Running and Writing…

And no, I’m not talking about running AWAY from writing. 🙂 I’m talking about the sport of running and writing. They’re more alike than you might think. With NaNoWriMo coming up, I’ve been looking at my writing habits and preparing. It made me start thinking about perspective.

I ran a 5K last weekend. While that’s not all that uncommon since I run about that twice a week, this one was an organized race over unfamiliar terrain. The first mile was a piece of cake. I had a good pace for me despite the cold air (I’m asthmatic). I couldn’t help but think that I was just getting warmed up and that I just might make my goal time of 33 mins. I was excited and ready to go.

And then we turned a corner and stretched out in front of me between the mile one marker and the mile two was a hill. I’m not talking about a gentle slope. I’m talking about a hill that stretched as far as I could see at about a sixty degree incline. For nearly half a mile, I concentrated on breathing and just putting one foot in front of the other. As I turned the corner at the turning point, I thought…”Wow, this is just like the middle of a book. It’s hard, but I made it! It’s all downhill from here.”

So, downhill I ran. And then, as I jogged around the bend in the road having gotten my breath back and geared up to pick up the pace to make-up that lost ground from the climb, there was another hill. While not as steep, it was intimidating, especially since I had just set my mind to a downhill mentality. Nearly at the top of it, I could see the mile two clock ticking. I wanted to cry. But I didn’t. I took a deep breath and started chugging up that hill. I crossed the second mile clock having added a minute and a half to my pace. I felt discouraged, but thought I could make the time up on the last mile. So I picked up the pace and ran on.

I turned the last corner to head back to the finish line and realized that there was no downhill portion to that last mile. The slope was gentle, but it was definitely uphill. By this time, my lungs hurt, my breathing was ragged, and my playlist wasn’t doing anything to motivate me.

I knew my goal was out the window. But I could still finish. I would not quit. And so I did. I crossed the finish line at 38:57 – a full six minutes off my goal. While there was satisfaction with finishing, the disappointment outweighed it.

As I walked to cool down and remind my body that oxygen was a necessity of life, grateful that my husband had brought my inhaler with him, I found a smile…because running and writing really are related.

When I start a book, I have this phenomenal pace. I’ve got my notes, my prewriting, my characters, and my outline to guide me. Those first three chapters are so easy! And then, I hit my first hill. My pacing may be off, or my character’s may have a moment of inconsistency, or a wrinkle has blown up my plot outline. No matter what it is, the urge to not climb that hill lingers with every keystroke.

As I muscle through the manuscript’s hills, I remind myself how good it’s going to feel when it’s finished. I mark off the calendar dates, chart the word-count, and watch the finish line draw closer with single-minded focus.

For NaNoWriMo, I’m working on DEFYING DESTINY, Ladies of St. George Book 3. For those of you keeping count, SAVING PRISCILLA is Ladies of St. George Book 2 1/2. 🙂 It’s a novella so I’m not quite sure how I’m going to label it. For NaNo, I wanted to pitch myself into a book that I could run start to finish in November.

Also, STEALING GRACE is still under consideration. I hope to have an update soon. 🙂 Stay tuned for updates as they become available.

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More hours in the day?

As I write this, I am at my desk in our schoolroom monitoring my 5th grader who is enraptured by her math test. She must be because it’s now going on hour three. Sad thing is that she knows the material, but keeps daydreaming her time away. I sat her down to the test and cleaned the kitchen, put on laundry, got the floors ready to mop, stripped the beds…and checked on her to discover she had only answered four questions in the first hour. There are 28. *sigh*

Theoretically, I should be able to sit here and fiendishly write on Fridays. One of my sons is off at gifted class which lasts all day. The other is a self-starter who has already knocked his agenda out and curled up to read. Since I can’t move ahead without having his twin fall too far behind to manage his Sunday make-up, he’s effectively done. My daughter? Well, she’s just decided that if she throws a big enough tantrum over the math, I won’t make her do it. Since that tactic hasn’t worked since the day she was born, I can’t imagine why she thinks it might now.

So, instead of getting a jump start to cleaning so I can enjoy the long weekend and maybe squeeze in an unscheduled block of writing time, I’m sitting here watching her wallow in misery. It’s not fun.

And just like that, life has gotten in the way of my work yet again. Someone asked me the other day when I managed to sleep. I could only laugh. Angelic Avenger, my first book, was written between the bright hours of midnight and four a.m. Blood and Destiny was written between four and six a. m. Stealing Grace has been pounded out between the hours of 8:30 and midnight. Tiger by the Tail doesn’t count because that was written during the day in about a week. It was short enough that I could ignore some of the daily routines to get it done. The same goes for Love at First Shot.

Where does a body draw the line? How important is sleep, anyway?

Our homeschooling day starts at 6:30. The self-starters come down and get a jump on their agendas while I fix breakfast. Math is scheduled for 7:30 to 8:30 on every day but Friday when it has to wait until we get back from carpool. If the kids are on the ball, we can get the core schoolwork done by lunch and knock out the electives right afterwards, just in time for Daddy to get home.

At that point, it’s odds and ends until four thirty or five when it’s time to start dinner for 6:00. After dinner, it’s clean-up, bathes, and last-minute wrap-ups for the day before bedtime, which coincidentally is 8:30.

That doesn’t include Monday when we have to break in the middle of the day for speech therapy, or Wednesday when we leave at eight and don’t see the house until three due to therapy sessions and music lessons.

I want to write more, faster, better every day, but man, where am I going to find the time? I know, I could put my children in school; however, my duty as a parent comes first. Where we are now, homeschooling is the best thing for them. One of my twins is ADHD/Asberger and he just doesn’t function well in a classroom. One day a week, he can manage, but not all day, every day. The others benefit from the one-on-one instruction, too…even if the daughter is taking three hours to finish her math today.

Today is one of those days when I envy people who have their children in school, or have a day job. I know it’s the frustration talking, the doubt that I’m doing the right thing, and sheer exhaustion.  With a little luck, this will be the last year I have this schedule. We’re planning a move to Cherry Point, North Carolina, over the summer. Any one who has some details about the schools there? I’d love to hear them!

*ranting concluded*

Ah…the life of a writer…

There are a great many wonderful things involved with writing as a profession. 🙂 We get to set our own schedules, work as much (or as little) as we want, skip around talking to the voices in our heads, and get paid for all of it. But the freedom isn’t what I love most about my job.

What I love most is the ability to evolve. Contrary to my publishing schedule, I write a lot. Unfortunately, most of what I’ve been writing has been transitory. My style is evolving and I’ve been working hard to improve my craft. There has been a learning curve. I wrote two books that won’t be published during this phase. And they shouldn’t be. The writing in them both was inconsistent and simply are not up to standards. One of them was a St. George book while the other was an unrelated work. The lessons learned have been carried over to STEALING GRACE, my next St. George book.

STEALING GRACE is Milo’s story. For those of you who haven’t followed the St. George series, Milo is a selkie bull who fancies himself a technogeek. He makes his first appearance in BLOOD AND DESTINY. His heroine is a lady of St. George, Grace St. George. She is a high-end cat burglar. She’s quite the fire cracker! I can’t give away too much before STEALING GRACE is officially contracted, but I will say that you can catch a free sneak-peek short story available from my website. CHRISTMAS GRACE is set well before STEALING GRACE, so bear that in mind when you’re reading it. After all, what lady doesn’t have a past when she finally finds Mr. Right?

I love my St. George heroines! They’re feisty, independent, hard loving women who know how to take life by the horns. They also have a vulnerable side thanks to being raised in an orphanage. They all have their unique issues resulting from their respective backstories and experiences, but one of my favorite things about working with them is teaching them to trust enough to love.

*sigh* Now, I’m off to keep pounding on Grace (who has decided she doesn’t like the ending of her story). Watch for more news as it becomes available!

The Joy of Writing…

Writing is many things – exciting, daunting, wonderful, and exasperating. 🙂 I love what I do, but there are days when I wish I’d never drafted that first character. Today isn’t one of them.

Today is when I bow down and thank God that I am blessed with writing as my vocation.

I get email from readers who want to know what the hold-up is. I appreciate those letters.  Because it reminds me that I’m not the only one invested in my work. 🙂 I apologize to everyone who’s reading this who wants more stories from me.

I’m working on it. I promise. Every day.

🙂 But the hold-up is that I’ve been honing my craft. When I was discovered with TIGER BY THE TAIL, I was a babe in the woods when it came to how to cobble together a decent story. In the last three years, I’ve written, attended workshops, rewritten, attended conferences, and rewritten. Every time I sit down in front of the computer, I have a little bit more of a clue.

The problem with learning by the seat of my pants is that it’s a time-consuming process. BLOOD AND DESTINY is a step in a new direction for me. I’ve learned so much that I’m working to roll it all into my next story. Vivian doesn’t have a title, but I thought everyone would like to know what’s up with the next St. George book.

Now, Vivian isn’t a St. George girl. No, she’s a whisper from Marcus Smythe’s past, about twenty-five hundred years ago. Yes, she’s a vampiress that circumstances have backed into a corner.

So, what does a vampiress two millennia old do when forced to act? Well…I’ll keep you posted. *wink*

In the meantime, rest assured that I’m working diligently to improve my writing for your enjoyment – and hope that I’m living up to the promise of better books to come.

There’s something special in the air…CONTEST

Ah, October…

It’s a special month. The air is crisper and cleaner, the stars are brighter and the moon more luminous. Ideas dance on the wind as the world settles down for its long winter’s nap. October is my favorite month of the year, and not just because my birthday falls in the middle of it.

There’s just something about the way the weather changes that inspires me. Case and point? I’ve been writing like a fiend. Snippets of this, chapters of that, storing up my files for the next big dry spell.

Of course, I’m working on my next St. George book, too. It’s unfolding nicely.

And to celebrate the sudden surge of creativity, I’m having a contest! Some lucky someone who signs my guestbook at my website (www.kayechambers.com) between now and next Friday (November 3rd) will win a bag of special, limited edition, Godiva Gems – Caramel Apple Truffles.

🙂 And just wait…Christmas is coming and we all know how I love to give away grand gifts…

*wink*

UPDATES, Contests, and Coming Soon!

Hello!

BLOOD AND DESTINY returned to Anne in the weee hours of the morning.  I’m excited to say that it was bleeding to death in the comment margins.  Why?  Because every change only makes it a stronger book.

What am I working on while I wait for it to come back to me for the next round?  Two free reads written in the same world as BLOOD AND DESTINY.  The Ladies of St. George’s Home for Abandoned Children have a lot of stories to tell.

For Christmas and Valentine’s Day, there will be two shorts involving Yasmine St. George.  She’s a werewolf who longs for the home and family she never experienced as a child.  Can she find that with Kale Henderson?  Can Kale convince her that his pack will embrace her as his mate?  Tune in for the answers starting in December.

What’s better around the holidays than the word FREE?

Speaking of December and free, there’s a BIG CONTEST about to happen.  Do you have a Sony Pocket Reader?  Do you want one?  If so, read on.

Beginning BLACK FRIDAY, there will be a FIND THE ICON scavenger hunt involving about 30 authors (give or take).  What do you have to do?  Simply tune in for the list of participating authors and browse their sites looking for the contest graphic.  More specific details will follow.

In January, my novella LOVE AT FIRST SHOT releases from The Wild Rose Press.  There’s a lot of happening things over the next few months to talk about.

Is it too early for Christmas music?

What a difference a year makes.

What a difference a year makes.  Wait.  I just said that.

Last year at this time, I was sitting at home reading all the posts from people that were returning from Nationals.  They were all inspired, motivated, and recharged about writing.

I so was not.  I was staring at the second Tigers manuscript and seeing the fatal flaws in it.  I couldn’t get beyond it.  I was questioning my choices and wondering why, of all things, I had decided to attempt being an author at all.

So, what’s a writer to do?  Pick up the phone and call a friend.

Vivi Andrews, who took home the Golden Heart this year, gave me the talking to that I so richly deserved.  Her advice?  “Get out of your own way.”

She said other things, too, but that was the one comment that I carried in my heart.  So, I sent the manuscript off.  Immediately after that, I looked at my files and found another project outline I was passionate about.  I tinkered with character building scenes and then launched into what is now BLOOD AND DESTINY.

My editor saw the same fatal flaws in HEART OF THE TIGER and sent a very informative, very kind revise and resubmit with a lot of suggestions on how to correct the problems.  For those of you who are still interested in the Tigers, the revamp is pretty extensive and it’s been put on hold until I can devote the time of effort it needs.  Anyway, it reaffirmed that I wasn’t naive and clueless when it came to critiquing my own work.

I put Destiny aside and looked over another novella with a renewed sense of confidence.  After a little minor tweaking, I submitted it out and pulled up another project I had begun to doubt.

ANGELIC AVENGER.  With my heart in my throat, I polished the synopsis, wrote a new query letter, and sent it to my Samhain editor.

LOVE AT FIRST SHOT was well-received, but needed some work.  Taking that revise and resubmit offer in hand, I tooled it accordingly and sent it back.  Three times, I sent it back until it was finally right.  The Wild Rose Press agreed with me and offered a contract just days before Samhain offered for ANGELIC AVENGER.

Strangely enough, after months of self-doubt and second-guessing myself, I remembered why I was writing.  It wasn’t to torture myself.  It was the joy of being able to share my stories with others.

Returning to BLOOD AND DESTINY, I began to retool the wordage lost when I converted from a PC to a Mac.  For some reason, the last three chapters on Destiny had gotten eaten.

This time, the writing came easily to me.  Why?  Because I’d finally gotten out of my own way.  I’d put aside my doubt, embraced my characters, and let the words flow.

Everyone says writing is a lonely job.  And it can be very isolationist.  But, there’s a solution.  We’re in a digital age.  With IM, online groups, and forums specifically dedicated to writers, it’s easy to find people who are not going to look at us as if we should be locked up when we mention the little voices in our heads.  Or better yet, give you that horrified look when they ask what you do and you tell them you’re a romance writer.

The solution to the loneliness?  Network, find a group of writers that will embrace you with all your quirks, and get a good long distance plan and lots of cell phone minutes.  Then, when you need that extra nudge or bullying, pick up the phone… or answer it when they call.