Category Archives: noveling

In the World and Not In the World

I don’t even know where to start talking about where I am these days.

This is me, in the world, at the Women’s March in DC.

The other day, my sister and I talked on the phone and she asked what I was up to. That’s kind of a weird question for me. Basically, I told her, I am a person who spends a lot of time in a room by myself, writing.

That all I’m doing, but it feels bigger than that. I’m writing a romance novel set during the fall of ancient Rome. Learning to map the boundaries between imagination and history; wrestling with acceptance that I am not a historian and I will get everything wrong. Trying to get the important parts right: the emotional truth of an event so remote from me that nothing in my life resembles it. “Write what you know,” an English teacher told me once. Great advice. I both live it and ignore it every day.

I’m also mapping my own interior. My life has gone through several seismic shifts in the past few years—things having to do with my relationships and my work—and the dust hasn’t quite settled. Much of the work of settling the dust involves writing poetry. Something that I’m hoping will become my next chapbook.

I’m keeping the lights on, too. I’m writing copy for clients—as well and as often as I can—and I’m happy and grateful that my business continues to thrive and support me. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve worked extremely hard.

And I’m angry. I am so, so angry at the direction our country is turning in.

Since November, I’ve been walking around in an enraged haze. At the millions of people who voted for Donald Trump. The millions who shrugged off blatant sexual assault, racial profiling, and horrific bigotry on every level to elect this man president. People who don’t want to own that bigotry; don’t want to be called racists or sexists. I’ve written about this already and if you’ve read that, you know how I feel.

My rights are directly in jeopardy, and so are those of many people I care about. There’s a part of me screaming that if I’m writing, it should be to call out the new administration and demand it be held accountable for the human cost of its policies. If I’m not writing, I should be marching. I should be calling my senators and joining the resistance in a real, concrete way that puts me back in the world.

And that’s the problem.

I’ve never been so focused and committed to a book I’ve been writing before. I’ve written four books, but this one is different. It’s better. I’m better. But that comes at a cost—it requires absolute dedication and focus, and a certain turning away from the world so I can really be in this story. It’s hard for me to engage on social media right now, for instance, or think about promotion for my other work. It’s not so much that I can’t find the time; it’s more a question of focusing inward rather than outward. It feels like I can do one or the other well, but not both.

It’s easy to say I have the privilege of being able to consider this as a choice—whether to throw myself into resistance or into my book. I’m white and able-bodied and cis-gender and an American citizen, putting me far ahead of many people directly targeted by this administration. But the truth is, I’m in the crosshairs too. I’ve never felt so threatened about my rights over my own bodily autonomy. I just got healthcare last year after more than a decade of being uncovered, and that’s likely to go as well. And we all live on this planet, which Donald Trump seems hell-bent on setting on fire.

I could just decide to turn off social media, not engage for six months or so, and give myself the mental time and space to finish this book the way I want. But I’m legitimately afraid the country won’t be here in six months—not in a form I recognize.

Like a lot of people, I have strong opinions but not a strong history of activism. I want that to change. I don’t want that to change. I don’t feel like there’s a choice. I’m hoping that in the next four years I can figure out what my activism looks like, and I can write this book and then the next one and the next, well and quickly and the way I want, and that these two drives won’t compete with each other. I have a lot of hopes. Maybe that’s a good enough place to start.

Going All-In: What it Means to Me

I used to have a lot of irons in the fire.

580361_10151567638927420_752155055_n

I’m not sure how this relates except this is me, going all in on a tiny pie. I regret nothing.

I was an actress and a model; I worked a lot, and I went on auditions and go-sees four to six times a week most weeks. I traveled; I had a boyfriend who would whisk me off to Europe periodically. I wrote poems and novels and I trained for marathons and I had a lot of friends in the city and I was always going out, dancing and dating and drinking. I had a very busy life and I loved every single second of it.

Then the headache happened. I realize I keep coming back to that in these posts, but I’m still processing how this health crisis changed my life—in bad ways, but also, surprisingly, in good ways.

I gave up a lot of things. Around last winter, when I was dealing with some of the worst of it, some of my closest friends moved out of the city and I scaled my social life back (I tend to go full hermit in the winter anyway). I stopped dating. After struggling to hold on, I put the auditions on hold and stopped running, too. All I could do was sit on my couch and binge-watch 1990s anime and wonder when my life was going to come back.

But as I started to recover—slowly—something started to happen. I threw myself into my novel with renewed dedication, completely falling in love with this story I’d been working on for over a year—and my writing was better than it had ever been. Suddenly I had a clear vision where things had been muddy before. I felt these characters deep in my bones where before I was always questioning. I knew exactly what they would do in each situation. They spoke to me.

I’d been writing novels for about ten years. It was always a struggle. I learned how to sit down and have a regular writing practice; I learned how not to ever get writers’ block. I learned how to plot. But it never, ever came easy. My stories didn’t sing.

All of a sudden, this one was singing. And all I had to do for that was get rid of everything else in my life.

I did a lot of thinking in the past few months about what I want for my future, and the answers have surprised me. I always knew I’d be ready to give up acting, someday in the future, and focus on my writing. That time is now. I built my acting business up from nothing and did very well in the most competitive city in the world. But in the past few months I stopped auditioning and dyed my hair red and no longer look anything like my headshots, and I have no desire to. I don’t miss the auditions. Work still occasionally comes into my life, but I’m not fighting for it like I was. Up until this year, I was devoting a lot of time and energy to auditions that didn’t lead to work. Now I can spend that time writing.

With the copywriting, I’m also at a crossroads. During the headache months, some of my regular clients scaled back. When I got better I went through a rebrand and have landed some work through that, but to really step up my income I’m going to have to throw myself into it and work on promoting myself much harder. And the only thing I want to do right now is write this book.

Suddenly I see a future for myself. That future is writing novels. It’s writing fantasy YA and paranormal romances and high fantasy with a romance component and the occasional historical. It’s deciding whether to go self-published or try for the traditional route, learning how to promote myself, and using all my copywriting skills to build myself a business. I think about that and I’m so excited I can’t sit still, and I’m ready. I am all in.

I never wanted to be the type of person who only did one thing. For a long time, I thought I needed to act as well as write—that acting got me out of the house and being creative among others. Acting taught me so much about writing and my own creative process, and it toughened me up to rejection like nothing else. But right now, what I need to do is scale down. I need to pick something and go all in.

I’ve picked that thing. Or, it’s picked me. It’s showed up in my life and told me that this is the only way. I’m doing what it says, and I’ve never been this excited about the future.

Summer Shenanigans

13599872_10154162506042420_8779106079933369240_n

Obligatory cannon ride.

I’m from Vermont originally, and I think that’s why I love summer so much. Our summers are generally mild, and those 98-degree, sticking-to-your-seat, God-I’ll-die-if-I-can’t-go-swimming-right-now days are few and far between. They are precious. They are to be enjoyed.

In New York, summers are hot. I don’t know if it’s the pavement or something about convection or what. But I love it. Where most New Yorkers are complaining about the sweaty subways and diving into any store that has air conditioning, I am scantily clad and happy. I love the heat. I even love the humidity. Bring it on.

So what have I been up to, besides sweating all over the place? First, I’ve been throwing myself into my romance novel with renewed abandon. I’m writing a historical (ish?) romance set at the end of the Roman Empire. I’m obsessed with it in a way I haven’t been in a long time, and I’m going nuts with all the thoughts I have lately about writing romance and what works and what doesn’t. I’ll be writing more about that here.

I’ve been getting my poetry chapbook ready for publication and planning my launch party. In addition, I’ve been writing poetry in little pieces. A second chapbook is starting to look possible.

Finally, I’ve been traveling. I went to see my parents at Gettysburg for a long weekend around the first of July, and then almost immediately went to Florida with a friend to pick up a 1981 Westfalia. Seeing as how I know how to drive stick and all (I consider this one of my superpowers, along with scary grammar skills and making a perfectly balanced dipping sauce for Vietnamese summer rolls).

My hero in the romance I’m writing is Alaric I, the famous Visigothic general. I’ve been thinking a lot about how you see a landscape differently if you have to use that landscape to stay alive—and keep your soldiers alive. High ground is important. Stay away from narrow ravines. You’ve got nothing if you don’t have a baggage train. Gettysburg was a great canvas on which to paint a battle; it really had a lot of clear examples of terrain used to best and worst advantage.

(For example, in Pickett’s Charge, the terrain the rebels ran up was very slightly uphill, culminating in a stone wall right under the cannons that funneled the troops into a deadly point. Looking at the terrain—and with the benefit of hindsight—it’s easy to see why it was so disastrous).

13606474_10154181275732420_7896201850404856634_n

Me and the Wheelness.

Florida was beautiful after that. There was so much amazing seafood—the oysters abounded. I spent time by the pool and the beach. I wrote my romance novel and taught my friend to drive stick. We lay awake at night and traded secrets and dreams. I even got some poolside yoga in.

Now I’m back in Bushwick, trying to get back into a rhythm. I’ve got another trip planned for the beginning of August, and it already feels too close. I’m trying to take things one day at a time and not feel overwhelmed. There’s always too much to do and it’s a lie that summer days are long. They’re never long enough.