If Only I Would Use My Superpower To Fight Evil

Posted at Dec 23, 2014 4:12 pm

HiResI’ve always written in my head. Since as far back as I can remember, my gray matter has been host to many a masterpiece-in-the-works. (Hey, you have to do something interesting to make barn work palatable!) I like to call it my superpower.

If you’re an author, you know what I’m talking about. You’re somewhere doing something (usually something boring) and someone or something catches your eye. Suddenly, without even thinking about it, you’re making up something in your head. (Now, this can be quite dangerous, especially if you’re driving your kids to school or shopping during Black Friday. I’ve had my share of narrow escapes with dump trucks and holiday bargain hunters.)

This tendency (weakness? affliction? fetish?) to write in my head has never bothered me, but it drives my family crazy. It’s one of the reasons my husband prefers not to go eat out with me. (The other is that he’s cheap and can’t understand why I can’t just make Grilled Bransino at home.) No matter if we’re at Chic-fil-A or Stoneground Kitchen, within minutes of sitting down, I’m off writing in my head. I can’t count the number of times he’s tapped my hand and said, “Hey, are you listening to me?”

“No, I’m not because I’m thinking that forty-something couple sitting in the booth by the big windows is fighting, and I’m coming up with different reasons why they’re angry with each other.” My husband’s response? “What does it matter? You don’t know them.” Ahh, but I do.

Right now, they’re the hero and heroine of the novel in my head. They’ve been married for twenty-five years, and the last of their seven children just entered kindergarten. Now Kim wants to go back to work part-time as a pharmaceutical rep, which is what she was doing when she met Jon at an anti-apartheid protest march in Salt Lake City. But Jon isn’t going for it. He’d rather she just stay at home. He suggested that if Kim is that bored, she could volunteer at a hospital or animal shelter. Of course, Jon forgot that his wife is allergic to latex and cat dander. That made Kim angry because he always forgets important stuff like that so she’s—

Of course, this is the point in the conversation where hubby shakes his head and waves his hands in the air. “Never mind… never mind!” he gasps, then orders another beer. Of course, this is the point in the conversation where I start writing a story about him… getting hit by a bus… while being chased by a bear… (Nah, I’m just kidding… about the bear.)

It’s amazing what can suddenly set me off into the land of make-believe. (Fellow authors, you know what I’m talking about, right?) Like that woman wearing the Chanel pantsuit and vintage Tiffany jewelry at the grocery store yesterday. (Margo DeSantovini… recent divorcee… had to fire household staff of six after fifth ex-husband stopping paying their salaries… now forced to do the shopping… needs help learning how to fry an egg… “The burner is on 350 degrees, now what?”)

Or that guy going through the security line at the airport and trying not to touch anything. (Kenneth Morgan… recently accepted into Yale’s doctoral program in psychology… once arrested for aggravated assault and battery after someone double dipped at a party… favorite TV show is Monk… “What do mean I can’t take my eight-ounce bottle of Purell sanitizer on the airplane?”)

So, what makes someone develop this superpower? Innate talent? Crappy home life? Bitten by a radioactive author spider? Who knows and who cares? All I know is that on any given day, I can come up with some real doozies.

Now, I bet you’re sitting there, reading this, wondering if I’ve ever looked at you and made up a story in my head.

Yes, I have. And let me tell you, it’s a doozy.


This Is The End, My Friend(s)

Posted at Nov 13, 2014 9:42 am

turtle“The End.”

Damn. That felt good!

You writers out there know what I’m talking about. That tsunami of raw emotion that overwhelms you as you type those two little words at the finale of your blood-sweat-and-tears-inducing manuscript. Six little characters (okay, seven if you want to count the space in between) that have governed how you’ve spent the last several months, years, or—in my case—decades wrangling the voices inside your head that demanded you write their story.

I toiled for over twelve years to bring Brianna and Christiaan’s story to life. Since the moment in 2002 when I envisioned their struggle to find meaning in love and marriage, they’ve been with me. Since turning forty in 2003 and my dying mother telling me in her patent no-nonsense tone to “shit or get off the pot” during my latest self-pity lament about having not yet published a novel, Brianna and Christiaan have been with me. (Those that knew Shirley Keafer know exactly what tone I’m talking about.)

Since 2004 when my first critique partner brought me to tears (not an easy feat since I’m not a big crier) about all the mistakes I’d made in my “sadly amateurish” manuscript, the drive to bring my struggling couple to life remained. Since 2005 when numerous agents and editors told me that no one in New York would buy a story with an older hero and heroine because no one in world wanted to read about an older hero and heroine, Brianna and Christiaan’s story demanded to see the light of day.

The years since then brought many obstacles that often made me feel like Sisyphus rolling that damn rock up the hill only to watch it roll back down. From the critique group that sucked all the fun out of writing to the business partner that sucked all the fun out of life, my fictional couple stayed with me. So many times I abandoned them to start other stories (and other businesses) because the criticisms, lack of support, and mental anguish just got to me and I didn’t feel like rolling that damn rock up the hill one… more… time.

[Okay, now don’t stop reading because you thinking this is turning into a boohoo piece about how everyone made life so difficult for me that I couldn’t write—let alone finish—Brianna and Christiaan’s story. Au contraire! I celebrate the challenges the world shoved into my way. Because of what I learned plowing through it all, I finally typed “The End.” What exactly did I learn? That, my friend, is for an upcoming post.]

With age comes some maturity. (Well, at least in my case it did.) Turning 50 last year made me rethink that conversation with my mother. “Shit or get off the pot, Annie.” So guess what I did?

That’s right. I shat. All over the place. No more getting off the pot for this girl!

With Mom’s voice playing in my head and the world’s bestest ever (yes, I know I sound like an excited four-year-old. However, that’s exactly how I feel about Joy Spraycar) critique partner egging me on, I finished “’Til Death Us Do Part.”

Now, the real “fun” begins… editing… beta reading… more editing… cover development… proofreading… formatting… uploading… printing… marketing… selling… Whew!

Thank you, Mother. Thank you, first critique partner. Thank you, agents and editors. Thank you, former critique group. Thank you, former business partner. Thank you, life full of criticisms, lack of support, and mental anguish. Thank you, Joy. Thank you. Thank YOU. THANK YOU!

I couldn’t have done it without you!

“The End.”


Gut Instincts or Who’s In Your Corner, Baby?

Posted at Oct 14, 2013 12:00 am

Telly Savalas as Lt. Theo KojakHey, Annie. Your Gut here.

For the last 50 years, I’ve hung out on the sidelines, doing my best to point you in the direction of your authentic self. Sometimes you’ve listened to the old Gutmeister here. Other times… not so much.

Remember me bugging you in the mid-80s about how staying in the economically challenged ‘Burgh wasn’t the best choice for a recent college grad? You couldn’t believe leaving everyone and everything you’ve grown up with was a smart choice, but eventually I won you over. Within weeks, you’d secured an entry-level job with a newsletter publishing company in South Florida that provided the solid foundation you needed later to build a successful freelance writing business. Three cheers for Gut Instincts!

Then there was the time in the mid-90s when everyone told you not to marry the nice guy you’d been dating after your divorce. You listened to endless renditions from friends and family of “He’s transition guy, not long-term guy.” Not from me. The Gutmeister said, “Trust me. This one is a keeper. Go for it!” You did, and now, twenty years later, “transition guy” and you are still together and doing great. Kudos to Gut Instincts!

And let’s not forget in 2007 when that budding e-commerce company hired your team to rework their corporate branding strategy. You knew they wanted to play it safe, but playing it safe wasn’t going to make them stand out like a Purple Cow in a crowded industry. So you listened to your Gut and pressed a cutting-edge, off-the-wall approach that had the client nervous-to-try but willing-to-do. The result? Their name recognition and sales exceeded expectations. Chalk another one up to Gut Instincts!

Three notable successes because you listened to me.

But you haven’t always, and that’s when you’ve paid a price. Remember when you had a strong inkling that the story your boyfriend gave you about his Jeep accident and the girl that was with him was bogus? You wanted to believe him, despite everything the Gutmeister told you. So you gave said boyfriend the benefit of the doubt and rationalized your feelings away. You wasted another year on that loser before finding him and Accident Girl in bed together. Talk about a slap right upside the head! You should have listened to Gut Instincts.

Then there was the time I nudged you about your best friend not being as committed to and believing in your friendship as you were. You wanted to believe that she knew you so well that she’d never fall for someone else’s bullshit. You ignored all the evidence to the contrary, and one misunderstanding blown out of proportion left you, alone, in the cold. Reality sucks, doesn’t it? Repeat after me: You should have listened to Gut Instincts.

And don’t forget the business partner that I suspected wasn’t telling you—or anyone—the truth. You wanted to believe that such a close confident and friend would never do anything to hurt you or the business you both were building. You refused to see the truth staring you right in the face and spent a lot of money, time, and energy dealing with tons of lies, grief, and pain. Not to sound like a broken record, but you should have listened to Gut Instincts.

Call me your gut, intuition, or whatever, but when you’ve listened to me—really listened to me—you’ve done well.

So listen to me to now. Finish that novel you’ve been playing with for the last ten years and write another. Become the author you’ve always dreamed of becoming. Stop listening to those well-meaning supporters and supposed experts who’ve torn your stories and your dreams apart. Start listening to your Gut Instincts. I’ve always steered you straight.

This is your wake-up call. This is your time. This is your life. Go for it!