Change Ahead

After blogging three times a week, every week, for almost two years now, there is some change coming. Nothing too drastic, I promise. And hopefully, nothing as messy as switching servers.

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Should’ve known the server change was going to go about as well as finding a happy ending in Game of Thrones.

I’ve been reading up on marketing and branding, learning what I can without taking too much time from the writing itself. It’s a whole new world to me as I’ve long been buried in the hard numbers of a corporate desk jockey.

I like numbers. They are reasonable. Predictable. And after spending a little time with them, they make sense. I don’t feel the same way about marketing. At least, not yet.

In an attempt to make to at least try what the “experts” recommend, I will attempt those changes we talked about.

What are they? Well, the first thing you’ll notice in the new year is that I am going down to posting twice a week. Why? Because it gives me more time for better content, and, frankly, the numbers say not too many folks stop by for my Friday post. I get that. Especially in the summer months when there are fun things to do. Even errands are better in the summer.

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Real footage of winter by me.

I’m learning as I go here, and one thing parenthood has taught me is that books, even by “experts”, can be wrong. So very, very wrong. And contradictory.

So, if I royally mess this up. Please tell me.

If there’s something you miss, please tell me.

If there’s something you never want to see again, say man eating spiders, *eyes Jason over at Athereal Engineer* please tell me that as well.

If there’s something you’d like to see more of, please tell me. Unless, of course, that’s spiders.

 

 

 

 

Why Change Sucks

Change sucks. We all know it. It’s why there are entire books , seminars, and courses in change management.

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Humans are resistant to change, and there are reasons why. I won’t go into the historical reasons why, but here in the modern day, we like knowing what to do. We like being right. We like figuring things out once and them going smoothly.

We don’t look discord. We don’t like screwing up. We don’t like failure. All of those things are significantly easier to do when you’re making changes.

My family has been going through a lot of change lately.

  • My husband started a new job last December, and it wasn’t a choice. They were re-organizing, his position was eliminated, but he fortunately was able to find a similar position in a different part of the company. Still, it’s a lot of change.
    • New bosses who aren’t as good at communicating (I keep trying to tell him that’s the norm, but he’s still skeptical).
    • A different set of expectations.
    • A lot of other new people in his new group
    • A series of people out on FMLA have made the transition even harder. Hopefully, in the next few months, things will calm down and he can learn what his new job really is.

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  • My daughter started kindergarten. You’d think that would be no big deal, but I have found the difference between private daycare and public kindergarten striking. Communication is much different.
    • At daycare, I had a daily two minute informal conversation with the teachers and always knew what was going on.
    • Now, I’m not even allowed near the classroom for security issues. I get it, but it’s still hard.
    • Things like billing, which was previously direct-pulled from my bank account, isn’t possible in public schools. I have to remember to get cash for some things AND remember to go to their online portal for a slew of others. There are no low balance messages to let me know I need to replenish my daughter’s lunch money.

 

Yeah, we’re figuring it out, but it’s still a change. A big one.

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I’m also still dealing with some medical issues, and that’s never any fun.

Balancing all of this and writing has been hard. Very hard. But I refuse to give up this time. I have put off writing so many times in my life to focus on things like my career, grad school, and kids that I’m now mammogram age. I don’t have time to put it off any longer. So yeah, that’s a change, too.

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And I can tell you, during grad school, I read my fair share of change management books. I even dusted off a few lately, but they’re about as useful to me now as they were then.

 

Do you have any tips and pointers? Any way that you’ve successfully dealt with change? Or did you just soldier through it?

 

Soul Mates?

Soul mates. The person that completes you, that is your other half. This person is more than true love. This is the person that literally shares a piece of your soul.

You’re drawn together even if you hate each other. Your souls will find a way to reunite…

Sorry, I don’t buy it.

If, for some chance you do have one true soul mate, how are you going to find them among the over seven billion people in this world?

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I suppose you could say the halves of the soul are somehow attracted to each other, but what are the chances you’ll speak the same language? Have been brought up in the same culture?

I’m a romance writer, and I read a lot of the genre. While I’ve seen soul mates used a lot, it almost never explained how it works. Was a soul ripped in half so each character only has half a soul (might explain a few people I know)? Are they like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle? Or maybe mirror images of each other?

I can’t think of a single time an author used soul mates and I didn’t think they were mailing it in by relying on this to bring togtether characters that had no other reason to be together.

It’s like the author chased the characters up a tree, and then along came a handy-dandy zeppelin to get them down.

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Hi!  I just happened to be in the area.

Given my preferences, if I read that the main characters are soul mates in the book blurb, I don’t buy it. If I find it out they’re soul mates later in the story itself, I tend not to finish the book as I usually can’t stop rolling my eyes. After the eighth or ninth eye roll, I’m worried they’re going to get stuck in my skull and decide it’s time to put away the offending book.

Yes, I love romance, and I love happily ever afters, but the characters have to earn it. It’s part of what makes the endings so delicious.

If the story has enemies become lovers, I can buy that. Seen it often enough in real life.

But if the story wants enemies to fall in love with each other? That’s tougher, but put them through a strong enough crucible in the story, and I can buy it. I want to buy it. I like reading romances. I want the characters to get together. But I also want to believe it.

Tell me they overcome their hate for each other because they’re soul mates? I’ll smile politely and slide that book over to the “don’t waste my precious reading time” pile.

Authors can bring together difficult characters, even characters that might strongly dislike each other at first. We believe the change in how they feel about each other through repeated interactions between the characters, with them learning through these interactions that they’d misjudged the other.

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If they haven’t misjudged the other, than we need the characters to change and realize why their preconceived notion was wrong. And it has to more than, “oh, but I love this person, so clearly I was wrong all this time.”

The more you want the change, the more the plot has to challenge them.

Social Identity Theory tells me it’s not going to happen easily. The bigger the change, the harder it’s going to be to make it happen.

You see the enemies (or at least adversaries) become lovers a lot in television, especially when the writers have multiple seasons to build the romance.

Most romance novels don’t have multiple seasons, but it’s still doable in a single book. After all, in a romance novel, the whole point of the plot is to get the characters together. Yes, it’s possible, and most of us can think of some characters that we loved seeing get together even though they were ready to kill each other at the beginning of their relationship.

Done right, it makes an amazing an unforgettable romance. Done wrong, and an author has to tell me the characters get together because they’re soul mates and just can’t live without each other.

*eye roll*

 

How about you? Do you believe in soul mates? If so, why? I’m open to changing my mind! Have you ever read a soul mates story that was very well done? What made it good?

Death of the White Knight?

Jenn Moss over at Rough and Ready Fiction had an interesting post on “goody-good” characters and why they don’t work in modern fiction.

She writes science fiction, whereas I’m a romance writer, so our audiences are not quite the same. Still, it got me to thinking about the anti-hero and bad-boy tropes that seem to be quite popular.

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I’ll think more on the anti-hero, but research says that bad boys really don’t get the girl. There’s several links in that article to the studies proving it, too.

It also explains the role of narcissists in this perception. Narcissists are really good at fooling us into believing that they are good people in the short-term, but they can’t live up to it in the long-term. Nor do they really want to as they aren’t interested in those types of relationships anyway.

They article also explains that there are reasons that some women may be attracted to bad boys, but a lot of that has to do with how they were brought up and their family life. Basically, what they’ve come to expect from a relationship.

Many years ago, I had a good friend who had a thing for bad boys. After again being treated poorly by her current love interest, we were eating ice cream together while she lamented the state of her heart. This had not been the first time this series of events had happened, and I asked her what she’d expected.

We knew he dabbled in drugs, drank, smoked, and was barely passing in school. He was more interested in his motorcycle than he was her. What did she think was going to change?

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She was dumbstruck by the question , and she never gave me a straight answer. In hindsight, I don’t think she knew. Not really, and I never did understand. Eventually, we drifted apart as friends because you can only watch someone self-destruct so often before you just can’t feel much for them.

When life hands you onions and you cry, I’ll be there holding the tissue. But when you keep going to the onion patch and picking onions, eventually I gotta shrug and walk away.

It didn’t help that relationship that I’ve always been a fan of the white knight. The good boy that understands duty, honor, and kindness. I liked Luke better than Han, King Arthur better than Sir Lancelot, etc.

Many years later, and I think I’m starting to get it.

You see, my mother was very adamant with me that you love someone for who they are that day. They aren’t going to change. They aren’t going to become someone new for you. They are who they are, and either you love them then and there or you don’t. If you love them for who you think they can be, you’re only hurting them and yourself.

That stuck with me my whole life. If I wanted to be with a person who’d love and respect me, I needed to marry someone who was already like that.

And I did.

But this wisdom doesn’t seem to flow through our culture. There’s this expectation that if you love someone enough, they’ll change for you. That underneath their angst and misery is a heart of gold just waiting to fall in love with the girl that saves them.

Maybe some others have had experiences where this is true, but outside of fiction and the movies, I’ve never seen it.

I’ll keep the white knight.
How about you? Do you think the White Knight’s dead? Ever had a friend go for the “bad” boy or girl? Maybe you do or did? How’d it go?

 

 

Change: Unwelcome and Unwanted

Change is never easy, especially big changes you didn’t choose for yourself that have no real bright side. Changes like you or your spouse being told that your job is being eliminated.

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It’s not something you ever want to hear, but it’s even harder when it’s unexpected. When you thought the position was solid and stable. When you had almost 20 years there, so you actually had a few weeks of vacation and some sick-leave when the kids are ill. When you relied on it for the family’s healthcare.

See, here’s the thing. There is no safety net unless you make one yourself. Unemployment benefits are meager and last six months. There’s no healthcare included, and our other employer’s health insurance is the very minimum required for them to not pay fines.

We’ve been blessed by good fortune and made good choices, so we’ve been able to set-up our life so we can “make-it” without dipping into savings on just one of our salaries. And that same good fortune and good choices have made it possible for us to have savings.

Yes, there will be some belt-tightening, and I’ll be putting off that purchase of a new computer. But we’ll be okay. Our kids will be okay. The biggest thing we’re facing is if anyone gets hurt or sick. But we’ll figure that out if it happens.

And, of course, it’ll mean starting all over and having little-to-no paid time off.

Still, here’s hoping a new position is found quickly.

In the meantime, writing, editing and blogging might become more sporadic, especially as we work through all changes needed in our day-to-day endeavors. I need time to cope, process and plan.  I couldn’t even look at the screen after learning the news. I did, however, escape into a book or three. Ah, escapism!

Kids

This is a bit of a tangent from trying to chronicle my writing journey, but I realized, it’s as much a part of the journey as rough drafts, revisions, and the submission process.

Balancing writing with kids.

DH and I were “older” when we had kids, and we’d already been married seven years when our first child was born. DH had agreed to be the primary care giver as my day job is more demanding. And many of you are laughing at this.

DH does an amazing job with our two little ones. It’s just biology that’s against us. When they were very little and needed to be nursed, that was mom. When they get hurt or sick or injured, they want mom. When they want to play, however, they are daddy’s angels.

With all the illnesses we’ve been up against lately, they have needed a lot of mommy time. A part of me is frustrated, and a part of me melts when they want to climb into my lap and cuddle.

After we had our first child, I stumbled across a bunch of research showing that childless people are happier. As there are no guarantees that children will support you in your old age, and given how insanely expensive children are (read a mortgage payment a month per child for daycare), the study recommended socking that money away and using that to pay for your care in your later years.

At the time, I was mortified. What had we done? Would this precious little bundle really cause us that much trauma? Of course I was high on new mommy hormones when I thought of her as precious. She taught me the error of my ways as she howled, not cried but howled, every time I put her down. Wouldn’t tolerate a baby sling or Bjorn, either. I learned to do everything, and I mean everything, one handed so she was always in my arms.

So the answer is more complex for me than the research indicates. Some of the happiest moments, angriest moments, and proudest moments have come because of the kids.

It’s more like a roller coaster than the steady state happy we were at before kids. The baby babbles happily in the background as I write this, making me smile even now. That smile will morph into endless frustration tonight when she refuses to sleep and thinks 2 am is playtime when we have to be up for work in a few hours.

My writing journey includes them with it. Sometimes detouring me or slowing down my progress, but never maliciously. Never on purpose. They are little and need a lot of me right now, and I am trying to keep that in perspective. Trying to remember all the people that have told me how much you’re going to miss it when they’re not this little.

I wonder if those people’s kids had them up at 2 am every night.

The Race

My writing style has changed a lot since the first book I wrote over 20 years ago. Back then, it was bloated. I’m not exaggerating when I say that first book was over 400,000 words. Not publishable, but man oh man was I descriptive!

Times change, and I’ve seen my writing evolve from a meandering sprawl into a “race”. I run from dialogue to fight scenes to love scenes. Not really taking the top to let the reader or the character catch their breath, to immerse them in the world, to let them walk beside the character as the story unfolds. These things are important, but I glossed over them to “get to the point.”

This is workable. I have found it easier to map out the sensory aspects of a scene after the fact, and then try to slip some of those details in to better help the reader be there with the characters. Yes, it’s another round of editing, but I find it easier to add than to delete. When I first finished this work, it was 50k words before editing. After my edits to date, its 76k. Not the direction I hear about from so many other writers, but the story was pretty much bones and needed fleshing out. Now, I need to add more. Give it some details. Maybe some clothes. Or maybe I’ve just taken this analogy too far.

By the time I’m done, I hope to be closer to the 90k standard for this genre.

I found it interesting that I have changed so much over the years. Perhaps it has to do with my day job where I am deadline driven and analytical. Why would I tell you that our product smells like burnt hydraulic oil when I present my analysis on how we performed this quarter? I wouldn’t, because you don’t care. Perhaps it has to do with working full time and being a parent. Efficiency is prized. Or maybe it’s just a natural change.

I’m not sure I’m going to change myself in the short term. Or my writing style. But now that I know this about myself, I can work with it.

If my first draft of my current work is only 50,000 words, that’s okay. A dozen or so revisions later, and maybe I will get to that mystical 90,000.

Easier to build up from the skeleton than to have nothing at all to work with.

Where did you come from?

I am still pushing through my Roadblock issues. Working through the story as this cold sucker punches me has been challenging. Very challenging.

But I have kept at it.

As I was writing what I thought would be a throw away character, I was surprised how often he kept coming up. And coming back.

I ignored him for a bit as I wasn’t sure how he fit into my outline of a story, but the more I wrote, the more I want to add him. He’s not the brilliant but ivory tower character I had planned to include. More gritty, worldly, and altogether jaded.

He really messes with my outline. But maybe that’s what the story needs. Maybe I need a more organic approach, to let things go a little more where they will.

Or maybe too much cough syrup and sleep deprivation have caught up to me. Whatever the case, I’m going to give him a try and see where the story goes.

That’s what revisions are for, right?