A Failed Book

I have been unhappy with Kringle on Fire since the first draft. This is not usual for me, as I love my first drafts with the drunken happiness of accomplishment. I have to work to be critical in the edits.

But I didn’t experience that with Kringle on Fire. It felt flat. It felt trivial. It felt wooden. It felt all the things you don’t want to see in a romance novel. I thought I was missing something until I started writing again on Avatar of the Maker and it sparkled. I had characters who responded to each other and action that flowed. I liked the characters. I felt like I wanted to write it (although I had taken a break from it to write the Kringle novel.

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I let Richard read through it to see what was wrong, and he picked up on the same thing. The book just didn’t sparkle.

What happened to this book? I think it was a combination of factors that were bound to doom it. First off, the female main character is a 22-year-old single mother to a two-year-old. Given that, she needs to be very cautious about exposing her son to potential male partners so as not to confuse him with father figures. (Staying the night is a definite no-no.) So that part of the relationship has to go slowly. It’s a Christmas season instalove novel, which is the defining factor of the entire series. Instalove is the polar opposite of cautious. This puts me into the situation of either putting the son in an unhealthy place or stretching out the action for longer.

There may be a way out, but I don’t know if I want to take it. I have written four Kringle novels, and I think that may be enough if the muse leads me this badly astray. I would be better served by finishing Avatar of the Maker and the other novel I have started. I feel guilty about abandoning a novel, but the Kringle book does not speak to me.

Maybe later.

Plowing through Writing

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I’ve been — not exactly plowing through writing as much as shoveling through it with a teaspoon. Adding words to the too-short Kringle on Fire has been a task, but I am finally almost at the 50k point. The Kringle books run short, mostly because they have light plots and I am an economical writer. And because I can write them short as I self-publish. But shorter than 45k and they’re a novella, and I don’t want to write novellas. So I’m at the editing stage now, hoping to add 300 words to the mix.

The books that I have in my writing pile have been slow as well. I need to do some soul-searching about what I need as a writer. I don’t think it’s time to give up writing yet, but it’s time to understand why my drive to write has tanked.

One possibility is that writing is no longer a new and shiny thing. I’ve published, I’ve held a book of mine in my hands, I’ve commandeered time for writing retreats. The immediate reward is not as bright and awesome as it was. Another is that I haven’t reached as many people as I thought I would. I had a fantasy that I would have a small but devoted readership, and that hasn’t happened. A third possibility is that I have doubts about how good a writer I am because of item #2. My husband assures me I’m a talented writer, and I think I should take that to heart. Finally, I take more time promoting myself than writing. It’s necessary unless you get a lucky break, but it’s not what writers want to do.

So there are some things I have to contend with if I want to keep writing. It’s going to require more soul-searching than this. In the meantime, I write, even if I feel like I’m shoveling through a snowdrift with a teaspoon.

Reclaiming Joy

I have lost some of the joy of writing in the distractions of trying to get books sold. I am a writer, not a marketer. Understanding that I have to be a marketer to get people to read what I’ve written helps me focus on those activities, but the activities themselves do not bring me joy.

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Although I wouldn’t say that recognition is unimportant (I dream of excellent reviews and lots of readers), it’s not the important thing. In fact, the problem with recognition is that it never seems to be enough (until it’s too much, and I don’t expect to get to that point).

I need to get my mind off of how well (or poorly) my writing is doing in getting recognition. That kills my joy. Joy comes from immersing myself in writing, whether it be my novels, this blog, or any short stories I come up with.

What brings you joy? Have you been in contact with it lately? Do you miss it? How can you build a little time for it in your life?

Looking Back at the Contagion

I look out my living room window at grey skies, a little slice of the day. I think I can feel Spring coming in, although we’re supposed to get a trace of snow tomorrow.

Three years ago, COVID hadn’t quite started, although I think we were hearing rumors from Europe. Many weren’t concerned because we thought American exceptionalism protected us from contagion. Not that big a deal anyhow, no worse than the flu (as if the flu were a trivial infection). That slice of sun from my window was my world under COVID, emblematic of my isolation, which I spent baking and waiting for the news to change.

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That spring semester changed the way I looked at things. People who disagreed with the government’s masking mandate and, later, vaccination push, took a malevolent cast, while those who complied I saw as more trustworthy. I became more of an introvert, having lost the habit of congregating with co-workers. Talking to people over Zoom became natural. The office became the loveseat with its view of the world.

After summer came fall, and the school year was what we called ‘hybrid’ — classroom plus synchronous distance for people who couldn’t come in because of COVID or other malady. That structure was very convenient for students, and very inconvenient for faculty who were basically teaching two classes. We sprayed disinfectant on student desks and tables after each class and kept masked distance during office hours.

COVID has now become, for people, like the flu — a disease that we get vaccines for, which mutates past the reach of the vaccine occasionally, and gives most unlucky people a respiratory illness which knocks them out, but from which they will recover. There are enough cases of debilitation and death, like with the flu, that many people will always take it seriously, as they do the flu. But we won’t forget the year when the contagion changed our lives, scared us, and perhaps scarred us.

It’s a SMART Goal Now

According to my past posts, I have set a Big Audacious Goal twice already for this year. The first one was to edit and query Apocalypse; the other was the one I came up with yesterday to double my social media presence. I’ve gone with the latter, because it confronts all my lingering reluctance to promote myself:

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  • My writing isn’t good enough
  • Nobody wants to hear from me
  • I don’t need a media presence
  • Nobody loves me! (Does this sound familiar?)

I’m working on 1) creating the SMART goal and 2) having fun with it.

First, the SMART goal. I will:

  • Post using Loomly twice a week
  • Post to Facebook and Twitter (I already post my blogs there)
  • Only post book news once a week
  • Use as many Loomly suggestions as possible to improve my social media posts

As for having fun, that’s just a natural part of who I am. Funny pictures, word play, bad puns — all come easily to me.

There’s a cynical part of me that says that this will not make any difference in engagement, but I have to take something on faith. Wish me luck.

First off, welcome to day 5 of COVID. I anticipate being done with it tomorrow when I test again, and then I will be going to work with a mask. I could say I need more rest (who doesn’t?) but truthfully I need to get back into my routine and teach.

What I want to talk about today is my lack of a Big Audacious Goal. The lack of a BAG disturbs me. I have lived with them for years, and they have pushed me forward to do things I wouldn’t have ordinarily done. Writing my first novel was a BAG, as was publishing for the first time. I find BAGs to be ways to plan, carry out, and celebrate goals.

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This year, all my goals are things I’ve done before, and I am struggling with them. Write a novel? I have three on the drawing board and I’m not getting any closer to finishing any of them. Publish more? Not at this point; I’d feel better with more readership on the current books. All goals, but not Big Audacious Goals.

I’ve called in my house expert on everything, Richard. He has suggested the BAG of doubling my online media posts with an eye to promoting myself. I like this. We’re even going to let me get an online account with Loomly to help me achieve my goal.

That was easy.

A Free Copy of Gaia’s Hands

Folks —

I rarely write two days in a row, but I wanted all of you to know that I am releasing free copies of Gaia’s Hands for my blog readers. Gaia’s Hands is a romantic fantasy about an odd couple dealing with freakish talents and a plot to harm, and possibly kill, them.

Click here (Gaia’s Hands) for your copy

The only thing I ask is that, if you read it, you review it on Amazon.com. And maybe tell me that you’ve read it.

— Lauren


I’m listening to what some columnist called “Classical-Adjacent music”.On now is Ludovico Einaudi, with all the melancholy yearnings that his music evokes. I appreciate this music, even as outside, mud and sunshine replace the snowy afternoon it calls forth.

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The playlist moves to Sakura by RIOPY. The mood is positive but introspective, hinting of inspirational. This is the feel of much of the music: introspective. I think I like this genre so much because it encourages thought and emotion without taking over my mood.

I listen to modern classical (another name, a little less sardonic) when I’m writing. It distracts me from my inner dialogue and from my surroundings and lets me pay attention to what I’m building in my head.

Who fits into modern classical? Start with its philosophical founders: Erik Satie and Brian Eno (my opinion), then include people like Johan Johannson, Ólafur Arnalds, Max Richter, Ludovico Einaudi, and others. On iTunes, you can find them in playlists like Classical Edge, Classical Concentration, and Contemporary Classical.

I end this blog note with Alexandra Streleski’s Elegia, which is as melancholy as one could get. I look out my window, which seems incongruously cheerful. That’s okay; melancholy is the mood I want to write.

Almost Finished (with the first draft)

I can’t believe it! I should be finished with the first draft of Kringle on Fire today! I thought I’d never get here!

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I’ve been suffering through the worst case of writer’s block since I started writing. It started with me trying to write a steamier romance, Walk Through Green Fire, and then stalling out in the first chapters because I was getting antsy about writing sex scenes. It continued through Avatar of the Maker, which stalled out because I couldn’t figure out whether the female main character was pregnant (yes, she is, I finally decided.) Then I failed NaNo for Kringle on Fire because of my dad’s dying.

I’ll be done with Kringle on Fire today — sort of. There’s going to be a lot of editing. There’s not enough description, there’s refinement of language that needs to happen, there’s seeing if everyone is in character (but that’s one of my strong points), there’s making sure continuing characters and places from the previous book are correct. I’m thinking another month of editing ahead of me.

I have plenty of time. This book will go live in October as part of the Kringle Chronicles series. Look for it on my Kindle bookshelf,

More Big Audacious Goals

Three weeks into the new year and I still don’t have a Big Audacious Goal. I have goals, but they’re not new and they’re not big. For example, I want to publish my latest Kringle book in October, after writing (almost done) and brushing up (a lot). Publishing one’s fifth book (or is it sixth?) or writing one’s eighth book is not a Big Audacious Goal. It gives some satisfaction, but not the explosive happiness of accomplishing a new thing, a Big Audacious Goal (B.A.G.)

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I have not accomplished all my B.A.G.s. The big one I haven’t accomplished is getting an agent. I tried for years to get one with my best efforts. Supposedly, my books are too short, although I have never been told that. I have done many revisions of my cover letter and synopsis with no luck. Maybe my writing is not marketable. I hope not! This will not be my B.A.G. again; I have become accustomed to self-publishing.

So, I need a B.A.G. One possibility would be writing a different genre than I’ve written before. As I’ve only written Fantasy, Romance, and Romantic Fantasy (and a space opera serial with somewhat romantic leanings), I have some genres I haven’t touched. Women’s Fiction (a self-discovery based genre), straight Fiction, and Horror seem to be the next candidates. I do not feel moved to write those genres, so that’s not likely to be my B.A.G..

There are some I’d love to take up as B.I.G., but I don’t have the resources for them. Build a she-shed in the backyard? I even have a place for it. I just don’t have the $10k plus to get a drop-in retreat, nor do I have the know-how to build it from scratch. (If magazines are to be believed, I can cobble it together from wooden pallets and a reclaimed fuse box. I do not have the skills, or even the pallets, to do it.)

I need something that will take skills and effort, is theoretically achievable, and gives me a thrill when I’ve completed it. A thrill worthy of a celebration at the local Greek steakhouse. If anyone has ideas for a Big Audacious Goal, let me know!