Only a few days left in my blogging challenge, but I’ve run out of things to talk about. Yesterday, I decided I’d spend a couple of posts highlighting some of my books that aren’t as well known as my Coda books, but that I feel are some of my best work. I already talked a bit about my funky genre mash-ups (the Oestend series, and the Davlova books). But I know not everybody likes reading scifi/fantasy, so today, I thought I’d share examples from some of my more recent contemporaries.
It’s September, and school has begun, and historically this seems to be the time when I post some kind of “State of the Author” update. Having a school-age child, my year ends and begins anew in late August, when my daughter climbs into the big yellow bus on that first morning of school, and the day opens up ahead of me like a big, empty room.
Last year at this time, I was doing great. I wrote this blog post talking about how far I’d come in my ongoing battle with depression. For the first time in ages, I was excited about writing. I made it all the way through the school year feeling optimistic about my work — almost giddy — and I finished several stories that I felt really damn good about, including Lost Along the Way, Shotgun, and Winter Oranges. They were all set for release in 2015 (April, May, and November, respectively), so I felt like a seasonally confused squirrel, storing nuts away in the winter for use the following year.
And then summer arrived. I know from experience it’s nearly impossible to write when my daughter’s home, so I arranged to take the time off. Sure, I had to deal with edits and revisions on a couple of projects, but I specifically arranged it so I wouldn’t need to write, and I assumed that by fall, I’d be ready again.
Except this year, it didn’t happen. Maybe because I wasn’t doing Artist’s Way, like I did last year. Maybe because those first couple of 2015 releases didn’t give me the sense of accomplishment I’d hoped for. Maybe it’s simply because I can only sustain my optimism for so long before it all starts to fall apart.
Six years ago at about this time, I was finishing up my very first novel (while simultaneously working on my second one), wondering if I was really good enough to be published. I felt like a lot of aspiring authors do, somehow believing that a publishing contract would change my life. And it does change your life, but most authors will tell you that it doesn’t change in the ways you might expect. Yes, parts of this career are wonderful, but parts of it are so much harder than I ever expected. And as always, I say this knowing somebody out there will roll their eyes. Somebody will say, “Puu-lease, Marie. Cry me a river.” I suppose that’s fair. After all, I work from home. I make my own hours. I take time off whenever I want. So yes, I have it good. But man, sometimes I’d give anything to go back in time and just NOT write that first book. I’m sorry, Matt and Jared, but sometimes I wish we’d never met.
Dear god, the sacrilege of saying those words out loud. My husband tells me he thinks I’m happier now than I was before I started writing, and I find that mind-boggling. This so rarely feels like happiness these days. It feels like…
I don’t even know.
“Terror” is the closest I can come.
I guess what I’ve realized is that emotionally, my old day job was sort of a steady drone. It could be boring and frustrating, true, but it was consistent. It was like a nice flat line across the chart of my life. And this job? It’s a series of dizzying peaks and stomach-churning valleys. The highs may be greater than anything I’ve ever experience professionally, but they lose a little altitude every year, and the lows just about kill me (and they seem to come more frequently, too).
And now fall is here, and I can see one of those lows coming. I can feel that pit of depression opening up in front of me like that big sand thing in Return of the Jedi, its wriggly tentacles slithering up to wrap around my leg as my toes tip over the edge. I see the empty days stretching out in front of me, one after the other like this, and I feel that heaviness deep in my chest. I know it’ll grow until it’s scratching at the back of my throat and it hurts even to breathe.
The only bright side in all of this is that I recognize the signs, and I know I’m not alone. I’ve talked to enough other authors. I’ve seen their posts about their own struggles with depression. Just today somebody pointed me to this blog post by Josh Lanyon and L.B. Gregg, who mention a well-attended panel on depression at RWA.
“Hand in hand with talk of depression, there was much talk of burn out—more than I’d ever really heard before. Conference wide. I’m not sure if that’s because I wasn’t really listening before, or because burn out is more widespread now that everyone is trying to keep to this impossible pace.” (L.B. Gregg)
But this burnout is real, folks, and it’s brutal. I average 3-4 books per year, and that makes me one of the slower authors in the genre. And the fact of the matter is, writing doesn’t get easier after ten or twenty or thirty books. Not for me, at least. It gets harder because there are that many things I can’t do again. There are that many stories I’ve already told. I find myself saying, “I can’t do that. I did it in Strawberries.” “I can’t do that. I did it in Oestend.” And on top of that, there’s more editing taking up my day, more promotion, more Excel spreadsheets, more blogging. More, more, more. The only thing there isn’t more of is optimism.
Fuck optimism. Optimism is a lie.
Where am I going with this? I don’t even know, to be honest. But it’s fall, and it’s time to lay it on the line again, I guess. It’s time to start storing those nuts up for next year, even though they’re harder to find than ever and I know they aren’t enough to sustain me for long. I’ll never be one of those authors who writes six or eight or ten books in a year, and maybe it’s ridiculous to feel like a failure for that, but I do. If three or four books a year is failing, then why do I try?
Sometimes I honestly can’t answer that question.
Except that I keep writing. I keep hoping. I keep banking on the future. I call it quits about three times a year, but I always come back. There always seems to be one more story to tell. Return came out yesterday, and Winter Oranges comes out in three months, and always, I look forward and think, “It’ll be better then.” Except I just spent a year straight telling myself it’d be better by now, and it isn’t.
It’s okay. It really is. In a couple of hours, I’ll have talked myself out of my funk. Or I’ll have laid it all at the feet of one of my long-suffering writing friends (again!), and they’ll have talked me off the ledge (again!). Eventually I’ll open another blank document and I’ll start typing, and I’ll tell myself, “Once this one is done, it’ll be better.” But at some point, there won’t be enough momentum left to keep me moving. At some point, I just have to throw in the towel and admit that the lows so drastically outnumber the highs that it just isn’t worth it to keep trudging forward.
Will it be this time?
No, I guess not, because I have deadlines to meet and obligations to fulfill, and I am nothing if not punctual and dependable. So I’ll walk that tightrope over that Sarlacc one more time and I’ll tell myself (even if I don’t quite believe), “Eventually, it’ll be better.”
This is going to be one of those totally random, babbling posts. Consider this your fair warning. 🙂
I leave in six days for Vegas for The Novel Experience Event (TNEE). To be quite honest, I probably would have canceled once I realized it was Easter weekend, but they don’t offer refunds so I’ll be there with bells funky shoes on. I’ll be on the contemporary panel on Thursday at 2:00, and the cross-genre panel on Friday at 1:00. I’m also helping host a breakfast on Saturday before the signing (please join us!). Otherwise, you can (as usual) probably find me at the bar. Please feel free to come up and introduce yourself at any time! I am never, ever too busy to meet somebody new. I may be hanging out with my friends (because I’d feel like an ass sitting there by myself), but I’m always happy to be interrupted. I mean that. And I hope to see you there!
Lost Along the Way will be out in just a few short weeks. You can PRE-ORDER it from Dreamspinner Press HERE, if you haven’t already. It might be on Amazon by now too. I’m not sure. (And I’m lazy.) Lost Along the Way is part of the Tales of the Curious Cookbook anthology from Dreamspinner Press, which also includes Amber Kell, RJ Scott, Amy Lane, and Mary Calmes. All five stories work as stand-alones and the stories can be read in any order. Most of those are up for pre-order now too, so check them out.
I’m in the process of putting together a print anthology of short stories. It’s a totally oddball mixture: Too Feel the Sun, One More Soldier, Chapter Five, Apartment 14, and Cinder. I’ve decided to call it Ever After. It should be available in the next week or so, and I’ll have copies at Denver Pride in June, and possibly at GRL in October.
Which brings me to GRL. I didn’t really intend to go this year. Many of you know that I’ve been pretty burned out on the travel, and I hadn’t intended to go to any of my usual events. Then my husband found out GRL is in San Diego this year, and he flipped. He loves San Diego, and he immediately suggested we make a family trip out of it. But of course GRL is during football season, and we have Broncos season tickets. DH is always reluctant to miss a game, but the schedule won’t be posted until sometime in April. So, after much debate, I went ahead and registered for GRL, but we won’t decide for sure whether or not we’re going until we see the 2015 NFL schedule.
Yeah, we’re that crazy when it comes to football.
So maybe I’ll see you in San Diego. Maybe not. Only time will tell.
In case you missed me raving about it on Twitter, Promises recently came out in Japanese. Check out my cover! Isn’t it gorgeous? I can’t stop looking at it, and my daughter is really sick of me showing everybody we know. I hope the publisher decides to pick up A to Z too, because I would LOVE to see this artist’s version of Angelo. (I know, I know. You’re all going to mention Cole. But Angelo’s the one I’m really dying to see anime-style. Just the thought of it makes me a bit giddy.)
Once I’m back from TNEE, I’ll be getting to work on Return (the sequel to Release). I’m relieved to say the task of finishing it feels far less daunting now than it did a year ago. (Hopefully I won’t regret having said that out loud.) Return will be available on August 31.
And, I guess that’s about it. Right at this point in time, I need to write about eight different guest blog posts for the upcoming release of Lost Along the Way. I have no clue what to write about. I actually went digging through old guest blog posts earlier this morning, looking for ideas. What I discovered was that I used to be way better at writing blog posts than I am now. Some of them (like one I did for Rachel Haimowitz about my Angst Bank) were kind of fun, and some (like the one I wrote about my daughter playing on the beach) were actually pretty damn good. I’ve been thinking maybe I’ll pull some of those out and post them here. Sort of a lost post revival. Old content is better than no content, right? It’ll be like watching a show in syndication.
Or not. We’ll see.
But for now… I need to clean my kitchen and make dinner and get to work on those eight guest blog posts. What in the world am I going to write about? Any suggestions? Anything you’re just dying to know? Tell me, please!
Have a great weekend, and I hope to see you in Vegas!!
I’m a terrible blogger. In fact, I think if you scroll back through my blog, you’ll find that most of my blog posts begin with that exact line. “I’m a terrible blogger.” And I’m always telling myself I should do better, and yet… what to say?
I know a lot of authors blog about craft, and that’s fine. But who the hell am I to try and tell somebody how they should or shouldn’t write? I don’t know nearly as much about the industry as I probably should, so I don’t want to write about that. I don’t want to blog about any of the random shenanigans that recur over and over and over again in the m/m world, or the wider romance world, because they mostly just bring me down. So, what does that leave?
I guess it leaves me. And again, some authors are quite open about their personal lives, but I’ve never been comfortable doing that. Besides which, my life is boring. I taxi my kid around. I clean my kitchen. I forget about the laundry in the washer and then have to wash the load again. (Speaking of which… be right back!) But there is nothing about my life that’s exactly memoir-worthy, you know?
And yet the truth is, I’ve had a massive shift of perspective in the past few months. And at the risk of sounding trite, it occurred to me yesterday — and continues to astound me today — how truly grateful I am to be here, right at this point in time, at this stage of my life. Summer is drawing to a close, and fall is sneaking in. Right now, it’s raining outside, and thunder is rolling off the mountains. I turned off the AC (finally!) and opened the windows and exchanged my shorts for yoga pants, my flip-flops for thick socks, and all I could think was, “I’m so ready for fall!” I’m ready for football and pumpkin patches and soup simmering on the stove. (Not that I’ll actually cook any. I’m dreaming of soup elves.)