How are we halfway through May? Gah, even that isn’t right, we’re more than halfway through May! I’ve been waiting and waiting for the right time to start talking about my upcoming release, Does She Love You? I wanted to make some big grand announcement. I wanted to be clever and cute and funny. I wanted to make you want to read it so bad you curse the long months ahead and work yourselves into a frenzy. Alas, I did none of those things, and all of a sudden it’s more than halfway through May! I now only have six weeks to whip you into a tizzy of anticipation.
Where does one even start?
How about we start at the very beginning. Julie Andrews once told me that’s a very good place to start. And in keeping with that vain, Does She Love You? started with a song. You see
right now as a teenager I am was in love with Reba McEntire. It was my first full-blown, same-sex crush, even before I realized I was gay. I was a member of her junior stalker fan club. I had all her tapes (yes, I said tapes) and videos, and I read her biography so many times it fell apart and I had to tape it back together. She was smart and fierce and talented, and such a story-teller. Also, she’s a redhead. I mean really, need I even go on? The point is, during my middle school years, Reba and I were inseparable.
One year for Christmas I got Reba’s Greatest Hits CD, which kicked off with a wicked cool duet where she and Lynda Davis sang about loving the same man. It’s dramatic and powerful, and when you’re a
romance writer teenager, high drama is oh so very appealing. I listened to that song until I wore out the tape. And what’s more the video is super cool too, in that cat-fight-via-song way that puts the Sharks and Jets to shame like little boys caught playing a big girls’ game. Then to top it all off, the whole video ends (spoiler alert!) with Reba blowing the cheating husband and mistress to smithereens. Reba don’t mess around.
The years went on, and I never lost my love of Reba, but other women came into my life. I came out, dated and married. I started a writing career. Then I had a baby. That baby’s biological father is Southern gay man. I adore him, but I often don’t get his references. He and Susie talk about knitting, show tunes, wine, and composition theory. They use words I don’t know. They are besties, and I love to see them together, but I often don’t have much to contribute to the conversation, that is until Will fires up the iPod and flips it to his country collection. I feel for poor Susie when Will and I get going, because we will sing every song Reba has ever recorded.
It was on one such Reba overdose session when “Does She Love You” came on. I remember it clearly: We were halfway between Raleigh and Greenville, North Carolina. Without comment I took Reba’s part, and he took Linda’s (he is infinitely more likely to steal someone’s man). We did not hit the high note, but we didn’t care. It was a true country queen-off, and we had fun with it. As the song came to a close, we both admitted loving the drama of that song. And with a contented sigh, I said, “Those two should just make out with each other and be done with that cheating bastard.”
Will nodded absentmindedly. He tends checks out at the talk of two women together, but the idea stuck with me in a way that surpassed the fantasy images of Reba lip-locking with Lynda Davis. Within a few hours I had character sketches in mind. I could envision two power women, both beautiful, both compelling, both strong in their own ways, and both in love with the same person. The possibility for dramatic encounters were endless and so very juicy. The story worked its way into my heart like an old country ballad. It would be a long time before I had everything figured out, and even longer before I had the book written, but from that moment on, Reba and I were inseparable once again.
I am so very honored that I’ve been asked to help lead a fundraising drive for my Alma Matter’s new LGBT center. This was something I worked very hard for while at Illinois State University, and it’s a real privilege to be in a position to give back a little bit to the place and people who jump started my career. I know times are tough and money is tight, but I ask you, if you’ve ever enjoyed anything I’ve written, please consider giving whatever you can. Even $20 could make a big difference in the life of our students.
What follows is the official fundraising letter:
While I was a student at Illinois State University, I found my calling as a writer by sitting on the floor of ISU Pride’s crowded basement office, reading every lesbian romance in the library. Now, as an ISU alumna and award-winning best-seller author of six novels, I ask you to support an important effort that aims to ensure the success of more ISU graduates like myself and enrich the culture not only of ISU but also of the community at large.
Please join me in becoming a friend of ISU’s new LGBT/Queer Studies and Services Institute. The Institute meets a critical need in today’s world that is on the brink of creating more equality for sexual and gender minorities across differences of race, religion, social class, and ability. Let’s work together to put ISU on the map as a significant participant in this transformation.
The LGBTQ Institute was formally established in 2011 when ISU provided a spacious resource center and meeting space. Increasingly, the university has had to rely on outside funding for new initiatives because the state now only provides less than 20 cents of every dollar of the university’s operating budget. Therefore the university does not provide funds to support the Institute. For the Institute to become the vibrant hub of LGBTQ opportunities on campus and in the local community that we know it can be, we need your help.
Your donation will contribute to the Institute’s immediate goals of establishing a lending library, sponsoring several special events, and keeping the Institute open on a regular part-time schedule. Our long-term goals include funding and staffing an office and resource center full time, creating an academic program to support the research needs and interests of students and faculty, as well as supporting community efforts to serve the needs of the greater LGBTQ and allies community.
To make a tax-deductible contribution on a one-time or ongoing basis, go to http://lgbtq.illinoisstate.edu/giving, where you can give electronically or download a gift/pledge form.
These are not easy economic times, but the success of more young graduates who can make the world a more welcoming and safe place for everyone depends upon each of us. Please join me in supporting the LGBT/Queer Studies and Services Institute at whatever level you can afford.
Happy Friday Blog Readers. I hope you’ve all had the super awesome kick ass kind of week I’ve had. As those of you who follow this blog might have guessed from this post’s title, I’ve got good news to report on my writing challenge. Yesterday morning I crossed the 50,000 word mark. Yup, you read that right. I hit my goal for the entire month in just twenty-one days. This is by far a new record for me for me. While I’ve successfully completed National Novel writing month in the past it’s always come down to the wire. I’m really not sure what’s come over me in the last three week, but I can say one thing for sure: It’s been a lot of fun!
I’ve really enjoyed writing this book and these characters. While they do have their heavier subplots the over all arch had been a blast to play with. I’ve also really gotten in to the swing with the “I’ll fix it later” mentality. That wasn’t the case at first, but after a few day I learned to see the “just write” mentality as very freeing. Finally, I’ve had a blast sharing my progress with all of you, here and on facebook and twitter. So many of you have been so supportive, sending me messages of encouragement and check in on my daily word counts. I don’t think I could have done it with out, and even if I could have I wouldn’t have found it nearly as fulfilling.
As we head in to Holy Week I’m sure my daily word counts will go down a little bit, but I do plan to keep writing, and I promise I’ll keep all of you posted as I move forward with this manuscript. In the mean time, than you very much for all your love and encouragement!
So last week I told about the writing challenge I issued for myself. My wife has since dubbed the challenge MaNoWriMo (March, Novel Writing Month).
Those of you following me on facebook you get updates daily but I also promised to update you, dear blog readers, once a week about my project. I’m proud to report that after 8 days of Writing I’ve got 18,566 words on the manuscript. Huzzah! This is way past my expectations. To merely stay on track for the month I would have had to write 1613 words a day, putting me at 12,904 total right now. What this means is I am 5,662 words, or 3 and a half days ahead of schedule. I am really proud of myself because, well, I’m kind of lazy. I honestly expected to be playing catch up by now, it’s nice to know I can have an off day or two and not have it wreck the whole month. To be ahead of the game makes me very happy.
It also makes me kind of worried because, well, I’m lazy. I worry that without the pressure to produce baring down hard on me, I’ll lose that fire under my ass. I am totally the kind of person to rest on my laurels, and one day off could easily turn to 3 or 4, especially as the newness of this challenge and the story itself begin to wear off. I do a lot of challenges in various areas of my life and I know that the second week is when things lose their luster and the third week can be deadly for motivation. I also know that the middle of a manuscript can feel like 2:00 on a Wednesday afternoon. You’re tired and bored, with no end in sight.
This is where I turn to you, faithful readers. You’ve been so awesome about cheering my progress so far and I hope that will continue, but I’m also asking you to be vigilant. Don’t let me slip below the pace now. Kick my ass if need be, but please help me stay to course to 50,000 words.
I used to participate in National Novel Writing Month (a challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November) and I liked it quite a bit. I enjoyed the competition as well. I am a very competitive person. I’m also an extrovert so I also liked the camaraderie. Finally, I enjoyed the mix of freedom and pressure to write as much as I could as fast as I could without having the time to make excuses about why I couldn’t, shouldn’t, or just plain wouldn’t write on any given day. Both years I participated I finished with 50,000 words or more and while 50,000 words is not a full novel in my world, it’s a damn fine start to one and it always much easier to write the last 30,000 words than it is to write the beginning. Really, there’s a whole lot of upside to taking the NaNoWriMo challenge and I highly recommend it to both established and aspiring writer.
That being said, I haven’t done NaNoWriMo for the past two years because the timing hasn’t worked out. For the last two Novemebers I’ve been in critical stages of editing contracted books. In both cases I spent several hours each day cutting or rewriting things I’ve already written. While this kind of editing is essential, and I’ve even kind of learned to like it, or at least be proud of it, that type of work is the creative and productive opposite of NaNoWriMo so it hasn’t been feasible for me to participate. Then by the time I am ready to write, it’s so far from November it’s not even funny. I admit I’ve taken the easy way out and said, “Well, November is November, something about Roman Gods or Gregorian Monks or something, not a damn thing I can do about that.” It’s not like I haven’t written novels, I have, three of them in the last 18 months, but always as this sort of start and go pace. Well, that ends here.
With Jackson in school 5 mornings a week, and Susie working full time, and no trip on our calendar for 6 weeks, I am out of excuses. March vs. November be damned. I have never been one to be hemmed in by rules and regulations so if I can’t work on the official NaNoWriMo schedule, then I’m going to make it work on mine. Starting March 1st I will put aside the redecorating of my office, and the stack of books I’ve been wanting to read, and the piles of laundry, and do this damn thing. I will write the shit out of the month of March. I will pound next month into my keyboard to the tune of 50,000 words. I will jump start my lucky number 7 novel and I will ride it hard for 31 days.
I am pumped, I am excited, and a little nervous. The one real downside to doing is in March is that I won’t have the community around me that I do in November. And, to be honest, I can’t do it alone. I would love to have some of you all join me on this adventure. It would be great to compare word counts with some of you and cheer each other on. At the very least, I would like for each of you to help keep me on my figurative toes. Every day I hope to share my daily and monthly word count on Facebook/Twitter and I’ll try to give periodic updates here too. If I fail to do so, I expect you all to call me on it. Kick me when I lose focus. Hold me to the goal. Quicker books for me, means quicker books for you too. What do you say? Can you help out?
Hey friends, just a quick blog here to let you know I did an episode of Bar Rag last week where I got to have a fun chat with Peyton Andrews, take a few phone calls from readers, and read a scene from The Long Way Home. It was a good time, and I even drank a shot which is something I only do a few times a year do by the end of the interview you can tell I’m getting a little loopy. How bout you give it a listen at http://cocktailhour.us/archives/417“
Sue asks, “I would love to know how you “start” your writing. I find myself at the rebirth of my academic research life, and the blank pages are daunting. Lots to say, but the start is escaping me.”
Well that is a timely question for me, Sue, because I started writing on a new project this week. It’s one of the many ideas that’s been rolling around in my head for the last two months, so I suppose the first step in the process for me was deciding that I actually wanted to write it down. Lots of ideas float around and never make it to paper. Other are strong and will definitely make good books someday, but for one reason or another it’s not their time yet. I usually go with the one where I hear the characters the most clearly in my head. Plot will work its way out, but I can’t start without characters.
The next step is to start putting words to paper. Sometimes I do a little plotting before this (other authors do a lot of plotting); other times I put down a few phrases I hear from the characters. I’m a linear writer, so I can’t just jump in by writing a scene in the middle of the book. Everything I write follows on the heels of something that came before it, so if I have an idea for something that happens later in the book, I’ll just make a note like the one I jotted down today that said, “Teacher, talking about Hamlet could do a lesson on action vs. inaction.” That might make it into the book, or maybe by the time we get to that point it won’t fit, so there’s no use writing it until I need it.
During these early stages, there’s a lot of staring at walls and out windows. I’m building people from the ground up. I don’t even know their names, much less their parents or friends or what their apartment looks likes. One day the only thing I write might be something to the effect of, “dark hair, round face, mid length hair <look up styles>.” It’s just a string of random details some that will appear in the book, some that won’t, and others that I don’t have answers for but will need to be aware of in days to come. This part of the process might take days. It might not be anything more than jotting notes on my iPad in the doctor’s office.
I will put off the actual writing for any number of reasons: I’m busy, I’m hungry, the characters aren’t ready, I don’t know how to write books anymore. Then one day I will become disgusted with my laziness and force myself to put my ass in the chair and write something. I always start at the beginning (Julie Andrews taught me that’s a very good place to start), and generally I start with dialogue. I hear the characters long before I see them. Almost all of my books have taken off from one conversation in my head. With the project I started working on this week, all I wrote was the words spoken between the two characters in the scene. It was all I had, but I got that out. The next day I reread the dialog and added a dialogue tag each time it wasn’t clear who was speaking. Then when I read that scene, I asked myself what kind of background/visual details were necessary to make the conversation make sense, and I filled that in.
The long and sort of it is, I’ll never be “ready” to start a novel. And the first things I write will not be complete, they won’t be good, they might not even make sense to me, but you can’t fix a blank page. I’ve got to put something down before I can see what’s missing or broken. It’s a slow, messy process. In the middle of a novel, I’m not happy with anything under 1000 words a day. In the beginning I’m thrilled with 500. Everyone’s process will be different, but in order to start writing, you can plan and plot, you can stare at walls, you can let the fear overwhelm you. However, if you really want to starting writing, I’ve found that most of us have to do just that, and simply start writing.
Let me start by saying I’m not done promoting Spanish Heart. There’s more good stuff to talk about there, but today I hit a milestones that’s just too big to ignore. About an hour ago I submitted my last major edits on my next book, Does She Love You, to Lynda Sandoval.
I’ve still got copy edits and page proofs to come, but all my heavy lifting is done. My wife saw the news on Facebook and called to congratulate me. I think she was more excited than I was. Somehow it doesn’t feel real yet. My disbelief stems partially from how quickly it happened. Both the substantive and line edits were done in about a month instead of the 3-4 months it usually takes. However, the bigger surprise was how tremendously easy everything went. Lynda and I have really hit our stride together and our vision for these edits was on target from the beginning. We also share a similar sense of humor which is essential with a book as heavy as Does She Love You. At the start of this process she told me I had nothing to worry about, but I replied that hearing those words from an editor was akin to having the dentist tell me “this is only going to hurt a little” as he held the needle to my gums.
And it wasn’t like we didn’t do any work, we ended up adding two scenes from the ground up and cutting huge parts of other scenes, but with lots of joking, and a shared belief in this novel’s place among my greater body of work we flew through the edits faster and smoother than I could’ve imagined. For the first time in my career I completed edits without shedding a single tear.
We’ve still got 6 months before Does She Love You is released but now that the edits are done, everything feels closer and more real for me. I’d like to celebrate this milestone by hopefully making it a little more real for you too, so as a gift to both of us I want to officially release the cover of Does She Love You. I hope this piques your interest and starts to get you as excited about this novel as I am.
As usual, I’m thrilled with Sheri’s work. She captured the mood I wanted to convey perfectly. Isn’t it wonderful?
First off, I mentioned in my last blog that I’d be chatting with David-Matthew Barnes on his People You Should Know Radio show. Well, I did, and I had a great time! For those of you who listened in, thank you! For those of you who missed it, you can check it out here http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pysk/2013/01/15/people-you-should-know-1
Second, I got to take part in a fun feature over at Women and Words called 1 Question, 20 Answers. This week’s question was “Where do you write? Show us your workspace.” You can check out my answer along with the the answers of a lot of other great authors at http://lesbianauthors.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/1-question-20-answers-january-2013/
Finally, a couple weeks ago I asked people to send me some questions they’d like to see addressed on this blog and I got some really great ones on a variety of topics. I wish I could answer them all at once, but that would sort of defeat the purpose of a series, right? So I wanted to pick the most pressing one to start with this one from Anne “Would love to talk about self help and 12 step programs…is healthier to leave the relationship or hang in and change yourself for the better/ when does it start hurting the kids?”
First off, if you are in danger get out. If someone is hurting you or threatening you, or even implying they might hurt you, run don’t walk away from that situation. We don’t live in a world were we can ignore even a hint of violence. Likewise, if your situation has deteriorated to the point that you fear you might hurt yourself or someone else, please get help now. This is a good place to start looking for resources http://www.helpguide.org/mental/domestic_violence_abuse_help_treatment_prevention.htm but you can also check your local phone book or dial 911.
Aside from a situation that involves danger to yourself or others, I can’t tell you when to leave or stay in a relationship. Every partnership has ups and downs, and every person’s path to self-fullfillment is different. Likewise, a person’s faith, or lack thereof will likely play a huge role in what type of relationships they want to build and which ones they believe can and should be dissolved. While I am someone who writes a great deal on the subject of love and partnerships I am wholly unqualified to tell anyone what their journey should look like for them. I have very strong opinions on matters of marriage and divorce, but that’s all they are, my opinions. I will say that maintaining a relationship is hard work, and dissolving them can be equally hard both emotionally and logistically especially with children involved. I suggest you not make either decision quickly or lightly.
Finally, and this is perhaps the only position I feel qualified to make based on my work, don’t make a decision of this magnitude on your own! In LoveLife I wrote about a life coach and through my research process I really learned the value of their skill sets. The ability to ask for help is something to be proud of, and it’s very smart. A life coach won’t tell you the “answer” but he or she will help you take an honest, objective, and organized look at who you are and who you want to be, then help you adapt your life to meet those goals. I know several wonderful coaches who specialize in a lot of different areas and I would be happy to recommend one for you if you send me and e-mail at Rachel_Spangler@yahoo.com
Just a quick blog post to let you know I’ll be on the internet radio show “People You Should Know” Tuesday January 15. You can listen live at at Noon EST/9PST , or you can check out the archives later at http://pyskradio.blogspot.com. If you have any burning questions for me you can call in by dialing (347) 327-9929.
I am really looking forward to this chance to chat with David-Matthew Barnes. I hope you’ll tune in!