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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

People Believe What You Tell Them to Believe

Don't use the word "aspiring" when you're describing yourself on Twitter or anywhere else.

Author Dakota Skye ( posted this on Twitter this morning: Be careful who you share your weakness with. Some people can’t wait for the opportunity to use it against you.

This reminded me of something that I learned in my 30s. People believe what you tell them to believe about you. I'm usually a pretty humble person. I am the first one to see (and point out!) my flaws. This tendency has plagued me throughout my life, going back as far as I remember.

My stomach churns as I write this, but I'll give you the most blatant example. Twenty-plus years later, I'm still ashamed that these words left my mouth. *deep breath* 

When I was a senior in college, I filled out the paperwork to student teach at a local high school. I double-majored in French and Spanish, which I believed was an excellent choice because it doubled the job opportunities for me. I didn't anticipate the effect it would have on how much of each language I would learn in school. The student teaching application asked that dreaded question.  

What is your greatest weakness?

I answered honestly. Anybody with any life experience would have coached me to say something different, but I didn't even think to ask. Stupid, naive, twenty-year-old me wrote, "My greatest weakness is knowing less of each language than I could because I split my studies between the two." (Keep in mind, I learned from coursework. I didn't have the money to travel, and honestly, I didn't have the confidence. That's a whole nother blog post though.)

The result of this foolish statement was rejection from the school I was assigned to, two days before winter break, leaving me to scramble to find another placement. (The upside is that not only did I find another placement, I filled in for a teacher that needed immediate leave, and I got paid a first year teacher's salary for student teaching. Everything happens for a reason, right?) Had I said nothing, and named my weakness as something less damning, no one would have suspected that I was insecure, and I wouldn't have faced that rejection.

I didn't learn from this experience right away though. The year my first child was born, a new principal came to our school. His regime was brutal, with "letters in teachers' files" coming without warning. We called him Hitler, for many reasons, but mostly for the fear he instilled in experienced professionals. 

After my baby was born, I suffered brutal postpartum depression which exacerbated the undiagnosed anxiety disorder I'd lived with all my life. When Hitler got in my face, he reduced me to nothing. Since I was out for two months on maternity leave and had a schedule change when I got back (to remedy a staffing situation with another member of my department), I was not doing the best work of my career. I said things like, "I don't think I'm cut out to be a teacher. I just don't know what else to do. I don't know how to fix this." It wasn't true, but Hitler believed me.

His regime was short-lived. He's a gypsy. He doesn't stay in one place for long. He can't, and here's why. Hitler can rock a job interview. He can sell a school board promises of academic success that he cannot deliver. He gets hired because he tells people what he wants them to believe, and they believe it.

I finally sought treatment for anxiety and depression under his regime. For that, I am grateful to him. He pushed me off the deep end, and I came out okay on the other side. He taught me something important though. He taught to keep my mouth shut most of the time, and when I speak, to say only what will make people believe about me what I want them to believe. 

Do I lie? Nope. I tell the truth, but I don't advertise my flaws. 

We've had a couple different principals since Hitler left. They don't know that I ever struggled with my confidence. Our current principal thinks I've got all my shit together (I do, by the way). He asks if I'll meet a deadline, I smile and say, "Of course." The old me would have made the deadline, but would have expressed the doubt that always nags at me. He asks if I need help, I say, "I got this," and then work with my colleagues to make it happen.

I hear this man talking about other teachers. His opinion about some very good teachers is not high. I know that it's because they tell him to believe that they are not good through their words and actions. He asks, "How are you?" They say, "I was up all night grading papers, and I spilled coffee on my shirt." I say, "Fine, thanks. How are you?" I was up all night grading papers too. My coffee stain is hiding under my sweater. I couldn't find my keys, and I had to turn around halfway to school because I forgot my glasses, but he doesn't know that. He thinks I'm fine because that's what I told him to think.

My Tagxedo illustration at the top is taken from the "About" page on my website. The humble, not-so-self-assured woman inside me is screaming about the size of the word "awards." It kills me to put that out there, front and center. I can't stand bragging. I usually hide my accomplishments, reveling only on the inside. 

But I want people to read my books. What good is writing if no one reads? Therefore, I have to make people believe that I have won awards (I have. It's not a lie.) in order to convince them that they should choose MY BOOKS when they're searching for something to read.

If your Twitter description says "aspiring author," or anything like it, change it. If you want people to read your books, tell them that you are an author. Don't go overboard. If you've never finished writing anything, don't add "award-winning," but you're selling yourself short by telling people that you're "aspiring" to be a writer. If you write, you're a writer. Tell people that, and they'll believe it.

Pretty soon, you'll believe it too. 

 P.S. The bat shape is there to inspire me to finish my story for our Halloween anthology. I swear. I'm going to WRITE today!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Writing with My Daughter

For the first time ever, my daughter and I sat down together and wrote fiction. She's twelve, and she's 100% certain that she can't write a paragraph. That's not true, of course, but I tried to stay on topic and keep her from repeating that too many times.

I've wanted to write something other than erotica for a while, but I can't imagine anyone buying some little story I write without the added bonus of the smut. Young Adult is what I'd like to do, but young adults today like the Hunger Games, Twilight, Harry Potter. I can't even enjoy reading them, much less writing them.

I was brooding on this one morning in the shower, trying to come up with an idea that some kid would actually read. Just as I was ready to resign myself to writing smut forever, my brain switched over to a little story I wrote last summer for Literotica, The Side Effect. This is the closest to Sci-Fi I've ever stepped. In this story, the (foolish) man can't bring himself to go down on the woman he wants to marry, so his sister hooks him up with a woman with questionable ethics from a pharmaceutical lab who gives him a drug with strange side effects--senses and sense organs get mixed up.

As soon as I thought of that little tale, I had my premise. I'm not going to tell you what it is ('cause I don't want anybody stealing my story!), but within minutes of making the connection, I had my main character, her abilities, her family, her backstory. My brain was on fire!

But I was afraid to tell my kids what I was planning. All I needed was a judgmental twelve year old rolling her eyes and saying, "That's stupid, mom. Nobody would read that."

After a couple of weeks, I had to spill it, just because we really needed a good mother-daughter bonding moment. I told her what I was going to do, and braced for the smack-down. Instead, she giggled. "I would SO read that," she said.

Wait. What? It's not dumb? Am I dreaming? Did she just say she'd read that?

So I said, "Well, then you can help me write it."

Today we sat down at the table, each with our graph paper composition books and we started to brainstorm. Then we started to write. We had two good paragraphs written by the time we had to go out for the day, and the minute we got home, SHE ASKED TO WORK ON IT AGAIN.

We finished chapter one before we decided we'd done enough for one day. It needs some polishing, but we are ready to go on chapter two tomorrow.

Writing with my daughter is awesome.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Why Sell the Cow?

Why sell the cow when you can give away the milk for free?

I wrote my first story in the summer of 2011 and shared it with the world on Literotica.  What a rush it was, getting the first feedback on my stories. My first attempts were journal entries with splashes of outrageous fiction. I wish I could remember how my brain made the jump to writing fiction. Unlike other authors I know, writing fiction was out of my reach. Something other, more creative people did. And then all of a sudden, I was writing Hurricane Season. I have no idea where the idea came from, but it did pretty well on Lit, hovering right around the magic 4.5 point. I thought that was my one story. My one hit wonder.

And then I got another idea. And another. And another. And another. It was awesome! I was a fiction writer. In the winter of 2012, life got hectic, and I pushed the smut aside for a year and a half.

I kept thinking about it though. I kept having other ideas, and I would start stories in my notebook when I had a minute. The stories didn't go away, like I thought they would.

In the summer of 2013, I quit my part time job that consumed more of my life than my full time job, and suddenly, I felt this creative void that ate at me. I picked up my notebook and looked through my story pieces, and then I wrote Skater's Waltz for the Literotica Nude Day Contest. Ice skating in the nude. The idea tickled me to no end. I intended it to be a dirty, little romp for a figure skater and a hockey player, but it morphed into a love story before my eyes. I never thought I'd write a romance, but dammit, I did. (Don't get me wrong. It's dirty.)

My brain took off after Skater's Waltz, and I started posting in the Author's Hangout forum at Lit. A lot of authors were talking about going commercial and selling their ebooks, but I just plugged along, participating in contests and posting my stories.

Why sell the cow when you can give away the milk for free?

That was my philosophy of sharing smut until very recently. I didn't think my stories were good enough for people to spend money on, and I was worried that it wouldn't be worth losing the satisfaction of getting comments on Lit.

What changed my mind was an Amazon author by the name of Ron Mexico. This author copied and pasted one of my stories from Lit, threw a cover on it, and put it up for sale for $2.99. I was furious! Part of me thought I should feel flattered that someone thought that people would pay for it, but I was so pissed. I wasn't ready to take the commercial plunge, so why should somebody else make that decision for me. (Amazon removed the story, but Sr. Mexico has a ton of other stories copied from Lit.)

The incredible Freya Lange gave me the push to sell my stories when she proposed an anthology, Hot Summer Reads, to the members of our writing group. All of a sudden there was a flurry of talk and action about going commercial. Not all of the members jumped on the "sell your books" bandwagon right away, but it was the opportunity I'd been waiting for. I decided to sell the damn cow. I don't even like milk, after all. 

We worked together to make a plan. Freya Lange and TT Tales did a ton of research. JC Winchester already had some books for sale, and his input was valuable to all of us. Freya, TTT, JCW, shea mara, and I are the first wave from our group to sell the cow. MS Tarot and J Kendall Dane won't be far behind.

Our group will be successful. I'm sure of that. In a couple of days, summer will be here, and I'll have time to devote myself to writing smut and selling those cows. How much free milk can the world handle anyway?