Flailing in the Abyss

Putting my own words on paper

holds
and reading the words of others

reading makes

are the 2 best ways I know how to cope with the awfulness happening in the world.

And just when I think it can’t get worse…

worse 2

it does get worse.

But all the awfulness all around us — is us!

real monsters

There are times even words, no matter how beautiful, fail to lift me from the abyss.

petrichor

I know we must continue doing our best in the face of so much awfulness.

do good

We must resist and persist and work to right wrongs.

nothing

But sometimes the scope of injustices breaks me .

silence

Many people feel too much. Psychology Today called this “Reactive Empathy.”

But the trouble at the root of all this awfulness is a dearth of empathy?

jose

A dearth of empathy allows us  to judge and harm one another even though we are all the same.

Why isn’t empathy as hard-wired as hunger?

empathy

Has evolution failed the human race?

Wouldn’t empathy make us the most adaptive?

change

Isn’t empathy a better tool for survival of the species than apathy or self-interest?

love heals

I’m not thinking clearly.

Science befuddles me. 

I know the answers are complicated.

clear

Right now, I’m flailing in the abyss the world is.

Maybe words do help. A little.

I’ll grab onto these Vonnegut words right now and try to stop flailing.

loved

 

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“Didn’t everyone standing in a crowded elevator imagine how someone could be murdered?”– author V. M. Burns

I’m so excited to have my favorite Cozy Mystery author

and now dear friend

V. M. Burns visit me here on my blog.

valerie

She talks about how she came to write such wonderful mysteries

valerie book 1

and gives fellow aspiring authors the wisdom of her experience.

valerie book 2

Why cozy mysteries?

I’ve loved cozy mysteries for as long as I can remember.

From Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew to Agatha Christie, I love reading and figuring out whodunit.

nancy drew

How did you come to write cozies?

The transition from reading cozies to wanting to write them was subtle.

I don’t recall saying, “one day, I’m going to write cozy mysteries.”

However, there were two glaringly obvious clues which pointed to career as a writer.

clue

First, I mentally altered book/movie endings.

For as long as I can remember, I indulged in what I called, “my imaginings.”

If I finished a book and didn’t like the ending, I changed it.

could have

If I watched a movie and thought the characters should have behaved differently, I “imagined” an alternative.

Or, if I read a book and wanted to know what happened next, I imagined the sequel.

to be cont

At the time, I had no idea this would lead to a life as a writer.

I thought everyone came up with ideas for books/movies or thought out alternative endings and sequels.

Didn’t everyone standing in a crowded elevator imagine how someone could be murdered?

elevator

In addition to an active imagination, I also kept a mental “I wish there was a book” list.

wish list

I wish there was a book about a woman who owned a mystery bookstore who solved mysteries.

I wish there was a book about a policeman and his godmother who solved murders.

I wish…well, you get the idea.

wishing

One day, I told a screenwriter friend, one time too many, that she should write a screenplay about…

That’s when she suggested I should write it myself.

make it so 2

Once the seed was planted, I couldn’t dig it out.

I got every book I could find about writing.

book-tree

Initially, I wrote screenplays and children’s books. I attended conferences and workshops and I wrote.

I completed four screenplays and two children’s books.

Unfortunately, no one was interested in producing my screenplays or publishing my children’s books. I got a lot of rejections.

rejection 1

I still read cozies and decided to write my first cozy screenplay, “Agatha and the Mysterious Museum Murder.”

Yep, no one was interested in that one either.

Hollywood is hard to break into, especially from Indiana.

rejection 2

A series of events led me to the Maui Writer’s Conference where I met book authors and publishers.

maui

At the conference, I pitched an idea for a book to a big five publisher and guess what?

She liked it.

The only problem, I hadn’t finished the book. So, I went home and wrote my first cozy mystery.

Thankfully, I write quickly. So, I finished the book and thought, my road to publication was secure.

road to pub

Uh…no. The publisher only accepted manuscripts submitted by an agent.

I sent queries to agents and got rejection after rejection.

rejected

Eventually, I got an agent who sent my manuscript to the big five publisher, who rejected my manuscript.

rejection quote 3

How did you keep going in the face of rejection upon rejection?

At this point, I knew what I wanted to do with my life.

I wanted to be a mystery writer.

So, I continued to send queries.

rejection quote 4

What was your road to publication like?

“I revised my manuscript and I wrote the next book in the series.

red herring

Years passed and I racked up a lot of rejections.

Obviously, I needed to do something different.

rejection quote 5

One day, while glancing at the bio of one of my favorite cozy mystery writers, Victoria Thompson, I noted she was an adjunct professor at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, PA.

Ever heard of it? Me neither.

seton hill u

A little research showed that Seton Hill had a low residency MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction.

I applied and was accepted. That’s where I found my Tribe.

the tribe

I learned how to write and I rewrote my book.

Since I write quickly, I even started a new mystery series (Mystery Bookshop Mystery).

novel art

MFA degree in hand, I sent queries to agents, editors and publishers and guess what?

I got more rejections.

Nevertheless, I kept writing.

rejection quote 6

Eventually, I got an agent who sold the second manuscript to a publisher who asked if I’d write a proposal for another mystery series.

Heck, yeah.

yes-finally

I also sold my first book to a different publisher.

trav

When all was said and done, I was under contract to write fourteen books!

Yes, you read that correctly, 14!

acceptance-journey

What advice would you give other aspiring writers?

So, what’s the key to my publication success?

I kept writing. I didn’t give up because of a rejection or two or three hundred.

My road to publication was long and rocky with lots of bends, but persistence pays off.

rejection-isnt-failure-failure-is

My advice to aspiring authors, don’t give up and no matter what happens, just keep writing.

just keep writing

V. M. Burns author page  — check out V. M. Burns’ author page to see all her books!

And check out her own blog here V. M. web site

 

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About half way…

August is the month of the annual Poetry Postcard Fest,

brainchild of Seattle poet Paul Nelson.

postcard 2

In 2007, I was lucky enough to give Paul an assist on getting the first project started.

Back then, about 100 people from all over the country participated.

11 years hence, there are several hundred participants from all over the world.

world of hands

But it’s been a long while since I participated.

I joined in this time because my current poetry project has been a bust so far.

I’ve written nothing I’m satisfied with. At all.

88ef3974-904b-4db1-b90c-f3a3a1ae7adc

I wanted the challenge of having to write a single draft of a poem quickly, then send it off right away.

There’s pressure in knowing you only get one shot–but freedom from perfectionism too.

one chance

I bought a pack of random postcards.

I pull out a card, turn it over, and begin to write.

random

My only constraint (aside from the poem needing to fit in the small space)

is that the poem must have something to do with the concept of time. 

time

It’s been quite crazy having to figure out how to work time into a poem about a giraffe or a monkey.

Even though it feels like I am writing in a vacuum, the poem is a missive to my audience of one.

Audience-of-one

Some of the poems came swiftly, without setting my pen down once.

Some of the poems have taken a bit more time.

But nearly all are silly, in some way.

silly face

Rarely, if ever, do I allow myself to just be silly.

And you know what, I can’t figure out why. It’s actually a lot of fun.

It’s okay not to take every endeavor so seriously.

seriously

Participating in the August Poetry Postcard Fest is reminding me that it’s okay to write mediocre poems.

It’s even okay to write bad poems.

dark and stormy

As long as the postcard poems make the recipient smile, that’s good enough.

And good enough is sometimes good enough.

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And I think there is a larger lesson in this postcard experience for me–

just write!

No matter what happens on the page, just write.

Perfection

And don’t aim for perfection.

Just aim to put words on paper.

It seems like I knew all of this before, but I keep forgetting, and keep needing to remind myself.

edit

I can fix the words later.

Or let the words go and write some more.

And some more.

writing postcard 2

And eventually, I might even write something I like enough to hold onto.

life

 

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The Best Laid Plans…

My sweet husband decided that the publication of my very first novel deserved to be celebrated.

In grand style!

entrance to golf course

So my husband rented a small function room at our local golf course.

And we invited our neighbors and friends here in Tillamook to come share a delicious salmon dinner.

salmon

My hubby even had this nearly life-sized blow up of my book cover made up to decorate the room for the celebration.

Andy with sign smaller

It was going to be a wonderful celebration.

And for once, I wasn’t even nervous about having to be the center of attention–like I always am when I have to stand up in front of a room full of people.

nervous

When my first poetry collection came out, I seriously considered hiring a stunt double to give the readings for me.

look alikes

(okay, I don’l look like Bowie or Tilda, but you get the idea)

But this time, I was genuinely excited and wanted to celebrate, even if I was going to read a snippet from the book.

snippet

I picked out a polka dot dress to wear because it seemed fun for the occasion without being too formal.

And a purple lace bolero to wear over it.

polka dot dresspurple

But you read the title of this post, so you know something went awry.

The party went off without a hitch. People had a lovely time. So what went wrong?

party goers

Well, only the fact that I couldn’t attend my own party!

Nope.

My body decided to betray me in the wee hours of the morning the day of my party

with excruciating pain.

I ended up in the hospital.

emergency room

I’m doing better now, after a couple of days in the hospital getting test after test after test.

Diagnosed with an intestinal blockage, I’m recovering slowly.

I may need exploratory surgery if things don’t completely resolve on their own. Hope not.

no surgery

But for now, I’m okay.

Except I’m completely, totally, thoroughly bummed

that I missed my own book celebration party.

sad baby

My first thought was I didn’t deserve a celebration, anyway.

My second thought, too.

mothers voice

That’s my mother’s voice in my head talking. It’s nearly impossible to shut her up.

My next thought was The universe hates me.

universe hates me

The universe isn’t out to get me. That’s just silly.

I am just an insignificant speck in the scheme of things.

the-universe-you-are-here

The Universe doesn’t care a whit about me.

So, here I am feeling pretty sorry for myself.

pity party

How lame is that?

What I should really be feeling is grateful.

grateful

Grateful to have people in my life who wanted to celebrate with me.

Grateful to be alive.

At all.

be alive

And I am.

I am grateful to be here, for however much more time I am granted.

run down

Guess, I am just going to have to do something else worth celebrating.

Maybe write another book?

Or another half-dozen books?

desk

I better get started, huh?

Wish me luck!

prep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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