You just published a book, but you’ve been kinda quiet, what the heck?

anxiety

It’s been about a month since I’ve released Wine Bottles and Broomsticks. In that time, I’ve posted a single blog post about this, done a hand-full of tweets, paid for a bit of advertising on Amazon, and shared it on Facebook. Really, it’s not much, and I should be posting a lot more and working double-time on writing the next two or three books I intend to publish. I should also, at very least, be blogging about my experience launching a book impulsively and what I’ve learned. There isn’t any good excuse for why I haven’t. I mean, there is an excuse, but as with any excuse, it’s an excuse not really a good reason. To put it in a word – Anxiety. I can’t seem to get over it.

I am at the tail end of two weeks of vacation as I write this and just made the mistake of rechecking my work e-mail. I’ve been keeping half an eye on it just to make sure if something came up I had to deal with, I could. I went from a wee bit more relaxed to full-on stress-ball in the span of three heartbeats. It’s completely incapacitating. These past two weeks were intended to be time spent with the kids, write, blog, advertise, unwind, and generally catch-up on personal life stuff. None of that happened, really. I’ve been avoiding literally everything to the point where all I can do is play video games – which is usually a reinvigorating escape for me. Not this time. I have what I can only describe as a video-game hangover, and I don’t feel anything like rested up and ready to tackle work tomorrow (Tomorrow was supposed to be another day off, but things being what they are, I’ve got to go back a day early.)

There are what you could call extenuating circumstances here, making things worse than they might otherwise be. Right now, in the state of Alaska, my home, the governor has just vetoed hundreds of millions of dollars in funding. I believe it is the largest set of budget cuts ever for this state. Ostensibly, these cuts were made because the state can’t afford it. However, any state that can pay out thousands of dollars every year to its residents can’t possibly be so broke it can’t fund essential services – just one example is the emergency broadcast system – this for a state frequently beset by natural disasters and hazardous conditions.

I did keep my job after the cuts, and it’s looking pretty okay for the foreseeable future, but it’s not clear for my wife. Part of the cuts involved the elimination of all funding for the appellate courts. This is the state supreme court and all courts you might bring a non-criminal case to. I want that to sink in for a minute – he eliminated funding for the most critical aspects of the Alaska court system – if this part of the courts isn’t funded, Alaskan residents won’t have any legal recourse when something goes wrong. For any libertarians reading this-this is what happens when you don’t have a government, you don’t have a voice. It’s not a good thing. Reports are that the budget has the goal of reducing the state’s population. Read: Make it an unsuitable place to live for people with families, unless you’re already wealthy.

The bottom line is that this governor and the people who voted for him are working toward a place that is wholly impractical for my children to settle when they reach adulthood – no education, no services, no safety. I grew up here. This is home. In spite of the fact I make noises about moving to New Zealand or some other state, this isn’t realistic. I did leave for a year when I couldn’t find work, but I couldn’t make it elsewhere. I came back fully understanding that I might very well end up living in a shitty apartment, working two minimum wage jobs. As it was just the two of us at the time, we felt we could make that work. Now, with kids, the calculation is different. It’s not about me anymore. Regardless, this is home, and it will be, even if I’m holed up in a homeless camp at the edge of town with thousands of others in the same boat. The same can’t be said for the people making the cuts. They aren’t, actually, from here and will likely leave in the future anyhow. One of them came here specifically to implement these cuts and then leave immediately.

Even then, for me, it still gets deeper and harder to cope with. I do work for the state. Yes, I still have a job after the cuts, something conservatives say I should be grateful for, but for the first time ever, the cuts have been so dramatic that I’m unsure that I’ll be able to fulfill my obligations to the state, which are written in state law. The hard part about this is that it’s not my fault, but I get to be blamed for the failure. The politicians have taken away resources necessary to be successful and will then point their greasy fingers at people like me and say, “look at that lazy bastard.” So, when I look at my e-mail and realize that I’ve got six weeks of work due in something like the next 10 days. I’m feeling super extra fucked, a failure, and someone else made it so. I don’t like letting people down or just walking away from things, but I’m in a position to do just that.

Alright, so that’s the core of the anxiety, climate change is the other aspect, but I already went semi-viral on a particular rant there and don’t care to repeat the experience. The rest boils down to being impulsive and releasing Wine Bottles and Broomsticks when I did. I don’t actually think I was personally ready for this. I have had a lot of support and positive feedback, but I’m still learning, and it’s committed me to things that I’m not sure I can muster the energy to cope with. I mean, I will with a smile and as much gusto as needed, that’s how I am –recall that I build most of a house with just the help of friends in two years because I was too stupid to know I couldn’t. That house withstood a 7.1 earthquake. However, as it comes to writing, publishing, and marketing, I don’t know if I can pull it off. I’ve goofed around with advertisements and things, but it’s pretty clear that the only books being sold are to those folks I routinely interact with or know IRL. Which is fantastic, but it’s not getting reach beyond that. It’s a lot of effort to go through, and I don’t know if I’m doing it right.

As a result of all of this, I’ve been effectively immobilized. Every time I start thinking about something, the weight of everything else breaks in, and I just can’t properly concentrate. So that’s it. There’s my excuse and what’s going on with me. Now I’ve gotten it off my chest, I will (hopefully) be producing more content and really getting to work on more books.

Why are beginnings so damn hard?

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Everyone who knows me, and some who don’t, are more than fully aware that I’m working on editing the Dark Queen of Darkness. I just finished up the first round of developmental edits, which are back with the editor (Jette Harris). However, I’m not even remotely close to done yet. My process thus far has been to run through her suggestions, pick off low-hanging fruit and then go once through for each of the larger issues to ensure consistency. This usually starts with starting at the beginning. Every time I start at the beginning, I inevitably fidget with the first few paragraphs. It’s killing me.

I wrote the first paragraph to the dark queen almost 3 years ago and it was fucking great. So, naturally, I’ve hated it ever since. The current incarnation is:

There was no mistaking the dark tower. It was the tallest, blackest, and most evil looking tower in the whole of the dark kingdom. Hexe, the dark queen, had built it specifically to say dark queen and sorceress right down to the foundations. She’d even gone so far as to have the words property of the dark queen etched on every stone. The tower was an imposing and unlovely sight, much like Hexe herself, tall, narrow, and nothing but sharp, plain angles.

I think it’s repetitive, not very grabby, and absolutely perfect at the same time. This is not a good place to be when you’re supposed to be editing. At this point, all I have from Jette (the editor) on this is that it’s fine, but maybe not got quite enough hook. As with all of the advice and feedback offered by Jette, thus far, I feel in my gut that she’s quite right. The problem here is that I’m so incredibly close to the work, especially this paragraph, that I’m unable to tackle it with a properly dispassionate approach.

My favorite book openings are those offered by Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and JK Rowling. They tend to be chatty and easy. They give the narrator a minute to bring the reader up to speed before launching into the main thrust of the work. And as I write this, I wonder if examining pieces by those authors might not be instructive – A wise writer once suggested I open a few of the books I like and highlight passages that work. Maybe that’s the answer here. Don’t just look at the words on the page, look at why another author’s intro works.

I don’t know what else to say about this, except that for every book I’ve written, the same problem exists. I hate the intro and also love it just the way it is.

Something new for the new year

new years blog image

Happy new year!

Holy moly, I have absolutely sucked at blogging this year. This might be my second or third post? I don’t even know and I’m way too lazy to even bother checking. Anyhow, for the past few new years’ days, I’ve taken a few minutes to ‘burn’ a work that seemed to have died the previous year. I’m not doing that this year. In part because I haven’t actually finished anything new and in part because The Dark Queen of Darkness didn’t die this year. Last year at this time, I was pretty sure that’s what was going to happen. My wife, however, convinced me to just get off my lazy ass and just self-publish the damn thing.

I made the decision to go forward with Self-Publishing back in August as a 40th birthday gift. While this is proving to be a little bit on the expensive side, it’s still cheaper than trading in my car for a faster model or other similarly foolish mid-life crisis activity.

The status so far is that developmental edits are back from the editor (The extraordinary Jettimus Maximus) and I’m working through them. The suggestions she’s sending along are thoughtful, helpful, and very much in-line with my vision for this story. As I write this, I’ve worked through roughly the first hundred or so pages of the book a couple of times. What I’ve got revised so far still needs a lot of work, but I’m liking the changes so far. The narrative does feel tighter.

This is my first time working with an editor for creative work. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the developmental edit. What struck me about it so far is that it isn’t anything like a critique. We’ve all done those and they definitely serve a purpose, but that’s not what this is about. It’s structural and focuses on things like themes and character development, plot and pacing. To be honest, it covers the ground that a typical critique or beta-read is going to miss. Those often recommend suggestions to tighten up your writing or will help you find issues, but won’t necessarily provide you with concrete strategies for correcting the issue or finding larger problems that aren’t obvious.

Sometime in the past, I wish I could recall when or the actual context, I read a blog post posing the question: Do I need a developmental editor? I don’t recall the conclusion, but it seems like it ran something like: It’s a nice to have, not an essential. At this point, I think that my conclusion is that this is an essential cost. No, many of us can’t afford to hire someone. It’s not free, nor should it be, but there are editors out there who will do this for a reasonable price. What’s more, if you intend to sell your book and it’s been well polished, you’re going to sell more copies, thus the cost of editing should pay for itself.

If you’re considering a developmental edit, and you should be, but don’t know who to go to, I would recommend Jette.

In any case, I’ve got a tremendous amount of work still to go on this book, maybe even more than it took to write to begin with, but I’m now convinced that it’ll be money well spent and readers will find this story a page-turner with endearing characters and at least a few laugh-out-loud moments.