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Why I’m Going To Rewrite My Last Four Novels

Every once in a while on a blog, I make a deep, dark confession. You’re supposed to be authentic, right? Here’s my latest:

I’m not happy with my last four novels.

I’m so unhappy with them that I’ve decided they all need to be rewritten. In fact, if I thought it was worth taking the time to do so, I’d rewrite most of the other nine novels I have up for sale. But those two series have been around so long, I think it’s best to leave them alone, call them a beginner’s good try.

The reason I’ve decided to give my last four novels an overhaul is simple: I want to put my best out there, and those novels do not reflect my best.

The “Rock Star Husband” Series

A dream I had early one morning inspired the short story, “Revenge”, and not long after completing the short story I realized that there was a novel desperate to spring from it. The novel that resulted was Tony’s Rose.

While I still love the basic story, I made two huge mistakes when writing it. First, I pushed the vegan agenda. At the time, I had dived into veganism and was so passionate about saving the animals that I decided that hereafter I would use my novels to educate other people about the glories and superiority of the vegan lifestyle.

(Yeah, I know, that’s why you hate vegans. Me, too.)

(And yes, I’m still a vegan.)

I have since learned that when people read novels, they want to be entertained. Any education that happens must come about in a subtle way, woven into the plot in such a way that the reader doesn’t feel like they’re being educated.

How did I learn? Personal experience, number one. I get turned off by novels that are obviously pushing an agenda. A couple of reviews for my novel His Second Chance, number two. One reviewer went so far as to call that novel an advertisement for Whole Foods Market – though in my own defense, I never mention the name of that store, or have many scenes in which characters are doing their grocery shopping.

The second mistake I made was characterization. The very first review on the novel was a book-killing two-star review. At first, I became angry and dismayed at the reviewer’s words. The gist was that Rose was too hard-nosed, and that Tony was too soft.

After a year, I began to think more objectively about the review and realized that when women read romance novels, they expect the main characters to have certain qualities. Thus, if I want to sell the romance novels that I write, the characters need to maintain at least some portion of the expected stereotypes.

Why rewrite the second novel? Again, it comes down to reader expectations. In its current form, Duncan’s Treasure does not portray Duncan as much of a hero. Truth be told, I haven’t ever been completely happy with the way I wrote the climax of the novel. So it needs a bit of tweaking.

The two books I wrote in the “Rock Star Husband” series will remain published in the Kindle store for another month because until yesterday, “Revenge” promoted Tony’s Rose. So right now, a bunch of people have a copy of the short story with that promotion, and some of them will want to read Tony’s Rose. Even though the novel is not my best, I don’t think it would professional to make it suddenly unavailable.

However, sometime in mid-February I’m going to unpublish both the “Rock Star Husband” novels. I’ll rewrite them when I’m finished with the current series I’m on.

“Pine Mountain Estates” series

A few days ago, I began to write the third book in my latest novel series, “Pine Mountain Estates.” I began to write one prologue. Deleted it. Wrote part of another. Deleted it.

Finally, I wrote a prologue I was happy with, then began the first chapter. It went okay, but it wasn’t easy to write. I knew where I wanted to go, but wasn’t sure how. When I finally finished it, I felt sort of satisfied, but not completely.

It was good enough, but not my best.

But I wanted to get the consarned thing off the ground, so I continued on with the second chapter. Wrote, deleted. Wrote, deleted.

Finally, I sat back and took an objective look at it. It was turning into a manual on diagnosing autism.

I got frustrated, and decided to take a day off.

In the meantime, I discovered a podcast for writers. One of the episodes featured Rachel Aaron, an author of young adult fantasy, who talked about her own early struggles with writing, and how she overcame them. I came away from that podcast knowing three things.

First, I need to start more thoroughly planning a story before I start writing it. I had tried doing Libby Hawking’s kind of outline as she describes in her book Take Off Your Pants!, but it felt too confining and rigid. Rachel, on the other hand, talked about a much more open way to plan a book that made a lot more sense to me.

The second thing I gleaned from the podcast episode is that if I’m serious about selling as many novels as I can, I need to craft a series so that each novel leads into the next one. I’m not talking about writing trilogies – personally, I need a novel to have closure at its end – but about giving each novel in a series a common thread that is so interesting that my readers will feel compelled to read the next book in the series, then the next.

Along the same lines, I need to create characters that the readers will fall in love with to the extent that they will want to journey with them into the subsequent novels.

My third major take-away from that podcast episode was that if I’m not having fun writing, something’s wrong.

I started this section talking about my struggles with the third novel. The fact is, while the basic plot line of the first novel intrigued me, the story ended up being a chore to write. The second one was sometimes fun and exciting, sometimes not.

And here’s the real clincher: the first novel in this series was actually originally supposed to be the third book in the “Rock Star Husbands” series. Of course, that means I changed the characters and plot line considerably. I turned the book into a nice, quiet women’s fiction book, instead of a dramatic romance.

Which brings me to another effect listening to this podcast episode had on me: it stirred in me a desire I’d shut down several years ago. I want to write the kind of story that would be deemed worthy as a bestseller, a longer novel with a beefier, more engaging plot than is found in most of my first nine novels.

I realized that if I write that kind of story, the kind of story readers don’t want to put down, I will sell more without having to write more.

Why did I give up on that idea? Impatience. I was having trouble fleshing out the plot of the third book in “Rock Star Husbands”. Meaning, I couldn’t figure it out in a week. And I didn’t want to get out a piece of paper and brainstorm.

So I began lying to myself. I began telling myself I’m no good at writing dramatic romance novels. Or, rather, that the books in the “Texas Hearts” series had used up all my potential in that area.

What I realized

The truth is, however, after finishing the “Texas Hearts” series, I went through four years of stress and depression. I may write more about that in a future post. My point here is that I realized I still have plenty of potential, plenty of story ideas.

I also realized that I must be patient with myself. I must allow as much time to plan out a story as I need, and not give up because I can’t do it in a week.

So for the moment, I’m setting aside the “Pine Mountain Estates” series. I won’t have to rewrite the entire first two books, but they will look quite different when I get done with them. There will be more intrigue, more drama, and a bad guy or three thrown into the mix. Because while I enjoy reading straight women’s fiction, it’s a chore for me to write it.

It’s not fun.

The long and the short of it…

From now on, I’m going to write the kind of novel I love to read. Clean and faith-building, yet gripping. Void of graphic violence, but filled with realistic drama experienced by engaging characters.

And I’m not going to be in a hurry. Not going to stress. I’m going either to enjoy the process, or to ditch it.

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The Wonders Of A Pre-Menopausal Memory

This story is about perimenopause and memory. I feel compelled to say that right up front, because in a minute you’re going to think that this story is about bad parenting, or natural remedies, or the joys of parenting.

It’s not. It’s about pre-menopausal memory. Or, the lack thereof.

Every so often, B gets on an “I’m going to earn a bunch of money kick”, which leads to him working in forest management for a fee.

That is, he cuts or chops down small cedar trees in the woods on our property, and J pays him based on the size of the tree he cuts down.

B decided to try to cut down as many small trees as he could using a machete.

Here’s where you’re going to think we’re bad parents.

Go ahead; make my day.

He’s used the machete before with no negative consequences. And J thought it was the appropriate tool given the size of the mini-trunks. He’s also twelve years old, for those of you who don’t know and might have been thinking I was talking about a pre-schooler or something.

But B was focused on making as much money as possible. So he was in a hurry. And he hates denim, so he was wearing what he always wears when it’s below sixty degrees outside: sweatpants.

You know where this is going, don’t you? You might even be flinching.

Yes, he whacked a little too hard at one point, and brought the machete around a little more than he should have.

And nicked himself in the shin.

I’m not going to get graphic. Let’s just say it’s not as bad as it could have been (thank GOD!), but it wasn’t your average cut.

And since it was the machete that nicked him, I deemed the situation worthy of some intense anti-bacterial/anti-viral action. I decided B should take a few capsules with rosemary and frankincense essential oils for a couple of days, until we could be sure the wound wasn’t going to cause a system-wide infection. (Here’s where you might think I’m going to lecture on the benefits of natural remedies over drugs. I’m not.)

Have I told you lately that B has a sensitive digestive system? Okay, B has a sensitive digestive system. A chip off the old block (the female one. Um, that would be yours truly). And apparently, it doesn’t like too much of essential oil landing into it at one time, especially confined in a capsule.

You know where this is going, don’t you? You might even be flinching.

I’m not going to get graphic. Let’s just say that B had emptied his stomach by nine-thirty that night.

Based on prior experience with B’s day-after-vomiting struggle to eat, I decided I wasn’t going to make him his usual smoothie for breakfast. Instead, I’d thaw out the butternut squash soup, the kind that’s packaged in a shelf-stable box, that had been sitting in the freezer for a while. So that’s what I did.

The next morning, I shook the box to make sure it was completely thawed. Yep. And when B woke up, announcing he was hungry, I gave the box another few good shakes, took the lid off the saucepan, and started pouring the contents of the box into the pan.

All that came out was water. “Huh,” I said to B. “I must not have shaken it enough.”

Using a funnel, I returned the water to the box and shook it even harder. Poured again.

All that came out was water.

You might have an idea where this is going. And here is where we talk about perimenopausal memory.

At that moment, I remembered. I remembered that I had fed the soup to myself and J for lunch one day a couple of months ago. I remembered that I thought I’d need another container with ice for the coolers (which we use in lieu of a refrigerator), so after rinsing the box thoroughly I went to the rain barrel and filled the box two-thirds full with water.

And stuck it in the freezer.

In the same place it had been when it had contained soup.

Oops.

I made B a mini-smoothie, and he was able to eat it.

Another thing to thank God for: small favors. Now if He would just make the rogue estrogen in my body to stop messing with my brain, I’d really have something to shout about.

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No More Regrets

I’ve had a recurring dream for at least the past couple of years. The people and place change slightly from dream to dream, but the theme has remained the same.

In each dream, I am either in late high school, or I’m a teacher at the school where I poured thirteen years of my life into the lives of children, mostly Kindergartners. The dream starts out with me going about my business, but at the end I suddenly realize that I don’t need to be there. I realize I’ve already finished high school, or that I can quit my job because my husband and I have achieved financial independence.

When I have this revelation, an inexplicable sensation of freedom overwhelms me. It’s a feeling I’ve rarely felt in real life.

A couple of nights ago, I had the dream again, and when J woke up I told him, “I’m sick of having this dream!” Not that I didn’t enjoy the joyful feeling of freedom that the dream always ended with, but I was tired of having to go through what preceded it – the feeling of frustration and being stuck.

I’d prayed about the interpretation before, and received nothing. A few months ago, I read some articles on a website about dream interpretation that explain how to interpret your own dreams in the light of the context of your life. Those principles in mind, I set my mind to trying to figure out this dream.

In the meantime, I’d been reading the intriguing novel The Five Times I Met Myself by James L. Rubart (if you’re looking for fascinating, faith-based stories, read his books). In the middle of the apparent mess the main character, Brock, has made for himself, one of the minor characters reminds him that he is not in control.

As an idealist-perfectionist, I have ignored that doctrine for years. We have free will, right? So if I make the exact right choices then I will end up with a perfect life, right?

So if it’s not perfect, that means I made some wrong choices. This belief has led me, during the past more than fifteen years, to slowly accumulate a list of regrets longer than Trump’s accumulated tweets.

Okay, maybe not quite that long. But like Brock, I have so wanted to go back to my twenties – even earlier – and make different choices.

However, this novel woke me up to the fact that this would probably not be a good thing.

Back to the dream. By the end of the day, I thought I’d come up with the right interpretation. I wasn’t far off base, but the next day I started feeling like I wasn’t quite there. So I decided to get alone with God. To ask, and listen hard for an answer.

I got it. Why didn’t He give me the interpretation earlier? Probably because I wasn’t ready for it. He knew I would get my hands on this novel, which would prepare me for what He had to say.

I’d been interpreting the sense of freedom in the dream as a good thing. After all, doesn’t God want us to be free? Yeshua Himself said that whom He sets free is free indeed.

What the sense of freedom actually meant was that I had been perceiving all my years in the classroom – both as a student and as a teacher – as a waste of my life. My job was a kind of bondage that kept me from doing what I was really called to do.

In other words, I had regretted most of my adult life. Why?

BECAUSE I BELIEVED THAT I WAS IN CONTROL.

I had been doing what Yeshua accused Saul – later known as the apostle Paul – of doing: kicking “against the goads.” God had set me on the path He’d determined for me before I was even conceived in my mother’s womb, and I fought against it tooth and nail. At least in my mind, if not outwardly.

Consequently, I hated my job. Was miserable. Stressed out most of the time. I tried to switch schools. I tried to build an MLM business.

None of my attempts to exit my career – or at least make it feel better – worked. And my rare expressions of gratitude for it were born more out of guilt than actual appreciation for God’s blessings.

To my dying day, I will cling to the fact that our education system is messed up and that children would be healthier out of it than within it. But that’s my ideal world, which doesn’t exist. God has to work with our imperfect world.

Not to mention the imperfect people with which He has populated it.

What if, instead of feeling trapped in my job, and feeling like I’d made the wrong decisions, I had believed that God had put me there because He knew I needed those experiences in order to become the person He wanted me to be? What if I had embraced the various challenges in those circumstances as gifts from God, rather than devil- or self-induced problems? What if I had taken those challenges less seriously instead of seeing them as wars I had to win? What if I had not constantly expected the impossible: that every person and every event should live up to my outrageously high expectations?

I’ll tell you what. I wouldn’t have carried around so many regrets, for so long.

And don’t think that my regrets stopped at my decision to teach. If I had a dollar for every time I wished I’d never gotten married, or bought that condo, or bought that house, or had a baby – oh, I better stop since you may already think I’m the most selfish person to ever walk the earth.

Although if you do, I will admit I’m inclined to agree with you.

The dream was God showing me that I’ve never lived in true freedom, because for all these years I’ve been carrying a burden of regrets.

No. More.

I have bowed my heart before God and repented for my unbelief and my horrible attitude. My disrespect and dishonor toward Him by rebelling inwardly against His plan for my life.

I have determined never to have anymore regrets. I will walk in freedom, knowing that God is both leading me, and watching my back.

I think that’s called “trust.” And, I think maybe that is what Yeshua was referring to when He told us that if we wanted to enter the kingdom of God, we had to come like a little child.

How many little children do you know that have regrets, and believe they can control their lives?

No more regrets.

Hallelujah!

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Serves Me Right For Judging…

I eat at least thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables per day. I avoid toxic chemicals as much as is within my power to do so. I rarely eat processed food, never anything with white sugar or white flour. My diet is free of gluten. I don’t have a stressful job. I drink two quarts of water per day (more in the summer).

I’ve spent years trying to convince people, via blogs, books and videos, that such habits are the way to go if you want to reduce your risk of getting sick.

Last year, the usual cashier at the local small grocery store was out sick. The flu, I found out later. Well, what did she expect? She had admitted to me that her diet was none too pristine. And she is overweight.

A few weeks ago, I saw that one of the assistant managers at the same store was sick, and I thought, “Tsk. Tsk. She doesn’t eat healthy; she asked for it.”

So, what happens to me a few days before the New Year?

I get the flu.

Or, at least, what the CDC calls an “influenza-like illness.” ILI for short.

Serves me right for judging.

Is it worth it?

You have to know that I had a moment where I asked myself, “Is it worth it?”

Is it worth the higher grocery bill? Is it worth all the work – not just of avoiding all the bad stuff and eating enough good, but of constantly trying to convince J and B the importance of eating healthy?

I almost answered, “No.”

Almost.

But then I remembered some things. Beginning with: I haven’t been this sick for five years.

Many people get the flu – to the extent they feel miserable for an entire week or more – every single year.

I remembered that my symptoms weren’t as bad this time as they were five years ago. Coincidence? Or the result of either being under a lot less stress or eating a lot more fruits and vegetables?

I believe the latter is true.

I remembered that the flu is not a precursor to cancer, Parkinson’s, cardiovascular disease, Hashimoto’s, or any of the other diseases which eating a whole foods, plant-based diet dramatically reduces the risk of developing.

Influenza is, instead, a virus. One that is fairly ubiquitous.

In other words, it’s impossible never to be exposed to it. And every once in a while, the exposure will be more than your immune system can handle quickly and quietly.

I remembered that – *SIGH* – I’m getting older. Like the rest of me, my immune system has slowed down a bit and has past its peak performance.

That being the case, how much more important is it for me to do everything within my power to boost my immune function? And not only my immune function, but all the other systems of my body?

How much worse might this bout of the flu have been, had I not been eating healthy? Avoiding toxic household cleaners, etc.?

Life isn’t perfect, BUT…

My conclusion: life isn’t perfect. Can’t be, no matter how hard I try.

BUT.

There are certain things I can do to make certain aspects of life go more smoothly. My choices matter.

On the other hand, going forward I’m going to think twice before judging people who are suffering from an illness. Because sometimes, stuff happens despite our best efforts to prevent them.

And, a-hem, pride goes before destruction. Or, in this case, a nasty case of the flu.

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Wednesday Lady

Today is Friday. Which means that two days ago, it was Wednesday. Grocery shopping day.

I don’t buy much at the small rural market, mainly because the “fresh” produce they carry usually isn’t. I buy frozen peaches, carrots, frozen green beans, frozen broccoli, and a case of bananas.

Yes, an entire case.

Yes, every week. We eat mostly raw food, thus our primary source of carbohydrates is fruit.

Can you guess what the primary fruit might be. You’re so smart! Yes, bananas! In these tasty dishes known as “smoothies.”

And, yes, on Wednesday. Why? Because the market gets a truck in every Tuesday and Friday evening. Which means if I order something by the case, I can pick it up on Wednesday or Saturday.

I choose Wednesday, because it’s against my religion to go grocery shopping on Saturday.

Oh, wait. Sorry. I was trying to be funny, but it actually is against some people’s religion to go shopping on Saturday.

No offense.

Anyway.

The assistant manager of the produce department – whose name I know; it’s Mitch – makes sure to order a case of bananas every Monday so it will come on Tuesday so I can pick it up on Wednesday.

If a person buys something by the case, the cashier – whose name I know; it’s Martha – has to call one of the managers to run his I.D. so she can put in the price. Chris is the name of one of the managers. J.T. is the name of the general store manager.

I know their names.

Where everybody knows your name

You might be wondering why I’m making such a big deal about knowing the names of the people who work at the store. Well, that’s pretty common in a small town, everybody knowing everybody else. Right?

It’s true of our bank. Even though we hardly ever go in there anymore, whichever teller-lady waits on us she brings up our account without us having to say “boo.”

Or tell her our name.

Let alone show her our I.D.

If all the bank tellers, who hardly ever see us, can put a name to our faces, wouldn’t you think that it this would be true for the people who see me every single week without fail?

It’s what I had thought. Until, a little while ago from typing these words, I had put the last bag of bananas in the freezer and noticed this:

Now, I’ve seen “sold” written on the banana boxes before. It lets everyone – Chris, J.T., Mitch – know the bananas are not to go out on the display case.

But apparently a higher-up told whoever was writing “sold” that this was not good enough. They had to write the name of the person to whom the case was being sold.

“They” most likely being Mitch.

But I can’t be sure, so I won’t pick on him exclusively. Whoever it is obviously doesn’t know my name. He just knows I’m going to pick up the bananas on Wednesday.

Therefore, he chose the name, “Wednesday Lady.”

I never take pictures, hardly ever pick up my camera, so you have to know I thought the above photo was worth taking. It was pretty funny.

I’m wondering if, next Wednesday, I should drop my driver’s license on the floor right in front of Mitch – uh, I mean Choctaw Market man – so that he has to pick it up.

But then, he might not read my name.

I could ask a question. “Hey, just for grins, is my first name spelled the way you thought it was, or did you have the Southern ‘Emma Lee’ in your head?”

You know, do something real subtle-like to help him out a bit.

Wednesday Lady. LOL.

In truth, the incident inspired me and helped me to zero in on the content and name of my next YouTube channel.

Don’t look for it yet. I’ll tell you when I get it set up.

In the meantime, here, have a banana. I’ve got plenty. 😉

 

 

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