December 28, 2013

Margaret Atwood and Simone Pond

Lots going on with my book and regular life. Wait, that's pretty much the same thing . . . I actually left the house for five whole days to visit beautiful Denver, CO and I didn't write a single sentence. Taking breaks is good for the soul.

I'm down to the last few chapters of my 1st draft of my next book, and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The first draft is always the hardest part for me. It's tough setting aside the pursuit of perfection and just letting it be crappy. My favorite part is editing -- talk about exercising my control issues! It's like a playground of insanity and I'm in charge of creating some semblance of order. I'll spend the next few months tweaking and cutting and re-working words until my brain hurts. Most writers are masochists. 

Before launching The City Center into the world, I did months of pain-staking research and the hard work is paying off. At the beginning of the launch, I told my husband if my book gets listed on the same page as my favorite author, Margaret Atwood, I can die happily.

Last night that dream came true!

Today my book made Amazon's top ten best sellers in science fiction. I'm still a ways off from the New York Times Best Sellers list, but one can always hope. Besides, I'm happiest when I stay out of the results and remain in a state of hope. The best part is sharing this journey with my readers -- you guys make writing so much more fun.

Keep writing. It saves lives.

November 30, 2013

My first book signing for The City Center

Years ago I saw an episode of "Sex in the City" - the one about Carrie Bradshaw's book release party:

I've been fantasizing about book signings for years; even before I saw this episode. Not so much for the attention and recognition (maybe just a little), but mostly for the connection to others. It's tough spending so much time alone in your head, wondering if a sentence sounds right, or if a character would really say that -- or if your story is any good. Getting the opportunity to share my words with others is wonderful, but receiving others' words is a true gift.

Today my dream came true: I had my first book signing in Alexandria, Va. It looked nothing like Carrie's, but it was absolutely perfectly me:

Looking at the photo, I probably should've done my hair, but like I said, this is so me. I hope to do a lot more of these in a lot more cities.

Keep writing. It saves lives.

November 18, 2013

Live Interview with Cyrus Webb

My book is picking up some steam--it's good to know other people are talking about it besides me and my father.

I just had a radio interview with Cyrus Webb about writing, life and what inspired me to write The City Center. I actually listened to the play back and didn't hate myself afterward.

If you want to hear more from me, you can listen to it right here.

Keep writing. It saves lives. 

November 6, 2013

Anne Lamott on writing and life

Years ago, like back in the 90s, I bought a book called "bird by bird" by an author named Anne Lamott. The book was to help with my writing, but it actually helped with my life. And that sums up Anne Lamott. Her words are healing and hopeful because she's unabashedly honest about her struggles. She says the things I'm thinking, but they sound so much more graceful and forgiving.

I had the pleasure of hearing her speak at the Vroman's Bookstore event at All Saints Church in Pasadena on Monday night. I went with a group of women who continuously help me navigate life one day at a time. I would have been content with just that, but then to hear Ms. Lamott speak about where she is on her journey, and what being an author and a human means to her really hit home. She spoke about purpose and her new book "Stitches" - which I'm sure will be another helpful manual for living. 

What is our purpose? 

I like to think it's to love our neighbors and be as helpful as possible, but most of the time I have my head up my ass worrying about what's in it for me and how I can get mine. It's so good to know I'm not alone. All of us are like this. I'm sure Mother Teresa had her moments of self-absorption. It comes with being human. But there is always room to grow. And maybe that's our purpose -- to grow.

For me, Ms. Lamott hit on all pistons and her words will resonate in my soul for years to come. One lady asked the question I was too afraid to ask: "What do you do when you're blocked and can't write?" 

What came next validated and confirmed so much for me as a writer:

1) Nobody cares if you write, so you do it for yourself
2) After publishing is when you really get mentally ill
3) Waiting for inspiration to come is another way of saying you're not going to write


She nailed it. 

The entire evening was just wonderful, and somewhat life-changing. Here's a picture we weren't supposed to take, but my very brave friend, Cathy, went ahead and took it (per Anne's secret nod of approval, of course):
                                                  Anne Lamott, Nan (my mentor) and me.

Keep writing. It saves lives.

October 11, 2013

On publishing a book

So, I wrote a book. Well, it's actually my fourth book, but the other three don't count. Well, they do, but not really. They were more like stepping stones. Practice books, if you will.

The process for getting THE CITY CENTER published was long and arduous - but worth ever single second. All the research, planning, outlining, re-writing, editing, re-thinking, re-structuring and finally putting it down for a year until the big idea came to me (this actually happened one morning in church, and yes, i go to church).

The writing part, though grueling, was so much fun. I love making shit up. Much more exciting than my memoir that died a slow and painful death (that's the new title for the memoir). But the toughest part was the marketing plan.

Marketing sucks.

I've been in advertising for twenty years, you think I'd have this down. But I don't. I had to do months of research. I might have read every single article on the internet about self-publishing and marketing. I could write a book about the entire self-publishing process. But I'm not going to. I'm gonna work on the second book in the series THE NEW AGENDA, while simultaneously promoting the current book. Because that's how it's done. So says the internet.

My suggestions to aspiring writers:

1) Write something every day, even if it’s a paragraph.
2) Love everything about writing.
3) Do a TON of research: read books and internet articles, go to seminars, and talk to other authors. (check out the links under 'Stuff For Writers' over to the right - those are some very helpful people)

If you like speculative fiction or dystopian science fiction, check out: THE CITY CENTER!

Keep writing. It saves lives.

August 26, 2013

Don't ask, I'll tell anyway

A friend sent an article, which you can read here: "Don't Ask What I'm Writing"  and it validated so many things for me. It talks about why it's difficult to share our progress with friends, and why it seems like nobody cares. To most maybe it's simple: if you hide away and don't talk to people they're not going to hunt you down and make you talk. But to the insecure, sometimes this feels like being in prison without any visitors.
I think 90% of being a writer (or a human) is learning to overcome insecurity. The remaining 10% is doing whatever it is you want to do––even if you're terrified. Not talking about it, or making a note to do it later, but actually doing it. Like right now (after you finish reading this post).

The three greatest nuggets from the article, and words I live by:

1. Trust a few, necessary voices.
2. Try, as much as possible, to avoid torturing these brave souls with your own insecurities.
3. Shut up and write.

Keep writing. It saves lives.

July 31, 2013

Mary Karr on reality and royalty checks

I read an interview with one of my favorite authors -- Mary Karr, and I feel an overwhelming sense of relief from her words. Especially the part where she says she supports herself as a college professor -- not as a writer, and that she couldn't pay the mortgage on the revenue from her books.

Why would this give me a sense of relief?

Because the truth is always better than fiction.

The most important truth is that regardless of the day job, if you're a writer you will find a way to write.

Here's a the article:  Why We Write: Mary Karr on the Madness and Magnetism of the Written Word.

Keep writing. It saves lives.

July 19, 2013

Debbie Millman on Robert Frost

This is my new favorite thing right at this moment: 

"Heed the words of Robert Frost.  Start with a big, fat, lump in your throat, start with a profound sense of wrong, a deep homesickness, or a crazy lovesickness, and run with it.  If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve.  Do what you love, and don't stop until you get what you love.  Work as hard as you can , imagine immensities, don't compromise, and don't waste time.  Start now, not two weeks from now.  Now."

It's from an amazing talk Debbie Millman gave. 

Check it out:

I hope you find something in there to help get you unstuck.

Keep writing. It saves lives. 

July 11, 2013

First draft complete

Now that my novel is with the editor, I have time to focus on the marketing plan portion. I'll keep you posted on the publishing process. And if you're interested in learning more about the book, you can go to my other website under my other pen name: Simone Pond.

Here's a very happy me after I finished my manuscript (that's Burt Reynolds in the window glare):

Keep writing. It saves lives.

June 14, 2013

Self publishing vs. Traditional publishing

I finished my second round of edits for my newest novel. Now I have an overwhelming nagging I must do something with it. I've been through this process before (remember the memoir that died a slow death?) and I'm at a crossroads. I don't do well with rejection, which sucks when you have an inherent desire to express yourself.

Whenever I'm confused about the jumbled thoughts swishing around in my head like a spin cycle, I write it out. In this instance, I wrote out two possible plans of attack based on my research of what writers do at this phase. 

Door #1: Traditional Route
- hire a professional editor
- write a kick-ass query letter that will knock off the knickers of some young intern who has been relegated to weeding through an endless sea of horrible pitch letters
- send out the query letters to agents
- wait
- eat lots of cake
- start collecting rejection emails
- OR -
- get overly happy when a request for full manuscript arrives only to . . .
- receive more rejections
- cry and complain in AA meetings
- slip into another dark depression

 Door #2: Self-publish
- hire a professional editor
- hire a designer for the cover
- hire a company to layout the pages
- set up an amazon page
- start an extensive marketing campaign to sell my book (beyond friends/family)
- wait
- eat lots of cake
- check sales every five minutes
- watch one or two sales trickle in
- cry and complain in AA meetings
- slip into another dark depression

But wait, what about Door #3?

What's Door #3, you ask.

Usually Door #3 has some possibility I couldn't fathom because my finite mind is too restricted. 

I'm thinking the best move at this moment is to sit back and wait for the answer to come. To ask God to "make it obvious." I'm hoping for an email with some very specific instructions on next steps. Or perhaps a flashing billboard sign. Maybe smoke signals?

And if I'm supposed to do nothing, other than be content with a novel Peter, Winnie and I love, that will be okay. 

Keep writing. It saves lives.

May 23, 2013

Writing without whining, or wine

On this very day eight years ago, I made the choice to stop trying to kill myself with booze, cigarettes, and various other drugs, prescription or otherwise. Usually otherwise. I'm not gonna lie, it's been a rough ride with many bumps and detours, and a few head-on collisions. But there have been fleeting moments of joy and peace, which always overrides the bad stuff.

I've hit a few more bottoms on my way to the proverbial bottom, and the conclusion is: I'm human––and there is no final bottom, but rather an endless series of them (sucks, I know). But if we get uncomfortable enough and seek help, we're able to get back up. Usually. Unless you like it down there in the dark all by yourself. I know I do.

The most wonderful part about being a sober writer is I actually write. I finish projects. Before I quit boozing, I spent a lot of time talking about writing, or fantasizing about it. When I would finally sit down to write, I'd bring out a bottle of 2-buck chuck (classy) and hit the keys. I would always finish the bottle of wine, but I never made it to the end of the paragraph.

After eight years, I have a modest collection of projects under my belt. Writing this blog has been my mainstay for the last seven years. I like expressing my thoughts and sharing my experiences. Maybe one of my readers wants to stop using, or has stopped using and feels even crazier. Hopefully I'm able to provide just a touch of inspiration with my honesty. Anything is possible. I'm still here.

Keep writing. It saves lives.

May 3, 2013

Eat More Cake

After a week of some deep sea diving inside of my head, I've come to some major conclusions:

Some thoughts for today:

We're all damaged goods.

God is hilarious and shows up even when I don't.

Cleaning house goes beyond the home.

I'm going to eat a lot more cake.


Keep writing. It saves lives.

January 20, 2013

The Hero's Journey

The Hero's Journey is a writing tool that saves my ass every single time I use it BEFORE I start writing a new story, and when I don't use it, the story dies a long and painful death.

Taken from the desk of genius Joseph Campbell:

1. Heroes are introduced in the ORDINARY WORLD, where
2. They receive the CALL TO ADVENTURE.
3. They are RELUCTANT at first or REFUSE THE CALL, but
4. Are encouraged by a MENTOR to
5. CROSS THE FIRST THRESHOLD and enter the Special World where
6. They encounter TESTS, ALLIES, AND ENEMIES.
7. They APPROACH THE INNERMOST CAVE, crossing a second threshold
8. Where they endure the ORDEAL.
9. They take possession of their REWARD and
10. Are pursued on THE ROAD BACK to the Ordinary World.
11. Cross the third threshold, experience a RESURRECTION and are transformed by the experience.
12. The RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR, or treasure to benefit the Ordinary World.

When friends ask for writing suggestions, the first thing I say is, "You wouldn't drive to a location you've never been without a map, so why would you write a book without an outline?"

They usually stop emailing me after that because nobody wants to do this footwork, but it is so vital to the story.

So, happy outlining to you and yours.

Keep writing. It saves lives.

January 10, 2013

No complaints from the complaint department

Happy New Year, and by that I mean, hope your starvation diet is going well. I'm having trouble living without sugar and bread, but my jeans are no longer cutting off the circulation to my large head.

For the new year, I'm back at work because 1) Peter didn't get that 150K promotion I was banking on, and 2) I needed to return to human civilization to be reminded just how much I don't like human civilization. Also, I finished my memoir and since I got rid of cable last year, there are very few reasons to stay at home all day unless you're working on something, watching re-runs of "Charmed" or eating. Don't get me wrong - I'd love to stay at home all day, but I'd prefer to get paid to do so.

In other news that's not really news because if I posted the news I'd be writing shit like "the public demands to see pictures of Osama bin Laden's dead body to prove he's really dead" (can you inter a body from the bottom of the ocean?). Or I'd be telling you about the worst flu outbreak since that movie about the monkey that fucked up an entire town. Or I'd be debating if we should put armed guards on every street corner, or at least in public restrooms.

No, no, no - my news is a little less insane. After several rejections on my memoir I decided to get some professional writing help (in addition to my other professional help). I needed a reality check. Since I started writing my memoir seven years ago, I've had recurring nightmares and panic attacks. Drudging up every terrible decision I've ever made over and over might not be the best practice for someone who suffers from chronic depression, alcoholism, OCD and high anxiety.

After a painful surrender, the conclusion: There ain't no more juice to squeeze out of that lemon.

Maybe I'll resuscitate it when I'm a little older and wiser.

Keep writing. It saves lives.