Sunday, May 29, 2016

Nine Killed You, Nine Will Die (Brian Katcher)


I couldn't think of a title, so I used the tagline from a great horror movie.

Okay, dreams vs. reality.

A successful book will allow me to save up a bit of money, maybe take a nice trip with my family.



If I'm lucky, I may hear from an occasional reader who enjoyed my work.




Being a writer will allow me to meet all sorts of interesting people and travel to exciting places.




It will somewhat satisfying to mention my success to those who doubted me.




Writing is hard work, but it pays off in the end.



The important thing is, summer school starts this week and if I didn't write on the side, I'd be teaching for the whole month of June. Neener neener.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Dreams and reality at graduation time (Jennifer R. Hubbard)

It’s graduation season, and millions of new graduates are facing the world with pocketsful of brand-new plans and dreams. At least, I hope they are. I hope we have not beaten them down too much with gloomy forecasts of unemployment, ecological crises, and what we might lose in an increasingly automated society—as real as those problems may be. I hope we have not boiled down their aspirations to getting a steady paycheck, as important and difficult as that is.

I don’t know if young adults face the world anymore with the expectation that they will change it; they will correct the wrongs of previous generations. That they will be the ones who get it, the ones who solve humanity’s problems, the ones who figure out how to make human beings stop killing one another. I don’t know if graduation speakers still pass the torch by saying, “You are the future! Go out and make it happen!” I don’t know if graduates still plan to seize the day, to make the world theirs.

But I hope they do.

We need them.

We need young people who question the way things have always been done. We need inspiration, fresh ideas, big dreams.

A lot of big dreams don’t come true. I’m not saying we should sugarcoat that truth. But so much can be done just in the trying.

Dreams shape our lives whether or not we ever reach them, or reach them in exactly the way we thought. Dreams get us through the hard times. They give us purpose. They keep us from settling for less than our best. They give us the possibility that tomorrow will be even better than today.

The real tragedy would be not to even try.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

That Side of the Desk (Courtney McKinney-Whitaker)

I spend a lot of time berating myself for being a failure.

By "failure" I mean a person who got an undergraduate degree in History and French. (What? Who does that, right? Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be liberal arts majors unless they have a very clear life plan. Or business majors. Or theoretical math majors. There are many "useless degrees," it turns out. Just—have a plan, is probably the best idea.)

Then got a Master of Library and Information Science. I was supposed to be a librarian.

Then I worked for about a year and a half as a children's librarian but just couldn't quite find what I needed in the storytime round. Maybe if I'd stayed in longer, there would have been more opportunities to find my niche.

But I went back to school instead and got an M.A. in English at a school that specializes in children's and young adult lit. I was supposed to be a professor.

Then I became one of the legions of adjunct faculty exploited by a broken and corrupt higher education system. (While you're complaining about the high salaries of football coaches, take a look at the inflated salaries and inflated sheer numbers of redundant administrators. That's where your college debt is coming from. Utter mismanagement. It surely is not going to pay your professors, adjunct or tenured.)

I tried and tried to do what I thought I should have done while I was drifting through undergrad, taking classes that (gasp!) interested me and filling my brain with history, French, and even sometimes, French history. I tried to get certified as a high school teacher. I even took a bunch of classes, but it never quite worked out. I was supposed to be a teacher.

Those are all the ways I tried, as an adult, to forget my writing dream. My dream wasn't sensible, it wasn't comfortable, it wasn't a sure thing, and there wasn't a clear Point A to B to C path to get there.
So for about the past ten years, I've been fighting back the nasty little voices in my head that say I'm a failure, that I didn't live up to my potential, that I should be a teacher or a lawyer or some high-powered historian who gets misquoted or told to say ridiculous things on documentaries. 

You know who wouldn't think I'm a failure, though? 

Ten-year-old me, who would be in awe of the silver IPPY medal and the Kirkus star and so jealous of all the places I get to travel. (I don't want to brag, but I've stood on Lexington Green. I saw the tavern where Rab Silsbee...well, spoilers. I fangirled out a little.)

Fifteen-year-old me, who was afraid I would become a "hack." My tenth-grade English teacher used to spit that word like it was the worst thing ever. At the time I was very concerned that the publishing industry would pay me lots of money to write crap. (Ha...ha...hahaha. That has not happened. Yet. Mid-thirties me holds out hope.)

Eighteen-year-old me, who didn't think she'd ever have a book published, much less have national reviewers look at it, much less have those reviewers say it was good.

Twenty-two-year-old me, who pretty much gave up on the writing thing.

The thing I have to remember when I feel like a failure, is this: I did it. I became a writer. I am a writer. 

A few months ago, I was a guest at a library conference, along with any other writers they could get for the low, low price of the chance to sell a few books. I was sitting at my table in the exhibit hall, being generally ignored like everyone but the Newbery winner, whose line was about a hundred people deep, when another writer I'd met at a writing conference said hi and congratulated me on my (in my mind, very dubious) success. 

I was halfway through my, "Oh, it's really not a big deal..." spiel, when she stopped me.

"You're on that side of the desk."

And that, I guess, is what I have to remember, when I think I'm a failure for not following a more sensible, if false, dream.

I'm on this side of the desk. Sure, I dreamed of long lines and movie deals and a spotlight that stayed off me but shone very brightly on my books. 

But I didn't really believe I would ever even get this far.

Ten-year-old me would be proud, and ten-year-old me was a smart kid.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


I've always been drawn to anything artistic. I was writing stories at my child-sized rolltop desk when I was in the first grade. I took about a hundred art courses in high school, and was always walking the halls in some sort of weird vintage garb with clay under my nails and paint stains on my backpack. I played music--piano when I was little, then guitar in high school (an Ozark Mountain Daredevil taught me to play).

I went after the writing. In a no holds barred, headfirst dive kind of way. This month, my fifth traditional novel, SPARK (a YA) released:

My fourth YA and fifth traditionally published book. Wooooh!

Seeing my work on store (and library) shelves has literally been a lifelong dream come true. But other sides of me are crying out not to be neglected anymore...Mostly, that kid with the paint-stained backpack is getting impatient, getting tired of being ignored.


I'm taking another headfirst dive. I've purchased my drawing tablet, and I'm learning the ins and outs of digital art. I'm adding illustrations to my own work.

I'll be honest: I have no idea what I'm doing. Previously, I'd worked with paints and pastels and pencils. But this is also true: I have never had such a great time bumbling along in AGES! There's nothing like being at the start of a brand new adventure, of getting back to an old love, breathing life into an old dream...

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Five times when reality exceeded my dreams (by Patty Blount)

This month, we're blogging about dreams vs. reality.

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being an author someday. You know, writing the kind of books readers would close with happy little sighs....and I did it. It took me a very long time -- decades, actually -- to see that dream come true.

And now that I can officially call myself Patty Blount The Author, there are more than a few perks I get to experience...

1. My family say I'm an inspiration... I set a goal and worked hard to make it happen.

2. My day job coworkers see me in a different light... they see that when I promise something, I keep my word.

3. My readers send me incredible messages, thanking me for characters that resonate with them, that inspire them to fight for things they might have ignored.

4. My chapter-mates at Long Island Romance Writers seek my advice on an array of topics. This never fails to amaze me...that I have ideas and opinions people want to hear!

5. Other authors invite me to join them -- there is no greater measure of success than when your peers recognize your contributions to the industry. I am so proud to have been a RITA Finalist last year and this year, I was invited to participate at the Barbara Vey Reader Appreciation Weekend. In July, I'll be doing a workshop for the YARWA chapter and will also take part in a panel discussion at the RWA National Conference in San Diego. In the fall, I'll happily be offering a workshop at the Connecticut chapter's Fiction Fest event. I've mentored several new authors, and am prouder than a new mama to tell you ALL received requests from industry pros to see their work. And the most exciting thing of all? I'm delivering the keynote address this June to a high school's honor society inductees.

These are all dreams I didn't know I had. I guess dreams are funny that comes true and it sort of gestates into new a generation of dreams.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

7 Ways Being an Author Didn't Live up to My Expectations (Alissa Grosso)

Since nearly forever (or at least second grade) I knew I wanted to be an author, and I had some pretty unrealistic expectations about just what was involved in being an author. As I got older and wiser, I continued to revise these expectations.

Back in 2011, I finally became an author. When my first novel (Popular) came out I figured, I had a pretty good idea of how this whole author thing worked, but I was hardly any better off than when I was a kid and imagined that I was going to write some book so amazing during my summer vacation that the first lady would show up at our house to give me an award.

Here are 7 ways being an author didn't live up to my expectations:

1. My Life Would Be Magically Different.
Okay, I didn't expect actual magic, but I think I definitely thought that with the publication of my first novel, my life would magically change forever. Don't get me wrong, having my book come out in print was super exciting, but I was still me and my life was pretty much the same. I don't know if this is necessarily a bad thing, but if you're expecting or even fearing that publishing your book will rock the very foundation of your existence, well I'm here to tell you that's pretty unlikely.

2. After you sell your first novel, you never need fear rejection again.
On the path to publication, most authors must deal with rejection. Those that make it to that magical land of authordom, do so because they have the strength to persevere and don't let the countless rejection letters they've received dampen their spirits. I had a lot of experience dealing with rejection by the time I made it to the land of authordom, and that's a good thing because - news flash- you can still find yourself dealing with rejection even after you've finally made it. Who knew? Not me!

3. Writing books would earn me a decent living.
It was several years after Chris Farley had delivered his motivational speech, you know the one where authors due to financial need find themselves living in a van down by the river, when my first book was published. So, I knew that authors are unlikely to become fabulously wealthy, but at the same time, I felt like I had already gone through my van down by the river phase (Note: I've never actually lived in a van down by the river, but for 6 months I did live in a basement in Maine. So, that's sort of the same thing.) I kind of had it in my head that the publication of my first book was a step towards writing bringing in a steady sort of income that would give me the means to purchase gourmet cheese and fancy shoes and such. Nope, it's still government cheese. I think this year's royalties were enough to purchase a pair of socks or two.

4. Once you are a published author, the whole writing books thing becomes crazy easy.
I figured that the big challenge would be writing that first book. Once I did that the others were just going to flow from my fingertips like magic. Writing's work, and it's not always easy, and just because I've sold some books doesn't mean I no longer write crap. I think it does get a little bit easier to write subsequent books after completing your first, but only a little. It's still going to take time and effort and lots of deleting. For me, I'm less likely to give up on a book or get distracted by a new shiny idea when I know that I have an editor waiting for it. So, there's that.

5. Author's lives revolve around their writing.
I love writing, but I feel like that's only a tiny part of my life, and to be honest only a tiny part of my daily schedule. Besides spending my days doing things that bring in enough money to ensure that I can pay the rent (Note: my apartment is down by the river, but it's much larger than a van.) and occasionally some gourmet cheese and nice shoes, I also like spending time with the handsome fellow next to me in the picture above, and my boyfriend too--KIDDING! All joking aside, I'm thankful to have a boyfriend who's supportive of my writing, and who, even though he never reads novels, read all three of mine plus a couple more that you can't read yet, but maybe someday. My dog, on the other hand, thinks I should spend less time in front of the computer and more time throwing tennis balls and taking him on walks.

6. There aren't many authors out there.

I always assumed that authors made up a very small portion of the population. After publishing a book I realized there's a whole lot more of them than I ever realized, and way more books get published every year than I ever could have imagined. It's really overwhelming, and I'm just talking about traditionally published books. When you take into account self publishing, the numbers become staggering. I've met a lot of authors since becoming one, and it never seems to fail that any time I have a book signing or other event, I meet at least as many aspiring authors or published authors as I do readers. Thankfully, authors tend to be pretty nice people, so it's always a pleasure to meet another one.

7. Being an author is fun.
Well, hang on a second, this expectation is pretty much spot on. Despite all the ways that becoming an author has fallen short of my expectations, I have to say that I'm so grateful for the chance to live out my childhood dream. There are difficulties and setbacks to be sure, but being an author is fun, even if it isn't all that I thought it would be.

Alissa Grosso is a YA author among other things. You can find out more about her at

Monday, May 16, 2016

Dreams of a 13 Year Old by Jody Casella

I was going to make fun of my dream.

I was going to point out the silliness of a thirteen year old's vision of the future and mock my artistic ability.

Nobody in the picture, for example, has a nose.

The paper, an assignment from my seventh grade English teacher, was to draw what you thought your life would look like at age 30. 

I wrote: "I am happily married. I am also the author of many books!"

Check out the family. Husband close by. Two children, a boy and a girl. And sitting at a desk is Future Thirty Year Old Me. There's a typewriter on my desk, of course, and a telephone for all of my important calls.

I love that I am wearing a dress and earrings and high-heeled shoes. Also, that I am seated, so regally, in my stiff-backed chair. Seventh grade me might be a tad disappointed to learn that Writer Reality is closer to a jammies/bathrobe combo, no earrings, no shoes, and sprawled out on a bed with a laptop on my lap.

But hey! I got the author part right!

This was a vision that had no grounding in reality. I didn't know anyone who was a writer. Most of the adult women in my life were either stay-at-home moms or teachers or nurses or secretaries. I had no clue what was involved in being an author, what my next steps should be if I wanted to pursue such a career.

I got the happily married with two kids part right too.

This vision also had no grounding in reality. I came from a broken home. My father died when I was seven and my mother remarried a not so nice guy. I spent a lot of my elementary and middle school years fantasizing that I was part of a TV sitcom family like the Brady Bunch or escaping into fictional families like Trixie Beldon or glomming onto my friends' families.

So okay. I couldn't draw noses when I was thirteen, and I totally didn't foresee the downfall of the typewriter as a writing tool.

But I won't make fun of my dream.

Maybe because there's still a smidgen of my thirteen year old self buried inside me. Or maybe because I know that it's not right to make fun of a person's dream. Even if the dream is, on the surface, silly.

Even if--or maybe--especially if, the dreamer is yourself.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Expectations versus Reality - Illustrator edition - By Cat Scully

Becoming a pro from something creative that starts off as a hobby or passion project is a dream job for every artist. Art rides the line of something that is purely for yourself and something that you create to be shared with others. It's met with a lot of expectation, primarily because art is so deeply personal. It's a stress relief, an itch you must constantly scratch to feel sane again, and it would be the best thing ever to get paid to do what you love.
The trouble is there is often a steep learning curve when it comes from transitioning from passion to pro, and there aren’t as many resources for illustration as there are for making it as a writer. Since this month’s theme is “expectations versus reality,” I wanted to share some things about what it’s like to make that switch for drawing.
To start, I’ve done about seven world maps for clients, a job I got simply by drawing what I loved and posting online. I’ve illustrated for corporate, freelance, and ad agency clients – big and small – since before I graduated college, almost ten years of experience.
Here’s what I’ve learned about going pro:

Your Art is Not Yours 

Rights are a big thing to consider – it’s part of why I looked for an agent who would represent me for both art and writing (and he’s been a rockstar at helping me keep my rights to my work too!) Why care about rights? Say you illustrate something for a book or commercial, you spend days even weeks drawing and creating something gorgeous for your client, you’d want to sell prints right? Technically, you can’t. The rights to your work are no longer yours, not to mention, you are drawing someone else’s idea or character. You don’t own their characters/maps just because you drew them. What you should retain rights to is your physical artwork that you drew, but you can’t always keep it. If you draw art for a book, it belongs to that publisher in order for them to publish it – they should buy the rights from you or they ask you to sign an agreement that you work for x rate to draw for said book. Do you get to turn around and sell prints? Not unless you get permission. It’s extremely important to learn about rights and have an agent well versed in art negotiation to protect yourself, but you must also enter into working with someone else with the knowledge that, at the end of the day, if you want the work, you may end up doing it for the money/because it’s a great opportunity and not because you want to sell prints.

You Don’t Always Dictate The End Result – The Client Does

Change is inevitable, Mr. Anderson. When a client hires you, you will change the original idea you had about a hundred dozen times and you have to be okay with that. As an artist for hire, you’re paid to draw what the client wants. Sure you can speak up and suggest something better, that’s why your knowledge is valuable (as the client is not usually an artist themselves), BUT at the end of the day they are paying you to draw what THEY want, not what YOU want or feel like drawing that day. You feel like drawing trees, but the client wants you on eight hours of automobiles? You’re drawing automobiles. Have an idea for a book cover but the client wants it a different way that you don’t agree with? If you want to be paid, guess what you’re drawing – the client’s idea. This is where you face why you

Fan Art is Great for Practice, Not So Much for Selling (Unless You’re Known)

As an art fan, how many physical fan art pieces do you buy? How many are on your walls at home, t-shirts you own, stickers, or buttons? How many independent artists do you support on a monthly, weekly basis with your budget? How do you find them, learn about who they are? Now reverse all of that back on yourself as the artist who draws fan art and you can see how that would be a money problem. I draw lots of fan art, but as practice for lighting or inking. I study styles and try to get better for my client pieces. Have I gotten work from the fan art pieces? Certainly. People are more likely to look up their favorite fandoms and stumble on your art just by a quick Tumblr search, but the biggest piece that has changed my portfolio is that I should have about 90 percent original art or client work in my portfolio when looking for jobs. They are going to ask to see what you like to do, what you like to imagine.

Take Time to Draw Just For You

With all the pressure to create five, sometimes and more likely seven days a week, for someone else it’s important to take time to draw what you want to. It’s easy to burn out real fast when the act of drawing because exclusively for someone else. Take time to do it just for you, no pressure, or it will end up just being a chore.

You’re Only As Good As You Are Right Now

If you want to go pro, you have to seek constantly to improve. Not getting work is a combination of several factors, usually:

·         You aren’t pushing out the best art you can possibly achieve in the final piece
·         You aren’t networking
·         You aren’t posting your art consistently enough
·         You aren’t seeking to constantly improve
·         You don’t show anyone your work
·         You aren’t willing to compromise

There are other factors, but these are the main ones I see over and over, primarily the first one on the list. These things don’t guarantee you work, but they help you get out there enough that’s it’s more likely you will get asked.

Find People that Know More than You

Find people that tell you honestly when you suck. I used to get hurt when I drew something and someone would correct me. Now that I’m out of college, I’m always happy when I find these people because I don’t always know what’s wrong with my own work. Just because I’ve gotten jobs doesn’t mean I should stop learning or that I know everything. I can’t tell you how invaluable it’s been to me lately to have someone with tons more experience than me look at my anatomy and tell me to try again and do it better. My weaknesses are anatomy and digital painting, among others, and so I found someone and just asked them to teach me. I’ve shot forward in my work so much faster than I would have on my own. It can be as simple as asking someone at a con or signing up for a portfolio critique, but ask at every opportunity you can. Your work will improve when you ask for help.


That’s all for now! I hope this list helps some of you that are interesting in doing art as a pro. If you have other tips, please share them in the comments below! I’d love to learn from you readers too! 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


by Tracy Barrett

For a long time I dreamed of quitting my day job. But I knew a lot of people who had done just that and were dissatisfied with the life they wound up leading post-day job, and I was determined to avoid that trap.

I’m by nature a planner (oddly, though, I’m definitely a pantser, not a plotter, when it comes to writing), so for years I kept two files—a physical file and one on my computer—with clippings from newspapers and magazines (and pastes from blogs and on-line magazines) with information about medical insurance for the self-employed, about ways to earn money from writing when contracts were slow to come, about how to spend all day in the same house with a retired spouse without the two of you killing each other.

A year to the day before quitting my day job I started a blog about all the preparations I’d been making. I posted weekly about my progress towards my dream of being dayjob-free. Guest bloggers who had a successful post-dayjob life also contributed advice.

All this planning paid off. I had intended to keep the blog going after my retirement with posts about what I would do differently and what I wish I had prepared for better, but really, there hasn’t been enough to keep the blog going. It’s all gone about the way I’d hoped.

A friend always says, “Don’t dream any harder than you’re willing to work.” I would add, “Don’t dream without laying the foundations for your dream well in advance.” It’s worked for me!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Dream vs. Reality by Sydney Salter

Ten manuscripts and four published books into my writing career, I still picture myself writing in a cozy attic room in a house perched on a high rocky cliff, overlooking a churning gray sea as gulls screech across the sky in the slanting rain.

I live in Utah, and while The Great Salt Lake is plenty salty, it's hardly a churning sea. Sometimes seagulls peck at garbage in my grocery store's parking lot. I write in my living room overlooking my bookshelves--and the occasional exercising neighbor.

At some point I saw a Barbara Cartland interview that inspired my early vision of an author's life, but my writing life is not nearly so glamorous. I live in a mostly messy house, mostly because I'd rather be reading than cleaning. I do have dogs. Cats. Tortoises (beguiling little salad eaters!).

Before actually sitting down to write novels, I figured that magic, if not glamour, would be involved. Not merely dogged persistence. And actually sitting down.

Often when people first meet me, and discover that I am a writer, I find myself bumping up against their dream of what comprises an author. Magic? Glamour? Mystery? And here I am looking normal. Maybe even boring. That seems to be intimidating to people--as if there's something lurking unseen.

Yeah, I know, I think to myself, as I watch people try to figure out what to make of me. I thought I'd be glamorously penning books perched in an attic above the storming sea. Not like today, scribbling away at the Barnes and Noble cafe in a strip mall in a dull suburban town in Utah.

But that's the reality--and it works.

Monday, May 9, 2016

My Top Five: Why Reality is Better Than Dreams (Jenny O'Connell)

I think that people typically assume that dreams are better than reality. I mean, we hear it all the time: the guy of my dreams, the dream job, my dream vacation. But really, are dreams better than reality? I guess I don't think so. So here are my top five reasons why reality is better than dreams:

1. Dream: I can't ever dial the phone when I want to or need to. Either I keep forgetting the phone number, or the call never goes through, or my fingers can't seem to work the buttons, it's highly frustrating and unpleasant and, in some dreams, can be life-threatening.
   Reality: I have a cell phone. I pick it up and dial the number I want. The call goes through. I even have numbers pre-programmed so I don't have to remember them. It's great.

2. Dream: Falling. Far. Down. Hundreds of feet off cliffs. Buildings I'm in tip over and fall to the ground. Lots of plummeting toward the earth from a height not to be survived. Not fun.
    Reality: The only falls I take are when I trip over my own feet running to the head of the line at the ice cream stand.

3. Dream: I'm not graduating from college. I've gone all four years only to realize, the day of my graduation, that I never studied. And I'm going to fail my exams. I have no idea what I'm doing, no idea what any of the answers are. And that means I flunk out. Damn, why didn't I study?
   Reality: I graduated college. Yea!!

4. Dream: My teeth? Yea, they're all loose. And falling out. And there's no stopping it.
    Reality: I have all of my teeth and they are perfectly straight and white thanks to braces and impeccable dental hygiene.

5. Dream: I'm naked. And not in a good way. No, this naked is highly inappropriate and public. How the hell did I leave the house and forget my clothes?
    Reality: This never happens.

So, see? Reality can be infinitely better than dreams.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Somedays You Just Want to Watch Bravo Channel Til Your Eyes Bleed And Other Writing Life Truths

I have learned over the years that complaining about the writing job part of my life to my friends who don't write is fairly futile and also hugely annoying to them, like the constant buzz of gnat you can't quite squash. "The publicist didn't return my email," I say. "I am bereft."** And they hear 'publicist' and stop listening. Or utter up a "But you love what you do! It's your dream come true!" and then I shut up because yeah, I do.  And yeah it is. Really. And it is nice to have friends who believe I am higher up on the author food chain than I actually am. If they think I am living the high life, then who am I to burst their bubble?

**Note: I don't actually use the word bereft. But I could.

But just in case they ever want to know the truth about the dream they imagine, I'm sneaking the reality version in here today:

Dream Version #1: You get to work from home! That is awesome!
Reality Version # 1: I get to work from home! That is sometimes awesome because I don't have to wash my hair and somedays I don't have to wear pants. It is also sometimes boring and devoid of human contact unless I count the dog and the mail carrier.

Dream Version # 2: You must make so much money!!
Reality Version # 2: hahahaha.  I still need and want various versions of the day job. (truthfully, I like it that way. I'm not a big 'put all your eggs in one basket' kind of girl!)

Dream Version # 3: You get to see your books in stores!
Reality Version #3: Okay. Yeah. That one is pretty damn thrilling.

Dream Version #4: You get to travel! You get to meet cool people.
Reality Version #4: Sometimes. And usually I pay for it. And yeah, I do. They may not remember me, but that's fine.

Dream Version #5: What an amazing, romantic way to earn a living!
Reality Version #5: Yes. It actually is. It is also basically me in dirty yoga pants typing, punctuated by me looking out the window, eating peanut butter, swilling coffee (or wine. or bourbon), sighing, and occasionally going off topic and Googling "The perfect taco." Somedays after eight hours, as the title of this post indicates, al I want is to binge something from the Bravo Channel/Andy Cohen produced oeuvre.

Mostly though? The real truth?

I am hugely fortunate to get to do something I love. I get to make up stories for part of my living. I  have seen my books on shelves. People I don't know have told me they like my work. Or told me they didn't like it, which is also fine because I have learned that once a book is out there, it's no longer mine. It belongs to readers and they can like it or hate or fall somewhere in between or tell me it's the 8th worst book they have read this year or whatever. They can totally misunderstand what I was trying to do or they can see things even I didn't know I put it there.  I love all of that. Because I am creating art!

Balancing the See Saw of Dreams vs Reality by Kimberly Sabatini

When it comes to being an author and  having books published, I believe there is a fine and ever changing line between dreams and reality.

 In my head I keep picturing a see saw.

If you're not stretching yourself to achieve goals that seem out of reach, you're probably not working hard enough. It's amazing what we can do when we apply ourselves. Let's face it, most people don't aim high enough.

But on the other end of the see saw, it's foolish to believe that being a good writer is all you need to be published. There are lots of great writers who never get there shot. And even worse, sometimes less then good writers get the attention. 

The truth is, there is no way of knowing where you are going to fall on the see saw of publication. There are too many unknowns. 

If you think only of your dreams, with no reality interjected into your choices, you might be dealt one crushing blow after another. Or instead, if you always quit on yourself, to prevent anyone else from rejecting you, you've already lost anyway.

Neither one of these options is ideal. My suggestions is to find some middle ground. Stand closer to the center of the see saw and lean in whatever direction makes the most sense in any given moment. Find your balance between dreams and the reality.

Here are some tangible examples of some balanced middle ground between dreams and reality...

*Make time to write daily, but don't quit your day job.

*Challenge yourself to write things that are hard, but also be sure you know the basics.

*Do something different so you stand out--but break the rules, only when you know what the rules are and have a clear reason of what breaking them means to your work.

*Take the advice of experts in the field because they have experience that can help you, but know what you can't live with changing about your writing or yourself.

*There are fabulous things to learn on the internet, but be sure to turn off your internet to get your writing done.

*Don't make yourself crazy comparing yourself to others, but believe that your book has a place on the shelf, too.

*Don't give up on a book too quickly, great writing takes work--but know when to put something away and move on to something new. 

Can you think of any other places you can think of that demand a balance between dreams and reality to give yourself the best advantage as you try to succeed in the world of publishing?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Tonight Show (Bill Cameron)

When I was in high school, my dream was to be on The Tonight Show. This was still during the Johnny Carson era, which is perhaps a bit too revealing about how old I am. Anyway, I imagined myself sitting on that couch, lobbing bon mots at Johnny while Ed McMahon shouted, “Hi yo!” beside me. It was gonna be great.

The way the dream worked was this: I would start out by selling a bunch of stories to science fiction magazines. That would get my name out there. People would start to know about this Bill Cameron guy, because his stories are everywhere. Probably a few Nebula and Hugo nominees in the bunch—but no winners, not yet yet. I wasn’t greedy. Meanwhile, while this story deluge was flooding the market, I’d be working on my novel.

The novel was going to be my big splash. My epic, my magnum opus, the Book That Would Change Everything—the book that would ensure that someday, my name would be uttered in the same breath as Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein.

A boy could dream. Right?

The first sign my dream might not quite come off as planned came was the stack of rejections I collected. I was sending stories to Asimov’s Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction every other week, which meant every other week I was getting those stories back in my carefully prepared self-addressed, stamped envelopes. Usually they came with a pre-printed card featuring a generic “Not for us” message (implied: not for anyone). Sometimes the card had a scribble of ink that might have been someone’s initials. Hard to say. Maybe it was a bored doodle.

The second sign my dream might not come off quite as planned is the novel I was writing was called The Hunter of Fishes. Now, writers all know working titles rarely end up being the actual title, and sometimes they’re pretty silly—if not outright placeholders. (My current WIP is called Joey 2, since it's the second book about my character Joey. No idea what the actual title will be.)

But the thing about The Hunter of Fishes is it was pretty much an on-the-nose title, except the “fishes” in question were giant space fish and the “hunters” in question were both named after the producers of the movie The Graduate. (Why them? Who knows?)

This magnum opus, this genre-bending science fiction epic came in at a hefty 175 manuscript pages, and we’re not talking single-spaced, zero margins. My manscripts were typed according to publisher standards, which meant my epic was barely a novella.

Also, it was terrible. And I mean that in the most generous sense of the word. Ter. Ri. Ble.

So the dream didn’t turn into reality. At least not that dream. One thing that did happen was Asimov’s Science Fiction sent me a check for $275, though they never ended up publishing the story. Maybe it was a consolation prize. “We’ve rejected you so many times we’re sending you a check out of the forlorn hope you’ll stop submitting this dreck.” Still, money! But not “Hi yo!” with Ed McMahon and Johnny Carson money.

That Asimov check arrived in 1981. My first novel was published in 2007.

During the intervening years, I wrote a couple more terrible novels, and a bunch of short stories, some of which were actually published here and there—occasionally for a few bucks. Johnny Carson retired. Then Jay Leno retired. No one invited me to appear on The Tonight Show. Nobody had reason to invite me to appear on The Tonight Show.

But I kept plugging away. And in the process, I found out that the crazy fame and fortune dream was a lot less important than the plugging itself. In fact, I’m not even sure what I’d say if I actually ended up on The Tonight Show couch. (“May I have a blanket to hide under?”) My next book, Property of the State, comes out in about a month, and that’s the real dream. I plugged away for a lot of years and wrote a book I’m proud of (my fifth overall, and my first YA!) And in a few short weeks people will get the chance to read it for themselves.

That’s a dream worth working toward.