Ugh, isn’t July the worst? I know they talk about the dog days of summer being in August, but to my mind, the seventh month of the year barks a lot louder. Here in flyover country (also known as the Midwest) the air sits still, the humidity rises to the point that you could wring out the air, and the overall effect could be called “steambath.” You just want someone to keep bringing you an endless supply of iced tea so you don’t have to move.
It’s a perfect time to take a break, believe me, and that’s just what I’m going to do.
As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been struggling with the second draft of my young-adult fantasy novel, the sequel to The Unwanted (which you can totally still buy, by the way!). I’ve been working on it for about three years now, but of course if you added up all the time I’ve spent actually working on it, that would total much less. In the in-between times, I was writing my thesis, starting a completely different book, and working on maybe ten or twelve different stories, both new ones and revisions of old work. I was dragging my feet, and I wasn’t sure why.
I think I was nineteen or so when I set foot inside my first gay bar. (Which makes it sound like an alternative playset for Barbie, doesn’t it? Barbie’s First Gay Bar. Hopefully she won’t find Ken in there with GI Joe.) They were complicated places for me at first, gay bars, since I felt like an outsider and like I belonged at the same time. As an insecure twenty-something who still acutely remembered being an awkward, chunky adolescent, I wasn’t great at places where you were probably going to be judged by how you look.
I don’t remember how I got into that first gay bar since I was, obviously, underage. I didn’t have a fake ID. Still, that had never stopped me from getting into Shattered, the nightclub in downtown Columbia, Missouri that was where my friends and I spent Wednesday nights dancing to new wave music. It was a basement bar where the music was always way too loud, the drinks were cheap (in my memory, at least), and the dance floor could be hazardous if one of the cramped toilets backed up.
So, this year I’ve been trying to make a point of sending out at least one story a month. I just looked at the spreadsheet where I keep track of all this and realized that last month, I missed. Nothing went out.
Seriously, this shouldn’t be all that difficult. I have at least a dozen stories written and revised that are (arguably) ready to send out. So why are they just sitting there? Granted, some of them have been sent out, but there’s nothing that says they can’t go out to multiple places. (I rarely send work somewhere that doesn’t do simultaneous submissions, unless they promise a fast turnaround.)
Remember choose-your-own-adventure stories? I used to love those books—the ones where you’d be reading along and you’d get to a decision point: if character A decides to open the box, turn to page Y. If Character A decides to drop-kick the box upside Character B’s head, turn to page Z. You can only choose to go one way, and the story is completely different depending on what you choose.
Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to choose every single adventure and do them all at the same time. Which is, of course, impossible. (Unless you’ve perfected cloning technology, in which case, give me a call, okay?) I think this situation might be a form of procrastination, as well. If you’re trying to do everything, you wind up doing nothing, but it sure feels like you’re doing a lot, even if you’re not getting anything accomplished.
It’s rare that I get a book recommendation that I haven’t in some way sought out. They come either from friends (or are books written BY friends) or through some podcast or website that I went to specifically to find something to read. This one’s different. I accidentally clicked on a sidebar ad somewhere, probably Book Riot, because I’ve been spending way too much time there lately. At first my reaction was, “How the hell did I end up here?” Then I read the blurb, thought it sounded interesting, and started reading the excerpt. It’s on my to-read list now. How cool is that? (And to Harriet Reuter Hapgood’s publicity person, yes, the ad worked, even if totally by accident. But a good accident.)