It’s a tricky thing, beginning with words. It’s critical, in the first two dozen syllables, to reach out with a sudden, merciless, vicious grip, grasp your reader by the throat, pull him close, and murmur into his ear with the voice of a lover,

“Come with me. It won’t hurt…much.”

You write those words, you lay that trap, and then you pray like hell you’re someone’s siren. Sometimes you are (and that, friends, is a powerful drug). Usually, you’re not. Usually, the words echo back at you, a lone voice in an abandoned cave. Or worse, you never actually give the words the fresh breath of someone else’s eyes, and they linger in that powder blue nowhere purgatory, otherwise known as The File on Your Desktop You Pretend to Ignore (most of my words have ended up here).

Being a writer takes guts. It takes vulnerability. It takes a rigid and supple will. It takes discipline in the extreme and free-thinking in the extreme. It takes an artist’s spirit and a business guru’s acumen. It takes the thickest skin you can imagine, and the most tender soul. It takes yin and yang. It takes duality.

God, it sucks. Don’t get me wrong; it’s wonderful, too. But it sucks.

It sucks (and is wonderful) because once a writer realizes she is a writer it’s all over for her. Once a writer realizes what she is, a writer is what she will be until the day she dies, no matter her level of success or failure. No matter how vehemently she’ll try to deny her art when her muse decides to go on unannounced hiatus.

The particular muse in question has been missing for years. Years. If you happen to see her out and about, could you ask her to send a postcard home? It’d be nice to know she’s alive.

But I’m not here to talk about muses or the agony and ecstasy of being a writer. I’m here to talk about words; specifically, those first words. Because here’s the honest-to-God-truth:

Those first words you read in that novel on your bedside? Or the first words in that biography that’s gathering dust on your bookshelf? Those aren’t the first words that were written in that book. Most likely they were crafted months after the book began its long sojourn down the treacherous birth canal of the writer’s mind; those effortless words (oh, God, how every writer hopes those opening lines look effortless) that you read in a matter of seconds were most likely written and re-written, culled back and replanted, sanded down and polished, subjected to a wrecking ball then built back up, until the author was covered in dirt and sawdust, high on fumes (and most likely running on fumes), hardhat discarded at her feet, blood dripping from the place in her chest where she cut herself wide open for the sake of the cause.

Authors suffer for great beginnings. But as hard as those very first few words are to get just right, there are harder words. I’m talking about the words that are hiding behind that skinny, black, blinking line at the top of the page. Every writer knows that every story must begin in the nothing-land of the blank page (blank analog pages are just as intimidating as their digital counterparts, btw). The cursor or pen is a portal of sorts, opening up the inner chambers of our minds so that we might channel the worlds and characters and stories that live so vividly in the gray matter behind our eyes into the stark black and white of the page. The goal, in the end, is to do those stories justice—to relay them with words that give them fidelity.

It’s a daunting and intimidating matter, to step into that skinny, black, blinking line and unleash the worlds that are compressed in our minds, safely kept under wraps in the sleepy spaces of our imaginations.

And it’s at this place—staring down that small, mighty cursor—that I find myself. Because the truth is, I wasn’t being completely honest before: my muse has already written home—I’ve just been too afraid to acknowledge her postcard, a 4 x 6 matte black affair, written in silver script:

I’m coming home, and I’m bringing the story with me.

Friends, Archethenia is near.

The story is coming home.


TRUTH BOMB: Sometimes (okay, lots of times) I Want To Quit


quitterLately I’ve been asking myself this question:

What would happen if I were to quit writing?

I think every writer gets to this point eventually (at least that’s what I’m telling myself). The new shiny has worn off. The over-the-moon-I’m-so-in-love-with-what-I’m-doing feeling goes away. Inspiration dries up to nothing more than a brittle bag of bones that if you shake together real hard might amount to a paragraph or two. And we’re not talking Hemingwayesqe brilliance that makes up for the scant word-count. We’re talking shaky drivel that makes I CAN HAZ CHEEZBURGR look like soul-stealing genius.  

And so I ask myself, what would happen if I were to quit?

Life would immediately become simpler. I wouldn’t have to structure my days so intensely. Family time wouldn’t feel so urgent because writing wouldn’t be putting any demands on our schedule. I could cook and clean and play when I want to. I could spend more time with my friends. I could sew again – a luxury I haven’t enjoyed in years.

I wouldn’t have to brace myself for as many disappointments. Sure, life will still throw its curveballs, but anybody who writes – and puts their writing into the world – has stories about unrealized dreams and harsh criticisms and slaughtered expectations. Anybody who writes – and puts their writing into the world – can tell you what it’s like to try and muddle through a stressful dichotomy of feelings as we watch our colleagues experience success: genuine and real joy for their moment in the sun, and genuine heartache and jealousy while we wonder when – and if – our time will come.  

But would I be satisfied if I quit? Would I be able to look at my little office without regret, knowing the sacrifices we’ve already made so I could pursue this dream? Would there be a murky place in the back of my brain filled with the ghosts of books not yet written? And could I hold my head up high without shame when asked why I gave up my dream?

This job is hard. Not physically hard like ranching or farming, but hard in the head. The doubt I feel when I look at a blank screen that it’s my job to fill with meaningful words is damn near crippling. And when I get my priorities fucked up and think about the pay-out in terms of cash instead of the satisfaction of having created art, I honestly want to slam my hand in a car door. Pennies per hour people. That’s what I make, on a good day. Pennies per freaking hour.

But I am blessed. Because I have a husband who supports me in the most loving, sacrificial way. Blessed because I have children who don’t question what I do for work, and who sweetly joke about the fact that they make more for their allowance than I do for my job (true story, and most days I can laugh about that). I am blessed because I have readers who genuinely love the books I have written, and they are good to me. Thanks to social media, they give me encouragement on almost a daily basis. 

I am blessed.

If I were to quit, the world wouldn’t quit spinning. The stars wouldn’t fall from the sky. The earth wouldn’t split in two and nobody would drown a bag of kittens. Life would pretty much go on the same as it has for the past ever and ever.

But I would have quit. And I would carry that fact around with me, like a scar on my soul. Quitting would be easier, for sure. And for awhile, quitting would even feel good. But eventually I know I would always look back at that moment when I finally gave in and said, “I’m done,” and wonder What if? What if I’d pulled on my big girl panties and just fucking kept at it? 

And the answers to those what ifs give me the strength I need to plow ahead.



Thrifty Tuesday: Setting Up Shop

Sometimes Tuesdays can be just as thrift as Thursdays. Lookit:

Untitled 9

We recently converted our basement into an office for me. Before, my desk was in our bedroom, which was a problematic because I love to nap, and we have the world’s most comfortable bed, and even though I’d try and try and try to ignore its siren song…

it would inevitably win.

So, down to the basement I went, which is great for more than one reason. Obviously, no bed; less chance at napping (although, the ancient sofa we have down here has a siren song of its own. Not as seductive or powerful as our bed’s, but still…). There are toys to occupy the Took for when I need to work and she’s not napping (what is it with littles and their ability to shrug off naptime like a duck shrugs off water?). And there are walls. Blank walls that want, SO BADLY to become a part of my writing process.

The main wall is soon to be painted with chalkboard paint to aid in just that (a place to plot, yes?), but my little desk nook needed something else. Something sort-of pretty. So when I stumbled on these bad-boys, I was elated! Aren’t they just perfect? Thrifty Momma for the win!

Have you been feeling thrifty lately? Any fantastic finds that brightened your life a little? Do you thrift when decorating? Do share!


p.s. Do you see the little bookmark in the pic? It’s made from a page of the rough draft of RECKONING, the third book of the Shrilugh Saga. If you comment here, you’ll have a chance to win that sucker. What are you waiting for?