly horizons has helped me realize something. I know a hell of a lot more about writing than I’ve given myself credit for.

That said, a fair number of workshops at the Florida Writer’s Conference were geared toward newbies.

The beauty of the schedule was that several workshops ran at the same time, so Dan, Allison, and I were able to sit through bits and pieces of what we found applicable.

By the time the end of the weekend rolled around, I found that I benefited greatly from the very act of immersing myself in author culture. As writers, we are responsible for plugging our own work. leather-bound-booksAt first, we’re the only person who CAN. It’s hard in the beginning. But, when you surround yourself with like-minded authory individuals . . . it gets easier. Because of the conference, I was able to identify a weakness–talking about Old Souls–and overcome it. I learned the importance of talking about my book with finesse. I wrote down and memorized a blurb to recite when people ask me about it. And, I started work on a killer elevator pitch. Not that I EVER plan on running into Eric Simonoff here. Prince Edward Island is rather un-surprisingly agent free . . . not to mention elevator limited. Which is great because sometimes I get nervous.

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GAAAWWWDDD!!

Looking back,  I don’t think attending a writers conference is crucial to authorly growth. But, talking to other writers is 100%, absolutely essential. It’s important to surround yourself with people who have attained the kind of career you want. So, find a place where you can submerge yourself in a pool of writerly kinship.

And–if you do go to a conference, it should probably be somewhere like Florida