Adios, 2016!

Or “Good riddance!”, as so many of my friends have shrieked at the top of their lungs, or typed IN ALL CAPS on social media, whichever the case may be. Okay, yeah, I get it, sort of. Your favorite celebrity died, your preferred politician didn’t win, or your team lost their Big Game!  It’s HORRIBLE! It’s the end of the world as we know it! Gloom, despair, and agony on me.

I could go off on everything that was bad about 2016 easily enough. I could sob over still not finding a ‘traditional’ publisher for my novels. I could bemoan the fact that online sales suck and that I’ve typed my fingers to bloody stumps asking for folks to at least post reviews. I could go off on a tangent about how unfair it is that people who have held a very good paying job for 5+ years can’t afford to buy a house while other people who haven’t worked a lick in that same period of time get all these special treatments when it comes to housing. There’s a rant out there about a-hole bosses who take advantage of their employees to the point that they are driven to physical illness and end up having to quit a job they otherwise loved. I could cry over the deaths of a myriad of celebrities that I liked. I could cuss and stomp my feet over the unfairness of our elections. I could begrudge how the Carolina Panthers lost the Super Bowl and that the Cleveland Indians didn’t win the World Series. But, I’m not going to do that, because I’m an optimist and I’m pretty sick and tired of hearing the “Apocalypse Is Nigh” from every other person on Facebook. I refuse to be one of ‘those people’.

Instead, I’m going to look at 2016 as the year I made more progress on my writing career, with or without the advantages a publishing house could give me. I’d love to have help with advertising and promotions and setting up signings, readings, and sales. I could be a lot further ahead of the game if I had all that, sure, but I don’t. I did the best I could with what I DO have. I did a Book Club talk and I had three signing events where turnout was good and sales were more than I’d actually imagined they’d be. That’s more than I’ve ever had before and I’m truly grateful. I made some new friends and got some great advice and some much appreciated help from far more successful writers than I.

I got remarried! That’s pretty darned awesome. I met a man against a whole lot of odds who was willing to pretty much give up his whole life 1400+ miles away and move up to this Arctic Backwoods Wasteland so we could be together. After living together for almost three years, we tied the knot on a beautiful day in August down by my parent’s pond with an amazing view of the valley below. It was small, only forty people, simple, and very casual and laid back. I’m not even going to mention those few things that didn’t happened perfectly as planned because they don’t matter. The end result is the same.

Life has been very good to me and mine in 2016. Most of the time things went how we hoped. Sometimes, not so much, but at the end of it all, we are happy. We have a place to live, food to eat, and warm clothes for winter. We have family and friends that love us, support us, and encourage us with our dreams. We have love. We have happiness. We have hope.

That’s how I’m ending 2016 and that’s how I’m going to enter 2017.

Thank you to everyone who helped make 2016 so amazing! May you all have a wonderful and prosperous new year!

Hope In A Bowl Of Chicken Alfredo

We had company last night, my boyfriend’s Uncle Lloyd and his uncle’s wife, Betty. It was a very casual affair with a simple, homemade meal. Up for discussion were mainly travel adventures and life in the gated senior community they now call home in South Carolina. They were both dismayed that neither of them were able to make the senior citizen’s baseball team. Their attempts to do so were quite comical though.

Of course, considering the crowd, the topic of writing came up. Jim mentioned he’d just finished reading one of my books. I’m very modest about my writing efforts because I guess I just don’t feel my ‘successes’ are worth mentioning. They don’t live up to my expectations of where I’d hoped to be at this point in my life. I’m published, but pfft, I don’t even bring in $200 a year on what I have out there.

The banter turned to things like, “Some people who write never get ANYTHING published,” and “Sometimes luck plays just as big a role as talent.” Betty commented that sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the RIGHT reader, the person who loves your work and knows who’s who and what’s what in the business. I haven’t found that person. Sometimes I wonder if I ever will. When Jim and I last saw his cousin nearly a year ago, he said he wasn’t the best writer in the writing classes he took. To paraphrase part of the conversation, “There were a lot of people in those classes who were far better writers than I am. I, however, was the most persistent [in getting published].”

Persistence, as the saying goes, paid off for Jim’s cousin. I am doing my best to be persistent. I try to have queries out there at all times, always hoping that eventually one will come back with something other than the generic, “We’re sorry, but this isn’t what we’re looking for right now,” rejection form letter. If Queries are the Job Applications of the writing world then I am not finding any gainful employment here. If you’ve ever been desperately looking for a job and either never hear back or go to one interview after another only to be told, “Sorry, you’re not quite what we’re looking for,” you know the feeling well. It sucks, doesn’t it?

You can’t give up though, can you? No, not if you really care about getting a job. You’re driven to keep on filling out the forms, submitting the letters, and tweaking this or that to adjust the resume to fit the job you are applying for. What does it take to land that job? The right person to see it and realize, “Hey, this person’s got some potential. Let’s give him a shot and see.” That’s really all I’m asking for, a chance beyond the erotica.

To add insult to injury, over the past few years I’ve read a number of novels by quite famous female writers and I just shake my head wondering. They were alright, but as modest as I am, I write just as well, if not better, than they do. The plot to one was over the top predictable. Another told me the story instead of showing me. That was even more annoying. A third contained some of the most two-dimensional characters I’ve ever encountered. Yet, there they are, out there, known, loved, embraced, accepted and appreciated for their skills.

A few weeks back I finished writing my ninth novel. I have at least three more in me patiently waiting for their stories to be told. Where will these go? I’m not sure I want to know. If I knew they’d never be shared with anyone but a handful of family and friends, would I make the effort to write them? If I knew they’d bring me millions, would I put more effort into getting them done? Will that elusive Right Reader that Betty mentioned EVER enter my life? Is it any wonder so many writers are slightly insane? How do I up the odds of making it? What about my queries is not getting through to the right person?

The doubts creep in and tear me apart all too often. All the encouraging words sometimes don’t do much to lift the spirits of the jobless man standing in the soup line. He needs the job. He wants the job. He KNOWS he can do that job. His wife, family and friends are encouraging and supportive. They tell him to keep trying. In his mind, he remains an unrecognized and unwanted failure.

That’s the place I am standing now, bowl in hand. I’ve not given up. I’ll persist a while longer. I’ll write. I’ll edit, rewrite and submit again and again. I’ll try and look at Lloyd and Betty’s visit as another nudge in the right direction – that little glimmer of hope offered to me over a honking big serving bowl of Chicken Alfredo with broccoli and sweet red peppers on a hot and humid Tuesday night in July.