Still Bleeding – the Worst Rejection Ever

I had to share this tweet from Agent Sarah. We got the cover flats for THE ORCHID THRONE (out in September 2019, but review copies are going out now – eep!) and they have foil! That’s the shiny stuff on the cover. It shows best in the video from her tweet, but here’s a still pic, in case the video doesn’t play. Super cool, huh? It’s my first cover with foil, and it’s SO PRETTY!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is Knife in the Heart: The Harshest, Meanest Rejections from a Publisher/Editor/Agent. Come on over to hear about mine.

Why Hard Work Is Important

003Jackson is experimenting with gravity these days. And, yes, he *can* walk up walls.

Last week’s post on Why Hard Work Is Not Equal to Success started some interesting conversations, both on the blog and elsewhere. Amy Remus, who has a great book review blog at, made an interesting comment about talking to her son about his athletic ambitions. She says “if you miss out on the journey because you are worried only about the results, it won’t matter how hard you work.”

I think this is very smart.

And I love the example of athletic prowess, because it’s an excellent demonstration of how hard work does not always result in reaching our goals. It doesn’t matter how hard I practice, I will never be a professional basketball player. Even if wasn’t too old now, I’ve always been too short. And even if I wasn’t height-challenged, I am woefully coordination-poor. Let’s say, though, that I had developed a burning desire to be a pro basketball player as a child and poured my heart, soul and body into developing the necessary skills. I could maybe have overcome my complete lack of natural athletic ability. But I never would have had the talent that other players do. Not that talent is everything. In an intensely competitive business, however, an edge like talent can make all the difference.

So, would my hard work have been wasted?

After spending my youth diligently shooting baskets, running drills and honing my body to the most finely tuned athletic machine it could be (this imaginary montage of Jeffe-in-training is SO amusing if you happen to know me), when I ultimately watched the talented stars waltz past me into their coveted few pro-player careers, would I stomp my foot and wish that time back?

No no no.

Because doing the work is worth it.

In our goal-oriented culture, this is something that we tend to miss. We get so focused on the outcome that we forget, as Amy pointed out, that we forget to enjoy the journey.

This is true of all pursuits in life, but particularly of the difficult ones, I think. There’s virtue in attempting those things that are not easy for us.

I know it might be odd to bring up virtue, because it’s not a quality that’s much discussed outside of religious circles these days. Worse, it’s often confused with chastity, especially for females with the implication that their sole value lies in sexual exclusivity. In truth, “virtue” is a Latin concept that means, at its core, moral excellence, right action and thinking, essential worth.

It’s a concept that gets at what kind of person we want to be. And virtue comes through diligent effort.

A naturally thin person exerts no effort in staying thin. But for someone who has a tendency to be heavy, staying thin requires discipline and determination. Exercising those qualities makes us better people. In some ways, talent can be a trap. So can serendipity. I often think of the rock star analogy – the young band who hits it big and burns out fast. They never built the character to handle success. They never had to build discipline and determination, so when they need it, the well is empty.

In the writing world, to focus on my specific paradigm, it’s easy to become focused on the markers of success: book sales, reviews, ratings, bestseller lists. It’s easy to forget why many of us  begin writing to begin with – out of love of books. We all start as readers (or should, is my strongly held belief) and that love of reading propels some of us to turn it around and create our own stories.

But writing, like all creative and challenging pursuits, requires diligent effort. That’s part of what makes it worthwhile – what it requires of us to do it. Sometimes the stories come easy. Sometimes they don’t. Sitting down to do the work? Always takes discipline and determination.

The path to virtue.

Why Everybody Advises Newbie Writers to Be Persistent

waiting for mouseThis is our master bathroom – and Jackson waiting for a mouse.

All night and all day.

See, the bathroom cabinet there has a space in that overhang at the bottom. I can just fit about half of my hand in there, before the pinch stops me. I know this because I’ve tried. Just a few days after we moved in, I dropped the lid to a little sparkly beaded box from India that I store my belly-button jewelry in. The lid hit the floor, bounced exactly right (what are the odds?) and went up and into that space under the cabinet.

Gone forever, unless I want to tear out the cabinet.

See, the inside of the cabinet is all solid-state – even if you pull out the drawers, etc., there’s no access to the space beneath. That bottom panel is firmly affixed. Short of using a crowbar, I’m not budging it.

This also makes it a perfect escape hatch for mice being hunted by the cats.

The kitties diligently stalk and capture any mice so foolish as to steal into our garage to nibble on our valuable stuff, which is great. They then bring their prizes into the house, possibly as tributes for us, but more likely to extend the very fun game of mousehunt, which is less great. Jackson, in particular *loves* to let them go, so he can chase the mouse again. Sometimes they escape.
And this is where my point comes in.
Jackson is the most persistent cat I’ve ever known. It’s amazing to me that cats can have such different personalities – and all cats are patient hunters – but Jackson’s primary trait is persistence.
If he wants to be on my lap, he will jump on my lap, over and over again, no matter how many times I scoot him off, until he wears me down.
He fully believes he should be able to walk on the kitchen counters. He’ll sit there and cringe, hating that we squirt him with the spray bottle, but refusing to move. If we physically move him, he’s back there again as soon as we turn our backs.
I woke up in the middle of the night to visit the facilities, as one does, and found both kitties in there, watching the cabinet. In the morning, Isabel had gotten bored and was napping, but not Jackson. He remained fixated and alert. Not one to miss breakfast, he took a quick break and returned to the bathroom where he remained all day. He napped sometimes, but lightly, ears up to catch the slightest sound. He never gives up.
And he always catches his mouse.
This is what we mean, all of us writers, when we are asked what advice we have for newbies, when we say “be persistent.”
I know that this likely seems like empty advice. After all, pretty much everyone says it. It sounds like we’re saying “Yeah, you’ll get rejected fifty-thousand times and it will be like the pain of diving into a swimming pool full of razor blades, but suck it up and quit whining – you might get lucky some day.”
It sounds like that because there’s some truth to it. We all know that pain.
But, in truth, what we’re trying to tell you is: that goddam mouse has to come out at some point. If you’re not there to catch it, then no mouse for you. Doesn’t mean you won’t get other opportunities to catch mice – there’s always more opportunities. What it means is, if you have a mouse cornered, stay on it. It’s right there.
Yours for the taking, if you don’t wander off.
Never surrender!

The More You Do…Works Again!

This was back in June, but isn’t it pretty. Most of the cholla blossoms are dark pink, but some this summer had  a lovely pink hue.

I mentioned earlier this week that I was devoting myself to getting my rhythm of writing back. As I anticipated (from past experience), the first couple of days were truly painful. I turned off the internet and stared at my screen. Each word felt dredged up from the goop. The characters were obstinate, I felt uncertain about the story. (Okay, I might have hated it for a few minutes, here and there.) It’s like pulling cold dough from the refrigerator. You just have to persevere and keep working it until – hello! – suddenly it’s elastic and responsive. Then, when you leave it alone, it happily rises without you.

That’s where I got to yesterday – I hit my stride, the sweet spot. The story caught fire and I easily hit my word count. (Which I scaled back to a goal of 1K. This is like I’ve mentioned in the past, that I have to build up my endurance again, just like time away from the gym. Once I get settled into a steady 1K/day, I can gradually increase.)

Then I noticed something else – the rest of my day fell into place, too.

Productivity, it seems, breeds productivity. I’ve said before that I believe in the maxim “the more you do, the more you can do.” This kind of thing just demonstrates it for me again. If I can get over that hump of indolence, then everything goes better. The dishes get done, chores are whipped out, phone calls get made and work projects are easily wrestled into submission.

Now I’m going to try deflecting some bullets with these nifty silver bracelets…

Doggedness, Stick-to-it-iveness and Perseverance

This is a crop from the same series as yesterday’s pic. I was trying to capture the glow of this color. As you can see, I got nice glow, and the background gravel is in perfect focus. Not so much the flowers. Always some new skill to work on.

Which keeps life interesting.

I’ve been buckling down since the Caribbean vacay, to take off the vacation-indulgence weight. Oh, and the Thanksgiving/Christmas indulgence weight. Yes, yes. I know it’s over halfway through May already. (Though, while we’re on the topic, how the HELL did THAT happen??) I got back on normal eating and exercising after the holidays, but never quite amped myself up to take it up that extra notch to really lose body fat.

So, I’ve added weightlifting back into the exercise routine and, this week, I took the added and dramatic step of not drinking wine.


Yes, you heard me right. No alcohol Monday through Thursday nights is the new rule. If you know anything about me, you understand how much this breaks my heart. But counting calories was just not quite doing it. I figured, if I cut out the wine four nights a week, that would be enough to change things.

It’s changed things all right.

My weight is going UP. I’ve gained almost THREE pounds since last Sunday!

I know, I know – it’s the whole gaining muscle and muscle is denser than fat thing. I am down just over two pounds of body fat. I try to focus on that part and not the climbing overall poundage. Intellectually I know the program is working the way it should, but the irrational part of me, the part who misses her goddam glass(es) of wine in the evening, is having a screaming tantrum.

I suppose that’s part of any progress in life – managing the sulky, indulgent part of ourselves and sticking to the plans we make. When we get rejections or difficult revision letters or sales below what we hoped, that’s the voice that whines that we’re not having FUN anymore.

There’s a story passed around among my mom’s friends from many years ago. They all decided to go on a bike ride. Believe me, this was not an athletic, outdoorsy group. But they got a wild hair and all saddled up their bikes. One gal even got one of those little bike-trailer dealies and put her three-year-old daughter, Betsy, in it. They rode up to Cherry Creek reservoir and back. This effort nearly killed them, particularly Betsy’s mom, what with pulling the bike trailer. So they collapse and hit the cocktails upon their return – much more in character for the group. (See? I come by it honestly.) Betsy, however, did not like this phase of the day. Scowling at the group, she declared “I *was* having fun, but I’m not having fun anymore!”

This became a mantra applicable to ever so many situations.

So, I try to find ways to soothe my Betsy. To promise her that fun will be had again. She doesn’t really care so much about my goals of fitness or writerly fame and fortune. She’s all about the right now. I try to remember that and make some time for the playing and fun, after the work is done.

There’s a place for that, too.