Somehow it has gotten to be December (how the hell?) and one of my editors and I have been commiserating about how really freaking glad we both are that this year is drawing to a close. Even if the world does end (or start over) in 2012, it’s just got to be better than this year. Doesn’t it?
Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I’m not one for the in-depth online personal disclosures. Authors live a little in the spotlight, if just a minor one, and that’s fine, it’s not that I’m shy– but let’s face it, there are some strange people out there and you never know who’s reading.
So without getting too detailed about it, on the personal level this has been an enormously hard year for me. A lot of loss, as in death. Within six months: my father, a beloved aunt, and my cat of 19 years. My father from Alzheimer’s, and all I can say about that is – Don’t get it. And I hope to God someone figures out prevention and cure to end that scourge.
All of this was coming down while I was not long out of and certainly not recovered from a devastating and permanent split from my significant other.
While here in New Agey California people are liable to say cheery and optimistic things like “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and “God (the Goddess, the Universe) never gives us more than we can handle,” I’m not so sure about that. I think lots of people get more than they can handle. Just take a look at all the crime and illness and tragedy in the world. People snap all the time. Does that mean they could have handled it and they just didn’t? Well, yeah, sometimes, but some, I think, really do get more than anyone could handle.
Anyway, I’m handling it, I guess, but I’m also very aware that I’ve been pretty effectively shut down for most of the year, enough so that sometimes I’ve wondered if I’d ever really be coming back from it. Surviving is not the same as thriving.
On the other hand, I’d have to be the biggest narcissist on the planet not to know that I have it a lot better than a lot of people, especially in this economic climate. I’m making a comfortable living at the thing I most love to do (although I admit, sometimes that love looks a lot like—something not so loving.). E books are a godsend, and I have a lineup of book contracts that sometimes gives me panic attacks, but after a really rough patch there after Dad died, I have been managing my deadlines and doing a book on the side, too, as well as getting some of my backlist formatted for e-release. In fact it’s kind of amazing how much I got out there this year:
– I e-published a second Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workbook: Writing Love, and my first YA thriller: The Space Between.
– I finished the first book in a paranormal trilogy for Harlequin: Twist of Fate.
– I finished a draft of and am now rewriting a new crime thriller than I’m writing on spec (about which I will say very little because I’m superstitious that way).
– The Unseen came out in the UK.
– I wrote a short story, In Atlantis, for Thriller 3, Stories to Keep You Up at Night, coming out in June 2012.
– I am about 100 pages into Night Shift, my second book in the continuing paranormal series The Keepers, that I’m writing with two of my best friends and favorite authors, Heather Graham and Harley Jane Kozak.
– And this month, I am releasing e versions of The Harrowing, The Price, and Book of Shadows in various countries.
It’s absolutely amazing, really, for me to look at that list, which doesn’t even include the workshops I taught this year, when I feel like all I did sleep and once in a while shuffle around the house running into furniture like some kind of undead thing. And I wanted to put it all on paper (or whatever this is) to prove to myself that I’m haven’t checked out of life completely, no matter how I feel sometimes.
In fact I am actually starting to love writing Night Shift, which is not something I say very often about my writing; finishing is so infinitely superior to the actual process.
And it’s great to be full time in the Hotel California again, except for time on the road, of course… Both of the books I’m working on now, and my last, The Space Between, are set in California and it’s taken me a while to come around to it, but there aren’t many people more qualified than I am to write about this state. (I know it’s a terrible thing to say but I LOVED those violent winds last week; that was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.) I’m finally far enough out of the Hollywood trauma to write about that, too, and I am truly loving using the movie business as a backdrop to this paranormal thriller. It’s so easy, in a way; I don’t have to think, I can just have fun. I can set a scene on Catalina if I want and I don’t have to research it, I don’t have to take a field trip (although I could).
Maybe writing could be this way all the time.
And I may not know where I’m going to live next in any permanent way, but I am starting to have at least the beginning of faith that I will find a direction. Eventually.
Maybe I’ll find the rest of it, too. Eventually.
So, everyone – how was YOUR year?
I am giving away 100 review copies of Book of Shadows, The Harrowing and The Price for potential review on Amazon, Goodreads and LibraryThing.
Book of Shadows for UK readers and anyone in France, Germany, Italy or Spain who might want to review it on Amazon.fr, Amazon.de, Amazon.it, or Amazon.es.
The Harrowing and The Price: for US readers and anyone in France, Germany, Italy or Spain who might want to review either or both on Amazon.fr, Amazon.de, Amazon.it, or Amazon.es.
If you’re interested, please e mail me at alex AT AlexandraSokoloff DOT com and I’ll get you a copy of your choice.
You know, for the past two years as I've read this blog, I don't think I ever remember reading anything this much personal about you. I kind of just want to give you a big hug and tell you everything is going to be fine, that you can handle it, and you will be back to thriving after surviving. One thing I've learned in my 23 years of life, is that after a while of falling and falling and falling into the deep dark hole, things get so weird and messed up, you end up in Wonderland, this alternative reality where you barely recognize yourself anymore. But, then, once you start walking into harder ground and getting used to the new, weird surroundings, you end up finding yourself again.
I'm sorry you've had such a hard year. I can't even imagine all you've been through this year, and I'm glad it's over for you. All I can say is that a new year is starting, and though you can't leave all the heartache behind, keeping yourself busy and surrounding yourself with books and love and people who make you happy seems to be the best way to deal with many of the hardships in life. And you should be proud of yourself for everything you've accomplished, though, sometimes, sleeping through the day is the only way we can survive. Believe me, I've done that more than my share of times. I really do hope 2012 is better for you and filled with laughter, love and hope.
My year? I've had better, but I've had worse, too. It started out really bad. So bad, that by February, it was kind of do or die, so, I did. And kept doing so I wouldn't die. Then, in August, I had this HUGE blessing in my life. My baby sister was born, and I didn't expect to love her so much. I knew she was coming, but I thought I'd be impartial to her, given the age difference. I wasn't even excited for her to be born. But I fell in love with her so completely. She gave light and meaning and sense and joy to my life in a way I didn't expect. Then, I October, I took a leap of faith, tried something new, threw in all my hopes at something and got burned. BADLY. Failed. Heartbroken. I wanted to give up, really. But I couldn't, because there's this baby, and I want to live to be with her. So, I have to keep going, really. Now my meds are adjusted and I'm in an okay place. But, hey, I'm Bipolar. Mood disorder, hello? Who knows about tomorrow? The end 🙂
I'm so sorry about the loss you've suffered, Alex. You've definitely been given more than your share, if there is such a thing as that.
It's been a weird year for me–I've had some great things happen, but it's definitely ending on a sour note. Ultimately I'm just feeling very disappointed about what it is to survive and/or be a success as a writer. I've had two books published and I had a great screenwriting assignment, and yet the financial pay-off is so slim that it undermines my confidence in the process. Is it worth this much effort, this much hard, daily work, if I can't even support my family? I'm definitely hoping that 2012 is THE year. (Just as I hoped 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 would be THE year.
Hmmm…nothing like a bout of depression to start off the day, huh?
Alex, I'm so sorry to hear about the losses you've had this past year and can only hope this next year is better for you. (My mom has Alzheimers and it looks like it runs in my family, unfortunately). It sounds as if professionally, at least, you've set yourself up for continuing successes. I, for one, look forward to reading your next book and the next and the next after that. I would love to have a copy of The Harrowing, so I will email you about that.
My year has been full of ups and downs. I came to a decision that a goal I was aiming for and had sunk heaps of money and time into was unrealistic and couldn't be reached in a reasonable timeframe, so I had to give it up, and that's been a mixed thing. On the other hand, I went back to work full time and re-affirmed my professional identity, and so far, I'm happy with the choice. Writing-wise, I haven't had as much time to put into writing as I would like, but with the help of your excellent tips and advice, I've come a long way in the organization and thought process about what I write and what I want to write. I've been looking for a writer's group in my area for some general feedback, but haven't been successful in finding one. Maybe this next year, I will find a good group to hook up with.
Good luck with everything – time does heal, but my experience is that there is no easy way through the grief process. You just have to grit your teeth and get through it.
Stephen – I'm wishing all the best for you too –
Barbie, you're a sweetheart, thank you for your really lovely thoughts. I am so glad to hear you have a baby sister to bring pure joy into your life when things are rocky.
I've lived with loved ones with bipolar disorder, too, that's a challenge, but the right medication is miraculous. And you have to remember that 12 is SUCH a turbulent time anyway – I swear I wasn't even a sane approximation of a human being until I turned 28 and then suddenly everything seemed to settle and get really good. A lot of women I know experienced the same thing.So you have that to look forward to!
Yeah, I got personal yesterday – I guess it's pretty obvious that it's been TOO personal for me to want to talk about , so I guess it's a good sign that I was finally ready.
Steve, It's not that I've had more than my share of loss, it's just that it happened all at once for me, or almost all at once. That's the kind of thing that can really shut you down.
I think e books are making a living much more viable for a lot of authors; it's really something you should think about, The key seems to be the numbers of books you can write, though, and I think it takes a while to build up the chops for that kind of output.
Jenni, you are so right that there is no easy way through the grief process. You can freeze some of it, sort of, but eventually you're going to go through it all.
I'm so sorry to hear about your Mom. Finding good care is KEY. Dad was so very much happier when he moved into a great memory care facility. Make sure you've got an outside professional monitoring your family situation, because there comes a point that you honestly don't know what's right or helpful or harmful any more.
And for you – having a stable day job can be the best thing for your writing. It's hard to write when you're in financial stress. Right-brained work like writing seems to be one of the best preventatives for Alzheimer's, too. I believe that.
I'm sorry that you had such a difficult year. It does seem that you have some wonderful friends and good inner resources to see you through. I'm about seek out your books under the name of the Keepers. Sounds interesting. I wish you all (and me too) peace. We just keep plugging along.
I had no idea so much was going on with you. I'm so sorry . . .
Blessed be the writing. Blessed be the memory of those you've loved — human and non.
May your new year also be blessed with only changes you want — and those in plenty.
I hope you're right about Alzheimer's preventions. I'm not too worried about myself yet. YET. But it is strong in my family. It's early days for my mom, and so far the medications she is on seem to be helping to arrest it for the most part. She is 81, and her younger brothers had it diagnosed much earlier than she did. Her youngest brother died this year with Alzheimers. I just hope they come up with a cure for it in the next few years.
Writing is hard, I think, whether we're fully employed or unemployed. Both situations have their stresses. But it's nice to have the day job. I'm really thankful for it in this economic crisis.
One day at a time, eh?!
Yes Alex it’s been a hell of a year. As my own internal review, I’ve noticed that most of the plans enacted at the beginning of 2011 have been turned inside out and upside down. I’m still reeling but standing. For some of it I’m not sure if I’ve failed or been steered away from taking the wrong path. It’s all a little too much in play right now to be able to call an outcome. Plus if I’ve learnt nothing else this year it’s how fluid and powerful a shift in my perspective is.
That said this year still feels like emotional boot camp… I thought I’d been thrown a lot before…but man this year. Mum slowly dying of cancer has dwarfed pretty much everything else this year. I think learning to focus on what I can do, rather than not, has helped me keep standing and maybe helps me be more supportive of Mum. I've had a few health things crop up for myself, which I think has forced me to look more deeply at my own life.
I am particularly grateful for my right side of the brain this year. Although I think I’m operating primarily from a place of pure emotion (my mainstays of sequencing and analytical thought have taken a beating)…it’s my creativity that has become my bedrock source of joy.
Alex, I get the sense that you’re also left a little flabbergasted by your own resilience in the face of this much personal havoc. This year has led me to truly appreciate each moment in ways I had not previously. This includes, to my amazement, the often stomach cramping, brain numbing sorrow. Maybe that sentence looks just plain wrong on some levels…but it’s still true for me, because with the sorrow I’m forced to look for the good.
This does not mean that I do not recognize other people’s suffering. I cannot begin to count how many people have shared their stories of sorrow this year when they hear about Mum’s health. I feel as though massive amounts of trust have been bestowed as they’ve shared their pain. I’ve often been glib about the concept of shared misery still being fucking miserable…but this year I think shared misery is an acknowledgement that we do not have to be isolated in pain. It has the potential to be a connection.
So yes it has been a hell of year, with a mixed bag of good, bad and wtf. Although it’s not quite over yet, I’m happy to still be standing.
In spite of the fact that I live in California, I think a primal scream does wonders. And remember, when life gives you a lemon, freeze it until it's hard as hell and throw it at someone. … with a big FU!
What doesn't kill you just leaves you lying there. (A line I wrote in DONE FOR A DIME.)
God never closes a door without also pitching you out the window. (Something I posted on Facebook a few months back.)
The book that got me through my worst days was Pena Chodron's WHEN THINGS FALL APART. The Buddhist approach just made more sense to me because it was largely unsentimental, and all the sweet caring things people tried to tell me just made me itch. My only advice; Find someone in your life to care about other than yourself — and if that means a new cat, go forth and follow the purr. It's just to easy to find yourself in a rut with no real desire to crawl out.
I'm going to send along two poems, both by Robinson Jeffers, one about the loss of his wife, the other about the loss of his dog. They nail it, imho. I hope they provide some insight, solace, what have you.
Take care, Ms. A.
I hope I haven't fallen down the rabbit hole of cliched well meaning platitudes . David something you wrote in reply to some comment I made in regards to trying to get some clarity on the devastation I felt/ feel with Mum being quietly eroded away and world famine, natural disaster helped. Mind you I couldn't quote you on it now. But at the time I remember being grateful for your insight. Point being that shared understanding beats sweet itchy by a mile.
I am so very sorry to read about the rotten year you’ve had with so much loss. I know it is impossible at times, to see through the fog and just keep on, but it seems you are doing that. Knowing how private you are and so protective of your personal life, I am very moved that you were able to write about your losses this past year.
As David mentioned, I too find Pena Chodron’s work as helpful as there is anywhere for all the reasons he mentioned.
My year just passed was much improved with the discovery of the Rati, a patient and wonderful group of people who have helped me keep going. I am not like you. I reveal a lot, maybe because nothing else has worked for me. One day it occurred to me that I no longer have anything to lose, so why not just say it and get it out and look at it. Introspection has helped me some. Doing for others has helped more. Writing is helping. I am not sure how, but I keep on with it. It isn’t even good writing. I know that. But it is a productive life, something I can do instead of the things I can no longer do. One letter. One word. Plunk. Plunk.
Geez, Alex. I knew you were having a tough year, but I didn't realize the extent of it. I'm so sorry for all the losses. I've had times like that, where it seems you lose everything all at once. It's hard. I'm not one to talk about it while it's happening either, and have only been tempted to share that kind of stuff if I think it will be of some benefit to others.
One thing I have learned is that you can't pick and choose which emotions to shut down. You can't refuse to feel grief and at the same time agree to feel joy. It's an all or nothing deal. Well, that's how it is for me. Coming out of deep grieving feels a bit like thawing your hands and feet after spending too much time outdoors at the skating rink on a subzero MN winter's night. You welcome the warming push of blood as it melts and flows again to your extremities, even as you curse the spiky pains of near-frostbite. Except with grief, you feel all that in your core. And you thaw when you're good and damn ready, not a minute sooner.
I'm happy to hear the writing is going so well. And foreign editions, how cool is that! I have all those books but have so far only been brave enough to read Book of Shadows (excellent!). Also loved The Unseen. You do scary creepy very well. Too well. (Yeah, I'm a wimp.) *adds reviews to the To Do list*
Be patient with yourself in the coming year, X. Take care of you.
You too, Stephen. And everyone else as well. May the coming year be a time of great creativity and even greater prosperity, however you define those things.
It seems to have been a roller coaster year for you — I hope the next one provides more level ground!
I've had a strange year, but a good one, all things considered. New friends, new goals, and new possibilities that might just turn into probabilities . . . and a lot of help, once I learned how to ask.
Pax Vobiscum, Alex.
What doesn't kill you seems to make you even more prolific and more generous.
I've loved your blog and that online class you taught last November
and I was knocked out by The Space Between.
And I'm stunned you're still so sane after the year and a half you've had.
Maybe 2012 will be the year of the great turnaround.
I truly hope so.
Lil, you're right about that – thank god for friends. The Keepers are really fun – the first three are by Heather Graham, Deb LeBlanc and me, set in New Orleans. I hope you like them.
And peace to you, for sure.
Thanks Pari. Yes, a hell of a year, but I don't have to tell you.
Jenni, since you mention "One day at a time" – I found Al Anon lifesaving as a support group for the Alzheimer's issues. Living with someone affected by a crippling disease, whether it's Alzheimer's or addiction, makes you just as crazy, and Al Anon helps with perspective on that.
Catherine, I'm so sorry to hear about your Mum. I'm not sure there's anything worse than seeing a loved one in pain. Thanks for sharing your story;; for me that's the only thing that has really helped this year – the knowing that I'm not alone.
Love and light to both of you.
Shared understanding is the best, Catherine, but grim humor is a close second – thanks for yours, David! I completely agree about "What doesn't kill you…." – well put.
Luckily I have my cat's sister. Animal comfort is way up there.
Reine, you all are contributing as much to the Murderati community as anyone on the masthead. I wouldn't have posted this on my own blog – the only reason I was able to do this here is that I feel safe with everyone. Being able to be personal online I think has a lot to do with your online experiences. I've had some bad ones, so I keep things close to the vest.
KD, you are so right – about everything you wrote, actually, but especially about the thawing. When everything comes at once, maybe the only thing some people can do is freeze it and save it for later.
Thanks for that wonderful New Year's blessing – I second it with all my heart.
(And I love it that you've bought my books and are still too scared to read some of them. They're easier than my year, let me tell you…)
Shizuka, thanks – I think the turnaround is already happening.
It was great to have you in workshop – such great energy you have! And I'm so glad you liked SPACE. Now you know why that one was so dark….
Alexandra. I'm very sorry to hear about the loss of your father. I know exactly how that feels. Also, the death of an animal that's been part of the family for years. I've lost two dogs and a horse.
May I wish you all the best for the coming year. I always enjoy reading your posts, especially the ones on story structure.
Richard, all that in a year? I'm so sorry. You do know, then.
All the best to you next year as well. You're such a great presence here.