In my estimation, emotion can alter our expectations. OK, I admit it. I just really wanted to say that.
Just spent a few hours working on the new house, including a walk-through with our contractor to get estimates for some of the remodeling work. I felt excited (another E word) but was also a little sad for the previous owners who are starting to say goodbye to their home of 15 years. While this project is a fun adventure for me, both my parents and the previous owners of our new house are embarking on major life changes. As a result, I’m trying to keep by excitement in check with consideration to the bittersweetness of the situation for those around me.
In good news, our contractor said the words “that’s going to make it easy” more than once, and easy is a really really REALLY good E word to hear when you’re getting ready to remodel a house, especially a 100 year old house. Phew! Lots of work to do but it looks like many of the things we want to do are feasible.
Oh, and I got 100% on my final exam! Yay for E day!
In terms of expectations, I continue to work on keeping mine realistic. In every part of my life, there are a lot of people whose wants and needs are intertwined with my own. So rather than spend too much time with expectations, I try to keep close company with hope. I hope all our plans for the house are possible. I hope I can get my next novel drafted by June. And I hope that I find a literary agent who will join me on this fantastic, completely un-ordinary writing journey. I expect that if I stay positive, keep working hard, and take care of myself and the people I love, that no matter what happens, I’ll find myself surrounded with love and hope and possibilities.
We’ll start with some academic details. Just finished my exam! After a final pass to make sure all the details were where they needed to be, I pushed the submit button and now it’s a waiting game. Two things about me: 1) I am NOT the most patient person (though I try) and 2) I am a serious and sometimes ridiculous overachiever when it comes to school SO wish me luck J Next class starts May 21, so I’ll be turning my focus over the next few weeks to the new house and drafting a new novel.
In terms of the house, we’re meeting with the contractor tomorrow and the first order of business has to do with doggie details – namely, the fence. This house comes with a spacious and beautiful backyard. My parents, who will be moving in in less than two months, come with a sweet little adorable doggie pal who we’ll all want to keep safe and sound in said backyard. So, we’re looking at the fence. We’ll be putting in a new gate and dig-proofing the entire fence. I found some cool spikey things that keep critters from digging their way through. Has anyone ever used these before?
This pup isn’t much of a digger really, at least not around fences, but she’s small enough that she could slip pretty easily under a few areas where the fence doesn’t quite reach the ground. This seems a lot easier than – say – replacing the whole fence, right? My pooch is an indoor dog only so we haven’t had to deal with this particular issue at our house. I always love a new challenge!
After the fence, we’ll be looking at doggie doors and other canine contraptions that will make the new house a great new home for my mom’s furry friend.
AND THEN….on to the new novel. I’ve spent the last two months researching degenerative eye diseases and I’m ready to start delving into the world of my new protagonist (and her sidekick), as well as a brand new villain who already gives me the creeps. Yay! Hoping to have a first draft done by June. Fingers crossed!
Today’s task: getting an estimate from one of our favorite contractors for at least half a dozen improvements to the new house. One of those projects is building a carport. We’re going to compare a custom built structure that would more closely match the look of the house vs. a pre-fab structure that will likely be the more economical option. The new house is not listed on the National Historic Register but the neighborhood itself is a Historic District and many of the neighboring houses have been listed as official historic sites. We’re hoping to make improvements keeping with the style and historic aesthetic of the neighborhood.
Collaboration is the name of the game. Finding professionals who will help us realize our vision while working within our budget is just one part of the process. If you know me, you know I tend to think really big. So having collaborators (including my brilliant and interminably patient husband) who will rein me in when necessary is high on the list of priorities.
My husband and I certainly collaborate on many things in life, but I prefer to think of him as my co-conspirator. For some inexplicable reason (could it be love?), he likes my big ideas, my passion projects, my leaps of faith. I have a strong work ethic, so he knows that I’ll work my tail off to make things happen, but I suspect I also amuse him. He supports all of my endeavors, providing reality checks and some necessary grounding as we go along.
So, what does all this have to do with writing? As much as we’d love to shut ourselves into a room and produce masterpieces that make us wealthy without having to interact with anyone, having a writing career requires collaboration. Whether we’re freelancing or writing novels, we’re likely to work with agents, editors, publishers, marketers and all sorts of other people who help get our work in front of readers. We also work together, in writing groups, to improve our craft and broaden our horizons (and sometimes just to vent over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine). All of these pieces are necessary parts of seeing our projects to completion (oh look, another C word!).
Anyone have any thoughts on collaboration? Or, if you prefer, custom built vs. pre-fab carports? I’m all ears. (here's a picture of the driveway).
I live in an ultramodern house in Boulder County. Our new house is the opposite…sort of. It’s an American foursquare style house cozily situated in the heart of a historic district. Built in the early 1900’s, but restored and updated to reflect modern sensibilities, the house is a mix of old and new. For instance, many of the original windows are still in place, but fixtures and appliances have been updated. The previous owner is an interior designer, and the house reflects her aesthetics. Walking in the first time was like entering a dream home, and lucky for us, much of the décor and furnishings are staying put.
However, to fit our repurposing project, there are a few big fixes and renovations to be done. In terms of priority, the basement and bathroom are on the top of the list. The basement has a lot of usable space and we’re going to work on turning it into the new laundry room so that we can convert the current laundry room into a fourth bathroom. It’s going to be quite a task! And in terms of style, I’m on the fence. I want the bathroom to feel luxurious, but not overly modern. This is definitely not my area of expertise and it’s at least a mile outside my comfort zone. Thankfully, the Internet never lets me down when it comes to idea generation. You can help too. Below you'll find a photo of the current laundry room. Once a covered porch, it’s a small but sunny room and I’m dying to put a nice soaking tub in there.
Of course, as we speed along on this project (and this week is also finals week for me, so I’ve got some tall studying to do), I have to remember to take a moment to breathe. Yesterday, I developed tunnel vision and made a few unfortunate mistakes. Today, I’m reminding myself that working hard is important, but working smart….even more so. My tendency to jump into things has led to some amazing adventures in my life, but it also tends to land me in hot water from time to time. I’m constantly telling friends “Breathe!” when they feel overwhelmed. Guess it’s time to take my own advice.
Speaking of hot water….I’m ready to look at tubs!
I know today is April Fool's Day - an easy A choice, yes? But my theme this year has to do with lessons on life and writing learned during a home improvement project, so today's post is about assemblage.
Assemblage: a collection or gathering of things or people. My family is about to embark on a new adventure. My parents are moving to a nearby town and we're going to start a new business. This business involves the purchase and renovation of a beautiful century old house. And, as you might guess, it's going to take a whole lot of planning. We'll be gathering together all the things we need to make our project a success. Assemblage.
This process is the same in many areas of life. As a writer, I spend an enormous amount of time collecting facts and details. Sometimes this involves research into real places, people, and events. In some cases, I'm making things up as I go. I will spend months with my characters, their conflicts, and the details of their lives before I ever sit down and start typing a story. The end product is an assemblage of pieces of information that will build the story, creating suspense and giving readers characters that they can relate to.
Today, my work involved creating business documents and applying for licenses and identification numbers that will lead to more tangible tasks in the future. And since it's Easter, I'll be keeping this post brief so I can spend time with my loved ones. But I hope you'll follow along during the month of April. These posts will be packed with hints, updates, and reveals as we get this home project going and I simultaneously draft my next novel with the goal of completing both projects by June.
It has been such an interesting and exciting year, especially here on the blog. We'll have new authors telling us their stories starting next week, but today I'd like to take this chance to thank all the amazing authors who've shared their experiences with us. We've been so fortunate to have aspiring and emerging authors, self-published and traditionally published authors, just starting out authors and New York Times Bestsellers, and everyone in between. Thanks for the stories. And thank you readers for taking an interest in all these wonderful authors! Below you'll find the links to all the authors who've participated in #WhatsYourStory to date. Check them out, add their books to your to-be-read lists and share them with your friends and family. Happy Thanksgiving!
Sarah Reichert (S. E. Reichert) is a writer, novelist, poet, and blogger. She is a member of Northern Colorado Writers, Wyoming Writers, Inc., and a member of The Romance Writers of America. She is the author of Fixing Destiny, Finding Destiny, and Fighting Destiny a series of paranormal romances set in Maine. Her work has been featured in The Fort Collins Coloradoan, Haunted Waters Press, Tuliptree Publishing’s 100-Word Dash, and Sunrise Summits: A Poetry Anthology. She has blogged for The Writing Bug and the Be True Be Love website. She plans to debut her own blog this summer tentatively titled “The Beautiful Stuff”. Reichert lives in Fort Collins with her family.
We all begin somewhere, usually not having a clue where we will go or what will become of the quick flash of light that is our human existence.
When I began writing, some time in the fifth grade, I didn’t understand what I was doing. I only knew that ideas were in me and they needed to get out. Post-it notes, notebooks, floppy disks full of ideas and characters, poetry, essays, thoughts that occurred to me randomly or stewed in my brain for months, all cumulated into boxes and files of thought.
Still, I never considered myself a writer.
I just had ‘stories’. I only ‘dabbled’. I was a girl who tended towards depressive thought and knew I felt better when I wrote. I daydreamed about different lives, different people, and how they would move through the world. They were only stories, nothing fantastical or significant.
When I moved from Wyoming to Oregon, to California, and finally to Colorado, my words moved with me. I would occasionally pull out each page like a handmade ornament, re-reading and losing myself in my words. I remembered what was happening in my life at the time I wrote them, then I’d carefully put them back.
After the birth of my first daughter, and deciding that even though it was a financial hit, I’d much rather spend my days with my greatest creation than putting up with cranky adults, I found a different kind rhythm to life. I gained moments in the day that I could explore my writing.
I started to write more in depth and longer stories as the characters in my life fleshed out from my own experiences and failures. My writing became more interesting; it became more complex as my life did. It evolved.
Soon, I was cramming in word counts during nap times and typing madly away in the car during preschool, until, little by little, paragraph at a time, I had a book. A book I’d written. A beginning, a middle, and an end, filled with characters that I loved and cared about.
Only then did I wonder: Could it be that I was a writer? Is that what it meant? That my “stories” were actually part of my identity? That maybe I could pull out the boxes of secret thoughts and see that I had always been a writer?
Being self aware as a writer didn’t happen over night for me. Most artists understand who they are early on, but I never thought enough of myself to believe I possessed any kind of mad-genius creativity. I only knew the words burned inside and I wasn’t happy until I pulled them out.
Along my journey, inspirations came from all over. The books and writers I loved (Jane Austen, Emily Dickenson, Lord Byron, Shelly, Whitman, Charlotte Bronte, Nora Roberts, Stephen King, Preston Child, Paulo Coelho, Jean M. Auel, Anne Rice, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Neil Giaman), quirky stories and complex characters pulled from my own life, from movies, books, and even the news, all gave me fodder for creating my own worlds. Where one thought travels, more tag along behind.
Writing is a tough journey. It is wrought with tears and missteps. I’ve failed spectacularly on the page more times than I care to admit. There are times when I look at my laptop or tattered composition notebooks and physically feel the frump of not wanting to write. Many times, I feel I don’t have anything left to give the page.
But that’s never true.
It’s inside, and more often than not, festering to be let out.
What keeps me going back, is not that its always fun or easy, but that the work I put in, (the hard hours of editing or writing pages that will never come to anything themselves) has cemented in my head, where it matters most, that I am a writer. My writing isn’t insignificant, its integral to who I am.
One book led to two, which led to three and now soon to be six.
I didn’t know when I sat in the rocking chair in a state of nursing exhaustion, and thought about a girl and a ghost that it would be a bellwether to my writing career. A brilliant, burning light that led me through the darkness and inspired me to tell her story. (Fixing Destiny, Finding Destiny, Fighting Destiny)
I didn’t know it would instill in me the courage to tell all of my characters’ stories, because they matter. All stories matter. Getting them out of your head and onto a page matters. To you, to your health, to your mental well-being. To your journey.
We can only move forward if we honor what burns inside of us.
I’ve learned in whatever state I am, in whatever moment of life, in whatever hardship I’m shouldering, that writing is my tool. It helps me work through my depression and anxiety. It helps me regroup.
I’ve learned that not all of my writing is meant for everyone. And even the writing I do make public will not affect everyone the way that it has me. I’ve learned, most importantly, that that’s okay. Our jobs as writers are not to please everyone, or sell a million copies. Our job is to write.
Bring what burns inside of you out and light the world.
You can follow her recent releases and news about her writing on her Facebook page:
Sarah's novels can be found on Amazon:
Andrene’s graduation piece for a presentation skills course she took for work was entitled, Breeding before Forty and garnered enough laughs that she was persuaded (some might say coerced) into taking part in a rookies’ night at an Auckland comedy club. The club asked her back and she stayed on the professional stand-up circuit for three years, before retiring to concentrate on her long-form writing. Her novels are irreverent, edgy and very funny.
I’ve been hooked on writing, ever since getting my first favourable review, aged 9. It wasn’t 5 stars; it was an A on a writing exercise in English Class. I’m still not sure what our teacher was thinking, getting 9 year olds to write a story about a real-life Welsh mining disaster where a school-full of kids was buried by a collapsing slag heap. I had nightmares for weeks.
There was then a hiatus until my writing got a kick start courtesy of having to pen my own speech for a presentation skills course for work. I wasn’t able to help myself. There was going to be no dull, boring speech for me. I had to slip in a few laughs. And then a few more. One thing led to another and next thing I know I’m writing my own routines for stand-up.
I stayed on the professional circuit for three years in a constant haze of writing, pure unadulterated fear (that was the performing part), tweaking the jokes to make them work better and then trying them out again. It taught me about writing to a deadline and taking feedback constructively, even if it hurt at the time. Drunk people can be incredibly cruel.
It was around this time I decided to try my hand at writing something longer. Something that could be understood by people who weren’t half, or in some cases, fully cut. I dutifully crafted a synopsis and a few chapters and sent them off to an agent to get myself signed up. Boom! Blown out of the water. Ever so nicely, I have to say. Such a newbie mistake to make, looking back. If memory serves me correctly, I burned the returned submission, whilst dancing naked around the fire and cursing the agent’s name to the heavens.
But it was this very kick up the bum that set me on the path to being a published author. I took courses, so many courses. All of them useful, but none of them really giving me the key I was looking for. I was then very fortunate to be accepted into a six month creative writing course. The course itself was average, what was brilliant about it was my being assigned a mentor for the final month.
I didn’t just get any mentor, I got assigned a mentor who’d had a book on the New York Times Best Sellers List, who’d taught creative writing at university level and who believed in called a spade a $#@*$ shovel! Let’s put it this way, when submitting work to her I NEVER made the same mistake twice. The woman’s lessons stuck like %$#@ to a blanket. I’m paraphrasing here.
Because of her input and my hard work, when I submitted my novel, This Girl’s Abroad, to my preferred publisher, it was accepted straight off. I think I might have cried. Okay, I did cry. And danced. No fire this time. Since then I’ve gone on to publish Mounted and Hung and Screwed for Money. These three titles make up my Excess Baggage Series which is set in the fabulous seventies. A time when life was simple, pants were wide, heels high and hair as close to Farah as you could get without asphyxiating yourself. The series is a little like That '70s Show, but with an R Rating.
I’m currently working on DietVale, a comic horror set on a fat farm on the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. It follows one woman’s journey from lard arse to kick arse, all while on a steady diet of B-List Celebs.
And if that wasn’t enough, I’m also writing a series of novelettes that sit alongside the Excess Baggage Series. These are only available to my subscribers, although after I’ve finished all five or six of them, I might publish them as a collection. The first, Smashed Nuts, is available now.
My motivations are definitely being able to write as well as my heroes Anne Rice, Marian Keyes and Janet Evanovich, to have people love my books and to know I’ve brought laughter into their lives. There are a lot of very serious books out there and sometimes, if you’ve had a rough day, that’s not what you need. Listen to me, I sound like Freud!
One writer I would love to meet is Bill Bryon. I adore the man’s ability to describe a place in a few well-chosen words that somehow have me laughing until my sides hurt. It’s a skill I’d like to emulate one day.
Most Recent Work
SCREWED FOR MONEY – Book 3, Excess Baggage Series
Brenda hasn’t had a money worry since puberty hit, because she’s always been well cared for by the elderly gents she’s latched onto. There’s none so generous as an older chap who’s allowed to get his wrinkled mitts on a pair of boobs not in danger of being tucked into a waistband.
She’s therefore gutted when her very healthy nest egg courtesy of one of them is scrambled through no fault of hers. On the bones of her arse, her choices are going back to a love live littered with dodgy prostates and bouts of emergency CPR, or getting a job.
But Brenda has issues with the old nine-to-five, preferring nine-ty-five-and-loaded and so the plan to teach others the art of relieving rich old gents of their spare change is one borne of desperation. She’ll be golden, so long as she can avoid being arrested.
You can follow Andrene online at:
Where to Buy Screwed for Money
#WhatsYourStory is a weekly guest column at AmyRivers.com. The focus is on our writing lives and the risks we've taken to achieve our writing dreams. Please share these stories and help support a talented group of authors.
Welcome to March, dear readers! I am so honored to have Laurie Notaro as my guest blogger today and the first in my #WhatsYourStory series, featuring established and aspiring authors who will share their experiences in this writing life. You can find Laurie's books on the shelves of your favorite bookstores. In addition to her writing work, Laurie recently launched Laurie Notaro Creative, offering structural, line, and copy editing services and consultations to creative and academic writers at every level. Here's what Laurie had to say:
Very clearly, I remember the first morning I came home after my first book tour. It was already a scorching Arizona day at 8 a.m., but when I opened the back door to let my dog out, I smiled when my face was instantly warmed by the sunshine.
"This morning will be the morning for the rest of my life," I thought, then poured my coffee and sat down at my desk to work on my second book.
That was sixteen years ago. In the course of that time, I've written and published fourteen books of humor, women's fiction and historical fiction. Some did very well; others did not. But every day since then, including this morning, I got my coffee, let the dog out, and went to work at my desk.
Today will mark the last morning I move in that routine, my last morning of that life. I, like many, many other authors I know, cannot make a living solely by writing books anymore. It's time for me to get a day job and return to the workforce, and instead of sitting down at my own desk to write, I will be sitting down at another desk across town to give my time and effort to something that does not have my name on it.
Believe me, I am grateful that I even have the opportunity and skills to return to the workforce. Before I became an author, I was a reporter and columnist for a large metro daily newspaper; before that, I was an editor at a beautiful city monthly magazine; before that, I was the public relations person for a non-profit. Before that, I started an alternative magazine with my friends straight out of college. I made $800 a month and still had to ask my parents for money. Before that, I spent my college years not in class but working at the university newspaper, often times at the office until at three in the morning literally putting the newspaper together. I graduated with an unimpressive GPA, but with a firm foundation of writing, publishing and knowing what it was like to get paid shit for what you love to do.
When my first book came out and made it to the New York Times bestseller list, I hoped I would have a tenure of some sort to stay in the business. I did not know then how difficult it would be to repeat that success, and that in the book publishing world, there is no such thing as tenure. Your record is not in your work, it is not in your effort, it is not in what you put down on the page. It is a numbers game only. I was naive enough to believe that if people wanted better sales, they should write a better book. It was more than naive. It was baseline stupid.
The New York Times reported earlier this year that over 80% of the revenue that used to funnel toward newspapers and book publishing now goes to Google and Facebook. That is daunting news for writers who want to make their living doing something that they are the most skilled at. As a result, I am not the only New York Times bestselling author I know of who has gone back to work and will have to write books "on the side," or as a labor of love. For many of us, this is a reality now. Full-time writers have taken an 80% pay cut since 2002.
Should this be daunting to new writers? It's not good news, but it should not curb hard work and your passion for telling a story. Without stories, our cultural fabric loosens, it frays, it falls apart. If there is a book in you, a tale, a narrative, you carve out time to put those words down, whether it is at night, early in the morning, or in whatever spare time you can scratch out. I still have stories I want to tell. I still have books I want to write. It will take me longer, certainly, but the need for it does not leave me. I have the knowledge of being in the publishing industry for a very long time; the good news is that new writers are getting published every week. With a strong query letter and solid work, the opportunity to publish has really not diminished. I am a huge supporter of helping new writers navigate the channels of publishing protocol. I will always encourage writers to write; without our words, our society dries up and becomes static. Without new perspectives, we turn to stone. Find the time, tell your story. People need to hear it.
My last book was the best thing I've ever written, but it got lost in the frenzy of the election and an uncertain future for our country. It was the real story of three women who were determined to see their goals come to fruition as all of them attempted to make the transatlantic crossing before Amelia Earhart did in 1928. It took me five years of research to write that book, and it was the experience of my lifetime. But the sales numbers were terrible. My publisher turned down my next book proposal, saying verbatim, "Laurie is costing us money."
Those were hard words to hear. They were hard words to write.
The words that will not be hard to write will be the chapters of the next book, which I have not stopped working on. I believe in telling that story, and whether it is in the dark hours of early morning or late night, in the time that I may have gone to see a movie or on my lunch hour, I will write it.
You have my word.
Laurie Notaro was born in Brooklyn, New York, then spent the remainder of her formative years in Phoenix, AZ, where she created something of a checkered past. She is the New York Times best-selling author of the humor memoirs The Idiot Girls Action Adventure Club, Autobiography of a Fat Bride, I Love Everybody and Housebroken, along with numerous others; two humor novels; and Crossing the Horizon, a novel of historical fiction that tells the true story of once famous and now forgotten aviatrices prior to Amelia Earhart that vied to become the first female pilot to cross the Atlantic. She resides in Eugene, Oregon, has a cute dog, a nice husband and misses Mexican food like it was her youth.
In February, Laurie launched Laurie Notaro Creative. Visit her website to learn more.
...channeling West Side Story...OK, moving on.
It seems like every day of this new year brings some sort of change for me. I've got projects coming out my nose (really, it's very painful) and am traveling a lot (next week, Tucson Festival of Books). There's the usual insanity of parenthood, marriage and friendship. And although I admit, there are times when I start feeling a little bit overwhelmed, it's hard not to smile. Life is good.
When I named this blog "Kissing Authors & Astronauts," I was thinking about risk taking and facing the challenges that come in life. For me, an opportunity to produce an online news site in my hometown put me in contact with some amazing people, and yes, there was kissing involved. It started with Michael McGarrity. Michael is a very talented and charming author based out of Santa Fe. He's a big supporter of libraries, and I worked with him on several programs for our local library. I also went to Santa Fe to interview him about the first book in his upcoming series.
During that time, I created programs about literacy, history and culture. I met authors, astronauts and artists, got in free to cover concerts at a beautiful mountain venue and explored local politics during a mayoral election. Sometimes I look back on those days and think: What if I'd said no? What if I'd decided not to take that chance? It was hard work and balancing the news site with the full-time work of my marketing firm was often a juggling act. But I did things that I never would have imagined doing. I was bold. I was brazen. I was persistent. I was unstoppable!
Being a writer is also about taking risks. Sure, there are those enviable stories about authors who were discovered and became NYT Bestsellers on their debut novel! Yay! But most of us have to work long and hard to make progress in an industry that can easily be soul-sucking and cruel. We face lots of rejection, some of which is kind. Some, not so much. We get excited when someone loves something we've written, and then we agonize over how to translate that into a viable income base. We love to write, but for many of us, we're also trying to make a living and it's not an easy field to be in.
So why are so many of us doing it? And what are the stories of those writers out there in the trenches who didn't find overnight success but persevered?
Starting in March, I hope to explore those things on this blog by inviting guest posts from authors who are living the dream (and trudging along). These are funny, smart, creative, hard-working men and women who've decided that being a writer is their passion and will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. Some are full-time writers. Some have day jobs. We'll get to hear a little bit about how they got their starts, the challenges they've faced and where they are in their writing careers. Most of all, we'll be introduced to current authors and writers who are out there creating, and dreaming, every day.
Please share these posts with your friends and family. Maybe you'll find your new favorite author right here :)
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.
Be My Guest!
#WhatsYourStory? Are you an author? I'd love to hear your story and so would my readers. Email me for more information.