Monday, December 27, 2010

What Does the Future Hold?

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, Chanukah, or whatever you and yours celebrate at this time of year. The Savage household has been busy visiting, sharing gifts, playing new games, watching movies, and eating the amazing food prepared by the gorgeous and talented Mrs. Savage.

The trend among author blogs this last few months seems to be writing blogs posts about what advice you would give your younger self if you could. I always find the line between hindsight and foresight so interesting. I want to tell things to my younger self, and I also want to ask things of my future self.

For a long time, my wife and kids and I used to go camping at the same place every summer. Every time we unpacked and set up the tent, we would discover things we had accidently left in its many inside pockets. Flashlights, change, receipts, paperbacks. Each year, I would think that I should write my predictions of what I thought we would be doing the next summer and slip them into the tent like a mini time capsule. Because invariably, my guesses at where I would be in a year would have been wrong. Even cooler would have been if I could open the tent and find messages from my future self.

Many people wonder if they would have been willing to take advice from their future selves. On the one hand, we have plenty of people with experience who we don’t listen to now. Would we really listen to our older and “wiser” selves?

I wonder if my current self should even be giving advice to my previous self. I imagine one of the first things I would have told my former self is to focus more on grades and get a degree. Not having a degree has been a major barrier in my life at times. And I’m definitely encouraging my children to finish college.

But would it have been the best thing for me? If I had gone to college, earned a degree, and landed a solid job with a big company, I certainly wouldn’t have spent a year cleaning out toilet drains. Our family might not have experienced the financial ups and downs that seem to mark many of my holiday memories.But would I have started writing books? What a terrible tradeoff it would be to gain financial security, only to lose something that has brought so much joy to the lives of my family and me.

A couple of years ago, I was laid off from the company I’d worked at for about four years. I made a huge decision, not to look for work in 2009 and instead to pursue the dream of writing fulltime. At the time, if I could have asked my former self one question, it would have been something like, “Will this decision work out financially?” The answer? A resounding no. It was an incredibly stressful year, constantly on the brink of financial disaster. Always trying to book the next school event, and sell a few more books. It put us in a hole we are still climbing out of.

Had I known then, what the results of my efforts would be, I would have taken the first job I could find. And the result would have been that the Farworld series would have almost certainly died. I’ve received over 3,000 e-mails from readers asking when the next Farworld book is coming out. That date is still a little up in the air, but there wouldn’t be a next Farworld book, or most of those e-mails, had I known then what I know now.

If I could give advice to my former self, what would I say? Would I tell me to get another job? Would I have explained how hard that year would be and about the financial ramifications? Or would I have said, “Suffer through the trials, for the sake of the future?” I don’t know. If I had told myself everything that was going to happen, I might not have been able to promote the series with the same energy and excitement that I needed to put in those kinds of hours. In retrospect it was probably better that I did what I did without knowing how the future would turn out.

Our family likes to go see movies together. We are also part of the weird group that stays all the way through the end of the credits (to the total annoyance the employees waiting to come in a start cleaning.) Mostly we like to stay because we believe that it is kind of an homage to all the people who made the movie possible. But sometimes we also get rewarded with an Easter egg—a little scene that doesn’t play until the very end when almost everyone has left. It’s a little thing.

The people who left before seeing it don’t feel like they missed anything. It’s not a key part of the movie. But sometimes it can be one of the most enjoyable parts for us. When I look back at the year of doing school visits, a lot of what I remember is being sick all the time and watching every penny. At times the difficulties seemed almost unbearable. And if I had known that at the end of the year I would be back searching for a job, I might very well have given up.

Then I think back about the amazing friends I made. The fun my wife and I had traveling to schools as small as twenty students. How much time we spent laughing. The fun of bringing our kids with us when we could. Eating in tiny little restaurants in cities many Utahans have never even heard of. The overall experience was incredibly trying, and certainly not what I thought it would be. But like the Easter Eggs at the end of movies, the little things made it so wonderful.

I have no idea where I’ll be next year. When will the next Farworld book come out? How will The Fourth Nephite series turn out? Will Demon Spawn sell? Will writing become a bigger part of my life, or will it take a smaller role? I’d love to ask my future self these questions. But it’s entirely possible that even if I could, my future self would refuse to answer. You’ve probably heard the saying that the journey is more important than the destination. I would add that sometimes what makes the journey so enjoyable is not knowing exactly where or what the destination is.

As you finish up the year past and head into the dark and unknowable future that lies before you, I hope you can keep from being overwhelmed by the big picture and enjoy the little things along the path you follow. Best wishes and happy New Year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Critique Groups

Okay, this video has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with today’s post, but It makes me laugh every time I watch it. So, yeah, that probably makes me weird. But consider it my white-elephant gift to you.

Once again, I find myself in a position to do a meaningful holiday post, full of seasonal wishes and good cheer. And once again, I am thinking, “I'm not as funny as blogger x, as inspired as blogger y, as smart as blogers I and Q." Instead, I’ll leave the holiday stuff to my fellow bloggers, and write about, well, writing.

Yeah, I know not all that exciting. But wait, I have an excuse. Recently Julia (Not Julie) Wright e-mailed me and asked if I would post something about critique groups. Being the hero that I am . . .

. . . I was like, “You know I have a really good piece I did on marketing a couple of years ago. Or I could repost something of Rob’s.

And she was like, “No. You’re the best writer I’ve ever me. And the coolest. Please write something about critique groups.” (I may have taken a few small liberties with her exact words.)

How could I argue with that?

So, here goes.

When I first started writing, I had no ide what a critique group was. I wrote a book, had a few family members read it, sent it to a publisher, and six months later got a phone call that they had accepted it. Way too easy right? It was and is. But at that time I had no clue publishing was supposed to be hard. The good news was, my book got published. It just so happened the first book I ever wrote was a high-tech thriller. And the first publisher I sent it to was looking to add “guy books” to their line.

The bad news was, my book could have been much better. The first two chapters had pretty much every mistake you can make. Shortly after my first book came out, as I was finishing writing my second book, I moved from California to Utah. A whole bunch of great neighbors helped us move all of our stuff into our new house. I told one of them that I had just published a book. She immediately said, “Oh, you should join my critique group.” Again let me say that although I had published a book, I didn’t know the first thing about writing. I seriously thought she was trying to get me involved in a multi-level marketing scheme or something.

Once I figured out it was a kind of writing group, I agreed to come. It was right across the street and I didn’t know very many other writers. As if that wasn’t enough, it turned out that it was a group composed entirely of intelligent, attractive women, and I was the only guy.

I felt a lot like Snoopy in the above picture. At least I did until one of the women told me she didn’t think my first book was very good. Ouch! Then I discovered that the way things worked was that each person read aloud from their latest work in progress for six minutes. In those six minutes, you were supposed to read along on your own copy, and not only keep up but actually jot down useful comments that made sense.

And let me tell you, these women were brutal. There was the Grammar Queen. When you got your pages back from her it looked like James Bond had killed a room-full of nuns and blotted up the blood with your writing. Black white and red was everywhere.

There was the Inquisitor. “I don’t think he could fire a rifle while holding onto the back of a horse with one hand and hugging the hot blonde with the other. And you can’t laugh a sentence.”

The informer. “Ghosts don’t actually touch human skin. If they are going to choke your hero, he will have to be wearing a sweater with a high neck.”

And they were all good writers. One women was writing a romance set in Scotland in the 1400s or thereabout. I was afraid to make any comments about her work for fear I just didn’t understand the dialect. Another was writing a mystery that she made up as she went along. We’d ask something like, “So are you foreshadowing the death of the grandmother?” And she’d say say. “I’m not sure. I guess if the grandmother dies, I probably am.”

It wasn’t all stressful though. Every once in a while we’d discover a line that was so unintentionally funny that we couldn’t stop giggling. Like the woman who discovered her mother’s smelly chest. Or the investigator who urinated in the bushes while wondering if there was a leak. Or the rape victim who couldn’t decide because she felt torn. (Yeah, I know. That last one is really bad. But honestly, if you came across that line in a room filled with writers, could you keep a straight face?)

I had no idea at the time, that although a few of the members would come and go over time, nine years later, I would still be part of the group. By now, I think we have something like twenty books published between the six of us. We’ve added another guy, although he’s kind of a sissy, so I don’t know if that counts. More than anything though, we’ve all become much better writers. With nine years of critique experience, here are a few of the things I’ve learned.

1) It’s not as important as you might think to have everyone writing the same genre. It’s actually quite useful to have a romance writer, a historical novelist, a non-fiction writer, and so forth. Each of them can give you feedback that helps your work. Rob told me that my Hell in Demon Spawn needed to be “helled up” more. Several of the women told me what worked in my kissing scenes and what didn’t. Most books have a decent spicing of all genres combined.

2) It’s not even that important to have everyone writing at the same level. Admittedly it’s tough to combine a writer who’s still learning the basics together with more advanced writers. But the fact is that the newer writers either catch up quickly, or decide the group isn’t right for them. And while one writer may not know the difference between an em-dash and a hyphen, they might be an expert on the old west. The more important thing is that each writer is willing to listen and learn. Becoming better writers is what it’s really all about.

3) Location is a pretty big deal. When we first started our group, we all lived fairly close to one another, with several of us in the same town. Since then, we’ve spread out so that now, there’s a good forty-five minutes between those in the south and those in the north. That definitely makes it harder to get everyone together.

4) You learn as much from editing the work of others as you do from having your own work edited. One of the hardest things about being in a critique group is learning to give good feedback. One of our members is a great detail person. She really finds all the little punctuation flaws that I would totally miss. I’m more of a big-picture person. I’m kind of known for saying, “Okay. I just have a couple of things,” and then destroying a chapter. Personally, I have found that reading other member’s work critically has helped me find flaws in my own work. I tell someone what I think is missing in their writing, only to realize I’ve done the exact same thing in mine.

5) You have to be friends first. It can be hard to find a group that is both helpful professionally and good friends. I was really lucky that the people I joined were exactly the kind of people I would like to hang out with anyway. Sometimes you may join a group only to discover that you don’t get along with them. If that is the case, I’d suggest finding a new group. The reason I say this is because the actually feedback can be pretty grueling. There’s nothing like having a chapter you knew might need a “little” work, get dissected until you realize you have to write it completely over. That’s the hard part. The good part is being able to laugh at a really bad chapter, and encouraged to go back and make it better. Knowing that the members of the group are your friends first and last, makes the hard parts not as hard and the good parts even better.

6) Make sure you share more than just the critiques. This kind of goes back to the friendship thing again, but it’s about more than telling each other what works and what doesn’t in their manuscript. It’s about sharing joys and pains. About commiserating and celebrating together. Of course writing is what first brought us together, but sometimes we’ll spend the first hour just talking about what’s going on in our lives. We all have time when we don’t even have anything to bring that night, but show up just to enjoy the company of other writers. Writing can be a lonely business and you need good friends to share it with—friends who understand the ups and downs of writing and publishing.

7) Do what works for you. Our routine is pretty basic. We try to meet once a week. Each person brings enough copies of their manuscript to hand out one copy to everyone there. The first person to arrive goes first, the person who is hosting goes last. We hand out our pages, read for about six to ten minutes, and then get feedback in clockwise order. We write our notes on the pages we have been given and hand them back after giving our feedback.

Other groups work differently. Some do everything on-line. Some do an entire manuscript at a time. Some focus on just one genre. Some have a different person than the author reading. Mostly, you need to find what works for your group and then feel free to modify that as members and abilities change.

8) Find your niche. I will never be the king of grammar. I don’t do motivations as well as some. What I am good at is taking a chapter as a whole, and spotting what doesn’t work. Big picture stuff. I’m also pretty good at query letters. Don’t worry about not being able to do all things. The point of a critique group is to give enough quality feedback that the author can see for themselves what is working and what isn’t. If you are really good at creating realistic dialogue, use that. If you know romance inside and out, use that. It’s important that every member gives as well as receiving, so find what you are good at giving and focus on that.

I know critique groups are not for everyone. Some writers start with a group and outgrow it. Others feel like they don’t want feedback until a book is done. All I can say is that my group has and still does make me a better writer and a better person. At this time of year especially, I am so grateful for their talent. But even more I am grateful for their friendship. I can’t imagine any level of success, or lack thereof, that would make me leave this group of wonderful friends and writers. I truly hope that if you are looking to find a group of your own, you are even half as lucky as I’ve been.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to shout them out. I’ll answer what I can, and I know this really awesome group of writers who are happy to answer what I can’t.

Here's a shout out to the members of my group.

Annette Lyon

Heather Moore

Lu Ann Staheli

Michele Holmes

Rob Wells

Sara Eden

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to ask. I’ll answer what I can, and I know this really awesome group of writers who are happy to answer what I can’t.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Retro You-Are-Not-Alone Friday

(Every Friday, that I remember, I post a song from a classic rock band of my youth. Sometimes I include thoughts. Sometimes I’m luck to remember to even post.)

Sunday I was in an airport. Along with Monday, Wednesday, and an hour of Thursday. (I wonder how many blog posts I start with a story that happened in an airport. Way too many would be my guess.) Anyway, I was on a layover in Denver, when I found my gate filled with military personnel. Okay, fine, soldiers.

They were all dressed in their camouflage, and obviously waiting to ship out. Most of you probably don’t know that I did a short stint in the Army Reserves. I didn’t fight in any wars, and the farthest away from home I ever got was basic training in Fort Jackson, SC. But I can still remember the training as clearly as if it happened yesterday.

Seeing that huge group of active military, my first instinct was to move down to sit at a different gate. Not because I don’t like soldiers. Some of the most awesome people I’ve ever met have been in the military. It’s just that it felt like entering a club I wasn’t a part of anymore.

My memories of basic training and skills training after, are so vivid, that I still have dreams about it. Only in my dreams, I find myself back in the military, but I clearly don’t fit in. I am older than the other recruits, I can’t find half of my uniform, I’ve missed my briefing. You know the kind of dream I’m talking about. Whether you’re dreaming about a play where you can’t remember your lines, or a class where you haven’t studied for the big test, you are there, but you aren’t “there.”

My hair is cut short enough that it could be military. I know most of the military speak. I know they are good people. But I wasn’t wearing BDUs and no matter what experiences I’d had, I’d never sat in an airport waiting to be deployed to hostile territory. I didn’t fit in.

I’ve talked to a lot of other writers who feel that way about the author crowd. You attend the same events, you know their names, you’ve read a lot of their books. You’re pretty sure you both turn on the computer the same way and have to go back and delete extra adverbs the same way. But when you are around a lot of them, you don’t know if you really fit in.

In fact, you’re not even sure if you should call yourself a writer at all. Doesn’t calling yourself that imply certain things? Like that you’re a “good” writer, or a “published” writer or a writer any of them might ever have heard of. You can get yourself so worked up about not being a part of the group, that you actually convince yourself they are probably all snobs who look down on you, and that you really don’t belong.

But here’s a secret that I suspect you already know deep down inside. Almost no one looks down on newbies, because we’ve all been there. And nearly every writer finds himself or herself intimidated at one time or another. Think about any group you’ve been a part of for a long time and you’ll realize I am right. The regulars know each other. They have inside jokes. They’ve been through a lot of the same ups and downs. They know what a newcomer still has to go through. But except for the people who are jerks no matter what situation they are in, the group usually welcomes new members with open arms.

I was part of a recent library event where Scott Westerfeld was the keynote speaker. You know the bestselling Scott Westerfeld who wrote Uglies, Midnighters, Leviathan, and a ton of other great series? Yeah, I was intimidated. If that wasn’t bad enough, I was on a fantasy panel with the other two authors being NYT bestsellers. See how comfortable you are speaking up in that situation.

But you know what? Every one of them was as nice as could be. And it turned out I actually did have some things I could add to the conversation without looking like a total dweeb. So here’s a little advice for the next time you start to feel like you don’t fit in.

Any specialized group tends to use a lot of terms ordinary people might find unfamiliar. In the military it might be MRI, MRE, BDU, or SOP. With writers it might be infodump, head-hopping, POV, or character arc. These aren’t designed to keep you in the dark, they are just terms that we use so much we forget other people might not understand them. If you hear something you don’t know either ask someone or Google it. Stick around long enough and you’ll be using them too.

If you spend enough time doing any one thing, you start to know people in the industry. It’s not that we are all part of a secret society you aren’t a part of. We’ve just been to a lot of the same events, met a lot of the same people, and are members of a lot of the same e-mail lists, or users groups, or whatever. My dad knows a ton of people I’ve never met that all do Geocaching like he does. Are some writers snobs? I think you know the answer to that. The same way as if I asked you whether some people in your neighborhood or church or school are snobs. The best way to get to know everyone and start learning the inside jokes, and cool gossip, is to go meet people. If someone is a jerk to you, just ignore them and move on. You’ll probably discover down the road that everyone knows that person is a jerk and doesn’t really like him anyway.

There is no official definition of a writer. Any more than there is an official definition of a soldier. If you are in your first day of boot camp, you can call yourself a soldier. If you write, you can call yourself a writer. There will always be someone who knows more than you do, has sold more books than you have, and uses bigger words than you. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to anyone else.

That being said, it’s probably not a great idea for a brand new private to start telling a four star general how to do his job. As a new writer at a new event, you should probably spend less time talking and more time listening. That doesn’t mean don’t socialize. And it definitely doesn’t mean not to ask questions. Spend lots of time talking to other writers. Ask for all the advice you can get. But before you start spouting off about what a terrible writer you think so-and-so is, it might be wise to discover so-and-so’s wife is sitting next to you. But be a sponge as much as you can and you’ll be surprised how much you pick up.

Lastly, understand that unless you are the best schmoozer in the world, it will take a little while to fit into any new group. Don’t be scared off by the inside jokes, or the new phrases. Just like when you moved to a new school in third grade, be friendly and play nice, and pretty soon you’ll feel like you’ve been doing this all your life.

And if you discover after sitting with a bunch of soldiers for about fifteen minutes that you are actually at the wrong gate. Just stand up casually, stretch, and stroll toward the right gate like you really do know what you’re doing. 

In honor of not fitting in, here’s one of my favorite 70’s/80’s bands singing the ultimate “I don’t fit in” song.   


The Logical Song by Supertramp

Friday, December 10, 2010

Reetroe Frydae (Mispelled Verzion)

Recently Jen and I introduced our two youngest children to the joys of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adveture.

Bill: I'm Bill S. Preston, Esquire!
Ted: And I'm Ted Theo-
[realizes *he's* holding the camera]
Ted: Hold on. Bill, here. You take it.
Bill: Okay.
Ted: And I'm Ted "Theodore" Logan!
[Bill puts the camera on the table]
Bill, Ted: And we're... WYLD STALLYNS!

As part of watching the movie, we got into discussing whether Bill & Ted intentionally misspelled their band’s name, or if they just weren’t all that smart. So in honor of Wyld Stallyns, I thought I’d share songs from three classic rock bands who intentionally misspelled their names.

Let’s start with a classic. According to legend this band got it’s name, led Zeppelin, when Keith Moon and John Entwistle, of The Who, said that a band made up up themselves, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck would go down like a lead zeppelin. The ironic thing is that they dropped the 'a' in Lead at the suggestion of their manager, Peter Grant, to prevent "thick Americans" from pronouncing it "leed".

Probably their best known song is “Stairway to Heaven.” But I really like this one too.

Next is a group, that that was named after a band Joe Elliott made up while writing reviews of imaginary bands in his English class. Gotta like that English teacher. (I’m sure it was an actual assignment right?) Interestingly, Jeff was a big Led Zepplin fan. The original name was Deaf Leopard. But they changed the spelling to Def Leopard, because . . . well because they could I guess.

Last of all is a band that named themselves Leonard Skinnerd after a PE teacher at Robert E. Lee High School, Leonard Skinner who was known for strictly enforcing the school's policy against boys having long hair. They changed the spelling to Lynyrd Skynyrd, and later invited the teacher to introduce them at a concert.

Free Bird was another classic at dances back in the day. And any kid with a guitar and a dream of being a rock star had to learn Stairway to Heaven and the Free Bird guitar solo.

There you go! Who says you have to be a good speller to be successful?

Monday, December 6, 2010

It’s Hip to be Square?

No this is not one of my Retro Friday blogs posted early. I actually want to talk a little more about e-readers. But first some author news. Good friend Ally Condie’s book, Matched, came out November 30th. I had a chance to read an early ARC, and let me just say that if you liked The Giver, you will love Matched. It had that same Utopian/Dystopian feel, that same enchanting writing, and a nice dash of romance. No vampires or arenas of deadly teens, but a great read! Good write-up in Entertainment Weekly.

Also, if you didn’t see this article, looks like the Maze Runner movie is moving forward quickly with a well known director. My understanding is that the part about James doing the screen play adaptation is not accurate. But still totally cool.

Now where were we before I started drooling over the success of my friends? Oh, right e-readers. Interesting feedback on my last e-reader post. My post actually goes to two different blogs, Goodreads, Amazon, and Facebook. So I get quite a bit of feedback.

I would have expected my younger readers to be on the cutting edge of e-books. After all, they were the ones raised reading newspapers, magazines, articles, etc, on-line. Instead, it looks like the people buying most of the e-books are in their thirties or older. Maybe because they are the ones who have the $? But nearly everyone wants an e-reader.

What this got me wondering is whether e-books could possibly make reading cool again. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved reading. And I know a lot of you have too. But even in books, the kids who read a lot are usually positioned as the nerds. I mean think about it. Hermione Granger. Big reader. Big nerd. In Stephen King’s novel, IT, the kid who spends all of his time in the library is the fat kid no one likes. Of course they also tend to be the smart kids—but nerdy none-the-less. The nerdy kids stay at home and read books while the cool kids have adventures.

Yeah, okay, I didn’t look that nerdy (I hope) when I was in school. But I was one of those kids who spent a lot of time in the library. For one thing, it is VERY tough to get beat up in the library. The librarians were pretty strict about screwing around. And I’m not sure the bullies even knew it was there. As a side benefit, I discovered that the library was the prefect place to cut class. No one ever came up to a kid reading a book and asked him why he wasn’t in biology.

Over the last few years, several things have happened to make reading a little cooler. Harry Potter was so huge that even the kids who thought reading was lame got sucked in. Then Twilight did the same thing. Girls that wouldn’t be caught dead with a book had to be a part of the “cool” crowd who debated Edward and Jacob. Shoot, even Hermione—the ultimate bookworm—ended up looking like this.

If that wasn’t enough, books have now gone high-tech. Think about it. Cool kids have MP3 players right? Cool kids have smart phones, and skateboards, and videogames. Could it be that cool kids are going to be buying e-readers? And if so, could reading take its place alongside snowboarding, mountain biking, and fighting Voldemort?

I’m not sure if it will really happen. And if it does, will it last? Do we lifelong readers even want it to? As an author, I’d love reading to become as popular as going to movies. I’d love the release of the next big novel to get as much exposure as, say, the Super Bowl.

But as a reader, I don’t know how I feel about that. I have to admit there’s something a little smug about knowing so many people have no idea how good Hunger Games is, or that “LES MISÉRABLES” was a book before it was a musical. I mean, come on, isn’t there a part of you that gloats just a little when you say, “It wasn’t as good as the book.”

Maybe we should just keep the secret between you and me that:

Friday, December 3, 2010

Retro (On Submission) Friday

If you are an unpublished (or even a published) writer, or hope to be a writer someday, you absolutely MUST read this post by author Natalie Whipple. Then you MUST read this follow-up post, also by Natalie.

Read the first to give yourself a true reality check. When I signed on with my first agent about six years ago, I was positive I had achieved the pinnacle of success. Finally, I didn’t have to be the one selling my book. My agent would take care of everything. And the book WOULD sell. It was being submitted by a great agent at a great agency. Yeah, well, that doesn’t guarantee anything. In fact, in a way, it’s even worse. You think, “If she can’t my book, I must be a total loser.”

Of course that’s not the case at all. While I still might be a total loser, agents obviously can’t sell everything they take on. Not because they are bad agents, or because the book is bad, but because there just isn’t always the perfect fit. If an agent could sell everything they took on, they wouldn’t have to work nearly as hard as they do, trying to find perfect matches.

Reading Natalie’s post back then (had it been written) would have given me a least a sense that I wasn’t quite over the hump. We all need to learn these things our own way and at our own pace. But it would have been nice to have at least a dose of reality splashed on my head.

Read the second, because it will remind you that no matter how many trials you go through, no matter how difficult life seems at times, you are the one who can choose how you will respond. Will you quit or will you fight on. I’m so dang impressed with Natalie, and have no doubt she will succeed.

I’m “On Submission” myself right now. And just like she says, it is a stressful time. Every time the phone rings, your first thought is, “Could that be my agent?” In fact I’ve given him his own ring tone, so I stop freaking out. “Back in Black” by AC/DC. Even though I’ve published books, the stress is just as real. So I try to enjoy the ride, and hope it will make for great stories down the road.

In honor of Natalie, today’s retro Friday song is by one of my favorite 70’s bands. Whether it’s The Worst of Times or The Best of Times is totally in how you respond to setbacks.