Sunday, August 12, 2012

When The Critics Get You Down: Sail Away With Me (Or Them...At the Bottom of This Post...They Look Like They're Having Fun, Whatever They're Doing)

When I was a junior in high school I took crafts.

I come from an extremely artistic area. People don't mess around when they're making their crafts.

It was a really normal thing to see a gorgeous girl with long, flowing hair sporting amazing metalwork jewelry...that she'd designed herself. Or a guy would come in with these incredible leather boots that he'd learned to hand-stitch while apprenticing himself to a cobbler. So, I was running with the big dogs.

And crafts were NOT my forte. My craft teacher would set his mouth in a firm line and shake his head over my ghoulish projects. They had no symmetry. They had no elegance. They were poorly done and often cracked in the kiln or got knotted in a lopsided macrame explosion.

This is actually a project by a 4th grader who was supposed to make an 'ugly jug.' This young person did a fine job. I did something similar when I was a junior, but, um, mine was NOT supposed to be an ugly jug. Even to this day...I still find this 'ugly' jug pleasant to the eye! Yes, you can totally call me crazy!


Crafts wasn't the first class I was awful in. I was a junior who also had math class with sophomores. I was used to big red x-marks on my papers. But I didn't care too much about math. (Sorry, Mr. Warwick. You were amazing, and I should have paid more attention. Now I have to count on my fingers when I add the tip to the total at a restaurant.) And the x-marks on a math paper just said that I hadn't done the problem correctly. Okay. I could see the mistakes I made. Nothing personal.

My craft teacher's critiques were a little more difficult to take. I think he thought I could do better. I think he thought I was messing around. I think he thought I was wasting his time and mine. He wasn't a fuzzy, sweet, encouraging teacher. He said things like:

"This piece is hardly worth grading."

"You tried to combine colors to make a statement. Instead you made a mess."

"You have no eye for the aesthetic."

Ooooh. Burn!! But, you know, he made some good points.

So, that girl with the gorgeous necklaces and the boy with the boots would come over and re-adjust my clay pieces or walk me through thread patterns until I got it. A little. Slowly.

When I said maybe I should quit crafts because I clearly wasn't cut out for it, they'd jangle their silver rings and toss their manes of always gorgeous, beaded hair and say, "If you want to be an artist, you have to do it in the face of criticism. You have to do it because you love it. And, if you love it enough, you just keep doing it."

Sitting with them, watching them do what they did with such passion and purpose, made me try harder. I put all my efforts to making a fabulous art project.

Yeah, this is what my high school art classes looked like. I was usually sitting in the corner with an extremely well made, gorgeous dunce cap on.


Um. Yeah. My craft teacher won that round.

My skills were negligible and, even though I stuck with crafts because I loved the people, I moved on to poetry. I looooved poetry. But it still wasn't right.

Finally, one day, when I was supposed to be writing a term paper, I wrote a book.

My craft teacher would have had a field day with that baby!! One-dimensional characters? Check! Wooden dialogue? Check! Complete lack of plot? CHECK!!

Hahahahahaha!!

But I met other writers. I read books. I grew my skill base. And, finally, I was ready to publish.

In the back of my head, I thought there would be criticism. But it couldn't be much, right? Because I loved doing this so much, and I was so proud of what I'd done. It had to be something everyone would love...right?

Um. The answer is a firm 'no.'

Some critics were nice. Some were harsh. Some picked apart the book. Some picked apart me. Some made me tear up. All made me a tad obsessed.

So how do you deal? How does it work when someone doesn't like what you do or say or just plain old silly you?

C'mon! Who could hate this little guy? Who? (Maybe someone...but not me!! Awww! Look at those eyes!!)


Now, this is only my advice, but I think it's pretty good.

Remember my craft teacher? You know what I said to him after I'd gone to college and came out with a shiny art history degree with honors?

Nothing!

I went back to high school and rubbed shoulders with all those teachers who had been sweet and encouraging. Like Mr. Warwick. Man, that guy never gave up on me! I'm so sorry I still run screaming when I see the Pythagoras Theorem. I talked to the teachers who saw my weaknesses, pointed them out, then held a hand out and helped walk me through getting better. My craft teacher and I never got along, so why waste time hanging with him, when I could hardly see and thank all the people who cared about seeing me achieve?

And remember the books I wrote? When my rank is amazing and my selling is great, you know what I say to the haters?

Nothing!

It's cool to have your opinion. Some people are really good at writing clear, respectful reviews even when they didn't like a book. Others aren't. In the end, there are so many well-wishers, critique partners, readers, other writers, supportive family members, whining pets, bouncing children demanding attention...I honestly have no time for anything but the good!

And it's been so good! So, so, so sweet and good!

If I focused on the bad, I'd be giving a ton of attention to one small sliver of reality that comes with writing. I don't even have time to focus on all the good! Right now there are books on my dining room table waiting to be sent out to readers who took the time to enter a contest to win my book. MY BOOK!! There are emails from readers who loved the story I wrote. Enough to EMAIL ME!! There are other authors who have the most amazing conversations with  me about craft and life and what we do and why we do it. And they are my fangirl-squealish FAVORITE WRITERS OF ALL TIME!!

Life is...life is amazing. I. Have. Zero. Complaints.

This happy! Deranged 90s cartoon happy! Happy happy joy joy happy!! Don't even test me, because I will sing and dance and draw you into my weird, crazy happy! I'm serious! So happily serious!


Well. Maybe I have a few complaints. Like, could a hard-working writer get her husband to help fold laundry once in a while? And how did I miss the ENTIRE Olympic games on TV? And could my kid stay little for just a while longer, because it's all going by too fast.

Life is going to throw me some wicked curve-balls.

It's done it before.

It will do it again.

But now?

Right now?

I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. I feel good. I feel like sending some big love to my craft teacher and the people who write angry reviews, because, c'mon guys! Loosen up! My craft teacher only had me in class for one period a day for two years. That's not so much time spent looking at my ugly work (even if it was really, really, really ugly!).

And people who hate my books? I put my name on the cover of every single one, so you will never have to read a second if you didn't like the first. And there are so many great books out there! So many! Do NOT waste time with authors who don't ring your bell, for whatever reason. I don't! I barely have time to read all the books I just KNOW I'm going to fall in love with!

There are so many others to choose from, and, I say this with total happiness: GO READ SOME AMAZING AUTHORS!! If you need some excellent recs, I have them all over my Facebook page. There are so many on my Kindle, I'd need a separate HOUSE to store them in if I owned them in paperback.

In short, my optimism is just bordering on ridiculous. How could it not be? Things are pretty damn awesome at Casa de Reinhardt. And we hope, here amid the dog farts and unfolded laundry and crazy happiness, that things are just as good for you. (Even if you hate my anthromorphic clay pot or my teen angst book. Even still. Find your happy, baby!!)


Hey, it's not my personal idea of fun...but these people look like they're having a blast! So, more power to them! And, you know what, maybe whatever they're wearing on their heads IS fun to paddle around in. I try to keep an open mind!




Friday, August 10, 2012

Happy Friday!! And An Early Release Surprise!!

Steph Campbell is this brilliant, undeniably adorable writer who shares my passion for sexy, angsty books. Some kind of wonderful luck led us down the co-writing path, and we wrote a book we're both super, amazingly, incredibly proud of. So we wrote this book, and polished it, and polished it more, and picked a date for release.

Then we kinda had nothing left to do.

When she told me we should release Lengths a tiny bit ahead of our planned August 13th reveal day, I was a Nervous Nellie. Should we take more time? Slow down? Think things through?

There she was, on the other end of the phone, laughing her beguiling laugh and making such sensible arguments.

She has a will of steel and a head full of logic.

So, with our excited powers combined, Steph Campbell and I are proud to release (just a tad early!) our much loved book baby, the New Adult contemporary romance, Lengths! We hope you enjoy!




Friday, August 3, 2012

Fall Guy Friday Sneak Peek...And Then Right Back To Work, I Swear!!

I promised a very cool reader/blogger a sneak peek of Fall Guy, but totally lost track of time yesterday and didn't get to put it up!

Easily remedied! Here is a little snippet from Fall Guy, my New Adult, due out the end of this month. Evan and Winch keep bumping into one another, going crazy and stumbling over problems. And it's making things hard and exciting and oh so full of angst. Read away and enjoy ;)!

And sharing today makes awesome sense, because the lovely Indie Bookshelf is running a Fall Guy Friday-a-thon until this book comes out! What a rad way to end the week! Head over there later this evening for a swoon-worthy review of Forgiving Trinity, which, if you haven't read it, might be something you'd like to check out until I get this bad boy up and running. 




This morning has been like every other tangled, crazy, hot time Winch and I collide. It’s strange how it’s possible for me to go from thinking he’s the only guy I’ll ever want to be with, to considering slicing him out of my life completely and possibly punching him in the nuts as a sendoff.
But there’s something about him that keeps me right in the eye of the storm, no matter how nasty it gets.
And it’s just gotten rip-off-the-roof, flood-that-will-float-your-car-away nasty.
I snuggle in his arms, enjoying the clover and spice tang of his skin, my tiny bikini burning to have his eyes all over it (and his hands all under it) when his damn phone plays “She’s Like the Wind.”
My first thought is, Who the hell would he use that ringtone for?
My second thought, tripping right on the heels of my first thought, is, It’s not “House of the Rising Sun!”
My second thought is so overwhelmingly ecstatic, it blots out my first entirely, and I don’t even have the urge to vomit over that cheese-tastic ringtone or grill him about who would have inspired it.
Until his mouth opens and he starts to say words I’m not ready to hear.
“It’s Remy, Evan. I’m so sorry—”
“No, no, no, no, no,” I interrupt, pressing my fingers against his mouth urgently “No! I’ve got a bikini on. A scandalous bikini. I ordered it from Paris. No one in America has a bikini this sexy.” I push close to him, the phone locked in his hand between our bodies. “Winch, you promised me, ten minutes ago, you promised me things would be different. You promised—”
Winch closes his eyes and groans. “Oh, baby. Please. Hear me out.”
It’s the first time he’s called me ‘baby.’ A pleasant tingle thrills through me, up my arms and down my spine, in direct contrast with the molten anger that’s volcanoing through my blood “Explain, then,” I demand. His eyes fly open, and I take two big steps back before I cross my arms in the international girl-sign that unequivocally communicates ‘watch what you’re going to say very closely.’
He clears his throat, runs a hand over his hair, double checks the message on his phone, moves toward me, groans when I move back, and finally opens his mouth to talk. “Remy’s about to fight.”
He stops. I glare. “Really? Behind the baseball dugout at three sharp? What is he, in middle school? If your brother wants to fight, let him fight.”
Winch grips the roof of the car and grimaces. “Okay, listen. You’re gonna hate this, but listen. My family…where I come from, a fight is more than a fight, okay? When the families fight, there’s a lot at stake, and Remy just picked a really, really powerful family to throw down with. Pissing them off isn’t a good idea, and it will mean a lot of bad for everybody if he loses. Basically he can’t lose. So I gotta go. It will take half an hour, an hour tops, then I come back, get you, and you let me see that sexy-ass bathing suit that’s already making me crazy.” He holds his fists out in front of his body hopefully and gives me his best, charming, begging smile.
“You know that saying, ‘A picture’s worth a thousand words’?” I ask. Winch nods with slow uncertainty. “Well, a live fight is probably worth twenty-thousand questions.So I’m in.” I pull on the passenger door handle and attempt to swing the door open, but Winch already has his hand on the frame and is shutting it before I can slide in.
“Out of the question.” He takes me by the shoulders and moves me two steps over, back toward my grandparents’ house. “A fight is no place for you. It’s dangerous. I’ll be out there in the mix. I won’t be able to help you if anyone messes with you, and—” He pulls back and lets this long, low whistle escape his mouth. “You’re gonna get messed with. Look at you.” He shakes his head. “Anything else you want, you got it. Anything. Just not this.”
Every internal alarm bell is sounding off like crazy, and I decide to give Winch a final trial by fire. “What if I asked to be invited to dinner at your family’s place? And go to mass with you? Next week?”
The color leaks out of his face and leaves it looking drawn and ashen. His mouth pulls tight and his eyes blink fast. Then he looks at me levelly and nods. “Okay. Done.”
“Really? You’d do that for me?” My heart does this little slide, shuffle, slide before it leaps up and kicks its heels together.
He delivers the sweetest half-smile, all sexy curve of the lip and gorgeously half-lidded eyes. “Of course. You’re my girl. You gotta meet them all sometime anyway. Might as well be sooner than later. I’m gonna warn you, though; they are crazy as hell.”
The fear and worry on his face is so bald it’s almost dizzyingly hilarious. I slide my hands down his arms and pull on his elbows. “I don’t want that until you’re positive you’re ready.” The color springs back to his skin, and he sags with visible relief. “But I do want to come with you to this fight. Now. No more arguing. And I can take care of myself.”
He tenses back up. “No way. Dinner every night with my family for the rest of the month if you want. By the way, I’m positive you’re gonna regret asking for that. My family is not the party you think they are.” I purse my lips and he rushes to add, “Dates. Weekly dates. Phone call check-ins, love letters, that sonnet I promised you. Anything, Evan, but not this.” He comes towards me and takes my hands in his. “I’m begging you, not this.”
It’s romance. Every word out of his mouth is like the first time I wrapped my arms around a boy’s gangly neck and slow-danced in eighth grade; thrilling, exquisite, exciting romance. But I’ve let him direct enough of this relationship, and I know I have the leverage to make this happen.
“I. Want. To. Go.” I set my feet apart in a determined stance and radiate a pure refusal to back down.



***

Does Evan go?
Does Winch stick to his guns?
Will Liz focus and get today's chapter done?
I can't tell you the answers to the first two, but the answer to the last is: YES!! GOING RIGHT NOW!!
Have a lovely weekend, all!!