Thursday, December 06, 2018

Dear Loved Ones IRL

“Writing is something you do alone. Its a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don't want to make eye contact while doing it." - John Green

I was on a walk with someone the other day and she asked how the book stuff was going and I said it was going well and she said, "I'm so excited to read it!"

And I, immediately flattered and flustered and touched, said, "Yeah!...and then we can both pretend you didn't, right?"

She seemed surprised and asked me to explain myself, and I promptly found that I couldn't. I just did a lot of mumbling about how the whole thing is so fun, and so exciting, yes, it is, totally, and also I just never want to have to discuss it with anyone I know very well in real life. 

This confused things further because, of course, there is this: I have a blog where I write a lot, including about the books, and it is not a private blog. I have an Instagram account where I share, on average, a picture a day, and where I talk about the writing process a lot. And then, you know, I wrote these books and, with great effort and absolutely on purpose, am having them published. Publicly. 

So it's understandably confusing when I say to someone that I want to pretend with close friends and family, offline, that none of this is actually happening. Yes. Confounding.

I have had ten thousand iterations of this conversation in the past year or so, and I've found that I'm not getting any better at explaining myself. In fact, at best I'm confusing everyone, and at worst I'm offending them or maybe even hurting their feelings. The fact that I came here, to my blog, to work out and write out what I can never seem to say in real life almost feels like an explanation in and of itself. But I'll try to elaborate just a touch more. 

Okay.

I'm not even sure where to start. Maybe with this:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then, I contradict myself
(I am large, I contain multitudes)
- Walt Whitman

I have always wanted to be an author. I have always loved writing. And I have always been terrified of people reading what I write. I want people to read what I've written, because that's obviously a measure of success as an author, and I want to be published so that lots of people can read what I've written, and I don't want anyone to read what I've written because I'm the one who wrote it. 

When I started this blog, I protected it from everyone I knew in real life—Barclay, my family, my friends, everyone. There was a tiny community of strangers who read my blog, and I read theirs, and it was just a great way to practise writing and to connect with other people who loved writing too. It was a simpler time, when the internet wasn't so searchable, when blogs weren't so discoverable. As people began to find this place, though, I realized I had to make a decision: give up this hobby that I loved and the community I built here, because CRIPPLING EMBARRASSMENT, or keep on going and pretend like I didn't die inside every time someone in real life told me they'd stumbled across my blog or someone had shared it with them. 

This already sounds dumb. Bear with me; these are just my actual feelings. I just actually feel them. 

So the book thing, at first, was much the same as the blog thing. I was going to keep it a secret. I was going to use a pen name and tell NO ONE. My dream has never been fame; my dream has been the finished product: a legit book. Professionally edited and designed and published. 

Barclay said, "There are a few people who would want to know you wrote a book." And then I almost decided not to write a book because, well, he was right. People would be put out if I didn't tell them, and I was not willing to tell them. But then I found that I was so attached to the idea of publishing a book that I also couldn't not do that. I was stuck between something I could not do and something I could not not do and at first I couldn't tell whether it would be harder to do something hard or to not do something wonderful...and somehow, I ended up here.

And this is how it's been for every single step in the process. Weighing the outcome against my fear, briefly considering giving up, and then pushing forward in spite of myself.

My bestest-best friends know that I mostly deliver book news by text message (or not at all) and then get really, really weird about it if they want to follow up in real life. I can barely even say the names of my books out loud because I wrote those too. 

I got my book deal in January and didn't tell my parents about it until April (and then I did it via super awkward text message, sandwiched in between a picture of something Sullivan made and a funny story about something he said).

And Barclay will attest to the fact that any time I get good news about this process, or any time I have a phone meeting with my agent or editor, I get actually, physically ill. The better the news, the sicker I get. My whole entire being suffers from stage fright. (It's actually kind of incredible, the way the brain is, like, connected to the body like that.)

All that said, I'm loving it. I have had a headache for months and the knots in my shoulders are like rocks, but I'm having the time of my life, I really am. I'm so happy and sick and it's all I want to talk about and I do not want to talk about it at all—like really, at all. I would not create a fictional character like this because my editors would say she didn't make sense. They'd say, "So her life-long dream is finally coming true and she just wants to pretend nothing's happening? This is dumb."

And I'd say, "Oh, it's not that she wants to pretend it's not happening. She'd be okay talking to strangers about it."

And they'd be like, "What about her charming, supportive husband who cares so much and asks so many intentional questions?"

And I'd say, "Mm...maybe him sometimes. Depending on her mood. But he's kind of figured her out and knows which questions make her eye twitch and he avoids those. It's really actually very sweet."

Anyway. This is my brain, hello and welcome, I'm sorry if it's weird. I will try my best to not be a jerk, but maybe, if you know me in real life, you could sometimes—just sometimes—meet me in the middle and pretend like I'm an architect or an accountant or some other occupation where we don't really talk about the specifics of my job very much. And the rest of the time I will laugh too much and turn too red and make self-deprecating jokes and steer the conversation hard the other way without even meaning to. (Don't forget that I'm saving you too, because what if you want to talk about this, like, all the time and then you actually read it and you hate it and suddenly you don't know how to mention it in front of me without being super awkward...)

And we will mutually understand that we love each other and that's actually why I'm so shy about this in front of you, and neither of us think that makes much sense but, hey, people don't make sense in all kinds of ways! You're weird too, you just don't write about it on the internet.

Which is probably a good call.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

On Blurbs and Blurbing

So, blurbs. You know what they are, even if you think you don't (this has been true for 100% of the people who looked at me funny and said, "Your what?" when I told them my first blurbs came in).

The blurb (aka endorsement) is that little sentence or paragraph of promotional praise you find on the cover of a book (or just inside, or on the back, or on the Amazon page, or wherever). It's written by another author, usually one that has some clout in the publishing world, and I guess its purpose is to show that, look, a legit literary person read this book all the way through and they liked it, so if you like them/if you like books like theirs/if you like books that can be read all the way through and spoken glowingly about, you might like this book too. 

I've always noticed blurbs on the covers of books and wondered about the process behind them—how did this other author get ahold of this book in time to write this praise before the cover was finalized and the book was published? Did that author really even like or read that book or were they bribed? I know we got blurbs for the C+C book, but I wasn't really in on the process and this felt like a new thing to me still, so I googled it and came across these nuggets of wisdom from authors who have gone before me:

1. Asking for blurbs is humiliating and horrible—especially for debut authors.


3. It's not uncommon to ask a lot of people to blurb your book and come up with nothing.

The gist of it: Brace yourself (that's a direct quote). No one's heard of you. You're asking people who have never heard of you to read an entire book you've written and, if they like it, say something nice about it. Not only that, you're asking this of other authors—people who are presumably very busy writing books, beta reading for their actual friends and writing groups, promoting their own work, doing conferences and tours, etc. You're asking them to put their name on your book, which is kind of a massive favour. 

So, okay then. I was ready when the email came from Alicia saying we were going to see if we could get some blurbs for V&V. I prepared myself to get exactly zero blurbs. If I even got one blurb that said, "This book is okay!" that would be great, I thought. And then I thought, "Wow, this is exactly like walking the hallways on the first day of high school asking other students if they think you're pretty, and then if they say yes, asking them, In what way and will you write that down for me?"

Not my thing, you know?

But we did it! (Actually, Alicia and Victoria did it! They do everything! I like them so much!) And it feels like a big enough deal to blog about. They sent out a (very early, not completely edited) copy of the book to some authors they thought might like it and who write in the same genre as I do, and then we waited. They've now begun to trickle in, and it's very, very good for my frazzled nerves.

(My nerves are so much more frazzled than I thought possible at the beginning of this whole thing, which is why if you've asked me about my book at any point in the past nine months, I've stared at you like you slapped me across the face and dumbly said, "Uhhh...yeah...it's...let's not talk about that, please." But that's a subject for a whole other blog post because this one is about BLURBS.)


Yay.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Valencia and Valentine Has A Cover!

We've all heard that dumb old saying about not judging the covers of books. It's very old and I think we could retire it. I always judge the covers of books and I always will because that's the whole dang point of covers of books: they're supposed to give you an idea of the style or mood of the book, maybe hint at a character or two, or the setting, or a detail pertinent to the plot. They're supposed to imply genre and they tell you who wrote it and what it's called. Everything is intentional, if a cover is well-designed, right down to the colours and the fonts.

If you were not meant to judge a book by its cover, a book would not have a cover. 

That said, I'm finally allowed to show you the cover of my book, so judge away, people. It was designed by Philip Pascuzzo (one of the designers behind the famous Twitter logo). It's going to be in hardcover and paperback, which is especially exciting to me because Lake Union is known for their beautiful hardcovers and it'll be a dream come true to have my name on one. 


Isn't it so pretty? I have it saved as the lock screen on my phone so I see it all day every day. Many thanks to Pepco Studios, but also to Lake Union and Alicia and Victoria for all the back-and-forth brainstorming sessions and allowing me to give my input. It was suuuuch a cool process. 

One step closer to pub day!

PS: You can preorder here (or click on the cover above), but I also just wanted to take a moment to add that preordering/buying a book is not the only way to show support to a person who has written one (though it really does help and I'm enormously thankful for everyone who's done this, srsly). 

A few other (free) ways are:

Add the book to your to-reads on Goodreads.


Same with bookstores. If you happen to be there anyway, I mean. It helps bookstore employees become aware of a book they might not have known about otherwise and maybe they'll read it and maybe they'll like it and then maybe they'll start handselling it, which would be the best.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Sullivan at 22

I don't know why the word 'eccentric' is most commonly applied to old people. After all, the most eccentric person I know is four years old.

This week, Sully has assumed an alternate personality, one which he embodies whole-heartedly and without breaking character for hours at a time. His name is Sullivan Barclay Krause; he is 22 years old and lives in BC with his wife and two children (who are, coincidentally, 1 and 4 and named Scarlett and Sullivan). He is fairly deadpan, speaks to me as a fellow adult, drinks americanos, likes jazz, and takes his kids to the park, like, all the time. He even asked me for my number so we could hang out sometime.

Today, he came for lunch. I asked him how his day was and he sighed deeply and said, "Welp. My car broked down. AGAIN."

I said, "Oh? What happened to it?"

"Welp. I was just going to the guitar store to buy some picks and a bad guy comed up and started punching it and it broked." Here, he rolled his eyes and shook his head and his little shoulders rose and fell and he let out another massive sigh.

"That's terrible," I said. "Just for no reason?"

"Oh no, he had a reason," said Sullivan Barclay Krause (never only Sullivan or Sully). "I just don't know what his reason was."

"Ah," I said. "You're probably right."

"I am," he said sagely.

"Hey, Sully," I said, clearing the table, nudging a blanket that had been left in the middle of the floor with my foot, "would you—"

"Sullivan Barclay Krause," he reminded me. "I'm 22. I'm an adult."

"Right. Hey, Sullivan Barclay Krause, would you mind putting that blanket back on the couch?"

"Sure," he said. "Where's your couch at?"

I pointed to the couch, and he nodded approvingly. "Ah," he said. "It's a nice couch. My wife has the same one."

"Ah," I said. (We say 'Ah' back and forth to each other so much when he's 22, apparently.) "Would you also mind putting those pillows back on it? My son's always throwing them on the floor."

I said this very pointedly, but Sullivan Barclay Krause was oblivious, neatly stacking my pillows on the couch that is the same as the one his wife has. And then, rolling his eyes again, he said, "Yes. My daughter is always doing the same thing."

"Ah," I said. "Do you want some coffee?"

"No," he said. "I've got coffee at home."

"Okay."

He stood in the middle of the living room and put his hands on his skinny little hips, surveying it. "Yep, yep, yep," he said, making a very grown-up sound out of the side of his mouth, the kind you make when you're in a pause in a conversation and you don't know where to go with it. "I see your husband likes to play video games."

"He does," I said. "What does your wife do?" I thought maybe he'd tell me his wife was a writer or a mom, since she seemed loosely based on me from all he's told me about her this week.

"She works at Suds. The car wash," he said. "She runs all the brushes."

Anyway, it went on like that. I just wanted to write this part of the conversation down verbatim before I forgot it, because 22 year-old Sullivan Barclay Krause is my favourite. 

Friday, August 24, 2018

I have writer's block again, and that's fine. I only come here anymore when it hits. Usually blogging at least distracts me, if not totally cures me—maybe being distracted from writer's block is the cure for it.

It's kind of the perfect day for writer's block anyway. Life has been nonstop around here. Maybe I should look at it less like, "Ugh, my brain is being blocked from getting important stuff done," and more like, "I have hit a natural barrier within myself to doing anything more today because that's what's good for me." It's probably accurate.

But! Writers gotta write, even if it's just for fun. So, in the spirit of butt-in-seat, in the spirit of getting words down, in the spirit of all that good advice other writers give you that they probably don't completely follow themselves, here is a list of the things keeping me & my household busy lately:

1. Barclay is starting his own landscape construction business. I don't mean, like, someday, Barclay is starting his own landscape construction business. I mean today is last day at his current workplace. 

It's, you know, on.

He had some great years at The Shovel (and will still be around there a lot, considering he's staying in that field), but this is something he's wanted to do for a long time. It's been fun watching him get ready for his first few jobs, even being able to help a little. It's especially significant to me that he's chasing this dream at the same time as I'm chasing mine; we're in a really cool season of life that way, being able to cheer each other on and daydream out loud back and forth. I don't take it for granted at all, and I'm so excited for/with him.

Also, check out his name and logo:
(The peregrine falcon is his favourite bird. A thing I love about Barclay is that he has a favourite bird.) 

I'm making his website right now, but I'll probably link to it later on in case you need someone to build you a really sweet patio. Barclay makes amazing things.


2. I finished yet another round of edits on my book. This editorial letter was much shorter than the last, and I think we're nearing the end, which is exciting and terrifying. There's a certain sense of comfort in sending my manuscript away but knowing it'll come back to me for another pass. The day I send it off for good, I'll probably crumple up like a piece of paper and spontaneously combust. But. I had a great phone call the other day with my editor and my agent and they're both so lovely and optimistic and always saying good things to me, so maybe I'll survive. 

Also, I'm almost done the first draft of book #2! A good, polished-up draft is due to Lake Union in February, and I think I'm gonna make it. I feel...quite proud of that, actually. When I finished the first one, the thought of doing all that again felt impossible. But here we are. And then I guess I'll start on #3? Momentum is great.


3. The LPGA's in town (I'm second-guessing myself on the order of those letters), so Tourism Regina sent us out to a bunch of stuff this month to highlight the city for visitors. This week alone has been pretty full: we went to a Nazareth concert last night, a movie in Vic Park and supper downtown at Famoso on Wednesday, the RCMP Heritage Centre on Tuesday, and the CP Women's Open...oh, also on Wednesday. I really do love this gig.  


There could probably be numbers 4-10 on this list, but but it's all pretty obvious stuff like housekeeping and making supper. Reading books. Having friends. Raising children. Running errands. Building a little office space in our bedroom (it's really functional and cute and I'll show you later). Life right now is a mix of mundane and sensational, and that's the way (uh huh, uh huh) I like it.