I’ve got reviews!

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Since releasing The Fields at the end of December, I guess the logical next step was for people to start reading the book.

Man, was that a hard thing to be patient about. When you work on something for so long, and you worry about it being enjoyable and legible, it can be pretty unnerving to then have to wait for people to actually dive in. But that’s exactly what people have been doing… and as a result, I’ve started to get some reviews on Amazon!

It’s incredibly weird to see reviews for something you’ve created, especially something created specifically to engage with. My hope is not just for people to enjoy reading The Fields, but to get something from it too, and that is not something I can control. I hope that readers will have something to mull over as they flip through the pages, and I hope that it’s not just something to pass the time.

And so far, that’s what the reviews have been confirming! Which is pretty exciting.

If you’ve been reading the book, feel free to write a review, and be honest! I don’t want applause, I want engagement. Let’s get talkin’!

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Try Harder (Or, a Happy New Year?)

Today is the release date of my book, The Fields. I have been trying to promote it more than I’ve tried to promote anything else, really, which still means I haven’t tried to promote it enough, because I’m terrible at telling the world to look at me.

But nonetheless, I am proud of myself.

Not for publishing a book, and not even for writing a book, but I am proud of myself for finishing what I started out to do. I have so much unfinished business in my art portfolio.

The real challenge in finishing projects has been to refine my work, because I get a draft or a cut done and I don’t want to mess with it. “It’s perfect just the way it is,” I say. And the thing is, I know it’s not perfect, but I’m afraid that if I touch it again, I’ll ruin it. And why not just be proud of what I have so far?

Because what I have so far is incomplete. Because what I have so far is not at its full potential, and, years from now, will just make me wonder what would have happened if I had just edited my work. Made it more accessible to a wider audience. Tried harder. If I tried harder and ruined it, at least I could say I tried.

But that is a scary leap, far scarier than that initial birth of an idea, the “honeymoon phase” of every art project: the beginning. I love beginnings. Beginnings usually have an ending already in sight for me. It’s like how I write every story: a beginning pops into my head, and either the ending is already there, sitting in front of me, or I can usually quickly concoct an ending — and then I stare at the page blankly, not sure of what happens in the middle. And what is the middle, really, but the most important part?

I don’t even think I have to say that this is entirely too applicable to life.

This is how I run my relationships. My career goals. My mental health. I think about how it’s not really perfect, but if I touch it, I’ll ruin it. It’s so much better as complacent as it is now, or as a dream.

My mental health needs a bridge between the beginning and the end. My relationships deserve better than to not be at their full potential. My career should be something that I can say I tried.

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. I have a lot of unfinished business this year, and not just in my art portfolio. I had a mental hurricane for which I’m still working on shutting the storm doors. And while I can’t say I’m entirely proud of the middle of this year, I can happily say I’m embracing its end… And I already have a beginning in mind for the next year. The middle will come to me, I’m sure of it. I just have to try harder.

An Update!

It has been an incredibly busy time recently — for those of you who haven’t tried to hang out with me in the past few weeks and failed, I’ll let you know why: I’ve been working like mad as an assistant stage manager for Open Stage’s “Carrie: The Musical”. It’s taken up most of my free time, which is bittersweet — I have missed a lot of improv opportunities, but it’s still been really fun. So it all evens out, I suppose. Performances are still happening, but selling out quickly, so get on that if you want to see it!

But even with all the fake blood and quick set changes that I’ve been making, I’ve still tried to spend some time figuring out what I’m going to do about this book. And I think I’ve finally landed on one detail: The Fields‘ release date will be December 30th! (I figured I wouldn’t delude myself into believing I would be people’s priority during the holiday season, but I will make ample use of the fact that people get gift cards around that time!)

So mark that on your calendars. I will slowly get the hang of marketing and squeeze out more details, like pre-ordering, what the cover will look like, etc, but hold onto that one tiny detail for now.

It’s Kinda Sorta (Almost) Finished

It’s finally crunch time. I’m going to publish this damn book if it’s the last thing I do. I’ve talked about The Fields from time to time on this blog, and that’s all it’s ever been… talk. Now I will do. And it’s going to happen in the next two months.

That’s as risky of a deadline as I’m allowing myself at this moment… god forbid I give myself an actual date. But I am the closest I’ve ever been, and I’m reaching the point where I feel I need to just bite the bullet and get it over with — a sure sign that it’s ready. There are just a few details I need to attend to in order to get it off the ground, mainly dealing with promotion.

Some of you have already obliged me in my feeble attempts at promotion, as I created a public figure page on Facebook. This feels so weird to me. I don’t like advertising myself, but I know I need to in order to get people to read my work, so it’s always an awkward battle with my self esteem.

As I get closer and closer to publishing The Fields, I find myself face to face with questions I do not like. One of those questions is, “who is your audience?”

I hate the audience question. No one sits down and says, “I’m going to write a story for x audience” (Okay, maybe children’s authors do. Whatever. That’s different). When you write, you’re creating a story that you’re interested in, and you don’t think about how it will conform to any one genre or age group. You just write the damn story. It’s only afterwards that you have to think about what the hell you’re doing.

That was definitely my process for The Fields, anyway. I technically started writing this book about eleven years ago, but I didn’t really gain traction with it until eight years ago, and then I didn’t even really figure out what the backbone of the story was until four years ago, and then the message began to piece itself together after that… yeah, I’m a really slow writer. But my point is, I didn’t start off thinking, “This is my audience. This is the plan I have for this book, and I will write within the constructs of this plan.” I was just letting the characters come to life, and babysitting, essentially, until those details began to fade into place.

Turns out, The Fields is definitely a young adult novel. And I tried to convince myself otherwise, but it’s true.

First, there’s the protagonist. Mukisa is nineteen years old. Ironically, when I first started writing this story, I was a teenager, and the protagonist was a 30-something year old man (the character who is now the protagonist’s father. Mukisa didn’t even exist at that point). I suppose as a teenager I hadn’t quite learned that I should push women’s voices into the forefront of my work? But as the story grew, the age of the protagonist shrank (I don’t know, I didn’t write the rules, I just wrote the story).

Now, just because the protagonist of the story is a young adult doesn’t mean that the story is for young adults, but it is a step in that direction, especially when you take a look at the themes being represented in the story. Though technically independent, Mukisa struggles with her relationship with her parents, and being able to make her own decisions. Both of her parents are authority figures in the community, as well, so that conflict is heightened. There are also themes of discovering your identity within a community, and a struggle with morality… a lot of the themes do line up with young adult fiction.

I’m not sure why I was initially so frustrated with the idea that I was writing a young adult novel. Maybe it was because some of the content is a little dark — which isn’t a good reason, because young adult books increasingly wrestle with darker topics. Or maybe it was because when I asked for feedback, some of my readers suggested that I simplify some of the language to make it more accessible to younger readers — the words were too big — which I will never, ever be ashamed of refusing. Readers, if you aren’t able to figure out the meaning of a word through context, then it is not going to kill you to look it up and learn a new word. God. (I’m a little bit too firm on this subject, perhaps).

For some reason, I wanted my book to be for adults. And in a way, it still is — there are plenty of young adult novels that adults read, like The Outsiders, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, etc. The nice thing about story is that if it’s good, it’s good for anyone.

So I’m learning to deal with this.

Maybe this shouldn’t have been such a difficult thing to come to grips with. Are you an adult who likes young adult fiction? Are you a young adult who reads everything you can get your hands on? I’d love to hear people’s experiences with the books they delve into, and/or prefer.