Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A Year In Review

It's the first and of course everyone is running about asking what my New Year's resolutions will be. Heck, I'm doing it on the forum, demanding everyone make some goals for the upcoming year. LOL. But I also think it's important to take a moment of reflection to revisit 2007. So, here goes...

This year has been amazing on so many levels. It's also been unbelievably difficult on others. Sometimes both combined. I’ll start with the difficult things so I can end this thing on a high note. (g)

This is an EXTREMELY long post, so only "read more" if you have a good bit of time. (g)



First, school has been a big ole’ ball of constant stress for me. Not only because it’s hard as all heck, but because my heart hasn’t been in it. At all. Couple that with a lot of parental/familial expectations and you have a very awkward and difficult position to be placed in. I wanted to quit after my first year, but held off…then with each successive semester my motto became, JUST FINISH…you’re almost there. And I pushed through with that mindset—just finish, get the degree and then you have options if this nutty writing thing goes awry.

But now that I’m nearing the end and resolutely DO NOT want to take the bar, my family is pressuring me once again. Just take the bar, Jen… then you’ve “finished” – then you’ve “succeeded.” I guess hanging in there and securing a law degree I didn’t even want isn’t enough anymore. Doesn’t seem to matter that I can USE that law degree for other purposes and don’t need to take the bar to have a successful career. Yes, I’ve heard the terms “overqualified paralegal” thrown out in conversation. As if. I’m not working for a law firm in any capacity. Hate lawyers. (g) Okay, I didn’t feel this way when I started law school, but now I do – I’ve met way too many law students to think a future that involves them in any way will make me happy and content. No thanks. Not to make a sweeping generalization, of course. Some of my best friends are law students. (bg)

I thought their fears about me turning into a tortured writer had been assuaged when they saw that a top literary agent wanted to rep me. And I think it did for a while. They were all super excited—talking about who would do what in this imaginary entourage they created for me. But for whatever reason, they didn’t realize the amount of work that would need to be logged in order to implement the revisions he requested. Neither did I, probably, but I digress. (g) The thing is that as the process has worn on, their excitement and belief in me has waned. Conversations went from “Jen is going to be famous!” to “Jen is ruining her life chasing a pipe dream.” I don’t want to blame them. Like most other non-writers, they think my book can and should spring from my forehead fully formed. Explaining the number of head-pounding hours/days/weeks/months it takes to rewrite a book is pointless. Until I can wave a copy of my book under their noses, or more likely, a big fat check they can adoringly gaze upon, I don’t think they’ll ever accept “writer” as a viable career option. So I strove on in law school, unable to give my book the full attention I wanted to…and all the while, unable to please anyone. What fun.

And it has been a year of self-doubt. With the good, always comes the bad, right? As this revision process has worn on, my confidence has been nearly destroyed. And some of you know it wasn’t exactly like the Rock of Gibraltar to begin with. I guess every writer dreams that one day some fabulous agent will read their work and say YES, I want to rep you! That when they at last get that phone call, it will be this glorious meeting of the minds where the agent gushes over their work and pledges that nobody would be a better champion to bring their book to the populace. He/she loves it THAT much. (cough) Yeah, wouldn’t that be glorious?

It’s quite another thing to have an agent say they love everything about your character, but that he thinks the book itself needs some work. A lot of work as it turns out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so grateful to have this opportunity, and I KNOW how lucky I am. Some days I can’t understand what it was he saw in me to begin with. I look back at my outright cheek in submitting my book so quickly and GAK. It isn’t done that way! You don’t write a book (YOUR FIRST!) in two months and then start querying it a few weeks later!! But I did, and it DID get my foot in the door. Wow – that’s pretty amazing when you think about it. LOL. But am I talented enough? Can I revise this blasted thing to his satisfaction? I’ll be honest, until about a week ago, I seriously doubted it. Now that I’m away from school and all the stress it creates, I KNOW I can do it. He may ultimately decide I’m not right for him, but come hell or high water, this book will be finished. And if not D.A., then someone else WILL rep me. I can’t even begin to describe how relieved I am to have at last escaped that funk that was surrounding me for the past couple of months.

And finally, a family member is having extreme health problems. It’s been ongoing for about two years now, and I’m afraid her struggle may at last be nearing its end. I don’t need to explain how difficult all of it is. I know I’m not the first person to lose a loved one. But it is hard—and it makes me feel guilty when I allow myself to become self-involved with my books and other life problems.

I’m beginning to think I should have limited this post to the good. (g) But this year is an important one in my life, so it wouldn’t be fair to ignore half of the emotions/thoughts I’ve had.

That said…let’s move on to the good, shall we?

Where to begin?

First of all, despite a lot of flashing warning signs and numerous people telling me NOT to do it, I queried my first book. (Okay, technically I began late 2006.) And BY GOD, a wonderfully successful agent decided to take a chance on me. No, he didn’t sign me outright, but he got so damn excited about my book, he read it OVERNIGHT. And even though it wasn’t perfect, he said he wanted to rep me and that he loved my character—MY voice. Dang it, who can ask for more? (Okay, a contract WOULD be nice, but it’s only a matter of time until I wear him down. (big wink)) The amount of excitement I felt at the time… wow… it still gives me a little rush.

And despite all of the head-pounding moments, I’m getting a crash course on how this crazy industry works. I’m learning completely on the fly, but I’m managing to somehow keep my head above the water. No, things haven’t gone smoothly at times, but I’m still in the game. And I’m moving forward. With a lot of hard work and sweat, this book will be finished in the next few weeks. A couple of years ago, I would’ve laughed had someone suggested even a fraction of what would become my present. Despite all the self-doubt and worries, I wouldn’t change a thing that got me here. I’ve done my best and that’s all anyone can expect from themselves. Wow, that sounds stupidly optimistic…but it’s where I’m at right now. (g)

I began my second book in November, 2006 and finished it in May, 2007. Total working time about 4 weeks. LOL. Yeah, that’s just sick. But BY THE PALE MOONLIGHT is a wonderful book – I love it so much and I miss my characters terribly when I’m away from them even just a day or two. I didn’t finish revisions as hoped, but I will. 2008 is my year. (g) I can’t wait to see them again—to continue their story into book 2…oh man, the ideas I have swirling around. It’s going to be SO good.

I started a couple of other projects, too. The Braeden – goodness, I love that book. LOL. It’s quite possible that it will be “the book” of my career. Oh man, now that’s something I’ll probably regret saying in retrospect. But one thing is for sure, it’s a book that will take time to write and I’m going to enjoy every minute of the process.

The Presence. Just today I made plans regarding some bit of research I need to do for it. This project is exciting in so many ways. One, I love ghost stories and have always wanted to try on my ghoulie hat… two, I’m setting it here in Lincoln. I can’t wait to bring this city to the world. No, it’s nothing fancy, but it’s been my home for a long time.

And the numerous other ideas/projects I’ve made note of over the past year. It’s been a very exciting time for me. Inspiration is better than any drug (I think). LOL.

Despite hating it, I’ve survived two and a half years of law school! That’s nothing to shake a tail feather at. No matter what happens with my degree in the end, I WILL finish in May. That’s success in my eyes, even if I never wear my lawyer hat. (What’s with the hats?)

And even if I get so green you could glean oxygen from my skin, I’m extremely proud of the success my friends have had over this past year. Just to name a few:

Carol Spradling—Her first book, COST OF FREEDOM, will be published through The Wild Rose Press some time this year. In addition, she finished her second book, FOR MERCY’S SAKE, and any agent would be lucky to have her. Get off your duffs, people.

Joanne Bourne—Her book, THE SPYMASTER’S LADY, was published just a couple of days ago. It’s wonderful, btw. I’m nearly finished with it, and I expect HUGE things from this woman.

Diana Gabaldon—She’s already mega-successful, but she had TWO books come out this year. LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE and LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS.

Vicki Pettersson—Her first two books, THE SCENT OF SHADOWS and THE TASTE OF NIGHT, were both extremely successful this past spring. Her third will be out some time this year, and she has signed a contract for an additional 3 books (that’s 6, folks!). OH…and she was also part of the anthology HOLIDAYS ARE HELL. Big things are coming her way.

Eve Ackerman (writing as Darlene Marshall)—Already successful with her lovely pirates, she has signed with a fantastic agent. Can’t wait to see what happens with her.

Julianne Wright—She signed with an agent who is so impressed with her writing that she’s submitting her book in January, sans revisions. WHOOT!

Claire, Deniz, Christy, Lori, Helene, Kat, and Susan (who has big news she’s holding out on *glare*) for finishing MS’s this year. Congrats, ladies. If I’ve left anyone off, forgive me. I wish you well throughout the revision process (if you’re still there, that is).

BETH and Jenny C. who will finish their damn books THIS year. (g)

And for the rest of my writing friends who come to play every day. Jenna, girl… you rock and NEED to put your work out there. Carrie…I want me some Fowler’s… hurry! Precie…Precie…Precie… (g) Girl, you crack me up with your contests, and I can’t wait to read your books. Rachel, Nina, Cindy, Lorraine, Tara, and all the other men and women from the forum—keep on truckin’.

I just know I’m forgetting someone.

Oh, I had to edit in order to thank all of the wonderful writers who have shared their worlds...Stephenie Meyers, Libba Bray, Scott Westerfeld, Sharon Shinn, and many many others... you ROCK my world. :)

And finally, I’m blessed to have such a wonderful family and loyal friends. I know I’m a neurotic mess, and that you probably spend more time holding my hand and talking me down from the cliff than I deserve, but I’d be lost without you. Thank you.

Like I said, it’s been a wonderful and extremely pivotal year in my life. I can’t wait to see what happens in 2008. (g)

11 comments:

Carol A. Spradling said...

Jen,

I'm choked up. You have, and do, touch the lives of so many people. I am blessed to have your friendship. Getting to know you at the beginning stage of your writing career has been a gift. I have learned so much from you and cannot tell you how thankful I am that you and I went through the query process together. I really don't know that I would have made it without you. I love the way you wear your heart on your sleeve, not necessarily a good idea all the time, but I doubt you could do it differently. Because of this, you are filled with passion and that comes through in your books.

One thing I admire about you is your ability to be honest with your thoughts and not let it affect your relationship with others. I'm still trying to grasp your knack of making everyone like you even when you are saying things that should send them away crying. I think you have to be born with that ability. I hope that we get to officially meet one day. I'm sure I will scratch my head and think, she's even more of an enigma in person.

You are headed for great things. Anyone who has read your work can see it, well except for that handful of agents who will kick themselves one day for rejecting you. Oh, and they will. Anyway, we have laughed, cried, screammed, and even schemed (w) together, and I have never had a better time.

Thanks, Jen! (Why do I feel like we are at a farewell party toasting each other?!)

Tara Parker said...

Jen,

I think 2008 will be a great year for you - from what I know of you (and it hasn't been long), you work extremely hard and you have tons of talent! I'm very proud to count you as a new friend.

I hope your relative pulls through. I know how tough it is to see someone you love go through rough times, and my prayers are with you.

Hopefully we'll meet someday (maybe at Surrey this year???)!

Good luck on finishing your revisions - I just know your DA will love the end result!

Darlene said...

Jen--Thank you for the lovely comments. You will survive law school, and it will be worth it. I survived being a law student spouse, so I know whereof I speak.[g]

I hope this year brings you all the success you deserve, and I'm confident it will because you have drive, ambition and talent.

Hang in there!

Susan Adrian said...

Jen:

I admire the way you've hung in, through the ups and downs of a dramatic and often difficult year. Thanks for sharing that with us!

I have a strong feeling that it's all going to come together for you in 2008!!

Susan

Hélène Boudreau said...

Ah, Jen.

We all love you. I always come away from this blog with a contented smile, even though I don't always post, I'm always reading.

I'm always amazed with how you dig deep and pull everything off. This will be your year-I just know that great things await you.

As for the waxing and waning of support for your writing career. It's frustrating. I know. But I don't think any writer should apologize for any bit of it. Why perpetuate the myth that writing is easy, a hobby, a pastime? It is WORK! I get comments all the time of how I'm so lucky that I get to follow my bliss, and oh, how they wish they could just ditch work and do the same. Um. It's called being true to yourself,making a choice and not making excuses. It has nothing to do with luck.

Nobody sees the hours and hours we devote to writing. They're not there when we're up til 2 am trying to work through a scene. They don't feel the crushing disappointment when our hard work is met with rejection. But when the words are flowing, and the scenes are meshing and someone reads something you've wrote and it has touched them or changed them in some way...well, there's no better feeling in the world.

You know WE all understand.

Precie said...

Jen--I haven't sufficiently recovered from the recent flurry of holidays.

But I think you've had a phenomenal year...and I think 2008 will be even better! You're bright, dedicated, creative, and hard-working. Even when you're at your most stressed, your humor shines through.

I'm happy to know you. And I'm hoping a little of your magic rubs off on the rest of us. [VBG]

NBB said...

Oh dear Jen, I don't know what to say that the others haven't already said so I will just repeat :)

I know it's hard to get those comments from relatives (mine still look at me strangely, although I have always! been writing) as they are the important people in your life. But here and there and there, all over the world, there are people who can understand you, understand what you are going through, who believe in you. And isn't that an overwhelming yet wonderful thought? :) Your relatives will come along. They will see that you are doing the right things for yourself and will be happy for you (been there, done that too)

I'm awfully sorry about the situation with law school, but you never know what it has been good for. Sometimes the best of things emerge from situations like these. Because you have pulled through you are stronger for it, and will be able to face anything else.

Don't look backwards too much and let yourself be weighed down. Look forward to 2008! We're all right there behind you.

Nina

Anonymous said...

Jen:

Oh girl, I'm crying here. Sheesh. What everyone else said.

Carrie

Deniz Bevan said...

aww, shucks, Jen *sniff sniff* I think you're doing a bang-up, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants job and I hope your DA realises that! I can't wait to buy the first edition hardcovers and say "I knew her when she was plagued by the same doubts I have!" And for what it's worth, half the people I work with are law grads who never passed the bar!

Rachel said...

Jen,
I'll cut to the chase and say, from a former law student to another soon-to-be - yep, you're right. Becoming a lawyer is definitely not what it's cracked up to be. I know - I graduated in '95, worked until 2000 and aint ever going back to law land if I can help it (g). But ... it has its positive points. Like giving you an insight into the way human beings tick in a way you can't get anywhere else. Like giving you the confidence you can get your butt stapled down into that chair to do whatever writing you need to do, no matter what. Like knowing you can hold wads of info and data in your head and regurgitate it at will, to your own amazement. I guess what I'm trying to say is don't dismiss your degree - it's probably given you loads of skills you may not see right now, cos you're so close to it all. So finish it off. Take the bar, if it seems right. For you. Don't worry about pleasing anyone else. That's way too hard, too much of a burden, IMO. Do it if it's right for you. And I'm sure, if you're doing what's right for you, good things will come.

So - may 2008 bring you all you wish for; and don't let the attorneys - I mean turkeys - get you down. (bg)

Rachel

Jen said...

All,

Awww, thanks. Wow. I so didn't expect this kind of response--had to take some time to pull myself together before answering. Thanks to you guys, I'm seriously running low on Kleenex right now. (g)

Definitely not a bad problem to have. :)

Anyway, thank you. It's overwhelming in the best possible way to have so many great friends who believe in and support me.

Carol -- I guess a toast is in order for the New Year. :) And thank you for all of your kind words--it's been wonderful getting to know you, too. You kept my sanity intact during those pesky queries and someday we're gonna meet! (g) Hopefully out on the road somewhere, peddling our books. :)

Tara -- Thank you so much for your well wishes. And I hope we meet someday, too. I'm still shooting for Surrey in 2008, but if not then, another year. (g)

Darlene -- You're more than welcome. It's all well-deserved. :) And thank you. Hanging. (g)

Susan -- Oh, from your lips to God's ears. (g) Thank you!

Helene -- Aww, thank you. I love all of you guys, too. It has been my writer friends who truly understand and who have helped me get through this crazy period. It's a huge comfort to know I can turn to any one of you and you'll GET just what I'm experiencing. Thank you.

Precie -- Hope you had a good holiday. Sounds like they got kinda wild for ya. (g) And absolutely -- it's been a wonderful year in so many ways. I'm very happy to have journaled the entire time so I can see the ups and downs and relive the crazy exciting moments all over again.

*holds out her arm* Rub away, but be prepared for an oxygen rush. (g)

Nina -- Thank you. :) I try never to regret the past. Nothing you can do about it anyway. Plus, if you're happy with your present, how can you curse the things that made you the person you are today? That's the way I look at it anyway. :) So though I hate law school, it reminds me how much I want to write, gave me a plethora of experiences to draw from, and memories of some really great moments of insanity during one of my marathon study sessions. (g)

Carrie -- Aww, girl. You said more than enough to bring on the waterworks again. Thank you.

Deniz -- LOL, thanks. (g) FWIW, that would SO suck (taking the bar and failing). And my...that's a lovely image (my book--hardcover--first edition like people would want to collect them). Woo. (g)

Rachel -- Thanks for confirming my beliefs. LOL. Yeah, I think I got enough of a taste to know exactly what the legal field is all about. And while I may never practice, I feel confident that it isn't the right career path for me. I watch how competitive and cut throat people are in my class and constantly wonder why I'm still there. (g) But yeah, you just never know where life will take you. The great thing is, you don't have to take the bar right away. Sure, it gets tougher the longer you wait, but let's face it -- that shit is hard either way. (g) Thanks!

*sigh* You guys are great. Thanks!

Jen