Cancer in Life and Writing

I know that this blog is about writing, but I want to talk about something that I want to write about, but sometimes am intimidated by: cancer.

If you’ve read my earlier posts, you know that I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer two years ago. Luckily, thyroid cancer is one of the less dangerous cancers, and I’m fine now. But the thing about cancer, is that it never really leaves you. You might be fine health wise, but you’re never really “fine” in any other sense.

I always heard the phrase that people use about how things “spread like cancer” and I thought that there was something beautiful about it. To an English person, it’s a metaphor meant to show the relentless that something has and how it poisons as it spreads. As a cancer survivor, I don’t think it’s beautiful anymore, because I know what it means. Cancer doesn’t just poison your body—it poisons your mind, heart and soul. It’s something that sticks with you, even long after the cancers gone.

Every time I go back for a check up, I worry that it’s going to be back. Whenever I get a headache, I have this split second of a fear that it’s a brain tumor, even if that’s jumping to a huge conclusion. I worry about every single friend who complains about an unseen ache or pain, especially someone who complains about neck swelling. I think about how I’m only twenty-something, and I’ve already had to face the c-word. I think about people every day are dying from cancers worse than mine, and how I was lucky, but how can a better cancer that’s still cancer be lucky? I also think about the people are surviving a fight more difficult than mine. How they’re resilient and strong and brave, and how I admire them.

The fact is, cancer—any cancer—is scary. Two years out and I still think about it, and I think that I always will. I’ll always be afraid that it’ll return in some way, shape, or form, and I’ll always hope that, if it does, I’ll be strong, too.

So why am I intimidated by writing about cancer? Because the death and survival of cancer is a tragic twist of strength, and you have to do it justice. You can’t make cancer it’s own character, Cancer, but you also can’t let it fall to the background. You have to show that a character is stronger than it, that it’s a part of the character, but also that it’s not something that character is ruled by. After all, cancer can’t be a character because it can’t be dynamic, it can’t have a Happily Ever After, and it can’t have traits, emotions, or a specific physicality.

I’m about 43,000 words into a novel that I work on, abandon, work on, abandon.  It’s a novel about a cancer worse than mine, one that’s gone but left its mark, and I keep trying to go back to it, but then I worry that it’s not good enough. I mean, what if I’m not doing it justice? Maybe the fear is also, what if I am?

Writing and Making Money

Okay, romance writers, is it just me or do you always feel the need to tell people what you do to “make money”? So, here’s the conversation I continually have with people:

Them: So, what are you studying?

Me: I’m studying English and Library Science.

Them: Cool. So what do you want to do after you graduate?

Me: I want to be a romance novelist.

Them: *blank stares, awkwardness, disbelief, dismissal*

Me: But, I’ll probably be a librarian or go into research or something with archives…to make money.

Every. Single. Time. It’s ingrained in me to explain away my dream because I’m worried that people will hear the word “novelist” or “writer” and automatically think that I’m going to fail miserably.

I used to be afraid to tell people that I want to write novels, let alone romance novels, but now I’m not. I’m proud of it. But I am afraid that people are going to see me as a failure. What makes me even sadder, is that it makes me sound like I’m ragging on the library side of things. Like I’m almost saying that it’s not my first choice—that instead it’s second behind writing. Really, I’d say they’re equal. I’m lucky to have found two passions in my life, and I’m also going to have the chance to explore both of them. Not everyone has that, though. For some people, that second job really might just be a way to make money. But honestly, that’s no reason to be embarrassed that you want to be a writer. You can make money as a writer—maybe not as a living, but it’s money none the less. Besides, I’ve been told that if you’re in the business to make money, then you shouldn’t be a writer. You should be in it because you love to write. Because writing is your life.

Next time my answer should be:

Them: So, what are you studying?

Me: I’m studying English and Library Science.

Them: Cool. So what do you want to do after you graduate?

Me: I’m actively sending out submissions to publish a romance novel I wrote, but I also plan to be a librarian, researcher, or archivist.

Hello, Writer’s Block, I Will Defeat You

Liz meet Writer’s Block. Writer’s Block meet Liz—please don’t kill her.

I used to let writer’s block TERRORIZE me. I’d lie around, feeling all sad and weepy, listening to equally sad and weepy songs, hoping that inspiration would just strike. Like lighting, but without the sting. But lighting doesn’t really strike that often (at least, not in the same place), so it’s not fair to put that much chance into something that you should be able to control, right? Well, I used to think that that was the case…but today, I’m not so sure.

Stephen King said some really wise words in On Writing (which I highly recommend reading) and I’m not kidding when I say those words literally changed my life. He essentially said that if you’ve got writer’s block, then that means that something isn’t working. Writer’s block is basically your subconscious telling you that you need to stop and look back, then make changes, before you keep moving forward. Since that advice, I’ve been able to write so much faster and with much less pressure.

But this way of thinking isn’t working for me right now, because I don’t even know where to begin. The backspace is my best friend right now. So is the blank page that I keep reverting back to. I just can’t seem to get that spark. I’m in the middle of a semester right now, so I’m pretty sure that that’s what my problem is.

There’s an issue with that, though, and that’s that I need writing. Writing is my stress release, my quiet time, and my *hopefully* future. Without it, I feel lost and pretty hopeless. Like probably-going-to-be-broke-and-own-sixteen-cats hopeless. So how am I going to defeat this hopelessness and find my own advice on how to write when you can’t even find that first word? Well, I’ll get back to you as soon as I figure that one out! Until then, write on, because I’m on the struggle bus and someone needs to.

Positive “No’s” in Querying Literary Agents

13442628_10206335625128600_4522129799010881109_oToday I got a “you have an intriguing idea here” and it’s the most positive email I’ve gotten after querying an agent! Though it was still a no and I might’ve had a heart pounding moment, it was enough to make the bleak writers-block world I’ve been living in feel happy and well…positive! It could’ve been just a form email, which is something you tend to get when querying agents, but even if it is, you have to take the no, realize that it’s a “no” but then focus on the other stuff. The stuff encouraging you to keep writing, the stuff telling you that you’re going to get somewhere someday, the stuff telling you that you’ll find an agent eventually. It’s kind of like when I complain about not having a boyfriend/fiancé/husband and my mom answers, “You’ll find him someday. He’s out there waiting for and looking for you, just like you’re waiting and looking for him.” So yeah, I’m looking and waiting for an literary agent.

Of course, my answer to my mom is always, “Well he needs to look harder,” or, “He’s taking too long to get here.” But you know, sometimes you’ve just got to keep going and realize that it’s not right to make them do all the work. You’ve got to keep querying, keep putting forth the effort and hopefully—no, you will—get there.

Want to Write? Read Bird by Bird

One of my absolute favorite professors first mentioned this book, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, to a class I was in back in my third semester of college. So, I did what I always do: used to my trust library card to put a hold on it and eventually checked it out and…


Very much. Like, my chest was constricting and saw about fifty shades of my future, all of which were dark, dull colors that in no uncertain terms meant that I would probably spend the rest of my life scooping dead deer off the side of road. The book draws you in with anecdotes and hilarity, but it’s also serious at times. Like when Anne Lamott tells her class that the road to getting published is going to be hard.

So, what terrified me? That right there. If Anne Lamott was to ever read this blog, I’d probably die, because she probably now thinks that she terrifies me or that I hate her. But I don’t. I really, really, really don’t. In fact, I’m at a hero-worship stage right now when it comes to her.

After deciding to give it another go, I realized that I was terrified by what I reading. I was terrified by what I was thinking, feeling and fearing. I was terrified of my own self and being a bad writer and dying alone with fifty cats that’ll eat me three days after said death (though I guess I wouldn’t technically be alone alone).

But since that first attempt and before my full read, I’ve gotten some confidence about me, a level head. I know that I’m not going to send out a query to the first agent I find and get a HECK YES! Nope, it’s a process and only the tried and true will make it through, so I’m going to do that. Patiently. So that made Anne Lamott’s book that much easier to read…it changed my life.

She talks about jealousy, which by far was my favorite part. She talks about note cards. She even talks about broccoli and Radio KFKD. Hey, there’s even a chapter on “Shitty First Drafts.” It’s something that you can read and walk away from not with a key to castle, but a view of the castle that’s not quite so dark and doom and Frankenstein or Dracula or Dark Shadows. It becomes more like Disney Land or even Hotel Transylvania. It just becomes something beautiful, something you want to pursue, something you can be a part of with some tiiiiimmmmmeee, effort, and passion. But of course, not it’s just something you (Okay, I) have an open mind going into.

Check out Bird by Bird here:

Starting Out With No Place To Go

Sometimes when you write…it’s a little like that famous scene from The Walking Dead’s first episode. You know, where Rick Grimes sees the walker who is missing the bottom half of her body? Well, she’s reaching for him, making the typical walker sound, and we’re given a sense of desperation, hunger, despair, basically everything negative and nothing even remotely pleasant. Yeah, you probably don’t just see it, you know it. We all do at sometime in our lives for different reasons.
But the thing is, when you’re writing, you’13631628_10206698989452481_148121395250787432_nre not Rick Grimes—you’re not operating on a Ricktatorship. Nope, you’re that walker who’s barely cleaning to life, humanity and hope. Eventually you might get your Ricktatorship on, but it takes time for you to realize how to kill the walker. How to keep moving forward.

So what’s a fix for this horrible step for writing? I don’t know. I’m not sure that I ever will. But I’ve been tossing around an idea and if I ever become famous enough to write a book on writing, then maybe this’ll make the cut.

Start with your character, because that’s who drives the story (most of the time), right? But don’t write in first person, write them in third. Maybe if you usually write in third, try your hand at second. Whatever you do, push yourself out of your comfort zone. Sometimes you get too comfortable and that’s why you get stuck—you just expect things to happen. So if you do something different, you’ll be in a territory where you’re more alert and everything is more vibrant. Put the person in a situation with other characters and see what happens.

I’ve found that in doing this, you have this moment of clarity. You might realize that the main character who you thought you were going to center the story on, isn’t really the main character. They’re just background. Really the main character is the brother who’d rather spend his time out on the open sea, who always grumbles witty comebacks and has dog that wears a flannel shirt. Okay, so maybe that went weird. But the point is, you’re writing. You’re in a completely different territory and the whole point of fumbling is that you somehow find your way out—or you find your story. Well, the beginning, because obviously there was a whole lot more story after that half-walker. But you can slip back into your comfort zone, into your story with an idea of where you’re going, just maybe not how to get there. You will, though.

You Might Notice Some Changes

I’m revampin13886482_735112956629204_1543113501127757843_ng the blog so that it’s more orientated to wanna-be authors and book-lovers, because yours truly is both. From now on, you’ll be able to learn everything to what books I’m reading, to where I’m at in my writing. There also might be articles about anything in between…who knows!! The point is, books are important. They’re a passion. A love. And to be honest, I’d be perfectly okay spending the rest of my life alone on a desert island with one (and food…and water…and shade…oh, and a man). Regardless, I want to share my passion for them without you and I hope that in turn, you will do the same.

That being said, I might stray away from my romance novel love here and there, so all book lovers are welcome! There is also an official subscription email for a newsletter that I invite anyone to join! It’ll keep you updated on new blog posts and as this blog continues to grow, maybe other things, as well. However, I will try not to spam you!

So, welcome and write/read on!!

Romances with Other Stuff

I decided that I started writing romances when I realized that the paranormal-type stories that I was writing tended to lean more toward being a romance, with all the other stuff in the background. And that’s all it ever was to me—stuff. Werewolves, vampires, faeries, princes, princesses, it’s all just background stuff.

Let me get this straight: there’s nothing wrong with books that aren’t purely romances. I’ve been working on reading North and South by John Jakes for the last few months (it’s taken me a few months because I’d get distracted by other novels) and also The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, both of which have romance in them, but it’s not the main focal point. It’s just as a writer and a reader of romances, I live for those moments when the girl and guy interact, their first date, their first kiss, etc. That stuff is what drives my love for reading.

There’s this great blog called Nose Stuck in a Book (totally check it out) and if you follow them on Facebook, they put out a list of Free digital romances, ranging from contemporary to paranormal to sports, you get the picture. I was the perusing the list today and as there was a Billionaire Shifter Alpha series. Totally sounds interesting, right? (No, that’s not sarcasm). I didn’t get it though, because I’m trying to strike inspiration, so I’m reading books more along the lines of what I’m trying to write.

But the reason why I’m talking about this is as a writer, I’m like, how in the world can a person fit a story about a billionaire who also happens to be a shifter, who’s on top of that an alpha, into a book? That seems like a lot for the writer. From a previous post, you know that I can barely tell a story about two people with emotional trauma without doubling my word count. I’m in awe of people who can flawlessly tie together many different areas and create a book, because that must take so much determination and commitment and also patience. Every single word, sentence, paragraph has to be finely tuned so that the book isn’t the size of the dictionary.

So I guess that this is my shout out to the Billionaire Shifter Alpha Romance writers of the world or those who are writing paranormal romances. Keep doing you’re thing and wowing me with your word count and you’re ability to create a fresh, exciting world for the reader!

On Giving Up

I haven’t written a post in a while about my journey to publication. I’d like to say that my life got crazy—and it totally did—but I think that the main reason for my absence is that I’ve had a bit of a reality check. You see, I had this grand idea that I would send out my novel and within a few weeks there would magical happy dances and excited clapping. That was the dream, anyway. But then I realized that my novel was long. As in 130,000 words long, with the “average” word count for a novel being around 70,000. That means that what I wrote was almost double the word count. Double! It could’ve been split into two novels.

For someone who HATES cliffhangers (most of the time), I knew that I had two options: cut it down or start anew.

I chose the second option. In the month of December, I started a new novel. By the end of the month I had about 70,000 words and I finally finished at about 90,000. That was super manageable—I was able to cut down and even though I’m still in the process of editing, I think that that smaller word count will give me a leg up. I hope it will, at least—fingers crossed.

So here’s the deal, how do you know the difference between continuing on and giving up? The truth is, they’re pretty much the same. Sometimes continuing on is giving up. I think that this is especially true with writing. When it comes to the craft, sure you have to be good, you have to be resilient, you have to have some sort of luck (although you should really make your own), but passion is important to. And if you lose that passion, then it’s going to really show in your writing. I really think that that’s what happened with Falling Forward; I was so excited about it and then I got discouraged and then I wasn’t. I stopped caring about their story because I had new ones on my mind. It was time to move on. Move forward (get it?).

So I did. I started something new. There’s got to be something deep inside of us, not quite a conscious, but an internal compass. Something that tells us what direction we need go, if we need to go in a new one or stay on the same one. Maybe it’s fate. But that compass was urging me to start something new, to not necessarily give up on, but put away Falling Forwards.

I think that the key to getting published might be giving up, but on an idea, not on yourself. You keep writing and keep working and keep hoping that something will slip through. And all through that, you’ll be getting better. Growing. Eventually you’ll crack the code. I surely hope I will.