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Monday
Apr142014

Everybody Else Is... [fill in the blank]

You know what I'm talking about. You know, when you want something really bad (or badly), so it seems like everyone else around you has it? For example, you're trying to conceive, so you constantly run into pregnant women or newborn babies (hopefully accompanied by someone else, not just strolling the streets alone... cuz that would be creepy. And dangerous). Or you're living paycheck to paycheck, but everyone around you eats in restaurants every night and drives shiny new cars and totes the latest and greatest tech gadgets? Or all your friends are getting married while you're still searching for any guy or gal who even slightly resembles Mr. or Ms. Could Be Right, If Given a Chance? Or you're so burnt out on everyday life that people can smell your charred attitude from a mile away, but everyone else is posting photos on Facebook from their ocean-view resort balconies? Or--on a related note--it takes every ounce of strength and willpower for you to get out of bed each day and go to your mind-numbing job-that-you're-so-lucky-to-have, but the rest of your friends and family are doing what they love and loving what they do (and are really smug about it)? That's a bad feeling, idn't it?

Everyone else is... [fill in the blank]... so why can't I?

Here's mine lately: Everyone else is writing, so why can't I?

Boo hoo hoo.

The benefit to belonging to so many writers' groups is the camaraderie and support the members of those groups offer. The drawback? Sometimes (um... now), it's torture to hear everyone else talk about how much they're writing and how much fun they're having doing it and how magnificent it makes them feel. It's like being a nun in a room full of newlyweds.

Don't get me wrong; I wouldn't want my writer friends to stop talking about their writing and their successes just because I've hit a dry spell. My dry spell is my issue, not theirs. And it is good to know that some people are still cranking out the words. But dang! It's a nearly constant reminder that I'm not. And that's just not a good feeling.

If this topic seems familiar to this blog, you're not imagining things. When I'm stuck with my fiction writing, I tend to do [a lot] more blogging. And I tend to whine about how I'm writing so many blog posts and not creating fiction. Like this. (Remember the rainbow-farting unicorns?) And... this. Sometimes I have a better attitude about it than other times. And sometimes my inner whip-cracker has to step in and give me an attitude adjustment, which isn't as exciting as it sounds.

And every time I go through this, and inevitably get through to the other side, I say, "Next time, I'm not going to panic. Next time, I'm not going to whine and make a spectacle of myself and draw attention to what always winds up being a temporary issue." But the thing is, while I'm going through it, I'm not all that sure it's temporary. It doesn't feel temporary. It feels endless. It feels like there's no relief in sight. The characters are silent; the ideas are either flat or altogether nonexistent. And it's like a creativity vacuum has taken up residence in my brain.  It's just... awful.

You may have heard it said (or maybe you've even said it) that writing is a lonely business. But NOT writing, when you're a writer, is an even lonelier one. First of all, no matter how kind another writer is, he/she doesn't want to listen to someone moan and groan about not writing. That gets old real fast. Plus, it makes the poor writer who's actually accomplishing something feel guilty about his or her progress, and that's no good! On the flip side, if you get too many non-productive writers together, venting about not writing, you have a mass suicide risk on your hands before too long. Things can escalate from "I'm having a hard time finding the words" to "It sure would be nice to use my gas range as a pillow" before you can say "Sylvia Plath." Yes, misery loves company. It loves it too much sometimes. And nobody does "misery" like blocked writers. Yikes.

So I guess I'll continue to make that butt print in my couch ever-wider and resort to drastic measures like spending time with my family while I await the striking of the muse. Thank goodness most of the TV shows I watch are either starting new seasons or are back from their mid-season breaks. Lord help us if I'm still stuck after season finales in May. Oh, my gosh.... I can't even think about that. Netflix, deliver me!

In the meantime, a piece of advice from me to anyone feeling down about anything: DO NOT--I repeat, DO NOT--try to distract yourself by taking psychological tests. Trust the narcissistic, materialistic, image-obsessed, pessimistic, identity-warped, co-dependent blocked writer on that one.

Monday
Apr072014

Life Imitating Art (I Wish!)

As I've mentioned many times before, both on this blog and in conversations with readers and other writers, I love chick lit as much as I do because it's escapism at its finest. Ultra-fine. Like the men featured in it. We know we're selling a complete fantasy to people, and we make no apologies for it. And because I heard someone (may have been the crazy person in my head) say, "Man, I wish Brea would publish one of her awesome lists on her blog!" I've decided to list some of the ways I wish life were more like a chick lit book. In no particular order, here they are:

  1. Long lunch breaks. Have you ever noticed that characters in chick lit are hardly ever worried about returning from their lunch breaks (if they even have a job) in a timely fashion? And it's not just that they're eating during those lunch breaks. No, chick lit characters have FUN on their lunch breaks. They're not sitting in their cars, scarfing down greasy cheeseburgers, scrawling notes into a notepad or reading. They're shopping (not that I find that fun, but they always seem to make it sound fun). Or meeting up with someone for middle-of-the-day sex. Or having drinks with that hot co-worker. Or whatever! Whatever they want. That's the point. I want to have a chick lit lunch break!
  2. Absolute certainty. "I knew he was The One." "I knew it was the last time I'd ever see him." "I knew it was my last chance to say what I wanted to say, and it was the perfect time to say it." Gosh, I never know anything until sometimes years later. "Oh, huh... That was the last time I ever saw her. I wish I would've known that at the time; I'd have told her how I really felt." Or less dramatically, "We've been married seventeen years now, and it seems to be working out. I guess he really is The One. Interesting."
  3. Super healing powers. Okay, this isn't in every chick lit novel, but I just finished one in which the protagonist was in a freaking traffic accident and had some moderate injuries that were magically gone a few days later. Not a limp, not a twinge, not a scab mentioned. Technically, that's a dropped detail, a continuity error, but... it still made me think wistfully about how great that would be, to take such a harrowing trauma in stride, both mentally and physically. Gosh, I suffer for days after something as benign as a walk on my treadmill. Of course, that's the other end of the spectrum and probably something I shouldn't admit.
  4. Coincidental meet-ups. Now, this one could be a blessing or a curse. It would NOT be great to spill hot coffee on an equally hot stranger, then arrive at work to find out just a few minutes later that the recipient of my spilled beverage was also my new boss. HOWEVER, running into the same people all the time would cut down on time-taking introductions. "This is Brea..." "Yes, we met when she dumped her coffee on my new silk tie at the coffee shop just down the road, where, incidentally, neither of us was worried about being late to work as we stood in line for our hot beverages." Which brings me to...
  5. Hot bosses. Now, I'm a happily married woman, which I've expressed enough times on here and in other public venues to make many of you roll your eyes and stick your fingers down your throats, but... just once, I'd like to have a hot boss. No offense to current or former bosses. Anyway, most of my bosses have been women, and "female" doesn't do it for me, so I'm not really making a statement about anyone's attractiveness or unattractiveness. What I mean is... what would it hurt to throw me a Colin Firth lookalike boss? He doesn't even have to be someone I see every day. As a matter of fact, it's probably best if he isn't. A corporate muckety-muck at the parent-company level, most of the time far away in another city and only occasionally visiting, would work perfectly. Let me tell you, our ordered-in meals (and my wardrobe choices) on the days of his visits would be much more interesting. Heck, I might do all the cooking myself. In my "Kiss the Cook" apron.
  6. Random run-ins with charming people. I don't know about you, but when I walk out my front door or have business at my kids' schools or walk the aisles at the grocery store or step outside my office building for fresh air, I'm more likely to run into someone scary than nice. I'm not bumping into handsome strangers; I'm bumping into rarely-washed folks. I'm not having friendly conversations over the kumquats; I'm dodging glares and grunts from grumps in front of the frozen green beans. This probably has a lot to do with where I live and work, but I suspect most people in real life have the same experiences. And I know if I were to need an ambulance (for whatever reason), the EMT wouldn't look like he stepped out of the pages of a calendar. He'd probably be a nice person, but... he wouldn't make my heart go pitter-pat. And I wouldn't look into his eyes and think, "He's The One." (And not just because I'm married.) I, an ordinary person, am surrounded by ordinary people. I'm sure I disappoint people in the produce section all the time.

So what about you? What elements of chick lit do you wish could happen in your real life?

Monday
Mar312014

Death to Genre-Bashing

This post started as yet another defense of chick lit, but that's already been done by the likes of Jennifer Weiner (my hero! Call me, Jennifer! I'm not a stalker in real life, only online) and other people way more qualified than I am and with much more pull in the literary world. If you're a fan of chick lit and you don't live under a [hopefully sparkly] rock, you've heard it all a bazillion times.

So instead, what I'm here to defend is the right to read--and write--what you like without being shamed for it. Now, this may sound like such a petty, trifling issue in the grand scheme of major issues swirling around out there right now, but is it? No, it's not. Because it's connected to a much bigger societal problem.

If someone doesn't look, act, believe, or have the same preferences as me, they're the enemy. I have a moral obligation to become incensed on behalf of every member of my faith/gender/class/race if I hear someone say anything counter to what I believe/think/know/value. And I must voice my displeasure/offense/disdain as loudly and often as necessary to point out the error of their ways. It's for the common good, really. I should be given a medal.

In the literary world, this translates to fans of certain genres treating fans of other genres with disrespect. As if there's a right way to love reading. "Oh, gosh... if you like chick lit, you must be a bubble head who can't handle reality." "Oh, gosh... if you like sci-fi, you must be a nerd who can't handle reality." "Oh, gosh... if you like erotica, you must be... horny." And on and on and on. The only readers and writers who seem immune to this barrage of disdain are those who like literary fiction, because... well... they tend to be the ones hurling snooty insults at the people who enjoy genre fiction. "I don't read sci-fi/chick lit/erotica/women's fiction, but let me tell you exactly what's wrong with those books."

Genre fiction lovers dish it as fast as they can take it, too. After all, nothing makes someone feel better about him or herself than putting down someone they perceive to be lower than them. It's like high school all over again (and who wants to relive that????). Sci-fi and fantasy seem to be enjoying their time at the popular table, because they've been teased for years. Now that nerdy is the new sexy, they feel pretty good about themselves. Unfortunately, it's bringing out the worst in some people. They're becoming just as mean as the ones who used to stuff them in lockers. "Oh, you write/read chick lit? Ugh. The biggest conflict in those books is figuring out who to marry. Where's the world-building? Where's the characterization? Everyone's a shopaholic." Hardy har har.

Erotica's riding (pun totally intended) high right now, too. And its fans have pretty big chips on their shoulders. "Yeah, I like to read and write about sex. What's it to ya? You don't? Well, that's probably because you're a sexually-repressed prude. If you'd get over yourself, you'd be surprised how much you like it. Maybe that's just it; you're afraid to find out how much you'd like it. Mmm-hmm." And it goes on and on and on. There are a TON of genres and sub-genres, all jockeying to see who can be the biggest jerks to fans of other genres and sub-genres. (I'm just going to leave it here, because I don't have time to offend eveyrone in this blog post.)

And then there's chick lit. Poor, poor chick lit. The current low woman on the totem pole. And we'll be the first to tell you we're the lowest of the low right now. The bottom feeders. We're told our genre is dead; we're asked by friends and family--complete with wrinkled noses--why we like chick lit, as if we're being asked why we like to torture puppies; we're sneered at by other writers who choose to write "more important" stories. And we've been told these things so often that we've bought into all of it. We revel in our victim status. "Nobody loves us!" "I'm sick of defending chick lit to the world!" "We're misunderstood!" "I'm going to eat a cheesecake and go shopping online for shoes!" As a matter of fact, it could be argued that those of us who read and write and adore chick lit have earned a bit of a reputation as... well... whiners.

But in everyone's defense, no matter what you love to read or write, how do you feel when you're constantly put in the position to defend what's important to you, whether it's your religion, your lifestyle choices, your parenting style, or... your preferred reading material? You don't feel good, do you? And how do you react to that? You're combative, testy, sarcastic, and you think, "They just don't understand," or "They're idiots," or worse, "They do understand and are willfully misrepresenting what's important to me to make me feel like crap."

So as much as I generalized and stereotyped and poked fun at so many different segments of the literary population in this post, what I feel does need to be said is this: it's time for all of us--readers and writers--to stop denigrating the genres and sub-genres of fiction we don't particularly enjoy.

Readers, it's okay if you don't like paranormal romance or family dramas or historical/fantasy/sci-fi hybrids. Don't read them. Spend more time reading what you love and less time making fun of others for doing exactly what you're doing.

And writers, it's okay if some readers don't enjoy the genres you write. There will be others who do. There's no need to bully someone into buying your books. "If you'd just give it a chance" doesn't work most of the time with little kids and their vegetables, and it doesn't work most of the time with readers, either. People read what they like; they know what they like. Leave 'em alone to read. In the meantime, spend more time writing and less time whining about those who don't "get" it... or you... or your art.

As usual, I'm speaking to myself just as much as anyone else in this post. I'm as guilty as the next person of despairing about my genre not getting enough respect or looking down my nose at genres I don't personally appreciate. It's part of human nature. But it's tiresome. And maybe if we all concentrate on being less jerky in this seemingly small part of our lives it will spill over into other parts of our lives, and the world will be less jerky, in general, for it. All because you stopped trashing those feline mysteries you can't stand. Wouldn't that be something?

Monday
Mar242014

Falling in Love... Again

It's been a long time since I've been in a new relationship with a guy. I've been married to my husband for seventeen years this June, and we dated for nearly two years before we were married, so that's NINETEEN YEARS since I've felt those heady new-love hormones.

But before you start to feel really sorry for me (ha ha), I'm going to go back on what I just said. It hasn't really been that long. No, this is not some uncomfortable adultery confession on my blog. I've been faithful in my marriage, if you don't count all that shameful lusting I do over hot celebrities. Because I don't. For one thing, my husband's usually present, sighing and rolling his eyes at me, during my silliness. For another, I wouldn't act on those feelings, even if one of those guys came to my front door and begged me. Ahem. I wouldn't. (Safest promise in the history of the world.)

But novel writing is very much like a romantic relationship. Don't believe me? Well, let me lay it out for you, juxtaposing things I've thought or said about my books and my writing with things one may say about a romantic partner.

New Love
"I got the best idea today! It's about a woman who [is something] and [does something] and learns [insert lesson here] about herself in the process, all while making a huge fool of herself. It's going to be awesome!"

("I met the greatest guy today! He's smart and funny and cute and humble, and he seems to like me a lot, too. We're going out tomorrow. I need to figure out what I'm going to wear!")

Getting to Know You
"Everything's going so well! I have a rough plot outline done, and it's fabulous! I have some really good details already to include. And the characters in this book rock! I wrote all their character sketches today, and I can't wait to write this story. I don't want to curse anything, but it might be my best idea ever!"

("He's so funny! And sweet and thoughtful! The more I get to know him, the more I like him. I don't want to curse anything, but I think he may be The One. Squeee!")

The Relationship Blossoms
"I wrote 6,000 words today on my new book. I didn't even stop to eat lunch or use the bathroom. And in case you think that's unhealthy, it's not. I just love this book that much. I don't remembering ever feeling this excited about an idea!"

("We've spent every day this week together. It's been so much fun! And in case you think that's unhealthy, it's not. I just love him that much. Yes, I said the 'L' word. I mean it. I've never felt like this about any other guy before.")

Commitment
"This is it! This is my official Work-in-Progress. In it for the long haul!"

("This is it! The two of us, together forever, in it for the long haul!")

Smug Complacency
"This book is practically writing itself. I can't seem to type fast enough. The ideas are flowing, and every time I think I may be hitting a slow patch, I get a great idea, and it spawns three or four more ideas. I could write this book for the rest of my life and be happy."

("We just get each other, you know? I could spend the rest of my life with him and never want for anything more.")

Putting on a Brave Face
"Just a bit of a block. Nothing to worry about. No panicking. Kind of wrote myself into a corner, that's all. I'm sure the perfect solution will come to me soon. Just gotta push through..."

("Things are... good. Really... good. I mean, is everything all fireworks and wine and roses every single day? No. But that's real life, right? We're just in a bit of a rut. Nothing to worry about.")

Life Commitment? More Like, "Life Sentence"
*Bangs head repeatedly against laptop keyboard* "This. Is. Shit. I'm. A. Hack. God. Hates. Me."

("If I have to sit through one more broadcast of SportsCenter, I'm going to lose my poo. It's the same stories, on a loop! Doesn't he see that? How many times does he have to hear the story about that one dumb athlete on steroids? Or the guy who threw the no-hitter? Or the dude who made the half-court shot for a million bucks? Who. Cares?")

Burn-Out
"Just keep writing, just keep writing... A rough draft. That's all I need. A complete story. I'll go back and fix all the crappy crap later. I just need to finish!"

("A vacation. That's what we need. A break away from the everyday routine. If we can just get to that week away, everything will be fine. We'll come back from vacation refreshed, and things won't seem so bleak.")

New Optimism
"Okay... revisions and edits. I can do this. The story's out; now I just need to refine it, buff away the rough edges."

("This isn't so bad. I still love this guy! Sure, he's a little rough around the edges sometimes, but so am I. We just need to be more understanding of each other, spend some more time together, remembering what it was like when we first got together. Things were good on vacation! They can be like that all the time.")

Hard Work
"Why is this so hard? What is so flippin' difficult about stringing words together to create mind movies? People have been telling stories since the dawn of humanity; I'm not inventing the wheel here!"

("Why are relationships so hard? We love each other, so why is it so difficult to co-exist sometimes? People have been doing this since the dawn of humanity; we're not breaking ground on cohabitation.")

Breakthrough
"Oh my gosh! It was right there in front of me the whole time! If I just move that paragraph here, change that word to something more descriptive, cut out those 3,000 words in Chapeter 15, and add an Epilogue, it makes all the difference. And that comma doesn't need to be there. Duh! Third-grade stuff."

("You know, if you want to watch SportsCenter for a while, I don't care. As long as I can watch Downton Abbey later, I'm happy. Here. Fold these clothes while you're watching. I'm going to go pay some bills.")

Not-So-Instant Gratification
"It's finished! Yes! See, that wasn't so hard. I don't know what I was freaking out about. It all worked out in the end. THE END. The best two words in the whole English language! I wish I knew more languages so I could say it in a million different ways. THE END! Woot!!! I'm so glad I didn't give up."

("This is really nice. It's amazing to have someone who loves me for who I am, someone who will watch chick flicks with me, even if he pretends he doesn't like them. I don't know why I get so uptight about the petty day-to-day stuff. This is good. This is worth the hard work. I'm so glad we didn't give up.")

To be Continued... (Optional and Not for the Faint of Heart)
"I have a great idea for a spin-off! It'll be the best thing ever!"

("Let's have a baby. It'll be the best thing ever!")

Awwww! See? Told you it's the same! Now, the comparison breaks down here. Hopefully. I mean, ideally, you find The One and figure out a way to make it last forever. I'm a romantic, so that's what I choose to hope will happen for each and every one of you, if it hasn't already.

As for novel-writing... well... we novelists are serial monogamists. We voluntarily repeat the pattern as many times as we can. We want to go through it over and over again. Because we're a little crazy. But also because that means we're still producing ideas and getting excited about writing and falling in love with new characters and new stories. And publishing new books for readers to (please?!?!?) love. The angst in the middle is always worth it.

I confidently say that as someone currently going through "the angst in the middle" with my lastest WIP. I'm still getting to know the characters, but they're not brand new to me. I've known them long enough that some of of the traits I thought were cute and quirky when I first thought of them are now somewhat annoying, as they mean I have to be true to those quirks when I work through the conflict. And I know where I want the story to go, but I'm having a hard time figuing out how to get from A to Z. I'm impatient. I want it to happen magically. And it never does. But I've been here before, and I know I'll get past it. It's a cycle, after all. Sometimes vicious, sometimes victorious, always interesting.

 

Like the blog? Then check out my books! They're cheap and easy to read, like me!

Brea's books on Amazon

Like to party? This post has been featured on the Hump Day Blog Hop on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog. Click here to return to the Hump Day Blog Hop.

Wednesday
Feb122014

Up Close and Personal with Nurse Nate

Love is particularly thick in the air this week, with Valentine's Day coming up. I thought it would be the perfect time to introduce you to the next imaginary man who will steal your heart, Nurse Nate Bingham. And without further ado, here he is, to tell you a little more about himself before Let's Be Frank, the book featuring him, releases this Friday.

Hey, everyone! My big coming out party is this week. Well... not that kind of coming out party--although some of my relatives have been waiting for that invitation since I hit puberty. No, no. I mean, my literary debut. Yeah, I'm pretty nervous about it, but I've been assured everyone's going to love me. That's all I've ever really wanted out of life, so if that ends up being the case, I can die a happy... character.

Now, the official release date isn't until Friday. Valentine's Day. Historically, not a great day for me, but maybe this year will be the year that all changes, right? And as part of their #ChickLitLove Valentine's promotion, the folks at ChickLitChat thought it would be a good idea for me to tell you a little bit about myself before Pub Day, you know, to give you an idea of who you'll be spending some time with when you buy and read Let's Be Frank (available at Amazon in e-book and paperback, just so you know). I thought a little Q&A sounded like fun. Then I saw the questions. Ha!

But I'm man of my word, and I agreed to this, so here goes! Just please... nobody show this to my brother, Nick. He'll never let me live it down.

1. Celebrity you've been told you look like:

James Wolk. I’ll take it. Of course, I’ve also been told I look like Eeyore… more than once. Does that count as a celebrity? In my world, it kind of does. If I saw him on the street, I’d totally ask for his… hoofprint autograph. But still… I’ll just stick with James Wolk as my official answer.

James Wolk, a handsome guy. (I'm secure enough in my manhood to say it.)

 

Eeyore. Okay, yeah... I see the resemblance. Shut up.

 

2. Naughty food you like to indulge in:

I’m addicted to salted caramel lattes. Not technically a food, but they contain more sodium and calories than some meals and have zero nutritional value, so that counts as naughty, for sure.

 

More calories than some supermodels consume in a week. Yum!

 

3. What you wear to bed:

Gosh, I wish the truth were sexier than this, but… a t-shirt and scrubs bottoms. THIS t-shirt, sometimes.

 

Murses Rock!

 

4. Favorite body part of the opposite sex:

Just one? Okay. I guess I’ll say… the nape of the neck. I really like a pretty neck. Wait. That sounds lame. Can I change my answer to something manlier? Legs. Yeah. I’m a leg man. Ahem.

5. How many people you've said "I love you" to:

Wow. Nothing’s sacred here, huh? Well, I’m not going to count the times I’ve jokingly said it to friends or co-workers or even that time I said it to my ninth-grade crush. And a dog doesn’t count as a person, right? So… including my three immediate family members? Five. I don’t toss that phrase around very freely, apparently.

 

 

6. Relationship deal-breaker:

How much time do you have? I have a ton of deal-breakers; hence, my apparently permanent single status. The biggest ones have to do with hygiene. If she’s not clean, forget it. And if she tries to use my toothbrush, I’m out.

Nooooooooooooooooo!!! That's my toothbrush!

 

7. Your first kiss - How old were you? Did you instigate it?

Fifteen and hell no. I hardly knew what was even happening until it was almost over. I didn’t even know the girl liked me… in that way. Clueless.

 

Yep, this is pretty much how it happened. Only, I was about ten years older than this kid. (Hey, I was a late bloomer, alright?)

 

8. Do you have any tattoos or piercings? If so, describe:

Uh, no way. Sorry to be so boring. Do you have any idea what kind of infections you’re setting yourself up for with stuff like that? Oh my gosh… I get the heebie jeebies just thinking about it. Next question!

9. Favorite alcoholic drink:

I love a good coffee stout or a dark beer or ale. Or beer of any kind, really. I love beer.

 

Mmmm... beer!!!!

 

10. Describe your dream girl:

That’s easy. I mean, not easy to find her, but easy to describe. She’s funny and loyal and smart and organized and loves quiet evenings with a good book. Oh, and she likes kids. That’s a must.

 

Hey, girl... Lookin' good! Just don't use my toothbrush, m'kay?

 

Whew! That was kind of painful, but not nearly as awkward as some of the stuff you'll find out about me in Let's Be Frank. At least now you won't be taken by surprise when you read the ultra-frank (ha! Get it? No, I don't always explain my jokes) look at my not-so-glamorous quest for... well, a lot of things, not least of all love and acceptance. Don't forget to get your copy on Friday! See you then!

 

ON SALE FEBRUARY 14, 2014. FALL IN LOVE WITH FRANK... ER, NATE!