I’ve just finished writing a tough chapter for my latest novel, one I’ve been dancing around for weeks, because it’s the start of the heart of the book, a love story that ends in death. Having lost my own great love that way, I knew going in there would be days like this.
But the chapter is finally done, everything I wanted it to be, and I’ll get feedback on how well I did from my writing workshop this weekend. As I save and put the file away for the night, I remember words I hear again and again from would be writers, and hope never to hear again...
“I wish I could find more time to write.”
You’ve heard it from greater minds than mine -- you don’t find time to write, you make it. You carve it out of the seemingly immutable rock of responsibilities you have to a world of others in your life, from work or school, to family. Yeah, writing is hard, or everyone would be a novelist. But come on. Is it really that hard?
Getting laid is hard, too, but except for the parents of young children, I’ve never heard anyone tell me with a plaintive sigh, “I wish I could find more time for sex.” They make the time if they want it and the opportunity is there.
Why is that? Why do people have no trouble making time for dinners out, dating, parties, movies, TV and a thousand other things we “find” time for, but expect writing time to magically appear? Is it that hard to make time to write, or is it your level of commitment? The simplest way is give up an hour of sleep - get up an hour earlier or got to bed an hour later. In a year, you have a body of work.
Too many people say they want to write when what they mean is they want to have written. They want the praise or congratulations on completion that they see you getting. What they don’t want is the long hours alone at a computer or pad, working out characters, plots, stories, immersed in a fictional world until you can explain it to someone else in a coherent form that holds their interest. Yeah, sometimes that involves sacrifice, but when it works, when you’re there completely, it’s one of the best things in the world to be doing.
It’s only a few hours a day.
Magically there’s still plenty of time to see people, explore the real world, do laundry, pay bills, clean house, live life. Maybe it’s by a third, maybe a half, but there’s room to write and room to live once you get up to speed.
I’m trying not to say the obvious.
If you’re really a writer, you have to write. If that’s true of you, you know what I mean. It’s in your head all the time: while you watch people, observe interactions between strangers, catch odd occurrences that aren’t the usual exchange. Things that interest you and send you off into explanation -- it must have been -- that leads you to conjecture -- it could have been -- which leads to story -- it should have been...
If you don’t find yourself pulled to the page every day, even when you say no, maybe you aren’t a writer, but only someone who can write. There’s a difference between being adept and being driven. Or maybe you need to let yourself be a writer, give yourself permission to live in your own head most of the time.
Maybe you just need to work harder to make it easier, to do enough writing that you aren’t starting from scratch each time you sit down. If you love it, really love to produce as much as much as most people love to reproduce, do it, over and over, see what works and what doesn’t, do it again and again until you get it right and people come to you because you do it so well.
Just like sex.
So all you would-be-writers, the next time you’re in bed or on the couch with someone locking lips, or at a movie, or a party with friends, just remember...
You can stop an hour sooner and have time to write, too.
(Originally posted at Novel Spaces, "an eclectic group of authors bound by a singular passion: writing" where I blog on the 6th and 22nd of every month)
The subject of diversity in writing came up in a discussion among friends and the question arose -- who can write what? Can men write real female characters? Can a woman writer really claim to know a man’s perspective? Can whites write about blacks or other minorities with honesty and vice versa? I understand that this, along with what’s called “multiculturalism,” has become a hot-button topic in some circles, though it’s one I dealt with often during my life as a black writer in television.
My second novel, BLOOD PRESSURE, has a white female character who's writing a book about Zora Neale Hurston confronted with that issue:
“The book’s about love and the creative process, how alike they are, how one can feed the other, but also kill it. It’s about art and life, but also about death, of a relationship and a dream. It’s from her point of view, because you need to see events through her eyes to understand them.”
“I heard that you’re working on a third draft -- do you think your problems have anything to do with being white and trying to get into the head of a black woman? Especially one of a different era?”
Her interrogator was a young black woman in jeans and a dashiki, a clipboard filled with notes in her hand. She’d obviously come prepared, probably as part of some college paper she was writing or a magazine article. Lori had fielded that question since she began the book, started it by asking herself the same thing.
“I wish it was that simple. If writers had to be limited to characters who are the same gender, race, age or anything else as themselves, we’d lose a lot of popular literature starting with several of Zora’s own novels written from a male or a white perspective.”
Her answer was so well honed, repeated time and again, in person and print that she wondered why anyone who’d done their homework would ask the question. Surely her reply had made it through the grapevine by now.
”No, my problem’s less with Zora, more with love. I’m having a crisis of faith in love, as I think she may have had at that point in her life. Zora found her way through it, I’m just having trouble following her lead.”
“To a new romance?” There was laughter.
“To a new book, but I think you do have to feel passion to write about it. How does the Cher song go? Do You Believe in Life After Love? I’m not sure I know. When I do, maybe I’ll understand Zora better...”
I’m with Lori, which I’m sure comes as no surprise. I say if we can only write from what we are, a lot of straight white males in Hollywood who've been writing black sitcoms and soap operas are going to be out of a job come Monday. Writers learn from research or experience, and either can be acquired by anyone. I’ve never been a thousand-year-old Moorish vampire, yet my agent and editor have convinced me that I’ve created a plausible one in my first novel, BITE MARKS: A Vampire Testament.
My only complaint has ever been the generally held belief in Hollywood that straight white men can write anything for or about anyone, while minorities are almost always channeled into writing what we are, as if we couldn't possibly understand the minds of anyone but ourselves. In the early nineties I often gauged whether or not I wanted a job by how soon I was asked, "Can you write rap?" -- as if only a black writer could hold the secret to that magical rhythm, like a cereal box leprechaun protecting his Lucky Charms...as if that was all I could be expected to write and their only reason to hire me.
I spent most of my early life on Air Force bases and Catholic schools, in France or the South. As a black man raised in a mostly white middle class world, like our president, I grew up with and around white people, only occasionally others, and took them all for granted. It was wonderfully demystifying. My parents maintained a sense of identity in us, in that I always knew there was more difference in us than just skin color, and that we had a history of our own, even if it wasn't always defined.
As I left that limited world to live in black suburbs in Ohio and Queens, most of the adjustment I had to make wasn't racial as much as across class lines, struggling to understand shifting value systems as I moved from suburban middle class to urban working class neighborhoods.
I had to learn -- not to "be" black -- but that were many ways to "be black" and that I was one of many black kids like me, not from “the 'hood,” whose parents had been raised to leave home and to rise as high as they could. Over the course of her adult life, my mother completed her college degree and taught, my father left the military at the rank of major after 20 years to complete college, get his MBA degree at Columbia, and go on to a successful business career. I worked in television after graduating college, and again found myself "surrounded by white people" at work in seventies and eighties New York, but with a difference -- this time there were others as well.
I’d grown tired of having blacks and whites at home and my high school in Queens tell me I wasn't “really” black because I was "articulate" and liked rock and roll. In the work world of my first job, on a “multicultural” kids’ TV show called ”Vegetable Soup,” I met actors, writers, and producers of all races who were also considered outsiders, people who let me be who I was -- once I’d figured out who that was. I became increasingly aware of the way the world worked and politicized, grew my hair into African twists through the eighties to make it clear who I was when I walked in the room, no matter what I sounded like.
There was the occasional black friend or co-worker who'd grown up in all black neighborhoods in New York who had more difficulty with being in a "white" world than I did, and whites who "didn’t know" how to talk to me. I found that black people who’d never spent time around white people had the same misconceptions as white people who'd never spent time with blacks. Both viewed each other with either extreme suspicion or attraction, and each imbued the other with a kind of magical mystique, whether positive or negative.
Because of my upbringing, I feel that I see the positive and negative in all members of any race, and bring that to my writing. Because of the work I did in kids' TV, I’m extremely conscious of the power of images, and try to stay aware of what I’m saying as I build and balance characters. If a writer’s depicting a fully realized world with a wide range of characters, he or she shouldn’t be judged on any one character as their idea of a particular race, gender or other group.
The characters in my first and second novels are of many races, genders and inclinations, good and bad, as is the population of the city I live in. I tried my best not to represent them as what they are, but who they are, which I think is the ultimate responsibility of any writer. In the best writing, I don't think characters should “transcend” race (a condescending phrase in common use, more than a little patriarchal, as if it should be a compliment to tell me, "You're not like the rest of them...") but that their character, personality and actions should be made more important or memorable than their race.
In suspense, I don't think of Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter as representing whites, though I know he is white. In horror, I don't think of Clive Barker's Daniel Robitaille in Candyman as a bad black man, though his race is essential to his story. Both are fearsome figures, who happen to be white or black, neither personifies his race. Their ethnic identity isn’t ignored, but who they are as individuals, as well-drawn characters, is the thing we remember.
If a writer does a good job of fully representing an individual of any race they've done a great job. If they create a shallow stereotype, positive or negative, (one more cookie cutter black computer kid genius in a wheelchair, or wise beyond her years teen hooker with a sassy street attitude and I will puke) they should not write about those people. They don't know them.
Ultimately, writers can always fool themselves into thinking that they’re doing a better job than they are. In that case, your readers will tell you if you’ve failed. I'm not talking knee-jerk censorship over a “controversial” character from someone who’s never read the book, but signed the petition to ban it, I'm talking about sincere critique.
I can only hope that when they do, we can listen, and do better the next time.
(Originally posted at Novel Spaces, "an eclectic group of authors bound by a singular passion: writing" where I blog on the 6th and 22nd of every month)
I recently had an e-mail exchange with a writer friend whose new soon to be published manuscript I’d just read. It was one of those fun favors, the latest in a book series I knew and enjoyed, by a writer whose work I love as much as I enjoy her friendship, a chance to do what most of her readers can’t, to share my feelings about the story as a reader and add a few words on I wanted to see while the book was still being formed.
In the course of giving her feedback, I asked her to read the prologue for the novel I’m currently working on, PAST LIFE: A Vampire Testament. It was a difficult chapter to write as it began with what looked like a scene of extreme child abuse, then rolled into a reversal that saved the victim and punished the victimizers.
In the course of setting up what I’d written, I revealed that the moment was based on something someone had told me years ago, a brief glimpse into the past of someone who was once a friend but who’d become so emotionally abusive I had to sever the relationship to survive.
Afterwards, I felt a flash of embarrassment and even guilt over having admitted to taking something real from someone’s life and making something fictional of it. I didn't want to seem as if I was cavalierly using an ex-friend's childhood confidences as pop art -- I knew she’d be thoroughly disguised by the time I was done. But it opened the door to the question -- where is the line? How much of real life can a writer put in their art before it becomes something else, something intrusive?
Terry McMillan’s ex-husband sued her when she wrote a novel that detailed the events of their marriage and break up more closely than he felt comfortable with -- but would anyone have even noticed if we hadn’t been drawn to the book by the headlines about the lawsuit? As soon as I heard about it I was tempted to run out and read it to see what she had to say about him, which would not have been my reaction without the news story.
Truman Capote’s last years were spent in isolation, rejected by the society friends who had pampered him for decades as their pet famous author, until he had the temerity to write a book based on his time with them, Answered Prayers. It's a brilliant unfinished work that is not so much gossiping about his wealthy friends as a look inside the heads and lives of a class most of us seldom get a chance to mix with. As he said in disbelief at their sense of betrayal, "I’m a writer! What did they think I did in my spare time? I observed life – and I wrote about it!”
Which sums it up for all us fiction and non-fiction writers. It is what we do. Writers are all vampires of a sort, in that we feed on our own pasts and the people around us for material. What we write can only be the sum of who we are and what we’ve experienced. It isn’t always pretty or pleasant. To a large degree, I see my characters as fragmented pieces of myself, mixed with assorted aspects of friends, family and people I’ve known, blended well and distilled into -- hopefully -- someone new and original that still rings real. That doesn’t mean that someone isn’t going to see a moment we shared or a snippet of something of themselves in my books. It’s inevitable.
“Write what you know” is what all beginning writers are told. Take events from your life that you understand well enough to use to represent your fictional world truthfully, even if not factually. As writers we have nothing else to use, other than research, and even that is always filtered through our own experiences. I’ve come to the conclusion that the only real rule we can use is the Hippocratic Oath -- to do no harm.
I’ve come to see “working from life”, as painters would say, as a therapeutic process. I’ve used more and more of the conflicted relationships in my life in my more recent and best writing. They aren’t always easy to look at, to write or to read, but for me the best material comes out of true events that disturb, scare or upset me, as much, if not more than the happy-happy joy-joy times. Do you remember the flavor of cake you had on your fifth birthday, or the kid who shoved you and took back his gift because he didn’t care what his mom said, damn it, he picked it out in the store and thought it was for him? Conflict is at the heart of all good stories, fiction or non-fiction.
Rather than using my work as a means of revenge or getting the last word, I find that when I draw on life I usually end up identifying with the characters I create in a way I never could with the original person. As I seek out their point of view, to be able to write them fairly and accurately, I often find myself reviewing the real relationship and what went wrong, from their side as well as mine.
By the time I'm done, I've often exorcised any original malice that may have driven me. Adam Caine from my first novel, BITE MARKS, is a fine example -- he is the repository of a great deal of cruelty and malice I've encountered or observed in many people over the years. I’ve seen his roots more clearly as I seek to find redemption for him over the course of the Testaments, and find ways to forgive his forebears.
I writing the prologue to PAST LIFE I found myself giving the lead character a voice I'd not heard in my memories of her real life source. I found tenderness for my fictionalization of her inner child that my anger at the end couldn't allow with the real person who'd injured me. As I wrote later chapters of her in adulthood I found myself discovering more insights into what she did in my past and why. The character will still be a villain -- have no doubt -- but a motivated one like Adam Caine, whose motives we understand and, like Hannibal Lechter, can almost identify with.
Getting there means going deep into memories of someone I cut out of my life, something I've never done lightly and only about four times in over fifty years of life on Earth. The journey is difficult, but already paying off as I see the character of Dr. Adeniké Morgan growing. She isn’t cardboard to me, but flesh and blood, and as I work on her, I see her becoming a character who will break new ground for me. Will Dr. Morgan’s source recognize herself if she picks up the book? I hope not, but if she does, I hope she will see what I saw -- a flawed human being, damaged by life, who was pushed down a path by life she might otherwise have avoided, but one I at least understand now, and can forgive, if not forget.
To me, writing should never be therapy forced down the throats of the reader as you try to figure yourself out -- but revealing insights understood after the fact can benefit the writer and the reader. Conclusions can bring closure for both. I will continue to use my life and research, and try not to feel like a vampire, but will also be mindful of the real world implications of doing so, and as I said, follow the edict to do no harm.
Getting the last word carries with it a responsibility to make those words of value, not vengeance.
(Originally posted at Novel Spaces, "an eclectic group of authors bound by a singular passion: writing" where I blog on the 6th and 22nd of every month)
Recently a reader asked me for my opinion on why there are so many trilogies being published lately -- I have two answers, one short, one longer. You know me...
The first is financial. If an author’s books sell well, there’s nothing a publisher likes better than to have another book waiting in the wings to move onto shelves as soon as the initial sales of their first subside. The strategy seems to be to have new books come out within six months of each other, as my second did, which means that the old paradigm of taking a year to finish a novel is slowly being thrown out the window. That’s right, kids, your competition is now time -- the novelist who can produce good work faster -- i.e., readable and saleable, which doesn’t always mean the best writing -- is more appealing to a major publisher than a brilliant first novel with no guarantee of more.
If a publisher buys a trilogy and promotes it as such, it theoretically means that anyone who enjoyed the first book is a built in audience for the second and third. Since most book contracts are structured in step payments, publishers have no problem writing off any money paid on signature and stopping the ball before it rolls too far down the hill if the first book tanks. For them it’s a win-win situation -- not so much for the author who told everybody about a three-book deal that then goes the way of all things.
The second reason is aesthetic.
There has always been an attraction to the power of three. Off the top of my head I can cite the Holy Trinity that I was raised with as a Catholic -- Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The three witches in Macbeth, the three sisters in Aaron Spelling’s “Charmed”, three-eyed and three legged aliens in “War of the Worlds”, “The Tripods” series -- I could Google and find far more and better examples, but you get the point.
Almost any writing course will tell you that a good story has three elements - a beginning, middle and end. We talk of the three-act structure of plays, even of screenplays. Life is divided into past, present and future, with no side trips into parallel time or alternate dimensions. Bottom line, there is a magic and mystery to the number three that recurs frequently in literature and myth.
There's also something almost irresistible to taking on the challenge of writing a story so big it requires three parts to tell. It is a lure that can be as lethal as Ulysses' desire to hear the Siren's song, with equal risk of crashing to you doom on the rocks. When I started my first novel, “BITE MARKS: A Vampire Testament”, I didn’t plan for it to become a trilogy. That happened in the course of rewriting the first book, as I realized it had generated a valid continuation of the story. Book one took place in 1986/87 and involved a vampire baby that is “cured” by the end of the first book. Once I had that ending, I saw a second story that brought the baby, now human and approaching 21, back to New York to find out what happened to him all those years ago.
I was lucky in that the editor who bought the book saw the same potential, and bought the second book based on a half page description of what it would be. In the course of writing book two of what had become the first two novels of “The Vampire Testaments” at my editor’s suggestion, I had a choice -- cram everything that was coming up into one book that felt rushed, or break the story I saw remaining into two books, turning my first publication into the opening volley of -- yeah, yet another trilogy.
In all good conscience, I couldn’t cheat the characters or the readers with the former, so I wrote up enough details to see where the third book would go, and plunged ahead, counting on my editor to tell me I was crazy if the second book didn’t satisfy. She didn’t, and I am now hard at work on book three, with no contract, driven only by my need to know what happens next.
I did something unusual (I think -- I haven’t read everything, after all) in that each book of the trilogy is separated by a generation -- the first takes place in 1986/87, the second twenty years later in 2007, and the third will be set twenty years from now in 2028. My hope is that no one will assume the third is science fiction and shy away from it, or that first readers of the third will be disappointed in the first two for not having futuristic aspects. For the purposes of the story I am trying to tell I had to move forward in time for certain events to build to a boil. The third is more speculative fiction if anything, in that I am more concerned with social and moral changes than in how technology or science may have changed to affect us.
It does make for an interesting marketing issue, which I will address in future blogs. Publishing today is still struggling to deal with the question of how to effectively sell a book in the 21st century, when more books than ever are available, in more forms, and in more markets. My hope is that I’ll attract readers who like my characters, the way I tell stories, and my themes, and that, if done well, where or when they are set will be accepted without question.
When I realized that I’d thrown myself into a trilogy, as opposed to a series, (also popular with publishers today, though the Testaments will continue with individual novels), I took on the responsibility to end the third novel well, in a way that wrapped up the lives of the characters while leaving them open to future stories. I didn’t want to pad out a successful first story into two more, as the Matrix trilogy did so poorly, for seemingly no other reason than to milk the market.
In my opinion they destroyed the integrity of the first movie by the middle of the second, when Neo arbitrarily discards saving the real world to save his lover (named Trinity, ironic in the context of this essay) and then lies about it. Then they gave us a third movie that essentially reprised and expanded the action sequences of the first two and cranked them up until there was no room left for anything but more digital copies of the villains in motion. Consistency of plot, character or story were thrown out the window in a virtual orgy of hi-tech destruction driven more by Joel Silver’s action movie mentality than the intelligence of the Wachowskis that instigated the original idea.
For me, a trilogy is justified when it’s driven by an epic story that can’t be contained in anything smaller. The “Lord of the Rings” was a faux trilogy in that it was written as a massive single book the publisher cut into three parts for publication. Nonetheless, except for the abrupt close of the first two portions (I feel each part of a good trilogy should have a satisfying ending, even as it sets you up for the next), it tells an epic tale that couldn’t be told in fewer words.
The future of the trilogy will be determined by two things -- their effectiveness, how well they are written -- but first and foremost, their sales. If people keep buying trilogies, writers will keep writing them, and publishers will keep putting them out there. I will think twice before I launch into another. My only regret is that I didn’t pitch the first as a trilogy so that the publisher could have promoted it as such, but I am making clear that the story continues -- and ends -- with another. After that I have at least two more tales to tell in my vampire lore, and a host of unrelated books to write, supernatural and otherwise.
In the meantime, I have to finish the third of the Vampire Testaments, and a novella that may be the seed of a new supernatural series. I’ll be back soon with my visit to The Stanley Hotel, Stephen King’s inspiration for “The Shining”.
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I‘ve always been deep into -- shall we say -- the esoteric? My high school nickname was “Phantom”, because I read everything I could find on witchcraft, vampires, werewolves, UFOs. The lot. Montague Summers was my mentor then, and Hans Holzer. I can attribute much of it to my maternal grandmother, a self-taught mystic, comic book and monster movie fan, but I think I would have found my way there even without her.
When I started BITE MARKS: A Vampire Testament in the eighties (then called BITE, until I discovered the late Richard Laymon’s fine and quirky novel of that title) I’d already found an old gilt jewelry box in a flea market. I decided to turn it into a fetish box, a talisman to get me to focus on finishing the book. Looking back, I think I was probably being driven by a mad love of Joseph Cornell’s box art I’d seen at MoMA, and fetish objects in the African collection at the Met.
I filled my box with the original set of index cards printed with the story sequence, a Tiffany pouch with six Gettones (coins used to make pay phone calls in Italy then, replaced by phonecards) for casting the I Ching, dried flowers, and my first fountain pen -- an old Wearever I’d found in my grandmother’s attic as a kid.
I’d never seen one and when I brought it down, she explained how it worked -- the lever that filled the bladder, the soft nib that gently splayed to change the width of the line as you pressed down...I filled it with ink from my mother’s art supplies, begged to keep it and spent the day writing and drawing with my prize.
I resolved not to open my fetish box until I sold the book, and decided that I'd use my grandmother’s old fountain pen to sign the contract when I did. When the time came to sign the two contracts for the first of the Vampire Testaments, I brought the box to my agents’ office. I told them the story, opened it for the first time since I’d tied it up, and signed both contracts. I’m sure my grandmother was beaming with pride that day from the other side.
I am not saying that magic got the books published. If it had, I would have wanted all this to happen much sooner, only a few years after the box was sealed, not twenty. What the box's magic did, if anything, was keep my vision of the story clear in my head, turn the characters into people so real I can get inside their heads anytime, walk them anywhere, in any age, and know exactly what they would say or do. To me, that is magic.
I made a world in my own image.
I sure as Hell am not God, and wouldn’t want to be -- as Jim Carrey learned in Bruce Almighty, Steve Carell in the sequel -- but writing can be a godlike feeling, and lets me see how a God who could create us would love us, whether we were good or evil, and want us to be the best we can be. Not just for what we are, but for what our nature says about our creator’s own identity.
As a child I spent hours in my room making up stories after reading Ray Bradbury, C.S. Lewis, Roald Dahl, fairy tales, horror stories or mythology. All the kids were into Batman on TV back then, including me. I’d act out my tales of their adventures with improvised action figures, back when G.I. Joe the only one we had. I made mine out of pipe cleaners, multicolored ones, combined with Play-Doh or masking tape to form heads and faces, using crepe paper for capes. I built a Batcave on my desk on a big rectangle of slate flooring I’d found somewhere.
My miniature Batman and Robin battled the Penguin and the Riddler, complete with explosions courtesy of stick-on caps sparked by a pin pushed through a pencil eraser. I shudder to think of what my parents never knew about how I achieved my special effects -- like the time I ignited a liquid pool of rapidly evaporating butane fuel only to discover how fast and far it combusted when lit. Fortunately it also burned away harmlessly before it could burn down the house. It was my last experiment with flammables.
Don’t try this at home, kids!
I lost myself in those little worlds in little stories then, developed the muscles I’m exercising more fully now, a sort of sorcerer’s apprenticeship. Now my stories are longer, more complex, deeper and more real to me than anything I did then. I am far from being Master of my Dark Art, but do feel more capable and enjoy it more than ever as a hard-won pleasure.
Looking back, I do see a kind of magic in it all, represented by my gold gilt fetish book box. The magic of a grandmother who loved the books and movies she enjoyed so much that she shared them with a grandson who used their lessons to survive a confusing life.
The magic of a mother who gave her son the freedom to explore those new worlds, and believed in him enough to supply the raw materials for him to shape his wild visions. The magic of a father who saw a better, bigger life for his family than he’d had, who gave his children the opportunity to really see the world, in a way few kids could then, and decide what it was for themselves.
I try to be open-minded, and don’t disbelieve in most esoteric issues. I even believe in a few things that deep down inside I know are probably crap. Still, I also know that there must be something larger than us, something we aren’t developed enough to even understand or define. My box was an appeal to that higher power, call it what you will. It kept me working during any time I could make or steal to write. The work grew as I did, and as it reached maturity, enough to enter the world on its own, I discovered that I’d grown up as well.
If I know anything else, it’s that it couldn’t have happened any faster. From my current vantage point, I can understand why, no matter how frustrated I’ve been in the past. All magic comes in its own time. Which reminds me, I have a third book to finish...gotta run.
I've realized that aside from the books themselves, my life is on an interesting path new writers as well as my readers may find interesting. As a freshly published novelist, less than a year out, I'm learning a lot by watching those ahead of me on the road. The biggest lesson so far -- calm down, take a deep breath, and look around. See where you are, figure out where you want to be, point yourself in that direction and start walking. It's good advice going into a convention center, onto a stage, or just life.
No more over-thinking.
I am going to let my instincts guide me as I write the third novel, and as I deal with major changes in my life over the last year. They got me this far, as I try to remind myself. They can get me to the next step, if I am clear on what it is.